Archive for category Life

Is Your Doctor Killing You?


shaky-pyramid

This is a story about Bob. There are  millions of  people who have stories just like his.

When Bob was 35 years old he had his blood cholesterol checked.  The results indicated that his total cholesterol was through the roof – 351 mm/dl.  The conventional wisdom said that anything over 200 was indicative of a high risk for coronary heart disease, which happened to run in Bob’s family.

The doctor put Bob on a cholesterol lowering medication but the drug wreaked havoc with Bob’s digestive tract. In addition, the warning that came with the drug said that it could possibly damage his liver,  and since Bob enjoyed both beer and wine, with the occasional adult cocktail, he decided to forgo the medication and attempted to lower his cholesterol with diet and exercise.

The American Medical Association along with the American Heart Association had long ago ‘conclusively’ determined that fat in the diets of Americans were killing them off.  Following their (and his doctor’s) advice, Bob began a regime of a very low fat, high carbohydrate diet coupled with daily rigorous exercise.  His fat intake was well below the recommended 30% of daily calories (it was likely well below 20%).  Every day he engaged in cardiac stimulating exercises for at least an hour, usually two.  He began running and was soon up to 15 miles a week. His weight dropped from 175 to 155 lbs  but he could never achieve his doctor’s suggested goal of 145 lbs  (he was only five feet, five inches tall but with  a muscular build).  Still, he felt great.

After a year of this discipline he returned for his follow up blood test and was dismayed to find that his total cholesterol had dropped only two points! In addition, he was advised to keep on eye on his salt and sugar intake as now his blood pressure had risen along with his triglycerides (whatever they were).  He agreed to take the cholesterol lowering drug and eliminate as much animal fat from his diet as possible.   So began a lifestyle that included a diet allowing only minimal lean cuts of meats, lots of fruits and vegetables along with plenty of plain bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.  No more butter or mayo.  No whole milk or cheese. No more ice cream or sour cream. No more Caesar dressing. No salt on his peanuts or pretzels. And no more rib-eye steaks.  But plenty of fiber; he could have all the crunchy fiber he wanted.  He took to wearing Birkenstocks and he was always hungry.

Even with such a lean diet, Bob struggled to keep the weight off. Disillusioned (and getting a bit older), Bob’s exercise regimen gradually fell off to taking brisk walks about three times a week.  He slowly put the weight back on (as he just as slowly lost his hair) and after 10 years he was back up to about 180 pounds. Even though he didn’t feel ‘fat’,  the conventional medical wisdom ( of that week) said that he was downright obese. But ‘they’ also  said that he was obese when  he weighed twenty pounds less.  He finally got over feeling offended.

Right around this time Bob called his doctor,  complaining of an occasional tingling along the entire right side of his body.  Undergoing multiple tests it was thought that he had experienced TIA (Trans Ischemic Attack) – a mini stroke, likely caused by hypertension.  Now he agreed to take medication for this condition, yet it still hovered around the high borderline.  The other meds had helped to drop  his overall cholesterol  to around 220 mm/hg yet his triglycerides (which had something to do with both arterial sclerosis as well as blood sugar) continued to rise.  He was diagnosed as pre-diabetic along with being at an ever higher risk for cardiovascular disease.  Continue to lay off the animal fats (except for fish – now that fat was good for you) and eat lots of fruits, vegetables and plenty of fiber, his doctor said.  Oh, and drop 20 or so pounds while you’re at it.

No matter how much Bob  stuck to the prescribed diet, he could not lose weight.  In fact, he started to develop that famous characteristic of the Western male; a beer belly (although he drank little beer). Not long after Bob’s 50th birthday his blood pressure shot up again. He began to feel occasionally dizzy and weak.  Aware of his pre-diabetic condition he bought a cheap monitoring device from Walgreen’s and was not surprised  to find that his blood sugar was now through the roof:over 300 mg/dl! (normal is between 90 and 120).  Bob had come to resign himself to the fact that he was just one of those genetically engineered walking time bombs.  Now, with full blown Type 2 diabetes added to his medical file,  his doctor placed him on Glucophage to assist with insulin production and ordered a cardiac stress test, which he passed, but just barely; there might possibly be some blockage of his pulmonary arteries.  This would have to be closely watched.  Meanwhile,  it was recommended that he visit the American Diabetes Association website for advice on what and what not to eat.

