Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Humorous Halloween

Since I am now well-past the life-stage of taking my kids Trick-or-Treating (thank God), I was able to spend the evening curled up next to a bowl of bite-sized Almond Joys and Snickers. My plan was to guard these little tidbits of sugar like a rabid dog until all of the treaters gave up for the night and returned home. And as I waited, I would write.

Naturally, my attentions turned to humor . . . including some of the humor I need to find in my own life.

A few days ago, someone asked me, "By the way, how is your most recent book selling? Lots of copies I hope!"

I wish. In actuality, the book sales have been deplorable . . . so rotten that I should change my name to Todd Rotten Outcalt. At least editors would know what they were getting into if they signed me up. Rotten. Rotten. Rotten. My sales are somewhat like a pumpkin that's been sitting out in the sun for the better part of the summer. Dried up, caved in, rotten to the core.

The only consolation I have, of course, is Halloween candy. I was at a weight of 203 pds just a few days ago. Now I'm up to 210 pounds and gaining fast. With each Snickers and Almond Joy I feel a little better. My wife keeps buying the stuff, too. I'm surrounding by bowls of candy as I write this. Heaping bowls. Bowls that are spilling out into the dog's dish, the cat's feeding tray. Candy that is stacked so high, I could bath in it. (Maybe I should!)

This week, I will be submitting some of my humor to various magazines. I've written nearly twenty humor pieces in the past six months and I've got them polished now to a high-gloss.

I have to find something to laugh at. And usually it's me laughing at the guy in the mirror. Lord knows I need the diversion. I certainly can't take myself seriously.

It's a great Hallloween. Now, if only I had some black licorice.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Saturday

Outside of an early-morning breakfast and an evening worship service, I've spent the day writing. Two essays, a column, and an article to be published on a foundation web site. All in a day's work. But it's been quite some time since I churned out this much material in a few hours.

This morning, at breakfast, I had three people tell me that they look forward to my monthly column. Really? Folks actually read it? There's no accounting for taste.

Tonight . . . more writing. The world series? Some reading? Pouring Trick-or-treat candy in the bowl?

What a great day. I love Saturdays like this. And Becky wasn't even here!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

Life doesn't afford us a static experience. We must always adapt and change. And for me, now that I've gained nearly ten pounds back and had, for a couple of weeks, put my late-night writing binges on the back burner, it's time to begin burning the midnight oil again.

I do have some leads and open doors from a few editors who seem eager to view my writing, and I'm also eager to see where those lead. And, as the season would have it, I'm also putting finishing touches on some Christmas stories and holiday cheer (and a bunch of humor).

Anyway, it's never too late to begin anew. Start over. Adopt a fresh approach.

I've got the licorice to swing it. The dog also likes the idea.

My Health Scores

A few weeks ago I completed a battery of tests and "stress" challenges designed to give me my "health quotient" and my "true age" relative to my condition, outlook, habits and stresses in my life. The results surprised me in some places and humbled me in others. Here are a few things I learned about myself after taking these tests and getting my scores back from the doctor.

My "Physical Age" is 27 years old.
I have no idea what this means, exactly, but according to the stress tests designed to monitor my lungs, heart, stamina, and physical strength, I'm about half my age in terms of what I can still do physically (what I can lift, how long I can "go", how much my body can endure). As the doc told me, "There are few men your age who test with the aerobic capacity and stamina and strength you demonstrate." Well . . . okay. Didn't know I was in such a select group. I'll have to find out who the others are and we'll form a club called The Half-Wits.

My "Stress Age" is 38 years old.
Again, not sure what this means exactly, but the quizzes I took revealed I carry very little stress relative to the hours I work or the potential worries that I could be carrying. I guess I'm twelve years younger than where I should be in my "stress life". My secret? I just don't give a damn about anything. I've discovered this philosophy really cuts down on the stress in my life . . . I'm writing a book about it: I Don't Give a Damn . . . and You Can't Too!

My "True Age" is 35 years old.
I suppose this goes back to the old adage: you are as young as you feel. Well, I don't necessarily feel 35. In fact, I'd say I feel 84 some days and other days, like when my wife cooks dinner, I feel like I'm 21 and in love. I feel like I'm 14 when I'm eating licorice. I feel like I'm 18 when I'm wrestling with my son. I feel, oh, about 78 3/8 every morning after sleeping on my torn rotator cuff and popping twelve Advil a day to cut down on the pain. "True Age" is a relative term. Still, I've got a book in mind: Most Days I Feel Like a Rookie . . . and Today I Feel Like Bob Sanders or Brett Farve.

