Saturday, April 30, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Seventeen

A farm we passed on our bikes.

This seemed like a good place for a picture.

Totally unrelated.  I just threw this in for fun.  I'm in jail in Bannack, Montana.
I'm feeling pretty positive today.  Just so you know, I'm still not eating well.  I just can't get that car back in the garage, so to speak.  However, I guess it's not totally out of control because I lost the weight that I had gained last week.  I'm back to where I was before. 

The thing that I'm truly excited about is that I seem to be getting some cycling legs under me pretty quickly.  The wet weather has made it tough to ride much, and in fact, I didn't ride at all between last Saturday and today, but still I felt good today.  I finally went over 20 miles in a single ride today...22.6 miles to be exact.  Hopefully, my schedule and the weather will cooperate enough to allow me to get some more miles on the bike during the week this week.

April was my biggest mileage month so far this year.  That is the case despite the number of days with a "zero" in my tracking sheet.  The five times I rode my bike drove the numbers up significantly.  That said, I better get the real mileage kicking in through May if I have a real hope of hitting my 2011 miles in the year.  Time to get cranking!

Here is my monthly mileage:

January: 44.9
February: 31.8
March: 43.4
April: 84.3

Here are my overall report numbers:

Mileage Completed:  204.4
Percentage Completed:  10.16%

Current Weight:  255.8 lbs  (Down 2.4 lbs from last week's weigh-in.)

Finally, just some general info on some of my blogging activity that I have planned for the next few weeks.  In addition to the Fitness Update, I'll be posting some other things that will most fall into three specific series:
  1. Henry the Preacher--A cartoon revolving around the mishaps of a frumpy, nerdy, sometimes silly minister.  I posted the first one last week.
  2. A Muncie Boyhood--Stories from my youth in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana.  As much as possible, I will include pictures from the time period, and or pictures from current day Muncie.  I have posted an introduction and three stories so far.
  3. Christianity 101--This will be a new series that will flow once a week from a class that I am starting to teach at church tomorrow.  The focus is two-fold.  First, teach those who have little knowledge of the scriptures.  Second, challenge those of us who have some knowledge to reexamine how seriously we take things.  I don't have all the answers, but I hope what I do have to share is helpful to someone. 
Time to go.  My daughter is getting ready for prom.

See you on the road.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood-Wiffle Ball and the Poop Monster

Back in the days before Playstation, X-Box, cell phones, and the internet, a young person had two options: 1. sit and watch TV, or 2. go outside and make up something to do. As a child of the sixties and seventies, I did a good deal of both. I suppose there were the third and fourth options of homework and reading a book, but those two things were pretty low on the priority list at the time.

Outdoor activities were varied. We played army as I’ve mentioned before. We played baseball and football. Sometimes, we’d just walk down to Cantrell’s Barbershop and buy a pop. He had the best machines around; drinks always in glass bottles and sometimes they were so cold that there would be ice floating inside.  Not bad for twenty-five cents.

One summer was completely devoted to wiffle ball in my back yard. It was just after my fifth grade year in school, and I had just returned from a trip to California. I don’t know who’s idea it was, but it became literally a daily routine. The gutter on the corner of my house was first base, a spot in the middle of the yard was second, and a sugar maple was third base.  We'd put something down for home right in front of the little blue spruce sapling that we nearly trampled to death that summer.  (That tree is HUGE now.) Whether you were playing defense or running the bases, you had to carefully avoid the landmines left behind by my dog, Sugar. (She kept my dad’s yard pretty well fertilized.)

Wiffle ball was one of those things that come along, but that never repeat. It was 1973, and all of the kids in the neighborhood would gather every evening to divide up teams and knock that plastic ball around. We didn’t do it before 1973, and no one seemed interested in years after. It was a passing anomaly.

