Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: July 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Far. How Long. And How Much

Mike Shaw, my pastor, is fond of saying "Sin will take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay.

Even to the 3rd largest corporate fraud in history (behind only Enron and WorldCom).

Which brings me to my friend, Bill Owens. I've known him for about 20 years, through thick, thin, and a bunch of other stuff, too. Bill has always been a good friend, hospitable, generous, and showed some real Spiritual strengths. Once, when I was rotating off the Deacon Body ... of which I was chairman ... I had a feeling that he was the logical Deacon to be elected Chairman for the following year, so I had coffee with him one evening and we talked about the position, and what it entailed. Here Bill was, what I knew to be a dynamic and successful businessman, and he was most receptive to everything I had to say.

My suspicions were correct; he was subsequently elected chairman of the Deacon Body at FBC Pelham.

I recall having visited in his home on more than one occasion, and he was (and is) most hospitable and considerate. And, when he and his wife celebrated her 40th birthday at the Wynfrey Hotel at the Galleria, he invited Peg and I to attend.

Things took an unexpected .. to us .. turn, when the HealthSouth Corporation ran into near-fatal difficulties, about 7 years ago. They came to a head the same day, when the USA invaded Iraq; I was standing on a pier in Kingston, Jamaica, when my younger son called my cell phone and said "In case you haven't heard, the USA invaded Iraq today. And, they invaded HealthSouth, too."

That was a big deal, as HealthSouth was a big deal in Birmingham, what with their HQ here.

To give a little further information about Bill, historically speaking, here are a few excerpts from the resume he sent me yesterday:

Mr. Owens is currently most widely known for his involvement in the fraud, and resulting scandal, at HealthSouth. He has just completed his prison sentence, moved into a one-bedroom apartment, and is starting a new life. He hopes to use what he has learned the hard way to make a positive difference in the lives of others. He is willing to share, without censor, whatever may be of value to help curb unethical behavior and prevent future fraud.

Bill grew up in Troy, AL, the youngest of six kids from a poor family. After the 11th grade, he dropped out of school to marry and support his new wife and their newborn. He got a job, took his GED, and soon enrolled at Troy State University. While working full-time jobs as a Manager at McDonald’s, and then a Computer Operator, he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Troy State with a B.S. in Business Administration, Accounting and Computer Science concentrations, in June of 1981. He made one ‘B’ during his junior year, ironically in Auditing

(...after joining HealthSouth Corporation....)

HealthSouth was still a small private company with only a few locations, approximately $4.5M in revenue and $12M in assets, soon to go public. When the fraud began in early 1987, Bill was one of three in the room; when it ended, 16 years later, he was one of two in the room. He devised the scheme that hid the fraud through 1994, was part of the team that developed the acquisition strategy, and using those acquisitions to continue hiding the fraud through 1997, and developed the plan to lower analyst’s expectations in 1997 and 1998.

Almost all cash had been drained from the company by February 2000 when Bill took the reins as Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer. He restructured a $3.2B debt portfolio, and, with a goal of reporting legitimate numbers within five years, but without the luxury of telling anyone that wasn’t involved in the fraud, he began aggressively repairing the company’s operations to cut costs, increase patient volumes, improve pricing and efficiency.

As part of a strategy to split HealthSouth into two companies, and allow Richard to relinquish all responsibilities, save his position as Chairman, Bill assumed the roles of President and Chief Operating Officer in August, 2001 and then Chief Executive Officer in August, 2002. He was removed as CEO and reinstated as CFO in January 2003. The SEC was circling HealthSouth on Insider Trading allegations and issued subpoenas to several of its executives in early March 2003.

After leaving a subpoena unopened for eight days and a cathartic evening, Bill decided to reveal the fraud in its entirety. He was one of two executives to voluntarily meet with the Department of Justice. At its height, HealthSouth had over 2000 locations throughout all 50 states and Puerto Rico, The UK, Australia and Saudi Arabia, with approximately $4B in reported revenue, $8B in reported assets.

His statement about curbing unethical behavior and future fraud is absolutely correct, and it reflects his heart, today. While he was still under "house arrest" .. confined to his apartment except for Sunday morning church, and going to the office for his job as an accountant for a landscaper .. Peg and I went and visited him. He told us about his dreams to make the rest of his life helpful for other people, and even mentioned his fears that someone might want to take up a love offering, or otherwise pay him for his testimony. I told him that he should not turn down, or be reluctant to accept, such money, but rather to dedicate it, and use it, for helping others. Charity, ministering to those in prison, whatever. Just do something with it he wouldn't otherwise be able to do. And he got genuinely excited about that possibility.