Bob was amazed.  Rather than recommending a radically different diet, the ADA was telling diabetics to eat essentially the same foods that he had been eating for 15 years now; low fat, high carbs and high fiber.  The only difference he could see was that he should completely eliminate alcohol from his diet, while minimizing, but not eliminating,  sugar and simple carbs like white bread, white rice and potatoes.  They even said that diabetics could eat the occasional dessert, as long as they exchanged it with another high glycemic item from their diet like biscuits or hamburger buns (something that made little sense to Bob, if he was supposed to be avoiding biscuits and hamburger buns anyway).

When Bob informed his parents of his new condition, his father ( a retired physician) was surprised.  He wondered how Bob had developed diabetes since he knew of no incidence of this disease on either side of the family.  As diabetes had been traditionally linked to genetics,  he wondered where this gene had come from.  (This idea has become highly suspect, as the rising rate of diabetes among indigenous populations throughout the world who had no history of diabetes prior to colonialism, would attest.)

Bob began to wonder;  if fat is the great food evil of  modern times  (as populist activists like Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest keep telling us), then why had his health deteriorated along with this supposedly healthier diet?  And why, as hundreds of studies have shown,  did the non-Western peoples of the world historically not suffer from diabetes, heart disease, periodontitis and numerous other common Western afflictions (including cancer) even though their diets were high in animal fat and salt and low in vegetables and grains? Now, as they have adopted Western habits, these diseases have become common, even epidemic,  among those people.

Why was it that, as Americans have dramatically cut meat and animal fat from their diets, the incidents of diabetes, vascular disease and cancer have increased? Was it possible that somewhere along the line the ‘experts’ got it wrong?  Could it be possible that the true villain was not animal fat but actually the carbohydrates that the USDA, the AMA and the NIH had been pushing on us for over thirty years?  Was a low-fat diet killing millions of people?

According to distinguished science writer Gary Taubes, in his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, the answer is a resounding YES.  And this well documented answer is one that many medical researchers have been proclaiming for years, much to their professional detriment.  To contest the conventional wisdom that advocates  the benefits of a low fat diet is to suffer the ridicule and derision of the professional powers that be, not to mention the government, the media and numerous  public interest groups.  It is risky business indeed to question an entrenched doctrine that many have staked their reputations on, along with their patient’s health.   Not just Bob’s health, but the good health of  millions of the world’s citizens have been compromised not by fat and salt, but instead a recipe of sugar and flour mixed with a large portion of political correctness.

Meanwhile, in our nation’s schools, the USDA and the departments of education have mandated that the current generation of  children continue with this nutritional experiment.  And we wonder why childhood obesity continues to rise.

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One Poor Old Blogger’s Take on the Rich Young Ruler


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A certain blogger asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit internet peace.?”

“Why do you call me good?” the teacher answered. “No one is good—except Arianna alone (at least for this week).  You know the commandments:  ” Post daily,  reply to all comments,  leave numerous comments on other blogs,  link often and use lots of lists in your titles. “

“All these I have kept since….well, at least for a year or so, now” he said.

When the teacher heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Remove any links to Technorati and never check your rating again. Then come, follow me.”

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a blogger of great pride.

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The Aposlte Sherri: Bicycle Disciple


It’s been so cold lately- I’ve been worried about this lady. Wondering where she is and how she’s doing. Once, someone read about her on the Ooze and shared their experience with her. I wonder what other lives she may have touched in her travels.

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It was Saturday afternoon, sunny, hot and breezy, so Bev and I thought we would take a drive  into the Maryland mountains, maybe find an inexpensive hotel and then get a nice dinner somewhere. My car was having battery problems so we decided to take her big van. Since that car has these great big head rests (six of them) that tend to block my rear vision, I decided to lay all the seats flat.

