Monday, December 30, 2013

The Color Black Let Me Down

     I've heard it said that black was a slimming color. In the photo above, I beat the crud out of that theory (faces were blurred to protect the innocent and keep them from looking skinnier than me). When I first saw that picture on facebook, was I: a) horrified, b) mortified, c) shocked, d) sad, or e) all of the above? Answer: e, f and g! I have dubbed it "worst pic ever." I've taken bad pictures before, you know, like face frozen as if someone hit pause on the dvd player, but this one made me cringe. I really couldn't believe I was that out of shape. Even more surprising is the fact that this shot was taken almost 4 years ago. The reality of my being over weight wasn't enough to sober me up. I didn't change after this picture slapped me in the face. I only got worse. 
     2013 was the year I finally admitted and surrendered to the fact that I am a food addict. People don't like that label. They don't want to be branded or there's a stigma attached to it that is very unappealing. I admit it freely because it helps me call the issue what it is and get the help I need around it. If I have a broken arm, I want the doctor to tell me I have a broken arm so he can treat it properly and then I can heal. And because of my addiction I choose to abstain from sugar and flour COMPLETELY. I'm not one of those people who can have one cookie or a small slice of cake. I want as many cookies as I can handle and the biggest piece of dessert, and it's always been that way. This behavior, among others led to my weighing 241 pounds a year ago, way too big for my height. 
     So, after wrestling with my inner demons, resisting my sponsor, and falling off the wagon several times, I've finally accepted this lot in life. I eat practically the same thing everyday. Ironic for a guy who grew up going to buffet style restaurants and actually worked in one for a couple years (along with his mother, brother and sister). I liked my choices, but now I choose to eat repetitiously, and I'm fine with that. Someone asked me "How can you eat the same thing every day?" I surprised myself when I heard the answer: "I have learned to appreciate what I get to eat." Out of all the blessings and accomplishments in 2013, that is probably the one I am most grateful for. 
      I preached a sermon recently and opened with this: "You know, I’m thinking ahead. I’ve already made my New Year’s resolutions for 2014, and because I don’t want to ruin my new year, I’ve already broken them. Why start 2014 feeling guilty about not doing what I said I was going to do? So, resolutions for 2014 made in 2013, broken in 2013, guilt and shame being dealt with in the old year so I can continue living in denial and truly have a Happy New Year! I’m ahead of the game by already falling behind, I’m progressive in my being stuck." I was actually being facetious. A year ago, that would have been more true for me. Today, it is not. And it feels most excellent to not have to rely on the color black any longer.
(Together, Marty and I have lost 110 pounds, but I win 'cause I lost 60!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Julia's Birthday Buddy


     Our former church, Abundant Life Assembly of God in Cupertino, CA is full of good people. One fellow is named Jim. He and Julia share the same birthday, so he is Julia's "Birthday Buddy." His "buddy-ness," however, goes beyond just sharing the date. When he was growing up, he felt like his birthday was overshadowed by Christmas and there was never really a distinction between the two special days. Christmas gifts also counted as birthday presents. A party wasn't necessary because of the big day before. Jim wasn't too fond of this arrangement.
     When Julia was born, Jim made a commitment to acknowledge every birthday she had and to distinguish it from Christmas Day. And he has made good on that promise for the last eleven birthdays of Julia's life. Without fail, he has delivered a gift to her every year, from dolls, to princess castles to clothes and handbags.
     We've always made an effort to not let Julia's birthday get lost in the holiday season, but seeing Jim every December 26 makes the day that much more special. Thank you, Jim. You are the best birthday buddy ever!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ode to K-Mart

