Tag Archives: Health

Living Out Loud

Lanterns afloat

My intent is for the act of sharing to be liberating for me . . . and informative for others.

I decided to celebrate my birthday this year by doing something I may regret. No, I’m not taking off to Vegas with $5k and a desire to lose my inhibitions completely, nor am I going to see if I can find some Window Pane or Orange Owsley and relive the late sixties. I’m going to delve a little deeper into what I see as a corollary of something I’ve been writing a little bit more about lately . . . working out loud. The corollary is . . . living out loud. Let me explain.

Working out loud is about finding ways to work where not merely the fruits, but also the cultivation, planting, and meticulous care and grooming of those fruits are conducted in a manner that allows others to follow along, perhaps contribute somewhere along the way. It involves activities such as moving conversations away from email and into other forms of internal communication; e.g. micro-blogging, wikis, other types of social networking/communicating/collaborating tools, etc. I have found from experience it is not an easy thing to do, even when you are a wholehearted supporter of the idea. The entire ethos of our work culture militates against it and, for some, it’s downright dangerous and heretical.

Living out loud, however, is something a little bit different. I’ve never had to do an activity report though, come to think of it, as a kid I did have to face my father’s wrath when I forgot to do one of my chores. Now, however, I’ve retired from the last place I had a regular job at, so nobody much requires me to report to them. I do have some activities I’m involved in where I keep people apprised of my efforts and progress, but it’s not the same as when I worked at Rocketdyne. Anyway, in an effort to share a little more of me, here’s my first formal attempt. I posted the following on Facebook first.

This is the first birthday I haven’t much looked forward to. Although it seems not to mean all that much, since some time in April I am seven years older than my father was when he died. I think about it, because I grew up being told I was “exactly like your father”, especially when I did something untoward or displeasing to my mother. Medically, although my experience is not like my father’s, I am nonetheless in uncharted waters. It’s a situation both my daughters will likely have to deal with their entire lives.

Also, this year I will be closer to 70 than to 65. I am entering my dotage and, frankly, my worry isn’t for me. If it was just me and Linda, I think we’d be fine. We’d get along OK. However, we have two young girls to care for and see into adulthood and sometimes I fear I won’t be there for them much longer. I’m not yet losing any sleep over it and I surely don’t plan to, but the thought I could be gone any day has a little more power than it would have even 10 years ago.

I also think the feeling was somewhat exacerbated by the sudden loss a couple of weeks ago of a long-time friend who was a half a decade or so younger than me. I was deeply affected by her loss and I’m quite certain it’s still haunting me a bit, though I don’t consciously think about it that much.

I know a few of my friends are older than I am. If you’re reading this and you’re older than me, please take pity on me.  I’m a relatively new old man. It takes some getting used to and I’ve also kind of determined this is one hell of a good place to leave some stuff for my kids. It’s why I welcomed the Timeline when it was introduced, and why I’ve uploaded some pictures I have that were taken before digital pics existed.

Sorry if I’m bothering or boring anyone. I’m experimenting with living out loud. Your mileage may vary.

 


It’s OK, Beth. We’ll Carry On From Here

Beth Thompson

Farewell, Beth. You touched a lot of lives and will be sorely missed

I posted the following on Facebook two days ago and I want to share it here as a tribute to my friend and former colleague:

I am beside myself with grief. A couple hours ago I received a message from a friend who wanted to confirm what he had heard – that our former colleague and good friend, Beth Thompson, had passed away. I started frantically contacting as many people as I could think of, all the while hoping it was just some stupid Internet screwup. It was not to be. Apparently, while preparing to leave for work this morning, Beth suffered a heart attack and passed.

Beth was one of my first friends when I joined the Program Office on the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at Rocketdyne. Her good humor and iconoclastic attitude helped me ease into the corporate world, a world I didn’t join until I was 40 years old, and was ill-suited for. Along with many others I’m proud and happy to still call good friends, Beth was family. I still have the card she picked out for me and had everyone sign when I left for what turned out to be a short stint back in my family’s business. That was about 17 or 18 years ago.

