Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rewind Recovery Project Complete

On June 11, 2008 I wrote a post announcing that I was going to begin a project to convert all my Rock & Roll Rewind programs, that I had recorded over a 20 year period, from cassette tape to CD.

Since that post whenever I've had the time I've gone to our church and used the equipment in the sound booth to convert the tapes. I am grateful for the free access that I've had to that equipment over this time. I am also proud to declare to you now that after 1 year 4 months and 20 days I have completed my Rewind Restoration Project.

I now have 37 programs (under the titles: Rock & Roll Rewind, Rock & Roll Countdown, Ron Haven's Music Machine, and Rewind Christmas) once again preserved on media, CDs that is relavant to current technology. I will soon be converting once again in the near future. This time to MP3 files to preserve them digitally as well.

In addition I'm going to be moving on to my next music project as well. I'm going to convert the songs on my more than 700 CD collection into digital files as well. This will take a lot longer than the Rewind project but can be done using my computer at home. I'm going to get a special 500 GB portable hard drive to store them. This will give me instant access and portability for all my music.

Listening to the Rewind programs as I have been recording them has made me miss the process by which I chose the music, wrote the scripts and made the recordings. I have so much more music in my collection now that there's a lot more material for new Rewind programs.

However I also realize that I have a greater responsibility to use my time for things that will benefit others and more importantl serve God in the way He wants me to serve Him. There's nothing wrong with writing and recording new Rewind programs in and of themselves. But when the time and effort it takes to produce them takes me away from other things I know should have a higher priority in my life; the things God wants me to be doing. Therefore, knowing thig, spending my time on such a relatively self-centered activity as making Rewind programs, according to God's word, becomes sin. That's something I want no part of.

So I've decided that I'm going to channel my desire to make another Rewind program into creating another Rewind Christmas program. They were always my favorite ones to write, record and listen to anyway. I won't have the time or the ability to complete a new Christmas show for this year's holiday season so I've come up with another plan.

In December 2010 I will celebrate my 50th Christmas season. I also plan on having reached my weight loss goal by then. So to celebrate both of those landmark achievements my plan is to write and record a Rewind Christmas program. I have gotten a lot of new Christmas music since I recorded the last Rewind Christmas program: Christmas In Kentucky in 1999.

So once again, I am proud to announce that the Rewind Restoration Project is complete and that the "CD to Digital Music Conversion Project" will begin soon. And remember, God willing, it will be Ron Havens presents: Rewind Christmas: My 50th Christmas for the holiday season next year.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Personal Triathlon

Have you ever heard of the Iron Man competition? That's an event in Hawaii where the participants swim (750 meters), ride a bike (20 kilometers) and run (21 kilometers)? It's one of the most famous Triathlons.

Today I completed each of those same 3 activities but of course not in anything close to those distances. I went to the gym this morning and rode 3 miles on the stationary bike. Then I swam laps in the pool for about 1/2 an hour. When I came home this afternoon I walked my dogs in the cemetery about a mile. I would have gone longer but my legs were starting to hurt.

That's by far the most exercise I've done in a single day since my surgery. I got on the bike with the goal of pedaling as far as it is from my house to my church, 3 miles. The 1/2 hour swim is what I usually do. The walk with the dogs, is usually 2 miles but I cut it short as I said.

Until today I've never understood why people train for long distance running or other endurance events. I could never see the reasoning behind it. I mean why work for months just so you can run 26 miles. Why?

Today when I finished at the gym and realized that if I walked the dogs I would have accomplished my own little triathlon I liked the feeling of going just a bit beyond what I thought I could do. I understood the motivation behind achieving the goal of running a marathon. It's the idea of pushing yourself to see if you can do it. The goal of accomplishing something that seems, at first, beyond your reach or reaching a standard set by someone that seems, initially, impossible to you. It brings to mind one of my favorite songs from the Broadway show, Man of La Mancha. The song is called "The Impossible Dream". It's lyrics are about someone going beyond what they seem to be capable of achieving.

In the New Testament the Apostle Paul refers to the Christian life as running a race for a prize. That race is a marathon not a sprint. Also the book I'm currently reading talks about working out your Christian life to get yourself into the spiritual shape God wants you to be in the same way you work out your body so you can be in good shape. The book calls it spiritual sweat.

The insight I realized today regarding the running of a physical race and setting physical goals needs to be applied to my relationship with Christ as well.

Perhaps I need to set a goal of achieving my first triathlon as a Christian. Maybe that means reading the Bible, Praying, and helping someone in need all in the same day. That maybe the place to start.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Dream Series

I'm in baseball heaven. The World Series match up I've wanted to see for over 30 years is going to finally happen: The New York Yankees vs The Philadelphia Phillies.

Every since the late 70's when the both the franchises started getting into the playoffs on a "regular" basis I've wanted to see the team that was my favorite when I first became a baseball fan, the Phillies, play my all time favorite team, The Yankees.

The Yankees made it to the Series in 76,77 & 78 but the Phillies were beaten in the league championship series or didn't make the playoffs (there was no wild card back then). In 1980 it was the Yankees who faltered in the LCS vs Kansas City, thanks to a devastating home run by George Brett in the last game of the series. The Phillies beat KC and won their first championship. Brett by the way missed a lot of that series due to hemorrhoids. LOL.

The decade of the 80's turned out to be a dark one for both teams as far as the playoffs were concerned. During the Yankees championship and pennant years of the late 90's and 2000's(96,98,99, 2000, 2001 & 2003 respectively)the Phillies were no where to be seen in October.

