CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the category “Cigars”

Potential FDA regulations on Premium cigars

Here is a concern that is close to my heart. The FDA has been given permission to regulate cigars. Now, I get regulating cigarettes. They have hundreds of toxic chemicals added in addition to the tobacco products, are inhaled, and thus are an extreme health hazard. Premium cigars, not so much. Chris Kelly, owner of Leaf Lover Tobacconist in North East, PA gave me a website explaining evenhandedly and in detail all that one could need to understand the issue. I have linked to Halfwheel’s FDA page here: Halfwheel’s explanation of the proposed FDA regulations on Premium cigars.. This is a great site, and I encourage you to peruse it if you have any questions.

The FDA has proposed two Options.  Option one has no exemptions for Premium cigars, would require FDA approval for any cigar introduced after 2007 (and we know how quickly such approval would be granted), and would basically destroy the entire industry.  Option two is better, in that it grants exemption for Premium cigars.  the problem is that the FDA proposes to define Premium cigars in a very narrow way.  This is not the worst of the regulations.  The two “killers” are: that a Premium cigar costs a minimum of $10.00 each; and that they “weigh more than 6 pounds per 1000 units.”  Very, very few Premium cigars can meet those standards.

The FDA did state, however, that they would entertain and consider the public’s thoughts on this issue, and folks are encouraged to write them. I have composed a letter that will go in the mail today. I am asking you to write them as well, to ask the FDA to change the restrictions as it pertains to Premium cigars, and to change the definition of a Premium cigar. Feel free to use the letter that I wrote, in part or whole. Time is of the essence, we only have approximately three weeks before the FDA closes the door on public opinion, so please write to them quickly.  Thank you ahead of time.

Final note:  This is not the time or venue to be rude, angry, or insulting.  The deed is done; the FDA has the permission of Congress to regulate the cigar industry.  If you are upset over personal freedoms, please, address that with Congress.  For this, I ask that you be respectful, evenhanded, and calm.  That will go a lot farther when your correspondence is read.

Here is the letter:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

Open Letter to the FDA regarding regulation of premium cigars.

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I wanted to contact you regarding the above issue. I clearly understand the concerns with tobacco products, and the regulations for advertising and marketing cigarettes. I understand that the FDA has relatively recently been given permission to also regulate cigars as well.

Here are my thoughts.

First, I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. I believe them worthy of regulation, due not simply to the tobacco in them, but the harsh and dangerous chemicals inherent in the current making of them, and that are infused into the final product. I have, however, enjoyed Premium cigars for quite some time. Here are some of the differences:

According to the American Lung Association, cigarettes contain “approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are poisonous.

Here are a few of the chemicals in tobacco smoke, and other places they are found:

Acetone – found in nail polish remover
Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
Ammonia – a common household cleaner
Arsenic – used in rat poison
Benzene – found in rubber cement
Butane – used in lighter fluid
Cadmium – active component in battery acid
Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
Lead – used in batteries
Naphthalene – an ingredient in moth balls
Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
Nicotine – used as insecticide
Tar – material for paving roads
Toluene – used to manufacture paint.”

Premium cigars, however, contain 100 percent tobacco and none of these chemicals. An excellent definition of “Premium Cigar” is utilized by New Hampshire in this way:

“hand-constructed and hand-rolled;
has a wrapper made entirely from whole tobacco leaf;
has a filler and binder made entirely of tobacco, except for adhesives or other materials used to maintain size, texture, or flavor; and
has a wholesale price of $2.00 or more.”

A further differentiation should also be recognized between Premium and “less than” premium cigars. Most Premium cigars contain long-leaf filler, the wrapper is whole leaf, and they are capped by hand. Further, they must be kept in an environment that is temperature and humidity controlled, usually at around 70 degrees and 65-70 percent humidity. In contrast, Non-premium cigars usually contain chopped-leaf filler, and the wrapper is liquified tobacco pulp that is pressed and dried, much like paper. They can (and are) stored anywhere. These are hardly Premium, and in my opinion, not worth the effort. My personal motto regarding cigars is that if cigars and gasoline can be purchased at the same place, don’t ever smoke the cigars. Further, Premium cigars are not marketed to, sold to or consumed by minors. Nor are Premium cigars dual use, making them useless for attempted utilization with illegal substances such as marijuana, and useful only for enjoying as is.

