Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Traffic Hazards

Our favorite wake up device is a radio set to classical music from KUSC FM. The host at that time in the morning is Dennis Bartel. He does not attempt being a stand up comic, but he has a pleasant sense of humor. He evidently keeps in touch with the Highway Patrol because he reports commuter accidents with some details. The other morning he reported that there was a man with a flat tire on the freeway who was out in the traffic lane, changing the tire. Well, that provoked my memory banks, and I came up with another ancient story to tell you.

I was a young pastor, taking a carload of young people to French Creek Bible Conference near Morgantown, PA. Our Chevy station wagon was packed with kids and luggage. In fact we had tied several bags to the rack on the top. From Wilmington,DE (home church) to French Creek involved several miles along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The mood was jovial with anticipation of old friends and new experiences at the familiar, if rustic, confines of our group campground. Just as with camping in general, there are some fanatic loyalists who wouldn't miss the annual week at French Creek, and there are some who avoided it like the plague. I had the camping type in the car so the mood was light.

I had questioned myself about the strength of the cord I had used to tie the luggage on the rooftop carrier, and decided it was quite strong enough. After all, it was clothesline. What I hadn't sufficiently calculated was just how old and deteriorated the fibers were in this cord. We heard only a slight rumble above our heads, but one of the girls was yelling: "We lost our luggage!" I saw our bags tumbling on the highway and pulled to the shoulder immediately.

I am the adult, and my first calling is the safety of these kids. So I ordered them all to stay in the car and went out to see if I could rescue the bags. Now remember this is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The speed limit in those days was 65, and there were 18 wheelers barreling along the roadway. I saw one truck deliberately straddle one of our suitcases, and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I looked back at the car only to see one of the kids running out onto the pike to grab one of the cases. Of course it had to be Violet, who was easily the dizziest impulsive kid in the group. I yelled at her to get back to the car, but I think she ignored me. Now I'm envisioning how this tough break may easily become a life changing tragedy. "That dumb broad! I would like to beat her severely about the head and shoulders, but I'd better just get this luggage off the roadway quickly and it will all be over."

So I timed my several trips out to the center of the turnpike so as to space myself between the arrival of the next truck or car. We retrieved all the bags. One of them, belonging to another girl in the car, was fabric and suffered enough damage that I placed it in the car. I bound up the rest as best I could, and off we went. After I ragged on Violet for her abject stupidity, we all began to smell the sweet pungent vapors of a broken bottle in the damaged luggage. The mood was now a bit more sober, but teenagers sense the excitement of the strangest events, and they were struck with the drama of this episode. There were some complaints about the stink, and, of course, the girl whose clothing was soaked with the aromatic bottle had to find a wash machine as soon as we arrived at camp.

I love Violet, but I'll never forget this foible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fine Arts and Missions

As a fund raiser to subsidise several short term missionary experiences this Summer our church held a crafts boutique last Saturday. Several vendors were members of our church, but others were there too. Each table was reserved with a modest rental fee, and percentages of the sales were added to the funding of these missionary associates. One venue was a silent auction. An airplane tour of the L.A. harbor and coastline was one of the offerings. Another was a beautiful oil painting which was done by our dear friend, Susan Tierney. We prize Susan's art work highly, and since we have no examples of her talent, Barbara made a bid. This turned out to be the winning bid--in fact it was the only bid. It's not that the painting had no appeal to others, but I am sure (from some of the comments made) that at least a couple of Barbara's friends were overcome by her enthusiasm for the painting and refused to overbid her. Here is that picture.

One of the ladies who is planning to go to Prague to teach English this Summer, posted on Facebook, remarking on the irony of her situation. She remembers her family fleeing the Czech Republic ahead of Russian domination. She didn't know any English at that time. Now she is planning to go to the Czech Republic to teach English and one of the participants, helping her develop the funds to return, is a Russian woman. Times and cultures change, and it's all in our heavenly Father's hands.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Progress of home demolition

What have we done? Our beautiful portico and patio have been demolished with three weeks of jackhammering. Our neighbors must hate us already. Our anticipation is to double the floor space of our living room. But it takes a lot of pain and inconvenience to get there.

