The only thing you can control


What is the one thing over which you have complete control?

There is only one thing.

You can’t control what others think. You can’t control what others do. You can’t control how others treat you. You can’t control what others say. You can’t control what happens to you. You can’t even control your thoughts!

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15), Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and then has instructions for them on forgiveness.

Who do you need to forgive?

Here are my thoughts on the Gospel and on control.

And maybe a word or two about eating a good breakfast.


Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday. I will also explore other matters of faith and also health and fitness to keep us fit for the journey. Click here for my YouTube channel:

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

When is a Fitness Room Not a Fitness Room — Or — “How to Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken…” WAIT! I Mean: “…Out of a Complimentary Fitness Room Breakfast”


Spontaneous vacations are a ton of fun for Kathy and me. We love to drive. We also love to drive to wherever the wind — or road — takes us.

On the first day of our trip to Kathy’s sister’s new place in North Carolina earlier this month, we enjoyed a beautiful drive along the unbeaten path of western and southern Indiana. Early evening, we stopped for a milk shake just north of Louisville (hey, it was vacation). We contemplated where to spend the night as we half-planned our itinerary for the following day.

As we left the parking lot, the skies began to cloud up, but we had no idea what was in store.

The beauty and serenity day came to a screeching halt the second (and I do mean the second) we crossed the Ohio River. Buckets of rain and ferocious wind rocked us as we crept along Interstate 65. It was one of the nastiest thunderstorms either of us ever remember driving through. We exited the highway twice to catch our breath. After the second attempt to make meaningful progress, we were ready to find a hotel… STAT!

We landed at a La Quinta, courtesy of the Hotel Tonight mobile app. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it became our oasis for the evening. The room was decent enough. It was reasonably quiet, but best of all, we weren’t traveling down the road surrounded by a wall of water and wind.

And they offered a complimentary breakfast.

I approach these complimentary breakfasts with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Hampton Inn has clearly set the standard for the average traveler with a complete breakfast buffet — none of this “continental breakfast” stuff — and the other chains do their best to imitate Hampton, but most don’t even come close.

The La Quinta was no exception.

In their defense, the hotel was under renovation. Their breakfast bar area was completely closed off.

Fitness Room Breakfast 4

Fitness Rule #7: Only one stale, tasteless sweet roll per workout.


So they moved the fitness equipment out of the fitness room. That’s where they set up the breakfast bar.

The juxtaposition was priceless.

My photos are awful. I didn’t want to get other guests into the shots and I took them hastily.

The photo to the left shows one of the containers of sweet cereal, the sweet rolls and muffins, sitting under the Fitness Center Rules sign.

Rule 6: Unsupervised use of this facility by children is prohibited.

That’s just way too funny.


But the point is that you can make chicken salad out of… well, I can’t say that in a family setting… so… you can make good choices, even at a bad complimentary continental breakfast buffet.

And the good choices are not always as obvious as conventional health and fitness wisdom would lead you to believe.

Temporary location or not, the breakfast fare at La Quinta was rather standard for a non-Hampton complimentary breakfast. So the excuse of not having their usual digs only goes so far.

A more complete view of the "dry cereal and starch bar."

A more complete view of the “dry cereal and starch bar.”

Three cereals. All sweet.


And if you really need to spike your blood sugar, not only do you get simple carbs with ultra-processed wheat flour, you also get a significant helping of sugar on your pastries.

At least one of the cereal choices was raisin bran (why the cereal makers find it necessary to add sugar to a cereal with raisins is beyond me). Adding milk gives you a nice dose of protein.

So there’s Relatively Nice Choice #1. If given the choice of three sweetened cereals, choose the raisin bran. Low-fat or no-fat milk gives you a decent balance of semi-decent-quality carbohydrate, some fiber, and lean protein.

If you can choose unsweetened Cheerios (or similar toasted oat cereal), either that or raisin bran. What you sacrifice with sugar in the raisin bran, you probably give up in a gram or two of fiber.

Don’t ever forget your fiber!

Fitness Room Breakfast 2

Water, milk, and juice, yogurt (in the container), fresh fruit.

Quick quiz. What’s the best choice here if you have to pick one — and only one — for breakfast?


Always important, but you need calories.


Probably not. All the fiber is processed out of the finished product. You’re left with sugar. And once you drink it, a spike in your blood sugar. Prepare for a quick energy crash. (With the water, you don’t have to worry about an energy crash. You don’t provide your body with any energy to begin with!)

Fresh fruit?

A better choice, but probably not the best choice pictured. Bad: lots of sugar. Good: fiber, which will moderate the blood sugar crash. But no protein.


Here’s the good: protein. Here’s the bad: added sugar. Fiber: likely minimal or nonexistent.

Leaving us with the best choice on the table…


No fiber, but the sugar content is natural, not processed added sugar. You get healthy, lean protein. And if it’s low-fat, you get a little fat, which is also essential in the digestive process.

And then you get your fiber later.

(But… don’t forget your fiber!)

Fitness Room Breakfast 1

The delectable hot food selection, condiments, and some hard boiled eggs!

What do you do with this? Biscuits and gravy, baked or fried potatoes (not sure… probably microwaved), and hard boiled eggs.

Best choice by far: the hard boiled eggs. And yes, the whole egg, yolk and all. The fat and cholesterol content of the yolk is unfairly maligned and actually contains essential nutrients that comprise a healthy diet.