Then 2 years ago it changed for the Phillies. They made the playoffs in '07 and had become a consistent contender again with a core of young talent that promised a lot for the future. They culminated that potential when they won the championship last season. Now this season they breezed through he NL playoffs and are in the series again with a chance to repeat.

All though the Bronx Bombers were in the playoffs year of the new century under manager, Joe Torre, they lost in the world series in '01 & '03 and had that historical collapse in the 04 ALCS against the Red Sox. After that they lost in the division series each year. They didn't even make the playoffs last season. This year, the 2nd season under manager Joe Giardi, they put it all together and won the AL flag.

Now if you watch or listen to sports talk channels on TV or the radio you'll get plenty of analysis about the World Series which starts this Wednesday night. Each broadcaster has, by now, given their predictions on who they think will win based on strengths, weaknesses, stats and trends. I'm going to tell you my choice based on a couple of factors probably not considered in those "on air" decisions.

In their 3 our of their last 4 World Series appearances in an odd numbered years the Yankees have lost. They only prevailed against the Braves in 1999 but 1981, 2001 & 2003 they lost. This is an odd numbered year.

But let me also point out that in the past sports teams with the motivation for winning to honor the memory of someone close to the team or in the organization who died during the season haven't been very successful. The one example I can remember is the 78 Dodger who wanted to win to honor the memory of their 3rd coach Jim Gilliam. They lost to the Yankees in the series that made Reggie Jackson a superstar. There are other teams that fall into this "win one for..." category but I can't recall them right now. I don't remember the specifics but the general principal stands out in my mind.

The Phillies are wearing a black patch with the white initials "HK" inside them in memory of Harry Kalas. He was their long time broadcaster who died early in the season. I loved Harry Kalas and am sad that he passed away. But with that as part of the motivation the Phillies are on the shaky side of fate. But then again Harry Kalas hasn't really been mentioned much by any of the Phillies during the playoffs.

Weighing both of those factors as arguments for each team to lose the series I'm going to have to say the kind of cancel each other out.

The Phillies are awfully good and I don't think the Yankees pitchers can stop them. Then again The Yankees are very impressive in their home park. It's the first year in the new stadium. The last time they opened a new ballpark they won the series in their first year (1923). I believe history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Therefore I'm going to have to go with my gut and make a prediction. I'm going to say that the Yankees will win the series in 7 games. It will be a great ride and I'm hoping it will end on a walk off hit at Yankees Stadium.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Too Much Mustard

For the first time in a long time I gave the children's sermon during the morning worship service at my church today.

The idea for the lesson came to me about a month ago. I wanted to teach the children how God teaches us, through His word by the writings of the Apostle Paul, not to let our desires, even those which are considered "good", control our lives. The means I used illustrate this for the children came to me only about a week ago.

You see tonight our church held it's annual fall celebration called the "Hallelujah Hoedown". It's an outdoor covered dish dinner with a campfire, roasted marshmallows, lots of deserts, chili, and hot dogs. The fellowship of the church members, the food, and the cool early fall temperatures make it a memorable event each year. I decided to combine a promo for the event with my sermon illustration by using a hot dog and a squeeze bottle of mustard.

I started out by showing the children a grilled hot dog in a bun. I told them it was to remind them about the "Hoedown" that night. Then I told them that I didn't have any breakfast and was planning on eating the dog.

As I made a motion to take my first bite I stopped remembering that I liked my hot dogs with mustard. I got out a bottle of the yellow stuff and squeezed a liberal amount on it.

Then I started talking to the children about desires. I explained what they knew them better as "wants" and how some we had were good and some were evil. I then turned to the dog again and said I really liked mustard and wanted even more. On went more mustard. This time a lot more than I had added the last time. The dog was getting full and condiment was starting to overflow the bun onto the paper plate.

As I talked about desires I continued to "lust" after more and more mustard. Applying squirt after squirt. Verbally justifying each application with the phrase, " I just love mustard". At one point the children came closer to see just how much mustard this crazy guy was putting on the hot dog. I had to implement a bit of juvenile crowd control over the curious bunch of youngsters. After one saturating squirt a little one blurted out, "you're wasting mustard!". I agreed but in a out-of-control manner stated I couldn't help it. I loved mustard.

After it the sound of nothing but air coming out of the bottle made it obvious that I had emptied it's entire contents on the now drenched hot dog I took a long pause. I "came back to the reality" and disappointingly looked at what I had done. I lamented to the children that I suddenly realized that I had let my desire for mustard take control of me. Now I had ruined my intended snack. I could no longer even attempt to eat it. I was separated from it.

I explained to the children that the Bible warns us against letting our evil desires cause us to sin. But then I added that it's not a good thing if we let our good desires, like my wanting mustard on my hot dog , get out of control and rule our lives. Any "want" that's out of control leads us into sin. Just like I was kept from the hot dog by the excess mustard; sin keeps us separated from a relationship with God.

The illustration was overwhelming success with the children. They were astonished and couldn't get close enough to see what I was doing and or had done. The adults in the church congregation got the point as well. After the service and at night at the Hallelujah Hoedown I must have gotten hundreds of "mustard" remarks or comments. I'm sure that throughout the church I will now be known as "The Mustard Man", at least for a while.

I truly believe that the idea for using the hot dog and mustard was an inspiration from the Holy Spirit. As I wrote earlier, I was going to use a picture and the action of adding an excess of brightness to it to get my point across. I give God all the glory for helping me find a creative way to effectively demonstrate what His word tells us about how important it is for Christians to control their desires.

