Balancing Priorities

A few months ago, new numbers began to appear on the scale when I weighed. Now, I am getting a little older, mid-fifty. So I know I need to get my weight under control or I could have even bigger health problems later.

Being healthy is a lifelong struggle, and we need to be diligent in caring for ourselves. I tried the South Beach Diet probably ten years ago and lost thirty pounds. The problem was the changes I made didn’t stick, whichhas led to my recent dilemma.

When I was in my forties, I wanted to avoid having to take blood pressure medicine. I made changes to my diet and started running. I worked up to running two half marathons. (And no, two halves do not make a whole. I can’t imagine the training you have to do to run a marathon.) The last one was near my 50th birthday.

The results of trying to stay off the meds: I’m taking two blood pressure pills a day.

To help make so lifestyle adjustments, I bought Jenna Wolfe’s Thinner In 30: Small Changes That Add Up To Big Weight Loss In Just 30 Days. I wasn’t concerned about the 30 days as much as I wanted the tips to change my habits.

A few tips from the book that I’m doing to reach my goals. Continue reading

Should I Risk Taking Out My Special (and autistic) Son?

DSC_0072I like to take my son, Madison, out to see and do things. He is eighteen and has severe autism, so he doesn’t talk or respond and his behavior is not always predictable. I never know what my strike his interest: will it be someone picking a banjo, or a waterfall? Watching him watch a boat on the water, or see the ocean will make you laugh.

Yet there are risks when I take him out. I used to take him 167to the mall to walk, and that would be great this summer with the heat. We had our circle that he liked and we would climb the stairs. Last time I took him was a couple of years ago because when we got to the second floor, he loves escalator, his Ipad went flying. It could easily hit somebody below us. The vendors below went and got it and held it for us until we got down, but what could have happened?

Another time we were walking in the quaint little town of Landrum and I was taking him to the car. He bolted and went into a funeral home. He had to look in all the rooms, thankfully just the front rooms and there was no service going on. But again, what if? And what if an officer saw me trying to restrain him from going inside. It did look suspicious. Or if he had told Madison to stop.

When Madison was small, going out in public was a lot different. I could pick him up or physically restrain him. People would see him do something abnormal like spin, bite his

Downtown Landrum

Downtown Landrum

finger and stomp, or flap his arms and they would think, “Ah, isn’t that cute?”

But now he’s eighteen going on nineteen and they can think, “What is that grown man doing? Is he crazy? Is he going to hurt me or my child?”

I am sure that most if not all of you have seen the video on the news of the caregiver with the man with autism, lying on the ground and being stopped by police. Click here for video.

And I can’t always say it will be okay, because I don’t know what he’s thinking.

I can easily see us in a store and a security guard or officer ordering Madison to stop or come here or ask him what he is doing. Will they understand me interfering? Will I be a threat? Will it scare Madison and then they think he is a threat?

We went to the new members dinner at our new church. It was in a gym-like area with just a few tables. when we got done, Madison laid down next to the wall and started kicking his legs. Having just a great time. He’s done that at home, but not while we were out. Remember, he’s eighteen and his daddy’s size. I sat down with him and talked and hoped everyone saw it as play. But what if that happened in a store? At Christmas?

A security guard or police officer can’t just stand there and do nothing, because we’ve seen on TV that there are threats out there. And they look just like us. Hopefully they will see how to be understanding and release some of Madison’s tension. But that isn’t always obvious, or what they’re trained to do.

That is why I pray, not hope, that they will have understanding, and that God will look after us.

Because we all need each others’ prayers. And, thankfully, God hasn’t left the building.

Birth-The Miracle of Creation

A month ago, I got to witness one of God’s true miracles, the miracle of birth. It is one of those times that leaves us speechless, that reminds us of how weak and small we are, and how great He is. To see a small newborn come out of its mother, and be so complete and developed, shows us of the powers and mysteries of our Creator.

We’d bred our little Persian, Kathy Puff, and had watched her grow and grow. As she got closer to her time, it was interesting how she began to search for and follow my wife, Vickie. As if the mama knew that she wanted Vickie to be there to help.

Kathy Puff reaching out to Vickie

Kathy Puff reaching out to Vickie

My mom had said that she would probably have the babies at night. And sure enough, one night the mother cat got beside my wife in bed and began to make her bed. You could see the kittens moving inside Kathy Puff.