My "Sexual Age"?
I'm not going to reveal my scores here. My wife knows what they are. I remind her of my scores daily and while we are rubbing each other down with Ben Gay and popping Tylenol PM. You can ask her about the scores if you really must know. But be prepared: she's a good liar.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Prostate Poem for Men @ 50

The Prostate Poem

It seems rather cold
When a man gets old
And the doctor says, "Here I am
To give you, sir,
An abdomen stir
For it's time for your prostate exam."

There's just something not right
About holding on tight
To the edge of the table when "Wham!"
The doctor takes notes
Of your innards and gloats
While you're having your prostate exam.

But there is no doubt
That the sun shines about
That long finger of Uncle Sam
Once a man is complete
In his yearly retreat
And has finished his prostate exam.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another "50" Poem

Here's another little ditty for all those "older" guys out there. Ladies, if you can't identify, don't read it!!!

The Man Poem

When a man turns fifty he sees his youth
Vanish in a cloud of gray,
His wife regards him as uncouth
And rarely do they roll the hay.

He stands on soft knees made of sand
And weaker still his back and mind,
He tries to stay in shape, and tanned.
But all his friends are old in kind.

His children want to leave the house,
His house has slipped in disrepair,
And on the days he woos his spouse
He can't remember what goes where.

And so he leans on wisdom's frame
Believing that he's better than
The huddled masses ,young and lame,
Although he doubts he's still a man.

He often sits himself to pee
Because in ease his prostate bends
And with each colonoscopy
The tools grow larger than his ends.

His only comforts are in sweets:
The donut, cake, and licorice,
That train him as a dog likes treats,
And when he walks his arches squish.

But in his few days after fifty,
He settles in and finds his pace,
And thinks it rather neat and nifty
That he is halfway through his race.

Things could be worse: he could be dead.
He could be helpless as a pup.
And so the ego in his head
Resolves to pee while standing up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My "50" Poems

Yes, I have many other poems that I have written at my half century mark. I must have something to do late at night after taking my Milk of Magnesia, rubbing Ben Gay on my extremities, and wallowing in despair. I have many of these . . . more than anyone should be exposed to. But here are a few of the better ones. You other old people out there can, I hope, identify with my plight.


I'm just an average guy, it's true--
And older now with sockets shifty,
Grayer, weirder, way-past-new
As I enter the decade of fifty.

I'm still the same as I was before:
Crazy, forgetful, crafty and nifty.
I still don't shut the bathroom door,
But you'll have to forgive me . . . I'm fifty.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Body, Mind & Spirit (Part 5)

Photo #5
Photo Title: Remember This Guy?
Photo Reveals: a) What Todd looked like one year ago, moments before he shaved off his moustache of 30 years b) this is the REAL Todd c) this is the REAL Logan.
Photo Credit: Chelsey Outcalt
Photo Caption: "In a few minutes, you won't look like Gandolf the Gray anymore."

Random Thoughts Post-50

I wonder if people think I'm weird? (Maybe they already knew this.)

Will people accept me now that I'm eating donuts again?

I know my wife loves me unconditionally because: when I asked her if she wanted me to maintain my 50-year-old-shaved-n-tanned-muscular shape, she said, "I don't love you for your body. I love you because you do what I ask you to do and you make great soups." What a woman! And to think that I married her because I lost a coin flip with her father. If I had won the toss, her father would have given me two bulls, a sheep, and a cross-eyed goat. I'd still have meat in the freezer, but it would be tough playing Scrabble solitaire. Glad I lost the coin toss and got her instead. She's been a great consolation prize.

Quote from Yogi Berra: "I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in."

Quote from Dizzy Dean: "It ain't braggin' if you done it."

To children and teenagers: keep learning; do not drop out of your education; complete your degree! Earn another one! The more you learn the higher you'll soar.

My faith in God has had the single, greatest impact on the trajectory of my life . . . and I'm still going on to perfection.

To my clergy colleagues: recent studies have shown that clergy in America are the most unhealthy people in American society. Shouldn't we be the healthiest?

I have other photos of my 50-year-old condition. I'll keep a few in my wallet. And if anyone doubts I have achieved my conditioning goal at 50, I'll have the photos to prove it.

What are your goals? Are you working on them? If not, when are you going to begin?

Stay strong (in body, mind & spirit)!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Body, Mind & Spirit (Part 4)

Photo #4
Photo Title: Back to the Future
This Photo Shows: a) Todd as he looked one year ago b) Todd as he will look one year from now c) that he would rather be on a Caribbean island.
Photo Credit: Becky Outcalt
Quote: "Why in heaven's name did you bring that old t-shirt on our anniversary cruise? You look like you're going to paint the house."