We didn’t play traditional wiffle ball. We didn’t like those little plastic balls with the holes. They didn’t hold up well, and you couldn’t hit them very far. We also didn’t like the flimsy plastic bats that were so easily broken. I don’t know where it came from, but someone provided us with an extra hard and durable white plastic ball about the size of a softball. It was practically unbreakable, which came in handy when we broke the flimsy plastic bat and I brought out my wooden baseball bats. A hit that landed in my yard was in play, but if it went over the fence or my dad’s garage it was a homerun. Boy, did I feel like a real slugger when I’d nail one over the garage.

Late in the summer, the end of the games all but arrived on a sunny afternoon when tragedy struck. It wasn’t the usual crew. Tim and Tony weren’t around. No Tena, Teresa, or Ernie in the game. My cousins had come over to the house, and my friend Jerry from a block over was also there. We decided to do a little hitting. Jeff, my cousin was pitching. Chuck was in the outfield somewhere. Jerry was catching. I was at bat with my really nice and legitimately powerful Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Jeff threw me a pitch that was just calling my name. However, as I started my swing, Jerry chose that moment to stand up. I have no idea why. I don’t know if we ever found out. I swung with the form of my hero, Johnny Bench and nailed that hard plastic ball. I drove it deep into the outfield, but as my bat completed its swing, it came around and also nailed Jerry in the eye.

Of course, Jerry went down, holding his eye and crying out in pain. We helped him up, and got him inside as his eye swelled and changed into a myriad of colors. We were all scared, but he was okay. He apparently suffered no serious injury. It just looked horrible. We got him home and after some ice and likely some sort of pain-killer, all was well.

Except…for…one tragedy.

I must have knocked that hard plastic ball into next week because we never found it. We were all so scared for Jerry that we didn’t see where it went. We searched and searched and searched, but it was NEVER seen again. I mean, I kept and eye out for it for years afterward, but it never resurfaced. It was gone. It was like God had taken it, or aliens had swooped down and snagged it when we weren’t looking. The games ended shortly after we lost that ball. They just weren’t the same anymore.

It was a great ball.

Another fun game from my childhood was developed by my friend Tim. His grandparents lived directly behind my folk’s house, and they had the huge yard that I mentioned in my previous post. Near their backdoor there was a metal post that stuck up out of the ground about three feet. It was only about two inches or less in diameter, and had probably at one time been part of a handrail for the couple of steps down from their backdoor to the patio. The top of this little post had a shallow depression where water would collect. After a while, that water would get sort of stinky. It smelled like…well…like poop.

One day, Tim stuck the end of a stick into that water, got it wet, and began to chase the rest of us around the yard, and a new game was born.

The Poop Monster!

“I’m the Poop Monster! I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna wipe my poop on you!”

Oh, for the innocent days of youth!

The object was simple: don’t get touched by the poop on the stick. If you did, then you were the Poop Monster, and you took over the chasing duties. All that wasn’t too bad when it was just stinky water out of the top of that metal pole, but the thing is, when you’re a kid, you’re playing a game called The Poop Monster, and there is an abundance of animal waste from various neighborhood dogs available to you, sometimes it wasn’t just water on the end of the stick.

Sometimes, we were playing for real.

Sometimes, the game got a bit more intense.

The Poop Monster, a Muncie original.  Maybe it should have been copyrighted.  Maybe it could be a new Playstation game!  Hmmm.

Coming soon: "The Crush" and "Space 1999 and a Neighborhood Rumble"......maybe.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week 16

This bridge being out was a minor inconvenience that led me to need to add a few miles to the days effort.

I had to stop at this little church building to tighten my cleats.  Squeak.  Squeak.  It was driving me a little crazy.

Today started out as another bad report for this update.  I crawled out of bed earlier than I wanted to, and wondered aimlessly into the bathroom.  I stepped on the scales and the inevitable hit me square between the eyes.  I was up.  I had gained 2.4 lbs in the last week. 

After my lamenting previous post, you would have thought that I would have buckled down and gotten my eating habits under control, but noooooooo.  Not me.  I'm still just about chowing on anything that has a food label....mostly jelly beans at the moment.

