Bucket List
December 12, 2016

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It’s funny but recently people have been posting on Facebook and even talking at work about having a “Bucket List”. It intrigued me as I thought about it because I realized I don’t have a bucket list. I used to have a bucket list when I felt certain things were important, but realize now that they’re not that important. It’s not that I “don’t have” a bucket list now, but rather I “don’t need or want” a bucket list.

I look at my life and think, “what do I want to do or where do I want to go before I kick the bucket”? The answer is nothing and nowhere.

I guess that makes me an odd kind of creature, but in analyzing it all, its because of a couple things. First,  I think that the Apostle Paul had it right when he said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”. (Phil. 4:11). I feel good about that. I guess I’m content.

Second, whatever God has planned for me is ok with me, either plenty or lack. The things I really want to do and go to are whatever God has planned for me to do or go to. It’s all in the Lord’s hands. See, because the things I want to see and places I want to go are all up to what God wants of me.  Let me explain.

I want to see Benny married. I want to see my grandchildren. All of them. I want to dance at their weddings. I want to help them with their homework. Have them call me when their mommy or daddy is “mean” to them. I want to see them at their prom. I want to take them to McDonald’s, take them fishing, see the Yankees or Browns play, walk with them at Buhl Park.

I want to play in the snow with them. Walk on the beach with them,  whether it’s Lake Erie or Maui. Lay in the grass with them at night and count all the stars and tell them that God has given all of them a name. I want to teach them that their really is a heaven and Jesus is the only way to get there, and when “Bapa” is gone, they will be with me there.

I want to teach them about God. His faithfulness and His purpose He has for their lives. I want to teach them to honor their parents, be a good sport when they lose, be a graceful winner when they win. Teach them that there is nothing more important than following God, finding out about Him, studying His Word,

I want to teach them about purity, that celibacy isn’t just a good idea, but it’s following God’s laws. Teach them that the teachings of this world about right and wrong most likely don’t line up with the Word of God. Teach them that their secular teachers and professors aren’t as smart as they think. Show them about respecting and loving spouses, fighting through tough times, and enjoying the good times.

I want to teach them that alcohol doesn’t make you braver and drugs don’t make you cooler. Swearing doesn’t make you distinguished, smoking is a stupid habit, and faithfulness is all that God asks of us.

I want to explain to them that Bob Dylan is a literary genius and he was the best songwriter of their grandfather’s lifetime, that the Beatles are the best band ever, and that it’s ok to be different.

See if this is a bucket list, then this bucket list isn’t about going or doing, but it’s about being. I want to live. A quiet, peaceful, life that causes no harm to anyone. I want to positively impact my grandchildren’s lives.

I watched “Elf” with all my kids and their spouses and my grandchildren tonight. I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that. I’m perfectly content with my life and in need of nothing.

Although seeing a World Series game with Ben in Yankee Stadium would be pretty cool.

273.6/257.3

Walking To 199
August 7, 2016

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As those that follow this blog know, this whole blog started with the intent to show this amazing progress I’d be making in my goal to get below 200 pounds. A lofty goal, realizing I needed to shed around 75 pounds to achieve this task. This is a long walk, apparently.

Over the months, and probably years, I’ve had ups and downs (puns intended) in the walk as well as in the blogging. My goal was to blog weekly, but it appears I’ve blogged weakly (another horrific pun. Sorry).

My blogs about weight seem self serving, so I’ve been thinking that maybe not so much about this struggle of losing weight should be focused on, but matters of life and sometimes death. Or sometimes just random thoughts rattling through this puny brain of mine.

With this being said, I feel that for me to say “I’m going to do this or that” to lose weight, whether its exercise or diet or whatever, is a lot of talk. I’m encouraged by some of you, and I thank you, and some of you are faithful followers whom I have shared my secrets and some humor. OK, I think its humor.

