Monday, August 08, 2011

Mundelein Power Point Presentation

If you were at the recent conference at Mundelein, and are interested in my PowerPoint presentation, I'm happy to send it your way. I'm not certain how to upload this to my blog, so please email me at if you would like to have a copy of this. I recorded my talk, and will make a video format of the presentation, as well as having just the Power Point presentation as well, which anyone is free to use.

You'll notice that I haven't been very active on my blog, and that it doesn't deal directly with the topic of our recent conference, but I have written quite a bit about suffering on my blog over the years--this blog essentially was a working out of the issues of pain associated with the topic of our conference.

I have several "tags" which would apply to the topic, if you're interested in viewing the archives of my blog.

Here is a link to all of my posts which I wrote having to do with suffering.

For a link to anything concerning the book I'm writing, click on this link.

Please pray for my ex-girlfriend Meg and her salvation. She's a wonderful woman, but who has now embraced atheism, sadly, and I continually pray for her salvation. Much of the consolation from the talk about wine which I talked about this past weekend was in response to losing this woman from my life, and hoping at the time that she would become my wife. All of my posts dealing with me confronting the pain of losing her can be found here.

Thank you for coming to the conference. I will keep you all in my prayers, and covet yours. God bless you, and thanks for coming to the conference.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The End of a Chapter

Call me shallow, but I happened to have a drink with my former girlfriend, and found great relief in the experience. I haven't seen her in about two and a half years and enough time had gone by where I realized that if I saw her again, I wouldn't fall madly in love with her all over again, as had been the case for the first year and a half after we dated. We had some email contact a few months ago, and decided to grab a drink sometime, and that sometime was yesterday.

It was very good to see her, and though I didn't fall madly in love with her again, I saw clearly again what I had loved about her so much. We filled each other in on our lives, what we had been up to in the long time we hadn't seen each other, and eventually our discussion turned towards relationships. I told her that I had embraced the bachelor life, that I was no longer expecting to be married, and that I was done with dating websites, or even asking anyone out. (Which is true--I'm such an itinerant blogger these days that momentous decisions like that aren't blogged about. Bottom line: I'm tired of looking, so I'm giving it up, and choosing to be single. God will have to speak from a cloud or something for me to get married. The search is a pain in the ass, and I'm done.) Anyway, I asked her if she was still with the guy she had been dating when we last saw each other, and she told me that yes, indeed she was. I have to be honest, that was a bit of salt rubbed into a wound which I thought was completely healed, but the moment passed quickly enough. She then proceeded to tell me that he has been unemployed for two years, and that he was even fired from Barnes and Noble, where they had met, because, in her words, "he makes bad choices," which I interpreted as meaning that he got himself fired. For awhile, he was living with her, because he had nowhere else to go, but now is living with his aunt and uncle. The guy's 39.

I suppose it's a reflection on me that I take some satisfaction in the fact that my replacement is a loser. I had manufactured all kinds of things about this guy in my mind, and none of them are true. She didn't choose an upgrade.

I do find it sad, however, that she hasn't kicked this guy to the curb. It seems in my mind that she doesn't feel she deserves a good man, but all I can do about that is pray for her.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Random Thoughts

I had a strange and surprising dream the other day. I dreamed about Meg for some reason, and in this dream, I learned that Meg was about to get married. In my dream, this filled me with an aching feeling, and much sadness. It seems strange to me that I would dream this, after being apart for four years, far longer than the year and a half we were together. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but the feeling I had in that dream has lingered ever since. I suppose it's never possible to excise a person from your psyche. Which is probably a good thing.

On another note, I've lost 20 pounds in three weeks. This Optifast program really works, but man, I am often hungry! I've gone off the program a few times, but I'm still losing, so this is encouraging. It's nice to fit into pants that once fit, but haven't for quite some time, and soon I'll be out of XXL shirts, and back into XL...then on my way to L. God help me, I want to be an L again!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Gym

I'm not a fan of "the gym." I'm filled with all kinds of prejudices wrapped around the whole milieu of "going to the gym," or "working out." I remember in college hearing guys talk about working out, or how they needed to get to the gym, and within me I silently judged them for being so shallow and self-absorbed. I quietly mocked them in my own mind, all the while celebrating my lack of concern over such things.

I think this all began in school, when phys ed class seemed like the biggest joke on the planet. Even from a young age, I viewed the cultural focus on sports to be silly, and that sports were unimportant to society as a whole, and in fact the whole world of sports in my mind seemed at times idolatrous. (I still believe this, to a certain extent, and find it obscene that sports figures earn multi-million dollar contracts, when I question the actual positive contributions professional sports makes to society as a whole. I think, overall, the influence of professional sports is a negative one, but that could still be part of my bias--but a bias I'm willing to hang onto, even though I'm attempting to shed others).

After going to the gym yesterday for the first time in ages, I still don't like it. But I'm going to go and stick it out. I had a rough time yesterday, only because this diet I'm on is so low in calories that my body didn't react well to what I was putting it through. Several times while doing some work with the machines, I felt as if I was going to pass out or puke. No pain, no gain, but I was shocked at how light headed I was. I had to stop short because I was afraid I was going to pass out. I was the object of concern from the trainers, and the women in my class--a little humbling, to say the least, but I couldn't really help the condition it put me in.

I'm going to try and reboot my relationship with exercise, and the gym. Through some strange manifestation of pride in my life, I have wanted to always shun any association with going to the gym, or working out, but I realize now that this has only been detrimental to me. 100 years ago people got plenty of exercise living their lives--lifting hay bales, feeding cattle, sowing corn. I get paid to sit on my arse all day, and play trombone. That's it. If I'm not moving my body, I'm not honoring the image of God within me by striving to be healthy. I suppose the gym is the place where most people who care about staying healthy go these days, so apparently this needs to include me.