Here’s what I did with this table and the rest of the breakfast.

I started with raisin bran and milk and three hard boiled eggs.

The hard boiled eggs were hard as rocks. Likely overcooked and they tasted like they’d been in the refrigerator for … oh… a month or so (editorial note: just kidding!).

That was a turn-off, but I don’t throw away food unless it tastes like poison (or Brussels sprouts; or chickpeas). So I sauntered back to the hot food and ladled some gravy on top of the eggs, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces.

I was pleasantly surprised at how light the creamy gravy was. I’m sure it was packaged. But it was tasty. It improved the taste of the eggs and filled me up.

None of these items were my first choices. But it fulfilled my objective of getting:

  • lean protein (milk and eggs… oh yeah, and the gravy)
  • starchy carbohydrate (the bran flakes, raisins, milk, and gravy)
  • fibrous carbohydrate (the bran flakes)

I’ll say it again. Do not be fooled by the fat in an egg. It’s good for you.

Not pictured: the coffee bar, which also included some packets of instant oatmeal, loaded with sugar. If instant, plain oatmeal is an option, that is also an alternative to raisin bran and Cheerios. It’s processed, but will generally provide a couple grams of fiber.

All right… Kathy and I are back home again. We survived the Smoky Mountains and more heavy rain on our way there, but nothing close to that first night.

On our trip, we stayed at several Hampton Inns. They do breakfast right, providing a larger variety of food, including cooked old fashioned oatmeal, and some healthy options along with the usual fare. Could be the subject of a separate piece some day…

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

(Still, I couldn’t wait to fix my own steel-cut oatmeal this morning. I really missed it!)


The Morning From Hell. All Before 6 AM. Semi-unedited.


Dear Diary,

I should be in bed right now. But I’ve gotta get this off my chest.

I didn’t ask for this. I really have been a good boy. Well… most of the time.

I’m not sure why I couldn’t fall asleep again after going potty at 3 this morning. I looked at the clock and was so happy that I still had an hour to sleep.

Back in bed, I couldn’t fall back asleep. Toss. Turn. Tried to focus on a few prayers. Mind wandered. No luck.

Radio on. 4 AM. Day begins.

Got out of bed resolved to get stuff done and hit the road on time. Snow yesterday. Roads likely snow covered. Morning travel likely slow. I need to leave the house by 5:30.

Bathroom for the “grooming preliminaries,”daily Mass readings, prayers.

Downstairs to do battle with the litter boxes. Keeping up with seven cats is no easy feat. Worked efficiently, sprang back upstairs to shower. Done and dressed by 5.  Time for KP duty, feed the cats, make my oatmeal. Running on time. Feeling good.

This is where things typically bog down a little. Kathy gets up around 5:15 and she needs to get around the kitchen, too. I’m confident things are under control and not worried that we will be tripping over each other this morning. Just tripping over the cats as soon as the bowls hit the floor.

Oatmeal started at 5:20. Doing fine. Cats fed by 5:25, bowls down. Start tripping over the little brats, try to finish up and get out the door without disturbing the little prima donnas.

Go get my coat. Whoops! Wait. It’s 2 below zero. I can’t wear my light jacket. I need my winter coat. It’s in my closet.

Hey! Where is it? I know it’s in here…

Can’t find it.

Five minutes later, I can’t find it. But here’s my old winter coat. Lining is tattered and falling apart. Pockets have holes in them. But it’s warm. It’ll have to do.

Grab my light jacket, too. Keys, wallet, etc. in the pockets. No time to empty them out. Should’ve done it last night. Forgot.

Now I’m late.

Catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror on way out of the bedroom. I forgot to comb my hair after my shower! Hair is now dry. This is not going to be a good hair day. Grab a brush and rake it through the silvery mop. It’s getting later.

How did this happen?

Hey! I forgot to put my oatmeal in a bowl! Oh my God, now I’m really late! Dump the porridge in a bowl. I forgot to fill my water bottle! Now I’m in a frenzy.

I had my shoes on. But I can’t go into a client’s house with wet shoes. I need my boots. Tuck shoes under arm. Water bottle, too. Sling backpack over shoulder. Grab my bowl of oatmeal. Run downstairs, slip on my boots.

Wait. It’s 2 below. I need my gloves on. Put stuff down. Put on gloves. Pick stuff up. Open front door. Step outside. Can’t reach door to close it. Cold air pouring into house. I’m officially really frickin’ late now. Should make two trips. No time. Gotta go!

Reach for the door.


Bowl of oatmeal falls out of my gloved hand. Perfect 180. Lands contents down. On entry way floor.

There goes breakfast.

My oatmeal is my morning coffee. I’m in deep trouble.

Family springs to action. Poor Stephen wakes up with a start. Kathy flies out of the bathroom. Paper towels. More towels. Plastic bag. I pick up most of the mess. They handle the rest and shoo me out the door. I shuffle through the snow to the garage.

Get in the car at 5:45. 6 AM appointment in Lake Forest. I have at least a half hour drive, especially considering the weather.

Welcome 2015! I always enjoy a serene return to the weekday routine after a leisurely holiday season.

I let my client know I’m hopelessly late.

He could care less.

Just returning from vacation, he is miserable, recovering from the worst flu of his life.

Makes the trauma of my morning much less important.

The week begins.


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