     There's an off-beat song on my Christmas playlist called, "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance" by Sufjan Stevens. Fun lyrics in it, including, "Your sisters' bangs, she cut 'em herself," and "K-Mart is closed." Ella, my 9 year old, heard that line and said "What's 'K-Mart'?" Is this really my child? How could one of my offspring not be familiar with a store I seemed to visit on at least a weekly basis?? I was around 5 years of age when my hometown of Antioch welcomed a K-Mart into the neighborhood. Oh, the glories that awaited us on Somersville Road behind those discount department store electric doors. Walk through and smell popcorn (and notice it sprinkled along the floor in it's artficially colored yellow-yness), the aroma coming from the snack bar that also sold ICEE slushy drinks. It was a banner day when Mom would spring for one. Within a few steps inside, I would announce to my mother that I would be in the toy section and bolted for the multiple aisles that hosted items on my Christmas and birthday list. During our visit we would hear more than a few times over the loudspeaker, "Attention K-Mart shoppers..." and we knew to look for the department where the aqua colored beacon would be flashing indicating a "Blue Light Special." In the back of the store was a restaurant, a RESTARAUNT! It must have been really ritzy because I don't recall ever eating there.

     The bane of my K-Mart shopping experience was trying on "Trax" tennis shoes that were yoked together with a plastic tie. A kid could only try one on at a time and would walk in it with the other one flopping around, all the while trying not to break their neck by tripping on the tethered shoe. They sold guns in the back, had aquariums to gaze into, an extensive record album selection was available... and my trip to K-Mart always ended hearing an employee announce to the entire store on the intercom, "Shane, will you come to the front of the store? Your mother's waiting for you." And, sheepishly, very aware that every customer would know who this Shane kid was, I would make my way to the entrance and walk out with the mom who didn't feel like looking for her kid herself. Ah, the joys of K-Mart. Ella, you're missing out.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful That I Am More Powerful Than a Psycho Donut

     I try to express thanksgiving to God every day of my life, and this season is a great reminder to offer  forth even more gratitude. It goes without saying, I'm thankful for my wife, my kids, my home, my salvation... but this year I am particularly thankful for my recovery around food addiction and overeating.
     It was nearly 12 months ago I walked into a room at the local hospital that was hosting a Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I was ready to admit somewhat publicly that I was broken around food. Thus began a roller coaster experience of struggling with surrender, submitting to my sponsor, falling off the wagon, and fighting and losing battles against the powerful entities known as flour and sugar.
     During one binge, I was holding a snack food in my hand, and I felt like it was controlling me. Before recovery, I thought I was the one with the power of choice, but in this moment, I realized how out of control I really was. It was a scary and palpable moment. Food had been controlling me for years.
     I have been sober (no sugar, no flour) since July. The other night, however, my wife brought home leftover doughnuts from her psychopathology class that she teaches at the local seminary. She buys the students the wares of a San Jose doughnut shop called Psycho Donuts. I'll give you a moment to make the connection. The kids were excited to indulge, but I looked in that box and saw my nemesis looking back at me. Truly, it felt like these round, glazed and frosted pastries were glaring at me. It was a stand off. They were waiting to see what I was going to do, silently challenging me.
     The next morning, there was the box, minus a couple doughnuts after my kids enjoyed a few but still plenty left over, and I realized I did not want these in my house. So, like Darth Vader as he lifted the Emperor to throw him into the abyss, I picked up that box of Psycho Donuts, carried it to the outside trash can, lifted the lid and tossed it in. I then piled more garbage on top to ensure that it would not try to call to me from the grave.
     I wasn't really tempted to eat one at this stage in the game, but it was like having someone you can't stand as an overnight house guest. Why would I let them spend the night? It took me forty five years, but I am finally more powerful than a Psycho Donut. Thankful.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dear, Julia

(Written this morning as Marty prepares to take Julia away for her "Passport to Purity" weekend)

     I cherish you, Babe. I love you so much and I want all the good things God has for you in this lifetime. 1 Corinthians 13 says “love protects,” so it is my job to protect you, and with that, your purity. I will do my best to do so, but there will come a day when you will have to decide for yourself to protect your virtue and live out God’s plan of purity.
     You’re going to like boys, and they’re going to like you, and I’m going to hate that because that’s what dads do, but these boys aren’t going to love and cherish you like I do, or like God does. So I want you to love yourself enough to say, “I’m worth waiting for,” when it comes to your wedding night, because you are. And I can only pray that there is a young man out there who thinks the same of himself and that one day I’ll trust him enough to give him your hand in marriage and he will then have the vital job of cherishing and protecting you.
     Hold on to your purity, Babe. Hold on to it for dear life. The gift of sex is so worth waiting for when you’re married. Don’t let anyone or any boy tell you differently. Fight for your purity, Babe. Protect it, cherish it, and never forget that you are worth waiting for. Trust the man who has loved you since the day you were born and the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb.
     You are a gift, Babe, a treasure. Never forget that and always live like it’s true.
I love you the most,