I will continue to blog, but because some have asked me how the weight is going, I will be listing my starting weight and my current weight at the end of the blog (starting weight/current weight). This, so those who are interested will note the progress, but not to bore others that have little interest in weight loss and may be a bit intrigued by my weirdness. (For example, the rule is “i before e except after c”. Except for the word “weird”. Weird is a weird word).

I may sometimes mention something about weight, but not to be a “wow, look how wonderful I am doing. Send me cookies”. I continue to hope that you find these entertaining, enlightening, or encouraging. There may be some Scriptural or spiritual references as Christ is the biggest part of my life, and I’m not ashamed of that.

I will try to be more regular (at my age, again, not easy) with the blogs to hopefully bring some joy in a dark time of history. Let me say that we have to stop the hate. The media wants us divided, black against white, gay against straight, Republican against Democrats, and so forth. Can’t we all get along?

Until then, I’ll just keep walking.

273.6/257.4

Step By Step
June 1, 2016

So I’ve been going back and forth regarding what to do about this weight issue. Part of me REALLY cares and other times not so much. Part of me thinks I’d like to continue this walk to 199 and another part thinks that as long as my numbers are good, what’s the difference.

Well, I’m back at it again, giving it another shot. Weight was 268.0 today, I’ve been worse, but been better. I think I mentioned I’ve had some issues with my shoulder and am getting treatment for that. I used that as an excuse not to walk. Like I need an excuse.

I’ve discovered that mileage and time was stressing me out when I walked. It was not fun. I would walk so fast (at least fast for me) and it was difficult to talk with Bonnie, who was faster than me, because of being out of breath. So, we decided to walk at a “decent” pace, which I recommend. Also, the mileage thing has been replaced in regards to goals. When we walk we go from 2.25 to 3+ miles, but what I’ve been doing, although I still use the “Map My Walk” app, I have found that there is an app on my I-Phone that counts my steps.

Now I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I’m a pastor/counselor. I spend much time sitting in counseling and preparing my sermons, so activity isn’t the foremost of my existence. So I walk. Now I’m told that a person needs 10,000 steps a day. For a sedentary guy like me, it might as well be a million. So I had set goals of 7000 to start with and am up to 8000, and if the walking continues, should get to 9-10,000 easily. When I don’t walk, well, here’s some stats.

Without my taking a walk, here are some days totals of steps in a day: 3,045; 1,686; 2,823, 2,402, etc. No wonder the weight doesn’t come off. But on a day like today (5/31) where I walked 2.29 miles, I achieved 9,152 steps and that was with me working today counseling! So, I’m trying to go with taking steps, walking toward that 199, step by step, day by day. Because I don’t walk daily like I was, I’m sore and weak.

I realized that Christianity is like this. Sometimes, a few days may go by without my devotions, so then I spend 2-3 hours to make up for it. Well, that’s not good.

Christianity needs to be a walk, a daily walk with Christ. Not a sprint then three days off. Some of the days it feels like I walked 2000 steps with Christ, then do a 10,000 step day, then the next day or two under 4000. So I’ve decided to come to Christ step by step also. It’s the only way to get strength. If not, then I get sore and weak.

So those trying to lose weight, take it step by step. And those who are walking with Christ, walk Him step by step also. It’s easier to keep up with Him when you’re walking with Him daily.

Thanks For The Memories
March 24, 2016

192,585 miles.

Bought in 2005, my Dodge Caravan finally had to be taken down. It was a great van, bought it new and probably is the only car I bought new and paid off during my married years. A lot of family history was in that van. It was more like a covered truck than a van.

It had 192,585 miles on it. It had the original motor and original transmission. And it’s a Dodge, so you know how amazing this van was. We had the van checked at 40,000 miles and they told us that this transmission will be lucky to go another 40,000 miles. They were wrong. Way wrong.

“Blue Thunder” moved my eldest boy Luke to and from Allegheny College. Actually, I think all our trips were in that van. We’d take the seats out and fill it up. In fact Bonnie’s “Allegheny Mom” sticker was still on it.

The van also moved my daughter Jojo to and from Kent State University. Again, take out the seats and load it up.

