Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recommended Reading

On Monday I finished a book that has really helped me change my perspective in my walk with Christ. It’s called “Respectable Sins” and is written by Jerry Bridges. Here’s why it has helped me so much.

As a Christian, my salvation through Jesus has many levels to it. Of course there’s the initial level of forgiveness of my sins and reconciliation with God by faith and acceptance of the gift of grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

A second level is the acceptance of the “Lordship” of Christ over my life. Having accepted God’s grace I now commit myself to an eternity of submission to doing His will, obeying his commands, and bringing Him glory. There is no compartmentalizing of my life any longer. There are not areas my life where I submit myself to God’s will and others that I do not. It’s an “all or nothing” commitment. If you are a Christian your life has been bought and paid for through the blood of Jesus Christ. He is now Lord of your life; or He should be.

Another level is repentance. When I recognized the fact that I was a lost sinner separated from God I accepted Christ as my savior and repented from all sin. In the song "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus" when the song writer penned the lyrics "no turning back, no turning back" he was referring to never returning to his old sinful ways. God gave me a change of heart through the Holy Spirit. Part of this change happened at the moment of salvation. This is the “new creature” Paul writes about in 2nd Corinthians 5:17.

An important facet of my changed nature is the continued turning from sin in my life through the work of The Holy Spirit. Specifically this means, while I am still a sinner, I have made a continuing commitment to God and a promise to turn away from sin, all sin, in order to grow closer in my relationship with Him. While it is against my nature to repent, the Holy Spirit has been at work in my life; helping me turn way from the sin that continues to entangle me. This journey in a Christian’s life is known as “sanctification.” It’s a slow and some times hardly detectable work but it’s always there. As a Christian I need to recognize God’s convictions and repent from the sins He shows me are still part of my life.

It is with that in mind that I found “Respectable Sins” such a help to me. Jerry Bridges discusses things in our lives the Bible clearly identifies as sin yet are not considered so in today’s main stream Christian culture. In 14 chapters of this book he using scripture explains the sinful nature of a variety of “habits”, “traits”, or “behaviors” that hardly any Christian today would think are sins. No one would think the things discussed inhibit a Christian’s relationship with Christ, yet they do.

I will not take the time to name all those he deals with. However I will mention one that I believe encapsulates them all: Ungodliness. A Christian can be ungodly whenever he fails to recognize the love, sovereignty, authority, presence, or any other aspect of God in his life. After reading the book, although there are specific means of dealing with each sin mentioned, I believe that if I focus on keeping my heart and mind on God first and continually recognize His presence in every aspect of my life the “battle” with all the other sins will be half over before it begins.

I could go on for a lot longer about this subject and this book. Let me conclude by highly recommending this book to anyone who wants to deepen their walk with God and become more Christ like in their lives.

You can order this book on Amazon.com or through the website: navpress.com. You can also order by phone 1-800-366-7788. My prayer is that you should you order this book it makes a difference in your life like it has in mine. God Bless.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Catching Up From The Weekend

Didn’t find the time to sit down and write a post this weekend. There was a lot going on.

Of course Friday night we went to see the movie “Fireproof.” Saturday was clean up day around our house. With only 2 weeks before our big family weekend (see Sept 7 post) there’s still a lot of stuff to do around here.

Saturday night was our annual church event called “The Beast Feast.” It’s a time when the men of the church get together and grill what ever kind of wild game they happen to bring. I got there late and didn’t stay long. There wasn’t anything left that I wanted to eat and I wasn’t interested in the UK vs WKU football game they were watching. I came home and watched the movie “Evan Almighty” with my wife.

On Sunday morning our church had its annual Sunday School picnic. This year it was at a park near our local high school. There was a concert by a local gospel quartet called “The Crossmen” and then lunch was served. There was lots of food and desserts. There was also lots of sun. Both Paula and I got a bit of sunburn.

After the picnic Paula took me to Midas to pick up our Oldsmobile. It was in the shop for repairs 3 times this month. After over $1000 worth of work it runs better but now there’s a problem with the power steering. It’s going to have to go back to get that looked at.

Paula went on to work and I went to a movie. I saw the action film “Eagle Eye.” It was good with lots of action. It was kind of like a cross between the movies “War Games” and “Enemy of the State.” It’s a good “guy” film.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at home watching the Washington Redskins defeat the Dallas Cowboys 26-24. It was the first time this season I got to watch my favorite NFL team win.

The rest of the day wasn’t very eventful. My wife worked until about 9 o’clock. I spent the evening working on various things on the computer and watching television.

The last weekend of September 2008 is history. My plans for the up coming week include looking for a job, cleaning up the house, leading the children’s music time at church on Wednesday night, and going to the doctor for my 2nd monthly weight-loss-effort check up.

I know not much of that sounds very interesting but keep reading this blog October’s going to be a month full special events and I’ll keep you “posted” on it all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fireproof Is A Terrific “Date Night” Movie

After the success of their second movie “Facing The Giants” Sherwood Baptist, the Georgia church that makes movies would be hard pressed to duplicate its success. But with God’s leading and direction Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the creative minds behind Sherwood’s all volunteer film making unit, have released a third gospel based movie about marriage.

“Fireproof” stars actor and Christian evangelist Kirk Cameron in the lead role. He plays fire fighter, Caleb Holt, whose self- centered and self-righteous attitude is the main component in the disintegration of his marriage. Clueless as to why this is happening he is set on a path toward change through his father’s advice and a book entitled “The Love Dare.”

I won’t tell you much more about this movie except that Cameron is very good in it. His acting makes the character and the story very believable. The other actors are also very good considering they are just everyday members of Sherwood Baptist church. Some of the roles are played by actors who were in “Facing The Giants” as well.

This movie is a wonderful story about different types of relationships including marriage, a spiritual reconciliation with God, friendship, and the ever fragile parent / child relationship.

It makes a great “date night” destination for any couple looking to get a night out without the kids. If you can’t afford to do anything more than “dinner & a movie” this is the feature to see. This movie has laughter, tears, action and emotional surprises. Just a recommendation, make sure you take tissues to collect the tears.

Almost as important as the movie is the story of the church and people who made it. I highly recommend a search of the Internet for the back ground stories of those involved. God's faithfulness in their off screen lives is a wonderful story in and of itself.

Don’t hesitate makes plans for next weekend to go see “Fireproof”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Puppet Inventory

This post was inspired by my oldest son when last Sunday he asked the question “How many puppets do you have now?” My wife and I took a mental inventory and to my surprise I discovered that the answer is 16. I have 16 puppets in my ventriloquist troupe.

This includes: 4 people puppets
Calvin, a little boy; Sherman, an old man;Schnozz, the ambassador from the Island of Proboscis ; and a basketball player with long braided hair.

8 animal puppets: Cecil, the turtle; Irving, the pink fish; Eugene, the owl; Kroaker, the frog; Lanoline, the lamb; A clown fish; A flying squirrel; and a small elephant hand puppet.