I am an adult citizen of the US, and I enjoy premium cigars. Most of those I enjoy are manufactured by smaller manufacturers, often known as “boutique” manufacturers. These are very much like micro breweries, which make very fine and interesting beers that are not mass-produced or mass marketed. The FDA regulations as currently written and defined for Premium cigars would have a massive impact on the boutique cigar manufacturers, and would put many out of business.

Premium cigars are one of my passions, as well as a wonderful means of relaxation. I enjoy them occasionally and socially, and find the entire experience nearly zen-like. I enjoy the flavor, the visual impact of a cigar (how it is rolled, the lines of the leaf, the color or the wrapper and ash), and the time it takes to fully enjoy a Premium cigar, often approximately an hour or more.

Please register my concern and lack of support for the current proposed FDA regulations concerning Premium Cigars. Due to the above concerns, I am wholeheartedly opposed to the regulations. I would request that Premium cigars be exempted from the proposed (and finalized) regulations, and that the definitions concerning Premium cigars be modified as above, with the addition that they “weigh 3 pounds or more per 1000 units,” not the 6 pounds per 1000 units as currently proposed.

Respectfully,

Clark D. Peters
(Address)
(Telephone number)

Again, thank you in advance.

Advertisements

I used to LIKE roller coasters.

As usual, life has been difficult. I suppose I should understand that to be the norm, but somehow it often seems to catch me by surprise.

Part of the problem is that ever since I was a little boy, I have recognized fairness as a desired quality. My mother used to tell me that I would come home from school upset when someone suffered some unfairness. And though I tried to train my daughters to not expect life to be fair I didn’t, in the core of me, believe it. I still expect life to be fair, even though I know intellectually that it just ain’t so. Can you spell “conflict?”

I should probably make it clear that I am not complaining here. This is just a list of observations and my experiences.

We have a new President at Edinboro University. And any time there is a change like that, be it a new CEO at a corporation, a new pastor at church, or a new president at an institution of higher education, there are changes made and change should be expected. New priorities, new directions, new expectations both written and just understood. That is not to say that the process is easy. There will always be a state of flux until the water stops sloshing and reaches equilibrium (I have no idea how I could have mixed any more metaphors in this sentence). And easy it has not been.

Although my position is rather large and rather important, I am still middle management. And middle management is always getting pounded. Again, not a complaint. I recognized this fact coming in, and it is just a reality.

So work has been difficult. In addition to my normal (rather hefty plate of) responsibilities, I have had a shift in priorities and expectations. This is never easy for me. I like routine. I am comfortable with having the same tasks and expectations. Example: every morning my wife fixes me a breakfast burrito to eat in the car on the way to work. Variations on that are fine, but I am perfectly content to have the same thing every day.

I went on vacation this year from April 6 through April 15. Beth and I scheduled with our local scuba store to go to Little Cayman for a week of Caribbean diving, sun, and relaxation. Didn’t work out quite like that. Well, I need to clarify that. The diving and the sun were fantastic. Healthy reefs, coral, plenty of beautiful fish. We saw a lot of “old friends,” and a lot of “new friends,” too. I only saw one drum fish, and not one secretary blenny or flamingo tongue slug. However, we saw at least one queen triggerfish on every dive we did! Very cool. The weather was nearly perfect; hot and sunny, every single day. The resort, amazing. Great accommodations. Each of us had our own rooms, so there was no sharing of a suite. Nice. And the food! As I understand it, they have a gourmet chef, so breakfast, lunch and dinner were unbelievable. Two free drinks per day were included as well. Considering that is about my max, and Beth doesn’t drink, they didn’t lose a lot of money on us with that, but it was a great perk. And the company was fantastic. Great people to dive with and hang out with. If you ever want to go to Little Cayman, you could not do better than Little Cayman Beach Resort.

Normally, and this year was no different, I kind of depend on my vacation time to decompress and fill my tank so to speak. However, as great as all of the above was, the vacation did not help. I developed bronchitis just before we left, and was on z-pack until April 9. By evening of the 9th, I had a nasty sinus infection that I just had to push through until we got home. The dive boat we were originally on had a bad leak in the exhaust, and seven of us got violently sick on The first dive of the week on Sunday morning. On the plus side, we set a resort record for number of sick on one trip. Woo! NOT.

