Friday, April 23, 2010

What You Read & What You Eat Make You What You Are

I have become so used to communicating in small little bits of bytes that the prospect of again getting back to blogging As It Is Meant To Be is somewhat daunting. The simple act of reflection beyond the moment or the immediate schedule seems to be becoming a lost art. But there are welcome exceptions.

For instance, Brian McLaren, a writer who often speaks to my theological heart, has a knack for writing that I admire. His recent book, "A New Kind of Christianity" is a well-constructed sequel in thought to some of his earlier works. I don't need to review it here; there is little I can add to those who have already done so. But I share it here to record some of the sorts of thinking I have found helpful.

I have also been reading "Grow Your Church Form The Outside" by George Barna, a Christian demographer I was privileged to meet some years ago. Barna is a survey-taker and reflector upon modern trends in American polulations. While he is somewhat more edgy on the evangelical side than I am, I still find his observations to be interesting--and most of the time right on target.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of the huge Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, graduated from the same seminary I attended...although years later. I have visited that church and attended workshops there. He writes well and produces an amazing number of books and video courses for the consumption of the Church at large. His comments are always practical, and, for the most part, appropriate for congregations of diverse populations and sizes. You can't argue that success isn't impressive!

"ReChurch-Healing Your Way Back to the People of God" is a good book by Stephen Mansfield which focuses on folks who have been hurt, disenfranchised, offended, or somehow alienated from their faith communities. I am working my way through this slowly because I think he has important things to say, and I want to remember them. I wish I had had these insights when I came to my present congregation!

Not everything I am reading is heavy theological stuff. I am enjoying a book of stories called "Wizards", a collection of short stories about, well, wizards. They are very interesting and memorable. And, of course, I enjoy reading the blogs and notes and emails from all of you.

My time is up for now...see you later!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back at it.

So it has been months and months between blogs. I used to read other folks blogs and see them write about how bad they felt about not writing regularly, and making promises to (whom) be real prompt about updating in the future. I never thought they would, and hardly ever checked back to see if they did.

I haven't been writing because I've had a sort of "writer's block." And it isn't that I have nothing to say. On the contrary, I often find my head filled with so many things that I could/should write about it becomes depressing. Anyway, I've decided to give it another go. And that's about it for tonight. It is 2 a.m. and I need to get some sleep. But tomorrow is full of "get ready for Sunday things" and "get ready to be gone Saturday stuff." And it is supposed to rain and storm in the afternoon and I will probably have time to add something then. Anyway, good to see you again. Thanks for checking in. See you tomorrow (maybe).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fat Tax

One of my friends sent me a clip from Facebook that was an article from August about the Louisiana legislature establishing a tax on obese government employees. It would be similar to the $25.00 fee they now charge employees that smoke at work or at home. The thought behind it seems to be that regular healthy folks should not be carring the weight financially for the care that obese folks have to have in the hospitals. Since a lot of poor folks are both obese and uninsured, they want to tax them.

This wrong on so, so many levels.

But I have a solution. One even I could vote for, in good conscience.

Don't tax the obese. Tax the things that make them obese. Put a tax on foods that have hydrogenated vegetable oil in them. Tax carbs...say a half-cent per carb? My Slim-Fast would then cost about 2 cents more. But six of those crunchy peanutbutter and cheese crackers would cost about $.50 more. Menu items with gravy and wonderfully unhealthy sauces would be more than similar foods prepared without them.

Taxing carbs would also lift awareness about the consequences of food choices. Greater educational exposure would create an environment where the possiblity of good changes is not only possible, but probable.

Tax all the food supplements that the government subsidizes...that enter our daily food chain, that line our arteries. Provide us with choices we can afford to make. And we'll be happy to make them. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Happy eating!


