“Happy” Memorial Day?

The woman only meant to greet me as she wished me a happy Memorial Day. Any other secular holiday—Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s—her “happy” choice of adjective would have been appropriate.

But is Memorial Day a “happy” day?

This holiday—a word which is the joining of holy with day—is indeed intended to be a holy day. Holy means set apart. Memorial Day is a day set apart from other days to do one specific thing: we remember those who lost their lives in military service to our nation.

While we are happy about the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America, there is nothing happy about the losing of life to achieve and retain what we have. That we hold our Memorial Day ceremonies in cemeteries demonstrates everything the opposite of happy.

Even more, if I were one who lost a loved one in the military—say, a brother who died in Vietnam, or a child who was fighting overseas, or my mother as she served in Afghanistan—and a friend wished me a happy Memorial Day, I might have a harsh rebuke for this person who surely meant no harm.

Am I making a big deal of something that isn’t? Think some more. Replace Memorial Day with 9/11. Let’s say the USA creates a national day of remembrance for what already is an unofficial holy day. Can you begin to imagine wishing anyone a happy September eleven? Even if it fell as part of a three day weekend?

Memorial Day is far more than a late spring excuse for a a few days off work. It is a holy day for the purpose of stopping everything, remembering that thousands of our fellow Americans gave up their lives that we might live in peace, and for expressing our thanks for their service so that we might never lose sight of the great gift we enjoy.

What then to do with “happy” when we greet a friend or relative on this day? Since there is no other word we commonly use for holiday greetings, save for merry at Christmastime, this necessitates some reflection.

The adjective needs to reflect the solemnity of the day. Shall we say, “A solemn Memorial Day to you”? It certainly wouldn’t be inappropriate to do so.

How about any of these:

  • “Holy Memorial Day.”
  • “A blessed Memorial Day to you.”
  • “I wish you a reverent Memorial Day.”

Working through many possibilities, none seemed to sound as if they would catch on. Bringing up the topic with Julie as we were driving, she went online and began searching synonyms. Soon, she had a suggestion.

“How about heartfelt?” she asked. I tried it out. We discussed what it means and how it feels when we hear it. Soon, we agreed. Memorial Day is a day which should be heartfelt, and the word sounds both sincere and common enough that it could catch on as a greeting for this holiday.

However you reflect on your blessed standing in this land of freedom, grateful for every individual who gave up for you the only life a person has, I with you a heartfelt Memorial day.

May it be a heartfelt Memorial Day for us all in these United States of America.


Greight Loss: getting started

You don’t need me to tell you about all of the diets out there. It seems there’s as many of them as there are calories in a bowl of ice cream.

I’m reminded of an old joke. Husband: Honey, are you losing weight on your banana and coconut diet? Wife: No, but now I sure can climb trees and pick fruit!

I bet you also don’t need me to tell you that extreme diets are not wise. First, to be healthy we need a balance of protein and fiber and fat and the whole shebang of the nutrition plate. Second, we can’t stick with extreme diets. And when we lose our resolve we commonly regain the weight we lost.

Who am I to talk? In my first post, I admitted that I eventually regained a lot of the weight I took off in 2007. The good news is, I didn’t regain it because I had been on a diet that wasn’t sustainable. The bad news is, I got lazy. I just plain ate too much. I enjoyed food more than what I weighed and how I felt.

I had learned much about nutrition, metabolism, calories—that one pound is 3,500 of them!—and everything one should know about food quality and quantity, and what was wise for me. When I stopped my 2007 counting of 1,800 calories per day, I was going to continue to count, but give myself enough calories so that I could maintain my weight. For me, that would be anywhere from 2,300 to 3,000 per day.

To figure out what is ideal for your size, age, and activity level, use this nifty calorie calculator: https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html. These two screen shots show my info.

2,300 calories is about what I need on days when I am not very active, especially on days I don’t run or walk. On days that I run or walk, I burn from 500 to 800 calories. My rule of thumb is 100 calories burned per mile walked and 150 each mile I run, though my running app, and this website: https://caloriesburnedhq.com/calories-burned-running/, are more generous in their calculations.