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Tale of Two Dads

     All 5 Couch's were hanging out in our bedroom today when my son said, "Dad, can I talk to you in private?" So we snuck off to his room and he asked me his confidential question (which shall remain confidential since his mother was trying to worm it out of us and she will definitely read this post). After our meeting, I sat down next to him on his bed, gave him a kiss on his head and told him he was my favorite boy in the whole world. This led to spending the bulk of the afternoon in my son's bedroom. How could I refuse his invitation? He wanted to see artwork from my childhood so I pulled out my big ol' box of sketch pads, class projects from high school,  assorted photos, and other memorabilia from the 80's (I found my "Jams" velcro wallet! So excited). All my boy wanted to do today was spend time with me. And I relished it.
     I didn't have too many similar experiences with my dad. He was a truck driver and worked odd hours.  Sometimes he would start his shift at 10 o' clock at night. He slept in the daytime which left us creeping around the house trying not to wake him up. He wasn't really a theme park kind of dad, so we never went to Disneyland together, much less Great America. Never went to a professional ball game with him, a rite of passage for every boy, at least in my opinion. Dad worked hard and when he wasn't at work, we had to be quiet. I'm sorry to say there was a disconnect between me and him. Don't get me wrong, I loved my dad, I just never felt the need to have a private conversation with him or to invite him to spend the afternoon in my room.
     My sister once paid me a high compliment behind my back. She said to my wife that I was a good dad even in light of my own dad not being around very much when I was growing up. When Marty told me this, I felt acknowledged, finally, by someone else in my family. I always knew my father was pretty absent. It just felt a little redeeming for another family member to notice. I am so not perfect in my fatherhood. I have my share of parental blunders and cringe-worthy mistakes, but I knew way before I even had kids that it was going to be different between me and them.
     Any time my boy expresses a desire to hang with me, I'm blown away. I hope he always wants to. And I will do everything I can to accommodate him. You always want your kids to do better than you did. I only hope he becomes a better father than I am.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why I Keep a Journal (and Why You Should Too)

     On January 1, 1991, I decided to start writing in a journal. Don't know what compelled me. Nobody suggested or modeled it to me, I just grabbed a spiral bound notebook, wrote the word "Journal" at the top and went for it. Twenty two and a half years later, I am on my 56th journal. Though I kind of stumbled on to this pastime, I think it is one of the best endeavors I have ever undertaken.
     My initial entries were very blase': "Woke up, went to class, went to chapel, saw Scott, had lunch..." Reading those early musings you'd think a caveman picked up a pen. Yet, each entry was concluded with a sincere prayer to God. I read those prayers now and am humbled at the desperation that young 22 year old guy had for God and his heart cries for more of Him in his life. Many times I pick up a past journal and marvel at the growth that has happened in my life. I see a different person back then, and I'm glad I'm not the same.
     I honed my writing skills, observed how others penned their books and articles, and learned to not just keep a log of the day. I can record my feelings about an incident whether personal, national or global. Future generations of my kin will be able to pick up the volume that holds my exact thoughts on September 11, 2001. I still write out my prayers. I record the amusing and poignant things my kids have said over the years. I detail milestones and victories and hardships. But the real motivating factor in keeping a journal these days is I want to leave my legacy.
     A few years ago I read a book called Letters From Dad. The author tells about when his dad died and all he inherited from him was an old tackle box with some rather insignificant items inside. That was it. So he began a project of writing letters to his kids over the years and on various occasions, and one day he would present them so they could have them after he was gone.
     I want my kids to have more insight into my life than vagueness. Both of my parents are gone, and with them the answers to questions I have about my extended family. I only had one grandparent, my mom's mom. The others passed before I was born. I just discovered that my dad's father's name was Leon Algernon Couch. Dad only referred to him as "Pappy." I want my grandkids to know so much more about me than just my name.
     One day my kids will inherit my journals. I imagine all of them staying at one of my children's homes, probably my eldest's, and once Julia has read the first journal, she will then pass it on to Ella either by mail or teleportation (it could happen by then), or my preference would be in person as they get together on a regular basis. And once Ella finishes that volume, she'll pass it on to Max. And my kids will get to know me and hopefully have answers to questions that I can no longer answer in person. I'm  not afraid of what they'll find in those pages. I have always written as if someone anywhere could pick up my journal and start reading. There is some code at times and I've used discretion for the most part, but my heart is definitely splattered all over those books. They'll definitely see that I wasn't perfect, but I hope they'll also see a man who's heart was after God and growth was a constant in my life.
     In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson writes, "... journaling is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated spiritual disciplines. Journaling is the difference between learning and remembering. It's also the difference between forgetting and fulfilling our goals." Goals! Another great reason to journal.
     Go grab a journal and start leaving your legacy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Cake-less Birthday

