Saturday, December 25, 2010

A White Christmas in St. Louis!

After the 7:15 AM morning Mass on Christmas Eve (Friday), it began snowing in St. Louis and continued all day. It was great! And today, it is beautiful here on the banks of the Mississippi!
For the first time in almost 35 years, I had no special Christmas duties – no Masses (other than my own), no homilies to deliver, no liturgies to prepare for and… and… my Christmas shopping was done, online and early!) so I took advantage of the situation.
I went to bed early on Christmas eve, and we had a quiet Mass this morning at 8 AM in the La Salette Chapel. There were 5 of us – 4 priests and 1 brother. It was peaceful and lovely.
I celebrated my Christmas Mass for you, my friends, supporters, family and benefactors. I find myself surrounded by cards and letters and thoughtful remembrances and generous gifts.  I am very grateful!
May you and yours experience a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Monday means weigh-in-with-Martha-day. I did it (finally). I broke the 320 lb. barrier – which was my immediate goal.  This morning I weighed 318.4 lbs. – a loss of 3.8 lbs. from the previous week and a total loss of 44.3 lbs!
I feel better.
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My "Real World" Diet

I don’t think I ever mentioned that I never did go on that strict Medifast diet (cf. Lettuce Rejoice, below). The medical team feared complications given my diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis). So it was decided I would go on a “Real World” diet.
That consists of a carefully planned, balanced diet of three meals and three snacks daily. I can have up to 8 portions of meat/protein (1 portion = 1 oz. lean meat or 1 egg); 2 or 3 dairy (8 ozs. skim milk or 1 light yogurt is a portion); 2 to 3 fruits (a banana is considered 2 fruits!); 4 portions of vegetables (1 portion = ½ cup steamed veggies); and 5 grains/starches/cereals/breads.
It’s a diet that gives me a great amount of flexibility, but it requires that I keep a detailed log of my intake which is reviewed weekly with my dietician.
For breakfast the "gold standard" is 1 cup cheerios with 8 ozs. skim milk (and possibly a banana or even just ½ banana.) But with proper planning for the day (and enough time in the morning – or even in the evening) I can make a wonderful veggie omelet.  I use Pam spray to sauté the veggies and cook the omelet. I use one whole egg and up to 3 egg whites. Add a little salsa and toast, perfect!  So the omelet breakfast counts 2 meats, 1 veggie, 1 grain with plenty of room to eat for the rest of the day.
For lunch, I usually pack a sandwich (2 or 3 ozs. of lean deli meat is great) and a salad with an apple or a yogurt. Martha, my dietician, lead me to discover Sarah Lee's 45 calorie bread, two slices of which counts as merely one grain which makes a sandwich quite good!
And for dinner, I imagine the plate quartered: 1 quarter for meat (2 or 3 ozs. – the size of a deck of cards), 1 quarter for grain (a small baked potato or ½ cup rice) and 2 quarters for veggies (salad or steamed veggies) and I could have a yogurt for dessert.
My snacks between meals consist of a piece of fruit (apples are a miracle food!), a 100 calorie yogurt (never used to enjoy them, now they’re part of my life!) and for my salty/savory cravings the 100 calorie mini-bag of popcorn or an ounce of pretzels (that’d be a generous 48 pieces of the small stick pretzels!)
My diet is quite satisfying. I don’t find myself hungry. It takes some discipline, some thinking and some planning, but it’s working for me – at least so far!
And here’s the fun part: with proper planning, I can go out for a steak (a 6 oz. filet rare), baked potato, salad and even… a martini!  Isn’t God good!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sadly Something of a Setback