The larger or smaller a person is, and how fast or slow the pace, affects the calories burned. Don’t think too much about them, because your attitude is not going to be, “I burned an extra 500 calories today, so that means I can have that bowl of ice cream right before bed!”

Those calories burned exercising speed up your weight loss and have so many health benefits. This article from Mayo Clinic hits the key points: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389.

Another key to counting calories and not feeling I am on a diet is my daily eating plan. I eat three meals a day. I rarely snack. I eat consistently: breakfast at 7:30 a.m., lunch at noon, supper at 6:00 p.m. I get full enough at each meal that, while plenty hungry by the time the next one comes, I have enough energy to keep me going.

Also, you need to train your body. If you always eat an evening snack—let’s say at 9:00 p.m.—then when 9:00 nears you are going to feel hungry. You’ve trained yourself to get hungry. Your body knows it’s going to get fed, so it gets ready.

This isn’t to say you have to eat three meals a day. There are intriguing articles where the data argues for two per day, and six per day. The key is to do what works for you, know how many calories you’re consuming, and be consistent.

Oh, and one thing everyone agrees on: evening eating is unhealthy. You’re going to bed, so you aren’t going to be burning those calories. This article provides helpful insights: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/is-it-bad-to-eat-at-night-6-reasons-to-avoid-nighttime-meals-and-snacks/.

You might be thinking, “But I get hungry!” I know you do, but here’s the thing about feeding your evening and between-meals hunger. Just as you trained your body to call for food by eating between meals, you can train those cravings to cease.

I used to be a fierce evening eater. It was so bad, Kim, my first wife, would ask, “Didn’t I feed you well enough at supper?” Now that I am aware of how many calories are in things, those bags of potato chips and bowls of ice cream I was eating amounted to a second supper.

When I decided I needed to stop evening eating, the first few days were a challenge. By mid evening, my stomach was growling. Soon, I found the growls to cease, the desire to desist, and the ability to keep out of the kitchen.

Here’s what works for me to lose weight:

  • three meals a day, at consistent times
  • 1,800 calories per day
  • running and walking at least five days a week

What works for you? How quickly do you want to lose weight? How many calories is healthy for you?

Can’t run? Can you walk? Even a moderate pace is very helpful. Do you prefer a workout? YouTube has lots of videos you can follow for exercising right in your living room. Or go to a gym, or use a machine at home. Ride a bike—outdoors or a stationary one.

Do what you enjoy, so you’ll stick with it. I love running and walking outside. I am not a fan of any other way of exercising. I give up on them very easily. I’ve stuck with running all my adult life.

Do you prefer to eat more meals per day, or don’t want to give up mid morning or mid afternoon snacks? Then do it. Be happy about when you eat.

Do what works for you so that you can stick to it. So that you own it. So that you’re not on a diet, but on a lifestyle. So that you feel great about it!

Greight Loss: the first month

Greight = Greg + weight. It rhymes with eight, but think of it as great!

The Greight Loss Plan is my method for successfully and wisely shedding pounds.

If you read my first post, you’ll recall that I deliberately put on weight in 2018 because of my now too-large breasts, and that I topped out at 260 pounds early in 2019. When on April 17 I began consuming 1,800 calories per day, I had not weighed myself since February, so disgusted with myself I had become that I couldn’t bear to approach the scale.

I weigh each Monday, first thing in the day, with my regular clothes on. When I resumed hitting the scale, I might already have lost a few pounds as I have been running regularly and had a bit of success consuming fewer calories. Based on my first weigh-in, which was only five days after beginning my Greight Loss Plan, it sure seemed I had to be under 260 because I couldn’t imagine losing eight pounds in five days.

April 22: 252 pounds.

I was elated! This initial success was a huge motivation to remaining steadfast with my 1,800 calories per day.

I had wondered how successful I would be. I’m twelve years older than when I did this in 2007, and now I’m over age sixty. After sixty, we lose muscle. Muscle and metabolism are linked, so the less muscle one has the slower is one’s metabolism. Each pound of muscle burns six calories per day, while each pound of fat only burns two calories. All of this conspires against an older person trying to lose weight.