A Persian cat has a lot of hair. We had a tough time telling when the kittens were born because Kathy Puff lay in the corner of the box. But then Kathy Puff turned on her side and the first baby arrived. A perfect two ounce kitten.

We wanted Kathy Puff to break the sack the baby was in. She licked the kitten to and it began to squeak, then Kathy Puff rolled back on her side. Baby number two was born. But it wasn’t moving.

Kathy Puff turned back to number one and got its sack off. Number two never moved.

Three Newborn KittensThen number three arrived.

In all Kathy Puff gave birth to five little kittens, four squirming and alive. They ranged in size from 1.9 ounces to 2. We named them Sudsy, Sunny, Sweetie, Stormy, and Sue.

Each kitten was totally helpless, its eyes and ears closed and unable to stand. They can only push themselves with their front legs. Their only concerns were nursing and staying warm, and for these things they instinctively looked to their mama.

And after number four, she was about given out. It was late at night, although I don’t think that matters to cats or babies. And she had already birthed and cleaned four

Mama cat kissing baby.

Mama cat kissing baby.

babies, when number five showed up. And now she was expected to serve a buffet.

 

Eighteen years ago, I got to witness another miracle, another birth. That of my son. It was at night. (Are we noticing a trend?) But this time in a hospital bed.

I was standing beside the doctor when she said, “Here he comes.”

All I saw was what looked like the end of a baseball bat. Then the crown of his head tilted and out he came. A perfect little boy.

And my wife and I looked at each other with tears and smiles and knew that our little miracle was here.

I remember later looking out at the busy highway outside our room and thinking, “Didn’t they all know what just happened? How could they just go on like any normal day? A miracle had just happened!”

Watching a birth is witnessing a miracle, the beginning of a life, of new hope, an event of the power and creative force of our Creator. Of something that is beyond our understanding even today.

A reminder of from Whom all creation comes.

1 Col 1:16        For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by Him and for Him.

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Think Before You Stop, or stinking thinking leaving you sinking?

“Stinking thinking”. A cute little saying, isn’t it? But it traps many lot of us and prevents us from achieving the goals we have for ourselves.

Devil on a shoulderWe envision it as a little devil on our shoulder whispering in our ear. And he is so subtle. We get an opportunity to do something, something we have been longing to do, maybe even training to do. Continue reading

Facing the Giants

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I’ve started reading Les Parrott’s 3 Seconds. One of the early points that resonated with me was to embrace the challenges that confront us. I’ve found that this is rarely my first reaction. I usually want to leave, or find a way out. But that was rarely the way to success.

Parrott gave a great illustration of what it takes to make us strong.

Jack Badal, a zookeeper, invited his friend Gary Richmond to watch an amazing phenomenon: an Angola giraffe giving birth. He stood next to Jack, watching this elegant creature as she stood to her feet. That’s when the calf’s front hooves and head became visible.

“When is she going to lie down?” Gary asked Jack.

“She won’t.” he answered.

“But her hindquarters are nearly ten feet off the ground!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t anyone going to catch the calf?”

“Try catching it if you want,” Jack responded, “But its mother has enough strength in her hind legs to kick your head off.”

Soon the calf hurled forth, landing on his back. His mother waited for about a minute, then kicked her baby, sending it sprawling head over hooves.

“Why’d she do that?” he asked.

“She wants it to get up.”

Whenever the baby ceased struggling to rise, the mother prodded it with a hearty kick. Finally, the calf stood— wobbly, but upright. The mother kicked it off its feet again!

“She wants it to remember how it got up,” Jack offered. “In the wild, if it didn’t quickly follow the herd, predators would pick it off. (3 Seconds, pages 61-62)

Continue reading

Seeing Lives in Obituaries

I owe my dad an apology.

When I was in my early twenties and thought I was so wise, I was sitting at the breakfast table with my dad. He had one section of the paper and I had another.

My love for reading the daily newspaper comes from him. My day feels off somehow unless I spend the first little bit reading about what is going on in the world and around town. It has to be a paper that I hold in my hand and doesn’t cooperate when you turn the page.

He looked up from his paper and asked how a young man could be reading the funny pages. (I still look forward to them every morning, often reading my favorites to my wife, Vickie. Seeing Snoopy dance makes me smile even without music. And I worry about the parents in the strips Curtis, Baby Blues, and Zits.)

I responded isn’t it morbid for a grown man to start his day reading the obituaries. Like me and the funnies, he would read selected ones to my mom.