She moved up to the Seattle area with her husband, Paul, and their three children, where she continued to work for Boeing, one of several major players that passed Rocketdyne around like a financial hot potato. This is tough to digest. My kids have seen me cry for the first time in their memory. People who are younger than you aren’t supposed to die before you do. It’s just not right.

We hardly saw each other in the past few years, but we liked and commented on each other’s FB posts now and again. At least I knew she was there and I got to see a little bit of her life and happiness. That is now gone and my world is poorer for it. Goodbye, Beth. I love you and will always remember how you brightened my world and the world of so many others.


Intelligent Design is Really Stupid

Unintelligent Design

The Intersection of Stupidity, Religion, & Politics

I had an experience this morning that reminded me of something Neil deGrasse Tyson said, which I’ve read in many places. I’ve also had the experience many times in my life and consider myself somewhat lucky so far having managed not to suffer the final indignity the experience portends.

I’m speaking about nearly choking to death because I fell victim to the inherent – as Neil points out – stupid design of my body that has me breathing, eating, and talking through the same hole.

I was at my weekly QBN (Quality Business Network) breakfast meeting. We meet each week on Tuesday, at 7:00 – 8:30 am at The Junkyard Cafe here in Simi Valley, CA. Most of what is on a breakfast menu I can’t conscientiously eat if I want to keep my blood sugar under control. Pancakes, waffles, french toast, regular toast, potatoes, syrup, jam . . . they’re all verboten. I can have a plate of bacon, eggs, and cheese . . . and sometimes do.

However, today I asked for a salad, with ranch dressing and balsamic vinegar. I don’t have a cholesterol problem, so I don’t worry about the dressing too much. I’ve long liked ranch and Italian, which the vinegar substitutes for nicely.

No sooner did I start shoveling food in my mouth than a stream of vinegar squirted off the salad on my fork into my throat. I inhaled it slightly and immediately started coughing; nearly choking. It was so bad others started to get alarmed for my safety and I had to leave the room to keep from interrupting the presentation that one of our members was giving.

Obviously, I made it. It wasn’t the first time this has happened. I once inhaled some hot sake at a sushi bar in Venice Beach. The owner was horrified. He thought I was going to die right there in the restaurant and indicated how much he would like me to die outside on the sidewalk. I ignored him.

Anyway, back to Mr. deGrasse Tyson. I thought I would share this lovely video of his explaining – by pointing out how stupidly we, and the universe, are designed for life – how there is no such thing as intelligent design. Keep in mind, please, I’m not attacking religion, faith, or spirituality. I don’t care what you believe in. However, if it’s intelligent design, I (and Neil) maintain there is absolutely no evidence for it and only someone who refuses to face reality would entertain such a belief. Here’s the video:


Say What? When Did That Happen?

The Long Slide

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time it’s like this.

Aging is an interesting subject to write about. After all, it happens to all of us and, as a Baby Boomer, my cohort is a rather large one. My experiences aren’t exactly unique . . . at least not in the grand scheme of things. However, I do bring a few wrinkles to the table. Perhaps the thing that stands out for me the most is the fact I still have rather young children.

If you read my blog or follow me elsewhere you should know by now my wife and I adopted our oldest child shortly after I turned 55. Not finding that enough of a challenge, we went and did it again when I was 59. I should point out my wife is younger than I am; not by a huge number of years, but the difference isn’t insignificant. It means when my oldest graduates high school I will be in my early seventies. Not unheard of, but surely a bit unusual.

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering if our journey wasn’t a little selfish. It’s all related to aging and my fear I will soon leave my children without a father, which will be the third (and probably most traumatic) time it’s happened to them. The first was losing their biological parents; the second their foster parents. I realize most of their memories of those two losses are pre-verbal and visceral, but I don’t think that makes them any less real and I don’t want to leave them until they’re full-grown and capable of taking care of themselves. I owe that to them.