They have nailed shut our back door, so when we need to get into the garage, we have to go out the front door and walk around the house. There is still a huge dumpster in our driveway. They have hauled three of them away already. I was certain that they took out more cement and brick than ever was there in the first place. Last week Barbara got rather nervous about the news that she couldn't use the wash machine until they tore out the drain pipe and re-installed it in a new location. But that work was done in short order, so she is happy about that (even though it left a hole in our back wall!).

We are still rooting through boxes trying to find our treasures. We are discovering that we have a lot of stuff besides those "treasures" and they seem to compose the contents of most of our boxes. We bought an upgrade for our Bose wave radio and CD changer not long before the move. Since the move we have pointedly realized that this Bose has no control buttons on its chassis. Everything is operated by the remote, which, of course, we have yet to find. The fact is that radio came with two remotes, neither of which has turned up. We have so despaired of finding them soon that we called Bose and ordered a third remote. I'm sure the day the new one arrives we will uncover at least one of the old remotes. Isn't there a "Murphy's law" that covers that situation?

We must have nearly a hundred boxes under the gazebo that we cover with plastic to protect them from the rain in this extended Winter we are having this year. One pile of boxes fell over because the bottom box got soaked enough to collapse. We (I) keep joking about having a bonfire to rid ourselves of our abundance of possessions, but we hadn't thought of the flood possibility.

Well at least it looks as though they are now ready to pour concrete. Our contractor said it is supposed to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Diet: 20th week!

After the actual full 20 weeks of the Optifast diet, I have officially lost 68.4 pounds. That's an encouraging flying start, but just a start. It's sort of what they call "a new lease on life". I expect to live a little longer because I have graduated from obese class II to obese class I (and almost pre obese).

Now I know that God has a day to take me home, and I can't change it. But you see the theology isn't that simple. The fact is that God not only ordains the ends, but also the means to achieve those ends. In other words, if God has ordained me to live 10 years longer, then He has also ordained that I would wake up and do something about my inordinate corpulance.

So obese class I doesn't sound like much, does it. When I determined that I had to lose 80+ pounds, it looked rather formidable a task. But after these 20 weeks it looks very attainable now. I have but 18 more pounds to go. This past week, during transition (which is a dangerous time of frequent weight gain), I was able to lose an additional 4 pounds. At that rate I should reach my goal (under 200 pounds) by May 24. So I promise not to bore you with day-to-day discussion of my weight struggles until that date. I doubt if anyone is following this blog exclusively for updates on my weight. My medical assistant who took my debriefing last night was most amazed at my reduction of body fat from 41% at the beginning to 31% now. She said that reducing body fat by 10% was very unusual. If I knew more about that stuff, I would be proud of my accomplishment.

Here are a couple of photos of me before and after.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Plant food!

Our zucchini is beginning to set fruit. Check out the bud in the center. It has a little squash under it. The other buds will blossom with just a stem under them. But this one is definitely a zucchini. Okay, so it is rather small, but I am not a farm boy so I find it very exciting that I have planted something that will be food on the table some day not too far away. There is something so very wholesome about this. If I were concerned about political correctness I guess I would boast of being "green" in my priorities. They treat these "green" measures as a secular religion now, and it makes me want to vomit. But again, there is something of the creation ordinance that appeals to me in planting and growing food.

I also found a tomato on my Roma tomato plants. (See photo at bottom) Isn't it cute. The plant hardly got into the ground when it began blooming profusely, and then rather prematurely set fruit. I hope both the zucchini and the tomato come to fruition, but perhaps they both began a little too soon. I don't know much about these things, but that makes it all so exciting.

The fig tree (see archive post about the "happy fig") still bears the tiny figs which had already begun when it was first planted.

All this is happening while men are continuing to wreck our house in preparation for the addition we contracted.