The van brought me home from Pittsburgh after my back operation. Lying down on the middle seat with my brother Bob trying to avoid all the potholes on the way home. This is Pennsylvania, remember, land of taxes and potholes (but not necessarily in that order).

The van was part of the funeral procession for Bonnie’s mom, Nadine.

The van took us to and from church every Sunday. Drove us to Parkside Church to hear Alistair Begg preach, or go to the Pastor’s Conferences.

It drove us to North Carolina.

It drove us to the airport on numerous occasions for flights to California.

It drove us to Buhl Park so Bonnie and I could take our walks.

It took us to concerts, Browns games, Yankee games, and Cavs games. It took us to see the Scrappers play, as well as kid’s softball, soccer, and baseball games.

It caused Bonnie to be very angry at me because she got pulled over by the police because the registration had expired. I think she is over this, however, it’s mentioned annually, sort of like a holiday.

The kids needed furniture moved. Blue Thunder to the rescue.

The kids needed to borrow it for whatever reason. It was always there. But, like a human body, it began to break down. The body was eaten away by the salt from the 11 winters of western Pennsylvania. The window on the driver’s side didn’t work. The latch to the hood was broken, the air conditioner didn’t work, it needed an exhaust system, the horn didn’t work, and the material on the ceiling was starting to sag with age. (I said, just like a human body).

Finally, today, the decision was made to put the old girl down. So much history, and although I don’t get attached to material things, it’s kind of sad to me.

Not even for all the times I used it and the stories mentioned above, but it was a part of me. Not like a human or a pet, but I loved having the windows down and blaring Dylan out the window. I didn’t need or want a fancy car because I’m not a fancy guy. I just wanted something reliable and faithful. And it was each of those.

So Blue Thunder, thanks for all the great times. Thanks for all the times we counted on you and you didn’t let us down.

Dang, thanks for all the memories.

I hope my Honda does just as well.

Already Gone
March 1, 2016

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Not trying to copy Bob Dylan (as if I could do it justice), but time is ridiculously quick. As I type this, it’s the end of February, and I can’t believe it’s gone, even with an extra day.

I remember my dad used to tell me how fast it goes as you get older. And now February 2016 is gone.

It doesn’t seem long ago it was New Years Eve 2000, and we all feared the planes would fall from the sky, the computers would crash, we’d have no food, not water, no gasoline. And here we are 16 years later.

It’s funny how things go as time passes. I’m not going to have the body that my head said I could have when I gained weight back 30 years ago. Still overweight, but realizing that I won’t have the “beach body” I thought I’d have. It’s that realization that is overwhelming now. I can probably lose some weight, diet the right way and exercise, pray that God gives me the strength to do that. But “beach body”? Nah. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get good at the guitar. I’ve had a guitar for 15-20 years. Oh, I can pick a few songs, but not where I can look at the music and play any song. It was hard to reach some of the chords. I don’t even touch it now. I practiced some for a few years, said I’d pick it up again, but it won’t happen. Not that I’m old and going to die, but just because that desire has pretty much left me. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get Bonnie the house she deserved. We lived out in the country for 21 years, 4 acres of land. Always wanted to get her a wrap around porch. Put a rocking chair out there, sit back and drink coffee in the evening watching the sunset, and strum my guitar. Sort of like Andy Taylor in Mayberry. I live in the city now. That porch isn’t going to be built out in the country. Time went too fast.

I’ll never get to England. Always wanted to walk Abbey Road, check out where Apple Studios was, visit the Cavern, go to Liverpool. Oh, and some other non-Beatle things are there I hear. But I’m not going to spend money on that now. Time went too fast.

I’ll never learn Italian. Bought an Italian course, never kept up with it. It’s a hard thing to learn a second language. At least for me it is. It’s too much work for now, and seriously, what’s the point?  Time went too fast.