We packed a cooler with cold drinks and ice (something we never think to do) and hit the road. We got a later start than we would’ve liked but that’s pretty much SOP with the Beyers. By the time we got to the scenic mountain area of west-central Maryland it was already after 3:00 pm. Bev said that we might have a hard time finding a hotel and she was right, everyone was booked up. The folly of our intent was apparent to us and, disappointed, we headed on home.

We still had about an hour’s drive ahead of us when, rounding down a steep hill, we were surprised by a lone figure walking along the side of the road. It looked to be an older woman and she was pushing a bicycle. She was carrying at least four bags what looked like a tattered shirt wrapped over the top of her ball cap, kind of like a scarf. Her appearance was everything one would expect of a homeless person and she looked out of place in the middle of farming country. As we drove by she began to jerk her thumb in the classic hitch-hiking style. Since she couldn’t let go of the handle bar we almost missed the gesture.

“She needs a lift.” Bev said. We continued on down the hill and I concentrated on keeping the big car on track through the S-curves.

“You’re kidding” I said.

“I think we should turn aroun?” said Bev

“Hmmm.” That’s all I said and we drove on. As it was, there were no turn-outs or side roads prestent. After a couple of miles I made a right onto a farm lane.

“We’re going back, then?” Bev asked.

“Yup”

I had been thinking of that scripture where Jesus said that when he was hungry someone fed him, when he was sick someone visited, when he was naked someone clothed him. I was imagining him saying to me; “When I was hitch hiking, pushing my bike and carrying a heavy load on a hot day, you didn’t stop to pick me up.”

“That was you, Jesus? I thought that was an old lady!”

When we got back to where we could see her trundling down the hill we pulled into a nearby drive and waited. There was no shoulder to the road. She must have recognized our car or figured out what we were doing because when she saw us she began jogging down the road, her over loaded bags swinging and her bike wobbling back and forth.

She was a skinny little thing, wearing too-big athletic clothes; sweat pants, sneakers, socks, sweat shirt and ball cap. The sweat shirt said “Messiah College”. Her sun glasses were as big as scuba goggles and her skin was sun browned and wrinkled, like and old life guards. In spite of the heat and her recent exertion she was as dry as a Methodist’s pantry.

As it turned out that she liked to be called Sherri and she had been riding her bike from Hagerstown, a good 20 miles behind us, when she got a flat tire. She’d been having a lot of flats lately and someone told her that there was a Wal-Mart 10 miles on up the road in Frederick, where she might get them to fix her bike (seeing as how she had bought it recently from another Wal-Mart). She said that she had been praying hard for someone to come and pick her up. She blessed and thanking us both for coming through.

We stowed her bike easily in the back of the van, where there was plenty of room with the seats already down. She said the bike was new but it looked a little beat up. It was the same brand as my first bike, a Roadmaster, except hers was the girl’s version. The rear wheel looked bent. We opened up one of the middle seats for her and she was surprised and grateful as we handed her an ice cold Diet Coke Plus (with vitamins!) from the cooler. We cranked up the A/C and headed off to find Wal-Mart.

As we drove she told us, in a genteel Southern draw, that she was originally from Richmond Virginia and had raised two daughters, both now in their thirties. She now had grandsons and granddaughters and they lived in different parts of the country. For the past eleven years she had been riding her bikes (she’s been through quite a few) across the country, from Florida to California and up into Canada, preaching God’s word. Raised a Methodist, she was now Pentecostal by choice and a speaker of tongues. Standing on street corners in small towns and big cities she preached a sermon of salvation from eternal damnation through the acceptance of Christ’s love.

She rarely slept indoors and tried to coordinate her travels with the seasons, going south in wintertime. She asked about Baltimore and Washington where she said (amazingly!) that she felt a lot of concern for all the homeless people that she heard lived there. Many of the homeless that she met on her travels seemed to be so hopeless and this saddened her.

She was very much interested in the two of us, our jobs, our family and our faith, but in a sensitive and genuine way. She never pried or preached. She said that she might visit the church we attend outside of DC and asked when we held services. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see her some day.

