Sunday, May 27, 2012

Time for a Change (of exercise routine)

In 2011 I started dieting and walking as a means of improving my health. I touted the simplicity of the exercise plan: treadmill walking only. Several years ago I used a trainer and developed a weight / machine plan that fell by the wayside soon thereafter. Now after a year of walking I have revisited the simplicity aspect and found a weakness in that theory: variety is absent.

Earlier this year I participated in several organized 5K events with modest success. I finished without collapsing, dying, or not finishing. Getting outdoors made my efforts feel more real; seeing people, feeling the breeze in my face, seeing birds and deer added a new dimension to my walks. But still something was missing; my pace and total times remained fairly constant to my disappointment. I will never be a speedster but being a bit faster (before my eventual slowdown due to age) would be nice. No improvement in my performance had occurred in recent months and I had hoped to improve.

It was obvious that I needed a change (something that I advocate in many areas of life) of technique as a means of improving my performance. Some research and thought lead me to two choices. A local running club that organizes one of the 5K events that I participate in has a 5K training program beginning next month and my health club offers a variety of conditioning classes that warranted serious consideration. The running club’s program would be for eight Wednesdays at 6 pm at a local park. One of the conditioning classes is given on Sunday morning. Have you ever experienced late summer afternoons in San Antonio? The temperature could easily be over 90ยบ and that fact alone is the main reason I decided on the indoor Sunday morning class.

Do you remember your awkwardness when you started at a new school as a child or the first day at a new job? The first time anyplace can be somewhat daunting. I remember my first writers’ group meeting a few years ago and the level of uncertainty I felt just trying to figure out where to sit or how will I introduce myself. On a recent Sunday I found myself experiencing one of those moments as I walked into the Conditioning Room at the health club and faced a dozen new faces and a high intensity instructor.

The class participants went to a storage closet and began moving a variety of items onto the exercise floor area: steps, bar bells, hand weights, stretching bands, balls and a large semi-circle rubber ball – nameless and purposeless to me. Later I found myself balancing on the rubber ball on one foot and I still didn’t know the name of this torture item. An image of a giant medicine ball pushed around by a 100 sweaty men during basic training momentarily flashed through my head.
Without many instructions the music began, the instructor tells me to follow one person and we begin. I am lucky I can do waltz for a few minutes, now I find myself trying to keep time to the music as I moved up and down on the steps. I almost broke out in laughter at my efforts. Finally I found a rhythm for one move and stuck with it for several minutes. Then to my surprise, we stop and shuffle off to the gym for laps (yes, laps!). One lap forward, then one backwards. After a few laps we return to the Conditioning Room and rotate to a different exercise. Now I am hefting a barbell behind my shoulder for lifts and lunges. Each series of exercises is intermixed with laps in the gym.

Once or twice the instructor encourages me with a bit of guidance or a curt instruction. I point to my knee and even so “NO” at one point. At this stage of my life I know my limits and will approach them but not exceed. A friend of Iris’ recently went all out at a single Zumba class and couldn’t walk for a week.

Near the end of the hour we head to the gym and the instructor tells us to sprint. We sprint to one end, stop and then sprint back. Fortunately, I am not last. In fact, one participant doesn’t sprint, run or walk at all. He just stays near the exit, waiting to go back to the class.

Stretching moves and cool down time end the session. To my surprise I am not dead or laying prostrate on the floor. I have survived. The sole after affect is some thigh soreness the next day, which is gone by my Tuesday 2 mile walk.

More will be written about my progress in the future. In the meantime, I am looking for my next 5K charity walk. I’ve got to go now because I am off to my torture class, oh, I, mean Conditioning Class.

Mystery item - Bosu Ball

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Life's Detours

When I headed out the door as a teen my father would routinely ask, “Where are you going?” Often I had a straightforward answer and at other times I would answer, “I don’t know or out.”

This undefined destination most often would be met with some disapproval and his stock response, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

Growing up I never seemed to have defined goals or direction. My parents worked fulltime and I was often left to my own devices. My sister was eight years older than me and our lives never seemed to be in sync with each other; she was in college while I was in junior high school and out of the house before I graduated high school. I wasn’t wild or very mischievous, just undirected.

The only goal my parents set for me was that I wouldn’t go to the vocational high school with a friend of mine; I would go to the regular high school and prepare for college. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I would study in college or do later. Needless to say my first attempt at college was a disaster which resulted in me leaving, losing my student-draft exemption and serving three years in the army.