Right now there is a confluence of events that’s causing me to think about my mortality a little more than I normally do. My retirement is far more devastating to my self-esteem than I anticipated. I’ve written about the separation I’ve felt and it hasn’t become any easier in the interim. It’s a bit difficult to feel competent when you don’t have the opportunity to test your skills and, given my propensity to continuously question my capabilities, I find myself struggling to find relevance.

Then there are the physical things. Oy! When I was a young man the only thing I was really interested in was wisdom. I wished to one day be seen as a wise person. I knew that would take time and that I would not be the one to determine when I had reached whatever level that might be. You don’t, after all, hang out a shingle advertising “Wise One Here”! For that reason I looked forward to getting older. Not that I wanted to rush anything, but the aging process was a necessary precondition to attaining my goal.

When I hit about forty it suddenly dawned on me I had not considered the physical consequences of aging. I was not pleased with knowing how naive I had been. Clearly, wisdom was still a long way off. Each year now brings new challenges: Essential tremors, deteriorating vision, and a host of other areas in which I experience physical deterioration, the inexorable acceleration of my downhill slide. They all seem to be converging on the next big milestone – my 65th birthday, now a mere four weeks away.

I’m not sure it would affect me as much as it has were it not for the end of my COBRA health insurance six weeks prior to Medicare kicking in. Actually, I planned on it and I’m not really all that worried about bridging the gap. However, I don’t recall ever being uninsured in my life . . . so it’s a bit weird to realize I am totally uncovered right now. I’ve suggested to my friends I might spend the six week transition entirely in bed, but I’m sure that would just give me a heart attack.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m writing now is all that coherent, as I sometimes feel I’ve lost a few of my cognitive faculties. Normal driving can be cause for concern on occasion, as I don’t seem capable of anticipating three steps ahead like I used to do so effortlessly. I suspect, at times, it’s all relative and what I’m experiencing isn’t objectively as bad as I feel it is, but how do I know? Again – Oy!

So . . . I promised I would write a little about how I’m dealing with the aging process. This is it. I believe I’ll have more to say but, in the interest of getting something out there (a skill I am still struggling mightily with) I want to post this. Please don’t hold me to anything. Clearly, these are the ravings of an old man who, having awakened one morning to find his youth behind him, is seeking to understand what the fuck just happened.

Tomorrow I’m going to address why I chose to incorporate professional and personal posts into the same blog. TTFN :)


Sometimes It Feels Like Borrowed Time

Today marks, if not a special day on my calendar, at the very least an interesting one in my mind. Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I became older than my father was when he died. Does that seem like a strange thing to be commemorating? I suppose it is. Maybe a little context will make it more intelligible, if not less silly.

For most of my life, up until his somewhat untimely, if not surprising, death I had been told “You’re exactly like your father!” Frequently as an admonition for some behavioral trait I had exhibited. All-too-frequently it was something my mother found neither amusing nor endearing. I also looked like and was built like my father, adding to my perception that I was somewhat predestined to follow in his footsteps. This was exacerbated by our culture, which is based on and continues to exhibit vestiges of primogeniture. Being the first-born son of a Conservative Jewish family, I know I was doted upon and received far more attention than I’m sure I deserved. It also added to the perception of inevitability I both relished and rebelled against.

When my father died in 1984 I had just turned 37. My metabolism, which is now obviously quite unlike my father’s, had yet to change and I was still pretty thin; still physically similar to my father when he died. He was less than two months shy of his 60th birthday and you can bet there were lots of conversations with my mother and my brother over what that turn of events might mean for my and my brother’s future health.