In 2007, at age 50, I averaged 2.5 pounds lost per week. And was it ever consistent. I rarely lost under two pounds a week or more than three.

Besides eating the same number of calories per day, I’m running about the same amount as in 2007. I can’t run as fast as then—and I now have to mix in walking some days, and take break days where I speed walk five miles because it serves as a bit of a rest for my muscles—but being retired allows me to run more often, usually one or two more days a week than when I was working. Thus, the calories I burn from running are comparable enough to 2007.

Holding onto my pleasant surprise from April 22, I was curious how weigh-in number two would go.

April 29: 249.

There it was: three pounds lost. Right where I want to be.

I had a third successful week of eating 1,800 calories per day—I had not yet given myself a break day, where I ate as many calories as I wanted. I even kept to my calories on pizza day!—so I hoped for another two or three pounds lost.

May 6: 244.


I now was on a roll. After another seven straight days of 1,800-calorie-diligence, and plenty of running, I eagerly got onto the scale for weigh-in number four.

May 13: 249.

What??? I gained five pounds???

This was not the first time I experienced such a horror. In 2007, I weighed myself every day. Sometimes, I weighed three to five pounds more than the day before. Complaining about it to Julie, she had surmised that it likely was water, that perhaps what I had eaten had me holding onto excess liquid baggage. She assured me that I soon would be pleased with the number I saw on the scale. Indeed, within a day or two the blip had blopped.

With that in mind, I didn’t let that 249 get me down. I knew I had not gained weight. My belt told me so. The day before, getting dressed for church, I found myself nearly ready to move to the next notch. I remained in good spirits.

I weighed myself only four days later, because May 17 marked one month on the Greight Loss Plan. Whew, the extra weight was gone. Onto my next regular weigh-in.

May 20: 240.

Woo hoo! Fewer than five weeks into counting calories I was down twenty pounds from my winter weight!

I can’t predict that I will continue to lose weight at my 2007 pace, but the good start has me optimistic. What I’m doing works, so I’ll keep at it.

Losing weight is way more than eating less. To succeed, one needs a wise strategy. Mine works for me. Next time, I’ll share it with you.

The Greight Loss Plan

That big, red 1,800 represents how many calories per day I have been eating since April 17. I am pleased to report that the weight is falling off me as leaves drop from trees on windy October days.

In 2007, after receiving stents to open two blockages in my heart, I needed to lose weight. Though I was a runner, I gradually added a few pounds a year. Having reached age fifty, I didn’t burn calories as efficiently. I ate too much. You know how it goes.

I decided I would count my daily calorie intake and keep it at 1,800, which would be well under what I would burn in a day even without jogging. I love statistics, keeping track of things, and competition. By counting every calorie, I hoped the three things—statistics, keeping track, and competing with myself—would result in success.

Boy, did it.

I ate 1,800 calories a day, usually six days a week. I gave myself a rest day mostly each Friday. Yes, that’s pizza day at our house. I jogged four to six times a week, usually five miles per run.

I lost an average of 2.5 pounds a week, ten per month, for seven months. From June to January, I went from 268 pounds to 198. It was the first time I was under 200 pounds since I was in my early twenties.

(If you’re curious, at my 6’2″ height, the government says I should have weighed no more than 190. Now, I’m 6’1″, so…)

I didn’t maintain the 198. I stopped counting calories. Until last year, my weight fluctuated between the 210s and 240s.

When I decided to transition, I wanted to look my best as a woman. I worked on losing weight. I did okay with it, but couldn’t hold it. I didn’t return to counting calories.

Last year, when I resumed living as a guy, I had to deal with a holdover from my transition: breasts that are too large for a man. That created a unique challenge.

So that I could be in public without feeling that folks were noticing my too-large breasts, I did something I had never done: I deliberately put on weight. I wanted to be fat, so that it appeared I had man boobs. In 2018, I gained twenty-five pounds.