After my stint in the army I began to formulate general goals and plans, but not very lofty. Go back to college, teach electronics (which I learned extensively in the army), marry and have a family. Slowly the generalized plan materialized and then rapidly changed. I did graduate college with a BA and later received an MA. My teaching career lasted only five years before I moved and entered the business world, which lasted fifteen years. Then I moved on to a religious non-profit organization for ten more. Then back to business. I was meandering through various careers. Intermixed with the working life, family and volunteer activities filled a lot of gaps and had its own satisfactions.

I guess I never knew my eventual destination. Yes, there were detours. But the journey has been interesting and mostly rewarding. Perhaps not knowing my destination made the trip an adventure, full of surprises and interesting people. I learned the most about business from my worst boss. What if I had a definite goal and failed or worse didn’t like it once I arrived? The next time you see a detour sign on the highway don’t get frustrated but rather look it at as a chance to get off the beaten path, out of the rut of life, as an opportunity to see your world from a different viewpoint.

Now my goals are less long range and more specific and immediate. Go to the club after work, formulate my weekend to-do list, consider the exercise class Sunday morning instead of a walk and talk to Iris about a weekend trip soon. And, of course, make time to write my blog and read. Shopping, laundry and cooking duties (which I actually enjoy) will be added as Iris continues to slowly recover. Not exciting but rewarding. I enjoy the Zen of just doing and not worrying about getting someplace specific.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Week in the Life of ...

Week in Review

I’ve decided to reflect and write about a slice of my life. Rather than concentrate on my whole life I’ve focused on a single week. In an unscientific manner I have sampled my life by viewing a single week.

My life consists of 68 years for total of 3536 weeks, minus 1177 weeks for sleeping, 780 weeks of my first 15 years, 68 weeks for eating and 22 weeks for showering and other personal care needs leaves a total of 1487 weeks to reflect upon. I think that given my self imposed limit for a blog a single week feels about right.

After careful consideration I have chosen last week. Perhaps that week is typical and then it may be an aberration. But it is the week I remember best. I’ve probably had better and worse weeks, sillier and more meaningful weeks but remembering the details is a stretch of the imagination. So last week it is.

Monday found me catching up to wife at the surgeon’s office for her first post-op visit. The healing of the incision is going smoothly and without any indications of problems. On the other hand the nerve repair will take six months to year to know if the problem has been solved. The downside is there is still leg pain that comes and goes. Good news and test your patience news. Nothing in life is certain except dessert. You won’t know until you know if it is any good.

Tuesday evening we went out Dutch treat for my niece’s 40th birthday. One of my sons joined us and about twenty others at a casual restaurant (read as noisy) for the celebration. Any day with family and cake is okay in my rating system of days.

Wednesday I took the day off for VA and routine medical appointments. The added bonus for the day was lunch with my wife at a small (cheap) Mexican restaurant and plenty of time at the health club for 3.3 mile walk. At lunch we ran across a former co-worker who is recovering from a blood cancer but was hopeful that he had turned a health corner. We had time to visit a neighborhood friend whose home is being remodeled through one of the TV remodeling shows. It was great to see the progress of the project and the joy it was bringing to the family. Another friend called my wife excited that she has been selected for a TV talent contest (we are sworn to secrecy about the show and other details). Both friends deserve the luck they have received. Send a little luck my way.

Thursday I had time to browse the bookstore at lunchtime, which I hadn’t enjoyed in sometime. Several years ago I read “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer that related the tragic travels of Christopher Johnson McCandless. It remains part of my permanent library collection, in which there are several similar books. At the book store I found another similar but not tragic story; “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed relates her life’s struggles. I plan to download it to my Nook and perhaps review for a future blog. Before I came home I had time to walk 2 miles at the club in preparation for Saturday’s 5K charity event. A friend from out-of-town came to visit his son and spent the night with us. We enjoyed chatting, dinner at home and for dessert with more cake when another couple came over also. A weeknight without TV and with adult company is plus by any measuring standard.

Friday our visiting friend treated my wife to breakfast while I trudged off to work. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair. Our decision to have a cookout at the house for Mother’s Day may not have been a wise one; Iris is still plagued by leg pain.

Saturday, May 12, 2012



If I had the courage to put words on paper

if I had the talent and time I would,

if I were honest

Then I could.

If the path was easy

there wouldn’t be any tribulations,

just success and cheers

And admiration.

If time was abundant and endless

I could still be static and stagnant,

a statue carved of stone and plaster

a living fragment.

If, the great word, of defeat

Can stop my progress and tomorrow,

can create loss and pain

cause blame and sorrow.

If I allow its power to triumph

I would be an irrelevant being

if I were weak,

But, the words exist and I’m just beginning.

