Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recollections of 2011 Part 2 Section A

Happy 2012, everyone. I hope you enjoyed my first post reviewing my travels in 2011. This post is “Part 2, section A” of my “Year In Review” portion of will look back at the people, places, and things that changed my life over the course of this year. Once again, this will be done as a “Top 10” countdown. Section “A” will include the first 5. But first a couple of “honorable mentions”

Lawn Tractor Troubles:  For the most part I have tried to be positive in my review points but this first honorable mention had a negative effect on me this summer.

My Troublesome Ridning Mower
Last March, at the start of the 7 month mowing season, I bought a Craftsman LT200 riding mower to make yard work a little less time consuming and easier to do in the heat of summer. I bought it on sale at Sears with the opportunity to pay for it over the course of a year with no interest. This is a good idea right?

Well it turned out a series of events ended up making me wonder if I had made a mistake. These included: a bent pulley, broken belt, and bent blade after mowing over a hedge stump; the mower not starting for no apparent reason, running down the battery trying to get it going again; taking 3 months to find someone with a flat trailer to take the mower to Sears; finding out the warranty repair man comes to your home but only has appointments on Wednesdays (Monday is my day off); not being able to get the mower back to the house for two weeks.

Combine that with the fact that those problems served to strongly reinforce the perception that I’m mechanically incompetent and you’ll get a very frustrating first summer with my riding mower. It definitely changed my life but not in a good way. 

A Growing Friendship: In 2011 Paula and I had the privilege of building a stronger friendship with Mark and Patty Quigley. Mark is the associate pastor of our church and Patty teaches special Bible study courses for the women of the church.

We spent time at each other’s homes playing board games. We went to the movies and, as I’ve already mentioned in, went to a WKU football game together. Patty even had Thanksgiving dinner with us when Mark was away visiting his daughter in Tennessee over the four-day weekend. (Patty couldn’t go because she had to work the Friday after the holiday)

The growth of the friendship with the Quigley’s this year has been life changing because since we’ve been married Paula and I have never really had another married couple that we could hang out with and go on “date nights” together.  We are proud to call the Quigley’s our friends. They are a real blessing.  

Patty & Mark Quigley with Paula
 @WKU Football Game 11/5/11

Those are this list’s honorable mentions. Now, let’s move on to the Top 10 countdown.

10. Two New Blogs And A Laptop: Back in January 2011, for me, working or playing on the computer meant hibernating in the back room of our house. This took me away from my wife who was in our living room with her laptop watching TV.

Although this is the way it’s been since Paula got her laptop for Christmas in 2009, I decided that it was time for a change. In February with the blessing of my wife, I bought myself a new HP laptop computer.  

Now when it comes to computer time we are both in the same room together. That may not seem like much of a difference but it has changed the dynamics of our household and our marriage and I mean for the better.

My new laptop also gave me easy access to a computer. I didn’t have to choose between being with my wife sitting in front of a monitor while on the internet.  Now I can do both and I often do. To be honest, it’s unusual for me to be sitting in my recliner in the living room without my laptop in front of me.

The same month I bought my laptop I started my 2nd blog. The reason I did this was because as a Disney World fanatic and Walt Disney Company shareholder (I own one share. It gets me a small dividend check and a copy of the company’s annual report every year) I found myself constantly forming opinions about anything and everything that went on in Disney’s World. Sending emails to and leaving voice mail for the hosts of my favorite Disney podcasts just wasn’t enough. I needed my own outlet to express my views and experiences that involved Disney. So at the end of February I created The “Goofy Guy’s Off World Disney Blog.”

Not only did the Goofy Guy blog give me a forum to write about all things Disney without boring the readers of this blog; it helped me cope with the frustration of having to wait a few years before my next trip back to “The World”.

