Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood-The Introduction


Me and my sister on my mom & dad's porch on south Hackley Street in Muncie

Being born and raised in the medium-sized Indiana city of Muncie provided me with a number of unique experiences. Some are funny. Some are serious. All of them have influenced me in some distinct way. That being the case, and since I tend to be a bit of a sentimental, nostalgic sort of fellow, I’ve decided to start a new series to share what it was like to grow up in Model-town, America.

Model-town? You might wonder where I got that. It was on a sign that I used to pass quite often at the intersection of south Walnut Street and south Madison Street on Muncie’s south end. I think it referred to Muncie’s status for a number of researchers as the model city to observe typical middle-American life. That status flowed from a research study done by a pair of married sociologists, Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve never read their study, but it got Muncie some extra press at the time, and there are still researchers that come to town once in a while to follow up. This tidbit really isn’t pertinent to my series, I just thought I’d throw it out there for free.

The Muncie of my youth really had two quite different personalities. On the one hand, there was the educational influence of Ball State University with its influx of young students and intellectual professors, and on the other hand, you had the blue collar workforce that spent their laboring hours at places like Warner Gear, Chevrolet, Delco Remy, or Indiana Steel & Wire and their recreational hours having a brew at The Island or swimming at Prairie Creek Reservoir. It really was two very different cultures.

Being a hometown boy, I grew up under the blue collar influence.

Besides the two cultures I’ve mentioned already, there were other cultural divides. One was centered around the high schools. You had the long-term favorite of the city, the Muncie Central Bearcats, you had the upstarts from the south side, the Muncie Southside Rebels, and finally, there were those schools that many of us on the southern end considered a little snooty, the Muncie Northside Titans and the Burris Owls. Outside of volleyball, Burris was rarely a sports threat, but the other three were constant rivals in all things athletic. It rarely turned violent, but I did witness a full blown brawl at a South/Central football game once.

Another cultural divide of my youth in Muncie was based on race. This point would be embarrassing for me to discuss if it were not such a prevalent problem in so many other places during the same time period. I remember hearing about riots in the high schools while I was still a student at Roosevelt Elementary. I remember our car being stoned as we passed through an intersection one night. I even remember a black family being firebombed out of their home in the snow-white “Shedtown” neighborhood when I was in high school. It all seems so crazy to me. It did then, and it does now.

Really, when I talk about Muncie with friends and other family members from Muncie, “crazy” is a good, descriptive word. From time to time, I will post a new story in the series in order to paint the picture in words of what that time was like. Hopefully, you’ll find the writings interesting reading.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Twelve








I have good news to report this week.  It wasn't in my eating habits.  Those are still pretty hit-n-miss (Burger King on Tuesday was probably the low), but I had good stuff happen anyway. 

1.  I got my first miles on the bike!  I rode 5.6 miles on Tuesday.  The weather was warm, and it was nice despite a few sprinkles of rain about halfway through the ride.  To me, this was a big milestone because I haven't really put any significant miles on the bike since my leg surgery in October 2009.  I went out for a very short ride last summer, but I cut it way short because my Achilles Tendon was really hurting by a mile and half into the ride.  However, this ride was great because my legs, while somewhat weak, did not hurt at all.  There was a tiny little burn in the repaired tendon, but otherwise, I felt great.  I now have the confidence that after the weather has really turned warm, I'll be able to put down some serious miles and get back into good riding form! (Trevor, we need to find a place to ride together!)  Oh yeah!!!!  I wanted to ride some more, but unfortunately, the weather turned cold again by Wednesday evening, and I am NOT a cold weather rider.

2.  Despite my less than stellar eating habits, I managed to lose a pound this week!  I've hit a new weight low for this fitness challenge effort at 254.0 pounds.  I needed that boost in morale because I was starting to feel my enthusiasm for the eating portion of this thing start to wane.  Now, just imagine if I had been watching my food better!  I might have lost another couple.  I've got to get my eating back on track.