If either of the two people who regularly read my blog, are in a position of arranging speakers to come talk to their church, to the youth group (Bill's very concerned about youth), Association gathering, or whatever, I recommend you get hold of Bill and get to talking about that very thing. You'll be glad you did.

My friend Bill Owens gets his email at

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't Just Sit There .. DO Something!

Folks, meet John & Debra Mendow, from Covington, LA. We met them on Bus #3, OC&W Coach Lines, YMT Great Pacific Northwest Tour.

John was a really friendly sort and, sitting in the front row of the bus every day, I used to sing something like "Big Bad John" when he got on, and we got to be good friends.

Secret handshakes, fist bumps, elbow bumps and the like, followed.

The above picture was taken the day we stopped at the Old Faithful Geyser Visitor Center. We'd eaten lunch there, and had moved outside and sat on one of the wooden settees .. the one to the far left, in fact. We still had about a half hour or more before the bus left, so we were just enjoying the atmosphere.

Then John and Debra sat down and we chatted. They're Catholic folks, and we were wearing our usual Witness Wear, and they picked up on it. And then John asked us a favor:

Could we pray for their grandson, Max Mendow? He's an infant, his esophagus wasn't connected to his stomach when he was born, he's in the Children's Hospital in Boston, and he's aspirating all sorts of stuff into his lungs. He's also facing some serious surgery.

We said we certainly would (and we did & have), but then it struck me: here I sit with a cell phone. So I said to John "hang on a second".

I dialed FBC Pelham's old telephone number .. I can never remember the new one .. and Pat answered the phone. Pat is the pastor's ministry assistant, and I told her where we were sitting, and told her our friends had just asked us to pray for the infant Max. I gave her the details, and she said she was about to prepare the Prayer Email she sends out every day, and there'd be about a hundred "prayer warriors" reading about John & Debra's grandson, that very afternoon.

They seemed blown away. And, the next day, late, John stopped Peg and said "the surgery went terrific!!"

I suspect that we've got some lifetime friends in Louisiana, now. John referred to himself as "our folks in LA" later on the trip, and I couldn't be happier. And all I did was make a simple cell-phone call.

Didn't seem like a big deal, at the time, and it really wasn't much to do. But I suspect John & Debra would disagree. And so, one day, methinks, will Max.

So. Next time opportunity arises, DO SOMETHING! The key isn't how MUCH you can do, but how much GOD can do.

And that's quite a bit. Just ask the Mendows.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Refinishing Furniture and Dealing with Stuff

The Great Alaska and Pacific Northwest Adventure being over last week, we returned home to all the stuff that was going on before we left June 24th. That includes the refinishing project on the chest-of-drawers, disassembled and displayed in the photo over there.

Hold that thought for a minute.

When we came back from the Tour, we were thoroughly whipped. It was great fun, but we were on the go almost constantly, and while Peg has a pretty active life taking care of the house and all .. not to mention taking care me me, too, I don't. I've pretty much been a couch potato since my prostate surgery and subsequent abdominal radiation, which ended about 18 months ago, and coupled with the meds I've been on since then.

Including those dealing with arthritis. As in degenerative arthritis. It already got my left knee, which I had to have replaced 4 years ago .. exactly 2 months before my debut at the Greensboro as an SBC loudmouth .. and has my right knee in bad shape, now. Also my right ankle, and both my shoulders, not to mention the back of my neck, where it all started 20+ years ago.

That spot gives me headaches.

Well, lately, the shoulder pain has begun causing problems beyond just pain. My doctor prescribed Loritab for the pain, which I take when I go to bed, and when it wears off in 6 hours, the pain in my shoulders wakes me up. Even if I'm lying flat on my back.

SO, all in all, while the Great Alaska and Pacific NW Tour was wonderful and I wouldn't take anything for the experience (or the 4,890 pictures I took while gone .. no, seriously .. 4,890), I was in quite a bit of pain while on the trip. And, when I got back home.

Side note: head over to Facebook and check my photos, if you'd like. I'm posting maybe 10-15% of them there, and they're visible to anybody.

Anyway, I called my doctor when we got home, he got me in Monday morning at 8. He said that I should stop the stair-climbing portion of my cardio exercises, which I told the rehab folks at my 3 p.m. session. And I did, doing 48 mins total on two other apparati. One of them was a crank-deal and when that caused my shoulders to flare up, I got an appointment with the Orthopedic Surgeon who did my knee. Wednesday at 4:15. So I called and cancelled the cardio session and went to see him. He said no more cranking unless it was waist level or below.

