Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sisterly History Pt. 2

Do you have a pioneer in your family? No, I’m not asking if Daniel Boone is part of your family tree. What I’m talking about is this. Is there someone your family who has courageously stepped out and broken a family pattern influencing other’s to do the same?

 In my family I have 2 pioneers. Each of my sisters have both blazed their own trails in the area of weight loss.

 In 2006, my sister, Peggy, joined a weight loss program called “LA Weight Loss.” She really had a lot of success with the program. Her efforts kind of parted the murky waters in the sea of doubt for Paula and me. After failing at the Adkins diet on our own we realized we needed an structured program if we had any hope of succeeding.

 Encouraged by Peggy’s results, in April 2007 we joined our local LA Weight Loss program. We lost quite a bit but eventually got bored with the limited choices and stopped following the program. Nevertheless Peggy’s success had inspired us to get serious about losing weight for the first time in several years.

My sister, Shari partnered with Peggy in her effort to lose weight. She had some initial success, but soon Shari became frustrated. She reached a point where she wasn’t losing anything. No matter how little she ate or how much she exercised she couldn’t drop more than a couple of pounds. She had some tests run but her doctors couldn’t find any reason for her dilemma.

About the middle of 2007 Shari began a quest that made turned her into a pioneer. She blazed a trail that Peggy, Paula, and I would all eventually follow. She began exploring the possibility of having gastric by-pass surgery.

At the time she first mentioned it to me I was almost completely against any weight loss surgery. I had only heard the bad things about it. But Shari felt that only this type of drastic change would help her have any kind of permanent weight loss. She went through all the preliminaries and jumped through the hoops required by her medical insurance company. It took more than 8 months. Finally on February 14, 2008 she had her surgery.

From a distance I worried about and prayed for her while following her progress during the year after surgery. It was her progress and subsequent successful weight loss that was significant factor in getting Paula to start thinking about having the procedure done.

Over the summer both my wife and God (not necessarily in that order) worked on my anti-surgery stance. By the time September 2008 came around both Paula and I were on the same path that Shari had traveled a year earlier.

In the summer of 2009 we both had our surgeries. Over the next 2 years we lost a combined total of over 280 pounds. In July 2010, exactly a year to the day after me, Peggy had her by-pass procedure. As of this post she’s lost 90 pounds.

Now there are a lot of people, events, and circumstances that contributed to change in all our lives. And success can be measured in so many more ways than just “pounds lost.”

But as far as I’m concern there is no one single influence more responsible for the fact that today I weigh what I do today and over 400 pounds, like I once did, than the example of Shari’s decision to make a change in her life.

So I’m sure along with Peggy and Paula, I’d like to take the time to thank Shari for being the first to take that “giant step” and help lead us to the way to improving our lives.

I am convinced beyond a doubt that Shari was a vessel used by God to lead all of us to the place He wanted us to be in our lives.

So there you have the second of the two most significant ways Shari has influenced my life. Of course, they are just two of the thousands of ways both of my sisters have blessed and influenced my life.

Even though we have lived 900 miles away from each other for close to 13 years now, their love and support still mean more to me than I could ever tell them.

So now that I’ve come to the end of this 2-part post. I can sum up the reason for it all with this pair of phrases. “Shari and Peggy, I love you both more than I can ever tell you”. “Happy Birthday Shari”.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Surprise! It’s Finished

In my October 23 post about my license plate project I wrote that I was satisfied with having seen 49 out of 50 state license plates.

I also mentioned that perhaps I’d have to go to California to see a car with a Hawaii license plate, the last one on my list. But now that won’t be necessary. Let me explain.

Today on my way to church.I stopped at the Shell Station on Main Street about a mile from my house. It’s the place where I usually pick up the Sunday edition of the local newspaper.

I pulled in and parked to the left of the pumps; perpendicular to the bagged ice storage unit. That’s when I saw a red Mitsubishi Eclipse (very similar to the one pictured at the beginning of this post) sitting next to the pump closest to the store. As had become my habit, I looked at the license plate on the back of the vehicle. It read “Hawaii”.

My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was the last state license plate I needed to find to really complete my license project. I checked again and sure enough. I wasn’t dreaming.

I was so excited. I looked around to see if anyone was in the car. I just had to tell whoever it belonged to what seeing their license plate meant to me.

The driver was a woman in the car by herself. She looked like she was counting money and talking on a cell phone at that same time. I probably should have just left it alone but I couldn’t help myself. I knocked on the hood on the passenger side as I crossed over in front of the car to the driver’s side.

As I got to her door the woman opened it, put the cash she was counting on the passenger’s seat (from what I saw they were just $1 bills) and ended her phone call. It was at that point that I stepped outside my enthusiasm and realized just how “creepy” I must have seemed to her.

Realizing this I began to be apologetic and reassuring at the same time. I quickly said I was sorry for interrupting her. She said it was okay she was just talking to her dad.