In honor of the “March Madness” I held my own Disney music tournament. I picked 64 classic Disney songs, paired them up and chose my favorites until there was only one.  Not surprisingly the winner was “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

Then in late November after a frustrating year of trying to get back on track with my weight loss effort I realized that I needed help. I decided that help needed to come to me in the form of accountability. I was inspired by BTV, an online weight loss surgery webcast, to start yet another blog.

On November 8, I started the “Getting To My Goal” blog. From the beginning I intended this blog to be the vehicle that gives me access to my own personal support group. I asked the hosts of the BTV webcast to mention my new blog so I could get as many readers /supporters as possible.

For 3 weeks in November I wrote 16 posts taking responsibility for my bad eating habits and a resolving to get back to the type of behavior that helped me lose the 180 pounds I lost after weight loss surgery. The “goal” I am working toward is getting down to 175 pounds.

I received lots of support and even made a special connection with a family member. I’ve taken a break from that blog over the month of December. But I’ll be getting back to it in 2012.

Between my blogs and Facebook 2011 was a year I used social media in a very positive way. They helped me keep in touch with friends and family and helped me share my life with those whom I might not have been able to otherwise. That’s a life changing thing.

Here are the links to the two new blog I started in 2011:

9. My New “Supplement”: If this entry seems a bit cryptic it’s because it’s intentionally vague. There is a reason for this. Much to some of my reader’s surprise there are some personal things I choose not to share completely on any of my blogs. But I know what I’m writing about and how it has changed my life. If you really want to know the specifics, ask me the next time you see me. I may give you a few more details.

Because of my limited nutritional intake after weight loss surgery to stay healthy I take a regimen of vitamin and mineral supplements every day. I won’t list them here but there are about 8 of them. I swallow or chew a combination of 14 pills each day.

This past February under the guidance of my doctor I added another “supplement” to help me improve my health and help to keep me focused throughout the day. Now twice a day I take this supplement and it’s really changed my life.

8. Theresa Breaks Her Ankle: On Thursday August 9 my sister-in-law, Theresa, broke her left ankle as the result of a “freak accident” while visiting a friend in Nashville. I won’t go into the details of the trauma. I’ll just say it happened when a wooden deck outside a friend’s trailer collapsed and Theresa was thrown to the ground; landing partially under the trailer. She was taken by ambulance to Skyline Hospital where we went to be with her. It was one of those surreal events where I found myself in a place near the end of the day that I had no idea I’d be that morning. This was 1000 times more applicable to my sister in law. The next day she had surgery and a metal plate and several screws were needed to fix the 3 fractures.

Of course Paula and I did what we could to help Theresa. Paula did most of the work in those early days of her recovery.

I couldn’t even begin to explain the dramatic effect this event had on Theresa’s life. I won’t even attempt to. That’s her story and much longer than could ever be covered in a blog post.

So why am I making this part of the 10 things that changed my life in 2011? Well, when it came time for Theresa to go back to her surgeon, Dr. Dyer, in Nashville for checkups her appointments had to be on a weekday. By that time I had Mondays off (more on that in the later) so I volunteered to take her.

From September through December, once a month we went to offices of Tennessee Orthopedic Associates. This not only changed the way I spent one of my days off each month; I also got to know my sister in law better.  

Ironically, at the end of 2010, in my final minutes of the Rewind Christmas program I recorded that December, I spoke about wanting to have the spirit of a servant in the coming year. Over the last 4 months of 2011 God gave me the opportunity to work toward that goal. Although I wasn’t perfect at it and had to learn a lot along the way I did my best to help my sister in law with anything she needed. It was a venue for personal growth that only God could have sent my way. I am grateful for the spiritual education.

At the end of the year Theresa is still dealing with the healing of her ankle but she’s come a long way. She is ambulatory and independent again. Our days of riding to see the surgeon are just about over (only about 1 or 2 visits early in 2012 will be necessary before she is “officially” released by Dr. Dyer) but I will always consider the time we spent together in 2011 the silver lining to her “broken ankle” cloud.