Many years ago, when we first moved to Modesto, our new friend in the church there advised us to "Plant food, plant food!" and we have never forgotten this chorus.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Diet: week 19

We had our 20th and final group meeting of Optifast dieters on Monday. I label this a report on week 19 because, of course, the actual dieting didn't begin until the day after meeting number one. So this week I am still on "transition" into real food. At weigh in I found I had only lost .6 pounds. My total so far is 64.5 pounds. I was hoping for a more exact 65, but I still have hopes of reaching or surpassing that mark when I weigh in for the final de-briefing next Monday. That will be the actual end of 20 weeks of dieting, so that number will count more than any other.

We actually held a graduation ceremony, complete with verbal rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance" as we individually strolled to the podium for our diplomas. With a calculator we determined that as a group (only 8 of us persevering to the end) we lost an average of 19+ pounds per week. There were no TV cameras, and producers of "The Biggest Loser" couldn't care less about what we had done. But we were feeling pretty good about our accomplishments (an about finally finishing this ordeal). So I remembered to bring my camera, and the photo below is the result.

A few hardy souls are continuing another 8 weeks to lose more. I found the 20 weeks more than expensive enough. If I haven't learned how to lose weight on my own by now, I never will. I hope not to bore you silly with too much about dieting in posts yet to come, but I will report some.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Graduation time!

Even though my blog will document week 19 next, our final and 20th week of Optifast class will be held tonight. My companion dieters have been a lot of fun these several weeks, and I am guessing that tonight's meeting will be inordinately jocular. Judging from what my home scale tells me, I expect to weigh in tonight with another pound or so loss. If I officially lost one more pound, that would put me at exactly 65 pound loss for the duration. I am not disappointed, but I am not satisfied either. I still hope to lose 20 more pounds. In spite of my friends jesting remarks about barely casting a shadow and feeling light on my feet and all that, I still see a fat man when I get out of bed in the morning (and no, there is not a tubby guy secretly living in my closet. The dress shirt I wore last week was an 18 1/2 inch neck, and it was way too big. I think I could have removed the shirt without unbuttoning it.

So tonight is graduation time. We will congratulate one another and promise to watch what we eat, etc. There will be an official debriefing session next week where they once again weigh and tape measure my torso. I do not expect to be a candidate for advertising brochures or new video intros, but it will be interesting to find the exact numbers of comparison. Oh yes, they also took a photo of me, several in fact. I expect they will want to take another photo. Stay tuned for the statistics.

When I am tempted to feel a tad proud for my accomplishment, I realize three things. 1. I only graduated from "obese" to "overweight", and who has any right to be proud of being overweight? 2. Our friend, Steve, who we met in the restaurant, lost almost as much weight as I by simple self control. I had to use an expensive, radical diet to get there. 3. At a mere 800 calories a day, the diet was rather automatic. All I had to do was drink the shakes provided and nothing else.

I can remember that around week 6 I wondered if it would ever come to an end. But here we are! I have been transitioning to real food with shake supplements. I had a shake for breakfast this morning, but I anticipate two chicken tacos for lunch. They include Fage yogurt instead of sour cream and low fat cheddar, but they are absolutely delicious.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

They say it's progress

There's a New York City utility that has the slogan, "Dig we must". It's one of those cute excuses for tearing up city streets and forcing inconvenient detours. We have plenty of those in Los Angeles too, but the utilities make no excuse--cute or otherwise. When we are confronted with constricted highways with lanes temporarily removed and the long, creeping traffic behind, we sarcastically remind each other that this is "progress".

Well now the same thing is happening to our house! No sleeping in around here. At precisely 8 this morning we were startled with what sounded like we were inside a snare drum that was being unmercifully beaten with rapid strokes. We asked for an extension on our tiny living room, and this is what we get. Things inevitably must get worse before they get better. Yesterday I saw them carrying away the pieces of my lovely back porch. When I said, "I changed my mind. Put it all back.", they only laughed at me as if I were kidding. It all looks so clean and neat on the architect's drawings. We were warned that soon we will have no back steps. I suppose some provision will be made to access the garage and back yard, at least something short of jumping three feet to the ground.