Today, I find myself reading all of the morning paper. (Yes, it has to be in the morning. Reading in the afternoon makes the news history.) This includes the obituaries as well as the funnies, sports and news.

It’s amazing what you find in the obituaries. This weekend an 85-year-old was survived by his 88 and 100 year-old-siblings. Can you imagine? My baby brother is 42. A grown man, but still my baby brother. I imagine it never changes.

Another obituary was of a beautiful 20-year-old who was killed in a motorcycle accident with a drunk driver. She was way too young to be in this list.

One lady’s told of her love of bridge. Military careers, music, and church service are often listed. Lives lived elsewhere before retiring or how someone touched several areas as they moved through their lives are recounted.

Sometimes, however, it’s just a list of family members and the time of the funeral. I wonder what was left and did no one know about it any longer, or they thought it wasn’t important.

The obituaries make me realize the older, slow-moving, physically weakened person ahead of me has a history, one with a stronger body and mind. A war hero, an accomplished ballet dancer, or an artist may be living just down the street. Disguised in a senior citizens body.

Thanks, Dad. For helping me not to miss these stories who are living all around me.

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Playing Fill-In

Last week, Tuesday April 19, 2016 for those keeping records, Lucinda Secrest McDowell tells one of my favorite stories about one of my favorite people. She was guest posting on my friend Edie Melson’s blog, The Write Conversation.

As a story teller/writer/teacher, I am always seeking an audience, for what good is a story without someone to tell it to? What good is a joke without someone to laugh at it?

And how much better is it to share a message from God with someone who needs it, then to just hold it in your heart?

As a Christian, it’s important to discern when to tell what God has shown you and when to keep your mouth shut. The story of Joseph and his dreams of his brothers should make that clear. Joe tells his older brothers his dreams, God given and true, and his brothers thinks he’s bragging.(Genesis 37) Well, that’s the way older brothers are.

Ms McDowell reminds us of the snowy January Sunday morning in England in 1850. No snow plows, no central heating. A pastor’s nightmare determining whether to have church or not. Will enough people show up?

On this morning, the pastor didn’t show up. Only a few people sat scattered throughout the sanctuary. No one was really prepared to preach, but they couldn’t just send everyone back out into the cold. So one of the deacons agreed to get up and blather his way through.

There was a need and he stepped up. And from the records, it was bad. He didn’t say anything that was memorable. All that he had was passion for God.

But there was one teenager whose life was changed that day. A guy by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who went on to be a great preacher, teacher, and to have a huge influence on both England and America.

All because a man stepped up when the opportunity presented itself.

He didn’t have to. He could have said it wasn’t worth it, not enough people. His platform was too small. Or it’s too hard to build a platform, so why bother. But if you have a story to tell, having a platform may not be the main factor. It may be one person, who takes what you in faith said, who then changes the world.

Perhaps your effort will be worth it after all.

 

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Becoming An Overnight Success

I recently spoke to several friends about what we are getting out of our writing. It’s easy to look back on our blogs, or our unpublished writings, and wonder is it worth it?

Especially when it’s the week the mortgage arrives in the mailbox. Writing is work, so why do we do it? And are all the hours at the keyboard getting me any where?

We are all eager to find a quick route to success. You can tell this by all the schemes, nonfiction books, and online courses to show you how you can become successful.

One author who seems to have succeeded quickly was recently written about in the paper. (Yes, I still read the local paper.) Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, whose debut novel, The Nest, was purchased for what the paper called seven figures. It came out on March 22, after two years of working with the publisher. Already, there are talks of it becoming a movie.

Did you notice it was her first novel? Don’t you wish you could have success so quickly?

But it wasn’t quick. She had been writing advertising copies for twenty years and has non-fiction articles published in The New York Times. Six years ago she decided to make writing fiction a priority.

And for you who think you are too old to start. She is 55. (Just happens to be my age also.)

For most writers, seeing any success takes time. You have to learn the craft and meet people. And then it will depend on your definition of success. Is it a dollar amount, being able to maintain a certain size and type of house, or reaching people?

Jesus has a parable about this, The Rich Young Farmer (Luke 12: 16-21). I don’t think it was ever on the NY Times Best Sellers List. He was so rich he wanted to build extra barns to keep all his crops. But God was going to call him later that day for a different accounting.

Does that change your view of success? Our pastor this week gave an illustration using an extension cord to represent eternity and the plug was our lifespan. We worry so much about the plug, the now, we don’t see the much larger picture.