After I came down with the sinus infection on Tuesday, I looked at our dive itinerary.  We had signed up to dive the Capt. Keith Tibbetts on Cayman Brac on Thursday. Not wanting to miss that, I opted out of diving all day Wednesday. It was a good decision, as I was able to dive Thursday and Friday, but missing three Caribbean dives was not what I had gone there for.

The return home also proved difficult. On Little Cayman, there was a mix up with our bags that I had to work to fix. The lines at the airport on Grand Cayman were overly and unnecessarily long, and Beth and I barely got through security in time for our flight to Philadelphia. However we got to Philly, and waited a few hours for our connector to Erie. The plane was on time, and boarded on schedule. Unfortunately, Beth and I, along with four of our dive compadres, were refused boarding and had to stay the night in Philly. I have, by the way, sent this on to US Airways as a complaint, and have yet to hear from them. We will see if they are honorable about this or not. Stay tuned.

Because of the issues during vacation, I returned nearly as stressed as when I left. And last week was the “welcome back” from hell. There was an issue at work that happened while I was on vacation, and although I couldn’t have effected a change or a different outcome, I was expected to have taken care of it; I got into a shouting match on the phone with my boss (never a good career enhancer); and a couple other incidents occurred at work that I was expected to handle differently than I did (remember that “flux” I talked about?). There were seriously two or three days last week that I just wasn’t sure I would be employed at the end of the day.

And although work has been hard before throughout my various careers, I have usually had things to fall back on, things to divert me. But now my normal crutches have been taken away.

I love cigars no secret there. However, after my neck surgery (fusion of C5 to C6 and C6 to C7), my surgeon, uh, “disallowed” cigars until the fusion is complete, hopefully by the end of May. Some silliness about carbon dioxide and nicotine inhibiting oxygen absorption and bone growth or something. So cigars are out, and that is difficult. For me, there is something deeply relaxing in enjoying a quality cigar for an hour; relaxing, contemplative, nearly zen. Seriously.

In just the past few years I have discovered microbrew beer. Not the normal nasty American macros, but fine, flavorful micros. Now that is a fine topic for a future blog! For now, suffice it to say that I recognize that I need to be cautious with my new hobby. It would be easy to get lost in the beer, but that is, I am afraid, far too close to the edge for me. So, although relaxing, I have to put well-defined boundaries and limits on my beer consumption. Not always the easiest for me, but necessary.

Further, we have a small group of friends from church that we meet with almost weekly. We call this small group “Small Group.” Pretty clever, huh? And although I will deny it if you tell them, I love this group of people. We have seen each other through some pretty devastating situations, and they could not be more like family to me if we were blood. For various reasons, the past couple of months have been difficult for all of us in that group. No solace there.

Finally, I enjoy the computer game Civilization V. A couple of years ago I purchased a pretty upscale laptop specifically for Civ V, and I can get lost for hours. Beth says I am addicted, but I can quit any time I want. Really. I just choose to play as much as I do. Well, maybe I do kind of like to play it a lot. In any event, my laptop is down, and has been at the computer shop for three weeks, two days, and twelve hours. But who’s counting. No Civ.

I have been left with nothing to fall back on. No crutch, no salve. It feels like there is little but difficulty and hardship. And I wonder if that isn’t exactly where I need to be.

Beth and I were talking this morning, and her observation was that it has been hard for her as well. She didn’t sleep as well as she would have liked last night, and during one of her wakeful times, she said that she wondered just how centered her life has been on God lately. Her conclusion was, “not much.” And she recognizes that she needs to change that situation.

Hmm.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where Peter is in prison. I think I have said in the past that I like how Paul thinks; his logic, his orderly progression. John, not so much John is, to me, a bit of a goof; circular logic (which is no logic at all in my book), mystical, squishy touchy feely. Ick. But Peter? Oh, he’s the man! Hard charging, hard-headed, willing to leap in without even wondering what such a jump will cost. Peter is 100%. You never have to wonder where you stand with Peter. Peter is me. Up to, and including denying my Christ at critical times. Thank God it isn’t about me, but instead it’s about God’s grace and love.

