Music Monday

When I hear the phrase “You might be the only Jesus someone else ever sees,” this song jumps to my mind!

Collin RayeWhat If Jesus Comes Back Like That

Big Announcement

    Sorry. It’s not an announcement about my writing! Believe it or not, there have actually been other things on my mind lately than my books. Hard to believe—especially for me! Not to say that I am not thinking about my writing at all. There are more characters than I can count crowding my head, demanding their stories be heard. And I am getting their stories out on paper as fast as I can.

    No, my big announcement is not about my writing career. It is about my life. It is about saving my life. So in that sense, I guess that the announcement is about my writing. After all, if I am not living, my writing won’t happen. Though I am told that books tend to sell better when the author is no longer living…. But, no. I am not interested in selling books that badly!

    My announcement is very personal. I am announcing to you, my dear readers, that as of Friday, February 25, 2011 my weight is 438 pounds. The good news is that it is lower than the last time I stepped on a scale. The bad news is that it is over 400 pounds. And if the weight continues to go up, it will be the end of my life. In fact, I know what my weight was on Friday because I was at my doctor’s office, suffering from chest pains and shortness of breath. The EKG showed an area of concern. I saw the report—it said across the top UNABLE TO RULE OUT ANTERIOR INFARCTION. Basically, the EKG was unable to say if I’d had a heart attack or not. That meant a hospital stay, blood work, EKGs every 6 hours, a chest scan, ultrasound of the veins in my legs, and an echocardiogram. Those tests found nothing but a healthy heart. No heart attack, no blood clots. The final diagnosis was severe acid reflux. Two Prilosec pills a day and that will be taken care of.

    So how does admitting that I weigh nearly 450 pounds save my life? Admitting it to you does not. But admitting it myself, finally facing that this extra weight is not only making me look like a pregnant cow but it is affecting my health, does save my life. The big life saver is that I know realize that I need to do something drastic to get the weight off. I’ve considered gastric bypass before. After all, I know two women who have had the procedure and have done very, very well with it. And I have considered gastric banding. Again, I know a woman who has lost a lot of weight and is living a more active lifestyle due to that procedure. Neither one seemed right for me. The idea of rerouting my digestive tract scares me. And the band is not recommended for patients at my size. Besides, my health insurance wouldn’t cover a weight loss procedure. As much as I might think it necessary, I can’t come up with $10,000 out of pocket to pay for it. (If you would like to contribute, however, let me know and I can share my PayPal address with you….)

    Last October, while undergoing IV antibiotic treatments for pneumonia, my health insurance coverage changed. Having to change insurance in the midst of a treatment like that is not fun, especially when the new company doesn’t cover the doctor who ordered the treatment. But that is a different story! While sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the IV medication to drip into my arm, the billing clerk came to speak with me. She was able to pull up a general list of what is covered under my new insurance plan. Though my doctor was not covered, the IV treatment was. I was relieved to hear that. Before she went back to her desk, she handed me the printout of coverage. Having nothing else to do, I read through the list. My eyes about bugged out of my head when I read “Weight Loss Surgery covered at 100% if medically necessary.” Seriously? 100%? I wanted to jump up and scream with joy. Couldn’t because of the IV in my arm, but oh I wanted to! When I got home, I showed it to my husband. I began to do some research, learned there are other options besides the bypass and the band, found a center nearby that could perform the procedure and would work with my insurance, and then I made an appointment to attend an information seminar.

    The seminar was on January 4. I’ve spent the time since then researching surgical options and waiting on my March 3 medical evaluation. I have made a decision—I plan to have what is called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Basically what this procedure does is reduce the stomach to a long narrow tube (which looks similar in shape to the sleeve of a jacket) by removing a large portion of my stomach. The portion that is removed is the portion where hunger hormones are produced. That will cut down on my food cravings. Though part of the stomach is removed, there is no rerouting of the digestive tract. This procedure just makes the stomach smaller. And because there is no rerouting, I can still eat pretty much whatever kind of food I want. I will just have to eat in smaller portions. That doesn’t mean I am going to eat junk food and fried food and fast food at every meal. If I do that, what is left of my stomach can still stretch out again, and I could be right back where I am. But it is nice to know that I can still have cake and ice cream at birthday parties, Daddy’s chip dip at Christmas, and samples of the desserts the ladies of Cascades Wesleyan Church bring to potlucks.

    I know I still have a long road ahead of me. And when I have my evaluation on Thursday, it is possible that I will find out the doctors don’t think the sleeve is the best procedure for me. My research, though, shows me that it is. I feel very comfortable with the decision.

