What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Softer

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mer­cies and God of all com­fort, who com­forts us in all our afflic­tion so that we will be able to com­fort those who are in any afflic­tion with the com­fort with which we our­selves are com­fort­ed by God. For just as the suf­fer­ings of Christ are ours in abun­dance, so also our com­fort is abun­dant through Christ. But if we are afflict­ed, it is for your com­fort and sal­va­tion; or if we are com­fort­ed, it is for your com­fort, which is effec­tive in the patient endur­ing of the same suf­fer­ings which we also suf­fer; and our hope for you is firm­ly ground­ed, know­ing that as you are shar­ers of our suf­fer­ings, so also you are shar­ers of our com­fort.
2 Corinthi­ans 1:3–7 NASB

Nursing School Update — Aced Chem. Treading Physiology Water

Health and heart strug­gles con­tin­ue, but I did pull an A in Chem. Phys­i­ol­o­gy is prov­ing a bit of a strug­gle, just get­ting every­ing done.

The late sum­mer ses­sion I will be tak­ing Phys­i­ol­o­gy & Lab, and Nurs­ing 209 in the ear­ly fall ses­sion before tak­ing the TEAS VI exam a cou­ple of times before apply­ing to the Nurs­ing Pro­gram for the March 2019 cohort.

Nursing School Update — Resuming with Chem 109

So after an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult year of health and heart, I will be resum­ing my nurs­ing degree track with Chem 109: Chem­istry for Health Pro­fes­sion­als on Tues­day, May 1st. I’m look­ing for­ward to it with equal parts antic­i­pa­tion and trep­i­da­tion.

The late sum­mer ses­sion I will be tak­ing Phys­i­ol­o­gy & Lab, and the ear­ly fall ses­sion will round out all of my pre­req­ui­sites need­ed before tak­ing the TEAS VII exam and apply­ing to the Nurs­ing Pro­gram.

Ear­ly spring ses­sion will be my first oppor­tu­ni­ty to take Nurs 209 the intro­duc­to­ry course with clin­i­cals. I haven’t yet fig­ured out how I’m to pay for that and keep a job as the clin­i­cals are dur­ing day­time hours. Pray­ing for wis­dom.

Laid Up On Da Green

The Driftwood Rule
If you plan to go beach­comb­ing, a word about a local cus­tom. It’s not a law, as such, but you’ll cause severe offence if you break the rule that says you can only pick up drift­wood and oth­er flot­sam if it’s lying below the high­est tide mark. Any­thing ‘laid up on da [the] green’, as they say, has been put there by some­one else and they’ll be back for it some day so please leave it alone. Con­sid­er­ing the val­ue of drift­wood in a large­ly tree­less arch­i­pel­ago, the fact that this rule is uni­ver­sal­ly observed says some­thing about the hon­esty of the islanders. — Shetland.org

Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Shetland (TV series)There’s a BBC crime ser­i­al on Net­flix by name of Shet­land, and it’s mak­ing me dream again on that part of the world. That nature. Those peo­ple. The stark beau­ty. The ever-present wind, the sun, and the rain. It reminds me much of the beach in Fanor, Co Clare in the Bur­ren at Rock­yview Farm­house. The peo­ple and the things they con­sid­er cus­tom­ary that strangers like meself find endear­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing. Just now, “The Drift­wood Rule”.

I nev­er want­ed to leave Ire­land. Nev­er want­ed to leave the north­ern coast, or the Arran Islands, which Shet­land puts me in mind of. Real­ly, any part of Ire­land except­ing the indus­tri­al­ized agri­cul­ture areas of North­ern Ire­land. It’s love­ly to be able to immerse myself for a brief peri­od of time while watch­ing.

C’ello. Nice tae meetcha.

I’m lov­ing lit­tle serendip­i­tous hap­pen­ings and try­ing to hold onto them as teth­ers to this life… try­ing with delib­er­a­tion not to let them slip by unno­ticed, unre­marked. As such I want to relate the serendip­i­ty before expla­na­tive back­ground. I’m chuffed and a lit­tle bewil­dered.

This morn­ing in the last 10 min­utes of Sun­day wor­ship prac­tice it was decid­ed that I should have a go at play­ing a cel­lo part for the spe­cial music dur­ing the offer­ing. I was delight­ed and a bit ter­ri­fied (though sur­pris­ing­ly not trou­bled by jit­ters). We played a song I’ve long want­ed us to play, Your Glo­ry as per­formed by All Sons & Daugh­ters and I was priv­i­leged to join the beau­ti­ful piano, gui­tar and drums of Ingrid, Adam, and Stephen, and beau­ti­ful (Dur­ing prac­tice, beau­ti­ful. On stage, I’m not cer­tain I heard them at all.) vocals of the first two and our Glyn hold­ing down the low end of the vocal spec­trum.

I’m hon­est­ly not cer­tain how good it sound­ed, but it felt good and it did seem peo­ple were wor­ship­ing, and sev­er­al were delib­er­ate in giv­ing affir­ma­tions after­ward.

So, to the back­sto­ry. I’ve always loved the cel­lo. I feel it has a phys­i­cal res­o­nance with the human body that allows it to touch and pen­e­trate and stim­u­late and com­fort where oth­er instru­ments do not. That said, in all my oth­er musi­cal affec­tions, the cel­lo has always felt a bit beyond grasp. I’ve had Great High­land Bag­pipes. I’ve built a prac­tice set of Uil­leann Pipes. I have three ear­ly sys­tem flutes, two of which for cer­tain were built in the 1800s. I’ve got­ten to own and have enor­mous plea­sure from all sorts of whis­tles, recorders, gui­tars, ban­jos, a con­certi­na, man­dolins, a vio­lin, a Bodhrán, a Glock­en­spiel, pianos, clar­inets, and a bouzou­ki.

At uni­ver­si­ty, I stud­ied flute and bas­soon and played in com­mu­ni­ty ensem­bles. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for ensem­ble work, I’ve always strug­gled with get­ting lost, con­fused, and mud­dled if play­ing any­thing not hold­ing the core shape of the melody.