     Today was my birthday and I didn't have a cake. I can't remember the last time I didn't have frosting on this day in the last 45 years. Did someone forget? Was the dessert overlooked? No. I chose not to have one. My treat was an apple, and I may chomp on some grapes later while enjoying a flick with my bride.
     Many probably can't fathom a cake-less birthday. I never thought I would be going without one, that's for sure. I love sugar. I love frosting, I love CAKE! But I choose not to have it today. If I had a bite of cake and broke my abstinence around my food plan (no sugar, no flour, weighed meals), then my brain would tell me, "Have another piece." And I would, justifiably so because it's my birthday. That thought would take me to a drive thru window later tonight with a pit stop to 7-11 to pick up some candy for after my late night meal, not snack, meal. One bite of cake would put me on a slippery slope and that one bite would not be enough.
     I've always justified my bad choices around food. If I worked hard in the yard all day, I deserved a pizza. If it was Father's Day, I deserved chili dogs and french fries because it was a special day. If it was hot outside, we "needed" a trip to Baskin Robbin's. But you know what I really deserve? I deserve to take care of myself. What I really need is to ensure my health gets me to a ripe old age. A pizza won't serve that purpose.
     Instead of focusing on what I've given up, I'd rather reflect on what I've gained. Since surrendering my eating habits to God, I've lost over 40 pounds. I had the privilege of going through my closet and throwing out every extra large shirt I owned. I went shopping for new clothes. Today I wore a shirt to church that was a medium instead of XL. And I was frustrated this morning because all my belts were too big. I can bend over and tie my shoes without gasping for air. I'm not falling asleep midday because I'm simply sitting still. My knees don't hurt anymore. My blood pressure is lower. I don't shun the mirror or am repulsed by the image I see walking past a store window. I think I've gained a lot more than what I've given up.
     It was a cake-less birthday, but that was my choice. I wasn't losing out because I shunned the dessert, but rather I gave myself the gift of self-care. I've had enough cake for a lifetime (and candy, and fast food, and soda, and pizza...). I've had enough. So let them eat cake, but none for me, thanks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Anchor Holds


