Category Archives: Health

Top Gun Fitbit

My buddy, Steve, treated me to a screening of Top Gun Maverick on Saturday for my birthday. Ironically, a day or two earlier, in response to a question posed on Twitter asking what fictional death affected me, I commented with a pic of Anthony Edwards as “Goose.” There have been quite a few, but his death in Top Gun really tore me up.

I’m hardly a movie critic, but I’ll offer this. My Fitbit HR5 measures my heart rate (among other things) and “awards” me points for a couple different levels of exertion. Although I was sitting still the entire movie, except for the occasional gulping of beer or munching of buttered popcorn, my tracker recorded about 50 minutes of an elevated heart rate. Make what you will of that.

I recommend the movie, but don’t listen to me. I’m a sucker for fast planes and dogfights — and vicarious emotional scarring.

GOOSE

Booster #2 Was a Killer!

Last Thursday (April 28, 2022) I left work a little early to get my second Moderna Booster shot. The nurse who administered the dose told me the 15-minute waiting period that had been observed for all three previous inoculations was no longer mandatory and I chose to go straight home. I only live a couple of minutes away from the Kaiser location here in my home town of Simi Valley, CA., and I have never had a sudden, bad reaction from any vaccine in my nearly 75 years.

Image of syringe and vial saying "Common Sense."
Anti-vaxxers are Idiots

I enjoyed the rest of the day, slept well (my Fitbit tracker and app noted I slept well, giving me a score of 82, which is good, not excellent) and got up at 6:00 am to head off to work. I was fine until about noon, when my body started to ache a little I attributed it to the rather heavy packages I had assembled and loaded into a container to be picked up that afternoon by the USPS. I didn’t think too much of it, though I worried I may have injured myself in a way that would preclude my being able to do my job.

I began feeling uncharacteristically lethargic and my legs felt a little rubbery. Finally, after completing some tasks that needed doing, regardless of how I was feeling, I chose to come home early. When I arrived I was beginning to feel pretty bad, but I still didn’t connect it to the booster I had received the previous day. Friday evenings are normally reserved for a short trip to the gym, then an evening of dinner and craft beer with a couple of friends.

I decided to do something I hardly ever do; take a nap in the afternoon. By 6:30, a half hour before I normally go to the gym, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it and texted my friend and former colleague to let him know I wouldn’t be making it that night. I went back to sleep and, according to my Fitbit, slept for close to twelve hours.

Yesterday was absolutely miserable. I experienced both the chills and cold sweats. I was at times dizzy, nauseous, and had no appetite at all. At one point I experienced a strong sense of dizziness, despite my being nearly asleep and horizontal. When I opened my eyes, the room was shifting back and forth as though I was looking quickly from side-to-side, yet I don’t think my eyes were moving. It was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had and I couldn’t help thinking it was a precursor to something I did not want to experience.

My wife, bless her heart, kept trying to get me to eat, but I wasn’t having it. I think I really pissed her off by asking her to leave me alone, that I would eat when my appetite returned. I can understand her worry, as I had slept nearly twelve hours Friday night and hadn’t eaten dinner. I ended up eating nothing all day yesterday and, after sleeping over nine hours last night, I finally had a half cup of coffee, a mini baguette, and a bowl of salad a few minutes ago. I’m still a bit nauseous and still experience dizziness, but it’s subsiding with each passing hour.

I finally got up this morning and am sitting at my laptop in my home office. I was able to do my daily bookkeeping, something I wasn’t the least bit interested in yesterday. I’m also taking the time to record my experience here. My youngest daughter, after asking me how I felt today, asked if I regretted getting the second booster, as I had no reaction from the first one. I told her I regretted that it knocked me down, but not that I received it.

