Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas List

If you read this blog, you may have come across my typical late November post of what I want for Christmas.  I would list several things and typically each year, I would get one or two.  Then one week before Christmas, I would edit the post and remove the items.  Some think that is mean, others never knew it was there while some think I should just tell them what I want.  But what s it about gifts at Christmas.

It is hard to imagine celebrating Christmas in the modern world without thinking about giving gifts. But, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do we give gifts at Christmas?” In some ways, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is a very ancient tradition. In other ways, giving gifts at Christmas is a relatively new development.

In the Christian religion, the practice of giving gifts at Christmas is traced back to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that were given to the Christ child by the three Magi. The magi were kings from the East, wise men who traveled a great distance following a star, to find the Christ child and to bring him gifts. The visit of the Magi to the Christ child was originally celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.

Over time, the tradition of giving gifts came to be more associated with Christmas than with Epiphany. It is the time from Christmas to Epiphany in the Church calendar – from December 25th through January 6th – that is recognized as the “twelve days of Christmas” from the old Christmas carol.

To be certain, the ancient Church did not “celebrate” Christmas as much as it “observed” Christmas as a holy day. It wasn’t really until the modern era that giving gifts to love ones at Christmas became more and more popular as the Middle Ages ended and the modern era began. Various countries and peoples began to make gift-giving a regular part of the holy day (or “holiday”) over a period of time. By the time the Americas were settled, giving gifts at Christmas was practiced by many of the settlers. The early Dutch settlers to America introduced St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, to the new world. The early French and English settlers, in contrast, were more likely to give gifts at New Year’s or at Epiphany.

Ultimately, a common Christmas culture developed in which gifts were given on Christmas. In the nineteenth century, the idea of gift giving took on new dimensions, as the works of O. Henry, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Nast all helped to shape our concepts of Santa Claus and other aspects of the holiday.

Today, we all give gifts at Christmas for our own reasons. For some, it is a way to celebrate the Christian holy day. For others, it is a special time to let family and friends know that you care by giving gifts. At times, giving gifts at Christmas becomes almost mechanical, and a chore; when this happens, it is worth stepping aside for a few moments to consider why exactly you give gifts at Christmas.

So what good is it to tell someone what you want for Christmas?  I believe Christmas is not about gifts, but sharing human love and friendship.  I recently went to visit my father and when I left to return home, I told my sister if he dies tomorrow, at least I know he will die happy.  Giving another human happiness is much more than any gift you can purchase, and it is not easy.

Each year I am more trouble about this tradition.  This year, I have nothing on my Christmas list you can purchase.  Here is what I want:

  • My father to find peace with all the things he regrets
  • Addie Grey to find happiness and stability
  • Get back on track emotionally and physically
  • My niece to find a good future after having two children and then have the father is a worthless father.
  • My Girlfriend’s daughter to be safe as she prepared for her first child
  • For people to smile and help a neighbor shovel the driveway 

Basically, you get the drift.  Be kind all you meet and yourself.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When enough is enough

Once upon a time, I was healthy.  There was a time when I did not lack enough energy to get me through the day.  A time when sleep came easy and I was always well rested.  A time sadness was never in my soul.  That was replaced with a time when everyone was being told with all the commercials touting energy drinks for America’s tired masses, I was happy I was not the one suffering.  Now I am!

That was a time when I never dreaded the coming cold and flu season.  This was a time when it appeared everyone but me developed some degree of germophobia.  But then came the two six letter words into my life.  Once they enter you soul, it is hard to stop.  One is that wonderful white substance that once you have it, it is hard not to crave more!  The other is moving up in a career and complexities in life create emotions that impact the body greatly.  If you have not guessed, it is SUGARS and STRESS.

Looking back at my life and diet when I ran a little over three hour marathons, I was never tired and never was ill.  I was trying to compare that era to now. 

My job was simple, come in, do a task, go home.  It was a job that you could never be behind and carry the work home.  I never had to monitor people or have a job that was at risk.  I had little overall responsibility for anything but myself.   I ate very little, if any processed sugar.  In fact, I never had a craving.

I came to this conclusion I have been denying when I, for the hundredth time, hear some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. Several experts have scientific evidence that sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this makes sense to me — a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome.  I recently learned that a metabolic syndrome drastically impacts sleep as well.  Those who know me know I have major sleep issues.  On top of this, one in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer.

According to many theories, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.

So today is my quest to no longer eat foods that contain added sugar.  Yep, it will be hard but I want to cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice.  I will exclude anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), I will avoid it, and this will be difficult.