After the "crash landing" experience earlier this month It was good to have some positive experiences. We were reminded by phone of our dental appointments on Tuesday. We receive two free checkup/cleanings a year from our sometimes helpful insurance coverate, so we were happy to spend the morning there. When we were just winding up we received a cellphone call from our Primary Care Physician's office saying that we could come in that day instead of waiting until November. Since we had already been postponed from September, we decided just to make a day of it and drove through the driving rain (no pun intended) to LR. Arriving early, we stopped at the bookstore my sister-in-law manages and picked up a case of Bibles we are giving away to kids at our church.

Yvonne said she would go to lunch with us so we went downtown to "Dave's Place", a former Schlotsky's sandwich site, now open at noon and some evenings (with a jazz combo playing). We had been there before, but not in several months. We ordered salads, tea, non-or low-carb foods. It is nice to be able to go out and still stay on program.

Dave, the owner and chef has, it turns out, been on a quest like mine to lose weight. He has lost 104 pounds so far. I think that's simply amazing for someone who is preparing really tasty food for other people every day! I went back to the kitchen and talked with him. He remembered me and immediately congratulated me on losing weight! We talked about how each of us is managing it, with the upshot of it being that we agreed: turkey is our best friend (no carbs, high protein, low calories). We really enjoyed being out with Yvonne!

After taking her back to the bookstore we still had some time so we went to Best Buy where I picked up a set of disks that go with my new HP computer. They had not been able to find them when I bought the thing, but they had them right away for me. I like Best Buy most of the time!

Then we went to the clinic, registered, and were weighed and taken to a room. Linda had gained some. I had basically held my own...which I count as progress, given the week away from home we spent earlier. When the doctor came in he was amazed and gave me all sorts of emotional strokes for having lost 70 pounds in four months. He also said, and this was important to us, that if I continued to do as well as I have been, I will NOT need the lap-band surgery. I WILL, however, need to make the low-carb lifestyle my way of living. Forever. He checked both of us out and said he wanted to see us in January.

Before he left he told Linda she could go on the same food plan I am following, and give us another source for the Low-Carb Slim Fast that does so well for us. She was very happy about that; it has been difficult for her to cook for one. Now we can drink together! I felt very good about the visit and all the positive strokes we both received. Good words really to lift a person up!

We drove back out to West LR to pick up new CPAP masks with the new prescriptions the Dr. gave us. He saved us (at least for now) about $8,000 that we would have had to spend on getting prescriptions from the sleep disorder doctor after a costly sleep study. We have good CPAPs, just fragile masks. I was happy to note that the new masks are more substantial in the previously weak joints. Maybe they will last longer.

After an uneventful drive back to PB, Linda settled in at the house while I went to the church to help with choir practice...catch up on some correspondance, and filing. Got home late, but not too late to watch a Russel Crowe movie with Linda...then off to sleep.

Today has been spent mostly at the church with counseling, bookkeeping, writing, studying, and, this evening, our weekly "Wacky Wednesday" with the all the children. I told Bible stories and introduced a script for a children's musical. We'll see if that seed grows.

Tomorrow is a day full of counseling, writing, printing, and preparation for Sunday's activities. This weekend is also the start of the hunting season...for muzzle-loaders. We have seen only one deer in the back in a couple of weeks. I think they know when to head for the deep woods.

Me, I think I know when to head for bed! It has been nice experiencing the uplifting events of the past couple of days. I know not to trust the updraft as a source of continual support, but it is good for soaring from time to time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crash Landing

The word came a week later than we had originally hoped. Linda and I were on the way to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, when my cell phone rang. It was my District Superintendent, calling to tell me that my request for funding for bariatric surgery had been denied.

On one hand I understand the decision. Ours is a partially self-funded insurance group; those who are members pay all the premiums. No government bail-out. Last year we experienced a $1700 increase in our personal deductibles and a 20% increase in premiums. The committee is looking at a 19% increase in premiums this year, based on claims through the first 9 months. They also looked at the fact that no other major carriers in the state carry that coverage. (It is still looked upon as "elective" or "cosmetic" surgery. To allow me to be covered would have opened up a can or worms for them...or rather a lot of folks that would also want coverage. I was told that my presentation was by far the most compelling they had seen in recent years...but they still had to deny my request. So in a way I understand.