Then there’s the category I call "The Others" which includes: A talking dry erase board, the Blabber Mouth puppet I created, and Amby & Dexter (both sock puppets)

Out of all 16 I have used 9 of them in public performances. Now traditionally being a ventriloquist means you sit or stand on a stage with a wooden character upon your knee and exchange snappy dialogue and punch lines. That’s not the avenue of ventriloquism I’m driving down right now. Of course I do one day aspire to being that type of ventriloquist. But the type of wooden figure I would like to have is not affordable to me right now.

I have always loved working with, what is called, soft puppets ever since I was a kid. I love performing with them. I will continue to work with them even after I get my first traditional “vent” figure.

As I was collecting the information for this post I was a little surprised about the total number of characters and voices I have in my repertoire. I’ve always considered myself very limited in my ability to create character voices. But using 9 different voices is not bad.

Again, I have to say that I’m very thankful that God has allowed me to look into the mirror of my ventriloquism ministry and see a reflection I’m very pleased with. I pray He is as well. My ministry and career as a ventriloquist is still in its infancy but it sure has grown a lot over the last 2 years.
I started out in July 2006 with just a pink fish sitting on top of a shoe box. A picture of my first public performance, in my church on July 16, 2006, is at the top of this post. Now my ventriloquist abilities include 9 characters and voices. That’s quite a lot of growth. All the glory and honor for my progress goes to God.

I’d like to conclude this post by challenging you to take an inventory of your passion or ministry and see how far you’ve come. It may help you see and appreciate the fact that God is at work in your life. If you don’t have a ministry or a passion that God had led you to I strongly encourage you inventory your life and determine where He wants you to serve Him. He has a plan for everyone and that includes you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Day of Friendship, Laughter and Car Trouble

This is the story of the events of this past Tuesday September 23, 2008. It was a long and emotional day.

In the morning I drove my wife to the Midas auto repair shop to pick up her 97 Oldsmobile. She then drove it to work. After months of not driving it because of its need for repairs we finally got it fixed; or so we thought.

I had some errands to do in town but it was too early to do any of them. I decided to go visit my best friend, Brent. The time of my visit was unusual for us. Normally I go to see and talk with him sometime during the afternoon. Nevertheless he was more than welcoming to me when I called and suggested I come over. He had just put on a fresh pot of coffee. Not being a coffee drinker I got my own source of caffeine (a 32 oz cup of diet Dr. Pepper) and some breakfast from a local fast food place.

While sitting at his kitchen table talking with him I got a phone call from my wife. As it turned out the Oldsmobile was still not running the way it should. The turn signals didn’t work at all and the engine was running rough. Paula was rather upset. I assured her that things would turn out alright. I told her she shouldn’t worry about how we were going to get another car and afford the payment. The problems with the Oldsmobile could be fixed. We decided that at lunch time we would take it back to Midas.

I spent another couple of hours talking with my friend. We always have a good time talking to each other about what God is doing in our lives, theology, politics, cultural issues and lots of other stuff. On this day our discussion took a turn into areas that ended up challenging us both. The details of our discussion are much too detailed for this post. Just let me say that I am certain both of us will look back to today as the starting point of something that makes a difference in our service to The Lord.

After I left my friend’s house I did some grocery shopping. At noon time I followed Paula as she drove the Olds back to the garage. We left it there making sure they knew that it wasn’t fixed the way we had expected it to be. The whole situation had stressed us both. She was a little closer to “the edge” than I was because of some other issues she had to deal with at work.

We picked up lunch, came home, ate and then my wife drove the Saturn, which she has been driving over the last few months, back to work to finish her day.

I’d like to tell you the end of our troubles with the Olds but as I write this on the evening of Thursday September 25 they have not yet been resolved. Once things are taken care of I’ll let you know how they turned out.

At 5 o’clock that afternoon my friend, Brent; a fellow deacon from my church, and I left for Nashville. Our destination was Zanies comedy club. On this night the club presented a show called “Bleep Free” comedy. Three of my favorite Christian stand up comedians were going to be on stage: Ken Davis, Jeff Allen, and Brad Stein.

Just before we left his house, Brent gave me the birthday present he had gotten me two weeks earlier. It was a DVD entitled “The Apostles of Comedy.” Ironically two of the comedians we were going to see are on the DVD.

We got to sit up front in the show room right next to the stage. Now I’ve been to over half a dozen shows at Zanies over the last 6 years or so but I enjoyed this one the most. I was rather familiar with a lot of the material from hearing it on the Comedy Channel on XM radio. Nevertheless I laughed hard and loud the majority of the night.

As a matter of fact there was one time I was the only one in the room who laughed. On stage at the time, Brad Stein pointed me out and compared me to a woman from the back of the room who had laughed loudly earlier in his set.

He also pointed me out a second time during his act because of the horizontal stripes on my shirt. Taken out of context the jokes he made about my shirt and about me could be misunderstood so I won’t try to explain them here. If you want the details let me know and I’ll tell you the story. Otherwise let me just say I was okay with what he said and laughed the same way everyone else did.

Ken Davis was a very funny story teller. His style of delivery kind of reminded me of a cross between Bill Cosby and Lewis Black. His stories about the birth of his children and going through airport security were hilarious.

Jeff Allen was funny but he didn’t do a lot of the material I had expected him to do. He was a lot less edgy than I have heard him in the past. He used having attention deficit disorder as part of his act and it didn’t suit him well.

All in all I enjoyed the show very much and so did my two friends. On the way out of the club I shook hands with Jeff Allen and Ken Davis. Davis even thanked me for being a good sport about getting picked on during the show.

The day ended with a drive home that included discussions about getting speeding tickets and a mission trip to Russia. During the ride down and back I realized from the conversation just what a strong friendship Brent and I have built up over the past 2 years.

As I write about Tuesday for this blog post I am thankful to God for the bond of love between my wife and I that helped us both at least cope with the stress of our car troubles. The resilience of our marriage always comes through in the tough times. I am so blessed to have Paula in my life. She is the Love of my life. The best gift God has ever given me.

I am trying my best to be thankful for the on-going car troubles with the understanding that God allows everything to happen in our lives for a reason. The Bible tells us to rejoice in our trials. I’m trying to put my faith in God’s divine sovereignty a little more every day.

Finally I am thankful for having a great friend like Brent in my life. There have been times over the course of our friendship when he’s been the only person I could tell certain things. He has helped me to learn so much. Some times I take that for granted. But then God allows me to have days like today when He opens my eyes once again to the blessings of my marriage and the friendships He has given me in my life. Thank You Lord.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Last Game At Baseball's Cathedral

Last night the New York Yankees and their fans celebrated last game was played at the original Yankee Stadium.

Although it was refurbished between 1974 & 1976 the stadium where last night's final game was played was for all intents and purposes the same place that opened in 1923. Many great players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi, Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter played on the same field over the course of it's 85 year history.

The event was marked with opening ceremonies worthy of what the Stadium represented to Major League Baseball and its history. Members of the Yankees' championship teams from 4 decades walked onto the field for the last time. The stadium didn't just means something to Yankees fans to millions of baseball fans it will always be considered Baseball's Cathedral.