We discussed what to do with the knee, and also that there wasn't really a practical replacement, for an old guy like me, for the shoulders. But perhaps some shots would help. SO .. I got three shots in the left shoulder .. one for the Rotator Cuff, one to deaden the shoulder, and one deep one (cortisone, I think).

I also got a shot in my right knee, a "lubricant" (it's bone-on-bone now) and will go back next week for the three shots in the right shoulder, and the second of a series of three of those lubricant shots in the right knee.

Then, Thursday, when I went to try the cardio, 3 minutes on the easy recumbent let me know my shoulders were going to suffer so I told them no more, and I went home.

I feel much better, today. And it occurred to me that the reason is that I'm dealing with the stuff. And that got me to thinking about salvation, itself. And also about refinishing the chest-of-drawers.

For one thing, decisions must be made. We have to decide .. under conviction of the Holy Spirit .. that we want to believe Jesus, trust Him with our salvation, and really forsake our sinful reliance on self, and service of our desires. That's painful .. at least, within my experience.

I had to decide to take those shots, and let me tell you, the one in the knee was really painful. But it was necessary.

In refinishing the chest, the Ace Extra-Strength Paint Stripper I'm using is some serious stuff. Get any of it anywhere on your body, and suffering will follow. As in "run for the bucket of cold water and the paper towels .. now!! But that's what it's going to take to take all that old finish off a chest that Peg used when she was a kid, and is likely older than she is.

Having started the project, I am now obligated to see it through. That's the only thing Peg has asked me for, recently, and I cannot not finish it.

Having started the cardio rehab .. which I blogged about a few days back .. I'm going to have to see it through. I can see the positive effects from it, and I'm not about to let go.

Having started the chest, I can see how much better it's looking .. the positive effects .. and I'm not about to let it go.

Having trusted my life to Jesus, many years ago, I cannot quit that project, either. Even though it required a rather painful stripping-away of some stuff in my life, it was necessary to make me the new creation He promised. And, I can see the positive effects from it, and I'm not about to let it go.

Each of the three things is taking work .. it's involving pain at times .. some of what's required is strong stuff, maybe even dangerous. But I can do no other.

I can see the results.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spezi ist Spitzi!

One day on the Pacific NW Bus Tour, we stopped in Leavenworth, Washington. That's a city that morphed itself into a Bavarian-style village when they lost the lumber industry, and subsequently the railroad, some years ago.

While there, we had lunch in Cafe Christa, which was remarkably like a certain 2nd-floor restaurant I'd eaten at in Austria, just over the border from Bavaria, 10 years ago. That's it, in the photo up there, on the 2nd floor of the dark brown building at the far right.

The next photo, on the right, is of Monica (if I recall her name correctly, which I may not), who was our waitress. During the normal table talk, I said that they need to put Spezi on the menu, if they really wanted to be Bavarian about this whole thing. She laughed and said they'd tried it, but it didn't work for some reason.

Now, I know that Cafe Christa couldn't be accurate in every way; for instance, they had a sign announcing that they had genuine "Munich Bier". While they spelled "bier" the way they would in Germany .. remember Biergartens .. they didn't spell Munich correctly for German. There, it's known as, and spelled, "Munchen".

But I don't think folks would know Munchen was Bavarian for Munich, so the effect would be lost, I guess.

Anyway I told her Spezi was sure a big thing in Bavaria, and told her of a billboard I'd seen in 2000, there in Bavaria, touting the deliciousness of Spezi.

Actually, Spezi is a mixture of half Coke and half "orange lemonade" (their term .. I think they used Fanta Orange) .. and "Spitze" means, "wild, great, too much".

I'd ordered lemonade, and when the glass was empty, Monica brought me a refill, only this time it was Spezi in a mug. And the sign applied. It WAS SPITZE!

I gave her the URL for my blog and told her to keep an eye on it. I'd post about the whole thing, as my way of thanking her for making the trip to Leavenworth a little bit more like my actual trips to Bavaria.

Quite a bit, actually.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Got Your 'Mysterious Ways" Right Here, Pal..

As some of you may know, Peg and I just returned from a two-week tour; a one-week cruise to Alaska, followed by a one-week bus tour of the Pacific Northwest.

We did a lot of walking. A lot. We had about 240 steps forward to the Crow's Nest on the ship, in the nose, to watch where we were going, to enter the Trivia Challenge, etc. we had 48 steps to the elevator that took us up or down to the restaurant lobbies for meals. The theater was forward, under the Crow's Nest, and we went to a show every day.

