Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Personal Update

As I begin the last week of April, 2010 there's been a big, but not surprising, change in my daily life. As of April 25 I am off of work for the next 6 weeks. I will be off of work until June 5th due to lack of incoming calls at the ShopNBC call center. I've been promised that I will be called back but I'll believe that when I see it.

In the mean time I haven't heard anything from Fruit of the Loom in regard to the job I interviewed for a little over 2 weeks ago. Not sure if I will hear back from them or at least hear back with a positive response. I'll probably get a "thank you for applying" letter in the mail soon.

On a more positive note, it's been a while since I've posted a weight loss update so here it goes. I've now lost a total of 160 pounds. That means I'm under 250 lbs. I've still got about 75-90 lbs. to go. I'm not losing as fast as I had hoped but at least I'm still losing. I just need to be faithful to my diet and exercise while being patient. That's a hard thing to do.

Received some good news this past week. My older sister, who lives in Pennsylvania, just got a date for her weight loss surgery. Guess what? It's going to be on the 1 year anniversary of my surgery. That's right. She'll be having her surgery on July 6, 2010. I think it's cool that she and I will have the same anniversary date.

A couple of days ago I began my next big music project. I'm going to start importing the music from my CD collection (about 800 CDs) to my I-Tunes program on my computer. This will eventually lead to having it all on my Ipod as well. It's going to take some time but I should be able to carry my entire music collection with me anywhere by the end of the year. At least that's my goal.

Last but not least I want to thank God for the opportunity to share my personal weight loss testimony at my church. This past Sunday evening I stood up in front of my Christian brothers & sisters and told them my personal story of how God brought me to my surgery. I explained what my life was like and how it is today. My presentation included the home church debut of my Ruben Nathaniel Young III puppet. Ruben and I had a little conversation and told a few jokes. At the end, together, we sang a song called "The Roux-En-Y Song" written to the tune of the Beatles song "Yesterday".

Although time didn't allow me to present the Bible study I prepared I was pleased with the way the evening went. A lot of people came up to me afterwards and complimented me. Paula was very encouraging; telling me that she could see a real improvement in my ventriloquism over the last 6 months. I recorded the performance on video with my new camera.

So that's what going on in my life right now. I'm just trying to deal with not going to work and concentrating on staying busy at home. I have a lot of things I want to get done. I am looking forward to becoming even more involved with ministry at church while I have the time. I'm going to help with Children's church for the next month as well as Wednesday night Children's ministry. I'm thankful to God for the chance to finally start serving him again.

Thanks for reading my blog and God Bless.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Backyard Baseball

This post is about yet another personal victory. It contains 3 elements that I love to write about: regaining elements of my childhood, improving my physical health, and baseball.

One of the many activities I enjoyed as a kid was hours and hours of playing imaginary baseball games in my backyard using a baseball training device called a "Pitchback". At least that's what it was called 30+ years ago. It basically was a trampoline type net set on a small frame that when tilted at an angle allowed you to play catch by yourself.

The combination of several things: the start of a new baseball season, warmer weather, my increasing ability to do physical things, and wanting to find a wider variety of exercise; got me thinking. It sure would be great to start playing baseball or softball again. I decided that the best place to begin pursuing that activity was to start with playing catch. My problem is that I don't have anyone in my neighborhood whom I can ask to throw the ball around with me. That brought me back to the memory of the "Pitchback".

On a shopping trip to Wal-Mart I looked in the sporting goods department and found a 2010 version of my old backyard buddy. I took it home and put it together this past weekend. I set it up against one of my storage sheds and started warming up my arm.

The years melted away and in my mind and heart as I traveled back in time to the backyard of 30 Brainard Street when I was a preteen. I was reliving a part of my childhood. You can see me playing in the picture posted above.

On Sunday afternoon I practiced again. While I was "long tossing" with the "pitchback" I remembered that on Sunday afternoons our church softball team has their practices. I was excited when I realized I knew where there would be a group of guys who would let me play ball with them. I found out where they were practicing and went to the field.