But in this particular Bible story, Peter is in prison. Hopeless. An angel appears to him, and tells Peter to put on his shoes, which Peter does. The angel leads him out of prison, through the doors that the angel has opened, and past the guards to freedom. Now the point of this story for me, is that the angel did what Peter couldn’t; open the gates, shut down the guards. However, he told Peter to do what Peter could. Specifically, “put on your shoes.” I have struggled with that metaphor for a long time. I feel it is incumbent on me to “do what I am able to do,” and depend on God for what I am not able to do. We are all born with abilities and talents. I believe we are to use them to the best that we are able. But where does that stop, and my dependence on God begin? How much am I to “confidently go forth,” and how much am I to “give all to God?” And how do I have “joy in the struggle?”  ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I’m not real joyful right now.

There’s a song out that does a nice job of describing where I am. This is from Tenth Avenue North’s album, “Struggle.”  Please listen to this, it says it perfectly. I’m not stuck, this too shall pass. The day will dawn, the sun shall rise, hope springs eternal. But for now,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUEy8nZvpdM.

Caught in the corner.

Hang on, dig in, strap down, get set.  I am going to state a truism that may just rock your world.  Ready?  Here it is:  Life is hard.  Yep, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but there it is.  Life is hard and there is nothing to be done about it.  “Life is pain Highness.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.”

When I was young (Wait.  I meant younger) I thought I was ready for anything that life had to throw at me.  I thought I would chew it up and spit it out.  Little did I know just how painful life can be.  Let me describe what I mean.

I met Beth at Behrend College of Penn State in 1975.  Through her feminine wiles, we soon fell in love and planned our life together.  Long walks, long talks, gazing into each others’ eyes, we did all those dewy, romantic and saccharine things that young couples often do when they fall in love.  Objectively speaking, our romance was (and remains) the best and finest romance in the history of the world.  And I wouldn’t trade one single minute for anything.

We married in 1978 (see, Beth?  I do too remember) and started with nothing more than an old Chevy Impala given to us by my folks, a cat, and love.  What a grand start to a marriage!  We moved to northwestern Pennsylvania and I found a job in, of all places, a donut factory on my way to my life-long dream job of being a policeman.  I got into police work over thirty years ago, and the trials and travails Beth and I experienced could have wrecked us multiple times.  But from the beginning, we both loved God more than anything, and have worked to make Him, and Him alone, the focus and center of our marriage.

Children came along, planned and anticipated.  Loved, adored, and our pride and joy.  We raised them “purposely and intentionally,” a catch phrase with a set of our closest friends; a catch phrase, but describes our parenting very nicely.  Everything we did with them was intended to be a life’s lesson, to instruct them and to train and prepare them for everything that life was going to throw at them.  Clearly we were not perfect, and there are innumerable moments I wish I could take back, change, re-do.  But we’re not given that option, are we?  Even so, no one has ever loved their children more, or worked harder to raise their children to be the best they could be.  I went back to school part-time, and worked toward my Master’s Degree from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.  I found that I enjoyed my class work (as opposed to my undergrad experience) and excelled.  Of course, I devoted a ton of time to my school work to do so, but enjoyed it none the less.

In the mid-1980’s, I joined the Erie Police Department in Erie, PA.  Having come from a small police department where every sneeze and belch was noted and scrutinized, when I moved to a larger department I was like a kid in a candy store.  I had more fun than anyone had a right to.  But all things change, and even good things have a habit of diminishing.  I finished my Master’s degree program and eventually left the street to become a detective, then a Detective Sergeant working Homicides, bank robberies with FBI agents, Presidential protection details with the Secret Service, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT),  just about any cool thing that one could desire.  I had a “patron” that was guiding me in the ways of politics within the city, and I was moving toward higher ranks; meeting people, shaking hands, joining clubs and organizations.

During this time I also worked in our church.  I found myself elected to the Deacon board, which at the time was kind of a combined Elder/Deacon position.  We made policy for the church, as well as watching for the immediate spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in the congregation.  As was typical, I threw myself into it, and spent a lot of time working for the church.

