Friday, July 6, 2012

3 Years Out

When it comes to publishing pictures of yourself on the internet you naturally want to only include those that make you look your best. If you have read this blog for any length of time or if you go back through the last 4 years of posts you'll see that some of the pictures I've posted of myself may not be considered by some as me at my best. The pictures in this post could be considered in that category but I say "nay nay". 

Three years ago today I had my gastric bypass surgery. On that day I weighed 395 pounds. As of today I have lost a total of 120 pounds. In the spirit of full disclosure at one point I'd actually lost 170 pounds but have regained 50 pounds over the last 2 years. More on that issue later. 

In this post I want to go back and reflect on what has happened in my personal "war on weight" since that milestone day in my life. 
Before Surgery: May 2009
This is a picture of me several months before my weight loss surgery. It's typical of how I spent most of my time at home. I  really wasn't physically able to do much of anything else. Notice the handle of the cane to my left. I had to use that just to walk. 

In The Hospital-July 8, 2009
The only picture of me after my surgery. This was taken 2 days after the procedure. I was still in a bit of pain and would stay in the hospital for a 3rd say due to some incidental complications. It was nothing serious.
Over the next 6 months I would eat much smaller portions of food with an emphasis on protein and begin to exercise again. Biologically, I was a very different person. For more than a year I learned how get along with my new smaller fist-sized stomach that I nicknamed "Mickey Pouch." 

It's a Smaller World
This is one of my favorite post-surgery pictures. It shows me at my lowest weight since gastric bypass. It was taken on September 8, 2010. We were in Walt Disney World to celebrate our weight loss success and my 50th Birthday. 

June 2012:Better But Not Yet The Best
Finally, here's a shot of me from about a week ago. As you can see compared to my "before" picture above I'm much healthier than I was prior to surgery. But I've still got more work to do.
I have about 100 more pounds to lose before I reach the goal I set for myself 3 years ago. 

Ironically, I must admit I have drifted back into nearly all the bad habits I had prior to surgery. Some of them I would even label as "addictions". I find myself, once again, mentally and to some extent physically hooked on carbs and sugar, as well as diet soda. 

To break those habits and get back to losing weight the way I was that first year post surgery, I must return to the weight loss surgery patient lifestyle. It's a daily battle. 

Now for those of you who may be saying "well you had the surgery it just didn't work for you." I answer with this. Gastric bypass, or any type of weight loss surgery is initially the answer for those who need to lose weight. You get amazing and drastic results that first year. Because of the limitations surgery puts on you biologically and nutritionally you almost "automatically" lose weight those first 12 months. 

After that time things begin to change and the effects from weight loss surgery shift from being a driving force in losing weight to being a tool. 

Just like the Weight Watchers points system or the Jenny Craig food plan, the WLS patient's lifestyle is a guide that must be followed to be successful. 

If you stray from it, like I have for most of the last 2 years, you will not be successful. It's not that the surgery didn't work. The changes in my digestive system are permanent. It's how I "use them" that has changed.

But just like any other weight loss plan, there are ways to "cheat." The lifestyle must be your guide in your daily "battle of the bulge."

So at this milestone in my life I have reunited physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually with the things that motivated me for the few months before and the year after my surgery. 

Reconnecting with those motivational aspects of my life will set me back on track. My goal is to lose 100 pounds and to do it over the next 14 months in time for my 53rd birthday. 

My walk with God and being the man He wants me to be was the main reason I decided on weight loss surgery in the first place. It must become that again. 

It was only with His help that I have come as far as I have and only with His help will I finish my weight loss race. Post surgery year #4 will be the best ever. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Musical Blessing

The Couriers: (left to right) Duane, Neil, Dave

Since today we are celebrating freedom in our country and the this story has strong ties to a song called "The Statue Of Liberty". I thought today would be a good day to write about this recent blessing in my life. 

I grew up listening to and enjoying the music of a gospel group named “The Couriers”. The trio of Dave Kyllonen, Duane Nicholson, and Neil Enloe are as much a part of my Christian heritage as the church I grew up in.

Neil Enloe is the song writer of the group. He has penned over 50 gospel songs. The best known of these being the 1976 gospel song of the year: Statue Of Liberty. The song acknowledges the symbolic importance of the “lady” who stands in New York harbor to our freedom as Americans and symbol of the cross that once stood on a hill called “Calvary” and its symbolic value to the Christian faith.