What's Inside of YOU?

I offer this photograph today to make a point. As incredible as it may seem, the person you have seen in the previous photos/blogs was already inside of me one year ago when this photo was taken. But perhaps a bit of history and a quote would illuminate further.

Years ago, when Michelangelo was sculpting his masterpieces of Biblical saints, someone asked him, "How do you carve an angel out of a rough hunk of marble?" Michelangelo's response was, "there is an angel inside each block of stone. I simply take away everything that is not angel."

That's all I did for my fiftieth birthday goal. I simply chiseled away 21 pounds in 45 days and revealed the muscle that was inside of me. I had this body, mind and spirit a year ago, I had it ten years ago, even twenty years ago. I simply took away everything that was not needed. I shed myself of the excesses.

Even as I write this blog, however, I'm slowly returning to the guy you see in the photo above. After a few more boxes of donuts, and enjoying life as I do, I'll become the guy with the hidden six-pack. But I know it's there. I can uncover it . . . hone it, shape it, reveal it . . . at any time in the future. It's just a matter of mind, spirit, and dedication to the same disciplines that I'll continue to use in the years ahead. In fact, my goal will be to improve on fifty. When I turn sixty, I fully intend to be stronger and in better condition that I am at fifty. And yes, I'll take new photos to prove it. It is not physiologically or biologically impossible . . . as long as God blesses me with health and strength in the next decade, I'll be better at sixty.

You also have this same potential. I know it. I've seen it in hundreds of people who just uncovered what they already possessed inside. It doesn't have to be weights or bodybuilding (this is too weird for most), but it could be another activity, a pursuit, a hobby, a class, or a point of service to others that is your aspiration and goal. But whatever it is . . . don't wait for it to fall into your lap. Decide now to pursue it, to make it happen. Travel to the places you have always wanted to see. Tell the people you love how much you love them. Lead the group God wants you to lead. Give the gifts God wants you to give. It's never too late to begin.

My wife is still pressing onward with her education and goals, and in recent weeks she's even started talking about hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Not my thing, but I'll go with her . . . and if I take a tumble from 19,000 feet and crack my head open like a ripe coconut, well . . . there are worse ways to go.

As for some of my other goals in 2010, I started out this year working to:
1. Write four new books (already done it, though none have been accepted for publication yet)
2. Mentor three new leaders in the church (done it)
3. Work to increase our church stewardship in outreach and mission (Calvary has doubled in mission giving)
4. Spend more time with my son, and have dedicated lunches and dinners with him (done, but need to do more!)
5. Preach good sermons (I'll make no judgment, but I've tried)
6. Write to my former teachers and thank them (done it)

Getting into top shape at fifty has also awakened comments from other people. I've had a few now who have said, "You should compete again." My wife believes I should sign up for a summer competition, then go the extra steps, and strut onto the stage again. We'll see. I'm just not sure I'm up to the bright lights, the judges comments, and the wild and raucous crowds chanting, "Give us more!"

Heck, I'm giving all I can. Sort of makes me wonder just how many donuts I'd have to give up to look like Michelangelo's David.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Body, Mind & Spirit (Part 3)

Photo #3
Photo Title: After Raking Leaves
Photo Shows: a) Becky's photographer talents b) how many leaves Todd is not going to rake c) Todd could have used more time in the tanning bed.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Outcalt, Todd's nemesis and best critic
Photo Quote: "After I take this photo, you need to clean the bathrooms and then start cooking dinner. I've got papers to grade."

Communion of the Saints

Many years ago, my friend Steve owned a gym. Steve had some back problems, but, although he was older than I, he invited me to work out with him most mornings at 4 a.m. It was Steve who started me on the early-morning workout routine. I can't thank him enough. It was also Steve who first suggested, "You should compete in a bodybuilding competition. You could do it." Steve was not only CEO of a great company, but he was an inspiration to me in many other ways. We often called our trips to the gym, "Going to church." And for us it was. The Spirit was in that place, and we had many conversations about life, family, and God intermingled between the sets of heavy bench presses and squats.

A bit later, after my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, I worked with Becky to get her mobility and strength back after her mastectomy. Although we both would have preferred a different path, those were special times together on the road to full recovery and wholeness. The weights and the movements and the situps were not just exercises, but spiritual disciplines needed for the healing. Since that time my wife has hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, has hiked hundreds of miles on her own, and has been kicking my scrawny butt when it comes to growing her mind and intellect. She's got 2X more college education now than I've obtained, and her commitment as a teacher to her students and their educations cannot be questioned. She is my inspiration in body, mind & spirit.