I don’t want this to sound depressing or “woe is me”, like I’m old and ready to die, because I’m not. I suppose that if I desire, I can get back with the guitar or learn Italian. The key is “if I so desire”. The beach body and house with a wrap around porch in the country just ain’t going to happen. But see, it’s like John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Dylan is right on with this. Time flies, we grow old, our views change, and nothing stays the same. But like he says, “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone. Oh the times they are a changing”. Everything changes. But here’s the good news.

I am writing blogs. I am studying the Scriptures more than I ever have. I’m mentoring young guys at the church. I know God better than I ever have. I’ve learned how to pray, not how a book tells me to pray, but how God tells me to pray.

I play with my grand kids and spend more time with Bonnie and my kids. I enjoy the sunset and sunrise. I’ve rediscovered Buhl Park. I stop and smell the roses. I don’t drink, smoke cigarettes or pot. I remember “the night before”. I have deeper relationships with friends that are deeper than any I’ve ever had. I have a love for my wife that can’t compare to what it was 30 years ago or with any other type of love I’ve felt. Before I used to care what people thought of me. Today, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff and discovered that most everything is small stuff. I don’t worry like I used to. I have learned to keep expectations low on people and high on God. I’ve learned to lean on Christ more and me less.

Actually, life is good right now. The past is the past and it’s already gone. But today? Man, I really am digging it. And tomorrow? Can’t wait……..but let’s not go so fast!

 

 

Hello (Not Adele)
February 7, 2016

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This winter has been extremely mild, probably the mildest I ever remember for western Pennsylvania (the five winters in Florida don’t count, for obvious reasons).

Bonnie and I have been pretty faithful in our walking at Buhl Park, our favorite place to walk. Today, for example, it was sunny and 39 degrees, a bit brisk but if dressed properly, very doable. The coldest I’ve walked in was 12 degrees, but I wasn’t dressed properly.

Sometimes we walk in the morning, which is preferable unless bitter cold, and sometimes in the afternoon. We walked this afternoon, and Bonnie and I talked about the differences between morning walkers and afternoon ones.

Morning walkers seem to be more pleasant and friendly. They spot you from 15 yards away and begin their eye contact. As they approach, brief conversations occur. “Good morning, great day isn’t it?”. “Yes, unbelievable warm winter”. “Best I can remember”. “Hope it stays that way till spring”. “Have a good day”. “You too”.

Pleasant, friendly, and engaging. One of the things I like about small town living. You get to know people and people aren’t afraid to talk to each other.

Unless you’re an afternoon walker. They seem to be a little more “uptight”. Maybe it’s because they’re in a hurry or they’re on a break from work or maybe they think they’re better than you.

They spot you from 15 yards away and immediately lower their eyes. They move towards you but further to the side away from you. I like to force them to ignore me. I stare at them until they make eye contact, and if they don’t, I say, “Good afternoon” or “hey”. Sometimes they respond politely, but mostly they ignore or pretend they don’t hear. These are the ones not wearing headphones. The ones with headphones don’t acknowledge anything.

The girl yesterday was beyond ridiculous. We hit the 15 yard mark and she was wearing headphones. She wouldn’t make contact, not even a glance. And THEN as she is within 10 feet of me, she turns in the opposite direction of me and looks into the sky! I’m thinking, “Lady, I’m 260, what the heck is bigger that you’re looking at in the sky?”

And there’s no shame. I feel they go home and write in their diary, “Dear diary, I walked in the Park today and talked with no one. Oh, one or two tried to engage me with a “hello”, but I stared off into space as if I had spotted the Second Coming. Well done, diary, a good day”.

My wife Bonnie is the nicest person I know. She is ridiculously nice. I think I caught my diabetes from her sweetness. She has held the door for so many people when we’re shopping, I could get a burger and a haircut and she’d still be holding the door. She has a sign in our house that says, “Because Nice Matters”. People make fun of her, but I tell you, when people start to complain or judge, she gives them the right advice always and says afterwards, “And why do we do that?”. And the person she is talking to says “Because nice matters.” They know her.

