Thursday, July 30, 2009

Introducing Ruben

The picture you see on the left is the newest addition to my ventriloquist act. His name is Ruben Nathaniel Young. I'll explain why I picked that name for him later in this post.

One of the personal goals I set for myself for 2009 was to purchase an actual ventriloquist figure and start using it in my act. What I mean by "actual" is a figure with a moving mouth and eyes you operate using controls on a stick from the back inside the hollow body and a head that's not really connected to the body so it can turn 360 degrees.

After making that one of my 2009 goals I did some research and decided on the one I wanted to buy based on the style, look and price. Luckily the one I thought I could afford without remortgaging the house made by a figure maker named Clinton Detweiler.

Mr. Detweiler is the man whose blog about ventriloquism I read on a daily basis. He's a very famous and popular man in the world of ventriloquism. Mainly because he sold a ventriloquism correspondence course for many years. However he is also a skilled figure maker.

I started saving my spare change at the start of the year with the hope of having enough saved by August to order my new figure in time for my birthday in September. Well as it turned out I had enough by the end of June. I decided not to wait until my birthday and ordered it then. That way I would be able to work with my new figure, get comfortable operating his controls, and incorporate him into my act while I was off of work for surgery. I got him about 2 weeks before the operation.

I haven't really done any work with him yet because I've been trying to create a name and a personality for him. That's always the first thing you do with a new puppet. I've decided on the name Ruben Nathaniel Young. The reason for the name is that I want him to be a reminder that one of the reasons for getting weight loss surgery was so that I would be in better physical condition to do a better job as a ventriloquist.

Now the official name of the type of surgery I had is a "Roux-en-Y" gastric by pass (RNY for short). That's why my new vent figure's name has the initials RNY.

I plan on using him as the main character in my future shows. I will still use Calvin (the cloth puppet) as part of my act as well. Many of the children I've performed for at church and the library know Calvin and like him very much. Calvin will always be special to me because he was the first "star" of my act.

But once I get used to working with my new "official" vent figure, Ruben, he will be the "star" of the show.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Breakfast Bible Study

This morning I did something I haven't done in a long time. I got up at 6AM on purpose. I drove into town and participated in a men's bible study group at the Panara Bread restaurant.

My friend, Brent, had invited me to join them. A couple of weeks ago they had started reading and discussing a book called "Worldliness: Resisting the seduction of a fallen world". It's a series of essays by various ministers and edited by C.J. Mahaney.

I don't have a copy of the book so I couldn't read the chapter they were discussing ; God, my heart, and the media; but I have dealt with the subject in my own life enough that I felt I could contribute to the discussion in a constructive way.

With my glass of sugar free iced tea I sat at the end of the table next to Brent and for the next hour and a half listened to the discussions occasionally offering my point of view. There were about a dozen men there. They all knew each other because they attend Rich Pond Baptist Church. Nonetheless my contributions were accepted and discussed.

It was encouraging to realize that men who are fellow Christians also struggle with the same spiritual issues I do in their lives.

I have now ordered the book from and will do my best to catch up on reading the book so I can go back and be "up to speed" with the discussion next week. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to attend the group after I go back to work. But at least for the next two weeks I'm going to be attending the Breakfast Bible Study.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Backyard Baseball

As much of a baseball fan as I am I've always wished that I lived close enough to a professional baseball stadium that I could spontaneously decide to go see a game whenever I wanted to.

This past Sunday night, for the first time, I went to see the new minor league baseball team, the Hot Rods, play at their new stadium in town. Let me tell you my wish has come true. The Hot Rods are the "A" minor league affiliate of the MLB's Tampa Ray. Of course I would liked the team to have been a Yankees affiliate but you can't have everything. But in this case this team and ballpark location offer me most things.

It only took me 30 minutes to get there and after a short walk to the front gate easily I found my seat. I went as part of a group from our church.

I had such a great time that I decided to go back tonight (Tuesday). I got a Joe Blanton bobblehead doll they gave away as a promotion. Blanton is a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who grew up in this area. That's why the gave the souvenir away.

I really love the two experiences I had at the ballpark this week. I plan on going back again at least once maybe twice before the middle of August. Because when I go back to work I won't be able to go anymore this year.