And through the years I can safely say that I've had some of my most "pastoral" conversations at the gym. I've counseled couples through marriage (at the gym). I've counseled young guys who were lost in themselves and tried to convince them that they didn't need steroids, growth hormones or other drugs in order to attain their best shape (and, in fact, taking drugs would be counter-productive). And I've helped others with their training and goals and tried to be an example of what one could achieve through perseverance, dedication, drug-free lifestyle, and unwavering focus on the prize. I've also helped younger guys train for their own bodybuilding competitions and encouraged them to stay drug free and spirit-filled. I will continue to do these things for others and will always be in the ready to give younger people workout advice, writing advice, and especially spiritual advice.

My point here is that body=mind=spirit is ultimately about people and relationships. As odd as it may sound to many people, trying to perfect my physical condition isn't about ME in the end. It's about what I can do with the gifts and strength God has given me to grow in grace, service, and helpfulness to others. Through the years I've also had groups of people in the church who have gathered with me for morning workouts or "stretching". These have been special times for me. Some people have told me, "If you can do it, pastor . . . we'll then surely I can, too!" That's what I'm talking about! That's what inspires me to keep going in my own quest for physical strength and perfection.

I'm inspired when I go to the gym and see friends there (older or younger) who are striving to prepare themselves for a surgery, or who are recovering from an illness, or who, like me, are attempting to be as young as they feel.

As for me and my house (that's a quote from Joshua folks!) I'm grateful that my son and I work out together some evenings in the garage. My son created a gym for us this past summer, and he still knows I can kick his butt. And from time to time, he looks to me for guidance and instruction. I only wish he would ask me to help him with his workouts more than he does.

And that's how I'll close this blog. With a thought: the family that works/recreates/works-out/exercises/prays/studies/serves together . . . stays together. Well, at least I think so. Stay strong! And don't look too closely at this photo . . . I'd need to lose another 10 pounds to be "competitive" on a stage (despite what the uninformed eye might think). But for now, I'll just be me, thankful for the shape I'm in at fifty. Now . . . back to the leaves. Gotta stay strong.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Body, Mind & Spirit (Part 2)

Photo #2
Title: Todd Waiting On Laundry
Purpose of photo: a) to demonstrate that Todd reduced his waist size beyond his last belt notch b) to demonstrate that Todd needs a new pair of jeans for Christmas c) to prove that 6-packs are indeed possible for 50-year-old nincompoops.
Photo Credit: LTO (Logan Todd Outcalt)
Photo Quote: "Dad, you know this doesn't change the fact that you look like a Dork."

Incarnation (n)
Now here's a wonder. The Christian faith is the only religion to proclaim, as its foundational doctrine, that God was enfleshed in human body. What's this got to do with me working myself into a lather to reveal my six-pack. Much. You see, the New Testament is filled with references to Christ's body, and the fact that you and I are walking embodiments of his presence. St. Paul says that our bodies are the "temples of the Holy Spirit" and Jesus taught that our concern for others in centered in body concerns: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick. In fact, Jesus defined his ministry in these body-terms. Wow, that's all physical stuff . . . not spiritual.
But wait a minute. It's spiritual too. Body, Mind & Spirit are connected. As odd as it may sound to many people . . . the spirit is why I continue to do presses, dips, rows, curls and situps. To me, the Spirit is in it, and I have always found a great God-connection with working hard and dieting hard (to gain or lose weight) in order to prepare my body to serve others. Get the connection?
One of the things I've always tried to teach my kids is the importance of caring for themselves so that they can care for others. It's tough to do our best, and be our best, when we're not at our best. And for me . . . getting to the best has always involved becoming something more than I am now--in body, mind, and spirit. While I find it in weights and treadmill, you may find it in walking or tennis or gardening. But everyone needs a body=mind=spirit connection.
I study, read, write and dialogue with others to improve my mind. I work, serve, give, and sacrifice to improve my spirit (faith). And I've pounded weights in the gym for nearly forty years to improve my body. But it's all inter-related. One thing feeds the other and impacts the other. Jesus taught this. So did St. Paul (remember his references to subduing the body in order to gain glory and grow in faith, or his reference to running the race with perseverance to win the prize?). And John Wesley, founding father of Methodism, was a huge believer in the inter-related aspects of body, mind and spirit. In fact, many of the earliest Methodists were touted for their healthy lifestyles, tough-as-nails fortitude, and their ability to care for the body as well as the spirit. Hey, it's tough to run and ride horseback for thousands of miles if the body ain't up to the task. Body=Mind=Spirit!!
So . . . I'm fifty. In the past two months I've worked myself down from 224 pounds (see the photo blog just prior to the last Body, Mind & Spirit blog) to my current 203. I lost 21 pounds, increased my fitness, lowered my sitting heart rate, tanned, shaved, and prepared myself to stand on a stage and compete in a pair of swimmer's trunks . . . only without the actual competition. The only one I compete with now is myself. To improve. To grow. To reach a goal that I had set for myself over thirty years ago.
And my next goal in body . . . I'm going to surpass my present condition when I turn sixty. Sound impossible? I have no doubt I'll do it. I've got a stack of weights waiting for me and a freshly laundered towel that needs my blood, sweat and tears. Tomorrow, when I rise at 5:30 a.m., I'll be there in the gym beginning my new journey toward my sixty-year birthday goal. I'll be home by 6:30 a.m to read and write in order to improve my mind. And then I'll be out there helping other people after I've prepared myself to be at my best for others, and I'll find my spirit soaring or, as John Wesley said, "going on to perfection."
Want to join me?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Body, Mind & Spirit (Part 1)

