Friday, October 31, 2008

What's the Rest of the Story?

At first glance, the following story makes me feel good about the compassion of people. Then, on second glance, I have a few questions.

If you will, go ahead and read the story below. I’ll share a few thoughts at the end. And, I hope you’ll comment, letting me know your thoughts as well. Maybe I’ve missed something.

The story comes from Dallas, Texas. It seems that a Texas woman went to a housing auction distraught about the prospect of watching strangers bid on her foreclosed home. Then one of those strangers bought her back for her!

Now, Tracy Orr can return to her Pottsboro home, making payments to the woman who unexpectedly and impulsively bought it for her. “It means so much to all of us,” Orr told Dallas television station WFAA. “It’s not just a house.”

Marilyn Mock said she was acting on instinct on Saturday when she decided to buy a house she had never seen for a woman she had never met. Mock was at the foreclosure auction to help her 27-year-old son bid on a house when she struck up a conversation with Orr, who was crying about losing her home.

Orr had bought the house for $80,000 in 2004 but fell behind on the payments. She lost her job a month after taking out the loan, and earlier this year she lost the house. On the spot, Mock decided to buy it, eventually bidding $30,000.

“She didn’t even know if I had a job or was a nut case,” Orr said in a story for Wednesday’s online edition of The Dallas Morning News. “She didn’t even see a picture of the house.”

Mock told a crying Orr she could stay in the house, making payments to her instead of a bank.
“She needed help. That was it,” Mock told the newspaper. “I just happened to be there and anybody else would have done the same thing.”

Orr said she hopes others will do as Mock did. “More than my house, she gave me something inside, and that’s more important than material or financial things,” she said.

The two are waiting on final approval from Fannie Mae before visiting the home.

So, what do you think? At first glance, this is a great story. We should probably praise Ms. Mock for helping Ms. Orr. She was truly a blessing to someone who certainly wasn’t expecting a blessing.

Now, on the other side of the coin, Ms. Orr bought her home in 2004, and a month later lost her job. And, then in 2008, she finally lost the home. Did she not have a job from 2004 until earlier this year? Did she not work? Or, did she fall so far behind in payments that she couldn’t catch up? That part of the story isn’t complete. But, what I’ve found in life is that most companies are more than willing to work with you to solve back payments. Don’t take that as meaning that they do so out of the goodness of their heart. Instead, these companies had rather have steady payments coming in, instead of foreclosing on a house. Why? Well, in this case, the house originally sold for $80,000. When it was sold in foreclosure, how much did the company get? $30,000, less any fees charged by the auctioning company. Needless to say, they lost money on the deal.

I just hope in the months ahead that Ms. Orr does everything in her power to repay Ms. Mock every penny she is due. If not, will the next time they meet up be in court? Probably so.

I’m sorry if I seem cynical about this. There’s probably more to this story than I know. If you know more, please share. If you have comment, please do the same.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Different View of Things

I love summertime vegetables. You know, a fresh ear of corn. A nice green pepper from the garden. Crisp green beans. Juicy watermelon or peach. Cucumbers! As a popular Food Network is known to say: Yum-O!

Oh, and be sure to add a nice, round, juicy, and fresh red tomato to that list. There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich! With mayo and black pepper! Now you are talking some good eating!

Well, times are changing, as Bob Dylan once opined. Before long, we may have to change our way of thinking as we add genetically engineered purple tomatoes to our bread. British researches have engineered purple tomatoes that may well be added to the list of foods known to help fight cancer.

These researchers engineered the fruit to contain nutrients more commonly seen in dark berries, which have been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and some neurological diseases.

For the study, cancer-prone mice fed the fruit lived an average of 40 days longer than animals on a standard diet. “The effect was much bigger than we had expected,” Cathie Martin, a plant biologist, said in a news release. “It is enormously encouraging to believe that by changing diet, or specific components in the diet, you can improve health in animals and possibly humans.”

Researchers focused on anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in berries such as blackberries and blackcurrants.

The researchers said trials in humans are still a long way off.

While I know it may take some time for my eyes to adjust to seeing purple tomatoes, so be it, if these little creations help with cancer, neurological diseases, and heart disease. After my little bout with my health recently, I might just offer to sign up to be a “test subject” for them! After all, I do love blueberries and blackberries, and I really do love tomatoes. So, what could be so bad about giving them a try!

What do you think? Game to try purple tomatoes?

Tough Love vs. Spanking

Okay, many of you are faithful readers and you have offered some great words of wisdom in the past.

I need your help again. My wife forwarded me an email, that came from a friend of hers. In the email, the friend passed along a possible new form of discipline for our son. While he is still a little young for too much discipline, my wife and I definitely want to get an early start on setting Evan down the right path.

So, would you read her email below and let me know your thoughts. Your wisdom would be appreciated!

Tough Love vs. Spanking—A Good Argument

Most of the American population thinks it’s improper to spank children. So, I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of “those moments.”

One that I found effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk. Some say it’s the vibration from the car, others say it’s the time away from any distractions such as TV, video games, computer, iPod, etc.

Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together. Eye to eye contact helps a lot too.

I’ve included a photo below of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique.

P.S. This works with grandchildren, nieces, and nephews as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stayin' Alive

Do you remember the old song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees? Maybe blogger friend Bill will feature it on his blog soon—he does love the hair days of the 1960s and 70s.

Well, the song has now been proven to be more than just a song. At 103 beats per minute, the old disco song has almost the perfect rhythm to help jump-start a stopped heart. Little did I know! But, I’m sure going to keep this in mind if I have another heart attack!

In study from the University of Illinois medical school, doctors and students maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions doing CPR while listening to the catchy, sung-in-falsetto tune from the 1977 movie “Saturday Night Fever.”

The American Heart Association recommends 100 chest compressions per minute, far more than most people realize, study author Dr. David Matlock of the school’s Peoria, Illinois, campus said.

And while CPR can triple cardiac arrest survival rates when properly performed, many people hesitate to do it because they’re not sure about keeping the proper rhythm, Matlock said.
He found that “Stayin’ Alive,” which has a way of getting stuck in your head anyway, can help with that. His study involved 15 students and doctors and had two parts. First they did CPR on mannequins while listening to the song on iPods. They were asked to time chest compressions with the song’s beat. Five weeks later, they did the same drill without the music but were told to think of the song while doing compressions.

The average number of compressions the first time was 109 per minute; the second time it was 113. That’s more than recommended, but Matlock said that when it comes to trying to revive a stopped heart, a few extra compressions per minute is better than too few.

The study showed the song helped people who already know how to do CPR, and the results were promising enough to warrant larger, more definitive studies with real patients or untrained people, Matlock said. He plans to present his findings at an American College of Emergency Physicians meeting in Chicago this month.

It turns out the American Heart Association has been using the song as a training tip for CPR instructors for about two years. They learned of it from a physician “who sort of hit upon this as a training tool,” said association spokesman Dr. Vinay Nadkarni of the University of Pennsylvania.

So, not a fan of the Bee Gees, “Saturday Night Fever, or “Stayin’ Alive?” Well, rumor has it that a Queen song has a similar beat, but might not be as good to sing while trying to revive someone. The song? Maybe you’ve heard of it: “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Catchy beat. Just not as good to revive by.

You Provide the Caption

I would title this picture "Daddy's Little Helper."

What caption would you give it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home is Where the Trouble Is

A Berlin man is in trouble with the police; however, his police and legal troubles may well be the least of his trouble!

Berlin police say that a Swedish man came to them on Saturday claiming to have been abducted from his home in southern Sweden by two men who demanded money and took him to the German city.

Well, as police are known to do, they began doing their job by starting a large-scale search for his kidnappers. But, early this week, police said that the 43-year-old’s story fell apart in questioning.

The Swedish man told police officers that he had embarked on a European tour to get away from marital problems at home. He said he came up with the kidnapping story to explain his absence to his wife—who had reported him missing.

Now, the man is under investigation for faking a crime and prosecutors ordered a $3,800 bail payment.

Going to jail may be appropriate in this case. Paying $3,800 bail is probably justifiable as well. Coming clean to the police is a good start. But, can you imagine explaining this to your wife.

“Honey, I just needed a break…”

“Sweetheart, I was heading home from work and instead of turning left into the neighborhood, I turned right on the Interstate and just kept driving.”