It is embarrassing, but I guess I'm still not in a place where I want to deal with it, so I actually contemplated dropping that aspect of this report.  After all, this is about my attempt to complete 2011 miles in the year 2011.  The weight thing has been a secondary factor all along.  I thought about it, but I guess I'll hang in there a bit longer.

By the way, I asked you readers to give me a kick in the pants last week, but I didn't hear a peep out of any of you.  What's up with that?  I know you're reading it because I've got a counter that tells me how many page views per post.  Come on now.  Let me hear it when I'm messing up.  Or, at least drop me an encouraging note.

It started out negative this morning, but by noon I was feeling great about life again.  You see, I went for a group bike ride with some folks and I managed to ride 18.9 miles and felt good all along the way.  No leg pain.  No cramps.  I felt good, real good.  Do you know what that gives me?  HOPE!  I really can build my cycling strength back!  I still don't like the fact that I gained this week, but now I've got some renewed enthusiasm for my riding.  Lot's of riding will make me healthier.  No way around it. 

Now, if I can just get in good enough shape to keep up with my new cycling buddy, Mike Eaton.  Oh yeah, that's my new goal.  He needs to stare at my back wheel at least a little bit.  :) 

Here's the mileage report.  I already gave you the weight number.

Goal:  2011 miles in the year 2011

Miles Completed:  180.8
Percentage Completed:  8.99%

Thanks to the ability to get on the bike, I've already completed a third more miles in April than in each of the previous months, and I still have seven days to go. 

See you on the road,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Henry the Preacher--Volume 1, Number 1

I created "Henry the Preacher" about thirty or thirty-one years ago while attending Williamstown Bible College in Williamstown, West Virginia.  He began to randomly show up on dry erase and chalk boards in our various classrooms with humorous little quotes in little dialog boxes; at least I thought they were humorous.  Over the years, I've gone in and out of playing with him in various venues.  Back in the mid-80's, I made up a bunch of note pads with Henry at the top with the caption, "Henry the Preacher Says:" across the heading.  When I was attending Indiana Business College around the same timeframe, I had a guy suggest that he could get me a financial backer and we could start publishing Henry.  So, I tried to do a portfolio to present to those potential supporters.  However, I found that when I tried to draw him under pressure, I just couldn't get it right.  Since then, he's popped up from time to time for no good reason, but nothing of note.  I dropped the "Preacher" moniker for a while.  However, I've decided that it's time for his reappearance.  I hope you enjoy his misadventures in the ministry. 

Here's the first one...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts from the Other Side of Suicide

A couple of weeks ago in one of my Muncie Boyhood posts, I shared a story about my brother’s suicide. 

He was twenty-six and I was seven. Very briefly, I shared a few snippets of the carnage to my family in the wake of that event. As a result, one of my readers, and a friend, asked me to share my thoughts on what would be good to say to folks who had recently lost a loved one to suicide.

Wow. I found that request to be a touch beyond the scope of what I think I am qualified to speak to. After all, I’m not a clinical psychologist. I’m not even a formally trained pastoral counselor. I did enjoy a few Christian Counseling courses in Bible College about thirty years ago, but that was just enough information to get me in trouble.

I thought: What could I say to answer the question? And: What would I say to someone in that situation?

Frankly, this one is tough.

To me, most of the things that people say to those who have recently lost a loved one sounds forced, trite, and contrived. I’m sure that often these comments are said with good intentions, and with the hopes that some encouragement would flow through, but still the words seem empty and can then fall on deaf ears because they don’t really fill the need of the hour.

However, despite my trepidation and the possibility of sounding contrived, I’m going to attempt to fulfill my friend’s request. Hopefully, something in here will be worthwhile, and there won’t be too many things where those with more knowledge and experience will think I’m off base. Just take it all with a grain of salt. Much of what I have to say is based on personal experience in my family, and on life’s gleanings through the years.

Here are my thoughts:

If someone has just lost someone close to them due to suicide…

1. There is NOTHING you can say that will make them feel better.

2. Better than words is the simple touch on the arm, or even better still, a warm hug. Give them your strength through your physical connection, whether a simple shoulder squeeze or a long embrace.

3. Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” Instead, find reasons to see them and help, whether they voice the need or not. Your actual actions will speak much louder than your words.

4. If you are close to them, get them moving. Give them time to grieve, but then get them out of the house, and back into the activities that they enjoyed before.

5. Realize that beyond the ordinary grief of the loss, they are likely feeling some measure of guilt. They may be thinking it was their fault, or that they should have known. That pain can overwhelm them, so they need friends to lean on.

6. Over time, point them toward those who are still with them that need their time, energy, and support. Help them shift focus from the one they have lost to the ones they still have.

7. Verbally express your love and support for them. Let them know that they are important to you.

8. Again, if you are close to them, encourage them to have someone that they can express themselves to in an intimate way. They need to talk about what they are feeling. They will need an outside perspective.

9. Be the person who thinks of them AFTER the funeral has run its course. A week after all is done, most people have returned to their regular lives, but the mourning goes on and on for the suicide survivor. Call them to touch base. Drop by with a pie. Take them out to lunch. Go to a movie with them.

10. Pray with them. Encourage them to pour out their pain and anger to the One who loves them the most. Help them connect with the God of all Grace who longs to put His arms around them to give them peace and comfort.

Often when someone dies, those who seek to comfort the loved ones will say something to the effect of “He’s in a better place now” or “He’s not suffering anymore.” Personally, I understand that these words are meant to comfort, but unless you have special insight into the human soul and can read the mind of God, you have no idea of whether that is true or not. They come off to me as trite words; pat answers from folks who really have no idea of what to say. With that said, I do believe that the committed Christian can enter the next life with the confidence that comes from a walk with Christ. However, if you are the survivor of one who has committed suicide, you may be less than confident of your loved one’s spiritual outcome. Thus, the words are not at all comforting. They are at best frustrating, and may in fact be troubling to the survivor. They are best avoided.

Despite the commonly held religious perspective that “suicide is the unforgiveable sin” because the person committing it cannot repent, I believe that Grace can prevail. A person who commits suicide is deeply troubled. He or she is racked with internal conflict and pain. Better than any of us, God can see that. I believe that His Grace is sufficient even for the Christian who falls prey to depression to the point of taking his own life. Eventually, if the survivor’s doubts in this area are expressed, comfort can be given based on God’s love for their loved one, and His Grace for all who love Him but fall short. Conveying this is a conversation, not a quick one-liner.

Losing a loved one is like yanking a huge rock out of your yard. It leaves a nasty hole in your heart with ragged edges. In time, you can fill in a hole in the yard, level it off with dirt, and the edges will become dulled. You can maybe tell that something was there and the yard will perhaps dip a bit in that area, but time has smoothed out the loss. It is similar with the loss of a loved one, even a suicide loss. Time dulls the edge of the pain, and eventually the hole in the heart begins to heal, fill and level off. If we are good friends, we can speed that process along by providing our own love and support. My mom took ten years to crawl out of bed after my brother’s suicide, so a great deal of patience and love may be required.

I hope you never have need for the thoughts above, but if you do need them, I hope you find them helpful. As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, April 18, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Week Fifteen

 A Couple of Yellowstone Bison

A Couple of Stress-Ball Bison
This second picture is a good reflection of what I'm feeling right now in a few areas.  I'm kind of faced-off against myself.

Here's the deal.  When you write a blog with segments about fitness and how you are working to get into shape, and you're telling the world about how you are working toward a pretty doggone tough goal, you generally want to keep all the posts postive and encouraging.  You want to be excited about what you are doing.  Positive Mental Attitude!


The real world doesn't work that way.  Some days....some weeks...maybe even some just are not in the right frame of mind.  Maybe you're completely off track.

This is where I pick up the mirror and take a good look.

I have lost my fire for what I set out to do.  I'm making terrible choices for more kidding myself...I just don't want to eat right, and I don't want to go to the extra effort to make sure I have the right options available to myself.  I'm food-lazy.  I really love french fries and pizza!  Even more, I love ice cream.