On the other hand, I feel like I am part of an organization that lacks the compassion it preaches. It's not a comfortable feeling, even more so since I don't have the option of leaving it for some more friendly group. If being morbidly obese becomes considered an "official" handicapping condition, attitudes will change, as will the coverages for medical relief. I remember when we had no accomodations for wheelchairs, curbcuts, restroom stall sizes, elevator requirements, doorway widths, etc. All these have come about in my lifetime. In years ahead perhaps those of us who need surgical intervention for health reasons (not cosmetic)will benefit from a more enlightenend view of the disorder.

So I tried.

Linda was very disappointed, much more than I was. And yet, I find little pockets of anger and resentment popping up here and there. The hope of the possibility of a surgical intervention was definitely something hard to give up for both of us. While we knew it was a long shot, and prepared as we were, it was still a hard landing onto the field of reality. We survived, but are still not intact.

It was good that we were not at home when we got the news because we immediately had other things to focus on, and were surrounded by a supportive community that did not rely upon the church for its validity. We actually enjoyed the trip away, did a lot of things together. Linda drove the car for much of the trip (we took her new little Ford Focus). We enjoyed the 39 miles per gallon we got most of the trip.

We heard many, many storytellers, renewed friendships, made new friends, and enjoyed the cool but very nice weather of the mountains.

Foodwise, we had taken a supply of my low-carb drinks and adjusted our stops to places we could honor that committment with eating well...and right. We did eat out three or four times, but avoided starchy and sweet foods. And while I have not been back to the scales since we returned, I feel like I held my own, and am back in my regular routine now.

Back at home the weather is cooler. I am happy to find that I have an almost new collection of long-sleeved shirts that fit me fine now. I am looking forward to being able to purchase some new clothes soon.

More later...time to go find another meal of delicious low-carb food!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holding Patterns

On occasion events just rush by, flitting from start to finish, item to item. And then at other times they So many parts of our lives are seemingly on "hold" that I feel like the airliner circling the airport, waiting for clearance to land.

One thing that will land soon is the insurance question. The Insurance Committee meets tomorrow in Little Rock to discuss, among other things, whether they will approve coverage for my bariatric surgery. Linda has been on edge waiting for the decision and feels very strongly that they should approve me. I know there is only a possibility they will approve it...and a better chance for denial. I figure that if it is denied I will keep on losing pounds slowly as I have been doing, and keep getting some healthy guidance to guide my journey. Linda is afraid I will die before I reach my goal.

That's another thing that is holding...or rather I feel like it is. I am still losing weight, just not as quickly. Friday I went to the clinic and weighed on the same digital scales that I started out on at 420 pounds in May. It read 354. 66 pounds lost--Yay! I may be able to reach my goal of losing 120 pounds by the end of next May. Then I will be halfway to my long-range goal of 180 pounds. Yeah, I know. That's a pretty ambitious goal....But I know how I work without a goal...I don't.

So we are in a holding pattern in so many ways. Surgery insurance decision. Weight loss (still losing, but not as fast). Clothes.

Yes, clothes. I punched new holes in my old belts. (They still work that way). As I mentioned before, I have left my biggest clothes behind now and am working my way down through those that I wore briefly on the way up. So it is not quite like having new clothes...because they aren't. They are "new again," and, to be honest, some of them were worn very little on my way upscale. But wearing them again doesn't constitute a milestone of success emotionally. That will come when I can no longer wear ANY of the clothes I have now because they are too big, and I have to get NEW clothes. That's when the plane will have landed.

The church folk, too, seems to be in a holding pattern. They have made much progress in the past year. The congregation is more united, more willing to work together. Finances are up from last year's depressive year. Attendance is up. But the idea of embracing change and making the kinds of sweeping differences in goal-setting and behaviors that seem necessary is still "up-in-the-air." Change comes so slowly to the Church. We are addicted to holding patterns.