We parked at Wal-Mart and helped with her bags as she chained up the bike. I asked her if she was OK with money, if she even had enough for a new bicycle inner tube. She hemmed and hawed a bit so before she could answer I asked if it was alright if we could contribute to her ministry. I gave her some cash and she was obviously grateful. She then surprised me by asking suddenly if this was something that I would like for her to repay some day. Humbled, I told her no, that it was part of my tithe, since it was obvious that she took Jesus’ commission to heart.

As Bev and I drove on down the highway, we couldn’t help but chuckle. God sometimes has a very dry sense of humor. What a coincidence. that on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a day trip to western Maryland, in the big van (which we never take on road trips), with the seats down, spare cash in our pockets and a cooler of cold drinks in back. How unfortunate for us that there were no hotel vacancies in the area (most probably because of our own chronic tardiness) which resulted in our having to drive down that one particular road, so far from home. How gallant of us, to grudgingly turn around and help someone more ‘unfortunate’ than we were.

Somehow this older woman is able to travel across this huge land, cheerfully spreading the Good News, carrying everything she owns on her back. Eleven years of pedaling up mountains and through deserts, and she is as clean and bright as a new penny, sharp as a tack. It was obvious that God looks out for her and I bet she wasn’t the least bit surprised when we came back for her. We were just two more supporting actors stepping on to her God-directed stage.

I can imagine her praying as she rides or walks along our busy highways, “OK Lord, I wonder who you will be putting into my life next” – confident that she is safely in His hands.

And I can imagine God smiling down on her, “Hmm…Looks like Sherri is having a little trouble today. Who can I send…who can I send…..Oh! I know…the Beyers! I’ll bet they’re just wasting another Saturday. I’m sure they could benefit from a little time spent with one of my faithful servants.”

“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

In her passion for God, and her love for others, neither does Sherri.

I Have an Article on the Ooze About Sherri

Some of you may remember the story about Sherri, one of God’s itinerant workers and how we met one day in Western Maryland. She’s the lady that has devoted her life to spreading the Gospel across this country on the back of a bike. TheOoze has decided to publish this story and it comes out today; “The Apostle Sherri: Bicycle Disciple”. Please check it out on: http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=1818

If you’ve never visited that web site I think you’ll be pleased with what you find there.

An Update on Sherri

This couple read he article on the Ooze and sent this e-mail. What an amazing ‘coincidence’, eh? Since July 14th Sherri has traveled from Frederick, Maryland to Seneca, South Carolina, over 547 miles. Gott ist Gutt! (For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Sherri you may read the original story here; http://sharpiron.wordpress.com/2007/07/14/the-apostle-sherri/ )

I wanted to share an experience Ceph and I had over the weekend. We left on Sunday morning to see Ceph’s mom for her Birthday. It was a day trip and we always go the back way up 123 through Gainesville to Seneca and then Easley. On the way up outside Seneca, Ceph had to swerve the car to miss hitting an older lady that obviously homeless. She had long grey/blonde hair, baggy clothes and pushing a bicycle. She had everything she owned attached to the bicycle handlebars. We both commented on her appearance and the fact she was pushing the bicycle. We spent about 5 hours at his mom’s and left about 2:00pm to return home. We are heading towards Tacocca and were amazed to see the same lady pushing her bicycle again down the road. She had travelled about 25 miles in 5 hours. Both us said at the same time we should pick her up. There weren’t any turnarounds so Ceph parked in a driveway and waited on her to get close to the car.

I personally have never picked up a hitchhiker but something said pick her up. We had the minivan with the seats down and knew her bicycle would fit perfectly. (the parallel here is amazing – CB) If you know the area, there’s nothing for miles until you get to Gainesville. She didn’t give us her name but explained she got the calling from the Lord about 11 years ago and she traveled from place to place preaching the gospel. She didn’t have a destination and we explained we lived in Roswell and that was ok for her. She wanted to go to a 24 hour Walmart. Ceph said that the Roswell police weren’t too keen on varagrants and Cumming might be a better location. We talked the remainder of the trip about her children, her faith and travels. After we let her out in Cumming, I haven’t been able to get her off my mind. Ceph and I both said, God wants us to be thankful for the little things we have. I guess she was our angel that day. This morning I wokeup thinking about her again and did a google search on “homeless lady on bicycle”. I immediately got a response from another couple that had exactly the same experience. This article is from theooze.com.

