Thursday, October 20, 2005

Leavenworth in the Fall

My wife and I spent the better part of two days earlier in the week in Leavenworth, a quaint Bavarian town on the inland side of the Cascades about 110 miles east of Seattle along highway 2. The reasons? a) Fish Lake is nearby, and b) Fall foliage is ablaze in color.

My cousin Joel and his wife Sandra spend a timeshare week in Leavenworth sometime during each October. This year they invited Kay Lynne and I to spend a couple of days with them. I'm glad they did.

Joel and I fished both mornings until noon or later while the ladies shopped in the Village following a leisuely breakfast. Usually at this time of the year nearby Fish Lake is hot, hot, hot. For some reason this year (which we were never able to pinpoint other than the unseasonably warm weather) we had to work hard to get our fish. Joel is a purist fly fisherman, and I'm a bait dragger, so we rented a pontoon boat from which we could each fish in the manner we prefer (bottom pic is of Joel bringing in a trout on his fly gear). I guess we did finally limit both days, but for some reason we had to scour the entire lake to find where they were having their fall conference -- and then they were more interested in socializing than eating.

Each afternoon we took driving excursions in and around Leavenworth. One of the days we drove some 15 miles north of Leavenworth to a quaint little town called Plain. It's nestled in a gorgeous valley and is lubricated by the Wenatchee River which runs right through the area on its way to the Columbia.

We spent some time in a touristy "Hardware" store which was chock full of historical artifacts and souvenirs from the area and actually did have some paint and hardware goods in the back. It even had an Espresso bar and deli up front. I think the women could have stayed there a full day.

Later we drove out to Mountain Springs Lodge, within a mile of Plain, which is owned by a family who has been a significant part of the town's history for a hundred years or so. Our daughter-in-law Jamie went to Seattle Pacific University with the daughter of the Lodge family, so we felt we had a "connection". Plus Joel and Sandra had visited there before and indicated it was a "must stop" on the drive.

The top picture shows a bit of the Fall colors near a pond on the grounds at the Lodge which, by the way, can accommodate large family gatherings and conferences. Its facilities contain a marvelous, beautiful grouping of "log cabin"-type buildings with the main lodge a grandiose A-frame structure of heavy laminated beams and ornate woodwork set off by an immense rock fireplace. What a great setting this would be for a family reunion.

Unfortunately, we had to come home too soon. However, we feel fortunate to have enjoyed the beauty and sights of Leavenworth in the Fall while accompanied by family, even though the time was too short.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's the Lifestyle, Stupid

Back in Bill Clinton’s first successful run to the presidency, the insider theme of his campaign skewed off course a time or two. But “it’s the economy, stupid” somehow came back into focus in time for James Carville & Co. to craft a victory at the polls.

For most of my overweight life, I’ve been on and off course, too. I’ve always viewed my weight situation something like this: “Well, yes, I may be a bit heavy right now, but in a few weeks I’ll go on a diet and lose the weight.” The Atkins diet was always my salvation before I became middle aged (and older).

I could drop 10 to 15 pounds easily in a month by eating salad, bunless cheeseburgers and scrambled eggs. Who knows what my cholesterol became, but the diet worked - time after time after time. I must have been on and off the Atkins recipe a dozen times over the past 30 years. I did so because it worked for me much better than "calorie counting" (I quickly ran out of fingers). In a relatively short time, I could take off significant weight on the low carb method – in fact, I think I’ve gained and lost over 150 “yo-yo” pounds in my lifetime.

Now that I’m an “honored” citizen (as they now call us at many restaurants) things don’t work like they used to. It takes much longer to lose pounds, even on a low carb diet. Plus the medical profession says the Atkins approach is not “healthy” though they have little scientific proof to corroborate their views (that’s a whole ‘nother blog).

Not only is an older, deteriorating body the problem, but I’m also now told I must control both my blood sugar and cholesterol – period. Otherwise there could be serious health consequences in the years not too far ahead. Yikes. Suddenly the question has become, how to best accomplish this?

In seeking the answer, I’ve become a “fan” of the James Carville approach. From what I’ve read (and it’s quite a bit) just about everyone agrees that if you cut back on simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar does not tend to spike as is normal after every meal. For adult-onset diabetics like me (who fortunately can still control blood sugar with diet) it’s obvious I’ve got to limit carbs for the rest of my life to control those spikes.