As are many men, I am driven to excel at whatever task I take on.  And for most of the things I try, I push myself until I’m pretty good at whatever it is I am doing.  However, as I pushed and struggled to advance, I noticed something.  My daughters were in High School, perhaps only a few years from graduating and moving on.  And I hardly knew them.

I remembered some of the ideals that Beth and I had as young marrieds and as young parents, and I did not want to look back and regret the time that I devoted to my job; I did not want to regret the time that I should have given to my children.  So I did something that was very difficult for me.  I took myself off the fast track at work.  Man was I disappointed.  But, I thought, at least I had my church and my family.  Family, church, and work.  I measured myself as a successful man by these three things.

Oops, one down.  I intentionally gave work away, but that’s ok.  I still had the other two.  I convinced myself that as long as I “succeeded” at church and family, I was ok.  Work was actually the third on the list anyway, so I could be less than at the pinnacle there and still be a success at the other two.  However, church is a funny thing; it’s filled with people.  And people are the same no matter where they happen to be located.  I dealt with good folks and mean folks all across the spectrum.  I dealt with issues that I wish I had never known about.  Ultimately I kind of flamed out with leadership in church, too.  When my term as Deacon expired, I did not seek re-election, and I am not sure how eager I am even now, twenty-something years later, to repeat that experience.

Two down.  But I still have my family.  And this is the most important of the three.  As long as I “succeed” at family, I still have worth in my eyes.  I am still a “successful” man.

You kind of see what’s coming, right?

I had read a book once that described a father’s raising his family, and essentially his thoughts were that no matter what success he had elsewhere, if he didn’t raise his children well, what good is he?  I agreed with that, and worked accordingly.

Now before I continue, I want to make clear that I love my children.  With my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Nothing has ever changed that, and nothing ever will.  Further, I need not detail more than this.  They are good people, working to be the best that they can envision themselves to be.  I am proud of them and their accomplishments.  Suffice it to say here that they have chosen to walk a couple of paths that I would not have chosen for them.  Their lives, their decisions.  I respect that and will support them, love them, help them to the best that I am able.

I think that at least in part, I took their “contrary” decisions personally, that it was my responsibility for where they have chosen to be.  Of course, each of us will ultimately take ownership of our choices and decisions, but at the time, I keenly felt that I was an abject failure as a father.  And for me that was strike three.  I was a failure as a man.

Some people turn to drink, some people may become even more spiritual, some turn to other outlets to ease the pain.  I have had several.

For years I have struggled with, shall we say, less wholesome outlets.  I honestly don’t know how teens can cope with the internet.  One can instantly find just about anything one would care to find.  With all that one can access today via the internet, I wouldn’t have survived as a teen.  Anyhow, through a lot of prayer, working with several dedicated and spiritual men, this particular area is much less difficult for me than it once was.

But there were other ways that one can feel momentarily better.  Food is one of my biggest struggles.  I love food.  I love the smell of good food, I love the taste of food and its texture as I roll it through my mouth, I love the satisfying feel of a full stomach.  And Beth is honestly the best cook I have ever known.

For a while this wasn’t as big a problem as it could be.  Although my metabolism had been slowing down, I was pretty active.  Being on the SWAT team was pretty demanding, and I had to stay in some semblance of shape, so even though I ate big, I burned a lot of it at the same time.  Also, at 6’3″, I can hide it pretty well.  This changed a bit when I retired from the team.  I ballooned to an all-time high of 260 pounds of unadulterated cellulose, and looked every bit like the chubby hubby that I was.

I had other outlets as well.  I am a very sensual guy.  I love taste, texture, beauty, scents.  I love trying new things.  I love learning.  So when I find something new that tastes great, smells great, and has nuance, I dive in.  Especially if it’s not something that a ton of people do.  I discovered craft beer and I discovered cigars.  Both are topics of endless discussion for me, I can talk for hours about either.  For the record, my buddy Matt makes the best beer I have tried; second is Founder’s Breakfast Stout or perhaps Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stouts.  Oh, man!  For cigars, my go to is always an Ashton, and specifically an Ashton Double Magnum, although I love all kinds of cigars at different times.  If you’re interested, go see Chris at Leaf Lover’s Tobbaconist in North East, PA for a great cigar.  And remember my advice.  If you can buy cigars and gasoline at the same location, don’t buy the cigars!!