For some rea­son, the cel­lo seemed beyond grasp of my sil­ly hobbyist’s desires to make music with all the beau­ti­ful clever con­trap­tions that have caught my fan­cy.

Then, a cou­ple of years ago some­thing very unfor­tu­nate hap­pened. A good friend and musi­cal men­tor passed away sud­den­ly leav­ing the church bereft of a bass play­er to lay foun­da­tion and har­mon­i­cal­ly under­pin the melod­ic tex­ture of the oth­er instru­ments. Also, by serendip­i­ty, a young man of our church had moved on to dif­fer­ent mis­sion­al adven­tures, leav­ing behind a beau­ti­ful Ibanez 5-string elec­tric bass, and every time I’ve inquired if he want­ed it back, he has respond­ed by say­ing, “If it’s being used to fur­ther the king­dom, I think it prob­a­bly where God wants it.”

I start­ed teach­ing myself to play the thing while sit­ting at the sound­booth dur­ing wor­ship prac­tices, with­out much hope of being able do the har­mon­ic thing where I’ve always tend­ed towards the melod­ic. It turned out to be sur­pris­ing­ly easy and fun and not the bug­bear I’ve always made it… I want dots on a page, not Alpha­bet fig­ur­ings. I fear the abstract and cling to the con­crete.

I do love the bass and it’s growl­ing per­cus­sive some­times smooth voic­ings, but it put me back in mind of yearn­ing for the beau­ty and res­o­nance of the cel­lo. Each year I would attend our asso­ci­a­tion of church­es’ Faith­walk­ers Mid-west con­fer­ence and be joy­ful­ly trans­port­ed when Lucas Shogren of Clocks & Clouds would lay down his bass and pick up the cel­lo. As the bass began to seem with­in my reach it seemed to draw the cel­lo along with it. If I could teach myself to fill a role on one instru­ment, per­haps I could do the same on one very sim­i­lar in many respects.

I did not think to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to try as cel­los are very dear and I could nev­er jus­ti­fy the ini­tial out­lay just to jour­ney down a road a piece to see how I got on. I talked to friends about look­ing for one, but only in a vague wish­ful way. Enter Face­book Mar­ket­place. I try not to look so that I don’t find a bunch of things I didn’t know I need to have. In one of my rare moments of weak­ness, I found what looked to be a beau­ti­ful used full-sized cel­lo here in town when I hap­pened also to have a few unbud­get­ed kopeks rat­tling around in my pock­et. It seemed a rather low price for a love­ly stu­dent-mod­el instru­ment in a very good hard-side rolling case with not much more than a small f-hole crack to pro­voke con­cern. I felt bad about talk­ing the own­er down to a price I could afford, but which prob­a­bly could not have pur­chased the case new.

Of course, I quick­ly found it to be unplayable with a tun­ing peg that had no affec­tion for the peg­box to which it should adhere, and a bridge that was placed nowhere near where it should be and had been inex­pert­ly carved to use­less­ness so that if the bridge were to be posi­tioned cor­rect­ly, the strings would lay on the fin­ger­board. I had to find a skilled luthi­er and save my shekels (They seem to hold val­ue bet­ter than do kopeks) for a while to engage him to stop the crack, replace the peg with one stout enough to stick prop­er­ly, and carve a new bridge.

I got the work done but life intrud­ed for a cou­ple of months, and I nev­er got a chance to get the thing out and play with her now that she was a playable instru­ment. It’s been grow­ing on my mind for a while that I need to put down the bass gui­tar, which is fun and relax­ing to play, and start the hard work of the neo­phyte learn­er. Halfway through this last prac­tice I remem­bered that deter­mi­na­tion and got my lit­tle girl out and tuned her. She tuned. Right away, things were look­ing up *chuck­le*. I start­ed fig­ur­ing out where notes make their home. I had hoped that I would have this under my fin­gers some­what con­sid­er­ing that the Man­dolin, Vio­lin, and my Bouzou­ki are all tuned to GDAE. Nae. A bit of a men­tal rearrange­ment as the cel­lo lives a per­fect fifth below but doesn’t quite make it to the low B I love on the Bass. In the mid­dle of the song they were prac­tic­ing, they asked me if I was going to play with them Sun­day morn­ing for the spe­cial. I thought they were havin’ a go, as this was pret­ty much the first time I’d done more than fight to tune and saw out a few scales.

This morn­ing dur­ing prac­tice, things real­ly sort of clicked into place. One of my friends on the stage has told me in the past that she val­ues bold­ness so I decid­ed that I could either stay silent and won­der and wish, or be bold and risk doing poor­ly. Risk was reward­ed. As vague and wish­ful as the cel­lo has always seemed, and as sur­re­al as play­ing it dur­ing wor­ship felt, this morn­ing it was made sol­id.

The poten­tial was made sol­id. Before me lies a good deal of work and frus­tra­tion; to pull from var­i­ous sources to try to learn good tech­nique and not prac­tice in poor habits that will hold me back fur­ther on. Before me lies the invest­ment to make as famil­iar and com­fort­able, the notes of first-posi­tion of the cel­lo as they have become on the bass, and to build a tool­box of tech­niques and orna­ments to add rich­ness and vari­ety.

My goal is fea­si­ble. I want only to do what I’ve been doing with bass, but do it with an instru­ment that makes me want to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hold my breath and weep. I want to use this instru­ment and ask God to use me as His instru­ment as we seek to wor­ship and facil­i­tate the wor­ship of oth­ers in our fam­i­ly.