How long must we endure this noisy inconvenience? Let's see. The architect said they should be able to do it all in about 6 weeks. Wow, we were quite favorably impressed when we heard that. Then we talked to the contractor who laughed and said, "No, it will take 3 months. Something always happens." But there is already one delay that has been avoided, and that is for the approval of the architect's proposal. He was rather shocked himself when he was able to get approval within two weeks. He was able to recall a project that waited 14 months just for the final approval--before the work actually began!

So here too, we have to acknowledge our Heavenly Father, supervising the work for us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The perversity of inanimate objects

Who has not been tripped by his own shoelaces? I walked by a doorknob and it reached out and tore my pocket away from my pants. I was vacuuming yesterday and the cord kept jumping up and wrapping around my ankle. When making an open faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich you accidentally drop the bedecked comestible on the kitchen floor, how often does it land sticky side up? You know that you get more than Las Vegas odds that it will be sticky side down. How does that happen? You're walking through the yard and some tree branch reaches out and flicks your glasses right off your face and throws them to the ground, they land on a sprinkler head--the only hard object within 15 feet--and crack the lens. You ponder the situation and assure yourself that you could never do that trick intentionally if you tried it every day for 50 years. So why do these things happen? It is the perversity of inanimate objects. Maybe it is part of the curse when we live in a broken world.

Then again, as I was almost tripped by the leaping vacuum cord, I questioned the theological implications of my thought. Am I complaining against God when I curse these mean situations? Is He not the author of providence? Do I believe that He governs all His creatures and all their actions? Then that tree branch that destroyed my glasses was operating under His control. That peanut butter and jelly invariably hits the floor rather than the bread side because God has ordained it so. How dare I complain against my loving Heavenly Father who (in the larger picture of things) takes such good care of me? I feel like the Presbyterian minister in the old chestnut about him falling down a flight of stairs, getting up and saying, "Well, I'm glad that's over." I think the ancients used to call "gaming" a sinful action simply because it was trifling with God's providence.

Theological analysis sort of takes the fun out of it, though. I'd rather just assert the reality of the perversity of inanimate objects.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Diet: week 18

When we are in transition (from pure liquid diet to some food) we are to expect the possibility of maintaining or even gaining weight. Last week we went to a restaurant and on Easter we had a great dinner at my granddaughter's house. Yesterday we grilled two fillet Mignon and had them with baked potatoes and broccoli. It was a delicious way to renew my steak career.

All this indulgence and I still lost a pound and a half. I have lost a total of 64 pounds now. I still have the goal of losing 20 more pounds, but I have to admit I am pleased with how this program has worked. There is a self-perpetuating momentum that sets in when you lose that much weight. I certainly do not want to gain it back. So I have new incentives to eat the way I knew I should have been eating all along. Oh, yes, they have taught me a few more things about eating healthy, and it is all helpful.

Also one of the suggestions for keeping active was working in the garden. But it has only been following my enormous weight loss that I have been able to do gardening. In fact I wanted to plant flowers and some veggies here at our new residence, and only after working most of the day in the yard did I realize that I haven't been able to do that for two years or more. So now I can keep active in the garden.

But when I rise from bed in the morning and look at the mirror doors of the closet, I see some fat guy looking back at me. I suppose that is another part of my motivation to continue good health habits.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rollie on the rocks

Sometime you may call my home and ask for me. Don't be surprised if Barbara says, "He can't come to the phone just now. Rollie is on the rocks." There have been myriads of euphemisms to refer to this indisposition that prevents social interaction. Sometimes I have said that I was doing my banking. In fact I was making a substantial deposit on the bank of porcelain. Let others resort to crude and vulgar terms. I think polite society ought to transform the more disgusting applications of life by euphemistic terminology. In this fashion we can convey the truth, without offensive crudities, and perhaps even a little flair of humor.

Oh, about the rocks, you deserve an explanation. A very dear friend of ours, whom we have known and loved for 25 years or more, likes to give us distinctive and practical presents for birthdays or Christmas or special occasions of her own invention. A few years ago Norma gave me a toilet seat that is made of clear plastic with the most beautiful, smooth brook stones embedded into the plastic. No, it does not make the seat any harder, but it is quite striking, and pleasant to observe. It transforms a normally crass facility of the modern home into an interesting conversation piece.