Here are the numbers:

Starting Weight:  270.0 lbs
Current Weight:  254.0 lbs
Weight Loss:  16 lbs

Mileage Goal:  2011 miles in the year 2011 by walking, running, or cycling
Mileage Completed:  120.1 miles
Percentage of Goal Completed:  5.97%
Miles to Go:  1890.9

Time to go.  I'm watching the Kentucky/North Carolina game.  It's going to be an exciting Final Four this year!

See you on the road...
Mike


Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Do I Believe in God?

When you walk as much as I’ve been walking over the last couple of months, you get a good amount of time to think. That said, most of my “thinking” while walking in January and February was spent considering how stinking cold I was and whether or not I’d be able to feel my nose after I got warmed up. Other times, my mind just wandered around from subject to subject and nothing of real significance came of it. Once in a while though, I get onto a track that takes me someplace mentally while my feet are taking me someplace physically.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about why I believe in God.

A few days ago, I had an interaction on Facebook that started this process in earnest. I saw a status update where a young woman that I know said: “tell me all your thoughts on god”

Now, I think she was simply quoting a lyric from a pop song from a few years ago, but you know people…you and I…we just can’t help but respond to that. In one of the responses, a fellow said (and I paraphrase): The probability of there being a god is so slim that no reasonable person would believe in one, and any reasonable person would reject the idea. He went on to say: Most people aren’t reasonable though. They are idiotic and believe in things for which there is no evidence.

Could I just let that sit? Should I have just let that sit? Either way, I didn’t let it sit. I responded: The probability of life in the universe is much too low for any reasonable person to accept that it exists...except that it does. The chances of the exact right conditions to exist to bring about life and be able to sustain it are much too low...but it is here. People who bet on probabilities are akin to people who buy lottery tickets. Chances are you'll lose. Not interested in a debate, but I wanted to share another view. I believe in God, and I believe in science. The two are not in conflict in my view.

Still, the guy’s statement got me to wondering about just why I do believe. If you are a believer, have you ever wondered why? If you aren’t a believer, have you wondered why not? I suspect that there are more unbelievers that know why they don’t believe than there are believers who know why they do.

So, I got to thinking about it.

The first answer is that I’ve done a great deal of studying of the Bible, and have been a practicing Christian for many years, so obviously, I’ve been struck by the message of the Scripture and seen its effect in people’s lives, including my own. Some could say that I’ve been so indoctrinated by the years of study that I couldn’t see things any other way. I have to believe because of what I have stuffed into my own mind. Perhaps I’ve brainwashed myself.

But, I think my reasons go back further…before all my personal study.

Well, the next potential reason that I believe would possibly be because of going to church. Since I was young, I’ve gone to church, listened to teachers and preachers whom I respected talking with conviction about Jesus and God, and my young, impressionable mind latched onto that and the seed of belief sprouted. I was indoctrinated to believe by what I heard taught.

But, I still think it goes back further…before I was a church-goer. After all, I didn’t really start going to church until seventh grade, and I remember believing in God long before that.

Could it have been my dad that planted the seed of faith in my mind? Well, maybe. From an early age, he did tell me that there was a God, and that I should love Him. Could that have been the start of it all. Possibly. But, he also told me other things that didn’t stick. He was of one political party, and I’ve pretty much gone over to the other one. He and my mom preferred country music…I grew up with Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, and Conway Twitty…but, that’s definitely not my style. He told me how wonderful eating the fat off the side of my pork chop was, but you’d see me gag if it even got near my fork. He and mom smoked like wood stoves, but you won’t see me lighting up. And on I could go.

So, what got it all going?

Frankly, I don’t truly know completely. However, I really think that within each of us the seed is there. I think the seed of faith is placed there by God himself, and how well it grows depends on how we water it and how we keep the soil. I think to get rid of that seed of belief, you have to intentionally yank it out by the roots, and even then…like grass…it very well may grow right back in. Spiritual droughts in our lives can kill off the greenery, but just water it again, and there it is all fresh and new.