    Since my evaluation is on Thursday, I am planning to update my weight loss journey here every Thursday. I’ll share pictures and everything, so you can see how this journey is working for me.

    Oh! And there are two steps that I have already taken to help get in me in the mindset that I need to have in order for the surgery to work. The surgery is a weight loss tool; it’s not a magic balm that will just take the weight away. If I don’t use other tools along with it, it will be a big waste of time and money. One thing I have done is join Overeaters Anonymous. There is a local group that meets a few times each week. The people I have met there have been so helpful and so very supportive. It’s only been a couple of months that I have been serious about my commitment to the OA program, and I have already learned so much—about myself and why I eat. Being a part of this group is a real blessing for me. The other thing I have done is join the Obesity Help online community. A cousin pointed me toward them, and I am just so happy she did. There is a lot of good information there, and there is a message board specifically for the sleeve. Hearing first-hand what people are going through and seeing their experiences is so inspiring. This morning, I read a post by a woman near my size that had the sleeve in August and has already lost 100 pounds. That gives me hope.

    Please, feel free to comment on this post. Let me know what you think of my decision. Even if you don’t agree, that’s OK! This feels like the right decision for me. If sharing my journey helps others, well, then I am happy to do it!

Be Responsible with Mental Health Advice

Thanks to a link on Facebook this afternoon, I came across a blog called FEEL YOUR SELF WORTH. If the blog title wasn’t interesting enough, the title of today’s post sure was: the happy pill has turned into a death warrant. Wow. I sure had to read that one.

And now that I have read it, there is a lot I want to say! I couldn’t get my response to her to post on her blog, so I am posting it here.

Have you considered that perhaps you were on the wrong pill? The haziness and fuzzy head and not caring are all things that I experienced during my most depressed moments. Those feelings were intensified on some medications. It wasn’t until my doctor found the right pill in the right dose for me that I began to crawl out of depression.

Advising people to not take anti-depressants–that is very irresponsible. No, the pills don’t work for everyone. There are some who may not be helped no matter what pill they take. But to just blatantly say “don’t take them, the pills will kill you” makes no sense. Would tell a diabetic not to take insulin? Would you tell an asthmatic not to use their inhaler? Would you tell a cancer patient not to attempt chemo or radiation?

Depression–true depression–is not just a sad feeling. It’s not just a severe case of the blues because your life isn’t going in the direction that you want it to go in. It’s not a matter of no self-worth. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. In many cases, it needs to be treated with medication to restore the balance.

Rather than telling people to not take these pills, what you should do is encourage others to take an active role in their own health. If you are taking a pill and you don’t like the way it makes you feel, tell your doctor! If he or she is worth the paper their medical degree is printed on, there will be no problem in changing you to a different medication. If there is a fight about trying a new medication, then perhaps you need to find a new doctor. It is YOUR health. If something doesn’t feel right to you, you have every right to look for other options.

And yes, I realize that for some the other options include no medication. If that works, great! It doesn’t work for everyone, though. I am not going to stand up and say, “You have got to try this happy pill that I am using; it will cure all of your depression problems.” It won’t. What works for me may not work for you. And that is OK. God made us all different, so we are all going to respond differently to things. The trick to fully recovering from depression is first realizing that you have an illness and then finding the right treatment for you.

If you do not need medication, then by all means don’t take it. Just don’t knock those of us that do. Share your story, share your experience, but don’t hinder someone else’s recovery by advising them to stay away from anti-depressants just because the pills didn‘t work for you.  If you want to help others, do it in a responsible way.

AntidepressantMajor depressive disorderMental health

Music Monday

CCMChristian Contemporary MusicI RefuseJosh Wilson

Lost at Sea: Review of THE PIRATE QUEEN

After years of turning a blind eye to her cheating husband’s ways, Saphora Warren has finally had enough. She has her bags packed and is just about to walk out the door when her plastic surgeon husband gives her the news that he has terminal cancer.

What happens next leads Saphora on a journey to discover just how much the human heart can handle and what true love really is.

In her novel The Pirate Queen Patricia Hickman explores the life of a southern wife whose life is turned upside down when he plans to leave her husband and start life over are turn upside down. Saphora does start a new life–but it is not at all in the way that she expected.

What I liked about this book was the descriptive language that Hickman used to describe the setting. I’ve never been to North Carolina, but I could see it all in my mind’s eye with word pictures she painted.