I explained how attending the last game before the stadium's remodeling in the early 70's helped me become a Yankees fan in my September 11 post. Although I only got to watch this last game on TV it was still a memorable and emotional event. (As we watched my wife told me she'd wished I could have gotten the chance to go to the last game. I told her even if I could have gotten there the tickets were impossible to get. Thanks for caring Honey. That's one of the reasons I love you)

At the end of the game the Yankees team gathered on the pitcher's mound and Derek Jeter spoke words of salute to "the fans." I felt touched and honored by his words.

I also have another reason for feeling emotional about the closing of Yankees Stadium. It will mean a special memory of my dad will be gone as well. In 1968 my dad helped American League umpire, Charlie Berry align the pitcher's mound and home plate at Yankee Stadium prior to the season. Berry lived in our home town and my dad was a civil engineer. Because of those two things the umpire asked my dad to help him with the Stadium measurements. An image of the original statement sent to my dad from the American League office in Boston is at the top of this post.

I don't ever remember telling my dad how proud I was of the fact that he at one time stood on the same pitchers mound like so many great Yankee pitchers. Before the game last night Don Larsen, the only pitcher in history to pitch a perfect game in the World Series, scooped up some dirt from the Yankee Stadium pitcher's mound. Now in reality the dirt that was on that mound last night had no relationship to the dirt on which Larson had pitched his history making game. But it was symbolic of a time and a place that he wanted to cherish for the rest of his life.

Like millions of Yankee fans I wouldn't mind having a bit of the dirt from the Stadium's pitcher's mound myself. But my reason for wanting that dirt is a little more personal than most. With the closing of the stadium and it's eventual demolition I will no longer be able to watch on TV or go there in person and see the spot where I know my dad once stood. And although no one, other than those I share this bit of family history with, will know it ever happened. I will always have a memory of Yankee Stadium that will be all my own...Thanks Dad.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Once Again On Sunday

After singing and doing ventriloquism at the "Street Party For Jesus" yesterday my wife and I did the same thing today but it was in a different place and in a different way.

We both ministered during our Sunday morning worship service at church. Paula sang twice during the service. She was part of the church choir that opened the service with a song and later she sang as part of a quartet. Four ladies sang a barbershop version of the song "This Little Light of Mine." It was unique arrangement and a different type of musical style for our church but was well done. My wife said afterward everyone kept asking her the same question. If all the singers are female shouldn't they be called a "beauty shop quartet?"

My ventriloquist sketch came just after the choir sang it's song. The sketch was to promote the church picnic next week. The performance was sort of a milestone in my career as a ventriloquist. It was the first time I'd used 2 character voices in the same sketch. I still only used one puppet though. I used second voice for the microphone. I gave the mic a Spanish accent and used an old bit from the old time radio shows made famous by Mel Blanc, the voice of all the great Looney Tunes characters.

Over the course of the last couple of days I had made a lot of changes to my sketch. The one I performed used the premise of the original script but only a little of the dialogue. I kept a couple of jokes from the original and added a few more.
Seems most of my sketches go through a process of change between the initial writing of the script and the final performance. That's what makes practicing so important. I need to be able to settle on a final version of the sketch in time to memorize it for the performance.

Anyway it was an interesting weekend for my wife and I. We both got to minister to people in two different situations. Again, I'm thankful to The Lord for the opportunities for both of us. God willing I look forward to more in the future.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Street Party Performance

Today God gave me and my wife an opportunity to add a new facet to our marriage and our ministry. Let me explain and give you some of the details.

A local Baptist church, not ½ a mile away from my house held a “Street Party For Jesus” today. That church asked some of the other churches in the area to contribute to the entertainment portion of the festival. My church was given the last hour, 4PM. We only had to entertain for 30 minutes though.

Because he had other commitments for the day and may not be able to be there my pastor asked me to be the coordinator of the event. I planned on doing a ventriloquist sketch and needed some singers to fill the rest of our time. Although I sent out a call for singers to be part of the program everyone who wanted to sing already had plans. So to help me out my wife agreed to sing.

Saturday morning she did some rehearsing in our living room. As she was trying to decide what to sing we came up with the idea of singing a duet.

I opened with my “vent” sketch. I did the same routine with my puppet, Calvin that I did at Iva Baptist Church a few weeks ago. The sketch went okay but as always I think I could have done better. A picture of my performance is at the top of this post.

After my sketch Paula and I sang a duet. It was a song I knew from when I was a kid, Happiness Is The Lord. My pastor actually made it to the event so he introduced us. We had rehearsed at home and I thought we were prepared. As it turns out I wasn’t. My mind was still on the vent performance and I started the song with the 3rd verse. Being the good wife she is Paula followed right along with me. After we finished the 3rd verse I had my wits about me again and we started from the beginning. We got all the way through the song without any further mistakes.

Paula then sang a couple of verses of the song “In The Garden.” She was a lot more relaxed singing by herself and did a wonderful job. I ended our time “on stage” by playing the songs, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and “When The Role Is Called Up Yonder” on my harmonica.

We stayed and watched the next performers for a while. We got a few nice comments from both the members of our church who were there and people we didn’t know. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means but it was a good one. Singing together is something we’ve talked about doing for a long time. Today we finally did it.

There are 3 things I would like to add about this experience. First, is the fact that now that we have the first time “under our belt” my wife and I can start rehearsing to sing together in our church.

Second, until today I had seen our two ministries (my ventriloquism and my wife’s singing) as two separate things that wouldn’t ever have any common ground. Now that they’ve worked together once I can see the potential for them working together in the future. Our ministries are different but they both have the same purpose: to deliver the gospel and minister to people.

Third, I have made a couple of decisions about my ventriloquism after today’s performance. I need to practice on a regular basis. That’s nothing new. I have known that I need to practice, practice, practice for a long time. The other decision is that I’m going to stop being so critical of myself after my performances. I know I’m still learning and as long as I do my best I need to give my performances up to God as a sacrifice and leave them with him. I need to only make positive observances about them. That will make my ministry a service to God and His Glory and not a pursuit to exalt myself or feed my ego.

Today was the first day of a very big weekend for my ventriloquism. Tomorrow I am doing a sketch in the morning worship service at church and then in Children’s Church. I’ll let you know how those went tomorrow. Today was a memorable day. I thank God for putting me in the place of opportunity and giving me a wonderful marriage partner who was willing to go there with me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AGT's Little Princess Goes Home

Tonight on the NBC show America's Got Talent the final 5 contestants were chosen based on the votes received after the show last night. My favorite little singer, Kaitlyn Maher, didn't make it to the final round.

In what proved to be her final performance her voice was a little shaky as though she had a frog in her throat or needed to clear it. She sang the song "I'll be there" made famous by both The Jackson 5 and Mariah Carey. Before she came on stage I knew that she had to have a very convincing "over the top" performance to advance to the final show. While she sang as best as she could and remembered all the words I knew it wouldn't be enough. Once again my wife and I voted close to 150 times for her.