“Darling, I had amnesia!”

"Baby, the devil made me do it!"

Not sure any of those will work in his situation. I’m wondering if he can hire a criminal attorney and a divorce attorney in a package deal, you know, 2-for-1 kind of thing? No doubt, before it’s all over, he’ll probably need both.

So Easy Grandma Can Do It!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Greatest Song Ever!

Blogger friend, Joe Blackmon, gave me the idea to include this video on my blog.

Folks, turn up the volume on your computer. Nevermind whether you are at work, home, or even the school library. Turn up the volume, sit back, and enjoy!

Beyond any shadow of doubt, this is the great university fight song ever written! Hands down!

As I told Joe, when I walk through the Golden Gates of Heaven, I fully expect the heavenly band to be playing this song.

Here goes...

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Christmas season, I mean holiday season, I mean the season of giving unnecessary gifts going into debt for no apparent reason, is about to begin.

You can tell. The news media is beginning to tell us about the idiotic trend of removing the word “Christmas” from everything. It happens every year and just seems to get worse and worse every year. First, we couldn’t celebrate Christmas in school. Then, we couldn’t celebrate Christmas at the mall. Then, it was the courthouse square, no Christmas decorations were appropriate unless every other know religion or denomination or protest group had the same opportunity to decorate.

Well, the first report I’ve seen of this happening this year comes from Patchogue, New York (should we be surprised that it comes from New York. Probably not.)

It has been reported that a famed fireworks company is pulling out of a “holiday” boat parade because “Christmas” was dropped from the event’s name.

Fireworks by Grucci won’t lend its sparkle to Patchogue’s November 23 parade—decorated yachts on the Patchogue River—because the organizers have renamed it the Patchogue Holiday Boat Parade. It was the Patchogue Christmas Boat Parade last year, when the Grucci company donated $5,000 worth of fireworks.

The company’s vice president, Philip Butler, who has criticized the secularization of Christmas in the past, said parade organizers were “using all the themes of Christmas and plagiarizing all those themes.” Good for Mr. Butler!

Organizers in the town on Long Island, near New York City, said the parade has had several names over its roughly 15-year existence. The name was changed again this year after complaints that the use of “Christmas” seemed to make the parade less inclusive.

Now, I will admit that when I think of Christmas I don’t always think about fireworks. I’ll also have to say to the New York town that when I think of Christmas that I also don’t think about decorating boats!

Christmas is not about trees, presents, going into debt, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, church attendance, families getting together, or even special musical services at church. No. Not a one of those things is Christmas. They may be focused on around the month of December, but they aren’t Christmas.

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. That simple. That complex. Christmas is all about His birth.

So, thank you Patchogue, New York, for helping me to remember, even on October 27, what Christmas is really about. I hope you have a good parade. You are free, in America, to celebrate anything and everything. That is your right. Have fun. Decorate. Enjoy. I’m all in favor of it. At the same time, I have a right not to attend a holiday event, parade, or sale.

I’ll live out my convictions, both with the choices of where I go and where I spend my money. That’s my right.

Merry Christmas Patchogue, New York!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The American Dream

A heart attack will do many things to you, and for you. One of those things is a renewed sense of priority and priorities.

Hope you have a great Sunday, worshipping the King of kings, spending time with the family, and resting.

Listen carefully to the words of this Casting Crowns video.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

If You Could, Would You?

It will be faster than a speeding bullet: a pencil-shaped car powered by a jet engine and a rocket, roaring across a desert at 1,000 mph. If all goes to plan, the Bloodhound SSC will break the land speed record by the largest-ever margin, and, in 40 seconds of breathtaking thrust, inspire thousands of British schoolchildren to take their science college-entrance exams.

The car’s plans were to be unveiled this week with work to begin on it soon. 1,000 MPH! That’s a long ways from the current record.

The current record for a wheel-powered car is 458 mph, set in 2001 by brothers Don and Rick Vesco at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the western Utah desert. Rick Vesco hopes to break the 500-mph barrier in the same car in 2009.

So, here’s the question for you. If you could sign up to “drive” this “car” would you do it? Why? Why not?

And, then, if you really want to be bold in replying, here’s another question for you: What’s the fastest you have ever driven?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who Did God Say Would Dominate the Earth?

The picture above may be a little difficult to understand. So, let me tell you what you are seeing: It is the picture of a spider eating a bird! Yes. You read that correctly. And it is real! No photoshop involved here! A spider eating a bird!

The incident took place in the backyard of a property near Cairns, Australia.

The photo, believed to have been taken earlier this week, shows the spider clenching its legs around a lifeless bird trapped in a web at a property near Atherton, west of Cairns.

Joel Shakespeare, the head spider keeper at NSW’s Australian Reptile Park, said the spider was a golden orb weaver. “Normally they prey on large insects, it’s unusual to see one eating a bird,” he said. Shakespeare said he had seen golden orb weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger.

Shakespeare said the bird, a chestnut-breasted mannikin which appears frozen in an angel-like pose in the pictures, is likely to have flown into the web and got caught.

Okay folks, enough is enough. Time for some extra strength spider killer! I feel pretty much about spiders as I do about snakes: The best snake is a dead snake! My father always told me as a child to find out what kind of snake it was before killing it. My answer to my dad was, “Dad, after I kill it I know what kind of snake it is—a dead one!”

What would you do if you came into your backyard and saw a spider eating a bird? (After running inside to grab your camera and circulate the picture on the Internet, of course.)

Fall is All About Hay and Chillin'

Wednesday afternoon, Evan and I were waiting for his mother to arrive home from work. So, we sat in the front yard, near our little fall display of hay, mums, and pumpkins. Evan was taken with the hay. It literally took him no time to grab a long piece of hay and stick it in his mouth!

I guess you can be born in the city, but it's hard to get your redneck genes out of you!

Another afternoon, after work, Evan, Tonya, and I went for my doctor prescribed walk. We walked about a mile and I have to say that I was tired when we got home. So, Evan and I stretched out on the couch and propped our feet up! I think he liked doing that!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have the Solution

[Photo from Google Search Engine. Not the actual photo of person discussed below]

A 76-year-old woman who gave her address as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been arrested for the 73rd time in almost four decades. This time, on charges of stealing a police decoy wallet in a supermarket and stuffing it in her bra.

The woman, who prosecutors say has used 36 aliases, was indicted Tuesday as Katherine Kelly in Manhattan Criminal Court in connection with the wallet. A criminal complaint filed earlier in this case charged Kelly with grand larceny and attempted grand larceny. It said she took a wallet, left by police as bait, from a shopping cart in a supermarket a few blocks north of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on October 15. It said an officer recovered the wallet from Kelly’s “bra area.”

Before Kelly was accused of taking the wallet, the complaint says, undercover police saw her trying to steal from several people inside the supermarket by putting her hand inside their bags.

Kelly’s lawyer, James Neilson, (and don’t you think he loves his job!) said Tuesday his client has not been convicted in this case and expects due process. He acknowledged his client has a rap sheet but wouldn’t comment on it.

And oh what a rap she has! The district attorney’s office says Kelly’s arrest record dates from December 21, 1971. On that date, office spokeswoman Tracy Golden said, Kelly was arrested as Charlotte Martinelli and charged with forgery. Golden did not know how the case was resolved.
Golden also noted that the woman has been arrested under 36 names, including Robin Shapiro, Antoinette Lombardi, Mildred Friedman, Sylvia McGuire, Victoria Velloti, and Charlotte Petrovas.

Golden said prosecutors are investigating the woman’s true identity. She said that although Kelly has given police 26 birth dates, her office is listing her as 76 because the age conforms to the birth date she gave with her latest arrest. Most of the defendant’s 73 arrests have occurred in Brooklyn, Golden said, with some in Manhattan and in Suffolk County, on Long Island.
The arrests have resulted in at least 16 convictions, Golden said. Most of the charges were felonies that were pleaded down to misdemeanors, she said.

I’m not a lawyer and have never played one on TV. However, I do know how to put an end to this woman’s criminal activity—put her in jail and leave her there! I’m serious. Lock her up. Give her an orange jumpsuit. Shut the door behind her. Turn the key. And, tell Katherine or Robin or Antoinette, or even Mildred goodbye, good riddance, adios!