I then told her why I was bothering her. I told her “thank you” for bringing her car over from “the big island.” I never would have ever thought I'd see a Hawaii plate in Kentucky. 

After I had explained myself a bit and told her why I had approached her she became a little less guarded. She told me that when she first moved to Hawaii from Kentucky she took her car with her then as well. She said that the people in Hawaii were amazed by the her Kentucky plate. They were even taking pictures of it.

Well I thanked her once again for bringing a Hawaii license plate to Smiths Grove ; then apologized one final time for being so forward and sounding kind of strange. I then went in to get my newspaper.

In the time since my last post about my project I did find out from my friend in California that it was possible to see a Hawaii plate in California. All I could do was hope that someday I could get out west to look for one. Little did I know that a Hawaii license plate would practically come to my door step on the back bumper of a Mitsubishi Eclipse. Talk about serendipity.

So even though it came as a complete surprise, now my License Plate Project is officially and completely finished. In a little over 4 years I have seen license plates from each of the 50 states. If for some reason my dad happens to be looking down from heaven today. I know he is smiling.

Sisterly History Pt. 1

This picture is one of my favorite taken in 2011. It marks one of the best weeks of the year; when my sisters and their families came to visit me and my family here in Kentucky. I love both of my sisters, dearly. They have influenced and blessed my life in so many ways I can never begin to mention them all.

My sister Peggy, has given me the gift of an interest and love of music from the 1960’s and 70s. Forty years ago she gave me the honor of become an uncle for the first time. I’ve always been pretty good at being, an uncle, if I must say so myself.

There’s a lot more I could tell you about my sister Peggy and I will in a future post.

Yesterday was my sister, Shari’s birthday. While I apologize for not posting this on her actual birthday; today I want to write about the first of two of the most significant ways Shari has blessed my life. I don’t think this is something I’ve ever shared with her before.

In November 1969, around Shari’s 4th birthday, a new and very different kind of children’s TV show premiered on public broadcasting television stations around the country. That show was called “Sesame Street.”

It came on in the mornings. I was 9 and in 4th grade. Just after I’d left for school, my four year old sister, usually still in her footy pajamas, would sit herself in front of the TV. For an hour she watched as Susan, Gordon, Bob, Mr. Hooper and a 6ft tall yellow bird puppet, called “Big Bird”, live and learn on a studio set that accurately represented an fictional intercity neighborhood.

Shari loved Sesame Street and talked about it, at the dinner table, all the time. Since it was on when I wasn’t home I paid no attention when she talked about two characters named “Ernie & Bert” who she thought were so funny. I wasn’t the least bit interested in; the kiddie TV show which had become a big part of my little sister’s pre-school world.

Then something changed. Sesame Street started airing a 2nd time each afternoon at 4PM; right before we ate supper. Since it was the only thing on (this was back in the days when only “rich people” had more than 1 TV set in their house) I was forced to watch. I discovered that “Ernie & Bert” were puppets.

Well, not just “Puppets” but Muppets. I LOVED the Muppets. I was initially introduced to them by my dad. He would make sure that whenever Jim Henson’s hilarious puppet troupe was on a TV variety show like Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, or the Hollywood Palace we were in our living room watching them together. But seeing the Muppets was relatively rare. They didn’t appear on any program on a regular basis; just occasionally on shows like I just mentioned.

The puppets on Sesame Street were not the characters, I’d seen on those prime time variety shows. With the exception of Kermit the Frog, these puppets were specially created for the ground breaking children’s show. But they were still the product of the mastermind behind the Muppets, Jim Henson. They were lifelike and funny.

I was hooked. I started watching Sesame Street with my sister so I could see the Muppets. I started imitating their voices as best as I could. I dreamed of somehow having my own puppets so I could make up my own jokes and perform my own little plays.

Soon after I started watching Sesame Street, toy departments of our local discount stores started selling toy versions of Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch puppets. I started asking for them as gifts. I received them over several birthdays and Christmases. Then I began performing puppetry for my family and at my church.

Now there were other factors that went into my “puppet” journey and how I eventually turned down the road of ventriloquism. But it was the everyday exposure to the Sesame Street puppets while sitting on the floor in our living room TV with my little sister that really fueled what has turned out to be a lifelong passion for puppets.

There was also a short term obsession with everything that Sesame Street had to offer. Our parents got us the Sesame Street original cast album for a Valentine’s Day present in 1970. We played that record until it was worn out. Eventually we both out grew the curriculum of the Children’s Television Workshop’s first public television hit. I moved on to “The Electric Company.” Shari moved on to “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

I’m sure the 4 year old little girl who sat with me, mesmerized by the wonder of just how Ernie’s silliness was going to frustrate Bert next, watched Cookie Monster begging for his favorite snack, or tried to guess which “one of these things” was “not like the others” had no idea she was exposing me to an interest that would have an influence my life more than 40 years later.