As we watched the show tonight my wife and I knew that as contestants are called forward in pairs you can tell from the match ups who is going to advance. When it came time to announce the 3rd spot in the final 5 Kaitlyn was paired with Neil E. Boyd, an opera style singer who had a strong performance the night before. I knew then that Kaitlyn was going back to her home town in Virgina. I'm a 48 year old man but I'll admit as Kaitlyn so courageously stood there on the stage watching her "journey"on the show via video tape a tear came into my eye. The 4 year old's dream was over.

From now on every time I hear the song "Somewhere Out There" I will not think of Fivel Mouskowitz, the character who sang it in the movie, An American Tale; or the duo of James Ingram and Linda Ronstadt, who hit the Top 40 charts with the song back in 1988. Always and forever when I hear that song I will think of the little 4 year old from Virgina who in her initial audition declared, with much more pride than any presidential candidate in this year's election ever could, "I'm from America."

Thank You Kaitlyn Maher. Your pursuit of the top prize in the nation's 2nd most famous talent search has touched my heart and made me smile a lot over the last 3 months. I know you are only 4 and probably will show up again to entertain me and the rest of America.

But if you don't as you grow up I urge you to always pursue your dreams, whatever they may be, with the same passion and persistence you did your love of singing in front of America when you were 4. God Bless You Kaitlyn Maher

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Job Fair & Birthday Gifts

I have had plans for today for about 2 weeks. At the beginning of the month I found out that there was a job fair at our local mall. I knew I needed to go and try to get a job.

With gas prices being what they are I decided that in addition to going to the mall I would run several errands as well. I paid some utility bills, made a bank deposit among other things.

The job fair wasn't very beneficial for me. The only employer I found who had a job opening that I could do was at a local radio station. They are looking for a "traffic" manager. That's the person who schedules the commercials and makes sure they get played. I used to work with the guy who was at the station's table. He was the morning guy at another station I worked at when I first moved to town 9 years ago. I talked with him a while and left my name and number. He said they will get in touch with me.

Now you might be asking what that has to do with the picture of the fish puppet that's at the top of this post. The answer is "nothing."

However after I finished at the mall I decided to go buy myself some belated birthday presents. I had a coupon for 50% off some DVD movies at the Family Christian Store. I got two of them: "Though Shalt Laugh: The Deuce" (a DVD of Christian Stand Up Comedy); and "Fly Wheel." That last one is the first movie produced by the church who made "Facing The Giants." I've been told it's pretty good. I also stopped at the Parent/Teacher Store because I had a $10 gift certificate from them for my birthday. The clown fish puppet is what I got with my certificate.

Going to the pet store and getting 3 dozen live crickets for my son's lizard to eat and doing some grocery shopping were the last things I did before I came home.

I spent the evening with my wife as we watched the season premiere of one of our favorite TV shows, House.

Although I'm getting rather frustrated and stressed about not being able to find a job. Today was a pretty good day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blog Helps Make A "Rainbow Connection"

Do you remember the "Muppet Movie"? Since it's initial 1979 release in theaters a couple of generations of children have enjoyed the film on either video tape or DVD.

As they were growing up used to take my two nieces to see Disney or other children's movie that came to the theater. The Muppet Movie was one of them. The signature song in the beginning of the movie is called "Rainbow Connection." It is sung by Kermit the Frog.

After seeing the movie I used to sing the song with my nieces quite often. We would end the song with it's last lines. "Someday we'll find it the Rainbow Connection. The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me. To my delight my youngest niece, who as about 4 years old at the time, would always point to herself and end the song with an enthusiastic emphasis on the last 2 words " and Me!"

It is now 33 years later and my niece has 4 children of her own but I still smile whenever I hear "Rainbow Connection" and think of that bright eyed optimistic little girl as she happily realized that the song included her.

As they both grew up I was very close to my nieces and to this day I love them very much. I look back and treasure that I was such a big part of their lives. After I moved to Kentucky I obviously couldn't be a involved on a day to day basis. I really miss that.

Recently I began emailing my new blog posts to my family in Pennsylvania so they can read them without having navigating to my blog web address. My sisters have told me that they really like reading them.

Today I got an email from my 33 year old niece telling me how much she enjoys reading my blog as well. She also said some very sweet things that included the fact that I remind her of my dad.

That email and every other response I get from friends or family about my posts makes writing this blog worth it.

I wrote back to my niece and thanked her for her words of encouragement and love. I am so glad that this blog not only helps me build some new friendships but it also enables me to renew my family relationships like the one with my neice that will always be associated with "The Rainbow Connection."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creating An Island Country

One of the things I learned from other ventriloquists at I-Fest back in July was that a ventriloquist needs to “flesh out” his characters. What that means is give them everything they need to be a complete character. Dress them like who they are supposed to be. Give them an appropriate tone and pitch in their voice. Give them a back ground and family history. Establish their good and bad habits and their likes and dislikes.

Since learning that I have done my best to “flesh out” all my “old” characters and give the new ones what they needed from the start. Calvin, my little boy character, has a little sister named Sally. Sherman, my old man character, has had many different jobs. The Blabber Mouth, my first originally created character, is from "almost every church in America."As part of the development for another character I have created an entire island nation in the South Pacific.

The island is called “Proboscis” and is the homeland of “Schnozz.” While I have already used him as part of my summer reading presentation at the public library Schnozz has yet to make his first official appearance at my church. When he does he will tell everyone that he is a missionary to the United States from the island of Proboscis. I have created a map of the island and theoretically placed it on the globe just south west of Tahiti.

Proboscis which means “prominent nose” is shaped just like one. The island is 48 miles long and 48 miles wide at it widest point (see picture). Its capitol city is Durante and it has other geographically important places like “Port of Synus” in the northern part of the island and the beaches of Noztrill which form the eastern coastline.

The island has its own language, Probosco, and a very large tourist industry. In fact during the winter in the USA the bungalows on the beaches of Noztrill are just stuffed with tourists. However it is extremely limited in its exposure to western culture. It television and radio stations as well as movie theaters only have programs or features from before 1990. The media culture of Proboscis has had a very strong influence on Schnozz and how he relates to the world and how he preaches the gospel.

Schnozz will make his church debut on Sunday October 12 one of the days my family from Pennsylvania will be here visiting. I have a lot more work to do to make his first time in front of the church a success but the creation of the tiny island nation of Proboscis is the first step.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Magic Rings & Sock Puppets

Other than having more room in our house the process of my oldest son moving out has had some benefits. Last weekend while he was packing things from his bedroom he found (given the condition of his room perhaps the word “discovered” would be more appropriate) a couple of things I can use.

He gave me his Chinese linking rings trick and his handmade sock puppets. He made them for some project he was working on in high school. He came out of his room with them one on each of his hand. I immediately named the puppets, Amby & Dexter. I plan on using them with younger children. I think I’ll have the puppets present the children with two different ideas about a subject, like safety rules; good eating habits; or manners; and let the children choose the right one. I will have to do more work with just exactly how I am going to use them but they do have potential. I thank my son for the gifts. I know I’ll use them in the future. I can’t wait until he “discovers” more.

Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mother’s 78th birthday. Her life on earth ended nearly 5 years ago and I miss her very much. I can’t watch an “I Love Lucy” episode or a Danny Kaye movie, or a game show on TV without thinking of her. Because our birthdays were so close together we often celebrated them at the same time. I miss blowing out the candles together and cutting the cake with both our names on it.