What it Means to Fall in Love

With­in this Chris­t­ian vision of mar­riage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at anoth­er per­son and get a glimpse of what God is cre­at­ing, and to say, “I see who God is mak­ing you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to part­ner with you and God in the jour­ney you are tak­ing to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your mag­nif­i­cence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 4, pg 121

Bound to Fulfillment

With­out being for­giv­en, released from the con­se­quences of what we have done, our capac­i­ty to act would, as it were, be con­fined to one sin­gle deed from which we could nev­er recov­er; we would remain the vic­tims of its con­se­quences for­ev­er, not unlike the sorcerer’s appren­tice who lacked the mag­ic for­mu­la to break the spell. With­out being bound to the ful­fill­ment of promis­es, we would nev­er be able to keep our iden­ti­ties; we would be con­demned to wan­der help­less­ly and with­out direc­tion in the dark­ness of each man’s lone­ly heart, caught in its con­tra­dic­tions and equiv­o­cal­i­ties, a dark­ness which only the light shed over the pub­lic realm through the pres­ence of oth­ers, who con­firm the iden­ti­ty between the one who promis­es and the one who ful­fills, can dis­pel. Both fac­ul­ties, there­fore, depend on plu­ral­i­ty, on the pres­ence and act­ing of oth­ers, for no one can for­give him­self and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to him­self; for­giv­ing and promis­ing enact­ed in soli­tude or iso­la­tion remain with­out real­i­ty and can sig­ni­fy no more than a role played before one’s self. [empha­sis mine]

— Han­nah Arendt, The Human Con­di­tion, 2nd ed., pg 237

The Proper Study of God’s Elect is God

It has been said by some­one that “the prop­er study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equal­ly true that the prop­er study of God’s elect is God; the prop­er study of a Chris­t­ian is the God­head. The high­est sci­ence, the lofti­est spec­u­la­tion, the might­i­est phi­los­o­phy, which can ever engage the atten­tion of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the per­son, the work, the doings, and the exis­tence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is some­thing exceed­ing­ly improv­ing to the mind in a con­tem­pla­tion of the Divin­i­ty. It is a sub­ject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immen­si­ty; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infin­i­ty. Oth­er sub­jects we can com­pass and grap­ple with; in them we feel a kind of self-con­tent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this mas­ter sci­ence, find­ing that our plumbline can­not sound its depth, and that our eagle eye can­not see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn excla­ma­tion, “I am but of yes­ter­day, and know noth­ing.” No sub­ject of con­tem­pla­tion will tend more to hum­ble the mind, than thoughts of God…

But while the sub­ject hum­bles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larg­er mind than the man who sim­ply plods around this nar­row globe… The most excel­lent study for expand­ing the soul, is the sci­ence of Christ, and Him cru­ci­fied, and the knowl­edge of the God­head in the glo­ri­ous Trin­i­ty. Noth­ing will so enlarge the intel­lect, noth­ing so mag­ni­fy the whale soul of man, as a devout, earnest, con­tin­ued inves­ti­ga­tion of the great sub­ject of the Deity.

And, whilst hum­bling and expand­ing, this sub­ject is emi­nent­ly con­so­la­to­ry. Oh, there is, in con­tem­plat­ing Christ, a balm for every wound; in mus­ing on the Father, there is a qui­etus for every grief; and in the influ­ence of the Holy Ghost, there is a bal­sam for every sore. Would you lose your sor­row? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge your­self in the Godhead’s deep­est sea; be lost in his immen­si­ty; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invig­o­rat­ed. I know noth­ing which can so com­fort the soul; so calm the swelling bil­lows of sor­row and grief; so speak peace to the winds of tri­al, as a devout mus­ing upon the sub­ject of the God­head. It is to that sub­ject that I invite you this morn­ing.

— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, Jan­u­ary 7th, 1855

And Then There Was One: Goodbye My Little Thistlepants

This­tle­downe start­ed seiz­ing ear­ly Wednes­day morn­ing. MU Vet Emer­gency got him sta­bi­lized and able to come home with anti-seizure meds and pred­nisone for his extreme hyper­glycemia. My room­mate woke me at 2am this morn­ing to let me know This­tle had been act­ing strange for a half hour. A half-hour lat­er after try­ing to give This­tle hon­ey and cool his hyper­ther­mia with cool water, Dwight, my room­mate was kind enough to take This­tle back to MU Emer­gency (I was not able to func­tion after an ear­li­er mas­sive dose of Tra­zodone). They were unable to cool him, bring his blood-sug­ar back up or stop the seizures. He was hap­py and healthy two days ago… a lit­tle dynamo of sweet play­ful affec­tion­ate fun that when­ev­er I sat down on the couch to work for a while would glom onto my leg and take a nap, con­tent to be in close con­tact and to be stroked occa­sion­al­ly.

On the phone, before I start­ed sob­bing, still talk­ing through with the doc­tor (who lat­er start­ed sob­bing her­self) how hope­less the sit­u­a­tion was, Hawthorne in the oth­er room start­ed grief howl­ing for the first time in his life. He knew the lit­tle broth­er he’d come into the world with and had been insep­a­ra­ble from for his entire life was leav­ing him.

Nursing School Update — Approaching Roadblock

Class­es at Colum­bia Col­lege have been absolute­ly fan­tas­tic, as I work to earn the sci­ence cred­its lacked by my Bach­e­lor of Arts degree in Com­put­er Sci­ence. I’ve now tak­en Pre-chem and Clin­i­cal Micro­bi­ol­o­gy with lab in-seat in the evenings and have achieved sol­id A’s in both.

Alas, nei­ther A counts towards the Sci­ence GPA that will be eval­u­at­ed in con­junc­tion with my even­tu­al per­for­mance on the ATI TEAS VI exam, but they are good indi­ca­tor, that, with the prop­er accom­mo­da­tions, as well as increased matu­ri­ty, I can per­form well in aca­d­e­m­ic pur­suits.

This ses­sion I am reluc­tant­ly tak­ing a 3 hr course in Med­ical Ter­mi­nol­o­gy that won’t count towards either the Asso­ciates in Nurs­ing or BSN in order to meet min­i­mum enroll­ment hours for my finan­cial aid pack­age. I have hopes that it at least will be ben­e­fi­cial in future cours­es, though a great deal of it is review.