A few years ago I had the honor of singing this song at my church on July 4th. Because of the continued popularity of the song in the Christian music community, I was able to find an instrumental accompaniment to use for my solo.

Unfortunately that was not the case with some of my other favorite Couriers songs. I conducted extensive research of all the Christian music websites and online catalogs I could find. I was only able to find an accompaniment for just one other Neil Enloe song. But I wanted more.

Now you may be asking why am I so set and determined to find these songs. After all there are thousands of other gospel songs available to sing. I’m afraid there’s really no way to explain to you how intricately the Couriers’ songs are interwoven into the fabric of my life and the foundation of my faith as a Christian. But they mean so much to me I am compelled to try and share them with those who have never heard them.

About two weeks ago during one of my periodic search for Couriers music on the web I came across Neil Enloe’s email address. I decided that with all other resources coming up empty I’d ask the song writer himself. 

In the email I sent him a list of the songs I was looking for asking his advice on where to look for their accompaniments.

I never expected his reply to include downloadable mp3 files of the exact songs I’ve been looking for. That’s right Neil Enloe sent me accompaniments to all the songs titles I asked him about. It’s a blessing I never ever expected.

So now that I have them I can start practicing and eventually singing them in church in the near future. I will also use a couple of them in my ventriloquist act.

I am so grateful to Mr.Enloe for his generosity and kindness. Neil continues to tour and sing with his ministry companions of more than 50 years. I know in his travels he hears lots of stories from people about how his music has touched there lives. But none of the accolades or expressions of thanks are more sincere than mine. Thanks Neil.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June Review

The first half of 2012 is history. I only posted once in the month of June but there was plenty to write about. Here’s a short review of some of the events and memories from this past month.
The first notable event happened on the first Monday, the 4th. That’s the day that I participated in the conference call appealing my previously denied unemployment insurance claim. The result was a reversal and I am now able to get UI benefits deposited in my checking account. This is a blessing and proof that God takes care of his  own.
The 2nd week of the month I helped out during our church’s week of Vacation Bible School. Throughout the 5 days I wore many hats including: offering counter, classroom assistant, lunch room server, and ventriloquist. More on that last one later in this post.

On Monday afternoon, June 18, I drove to Louisville to see Cincinnati Reds’ AAA minor league team, the River Bats, play the Yankees AAA team. I hadn’t been to see a River Bats game since May of 2010. Although I went by myself I had a good time because I had a great seat on the third base side of the field about 8 rows from the field.

As an unexpected surprise I got to see rock music legend Alice Cooper throw out the first pitch. When he came off the field he spent some time signing autographs. Although I wasn’t interested in getting his signature I did get close enough to get a decent picture.

The two weeks after VBS was over was spent mostly getting our house ready for one of the biggest events of the year, my sister’s visit to Smiths Grove.

My sisters, Peggy & Shari, along with my brothers-in-law, Gene & Bob, my nephew, Bobby, and my niece, Teejai arrived in my neck of the woods on the afternoon of Saturday June 23. This was the 2nd year in a row that they have come to see us. The main reason they came down again this year was to meet my granddaughter, Aria.

The next day they attended Sunday morning worship service at Oakland Baptist church. During the service Paula and I sang a duet and I gave the children’s sermon.

After grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner all my sisters’ family, Paula, and I went to see the new Disney Pixar movie, Brave.  We had originally planned on going to the drive-in in Franklin but the hot weather warranted a change to the Great Escape Theater so we could enjoy the movie in cool air conditioned comfort.

On Tuesday after swimming at their hotel, we went to Bowling Green again for a late afternoon lunch at a local buffet called “The Hibachi Grill.” That day was Peggy & Gene’s 41st wedding anniversary.

Wednesday we split into two groups. The ladies of the family went out to lunch and did some shopping. My two brothers-in-law, my nephew, and I went on a guided tour of the local General Motors Corvette manufacturing plant. We then followed it up with a return to the National Corvette Museum. I had taken them there on one of their first visits to Kentucky a few years ago.

We had a unique experience just as we got there. A man who had won a 2012 corvette in a raffle was driving it out of the museum open area. This inspired Gene and I each to each buy a raffle ticket for a chance to win a 2013 Corvette. We’ll find out if either of us wins it on or after September 1.