I mean we find sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. I ask, “Why add all of this sugar”?  I read it is to make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.  Again, whatever the wealthy greed needs to increase the investment income.

Call me crazy, but I see the benefits avoiding added sugar for a year have done for my girlfriend.  She went from not being able to run to doing biathlons.  Before she went sugarless, that struck me as a grand adventure for her.

So I am going to try.  No, I am going to rid my body of processed sugar and unnecessary salts.  I know how hard it will be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping could change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make me healthier. For my girlfriend, not eating sugar makes her feel better in a real and tangible way.  I want what she has and no diet or pill will get it for me.  I believe the devil is in the sugar.  I am willing to try.  Although, I am told that it will take up to six month to feel the real benefits.

I anticipate the longer I go without sugar, the better and more energetic I should feel.  I will eventually surrender to the sugar craves, but I have a goal of understanding and not falling way off the wagon.  So I have a rule, more than an allowance to rid of guilt when I have sugar.  I could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month. I expect with a few months, I will notice my palate to change, and slowly, I will enjoy the monthly “treat” less and less.

I recall when I was primarily sugar free and I was given my favorite pie, COCONUT CREAM PIE.  I recalled when I ate the decadent multi-layered coconut cream, I recall not only did I not enjoy my slice of pie as much as when I regularly indulged in sugar; I would not even finish it.  Right now in my life, I not only finish it, but I crave the whole damb pie and may even eat a second if it was in the house.  My girlfriend tells me how eating heavy sugar actually makes her teeth hurt her head would begin to pound.  Her heart would begin to race and she felt awful.  She tells me “I know now it was sugar that always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”

I think I will try to rid me of one of the six letter words I gained.  I expect my body will be thanking me for it. If my guess is right, I won’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I will no longer feel the urge to go and hide under the bed.  I think I will feel less depressed.  I will get sick less and get well faster. If my guess is right, this will be nothing to sneeze at when everyone. 

I have been reading the book Salt Sugar and Fat.  I have come to realize I am the person to blame for my health, but food processing companied sure does not make it easy.  It is all part of the stock owners greed to take whatever steps you can to make them more money.  For that, they need to make me want is more.  It is a mind-altering drug and it is legal. 

Wish me well my friends. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peroneal Tendinitis

I have experienced ankle pain since July.  It evolved into a pain that made it difficult to walk at times.  I felt a little sore after the Colorado to Minnesota bicycle ride and followed those three weeks later with Grandmas Marathon.  After Grandma’s Marathon I felt just fine for a few weeks, then it progressively started to be painful.  I guess I should have expected a few issues but waited for three months to visit the physician.

The Orthopedic surgeon viewed several ex-rays and determined I had severe Peroneal Tendinitis.  He recommended physical therapy.  The physical therapist said I was very tight.  The range is typically Plantar extension is 40 degrees and I am at 18 and the average Doral extension is 20 degrees and I have 4 degrees.  I have solid inversion with 32 degrees where 30 is good but the radial is 6 degrees where 20 degrees is ideal.  So therapy it is with hard exercise to get full mobility and hopefully reduce the pain.

After three sessions I feel better but it still hurts.  I began to understand the importance of maintaining muscle elasticity, for the whole body.  I have placed my stretching routine on the back burner.  I forgot there are multiple reasons to increase your muscular elasticity, or flexibility. Improvements in range of motion and athletic capability, stress reduction and better sleep are all benefits of a regular stretching routine.  This really makes sense as I evaluate my past and sleep has been impacted much for years.  I am going to start a full body stretch routine for every other day and see the impact on sleep.

I understand to improve the muscle elasticity; I will focus on improving my flexibility and range of motion through regular flexibility-training exercises. The elasticity of a muscle refers to its ability to stretch into a particular shape. I fully understand as the human body ages, it loses some of its natural muscular elasticity, making flexibility training a good addition to your exercise routine at any age. How stupid to forget!

So onward I go looking funny in these moves that are made for the ultra slim individual.  I feel like a weeble, for those old enough to know what I mean. 

Any suggestions for a routine?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another Month, another life taken…

I spent the better part of the morning crying for someone I had only briefly known.  A young man of 16 decided life was not worth continuing and ended his life.  That makes 8 people I knew personally this year and then there are the four I knew of but no personal connection who took their lives as well.

I will never understand, but at times I wonder if I do?  I have that innate ability not to quit, so I see things and approach difficult times differently.  I always understand life is what we make of it. 