I was diagnosed with Covid-19 on December 29, 2020 and spent the first week of 2021 quarantined in bed, miserable as can be – but I didn’t require hospitalization despite my age and numerous comorbidities. I received my first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine on 3/22/21 and 4/19/21, which was as soon as they were available. I experienced some discomfort and flu-like symptoms both times, but they only lasted a day. When I received the first booster on 11/24/21 I experienced nothing I would consider a side-effect.

I think what happened has to do with how hard I worked on Friday. With all three previous vaccines I was not working and was able to either stay home or stay in bed and was in no way exerting myself for a day or two. This time, however, I was at work climbing, lifting, and walking far more than I was doing before. I’m thinking all that extra effort sped up the internal distribution of the vaccine in my body, and it reacted in a way that I had not truly experienced before.

I plan on getting up tomorrow at 6:00 am and heading off to work. Monday is generally our busiest day and I’ll have lots of lifting and climbing to do. I think I’ll be up to it. That weird-ass feeling I had with my vision happened a couple more times yesterday, but it seems to have subsided. I look forward to discussing it with my doctor when the opportunity arises.


How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor

Came across this wonderful, reasonably short article about death and dying, a subject I have long been interested in; especially as I’m winding down my 75th year here.

Preparing for death by making peace with it.

Excerpt:

Source: How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor


Back In The Saddle

I posted the following to LinkedIn two days ago. It was the first time I’ve posted there in approximately two years. I was very apprehensive about sharing some of these personal details on the site, as I’ve always used it strictly for business, but I felt it necessary to explain to my over 1300 connections where I’ve been for the last two years. I’m gratified to be able to say it was more than well received and I am now jumping back into the fray as carefully (and delicately) as possible.


Hey everybody. Well, at least the people who know me and, perhaps, have wondered where I’ve been. Two years ago, my youngest daughter announced she wanted to drop out of school. She was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and concentrated on helping her deal with the issues that were causing her to feel like giving up was the best course of action. As an older, internationally adopted toddler, she was saddled with some difficult learning issues and has struggled to get through her classes. Fortunately, she has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which allows her teachers and the school to take those issues into consideration.

She is now a senior and is attending a school that is an independent learning academy. During the pandemic lock-down of our local schools, she thrived working at home. She has a problem with other children and having to work with dozens surrounding her has always been a challenge.

Her new school, coupled with a new medication for depression she started taking (and which seems to be working) has tamped down her anxiety, which means I’m not living moment-to-moment awaiting her next trauma and having to deal with it.

So – I’m just coming up for air after two years of trauma, exacerbated by the pandemic and my having been infected with Covid at the beginning of this year. I am still experiencing some long-haul symptoms, but am doing remarkable well for someone my age, with my comorbidities.

I may not be fully functional until next June, when she graduates (God willing and the creek don’t rise,) but I’m working on it and will be spending more time on LinkedIn as I seek a few clients/gigs. I’m deeply thankful I was in a position to spend as much time as I have with her, but I’m really looking forward to having more time to spend on myself and my continuing desire to be useful to others.


Who’s Counting?

From Worldometer.com

I’ve been following the inexorable path of this pandemic since the very beginning, primarily through Worldometer’s website located here. In early 2020, I was paying really close attention as the casualties mounted. I was recording the figures into a spreadsheet and plotting a graph of how deaths and infections were growing.

Sometime toward the end of the Summer I gave up; I had other things to do and the pandemic seemed to be waning. That was just before the Fall and Winter spike really ran up the numbers. Even then I didn’t return to recording and plotting. I decided to leave that to others as I was merely replicating what several organizations were already doing, and my desire to be able to pore over the data wasn’t enough to justify the time it would have taken.

On December 29, 2020 I tested positive for Covid-19 and spent the next ten days both quarantined in my bedroom and miserable with the virus. I came close to going to the hospital but, thankfully, it didn’t happen and I recovered. I am now fully vaccinated (Team Moderna) and have fully recovered, with the exception of a couple of “long-haul” symptoms: occasional fatigue; loss of smell (it returns intermittently); some brain fog … which is maddening but seems to be subsiding with time.