We did a lot of walking.

Then there were the side trips. The first was to some locks in Seattle, which was about 1/4 mile downhill. That was my cardio for that day, I can assure you. Twice. We also walked around Pike Place Market some, that day, before boarding the Zaandam.

Side trips on the cruise started with the Mendenhall Glacier, another long walk down a narrow trail. And back up it. We'd already toured a Salmon hatchery that day, and we ended the day by walking down along Gold Rush Creek for the Liarwood Salmon Bake, including a trip down the creek to the falls, which were beautiful.

Add to that a tour of the cathedral at Sitka, a long walk to the catamaran in Ketchikan for the catamaran taking us to Misty Fjords, a block's walk from the bus to the Princess Hotel in Victoria, and we did a lotta lotta walking.

Hold that thought for a minute.

I'd been having chest pains for some months. Probably over a year. They were very mild, running from a specific muscle in one arm, across the muscles on the surface of my chest, to that specific muscle on the other arm. They lasted 30 seconds to a minute, and were always followed by a hot flash. A good, old-fashioned hot flash. Which would last 30 seconds or so and then leave.

Well, I got to nosing around online, and found out that one of the side effects of the Lupron I'd been taking for prostate cancer, is muscle pain. And an acknowledged effect is hot flashes (and sometimes mood swings). So I didn't pay a lot of attention to the pains; they sort of became old friends.

Then, I mentioned them to our family doctor during a routine visit. He said let's don't assume anything, and ran one of those EKG's that had wires stuck all over my body.

Nothing. It was fine. He then said we really needed for me to see a heart specialist, and set me up with a doctor in Alabaster. When I went to see him, he said he wanted me to do a stress test; with my arthritis, he suggested a medically-induced one. Where they shoot me up with a vaso-dilator, which causes the BP to drop real quick, and then do a nuclear scan to see the blood flow to the heart.

Looked fine!

Well, the doctor said he still didn't want to assume it was the Lupron, so he set me up with a beta blocker to slow my heart for a few days, and then did a CAT scan. THAT showed some calcium around an artery; he said he could not tell whether it was inside or outside, so I need to cardiac catheterization.

The dread of what I knew they were going to be doing was much worse than the procedure itself, which was done April 6th. And the procedure found a 70% blockage in the right anterior descending artery (if I got it right) and Dr. Goyal put in a stent.

NOW: the cancer doctor only keeps patients on Lupron for about 18 months, and the installation of the stent happened to coincide with the cessation of my Lupron shots. And, to top it all off, the pains and hot flashes didn't stop! Oh, they have moderated and kind of morphed into a different deal .. sometimes I get a hot flash with no pains, but never have pains without a hot flash. But for some reason, it's better now, than it was before.

Then one day I get a call from a nurse at Shelby Baptist Medical Center's Cardiac Rehab facility, saying Dr. Goyal had prescribed cardiac rehab for me. So I went there about the first of May and started doing rehab exercises. The kind where they get your heart rate and BP elevated for so many minutes .. I started at 4 activities of 5 minutes each, which had me huffin' and puffin' at the start. But over the weeks, leading up the cruise, I worked up to 4 activities of 12 minutes ... 48 minutes of cardio exercise ... per day, 3 days a week, and doing it fairly easily.

I'd gotten into a lot better shape than I was before I started.

Then we went on the cruise. Trust me, I could never have done all the stuff we did on the cruise, and the bus tour, had it not been for the cardio exercise prescribed by the doctor who put in the stent to cure the blockage that was probably not the cause of the pains that sent me to see him in April!

If we'd gone on this cruise in March, or last year, I would have tried one side trip and spent the rest of the time in the cabin, ordering room service.

SO. Bottom line: thanks, God. I love your mysterious ways. Please keep'em coming.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Making a Difference

Folks, meet Jay Gunsolley. Jay is a resident of Eugene, Oregon, has ridden his Harley to Sturgis, and was the bus driver for our bus tour to Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Snake River Canyon, and more National Forests and waterfalls and canyons than I can count.

I took 2,960 pictures on the bus-tour part of the trip, if that'll tell you something.

Simply put, Jay was terrific. If the windows had all been blacked out, and we'd never seen any scenery outside the bus, it would have been a fun 6 days, regardless! He was just that entertaining, professional, informative, and considerate.