She just liked having someone to watch her favorite show with her. By the way, our educational TV partnership abruptly ended when her new TV best friend became that guy in the cardigan sweater and sneakers.

That’s the story of one of ways my little sister blessed me in my early life. More recently she’s done something that has been not just a blessing but a powerful life changing influence on both Paula and me. I’ll give you the details of that story in my next post.

Until then, I’d like to give one more “Happy Birthday” to my little sister. I love you, Shari. While you may be getting older more importantly you really are getting better.

Come back for “part 2” of this special post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Blog Message

Hello. You’ve reached the RH Factors Blog. I’m not posting right now. I’m busy writing on my other blog (http://www.gettingtomygoal.blogspot.com/). I promise I will get back to posting soon. Please leave your comment at the bottom of the page. Thanks for checking in and come back soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Introducing My What Nots

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you may have noticed that the Muppets are everywhere these days. I’ve seen them on everything from Good Morning America to WWE’s Monday Night Raw. The Disney Company (who owns the Muppets) has the great publicity blitz running on full speed.

This is a wonderful thing for someone who is as much of a Muppet fan as I am. Believe it or not there are a lot of us out there. There’s websites and even an I-Tunes podcast devoted to all things that have to do with Jim Henson’s creations.

Muppet merchandise has also come back to the shelves of major retail and toy stores; among them FAO Schwartz. The toy store most famous for the piano scene in the Tom Hanks movie
Big has an exclusive department called the “What Not Workshop.” It’s the Muppet version of a “build a bear”.

What’s a “What Not?” you ask. Well it’s that special group of Muppets whose eye, nose, ears and hair can be changed to create any character that’s needed. At FAO Schwartz, you can choose from a variety of body parts and clothes to build your own What Not Muppet.

Ever since they were first introduced as the “Anything People” on Sesame Street in the late 60’s I’ve wanted a What Not of my own. I was excited when I heard about this What Not workshop and then found out that you can create and order one a What Not from the toy store’s website. But I was taken back a bit when I found out that the price of this custom made Muppet is a bit steep ($100).

Then I heard some good news on “Inside The Magic” Disney podcast a couple of weeks ago. In a cooperative marketing effort with FAO Schwartz, ToysRUS had begun carrying a line of FAO products.

One day after work I went by the newly renovated toy store in Bowling Green to try and find out if they had the FAO Schwartz products. I planned on asking one of the employees where I could find them. As soon as I walked in the door I was in the middle of the special display of the limited edition products.

Among them were special editions puppets of the top Muppets characters; Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Beaker. Also there was a pair of limited edition What Not characters. One was blue and one was orange. They each were in their own see through plastic carrying case and had their own exclusive set of accessories. The clothing offered at the workshop in New York was available separately. The price of the What Not kits and the clothing was still a bit expensive but relatively cheaper compared to the “in-store” price in New York.

When I saw the What-Not kits my heart literally skipped a beat. While this might be considered a bit dangerous for someone over 50 it wasn’t for me. I hadn’t felt this type of excitement about a Muppet since I first saw the Ernie puppet in a store when I was 10 years old. I wrote a post about my Ernie puppet back on November 18, 2009.

As I said when I saw the What Not puppets I got the same excitement in the pit of my stomach as I did that day in autumn day in1970.
I left the store with one of the What Nots (the blue one) and a suit with a plaid jacket and a solid tie to dress it in.

That night I opened it and could not believe how great it was. A new kind of excitement took over. For some time now I have been putting together in my mind a list of specific ventriloquist characters for specific situations. That list includes: A game show host, a laboratory scientist, and an infomercial pitchman to name a few.

Up until I made my latest puppet purchase I thought if I wanted to ever use those characters, I would have to purchase a customized ventriloquist puppet for each of them. But upon opening the package and discovering all the kit contained I realized the What Not puppet and it’s variety of accessories would be able allow me to create a lot of those characters with just one puppet.
I also realized that I needed (or would the right work be “wanted”) both of the What Nots to take advantage of their potential. The next day I returned to ToysRUS and brought home the 2nd What Not.

That was about 2 weeks ago. This past Sunday my first What Not puppet, the blue one, made his public debut during the children’s sermon portion of our church worship service. I’ve named him Henson B. Anything after the Muppets creator, Jim Henson. The “Anything” part of the name is taken from the previously mentioned anything people from Sesame Street.

The children’s sermon, which was about the different members of the church body and based on the scripture 1st Corinthians 12:12-20 went well. The children really liked Henson and laughed at his jokes.

Below is a picture of me with Henson B. Anything and the, yet to be named, other What Not. I’m the one in the middle.

I’m genuinely optimistic about the potential for using the What Nots in my ventriloquist ministry and children’s church. I have a plethora of ideas about new characters, new accessories, sketch possibilities and more. The skies the limit for me and the What Nots.