Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Pain, No Gain

No pain, no gain is a popular theory used by trainers, athletes, jocks of all sorts and of course me. If you look back at several earlier blogs I have resumed exercising (walking / slogging) this year with great results. I have lost over 35 pounds since February and my blood pressure is normal. Along with the reduced weight (from technically obese to almost an ideal weight) my sugar level has dropped significantly.

My 5K time has decreased from about 50 minutes to 41 minutes on my last timed outing. Emboldened by my own results I started to run more during my weekly treadmill sessions. I would walk 2 or 3 minutes then run 1 minute; sometimes I would run 2 minutes. This is a valid form of interval training used in many training regimes to increase overall results; it is used with time, speed or repetitions of any physical activity at all levels. This has come with considerable effort and sweat.

Usually I have ample time after work to exercise but one particular day I was rushed and wanted to get home early and I decided to run an entire mile without stopping. My time was 13 minutes and 8 seconds and I felt great. Several days later I walked (with some interval jogging) slightly over 2 miles in 27 minutes and again I felt great. 

The following Saturday I started my fast walk with some slogging and finished the first mile in just over 13 minutes, a great time with no noticeable problems. Just as I started the second mile I felt a slight discomfort in my left hip but I continued to walk at a good pace and finished the second mile with a total time of 27 minutes. But as I got off the treadmill the discomfort increased and I neglected to stretch out after my walk.

Pain is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Are You Happy?

This seemingly benign question poised to me by a friend presented an opportunity to think about my happiness.  Was I happy?  This casual comment cascaded into a serious thought provoking quest. Where does one find the answer to this eternal question?  What is happiness?

Dictionaries are useless: the dictionary defines happiness as the state of being happy, with happy defined as delighted, pleased, or merry.

Does that mean do I go around smiling and skipping all day?  I think not.  Adults are sometimes institutionalized for public skipping.  Some of us describe our wedding day as the happiest day of life; perhaps we were thinking of our wedding night.

Children can be happy with an ice cream cone on hot summer day, or with a new video game. For the child perhaps this is happiness; but not for this writer.   Although, I must admit I do love ice cream.

I did what every 21st Century blogger would do, I googled happiness.  The happiness search resulted in 281 million hits, too much to actually research.  There is even a Happiness Journal.  So I refined my search and used the term contentment.   Contentment assumes a more peaceful state, of being at ease. Contentment is a trait that seniors are assumed to possess by virtue of their life’s experiences.  This search resulted in only 13 million hits.  More manageable, but not something I would not attempt to review in a short period of time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Things Seniors Need

Recently an on-line article (credited to AARP) "25 things Senior Citizens don’t need" caught my attention.  A litany cute items were on the list.  Of course we don’t need a 36-roll package of toilet paper or a 2-gallon container of mayonnaise from our favorite wholesale store.  Nor do we need three hundred HD channels from the local cable company.   Most these items would make a very long email joke; I am sure that this list is now circulating and will outlast all of us.
But a serious question is implied: What do seniors need?  Doctors, social workers and scholars could develop a list of worthy real needs.  A list of medications comes to my mind instantly: to share with doctors and emergency responders.  Another need would an emergency contact list, a file of important documents and the list goes on. 
I’ve made a top ten list of things Seniors really need.  Perhaps need or things are not the correct words.  I consider them qualities or behaviors that are essential for a person’s well being.  