Anyhow, along with Scuba diving, these were the outlets I used to “cope” with life’s little surprises.  I was a far cry from that twenty-one year old that thought he could handle everything.  Essentially, it looks like I can’t handle much of anything.  Or maybe life just kept throwing its little surprises until I was broken down.  Whatever, I was at a point that I needed help with coping.  But I didn’t like where I was.  That having been said, I think I need to clarify here.  As long as this post turns out to be, it is still a very abbreviated version of all this.  This entire process kind of evolved over the past twenty years or so, and I am condensing it here to a couple of thousand-ish words.  Also, it may look like I was just a total wreck.  Not so, but I had come to lean on tangibles, not on inner strength and God’s power.

So, here I was.  A failure at work, a failure at church, a failure with my family.  “Needing” food, scuba, beer, and cigars.  So what happened next?  Earlier this year I looked at a couple of photos taken of me, and man, I did not like what I saw.  This guy’s a fatty!  Beth and I both decided it was time, so we embarked on a weight loss and life style change.  Although I started at a lower weight than my all time high, since May, I have lost about thirty pounds with ten to go to my goal.  Beth has done even better.  I think we both look great, and the next step is to get back to the gym and get in shape.

Food’s gone as a crutch.

Beer has been assuming an increasingly anticipated portion of my life.  And I don’t mean nasty or cheap beer.  You folks that drink Bud lite or Coors, well, you have my pity.  Micros are the bomb!  So many different breweries, so many different styles, combinations of hops and malts, I could easily live in a Brewpub.  Wait.  Clark, what did you just say?  Did you hear yourself?

Beth pointed out to me a bit ago that I was consuming more beer than I had before.  She wasn’t yet alarmed exactly, but she was kind of concerned.  Her concern was justified.  Although in comparison to many I didn’t drink much at all, and although in comparison to Europeans I hardly drink anything, I was still using the beer as a crutch.  Clark, what are you doing?  Yep, I need to cut back.  And although I have no intention to cease, my beer consumption has hugely diminished.

Beer’s gone.  But I still have my last stronghold, I still have my cigars.

You can see what’s coming, right?  Hey, didn’t I already say that?

Many people would say this explains a great deal, but as a teen, I fell on my head a couple of times.  Looking back, I probably fractured my spine, but as I could get up and move, I never went to the hospital or even saw a doctor.  Fast forward four decades or so, and I now have two degenerative discs.  After several years of chiropractic therapy and numerous pain shots, I had my neck fused four months ago on two levels; C-5 to C-6, and C-6 to C-7.  The surgery went great, the chronic pain is gone, and the healing has been fine.  But.  My scuba season ended on the date of my surgery, and I probably won’t get back under water (except for assisting classes of new divers in the pool) until spring.

We went back to my surgeon last Monday.  After x-rays, he showed me that the higher level is about 99% healed; essentially completely healed.  The lower level, not as much.  He gave me a few restrictions, and said that he wasn’t concerned at all, and that the only way he would be concerned at all is if I was a smoker, which I am not.  I told him that I haven’t touched a cigarette in my life, but that I do have an occasional cigar.  At that point he kind of stared at me, hesitated a second, and said, “You need to stay away from those.”

Ok, I get it.  Nicotine restricts blood vessels and inhibits the uptake of oxygen, both needed for healing.  I won’t smoke a cigar for months.  But that was my last tangible support.  I am now officially left with nothing to fall back on, nothing to look forward to (And let’s be totally clear.  When I say that, I mean outside my marriage.  Our marriage is still great, and getting better every day!).  When he said that, I felt like my last pillar was knocked down, my bridge was collapsing.  I was bereft.  Even Beth felt bad for me, and she is not, shall we say, the biggest fan of my cigars.

So what do I do?  As I see it, I don’t have a lot of choices here.  My only choice is the one I should have made long ago.  My only choice is to depend on God’s grace; first, last, everywhere.  A few years ago I coined a phrase that I have tried to utilize.  I kind of forgot it, but I’m gonna pick it back up.  That phrase is this.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  So this is what I am left with, this is what I want to do, what I want to continually tell myself.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  I need to give it to God, let it go, live in Him.  Fill me Father.  Fill me with You.  You God.  All You.  Nothing but You.