I’m all for due process Mr. Lawyer. But somewhere between the first arrest and the 73rd due process almost seems unnecessary!

What do you think folks? Am I being too hard on her or the court system?

I Understand Mark Twain So Much Better Now!

[Casket from Google Search, not my actual casket]
Mark Twain once said that the rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerated.

Apparently, someone was extremely hopeful that Mr. Twain had passed on to the next life and made it known that he had died. The only problem with that gossip was the fact that Mr. Twain was still alive!

Well, I understand how Mr. Twain must have felt.

Over the last few days, I've gotten many phone calls, emails, visits, well wishes and cards. I have appreciated each and every act of kindness. These have touched my heart.

However, the best card came today. It was addressed to both me and my wife. That fact is underlined and is important to the story below. The card was from a woman who works with my company, in another state.

Here's the text of her card:

"May loving memories
bring comfort to you
in this time of sadness.

With Deepest Sympathy."
Okay, help me understand this, will you please. If this person believes I have died, then why would she address the card to both me AND my wife? Wouldn't she have addressed it only to my wife? Wouldn't she be the one who needed sympathy? Sympathy ain't going to mean much to a dead person. Or, so I would assume.

Now I wonder who she has told that I've died. Will I get more sympathy cards? Will my wife get more sympathy cards? Will people be lining up to take my job? Will anyone actually send us/her flowers? Candy? Fresh fruit? Money? [Personally, I'm hoping for fresh fruit, since I can't eat candy anymore!]

Okay, on the other side of all of this, if she didn't think I had died, was this the only card she had to send? Did she do like the widow in the New Testament who gave her mite, the best she had? Did she just grab the first card that was in the box? Did she not read the words printed on the card? I know men are often accused of that, but really, a woman sending a sympathy card!

I had a heart attack! I didn't die!

I've always heard that "it's the thought that counts." Folks, in this situation, I'm not sure I'm buying that one this time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Sign of the Times?

Could this really be a sign of the times in which we live?

It seems that Framingham State College wanted to reach out and touch the wallets of younger potential donors. So, they recently sent a letter to these potential donors repeating the word “blah” 137 times in the letter campaign.

However, this letter has left some Framingham State College alumni questioning the school’s professionalism, judgment and blah, blah, blah.

The September 5 letter was sent to about 6,000 recent graduates who hadn’t donated to the school yet.

Christopher Hendry, the school’s VP of college advancement, said he approved the letter, which he saw as a worthy attempt to reach younger donors. After several complaints, he sent a letter of apology a month later.

Alumnus Ken Shifman, a 2003 grad, said the letter “insults the intelligence” of alumni, and didn’t seem like it came from a legitimate school.

VP Hendry did note that after the letter the school collected about $2,000 from nearly 40 alumni who never gave before.

What do you think? Worthy attempt? Lousy marketing campaign? If your former school sent you a letter like that, how would you respond?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Empire Strikes Barack

Okay...let's see how far the humor goes on this one!

Raining McCain

This is meant to be funny, not a political endorsement. If you can't see it for that, we might need to work on your sense of humor!

Heart Attack--20 Lessons Learned

Some of my blogger friends have questioned whether or not I would be able to blog only one more time about my recent heart attack or whether I would need to do more. Good question. And, to be honest, I don't have a good answer at the moment. I suppose I'll just write about it as needed. Writing about this has been good. I think it has been healthy. I know writing has allowed me to formulate my thoughts better.

As promised, I wanted to share a few of the lessons I've learned over the last few days. By no means will this be all of the lessons, but a few random thoughts I've discovered along the way.

1) I am so thankful for medical technology in our country! It is amazing how in one or two little eraser-sized holes doctors can insert a device to clear out my artery and to see exactly what he is doing! Unless you really knew where to look, you wouldn't even see their incisions!

2) Now, even though medical technology is great, I do have a bone to pick with the people in the field. Don't you think they could develop tape that doesn't pull every hair out of your body by the roots! I hate to shave as it is. And, I'll grow a beard at the drop of the hat. So, I am well-blessed with a strong hair gene--everywhere except on the top of my head! So, when you are taped by a nurse or doctor, much pain is ultimately realized by the patient when said tape is removed by the nurse, doctor, or patient. Come on scientists! Find something that will attach itself in a good way and let go when no longer needed! Please! For the love of all that is good, and holy...and right. And decent!

3) Got a small bruise on your arm or leg that is causing you some grief! Let me show you a bruise! Blood thinner does great things to areas where only an eraser-sized incision was made!

4) While urgent care or primary care clinics get a bad rap at times, the one Evan and I went to on Monday deserves an A+ Award of the Day. I'll definitely write more about them in the days ahead!

5) Riding in the front of a firetruck or ambulance is definitely more fun than riding in the back on a gurney! Facing backward!

6) I still hate needles!

7) I have learned that 33% of all people who have a heart attack have no early warning signs. I am one of the 33% of people! If you are male, over the age of 40, find a cardiologist. Talk about taking an aspirin a day. Don't wait for the gorilla to sit on your chest! Trust me, you can't move him.

8) Not much looks better than to be wheeled out of the cath lab and see your wife standing there, waiting for you! What a sight for tired eyes.

9) I'm learning just how many people have gone through similar things! Two of four staff members at our church have had heart attacks or open heart surgery! Folks, that's just another "perk" of the ministry.

10) It's great to have blogging friends who I've never met, but know are praying for me. Your support system means much to me!

11) It is actually good to be back at work today. I hate sitting on the couch, watching TV, doing nothing. Today has given me the opportunity to focus my brain!

12) Want to feel a closeness to your parents? Well, just have a heart attack and you talk about similar medicines you are taking, procedures you are having done, and rides in ambulances! I wish I had not learned this lessong.

13) During the 13th day of the month, don't check out at WalMart in the 13th lane, as I did last Monday morning. While I am not overly superstitious, I did just that last Monday. There was absolutely no one in that lane--all of the other lanes were full. I remember saying to the casher, "Well, I guess today is my lucky day!" Depends on how you look at it, I suppose. I'm still here!

14) Animals really do know when something is wrong. Our little dog knew I was in trouble Monday. She jumped into my lap and licked me in the face during my heart attack. She wouldn't let me put her down. She seemed to know that I was facing some problem. Since I've been home, she has acted so weird. One minute, she's closer to me than my shadow, the next she acts as if I've beaten her terribly (which I would never do).

15) God still works miracles! During this entire experience, I've seen miracle after miracle that could have only come from His hands. He's been far too good to me, far better than I deserve.

16) I'm very behind on reading blogs! I read every blog listed under my blog roll to the right every day. Well, that was true until last Tuesday. I'll come back! I promise!

17) I'm glad to be alive!

18) I'm glad to be a Christ follower!

19) I'm glad to be a parent!

20) I'm glad to be a husband!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Heart Attack--Part V

As I share my journey through the events of the past week, I have learned much about myself along the way. I've also learned how important the details really are.

On Wednesday of last week, I was transferred to the Cardiac Care floor. I was very excited to finally be out of the CCU and moved to a private room. For the first time since my admission to the hospital, I would be able to sleep, see my family, get up and walk around, and even use normal bathroom facilities instead of a plastic container. Oh, the little things in life!

In CCU, I had grown accustomed to seeing my nurse every few minutes. At times in CCU, the nurse was coming by every five minutes to verify my vitals. Don't misunderstand, I am appreciative of the care they gave and their attention to the monitors. I have no doubt those things saved my life. However, as you progress and start getting a little better, you'd like just a little privacy, downtime, if you will. You'd like to get up and walk around and feel human. You'd like to go the bathroom without someone watching over your shoulder or holding your arm to steady you. I don't even like public restrooms, so you can understand how little I liked them watching me go.

My nurse checked me into my room and little did I realize that that would be last time I would see her before the end of her shift--I suppose I was doing better! Every couple of hours I would be visited by the PCA (personal care assistant) who would check my temperature, blood pressures, and administers my medicine. Other than that, I was on my own. I was able to get up, sit up, and walk down the halls. It was great to actually see outside! It was great to walk around and to stretch my legs. It was great to visit with family and friends for longer periods of time. And, come nightfall, it was great to actually close my eyes, lay on my side, and sleep, actually sleep for a couple of hours without interruption.