I pray that the sight, sound, and smell of that mustard drenched hot dog and plate will stay with some of those who saw it as a reminder of God's ways in regard His children and their desires.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Check Up, A Walk & A Movie

Everybody needs a little time away. That's the opening lyric to a late 70's/early 80's hit song by the group; Chicago. But it's really true. Sometimes you need to get away by yourself. Today I used the occasion of my 3 month checkup with my surgeon to treat myself to a little getaway in Nashville.

The check up didn't take very long at all. I had an 8:30 appointment and was only in the surgeon's office for about 20 minutes or so. During that time I got on the scale to get weighed. The receptionist/nurse calculated that I had "officially" lost 92 pounds since my initial consult back on March 20. Also my BMI (Body Mass Index) has gone from 58 to 52. Not anywhere near an acceptable level yet but still much improved.

I only actually saw Dr. Houston (pronounced "House-ton") for about 2 minutes. He came into the consultation room, looked at my chart to see my progress and asked if I had any questions. I really didn't or couldn't think of any. He told me to "keep doing what you're doing." He warned me to resist the temptation to add any new foods and to continue to "keep it boring" as far as my diet was concerned.

Finally I had my blood drawn so an analysis of its components (vitamin levels, protein levels ect) could be made. The nurse told me that as far as the results were concerned "no news is good news". If I didn't hear anything from the surgeon's office in the next 2 weeks about changing my vitamins or supplements everything was just fine. I should just keep going.

I had the day off from work so after I left the surgeon's office I had some time to spend doing whatever I wanted to do in Nashville. I headed off to the Opry Mills Mall. I was going to spend some time there doing some shopping and then going to see a movie.

My first 90 minutes there proved to be a time of redemption for me. Seven months ago, on March 20, after Paula and I had our initial surgical consultation we also went to the Opry Mills. We decided to walk around the entire mall for some exercise. This involved walking from the theater about 500 yards down section 1and then going either right or left and making a "loop" around the mall and back down the same corridor to the movie theater again. I don't know how far a distance it is but I'd say it's anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile. Well the combination of walking and stopping in stores to do some shopping proved to be a very difficult task for both of us.

We had to stop and rest quite often. This was true more so for me than it was for Paula. She did most of the shopping. I usually sat on a bench outside the various stores and waited for her. By the time we finished the walk around and went to see a movie we were both exhausted. It was a very sad testimony as to the poor physical condition I was in at the time.

Now let's go back to the future to nearly 7 months later, today. The movie I wanted to see didn't start until noon and I was there about 10:20. I had some time to kill. I decided to try my hand at walking about the mall again.

This time I had a much easier time of it. I not only did I walk around the mall but I actually did some shopping as well. I only stopped to sit down twice. Once was to answer a call on my cell phone from my wife and the second was to sit and rest on a bench; but that was only for about 2 minutes.

It took me about an hour and 30 minutes to make the loop but I took my time and enjoyed the journey. I looked around in several stores including the Disney discount store, a sports teams apparel shop, and the Black Lion flea market area. I also enjoyed looking at the stuff in the kiosks along the corridors. There's a picture the view walking down corridor 3 that the top of this post.

As I got in line for my movie ticket I was tired and a bit sweaty but I was rejoicing inside at my personal victory. I had redeemed my poor performance from March. It was a personal victory.

I went to see the movie "Zombieland". From the beginning it was very humorous and unique, two things I like about a movie. As it progressed it kind of lost it's edge and turned into "just another zombie movie" but overall I liked it.

Before leaving the city I went to the Cracker Barrel just off of Music City drive for lunch. It's one of my favorite restaurants in Nashville. It was a cold rainy day and the warm fire in the fireplace warmed me up.

Also I want to document the fact that while waiting for my food I played the jumping golf tees game that's at the tables of every Cracker Barrel and ended up with just 1 tee left. I was both excited and disappointed about doing it. Excited because I've been trying to do it for years and disappointed because I was by myself and no one could verify that I'd done it. But since I've written it on my blog it's now "officially" documented as the truth.

After lunch I drove onto Briley Parkway merged onto I-65 and headed home. The rest of the day was spent at home relaxing. I really enjoyed my little getaway to Nashville. While it wasn't something I haven't done before the break from the daily routine and the accomplishments that went with it made it a memorable day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I've Gone Nuts

In the month of October I've gone nuts. Now I realize most of you thought I was already there. But I don't mean that I've gone crazy or progressed to a new level of insanity. What I mean is that I've started craving cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, almonds, and every other kind of nut found in a container of Planter's Deluxe Mixed Nuts.

I hadn't eaten any nuts since my surgery until the weekend of the wedding in the Smokey mountains. We took two large containers with us to serve at the reception and they were sitting on top of the counter in the cabin's kitchen all weekend.

A combination of my being anxious for something different to eat and a "hey I'm on vacation" attitude led my hand to venture into the jar for "only a few". Well that first handful led do another and then another. I don't know how many handfuls I had but there were several over the 2 days of our stay. I enjoyed them. It was a "vacation temptation" and it would have been find if I'd have stopped at the end of the weekend.

There was an entire container left over after the reception and we brought them home with us. Now there's really nothing wrong with eating nuts as a healthy snack. They are a good source of protein for the bariatric surgery patient; but they are also a little high in fat. My nutrition plan given to me by my doctor doesn't allow me to eat them until at least 6 months post op because of the carbs and possible difficulty digesting them. I handle them just fine.

Every day since we've been home I've had to eat at least an ounce or two as a snack. They seem to call my name from the kitchen. It's the first time I've been addicted to any specific food since my surgery. I'm pretty certain its a mental thing but I could be craving them for some biological reason. I doubt it but it's possible.