Photo #1
Photo Title: Portrait at Fifty
Photo was taken to: a) demonstrate the interplay of sunlight and shadow b) serve as a teaser for other sharper images yet to come c) model the bodybuilding posing trunks in the Arnold Schwarzenneger-Gloria Vanderbilt signature collection.
Photo by: LTO, Logan Todd Outcalt
Caption: "Dad, how many of these stupid photos do I have to take?"

Inspiration (N): Definition . . .
Okay, let's begin. I'm not writing a dictionary definition here, because inspiration is not something you can gain from reading a definition. Inspiration is something one must live . . . and live out. Nevertheless, my idea of inspiration is simple. Inspiration means, literally, "the Spirit is in it". Which means that inspiration is wherever and whenever we find the Spirit in something. Now, in my life, I have always found the Spirit in faithful people, in family, and in reading and writing. I've also found the Spirit in a set of weights, in a towel soaked in sweat, and in overcoming heavy obstacles. Inspiration, for me, has always been found in accomplishing a goal that few people would even attempt. I find inspiration in the gym every day--in the faces of older folks who arrive at the gym walking by cane, or who work their bodies because they want to remain independent. I also find inspiration in the younger people at the gym who ask me, "How did you get this way, and how can I get it?" But my answer is simple . . . if you don't find the Spirit in the intensity of the training and the lifestyle, you'd better find the Spirit in something else, otherwise, you're wasting your time.

You see, not everyone is going to find the Spirit (or be "in-spired") by hunkering down at the gym for forty years. Some might find the Spirit in bowling, or running, or tennis. I find the Spirit in none of these things . . . just boredom.

For the past forty-plus years I've operated with a theology of Body, Mind & Spirit that has guided my life down to the core. Every day I attempt to improve myself in terms of physical strength and stamina, in mental preparedness and learning, and in growth of faith, faithfulness, or service to others. It's simple. But it works for me.

Many people have asked me in this latest quest to achieve my "best" at fifty: "WHY?" Why would you undertake such a severe training regimen, such a severe diet? Why would you stretch yourself toward a goal of bettering your 40-year old condition? After all, you ain't forty any more.

My answer: because I have always trained with the same regimen of intensity, because I have always maintained a diet (to gain or lose) and because this goal at fifty is a goal I set for myself when I was twenty, when I was thirty, and when I was forty. I'm here now, but fifty just presented the reality that I would have to put up or shut up. Regardless of the bad knees, the bad back, and the torn rotator cuff . . . it was a goal I was after.

In actuality, I'm not sure I bested my 40-year-old condition. I'm certainly not as muscular as I was at forty, but then, I have less testosterone now. Still, I'm awfully darn close, as you might agree with based on the forthcoming photos.

But here's to Body, Mind & Spirit. Here's to setting goals and living them out. Here's to IN-Spiration. And if you haven't found your inspiration yet . . . what's holding you back? Better get living it . . . and living it out. Believe me, you ain't gettin' any younger either! And you'll be surprised what your mind and your spirit will enable you to accomplish in body if you'll just get jiggy wid 'it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Todd's Photos

If you want to understand this photo and the other photos that are forthcoming . . . you MUST read THIS blog and my upcoming blogs, too! If you just look at the photos, you won't understand why I'm sharing the photos, and you won't get ME. You'll just think I'm weird . . . which is okay, too. But I'd prefer you actually read what I have to say about life and what I've learned after 50 years!