For the next 2 hours or so I did something I hadn't done in about 15-20 years. I played softball. It was fun and enlightening at the same time. I realized just how limited I am when it comes to moving from side to side to field a ball and when it comes to running. But at least I was out there and trying. That's leaps and bounds above what I was doing last year at this time or ever thought I'd do again.

Although I didn't intend to do so when I started out I have now joined the church softball team. However knowing my limits I will only play when they need me as a 10th guy so they can play a game. Otherwise I'll probably just be the scorekeeper.

I can't do much about my lack of ability to run, but as the season goes along I'm going to look for exercises and stretches that will help me increase my flexibility so I can be a better fielder. I'm looking forward to playing the game I love and the Christian fellowship I miss out on because I can't be at church on Sunday mornings.

So there you have the story of my journey back to playing ball again. I'm excited about being a participant in the game of baseball again. As my wife can testify, I love watching the game; but there's nothing like actually being on the field and playing.

I praise the Lord that He has brought me along to this place where I can participate in things make me smile. But the most important thing is at the same time I'm getting to be with people and be in places that will foster opportunities to serve God through serving people.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hot Rod's Opening Night

Last Sunday night Ben, my friend and baseball buddy, and I went to the Hot Rods' home opener. We had great seats just behind 1st base with a good view of the entire field. That's our mugs in the picture on the left.

Upon arriving at our seats we were pleasantly surprised to find that the first base coach for the visiting Dayton Dragons (an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) was Ken Griffy Sr.

He was the left fielder for the 75 & 76 World Series Champion Reds. He also played a couple of years for the Yankees in the middle 80's.

Once we saw him on the coaching lines at first we regretted not getting their earlier so we could ask for an autograph. Luckily I had got a 2nd chance to do that at a day game on Tuesday. Mr. Griffy was kind enough to sign my game ticket. The autograph is pictured above. Trust me that's his signature.

The game didn't start out too well for the home team. The Dragons got out to a 6-0 lead after 1 inning. The Hot Rods came back to tie the game in the middle innings. They fell behind again when when eventual winning run scored on a catcher's interference call with the bases loaded in the top of the 9th. The final score was 8-6.

Still the game we really enjoyed being there. Adding to the fun was the fact that the people who played the games in between innings walked by us on their way to and from the field. There were lots of "good job" and high fives exchanged as they went back to their seats. The team's mascots, Axel & Roscoe, also came up and down our aisle on the way to the field. Ben and I even put on camera and shown on the scoreboard.

The most important thing about the night was the renewal of a friendship. Ben couldn't believe it when I told him it had been 3 years since we'd been to a baseball game together. A lot has happened in each of our lives in those 3 years. But with just one night at the ballpark it became evident to me that our friendship will always withstand the test of time. That right there is priceless.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A "Philippians 4:13" Moment

Today I accomplished a goal I've had for nearly 4 years. Back in 2006 when I was losing weight on the LA Weight loss program I was challenged by a fellow church member.

Deon, lives about 4-5 miles from our church and on some Sundays when there's nice weather he walks there. Now his walking path goes right past my neighborhood. He passes less than a 1/4 mile from my front door on his way to church.

About 4 years ago, when I started walking for exercise, Deon and I had a discussion about walking to church. He invited/challenged me to walk with him some time. I accepted the challenge and vowed that I would lose enough weight and get myself into a physical condition to where I could with Deon. I promised him that one day it would be the two of us on the road to church on a Sunday morning. I tracked the distance with my car odometer and discovered that from the point where I would meet up with him near my house it would be a 3 mile walk. That was something I'd have to work up to being able to do.

Unfortunately it didn't happen that year. Additional weight gain and other physical problems over the next from then until my surgery severely limited my ability to walk 3 blocks much less 3 miles.