I'm also discouraged about how my weakened right Achilles Tendon is feeling after bike rides.  Last Sunday, I took a 9.6 mile right.  About 3.5 miles into the ride, I pushed too hard.  I stood up on the pedals to push up a little hill, and I felt my right calf "tweak."  I think it was a little cramp, but I'm not totally sure.  Anyway, I took it easy the rest of the ride, and then rested it for a couple of days.  I didn't ride again until Thursday (with zero walking in between) when I rode 10.6 miles.  I took it easy on the hills, and didn't push hard at any point, but my leg still felt a bit sore regardless.  Thus, only one walking mile and no riding since. 

I'm just not feeling good about much of anything with regards to this process at the moment.  But, in my constant attempt to look at things from an unbiased position, I think that this probably isn't uncommon in folks who are attempting a longer-term goal.  There are ups...and there are downs.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

I guess the key is for me to not quit and to gut it out until my gusto returns, but there are times when I just simply don't want to.

Sometimes I want to quit.  I want to sit down with a big bowl of ice cream and watch Biggest Loser.

I can't do that, though.  I'm not ready to retire from life, and you really need to be healthy to get the chance to experience some of the most exciting parts.  I'll never complete a "Fourteener" in Colorado if I continue to settle for expandable waistband trousers.  Hiking to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon is a great deal more difficult when you're carrying a tub of lard on your torso.

I guess I need to kick my self in the tush and keep going.  I'd appreciate a good swift kick in the pants from you readers also.  Can you give a guy a hand?


Miles Completed:  156.9
Percentage Completed:  7.8%

Current Weight:  255.8 lbs

See you on the least that's the plan.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood-Adventures with Arrows

Me and my six guns.  With the salute, I guess I'm a cross between a western cowboy and a WWII soldier.
Roy Rogers. The Lone Ranger. The Rifleman. Bonanza. The Big Valley. High Chaparral. The Wild Wild West. Gunsmoke.

As a child of the sixties and early seventies, my TV entertainment choices contained a healthy diet of Westerns; Cowboys and Indians, before that phrase was considered politically incorrect. I could only dream of galloping through the sagebrush on a huge horse while shooting at outlaws and evading the flying arrows of renegade Native Americans. The closest I could come to that was running around my back yard, shooting arrows with rubber tips at trees, while being chased by my savage dog, Sugar who would lick my scalp off if she were to catch me.

I don’t remember the first bow and arrow set I had. I just remember that the arrows were narrow wooden rods, and they had little rubber suction cups on the ends so that they would stick to smooth surfaces when shot. Eventually, the tips were lost and the arrows became just a tad bit more dangerous. I never shot anyone’s eye out, but it’s a wonder it never happened.

I had more toy guns than toy arrows. My favorite and the one I kept the longest was a “popgun;” a small metal rifle with a cocking lever that made it look like a Winchester Repeater. It got its name from the noise it made when you pulled the trigger. However, as you can see from the picture above, I also had my share of pistols. Being a would-be gunslinger, I preferred a two-holster set up. That said, I had no intention of being a gun-for-hire. No sir. I was going to be the next Marshall Dillon of south Hackley Street.

Later on, the Cowboys and Indians battles changed over to games of Army. There were also a great number of TV shows based on World War II in those days, and it inspired my friends and me to shoot at each other for hours in and around the houses in my neighborhood.

“Halt! Gestapo!” “Bang bang bang!” “Pow pow pow!” “I got you!” “No, you didn’t! I was behind that rock!” “You’re dead!” “No, you’re dead!”

Hours of fun.

Usually, we used my yard and my neighbor’s yard directly behind my parent’s house. (Cecil and Irene had a huge yard, at least it seemed that way when I was ten. Now, I go back and I wonder how we ever did the things we did in that yard. But, it was like an amusement park at the time.) However, one year, I think it was middle school or early high school; we outgrew those two yards and overran two entire oversized city blocks with our army battles that raged every evening. We hid behind every conceivable obstacle, climbed trees, and even crawled up on a few roofs. I think at the height of that year’s wars, we probably had close to twenty kids playing, and we were driving more than a few grown-ups crazy.