It’s not a matter of “going on a diet”. That’s history. It doesn’t work. I’ve got to eat more healthily and live differently (get exercise), again, for the rest of my life. I’m finally coming to grips with it and am willing to deal with it.

This past week I’ve cut out all unnecessary carbs (not the healthy ones), and I’ve been to the gym three times. Admittedly, I feel better already. Funny how slightly abnormal but trending (in the wrong direction) blood tests can be a more powerful motivation than almost anything else. Diabetes doesn’t get better on its own with time. Quite the contrary. At best, you can only keep it at bay with healthy eating, weight control and exercise. It’s the lifestyle, stupid. And that's reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Winds of change

Some changes are in the wind. I’ve never been that excited about health clubs although in my younger days I sure did love to play racquetball. But today, out of necessity, I checked out a nearby health club and found it to be very amenable.

Earlier in the week my doc made some medication suggestions about which I was a little dubious. Seems in my recent blood tests the ol’ cholesterol crept up just a hair as did my fasting blood sugar. It was nothing to be alarmed about, but it reflected a trend. So, rather than beginning to ingest a medication which could possibly whack my liver, I bargained with my doc for exercise instead. As it turns out, daily exercise and the loss of a few pounds could solve the slightly elevated blood test readings. He gave me three months to demonstrate it.

Fortunately, the health plan I have will pay for a FULL health club membership for me as part of their “prevention” approach to health care. Yes! It was the affiliated health club to which I paid a visit.

After a tour of the facilities I spent about an hour on several different machines and got reacquainted with some weights I hadn’t encountered in nearly 50 years. A very pleasant surprise was learning that there were two racquetball courts in the club. Fantastic. However, I have to admit that I’m really not that good with doing exercise just for the sake of exercise.

The reason I enjoyed racquetball so much was that it was a really nice way to get exercise by simply playing a sport you enjoy anyway. Now, I’ve got to try to find a racquetball partner – hopefully one who has bad knees like I do so I don’t get killed all the time. Actually, the club jacuzzi should help in this regard also.

The changes will now be to schedule workout time into my routine. Initially, I think four days a week will do the job, but results will ultimately be the determinate. I have to admit that exercise really does make one feel better. Now let’s hope it’ll change blood test results.

Monday, October 10, 2005

October Baseball

Tonight the resurgent Angels eliminated the Yankees from the post-season. Who would have thought that the Red Sox, Braves and Bronx Bombers would be gone after the first round of playoffs? Certainly not me.

Wasn’t this the time for the Yankees to rise up and revive their perennial superiority? Wasn’t this the year Atlanta finally had a more balanced team (except for their bullpen) that was capable, at last, of getting past a short series? And wasn’t this the year we’d be privileged to watch another marathon rock-em, sock-em ALCS between Boston and New York?

Nope, nope and nope.

I guess now it’s time to turn our attention to the ALCS and the NLCS. Four very good teams are left. A tired (for a day, at least) group of Angels are flying overnight to the windy city to meet the rested and waiting White Sox tomorrow night. And a spent troupe of Astros are on intravenous feedings trying to find strength to take on the rested Cards on Wednesday. Looks to me like a wonderful two+ weeks of high caliber baseball is just ahead.

If the Sox and Cards are able to subdue their next opponents, then the World Series would have, I believe, the best two teams based on their season performances. However, in playoff baseball anything can happen.

Often, the team that gets “hot” in the playoffs is the one that goes all the way – like last years’ Red Sox who entered the post season via the wild card and kept on winning just enough. This year one of the post season wild card teams is the Houston Astros who Sunday simultaneously shocked and entertained the sports world with an 18-inning marathon win that sent the Braves home for the winter.

Of course the question now is, can the Astros remain hot and go on to defeat a more talented and “complete” Cardinal team? Who knows? If great pitching beats great hitting, then maybe so. But the St Louis pitching core is very solid also. And the Cards have strength in the bullpen and also off the bench.

In the American League, I hope the White Sox clean house on the Angels. I’ll never forget what the Angels did to the Giants in the 02 Series. So, my preference for the World Series is the Sox and the Cards. Two great teams and nine days of anticipation (if it goes seven). Only thing better in October would be to get the salmon skunk off my boat.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Trying to get in gear

Well, here it is Friday already, and I have not blogged at all this week. Been one of "those" weeks -- lots of "busy stuff" to do and seemingly not enough time to do it.