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April Visual Blog

Image from Sea World
drawn by Warren Lieberman

Fiesta Arts Fair
SW Craft Center
April 20, 2012

Junk Art Display
Steven Meadows, Artist, Palestine Illinois

Welcome Sign

Inside Display Tent

Schilo's Deli, Downtown San Antonio
On our 43d Anniversary  
March 27, 2012

Chris Madrids March 2012
Best Burgers in San Antonio

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Senior Moment Renamed

We hear so much about senior moments, having a senior moment, or commenting about a friend’s senior moment.  Why beat around the bush with polite euphemisms?  Let’s call it by its real name: a brain fart.  We all know what a brain fart is and most of us have experienced them more than once.  Brain fart is a less judgmental, more universal and funnier phrase than senior moment. 
Most brain farts are very simple and innocent events and then there are some rather major incidents.  It is not a problem to look at our watch to check the time and then look again mere seconds later to check again, forget what you went into a room to find, or momentarily forget a common word or place name.  These are mere blips in life, no big deal, no problemo.  Now when you forget your phone number, your anniversary or how to spell “common” words these can be more embarrassing.  One M or two Ms in common?  Good thing I have spell check.  I needed to check a real dictionary for euphemism to verify spelling and usage.
The very simple act of not knowing something that is very obvious or well known reduces the smartest people to mere dolts.   A true Homer Simpson phrase comes to mind, “duh.” 
My brain farts usually occur when I’m alone or with my wife.  I will laugh it off and proceed with other activities.  Famous people or those vying for public office are not so fortunate.  Two recent public examples of brain farts contributed to the failure of Rick Perry’s and Herman Cain’s campaigns for the GOP’s presidential nomination.  Perry couldn’t remember one or two of the three government departments he planned to eliminate and Herman Cain stumbled over a question about Libya, maybe he was thinking about labia instead; the devastating results of their sudden onset of ignorance was compounded by the intense publicity of the political process.  First class, penultimate brain farts doomed their political aspirations.  Maybe brain farts are part of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Too many brain farts can cause a species (in this case politicians) to become extinct.
I am fortunate that cameras don’t follow me around.  Three or four brain farts sneak out daily.  And I don’t even smell them.  Sometimes I can escape by pretending I was doing something else, when in fact I experienced a brain fart.
Some researchers claim to have discovered the causes of brain farts and have even developed a timeline of events that lead up to the actual BF (I’m tired of writing brain fart).  Going through a doorway or into another room creates a “boundary” event and that change of location can cause people to lose their thoughts momentarily.  The cure is the reset: go back and start over.  Spinning auto wheels create an illusion of reverse movement that causes confusion and loss of focus.  Other BF causes include unnatural sounds, beeps, phone rings and two dimensional objects.  These explanations are a bit more convoluted and just thinking about the logic causes BFs.
My not so famous nephew stayed overnight at our home this week and had a boundary event.  He put his phone and charger in an unfamiliar location and left for his appointment without it.  He drove away and then came back to retrieve his phone.  I called his phone and we discovered it hiding in plain view on the counter.  BFs occur to all of us no matter our age, another reason not to call these occasional mental lapses senior moments.
Ten minutes before a BF occurs our brains start tuning out and setup the conditions for a later BF.  Five minutes before a BF reduced concentration is evident.  Thirty seconds preceding a BF our brains are in turmoil.  Then – boom – a blast.  The most likely result ten seconds later is embarrassment and panic.  The panic usually results in another stupid act while trying to cover up the goof.  Isn’t science wonderful, and I wonder who paid for this research?
Sports analogies are often used to explain complex concepts.  Not so for BFs, but in fact BFs are used to explain common sports errors.  A baseball outfielder miscounts the outs and throws a ball into the stands thinking the inning is over, when it was only out number two, and a base runner scores.  The manager claims the player had a BF.  Sporting activities are a matter of inches or split seconds and performance is known to diminish due to dehydration.  So hydration is promoted as a cure to baseball BFs.  Would that cause a wet BF?
Others speculate that boredom is a factor in the creation of BFs.  Perhaps the mind is tired, sluggish or just not focused.  Well get off your duff!  Get creative, write a blog, email a friend, read a favorite poem, volunteer your time or clean the junk from your desk or work area.  Perhaps take a different route to the market or work.  Do something different to get the cobwebs out of your head.
Bill Gates and his team of smart fellas should add a smell checker to our brains and then they would be fart smellers.
What’s that smell?  I think it was a senior moment, which smells better than a BF.  Now, what was I writing about?

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