Unfortunately, that was about all I liked about the book. I had a hard time following the plot and caring about what was happening to the various characters. The way that Saphora seemed to always allow herself to be a doormat for her husband and even for her children really grated on my nerves. When I reached the end, I was not relieved to see so many loose ends in the story finally tied up–I was just relieved that the book was finished.

While the book may have been well-written, it was too confusing for me to follow. I still do not understand the significance of the title The Pirate Queen. This is one book that I am not likely to recommend to others.

North CarolinaPatricia HickmanThe Pirate QueenWaterBrook Press

It Is Well

The first time I remember hearing the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was in August of 2001. It is possible that I had heard and even had the opportunity to sing the song before. But it was at my Grandmother’s funeral that I first clearly recall hearing the song. The song is forever tied to Grandma Marilene in my memories now. For a long time I after, I couldn’t hear the song without crying. As for singing the song–yeah, right. That wasn’t likely to happen at all!

My next clear memory of the song came about 3 ½ years later, after my miscarriage. I was in the shower, crying in pain when the song came into my head. For a moment, I felt like God was reaching out to hold me. Singing the song then did make me feel better for a moment, though I can’t say that it changed much in the long run.

Have you ever heard the song? In many ways it is a sad song. At the same time, it holds a message of hope. The basic meaning of the song is that times might be tough, but by trusting in God through it all, you can have peace in your song.

Ever more sad than the song is the story behind how it was written. The song was written by an American lawyer named Horatio Spafford in the late 1800’s. Mr. Spafford knew a bit about tragedy–first he lost most of what he owned in the Chicago fire of 1871. Two years later, his wife and four daughters were taking a trip to England. The ship they were sailing on sank, and only Mrs. Spafford survived. While traveling to England himself to meet up with his wife, Mr. Spafford wrote the lyrics to the song.

It is amazing to me how he could even think the words “It is well with my soul”, let alone write them, in the midst of such a personal tragedy. It’s been six years since my miscarriage and there are times when I don’t feel like anything is well with me, least of all with my soul. It shows the deep love of God this man and the close relationship he shared with his Savior that he was able to write a song that speaks to the hearts and souls of Christians over 100 years later.

Horatio SpaffordMusic

More about the 1961 US Figure Skaters

United States Olympic Committee headquarters i...

Image via Wikipedia

Retrospective: 1961 US Figure Skating Championships.

I came across this article today and I absolutely loved it.  Not only does this talk about how figure skating has changed throughout the last 50 years, it also talks about the lives lost on the crash of Sabena Flight 548.  It sure makes me want to go to Colorado Springs to visit the World Figure Skating Museum.

Maybe that could be a trip to take in a few years, though I have a feeling my husband and sons will be more than a little bored with it!

  • Figure skaters pay tribute to victims of ’61 crash (
1961Colorado SpringsFigure skatingIce skatingPragueSabena Flight 548SkatingSkating Clubs and RinkstragedyUS figure skatingworld championshipsWorld Figure Skating Museum

February Tragedy

World Figure Skating Championships, Tokyo. Tak...

Image via Wikipedia

The Deadly Plane Crash That Nearly Killed A Sport : NPR.

Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in myself that I don’t stop and think about the pain others might be dealing with.  Like right now–the 6th anniversary of my miscarriage is approaching.  I keep thinking nothing could be sadder than that.

Then I saw this story this morning.  Talk about sad.  My miscarriage touched very few lives, and none outside of my circle of family and friends.  This plane crash touched families, friends, and fans of a sport.  It affected the whole world.

I wasn’t alive when this happened.  The crash was 15 years–almost to the day–before I was born.  But as a figure skating fan, I knew about it.  The entire United States figure skating team–athletes and coaches alike–were on board a plane heading to Prague for the 1961 world championships when the plane crashed.  No one survived.

At the time, America was a figure skating powerhouse.  Our atheletes were the ones to beat.  Great things were expected from this particular team.  Their loss was felt deeply.  Out of respect for these lives lost, the figure skating world championships were cancelled that year.

In all, this crash claimed 72 lives–the figure skaters, their coaches, family members, skating judges, the crew of the plane, 29 other passengers, and one person on the ground.  Fifty years later, they are still missed, still thought about, still the subject of countless “what ifs”.

And perhaps those skaters are in Heaven now, teaching my little one how to skate, spin, and jump across the ice.