     It was the Fall of '06, and when I say "fall," I mean lots of things fell. That year ushered me into one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I finally faced some inner demons and let my wife in on the secret which led us to recovery. It was hard, humiliating. Close relationships I had began to morph and not for the better. And being in "the ministry" was challenging and lonely.
     A year later, my mom died. Nothing gets you ready for the loss of a parent. Even if they did offer a class on preparing for the death of loved ones, it still wouldn't anesthetize the pain of hearing the dreaded news. So I went into mourning, and two months later found out my dad had stage four lung cancer. He died three weeks later. My grief had been doubled in less than three months (Bear with me, there's a light at the end of this dark tunnel).
     A month after my dad's passing, my wife was diagnosed with a tumor in her head. That was in April, and May found us in San Diego facing a major brain surgery and the rest of the year was focused on her getting better. Three traumas in a five month span.
     By the end of 2008, I was in a low-grade depression, but still trying to fulfill all my duties as a husband of a wife post-surgery, father of three kids 5 years old and under, and youth pastor who's calendar was just as full as before all the surprises of the preceding year.
     In 2009, our house was ransacked and robbed. More loss. In 2010, our cat died suddenly (Pet owners will sympathize). I also resigned from my position at the church that I held for almost 17 years and was facing the unknown. A walk of faith ensued, but it was scary at times. Money was running out. I knew that I knew that God had revealed to me that my time at the church was done, but now what, Lord?
     Even after starting our non-profit ministry, we still needed to build our income back up. Financially, things were lean. But we trusted God to guide us and provide for us. Upon leaving my church, I had begged God if there was any way to let us stay in our home in Santa Clara. We love our house, we love our neighborhood (except when robbers drop in), and we love our school the kids are in. It was a long shot because those in the ministry know once you leave a church, it usually means a move. But God saw fit that we stay put.
     Through it all, we experienced God's faithfulness and provision in abundance. In all the loss, the body of Christ was right by our side. In the uncertainty of our finances, we were still able to survive in the expensive Silicon Valley, and that is miraculous. God was our anchor through it all.
     I paid our bills today. We're taken care of. Financial burdens that were looming for years have been lifted because of God's great provision and in His divine timing. Our ministry is established and we're not wondering what's next for us. It was a seven year season of white-knuckling on to God. We had no choice, but there could not have been a better choice if there were options. Yet, we need Him just as much today as we did yesterday or last month, or seven years ago.
     Seasons are a part of life. And your season will not imitate mine in detail or duration. But what will remain the same is the anchor that is Christ. If your season is bleak, seems unending and unbearable, don't let go. It is for a while only. And when things aren't so heavy, keep a tight grip. We never know what tomorrow may bring, but one thing that is solid, our Anchor holds.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


    I am broken around food. I go to a group weekly and admit that I am a food addict. In our seminars we tell people that they are probably dealing with an addiction if there is repeated behavior present, usually done in secret that is contrary to values/morals, is harmful, and if it was found out by family members, they would be hurt by the discovery. That is me, and sugar and flour are my secret lovers that treat me badly, yet I keep returning to them.
     I can remember loving sugar when I was a kid, obsessively. If there wasn't something sweet to eat in the house, licking my finger and sticking it in the sugar bowl would do. I ate the sugar cubes by the coffee at church like they were appetizers. I even stole a candy bar or a pack of gum from a store a time or two. There was something present early on, a reason for the behavior but I didn't realize it as a child.
     As I got older, fast food was a staple and candy was my dessert. The problem was, I didn't grow out of this pattern. My diet didn't mature like it should have. I never liked salads and there were only a few choice vegetables I could stomach, so I generally avoided them.
     I realized this was a full blown problem a few years ago. I was having an affair... with the Wienerschnitzel down the street. Late at night after everyone was in bed, I would sneak out and order a full meal at a drive-through window, set it all up and sit in front of the TV and feed my pain. Then I would discard the bags and wrappers in the outside garbage can so my wife wouldn't see it. Sometimes this would happen 4 times a week. Repeated behavior, done in secret, harmful, and painful if discovered. I am a food addict.
     I had tried many times to change my ways. I came up with my own food plans, promised to do better, was sobered by other people's stories, I even drew my own headstone in my journal to wake me up to the reality that  could be mine if I kept treating my body that way. But none of it stuck.
     Even after joining Overeaters Anonymous, I was still relapsing. Then my sponsor shared a selected reading with me one day and the word "selfishness" hit me between the eyes. I saw myself sitting on that couch late at night shoveling the food in, and my actions were basically saying, "Forget my family, I want what I want." In those moments it was worth it to feed the pain (because all addictive behavior comes from a place of pain), and not ensure my being around for the long haul, even with the knowledge that my dad had a history of heart trouble and I have high blood pressure and high triglycerides. Does it have to take a heart attack to change?
     I began surrendering to God and to the food plan my sponsor gave me. I had failed on my own time and time again. I just needed to surrender. I have never eaten more salads in my whole life than I have in the last several months. And I've learned to enjoy them.
     The picture on the left is from last Fall during a family photo shoot. I liked the shots on the stone wall... of the rest of the family, so those particular pictures never made it to facebook for all the world to see. Life was good, I love my family, but I was just so not happy with myself.