I kind of miss those days. The only thing I had to worry about was not getting shot by Tim’s imaginary machine gun, or not waking up my dad who worked third shift at the Chevy plant.

One thing I didn’t mention about my old arrow set was a use I put it to that I’m sure its makers did not intend. In the fall, the birds would begin to head south, and great flocks of them would fly over the house. They weren’t geese. They were just huge groupings of some species that I don’t think I ever really recognized. Perhaps they were Starlings. I really don’t know. Anyway, having a bit of hunter built into my male nature, it seemed only natural that I should try to shoot the birds with my arrows. I would stand at the ready with an arrow notched on the string, and when a flock would appear I would shoot straight up in the air and into the flying squadron of birds. Of course, the problem with shooting straight up in the air is that the arrows come straight back down. It wasn’t a good idea to take your eyes off of your arrow while it was still in flight.

No one ever got hit by a falling arrow. Thankfully. Also, I never shot down a bird, although I did “wing” one once. I felt so bad about hitting it that I never did it again.

Later, into my early teen years, some of us graduated to more powerful and more dangerous archery sets. These bows were fiberglass and had a strong tension. The arrows were larger and had pointed metal tips. I believe they were considered target arrows. Thinking back on it, it was pretty stupid to let these things get into our hands. Only trouble could ensue.

You see, we didn’t have targets. There were no bales of hay sitting around on 21st Street. There were no bulls-eyes set up to shoot at. We couldn’t intentionally shoot at houses, or maybe we just knew better. We were remarkably smart enough to recognize that we shouldn’t shoot these arrows at one another.

So, what did that leave?

The sky, of course.

There were a few of us who had these sets, but I’ll focus on two of us: me and Ernie. Ernie was a kid who was about three years younger than me, and he lived sort of diagonally across 21st street from me in a little house that sat on the alley that ran behind our house.

Cecil & Irene's back field.  Back in the day, the trees were smaller, and there weren't so many fences.  Still, it sure seems small today.
Now, what we generally would do was go into the field behind Cecil and Irene’s house and shoot the arrows up in the air from one end of the field to the other. Then, we’d go pick them up and shoot them back. More hours of fun. Anyway, one day Ernie shot one up in the air from a different place. I don’t remember exactly where he was, but it seems like he was close to the alleyway behind my dad’s garage. He shot it pretty well straight up, but angled toward the street. He was shooting blind from behind some garages. One of those garages was Cecil’s. In front of Cecil’s garage was Cecil’s car. The arrow went up. The arrow came down. BANG!

“Oh, crap!”

Right in the middle of Cecil’s hood was a nice little cone-shaped dent. We didn’t find the arrow for days. I think it popped back up in the tree next to the driveway and didn’t fall into the grass right away. Of course, all of us who had the sets were suspects, but I don’t think anyone took the fall for the deed. I suppose the statute of limitations for dumb stuff is up, so there’s no harm in the truth coming out now.

As for me,….well,….I had a sheath of arrows, probably five or six in all, and while I was stupid enough to shoot them in the air, I was smart enough to keep them away from the neighbor’s car. I always went back to the field to shoot. Now, you need to understand that Cecil’s yard was three lots wide, so there was decent distance. Plus, we generally could stray into a few of the other neighbor’s unfenced yards without issue. We’d play football and baseball back there. Really, just about every game we played in the neighborhood somehow involved their back field. Anyway, one day no one else was around and I was a bit bored, so I gathered up my arrows and went over to shoot. I shot them all east. I picked them up and shot them back west. I probably went back and forth a few times. Finally, I shot my bunch of arrows back east one more time, but this time I came up one arrow short. I searched. I hunted. I covered all of the normal landing area multiple times, and even widened my search circle. No arrow. Ultimately, I grew weary of the effort and went home without my missing miniature missile.

Fast forward a few days.