To tell you the truth I really don't know why I've gone crazy over nuts. I was never really a big fan of them before surgery but now I have to have them. Perhaps it's just a passing phase. Maybe over time I'll get my fill of them and the habit will taper off.

The addition of nuts to my diet hasn't hurt my weight loss at all. I'm still losing consistently. I guess I shouldn't worry about it. As long as everything else continues to be going well and I don't eat an entire jar in one sitting; it's perfectly fine. I just wanted to relate my newest obsession with all my readers. I've gone nuts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Exercise Milestone

Yesterday I tried to start a new morning routine. I got up 1/2 an hour earlier than I had been since moving to day shift. I peeled myself off the mattress at 5:30. It was still dark outside. I gave myself about 30 minutes to wake up, eat breakfast, and pack up what I would be taking to work for lunch. I figured by then it would be light outside and I could take the dogs for a walk.

With the changing of the seasons, and autumn setting in, it's getting darker earlier each night. Pretty soon it will be dark before I have a chance to get home from going to the gym after work. That means if I continued to walk the dogs at in the early evenings I would have to walk them through town in the dark. Now I walk them in the daylight through the cemetery. If it's dark the cemetery is closed. I wouldn't want to walk through it even if it was open. I know there's no one or nothing there that's gonna hurt me but...well it's just...creepy.

Anyway I really like walking my puppies through the cemetery for several reasons. So I decided that yesterday morning was the time to make the switch from early evening walks to early morning. But the weather had a different idea. The skies in our area yesterday morning were so clouded that the daylight didn't arrive like it should have. When it was time to walk the dogs it was still very dark outside. So much for changing my schedule with out notifying the proper authorities or rather the elements. But if that's the way God wanted the day to be then I must accept that He's in charge and be grateful that's how it was.

Anyway this morning it was pouring rain so once again, no dog walking. However after I got home from work the precipitation had cleared out enough for us to go. It was cool, overcast, and dreary but it wasn't raining.

Now here's my point of this whole thing. I did something on my walk tonight I haven't been able to do since I started walking for exercise back in July. I walked them around the graveyard's outer path 4 times. At a distance of approximately 1/2 mile around that's a total of 2 miles. I walked 2 miles tonight. That's an exercise milestone for me. Less than 3 months ago I was having to stop and sit down on a granite bench half way around each time.

My next walking goal is to be able to walk to my church from my house. Although I haven't measured it by my car's odometer I've been told that it's 3 miles. A fellow church member, who makes that walk nearly every Sunday morning, has been challenging me for a few years now to walk with him. Now that I've done 2 miles in the cemetary I may be able to reach that goal in the not too distant future. Of course the ultimate goal is to walk both ways; a 6 mile walk. That's going to be a while but now that star is not so far out of reach.

Thank you Lord for giving me the strength and the ambition to reach just beyond what I have been able to do. Becoming stronger physically will help me be able to serve you better spiritually.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's About Character Not Events

It's been nearly a week since we've come home from our family vacation and the wedding in the Smokey Mountains but I'm mentally still stuck there. I've returned to work and the daily routine of every day life but my mind is still in the mountains.

What I mean is that for a couple of months I was so focused on getting ready for and anticipating the events of my family's visit and the wedding that I couldn't see past them.

As we left the Pigeon Forge area and we accelerated onto Interstate 40 I had to mentally recall what life was about before wedding week. In my mind I heard myself say in a TV announcer voice over, "And now back to your regularly scheduled life." Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I invested as much time, energy and effort into the vacation and the wedding as I did. But once again, I fell into the snare of focusing on an event in my life and not on the continuing true purpose.

The most common event I can use to illustrate what I mean is the annual celebration of the Christmas holiday. How many people experience an emotional let down after all the gifts are opened and the day is over? That's because they focus on the event and not the spirit of what it really means and how it can change them. I know mentioning that everyone should honor "the true spirit of Christmas" rather than the trappings is rather cliche but there is truth a lot of truth to it.

As a Christian, my life's purpose is to serve and bring glory to God. This is accomplished by working with and following the Holy Spirit's lead in my life to develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ in my heart and soul. This standard is mentioned in the Bible in several different ways. It's called sanctification, working out our salvation, running the race, and "a good work" which was started in us, by God, through Jesus Christ.

Growing and developing the characteristics of God in ourselves should be the focus of the Christian life. That focus, while aided by events and relationships, should transcend all other things not replaced by them.

I am easily distracted; mostly by events and things. Whether its a family event, a trip to a major league baseball game, or some other event. I've always had a tendency to place disproportionate value on the event and place it ahead of God in my life.

The same thing with possessions. I get a new electronic "toy" or a new puppet or some other thing, I felt like I couldn't live without, I put my involvement with it ahead of my focus on God. I get very obsessive about it. For all intense and purposes that misappropriated focus leap frogs ahead of God as the object of worship in my life.

The Bible calls this sin. Its not a blatant or obvious sin; it's very subtle. God is a very jealous and possessive God. He will not tolerate anyone or anything coming ahead of himself in the hearts of His children. Check out the first of the ten commandments. Putting anything ahead of God in my life is a sin from which I need to repent and exterminate from my character.