I don’t know why it is necessary to be painted into a corner to see that one cannot “do this” on one’s own, but I would not be surprised to find that this is rather common.  Even if not, I often find that it is the case for me.  I’ve been cornered, and I have nothing that I can use to defend myself.  I figure I can go in one of three directions.  I can collapse into a puddle of emotional plasma, I can fall back on one of the less healthy things that I used to fall back on, or I can let go and look to the Author and Protector.  I think I’ll look to Jesus.

But boy do I want a cigar.  Let it go, Clark.  It doesn’t belong to you.  Yeah, I know…

Ok, not so fast.

-Look, the pun was unintentional this time, ok?-

This post is intended to look at the physical effects of our week-long fast.  My next post will be about my spiritual thoughts on the fast.

I guess I was a bit premature with the kidney pain.  Sunday before church I was feeling them pretty keenly.  I often allow myself to dehydrate a bit on Sunday mornings so I don’t have really uncomfortable urges during church.  I guess this time it wasn’t such a good idea.  I drank extra water  just before the service started, and during the service I intermittently drank a juice cocktail from a thermos we often take with us.  (This thermos is great, by the way.  The ones we got are for cold only, and have a locking lid so it will not spill, and it keeps liquids cold for hours, even in brutal heat.)  By afternoon, they were manageable and I thought I was ok.  However, by bedtime, my kidneys were really ramping up the pain, even though I had three glasses of water just before bedtime.   I finally got up and migrated to the living room and crashed on the sofa.  I didn’t get much sleep Sunday night, but it did give me cause to pray a lot.  Not just for the pain, in case that was implied.  I did pray for outside concerns, so I guess the time wasn’t really wasted.

Monday night was pretty much the same.  The pain wasn’t as intense, but really uncomfortable, so I got up earlier than I had on Sunday and went to the spare room.  I think Beth and I both slept better than the night before, as I wasn’t tossing and turning for a few hours before I decided to sleep elsewhere.  I woke up a couple of hours before it was time to get up, and the pain was lessened, so I was able to crawl back into bed with my wife for a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, I am prone to kidney stones.  Normally I drink a ton of water, in fact I figured it out one time, and on an average day I drink close to one hundred ounces of water.  So I’m not unaccustomed to kidney pain, and I do what I can to minimize the probability.  I guess I goofed up a little with the fast.  Saturday and Sunday we added fruit and vegetable juices to the water which constituted our entire diet on Friday.  I drank a ton of tomato juice and fruit juices, but I think in retrospect I substituted them for the water that I normally drink.  I probably figured that liquid is liquid, so I skimped on the water.  Small tactical error, there, and I paid a bit of a penalty for it.  Last night was not so bad, so hopefully we’re on the downhill side of that particular issue.

The hunger has been interesting.  Not unmanageable, but consistently present.  Believe me, that tomato juice on Saturday was like heaven.  I totally loved the juices we had on Saturday and Sunday after only water the day before.  And then came Sunday evening.

The “fasting days” go from 6:00 PM on one day to 6:00 PM the next day.  Sunday evening at 6:00 PM we had our first solid food since Thursday.  Now that was heaven.  Understand, I am not a veggie kind of guy, but after three days of nothing at all, Sunday dinner was a feast!  Beth fixed lentil soup (no bacon, but I got over it) and a veggie tray.  Homemade hummus and peanut butter with crackers and apples finished off the meal.  Heaven!  Monday night Beth sautéed some mushrooms and onions, fixed home fries in olive oil and herbs, and some sort of bean salad.  Man!  I tore into that like a starving dog on a t-bone steak.  Not being a veggie kind of guy, the irony of the situation hit me about  half-way through the meal.  I looked at Beth and said, “What is happening to me???  I’m scared!!”  But I gotta tell you, that moment didn’t stop me for long.  Last night was ratatouille.  What a great meal!  In fact, during supper we talked, and I remarked that I wouldn’t mind “meatless meals” a couple of times a week.  This is a bit disconcerting to an unrepentant and avowed carnivore, so I’m in uncharted territory here.