Let's flash forward to 2010. With the improvement in my health and an increasing ability to walk longer distances once again the idea of walking from my house to the church rose to the top of my personal goal lists.

Although I don't make it to church that often, due to my work schedule; nearly every time I'v seen Deon I told him I'm working on my "walking to church" goal. I promised him I was close. I just wanted to make sure I could do it before I attempted it with him on a Sunday morning.

I have actually been walking the equivalent distance of 3 miles with my dogs around the local cemetery for a month or so. I just hadn't taken the step of faith and attempted to make the trek down the long road from my house to the church.

Yesterday was April 13. Numerically the date was 4/13. In the morning while standing in front of the bathroom mirror getting ready for work I connected the date (4/13) with a very popular verse from the New Testament: Philippians 4:13. It says: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".

That afternoon, as I thought about my exercise for the day that verse came back to mind. I decided that today was the day I wanted to walk to the church. I knew that my wife would be at the church from 6-7PM practicing with our church praise team. I could walk one way and get a ride back home with her.

So in the bright sunshine and warm temperatures of an early spring evening, about 6:10PM I left the house and headed toward my church 3 miles away.

About a mile into the journey I began to wonder if I had taken on a goal that was beyond my ability. Compared to driving the same road (which I have done thousands of times over the last 6 years) my progress at an average speed of less than 3 MPH was less than impressive. I may have imagined it but I believe I heard a turtle holler "move it or park it, buddy" as it passed me.

Determined that I was going to make it I decided to set my sights on landmarks just ahead of me. I focused on road signs, a church member's house, specific trees, a old abandoned silo, telephone poles; whatever was just a short distance away. Also listening to an inspiring sermon and some fast-paced music on my MP3 player helped me keep up a consistent pace. Before I knew it I was close to the limits of the small town whose main street is home to the church.

About 5 minutes before I got to the city limits sign Paula called me. She wanted to know if I was okay and how close I was. I told I was doing fine. I'd be at the church in 10 minutes. I got into town and began walking through the streets I had only driven through before. Once I got there it was kind of cool.

Sure enough, as I walked down the main street I saw my wife in her car waiting for me. I made it. In 1 hour and 11 minutes I walked 3.2 miles from my house to my church. As I got into the car I was tired and subdued but it was a triumphant moment for me.

With God's help and through the faith and hope I have in Jesus Christ I'd done it. Over the last 9 months I had worked to get healthy and lose weight. My progressive exercise and walking and increased distances had just paid off. I had accomplished the initial step in one of my exercise goals. I knew that something once I thought impossible for me had just come true; thanks to God's work in my life. It was truly a "Philippians 4:13" moment.

Now I've done it going one way I will adjust my goal to make a round trip walk. However first things first. When the opportunity comes up I will meet in the near future I will meet, my friend, Deon at a crossroad in my neighborhood and we will walk the road to church together. I can't wait.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As The Mower Blade Turns


ANNOUNCER: And now it's time for "As The Mower Blade Turns." The story of a man, his lawn mower and the grass that must be cut ...

With the improvement of my physical health and ability to move we decided that this summer it was time I took back some of my responsibilities as a homeowner. I'm referring to mowing my grass. For the past 2 years we have had a neighbor mow and trim for us. His rates were reasonable but writing the weekly check from March to November added up.

So this mowing season I decided, to save some money, I was going to start moving my lawn myself again. To make a long story short we decided that I'm going to mow the lawn every other week and pay our lawn care man to mower and do the edge trimming twice a month. I hate using the weed eater and it plays havoc with my back. I'm not quite ready or physically able to do that myself yet.

So yesterday was the day for my first mowing of the season. James had changed the oil and tuned up the mower for me last week so I was ready. I did the front lawn in about an hour and things went well. I always enjoy mowing but being able to listen to my MP3 player while doing it now makes it seem much less like work.

As I got about 1/3 of the way through the back yard I ran the mower over the stump of one of the hedges we had cut down last summer. Hitting the stump bent the mower blade so badly that the mower couldn't run right.