Through this time, I’ve continued to monitor the ebb and flow of this virus and its movement through the country. One thing that’s always struck me as odd is how the numbers really go down on the weekends. I’m pretty sure this is more an artifact of reporting, e.g. how many admin staff are home for the weekend, etc., but if you look at the graph (above) you can see a consistent drop in reported cases and deaths each and every weekend.

It’s almost as if the Grim Reaper doesn’t exactly take the day off, but certainly puts the brakes on every Saturday and Sunday. Maybe people are so accustomed to relaxing on the weekend that even the gravely ill manage to hang on through those days just out of habit. I know that being calm and taking care of business played a significant role in my recover. I was “lucky” in that I have dealt with lung issues most of my life, so I was closely attuned to what was happening to me and was able to relax and allow my body’s natural defenses to take over.

As the above graph clearly shows, we’re on the way down again, but I’m somewhat apprehensive that we’re going to see another spike as the weather cools down and people start spending more time indoors. I hope I’m wrong, but history seems to want to tell a different story than we’d all prefer was the case.


Who’s Counting?

I started writing this post a couple weeks prior to my 74th birthday. Then all hell broke loose with my younger daughter and I had to drop just about everything I was doing and work diligently with her. The issues remain and we’re still figuring out how best to deal with these newly surfaced problems, but I’m finally getting back to writing and posting here. The next four paragraphs were written in May. The rest was written today. If some of it seems a bit disjointed, it’s likely because I forgot exactly the point I was trying to make and have added a bit of speculation and a conclusion that may not track as well as they could. C’est la vie!

You’d think a man my age wouldn’t be paying close enough attention to approaching birthdays all that much and, for the most part, that may be true. It’s not like I’m obsessed with my birthday. There was at least one year where I completely forgot about it until my mother asked what I was planning. Many others have passed that weren’t all that important or memorable. But something has changed … very recently. I’m realizing the prism through which I view the world has tilted a bit. This tilt is primarily a result of my age and what it means for me as an individual and as a functioning member of society.

I’ve been giving it a little thought and I believe I understand the dynamics of what’s happening. When we’re young—and even into our 40s, maybe 50s—we’re generally looking forward to improving our lot professionally or with respect to how we make our living. Usually, with age and experience come greater responsibility and authority, as well as increased income and growing benefits … if you’re lucky. Once you reach retirement age, things begin to change. Suddenly opportunities aren’t as easy to come by. Advancement may even stop, with the exception of very few positions, which are reserved for only a few.

In most of the world age and wisdom are revered. The elderly are respected for their accumulated experience and knowledge. In the United States of America, that just isn’t the case. We are a society enamored of youth and derisive of age. We tend to toss people aside once they reach around 65 years of age; the deadline we’ve set for determining retirement eligibility. I’m way beyond that, but I’m just beginning to realize the changes I need to make in my thinking in order to smooth out my final chapters.

When I was in my thirties I came to the conclusion the only thing I was truly interested in achieving was wisdom. Yet I knew that it not only came with age, but one can’t merely hang out a shingle declaring oneself a wise person. That’s for others to determine. At least, that’s how I see it … if one isn’t a charlatan. What’s happening to me now is I’ve realized, viscerally as opposed to intellectually, I am at an age where growing older has nothing to do with improving my lot in life, at least not with respect to employment or professional standing.

I believe my task now is to strive to accept the physical and intellectual limitations brought on by the aging process, while strenuously working to minimize their destructive or deteriorating effects in whatever way I’m capable of. This is why I have been going to the gym to lift weights. It’s also why I write. As well, I’ve decided not to just sit back and be “retired.” I still have a great deal to say. I’m still deeply interested in the direction our country is going in. I care for my daughters and my wife and want to be here for them as long as possible, while staying as healthy and as “in touch” as possible.