I have a co-worker who is ill often, who will often complain about how much he does not enjoy his work.  He feels under-appreciated and just wants to quit his job.  He said he wished he enjoyed his work half as much as I did.  He was shocked when I said for the past 6 months, I HATE my job.  I despise getting up and coming to work, as it is a heavy burden without much satisfaction.  He said no one would ever know that, as I am always joyful and very productive.

I explained life is what we make of it.  I explained during many of the marathons and longer races I finished, I hated running.  Riding my bicycle from Denver, Colorado to Minneapolis, Minnesota there were several times I hated biking.  But just like life, there are ups and downs and what forms us is how we use attitude to get through the lows.  The there is joy from getting through the hell we often find before us on a daily basis.

I am in an all time low right now.  Not sure anyone cold tell, because I know I was not put on the earth to quit and smile as I work through the lows.  It is a shame so many acquaintances have found it easier to quit.  I will never understand and for that I guess I am blessed.  May you never quit and use a positive attitude to enjoy the life you have before you.

Carry on my friends, Carry on…

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

52 and counting

No this is not my 52nd marathon, my 52nd day of dieting, etc...  No I turned 52 years old.  As a social experiment, I have not been on Facebook since June.  Before I left the world of social media, I purposely made my birthday invisible.  Last year, I had over 100 Happy Birthday wishes, this year, three…  What does that mean, nothing but it shows without social media, how many birthday wishes would you get?

I have something to admit…I’m not good at accepting gifts from people. I always have this awkward feeling and try to refute the gift or reduce what someone would like to give me. It may at first seem like this is really noble of me, and I think it was at first trying to be, but really it’s not. In fact, I’m really just putting myself ahead of others.

When I was a teenager, I had the thought that I didn’t want to get so excited about getting presents from people at my birthday or Christmas. This was partly to save myself from any potential disappointment (yet plain black socks…again) but also because I thought that it was good to not be obsessed with “things” and presents embodied “things” to me. So there was only one option, be pessimistic, put on a dower face and not get that excited over what was happening but instead enjoy the people around me more.

Now is that humble! I totally got over that whole wanting stuff thing haven’t I…oh wait. Actually no. In fact, in many ways I was more obsessed by things than ever before…it was just that I had the power to buy them for myself! On top of that I was looking at things legalistically and not acting out of love.

When I got a present I didn’t think about the other person at all I just focused on how I felt and making sure that I was right. I didn’t think about the effort the other person might take in choosing a gift or anything else. This wasn’t just limited to just birthdays but to any gift that people wanted to give me. Every time the same dance would occur “Oh, you shouldn’t have…I can’t accept that etc”.

It was all a power battle and I was more proud than ever before.  I never considered how it might be nice for someone else to give a gift to me and for it to be received gratefully.

So why am I talking about receiving gifts? Well this weekend was my 52nd birthday.  For the most of human history, to be old is a mark of honor.  Today it is a source of fear.  Fear of losing health.  Fear of losing the active lifestyle that made me happy.  Fear of being poor in the retirement years.  I remember when 52 seemed ancient – and now I can’t believe that I am past 50 and relentlessly getting older. I once was a fanatic about what I eat and how much I exercise daily. I would run five to six days a week, work out with weights, doing resistance training a few days a week and a core training once a week. I would go for regular semi-annual medical check-ups to monitor all the signs of health (or lack of it).

Often I let myself totally pig out, and I eat whatever I feel like eating.  I eat out of stress — usually that means a lot of junk food.  I am doing whatever I can to fight the relentless march of time.  But stress of life has changed me!

In celebration of my aging quickly, I Shelley made me dinner and took me to a play.  We went home afterward and enjoyed carrot cake.  We called it a night and I woke early to work on the backlog of items in that duty they call a job.  Not sure why I am so dedicated to doing the best I can in my profession and let myself go?  I often wonder if I could do what others can do for easy pay and little stress.  But that is like stealing.  What I mean is they leisurely work through the day reporting for work at 8:00 AM and taking 30 minutes to get ready for work and at 4:10 PM get everything set so I can bolt out the door at 4:30 without any care.

Anyway, today, I got another gift.  It was a book.  I am not a fiction reader and finding books that make me interested is hard.  It was an unexpected gift. A welcomed gift.  For once in my life I did not feel like “you shouldn’t have” or gees’, thanks so much.  This was a really good feeling.  For some reason, it was really a personal and caring thought that for some reason left me happy and speechless.  That does not happen to me, but it was a welcomed feeling.

Oh the book, it was “what if: serious scientific answers to absurd hypotheticalquestions” and it is a book I will be able to read over and over as it is just not a dead read, but a book that makes me think deep, very deep.