It was really great to be able to enjoy sitting and watching live baseball again; and it was only about 30 miles from my house. The other great thing about it is that with the weight I've lost since my surgery I can once again fit into a stadium seat somewhat comfortably. It's not a perfect fit yet but it's do able.

After tomorrow the team is on the road for a week. Hopefully, I'll be able to get tickets to the August 8 game. That night they are giving a way a replica model of the new stadium. I would love to have one.

Do I sound excited? Well I am. I am so happy that I now have live professional baseball practically in my own backyard. Thanks Hot Rods!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pretty Paula

This is a picture of my wife as she looked when she went to church yesterday. With her new hair color, clothes, and make-up she's absolutely beautiful. She's officially lost 40 pounds now and is well on her way to reaching her goal.

Today is her first day back at work after a 6 week medical leave. From the way she presented herself yesterday it looks like she's more than ready to show "the world" that there's a new Paula in town and she's only gonna be getting better. I love her with all my heart and I'm so proud of her!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Living (Room) Arrangements

My apologies for not publishing a post since last Monday. It's been a pretty busy week here at my house. My wife and I have been busy rearranging our living room.

This is something we've wanted to do for a long time. With our time off from work we now have room in our schedules to focus on this "first step" project. It is the initial change in making our now "empty nest" a home for 2 and not 4.

Our living room is the place we spend most of our time. The reason we set up our living room the way we did back in 2003 was to make it a nice place for our family to sit and enjoy watching movies and being together. Now that our residence is down to just two, the first goal of our newly arranged living room was to make for an intimate and better entertainment experience. This meant moving our sofa and our love seat so that they were in a better position to view the television and get the full effect of the surround sound.

The second priority was to declutter the room. It was too crowded and some things like DVD and video game storage cabinets had to be taken out and put back in our new storage room.

Third, we wanted make a place for our dogs to lay down and relax other than the furniture. We put a couple of big fluffy pillows in a corner beside the TV, out of the way, so they can enjoy the floor as much as they did the love seat. Dory has already adapted to her new resting place as you can see in the picture at the top of this post. Angel prefers to relax on the area rug somewhere near us when we're sitting on the couch. Although it may not seem like such a big deal to some making our pets happy makes us happy too.

There are still some things to be moved around, displayed or set up in our "new" living room before I post any pictures of it. But as soon as it's finished I'll post one.

This is the first of many changes in our home on the way to making it the place where Paula and I plan on spending the rest of our lives together. While it's only a simple rearrangement of one room in a house; for us it's a step of faith and anticipation as we look toward our future in the place we call home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Noteable Monday

Today was a day full of milestones for me. It included getting to eat real food again, receiving a special gift, and helping my son, James, move some of his belongings out of our house.

The gift I'm referring to is a custom made stain glass replica of the NY emblem the New York Yankees wear on their baseball caps. It was designed and handmade for me by my sister in law, Theresa.

She gave it to me this morning when I went over to her house. It's one of the nicest things anyone has ever made for me. I will hang it up in a window in my house soon so I can enjoy it. That's a picture of it at the start of this post.

After nearly 3 weeks on liquids, today I started eating "real food". I started out with eggs for breakfast, had some turkey with cheese for lunch and a very delicious chicken with tomato sauce dish for dinner. It all totaled up to about 600 calories and 67 grams of protein. Both of which meet the daily requirements of "phase 3" of my new diet.

Finally this afternoon our youngest son, James, came over to our house with a pick up truck and with the help of his aunt, Theresa, and his friend, Chris, moved the rest of his belongings over to his house. What was once his bedroom is now our spare utility room. So now he's "officially" moved out.

While the rest of the world stopped to observe the 40th anniversary of astronauts from the United States landing on the moon (an observation I took part in myself by watching several programs on TV about it) I was having somewhat of a "one small step for me" moment by being back on "solid" food. To make it even better I got an early birthday present from my sister in law. It really was a Notable Monday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Last Day Of My Liquid Diet

After 19 days, today is the last day of my liquid diet. I just finished drinking the last of my protein shakes. I probably won't even think about having another for a while. I'm not saying I'll never drink one again because they will probably prove to be convenient but I'm done with them for now.