These conversations continued occasionally throughout the years and, as I grew older, it became more and more apparent I was not really “exactly” like my father. Not the least of these revelations was when I reached the age he was at his first heart attack (around 50) and not having one myself! I’m sure that moment was made more important by the memories I had of being the one to recognize the symptoms and driving him to the hospital late at night at over 80 miles an hour, running lots of red lights in the process.

The Last Supper by Arum

Friday the 13th Can Be Very Scary For Some Folks!

So, what anxiety I felt slowly dissipated over the years. However, I had done one thing that set a landmark and, having done so, it was  impossible for me to ignore or deny it. I had entered my father’s birthday into an electronic spreadsheet and subtracted it from the day of his death. By formatting the result as a number I had the exact number of days (give or take ~ 24 hrs) he was here and alive on this planet. I then added that number to my birthday and converted the result into a date. Ironically, the day on which I would match the total time my father had lived occurred on a Friday the 13th. Though not superstitious, I have to admit the date had a little extra “spice” attached to it.

As it turned out, that date – April 13, 2007 – coincided with the first night of the In2:InThinking Conference I was attending. Since the weekend’s classes, seminars, etc. were to take place in the Woodland Hills Hilton’s conference rooms, many of the out-of-town speakers and leaders, as well as all the people who were working on the conference and its many ancillary activities, would stay at the Hilton beginning on Friday night. In addition to being an attendee, I was a co-presenter that year for one of those ancillary activities, but that’s another story.

As part of the package the In2:InThinking Network had negotiated with the hotel, we occupied the Presidential Suite where there was traditionally a big party. The suite was open to all the participants and there was food and drink; a merry time to be had by anyone who wished to show up and be a part of it. Fortunately, partying has always been one of the things I do quite well, thank you very much, and I spent the evening until well past midnight. I was gratified, as were my friends, I didn’t drop dead at the stroke of midnight and, since that day passed, I haven’t thought much about it.

I spent the evening (after which I would be older than my father when he died) drinking and eating and enjoying myself immensely. It was, for me, a two-fold celebration. I was happy to get what was a bit of a monkey off my back and I was happy to have known my father as long as I did. I was happy he and I had squared away our mostly rocky relationship and were well on the road to being friends when he died. I was happy he was my father and I celebrated his life, knowing that he would have wanted me to have a good, long one. I intended then, and continue to expect, to do just that.

Today is five years to the day and, as a special treat – a lagniappe, if you will – it’s also Friday the 13th; just like it was on that day. Even though it became obvious long ago I wasn’t “exactly” like my father, the realities of genetics and the similarities in our personalities always kept the limit of my father’s time on Earth in the back of my mind. It was never an obsession, but it was a bit of a pastime for a while :) I do, occasionally, feel like I’m living on borrowed time which, in many ways, makes every day just that much sweeter.

ADDENDUM: I have long known of the word triskaidekaphobia, which means “fear of the number 13″, but just discovered the existence of a word for “fear of Friday the 13th”, paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is far more specific.


Can I See You Now?

Reading Glasses

Life Savers for a Bibliophile

A little while ago I wrote about one of the “interesting” challenges I’m facing as I grow older. I was reminded the other day of another challenge; one that’s been around for a while but is taking on a slightly new dimension.

I have been wearing bifocals since I was about 40. Many people need glasses early in life, but almost everyone eventually suffers from Myopia as they age and need reading glasses. At the beginning I really didn’t need much more correction but, since reading was so important to me and an exercise I indulged in quite frequently, I decided to forego them in favor of full size spectacles. I did have a very slight astigmatism, which my lenses corrected for, but I would have been fine without them. This way, however, I didn’t have to wear something around my neck or have to continuously reach for a case to take out – and replace – my glasses in order to read.

As the years went by, I reached a point where my astigmatism was such that I needed the regular lenses as well and by then I was used to wearing glasses all day long; had been for years. I never even considered contact lenses as I didn’t think the extra work was worth it for whatever convenience (and vanity) it might afford. I even had a special pair of glasses made specifically with only my regular prescription, which I used exclusively for practicing and playing golf.