  1. Spouse or friend:  We are social creatures and loneliness is not a pleasant situation.  Be involved with people; if you can’t be with them pickup the phone and tell them you love them, miss them and make a point to meet.
  2. Good food:  A good diet, one that is appropriate for your health issues is important.  Good food includes occasional indulgences or a meal out of the home, and even perhaps a glass of wine or beer.  Treat yourself to a special dinner at your favorite restaurant occasionally. 
  3. A good book:  Loose yourself in the adventure of reading a best seller, an old classic, or just anything that interests you.  Don’t spend you days or evenings only watching TV. 
  4. Share or teach a skill you possess:  Teaching is truly a wonderful experience.  Passing on your knowledge and helping others learn new concepts, ideas and knowledge gives one a feeling of value.  Or take a class and learn something new or expand your area of expertise.  Read at the local library or school. 
  5. Daily routine:  Have a schedule of things to do, places to go to or meetings to attend.  Keep a calendar for these activities, have a routine.  Don’t wait for things to happen.  Stay busy.  Visit a neighbor or a morning walk with a friend could included in your routine. 
  6. Dreams and goals:  Work on a bucket list of places to visit or things to do, grand or modest.  Desire is a human trait that gives our lives a purpose.  We are not lumps on a log.  We need to have a purpose.  Visit that old high school friend, go on a picnic, or travel to the near or far corners of the world.  Visit the historic neighborhoods in your area. 
  7. A good doctor:  We may hate to visit them, but we need them.  You know your body; you know what your normal is.  Tell the doctor how you feel, they are not mind readers.  They want to help you. 
  8. Hobby:  Keeping busy with a purpose can fill the days.  It can be knitting, photography, any number of collectables, writing, wood working, jewelry making and on and on.  Every hobby has a magazine and group of participants.  Purposeful activities keep us sharp and interesting. 
  9. Be optimistic with a measure of skepticism:  We live in a complicated, sometimes confusing world.  Look for the bright side of life.  But remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is not true.  
  10. Responsibility: Somebody is counting on you.  It could be your spouse, your children, a friend or even your pet.  They need you and it is your duty to be there for them.

Ruby is a senior citizen
KISS.  Knowledge is so stimulating.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why my wife's retirement is good for us.

This blog started with the thought that my wife’s retirement was good for me.  Six reasons flashed into my mind and then into my notes for this blog.  

  1. No more rushed dinners when I come home at the same time or just before her. 
  2. Reduced number of weekend supermarket trips. 
  3. She’s home when I come home, it feels like a 1950’s sitcom. 
  4. She can meet me for lunch.  
  5. A typical morning question before I go to work is, “What can I do you for you today?”  
  6. My laundry duty has been reduced to bringing a full basket to the laundry room in the morning. 
While all these points are true I realized it was a list of me, me, and more me.  Even the idea of a blog about why her retirement is good for me sounds a little narcissistic.  Why should I sound this way?  In an instant I switched my thoughts to why my wife’s retirement is good for her.

  1. She deserved it.  She’s worked long enough and maintained our family while working full time. 
  2. More time to devote to her needs, both physical and mental. 
  3. She’s home when I come home (sound familiar), which means she is not rushing to make dinner. 
  4. No need to prove her value.  She’s done it all and while she worked. 
  5. She can meet me for lunch (sound familiar).   Which we now do about once a month.  
  6. Someone has to take care of the dog, the most valuable member of our family.
We are both happier now that she is home.  It is a win, win position for both of us.  I prefer the situation as it is now, a pretend 1950’s sitcom without the kids, noisy neighbors, or calamities.  The real test will come when I am home on weekdays.  Will my retirement be good for me and our family dynamic?  I can’t wait to find out.  But that will have to wait a few more years.
KISS.  Keep it Sane Soul Mates.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

M.H. Levine: How do you say no to a Teddy Bear?