I weighed in Monday with high hopes.  My goal was to have broken the 320 lb. barrier. Instead, I hit the scales at 322.2 lbs. That's down only .2 of a pound for the entire week. (For a total loss of 40.5 lbs.) I was disappointed and frustrated to say the least.
I felt that I kept to my diet something like 98%. Plus, I’d hit the gym four times that previous week and increased the time spent on the exercise machines by more than 20% per day. I was confident that I had reached that 320 lb. goal.
Martha, my dietician, urged me not to be too disappointed.  She said she's seen this before, that something’s going on in my body, that it feels like it’s being starved and is rebelling by trying to hold on to its fat.  She believes that I will make significant progress by next weigh-in next Monday.
I hope she’s right.
She also pointed out that at least I did not gain weight and that a loss is a loss, that I’m getting in the exercise component and now’s not the time to slack off.  Others have echoed her.
More later…

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bowling for Pounds

40 pounds plus!
That’s my good new today. I weighed in with Martha this morning and am pleased to report that I stand at 322.4 lbs. which means I am now down over 40 lbs. from where I began this journey – 40.3 lbs. to be exact.  That is the equivalent of two large bowling balls that I’ve lost. Imagine hauling two big bowling balls around!

I am pleased, but I know I have a long way to go – actually many more bowling balls.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Way of Lights

Last evening I visited the famous National Shrine of Our Lady of Snows just across the river in Bellville, Illinois and the famous “Way of Lights.”

The Way of Lights started as a way to keep the grounds maintenance staff busy (and employed) during their slow time in the late fall.  It consists of Christmas-themed light displays along a mile and a half drive with some 1.7 million lights. There were large crowds – some in buses and vans.
I went with Fr. John H. from Iowa, who also lives here at the La Salette’s residence with me. We had dinner at the shrine’s impressive restaurant (Salad with low fat dressing, (6 oz. cooked) strip steak, green beans, red wine).
At the gift shop, I purchased a beautiful three-paneled icon of the Nativity of the Lord so I’ll have some small seasonal decoration in my room.
Icon of the Nativity & USB LED Christmas Tree

Had a wonderful evening!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where's my blog?

I apologize for neglecting my blog. Several of my gentle readers have reminded me that I have been remiss.
So here’s the quick update: I survived the Thanksgiving challenge in fine fashion.  I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner about noon with the La Salette priests and brothers here in St. Louis. I tasted everything, in moderation. And when I got up from the table, for the first time in many years, I did NOT feel like a stuffed turkey!
The following Monday’s weigh-in showed a loss of 2 lbs. (only!) But after all it was still a loss – and that’s why I say I survived the Thanksgiving challenge. (My official weight is 326.7.)
This week I’ve tried embraced my “athletic self.” I’ve signed up with the “YPF” program (Y Personal Fitness) at the Carondelete YMCA, which means I’ve committed to getting to the gym at least 3 days a week for the next 12 weeks. I have to make getting to the gym a part of my regular routine, a part of my life from now on. If I am to stay healthy, I have come to realize I simply must get exercise; and the only way that’s going to happen is if I make it a priority.
So this week I’ve already been to the gym Tuesday, Wednesday and today, Thursday.  I am hopeful to get there a couple of more times before the week runs out.
Things are going well.  I feel good. I’m working hard. And I really do have lots more to tell you. But it’s bed time and I am weary. God bless! Good night!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today, I joined the "Y"

Yep, I now am a proud holder of a key card to the YMCA of Greater St. Louis. Nothing seems to come easy for me. It took me all week to get signed up.
The Institute (SLBMI) has this deal with the “Y” for participants in their “Psychology and Religion” program (that’d be me!): $25 initial fee, then $15 per month!  What a deal!
And while it’s good at the South Center Family YMCA near the Institute, they have a reciprocal agreement with the Carondelet Park "Y" – near the La Salette house.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