Coffee I miss.  I love the flavor, the smell, I love everything about a good cup of joe.  But even with that I noticed that I don’t mind not having that first cup of steaming goodness when I roll out of bed.  I need to evaluate that as well.  Cut back and drink less?  Mix a higher percentage of decaf?  Just not sure what to do here.

I also miss my beer and cigars.  I don’t slug down a ton of brews at a time, but with certain meals and evenings, a cold one is very nice.  And the cigars!  I only have one now and then, but the past few days have been mostly desire.

But, once again, the fast has included these things, and all in all I have been very pleased with this fast.  As I expected, the first few days were difficult, but relatively smooth sailing after that initial time period.  We have today and tomorrow, with tomorrow evening being the breaking of the fast.  I have to admit, I am really, really looking forward to tasting the “good stuff” again.  But until then, I am devoting this time to God, and praying.  A lot.

The next post will look at the spiritual thoughts and lessons throughout this week.

I am just not used to this (part one).

When we returned from our short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we talked about sharing our experiences at church, First Baptist Church in North East, PA.  I know this is pretty standard fare for people serving in this capacity.  One goes on a mission trip, comes back, and talks about the trip at church.  What isn’t standard is that I was “volunteered” to speak.  I kind of thought we would all speak for a couple of minutes, but was unanimously (minus one) voted down.  It was decided that I would speak for the group.  Lovely.

Our pastor, Bob Klecan, agreed that a presentation would be appropriate, and he figured ten minutes would be a good time for the report.  He scheduled me to speak yesterday, February 19.  I wasn’t too worried about it, I write fairly well, and I belong to Noon-Time Toastmasters in Erie, PA.  So I was comfortably confident I could turn out something coherent and present it in an acceptable fashion.  This isn’t to brag, I’m just saying that the basic skills required were not a huge concern.  I just wanted to honor God with what I did.

Through the week I worked on it, and as of Saturday I had about four minutes, thirty-eight seconds.  Wow!  Expanding this would not be difficult, I was happy to add stuff that I had been afraid would not fit.  Beth made a couple of suggestions which I incorporated, and I got the talk ready to go.  I made a few fine-tuning changes later on Saturday, and even Sunday morning until just before service started.  I prayed about it, Beth prayed about it, and we prayed about it together.  I was confident that I would at least present it ok, and not embarrass myself.  Good enough for me.

I have been fighting a cold for a week or so, but getting better.  I did not think that would be a factor.  However, on Saturday I sneezed for about five minutes straight.  When I was done sneezing, my nose became a faucet and my sinuses were completely clogged.  Beth and I serve on the worship team at church, with Beth being one of the guitarists, and I am one of the singers.  With the unbelievably nasty cold hitting like a blizzard (uh, flood?), I was doubtful I could sing, and was concerned about my ability to talk on Sunday

The cold hit me mid-morning Saturday, just before I started working on the talk.  So, I did what I would expect anyone in that position to do.  I took my laptop, got a cup of coffee, and headed out to our unattached, unheated garage to work on the missions report.  One might ask why in the world I would do that?  Well, the answer is that I had determined to smoke one of the Dominican cigars I brought back while working on the report.  And I’m not permitted to smoke my cigars in the house.  So, I was left with no choice but to work in the cold, cruel wastes of northwestern Pennsylvania, sheltered only by an unheated garage, and with a nasty cold no less!  See how cruel my wife can be?  (Kidding, honey!!)

In any event, I was fairly calm about the whole thing, cold and all.  We went to bed Saturday night, and I prayed (and we prayed) that God would take away the cold for Sunday morning.  Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea tea, NyQuil, and lights out.  Interestingly, Saturday night I wound up doing an all-nighter; I’m at the age where that means I don’t have to get up even once to use the bathroom.

Well, hello, there!

Well, how about that?  My first blog on my first blog site!  I will publish more information about myself in later posts, and as time goes by.  However, for now let it suffice for me to provide just a bit of information.

I have huge opinions on just about any topic imaginable.  This blog may wander around the map, as inspiration (or stupidity, depending on one’s viewpoint) appears.  My interests range from politics to religion; from scuba diving to music; from football to movies.

See?  Can’t narrow it down from that (for now).  We’ll just have to see where this adventure takes us.

Post Navigation