Events and possessions are given to us by God to enjoy and serve us as we serve Him. But in my life I have to learn to balance my focus on events and things so that I don't fall into sin. The sin of placing them on the "throne" of my life and making them gods ought not to be a part of my life. I have to remember ultimately I want to possess and display the character of Christ and make Him, the Lord over all that I am. I pray that I will do better at staying focused on Jesus Christ, my saviour, and God, the Father, as through the Holy Spirit, they work to draw me closer to Themselves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Smokeys' Reflective Testimony

In my 3 part review of our family's time in the Smokey Mountains in the interest of brevity (and I did try to be brief) I did not mention much about the beauty of the setting in which our little getaway resort was located. Here's a one of the many beautiful pictures I took of the mountains during our stay.

Of course, every gaze from the balcony of our cabin overlooking the National Park area was breath taking but one particular view had a profound effect on me.

On Friday, after arriving at our resort, before we even went to our cabin for the first time, several members of our family walked down to the resort's pool area. It over looked a large valley surrounded by mountain peaks in the distance. For a first view, or any view for that matter, it was amazing.

As I stood there taking it all in with my wife and other loved ones around me my focus was on God. One can only look at the beauty of nature so blatantly evident in the Smokey Mountains and think of it's creator.

It's undeniable. The splendor, the order, the color are just testimony to the One who spoke it all into existence. How can anyone see it and be convinced that it is there only because of millions of years of coincidental, chance, events and chemical mutations?
I'm not going to get into defending the fact that God created the heavens and the earth. It's been the truth from the beginning. See Genesis chapter 1. However when I see sights like I did that day my mind and heart can't help but turn toward God and then to the gospel.

God, the creator and maintainer of the amazing natural landscape we all saw that day is the same God who loves you and me, and all hopelessly lost sinners. The book of Romans tells us that He loved us so much that he sacrificed His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins, while we were yet still his enemies, so that we could be reconciled to Him.

I called my nephew, Bobby up to the railing over looking the valley, put my arm around him and in a private moment between just the two of us, told him what I was on my heart.: God and His amazing love for us. I pointed out to him that the beauty of the Smokeys and how it points to God. I reminded him of the fact that, in spite of what anyone else in the world thinks of, says to, or does to us, God who created the Tennessee mountains and the entire earth loves and protects us with all His power. If that kind of God is for us, how can anyone be against us?

Because he's still so young, I don't know if Bobby fully understood the point I was making and how essential it is to his faith and his identity. But it's my prayer that someday he'll remember that moment and it will help and strengthen him. I pray that he will understand that as Christians we are children of the King whose kingdom and beauty will last forever. The awesome beauty of the Smokey Mountains is just a small preview of His coming glory.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

3 Months Since Surgery

Two days ago, October 6, was the 3 month anniversary of my gastric by pass surgery. It's been a quick 3 months with a lot of changes and a lot of rewards. There's a long list of exciting things that have happened in my life as I've lost 80 pounds. My daily activities are different in that I am more active and ambitious than I was before surgery.

Spiritually, God has pulled back the initial layers of my sin of gluttony to reveal other sins I need to repent from and, with the Holy Spirit's help, exile from my life permanently. He also has changed my attitude regarding my degree of selfishness. I have started to consider others before myself a lot more than I used to. I'm doing my best to change toward having the heart of a servant as God commands in His word. Now that change isn't anywhere near complete (following the example of Jesus) but I'm growing in that aspect of my life.

There are subtle things that are better in my life now too. Being able to exercise my dogs by walking them has had improved their health as well as mine. Other things that I couldn't do like fitting into "normal" chairs, walking up stairs instead of having to pull myself up with my arms using the handrails are part of my life once again. There's so much more but I'm not going to take the time to list them all here.

To celebrate my 3 month surgery anniversary last night at our weight loss surgery support group I sang my tribute to my experience with gastric by pass. I wrote words to the tune of the Beatles song, "Yesterday". Here's the first verse of the song. It's called "Roux-en-Y" (pronounced "roo-in-why") which is the medical name for the procedure I had done.

words by Ron Havens
It was something I just had to try
Now the things in life don't pass me by
Yes, I thank God for Roux-en-Y

I hope to someday have a video of me singing the entire song posted on the Internet some day in the near future. Until then you'll have to be "lucky" enough to hear me sing it in person.

So now that I've passed the 3 month mark, next week I go for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Houston, my surgeon. I'll get my blood levels checked to see how I am physically.

For now I look toward my next goal which 100 pounds lost. Previously I had set that as my goal for Christmas. Now I believe I can reach that goal by Thanksgiving. By the end of the year I'd like to be halfway to my goal weight. If God is willing to continue blessing me with successful weight loss I'll reach that goal and more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wedding Week In Review: Part 3

With the wedding and the reception over it was now time to spend the rest of Saturday and the first part of Sunday, once again, with just my family. While it was a short time it was relaxing and enjoyable. Here from my point of view are the highlights.

Saturday October 3 (continued)

When it was down to just our family including the Bride & Groom, in the cabin we relaxed and watched the DVD of the ceremony. Then it was time to clean up, refrigerate the leftovers, and transform the reception hall back into its original "cabin like" state. It was another of the amazing family group efforts that highlighted the entire weekend.
Michael, Heather, and my nephew, Bobby, decided that they were going to go into Pigeon Forge to visit an attraction called "Magic Quest". It was an interactive live video game experience. They said later that it was a lot of fun. At one point everyone else in the cabin dispersed to change their clothes or just go to their rooms to rest. It was only Paula, Theresa, and me in on the main floor.
I decided that I wanted to take a nap but after trying to rest upstairs in the bedroom myself I came down with a case of "Cabin Fever". I went back down to the main floor and saw Paula and Theresa playing a card game called "Canasta". I told my wife I was bored. I wanted to get out and do something or just go see some of the sights of the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. She suggested that I go do it.