I think there’s something deeper that’s going on with me and my view of the world, and I think I was approaching it when I began this post two months (approx) ago. Unfortunately, my memory is suffering from what seems to be a combination of old age (which might means either it’s degrading or I just don’t give a shit about many of the things I did before) and the lingering effects of having Covid-19 at the beginning of the year. Which means I’ll have a lot more to say about this as time goes by. Stay tuned!


My How I’ve Changed!

I just realized … of all the ways in which this pandemic has changed me, the biggest difference between now and a little over a year ago is … it’s turned me into an introvert. Linda used to complain that we were always the last to leave a party, which was true as I loved engaging not only my friends and relatives, but anybody who was interesting and willing to discuss a huge range of subjects.

I’m one of those people who readily starts up conversations with strangers; at least I used to be that kind of person. I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve gotten so accustomed to staying home and reaching out through Facebook, Twitter, and my blog that I no longer feel much of a need to get out of the house and do something.

OTOH, there is a part of me that’s kind of chomping at the bit; anxious to get back to the way things were, at least in terms of being able to go grocery shopping or eating out, etc. I’m fully vaccinated and, as most of my friends know, was infected with—and recovered from—Covid this past January. I’m about as safe as I’m going to be. I will continue to wear a mask when grocery shopping, but will also be looking for opportunities to go maskless.

Me and Alyssa at the gym

I have returned to the gym, along with my buddy, Steve, and my daughter, Alyssa. I don’t wear a mask when I’m there and neither does anyone else. I don’t participate in classes and work out on my own. I stay away from others and the gym has several overhead fans which move the air downward. Right now I’m trying to get back to lifting the weights I was working out with before everything shut down, as well as doing the amount of different exercises I had the stamina for last year. I expect it will take a bit longer at my age than it would have, say, thirty years ago, but I believe it will add to the time I have left on this planet.

Inasmuch as I’m seriously working on a memoir of my experiences becoming a first-time father five years after AARP got me in their sights, I expect to continue spending a lot of my time where I’m sitting right now. I’ve begun communicating with friends we traveled and spent time with in order to get their perspective and to help jar my memory of things in which we all participated.

Now I find myself wondering if I’ll retain some of these introvert tendencies. I learned a long time ago how to be alone without being lonely, and I’m quite comfortable with who I am and the path I’m on, but I am looking forward to how things will change once both of my girls are more fully on their own. Time (the thing I don’t have a great deal of at this point) will tell. I’ve often said I needed to live long enough to get the girls to adulthood, but I’d really like to live long enough to enjoy them as adults for a while. I’m shooting for at least 90, giving me 16 more years. Who knows, maybe I can make it to 100, which nobody in my family has ever reached. Maybe I’ll start surfing again at 80.


Now I’m getting excited for the future!


Gimme Some Skin!

This post reflects two basic “discoveries” I’ve made within the past couple of years. The first is the magnification my iPhone is capable of providing through its camera. I have been able to take some fairly spectacular pics of various items seen extremely close up and in sharp focus. I find the pictures I can take with it are (or can be) interesting and, at times, beautiful and ornate.

The second thing I discovered is that, although I come from a family whose elderly members weren’t very wrinkly as they aged, I recently began noticing I was developing “chicken skin” on parts of my body, most notably my arms. At nearly 74, I expect I can accurately be described as elderly, so I was a bit taken aback at first. I don’t recall exactly how I took the first magnified photo of the inside of my elbow or my forearm closely adjacent to it, but I found the contours and texture of my aging skin to be quite fascinating, if not at times somewhat freaky.

Here are four pictures—extreme closeups—of either the inside of my elbow or of my forearm just below it. I find the patterns both pleasing to look at and a bit mind-blowing to think of how evolution has developed this envelope for us to live in and be protected by. Its construction and flexibility are truly a wonder, especially when viewed up real close. We humans will no doubt one day be able to replicate human skin (we’re already getting there) and it’s fascinating to me to contemplate how we, in a matter of decades (centuries at the most, depending on how you define progress and accumulated knowledge) we’re creating analogues to naturally occurring physical elements that took millions of years to evolve. Don’t know about all y’all, but I’m fairly gobsmacked by the whole thing.


