Circus, Celebration, Check-Up

I try to keep a bit of a balance when I all-too-infrequently write here. A bit of whimsy (or a whole ton of it), a little weird humor, some insights (which come from wisdom not self-generated), and updates on my strange and wonderful journey this past 18 months.
But, this one tips the “happenings in our lives” boat a little hard. Sorry ’bout that, but the truth is there have been many, many “firsts” in the past few weeks, and for my future’s sake, they need to be documented. Some are funny, some are surprising, some defy description. All need to be placed as stones, so that in the long cold winter ahead, I can look back and see where God has brought us, and remember where we are headed.
So, saddle up your hip waders, and let’s dive in…
1) The Greatest Show On Earth
On Sept 18th, we went to the circus. It had been quite a few years since we made it, although it used to be a yearly tradition. Traditions go out the window when income goes out first. 😀
So, in no particular order, here’s some of the things that happened for the first time:
a) Parking way in the back lot at the Van Andel arena, and walking in. No cane, no wheelchair, and no gasping for air after a dozen steps.
b) Going through a turnstile without having to go sideways, or worse, going around it.
c) Climbing the steps to the second floor. No elevator, or long line waiting therein.
d) Walking all the way around the 2nd floor, pausing to look at all the interesting souvenir booths and such.
e) Walking down to our seats, finding out where they were, but not sitting down immediately.
f) Going down on the floor for the All-Access Pre-Circus Show!
This is a big one – each year, Ringling allows folks to come an hour early, go down on the floor, and check out the circus up close. There are clowns performing, stilt walkers, costumes that you can try on, an elephant painting (and then the art gets given away) – it’s a great sample of the circus from up close.
I’ve NEVER been able to go down and check it out. Ever. This year, oh yeah baby! We walked around, we took our time, we saw lots of stuff. I even walked over to where the band plays from, got to check out the bass player’s rig and basses (just looked – no touching!), and even got a picture with a real Ringling clown!
I know – that would freak some of you out right down to the ground. Keep in mind that I used to perform as a clown, and a part of me still remembers dreaming of running away and clowning in the circus. *sigh*
g) Then we went back up to the 2nd floor, walked around, selected our mementos from the circus (including an amazing picture in front of a green screen that put us in the ring with elephants!), got some munchies, and carried it all back to our seats.
WE carried. Vicki and I. She didn’t have to set me in my seat, find out what I wanted, go get it, making multiple trips, carry it all back, and then tuck me all in. We went, we carried, we came back. That’s a huge first!
h) I fit in the seat. With room to spare. Wow.
None of this seems like a biggie to “normal” people, but to someone who was around 480 and pushing a monster wheelchair the last time I was in the Van Andel, it was beyond huge and amazing. Thanks, Lord, for such grace. Thanks, Vicki, for waiting so long for me to catch up to you.
2) An ArtPrize Celebration!
I LOVE it when my friend Marge calls / emails me (’cause, as all the world knows, Cal is phobic about talking on the phone, so those who “talk” to me are usually referring to text or email… It’s apparently lodged deeper in me than any of the weight that’s gone away so far). It usually means an opportunity to use my musical abilities to serve one of my favorite ministries, Dégagé. When Marge contacts me, if I’m even remotely available, the answer is an enthusiastic “YES!”
And this one was especially enthusiastic…
She asked me to play for an ArtPrize artist reception at Dégagé, and I was pumped indeed. So, on Sunday, Sept. 25th, we trundled all my bits and bobs downtown and I got to play at ArtPrize…
And boy howdy, was it FUN!
I haven’t played a lot since Frenz closed. Here and there, a gig at church or the Father/Daughter banquet, but nowhere near the amount of playing I did when Frenz was around. And I think a little piece of my heart stayed behind when the doors closed. There are folks I saw there that I don’t know if I’ll ever connect with again, since that was our common link.
But I discovered that I still love to play this sort of gig. It was a blast. Add to that the dimension of standing to play for most of the two hours, and it’s even more amazing. Vicki took a few pictures of me standing, playing the wind controller, and it kind of shocks me to see how far I’ve come. Some firsts from ArtPrize:
a) Not being overwhelmed at the logistics of taking a whopping car load of equipment downtown, unloading it at the corner of Division and Cherry, getting it all inside and set up, playing for a couple of hours, tearing it all down, and gettting it all back into the car and home. We went, we gigged, we returned, I thrived. Or as I usually say to Vicki in the car on the way home, “We’ve seen a million faces, and we ROCKED them all!!” (Did I mention that The Deadliest Catch is one of my favorite shows, watched in mondo-delay on DVD since we don’t do television in real time?)
(I’ll admit, Vicki did a lot of the hauling at home, up and down the basement stairs. It still gives me a few problems, carrying some heavy stuff up and down stairs. It also makes me remember how hard it was to move around when I weighed 480, and how much Vicki had to do for me in those days. I took down the heaviest stuff, but she did most of it, being the amazing and wonderful lady she is. Total props to my baby!)
b) I was wearing a very lovely shirt, short sleeve button down and totally something I’d NEVER wear. Vicki found it at Goodwill, brought it home, discovered it’s a men’s shirt that was hiding in the woman’s stuff, said “just for fun, try this on,” saw that it fit, and said, “it’s yours.”
And I have to admit, I dig it. 😀
c) At no time was I embarrassed, imagining that folks coming in the door were thinking, “who’s the fat dude playing the weird little flutey thingies?” I played, offering up my best, and folks enjoyed. I know – I watched them.
d) I was honored, thrilled, and delighted to do what little I can do to support the work of Dégagé. They are a ministry worthy of your interest and support, and my little efforts seem so small in their great work, but I offer what I can and am blessed to help.
3) Ya Load 18 Months, Wha’daya Get?
(Does anybody even remember the song that was misquoted from? Think Tennessee Ernie Ford. Does anybody even remember Tennessee Ernie Ford? I’m so stinkin’ old…)
September 26 was my 18 month checkup. Official pre-surgery weight: 414. “Official” 18 month weight: 219. Now, that was with shoes… I’ve been weighing all along sans shoes, so my progress reports have been based on that. When I was on the scale getting my height measured (I’m shrinking a LOT – I used to be over 5’9″, now I’m 5’7″. Crud.), the number was 216.9 without my shoes.
In 18 months.
All is pretty much on target as far as my health. We’ve got a few things to check or keep on top of, but nothing that we didn’t expect going in. No surprises, no setbacks, no complications, just adjustments. And lots of grace. And a thankful heart.
Today is October 5th. Before me today is a counseling appointment, then heading to my North Office (Biggby on the Beltline) for an afternoon of music editing and some time catching up with my bro, J-Billy. Then home for the pot roast that we put into the crock at 7:30 this morning – and I do mean WE. Vicki washed potatoes, I chopped and loaded, we seasoned the roast, packed everything in, and put on the lid.
And at the end of the day, I won’t collapse. I won’t fade. I’ll just head off to sleepy land having had a full day. And I’ll wake up tomorrow, not having to recover from a busy day, but ready to tackle another one.
And that is sweet indeed, so far removed from my life 18 months ago that I can’t even remember how I lived before this.
The moral of the story? Celebrate today, my dear friends. Celebrate the small graces, the little gifts that God puts in your path today and every day. There are amazing things going on all around you every day, if you (and I) will just take the time to ask God to open our eyes and let us see His hand at work.
Look for grace today, and celebrate the gift.
PS – (added by Vicki) – “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift — that is why it is called the ‘present’!”

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