I think that my dad put water on the seed that God had put inside me, and the church fertilized it. Once the plant had sprouted, I began to work the soil around it, and it kept growing. Sometimes, little weeds of doubt grow up around it, but I have to clean those up as they come, and keep pruning, fertilizing, and watering that plant because it never outgrows the pot of my heart.

I can’t speculate about any individual’s personal faith or lack thereof, but I really do think that the seed is there in us all…in our DNA. How about you? Do you have the seed?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Eleven




As I write this, spring is just a few hours away.  Finally.

I truly dislike winter.  I suppose I should appreciate it.  After all, it is part of God's creation.  But, I can't help but think that I was built to live somewhere warmer.  I really think South Carolina is in my future.  I have a friend (Scott) who just moved back to Indiana from Arizona.  He was excited to experience some winter.  My thought:  What is wrong with him? 

I think the reason I hate it so much is a combination of three things:
1.  Very short days...darkness, gloominess
2.  Cold
3.  Barren landscape

Maybe I could handle one of the three, but the combination just sits on me.  It weighs me down more and more every year.  I recover as the days get longer and the air feels warmer, but the longer I live, the more I dread winter's return.

It wasn't so bad when I was a kid.  Snowballs.  Sledding.  Snow Angels.  I looked forward to the first real snow of the year.  I remember going out and walking and playing in the snow at night while the wet flakes fell and gathered on the leafless trees and cold pavement.  We'd throw snow at one another for hours and then, I'd come strolling in with numb fingers and toes with a nose that resembled Rudolf's; looking for some hot chocolate. 

Maybe, if all I had to worry about was whether I could pack the snow into a fort, it wouldn't be as bad.  But now, I have to be concerned about driving on slick roads, avoiding potholes, and cleaning off my sidewalks and what seems like a very long driveway.  The fun is gone. 

Enough negativity.  Spring is here!  Time for stuff to come alive!  Flowers blooming.  Leaves budding out.  The lawn turning green.  Butler kickin' butt in the NCAA tournament!  Oh, yeah.  I can almost feel the wind blowing through my bike helmet.  I love warm weather!

Here's my fitness update:

GOAL:  2011 miles in the year 2011 by walking, running, or cycling

TOTAL MILES COMPLETED:  104.2
PERCENTAGE COMPLETED:  5.18
MILE TO GO:  1906.8

CURRENT WEIGHT:  255.0

I've had the same weight now for three weeks.  I blame that fact on my sloppy eating habits.  At least the stuff I ate tasted really good.  Had a great fish sandwich in Carrollton, Kentucky at a place called "Down on Main."  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Down-On-Main-Street/265066259042  Then, on Friday, a friend introduced me to a Cajun restaurant here in Indy; "Papa Roux" at 10th & Post.  (Thanks JR)  Check it out:  http://www.paparouxindy.com/  Finally, Nancy fixed some pulled pork in the crock pot for dinner last night.  Mmmmm mmmmm.

Anyway, I need to put together a week where my eating habits match my exercise...and both are according to my plan.  I'll give it a go again this week....as I walk in the spring air. 

Lastly, I almost got the bike out this week.  Soon.  So very soon.

See you on the road.
Mike

PS:  Look for a new spiritually-based post in the next day or so.  I'm leaning toward something along the lines of "why I believe."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Ten

Excuse me while I wax a bit spiritually philosophical.  As I was walking today, I began to think of the signs I saw from a bit of a different perspective.

Have you ever wondered which way to go in life?  Do I go to college or just get a job?  Should I be a Republican or a Democrat?  Liberal or Conservative?  Should I work out, or should I sit and watch TV?  Those are good questions, but maybe there are some more important ones....like....

Should I take a harder road and do what is right?  Or, should I take the easy way and do what feels good?  Should I consider my spiritual life, or just feed my physical desires?  What's more important to me?  God?  Or, people's opinions?


Maybe your life is at a crossroads.  Maybe you don't know where to go, or who to talk to.  Do you need direction?


Maybe life has been coming at you from all directions.  Is your life on a collision course?  Are your dreams only vapor trails of ideas come and gone?


Did you think you were on a good course only to find out that life is throwing in some curves?  Are you unsure what's around the next bend in the road? 
 

