Posts Tagged ‘life change’

Current Thoughts on Life Change

December 2, 2010 1 comment

“The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.”–Dr. Samuel Johnson

Said another way:  the only thing in the world you can truly change is yourself.

And that job is plenty hard enough.  The focus of this blog, one of them anyway, is how to lock in the positive life changes I have made in the past few years–weight loss, healthier lifestyle, career change to name a few.  Here’s the update on where I stand since this blog began in September:

  • Exercise–after a month-long hiatus due to my needle in the toe incident, I am now back to working out daily.  I was running 18-22 miles a week in early October; still cannot run far without a lot of pain but am putting in the equivalent of about 12-14 miles a week of running by using the Arc Trainer at my gym.  My long layoff extended to weightlifting as well and I feel pretty weak but getting better everyday.  At semester’s end I will be meeting with Industrial Strength fitness trainers and will finally get a professional plan instead of half-assedly applying the latest workouts I see in magazines.
  • Diet–Thanksgiving was last week and I did an ‘OK’ not eating everything in sight.  I did however drink everything that didn’t have a goldfish swimming in it, which continues the theme I started in Chicago.  Beer, wine, vodka, gin, sambuca–none of these are low on calories and full of vitamins.  Sambuca I especially love, it’s like the black jelly beans of liquor.  People either love it or hate it and, sad to say, I love it.  All that aside, I have made strides in again eliminating refined flour, all sugar and simple starches from my diet.  Breakfast is back to oatmeal, lunch is small whole wheat sandwich or soup, dinner is small cut of meat, vegetables and brown rice.  Time to set a new weight goal, and to once again place my diabetes in the forefront of my mind.
  • Weight–speaking of weight, I am virtually level from where I was when I started this blog.  I find this hard to believe because I feel much more like a fat tub of goo than before.  I think this can be attributed to the lack of exercise, especially weightlifting.
  • Other Bad Stuff–I’ve been sneaking smokes, started after my injury.  I can feel it in my chest that it’s affecting me and my fitness level has been harmed because of it.  Time to put the clamps on again.
  • Family Life–Kids have maintained straight-A averages.  My wife and I have about 20 minutes of conversation a week due to our schedules; we hope to get away together for a few days at the end of the year but, even with discounted airfare provided by ‘buddy passes’, my medical bills will likely kill that plan.  My mother has mostly healed from her fall.  And after Thanksgiving, I can say I hate kids–yours, mine and anyone else’s.
  • Anything Else?–I’ve given up politics completely.  It was my sharpest focus for more than 20 years but it’s wasted energy right now and I need every bit of that I can grab.
  • School–The class that requires this blog is the one that keeps me up at night.  It’s a sisyphean task; it’s like standing on top of a ball and still trying to keep the plates of the rest of my life spinning.  Blog entries, Twitter, chats, readings, events, a 5 gallon bucket full of new terms and programs of which I’ve never heard much less operated, projects–I frankly don’t have that much to say to the world, at least not barked on command like a seal.  Just seeing if you read these posts, Dr. Mac–I actually love the class and the challenge, even if I’m not always up for it.

So my ass is not necessarily fatter but it is softer–insert your own joke here, and even THAT is a joke, perhaps a better one.  My kids see Mom and Dad work like Japanese beavers and for the moment at least are emulating us.  Having both my wife and I in school sucks even more than I’d have thought.  Time to lay off the alcohol, pasta, potatoes and smokes and get back to running and soccer and generally looking and feeling better than 90% of the people my age.

To echo “Blazing Saddles”, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s right: the only thing I can change is myself.  But more than that, I believe the best, most honest and true motivation for doing so is also myself.  My kids, wife, family and friends may benefit from the necessary changes I make or they may not.  They may benefit greatly and not even recognize it.  That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t give up smoking because it might enable him to live to see his grandkids; it means he should give up smoking because it is good for HIM, not because it is good for someone else.

Life changes motivated by how we wish others to view or feel about us are doomed to fail.  Why?  Because others will never appreciate the efforts and struggles enough to satisfy us.  The foundations for true change lie only within ourselves.