About a year or two ago, while I was driving (a car, not a golf ball) I happened to look at what I thought were a couple of birds flying in an amazingly tight formation. I remarked to my wife about the incredible closeness in which those two birds were flying. She looked at me like I was a bit nuts and pointed out there was only one bird. It wasn’t long before I realized my vision had finally begun to deteriorate a little more.

Unfortunately, by then I no longer had vision insurance and I just wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money on a new prescription and new glasses. I resolved to deal with it for as long as I could, but I’m getting tired of seeing every star and planet in the night sky with a small companion to its lower left. The Moon is now a somewhat featureless circle too. The other day, while driving to pick up my daughter from gymnastics, I noticed two women jogging closely together as I glanced down a side street I was passing. I knew there was really only one person, as they were both wearing the same exact clothing. I guess it’s about time to fix this before I become dangerous.

Photo via Flickr by Mr. T in DC


Heavenly Bacon . . . or Sky Bacon?

Sizzle, baby, sizzle

Death strips or Yummy Lozenges?

This blog is hosted by WordPress.com. I love it. It’s easy to maintain an organized, continuous presence on the web (assuming I post fairly frequently) and I have found it to be a continuously improving Content Management System as well, i.e. more than just a blog for me. This year the folks at WordPress launched a sort of challenge to those who use their services. It was to blog every day, if possible, or at least every week. I chose to accept the latter challenge, though I have declined to use the subjects they suggest every day.

However, today they suggested writing something about bacon and I just couldn’t resist. Having been raised in the world of smoked and luncheon meats (bologna, ham, hot dogs, head cheese!, liverwurst, and bacon – to name a few) I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with them. I am intimately familiar with almost all of them (head cheese was never a favorite of mine, but I’ve sold and delivered a fair amount), and I am pretty familiar with the health consequences of eating them, though there are lots of conflicting viewpoints; some with merit.

That said, I spent the summer between my first and second years of Law School (1974) working at a butcher shop in Gardena, California. We had a large, automated bacon-slicing machine and kept several hundred slabs of bacon around, which we sliced fresh each day. On Saturday, I would keep my eye on the case the sliced stuff was in and, when I noticed we had revealed a particularly lean part of the tray we laid out, I would snag a pound to take home for next day’s breakfast. My girlfriend at the time was from Vermont and we always had blueberry pancakes made on a Vermont Soapstone, drizzled with the best Vermont Fancy Maple Syrup. The bacon was thick-cut and the rind (skin) was left on, making each piece crunchy. These were incredible breakfasts, the memory of which has stuck with me all these years.

Now what does the title I’ve used have to do with anything remotely involved with bacon? There is a dessert found in many Mexican as well as Central and South American cuisines. It’s called Flan and, if you have not experienced it, think custard and Crème caramel for somewhat of an analogy. There are similarities. Like many dishes, there are numerous variants and the skill of the person baking it can change a delightful experience into a ho hum downing of a reasonably tasty sponge. Texture is quite important with this dish, IMO.

The type of Flan that stands out in my mind, however, is the Cuban version. It’s called Tocino del Cielo and it is – I guess – at least twice as rich as the kind I favor the most. For my tastes, it’s a little bit too rich. Nevertheless, it is clearly savored by quite a few people. Now to the title. I have always translated the name of this Cuban Flan in two different but related ways. The first is Sky Bacon or, literally, Bacon of the sky. My favorite translation, though, is Heavenly Bacon. Given that bacon is probably the richest meat you can purchase and cook without any preparation, I think attaching the word to an incredibly rich dessert makes some sense and, even though I find it a bit overbearing, adding heavenly kind of makes sense as well.

Do you know me (or someone who knows me)?

Six Degrees Probably Won't Cook This Dude

Do you like bacon, or do you think it will kill you to eat it? If the latter, do you eat it anyway?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,770 other followers

%d bloggers like this: