Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Due to Illness, Father's Day Was Postponed

I was sick again over Father's Day weekend, so we postponed Father's Day until the next Sunday, at least the celebration, food and fun part of it. My wife should be sick of me being sick, but she isn't. She is uncommonly patient. It means a lot to me.

On the Friday night before Father's Day, I had what we think was a gall bladder attack. It lasted for two days. Have you ever had one of those? You can't sleep. You can't relax. You can't sit or lie down, not for long anyway. It hurt so bad I was yelling. A little. (Have you ever yelled while you were praying?)

My wife had one of those attacks years ago. Now I understand. With real experience comes understanding. And compassion.

I am better now, I am grateful to say. But I am still losing weight. I have lost almost 40 pounds. My wife thinks I have bird legs. She's right. Chirp.

We bought some new jeans last Friday night. I got them home and realized that I had gotten jeans with a size 33 waist when I had meant to buy 34s. I have had a size 36 waist since I was in my early forties. I was a size 34 when I was in my 30s, and I haven't been able to fit into pants with a 33 waist since I was in my 20s. The size 33 pants fit me fine. It feels a little strange. I don't know where the bottom is.

I continue to eat vegetables most of the time. For my Father's Day meal (made last Sunday), my wife made California grilled veggie sandwiches roasted on mesquite wood (yum), a cucumber salad with raspberries (yum), guacamole and flax/corn chips (yum), and chocolate "nice" cream made with cashews (double yum). I was spoiled and very full. It takes a lot of vegetables to get full, but my wife seems to be succeeding at that. It's hard to stop eating. And why stop? The nutrient-to-calorie ratio is high—meaning I get a ton of nutrition but not a ton of calories. That explains the weight loss for the most part.

I want to make a confession. When I had my relapse three weeks ago, I was in so much pain that I started taking Prednisone again. I was afraid of the pain and of being non-functional (non-working) again. So I am "artificially flavored" for right now. It is a low dose, so I don't notice it as much as the high dose I took back in May. I tell myself I am rebuilding my immune terrain through better nutrition, even though I am taking my prescription again. I hope I am right about rebuilding. I hope when I go off the drugs again that I don't fall apart once more.

I got some wonderful gifts for Father's Day. A short sleeve white shirt. A big jar of kimchi (one of my favorite foods). A cool machete. (My wife and kids are still wondering why I wanted it. It's a boy thing.) A tie in a color I love. And some coupons from my youngest daughter. Here are the coupons, good for:

  • An adventure
  • 1 mowing of the lawn (already redeemed)
  • 2 hours of slave labor
  • 1 new tie
  • A song written just for you (looking forward to that)
  • One watching of Howards End without complaining (my favorite movie)
Even if I had to wait a week, it was worth waiting for.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friday Night Is Date Night

What did you do on Friday night? We went on a date. We often do on Fridays.

We talked about going to Soul Surfer, but the temperatures were so nice, we decided to go on a picnic instead, just the two of us, at a park down the street from us. Our 16-year-old daughter was out-of-town at youth conference.

We had sweet potato oven fries and veggie sandwiches made on raw onion bread. We sat on the grass on a quilt made by my old ward for our wedding over 30 years ago. We talked and laughed. We took a walk around the park barefoot, holding hands. We brought our croquet set and played a game under the shade of maple trees.

Later we went out for "dessert." We went to a local health food store and bought some stevia-sweetened soda. The drinks were not chilled, so we stopped at a gas station and bought two plastic cups with ice for $0.25 each ($0.53 with tax).

We poured our soda in the car and had a toast. I noticed a couple of women in an SUV near us. They were watching us and smiling. I smiled back.

I told my wife our date felt like the kind of dates we had when we were courting and engaged.

These last few months have not been easy on us. I haven't felt good. I have been in pain and I haven't been the easiest person to live with or be around. I've been grumpy at times and have spoken an occasional poniard.

Moods don't last, though. I have my ups and downs. A lot of downs, actually, during the last four months. Feelings change, but commitment is one of the closest things we have to a constant in this life. Dating my wife and having fun together helps bring me back to the center line.

"I'm sorry" is important in a marriage, from both sides. Really meaning it, too. It's what brings us back. If you can't say you're sorry very often, it's probably pride that's keeping you from recognizing the need to be wrong regularly. And if you've got pride, you've got something to hide. Usually from yourself. Give it up and you'll be happier.

I am excited for next Friday night. How about you?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

For the First Time in Six Months

Yesterday, for the first time in six months, I was able to drive myself to the bus stop to go to work (I work one hour to the north) and to drive myself home when I got back. All because of a very kind friend.

A few weeks ago, I got a message on our home phone from this friend asking me to call him back. When I returned his call, he asked if I would like an old pickup he had, for free. He had bought it for parts for a few hundred dollars, but had decided to abandon it. He asked me if I wanted it. Of course I didn't hesitate to say yes.

We have had only one car for almost two years. With three drivers in the house, this has presented a bit of a challenge. Somehow we made it work, but not without occasional glitches. Now we have two vehicles. To have one of those be a pickup is frosting on the cake. What a blessing it is.

It took several weeks for my friend to get the truck ready to roll. He had all the wiring redone. He replaced belts and fluids. Installed new carpet and a CD player. He traded a tire dealer for new tires. He got a seat cover for the bench. He put a lot of TLC into his gift for no other reason than he only knows how to do things right and to be kind.

Admittedly, it's not the most attractive truck on the road. But you know, you shouldn't look a gift truck under the hood. It's a 1978 Ford F150 Custom. It's two-wheel drive. How many times has the odometer rolled over, I couldn't tell you. It's rusty and there's a leak in the exhaust manifold. But I love it and I am so grateful for it I could bust.

Ours is a true riches-to-rags story. I wish I could explain how it all happened, how our financial independence turned into ashes. But I can tell you the benefits of it. A true, deep, satisfying feeling of gratitude for the little things, for the goodness of God, for people who are inspired to take action.

I wish I understood how a person could be so kind, so perceptive of a need as our friend was. He has followed the Golden Rule. He has set an unforgettable example. He has given me hope that the world has not come totally off the rails, not yet.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Was a Big Surprise

I only caught part of this last night on America's Got Talent. If you haven't seen it, you will love it; if you have seen it, it will be worth watching again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Last Night at the Hospital

Last night, I visited a friend at the hospital. He took Flight 13 off the back of a horse who was stung by a bee (or two or three). He got back on his horse and rode for a mile or so, but then he had to get off again and lie down. He had broken his back.

His horse crash story now tops any of mine, hooves down.

After two nights in the hospital, they did surgery on him on Monday, screwing his M12 vertebrae back together and fusing it with its neighbor with six screws. I saw the x-rays. They were eerie, but awesome at the same time. It's a guy thing.

My friend was flat on his back and in some considerable pain. He was talking about his new job and wondering if his boss would let him recover and continue his training, or if he would just say he had to move on.

Then my friend said this:
"Either way, everything will be okay."
Those words rang my bell, and I told him why.

When you get to the point where you accept where you are and who you are, and it doesn't matter what comes your way, and you just believe that things will be okay, to me, that is remarkable faith.

It struck me in the moment that what my friend had achieved in his faith was part of the reason why we come to this life, to learn that very lesson—that no matter what life throws at you, or even what curve balls you throw yourself, things can be okay again. Things can be better. We can be healed and made whole. We can recover. We can stand up again. We can choose to not give up.

It was an inspiring moment. I hope I never forget it, because I could be flat on my back tomorrow just as well as he.

The more time you spend flat on your back, though, the more time you spend looking up. And that's a good direction to be looking.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reclaiming the Missing Diamond

About a week ago, I looked down at my hand and noticed that one of the diamonds on my wedding band was missing. I don't know what happened to it. It could have fallen out anywhere. After wearing that ring for 32 years, losing that diamond makes me pretty sad. The chances of finding the diamond again are slim to none.

Originally, my ring had five diamonds in it. After our children were born, I imagined that the middle diamond, the largest, represented the Lord, and that the other four stood for my wife and three daughters. Now one of those is missing and it's bothering me. I can replace it, sure, to fill in the empty spot on my ring, but how can it be the same?

As I've thought about this for a few days, I've realized that we all have missing diamonds in our lives. Not precious stones, but the real diamonds: The people who mean the most to us.

Many of us have children who have slipped away. They've grown up. They've moved away or moved on to other pastures. Some have slipped away due to marriage or school, others through rebellion. It doesn't matter either way. We miss them and long for them, for what we once had or for what could be.

Our close friends or parents are separated from us by many miles and we feel like we have so little time to spend with them. And what about the friends and family that are very close to us physically, but who are separated from us emotionally. Even people living in our own homes. Some of us sleep next to our missing diamond every night, separated by miles of misunderstanding.

How do we reclaim what is lost to us, when our heart's desire seems completely out of reach? As simple as it sounds, patience and faith are the keys.

I take great joy in these words from the Prophet Joseph Smith:
All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it. . . . (History of the Church 5:361–362; see footnote 8.)
All losses will be made up to the faithful. That which has been lost to us, if it ever were ours, will be placed in loving arms again. Or perhaps its equivalent. Or perhaps something that has meant a lot to us here will be placed in it's proper perspective and accepted, just as it stands, with joy. I don't know how it will all work. But I trust and believe.

I have a friend who has a very deep regret. At the time he graduated from college, having met the girl of his dreams, he was preoccupied with his new career and wasn't ready to get married. He let her slip through his fingers. Now many years and several failed marriages later, he still thinks about the one that he let go, one who is now happily married to another and has a wonderful family. How will his loss be made up? I don't know, but I believe that God will comfort him, whether the loss was caused by his own choice, as he feels, or whether it was caused by the choice of others. I don't know how God will accomplish this miracle, but I know He will. We will have great peace, peace that will stretch across eternity. We won't have to look for what is missing any longer.

Of course, we must do all we can to recover what is lost, or, if necessary, leave it in God's hands, whatever the case or need may be. That's the tough part. Hanging on and not giving up. Not giving up or giving in. Not cashing out, imagining that God has failed us in some way.

I have many losses in my life, but I have to say most of those losses are temporal. I have the most precious possession in my hands already, a kind, beautiful, loving wife, and three wonderful daughters, all faithful in the gospel, all doing their best, independently, to live life as God would have them. I can't tell you how grateful I am for this, more grateful than anything. Having this, my other losses by comparison are trivial by any measure.

But I still have my losses. Dear ones I have loved but who have walked away from their covenants and promises. People who will not accept my efforts to love them, try as I may. Friends lost on the plains of regret, the tundra of choices that they cannot fix by themselves.

Nevertheless, I trust. I believe. I hope. I hold a bright vision in my mind of being reconciled and whole again with everyone. After I have done what I can, God will make up the difference. I know He can, and I know He will.  That is my peace.

I don't know what is missing in your life, but there is no need to fear. The "restoration of all things" (Act 3:21) not only includes lost truth, doctrine and ordinances, but also your personal losses, however small. They will be acknowledged and your lost diamonds will be returned.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Adventures in Patience: Dealing with a Relapse

I had to stay home from church today because I couldn't walk. Again. I don't like it when I miss church meetings. I always feel like I am missing out. Because I am.

An interesting part of my illness is that I am not assimilating or digesting protein well. A side effect of that for me is arthritis symptoms. The culprit this time? Too many nuts. I was hungry one morning last week at work, so I went across the street to Rite Aid and got myself a can of cashews and ate the whole can in one sitting. Oops.

For the last several months, I haven't eaten any meat because of this problem I have with protein. It's not that I don't like meat. I do. But for right now, I am eating meat and other proteins "sparingly" (D&C 89:12). For all the trouble it's given me, I probably will eat proteins sparingly for the rest of my life, except for vegetable proteins which I seem to process well.

No, we will not be having a barbeque for Father's Day next Sunday, unless we barbeque veggie burgers. The idea probably depresses you hardcore carnivores, but it makes little sense for me to eat meat now.

For the most part, I have had very positive results from having a meatless, but nutrient dense, vegetable based diet. (I can't take credit for the phrase "nutrient dense." I got it from Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book, Eat to Live.)  I have lost a lot of weight and my BMI is in line again (right now, it's 25.1; 24.9 is normal weight). As I have said before, I am sleeping much better than I have in years, and I have much better mental clarity. My wife and daughter are doing the diet as well now. Hurray.

An interesting side effect is that I have this odd, blistering, itching rash. It is small but shows up on my face, chest, stomach, hands, and legs. As best we can tell, it is part of the cleansing process. Body fat that you have been carrying for awhile can store toxins and other foreign matter such as metals, hiding them away to protect your body and perhaps because your body doesn't know what else to do with them. When you lose that fat, the toxins, etc. have to find a way out of your body because there is no place left to hide. Apparently they are escaping through my skin.

I have drugs I can take to help with my symptoms—steroids and Allopurinol. The new prescriptions are sitting on the top shelf of our medicine chest in our bathroom. I am reluctant to take them because of all the side effects I get from drugs, plus I don't like feeling "artificially flavored," if you know what I mean, especially when I am at work. (I realize that some of you reading this post feel that you have no other choice but to take medications for your illness. I have been there and I don't think that's wrong. It's just that the drugs are way too hard on me and I have been forced to to seek a different path.)

It's amazing to me how good vegetables taste when you aren't eating junk food frequently like I was last winter. Your body craves the "instant gratification" foods when you have them too often. Now I am craving broccoli and romaine lettuce. No kidding. I have eaten three salads today.

I've had a set back, yes, but I am not really discouraged. It is inconvenient to be sure, but I feel like I am on the right track with my eating and making headway convincing my body to behave—most of the time.

It has come clearly to my conscience that when I eat unhealthy foods with abandon, I am not treating my body as a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17.) My faith is sacred, as well as my covenants. The House of the Lord is sacred. So is my body. (Note to self: Remember that one.)