I am getting the "eye of the tiger" with this weight loss program. I'll be involved with the program for 18 weeks, and I asked the doctor the other day what's possible in those nearly five months. He told me that the program will be as effective as the effort I put into it. This resonates with the musician in me--I'm a professional because I worked at it, hard, to become one, and didn't let go of the dream I had as a high school student. I can be neurotically myopic with things in my life, when I want to get something accomplished, and I'm going to try and be this way with this part of my life. I'm tired of living this way, at weighing this much, and I want to change the remainder of my life on this earth, and never again be above 200 lbs., Lord willing. The doctor told me that he's seen people like me lose 100 lbs in five months. That's a goal worth aspiring towards, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make it happen.

My program will be completed on January 19, 2011. I'm aiming for 100 lbs. loss in that time, which is a huge and daunting task, but I want to reach that goal more than anything. May God give me the grace to continue on. My plan as a reward for all that effort is going to the Caribbean or South America in the first part of February. Costa Rica has some adventure tours, which require a lot of physical activity, and that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun...especially for a guy that weighs 185 instead of 285.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weight Loss: First week.

The first week has been pretty dramatic. I had my first weigh in today, and I've lost 12.4 lbs. I know such a dramatic drop won't happen next week, since today, I already saw less than a pound loss from the day before. The first week apparently the water that one's body has been hanging onto is ejected from the body, and now, the slower, more steady weight loss will happen. The doctor is hoping for three lbs. off next week...I'm going to be motivated to exercise to get that up to six pounds, if I can. I'd like to have 20 pounds off in three weeks--what a boost in morale that would be!

This fast weight loss is something I like about this program--and I know it's safe, since I'm going to the doctor's office once a week, and they also do lab work on me as well. I'm going to be working with a personal trainer tonight for the first time, and I going to really pick her brains about what I should be doing when I go to the gym.

I have a bit of an arrogant attitude about the gym. I've always in my mind mocked people who flock to the gym, and who are so concerned about their appearances that they have to "work out." That hasn't worked out well for me! It's a strange shade of pride that has kept me from wanting to be "one of them," and I know I look down on those I perceive to be "gym rats."

I hope to reformat my view of exercise through this program, and I really want to avail myself of the resources offered to me, such as the gym and the personal trainer. I'm coming to view this as a rebirth of sorts. I'm living off of a liquid diet. One could say that I'm not mature enough for solid food, but hopefully through this reenvisioning process, I'll finally grow up concerning food, and use it responsibly. I want to enjoy food again, in all its varied wonder, but I can't use it as a medication any longer. God help me, I want to succeed!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Long time, no post!

It's been quite awhile since I've swung by Theme and Variations. It's a little dusty from wont of use, I suppose, but I've decided to begin posting a few thoughts on a new development in my life. I'm on a serious diet, and a serious bootcamp that will last for 18 weeks.

I began this new program this past Wednesday. I have decided that as far food is concerned, and my relationship with it, I need a complete reboot of the system, and a reformat of the hard drive. In my 40 years of life, I've come to be an abuser of food, not merely a user of food. Food was given by God in part to be enjoyed, through our senses, but just all things sensual, there can easily be abuse of the good gifts of God. This is the story of my relationship with food.

I'm viewing these three or so months as a bit of penance for abusing food for so long, and in that context, I'm thinking I'll be able to stay on the straight and narrow. It's also one of those programs where you drop weight like you're jumping out of an airplane, which is tremendously exciting, and according to most research, the fast weight loss is the loss that stays, contrary to popular sentiment that "slow and steady wins the race." I've been on this program since Wednesday, and I've dropped quite a few pounds, and I think by next Wednesday, I will have dropped at least ten pounds, and probably a bit more, if it keeps at this rate.

The other reason I decided to go with this program is that it requires you to go into the doctor's office once a week for a check up, to make sure all is well. They routinely check blood levels and the like, so though it's a very low calorie diet, they keep track of how you're doing, so you know you're being healthy. They also require participants to attend a two hour meeting/work out once a week, since it's important that any lasting change becomes a lifestyle reboot as well. I've come to the realization that I've never allowed myself to view myself as a "fit" person, for some bizarre psychological reason that escapes me, but is really unimportant. I'm choosing with my rational mind to view myself as someone who can indeed be fit, and gain control over food again, through the grace of God. And as St. Augustine says, the grace of God operates through "secondary means," and so the choice to invest in this weight loss program I feel is a direct expression of God's grace in my life. I firmly believe that this three month crazy diet is the kind of Draconian measure that I need in my life to gain mastery over this part of my life.

I've been thinking a lot about my relationship with food, and I suppose the next three months the particular "variation" I'll be focusing on will be my musings on weight loss, food, gluttony, and the grace of God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Update

It's been ages since I've updated my blog. I suppose blogging has lost a bit of its appeal, for whatever reason. Perhaps Facebook has taken its toll, but I also think that for a time, my blog was a needed outlet for a lot of rumination that apparently now takes place in other ways.

I spoke with a priest for about 45 minutes today about the talk I'm going to be giving at a Catholic conference this July. I'll be speaking about my journey "back to Rome," and then the next day, I'll be talking to a bunch of clergy from the Diocese of Chicago. Rumor has it that even Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, and the leader of the United States Conference of Bishops, will be there in attendance. This is very exciting, and humbling, all at the same time. One thing I know for sure: I'm the closest I've ever been to being in the center of God's will, and that's a darn good place to be.