Tomorrow I return to the lymphodema doctor who has wrapped my calves in bandages to help keep them in a normal shape. We have two weeks of this swaddling to go on...then I will be fitted for permanent compression hose for my legs...custom made. In addition, the doctor is teaching Linda how to wrap my legs, and how to do the special massage that helps the protein fluid leave the legs. Linda is an apt pupil although she says she isn't. She is a great help, friend and companion. So this project, too, is in mid-journey, another holding pattern.

We have been waiting, too, for flu vaccine to become available. Today we got the call to come in tomorrow for our shots. Perhaps the progress on that front will help other things to shake loose as well.

I'll let you know tomorrow what we learn about the Insurance. And how the other landings go.

Maybe I just need a parachute.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Quickly Summer Passes

So often I think about something to write and then go on to do something else. Then, when I'm ready to write, the "mood" is not there; the Muse has left the room. So, today, when the thought of blogging came across my mind, I decided to just do it. No earth-shaking thoughts to record, I decided I had gone long enough without tending to this blog child.

It has been a while since I posted. I have kept up with my food plan, and with my weight loss. I have not weighed in two weeks, but I can tell I am still on track. The last time I weighed I had lost a total of 65 pounds. I was wearing a size 66 pants and now am loosely in a 62 and flirting with a still uncomfortable 60. I can no longer wear the clothes I was wearing in May. So that's all to the good!

During the rush to trade in clunkers for cash we went to Little Rock to check out the "Car Wars" at War Memorial Stadium. Linda's car, a 1990 Lumina, had developed transmission problems and she was afraid to drive it. So we went to see if we could get cash for it on a trade-in on something better. We went to a tent staffed by Crain Hundai and test drove an Elanta. Very nice. Bells and whistles galore. And available to us for $350 a month (way over our budget). So we looked at other cars, and then the salesman came over with the bad news...our Lumina did not qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program. It had originally been rated at 20 mpg which was the cut-off line for the program.

So we left, sorta disappointed, but happy we had not gone into debt for another $23000. Linda really wanted something used, not new. She also wanted it to get better mileage and wanted it to be red. Yep. Red. So I laughed when the salesman called the next day with a 2007 Ford Focus with 14,000 miles on it. It was red. And we ended up getting it. Even though it did not have "Drive" the Lumina had 1st, 2nd, overdrive and reverse. So I drove it to LR in OD and we traded it in.

Linda has been very happy with her new wheels, and is getting out and about on her own more than she has in a long time. This is, of course, a big help to her ego and to my spirits, too.

She also qualified for her Social Security disability status, so she will now have some monthly income of her own and can make her own car payment. All to the good.

Weight loss--I tend to overestimate how much I have lost, but I feel I am close to the 350 pound mark. I have applied to our insurance group for coverage for lap-band surgery. They will meet September 23rd to discuss my case (among others). IF they approve the coverage, then we will need to begin the process with the surgeon, find the money for the co-pay, and try to schedule around my various commitments so I am not having surgery during Christmas, NSN events, etc.

And speaking of NSN (National Storytelling Network), Linda and I are planning to attend the National Storytelling Festival the first weekend in October in Jonesborough, Tennessee. There is a 3-day NSN Board meeting following, so it will be a week away in the Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee for us. We are looking forward to the trip, if not the expense of it. Linda and I both told at the Arkansas Storytelling Festival in Little Rock last month, and had fun doing it.

It is too bad that we will not have time to drive up to Boston to see our Laura, Kyle, and Abby who just passed the 9-month mark in her life. They keep us updated pretty well with photos, videos, and blogs. We are looking forward to seeing them again at Christmas!

When I started this I wasn't sure where it was going. If a trooper was following it I wouldn't have been surprised to have been pulled over for wandering all over the place. But I'm happy to have made this entry. I'll do more. It's good to have the Muse back in the building!