Recently I went to M.H.’s (he is commonly known by his initials) office to interview him for my blog.  I was greeted enthusiastically by an imposing figure; the former college football player carried his size gracefully and I felt at ease immediately.  He answered my first question (How are you?) with “Old on the outside, but not on the inside,” with a smile.
University of Arkansas
He related a story about a friend of one of his six daughters who needed to “shadow” him and some of his staff for week for a project but was afraid to ask directly.  The friend was afraid of M.H.; he is a large man with a commanding presence and booming voice.  His daughter convinced her friend that her father was a Teddy Bear, a view I came to agree with as our morning together progressed. 
Before our interview I had known M.H. only in a superficial manner; I was pleasantly surprised when he quickly said yes to my request for an interview for my vague, yet to be finalized idea to start a blog on Working Seniors.  M.H. is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Services and his agency provides social services for thousands of clients in San Antonio and his work schedule is full.  But he made time gladly and I got the impression that he had his phone on do not disturb for our session.
When I asked what he loved about working in the non-profit world he changed the question to reflect about his parents, whom he obviously loved.  His story began when his parents visited a local hospital to learn about adoption and went home with a blue-eyed baby.  He described his parents as loving, caring, color-blind people who helped many people when he was growing up, with money, clothes, bail and even funeral help.  In Pinebluff Arkansas in the forties and fifties they were unique.  Their way of life became M.H.’s way of life. 
Many of the management techniques used in the operation of a non-profit agency are different from those used in for-profit companies, but there are many skills that can cross-over.  M.H. crossed-over without hesitation.  He told me that in many businesses the boss’s word is law and that outcomes are usually clear and can be measured easily.  In his current work the outcomes are not so accurately measured and that makes evaluation of success more difficult; more staff involvement in the entire process is necessary.  Ultimately, the agency director has to make the final decisions but staff involvement is required.  M.H.’s style is semi-democratic: he has fifty votes and each staff member has one each, but a vote is never taken.  They discuss the issues and problems until the right path is found, one that is in the best interest of the clients and meets the agency’s goals.
The Beatles’ song “The Long and Winding Road” might describe M.H.’s path to his current position as Executive Director of a non-profit agency.  He served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for six years; this was followed by a number of business positions in the food and logistics industry until he was 60.  He served several years on a non-profit board which was his introduction to the non-profit world.  When he returned to his hometown to be near his elderly mother an old hometown friend asked him what he was going to do.  That chance meeting led to a position with Neighbor to Neighbor in Pinebluff Arkansas as its director.  M.H. began phase two of his working career, directly helping others.  At 60 years of age he marched down an entirely new career path; he felt instantly comfortable with that decision and with the work.  Years later his wife, Natalie, told him this was what he was destined to do.
I asked him about his plans to stop working. 
“I have no plans to stop,” his answer was straightforward and clear, without any equivocation.  That ended any follow-up questions about what’s next.
We spent a significant of amount time discussing his return to college to obtain a Masters in Business Administration.   He graduated the day before his 70th birthday.  M.H. graduated with a real degree, earned by hard work, not with an honorary degree or a degree based on work experience.  He was excited and proud of this unique accomplishment. 
For many years he wanted to return to school but lacked the confidence to return for an advanced degree.  But years of experience eventually gave M.H. the confidence he needed.  He found a program that suited his needs and enrolled in a Masters in Business Administration program at the Phoenix University.  M.H. elected to take the traditional route of a classroom program, rather than an on-line option.
He took 12 courses over an 18 month period; each course was four hours per week for four weeks.  Each course required 600 pages of reading per week with weekly written assignments.  It was a grueling schedule.  He worked every evening on his homework and often pulled an all night session.  On weekends he spent hours at a local library reading, removed from the distractions of his home.  He says without the support and help of his wife and staff members he could not have earned the degree.  M.H. is modest about his accomplishment, but he was profuse in thanking others for their help.
Phoenix University’s approach to the degree program impressed M.H.  They required the students in each class to form teams.  The teams created a charter of operations; they divided tasks among the members and encouraged each other to succeed.  That process strengthened each member by working on their weak points and utilizing their strong areas for a better team effort.  Each team had to make a group presentation at the end of the class.  M.H. says he learned as much from the team approach as he did from the books and the actual class work.  He thinks he has carried some of this team approach to his role as a director of a busy agency. 
His goal when he started the degree program was to “to do a better job.”  He was not promised an increase in salary or a better job if he obtained the degree, nor did he expect it.  M.H. was entirely motivated to do a better job and that he has accomplished. 
At the beginning of this blog I mentioned M.H. is what most people commonly call him.  We spoke briefly about his name.  During his degree program one professor called him Levine, while his classmates called him M.H.  The professor told him that M.H. is not a name, it is just initials.  Many of his Air Force fellow officers called him Moe, a form of his first name.  As a child many children transformed the letters M and H into a word, Maych.  I never really delved into how he became known as M.H.; perhaps if I knew the reason it would change my impression of the man.  So while I know his name, I prefer to call him M.H.  Both the name and the man are unique.
Natalie produced a video tribute of his life for his 70th Birthday and Graduation celebration.  It was grouped into ten year segments, highlighting significant events and milestones in his life.  Natalie titled the video “The best is yet to come.”  Friends and family at the celebration would probably agree that, judging by the long winding trail he has taken so far in life and his accomplishments, the best is yet to come.
When we finished our meeting he fell back onto to an old habit of a salesman.  He asked for an order.  The order was a request to help his agency with a project he felt would improve the agency. 
So how do you say no to a Teddy Bear?  You don’t and I agreed to help.

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