Fol­low­ing this course my progress will be at a stand­still until I can fig­ure out a way to pay for school. I’ve exact­ly one year of course­work remain­ing (course sched­ule per­mit­ting) before I would be ready to apply to the Nurs­ing pro­gram. I’ve reached the aggre­gate lim­it for sub­si­dized fed­er­al loans (and I had hoped not to accrue more debt for this). My attempts to find full-time employ­ment with Colum­bia Col­lege which would yield the ben­e­fits of a full tuition waiv­er have so far proven unsuc­cess­ful, but thank­ful­ly my exist­ing employ­ment, due to end July 31, has been extend­ed for anoth­er full year, so I am secure… if not able to advance my degree pur­suit.

I am decid­ing to treat this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to try to get cre­ative and to be care­ful with my bud­get to see if I can­not man­u­fac­ture a way to con­tin­ue… like­ly not in the fall, but per­haps in the spring semes­ter.

Pray­ing and trust­ing God. Very grate­ful for what I’ve been giv­en so far and for the pro­vi­sions and oppor­tu­ni­ties. So aware of how blessed I am.

The only way to overcome the unpredictability of your future is the power of promising

When we make a promise we take it on our fee­ble wills to keep a future ren­dezvous with some­one in cir­cum­stances we can­not pos­si­bly pre­dict. We take it on our­selves to cre­ate our future with some­one else no mat­ter what fate or des­tiny may have in store. This is almost ulti­mate free­dom.

When I make a promise, I bear wit­ness that my future with you is not locked into a bion­ic beam by which I was stuck with the fate­ful com­bi­na­tions of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my par­ents’ genet­ic deck.

When I make a promise, I tes­ti­fy that I was not rout­ed along some unal­ter­able itin­er­ary by the psy­chic con­di­tion­ing vis­it­ed on me by my slight­ly wacky par­ents.

When I make a promise I declare that my future with peo­ple who depend on me is not pre­de­ter­mined by the mixed-up cul­ture of my ten­der years.

I am not fat­ed, I am not deter­mined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the con­tin­gent rein­force­ment and aver­sive con­di­tion­ing of my past. I know as well as the next per­son that I can­not cre­ate my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to any­one I rise above all the con­di­tion­ing that lim­its me.

— Lewis Bene­dic­tus Smedes (1921 — 2002)
“Con­trol­ling the Unpre­dictable – The Pow­er of Promis­ing“
Chris­tian­i­ty Today Jan. 1983

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, com­ing back from the fire; limp­ing, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been say­ing is quite right, I shouldn’t won­der. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Sup­pose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan him­self. Sup­pose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more impor­tant than the real ones.

Sup­pose this black pit of a king­dom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pret­ty poor one. And that’s a fun­ny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies mak­ing up a game, if you’re right. But four babies play­ing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hol­low. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narn­ian as I can even if there isn’t any Nar­nia. So, thank­ing you kind­ly for our sup­per, if these two gen­tle­men and the young lady are ready, we’re leav­ing your court at once and set­ting out in the dark to spend our lives look­ing for Over­land. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Sil­ver Chair
If it is dis­agree­able in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for your­selves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the Riv­er, or the gods of the Amor­ites in whose land you are liv­ing; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 NASB

Ukraine on the horizon. 271.5 lbs. Halfway!

So it seems that things might be falling into place. It will mean not tak­ing any class­es over the sum­mer, but all things con­sid­ered, that’s prob­a­bly a good thing as I will be tran­si­tion­ing jobs (pro­vid­ed I find a new one) and fig­ur­ing out what the future going for­ward looks like, as I plan to start tak­ing class­es at 75% full-time (Two eight week ses­sions each semes­ter. Sci­ence class­es that are all 3 hours lec­ture and 2 hours lab, so 10 hours. Finan­cial Aid only applies if you are enrolled in at least half time (full is 6 hrs/session, or 12 hrs/semester)). If I find a full-time job with tuition waiv­er at Colum­bia Col­lege, then finan­cial aid will be entire­ly unnec­es­sary.

I have $1,000 in sav­ings as an emer­gency fund that I may raid if sup­port rais­ing doesn’t cov­er it. I’m very grate­ful to my cousins Jer­ry & Tra­cy Cepel in Cal­i­for­nia for a very kind gift out of the blue that has eased many strains and wor­ries.

The only things stand­ing in the way of going and rebuild­ing hous­es in Ukraine and get­ting to know her won­der­ful peo­ple and per­haps share my love for Christ with them at this point are my weight/health, the can­tan­ker­ous heart of a despi­ca­ble man that would aggress against the free­dom of his peace­ful and kind neigh­bors, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that I won’t be able to arrange the time off of work.

But I rejoice! I’m 271.5 lbs, and since tech­ni­cal­ly I start­ed this effort at 303 lbs, that’s halfway! 270 lbs is still the mile­stone that my fin­gers are reach­ing and scrab­bling to grasp, but I need, right now, to appre­ci­ate the mile­stone I have reached and hold onto it tight­ly for a moment before stum­bling onward.

If the goal is 60 for Ukraine well, then… I’m MORE than halfway. Halfway is a won­der­ful place to be. 33 lbs lighter is a won­der­ful place to feel. With that gift from my cousin I resolved to mend a lack in my wardrobe, a lack of any for­mal or semi-for­mal wear for job inter­views, church, wed­dings, funer­als, nice meals out, nights at the sym­pho­ny, char­i­ty ban­quets for My Life Clin­ic, et. al., … What had been impos­si­ble at 300 lbs, let alone 316 lbs has become almost eas­i­ly pos­si­ble in the low 270s.

I feel bet­ter. I’m more con­fi­dent. I feel as though I’ve matured, mak­ing delib­er­ate choic­es instead of lament­ing hav­ing to make do with the best I can do when a nice occa­sion rolls around; wear­ing what’s appro­pri­ate instead of ‘the best that I have’ when going to an inter­view. I could attend my father’s vis­i­ta­tion and grave-side hon­ors feel­ing I wasn’t dis­hon­or­ing him. I’ve done some hard work and a great deal of self-denial to get here and that feels like matu­ri­ty too.