That’s the big news: I broke the 330 barrier at 329 lbs!  I weighed in Monday morning with Martha. It had been one week since I restarted the program and in that week I lost 9.8 lbs. – again mostly with just the diet. Down from 362.7 (my all-time high!): a total loss so far of 33.7 lbs.  
I don’t think I told you that they never did put me on that severe medifast diet. That was mostly because of my diabetes.  So I’ve been on a “real world” diet. I think it’s healthier that way actually. It consists of three meals and three snacks. In any one day, I can have no more than 8 ozs. of lean meat; 5 servings of grains or starches; 4 of vegetables; 3 of dairy; 3 or fruit. The snacks are usually yogurt, an apple or popcorn. It’s working for me so far!
And it means I can go out on a Saturday night for a steak dinner and a martini – if I plan for it. Like last Saturday: Martini (1.5 grains),  Salad with diet dressing (1 Veggie);Steak 8 ozs. (down to 6 when cooked) (6 meats), broccoli (1 veggie), small dinner roll (1 grain). But I HAVE to plan for it – and record everything for Martha to review.
Like I say, it’s working so far! Keep me in your prayers, as you are in mine!

Monday, November 8, 2010

On the road again, again

At least I was on the road again. Of course, here in St. Louis I’m on a somewhat different road, again.
I left Sandpoint November 3rd after my post-angiogram checkup.  Arrived here in St. Louis on Saturday, November 6th.  It was the third time I’ve complete the long drive in the last two months – close to 1,900 miles.
My good friend Jack Walden was kind enough to accompany me to help drive. We saw a few sights along the way (Mt. Rushmore).
Famous Faces
You've heard Do Not Feed the Bears?

And here in the city Sunday we saw the truly magnificent Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, all marble and mosaics; and later City Museum which is really cool, everything in it is recycled or found. Then it to the airport to see Jack on his way back home. Thanks so much, Jack!

Jack & St. Louis

Jack on the roof of City Museum

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm fine... fat, but fine.

Yes, the angiogram showed minor plaque buildup in a few places – which will be worked on through medications and diet.  I have no blockages; there is no need for stents or bypass surgery or anything like that. I have not had a heart attack. My heart works just fine! (Though there may be a certain skepticism about that among you, my gentle readers…) But its mechanical function is just fine! And thanks be to God for that!  Yes, thanks be to God! It's about the best outcome I can imagine.

The doctor said, after about a week’s recover from the procedure (they did puncture my femoral artery after all), I’d be cleared for exercise (damn it).

Seriously, I felt covered in prayer. I thank you for all of those prayers. I received wonderful cards, notes and email which I found very encouraging indeed.

I feel good. I’m continuing with my diet. We have beautiful fall weather in North Idaho. Life is good. God is great!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have a heart; say a prayer!

Today's the day I have my heart catheterization at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d'Alene. I'll be leaving in just a few minutes.
The clerk who called me with final instructions yesterday, informed me -- somewhat inelegantly -- that it involved "puncturing your (my!) groin."
Ahh, the indignities of getting older!
Keep me in your prayers today and always!
And always remember me as loving you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home, Home at Last!

It was a long, long drive (some 2,100 miles the way I took). Pleasant weather, good roads, light traffic. Saw some sights: Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial. All in all, it was a good, safe trip.
Arrived in Sandpoint on Thursday, October 7, and have been resting and reading and doing some catch up – not too much parish work.  I say my prayers and Mass everyday, but I'm relying on my Parochial Vicar, Father John Gathungu, a very kind, and gentle priest from Kenya, Africa. I am very fortunate to have him here, as is the parish.
I had my appointment with my local cardiologist on Tuesday, October 12, and he concurred with the doctors in St. Louis that I should have an angiogram, to determine whatever blockage there may be in the heart. So the procedure is scheduled for Thursday, October 21, at Kootenai Memorial Hospital in Coeur d’Alene.  I have some time to prepare.
I also have a scheduled follow-up appointment on Tuesday, November 2 – which means I’ll be home at least through then.
Which also means – much to the relief of hundreds of Sandpoint children – there will be Halloween this year and that Halloween central will be open for business. Two years ago the rectory gave out a record: some 1200 candy bars – and the children who instead of saying, “Trick or Treat!” said, “Father Day Rocks!” got a large, full-sized candy bar. It’s amazing how rapidly word of such a thing spreads. A few however, came with quizzical looks, evidently not quite getting it: “Father’s Day rocks!” Close enough. They too got the larger bar.
In the meantime, I’ve lost 27.5 lbs. so far, plus I feel great, my blood sugar is wonderfully in control, the diet is satisfying, life is good, God is great!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A few random thoughts