7. Rewind Shows: Although I made my way back to my Rewind programs last year with the recording of a baseball show. I started production of my first Christmas show in 12 years in December 2010 but it wasn’t until the first week of January 2011 that I finished it. In the spring of 2011 I produced an autobiographical based Rewind show. The “2010 Soundtrack” program; preserves the music and memories of very special 50th birthday year.

Then in December, just a couple of weeks ago, I finished the 7th Rewind Christmas show. I send my family and friends copies of both of my new Rewind Christmas shows.

Currently the production of “Rewind” is an “old school” process. It involves music and vocal recordings being mixed through a soundboard, recorded onto a CD. The good takes are then taken from the CD and imported into My I-Tunes library and combined to create the Rewind program.

The recording portion of this process is done in the sound booth of my church. This means finding time to go to the church and record. In 2011 I decided that it was time to start taking the steps to bring the Rewind production process home. .

I’m going to start recording directly to a computer digital recording program, eliminating the need for CDs. I’ll also set up a sound mixing board for the input of a microphone and music from my I-pods. This means I can record anytime I want to, day or night, without having to go to the church. This will make it easier to record more Rewind shows over the course of a year.

While the Rewind show productions may not seem like nothing more than a self-indulgent hobby at best. They have a positive effect on my life. First of all they help me keep my “creative pencil” sharp (more on that later) and moves me toward today’s digital recording technology.  The entire production process also gives me ideas I just might use in other creative areas.

Finally, sending copies of my Rewind Christmas shows to people I would like to be with during the holidays allows me to a bit closer to them over Christmas time. That makes me feel a lot better every December.

6. Planning Paula’s Surprise Party: Because my wife gave me the ultimate gift of a trip to Walt Disney World for my 50th birthday I knew that in 2011 I’d have to make the celebration of her 50th something special.

Although I referred to them as “vacations” in my first 2011review post; the trips to Chattanooga and Gatlinburg were partially Paula’s birthday trips. After we got back from Chattanooga, my wife mentioned that she’d like our next vacation to be somewhere that has a beach. Her dream vacation is to just sit and relax on the sand with nothing to do but watch the ocean. She then suggested that perhaps next May when her brother and his family go to the beach in Florida on vacation, she’d to go with them.

At the beginning of June I came up with the idea of throwing Paula a surprise party. I had just the right theme. It would be a “beach party.”

I knew to keep this a secret I‘d share information to a limited number of people on a “need to know” basis. I would only ask for help if I really needed it because I wanted to do this myself. I wanted to give Paula a gift that was only from me; just like she did with my Walt Disney World trip. I managed to do most of the planning and design.

I did everything from send out the invitations to the catering. However, I needed a little help with the guest list. For that I consulted my sister in law and one of Paula’s longtime friends and coworker, Jenny.

Theresa, James, Brandi, Michael, and Heather helped decorate the church fellowship hall the day of the party. But perhaps the most important helper was our friend from church, Gail. She persuaded Paula go to the church with her so she could be surprised.

Because I never ever planned a themed birthday party before I tried to recall all I’d ever seen, heard, or read about party planning. Finally all those segments of “Good Morning America”, Live with Regis and Kelly, and HGTV party planning shows would pay off.

While walking through several 99 cent stores, a party supply store, and Wal-Mart I came up with designs for the head table, Paula’s exclusive miniature island, complete with beach chair and center pieces for each table.

Limited as they were I used all my “artistic skills” to create the center pieces and Paula’s “island.” The party went off without a hitch. Paula was really surprised. I took plenty of pictures. Here are some of them. Actually there's a lot of them; but I'm proud of the way the whole thing turned out.

A Table Center Piece

Another Table Center Piece

The Head Table Center Piece & Cake

Overview of the Hall Fully Decorated

Paula and Her "Island"

The Cake With 50 Candles

So there you have 5 of the 10 of the topics that changed my life in 2011. Come back next time for Part 2 Section B for the “Top 5” including what I consider the most life changing element of the year. 

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