The biggest gift from the weight­loss, on an emo­tion­al lev­el is that, as I have cho­sen to put myself out there, seek­ing rela­tion­ship with some beau­ti­ful Daugh­ter of Eve or anoth­er, that I am more com­fort­able in myself. Fret­ting about not want­i­ng to sad­dle her with an obese per­son whose health might be uncer­tain. Fret­ting with not being able to respect or stand myself when I need to love what it is that I’m ask­ing some­one else to love. Fret­ting that she’s see­ing me and judg­ing me and has con­tempt for me as a man when most like­ly she is only see­ing that I under­stand her and make her feel loved, cared for, cher­ished… and that I make her laugh and that we expe­ri­ence and share joy in com­pan­ion­ship. Fret­ting that desires for par­ent­hood would be self­ish if I can­not play and inter­act with kid­dos. It has giv­en me the con­fi­dence to know that I -can- do this. Gone is that long dark teatime of the soul when I knew I sim­ply could not, or when I would try but always fail.

God bless­es. It’s like He, the omni-potent one is im-potent -not- to bless. God bless­es.

Yeah, um, so that happened…

I take a bewil­dered look around and find that I, a 42 year old man who’s clear­ly fail­ing fast, am a brand spankin’ new stu­dent at Uni­ver­si­ty. When did they start let­ting all these chil­dren into high­er-learn­ing? $108 to rent a text­book for 6–8 weeks? Pray­ing for strength as a some­what fright­en­ing new adven­ture com­mences.

They’re all using these lit­tle flat pock­et tele­vi­sions with­out an aer­i­al. They seem to think noth­ing of get­ting fin­ger­prints all over them.

Facing Fears — My Father’s Passing

Many friends have read and processed and giv­en feed­back on my pre­vi­ous arti­cle, “All Chances Gone. No Bea­gle Pup­py”. They have also extend­ed to me much love and sup­port, for which I am very grate­ful.

I too have read and reread, edit­ed a bit here and there as some­thing such as this, put out there for pub­lic con­sump­tion should be painstak­ing­ly authored. I have reread and processed, and tak­en into account much of the feed­back and advice, and even exhor­ta­tions I have received from oth­ers.

I do after all, pon­der.

I came to the con­clu­sion that I was still being manip­u­lat­ed and con­trolled… by my own fears. Was I fright­ened of a emo­tion­al bug­bear blown out of all pro­por­tion over the years even if that bug­bear may prove, in fact, to be real­is­tic in some ways?

I was giv­ing him too much pow­er… where he has none.

I was let­ting fear be jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for not doing what I tru­ly wished to do, for­go­ing two oppor­tu­ni­ties, one of which will nev­er come again, and the oth­er which may nev­er be offered to me again.

The first oppor­tu­ni­ty is that of being able to say ‘good­bye’ and tell my father that I loved him in every way left open to me, and those ways fierce­ly. Per­haps it is self­ish, and I don’t know if I have a need or not yet, but I would very much not like to real­ize down the road that I have need for this clo­sure. I acknowl­edge that time might damp­en some feel­ings and allow oth­er feel­ings to have pri­ma­cy and with those, find only regret at hav­ing made a mis­take.

The sec­ond is to see fam­i­ly that I dear­ly love and have had lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to be close to. The lack of close­ness was my own fault. I was so with­drawn into a shell of pro­tec­tion that I self-denied myself one of the best gifts I have and ever will have been giv­en. The asso­ci­a­tion was too strong. Again, I think this was dri­ven by a sort of fear. I spoke of regrets above. This regret already exists and is far greater than I antic­i­pate the oth­er might ever be if I again let those fears con­trol me.

Time march­es relent­less­ly onward and I have already lost much oppor­tu­ni­ty as now age and dis­ease, and its thiev­ing nature may have already robbed (No, my hurt and fool­ish­ness did the rob­bing, alas.) me of what I most desire. I could eas­i­ly spend a lot of effort and hatred toward myself for this fool­ish­ness, but it is point­less and I must act on the les­son of giv­ing the grace I give oth­ers to myself.

I don’t know about Bea­gle Pup­pies. That sce­nario, with time and tem­per­ance, seems less like­ly, but I do acknowl­edge it is still a pos­si­ble real­i­ty. I hon­est­ly don’t how to han­dle it if those fears are real­ized. I only know that I can­not let those fears dic­tate what I do.

I had for a few days tried to pass the respon­si­bil­i­ty for how I han­dled those fears off onto the shoul­ders of my father. That is non­sense. He can do noth­ing to me, then or now, and he can­not ‘make’ me fear­ful. Only I have that respon­si­bil­i­ty. It’s past time I owned that. Anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty for self-grace in that I think that try­ing to pass the respon­si­bil­i­ty was an inevitable part of the process, but that grace only has mean­ing if I also admit it was wrong and chose to do that which is right.

I could wish that Bea­gle Pup­pies played no role. Such lament is use­less, self-indul­gent, and waste­ful. I could lament that Bea­gle Pup­pies -ever- played a role, -ever- were a ‘thing’, but lamen­ta­tions do not alter. Lament only hin­ders one from pro­gress­ing for­ward if main­tained longer than is appro­pri­ate and healthy.


I will, from this point rede­fine Bea­gle Pup­py to mean only some­thing that I very much love. I will dis­card that oth­er def­i­n­i­tion in a box of use­less things des­tined for even­tu­al anni­hi­la­tion in fur­nace infer­no. There is one Bea­gle Pup­py like no oth­er. He slum­bers on the apex of his dwelling… when he’s not patrolling the skies over France, keep­ing them safe from the men­ace of Man­fred Albrecht Frei­herr von Richthofen. He admirably serves as per­pet­u­al short­stop and nev­er lets a ground ball past in for­mal and pick­up-games. He did once make a failed bid to forcibly replace Char­lie Brown as team man­ag­er, but we will speak only of his suc­cess­es here.