The picture on the right is 7 months later. It may look like a pose of victory, but it is actually a sign of surrender. I'm humbled when I look at it, not necessarily proud. And I have to add, I have not perfected this whole process. Believe me, there are nights I still want to get in the car and meet up with my lover, but I have to strive to get that unhealthy chatter out of my head and surrender to God and to the plan and process.
     I say it practically every time I preach or speak, we're all broken people, we just have different details. I'm broken around food. Maybe you are, too. That's okay. Embrace the brokenness and know that there is hope. Take it from a sugar cube-eating, Easter candy clearance-shopping, soda drinking, fast food-loving food addict. It's a better way to live.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Don't Just Barbecue

     We were reminded in church today by a former U.S. soldier that we don't necessarily say "Happy Memorial Day" on the last Monday of May, but rather, it is a time for remembering those who have served our country and paid the price for our freedom. Tonight I am remembering my father who served in the United States Navy during the Korean War.
     The last Christmas I spent with him (and I didn't know it would be my last at the time), I gave him a gift. The city of Cupertino has a memorial in the park where pavers can be purchased in honor of those who have served in the military. I wanted to, in a way, immortalize my dad and let him know what his service meant and what he meant to our family. So, I surprised him with a paver that had his name, rank, the years he served, and the sentiment, "We love you, Papa" engraved on it. He was a little overwhelmed by the gesture and mentioned what a meaningful gift it was.
     Not a month and a half later, I pulled up to the cemetery and saw his casket draped with an American flag, and I was proud. As part of the ceremony, that flag would be presented to a loved one and the U.S. Navy representatives asked who they should give it to since Mom was no longer with us. My first thought was, "Which sister should I give it to?" I was trying to keep the peace, but in a moment of positive selfishness, I said, "Give it to me."

     The moment came in the ceremony where the Navy men folded the flag and a bugler played the familiar and emotion evoking notes of "Taps." The only thing that could be heard was that bugle and quiet cries, yet it was such a peaceful moment. I had only witnessed these kinds of scenes in movies, but this tribute was for my dad. It was in real time and there was no way to stop the tears. Then the representative walked up to me, handed me the flag and expressed their appreciation on behalf of the President and the United States Navy for my dad's service. Then he saluted.
     This morning in church at they close of a wonderfully moving Memorial Day service, a lone bugler stood up and played "Taps," and I was instantly transported back to a very peaceful moment in a quiet cemetery on a slightly overcast day, and I was grateful. Thank you, Dad, for your service to our country. And thank you to all who have served and especially to those who gave all.

Friday, May 10, 2013



     Marty and I were out of town for four days. Driving back from Sacramento, we were ready to see our kids. They would be in school when we pulled in, so we would have to wait for that bell to ring before we could squeeze them. Max is the first one dismissed, so we waited, counting down the minutes. He was one of the first out of his class and a big smile spread across my face. As soon as he saw us, he ran as fast as his little legs could take him right into my arms. I scooped him up and the tear ducts went to work. I put him down so he could greet his mom and the hugging was long and lingering. Ella was next on our list. I saw her jogging down the hallway, eyes peeled for her parents. Her jog turned into a sprint when she spotted us and she flew into my arms. Again, I passed her on to her mom so the love fest could continue.
     Julia didn't get out until a half hour later, but I couldn't wait. I knew her class was usually milling around the room this time of day doing busy work, so I poked my head in to catch a glimpse of my firstborn. Her back was to me and I paused for a moment, not sure if I should say anything. Some of her classmates saw me and watched with anticipation because I usually try to embarrass her in some way, so they know the drill. Instead, all I said was, "Julia." She turned around and said, "Dad," then she bolted from her desk and jumped on me like she was 3 years old again. I couldn't contain the tears. I had wondered if she was going to be "too cool" to display any kind of emotion when we picked them up, but she proved our strong connection by leaping into my arms in front of her whole class. It was an early Father's Day present, and as I recalled the moment throughout the day, I got choked up. It's always nice to have a little break from the kids, but there's nothing better than the reunion.
     We were all kind of quiet after picking up Julia, just wallowing in the moment, I guess, but as we walked to the car, I uttered, "All is right with the world."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Twelve Plus Months In The Making