On Thursday morning, as promised the night before, the doctor came in early. He checked my heart and lungs, asked a few questions, and then sat on the foot of the bed and gave me a quick history of what had happened to my heart on Monday. He drew a diagram of my heart, talked about which vessels had been blocked and why he thought it had taken place. He talked about the meds I would be on, and the upcoming stress test I would have to take in 30 days. Most of what he said made sense, and I could see the importance to taking my meds faithfully, exercising, resting, reducing stress, and eating properly. The doctor told me how, when he was in the third grade, that while on vacation, his father suffered a heart attack--much like the one I had just had. He said, you'll be pleased to know that today, my father is 82 years old, and has never had another heart attack.

So, there's hope! I think if I do what I'm told, eat a little better, exercise a little more, and stop letting stress eat me alive, then I'll live to see a nice old age.

Thanks for all of the prayers you've said on my behalf. They have been felt, and they have been appreciated! I'm sure there are plenty of others who need prayer more than me at this point, so as you need to shift your prayers to them, I fully understand. You've done your part in helping me through one of the most serious crises of my young life, well, I'm not sure young applies any more. Let's just say I appreciate all of you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heart Attack--Part IV

Yesterday, I shared with you about my journey to the hospital in the ambulance and about my cath lab experience. Today, let me tell you a little about my experience in the Critical Care Unit (CCU). I think I was in the Critical Care Unit, it may have been the Cardiac Care Unit, I don't really know for sure, but there were people in my unit that were not heart patients, but all heart patients did go to my unit.

I had my heart attack at 1:30 PM. In less than three hours, I had been transported to the hospital, had a heart cath, and was wheeled the the CCU for the night. My hope was that I would spend a night in CCU and then go to the room the next day or so. Unfortunately, that plan failed to materialize. Maybe I was unrealistic in my thinking, but even the doctor implied that would be the schedule.

The CCU was an experience. Every 10 minutes or so I could count on a nurse coming in to read the monitor that I was hooked to. Let me set the scene. I was hooked to a heart monitor, that looked identical to the monitor above. The monitor recorded my pulse, blood pressure, oxygen level, breathing, and a few other things I didn't really understand. I had twelve pads adhered to my chest, with twelve leads running to the monitor. I also had an oxygen monitor attached to my left hand, a blood pressure cuff wrapped around my left arm, and an IV in my right arm. Needless to say, there wasn't much moving around in my unit. Let me also say that a key part of the monitoring, from my perspective, were the adhesive pads attached to my chest. Now, I realize that some women like men with hair on their chest and some women prefer men to have none. Well, God has blessed me with my fair share of chest hair. And, unfortunately, these adhesive pads were not made for people like me. Let's just say that the scene from the 40-Year-Old Virgin (I didn't see the movie, but I've seen that scene on various shows) was relived several times in my CCU room. My nurse said that there were men who regularly paid to have people pull their hair out by the roots--I reminded her each time she riped out my hair that I was not one of those men!

I settled down in the room about 4:30 and was able to see Tonya for the first time. Those were welcomed moments. I'm not sure Tonya has ever looked or sounded better than when she walked into the room. Those were precious moments and I think calmed a lot of our fears and concerns. We held hands, kissed, and just watched each other for the next few minutes. Tonya sat on the bed with me and we talked about all that had happened. As often happens, Tonya only knew bits and pieces of all that had taken place. I also had no idea what had happened to Evan after they rolled me out to the ambulance. So, those moments were husband and wife, mother and father, friend and friend talking, catching up, and celebrating the miracles that had taken place. And, the protection of God's hand upon me, Evan, and Tonya.

The specialness of the moment didn't last long, as the nursing staff, technicians, and others continued to come into the room to check my condition. And, we knew that Tonya needed to go take care of Evan. Fortunately, when she picked up Evan from the clinic, she was able to drop him off with one of my coworkers. This coworker is a wonderful Christian woman, who along with her husband, had served for many years in Europe as an international missionary. Their boys are now almost grown, one in college, and one a senior in college. They did a great job of keeping Evan--but I do think Evan pushed them to the limits. Dealing with an 8-month-old isn't quite the same as teenaged boys. But, maybe it was good practice for being grandparents one day!

The night in CCU was long. Somewhere around 8:00 PM, I began experiencing some discomfort in my chest. What was happening? Was I having another heart attack? Had something gone wrong in the cath lab? I didn't know. My heart was racing, that I did know. As I told the nurse, it felt as if the left side of my heart was fighting with the right side of my heart. Ironically, I could feel the onset of this battle before the monitor recorded it. The pain would last for a few seconds, be recorded on the monitor, and then would go away. That fight would happen every 30 minutes or so, and lasted until about midnight.

But, from what I soon discovered, that fight that began around 8:00 PM was simply the warmup for the main event to come. At midnight, the fight went into overdrive. The pain started, but the pain never went away. My heart raced and raced and raced, causing a great deal of soreness in my chest. I could not tell if I were having chest pains or if my chest was simply sore. Around 1:00 AM, the nurse called the doctor and discussed my situation. He changed a little of my medicine and told them to watch me closely--more closely than every 10 minutes! Oh yes, that is possible. Now, they were in my room every 5 minutes, at the max, checking my monitors, talking with me, etc.

This heart racing continued until the doctor arrived at 5:20 AM. I guess he got tired of being called at home, so he just came on in to check for himself. He was able to adjust the medicine once again, and the pain slowed greatly. What he found was that there were two irregular heartbeats going on. The first one, the feeling that the left side was fighting the right side, was nothing to worry about. The blood flow was being restored and the heart was adjusting to the new amount of blood. That was the pain I could feel. The other irregular heartbeat was much more serious and concerned him. That's what started around midnight. I can't remember the name he gave it, but even the name sounded serious.

Because of the irregular heartbeat, there would be no leaving CCU on Tuesday. I was going to be grounded for at least a day longer. Tuesday was some better, but I was at the point of exhaustion. I had not slept since I woke up at 5:15 AM Monday. My chest was sore. The meds were taking their toll on me. And, then the other shoe dropped, literally. Because of the meds I was on, my blood pressure began to drop. And, I don't mean a little. By nightfall, my heartbeat was down in the 80/50 range, and they were PLEASED to see it at that rate! When I was resting, my heartbeat actually dropped to 66/45 at one point. I'd say the meds overdid their work, wouldn't you?

So, most of Tuesday afternoon and evening were spent trying to regulate my heartbeat. I feel asleep, finally, and rested in the deepest sleep I had had in a long time! Maybe that's what a 66/45 heart beat will do to you!

However, what I had hoped would happen--being transferred to a room--didn't happen on Tuesday...or even through much of Wednesday morning. I was so disappointed because I knew that the longer I stayed in CCU, the longer it would be before I could go home, to be with Tonya and Evan.

Finally, on Wednesday morning I was transferred to the Cardiac Care Floor. I would be monitored in my room, for at least 24 hours before going home.

So, what did I learn during my stay in CCU? Several valuable lessons:

1) You'd better be sick if you are in CCU! If not, you soon will be. The pressure is intense in there. There's little food, no bathroom, and the bed is about as uncomfortable as sleeping on the floor! At one point, I told Tonya that if she wanted to rest, she could take my place and I would sleep on the floor! She didn't understand my point until she knew just how uncomfortable the bed really was.

2) Be prepared for noise! Wouldn't you think that floors don't need to be stripped and waxed every night in CCU? And, wouldn't you think that there had to be a better time than midnight both nights? I guess not, at least not at this hospital.

3) Nurses really need to remember where they are in CCU. My room was directly in front of the nurses station. I heard way too personal stories about things going on in their lives. I heard disagreements with floor nurses on bed counts, and how patients being moved out of CCU would hurt their daily counts. Patients really don't need to be involved in the politics of medical care. Treat the patient, take the personal and political somewhere else. I really didn't need to know all that I heard, and I really didn't care.

4) Just because a person is designated as a nurse doesn't mean that he or she has the nursing gene! Some people just don't have an ounce of compassion in them. I had some great nurses, and I had a couple who had never met anyone they cared about.

5) Never decide to go back to school to become a cardiac care doctor! Because, when you do, you will be on-call at times. And, on-call generally means midnight, 1:00 AM, and 3:00 AM calls to your house. And, certainly, waking up your wife!