I had more loved images than would make sense in-line in a post already push­ing those lim­its, so here are the remain­der:

All Chances Gone. No Beagle Puppy

A fol­low-up arti­cle has been added here: Fac­ing Fears — My Father’s Pass­ing

All the chances I might have had to final­ly fig­ure out how to for­give and recon­nect with my father, and hope­ful­ly, lead him back to a sav­ing rela­tion­ship with Christ from his jad­ed athe­ism end­ed five days ago.

A rel­a­tive searched out my con­tact infor­ma­tion and let me know last night that my father was dis­cov­ered by police on a request­ed well­ness check. They esti­mate he passed away four days pre­vi­ous.

A lot of mixed emo­tions. There is remorse for my fail­ure and inabil­i­ty; remorse for times when I became right­eous­ly angry at his (con­tin­u­ing) mis­treat­ment of my moth­er, my sis­ter, and myself. There is regret that he seemed a text­book Sociopath that might have nev­er been reached by any efforts of for­give­ness and reach­ing out. There is prayer that God gives grace to those who may have their free will com­pro­mised, through no fault of their own, by men­tal damage/illness. The remorse is most­ly qui­et remorse and it may grow more intense as God works on my heart, but I can’t see how I could have done any­thing much dif­fer­ent than I did.

I am glad that he is no longer able to affect my moth­er and myself. My sis­ter has been beyond his grasp since pass­ing away at the begin­ning of 2005. Glad, but I did not wish him dead. I wished him all the life it took to come back to God in humil­i­ty as a sup­pli­cant, and then, per­haps, a life remain­der of qui­et peace. Not the false peace of a sociopath unable to know of trou­ble­some things, but of one who knows, knows he is for­giv­en through no act of his own, and who is able to accept that for­give­ness and wrap it around him­self like a com­fort­ing blan­ket.

If there were to be a funer­al ser­vice as near­by as Kear­ney, Nebras­ka, and had I a sur­feit of time and mon­ey, I would very much like to attend, and tell him that I loved him in every way that was left open to me and that I hope that in spite of my fail­ure to reach him that he is some­how cov­ered under Grace.

My moth­er sug­gest­ed that I should attend for anoth­er rea­son, and one which, even the pos­si­bil­i­ty of would make me chose not to attend even were I able. She sug­gest­ed that I might get a Bea­gle Pup­py, and since I am try­ing to find a way to pay for Nurs­ing School, that it would be a very won­der­ful bless­ing to have a Bea­gle Pup­py. I can­not stom­ach the idea of one more con­trol­ling manip­u­la­tion, one more car­rot and stick, one more act of twist­ed­ness being done to me.

Briefly, as a child, per­haps 6 years old I had been giv­en a copy of the Amer­i­can Ken­nel Club’s Dog Breeds Book because I was nuts about anything/everything ‘dog’. I loved its bright yel­low cov­er (my favorite colour then) and all the black and white pho­tos of dif­fer­ent breeds. I had poured over it like oth­er boys pour over base­ball cards mem­o­riz­ing stats, or in this case, char­ac­ter­is­tics, clas­si­fi­ca­tions, tem­pera­ments, groom­ing needs, and so on. I had paper-clipped pages for dif­fer­ent breeds and hon­est­ly, I would have liked to have all of them, or even just one of them. There was one at the time that stood out among the rest and that might have met my father’s strin­gent require­ments of an accept­able dog. It wasn’t Ben­ji, Ben­ji after all being a shel­ter dog of mys­te­ri­ous her­itage. It wasn’t my present day loves, Shih-Tzus (I don’t think we’d yet dog­gy-sat me mum’s boss’ Roxy and knew Shih-Tzu joy) and Bor­der Col­lies (They weren’t even rec­og­nized by the AKC at the time and more’s the pity they ever were). It wasn’t a Samoyed or an Alaskan Mala­mutes like my beloved (ok, she belonged to my sis­ter Alli­son, but she lived with me for sev­er­al years) Nik­ki. The page I came back to over and over; the page with two paper­clips and a third big one on the few full-colour pages in the cen­ter, was the Bea­gle. I want­ed this small scrap­py smart trim lit­tle dog who just looked like it had a heart burst­ing with love for a lit­tle boy. Con­stant “Bea­gle Pup­py” desire fol­lowed but gained no trac­tion with my par­ents… or rather with my Dad who must con­trol every­thing.

May­haps not so briefly. My par­ents were active in the church I had grown up in as bible-study lead­ers, youth min­istry helpers, and as dri­vers for the church van. It hap­pened that the youth group decid­ed to go on an out­ing to the almost-bet­ter-than-Dis­ney­land-way-bet­ter-than-Six-Flags Knott’s Berry Farm. It also hap­pened that the day of the trip was my 8th or 9th birth­day. When we reached the park I was giv­en the ‘choice’ of going around the day with my father, or with my moth­er. How can you make a wrong choice when there’s no real choice at all. My moth­er made such things fun and excit­ing. My dad com­plained and groused about the price of food which he would nev­er have pur­chased any­ways. Mum would get small treats when she could but as she real­ly didn’t have much of ‘her own mon­ey’ (her nurse’s salary was tak­en and con­trolled by my father), even those occa­sions were rare. He crit­i­cized and belit­tled every­thing. He con­de­scend­ed upon every­one, espe­cial­ly inter­na­tion­al work­ers and vis­i­tors. There was no fun with my Dad, no joy. He refused to ride any roller-coast­ers (some of the best were at KBF, The Corkscrew, Montezooma’s Revenge, etc), and my mum was a roller-coast­er-nut. I went with my mum. Lat­er in the day we recon­vened at a cov­ered pic­nic area and there was a sur­prise birth­day cake and par­ty wait­ing. It could not have pos­si­bly been a more per­fect day and would have stood in my child­hood as one of maybe 3 or 4 actu­al hap­py mem­o­ries (Meet­ing Benji(Benjean) and her train­er was one, a cer­tain Day at Ange­les Crest Chris­t­ian Camp was anoth­er).