Maybe it's time to STOP and look up!  Maybe you should consider consulting the Map Maker.  Maybe you should get a new GPS.

GOD
PROVIDES
SOLUTIONS


Is it time for you to seek HIM?  If so, don't just sit there behind your computer screen.  Get off you butt and get going.  If you look for Him, He will make sure you find Him. 

Does this message mean something to you?  If so, let me know.  If I can help, let me know.

The spiritual soapbox is being put away now....after one last thing:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  I Timothy 4:8

Here is my fitness update for the week:

Goal:  2011 miles in the year 2011 by walking, running, or cycling
Miles Completed:  90.7
Percentage Completed:  4.51%

Weight:  No change, still at 255.0 pounds.

It was an okay week.  Some good.  Some bad.  I walked very well toward the end of the week.

Time to run.  Angela is on her way home, and I need to help my wife with some stuff.

See you on the road.
Mike

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Have you ever had one of your kids tell you that you really need to read something?  "Oh, dad, you gotta read (fill in the blank)!  You'll love it!"  Oooooookaaaaay.  When my girls were little, I just shook my head and tried to be encouraging, but as I've gotten older, I've found that they are usually right.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a case in point.  I truly did love it.

My daughter, Angela read it and the two companion books while on her semester abroad trip to Austrailia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia.  She said that everyone on the trip went sort of nuts over the books and they were trading them around the whole three months over there.  When Angela came home, she bought the set for my other daughter, Andrea for Christmas.  Andrea devoured the whole trilogy over Christmas break.  Then, my wife picked up the first book and it was obvious that she was sucked right in.  In fact, I've not heard of anyone who once they'd started the story could really put it back down.  So, I finally picked it up on Sunday afternoon.  I finished the first book just before midnight Tuesday night.  I'm purposely waiting to start the second one so I can get caught up on some rest first.

Well, what is it all about?  You might be wondering.

I can't speak for the rest of the trilogy, but the first book is set in a future version of North America after the USA is gone.  It doesn't explain what happened, but rather just informs you of where you are.  In this new North America there is a new nation (Panem) dominated by a central "Capitol."  The balance of the country is divided into "Districts."  At one time in Panem's history, the districts had revolted and are now held in a harsh submission.  As part of that submission, once per year a reaping is held where one boy and one girl from each district is chosen to represent their district in the "Hunger Games."  This is a brutal battle to the death held in a vast wilderness arena.  Only one can survive, and to do so they have to kill one another until just that one is left standing...if they still can.  The whole thing is broadcast like a reality TV show to the entire country.

The story follows the experiences of one girl who goes to the games.  It is written from her viewpoint and flows with an easy, conversational style.  It moves quickly, and each chapter break leaves you hanging to such an extent that you just can't seem to stop reading.  It is sometimes brutal and violent, sometimes romantic, occasionally heart-breaking, and most often incredibly exciting.  It is laced with action, but there is no profanity or blatant sexuality.

I believe it may have been written for young adults or maybe teens, but if you like to read and you like action-packed stories with true imagination, you will love this story.  Pick it up and give it a read.

Consider The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as recommended reading.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Nine

No snow this time!


It's been raining a lot!


Potholes...an Indiana tradition!


Daffodils rising....there's hope on the horizon!
It was an up and down week for my fitness challenge.  I took a really long walk last Sunday...over 5 miles, but I didn't walk again until Wednesday...2.4 miles to dinner and back to my hotel.  Then, I didn't walk again until Saturday.  On top of that, my eating habits were sometimes pretty good, and a few times really bad...like Thursday at lunch when I had a stromboli at a pizza joint on highway 41 south of Henderson, Kentucky.  Boy, did it taste good, but boy was it BAAAAAADDDDD for me. 

So, when I stepping on the scales on Saturday morning for my weekly official weigh-in, I was a tad bit apprehensive.  Did the stromboli stick to my waste like an old sock to velcro?  Or, did the 1 1/2 hours of basketball I played on Friday night burn it off?  Would I be disappointed?  Or, would I be unexpectantly encouraged?