There wasn't anyone else around to go with me so I went by myself. I promised I'd be back in a couple of hours. I drove back down the mountain and into the heart of the tourist area just looking at the sights. I drove through Pigeon Forge past the road back to Dollywood amusement park and headed toward Gatlinburg. Part of that road was a hairpin turn that's a lot of fun to drive on.

With it being an early Saturday evening Gatlinburg was very busy and crowded. There were people walking everywhere. I drove from one end of the town to the other just looking around at the sights. I recognized things that were familiar to me from my two previous trips and saw some new things as well. I really enjoyed my time alone and the drive through what I consider one of the most fascinating and exciting tourist areas I've ever been to.

Before I headed back to the cabin I drove to a restaurant called "Applewood". I wanted to make sure that I knew how to get there because that's where we were going to have breakfast on our way out of town the next day.

When I got back to the cabin everyone in the family, including James & Brandi, were in the dinning room. We spent the rest of the night playing either the card game, Phase 10, or the board game, Cranium. We laughed, talked, and drank coffee until about midnight.

When the games were finished the preparation for leaving the cabin the next morning began. Everybody packed what they could and we went to bed about 1AM. The next day would be our last hours together for this vacation.

Sunday October 4
On Sunday morning, for the last time on this trip, our families worked together to get everything packed and loaded into each vehicle so we could check out of our cabin by 10 am. The last thing we did at the cabin was gather on the front porch steps for a group picture. We recruited a very gracious young woman to take the pictures for us so we could all be in it. The picture is at the top of this post.

We drove down the mountain for the last time and headed back through Pigeon Forge to the Applewood restaurant where we would have breakfast. Being Sunday morning the place was rather crowded and we had to wait on the veranda until they has a table for us. Shari & Bobby had to go back to the cabin to get something they forgot but got there just as we were being seated.

Following our meal we went back to the Apple Barn store to look around. We spent about an hour shopping and doing some final visiting with each other.
Paula got some sugar free apple butter and other apple products. Shari got some apples. I got Teejai and Bobby each a small wooden storage box as a souvenir to remember the trip.

Once the shopping was finished it was time to say "good bye". The Pennsylvania branch of family would be heading north on Interstate 81 toward Virginia and the Kentucky group would be heading east on Route 40 toward Nashville.

Everyone hugged on each other and we took some last minute pictures. We talked about our plans to get together next year at the Jersey shore and coming back to the Smokies some time in the future. Finally with teary eyes we departed.

We headed home this time with only Heather and Michael in their car behind us. Before leaving the area we stopped and shopped at a store that sells all those products sold on TV commercials by Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan. We looked around and bought some souvenir T-shirts.

The traffic and construction on the way to the interstate made for some interesting moments (especially the way I drive) but it was all okay in the end. Our last stop before getting on I-40 and heading home was at a mineral and stone outlet. It was a shack where they sold colored glass stones and small quartz formations. Paula wanted to stop and get some stones for our flowerbeds but they turned out to be too expensive.
The place was very strange in that there were some some very nice looking quartz pieces while at the same time they were selling what looked like nothing more than large broken chunks of colored glass for a lot of money. Paula did buy me a real nice faceted cut and polished emerald green glass stone.

The place was also one of those "mine for gemstones yourself" places. They have buckets of sand for sale and use sift them through a screen over a makeshift water trough. Theresa and Michael each bought a bucket and panned for rubies, emeralds, garnets and more. They found several and Theresa was very happy. She really enjoyed it.

As we headed down I-40 it started to rain. We had rain all the way home. We stopped in Cookville, Tennessee for lunch at the Cracker Barrel there.
We got home around 8:30 PM. I called my sisters cell hone to check on the PA family. They had stopped for the night in Virgina. Once again our families were in different places miles away from each other but at least we had a wonderful week together to talk about and remember for years to come.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wedding Week In Review Part 2

Here's a recap of October 3rd, the day of the wedding in The Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Hope you enjoy reading it. It's rather long but I've done my best to be concise.

Saturday October 3
Another memorable October day for our family. When I first woke up in the beautiful dawn of a Smokey Mountains morning the first thing I thought about was my parents. This day would have been their 50th wedding anniversary. Knowing that this day will now be my son's anniversary was a comfort to me because it will still be a significant day in our family.

The day began with a breakfast of egg cups, danish, banana bread and coffee (for everyone who wanted or needed it). Our cabin had 3 more residents than it did before we went to bed. James' friends, Derrick, Jarrod, and Nathan, arrived some time during the night. They would be the groomsmen in the wedding. The didn't stay very long though. They left shortly after the reception was over.

After breakfast the family workforce went into action once again. This time we worked together to turn the dinning room and main floor of the cabin into a temporary reception hall. We moved tables and put up decorations. We set up a food table and a special table for the cake. My brother in law, Bob, and his daughter, Teejai, helped Paula with the decorations. Everyone pitched in to help. Within an hour the place was ready. It was a very nice set up for such a relatively small place. Everyone did a great job in getting it ready.

The only "glitch" was that the cake didn't arrive when it was supposed to. It arrived nearly hours late, just before the wedding started.

About noon some of the wedding guests who had driven down from Kentucky arrived. They included James' buddy from the military, Matt. They served together in Iraq. He was the guy James always referred to as "my driver." Matt's wife was with him. It was when James attended Matt's wedding at the same resort earlier in the year that he and Brandi decided they wanted their special day to be held there too. Along with Matt and his wife was a young lady named Bethany. James and Brandi has asked her to come and take pictures for them.