I turned the mower over on it's side and removed the blade. I went into town and bought a replacement blade. I brought it home and installed it. Once that was finished I had just enough time to finish the back yard before dark. Except for one thing; the mower wouldn't start. Now matter how hard I pulled the rope it just wouldn't start. I was very frustrated.

The smell of gasoline that had spilled onto the mower deck and motor was obvious. I thought perhaps while I had the mower on it's side changing the blade I might have "flooded" the engine and that's why it didn't work. Frustrated at my own incompetence as a lawn mower mechanic, I gave up the idea of mowing for the night. I let the mower set outside hoping perhaps the gas would drain from the engine or evaporate and allow the mower to start the next day (today)

This afternoon when I got back to trying it again the mower still wouldn't start. I took the mower to a neighbor at the end of our block. He repairs mowers. He graciously looked at the mower and found out that the air filter had been saturated with gas because the mower had been on its side. This didn't allow the engine to get any air allowing it to run.

I got a new filter at the local hardware store, changed it and the engine started right up. I was then able to finish mowing the lawn. So my decision to try and mow over the hedge stump subsequently cost me the price of a new mower blade and a new filter. The total of the repairs was probably about $25.

I guess I've learned my lessons. Never run over a hedge stump with a mower and never tip a mower on it's side. Given the fact that I should now be able to run my mower the rest of the season with no other problems, and save some money by cutting the lawn every other week myself, the price I paid was not too bad.

So now I'm back to cutting my own grass. I love spending the time out doors and the sense of accomplishment when I've finally cut that last patch of grass. Not to mention a nicely cut law looks really nice. Ah, I feel like a homeowner again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bill & Ron's Excellent Baseball Adventure

Today my Christian Brother, Bill, and I took a wonderful baseball day trip to Cincinnati to see an afternoon game.

We has some terrific discussions on the way there. Bill has a million stories from his years as a teacher and sports coach.
He also gave me some touring tips about Washington DC.

We arrived about 90 minutes before game time and walked around the ballpark for a while. We watched the game preparations on the field and ate some delicious ballpark peanuts.

The game was played rather quickly and was fun to watch. There was some interesting weather. The temperature was in the 50's and the clouds and sun played "king of the sky" all afternoon. Accompanied by an intermittent wind the weather take my jacket on and off a countless number of times throughout the afternoon.

On the field there were mascots (the picture above is that of "Gapper" and "Rose Red" two of the 3 Reds' costumed mascots who entertain at their home games) and a pitching duel.

The Reds' Bronson Arroyo and Cardinals' Brad Penny traded scoreless innings until the bottom of the 5th when Arroyo drove in the Reds first run but then gave up a solo homer to Matt Holliday in the 6th.

With the game tied at 1 in the last of the 9th Reds outfielder Johnny Gomes sent the more than 13,000 fans in attendance home happy by hitting a game winning homer over the left center field fence.

The trip was "educational" as well as we learned the "pecking order" for roaming vendors at the ballpark. Beer vendors are first (they make more money) then the food vendors. The cotton candy and snow cone vendors are part of a different concession company all together and don't figure in the hierarchy of beer & food vendors. That wealth of information came as a result of my asking several vendors how a vendor was chosen to sell a specific item. Like I said "educational".

We made good time trading stories and laughing coming home as well. We made good time; getting back to my house before 6PM.

It was the earliest in a season I've ever gone to a baseball game. I really had a great time. Thanks Bill for a fun day of laughter and friendship. I really needed a day like today

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First Night @ The Stadium

Spring is here (actually the weather lately has been more like summer) and our local minor league baseball team, the Hot Rods, will start their season tomorrow on the road in South Dakota.

Last night they held their first public practice at Hot Rods Stadium. Here's a shot of our local Tampa Ray prospects gathered as a group during that practice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"I'm A Ventriloquist. Here's My Card."