Tomorrow morning I will have a couple of scrambled eggs with some melted cheese on top as my first real "meal" in nearly 3 weeks. Because I don't like fish and it's a big part of the food list I will be allowed I'm a little apprehensive about what I'm going to eat on this 3rd stage of my new diet.

But God has gotten me through the last 3 weeks so now I've confidence that He will help me through the rest.

Making some progress with my exercise (aka walking). Tonight I walked a little less than halfway from my house to the Flavor Isle. (a local ice cream/fast food stand exactly 1/2 mile from my house) Round trip that's about 1/2 a mile. It's the farthest I've been able to walk in a long time even before my surgery.

Things are progressing and starting tomorrow Paula and I will once again be able to eat the same things. We can actually start preparing meals for both of us again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Orson Wells Syndrome

Orson Welles, star and director of the 1941 classic film Citizen Kane (the American Film Institutes's #1 film of all time) gained a lot of weight during the last half of his life.

One time in an interview he was asked why he had gained some much weight. Welles answered that even when he was thin there was always a fat man trying to get out.

I can identify with that. No matter how much weight I lose I will always be drawn to the sin of gluttony. Over the next year to 18 months I will work hard to develop new and proper eating habits. But I know that I will still have the temptation of returning back to being a slave to the sin desire in regard to food.

I must turn my heart away from that desire and look more toward filling it with what God says is right and His desires for my life. I must look to Him as my source for fulfillment and not to other things. Putting my desire for food ahead of God is not only gluttony but also a form of idolatry. Two sins for one behavior.

My goal is, with God's help, to change my heart so that everything in my life is subsequent to my desire to follow and obey Him and His will for my life.

My prayer to God is that he helps me become free of "the Orson Welles Syndrome." I ask Him to redeem me from that "fat man" who is been my life for many years, who corrupts my soul, leads me to sinful behavior which devastatingly effects my relationship with Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I know that He will answer my prayer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

32 is a Good Start

Paula and I went to Nashville today for our check up with our surgeon. For me it was my 1 week visit and for her it was 4 weeks.

We both stepped on the scale in the surgeon's office for the first time since our initial consultation back on March 20. We have lost 32 pounds each.

Although it's still a relatively short time since our surgeries we're both very encouraged by the results we've seen so far. We still have a long road ahead of us. But the initial success is encouraging and confirms for both of us that our journey toward becoming healthier and meeting our loss goals is much closer now than it was 4 weeks ago. We've just got to keep up the good work.

Best Cake I've Never Eaten

On January 20 of this year the Pleasant View Baptist Church just a couple of blocks from my house burned down. Well nearly 7 months later a group of workers from churches across the state are in town to help the members of that church build their new building.

Our church is helping to support our brothers and sisters of Pleasant View Baptist by providing supper for the workers tomorrow night.

Paula volunteered to help with the food for the supper by making a dessert.
She looked at the things she had in her pantry and decided that with a trip to the grocery store for just a few items she would be able to make pineapple upside down cake. Which is probably my favorite cake dessert of all time. German chocolate cake runs a close 2nd but pineapple upside down takes the cake.

She asked me if I it would bother me if she fixed it. I told her "no" it would not bother me. There's no way I could even consider having a piece of it because of my new gastric system.

I must tell you that the two cakes turned out to be probably the best cakes she's ever made. They looked so great and smelled so wonderful. They were absolutely the best cakes I've never had.

I'm sure that the men who will include a slice of my wife's pineapple upside down cake tomorrow night for supper will be more than blessed by its deliciousness. Even though I couldn't have any of it I'm so grateful that they turned out so well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another Pet For James

Last night Paula and I went to see James play his last game of the season, before playoffs, for our church softball team. When we got there he surprised us with the newest edition to his menagerie of pets he has. It's a 7 week old Shih Tzu puppy which he has named "Sadie" (he says the name is subject to change).
The tiny little pup became our responsibility while he played the game. Paula watched over the tiny little canine holding it inside her light jacket to keep her warm.