Why is it that people refuse to be nice? A simple “hello”, a heartfelt “How are you?”, must be too taxing for people to say. It would require caring, interest, and possibly, oh no, love? When did we become a world of tin men? Trying to go to the Wizard to get a heart. How have we become so cold?

It reminds me of Matthew 24:12- “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold”.  Is that where we’re at? Have we chosen to build walls around us so not to get hurt? Can anyone break those walls?

The walls, my friends, come down from our side. We have to choose to trust, to engage, to “be bothered with other people”, and even to love. It’s as simple as a “hello”. Yet that appears to be, at least in the afternoon, the hardest word to say.

 

Winter
January 7, 2016

Well, week one into 2016 and winter has arrived. I’m ok with that, as apparently, I’m a northern kind of guy.

Christmas Eve and Day was like 60 degrees, which is kind of nice. See, I like cold and cool weather. So 60 is cool and lovely. I guess that at my age, I’m over a white Christmas. If it happens, cool, if not, I’m very ok with it.

We’ve had just one snow, less than an inch. I find I like snow also. Not a “Oh boy, it’s snowing”, but more like a “oh, it snowed”. I’m learning to adjust to life. So let’s throw a bit of Bob Dylan in here, which is to no one who knows me surprise.

This song I discovered is called “It’s Not Dark Yet” off his “Time Out Of Mind” CD (in case you want to buy it……). Fascinating song as I am approaching the winter of my life. I’ve learned to accept things that are. There are a few things this song says, and I’ll quote it without permission and hopefully not infringe on copyright laws.

I have come to the conclusion that western Pennsylvania, maybe where I’m at in Sharon or somewhere near by, is where I’m supposed to be. This is where God has me. This is where God wants me. I had wanted to move to California with the kids, but they moved home. I had wanted to travel, but that desire has left me, also. If I travel, I want to do it as a family. I’ve also discovered that I love it here. Maybe that’s the Lord helping me, but I do. My desire is to live where my kids and grandkids will live. I have a friend Bill Jones who picked up and moved with his wife to eastern Pennsylvania because it was between where his two kids lived. I get that.

I never understood why Paul McCartney always dreaded his “Beatles” years after they broke up. He rarely sang Beatles songs, mainly doing his solo work. I’ve noticed as Paul’s aged that he has embraced that the Beatles was a part of who he was, but not who he was. Now he does a nice mix of both in concert, so I’m told.

I’ve found that out about me. I hated the high school years. I think that’s why I drank so much in high school. Started drinking at 13, just hated Sharon. Moved to Florida twice, and came back to the area and when I got married we bought a house in West Middlesex. Not Sharon. As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that I’m embracing my high school years as a part of who I was, but not who I was, just like McCartney. It was a part of who I am, but does not define me as who I am.

I was popular in school, but it didn’t satisfy me. I look back on the drama of high school and some of the crazy things I did and I should be dead. But God spared me and here I am. Friends who betrayed me, friends I betrayed, relationships that ruined me and relationships I ruined, poor decisions that I made. This brings me back to Dylan.

Always was a Dylan fan. He spoke for my generation, but it wasn’t until lately I’ve encountered some of the songs he did, especially off the Bootleg Series 1-12, that really speak to great depth in my life. Songs that I go, “Yeah, that’s true” or “yeah, I believe(d) that”. As I’ve turned 60, it’s becoming clearer to me that I have become older and wiser. Things don’t bother me like they used to, (well, except the Browns, but I’ve been working on that for years), and I really don’t care what people think. I believe if I had that attitude in high school I would have enjoyed it more. But back to Dylan.

The whole song “It’s Not Dark Yet” is so good and speaks so much to who I am. The one verse goes:                “I was born here and I’ll die here, against my will. I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still. Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb. I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from. I don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer. It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.”

I guess as I’m in the autumn of life, late October I’d say, that’s where I’m at. I’m in Sharon, at first against my will but now my will is lining up with God’s. I’ll probably die here. I’m ok with all of that. Heck, I got cemetery plots here.