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Another Pathetic Son of a Bitch

December 1, 2010 1 comment

When I decided to return to school and become a stay at home dad, I vowed to not become one of the following:

  • Hipster Dad, who’s goateed face greets each day by donning the uniform of  jeans or cargo shorts, ironic t-shirt,  retro shoes and iPod,  and who then listens to Vampire Weekend and The Hold Steady while running errands, cooking and folding laundry.  Take a look at the picture of me with my kids in Central Park this summer to see how well I’ve avoided that trap.
  • Oprah Dad, who, much like Oprah Mom, rarely misses an episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil.  Or The View.  Or Ellen.  Or Kathie Lee and Hoda.  Or anything else on daytime television.  And who cannot carry on any conversation that isn’t an extension of that day’s programming.
  • Fat Dad, an example of which is doubtless within 50 feet of where you are.
  • Slave Dad, who spends every waking moment in servitude to his family, an endless stream of sports practices, errands, play dates, school projects, volunteer gigs as well as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.

Central Park Summer 2010

So I’m a partial but not complete failure in this regard, which frankly is progress over the usual assessments directed my way.  To give myself some solace, context and excuse to drink beer during the middle of the day, I set up an interview with another stay at home dad also in my graduate program.

Jim Shoff is a former managing director at a Wall Street investment firm.  He took a buy-out awhile back and now splits his time between caring for his wife and three teenage children and attending communications graduate school at Queens University of Charlotte.  Where he once clipped bond coupons, today he clips actual coupons.  And while he doesn’t have a Wall Street salary anymore, Jim says he now gets paid in other ways that aren’t so immediate: for example, his kids have better lives and have been able to pursue new sports and interests.  We agreed how lucky we are to have this time with our kids.

With that necessary nicety behind us, we were both now free to express what a giant pain in the ass it is to be a stay at home parent.  Perhaps it’s better if not combined with the demands of graduate school–neither of us would know.  Certainly those women in the traditional housewife role had and still have difficult jobs.  Again, we don’t know but we’re also pretty sure those women have not had to endure the disapproving looks of strangers or snide remarks of family or acquaintances who consider our new roles as merely excuses to slack off while our wives support us.

Jim and I, we are heroes, we are victims…we are full of shit.  But then so is anyone else who considers raising their own kids the equivalent of hanging on a cross.  It’s difficult, unappreciated work, full of emotional minefields, long hours and the sort of cleaning tasks that would only be performed by someone who loves unconditionally.  But what else are you going to do?

Jim says he will one day return to work but not in banking.  Fittingly our conversation that day finished up on the topic of laundry–we both prefer top-loading washers.  He has two dryers.  I’m so jealous.

A Life Change I Can’t Seem to Make

November 23, 2010 3 comments
Counting Sheep

At least it's better than snakes

Since high school, I have battled insomnia.  Given that is presently 4:40 in the morning and I’ve been up for nearly 24 hours, it’s fair to say that tonight’s scuffle is not a successful one for me.  I have an Ambien prescription though it’s effects on me are hit or miss–one night a pill doesn’t even yield a yawn, a different night and a pill means I’ll sleep like Sonny Von Bulow, except of course that I wake up albeit after 14 hours.

A simple search for insomnia on yields this result.  Short-term insomnia is described as resulting from stress and usually lasts no more than a month.  Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, can last–well, I’ll let you know when it stops–and can be a sign of depression.

I’ve been depressed before–honest to God chemically, mentally in the bottom of a black barrel for months, even years at a stretch.  As part of my life changes, I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, which I can honestly say saved my life.  Rewiring my head also taught me to realize the danger signs of oncoming depression.  And I don’t see any of them right now.  I do however see a clock that now reads 4:49 am.

So why the hell can’t I sleep?  I’m averaging two all-nighters a week as of late; combined with an already busy schedule that starts early and ends late, my body and mind are starting to show signs of wear.  When I was depressed, sleep was blocked many nights by vivid, horrific images of rattlesnakes–I KNOW, how fucked up is that?  Terrifying and paranoia inducing to say the least, and that’s before applying any Freudian dream analysis.