The pup is now the sister of James other dog, Brody, a rather large and clumsy male boxer. It will be interesting to see how two dogs with such a difference in size learn to get along with each other.
We'd like to welcome Sadie ( or whatever her name turns our to be) to our pet family. You can't see her too well in this picture but she's tiny enough to fit in James' glove. She's also asleep. But take my word for it; she is a cutie.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Outdoor Blessings

One of the great things about being a Christian and a member of a church is the brotherhood that reaches out to help you when you need it but don't expect it.

Over the last month while Paula and I have been having our surgeries our church family has been praying for us and asking us if there is anything we needed. There really wasn't anything we needed directly in regard to our surgeries or anything like that. However there have been several things around the outside of our home that have needed some attention.

There were some piles of weeds pulled out of our front flowerbeds that needed to be picked up and hauled away, some hedge clippings in the backyard that needed to be cleaned up, and a couple of shingles on our roof needed to be replaced or nailed back down.

Yesterday one of our church deacons who is also part of our church's local missions ministry came and picked up the weeds and the clippings. Our next door neighbor came over and helped him as well. No one even asked him to help. He saw that someone was doing something in our yard and came over to help.

Our neighbor is a Christian man who goes to Pleasant View Baptist Church here in town. He is a kind soul and has a wonderful reputation of showing Christ's love to others through his Christian service.

Once the clippings were collected we were asked if there was anything else that could be done for us. Paula asked if it were possible for someone to come and cut down the 4 hedges that were around our deck. They have grown way too large and she wanted them cut down.

Today about 5 PM or so I heard a chainsaw out back. Once again our outside helpers were back. In no time they had the hedges and some other plants down or trimmed back away from our deck. It was wonderful. At the same time another man from church came and fixed the shingles on our roof.

What a wonderful blessing it is for us to have such tasks done for us. We had planned on hiring someone to come and do them. Thanks to a church deacon, our church local missions ministry and a very kind Christian neighbor we no longer have to worry about it.

Glory be to God for working through his people to meet needs we never expected to be taken care of for "free". Never in my life did I think that having weight loss surgery would result in such wonderful Outdoor Blessings.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Getting To Know Me

It's been a week since my last so I thought it was time that I start posting again.

First of all I want to give thanks and praise to God for being with me during my surgery and hospital stay. I had very little difficulty coming out of the anesthesia and little pain from the surgery itself. I could move in and out of bed to go walking with relative ease. Adjusting in the bed was a nuisance most of the time but barely painful. I used the pain killer button mostly to help me sleep. I also got a lot more sleep during my stay than Paula did during hers. I guess because I didn't have as much going on.

I had to stay an extra day because of some concern with my kidneys but God even took care of that. When the focus of my condition became whether the kidneys were working like they were supposed to God turned them on like Niagara Falls. Enough said about that.

I just want to let everyone know that even though it may appear that my surgery was "routine" there were elements of my experience that confirmed to me without a doubt that God was there with me in that hospital room watching over me the entire time.

I've been home from the hospital since last Thursday about noon. During that time I've realized that I'm on a sort of "gastronomic honeymoon" with my new stomach pouch.

I've had to come to terms with exactly how much fluid it will accept and how much makes it upset or bloated. I've learned to slow down and sip all my liquids. I have quickly learned that my pouch is now the ruler of my diet and eating habits. If the pouch isn't happy; no body's happy.

I can really only describe the feeling of an "unhappy pouch" to be like when you get a stomach virus and you wish you could get sick just so you feel better. Only the solution for this is some Pepcid or just waiting it out and going slower next time.

The song that has been going through my head is the one from "The King & I" called "Getting To Know You". The lyrics go like this: Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you. Getting to like you. Getting to hope you like me."

That's the way I feel about my newly arranged digestive tract. I'm trying to be patient and learn how "we" are going to work together to help me reach my weight loss goal. It was a little shaky the first couple of days. But as some time has passed and I've learned a few preliminary things I'm pretty sure this it the beginning of a "beautiful friendship." It has to be there's no turning back now.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Statue" Song Had New Meaning

Being that it is 4th of July weekend I thought it would be appropriate to ask our church music pastor if I could sing the song "Statue of Liberty" in this morning's worship service.