The man-boob part of the plan worked pretty well. The other part didn’t. I hated being fat. When I had my yearly visit with my cardiologist in December, he noted my bulk. I explained it. He wasn’t pleased, but thankfully my blood pressure and cholesterol were good, and he was impressed with how much I run, so he didn’t press me to lose weight.

But I got tired of being fat. I longed to be in good shape. I want to be healthy for myself and for my family. I want to be here for Julie, and for my kids and grandchildren. It’s long been my goal to keep jogging to my eightieth birthday, and that won’t happen if I’m carrying bulk. I don’t want to have a heart attack. Or get diabetes. Or have high blood pressure.

This spring, I tried to use portion control to harness my calorie intake. I did okay, but was not consistent. Thankfully, I’m not a snacker—I rarely have anything outside of breakfast, lunch, and supper—but, when I do eat, I keep going till I’ve had plenty. And I love sweets, so I was eating too much dessert.

Finally, in mid-April, I found the resolve to count my calories, and to return to the 1,800 per day of 2007’s successful run.

May 17 marked one month on the plan. I am pleased to report that my efforts have exceeded my expectations. I’d like to tell you exactly how many pounds I’ve lost, but I made a mistake at the beginning: I didn’t weigh myself!

I had been so disgusted with my weight that I stopped my Monday get-on-the-scale routine in February. The last couple of times I dared to check, I clocked in around 260, the most I have weighed since 2007’s peak. Thus, I don’t know what I weighed the day I began this plan.

Next time, I’ll tell you what my weigh-ins have been since I resumed mounting the scale on April 22. And I’ll begin telling you my approach to consuming 1,800 calories per day.

Since this is my plan to lose pounds—Greg’s weight loss plan—a mash-up of the first two words provides a nifty name: Greight.

Greg + weight.

Rhymes with great

Thus, you have the Greight Loss Plan!

Good Friday 2019

My sermon for First Trinity Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, April 19, 2019, where I have the blessed privilege to serve in the absence of our pastor.

My daughter Erin’s exquisite rendering of the Lord’s cross.

“The Impossible”

I suspect you know both of these quotes from God’s Word: “Nothing will be impossible with God,” and, “With God, all things are possible.”

Before the Son of God entered the world in the womb of Mary, the Lord accomplished plenty to fulfill these two promises. The Lord made possible the impossible before the eyes of Israel when they were able to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, when they ate of the manna and quail, and when they drank from the water-giving-rock, not to mention the plagues in Egypt which preceded those miracles.

Not only every active miracle, but every act of mercy was the Lord’s making possible for humanity what was impossible for us, because in our sinful state our hearts no longer pumped the pure love of the Lord. Yet, God so loves the world, and so God the Son entered the world so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.

Have you ever wondered why it was God the Son who became a human, and not God the Father or God the Holy Spirit? Even more, why did the Son of God need to become the Son of Man, that is, the Son of humanity?

John chapter one tells us that everything that was made was created through God the Son. Colossians 1:16 goes a step further, informing us that everything was made by the Son and for the Son. Hebrews 2:10 asserts the same about Jesus, “for whom and by whom all things exist.”

And that tells you why it was the Son, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, who came into the world in human flesh, to be our Savior. I like to say it this way: you and I, and all people, and all of this creation, are God the Father’s gift to the Son. Because the Son loves the Father, when you and I, and all people, required redemption from our sins, it was the Son who takes on our human flesh; it was the Son who died.

Why did we need Him to do so? For this, we go to Galatians chapter four, where we are told that the Son was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law.” The Savior had to be human because humans had to fulfill God’s Law, and the Savior had to be God because we are incapable of perfectly fulfilling God’s Law.

In this act of becoming truly human, God the Son did what humanity finds impossible. It makes no sense that the Creator could be a creature. For us to grasp how great is the leap the Son of God made in becoming the Son of Man, the best example I’ve been able to conjure is this:

Imagine you have made for yourself, from Play Doh, a little kingdom of people. After forming them, you breathed on them, and they came to life. But, instead of thanking you for their living and moving and having their being, they did everything the opposite. They even took to killing each other.