No snakes now, praise be to the Deist being in whom I put what little faith I have left.  Just my fevered mind pinging about like a ferret on speed, clicking off an unceasing list of incomplete tasks and half-witted ideas.  So here I sit, another night of keyboard clicks faintly audible over a loop of  trance music on Pandora.  5:28 am.  It’s going to be a hell of a day.

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My Average Day is Shockingly Dull Yet Exhausting

November 18, 2010 6 comments

Yesterday was fairly typical for me–see below.  Bear in mind that any entry involving the children does not capture the true constant goat wrestle that is life with kids.  They are devoid of any memory of owning a book bag or coat let alone that these items should be with them when leaving the house in the morning and returning each afternoon.  Also absent from kids’ memories–pencils occasionally need sharpening; markers have caps; the existence of forks, spoons, napkins, tissues; toilets flush; oral hygiene; how to take a bath or shower; any items needed or due dates for school projects; current day of the week.  It’s easier to state what kids can remember, which is limited to what gifts they want, any promise you may have made them and any time you cursed in their presence.

Enough digressions, here’s my day for Wednesday, November 17, 2010:

8:00 Breakfast, make beds

8:30 am  Kids to school–no breakfast for Kate as she took 20 minutes to brush her teeth and walk downstairs

9:00 am Coffee, online newspapers, email, Twitter and text

9:30 am Finalize hotel contract for February trip to Washington, DC by Sam’s scout troop

10:00 am Gym–first week back since my toe injury.  Weights, floor exercises, half hour on Arc Trainer, run a half mile to test out the toe, ten minutes of soccer ball drills

11:30 am Lunch meeting & interview with fellow student Jim Shoff

2:30 pm Tutor undergraduate student

4:30 pm Return home, start laundry, unload dishwasher

5:00 pm Help kids with homework–Math help for Sam while Kate requires assistance to focus on anything that isn’t an animal or shiny

5:30 pm Start dinner while continuing homework help, more laundry

6:00 pm Usually in class by now but no class this week; phone call with childless friend whom I believe was sitting at a bar on the water in Miami across from his office–he sucks

7:00 pm Dinner, dishes, more laundry

8:00 pm Phone calls to finalize Thanksgiving plans with family while kids watch TV

8:30 pm Text wife to pick up another protractor for Sam, less than 24 hours after the last one was purchased

9:00 pm Cattle-prod Kate into bathtub

9:15 pm Remind Kate to bathe before water gets cold

9:30 pm Wash shivering daughter myself, wife arrives home following one of her two weekly study nights for EMBA classes

9:45 pm Kids in bed, wife’s night to read with Kate

9:50 pm Phone call from parents

10:10 pm Text reading, computer work

1:00 am Bed

No TV but I don’t consider that a loss.  Also absent was any significant contact with my wife, which she probably doesn’t consider a loss.  Mixed into the day were about a dozen car trips, a few random calls and several email and social media checks (except for Facebook, which I check about as often as I replace the AC filters in my house).  Took the picture below of me just before bed.

Does this make me look fat?

Actually I didn’t, I’m just jazzed for the opening of the next Harry Potter movie.  That’s a picture of Dobby, a house-elf from the Potter books and movies, and that pic is of course the copyrighted material of Warner Brothers.  I do feel like him some days though–not in a withered and persecuted sense but rather in the invisible, unappreciated laborer sense.  Better not tell anyone I speak Spanish or they’ll have me arrested.

I See a Standing Desk in My Immediate Future

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

When I left work behind for graduate school and stay-at-home-fatherhood, I also left behind my desk.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just work at the dining room table, a thought which shows how clueless I was at the time.

Within a few days, the need for a desk became obvious.  In years past, finding a space in our home for an office was not difficult–just pick an empty bedroom or head to the basement.  But early on in this massive life makeover, my wife and I downsized to a much smaller place in order to eliminate our commutes.  Even still, I had the perfect spot: a sort of awkward corner of my bedroom that seemed perfect for an office nook.