The song which was written by Neil Enloe, and recorded in 1976, is a gospel music standard. It honors Lady Liberty as a symbol of Freedom for all Americans and the cross of Calvary as a place of redemption for all Christians.

I sang it at the very beginning of the service. I was very nervous because I hadn't rehearsed it very much during the week and I wasn't sure how much strength I'd have in my singing voice since I have been on nothing but liquids for 4 days.

My timing was good and I pretty much hit all the notes the way I was supposed to. As I usually do during my solos I did my best to sing to individuals instead of the entire congregation. I looked around at my church family and friends and tried to "connect" with them. I wanted to convey through my voice and expression just what singing this song meant to me on this particular day.

When I finished the song I received the customary applause but something else happened. As I walked off the platform the members of the congregation started standing up. They were honoring the song with a standing ovation. Their action was not on account of my singing. I have been in an arena, a church, and an outdoor concert where the gospel trio, The Couriers, performed the song and received a well deserved standing ovation. My presentation was not in the least bit worthy of such an honor.

The congregation was recognizing the song's tribute to our country and it's glorifying of Jesus Christ for the gift of the cross. It was a very touching moment.

You see, the surgery I'm having tomorrow is a major crossroad in my life and in my relationship with God. It is the ultimate turn away from my sin of gluttony; which is to say putting my desire for food above God in my life.

At the start of 2008 I would have never ever imagined I would be taking this step. I was totally against it as a matter of fact. But as I have discovered God's will for my life I have come to identify the need to repent and turn away from sin.

If my sins were not already paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ through his work on the cross I would not be in the place I am in my life right now. I would not be seeking to turn away from the sin of gluttony by the actions I'm taking. I would still be lost in my sin.

The reason I am being liberated from one of my devastating sins is because I am a spirit filled born again child of God. I'm a born again child of God because Jesus died for my sins on the cross. The cross is the emblem of God's continuing liberation of me from sin. It is my Statue of Spiritual Liberty.

That fact is more real to me in my life now than it ever has been. That's what I wanted to tell my church family through my song this morning. I truly believe that based on what happened in that sanctuary the Holy Spirit helped me do just that. Thank You God for allowing me to give Glory to You.

This is my last post before I go into the hospital for weight loss surgery. I just wanted thank everyone in advance for their prayers and kind words. I will be back posting as soon as I feel better. It shouldn't be more than a week. See you then. God Bless.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The "Food Fight" Begins

Yesterday I started 3 days of a "full liquid" diet in preparation for my surgery this coming Monday. This preparation is a bit different from Paula's because she was on "clear liquids" and only for two days. I will be on "full liquids" for 3 days and then "clear" for 2.

So far I've had several ready to drink protein drinks and my favorite has been the vanilla creame flavored "Oh Yeah". I had a grape flavored one that I like as well.

It's been a tough couple of days for me in that I was really tired, hungry and in a bad mood at times. I guess I'm just going through a period of adjustment; and example of things to come.

I'm also in a time of "mourning" over the foods that I know I'm going to miss because I won't be able to eat them post surgery and those I'm not going to be able to have for a long time. But this is all part of the process of repenting from my "worship" of food and quelling my desire to eat it. It will now take it's place as a part of my life not be a "god" in my life.

This is part of my goal to glorify God with my life. One of the biggest parts of achieving that goal is to establish Him as the only one I worship and honor as Lord of my life. To do that several things must be "dethroned"and put into the proper priority. Food and my desire for eating is one of the "biggies" but there's other battles I'm going to have to fight as well.

But for now I'm going to concentrate on my own personal "Food Fight."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Birthday Message

My Darling Paula,

Today is your birthday but I can't help but feel that I am the one who has been given the gift. Other than my relationship with God by Salvation through His Son, Jesus, having you as my partner in life is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

You have loved, supported, encouraged, and taught me so much over the last 12 years that I will never every be able to thank you enough.

You have helped me become the man I am today. Together we are walking God's pathway toward becoming who He wants us to be. I am blessed beyond anything I could ever imagine to have you by my side.

You ARE the LOVE OF MY LIFE. I will Love You Always & Forever.

Your Husband,