Weight:  255.0 lbs

Oh, yeah!  Down 1.4 lbs over the previous week!

Makes absolutely no sense to me, but I'll take it.  I'm now down 15 lbs from the start of this endeavor.  Only 40 more to my goal.

If I can lose 1.4 lbs on a week when I'm far from on the ball with both exercise and diet, what could happen if I had a really good week, and what would a really good week look like?

Here's my ideal program week:
1.  Drink a lot of water.  My goal would be 64 ounces a day, but I might not be able to drive my car far enough without a bathroom to reasonably do my job.  So, let's just say a much larger amount of water on a daily basis.
2.  Stay away from starches (no potatoes, rice, pasta, or breads) except for a touch at breakfast each day.
3.  Some walking/running/cycling 5 out of 7 days with one day being a BIG distance day.
4.  Get 8 hours of sleep each night.  (That was another weakness this last week.)
5.  Eat lower fat proteins like fish and chicken for each of my evening meals.

Hmmmm.  Maybe, I'll give it a try this week.  "Try" might be the operative word.  There's been a bit too much travel in my schedule lately, and it is really hard to stay on task when the routine is so messed up.

I have to say that the weight loss this week was really good for my morale.  I actually had a few random thoughts of quietly dropping this thing this past week.  They weren't really "loud" thoughts, if you know what I mean, but they were there.  I guess the slight increase from the previous week discouraged me a bit.

As my old friend Sheridan Wright used to say:  "Keep on keepin' on."  I'm going to do that.  I'm going to keep on with the goal, the program, the targets.  I'll keep posting.  I'm hoping that my journey with this is at least a little bit encouraging to someone else that may run across it.  (If it is, I'd love to hear from you.)

Here's the balance of my update numbers:

Mileage Goal:  2011 miles
Miles Completed:  82 miles -- 4.08% of the goal.  I have actually walked 82 miles since January 1st.  Tracking the distance is kind of cool.

One last note, if you looked at my pictures above, you will have seen the one I labeled "Daffodils Rising."  This means that my bike will be coming out of the garage soon.  When it does, you're gonna see the number of miles completed skyrocket.  Oh yeah, spring is on the horizon!

See you on the road.
Mike 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brats with Titles-A Political Rant

Have you ever known a person who always manipulates their peers to do what they want to do by threatening to “take their ball and go home” if they don’t get their way? I’ve known folks like that over the years. The thing is, eventually you just don’t care if they do go. In fact, everyone is usually happier when they do leave.


They’re brats. Everyone knows that they’re brats. The only ones that don’t seem to know it are the brats themselves.

Lately, here in Indiana, and also up there in Wisconsin, we’ve been seeing a new set of official brats with titles. Whether they are State Senators or State Representatives, if they don’t get their way, they’re just going to walk away and hold everyone else hostage. I guess they figure if they can’t get their way by working within the system, then they’ll just circumvent the system, and manipulate everyone into conforming to their views.

Brats.

The strategy is to prevent any vote that you can’t win legitimately. Go hide in another state. They couldn’t win the votes in November. Now, they can’t win the argument on the floor of the capital building. So, the plan is to “take their ball” and go…hide.

Shameful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling them brats and shameful because they are Democrats and I tend to vote Republican. I don’t care about their party affiliation. When you have a role WITHIN our system of government, you don’t begin to then CIRCUMVENT that system when things aren’t going your way. If the Republicans were the ones holding their private meetings in that hotel in Urbana, I’d be giving them a few cyber-slaps across the face too.

In my view, we are watching the beginnings of the demise of our system of government when those who are supposed to be functioning within that system begin to circumvent the system and work outside the system because they aren’t getting their way. It is bordering of traitorous.

Legislative Terrorists.

Get back to work, boys. Stand up and speak your mind. Vote your conscience. If you can’t make your arguments prevail on the legislative floor, then get out there and win more precincts in the next election. Take it to the people and see if you can win the day. That’s how our government was designed to work.

Don’t be brats with titles.