I’m sitting in my backyard enjoying a nice evening when I see Jerry, a friend of mine from 22nd Street walking down the alley carrying an arrow.

“Hey Jerry, where’d you get that arrow?”

“A guy found it. I’m thinking it’s Ernie’s,” he said.

“Actually, I think it’s mine,” I said. “I lost it the other day. Where’d he find it?”

(Here I’m going to make up a name because I don’t remember who this person was.)

Jerry replied: “Well, Bobby was looking out his kitchen window at his dog when this arrow came down and stuck in the ground about two feet away from it.”

Again, something I never did again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WMBO-Fitness Update-Weeks 13 & 14

Heber Springs, Arkansas

Heber Springs-Another View

Nancy Rocks!

The Red River, below the dam.

Harding University

If you are wondering why I didn't post an update last week, it was because I was out of town, missed my weigh in, and I didn't want to announce to the world via the internet that we weren't home.  As a result, this week, I'm covering two-weeks worth.

We had a great trip to Searcy, Arkansas; home of Harding University.  My oldest daughter attends school there, and my younger daughter is headed that way in the fall.  We drove down on Thursday, and had nice weekend with our girls and their well as a pleasant little drive up to Heber Springs; a nearby lake.  The Heber trip was just Nancy and I, and we climbed around on the shorter cliffs by the lake, drove down and climbed down to the river below the dam, and then headed to the town of Heber Springs for a quick bite of lunch at a little hole in the wall restaurant.  All in all, it was a great time together and a beautiful day for a drive.

We also watched the semi-final Butler Bulldog game on Saturday in the lobby of our hotel.  We just kind of took over the breakfast area and watched it on the big screen.  Other people wandered in and we met a nice couple from Memphis who joined us for almost all of the game.

On to the fitness report....

For most of the two-week period, things were not so good.  I ate very poorly...and like a horse....and I didn't walk or ride consistently at all.  I did get some good walks in at Harding and Heber, but my schedule, the weather, and a bit of laziness hit me pretty hard otherwise.  As a result, I actually gained 1.8 pounds over the period.

On the bright side, I finished strong.  I rode my bike twice this weekend, and worked on the yard most of the afternoon today.  Lots of exercise, and I've eaten least today anyway.  Time to get back in the saddle, and not let laziness and discouragement hold me back.

That's the challenge for a long-term fitness effort.  There are going to be ups and downs.  Some periods of high activity, and periods of time where other things take precedence.  The key is not to quit.

The numbers:

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


Total Miles Completed:  145.3
Percentage Completed:  7.23 %

Current Weight:  255.8 lbs

Look for another Muncie Boyhood post in the next couple of days:  "Adventures with Arrows"

See you on the road.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood-Switches and Crying Under the Coat Rack

My brother, Freddie Nicholas
One factor in trying to write a series of posts about life as a boy is that the further back in time you go, the sketchier the details become. I’m a bit torn as to whether to try to do this chronologically, or to just write the stories as they come to me. It seems to be easier to do the latter, so as you follow the posts, don’t expect them all to fall into a neat timeline.

Another issue I’m faced with is that some of the stories might be a tad embarrassing for some of the characters involved. Most of them probably aren’t really that big of a deal, but since I don’t want to deal with angry folks, I’m likely going to either change the names to protect the not so innocent, or I’ll not use their last names so as to give them some plausible deniability. As for stories that might be personally embarrassing to me, well….there are some in my memory bank that I’m just not going to bring up. They don’t account for many of the potential sagas, however, so you won’t be missing much.

I was the only child of my mother and father’s marriage. My dad had no other children…as far as I know. He, however, did travel extensively in the west as a young, single guy, and also served in Europe in WWII, so you never know for sure. He was fifty years old when I was born. My mom, on the other hand, had a previous husband, and I had three siblings from that earlier relationship; two brothers and one sister. Their father had been a drunk and an abusive man, so my mom had divorced him and taken the three kids. This post is about my oldest brother, Freddie.