On The Cusp!

There are two books that have had an inordinately large effect on my life. One of them I can remember large parts of and can offer reasonably intelligent analyses of what the author was trying to say. The other one I can hardly recall one thing about, save for the overall message the author was trying to convey. The reason these two come to mind—and have affected me so greatly—is that they’re closely related conceptually and their messages resonate and overlap, at least as I see them and I’m pretty sure that’s about all that counts.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The first of these two books is “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” by Alan Watts. The second of these books is “Passages,” by Gail Sheehy. Without going into any detail, I’ll merely note that each of them speaks to the inexorable rhythms of life and the inevitability of change. They also offer a philosophical approach to dealing with those rhythms and changes that offers one a chance to navigate them with as little friction and pain as possible. I read the book by Watts in my early twenties. At the time I was head-over-heels in love with a young woman, but the relationship wasn’t to be and she broke up with me. I was young, impetuous, and prone to bouts of manic happiness and deep, dark depression.

I somehow found the book; how is lost in the mists of my slowly calcifying synapses. Perhaps it found me. It wasn’t the first book by Watts I had read. That was “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” which I found quite helpful in navigating the changes I was going through shortly after high school, a short stint in the U.S. Navy, a slightly longer stint as a businessman, a somewhat shorter flirtation with Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of ’67, and a steadily growing antipathy toward the nation’s conduct of the war in Vietnam.

Another thing I thought interesting, and somewhat serendipitous, was the juxtaposition of the release of two Beatles records that coincided with my reading of these two books by Watts. When I read “The Book: …” the Beatles had just released “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.” The book was kind of my introduction to Zen Buddhist philosophy and the concept of the dialectic as represented by the Yin-Yang symbol. I was beginning to understand the duality of nature and the essence of all forms of evolution. Some of the lyrics in the song point out that same kind of duality, e.g. “Your inside is out when your outside is in. Your outside is in when your inside is out,” and the title of the song seemed to resonate with Watts’s message that we needed to get in touch with our actual selves (our “inner monkey”) if we were to understand our place in the world and not color it with the expectations of others.

The second song, which coincided with my reading of “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” was “Let It Be” which, as I understood it was the message Watts was conveying about the reality there is no such thing as security, that all things are in a constant state of flux, and the only way to (paradoxically, a very Zen concept) achieve any semblance of security—no matter how ephemeral and transient it may be—was to stop seeking it.

Sheehy’s book, as I recall it (and I only read it once, whereas I’ve read The Wisdom of Insecurity three times) had a similar message, but it was less on a spiritual and philosophical level and more on a practical, everyday “here’s what to expect” kind of approach. She wrote of what she referred to as the “passages” we all go through as we age and gain experience, while everything around us is changing and moving forward.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I have reached a point (a passage, if you will) in my life where I find far too many reasons to prepare myself for the end. I’ll be 74 years old three months from today. Next month I will be fourteen years older than my father was when he died. I realize I’ve reached an age where I could, conceivably, live another decade or more, but I could also drop dead tomorrow. There sure are a lot of people doing it who are younger than me.

Throw in the reality that I still have two daughters at home, one of whom is a Junior in High School, the other a Freshman in College, and it’s producing a bit of a tension arc that I’m struggling to put behind me.

I’m not trying to be morose, or overly glum. I am, however, attempting to approach what is definitely the autumn (more likely winter) of my life with as much spring in my step and lightness in my heart as I can muster. I need to understand what this passage I’m experiencing is all about (Sheehy did not write about septuagenarians) and position myself to take advantage of all it might offer. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s always benefit to be found in nearly every situation, at least until there isn’t (if that makes sense.) I am an optimist, so even when I get deeply (perhaps depressingly) introspective, I usually snap out of it within a few hours or now more than a day or two.