Beginning on Monday, I'll be posting a blog series about my theology and life-philosophy of body, mind & spirit. It isn't an accident that I write a monthly column by this same title, as these three aspects of life have always been integrated into my goals, my work, and my understanding of what it means to be fully and completely human and to live into the life God wants for us.

As many of you know, I celebrated my 50th birthday on Oct. 12, and one of my goals was to get into top physical condition--a condition that I last achieved when I was 40, and competed in a drug-free bodybuilding competition (and earned last place). But I was then, at 40, in the top condition of my life. At 50, I am trying to achieve this same level of condition. But this goal is about more than BODY. It is about the integration of mind and spirit (faith) into a life breathed and experienced.

Now, you are probably wondering . . . what's up with this photo? This isn't your top condition, is it? NO! GOOD LORD, NO! Nothing wrong with this guy . . . I like him . . . but NO! This is a photo taken on the island of Antiqua a little over 1 year ago, when my wife and I were on our 25th wedding anniversary cruise. I weighed in at 220+ pounds in this photo (and this includes all of the gray hair). Currently, at the time of this blog posting, I now weigh in at 203 pounds.

However, to fully understand what I look like NOW, you have to understand what I looked like THEN. And you also have to realize that even THEN, I had the body underneath all of that fur and I have just revealed it in the past two months through dedication, sweat, commitment, intense training, strenuous diet, and an integration of MIND and SPIRIT to achieve BODY.

And that's my first lesson: there is someone inside of YOU who is worth celebrating and loving and serving and knowing and redeeming. Yeah, sounds like Oprah, but as you'll discover if you read what I have to say next week, it's also what Jesus taught. And YOU are not about the condition you are in, or any such nonsense, but YOU are beautiful in your own right, and are not an accident, and YOUR goals, aspirations, dreams, and joys are important to the creator of the universe. But it is important for you to know who YOU are and then live fully the live God wants for YOU!

On Monday, when you begin looking at the new me . . . you're really just looking at the old me, but with the same life philosophy that has guided me for many years, and, in fact, the entirety of my life. And if you want to really understand what I've learned and what I'm about, don't miss my sermon this Sunday (Reflections @ 50). It will be on the church web site also ( in the coming weeks.

My blog series next week will be, I hope, inspirational and elucidating. It's not about me, though. It's about what I have always believed about setting goals, striving for the best in yourself so that you can give more to others, and trying to integrate Body, Mind & Spirit into every facet of your life.

Okay, you can look at me if you want to (Lord knows my wife doesn't) . . . but if you don't read the blogs that go with the photos next week, you just won't understand what I'm about. If you just look at the photos, you'll figure out that my son is a pretty good photographer, but you won't get the benefit of my sage wisdom.

See you here on Monday in a thong.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday Card Greetings

Again, many thanks to all of you who sent me 50th birthday cards or greetings. I've had fun reading through all of the cards and the expressions of care . . . funny or otherwise.

I did think that one of the funniest that came my way was this 50th Birthday Poem entitled, "The Senility Prayer" . . . a sort of mock tribute to the Serenity prayer that is so popular. It goes like this:

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the people I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

My fiftieth birthday itself (Oct. 12) was a great day . . . but I'm really looking forward to soon enjoying some actual cake, pie, and ice cream. By the time my birthday rolled around I had still not achieved my fitness goal, so I ate only a small fraction of Fay's pecan pie (I'm saving the other piece), and yesterday and today has been little more than celery sticks and diet cola, along with copious amounts of protein drinks, vitamins, creatine, and glutamine . . . the latter of which are amino acids that basically store energy and water inside the muscles.

My photo shoot is coming soon . . . and yes, I plan to post a few of these on facebook and/or this blog, along with some essays explaining "why" I set this insane fitness goal for my 50th birthday, "what" it proves, and "who" I'm hoping it will benefit beside myself.

You won't want to miss these essays/blogs and photos if you really want to know why I do what I do and what I have learned about body, mind, and spirit after 50 years. And I won't be wearing a shirt.

First post. Friday?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Big 5-0

Today is my 50th Birthday. The day began rather inauspiciously when Becky woke me at 5 a.m. to give me a birthday card before leaving for school. I barely remember this.