Appalled at their actions, you still loved them. But, why? You still loved them because you were their creator. And so you did the unthinkable, the thing you had to do for their sake so that you could directly relate to them. You took a lump of Play Doh, you entered that lump of clay, and you fashioned yourself as one of them.

Crazy thought, isn’t it? Recall the first quote of this sermon, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” That was spoken by Gabriel, when he announced to Mary that she would bear the Son of the Most High. Mary wondered how this could possibly be done in her, yet she could have asked a much larger question: how can the Son of the Most High take on human flesh?

How? Because nothing will be impossible with God. Because Mary, and you and I, and all people, are the sacred possession of the Son of the Most High. Because God so loves this world, it simply could be no other way.

And then the Son of God incarnate, who had been given the name Jesus, for He would save us from our sins, was crucified. Jesus died.

Jesus just as eternal, just as all-powerful and all-knowing and ever-present and divine as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, yet when Jesus died on the cross God died.

This just can’t be. God can’t die. Based on God’s being all-powerful and eternal, that is as logical a thought as has ever been spoken. But, here’s the thing about God, in the person of Jesus, dying. The conundrum isn’t that He died. The enigma is that He became a human being in the first place.

Thus, we remember Gabriel’s pronouncement, that nothing will be impossible for God. And so God the Son takes on human flesh. And the moment He did that it became possible for God in Christ to die.

That’s the how. Here’s the why.

The last time I preached, our epistle was from Second Corinthians chapter five. That day, I quoted these two verses: 19: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them,” and 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Through the work of God the Son’s Good Friday death, God the Father does not count our sins against us, because God the Son became sin for us so that we might be the righteous children of God.

Now, to the second quote with which I opened the sermon, “With God, all things are possible.” The Lord Jesus said this after the rich young man wanted to know what good deed he must do to be saved. When the Lord’s answer was too much, the disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” The Lord replied, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Because Jesus is God, all things are possible for Him, including His bringing Himself back from the grave after dying for the sins of the world.

If Jesus had only died—well, everyone dies, so dying, by itself, would accomplish nothing. Yet, because Jesus did the next impossible-for-us thing—His Easter resurrection—He is a man whose every promise is sure and certain.

And the Lord Jesus promises that which is impossible for you: “Even though you die, yet shall you live,” and, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

And the impossible keeps coming. Scripture says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. As you have witnessed all too often, dead people can do nothing for themselves. So, as the disciples asked, who can be saved? Nothing will be impossible for God, and through a Word—the Good News about Jesus Christ—faith in Christ has been created in you so that you who were dead are now alive in Christ.

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that the righteous shall live by faith.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God for whom God the Son laid down His life on the cross.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who confess Ephesians 2:8-9 as your own: “It is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is not my work, but God’s gift to me, for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is your baptism into Christ, attested to in Titus chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who are continually fed upon the body and the blood of the One who declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

All of it impossible for you, but by the Word, through Holy Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, all of the Lord’s forgiveness of sins, His gift of salvation from death, devil, and damnation, and the eternal life which will be completed in your own resurrection from the dead, has been made possible in you.

And at the close of today’s service you can depart in peace, trusting Christ at His last word: “It is finished.”

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior. Amen.

Name change day, take two

On Tuesday, April 16, I return to court, aiming to legally return to Greg, to being recognized as a male, to the person identified on my birth certificate.

Since May 2, 2016, I have legally been Gina Joy Eilers. In August of that year, the judge made official that I was a female.

I thought I would legally be Gina for the rest of my life, or at least until I grew old and decided I wanted to die legally as Greg. As I’ve chronicled, the change in me that occurred in January 2018 was beyond my wildest imagination, and when my new sense of being male stayed and stuck I gradually resumed living as a male.

I’ve not had a whiff of gender dysphoria since early last year. Even going back on a low dose of estrogen in November, which I found I needed for the sake of my muscles and bone strength, hasn’t cause a disturbance in my feeling exclusively male.

Now, I find myself undoing everything I can to resume being a guy.