I’m looking forward to what the next stage of my life is going to offer. Both of my girls will be on their own in a few years, God (or whoever’s in charge of these things) willing and the creek don’t rise, and Linda and I will be on our own again. The difference for us, is we won’t be in our early to late fifties, like most people who have their families when they’re no older than their thirties. As long as I know my girls are doing well and taking care of themselves (which is an entirely different story) I’ll be OK with whatever happens. I will say this. Not having to help with high school homework will be deeply enjoyable!

If I live that long. 🙂


Becoming a Switch Hitter

I am a southpaw, a left-hander. Big time! So much so that when my father tried to get me to golf right-handed (he said golf courses were built to favor righties) I just wasn’t able to do it. I played a little—he even bought me a beginner’s set of left-handed clubs—when I was 15, but came to the conclusion surfing was more my speed and gave up golf.

I actually have no plan to become a right-handed golfer, assuming I can ever golf again (that’s another story.)

When I took it up again at the tender age of 46, I still played left-handed, though I realized it would be helpful to my game if I spent a little time strengthening my right side, as well as improving my right-handed coordination. I set about doing some exercises and using my right hand more frequently. It was a bit haphazard, but I managed to become a bit more comfortable with it as time went by.

Last night I believe I came to the conclusion I need to change my handedness from left to right. The reason for this has nothing to do with golf, however. Sometime around a decade ago, I began to experience the effects of what is known as essential tremors. Also called familial tremors, the malady is genetic and generally affects one or more of three areas: the neck muscles, the hands and fingers, and vocal chords. My mother had them in her neck; she was, in her last years, a bobble-head.

My tremors show up in my hands and, ironically, they are worst in my left (dominant) hand. I am almost certain sometime in the next few years, I will experience them in my neck muscles as well. I can feel it coming on when I’m drinking any liquid I don’t sip. Not all the time; my hands don’t shake all the time either. When they do, though, it can be pretty had to do certain things. For instance, typing becomes next to impossible when they’re shaking, as is eating with a fork or a spoon.

Ironically, eating with hashi (chopsticks, in Japanese; my wife is Sansei) is much easier than eating with a fork. It might present a bit of a problem if grabbing whatever it is I wish to lift to my lips, but once I’ve got it grasped I can hang onto it because they shake in the same amount and same direction, and the food is securely pinched between the two pieces. This does not work with a fork or a spoon unless whatever it is I’m eating can be stabbed with the fork. Spoons are even worse because one eats things that are liquid and can spray all over the place when shaken as thoroughly as my left hand is capable of when it gets going.

For example, when I was in the midst of my battle with Covid-19, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t eat for a couple of days. Even though I could neither smell nor taste, I finally got hungry and my wife brought me a bowl of homemade chicken soup. She served it with one of the large, Chinese soup spoons we have, which are reasonably deep. As I raised a spoonful to my mouth, my hand began to shake violently and I sprayed hot soup all over myself and the bed. It was frustrating.

Last night I was eating some canned pears and cottage cheese; one of my favorite comfort foods (actually pineapple is my real fave, mixed with cottage cheese) and I was having a difficult time getting the spoon to my mouth without dropping or flinging the food hither and yon. Having done it once or twice before, I decided to try eating right-handed. It went much better than I had hoped for. So now, difficult as it may be at 73 years old, I’m going to start re-training myself to be right-handed. It won’t help with my typing, but I’m pretty sure it will improve my dining satisfaction … and that’s important. I may even begin eating with hashi right-handed as well. I’ve done it before and I know I can.

PS – Did you know that all the synonyms for “southpaw” are negative? According to thesaurus.com, these words are: ambilevous; awkward; clumsy; dubious; gauche; insincere; maladroit; sinister; and sinistral.


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