I think I’ve indicated that I’ve received a wonderful selection of cards, letters and emails that I find not only encouraging, but thoughtful and heartening. (Heartening, that takes on a deeper meaning, doesn’t it?)
One of my correspondents, had this spin on missionary work: “If memory serves Father De Smet left Saint Louis and ended up at Lake Pend Oreille.  You left Lake Pend Oreille for St. Louis….” – I like it!
She also said this scripture had my name all over it: (You decide.)
“We are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:16-18)
I like it also!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going Home

After speaking with my Institute doctor, I've decided to go home for my angiogram.

She told me that, if during the procedure, they discoves that there are significant blockages in/around the heart, they probably wouldn't let me leave the hospital: they'd do the bypass sugery right there. She doesn't expect it to be the outcome, but said it's best to be prepared for the more serious consequences. And that if it were her, she'd want family and friends to be there.

Also I figure the good La Salette Fathers and Brothers couldn't really handle an invalid priest on the third floor.

So I've decided to pack up and go home next week. It could be for a week or two or a month or two depending on what happens.

The folks at the institute say they'd welcome me back for open arms.

The folks at the diocese say they understand and that I need to do it.

In the meantime, I'll keep on my diet and hope to make progress as best I can.

Gosh, that's a long drive...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Abnormal? Moi?

So I just got back to my room yesterday from a long day at the Institute, when I get this call from the cardiologist – a very pleasant man with a daughter in Boise. He didn’t want to alarm me I think, but he said my heart exam with the gamma camera was “mildly abnormal.” (Or did I hear “wildly abnormal.” No, no, it was mildly!)
The bottom line it seems is the doctors want to do an angiogram as a next step.
An angiogram is an X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera to take pictures of the blood flow in an artery or a vein.
During an angiogram, a thin tube called a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the groin (femoral artery or vein) or just above the elbow (brachial artery or vein). (The doctor said he's been doing it through the arm for the last 15 years. Thanks be to God!) The catheter is guided to the area to be studied. Then an iodine dye is placed in the vessel to make the area show clearly on the X-ray pictures.
The thought of such a thing does not make me a happy camper. But I suppose it’s better to find out now, than to have some crisis hit me on the reclining bike at the gym.
Continue those prayers, please. Your support is a blessing to me!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Results

First, nothing definitive from the stress test. My doctor said she'd know by Tuesday morning. She said that while the report was in dictation, if there had been something seriously wrong, the heart clinic would have called her. So I'm waiting one more day! I'll let you know what I know ASAP. Thank you so much for those prayers and messages of support and encouragement. I am deeply appreciative!

Secondly, today's weigh-in: 345.9 lbs. down 3 lbs. this week for a total loss of 16.8 lbs! Martha my dietician says that's normal for the program. I continue to grow in the right direction!

Notre Dame de La Salette - I'll be telling you more about the La Salette Fathers and Brothers. Look for it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Honestly,doctor, I feel fine.

So today I survived and they didn't cart me off on a gurney. The technicians and nurses won't (or can't) tell you what it looks like, so I have to wait for the doctor on Monday. Ahh... the virtue of patience for the patient.

With the use of a radioactive dye (that "lights up" the heart and other organs), they take a 3-D picture of the heart before the treadmill and another following. They used what they call a Gamma Camera.

Thanks again for those prayers and the notes and comments of encouragement!

I'll also weigh-in again on Monday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Judgment Day

I have my stress test tomorrow.

I told them I have enough stress in my life as it is, why do I need to induce more of it!

My schedule at the Institute has been canceled. I'm to report to the heart clinic at 10:45 AM for registration; the test begins at 11:15. It's the heart monitor, the tread mill (to exhaustion!), then they insert a dye and take pictures of the heart. (I'll know more after the procedure.)