After changing my clothes and cutting my hair, addressing my name is the most practical thing for me to do. My driver’s license is for Gina. Thankfully, I’ve not had to show it in the past year, and I really don’t want to be in that spot: “You see, officer, it’s like this … “

The same goes for my credit cards. I mind the situations in which I use them. I will employ them when I can swipe or insert, but not when I have to hand them over. Only when Julie’s with me do I allow myself to be in a spot where the card needs to be handed to a cashier, and then she uses her card.

I’ll also have to get my identity changed with Social Security, on our mortgage, my pension, and more. Yippee.

This undoing of a name change is unique enough that I’ve been unable to find any help in assuring I’m doing it correctly. Because I needed a doctor’s letter the first time, I figured I should have one this time. Since I’m not seeing a medical doctor as I was then, I visited the psychologist I saw last spring. He wrote a letter affirming that I’ve successfully resumed living as a guy.

I hope I get the same judge. While I wouldn’t expect her to remember me, at least I could tell her that I was in her court three years ago, and if she has any concerns I can compare and contrast with when I was first in court.

I certainly don’t expect trouble, but this is such a wild card. I am anxious to get it accomplished.

The first time I went to court for my name change, as the group of us awaited the judge’s entrance I broke the uncomfortable silence, saying, “If I ever do this again, someone take me out to the woods and leave me.” It got a chuckle and fostered friendly chatter among us.

Well, I’m doing it again. I wonder if security will allow me into the courthouse toting a tent and a sleeping bag?

Garden Spotlight: Planting Potatoes

Front and center, from 2018: two months after planting, the plants reached full size.
After the plants flower, I finger around them in search of new potatoes, taking care not to disturb the plants. Pulling out the treasures I find, I scrape the dirt back in place and the other potatoes keep growing.

Potatoes are among my favorites to grow. The plants grow large and beautiful. They usually are not bothered by bugs or worms. The first potatoes can be harvested by midsummer. New potatoes have a freshness you can only know when you’ve had them. And the last of the spuds store for many weeks—usually into December—simply by placing them in the basement.

Because potatoes grow in the soil, the ground is more important for these plants than for many. Potatoes benefit from lighter, looser soil. My dad always said they did well where I grew up, in West Michigan, because the soil was on the sandy side.

In Indianapolis, the soil in my garden is the opposite of sandy. It leans toward the clayish side. The first year I grew potatoes, I learned the hard truth of the hard earth: all of my potatoes were small. My spuds were duds.

I am working on my soil, rototilling leaves into the garden every autumn. In my fourth year, the organic material has made the soil lighter and healthier, but it will take several years to dramatically alter the ground. Because I love growing my own potatoes, I don’t want to wait. Last year, I tried to give them a boost. It helped.

I dedicated my compost to the potatoes. I placed each seed potato on top of a pile of compost. Compost is arier. Softer. This allowed the spuds to sprout more easily.

While the potatoes that grew to the sides of the plant still grew into harder soil, overall they did better. I saw an increase in both the size and the yield. They didn’t do as well as my Michigan gardens, but they were better than in 2017.

What follows, in photos, is how on April 9 I planted the first of this year’s potatoes. So that they don’t all come at once, I’ll plant more later.

Our leaves and kitchen scraps go from the bin at left into the composter. Three times a year, the stuff decomposes enough for me to use in the garden.
Top right: I place the tarp under my composter, spilling the contents onto it. The tarp drags easily from backyard to front.
Center: I dug the row a bit deeper than usual, to accomodate a layer of compost.

Potatoes act as seeds. Growth stems from the eyes (circled). Each section of potato needs to have at least one eye or, ahem, it can’t see its way to growing.
I shoveled the compost into the trench so that it was a few inches deep, then placed the seed potatoes 12-15 inches apart.
I barely covered the potatoes. As they sprout and grow, I will continually mound the leftover dirt, which is to the left of the row, to keep growing potatoes from popping above the soil. By not dumping all of the soil on top of the seeds, I hope to keep the ground from compacting too much and getting too hard.