Monthly Archives: November 2009

Sleep Apnea

Last year I started this blog after seeing in the doctor’s office that I weighed over 300 pounds.  I decided that I needed to do something about it, and would start working out and chronicle my journey on the web.  Being a writer and a pastor I knew would probably write about some other things too.

When I started working out last year I went hard for about a month and then just got worn out.  I saw some quick results.  I got stronger and lost a little weight, but I was so tired.  I worked out in the morning and would be wiped for the rest of the day.  I kept thinking that my energy surge would come, but it didn’t, and working out became difficult to do.  Then I got sick, Advent came, and I just had plenty of excuses to not go back.

In the meantime, I went and did a sleep study. It turned out that I had severe sleep apnea.  During my study I learned that over the course of an hour of sleep, I would stop breathing more than once a minute.  This lack of breathing while sleeping is not conducive to a good night’s rest.  It was a main reason why I was so tired all the time.  Before the study, I would 1. snore like you wouldn’t believe, thus keeping my wife up, and 2. wake up feeling like I needed more sleep.

After my study i was given a CPAP machine.  My Constant Positive Airway Pressure machine has changed my life.  I sleep so much better.  It took some getting used to, but I have gotten to the point now that I cannot sleep without it.  It turns out sleep apnea causes a lot more than snoring.  The stress it creates, combined with the lack of REM sleep can cause or increase the risk of  fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

I know that sleep apnea is often caused by being overweight, but once you have it, it can also cause obesity.  Losing weight is the most important factor in fighting this disorder, but losing weight becomes very difficult with it.

For the last month and a half I have been back in the gym.  I have gained a lot of strength.  I have lost no weight, and am heavier than I was last year at this time.  But I feel so much better.  I’ve actually gotten to the point that I crave working out.  If I go more than three days without going to the gym, I don’t like it.  I have started to make excuses to go instead of excuses to stay away.

I still have a long way to go, but I like the road I’m on.  It only happened because someone I know told me about his machine.  So now I’m telling you.  If you snore, if you wake up feeling like you need more sleep, if you need to take naps during the middle of the day, if any exercise wipes you out – it could be more than just being “out of shape.”  It could be a sign of a serious condition.  Get a sleep study.  Get a CPAP.  Get used to using it, because its worth it

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Happy 40th Birthday, Big Bird and friends!

Big-bird

Today was the beginning of the 40th season of Sesame Street.

My daughter and I were watching Sesame Street together today.  This show, after 40 years, remains far and away my favorite kids show.  I loved it when I was a kid, and I actually enjoy watching it with my daughter now.

My strongest memory from the Street as a kid was when the grownups finally saw Snuffy.  I felt so bad for Big Bird for years as no one took him seriously.  He knew that snuffleupagus was real.  I knew he was real, and I felt Big Bird’s pain when no one believed him.  Today my daughter and I watched as Big Bird decided he was going to migrate to the rain forest.  As he was walking down the street, he started saying goodbye to everyone.  All of his friends were shocked that he was leaving, but he decided that the rain forest would be the perfect place for him to live.  As the “goodbyes” continued, I felt myself getting a little sad. Saying goodbye to Big Bird is like saying goodbye to a longtime friend.  Wondering if this was effecting Ellie like it was effecting me, I called her name.  She turned around, and the tears were streaked down her face.  I called her to me, and she crawled up on my lap.   “Are you sad?” I asked her. “No,” she said through her tears. “It will be okay,” she said and forced out a chuckle that sounded a lot like a sob.In the end Big Bird decided to stay.  He decided that the rain forest would be a neat place to visit, but he hadn’t realized that moving there would mean he couldn’t have playdates with Elmo, or have Cream of Birdseed soup at Hoopers whenever he wanted.  When he announced that he would stay, Ellie burried her head in my chest and gave me a huge hug.  Her hug left a wet spot on my shirt. I doubt that episode will be Ellie’s lasting memory of Sesame Street, but so many have one (the death of Mr. Hooper, the marriage of Luis and Maria are a couple – I’d love to hear yours). For forty years Sesame Street has educated kids about numbers, letters, friendship, vocabulary, shapes, and many other things while never talking down to them.  It has been entertaining and, with the possible exception of Elmo’s World, never annoying.  It is a show I loved when I was little, and a show I continue to love as an adult. Happy Birthday Sesame Street.  Share with me your memories – favorite characters – favorite sketches – favorite songs.

Here is a video of Snuffy being discovered by the adults:

And here is why this show is still great:

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285

I had a great workout this morning.  I bench pressed 285 pounds.  For most people, that would not be a significant milestone.  For me, it was huge.

The last time I bench pressed 285 pounds I was 17 years old.  This morning I was so nervous when I put that much weight on the bar.  I felt confident, because I knew I had done 275 last week pretty easily and I had two good workouts since then.  Yet after putting on that much weight I was unsure.  I paced back and forth staring at the bar.  I remember the last time I did that much.

I was a senior in high school.  I wanted to be the starting center on our football team. I wanted to get a good score on the ACT so I could apply for scholarships.  I wanted a certain girl to think of me as more than “just a friend.”  I wanted to join the 300-club.  I wanted my name written on the board of the weight room in that most exclusive club, but I had to get to 285 first.  I lifted 285 that day, but never more.  The football season ended.  I got a pretty good score on the ACT and won a pretty nice scholarship.  That girl and I were never more than friends.  I never joined the 300 club.

I’ve always said that I feel sorry for people that think that high school was the best time of their life.  I had a great time in high school.  I had great friends.  I had good grades.  I had the respect of teachers and my parents.  I achieved a lot, but that was not the peak of my life.  I have gone on and achieved more.  Yet 285 has always stuck in my head.  That was the highest I reached physically.  That was the strongest I ever was in my entire life.  At 17 I was no where near my emotional, mental, or spiritual peak.  But by at least one standard of measure, I peaked at 17 years old.