Then decisions need to be made.
  • If everything is clear and clean, I'm cleared for a rigorous exercise regime.
  • If there's blockage, I may need angioplasty.
  • If the blockage is more than 60%, I may need bypass surgery.
The later causes me some anxiety. (In fact, each of the options carries its own set of anxieties, some worse than others.)

One of the priests (Father Bill) in the program administered the Sacrament of the Sick to me. A priest is anointed on the backs of the hands, having already been anointed on the palms at ordination. The sacrament makes me feel better about the stress test, knowing that I'm prepared spiritually.

We are all of us, after all is said and done, in God's hands. It is better when we acknowledge that He is the potter; we, the clay. Then we can let Him do His work in us without too much resistence.

God bless you. Pray for me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

First Results

This was my first full day in the program, after that initial assessment period. Martha the dietitian weighed me this morning -- first time since September 9th.

348.9 lbs. Down 13.8 lbs. in 11 days!

And that's mostly just diet -- the hard part (exercise) hasn't really begun.

Looks like my days will consist of exercise, individual consultations with the experts, and group meetings with other participants from a variety of programs at the Institute.

Have an early day tomorrow: a test at the hospital at 6:45 AM. Keep me in your prayers as I do you and yours!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Here for your online edification are my before photos, with thanks to Father Pako (I guess)!

What do you think?

OK, I'm in!

Yes, I’ve been accepted into the institute’s program. I begin in earnest on Monday. (My purgatory?)
The “Treatment Team” met with me yesterday to provide feedback and outline “our” goals.  They consider me a good candidate for the program.  The team consisted of two psychologists and a sister-spiritual director.  (The dietician was unable to attend.) The last half of the meeting included the Bishop and Msgr. da Silva, who were quite supportive.
Bishop and Monsignor told me to take as much time as it takes to achieve my goals.
It really is a matter of attitude and new habits.
One of the keys is self-monitoring, that is, keeping close track of the amount of food and liquid consumed daily – which I’ve been doing religiously since I’ve arrived on September 9th.  A second element in the program is the various group work –  to adjust  that attitude factor. Then the third leg is to increase the activity level – that means getting to the gym daily. That will be a challenge, but I think I’m up for it. (There’s a new Y a couple of exits down the freeway from here.) I mean what else do I have to do, right?
Want the numbers?  Here ya’ go: Weight on September 9th: 362.7 lbs. Body Mass Index 48. Obesity category III.
I get weighed again on Monday. I’ve been dieting for 10 days now, so I expect to see some improvement!  Stay tuned.
PS Thanks for all the cards, letter and emails of support, love and prayer.  I find them highly encouraging. Keep me in your prayers!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Feedback pending.

(Have been unable to connect to the internet the last couple of days. Service now seems to be restored.)

The Institute (St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute) has put me through the paces, a series of assessments to determine what I should be doing next.  It culminates this Friday at noon, when I meet with the treatment team. I expect them to outline my program.
So how did all this begin?
Thursday, September 9th:
                Nutrition Assessment.
                Medical Assessment.
                Psychiatric Assessment.
(The psychiatrist asked me, ‘Have you ever met with a psychiatrist before?” I said, “Are you crazy?”)
Monday, September 13th:
                 Psychological Assessment, Part I
                Spiritual Assessment
Tuesday, September 14th:
                Psychological Assessment, Part II
                Individual Testing
Wednesday, September 15th:
                Psychological Assessment, Part III
So the point I’m getting is that my weight problem has more to do with what’s inside my head than with what’s inside my body. It should be interesting!
My attitude in all this is that the Lord has made it my full-time job for now is to work on my health issues—even if that mean adjusting my attitude, as painful and humbling as that may be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Arrival at last.

Ok, ok, I have some catching up to do I know.  So here's a start:

It’s been an eventful week.

My drive was long, but it went very well. I spent three nights on the road: Missoula, Rapid City, and St. Joseph, Missouri. I stayed with my friend Father Jorge Ramirez at his rectory at St. Patrick’s Parish in St. Joseph. It was too-short a visit! He did manage to take me out for St. Louis-style BBQ ribs – a kind of a last supper, I suppose! I enjoyed it very much! Thank you Father Jorge!