It’s not. It’s not one of those. It was one of the oth­er kind of days of which there were so many, and this the one that still hurts the most. As we were leav­ing the park and get­ting back in the van and I was nurs­ing the fire­ball can­dies (They had to last. When­ev­er would they come again?) my moth­er had dis­obeyed my father and bought for me, my father took me aside. He pulled out his wal­let and from that took a clip­ping from the clas­si­fied sec­tion of the L.A. Times. I still remem­ber the smudged newsprint attempt at includ­ing a pho­to of a lit­ter of Bea­gle pup­pies and their mum… a lit­tle hard to make out in pure black & white process. My dad told me that he had planned, if I were to come with him for the day, for us to leave the park while oth­ers were enjoy­ing the rides and attrac­tions and to go and pick out a pup­py from the lit­ter, but as I had went with my mom, I would be get­ting no pup­py. Not today. Not ever. I don’t remem­ber how I react­ed beyond sit­ting at the back of the bus for the long trip back to cen­tral LA with a for­got­ten fire­ball burn­ing a hole through my cheek as I nei­ther felt nor tast­ed it, cry­ing, being embar­rassed and think­ing that I just didn’t want to con­tin­ue. I -think- it was around this time that I tried and failed to com­mit sui­cide with my dad’s .22 auto that I had no idea how to charge or un-safe. I couldn’t bear the thought of my ‘mis­take’ and that it would have ‘for­ev­er’ effects. To chil­dren, ‘for­ev­er’ means ‘ever after’, not ‘until cir­cum­stances one day change’. I didn’t think in terms of ‘unfair’ because I had nev­er known ‘fair’. I had had so much fun with my mum, and I should have had fun with my mum, but I didn’t real­ize I was unwit­ting­ly mak­ing or break­ing some Faus­t­ian bar­gain at the time. I didn’t want to be alone with my father, not before, not that day, not ever, and because of it my ‘mis­take’, there would nev­er be a pup­py to replace Ras­cal and Sam­son who had both passed away long before I even got to real­ly know them. I would nev­er have a pup­py. I don’t remem­ber any­thing after that until my moth­er moved us out of his house. It’s all blanked out. I think I shut down. I think I was crushed beyond car­ing about any­thing at all.

Could he real­ly be that twist­ed so as to do it again? Could he put some stip­u­la­tion in his will where I would be ‘reward­ed’ for mak­ing the ‘right’ wrong deci­sion and pun­ished for mak­ing the ‘wrong’ right deci­sion. Nobody could pos­si­bly do some­thing that heinous, could they?

I don’t want a Bea­gle Pup­py. I don’t ever want a Bea­gle Pup­py from him. I don’t want to miss his funer­al, but I very much wish I had been able to miss that birth­day at Knotts Berry Farm.

The answer is, “Yes, he could.”. Mon­ey has always been his go-to method to con­trol and hurt or bless (not altru­is­ti­cal­ly, but for the returns it brought him) peo­ple in his life.

My answer is, “No, I can­not. I Will not.” Today I would say, “I Shan’t.” but it just doesn’t seem as appro­pri­ate here. I will find some oth­er way, like every­one else, to take care of Nurs­ing School and oth­er need­ful things, and the hard­er it is, the it will be all the wor­thi­er for the dif­fi­cul­ty.

I hope he’s been grant­ed grace and under­stand­ing for the dif­fi­cul­ties of his own child­hood and for the men­tal derangement(s) he suf­fered.

I feel free. Free­dom that being half a nation away could nev­er bring. Free of that nag­ging wor­ry that he could still find some way to hurt my moth­er or less like­ly, myself. I wouldn’t have trad­ed his life for that free­dom, but the equa­tion was not of my mak­ing.

I sup­pose I am final­ly free to change my last name to some­thing that doesn’t hurt because now doing so won’t hurt him. I won­der at even both­er­ing to wait, but I know it was in the hopes of reach­ing him for Christ. Would that I could embrace the won­der­ful Cepel­ness that was a small part of my life, my Uncle Al and Aunt Car­ol and all their kids and their kid’s kid­dos, and a fair bit of good Cepel­ness back in Nebras­ka, but put togeth­er, all rep­re­sent a drop of joy in an ocean of hurt.

Progress, Dec 21, 2016, 275lbs.

The mis­sion trip to the Ukraine is back on (ten­ta­tive­ly) for this sum­mer, this time at more of a safe remove from Putin’s aggres­sion.

Today I’m very excit­ed to go to my third or fourth Bariatric appoint­ment since start­ing tak­ing Belviq. I’d real­ly not lost any weight for the past 6 months or so that I’ve been tak­ing it. I thought I’d noticed a dif­fer­ence in crav­ings, but not sig­nif­i­cant­ly so, and even that did not last. On my last vis­it the doc told me that it would only work if I cut out processed carbs and refined sug­ars. I thought, “That will be the day.”

Today I will go in 25 lbs lighter than the last vis­it. Only 35 lbs remain to reach the go/no-go goal of 240 lbs.

The con­ve­nience of pre­pared food pret­ty much means processed carbs and refined sug­ars. I real­ized some­thing I already knew about myself… a diet nev­er works. Bad days undo a dozen good days. The only thing that works for me is an exclu­sion diet… forc­ing me to buy ingre­di­ents and pre­pare food… essen­tial­ly mak­ing all my choic­es for myself before I’m in the sit­u­a­tion of being hun­gry, tired, and in a hur­ry and apt to go get some­thing on the run. So… out with processed carbs, all gluten, all refined sug­ars, and uncooked milk (That keeps my love of Chex cere­al in chex, sor­ry, I meant ‘check’). In with lots of pro­tein and some rice and lim­it­ed pota­to. I began this new lifestyle on Octo­ber 30.