Today I am 32 years old.  I am still grossly overweight, but I have been determined to make sure that I would again be stronger than I was when I was 17.

Today in that gym as I paced back and forth, I was standing in front of more than 285 pounds of iron.  I was standing in front of my past.  I was standing in front of my youth.  As my heart started to race and my adrenaline started to flow I knew that I was standing in front of something heavier than 285 pounds.  I was standing in front of my future.  I was standing in front of a promise.  It was a promise I made to myself.  More importantly, it was a promise I made to my daughter.  “17 was not my best,” I thought to myself.

I laid on my back on that bench press and gripped the bar.  I asked my spotter for a lift and counted to three.  As I held the bar in my hands with my arms extended, about to bring it down to my chest, I thought to myself, “I have this.”

And I did.

As I put the weight back on the rack, I practically leaped off of the bench. I clapped my hands, flexed my arms and let out a little “YEAH.”

I still have a long way to go.  As far as overall fitness, 17 might have been my peak.  Or maybe it was 14 when I ran two miles under 15 minutes before basketball practice.  Or maybe it was 20 when I was a captain of my college lacrosse team.  Or maybe it was 28 when I ran a 5 mile race in St. Louis.  The fact remains, I weigh 316 pounds.  I have a lot of work to do.  I need to do a lot more cardio.  I need to work a lot more on my legs.  I need to make sure I get three workouts a week – not just two.  I need to stop eating crap before I go to bed.

Right now though, none of that matters.  All I care about right now is 285.  It was a barrier that lived for 15 years.  Today it is no more.

 

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Veterans’ Day

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection

Thankful For Veterans. Praying for peace.

Litany for Veterans

One: God of love, peace and justice, it is your will for the world that we may live together in peace. You have promised through the prophet Isaiah that one day the swords will be beaten into ploughshares. Yet we live in a broken world, and there are times that war seems inevitable. Let us recognize with humility and sadness the tragic loss of life that comes in war. Even so, as we gather here free from persecution, we may give thanks for those that have served with courage and honor.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence that are either in active duty or reserve duty, and the fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses and grandparents of those that are currently serving.

All: God, we praise you for those that are willing to serve. Let all Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families. Keep them surrounded in your love and peace.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence that have served in the military in the past.

All: God, we praise you for those that have served in the military. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. Let us all be inspired by their self-sacrifice in service to those who needed protection.

Please Rise: Those that are in our presence who have lost a loved one in war.

All: God, we praise you for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We ask that you comfort those that still feel the pain of their loss. Keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn.

Please Rise: Those who have gathered in your name in safety because of the sacrifices of others.

All: God, we praise you for granting us these freedoms. Let us honor those who have served by working for peace. Let us never forget those that have served, and let us never let go of your promise of peace.

I also wrote this short Memorial Day liturgy.

A reflection for Memorial Day. Sometimes “Thank you” seems inadequate.

This litany was written by Robb McCoy. It is free to print or display for use in worship. Please attribute: “Permission to publish is granted by Robb McCoy, http://fatpastor.me.”  If you use this in worship, I would love for you to let me know in the comments.

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Fish Funeral

I am preparing to do another funeral, but I’m struggling because I have been flipping through the UM Book of Worship and have not found a liturgy for fish. My daughter will be three in January. She has a pet fish named Dorothy (I think 95% of fish owned by kids under 5 are named either Dorothy or Nemo). It is sick.

It is a Beta. Once it was a brilliant red, with flowing fins and a swatch of glowing blue. Once it swam around her tank, eager for a couple of little pellets. We swore that she would come out from behind her rock whenever our daughter entered the room. We had some adventures with Dorothy. There was the time our daughter, while we thought she was napping, got the can of fish food.

She somehow unscrewed the top and gave Dorothy enough food to last about six years. Then she spilled the other half of the can in her bed. That was our first call to poison control (Beta food is okay for toddlers).

Our daughter was so excited when we brought Dorothy home. For months she kissed the tank good night and was very good about feeding her. Eventually, the novelty wore off, but she never stopped loving Dorothy. Over the last few weeks Dorothy has not looked so good. Ellie has been very concerned, and we have prepared her for the worst.

“Dorothy is very sick,” I told her. “She might die soon.”

Ellie knows a little about death. She has been to funerals. We have allowed her to see bodies laying in state. We talk to her about death. I’m not sure what she understands, but we haven’t hidden it from her. We feel that society does enough death-denying. We don’t have to participate in it too. Sometimes she asks questions or says things that give us pause. But we try to be consistent in telling her that eveything dies. Even Dorothy, even our dog, even Mommy and Daddy.

“Will I die?” she asks.

“Yes. Someday.”

“When I die, we can die together,” she says as she looks in my eye. Inside I agree. If she dies before me, there is no question that I will die too. Every parent that has seen their child die has died a little too.

“Ellie,” I say as I take her hands and look her in the eye. “We will all die someday, hopefully not for a very long time. And if you die, I’ll be so sad, but I know that you’ll be with God. But right now we are living, and I love you, and we can enjoy living every day and be thankful that we are alive.”

I don’t know if we have done the right thing in talking with our two-year-old about death, but I’m not afraid to talk to her about important things – big things – things she might not understand. The thing is, talking to a two-year-old about things makes you boil things down a little.

We live. We die. In between we do everything we can to love and laugh and and share and dance and sing and play. Through it all, God is with us. God is in our creation. God celebrates our triumphs, mourns our tragedies, and in the end, God is ready to take us home.

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