Getting dressed for the wedding was another "personal victory" for me. I was able to wear the black suit I had worn for my wedding 7 years ago. I hadn't been able to wear it for about 3 years. While it didn't fit perfectly, just the fact that I could be comfortable in it again made me proud.

The wedding chapel was within 300 yards of our cabin. It wasn't very far but it was up a rather steep hill. When I walked in the place was abuzz with the business of getting ready for the ceremony. Upstairs the guests were being seated and pre-ceremony pictures were being taken. The same thing was happening down stairs where most of the wedding party was waiting. The place was nicely decorated and there were several video cameras mounted on the walls. Set up to record the ceremony from several angles.

The wedding began about 10 minutes late. James, Michael and the 3 groomsmen looked sharp in their tuxedos and nervously joked with each other as they waited. When the music began the bridesmaids, dressed in pink gowns walked to the front. Everyone stood as Brandi came down the aisle on her father's arm. She was one of the prettiest bride's I'd seen since Paula surprised me by appearing in the back of the church at our wedding in her bridal gown.

The ceremony was nice. The preacher read the 14th chapter of 1st Corinthians (aka "The Love Chapter") and spoke of the love and support they would need to give each other and could get from those who were there as witnesses. James and Brandi exchanged their vows, which although it didn't they contain the traditional "I do"s clearly established a promise of a lifetime commitment between the two of them.

After the ceremony everyone gathered outside the chapel to shower the newlyweds with bubbles. Then came time for the pictures. There were 3 photographers snapping shots. There was the "official" chapel photographer, Bethany, and Brandi's aunt, all snapping away with professional looking cameras and flashes. There was about 30 minutes of picture taking before most everyone headed back over to our cabin.

The main floor of the cabin, now the reception hall, was filled by all the members of my family, about 30 of Brandi's family, and some other guests. It was crowded but not uncomfortable. Paula had prepared food for about 55 people but there weren't that many there.

James and Brandi got to the reception about 15 minutes after everyone else after posing for more pictures and saying "good bye" to some of Brandi's family who couldn't stay for the reception. The first thing they did was cut the cake. Then they shoved it into each other's faces. They made such a mess of each other each of them had to go into the bathroom and wash themselves off. The cake was 3 layers vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate from the bottom up, respectively. Brandi was upset when she realized that the top layer (chocolate) wasn't supposed to be cut but saved for their 1st anniversary. Later she did cut some of it but the majority of it was saved for next year.

I gave a greeting, made some instructional announcements and said a prayer of blessing over the newlyweds and the food. Everyone began to eat and socialize as my sister, Shari, cut the cake.

The reception was nice and everything went smoothly. It only lasted for about 90 minutes. By the time 5 o'clock came it was only my family in the cabin once again. We had done it. With the excellent planning of my wife and the cooperative help of my family, we managed to give James and Brandi the gift of a small but unique and memorable wedding reception.

I will conclude the review of our time in the Smokies (the rest of Saturday and Sunday) in the next post.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wedding Week In Review Part 1

The vacation and wedding I've been writing about for a while now is over. The next 2, rather lengthy, posts are going to be my attempt to fill you in on the highlights with a review of all 5 days spent with my family.

Wednesday September 30
I worked until 4PM. My sisters, Peggy and Shari; their husbands, Gene and Bob; and Shari's children, Bobby & Teejai (pronounced "TJ") after about a day and a half on the road, arrived in my small little Kentucky town about 2PM.

On the way home I picked up the gigantic "Chief" pizza from Firehouse pizza for our dinner. It's a 36 inches in diameter cut into 40 slices. Everyone in the family (at least those who were in Kentucky at the time) were at the house for dinner. My sister in law, Theresa; my son, Michael, and his wife, Heather; the "soon to be bride and groom" Brandi; and James were all there.

The family chowed down on the pizza and most everyone drank coffee. We spent the rest of the night talking and just enjoying each other's company. I showed my sisters my "2005 Pictures of the Year" book and Paula's book of pictures from Michael and Heather's wedding last October. I introduced everyone to Ruben, my new ventriloquist figure. A few of them said he "looked creepy" which means I have to work on giving him a personality that overwhelms his initial impression.

The evening ended with everyone sitting around watching a DVD of video James shot during 2004 & 2005 when our families vacationed together. This would be the only night during my PA families stay in Kentucky that we would all be together but there were a few more fun evenings yet to come.

Thursday October 1
The day began with my sister in law graciously inviting the PA family to her house for a southern breakfast of sausage balls and biscuits with homemade jellies. The highlight of the day was a visit to see James and Brandi's new house. James wanted to show them his homestead and his "family" but the real novelty would be introducing them to his neighbors pet; a lion named "Judah". That's not a typing error; James has a lion living next door to him. His neighbor used to run a rescue for unusual pets and retired circus animals. Judah and his mother, Sheba, are about the only ones left.

Also my family loved James' dogs, Brody the boxer and Bailey the Shih-Tzu puppy. Peggy held Bailey in her arms almost the entire time we were there. She said she was going to take her home with her. James also showed off his Egyptian lizard named "Hitler." No one but my nephew like him though.

During the afternoon the family went back to their hotel to relax for a while and I went into town to do some errands including some grocery shopping. I took my nephew, Bobby with me. In addition to the errands we went to some of our favorite stores including Game Stop and Best Buy. Bobby wanted to buy the latest "Halo" game but didn 't have enough money. We had a good time together and had a long talk about some things going on in his life.

For dinner I made hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. I had them ready by about 6:30 or so. But my family decided they would wait for Paula to come home from work to eat. It's Paula's busy time of the year at the office and she had to work late. She got home a little after 8.