But this space truly was awkward as I could find no desk to fit it.  In a fit of inspiration at IKEA, I purchased 8 feet of kitchen counter, then stopped off at Home Depot for some L-brackets and bolts.  Add a chair, a couple of shelves and some wire baskets and my office was complete.  The cost of the desk was less than $100.

My office

But I also like to move around a bit when I work and would love to be able to have a workspace in my kitchen.  The solution is a standing desk, which would provide that mobility without taking up too much space.

Standing desks, or stand up work environments (SUWE) used to be quite common in the days before typewriters, telephones and computers and recently they’ve been making a comeback.  And for good reason.  As our jobs and lifestyles have changed to incorporate more and more time on a computer, most of us have passed that time seated at a desk or with the computer on our lap.  But now many are coming to believe  that all this sitting comes at a cost–increased muscle fatigue, decreased metabolism, perhaps even lower levels of creativity.

My friend Scott acquired this GeekDesk recently.  I love the name GeekDesk and love the motorized height adjustment even more.  Scott says he doesn’t raise the desk every day and that the multitasking environment of the modern office is easier for him to manage when seated.  The desk does get raised when he has to complete an intense task like writing or statistical modeling.  By standing, he’s better able to expend any nervous energy that would otherwise distract him.   Here’s a picture of his desk in its natural habitat:

Scott's desk

But at $800 plus shipping, I’ll let my next employer purchase one for me.  The standing desk in my immediate future is this one.  Built out of baker’s rack parts for less than $20.  Cheap, sturdy, easy to assemble, made for a kitchen location–what’s not to love?  I’ll let you know when I get it set up.

The Talk, Round One

November 4, 2010 4 comments

As I mentioned the other day, my son Sam will soon be entering puberty.  Prior to that, he’ll be discussing it will his 5th grade class.

In an effort to prep him for these events, my wife and I gave Sam this book the other night.  I asked him to take a break from reading his latest Young James Bond and instead take a couple of nights to review “What’s Happening To Me?”  I asked if he had heard that his class would be studying puberty in health class and did he know what that meant.  He said he knew of the upcoming lessons but didn’t really know what puberty was.

Without resorting to a planned speech, I asked him if he could obviously tell the difference between a 10-year-old and an 18-year-old.  He listed several–bigger, facial hair on boys, girls have boobs, etc.  Puberty, I said, is the process by which that happens, how we physically grow up.  Then I mentioned that all animals have the same basic imperatives–feed, fight, flight and reproduce.  Human bodies go through puberty so they will be able to do reproduce.  No freak outs, on either part.

I told him to create a list of questions and we’d review those in a couple of days.  I also mentioned that this was the first of many conversations we would have on this topic, that there were additional books we can and will give him and that he will have a lot of questions to ask us in the coming years.

This evening before dinner we reviewed his questions and I must admit the first round wasn’t too bad.  Why do sebaceous glands produce so much oil?  What does testosterone do?  What is the purpose of circumcision?  The only possibly blush-inducing query: what is a venereal disease?  On this last one, apparently the book mentioned them but did not explain what they were.  Rather than being surprised at the question, I was more surprised that the book still used that term instead of STD.

We’re early in the game but so far, so good.  Total conversation time for both conversations–less than 20 minutes.  Total expenditure at the bookstore–about $20 bucks.  Parents, why is this so hard?

A Scary Gary Halloween

October 31, 2010 Leave a comment

As promised, see below for a picture of the family taken prior to tonight’s trick or treating.  Daughter Kate is a devil, son Sam is The Joker, wife Susan is a convict and I am Chilean Coal Miner #21.

We enjoyed going to house to house with the kids but were surprised again this year at how few kids trick or treat, even in kid-heavy neighborhoods on weekend nights.  I know that many churches and schools have trunk or treat events, where the kids walk through a parking lot from car to car and say hello to people they already know.  Why have we deemed this a good thing?

Halloween used to be a time when kids and adults wandered neighborhoods, met new neighbors and caught up with old ones.  Have we retreated to the “safe” and familiar because of ridiculous and untrue urban legends or because we prefer to associate only with what we know?  Or are we just so damned fat we won’t walk anywhere?


Available for weddings and bar mitzvahs