Here's a scanned copy of the business card I had printed up last week for my ventriloquism ministry. For obvious reasons, of course, I have cropped out the bottom portion of the card with my personal contact information.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in having me and my band of funny friends entertain at their church function, party, or other occasion let me know and I'll send them a buisness card and a packet of other important information about my show.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Living Room Entertainment Upgrade

This is a picture of our new entertainment (TV) set up in our living room. Getting it here was a collaborative effort from several members of my family. Paula and I shopped for the TV and the stand. I purchased them with my son James along to help me to unload them from my car and carry them into the house. We then set up the TV on our old grey stand and watched it for a week in a temporary set up.

Last Friday Paula and I set out with our day's goal of putting the new stand together. Upon opening the package we revealed a menagerie of parts, pieces, hardware and wooden dowels that boggled our minds.

After reading through the multi-step instruction booklet we knew it was going to take time and cooperative effort to put it together. The combination of my wife, me and the million pieces of what promised to be a TV stand was the type of situation that would test even the strongest of marriages. Nevertheless we agreed we could get through it and started working as a team.

As we started I experienced the 2nd of my bout of pain and nausea in as many days due to kidney stones. I had to abandon our effort for medication and bed rest. This did not dull the sharpened edge of determination of my bride. She set her sights on assembling the stand by herself. Over the course of the afternoon, as I slept, she put it together. It was an amazing accomplishment. When I emerged from my hydrocodone induced slumber I was overwhelmed by what I saw. We had a new TV stand assembled by my amazing wife. I was so impressed with her acheivement I immediately dubbed our new piece of furniture: "Paula's Platform". The name and the actual structure will stand as a tribute to her effort and determination for the foreseeable future.

With the stand assembled there were still 2 more important phases to completely have our new TV arrangement set up. On Saturday afternoon, Michael took the time out of his day to come over and help us mount the TV onto the back of the stand with mounting brackets. He then very meticulously worked on setting up and connecting the cable box, speakers, and video game system so it would all work. We really appreciate all that he did.

Now our new TV set up is complete and working. It was done just in time to allow our family to watch a Disney Nature video after Easter dinner last evening. While it did cost a bit more than anticipated and was a bit more work than first thought the newly set up of the combination of "Paula's Platform" and our LG TV makes both of the residents in this house very happy. The picture is amazing and the potential for spending nights with my wife watching our favorite shows and movies was worth it all. The fact that it's in place just in time for the start of the new baseball season is also an added bonus. Rest assured we're going to enjoy our living room entertainment upgrade.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

For those of you who know me well enough to think that this might be an "April Fools" joke. Let me assure you it is not. This ordeal was as far from a joking matter as I've every had. While it's a common ailment for adults about my age it's something I'd not wish on anyone.

I was awakened at 4:30 AM this morning with pain in my right kidney area. The pain then traveled forward to my lower abdomen and I became very nauseated. I was in extremely pain to say the least. Went to the ER.

After a CAT scan and some blood work I was diagnoised with a kidney stone that has moved from my kidney through my urinary tract. According to the doctor I should pass it in the next 24-48hrs. Also he tells me that it's only 1mm big and that I have others in the opposite kidney the same size or smaller that will eventually move as well.

With the pain in my abdomen and the effect of all the wretching from the neausa had on my pouch and stomach muscles it took 2 doses of demoral and some anit-nausea medicaton to finally relieve my pain to a tolelrable level. Although I arrived at the ER about 8AM it took in until 11AM before I finally slept soundly.

I am now home and have medications that has allowed me to relax and get some rest. I am not in pain any more. I just have to concentrate on drinking extra fluids so I can pass my "little buddy".

I'd appreciate if you could remember me in your prayers. I am thankful that God has kept the stones small enough that they don't require any surgery. I will just have to deal with passing them.

This is unusal for me. I'm not used to having to deal with any "medical condtions" such as this. I guess it comes with turning the big 50. Happy Birthday to me :(