While we were waiting for Paula to come home, Peggy, Shari and I prepared some ingredients to make egg cups. Its a quiche like dish that's okay for weight loss surgery patients to eat. We cut up and sauteed green peppers and onions; cooked turkey bacon and broke it up into bits; and browned a pound of turkey sausage in small bites. We were going to make the egg cups that night and take them with us for Saturday morning breakfast in Tennessee.

On this last night together in Kentucky it was just my sister's and their family, my sister in law, and Paula & me. After dinner my sisters and I sat around singing church songs we remembered singing as we were growing up. Then we watched part of a movie called "Walk Like A Man". It's a 1987 film starring a young Howie Mandel as a boy raised by wolves reunited as a man with his rich dysfunctional family. It's one of my sisters' favorite comedies of all time. Peggy laughed almost the whole time we were watching it. Everyone else got a kick out of it too.

About 10 o'clock or so the family went back to their hotel to pack and prepare to leave for Tennessee in the morning. Paula and I got some packing done ourselves as well before calling it a night.

Friday October 2
This was a travel day for our clan. There was a lot of excitement and some nervousness as we were traveling to Gatlinburg, a place no one in my sister's family had ever been. In addition we were going to be spending 2 1/2 days together in a cabin as a family and attend James & Brandi's wedding.

The day began with my nephew Bobby and I going into town to pick the SUV we had decided to rent for our trip to the Smokie mountains. Bobby drove my Vue to the rental car lot. We picked up a Nissan Xtera, did some last minute shopping at Sam's club and headed home.

After a couple of hours of intense packing and loading all of the things we needed for a 2 day vacation as well as the food and decorations to host a small reception after the wedding we headed out on the road.

We left our small town on Rt 101 about 12:30 on our way to Interstate 40 west of Nashville. We took some back roads to avoid the city's traffic. We were a caravan of 4 vehicles. Paula and I with Theresa in the back seat, led the way in our Xtera, then Michael & Heather in their rented Toyota Rav 4. Followed by Bobby & Shari in their cargo van with Gene & Peggy in their minivan completed our family convoy.

With only a short stop at a Wendy's restaurant for lunch we made good time in our travels. As the lead vehicle it was up to me to get us to the cabin. I had a couple of different sets of directions as well as the help of a GPS navigation system. Luckily after we got off the main road in Pigeon Forge there were signs directing us to the resort.

The last few miles of the trip was on couple of steep winding roads that led us up into the foot hills of the Smokies. The roads were blacktop but had no guardrails alongside them and steep drops just inches to the sides with no shoulder. They were very steep in places and at times included 90 degree turns.

I had been on roads like these before on my previous trips to the area. However I knew that my sisters had not. The first time you drive or ride on mountain roads in the Smokies it's a very nerve racking experience.

As I made my way up to the entrance to the Preserve Resort I knew that back in the other vehicles my sisters were very nervous. This was confirmed by their "OMG" reactions once we finished our climb and were parked in front of the resort office.

Once we checked in and got our cabin assignment we took some time to walk down by the resort pool and look out at the view of the beautiful Smokey Mountains. We knew then that we were in God's country. More about that in a future post. Soon it was time to get to the cabin and unpack everything from our vehicles and get settled into our rooms.

In the interest of making every one's time at the cabin as enjoyable as possible I tried to "assign" the bedrooms as with every one's best interest in mind. When all was said and done our 3 families, James and his 3 groomsmen (who would arrive at the cabin later that night) all had sleeping quarters in 8 different bedrooms over 4 floors.

Once the unpacking and room arrangements were finished it was time to start dinner. I had brought along 4 large frozen pasta dishes to feed the crew. They were still partially frozen and I put them in the oven. Midway through the baking process I cut off the oven without realizing it. This ended up delaying dinner by about 90 minutes. I was upset about it but my family all took it in stride. We didn't start eating until about 9:30. Once dinner was ready though it went well.

After dinner, although I was tired, I had to go to Walmart in Pigeon Forge to get some of the supplies we needed for rest of the weekend and the reception the next day. It was after 10:30 when I left the cabin. I planned on going alone but my family insisted that someone go with me. My niece Teejai was the only one who wanted to go.

I wasn't very sure about going down the mountain and finding my way back as tired as I was in addition to it being dark. We took a GPS unit with us. I took my time going back down the curvy steep roads to the flat land. Once we turned on Rt 321 heading toward Pigeon Forge, my navigator, Teejai, told me that the GPS had "died". It had no more power.

I suddenly became very concerned. I wasn't sure I knew how to get back to the cabin. I prayed to God that he would help me be alert and focused and help me find my way to and from Walmart because of Teejai. Things couldn't have gone smoother.

We found the Walmart and quickly got the things on our list. We headed back to the cabin about 11:30. Luckily there were signs directing us to the resort on the roads where I had to turn. We got back safe and sound shortly after midnight. It all turned out okay and I got to spend some quality time with my niece.

By that time everyone was just sitting around drinking coffee and visiting with each other. Just before that Paula, my sisters, and my sister in law, and daughter in law worked on getting some of the food items ready for the reception the next day. They cut up the beef sticks, rolled the turkey, roast beef and ham and placed them on trays with the cheese slices. Heather cut up the cheese balls into slices. It was a real team effort and just a preview of what was to come the next day.

With everyone tired from the long trip and the excitement of the first day in the cabin it wasn't long after I got back from Pigeon Forge that everyone said their "good nights" and went to bed. The next day was going to be the biggest and most memorable day of the entire vacation. I'll have more about that in tomorrow's post: Part 2.