It's a busy time right now for several reasons. There're plans to be finalized for our Costa Rica trip just three short weeks away. Then there were a few "issues" with the boat that had to be dealt with, all of them requiring cash. Also, the fall and early winter holiday season approaches and we need to schedule concerts, events, etc.

At least my son & I are going to one Seahawks game together (he gave up his season tix this year) -- the one against the Niners on Dec 11 here in Seattle. I'll be yelling the whole game, as I'm an old-time diehard 49er fan, plus I really like the Seahawks and Mike Holmgren. Whoever wins is ok by me.

Studying John Wesley's theological perspectives has fortunately been an uplift for me in my daily "reading for meaning" sessions. Sure wish I'd gotten to know this man earlier in my life. He's providing some cohesiveness for many of my fragmented thoughts I've had through the years. I'm trying to get in gear to write about some of it. Hopefully it'll be soon.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Looking for a Church

This morning my wife and I attended an Episcopal Church – I think a first for both of us in that tradition. The step was another in our continuing effort to find a church in which we can both serve and at the same time have a worship experience that is appropriate for our ages and (continually developing) Christian formation. This particular Episcopal Church is an affiliate of the Anglican American Council, a group of Episcopal parishes who wanted to maintain their focus on celebrating the authenticity of the Holy Eucharist sacrament but who also have pulled out of mainline American Episcopalianism because of its ”move further and further away from the historic biblical Christian faith, as if … in a dance of death with the postmodern Western culture”. That part sounded just fine.

After the service, we talked about it. Kay Lynne did not relate well to the worship experience at all, mostly due to her feeling that the priest (and parishioners) “ran through the liturgies so fast that they couldn’t possibly have contemplated its meaning”. On the other hand, I was somewhat prepared for it and tried to grasp meaning from its order and execution. However, I have to admit that my wife had a point. We both respect the merits of proper liturgy, but if it is glossed over, the meaning, for us, has little chance to take effect.

Our move to the pacific northwest in 2004 has given us perfect pause to reflect on our changing reasons for becoming active in any church. Neither of us relate well to the incessantly repetitive “praise choruses” in most evangelical churches, which are tediously prolonged each week in our estimation. (What happened to the great old hymns of the church which sustained the generations before us? Why are post moderns so different?) We also look for solid orthodox Biblical exegesis from the pulpit, which seemingly is rapidly being replaced by pop-culture expositions that sound good and make you feel good – for a few minutes – but that have little life-affecting impetus.

I’ve also been reading Randy Maddox’ wonderful book on the “practical theology” of John Wesley called, Responsible Grace. In it, Maddox talks of the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral”, a synthesis of four elements of good faith practice – 1) Scripture, 2) Reason, 3) Tradition, and 4) Experience. To me, the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” could certainly be the balance-guide for any church I’d want to attend. But try to find one with a balance even resembling that.

A significant issue, currently, for me and – I think – for my wife, is this balance. I’m interested to know, for instance, why so many evangelical traditions today have virtually thrown away the liturgy, many of the sacraments, and the traditions of the historical church. For some 16 centuries the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches appear to me to have been more homogeneous than different – though they, of course, might disagree. Then the reformers reacted to many and significant “abuses” of this tradition and doctrine and “protested”. Now in our post-modern world the “protest”-ants have further divided and we have in many an amalgamation of doctrine and practices that seem to me to be in perpetual imbalance.

Even mainline Methodists are today some distance away from balance in their own Wesleyan Quadrilateral. My theology prof son pointed out to me that "for many present-day UM’s, experience and reason 'trump' traditional readings of Scripture". So where does one find balance? My wife and I really enjoy the Free Methodist worship (at least at Seattle First Free) – which to us does seek that balance – but alas, there is no such church near enough for us to participate in.

And so, it was in seeking a balance of faith and doctrine (hopefully somewhat akin to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral) that we ventured into the Anglican Episcopal world this morning (in fact, wasn’t John Wesley once a part of this body?). However, the effect of today’s tentative dance with our Anglican brethren likely will be that we will continue to search for a compatible partner.