     Over a year ago, I saw a post on facebook asking people if they wanted to participate in the first ever Rhodia Journal Swap. This sounded right up my alley, so I applied and was chosen as one of the 12 to receive a free journal from Rhodia, fill 6 pages and include a prompt for the next participant, send it to the next person on the mailing list and wait for another to show up in my mailbox. At the end, we should receive our own back filled with lots of goodies from 11 other artists/writers spanning the United States from California to Maine. The theme was "Favorite Things," and the only rules were to 1) be creative, 2) mail journals at the end of each month, and 3) post your pages on Tumblr (If you would like to see the other participant's contributions, click here).
     Some of the artwork presented was breathtaking. I was definitely in the company of some seriously talented people and felt a little dwarfed in the skill department by their pieces of work. Yet, they inspired me to branch out and do more than I would have. I have crossed paths with eleven strangers and really the only thing we know about each other is found in the pages of our "Webbies." It has been an unusual and rewarding experience, one I was proud to be selected for and glad to be a part of, yet one I would never do again. It was a great artistic outlet, but it took time. Two people dropped out which added a lot of confusion to the flow, but I was true to my commitment. This husband, father of three, pastoral counselor and president of a non-profit organization did all his pages. Here a some of them...

     Some participants have already received their own Webbie back. I can only hope mine makes it home. It has travelled all over the country. I wish I could have gone with it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I was Surrounded

     Today my son had his birthday party. The menu was typical for a kid's celebration, junk food with a fruit salad thrown in just in case someone wants to make a healthy choice. After the kids had been served and were off for the next activity, I made my lunch and sat down at the kitchen table. I was surrounded by pizza, cookies, birthday cake, chips and soda. In the past, this would have been my lunch on this type of day, but not today. My meal consisted of 4 ounces of ground turkey on two corn tortillas with point 5 ounces of sour cream, some lettuce and salsa. And for dessert... 8 ounces of fruit salad. I'm the one making the healthy choice. I have been for several weeks now. I wasn't going to write about it just yet, but sitting at that table this afternoon surrounded by foods I would normally eat but didn't reach for... the visual struck me.
     Since accepting this new way of life, all my pants are falling off me now. My wedding ring slides right off my finger. I can see the weight loss in my face. I've never eaten so many salads. I'll share more later, but for today, I was surrounded by junk food and had not one bite of it, and finally, I was okay with that.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I Survived the 80's

     Sometimes the past pops up in your face and scares you to death. Somebody posted this picture on facebook of me from the early 80's. I believe I was in 9th grade. I believe my mom still bought my clothes... from Mervyn's... on clearance. I'm sporting Felix the Cat on my red Tee. He wasn't even popular in the 80's, but there he is on my chest. I'm wearing baby blue corduroys... with a brown belt, and I brought my own skates to "Christian Night" at Roller world in Concord, CA to save 75 cents on skate rental. My daughter was appalled by this picture. She didn't want to look at it. I exclaimed to her, "This is your father." She didn't care, she couldn't deal. "Try living it," I thought.
     Lots of feelings are stirred when I look at this kid. 9th grade was the worst year for me. "Bully" is kind of a buzz word nowadays, but they were alive and well in the early 80's. Trust me. My family was in chaos with tons of sibling drama. True friends seemed few and far between. To sum it all up, this kid was not happy. I really didn't know how miserable I was at the time because I had to numb myself to be able to get on the bus and get through another day of social awkwardness at school. Looking back, I realize just how much inner turmoil I was dealing with.  Even though I can laugh at myself and I don't mind this photo being displayed on my social network, it's not fun to remember what was going on behind that enormous pair of glasses.
     However, if you click back from this picture in my photos on facebook, you see this...

     This is redemption. This is what makes Junior High worth it. This is what I live for everyday (including my bride and my other daughter). This is what makes me believe my wife when she tells me that I get better looking as I get older! 
     I was doing a written exercise a while back and the question was, "If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?" My answer was, "Hang in there, it gets better. Just wait and see who you get to marry and your three incredible kids." Yet, with all my blessings, it's still hard for me to wear corduroy pants anymore.