I’m sure I’ll be reunited with both her and my dad one day in heaven but until then I’ll do my best to honor and remember her on the date that was once her special day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kaitlyn’s Journey Continues On AGT

I ended my last post about Miss Kaitlyn Maher, my favorite contestant on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, with some speculation. I ventured to say that even the “mean” judge on the show, Piers Morgan, wouldn’t want to tell the 4 year old that she wasn’t good enough to go on in the competition.

On Wednesday night Kaitlyn brought her talent to the stage once more with her Top 20 round performance of the award winning Disney song “Beauty & The Beast.” Piers then proceeded to tell the little girl that while she was a princess he was going to be a beast. He told her that he thought she might not advance to the next phase. Kaitlyn handled it like a pro saying “Thank you” with a question in her voice.

Hearing him say that motivated me to make the effort to vote for a contestant on a TV show for the first time. After we finished watching my wife and I went to our computers and voted for Kaitlyn 50 times online using 5 email addresses. I also called in 20 times using our home phone and my cell phone. We voted for that sweet little girl 70 times. But we didn’t know if it was going to be enough.

Last night the program was on for 30 minutes to announce the Top 10 contestants. I watched nervously as Jerry Springer revealed the voting results. About 15 minutes into the show Kaitlyn’s name was added to the list of finalists. Her journey continues as she gets the chance to make the Top 5 next week.

I can put my head on the pillow tonight knowing that at least one time in this election year I voted for a candidate who deserved it and it counted. Bless You Kaitlyn. From now on I’ll make sure I vote early and vote often…or as often as I can.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Second Dad

During my early teenage years my father had to work many long hours just to keep our home and our family going. I didn’t get to see him very much.
From the time I was around 12 until I was 16 or 17 I was blessed with the friendship of a man who quite often treated me like I was his own son. I always considered him my second “Dad.”

His name was Joe. He was about 5 years younger than my dad and for some reason or another took to being my friend when I really needed an adult male role model. Our two families had been neighbors and friends ever since I was 7 years old. I used to go to their house and visit with Joe and his wife, Judy, all the time. I played with their son who was 8 years younger than me. Their son is still one of my best friends to this day.

There are so many things that Joe did to be a friend to me that I can’t really explain or take time to mention in this short post. He took me to watch him play softball, took me out for lunch, and mostly just let me hang around with him. Perhaps the most significant thing he ever did for me was share something that was always near and dear to his heart. It remains part of my life today.

Joe loved the New York Yankees. He grew up in the 50’s & 60’s when the Yankee dynasty was in full swing. He talked about watching them win the World Series nearly every year when he was young. His eyes would light up and a smile would come on his face when he reminisced with stories about Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin and many others.

I didn’t really become baseball fan until I was about 10 or 11. Because of the influence of another neighbor I was a Phillies fan. Joe was always trying to get me to like the Yankees. Watching, talking about and following the Yankees was a bonding element in our relationship.

At the end of September 1973 he took me to see the last game played at the original Yankee Stadium. I say “original” because after the game the stadium underwent a 2 year refurbishing project.

I was totally oblivious to the historic significance of the event. As a matter of fact at the end of the game I couldn’t understand why people were tearing the place apart. They were taking signs and pieces of the stadium and carrying them off. I didn’t know why. Now I do and I regret not taking something myself but I didn’t realize.

But ironically neither the game nor being present for the historic occasion had any lasting effect on me. What changed my life as a baseball fan was a small 10 inch diameter record album that was given to everyone as a souvenir as they entered the stadium that day. On the record was an audio history of Yankee Stadium narrated by the voice of the Yankees, Mel Allen. It highlighted all the great Yankee and sports moments that happened there as well as the historic ones like a visit from the Pope.

I listened to that record over and over during that winter and early spring. It really made it sound like the Yankees were something special. By the time the next baseball season started I was a Yankees fan. I have been ever since; for nearly 35 years. It’s a legacy handed down to me by my friend Joe.

As I said Joe did a whole lot more for me in my life than just introduce me to the Yankees. He helped a kid who didn’t fell like he had many friends in the world know he had at least one adult, other than his parents that he could count on.

Starting in 1976 Joe spent several years attending the same church I did. He even served as part of the leadership. Most importantly he became a Christian during that time.

Sadly in the early 80’s Joe made some bad decisions in his life. He moved away from his family and eventually got divorced. After that I saw him from time to time over the years but my relationship with him was never the same.

Joe died in 2005 after a 5 year battle with cancer. One of my biggest regrets was that I never got to tell him how much his friendship meant to me during my teenage years and how much I loved him for it.

Yesterday would have been his birthday. He would have been 67 years old. That was one thing that was special in our friendship. We had back to back birthdays. As I sat and remembered the friendship and guidance he gave me I thought that perhaps remembering him in my blog was the least I could do. I will always be grateful for being blessed with having Joe in my life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Year 49: Day 1

With this being the 1st day of the 49th year of my life I begin it with an optimistic outlook about the goals I have set for myself. During this year, with God’s help, through my obedience to Him, I plan on doing several things. Here are the top 5 goals for my 49th year.

Get a new job: I have several options I’m looking at right now. They include working in customer service or medical transcription (doing both from home), being an administrative assistant or office worker. The thought of becoming a substitute teacher has also crossed my mind recently.

Fully commit myself to ventriloquism & children’s ministry: For ventriloquism this means working on my performance by practicing more, writing good routines. I need to start believing that I’m “Ron the ventriloquist” not Ron, who happens to be a ventriloquist. I want to transform myself into being identified by people as a ventriloquist not just someone who does ventriloquism. Those two things are quite different. It is my goal to establish an identity as a ventriloquist.

As far children’s ministry is concerned I need to develop the skills necessary to be able to minister the gospel to children in an interesting an effective way. This means several things including: learning to play the guitar, learning magic tricks, become better at explaining the gospel in a way that children can understand.

Become a Good Empty Nester: While we’re halfway there already it looks pretty likely that by the end of my 49th year both of our sons will have moved out on their own and my wife and I will be the only ones living in our house. This opens up a whole lot more opportunities for us to arrange and design the rooms the way we want them. This also means making some improvements such as painting the walls, and other interior improvements. My wife has already told me that 2009 will be “the year of the house.” The ultimate goal of this home improvement effort is to be able to show our hospitality with our friends and fellow church members by inviting them here to visit with us more often.
"Empty Nesting" also gives us some new opportunities to grow in our marriage. A lot of that has happened already during this year but I look forward to spending even more “quality time” with the Love of My Life.

Lose Weight & Become Healthy: This has been a goal of mine for my entire adult life but this year is the time to “fish or cut bait.” I have already taken steps toward getting lap band surgery to help me lose weight. Developing healthy exercise and eating habits is the next step.
Doing this is going to take much more than a year; perhaps the rest of my life. But being healthier will allow me to serve God and other people in a much more effective way. That should be the ultimate objective in my mind.