6) Even though my wife and I eat fairly healthy, and the doctor says that I'll need to do even better, it is just wrong when you are served grits with no salt! Sorry, I guess I won't include grits in my new diet--because they just need some salt, any salt!

7) Be thankful for modern technology. A few decades ago, I would have had open heart surgery to correct the problem I had. Or, I would have died. Thank God for things man has learned!

Tomorrow, I'll share about my stay on the cardiac care floor and dismissal from the hosptial. Then, unless something changes, I'll only write one other post after that of the lessons I've learned during this whole experience.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for your ongoing friendship!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heart Attack--Part III

Thank you for following my blogging journey of what has taken place this week. I'm finding that blogging is helping me process what has taken place and helping me to put into perspective all that God has done this week.

As promised in my last post, I mentioned that I would share with you about my journey to the hospital. Now, if you've followed my blog over the months, you've read about some of the experiences I've had as a volunteer fireman. I've driven firetrucks, water-tank trucks, and even our personnel carrier--that had previously used as an ambulance.

But, I must say that driving an emergency vehicle is nothing like riding in the back of an ambulance, strapped to a gurney. Looking out the back window was interesting, seeing where we have been, not where we were going. I listed to the siren and air horn as the driver moved through Birmingham traffic. Fortunately, most people moved out of the way, most but not all. The driver did the same thing we did when we drove fire trucks--if people don't move, sit on their bumper, blowing the airhorn as frequently as possible, and just hope and pray that they finally get the message the red lights, sirens and horns aren't just decorations! I am always amazed at how some people get their license to drive and not know what red or blue lights mean!

While in the back of the ambulance, the EMT and EMT-in-training monitored my condition, administered oxygen, checked my vital signs, regularly talked with me about how I was feeling and the level of pain I was having. The EMT also talked with the hospital, preparing them for my arrival.

To go from my house to the Urgent care to the hospital, you have to go over a "large" mountain. Not large as in the Grand Canyon, but large for our area. I must say that going down that hill, on the gurney, at what seemed to be 80 miles per hour was an interesting experience. I don't like roller coasters and fast rides at amusement parks. Finally, I couldn't look any more and just closed my eyes! That did help. Some. Not much. But some.

It took 10-12 minutes to get to the hospital, not bad for the way we had to go to get there. I didn't know what to expect at the ER. Would I have to wait in line? Would I be pushed into a corner and told that someone would be with me soon? I really didn't know what to expect.

I was surprised at what happened upon my arrival at the hospital. A person on the cardic team met the ambulance in the parking lot. His first question was: "Is this Mr. Heartsill?" Once he knew it was me, he immediately led the EMTs to take me to the cath lab. In a matter of minutes, I was moved from the gurney to the cath table. And, in less than an hour, the cath procedure was finished.

As a pastor, I had sat with many families as family members went through a heart cath. I knew what was coming, what to expect, and most of the language the doctor would use. None of it was really new to me. The only difference, this time it was me they were working on. I listened as the doctor worked. I heard most of what he and the others said they were doing. I felt the pressure in my leg as they worked. I heard the razors as they shaved me.

What the doctor found was simple. It seems that an artery that goes from the front to the back of my heart, a clot broke off of that artery, settling into another artery in the back of my heart. That clot caused 100% blockage in that second artery. That was the cause of my heart attack. The doctor inserted a "balloon" into my heart, made his way to my blocked artery, and completely opened it within a matter of minutes. Fairly quickly, the pain began to ease in my heart.

After he finished cleaning out that artery, he went back to check on the other narrowing of my artery. That part of the artery, where the clot came from, was still at 30% blocked. Doctors do not like to work on an artery that is less than 70% blocked, fearing that they will do more damage that the smaller blockage. Hence the need for medicines! Some of which I'll be on for the rest of my life.

The days ahead include heart meds, a stress test, countless trips to the doctor, and cardic rehab with diet and exercise. I suppose, keeping those things in perspective, they are far better than deciding where to bury my body and what suit to bury me in.

At this point, pray for the meds to do their job--to keep further clots from forming or breaking loose from the blockage. Pray that they will dissolve slowly with the meds.

In my next post, I'll share about my experience with the CCU! Trust me, before checking into the CCU, please make sure you are really, really, really sick! If not, it will just about kill you!

More to come!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Heart Attack--Part II

Well, by now, you know that this hasn't been a normal week around the Heartsill household. The week started normally enough, going to church on Sunday, hearing my wife sing on our church's praise team, eating Sunday lunch out, and spending time relaxing on Sunday afternoon and evening. Monday, my wife went to work, and Evan and I planned out a "Daddy Daycare" kind of day. It was a great weekend and a great start to the week.

All of that changed at 1:30 PM on Monday afternoon. At 1:30 (almost on the dot), I had a crushing pain in my chest. Almost immediately, the pain radiated to my jaw. I became nausated. I felt weak. I really had no choice but to sit down and catch my breath. Well, sitting didn't help. Not a bit. So, I tried to lay in the bed for a few minutes. But, laying down was not an option. I couldn't do it!

Almost immediately, I knew what was happening. If someone tells you that they had a heart attack and didn't know it, then they are a far better person than me! I knew immediately. I've seen enough commericals on TV that I knew what to do. I went to the bathroom and found an aspirin. Unfortunately, the aspirin didn't help.

That's when the reality kicked in. My wife was 30+minutes away, in a teacher training meeting. I didn't know whether or not I would be able to locate her. Also, I was upstairs. And Evan and I were alone. At 8 months old, there was not much Evan could do to help, but I knew I had to take care of him no matter what! So, what should I do? Call 911? If I did, what would the firemen and EMTs do with Evan? Would they call Child Protective Services? If I called 911, I also realized that I was upstairs and they would have difficulty geting me downstairs, not to mention the fact that the front door was locked and deadbolted as well. So, I knew they would have to kick in the door, which would leave the house exposed to whatever and would leave Tonya to deal with the mess.

So, I picked Evan up and we headed downstairs. I laid him on the floor, and tried to call my wife. No answer on her cell phone. I knew I couldn't wait to talk to her. I remembered that about 2 miles from our house is an Urgent Care facility. So, I loaded Evan into his car seat, believing that I could drive him the short 2 miles. I also knew that if I started to feel worse that I could pull over and dial 911. On the way to the doctor's office, Tonya called. How does a husband tell his wife he is having a heart attack and not frighten her beyond reason? How does a father tell a mother that their 8 month old son is okay, but not sure what to do with him? There's no way, trust me. Tonya dropped everything and headed toward the Urgent Care clinic.

When I arrived at the clinic, I walked past 12 people sitting in the lobby, those waiting patiently to see the doctor. I leaned over the counter and told the person behind the counter that I was having serious chest pains. The nurses came out, and took me and Evan to the back. Within a minute, the doctor was there, I was being stripped naked, was getting an IV, having a nitro patch placed on my chest, and having an EKG run. The nurse didn't wait for the doctor to read the strip, she immediately said, "You're having a heart attack. What hospitial do you want to be taken to?" Within three minutes, the ambulance was there. Here's another piece of the God-thing. The ambulance for our area is normally about 5-10 minutes from that clinic, but they were at the fire station resupplying their equipment. That fire station is less than 1/4 mile from the clinic!

The nurse tried to reach Tonya on the phone, but she was in a dead spot and didn't answer (maybe we need to switch to Verzion). A minute or so later, she tried again, this time reaching her and explaining a little of the situation. Within 9-10 minutes of arriving at the clinic, I was on my way to the hospital. Here's another God thing. Two young nurses came over. One said, "I'm due in January. I also have a little boy at home." Would it be okay if we take care of Evan until his mother gets here?" The other nurse said, "I have two children as well, I think we will know what to do!" The nurses and their staff had begun meeting my physical needs and now they were taking care of my wife and son--I couldn't ask for more.

Well, you now know a little more of my journey. I plan to blog about it for several more days. I have much to say and much praise to express. Bear with me if you will. Before long, I'll return to more regular programming. But, that's days away.

So, hopefully you will say, after reading this, that I was very calm through the whole process. What caused me to be so calm? Well, I could say that it was my training as a pastor, or even my training as a volunteer fireman--and I'm sure those things contributed to the calmness. But, I think an even greater answer was knowing that God was in control of everything. He knew long before I felt the first pain what was going to take place. He had prepared me, in numerous ways, to be ready for what was to come. So, with Him in charge, I really didn't need to fret. That's another God thing.