Maybe for us it’s too soon to quit. Maybe you’re still just getting started. Even if, like Ms Sweeney, it’s been twenty years.

(Here is a good interview with Ms Sweeney. It’s amazing how close she was to not writing her big seller.)

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Looking to the Resurrection

Easter is coming. It’s hard to believe that it is almost here. But if you watch the plants outside like I do, you know they’re getting ready. Plants seem to be putting on leaves over night.

Vonda Skelton posted a song that introduced me to a new singer, Kari Jobe. Music brings Easter to life for me better than almost anything else. This is a link to the Resurrection Song. Sit back and enjoy, and think about the one she is singing to.

The Easy Life of Becoming a Writer, or what I learned on the way to therapy

The life of a writer is demanding and forces you to be a little different. Vonda Skelton, at the Asheville Christian Writers’ Conference, said that all writers are a little weird. That ‘s why we need to get together occasionally. No one else can understand us.

This has me thinking about some things that I’m facing as a writer.

First, the life of a writer is, like a lot of things, a dichotomy. Much of being a writer is private. You are alone in front of your keyboard and screen, or with a pen and paper. Oftentimes at the cost of being away from your family and friends. You have to carve out time and guard it closely so that you will have enough alone time to write.

But writing it also makes you very open and public. Usually you write so that others can read it. Sometimes very private thoughts or feelings that other people are smart enough to keep to themselves. You write it and share it publicly, with your name attached.

And because it is private and from your soul, you are attached to it so that any time you share it, it is with trembling hearts and sensitive feelings. If they don’t like it or accept it with thunderous applause and hallelujahs, then they don’t like you and you are garbage or the stuff you step in when you’re wearing your good shoes.

Second, a lot of writing happens between the ears. The writing process to me is fascinating. You have to come up with something to write. You think, staring at a blank wall or into space. Your friends and family pointing at you, whispering, and shaking their heads. I do a lot of this looking at the back ends of my dogs as I take them for their walks and hope that no one is looking when I walk into a tree or bush because I am into

A busy dog.

A busy dog.

my story.

So you spend days and weeks writing furiously. And your spouse looks at the blank page and asks, when are you going to start? And you look back like they should see what hard work you are doing, staring at the ceiling.

Third, why is it that my thoughts and what I write, aren’t always the same? Once you get it in your brain, you try to put it on paper. Which becomes a real struggle because the partial thoughts now have to be clarified and put totally into words, because your reader can’t get inside your brain. Heavens no.

So you struggle to find just the right words to truly say your thoughts, and once you come close and are happy you got it just right, you read it out loud, or courageously let someone else read it. And you realize you either left out words and ideas, or that wasn’t the story you had in mind, or you misquoted yourself. But it was so clear before. Maybe.

Fourth, the real work begins after the first draft. You rework it, edit it, reword it, and rearrange it. You crumble it up and throw it away, before digging it out of the trash and restarting the next morning. And you try to quit thinking about how the calendar keeps shedding pages as you work on this thing that you adore as an only child, that becomes something the world may want to see, then a burden that must be completed, then stinky garbage, then a holy and sacred mission, then an orphan that no one else cares about but you will not quit on it, to an American classic that needs to be in every school, all in one

My baby!

My baby!

day.

Finally, the goal of the writer. And then finally you complete it. You are a novelist. You write those two marvelous words, The End. You try it in different fonts. It’s like you’ve lost weight. You stand a little taller. You’d swear that other people thought you had become smarter.

And now you take your baby out of its papoose and sterile nursery and try to find a publisher. And they all agree, it’s garbage. Or at least that is what you hear. But they’re really saying they aren’t looking for this now, or they will publish it when you pay them $5000, or they don’t do this genre, or they are a pub, not a publisher.

But then you find a publisher who agrees it isn’t garbage, in fact it is exactly what they’re looking for and they want to buy it. With real American money, or at least a good check. And they like you. You have a pal. You become friends on Facebook. You call your mom. You reward yourself. You throw a party with the advance that should be coming.

Then they suggest maybe your story will sell better with just a few minor changes. Have you thought about making your hundred thousand word historical novel into a graphic novel? Or a western with a werewolf atmosphere set in New York? And can the heroine’s service dog become a cat?

Or a sea turtle? They may be hot next year.

And, by the way, they ask, what are you working on now?

I would love to read your comments below. And thanks for reading.