Freddie was nineteen years old when I was born. He was a teen in the 1950’s, and had been a rowdy and wild child. I remember hearing of him being in and out of trouble, spending time in some institutions, and there were several visits to the Delaware County Jail. While that was true, many people were not aware of his more sensitive nature, and by the time I was headed to kindergarten, he had a wife and a two-year old baby girl named Krista.

There are two distinct memories about my brother that I want to share, one good and one sad.

As a youngster in the sixties, it was not unusual for my mom to use a “switch” to keep me in line. Some of you who have grown up in this age of politically-correct parenting might not know what a “switch” is, so let me explain. In the dark ages of corporal punishment (spanking), there was a “branch” of that type of parenting that utilized a fresh, slender twig off of a nearby tree as an instrument of wrath upon a child’s hindquarters.  Oh, did they ever leave the red welt lines on the legs if you happen to have been wearing short pants when the punishment occurred! Even long pants didn’t provide much relief. To make the event even more horrible, if the parent didn’t have a switch at hand, she (mothers used switches) might actually send the offending child out to fetch his own torture device. Can you tell that I was not particularly fond of this method of punishment? That said, I am thankful that my fear of that switch and my dad’s belt kept me out of most of the trouble that I could have pursued.

My mother commonly kept a switch conveniently stashed out of my reach on top of our refrigerator. “You better (name the demand) or I’m gonna get that switch down!” It was always there as a reminder of the potential results of my many juvenile crimes like “talking back” or “not picking up my toys.” I could see one end of it sticking out over the edge of the icebox door as a subtle reminder of the consequences of misbehavior. As I write this, I can still sort of feel the sting of those mini-whips snapping on my skin.


Apparently, that had been my mom’s normal stashing location for the switches over the years because my brother Freddie knew where they were. One thing that I remember about him, and that I will forever be grateful for is that every time he would come over to our house, and walk in the back door and through the kitchen, he would reach up, grab that switch, and break it into about twenty little pieces. My mom would cuss him, and I would give him a great big hug.  He was my hero!

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many other memories of my brother Freddie because when I was in first grade, he died.

He was a troubled soul; plagued with dysfunctional relationships and personal unhappiness. My mother shared with me later that over the years he had attempted several times to take his own life. Once he tried to shoot himself with a rifle, but the length of the weapon foiled the attempt. Another time, he tried to hang himself in our basement, but my mom found him and pulled him down in time. Unfortunately, when a person is bent on self-destruction, you cannot always be there in time.

When he was twenty-six, and I was seven, he was married with a young daughter. They had another baby, but she had died as an infant a few months prior. He and his family were at my sister’s apartment, and he was arguing with his wife. For some reason, he had brought home a cyanide egg from the shop where he worked, and he threatened his wife that he would put it in water and drink it. Through the course of the argument, he did just that. He dropped it in a glass and eventually did drink it. As soon as he did, I am told that he jumped up to go to the sink, but as he reached the faucet, he collapsed and fell over. He could not be revived. It was too late. He was gone.

Fortunately, I didn’t witness any of this, but my sister, her son, his wife, and my niece all did. The whole family was devastated.

My last memory that is directly related to my brother is of myself standing underneath the coat rack at Parson’s Mortuary crying for my brother. I still miss him forty-two years later.

I didn’t intend this to be a post with a moral, but let me just say that while my brother made his point, and got his “escape” from the mess, if he had known the wake of destruction that his passing would leave, I have no doubt that he would have found another way to deal with his pain. My mom went to bed in 1969, and except for short interludes of activity, she didn’t get up again until I went off to college in 1980. I won’t go further into the other side effects of his death, but there were many others scattered across the relationships that he left behind. I am confident that my brother who was so concerned for me, his little brother, that he couldn’t bear the idea of my being whipped with a switch, would never have done what he did if he had an inkling of the ongoing pain that it would cause his family.

I hope none of my readers are contemplating suicide, but if so, please rethink it. Suicide is never an answer. It is a curse on those you leave behind. Find another way to live and to deal with whatever is causing you pain until life inevitably smiles on you again! And it will, you know.

Life will smile at you again.