I am happy that I have proven to myself that I have more self-control that I thought I did. That feels good, and puts the sacrifice and physical pain in perspective. I pray that I will have the strength to endure to the end eating this way. I know I will live longer and be able to accomplish more if I do.

Life is short so eat well.

Cross-Reference between Primary 7 Manual and New Testament Stories

This morning I realized that it would be a nice option to show online videos from the New Testament Stories book when teaching Primary lessons from the Primary 7: New Testament manual so I made a cross reference of the lessons and stories/videos. (I am now teaching the Valiant 9 class at Church.)

If you click on the "online videos" link above, you will see where you can watch the videos online or download them. If you have a laptop, you can use it to show these videos in class when appropriate.

In addition to English, you will also find the stories in ASL, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; however, videos are only in Spanish and English.



You can download this document from here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let Each Man Learn to Know Himself

I discovered this hymn today and thought I would share it. It was hymn #91 from the 1948 LDS hymnbook.

Let Each Man Learn to Know Himself

Let each man learn to know himself;
To gain that knowledge let him labor,
Improve those feelings in himself
Which he condemns so in his neighbor.
How lenient our own faults we view,
And conscience's voice adeptly smother,
Yet, oh, how harshly we review
The selfsame failings in another!

(chorus)
Let each man learn to know himself;
To gain that knowledge let him labor,
Improve those failings in himself,
Which he condemns so in his neighbor.

And if you meet an erring one
Whose deeds are blameable and thoughtless
Consider, ere you cast the stone,
If you yourself are pure and faultless.
Oh, list to that small voice within,
Whose whisperings oft make men confounded,
And trumpet not another's sin;
You'd blush deep if your own were sounded.

And in self judgement if you find
Your deeds to others' are superior,
To you has Providence been kind,
As you should be to those inferior.
Example sheds a genial ray
Of light which men are apt to borrow,
So first improve yourself today
And then improve your friends tomorrow.

See Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, "Forgiving Others."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Health Is Back Up to Speed, Almost

For those of you who have asked, I am feeling much better, thank you. I really appreciate your concern.

I have been able to do more and more with each passing day and I am almost back to "normal," if there is such a thing for any of us. Maybe the correct term is better, much better.

We went back to the rheumatologist a few weeks ago and he confirmed his diagnosis: that it is not rheumatoid arthritis (phew!), but gouty arthritis, something I've dealt with for 10 years. The difference was that this one was a particularly bad case, an edge case, the most severe illness I have ever had.

To tell you the truth, though, I am much better off because of it.

Why?

Well, I am eating much better than ever before, not so much out of self-discipline but due to fear that I would ever bring such a thing on myself again. Honestly, it was my eating habits that brought it on. Yes, heredity has something to do with it, but if I had been eating better last winter, it would not have caught up with me.

We are surrounded by gastronomical temptations. The stores are full of prepared, processed, sweet foods that I dare not eat. At least not now. Most of you are probably not affected by these foods other than a bit of weight gain and perhaps the usual long-term risks. But I can't risk eating those kinds of things any more, at least not in the quantities I was eating.

After eating mostly vegetables for the last 7 weeks, I have to say, I am sleeping better than I have in years; my blood pressure is back to normal; I feel intense energy and more mental clarity than usual, and I no longer have the pot belly I sprouted between October and March. (My unresolved feelings were measured in unneeded pounds.)

I am committed to eating mostly nutrient-dense foods now. I would be foolish to give in and go back to my old slovenly habits. I have to think about what I eat if I want to enjoy life. Consider it nutritional repentance.

I have had issues with sugar for a long time. I have been accused of being a "candy head" for years, and it is true. I have had trouble staying away from sugar since I was a boy. Once when I was 9 or 10, the family doctor recommended that my parents take us kids off of sugar entirely. This torture continued for some months. In my desperation, I happened to find an errant box of powdered sugar in the pantry. I hid the box and a metal spoon in my room behind my bed. At night or other moments of stealth, I would take the box out of its hiding place and give myself one or two heaping spoonfuls of "Turkish Delight." Surprisingly, I was never caught except by my conscience.

There are so, SO many things I want to do that I haven't been able to do easily in the last while, like ride horses, go skiing, hiking, camping, mountain climbing, tussling with grandkids. I have to eat and live differently if I want to do those things, now and in the future.

My illness compelled me to be humble, and I am extremely grateful for that. I have a ways to go, but I am so thankful for all that God showed me in my desperate hours. He reminded me that the scriptures teach us to be grateful to Him in all things, not just the fun, happy, comfortable things (see D&C 59:7). I feel like a different person. My illness has been my teacher and friend. It is not a glamorous disease, but I'll take it for what it's worth—priceless.