I'm stronger this morning and had a good night's sleep. I'm still very weak and am having to adjust to taking 4 meds! Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement!

In my next blog, I think I'll share my thoughts about my ambulance ride and arrival in the ER.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Heart Attack

Monday, October 13, 2008, will go down in my life as "one of those days." Do you know the kind I'm taking about? It will be like the day the space shuttle exploded and Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered. While the history books will not note any thing significant to October 13, 2008, me and my family will.

My son's daycare was closed on Monday, so I took off work to be with him. We were having a great day. We had gone grocery shopping at Wally World. We had done a few "honey-do" list items. Evan had taken two good naps that morning and was getting ready for his next nap, probably to come around 2:00 PM.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it to his 2:00 PM nap. At 1:30 PM, I began experiencing pain in my chest unlike anything I've ever felt in my life. Within a couple of minutes, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt what was happening--I was having a heart attack.

Needless to say, the last few days have been weird days. I am finally at home this morning and am feeling pretty good, considering where I've been the last few days.

In the weeks ahead, I have no doubt that I'll fill in the details of what all took place. Let's just say that I'm okay and the doctor has given me a fairly good report.

Some of you knew a little of what was happening...others just thought I'd given up on blogging! So much for your wishful thinking! :)

If you knew what was happening and prayed, thank you! God pulled all of the pieces of the puzzle together for me and caused miracle after miracle to take place during the entire process. What do you do with an 8-month old, when you are alone with him, and having a heart attack? Thankfully, God took care of that for us.

If you are just now reading about this, and are a praying person, I'd appreciate any and all prayers. If you would, please keep my wife, Tonya, in your prayers. She has the difficult task of dealing with me for the next few days! That's not going to be an easy job!

I'll be back blogging soon. I'm kind of grounded to the house until Monday, when I hope to return to work.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award goes to Dale Bell and his son Spencer.

Their story really does sound like a sequel to the movie Footloose. Do you remember the movie? It seems that the small-town officials in Dale’s town tried to shut down his “saloon” by threatening him with an antiquated ban on outdoor dance halls.

In August, Dale and Spencer finally triumphed in his fight against a citation accusing the Arizona restaurateur of violating a 1962 Pinal County zoning ordinance by allowing patrons to swing their hips in the open-air courtyard at his Queen Creek, Arizona, venue, named San Tan Flat Saloon and Grill.

Arizona Superior Court Judge William O’Neil overturned the local government’s injunction, which had threatened to fine Bell $700 for every day that the restaurant continued to create a nightclub-type atmosphere in its outdoor area. According to court documents, San Tan Flats would be considered in violation of its commercial zoning permit if its owners did not physically restrict patrons from dancing. (The local government had graciously said that if Mr. Bell wanted to use his restaurant’s small stage for mime and puppet shows, that would be fine. Just not dancing.)

Dale Bell, 58, co-founded San Tan Flat in November 2005 with his son Spencer, now a 17-year-old senior at Arizona State University. The Western-themed family restaurant serves 3,000 to 5,000 customers a week and plays recorded and live music.

Three months after San Tan Flat’s opening day, the county began receiving noise complaints. The sheriff's deputies tested the sound levels multiple times, but never found the saloon to be in violation of the county’s noise ordinance.

But Bell claims that the county continued to come down hard on his business, sending officials to inspect everything from San Tan Flat’s health-code compliance to its firewood stacks. “They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” Bell said.

Bell lost his first two rounds of legal fighting: The citation was upheld first by a county hearing officer, then by the local Board of Supervisors. But in August, a state judge sided with Bell. The county does not plan to appeal.

Well, I’m not much for dancing or going to saloons. Never been very good at dancing personally. However, I have had a few run ins with city hall and local government officials who want to use what little power they actually have to make life miserable for the rest of us. So often, I’ve come away with the attitude of “Why even try to fight city hall! After all, they are always going to win in the end!” Well, in this case, they didn’t win! Strike one up for the small guy!

So, Dale and Spencer Bell, today’s A+ Award goes to two people who fought the law and won! Way to stand up. Way to stand up for what you believe to be right and fair! Now, I just hope the local government folks will leave you the heck alone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hearing Music in My Head Again

Okay, I know what you will say after watching this video. You can go ahead and save your comments! My wife has already said I was crazy for liking this song and even thinking about posting it on my blog. But, have you ever gotten a song in your head and couldn't get rid of it? Well, that's the case with this one.

I first heard it a couple of months ago. As you watch the video, those of you who follow my blog regularly, will know what attracted me to the music. It wasn't the person singing--to be honest--I didn't even know who was singing it until I went out to YouTube! As a matter of fact, this is probably the only song I've ever even heard by this artist! Honest!

So, sit back. Listen. And enjoy the reminder of how sweet Alabama really is!

Comment if you want to. But, save the really, really negative comments, if you don't mind. Knowing that my wife thinks I am crazy is really enough!

Monday's A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award goes to Mrs. Jana Trabert. I rather doubt that you’ve ever heard her name, but after reading this story, I hope you will not soon forget her name.

Here’s the story.

It’s not every day that a happily married woman slips off her wedding ring, once-and- for-all, grinning from ear to ear. But for an Orange Country resident, Jana Trabert, taking off her ring this past spring was a joyous moment.

And, her husband didn’t mind. As a matter of fact, her husband, who is still very much in love with her, is thrilled with Jana’s new found freedom. And he completely supported her decision!

Keep reading. You don’t have a clue what the rest of the story is yet. Jana said, “I’ve always said to myself that I didn’t want to be ordinary. Yet here I am the most ordinary housewife in Orange County, in the middle of something extraordinary.”

You see, Jana sold her wedding ring and donated the proceeds to a charity, With This Ring, to help drill wells in Africa. But Jana isn’t stopping there. Since that momentous day when Jana took off her ring, the Traberts no longer feel bound to their possessions—as a matter of fact, they are selling their house and simplifying their lifestyle so that they can help even more.The Traberts say that Orange County, California, is roughly the same size as Yendi, a region in Ghana stricken with disease due to lack of clean drinking water. “Orange County Gives Back is our chance to give from all we have, to share with our brothers and sisters in Yendi. It’s a reminder that we have more wealth on one finger than most of the world’s residents see their entire lives,” says Ali Eastburn, founder of With This Ring. “Orange County Gives Back is a collaboration of local businesses and individuals to raise the $160,000 needed to drill 20 wells in Yendi.Eastburn founded With This Ring in 2007 after she sold her own wedding ring. She now encourages other women to do the same. To date, 50 women have donated their rings, resulting in two completed well projects this year.Eastburn emphasizes that a donated ring not only brings clean water to Africans, it changes the giver. That is clearly evident in Jana Trabert. Eastburn says of Trabert, “To see Jana now, you would think that she has always been a world changer. It is only when you hear her story you learn that the change has been recent.”I’m not sure I want to recommend to my wife to donate her wedding ring or engagement ring. However, I greatly admire the Trabert’s commitment to helping others around the world.

I’ve been in one worship service where people felt led to give personal items to help others. After the 2005 Tsunami, our church committed to rebuilding homes in Thailand. The pastor challenged us to give to help. In less than a day, we raised over $125,000! Yes, you read that right! Sure, some people gave large amounts of money. However, we witnessed women giving their wedding rings and men donating watches. We saw families giving their automobile to the church, to be sold and the money going to help rebuild homes. That was a moving service and powerful testimonies of what God was doing came out of that service and the services to come. Several hundred homes were ultimately build because of the sacrificial giving of so many in our church.

Mrs. Jana Trabert is great example of sacrificial giving. Way to go! Mrs. Trabert, you definitely deserve the A+ Award of the Day! I admire your commitment to this cause! I admire your husband’s support. A+ may not be enough to recognize what you’ve done! Well done!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Has Officially Arrived

Fall has officially arrived!

My wife is the best decorator in the world. She likes to decorate for spring, summer, fall, and winter. She has the best eye for how things should look and really makes things look festive.

While I love to decorate for Christmas, and that is my favorite season of the year, my wife loves to decorate for every season or no season in particular.

And, she's great at doing it! Here's a picture of our fireplace in our family room.