Thanks

Ceph and Elaine

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Three Way Tie for Sexiest Man Alive


(with a beard and found drinking Rogue Dead Guy Ale while talking theology on the second floor of a bar located in a renovated textile mill in central Maryland.)

You can see more of their pictures displayed along side of Ric Booth’s prize winning article on the first annual East Coast Blogger’s Convention

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Not the Same Old Drill


tips.jpg I have a night job where I work for tips, giving me a pretty decent work out and it’s lot of fun to boot. I’m unique in that I am the oldest guy on the crew – by at least 20 years! Which means that I am surrounded by lots of irreverent, profane, high energy and fairly cocky young folk. Pretty much all of them do a great job and can run rings around the Old Man but, hey, I’m an old man. What do you expect?

One thing that hasn’t changed with tipped employees over the years is a tendency towards a creeping cynicism for their customers. Like a bad car salesman, they continue to run through the same old drill of pre-qualifying their customers, gaging their take by scrutinizing their guests; demographics, dress, diction, manners, attitude, etc. Being a wise old fellow I will counsel my young friends as to the perils of doing this; just as Tiger Woods must visualize the ball dropping into the cup, so should we visualize the guest dropping a C-note onto our tip trays. Doesn’t usually happen but what the heck. If you visualize getting stiffed it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; your service will suffer and the average guest can sense the shift in your demeanor as well.

I even go so far as to never look at my tips until I’ve collected all the check presenters. I don’t want to know which person stiffed me or which one only left me only a couple of bucks. This way I can leave feeling good about all of my guests. After all, who knows what financial straights they may be in? I’ve been there myself. (Heck, I ain’t moonlighting entirely for fun.)

The other night was pretty typical; some nice tips, some average and a couple of small ones. One party left me nothing (but I don’t’ know which one). Something different happened that evening as well. Someone (probably short on cash) left me with a Home Depot gift card. I have to admit to being wryly amused. Sharing this with the crew most of them didn’t see anything too funny about it- probably only had a dollar or two on it. In fact most of the them thought it was tacky, indicative of someone too cheap to leave any cash. I figured, what the heck, at least I could pick up a new drill bit (maybe).

Boy was I surprised when the clerk at Home Depot told me that there was $66.63 on the card! I was able to get that new Black and Decker drill that I had been eying as well as a power screwdriver. Not too shabby. Thanks, mystery guest. I’ll remember you every time I put a hole into something with my new toy.

So, what’s my point? It just doesn’t pay to allow yourself to judge others. Aside from the times we are wrong (oh, so many times that is) what is there to gain from it? Who needs the bad vibes? So I would recommend not only doing but actually seeing others as you would have them see you. It might actually happen.

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(P.O.O.) The Problem of Odor


dirty diaper One of the more challenging issues for theists in their ongoing debate with skeptical atheists has been the Problem of Evil.  Often referred to as the P.O.E., it asks the very reasonable question; if God is good then why would he permit evil?  The typical Christian response says that it was man who, by his rebellion against God, brought evil into being. This has met with varying degrees of acceptance but it’s the answer that makes the most sense to me.

It’s hard to find any evidence of ‘evil’ that has not been the result of the selfish actions of men and women.  Even natural calamities and physical aberrations can be rationally explained as the result of the untold centuries that mankind has lived out of harmony with God’s nature.  When pressed, most moral people will admit to finding at least something repugnant about any ‘evil’ act.  From office gossip shared at the water cooler to the pimp who beats the teenage runaway, they are all overlaid with a patina of dirtiness, what you could expect from something done against God’s will.