Above all, Considerate. He'd put a towel on the bottom step of the bus whenever we'd stop, so that it'd clean our feet whenever we got back on; he'd then take the towel and wipe the steps off so they'd be clean for us and, as he said, we "wouldn't have to look at a dirty bus". Every night he'd wash the bus and clean all the windows, as did the drivers of the 2 other buses.

As Jay said more than once, "Hey .. this is YOUR VACATION!"

He also told us what a good group we were, and what a delight it was to be our driver and guide on the tour. Now I know that some folks might say things like that, just to be saying them, but his demeanor when he said it, and during our entire time together, leaves no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that he meant every word he said.

Entertaining: he had a constant stream of witty asides, jokes, all of which were clean and OK for your 7-year-old to hear. He even passed the microphone around .. once he'd gotten to know us .. and we all told jokes running down the road.

Informative: he kept us constantly informed of where we were, the wildlife, and what was really interesting about where we were. Example; one time mid-Yellowstone, we had a brief period of rain: he told us that good part about that was it'd bring out the animals. And it did. We saw, altogether, deer, elk, bison, and bald eagles. Also hawks, ravens, all of which Jay spotted before anybody else.

His conduct of the tour caused the group on the bus .. 37 of us .. to "bond" (I don't like that word, but it applies) as I doubt many bus tourists do. At one stop, at an overlook before the Grand Teton Mountains, the Driver/Leader in Bus #1 .. who headed up the tour, as it were .. suggested we take a group photo. Jay said we had to decide if we wanted the whole group .. all 3 buses .. 141 people .. or just our bus.

The "just us" shout was deafening. Jay laughed, and said he thought so.

What's going on in the photo of him was that, at the stop I just mentioned, Jay asked for all our cameras, hung them all over his arms, and stood out in the middle of the parking lot and snapped pictures of us. The photo above was the second round of cameras, in fact; he'd given my camera back to me and I took a picture of him taking pictures of us.

Some time back, I did a blog post about how some folks at the St. Vincent Cancer Center doing their jobs well .. making it a good experience .. made me a better husband, father, and even a better Sunday School Teacher. Well, I think this applies to Jay, too. Turning what might have been a tedious bus ride and recitation, into 6 days of fun, laughter, wonderment, awe, and fellowship, will undoubtedly make me better at what I'm supposed to be doing around here. And I told him just that, including the Spiritual aspects of being a good bus driver and tour guide.

I will put up some more posts about the trip, with photos, and will also put up some albums on Facebook, as soon as I sort through and pick out those I want to use, from among the 4,828 pictures from the whole trip. But I thought the first post upon our return, ought to be about Jay, and his impact on the trip. After all, a lot of those photos .. we sat in the front seats .. were through his side of the windshield. You can see his reflection in a lot of them, and while photographers might not like that, I'm leaving those photos in the deal.

Shouldn't our lives be reflections, themselves?

I think so.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Moment. Courtesy of God.

Riding the bus from East Wenatchee, WA,to Grand Coulee Dam ... which really was grand, by the way ... we stopped at a place called the "Dry Falls". According to the geologists, it was a remnant of a hummongous flood which happened thousands of years ago, and the area at which we stopped had actually been a waterfall site, on the order of twice the size of Niagara Falls. I'll put up some photos, staggeringly beautiful, on Facebook when we get home. But that's not what The Moment was about.

I'd asked a lady to take a picture of Peg and me, where we could stand in front of the scenic wonder, so we could see a bit of us and the falls area. So, she said "Sure", and snapped the picture there at the right, above.

But, as she handed the camera back to me, and I thanked her, she teared up and said .. in a somewhat choked-up voice .. "Could I have a huggy?" She then added "I lost my husband....", and then, pointing at my name badge, she said "I had a Bob, too".

She got her hug.

Now, Peg and I had been discussing the frustrating nature of trying to capture the grandeur .. the overwhelming beauty and glory of what God has created .. on film. And we'd decided that we really couldn't, but what we could do was to make for ourselves some little prompts ... like the pictures .. that would help us go back and experience the amazement and wonder and awe that we felt while we were looking at the real thing, when we looked at the photos. And I said to the lady ... a Mrs. Bodnar .. I don't recall her first name .. that such was true with her Bob, too. That she could look at what she did still have, and use that to recapture a bit of the love and the wonderment of her 48 years with "her Bob".

We had us a moment, folks. And perhaps now I will he able to go back and capture some of that wonder, and amazement, of how God arranges these moments in our lives, when I look at the photo that I subsequently took, of my Peg and a wonderful widow by the name of Mrs. Bodnar.

Thanks again, God, and thank you too, Mrs. Bodnar.