What Iwill always remember is coming to church and being surprised by our kindergarten class. I will always remember the love and kindness of the Calvary staff . . . I really do love you all! I will always remember the big basket of gag gifts, the cards and letters and the emails and facebook greetings . . . which I am still reading and enjoying.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to a great congregation. I'm truly blessed to be at Calvary. Everyone really lifted my spirits and buoyed my energy. (I've been waiting to use the word "buoyed" for decades, and now here it is!)

I have not yet (not quite!) achieved my goal of getting into optimal shape. But I hope to have photos next week (don't be grossed out). I had to eat a piece of Fay's pecan pie (which is just too good to pass up), and I can always do a bit more aerobics tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.

My sermon this Sunday is "Reflections at Fifty". It will be a testimony and a reflection on the things I have learned through 50 years of life. I look forward to seeing you all then.

And again . . . I will never forget this day. I mean that from the bottom of my heart!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Piled Up

Some weeks back I sent out a tall greasy pile of manuscripts (essays, articles, stories, poems, etc.) to a veritable smorgasbord of publications and editors. I'm just now beginning to get responses from some of these nincompoops, and most are rejections. But I've also have a few acceptances so far. The ones I like best come from the editors who write, "Please send us more of your work."

So I do.

I'm doing my best to keep track of all this material, but as I near the age of fiddy . . . it's a rough road. I often can't remember where I sent a particular manuscript, and if I didn't write it down, I'm doomed.

I'm just glad to sent the pile out before it was too late and I lost my mind completely. One thing I do remember, though . . . the pile I sent was a total of 204 pages. And this was material I had produced in a four-five month span. Not bad output for a guy who can't remember to tie his own shoe laces.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This is My Brain on 1200 Calories

For the past week I have been on an amazing writing spree. My mind has been sharp, alert, crisp, engaged and excited about being my brain. My brain has been telling the rest of my body to carry on and ignore the hunger pains and the intense training regimen I have set for myself as I "get down" to a lithe and dense 200 pounds (or less).

There is something about getting into top condition physically that sets me to writing energetically early each morning at 5 a.m., before I go to the gym and hoist massive weights to the point of fainting and then burn extra calories afterwards on the elliptical trainer. Or perhaps it is the coffee . . . or the extra-sensory sharpness attained by eating less. (Isn't that part of the blessing of fasting that people attempt to experience during Lent?)

At any rate, as Yogi Berra once said, "I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in."

As I near my 50th birthday, I have every confidence that I am going to exceed the top condition I attained on my 40th birthday. My pectorals, back, deltoids, calves and arms are rounding out nicely, and in a few more days, I will once more have stellar abdominals--that elusive six-pack that few men can achieve in their twenties, much less at the age of 50.

When I was forty, I achieved this condition and competed in a bodybuilding competition. At fifty, I'm going to surpass my 40-year-old condition, but I'm not going to compete (though Becky thinks I should).

And, if anyone is interested in seeing proof-positive that this old man can still run circles around the young punks . . . I'll be taking photos on or near my birthday which I can post on facebook.

If anyone is interested.

Are you?

In the meantime . . . I'm up early and to bed late, always writing. And every page I write burns 10 calories!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Humor Me

In recent weeks, I think I've written some of my best humor pieces. Well, at least I think they are funny pieces. I wake up laughing (as I write some of these in my sleep). Becky asks, "What's so funny?" I have to tell her my idea and she doesn't think my idea is funny at all. She's never liked my written humor, though I've published quite a bit of it.

I'm never sure what will strike my funny bone, or why . . . I just write it the way I laugh it.

Looking back at my recent humor pieces, I see that I've written something like 20,000 words of humor over the past three months, which is some serious output . . . and that's just my humor alone. Humor, of course, is great for late nights or early mornings, when no one else is laughing, and when few people have the gumption to be awake and productive.

In the past couple of months, as I've risen at 5 a.m. to hit the weights and the treadmills and the streets, I've noted that few are laughing. That's where I come in. I see things. I hear things. And I write whatever emerges from my waking mind, even as I sweat.

After all, I've got to have something to do while I'm riding that stationery bike.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Heath Brothers

I've enjoyed reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip & Dan Heath. This newest book by the Heath Brothers is a great read, and has implications for business, family, or any organization. Their first book, Made to Stick, was the top business book last year . . . and I'd recommend Switch to anyone who is struggling to move forward through life, especially if goal-setting and disciplines are difficult.

I've been familiar, of course, with Heath all of my life. My grandfather owned and operated a small country store in Heathsville, Illinois for decades. This little burg, population 5, was the original birthplace of the man who created the Heath candy bar. These are manufactured, still, in Robinson, Illinois, and my cousin, Brad, is a foreman there.