This is where I’m to be. I like it here. Everything I need and want is here. My wife, my kids and their spouses and their kids, all here. I’m a blessed man. I don’t need a vacation. My life is a vacation. It was 12 degrees this morning and I walked in the Park. Crazy? Nah, enjoying home.

My home isn’t gorgeous or in the greatest neighborhood. I’m not a “fixer upper” kind of fella, so things need done. I get to things eventually, although I’d rather pay someone to fix things because, hey, that’s why we work, don’t we? Ain’t got a whole lot of money (“but I’m so in love with you honey”)But I love where I live. I do. I’m home. People say you can’t go home. You can, but it’s not the same. It’s different only if you’ve changed.

I absolutely have only one regret. I wish I’d married Bonnie earlier in life instead of 30 so I’d be around for the grandkids longer, but who knows? God’s timing is perfect.

Winter is here. It doesn’t last long. I’ve embraced it. Life is very good, and I’m realistic about life and the outcome. It’s Not Dark Yet. But it’s getting there.

Baby Steps
May 26, 2013

So this “Walk to 199” thing has me pretty inspired. Got some good feedback and it’s appreciated. Let me fill you in on some stuff.

Being overweight most of my life (except when I smoked, drank, and did drugs, which at the time helped me weigh 155 pounds) has caused me to get really lazy. I mean “you’re telling me the remote is in the other room? Forget it, I’m going to bed” kind of lazy. So exercise is not that thrilling for me.

But I found that walking in Buhl Park or on the treadmill is a fantastic journey for me. But I’m slow. I used to run, I’d run about six miles a day in Florida.

When my oldest, Luke, was born, I decided to go running. My wife, Bonnie, just had Luke via C-Section, and I decided to take a walk. She specifically said, “Don’t run”. I remember it. Unfortunately, so does she. I decided to jog a bit, and tore my meniscus. Yeah, she has a new baby and a C-Section, and I’m on crutches. Not a whole lot of sympathy came from her regarding my injury.

So, although I was thinner, I’ve always wanted to run, and liked it. But as I got bigger, I’m finding I’d walk and it was enjoyable. When I hit 199, maybe I’ll run. But the doctor told me five years ago I’d need a new knee, so maybe walking is better.

But I need a plan. So that’s what I’m developing. Due to work and church schedule, I feel Wednesdays are days I won’t hit the treadmill. Possibly Sundays also, but that’s not on my plan as of yet. I did not go to day as it was ridiculously busy and I’m tired. (Poor excuse, I know). So maybe tomorrow, which is Sunday, I will go.

I’m going for 5 days a week of half hour walking minimum. At the Park, I walk much further, but can’t really gauge my pace. I’m starting slow to avoid injury. I also have short dago legs, so walking at a fast pace is painful in the hip area at times. So I’m trying to develop a plan, especially since the weather is so nice.

Even if the weight loss is slow, it’s good for my heart to walk, helps with my diabetes, and helps with blood pressure. I’m 57, I have my first grandchild coming, I want to be healthy. So I work it. Little by little. Baby steps.

My dad lived to be 90, was always active in the garden, drank and smoked for sixty years. My mother never smoked or drank, lived to be 68 and was diabetic. So if I split the difference, I’m good till I’m 79.  I want to be an active 79.

This blog isn’t only about weight loss. There will be humor and humbling. Sadness and happiness. My good friend Bob Davis whom I’ve known forever and have gone to Haiti with on mission trips, is in the hospital. They say he is full of cancer. Bob and I say it doesn’t matter what they say, it matters what God says. We pray for a miracle. Please do so also.

So come share my journey. I promise not to lie. I promise to tell you when I’m lazy. I promise to be fairly regular with these blogs. If I can help one person with this blog, either by my triumph or failures, it will be all worth it.

This morning,  5/25/13, I weighed in at 271. That shortens my goal to only needing to lose 72 pounds to reach 199. Doable, don’t you think?