Become a Better Christian: While the previous 4 goals are part of this one this goal refers to the pursuit of a closer spiritual relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ. He has helped me grow so much over the last 2 or 3 years but I’ve got a long way to go. It is my prayer that God will work in my life and bring me closer to Him. I will do this by my absorbing and living out His Word, applying the Grace given to me through Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit in my life.

So there you have the Top 5 goals for my 49th year. I’m starting today and at the beginning of September next year, God willing, I’ll look back and reevaluate how well I’ve done. By putting these goals out here on this blog I’m kind of holding myself accountable to anyone who reads this post as well. Please feel free to ask me about my progress as the year goes on. Also please pray for me. I have a feeling I’ll need it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Birthday Poem

Today is my 48th Birthday so I thought I'd post a poem I wrote a few years ago about something that most people don't like getting as a gift. I think it expresses how I feel about it. Originally I wrote this poem about a Christmas present so I had to change a couple of words for the rhyme scheme. When I use the phrase "Happy Day" I'm referring to a phrase someone I knew used when it was your birthday as in "It's your happy day."

So although it's my birthday today I'm giving my blog readers a gift: my poem. I hope you like it. Tomorrow I will start my 49th year of life and I can't wait to see what kind of blessings God sends my way. I hope it's makes for some good post material. God Bless.

Birthday Socks
By Ron Havens
I’m glad when I open a nicely wrapped box
And I’ve gotten for my birthday some new pairs of socks

I simply say “thank you. These will do fine”
And I’m put them away until just the right time.

Early one morning when I in my home
There in my bedroom getting dressed all alone.

Walking around making my way
Preparing myself for the start of the day

I open the package without missing a beat
And sit down to put my new socks on my feet.

I turn one around making sure how it goes
Finding the heel and adjusting the toes

As I pull on the other I sigh out loud
Cause it feels like my feet are enveloped in clouds

I put on my shoes and stand on the floor
Grab all my stuff and walk out the door

The whole day long the people they say
“You seem really happy today.”

I add in return, “My life’s gotten a lift
Because of my "Happy Day" hosiery gift.”

In conclusion I’ll say that
I’m glad that I got
From a generous person the gift of new socks.

You see in my opinion life’s almost complete
With a pair of new comfortable socks on your feet.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, Busy Sunday

Yesterday was one of the busiest Sunday’s I’ve had in a long time. In the morning, as usual, I went to church. While there I gave one of my fellow deacons a book and gave another church member some instructional DVDs about ventriloquism for her grandsons to watch. During the Worship Service I presented the children’s sermon. I also helped out with Children’s Church. The teachers for this month are new and wanted some support.

After the church service was over my wife had a meeting with the church finance committee to work on next year’s budget. As a favor to her I went and got their lunch at Subway and took it back to the church.

My pastor had asked me earlier in the week to teach the Sunday night Bible Study group that meets in the sanctuary. So after playing lunch delivery man I went home to prepare what I was going to teach.

About 2:15 I went see a performance of the musical “Grease” presented by a local youth theater group. Three of the teenagers who help out with Children’s Church were in the cast. I had promised them that I would go. I enjoyed seeing them on stage and had the opportunity to visit with them briefly afterwards. I congratulated them on their performances.

When the play ended it was close to the time I needed to be back at church for the evening services. As I was driving up the highway I checked my notes and reviewed in my mind just what I wanted to say.

While I usually try to make my Sunday night teaching sessions interactive with a lot of questions and opinions from everyone I didn’t do that this time. My material was taken from a book I’ve been reading called “Respectable Sins.” I focused on the chapter that dealt with Christians and the sin of being ungodly. There was a lot of material to cover in a short time so I wasn’t as thorough as I wanted to be. But I believe I got the message across.

Also before I left church one of my fellow church members gave me something that may lead to a job. She does medical transcription. I had considered doing that a few years ago but decided not to pursue it. It involves listening to a doctor’s dictated notes on tape and then typing them up on the computer. You get paid so much per line that you type.

She gave me a dictation machine and a tape that she has already transcribed so I can try it out for myself. I can listen, type what I think I hear and compare it to what she has transcribed. It may be an opportunity to make some money working from home. I’ll have to let you know how that turns out.

After getting home from church both my wife and I were hungry. We decided to go out and get a bite to eat. We drove to a local downtown area to a restaurant called “Mariah’s.” Over the last year or so it has become my favorite restaurant in town. Ironically it’s located just behind the theater I had gone to earlier in the day.

My wife had a nice salad dish and I had a very large serving of lasagna. It was delicious. There was so much of it I probably shouldn’t finished it. But it was the best lasagna I’d gotten at a restaurant in a long time so I ate it all.

The good food we had and the time we spent together talking about anything and everything put a fine cap on a nice evening and a very busy day.

In addition to everything else that went on during the day it was also the first week of my new fantasy football season. I thought I was going to have a good team this year. But unfortunately I lost my first match up by more than 50 points. (Sigh) It’s going to be a long season.

Well, at least the rest of the day was pretty good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Countdown To The “Big Weekend”

Earlier this week when the calendar turned to September my wife and I began the countdown to the biggest weekend of the year for our family. It involves 3 big events that are all happening concurrently during the 2nd week of October.

On October 11 our 27 year old son and his fiancé will be getting married in Nashville.

Our 20 year old son will be coming home “on leave” from Iraq. He’s been there since April. He’ll be here in time for the wedding and be staying about 2 weeks.

My two sisters, brothers in law, youngest niece, and only nephew will be coming down from Pennsylvania to visit and to attend the wedding.

The “soon to be” newlyweds have been engaged since Christmas ’05 so we’ve been waiting for them to start their new lives together for a few years now.

Our soldier in Iraq has recently started “conversing” with both his mom and me on AOL instant messenger. He’s been telling us both how much he misses home. He’s really looking forward to getting back home; even if it’s just for a visit.

Ever since I’ve lived in Kentucky my family and I have been exchanging visits to each other every other year. Last year I went and stayed with them for a week in June. This year they decided to hold off their summer vacation in order to coordinate their visit with my son’s wedding.

I’m excited about seeing my sisters for a couple of reasons. My younger sister had gastric bypass surgery this past February. She’s lost close to 100 pounds. I can’t wait to see how good she looks.

My other sister had knee replacement surgery in May and is able to get around much better now. I can’t wait to witness her new mobility. Perhaps even take a walk with her.

While these are all exciting events and we have been anticipating them since the beginning of the year it’s hard to believe they are just around the corner. So as of today I want to “officially” begin the countdown. Since all the events are subsequent to the wedding I’m going to use the date of the wedding as end of the countdown. We now have just 33 days left before it all happens.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Scale Mystery Solved

Well what seemed to be a big problem (no pun intended) just 3 short days ago is now resolved. The number I needed to know, my weight, is no longer a mystery.

I had an appointment with a dietitian this past Thursday afternoon. Her name was Sarah. We had some good discussion about diets and nutrition. I told her my story about going to the hospital to find a scale. She then told me that the scale in her office would be able to weigh me. I got on it and had my number.

Before I left her office I also had a new weight loss diet plan and guidelines for better nutrition. She set my daily caloric intake at a level that would have me losing a pound a week. I told her that I could very easily cut another 500 calories a day and shoot for the goal of 2 pounds a week.