So, as you can tell, fall has arrived at our house, even though it is nearly 80 degrees outside, it is fall time inside!

Let Worship Begin

Folks, if this video doesn't cause your heart to pound and prepare you for worship, I'm not sure anything will!

Worship the King today!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Gospel According to Oprah

Take a moment to watch this video, it is only a little over two minutes long. These are her own words. After watching the video, please come back and share your thoughts about the richest woman in the world, and the person that some would say is the most influential woman in the world.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Is This Sexist?

On Wednesday, Reuters ran a photograph of Sarah Palin on her campaign tour (the picture above). The photo has come under fire as being sexist. What do you think? Appropriate? Not appropriate? Why or why not?

Friday's A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award of the Day goes to the Thanksgiving Coffee Company, based in Ft. Bragg, California.

You may remember that on October 2, I wrote a post about The Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative. After doing so, Paul Katzeff, from the Thanksgiving Coffee Company wrote a comment on the blog. Here’s what Mr. Katzeff said:

“JJ is a great visionary but he needs our help to make his dream, (which is now his entire communities dream) come true. This is an economic development project in collaboration with my company, Thanksgiving Coffee Company. The Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative members grow the coffee. We here in Ft Bragg, California, have to sell it. Last year we purchased all their coffee (112,000 pounds) but sold only 25,000 pounds under the Mirembe Kawomera label. The remainder we blended into many of our other organic and Fair Trade blends.

“Help us sell all 112,000 pounds under their label because they receive a $1.00 rebate from each roasted package we sell under their name. Last year they received an extra $25,000 bonus and the coop used that money to purchase some land and to build a coffee warehouse to strengthen their cooperative going forward.

“The story is a work in progress. When you think about coffee, let us be the place you support with a purchase of a truly flavorful coffee that really is as good as the story behind it.”

Thank you Mr. Katzeff for commenting! And, more importantly, thank you for telling us more of the story-behind-the story about JJ’s work and how your company is supporting his efforts. (Readers, when you go to their site, be sure to read the history of how and why the company started.)

You have gone the extra, extra, extra mile in supporting JJ and his community. For that, I want to give you today’s A+ Award! You deserve it!

Now, it is our turn to go that extra mile with you. As you purchase coffee for the holiday season (or any time), why not think of the Thanksgiving Coffee Company! Show them a little love and support, so that they can continue to help JJ and his dream.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Like Mother, Like Son

Dateline: Decatur, Alabama. I hate to report this story, since it comes from my beloved state of Alabama. Decatur is probably 80–90 miles north of Birmingham.

Decatur police say a man accused of attempting to steal electronics from Sears ran to a getaway car driven by his mother. Now, both mother and son are charged with second-degree robbery.

Police charged 40-year-old Angela Wakely Maxwell and 22-year-old Randell Wakely Terry, Jr. in the incident this past Monday. Police Sgt. Rick Archer says a store employee noticed Terry with a Sony Handycam battery valued at $59.99, a $24.99 USB drive, and a $9.99 digital card reader and writer.

Sgt. Archer says Terry struck the employee who attempted to stop him. A bystander called 911 while two employees kept the mother and son at the scene until police arrived.

The two were taken to jail and later released on $5,000 bail each.

You know, mothers do many things. Mothers teach us many things. Mothers get the most cards, phone calls, visits, and gifts.

But, mothers shouldn’t be enabling a son (or daughter for that matter) to be robbing the local Sears store—or any store.

It’s just wrong.

Who knows. Maybe mother and son will be spending a good bit of time together, like 3–5 years, depending on their behavior. Maybe they will be wearing matching outfits, black and white stripes are really in or so I hear. Seems they’ll probably be sharing a lot of meals together and having some quality time without distractions from others outside the family.

Maybe I need to start the F+ Award of the Day. I have a feeling this mother and son deserves the very first award.

Thursday A+ Award of the Day

I am constantly amazed at the energy of youth. Young people can seemingly go from sun up to sun down, without missing a beat! I can almost remember those days. As I said, almost.

I am also amazed at the giving and sacrificing made by so many teenagers today. Not long ago, in Allendale, New Jersey, 16 teenagers from Bergen and Passaic counties were honored for their service to others.

The following teenagers are just a sample of the 16 teenagers recognized:

Toni Marie Brown, an 11th-grader from New Milford, was recognized for volunteering at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus for five years. Toni drives patients, helps to sort and distribute Christmas gifts to patients, organizes art projects for residents, and assists residents with physical exercises.

Natalia Cruz, a 10th-grader from Fair Lawn, was recognized for working with an environmental group to clean the bank of the Passaic River. Natalia also tutors a special-education classmate in middle school and leads the music class for poor children at her church in Paterson.

Liz Diemer, a 12th-grader from Ridgewood, was honored for raising money for charities. Liz also organized fundraising events that raised and distributed more than $7,000 to Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana and Mississippi. She also organized bake sales for a foundation to memorialize a classmate who died of cancer and prepared meals for homeless people in Paterson.

Jillian Duarte, another 12th-grader from Ridgewood, was honored for going on a mission trip to Mexico organized by West Side Presbyterian Church. Jillian helped to build a concrete block house, helped run a vacation church school for children, and worked in a free dental clinic in Reynosa, Mexico. A frequent volunteer, Jillian helps with food drives with social services, works in a soup kitchen, organizes a program to collect puzzles for children in disadvantaged schools, and volunteers in the cancer unit at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Walter Galvez, a 12th-grader from Pompton Plains, continually volunteers at his church to help those in need. He also works with Good Counsel Homes in Hoboken, spending his Saturday mornings cleaning, painting, and building a home for single mothers and their babies. Walter also volunteered in the Interfaith homeless shelters and has been a counselor for Vacation Bible School.

WOW! Every one of those young people deserve today’s A+ Award!

I’m not sure I ever served like that when I was a teenager. Heck, I’m not sure I serve like that now!

A+ Award to all of these teenagers and their families for encouraging this community service!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

That's What I'm Talking About!

Last night, Blogger friend Kevin and I were on Facebook at the same time. He passed along a great link to me!

It seems that the state of Alabama will soon have a new tag coming out!

Click here to see the proposed tag. After looking at the tag come on back and comment!

For many years, the state of Alabama has used "Stars Fell on Alabama" license plates. But, thankfully, these will be replaced by the newly designed plate that features a cool pastel-colored beach scene with the phrase "Sweet Home Alabama."

The new design carries the Alabama Tourism Department's "Sweet Home Alabama" theme that was developed a year ago and appears in print ads and television commercials promoting the state as a vacation destination.

As you know by now, I'm a huge "Sweet Home Alabama" fan! It's about time that the state of Alabama caught up with my fanship!

Wednesday's A+ Award of the Day

In mid-September, in Phoenix, Arizona, a family arranged a Family Game Night at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Jackie and Matt Behm, who own an online rental group set up several Wii and PS3 stations so families could play games like Mario Kart Wii together.

The idea for the game night was born out of the realization that families involved with hospital stays don’t get to do activities together like they used to; playing games might be one of the few things everyone can do together.

“What little we do for [the patients and their families] is not anywhere near enough, but hopefully we are doing something invaluable for them,” said Jackie Behm to the Arizona Republic. “If they’d let me, I’d bring a Wii down there every Friday if I could.”

Matt Behm said that about 70–75 people attended the event, which was held in the hospital cafeteria; roughly 30 kids who were hospitalized showed up, with about 20 parents and a number of hospital staff joining in to play games with the patients and families.

My brother’s oldest daughter has had multiple life-threatening illnesses in her young life. She has been in and out of Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, more times than I can count. Most of those hospital stays required days, if not, weeks of hospital stays. My family has always been appreciative of organizations like Ronald McDonald House that provides housing for the family members of the hospitalized children. They have been life-savers! We always appreciated countless others who gave of their time and energy to help during those long hospital stays.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Behm for your commitment to the children of Phoenix, Arizona, and the surrounding area! Thank you for your love of the children, families, and hospital staff. May your tribe increase—not only in Phoenix, but all across the world.

Way to Go! Truly, an A+ Award goes to the Behm family!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God of This City

Tuesday's A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award goes to Ms. Rosetta Ragusa.