But, all seriousness aside, there is another question that is not quite so “easily” explained as the POE.  What about those human habits and functions that are utterly vile, repulsive and disgusting but are natural and normal processes of life?  You may be too polite to bring this up yourselves but each and every one of you knows exactly what I am talking about.  Why are human (and most animal) bodies so filthy? If God is good why did he make us so…GROSS? Even the most adorable baby early on in life becomes quite the foul little thing.  (My wife claims that as soon as my children were weaned off of baby food I could never be found at diaper changing time. This is patently untrue. In fact there is a photo of me changing their diapers, wearing over my nose and mouth a red bandana that had been thoroughly doused with Old Spice.)

I believe this to be a very relevant theological question and was going to call it the P.O.P. – the Problem of Poo. But the POP has already been taken. So instead I will call this the POO – the Problem of Odor.

Of course when God walked (perhaps very carefully) with Adam and Eve in the Garden there were no diapers to be changed yet (or were there?)– But they were still eating of “every seed-bearing plant… and every tree that has fruit with seed in it” to be found in the Garden (and we all know what a diet of just fruits and vegetables is like, right?).  Perhaps prior to the fall they were somehow physically ‘different’ in that their bodily wastes were not quite so offensive (like a rabbit that has no problem eating its food more than once).  Maybe they were 100% efficient when it came to digestion, their only waste products being a little H2O, carbon dioxide and a few grams of ash. Or perhaps their waste was like ours but somehow ‘nicer’ – not yet tainted by the fall.

But if their physiology was just like ours, how was this handled in Paradise?  I don’t know about you but my vision of Paradise doesn’t leave any room for Port-A-Potties.  Of course they wouldn’t have access to facilities as modern as that – they were still primitives living off the land.  Though the Bible doesn’t say so, the first invention may very well have been a crude entrenching tool.  Alternatively, perhaps they were allowed to venture out of the Garden a couple of times each day to take care of business, leaving their nastiness in someone else’s backyard (something that most of us have continued to do for centuries).

But back to my point; couldn’t God have come up with a better way of packaging our bodily effluvia and excreta?  I mean, it wouldn’t have to be too fetching – that probably would’ve been counterproductive.  Still, maybe something more along the lines of Brussel Sprouts would’ve made the point with a lot less nausea. Maybe sauerkraut. Or Kimchi, even.  That’s all I’m asking.  And I’m asking it for all of you people who have wondered about this yourselves but didn’t have the cojones to bring it up.

SHARP IRON – “Where we aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions”

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TOY RECALL!!!!


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It’s a crisis! Retailers and parents are in a panic. Never before have so many toys been recalled for so many reasons for so few people.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/08/01/national/main3124623.shtml

Here are some more awful toys that experts (such as myself) feel should have been included in the list but were not:

The Lego Step Ladder

“The Indiana Jones Sewer Explorer Adventure Outfit”

“Baby’s First Bottle of Bleach” by Fisher Price

Betty Crocker’s “Basement, Backyard and Bathroom Cook Book for Boys and Girls”

Uncle Milton’s “Fire Ant Farm”

Discovery Channel’s “Solar Binoculars”

Martha Stewart’s “Baby Carrot Guillotine”

Michael Vick’s Robo Sapien Pit Bull

The Jurassic Park” Dress-Up the Cat Velociraptor” Costume

The Sumac Chia Puppy

“My First Chemistry Set” by the Bin Laden Learning Company

The Green Earth “Personal Powered Methane Scooter” (requires the Green Earth Broccoli Farm starter kit)

Trojan Man’s “Easy Balloon Animals for Pre-Schoolers”

The Playschool “Piercing Pagoda”

Tonka Toy’s “Potty Training Dump Truck”

“Harry Potter Hogwart’s Home Laser Surgery Kit” by Mattel

“Suzy Homemaker’s Happy Housewife Handcuffs”

“BudMan” – Beer Truck to Bottle Opener Transformer by Hasbro

In spite of our diligent research I am sure we may have missed one or two here at the Sharp Iron Toy Safety Center. If you can think of any to add to this list then American parents across the globe will surely appreciate it.