Of course this means I have to stop eating all the cookies, cakes, candy bars, and other sweet things I’ve been indulging in over the last 2 years. I guess that means anyone with Wendy’s or McDonald’s stock should sell because their Frosty and McFlurry sales are going to plummet.

Friday, I received my new bathroom scale from the Living XL catalog. The UPS shipping time was a lot quicker than I had expected. It’s a very nice scale and works very well. It talks. At first I didn’t think I’d like the voice feature and planned on disabling it off even before I used it. But hearing the number is rather convenient for me. I’ll use the scale to track my weight over the next month. Also I’ll take it with me when I go back to the doctor in October so I can weigh in at his office.

Now as far as starting the new diet plan is concerned. Next week my wife goes to see her doctor to get her 6 month weight loss effort started. She’ll also have to go see the same dietitian I did. I’m going to wait until she does that so we can start our new diets together. Besides next week is my birthday and I want to have some cake.

But it looks like all things are in place now for me to start down the road that will lead to lap band surgery. Along the way I will focus on developing good attitudes and habits when it comes to eating.

A lot of it will come from the renewing of my heart and how I look at my life. I must always consider myself a living sacrifice to The Lord. I must work to get and keep my body and my spirit in the condition they are most useful to Him and the work He wants to do through me. I must depend on the Holy Spirit to help me.

It is only with that kind of faith and those principals that I will be successful in finally losing weight and becoming a healthy person for the first time in my adult life. Please pray for both my wife and me. We’re going to need it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Miss Maher Makes Top 40 Appearance On AGT

My favorite act on America’s Got Talent made her 3rd appearance on the hit NBC show this past Wednesday night. Four year old Kaitlyn Maher (pictured on the right) sang the song “What A Wonderful World.” While her vocal performance was not perfect (I would have had her sing the ending differently) but her confidence and charm continued to impress. Both the audience and the judges loved her once again.
I was a little concerned when for the first time in the competition I saw the youngster just a little uncomfortable on stage. During the judges’ review of her performance she really didn’t know how to respond to their comments answering only a nervous “yes.” several times. It’s just evidence that she’s at her best on stage when she’s doing what she loves: singing.

Kaitlyn will only advance in the competition if viewers called in or voted for her online during the 2 hours after Wednesday night’s broadcast. It may be too late for you to put your support behind her for the show but you can visit her “My Space” page:
http://www.myspace.com/kaitlynmaher. You can also see her performances online at http://www.nbc.com/, clicking on "shows" at the top of the page and then on "America's Got Talent."

We now have to wait until next Tuesday to find out the results of America’s vote to know if our favorite four year old singer is going on to the top 20 of AGT. I’m rather certain that she’s going to advance but she's not going to win. However she may get a lot farther than anyone thinks she will. Like I wrote back in June; I’d hate to be the one to have to tell that little girl she’s come up short in the voting and that she was going home. I believe even Piers Morgan, the “mean” judge would have trouble with that one.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

“Deal or No Deal” Gives Away A Million

It’s a unique feeling to sit in your living room and watch someone live out a dream you once tried for yourself. I did that this week.

On May 1, 2007 I went to Indianapolis to audition for the show “Deal or No Deal.” Believe it or not I went with the pastor of my church. We arrived at 3:30 in the morning and got in line at a car dealership behind at least 2000 people. We ended up waiting about 18 hours before we got to audition. Even then we only got 20 seconds to impress the staff member. Needless to say we didn’t get chosen to be on the show.

Now ever since that experience I continued to watch the show. At the end of the 3rd season despite NBC”s efforts to make it as easy as possible (with as many as 13 out of 26 cases in one game holding the $1 million prize) no one won the big prize. The problem was that no contestant stayed in the game long enough to win the million. If they did stay in until the end they didn’t have the top prize.

My opinion was that no one was going to stay in the game for a 50/50 chance to win a million dollars if they were offered $400 or $500 thousand as a guarantee. That’s a lot of money and normal everyday people like they have as contestants just won’t turn down that kind of money.

This past Monday night, September 1, on the 2nd show of its 4th season “Deal or No Deal” found a contestant who was willing to take an “all or nothing” risk. Actually it was a $200,000 or a million dollar risk.

The contestant was Jessica Robinson. An expectant mother originally from Texas who wanted to move back there ( I forget where she was living at the time of the show) so her baby boy could be born in her home state. She ended up with the final 2 cases in her game holding either $200 thousand and a million. She was offered over $500,000 by the banker as the last offer but decided that the consolation prize of $200,000 would still help her family get started in Texas. So she took the risk and won the show’s big prize.

I’ve auditioned for two TV game shows: The syndicated version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and “Deal or No Deal.” I didn’t make it onto either of those shows. Although it has happened 3 times I have never seen anyone win the million on the syndicated version of “Millionaire.” I did see the one an only big winner on “Deal or No Deal.” I must admit it stirs up some interesting feelings to see someone do something you were hoping to do.

But I guess that brings up the issue of trusting in God’s sovereignty in your life. Doing what He wants you to do and having faith that he will work it out for his purposes. As a born again Christian I have to believe that what God wants for me is best for me. Looking at other people and what happens to them should not be an issue. The Bible clearly states that learning to be content with the blessings God has given you and where he leads you in life is an important aspect of following Christ.

To some of you it might seem like a long jump from wanting to be a winner on Deal or No Deal to accepting God’s sovereignty. But for me it’s lesson that teaches me that I should always put total faith in God whether he blesses me with a million dollars or not.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Simple Problem Becomes A Complex Issue

As I wrote yesterday I went to see my doctor to start a supervised weight loss effort on the way to getting gastric lap band surgery. Although it's an aspect of any doctor visit; getting on the scale and finding out my present weight was very important during this visit. This proved to be a problem for me.

The balance scale in my doctor's office could not accurately measure my weight. I am not very proud to have to admit that what I weigh is beyond their scale's measurement capacity but it's a fact. Because a starting weight record is necessary to track my weight loss effort getting weighed was a key action in the purpose for my visit. I told the nurse and subsequently the doctor that I knew of a place where I could go to get weighed accurately. I would have to get a nurse or physician's assistant to write the number down and sign it so I have "official" documentation for my insurance company.

I left the office and went to the local immediate care clinic because that was where I had gotten weighed in the past. After some explaining they allowed me to step on their digital scale. The problems was that scale couldn't weigh me either.

Having not considered the possibility that the clinic wouldn't be able to help me I was confounded about where to go to get the all important initial record I needed. I was close to a local hospital so I decided to try the out patient surgery department. I was pretty sure they could help me. I'd stepped on scales in that hospital before while visiting some one there. I simply planned on going into the department, ask to step on their scale, get the record documented and leaving. It wasn't that easy by any means.

The woman at the out patient registration desk told me that they would need an order from my doctor to do what I asked. I called my doctor and had the nurse fax over an order requesting 6 once a month weigh ins. Upon receiving the order I was sent to out patient registration. The clerk there was very nice and reassuring. She got on the phone and began trying to find out 2 things. The first was whether there was a scale that would weigh me correctly. Second what kind of billing was going to have to be done for this service.