  • Figure skaters pay tribute to victims of ’61 crash (
1961Figure skatingFigure skating world championshipsIce skatingPragueSabena Flight 548SkatingSkating Clubs and RinksU.S. Figure SkatingUS figure skating

Robert G. Pielke’s A New Birth of Freedom


My love of reading came from my mother. My love of history–and my tolerance for science fiction–came from my

Click here for an excerpt from the book

 father. These passions–and that said tolerance!–collided for me when I read Robert G. Pielke’s book A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor.

I LOVED this book! And that is unusual for me. OK, so it’s not unusual that I would love a book. It is just unusual that I would love a book that doesn’t have a romance in it. In fact, now that I think of it, I am not sure there were any female characters in the book. Not that it’s a bad thing. This book was just about perfect, even without a woman’s touch.

The problem that I am having is giving you a description of the plot without giving anything away. The best that I can do is say that the book revolves around a visitor from America’s distant future trying to save humanity by traveling to 1860’s Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

What I liked about the book was the attention to detail. Historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee are described just as history books portray them. And I don’t just mean in their looks. Pielke brings the men to life with their mannerisms and personality quirks. It was done in such a way that it both men seemed very real. It was wonderful.

Another great thing about the book is that while reading it I didn’t often feel like I was reading. It was more like watching a movie. I felt like I was transported to the scene, watching everything unfold as the story was told.

The one thing I didn’t like was the ending. AARRUUGGHH!!! Talk about a cliff-hanger! It did set up for the next book in the series. I can hardly wait to have that book in my hands.

Read the author's blog here



Robert G. Pielke’s  Bio:
Robert G. Pielke, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, now lives in Claremont, California. He earned a B.A. in History at the University of Maryland, an M. Div. in Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the Claremont Graduate School.

He taught on ground and online for countless years at George Mason University in Virginia, El Camino College in California and online for the University of Phoenix. Now happily retired from “the job,” he is doing what he always wanted to do since he wrote his first novel at ten in elementary school. It was one paragraph, three pages long and, although he didn’t know it at the time, it was alternate history.

His academic writings have been in the area of ethics, including a boring academic treatise called Critiquing Moral Arguments, logic, and popular culture. Included in the latter is an analysis of rock music entitled You Say You Want a Revolution: Rock Music in American Culture. He has also published short stories, feature articles, film and restaurant reviews. His novels include a savagely satirical novel on America and its foibles, proclivities and propensities, Hitler the Cat Goes West, and an alternate history, science fiction novel, The Mission.

Most recently, he has updated and revised his book on rock music, which is being republished by McFarland & Co.

He swims daily, skis occasionally, cooks as an avocation, watches innumerable movies, collects rock and roll concert films, is an avid devotee of Maryland crabs and maintains a rarely visited blog filled with his social and political ravings. His favorite film is the original Hairspray; his favorite song is “A Day in the Life”; his favorite pizza is from the original Ledo Restaurant in College Park, MD; and he is a firm believer in the efficacy of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” Somehow his family and friends put up with him.

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Altered Dimensions Press

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Robert G. Pielke’s Facebook:!/robert.pielke

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For Grandpa

One of the most influential people in my life is a man I barely remember. When he passed away suddenly, 31 years ago today, I was not quite four years old. The one “memory” I have of sharing vanilla ice cream with him is, well, it’s a memory I am not even sure is my own. I don’t know if I really remember it or if I have just heard my sisters and cousins talk about it so much that I think I remember.

I’ve heard the stories they have shared about spending time with Grandpa Avery. To be totally honest, I am kind of jealous of that. From the stories I’ve heard about riding the church bus and playing with grandpa and his dogs, I feel like I really missed out on something special.

I’ve heard Mom mention that Grandpa (Daddy, as she always refers to him; there is something touching about a 60-year-old woman who still thinks of her father as Daddy) really liked the song “How Great Thou Art.” Every time I hear that song, I think of him. I can see that smile on his face and just imagine that little bald man singing his heart out in Heaven’s choir.

My dad has often said that Grandpa Avery was one of the greatest men he ever knew. How many men say that about their father-in-law? He has never said one bad thing about Grandpa. Which must mean he has never had one bad thought about him. After all, my Daddy isn’t one to keep his opinions to himself!

Even though I didn’t get to have Grandpa Avery physically in my life for very long, his influence has been there all along. Grandpa was a good man, a kind man, a man who loved God and his family with all his heart. He passed that love on to my mother and her siblings; they passed it on to their children; and we are passing it along to ours. Sometimes I like to think that he is sitting with Grandma on the front porch swing of their Heavenly mansion, watching what we are doing. I hope they are both pleased with what they see.