In the past two years, 16 year old Rosetta Ragusa has raised almost $4,000 for SOS Children’s Villages (SOS Children’s Villages was founded in 1949 to provide families for orphaned and abandoned children. Today there are over 450 villages in 132 countries around the world. The mission of SOS is to build families for children in need, help them shape their own futures and share in the development of their communities.)

Ragusa spends many weekends outside her local grocery store in La Crescenta, California, collecting donations and raising awareness for the world’s orphans. In addition to weekend “awareness booths,” she formed a “Save Uganda” school club and is producing a video to distribute in her community.

“I first became interested in SOS-USA when I was given an advanced history assignment and had to research a service project,” says Ragusa. “Once I learned of the impact SOS-USA has around the world, I took my assignment out of the classroom and into the real world.”

When she learned how decades of conflict and disease left an entire generation of Ugandan children orphaned, Ragusa decided to take action. She began by educating her community and peers about the needs of orphaned and abandoned children in Uganda, and ultimately by raising funds for SOS-USA.

“Rosetta Ragusa is an exceptional example of a well-intentioned young woman who knows that each one of us can make a difference. We are thrilled to have her volunteering for us, and we support and commend Rosetta for everything she is doing,” states Heather Paul, CEO of SOS-USA.

Ragusa also receives support and encouragement from her family and peers. “It makes me feel blessed that young kids in my community recognize me for my passion for SOS-USA, but to myself I am just an ordinary girl in a big world trying to help Ugandan people.”

Way to go Ms. Ragusa! What a great example you are to teenagers, children, and adults! Your efforts will make a long-term difference in the lives of thousands!

And, the next time someone tells you that all teenagers are bad, just tell them the story of today's A+ Award winner: Rosetta Ragusa!

A+ Ms. Ragusa! A+

Monday, October 6, 2008

Alabama is a Sweet Home

My blogger friend Bill and I share a love. We both like the "big hair" rock groups from years ago. I suppose that's what we grew up with, and they really influenced our taste in music. While this may not be your taste in music, it does beat rap! Not even close!

Found this video of another big hair group playing what probably should become the national athem--at least everyone in Alabama would know the words!

Kevin, this one's for you!

Monday's A+ Award of the Day

Many people with money like to let everyone know that they have money. They often like to be flashy, brazen, and sometimes obnoxious. The majority of these people have never read the Millionare Next Door book.

Now, compare those traits to a quiet philanthropist who stood recently beside the movie-star governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to celebrate the Bernard Osher Foundation’s unprecedented $70 million donation to California community college students.

Have you ever heard of Mr. Osher? Probably not. But, he's worth getting to know.

Bernard Osher, 80, was too modest to address the crowd gathered in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Capitol office for a donation ceremony. He remained calm and respectful, always standing to the side of the podium. But as students snapped pictures of Schwarzenegger afterward, Osher beamed about how his latest education gift could help generations of students.

The San Francisco-based Osher Foundation has committed $50 million toward an endowment to pay for scholarships for the state’s poorest community college students starting in 2009. That money will pay for $1,000 awards to defray the costs of textbooks, lab fees, and other items beyond registration fees. An additional $20 million gift is dedicated toward scholarships for students who transfer to four-year California schools.

Osher grew up in Biddeford, Maine, as the son of working-class immigrants from Russia and Lithuania. His parents owned a hardware and plumbing store, where he worked with his siblings before attending Maine’s prestigious Bowdoin College.

He then co-founded Golden West Financial Corp., parent company of World Savings Bank, which was sold to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24 billion. An avid collector of American art whose collection includes works by Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, Osher bought the San Francisco-based auction house Butterfield & Butterfield in 1970. He sold it to eBay in 1999 for $260 million.

Business Week last year named Osher the 11th most generous philanthropist in the world. The magazine estimated his lifetime giving at $805 million.

Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman said that Osher “does not like to speak or to be recognized,” but that he tells her every day that the foundation needs to “focus, focus, focus.”

What a great story! What a positive witness! Our world definitely needs more men (and women) like Mr. Osher. Way to go!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Church Boo-Boos

Do you remember Grady Nutt? Maybe. More than likely, probably not.

Grady Nutt was a preacher turned comedian. And man, was he funny. He made countless appearances on the old TV show Hee-Haw. He was a writer. He travelled the countryside sharing "church" stories. He made people laugh and cry.

I had the opportunity to hear Grady Nutt when he came to Samford University, when I was in college.

To this day, I still believe he was one of the funniest men to ever live. Maybe, that's because I was a preacher too. It was great seeing a preacher laugh and have fun--I had seen so little of that growing up! But, Grady knew how to tell a joke and he knew how to laugh. He often couldn't continue his routine because he was laughing so hard.

Grady Nutt's life ended way too soon. He died in a plane crash after entertaining thousands of people. At the time, he was only 47 or 48 years old. Way too young. And, our world lost so much humor that night.

As you focus on church today and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords, take a moment to listen to this great recording by Grady Nutt. I hope you will be smiling as much as I have listening to him once again. And, I hope you don't have any church boo-boos today! Well, even if you do--go ahead, laugh and smile--I promise, it will be okay!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Clothes with that Sandwich?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch anymore for Black Frog Restaurant patrons nervy enough to run down a dock and plunge naked into Moosehead Lake. Black Frog Restaurant is located in Greenville, Maine.

Owner Leigh Turner decided Thursday to stop giving out a free Skinny Dip sandwich—that’s thinly sliced prime rib on a baguette—for a skinny dip after the town board voted to deny his liquor license renewal application.

In their decision the night before, selectmen in the popular tourist town noted that they would have had no problem granting the license if the promotion ended for the $10.95 sandwich.

Thus, said Turner, dropping the deal was a no-brainer. “Au jus” wins out over “au naturel.”
He had said last year that he had two or three takers a week, and no frontal nudity was exposed to customers. But police said they had gotten several complaints, and three people received summonses for indecent conduct. They have pleaded not guilty. [I’ve always wondered how people could do that—since obviously they were naked.]

Authorities noted that stories about the Skinny Dip had circulated worldwide, and the indecency charge is a misdemeanor, like disorderly conduct. Police Chief Scott MacMaster said he would recommend any establishment lose its liquor license for illegal goings-on.

What do you think? Dropping these “special sandwiches” a good idea?

Or, are you like me, sitting here thinking that we are talking about Maine! Can it really be warm enough to skinny dip and dive into a lake? Well, apparently there are some very brave souls in Maine! But, since we are talking about Maine, knowing that it isn’t that heavily populated, how many people actually saw the naked diners?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday's A+ Award of the Day

Today’s A+ Award goes to Tian Harter from California. Many ideas out of the West Coast are too radical for my tastes, but this story is definitely one worthy of repeating—especially with the state of the economy and gas prices today.

Tian Harter started a campaign titled: “Don’t be Fuelish.” The campaign was a way to promote bicycle commuting. He never dreamed of how successful it would become.

Tian said, “I just wouldn’t have predicted a few years ago when I started producing my bumper stickers that I’d be seeing $4/gallon gas so soon.”

He soon formed an allegiance with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition as a way to promote “Bike to Work Day”. Together, this group of bike afficianados set up close to 50 stations (called “Energizer Stations”) which provides the bicycling commuters refreshments, giveaways, and just plain old encouragement.

Tian’s philosophy is to make everyone who breaks free from the fuel trap feel special and noticed on a community level. Local businesses are happy to donate as well, so the prizes these bicyclists receive are often quite substantial, like a free dinner or discounted sports equipment. In addition, Tian and friends work with local heavyweights like Google and Yahoo as well as major government and community agencies, whom also help foster a “commuter bike approach” with their employees.

“Bike to Work Day,” which started 14 years ago in San Francisco, has now spread nationwide. Bicycle friendly cities from across the U.S. participate, increasing the public awareness and importance of moving away from fuel-reliance.

I live six miles from my office. Unfortunately, in my community there are no safe routes for me to take to get to work. The only road that leads to my office is a 4–6 lane highway, with the speed limit of 55 miles per hour on most of it. So, while I would love to take a bicycle to work, I just don’t see it happening any time soon. And, when I mention buying a motorcycle to commute to work, my wife reminds me that I take our son to daycare each morning and pick him up in the afternoon! Not sure they make helmets for an eight-month-old!

Anyway, Mr. Harter has a great idea! He deserves an A+ Award for the day. Way to go! Way to go!