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Jean the Bird


Jean the Bird is not only a great song by David Syvian and Robert Fripp it also is a fellow who has learned to fly. What I wouldn’t give to be able to do this. Oh, brother. 

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Grasshopper Hills; Reflections on 1 Corinthians 9


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Just to the west of my old high school can be found the start and finish line for the cross country course. The three mile course was a notoriously grueling one, as it dropped nearly 300 feet to the river and then snaked its way back up the valley through a run of sharp switchbacks and steep grades. The finish line came at the end of a  100 yard sprint preceded by a very deceiving and energy sapping geological formation called the Grasshopper Hills. The Grasshopper Hills were four, steep-sided low hummocks spaced out over 200 yards of green pasture land and it was our teams coup de grace.

I remember the very first time that I ran Grasshopper Hills in practice. Our team stood about 20 yards from the base of the first hill while Coach instructed us in the upcoming drill. “Now, I’m going to go on over to the second Grasshopper. When you hear my whistle I want you guys to run up the first hill and come on over to me on the second one. And I want a full sprint. Got that?”

There were numerous groans. Coach, an avid runner,  had just led us on a brisk 3 mile run down to the river and back and we were looking forward to an easy warm-down and then off to the showers. It was early September and too damn hot for this to be much fun. Coach turned and jogged off carrying his ever present whistle and clipboard.

In a few moments we heard the shrill whistle and the 9 of us set on up the hill,  running hard.  Topping the rise we could see Coach on the other side of the little valley that lay between the first two hills. “To me!” he shouted. “Run to me!”

We rushed full tilt down the slope, rebounding at the bottom and surging on up the other side, each of us vying not to be last. As we crested the hill we were horrified to find that, while out of sight, Coach had sprinted ahead and was now standing on the third hill!

To me!” he shouted again. “To me!”

Never slowing, we charged down the next slope, stuttering out muttered profanities with each shuddering stride. Up the next hill we charged, beginning to spread out now as we began to lose our wind. As usual, I was near the middle of the pack and was dismayed to hear the groans and curses from above as the front runners found that Coach had once again  levitated over to the last and final hill.

To me!” I heard his robotic cry. My legs felt like wet bags of cement and each breath was a wheezing gasp of sharp pain. “To me!” I hated him fiercely as I pushed on towards the summit of this last hill.

Of course Coach was not on the last Grasshopper hill either. We finally found him, smiling, at the bottom of that fourth and final hill. I cartwheeled on  down past him, collapsing to the ground, arms splayed forward and face down in the hot dry grass, gasping for breath. Those of us not prone stood bent over, hands on knees, heads hanging down, spasmodically heaving in great gulps of precious oxygen. Our jerseys were soaked through and sweat poured off of us in streams.

“Good job, guys. Go ahead and stretch out and call it a day. See you all tomorrow morning.” And with that he trotted off towards the gym, clipboard firmly in hand, his nasty little whistle bouncing up and down on his back.

Why that no good-“

What a sonofa-“

“That’ll be the last time I ever-

It wasn’t fair! Each time we thought we had finished, every time we felt we had completed our run, we found that we still had farther to go. Each time we felt we were close to him we found that he was still farther away. We continued to grumble our disapproval between gulping down great droughts of air. But slowly the realization dawned on us.

Sure, he had asked us to do more than we had expected, even more than we had agreed upon. And yeah, he was uncompromisingly ruthless in his methods. But we had done it. Every time we thought that we were spent, with nothing more to give, we saw him farther on up ahead and somehow found the reserves to keep on going.

But the most amazing thing was that everything that he pushed us to do, everything he commanded of us, he had done as well. Every time he called out for us to come to him, over each brutal hill and through each discouraging valley, he knew what he was asking of us, because he had just run the same course. He never asked us to suffer anything that he had not already endured.

Although we had just finished cursing him, we understood that the reason we did what we had just done (and would do again) was because of him. Because he had faith in us and knew that we were much more than we ever thought we could be. Because he knew what we could accomplish – things that we never thought possible. The reason we kept on running and didn’t quit was because of that insufferable man standing on ahead, calling to us, visible for all to see. It was the sight of him that we ran towards, each of us fully aware that he was also watching us and there was no way we were going to let him down.