Going through the museum was just as cool as it was the first time. This time I even found out that the most valuable model there is the only remaining 1983 pre-production car built at the Bowling Green plant. The other 72 that were built were destroyed by General Motors but the BG plant workers hid one of them to same them. It’s now the only car of its kind in the world. A cool thing to know.

That evening we got together for a dinner of pulled pork barbecue provided by my sister-in-law, Theresa. After dinner some of us went to my sisters’ hotel for a night swim in the pool.

Thursday was a day of relaxing and swimming once again. For dinner we all got together one more time at Cheddar’s restaurant.

Friday morning my daughters-in-law, Brandi and Heather (my sons, James & Michael were working), Paula, and I went to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Cave City for our traditional last day of vacation breakfast with our Pennsylvania family before they left for home.

We enjoyed one last meal together and took our some group pictures. After some final hugs and the shedding of some “we’ll miss you” tears they headed north and we headed back home.

That’s just a thumbnail sketch featuring the “highlights” of our 2012 vacation with my Pennsylvania family. It was a busy week and a lot of fun.

Earlier I mentioned the hot temperature causing a change in our plans during my family’s visit. The temperatures during that entire week they here were in the upper 90’s and at times record setting triple digits. The highest temperature I can ever remember hearing reported in the area where I live, in my entire life, 110, was reported on Friday the 29th, the day my family left for home. It was without a doubt the hottest June since I’ve lived in Kentucky.

I had 3 very good experiences with ventriloquism in June. The first resulted in an unexpected bit of free publicity.

On the afternoon of the 11th, I went to the Smiths Grove public library for an hour long interactive workshop focusing on some of the basics of puppetry and performing ventriloquism.

It was the first time I’d been a speaker at the new building. The children’s librarian, Janet, had arranged for each my young guests to have their own puppet. This allowed them to, not only listen to what I was teaching them, but practice what they learned as well.  

The hour was a combination of 3 of my passions: sharing my ventriloquist story, performing with my puppets, and teaching children. While that would have been enough an added benefit to being there was having a photographer from our local newspaper there taking quite a few shots.

After the workshop he asked me a couple of questions including my name and how long I’d been doing ventriloquism. The next day this picture was on page 2 of the June 12 edition of the Bowling Green Daily News. You can’t get any better free publicity.

On the last day of our church’s vacation bible school I went around to the preschool through 3rd grade class rooms and gave each of them a 5 minute performance. For most of the groups I used my Cecil turtle puppet. It was the first time I presented a new routine inspired by a You Tube video featuring ventriloquist, Bill DeMar. I got lots of laughs, especially from the kindergarten class.

At the request of one of the 3rd grade kids I used Archibald Jones, my basketball player puppet for my performance in their class. They all love him and really get into mocking his trademark movement of throwing his hair back and saying “Awesome”.

On the last Wednesday night of the month I returned to Oak Forrest Baptist Church for the first time in 2 years. I ministered to the children of that church using a variety of puppets including: the turtle, Archie Jones, Leopold the Lion, and Sherry the sugar glider. I also taught the kids how to make their own puppets and creating its character. There were about 20 kids and they all seemed to have a good time. I’m going back at the end of July.

The month of June ended in a very positive way. On the last night of the month Paula and I went with our friends, Patty & Mark, to Chaffin’s dinner theater in Nashville.

Although it’s one of our favorite theater venues we hadn’t been to see a show there in a couple of years. We went to see one of the most popular musicals of all time, Fiddler On The Roof.

The show was well staged and the cast was very good; especially the actor who played Tevye, the lead character. For the most part the music was very familiar. There were even a few songs I knew but hadn’t realized were the show’s score.  

On the way home just like we did on our last trip to Nashville we enjoyed listening to music on my Ipod. Mark and Patty are really big fans of Barry Manilow. They have tickets to go see him in concert later this summer. So as we drove up I-65 toward Bowling Green we listened to my favorite Manilow album, “Manilow Live!”  

Although we were out pretty late for a Saturday night (got home close to 1AM); the fun we had that evening was well worth the late night.

That’s how the month of June ended for me. These recollections are just a few of the better events of the past 30 days. June was, by far, the best month of the year for me so far. Of course the year is only half over so there could be an even better month somewhere in the near future. But it’s going to be hard to beat June 2012.

By the way, there is one more story about June that I’d like to share with you but I’ll do that in my next post