I've enjoyed Heath candy bars for years, and if you've not eaten one, look for 'em.

Of course, currently, I'm not eating candy bars. In fact, I've lost over ten pounds now in less than a month. I'm lean (er), mean(er), and beginning to really change the shape and contour of my body. I'm also weak, irritable, and extremely hungry . . . but that's another matter and another blog for another day.

Enjoy the Heath bros books, and have a candy bar while you're reading.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Search for Spock

About two years ago I was dumped by my literary agent (my fourth). I mourned, sat around the house and cursed for a few months, and then I shook myself out of my funk and decided I needed to search for new representation. I'd scour the outer edges of the universe for a good literary friend. So I told Becky, "I'm going to find another agent."

Her response was the usual, "You'll never find another agent. No one will work with you."

My response was, "I can get an agent with a single phone call."

Becky laughed at this one and refused to cook dinner that night (which is not unusual, since I do most of the cooking and have numerous black licorice recipes).

But, like Captain Kirk, I outwitted the odds, called up Scotty and asked for more power, and I scoured the New York literary scene for an agent who was open to working with a wild and wacky guy like me . . . and then I made my call.

Ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom. I got an agent first call. Thanks, Cindy, for answering the bell!

I know we'll have some success very soon . . . all I gotta do now is remember where I stashed my best manuscripts. I'm still waiting on that apology, Becky. Or dinner. Whichever comes first.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Todd Outcalt Private Eye

Through the years I've had some strange requests (from publishers, media, etc.) but perhaps none as odd as just a few weeks ago. I'd received a call from an editor who wanted to interview me for a magazine, and in order to prepare for my upcoming conversation, I sent him a complimentary copy of my book.

Days passed.

And then one afternoon he called to set up a time for our book rap. We conversed for a few minutes about the book, about writing and so forth, and then the editor popped the question: "Could you help me pay a bill?"

At first I thought he was joking, or setting me up for a butt-slap over the telephone, but then I realized he was as serious as a midwife during birth. He sallied-forth with his request for cash or a credit card number through the mail and I listened, almost disbelieving. I declined, but then began thinking about all of the possibilities.

Perhaps I was being scammed. Was the magazine real? Was the editor, indeed, an editor? And was this the person I was talking to? Or was I engaged in some type of identity-theft attempt? And here's the biggest question: Who, if I was being scammed, would go to all the trouble of calling someone like me who lives on black licorice and eats his meals out of a can?

After the conversation I did some investigation. I first watched an old episode of Hawaii 50 to get into the mood, and then I watched a show from the first season of Mannix in order to know how private investigators worked. And then I put on my Private Eye goggles and began calling up people and sending out emails to people who owed me favors and who could do some digging.

As it turns out, everything was legit . . . which makes this conversation all the more bizarre. An editor wanting a writer to pay a bill. This was a first for me. But I'm glad I had the experience. It gives me something to post on my blog. And listen, my life is so bizarre, I can't make this stuff up!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rejected . . . In All 50 States

Lately I've been doing some thinking: have I reached the pinnacle of my writing career? Like Brett Farve and Tiger Woods and King Louis VIII, am I past my prime? Or, am I just getting started? Is the best yet to come?

Big questions for a writer.

One thing I know: over the years I've had editors from most states reject my work. I know I've been rejected in Hawaii and Alaska (several times over, actually) . . . but I'm still a little fuzzy on some states. Rhode Island, for example. I'll have to write the Better Business Bureau up there and find out of I'm on a "don't accept list". I'm also not sure about Maine, although I remember it.

Years ago, I used to keep all of my rejection letters on file. I did this so that, if the IRS ever audited me and said, "Hey, you're just a pretend writer. You don't really write and you can't take a tax write-off on those stamps" . . . well, then I could pull out my crusty file and plop down eight-seven-pounds-worth of rejection letters as proof positive that I had sent something out.

I no longer keep rejection letters (I have other ways of proving I am a living, breathing person with aspirations and dreams), but I do make mental notes of the editors who have rejected my work. I'm very well represented in southern states. Editors down there don't like my Yankee views and they just reject me outright. And out west, although it's wild and wacky, I'm usually not wacky enough to get noticed. Most of my success has come from Midwest roots, from editors who, like me, eat black licorice and donuts and don't wear aftershave.

Still, I'm working on that 50 state goal. I'll get to Rhode Island and Maine with a manuscript very soon. Somebody out there must hate my work. They have to.