Father Jorge is a priest of the Boise Diocese, helping in the Kansas City Diocese. He seems happy and busy.

I arrived at my new residence, the LaSalette Mission Center in St. Louis about 3:30 PM Wednesday, September 8th, the birthday of the Blessed Mother. It seems auspicious.

Odometer: 1,876.8 miles. 28:44 hours. 26.1 average MPG.

Father Dennis Meyer, M.S., in charge of the house, greeted me and gave me the tour. It’s a pleasant place with nice grounds, three floors, south of downtown, on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. Laundry, shop, storage, meeting rooms are in the basement; chapel, kitchen, refectory, guest rooms, offices on the first floor; residential rooms on the second.

I wanted to figure out where exactly I had to be the following morning so after unloading the car, I punched the address of the institute into my Subaru’s navigation system to get a preview. What a great invention!

The Institute is located next to St. Louis Community College. It’s about 7 ½ miles from my residence. I travel on 2 freeways and through a semi-industrial area. It only takes about 10 or 15 minutes.

More later!

Monday, September 6, 2010


Tonight in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Watching the BSU game at the Super 8. BSU wins! Praise God!
From Sandpoint: Odometer: 900 miles. Time: 13.5 hours. Half way point.
A steak & a martini for dinner. Was heavenly (not many more of those in my future, likely.)
Was a good day, Thanks be to God!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A new leave.

Leaving Sandpoint, Idaho, for St. Louis, Missouri.
Odometer: 0
Scale: 360

Pray, people, pray!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

and be glad...

My residence while in St. Louis will be with the La Salette Fathers at the North American La Salette Mission Center.
Here's my St. Louis address:
Father Dennis Day
4650 South Broadway
Saint Louis, MO 63111-1398

Just so you know...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

. . . in it.

I'm in the middle of it for sure. A bazillion detail to take care of before I can leave. I know I won't get all of them done. I just hope I'll get the essential ones finished.

  • Yesterday, I went for tests at the hospital and the doctor's office. I guess the program wants to make sure I healthy enough to lose weight.
  • I talked to the Most Reverend Bishop about my replacement as Dean of the Northern Deanery at least temporarily. (Congratulations Father Roger LaChance!)
  • I finished my painting for the Pend Oreille Arts Council and delivered it their offices as promised. (Part of a gala fundraiser Sept. 11.) (Oh, you didn't know I was an artist? It isn't that good, but it was fun.) Thanks to Joni Dirks for the lessons and the supplies.
  • Paula Hodgin is helping me pack. (What do you pack for a 6 month journey, at the end of which none of the clothes should fit, except perhaps the socks!)
  • I got my brand new computer to work, with the extraordinary help of Bob Hawn. (Thank you, Bob.)
  • And then the usual round of visits and phone calls...

And to top it off, one last fling at Trivia Night at MickDuff's with wonderful friends!  (We came in second sadly)

P.S. I've been getting harrassing emails to the effect: "Okay, if you're going to become a blogger (and yes, I have visited your blogspot already ...), you're going to have to spend more time posting to it!"

Just what I need, more stress!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lettuce rejoice...

I'm told the institute will put me on a Medifast Diet which will include 6 ozs. of meat and 3 cups of salad each and every day. (Plus the Medifast stuff.)

Three cups of salad, eh?  I wonder how much lettuce I can compress into one cup. Maybe I could get a whole head of lettuce into 3 cups. Think?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In the beginning...

I'm starting a blog. Go figure. Soon I'm planning to leave on an adventure and perhaps some of my family, friends, parishioners, fans & non-fans (un-fans?) might have an interest in my progress.

The plan is to leave the parish on September 5, 2010, after the morning Masses and drive to St. Louis, Missouri, to participate in a program to lose weight and tackle some of my health issues.

It's a program of the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute. They'll evaluate me and tailor the program to meet my individual needs -- at that point, perhaps I'll know how long I'll be away.