(That year our cross country team won the county and district championships and placed fourth in the state tournament. The team won every home meet in over three seasons. Unfortunately, today Grasshopper Hills has been graded flat and now is the site of a housing development.)

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Lost Souls


SHACKLESJoshua comes to school almost every morning, soaking wet in his own urine. He has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and well as suffering from mild mental retardation. He lives with his mother, who is also mildly retarded, in a dark and dank row house in the embattled sections of the inner city. They have little means to manage any few resources that they can muster. Consequently, Joshua’s personal hygiene is terrible. His enuresis is due to the fact that his psychosis manifests itself in an uncontrollable thirst. It has been estimated that in a typical day Joshua will consume from 1.5 to 2 gallons of water. He is 19 years old and will receive a certificate of completion when he becomes 21.

Timmy is a short fellow, only about 5 feet tall, but he weighs in at a hefty 200 pounds. This is in spite of the fact that his mother keeps him on a very strict diet of 1200 calories a day. He eats breakfast at home and his IEP aide makes lunch for him on a daily basis, following the strict recipes of Timmy’s mom. Quiet and taciturn, he is usually polite, with good manners and he eats in the cafeteria with the rest of the school. Occasionally he will steal some food off of an unsuspecting student’s plate and if confronted with this he will often act out, becoming hysterical, profane and violent. Timmy suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disorder that is manifested by mental retardation and a literally insatiable appetite. Timmy is missing seven genes from the 15thIn a constant state of ravenous hunger, it is only due to strict, loving discipline and the constant supervision of others that he is alive today. It is common for people like Timmy to literally eat themselves to death. He is 16 and will be in school for the next 5 years. chromosome resulting in his brain being unable to determine when his belly is full.

Tina is very shy but is observant and responds eagerly to questions. Not diagnosed with MR, Tina has been placed beneath the broad psychiatric umbrella of schizophrenia. She is very enthusiastic to learn new things and at 20 years of age she has only one year left until ‘graduation’. This is the last placement for her, all others schools in the area having determined that they do not have the resources to provide for her education. Subject to teasing by other students, Tina will frequently become quite hysterical, throwing herself into violent fits that threaten to harm her and others as well. She is prone to talk about sharp objects and suicide and knives. She lives in a group home because her father was sexually abusing her.

Charlie is very bright, articulate and reads quite well. He has an average I.Q. He is 21 years of age and has been in and out of foster homes since he was an infant. His mother, a crack addict and a prostitute, was unable to take care of him. He never knew his father. Two of his older brothers are dead due to drug related violence. He has been diagnosed with severe emotional disabilities. At the age of 18 he became too old for the foster care program and was placed in a group residential home with other young men of similar backgrounds. Charlie, though, is obviously gay and soon became the subject of numerous beatings by the other residents. He moved from one group home to the next until he finally went AWOL one time too many, effectively severing himself from any additional child welfare supports. He is too old for children’s services and too young for effective adult services. Private and church-run shelters won’t take him because he is not a substance abuser (since that is the primary make-up of their clients it could be detrimental for him.) For the past few weeks Charlie has been living on the streets, although he somehow makes it to school every day. This should be his last year in school and he has no foreseeable plans after graduating with a diploma.

Maggie is a new student, having just moved to the city from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Muncie. A sweet natured 16 year old girl, she is very mildly retarded but also suffers from severe emotional handicaps. Her father abandoned the family when she was 5 years old and since then she has lived through the suicide of a beloved stepfather. Like many of the students she suffers from gross obesity, seeking cheap and swift gratification in sugar, starch and fat. Normally very mild mannered when confronted with a harder variety of student she will affect the belligerent mannerisms of the urban ‘gangsta,’ to the point of provoking real gang bangers into attacking her. Sporting cuts and bruises and hungering for social acceptance, identity and love, she has deliberately taken the next step in her life; she is pregnant with twins.

(All characters and names mentioned above are fictitious. Any resemblance to people either living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.)

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