The first question was answered rather quickly. After only a couple of phone calls a scale was found. The next 30 minutes was spent waiting for an answer as to how I should be charged for the service. The clerk advised me that whatever the answer to the billing problem would be my insurance company would probably not pay for it.

Soon I realized that the people in this hospital while they may have been willing to just help me were bound by the procedures of the hospital. I couldn't believe what a problem the simple thing I was asking for was for the hospital staff. Nothing is free especially in the world of health care.

As I sat there waiting for an answer my mind began to speculate what the cost might turn out to be. I calculated a minimal charge of $50 per visit over the next 6 months. I thought that to be a reasonable assumption because the services of a nurse or hospital worker and use of the facilities would be involved. That's a total of $300. $300 just to get weighed!

Now no one is to blame for my situation than me. If I wasn't the weight I am I wouldn't have the problem with the scales. But I considered charging me for this simple service was taking advantage of someone who was trying to help himself.

A few months ago I got a catalog in the mail called "XL Living." It was full of merchandise made especially for people who are living their lives as an "extra large" person. In that catalog were bathroom scales that had a higher than usual weight capacity. I didn't remember the price of these scales but I was sure it was a lot less than $300.

I decided that I would order the scale and just take it with me whenever I go to the doctor or need to get weighed. I got up from my chair and thanked the registration clerk for her time and help. I told her I was going to take care of the issue another way.

On my way out of the hospital as I walked through the out patient surgery waiting room I ironically saw at least 2 people who, from my visual estimate, would be in the same situation as I was should they need to know their weight.

The problem of people being overweight to the point of obesity is the topic of continual conversation in today's media. It is a fact that the percentage of people who are excessively overweight is higher today than ever before. Three of the health care facilities I went to: a private practice, an urgent care clinic, and a hospital did not have the capacity for dealing with something as simple as finding the weight of someone over 350 pounds. That's amazing to me.

Anyway, I came home, got online, and purchased a scale that will allow me to weigh myself whenever I need or want to. I'm thankful that I found a solution to this very frustrating problem for myself for about 67% less than I would have paid at the hospital.

It was an interesting adventure in the world of health care. I can only conclude that this experience is just another fortification of the reasons to keep working on getting my weight under control and becoming healthier.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Start of A Hopeful Journey

Today I went to see my doctor for the first time in about 2 years. I've been to the Urgent Care center in the area a couple of times during that time period but hadn't been to see primary care physician.

The reason for this visit was rather humbling. I was there to seek his help and assistance in initiating my effort to under go surgery for the placement of the lap band device so I can lose weight. When I saw him three years ago he suggested bariatric surgery then. I very strongly rejected the suggestion. I still believed at the time that I could follow a conventional diet and lose what I needed to lose. I did manage to lose 80 pounds on the LA Weight Loss diet in 2006. But like most people I gained that all back and more. Over the last 6 months or so I've come to realize that I needed to take more drastic measures to lose and control my weight. The lap band surgery is the only means I can deal with.

A visit to my PCP was the first step in fulfilling the requirements to get my medical insurance to approve my surgery. Documentation of 6 months of physician supervised weight loss effort is the key requirement. At one point during my visit with the doctor I began to refer to the path to insurance approval as "jumping through hoops."

The doctor was very supportive and he set everything in motion for me including an appointment with a dietitian to start a weight loss plan. There was only one "fly in the ointment" that would prove to be a lot bigger issue than I ever anticipated. More about that in tomorrow's post.

While waiting for the doctor in the examination room I began to review the paperwork I need to have filled out over the next 6 months and beyond and the things I have to do. I became very frustrated. The idea to just give up because this was just too much effort and would never work out came into my mind a couple of times but I resisted it.

I am certain that a serious effort and eventual success in losing weight and keeping it off is the path that God wants me to take. Not only does it involve physical means to stop overeating and being glutonous but it involves a spiritual aspcect as well. Overeating and gaining excess weight is a sin. It keeps me from my relationship with God and what he wants me to do for him over the course of my life.

Knowing that keeps me encouraged. Although it may be frustrating and require time and patients I must be faithful to God's Will for my life. No matter how difficult it may be. That brings me back to the "fly in the ointment" I mentioned earlier. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you a very interesting story about trying to find out what I weigh now.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jerry Lewis Telethon: A Labor Day Tradition

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey Labor day meant a couple of things: A picnic with family & friends, school would be starting soon, and the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. The one that holds a place in my heart to this day is the MDA telethon.

The 21 1/2 broadcast was a "must see" institution around my house. My parents would make sure they watched the beginning before going to bed on Sunday night. When the TV was turned on Labor Day morning it would stay tuned to watch Jerry & "his kids" all day long.
About 5:45 or so the entire family and anyone else who was at our house for a picnic would start to gather in front of the TV in anticipation of the telethon's final minutes.

While the entire program was filled with touching moments and great entertainment the last 45 minutes were usually the best. Jerry would bring out onto the stage one final time the MDA poster child to make an appeal to the public for help. This was where you could witness for yourself Jerry's love for "his kids" through his relationship with this one child. It was always a touching moment.
It was during this time that the marquee guest would perform. Some years it was Frank Sinatra, others it was Sammy Davis Jr. In 1976 it was Dean Martin. The comedy team had their first face-to-face reunion in 2o years; a now infamous moment in television history.
Not only did the quality of the entertainment go up near the end of the program. The donations to the MDA usually skyrocketed. Many times in those last 45 minutes announcer Ed McMahon had to interupt Jerry to allow the drums to usher in the changing of the numbers to reveal a new, and often record breaking, number on the infamous "tote" board. At times the ensuing celebration, confetti and all, rivaled New Year's Eve in Times Square.
Finally as it came closer to the end of the broadcast, with about 5 minutes to go, the ballroom of which ever Las Vegas hotel it originated from became quite. It was time for Jerry to close the show. He usually spent 2 minutes summing up the efforts of all who had participated and expressing his gratitude to his viewers. Then the lights went down, Jerry took center stage sitting on a wooden stool in just a single spotlight. He closed the show with a voice shaking with emotion as he sang the song "You'll Never Walk Alone." It was always so sincere just writing about it now brings a tear to my eye. It was a moment we all enjoyed sharing as a family every year.
Since moving to Kentucky 9 years ago watching the MDA telethon has become less of a tradition. My Kentucky family doesn't seem to have the same sense of awe about the telethon that we did back in Pennsylvania. Perhaps that's because they never had the chance to watch it as I did while I was growing up. There is only one station that carries it here and that's on cable. I've miss the ending most years here because the station, WGN out of Chicago, usually has a Cubs game on instead of the end of the telethon. I really miss seeing it.
Again this year the MDA telethon raised over $65 million in private donations in less than 22 hours. Even at 82 years old Lewis continues to lead one of the most successful and consistent charitable organizations in the history of this country. The telethon is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work Jerry Lewis puts into MDA. I will always admire him for his devotion; now 43 years and counting. That's why on Labor Day I will always think of Jerry Lewis & his kids.