It’s been great for the most part. It has also had a sec­ondary ben­e­fit and a sec­ondary moti­va­tion. Any­time I spend mon­ey it’s with the thought of, “I want to be mar­ried.” Which to me means, I have to get a han­dle on debt and learn to bet­ter live with­in my means. Not buy­ing fast-food once or twice a day and a big (diet, caf­feine-free) foun­tain soda every day eas­es so much load on my finances and gives me so much moti­va­tion not to fudge the rules. That thought also per­tains to my weight as well. I don’t think I have the right to bind myself to anoth­er if I’m not doing every­thing to stay healthy for ‘us’ and for any chil­dren. It’s a mantra, “I want to be mar­ried. I want to be a father. I want to be of use to God.”

This makes 41 lbs lost since Oct 6, 2015.

I had hoped to be to 270 by Jan 1 and that’s still pos­si­ble. I real­ly thought I’d nev­er see (feel) 270 lbs again. I have vague mem­o­ries of the last time, exer­cis­ing with the Berrys, work­ing hard, and how much bet­ter I felt. Going back sev­er­al years to my times fast­ing and pray­ing as a des­per­ate alter­na­tive to sui­cide after Raina left, I remem­ber hit­ting 250 lbs and being stunned at how much bet­ter I felt. I hadn’t seen 250 lbs since get­ting sick in Ire­land and com­ing back 10 lbs heav­ier (and then nev­er look­ing back from there) to the seden­tary depres­sion of the Fibromyal­gia and Chron­ic Fatigue.

I’m very encour­aged. Nuvig­il has helped a lot in all facets of life. I’m more active and more pro­duc­tive and more pos­i­tive because I’m more active/productive and can think more clear­ly.

Oth­er mile­stones

  • 250 lbs — June 2003 after return­ing from the Green Isle. I’ve nev­er since been below this weight.
  • 240 lbs — the weight I had pret­ty much main­tained for sev­er­al years before vis­it­ing Ire­land in ear­ly 2003.
  • 238 lbs — the weight I was the day of my wed­ding. I fit into my suit though I still felt huge and con­strict­ed.
  • 210 lbs — I hit this weight short­ly (and briefly) before my friend­ship with Raina began. I had done anoth­er exclusion/poverty diet and my life had been going well. I fit into a 2x shirt and I couldn’t even remem­ber when I had done that… High School per­haps? My good­ness but did it feel so very mar­velous.
  • 170 lbs — I think I could be con­tent here, in the nor­mal BMI range, just below the over­weight range. My car­di­ol­o­gist said I would have to lose more, but he was an arro­gant ass who argued with me for half an hour and trot­ted out his degrees and acco­lades insist­ing that I’d nev­er low­er my cho­les­terol with behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion and that I -must- slave myself to use of a statin drug drug for the rest of my life. I proved him wrong in a year and I think 170 lbs would be a love­ly rea­son­able weight pro­vid­ed some of it is lean mus­cle.

Tom’s going home again water-lilies bringing. Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

tom_bombadilLis­ten­ing to an old favorite while get­ting show­ered this morn­ing and was struck with a real­iza­tion. In con­sid­er­ing mar­riage and rela­tion­ships, old Tom sets an exam­ple in his regard and con­sid­er­a­tion for his lady Gold­ber­ry which should be the no-excus­es, no-excep­tions stan­dard we men must hold our­selves to with our own lady Gold­ber­rys.

I can count on two hands exam­ples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost with­out excep­tion, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their mar­riage.

This, of course, flies in the face of fem­i­nist clap­trap, and I make no apolo­gies. Any non­sense that makes less of a Daugh­ter of Eve in sil­ly pur­suit of mak­ing her ‘equal’ is to be laugh­ably dis­card­ed. I hope that they them­selves find some­one who con­sid­ers them of far more worth than ever he does him­self, and who like­wise makes no apolo­gies.

Most men may nev­er reach this stan­dard, but may be con­tent if like a stan­dard in bat­tle, it goes ever before him dis­play­ing his colours and char­ac­ter, as much reminder to him­self as cau­tion to those ahead.

For some rea­son, beyond my ken, this KHOD com­ic was list­ed in the marshwiggle.org site sta­tis­tics for yes­ter­day. I adore KHOD. How very apro­pos. Here, Spencer’s father is show­ing his stan­dard to his son and teach­ing him to yearn for a sim­i­lar stan­dard of his own.

KHOD, July 11, 2013, "It gets worse"
KHOD, July 11, 2013, “It gets worse”

God ain’t got no taste

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“One of the rea­sons I love the bible is because the humans in the bible are not very refined. They’re pret­ty goofy if you want to know the whole truth about it. And I remem­ber when I was a kid and peo­ple would always say, you know… ‘cause I was always one of those typ­i­cal depressed ado­les­cent types, I wrote poet­ry and stuff. It’s how morose I was as a kid and peo­ple would go around say­ing, “Cheer up man, because God loves you.” And I would always say, “Big deal. God loves every­body. That don’t make me spe­cial. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.” And I don’t think He does. Thank God! Cause God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the great­est art out of it and if He was cul­tured; if He was as civ­i­lized as most Chris­t­ian peo­ple wish He was, He would be use­less to Chris­tian­i­ty… but God is a wild man. And I hope that in the course of your life you encounter him. But let me warn you, you got­ta ‘hang on for dear life’… or ‘let go for dear life’, maybe is bet­ter.”
— Rich Mullins, in a live per­for­mance of Some­times by Step

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing; For being born again

I walked out the door this morn­ing and was checked hard by a moist cold wind that smelled so fresh and clean that I had lit­tle choice but to stand still, feel, smell, and then praise God for His bless­ings. Praise Him for sea­sons that turn and turn again and days so in-your-face awe­some that even should you be con­sumed with inter­nal­ized dol­drums or busy think­ing those work-a-day thoughts, they will gob­s­mack you with beau­ty and plea­sure.
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And the wrens have returned, and are nest­ing;
In the hol­low of that oak, where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a bless­ing, for being born again.

— Rich Mullins, The Col­or Green, A Litur­gy
a Lega­cy, & a Raga­muf­fin Band