Fitness Quest: November 2016

I know that it’s technically December, but I thought if I’m going to keep track of my “Fitness Quest” I should try to update at least monthly. So here’s last month’s progress report (or lack thereof).

Workouts: workouts have been going okay. Nothing spectacular to report in terms of strength or size gains, but also nothing spectacular to report in terms of going back wards either. I’m injury free and getting in some form of exercise everyday.

As my facebook friends know, I’ve been doing a different type of “challenge” for the past three or four months. It started with the “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” challenge that a friend invited me to join to raise awareness for the problem of veteran suicide, then morphed to a 100 push up challenge that I created where a few friends and I worked our way up from the 22 push-ups to being able to do 100 push ups in one session, then it was working up to a four minute plank. Now I’m doing “wall squats” (aka “wall sitting”) and working up to being able to do that for four minutes. This one is pretty tough as it increases by 10 seconds each day. However, it was time to do something for the legs.

I continue my twice a week weight training sessions with my brother-in-law. Though we’re pretty good about doing them, they are feeling a little too routine for me. I’ll be talking to him about upping the weight or varying the reps some to keep it interesting. The good news is that I’m at the very least maintaining strength and think that I’ve gaining based on workouts and measurements (waist is still down, arms and chest are getting larger again).

Nutrition: After it was suggested to me by a new friend, I experimented some with a low-carb, high protein diet last month and unfortunately, moved away from it somewhere around Thanksgiving. Though I liked adding carbs back in (I missed bread of all things) I paid a significant price and my weight jumped back up in pretty short order. So, essentially in terms of overall weight and bodyfat I’m about where I was a year ago. I’m going to double down on this style of diet again – yes, I know it’s the Holiday season – and see if I can make some improvements before the start of the New Year. I’d rather not have to make some drastic unkeepable resolutions like the rest of the world on January 1!

Crohn’s: The good news is that there isn’t any major change in terms of my Crohn’s disease. The Humira seems to still be doing it’s job. I have noticed that as I get within a couple days of my next injection that I start to feel queasy inside again. Not sure if this is a real thing though or a psychosomatic response to knowing that I’m due for an injection. Weather changes seem to be playing a role again this year. We’ve had some dramatic swings in temps (going from 70 degrees to 30 degrees overnight) and such as winter comes on and I felt it inside.

Once again this year I did go to an annual IBD update to learn about the latest research in the area of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (of which Crohn’s is one). As usual, it was very interesting and informative. The main take away is still hang in there. Better treatments are coming soon (as in about 5 years).

Mental Health: Overall, I think I’m still doing pretty well here. I’ve been having some odd “stress dreams” for some reason but not sure why so I’ve given some thought to this. But things are going well with work, I don’t feel over burdened and despite the usual malaise of not being quite where I want to be career-wise I’m employed, have friends and family and overall am in doing pretty well. Heck, I even have a new car that so far is running like a dream so no more “when will it break down” thoughts which were part of my daily life for the last, oh, 3 years or so!

The only real disappointment I had recently were the results of the US election. But, I can rest easy in knowing that whatever happens it’s not my fault! I just keep hoping for the best and expect the worst like a lot of other people and at least the darn commercials have stopped.

Summary: Life is good and the only way to move, as always, is forward.

Onward!

 

 

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Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: July 2016

Wow! I knew I hadn’t been blogging for a while but I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months. I’ve been busy I guess but I haven’t forgotten my fitness goals and efforts. So, here’s the update for those interested:

Crohn’s – doing well. The Humira treatment seems to continue to work. I wouldn’t call what I’m experiencing full remission, but it’s close. I’ve had a few “queasy” days this summer but nothing major to keep me off work or anything. I’m due for another round of testing/scanning/probing this fall and I expect that I’ll here that my condition remains essentially unchanged from last year. Which would be the best news I could expect (the damage can’t be undone, but if further damage is prevented that’s all I need to keep avoiding surgery).

Fitness: I did pretty well again, for me, with the Rose Run 5K that I’ve been participating in. I beat my time from last year thanks in large part to the urging and support of my niece who ran with me. So this is the third straight year of doing better than the year before! My new goal is to get below a 30 minute 5K. I came in 4th in my age group with 5 behind me by the way. My official time was 41:55 and I’m several minutes faster than when I started 5 years ago. Not a huge change, but a positive one. Especially given how little I actually train for it.

I’ve been keeping up with my weight workouts with my brother-in-law. The weight is going up, my body weight is going down (usually), my waist is shrinking and my biceps are growing. Things are on track in this area.

I participated in a “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” to raise awareness of Veteran Suicide. On average, 22 vets in the USA commit suicide each day. This was a pure awareness campaign but I thought an important one. Plus, doing the push ups each day really seemed to up my feeling of well-being each day. I’m continuing to do them even though the challenge is over. I’m planning to work my way to 100 per day (in one set) by the end of the year.

Mountain Climbing: as a benefit of my increased fitness I took on the challenge of climbing the 2nd highest mountain in the contiguous USA (Mt. Elbert) when visiting Colorado this summer. Unfortunately, I only made it to 13,000 feet and was about 1,400 vertical feet short of the summit. It was a fun day nonetheless with a couple cousins who live in Colorado (they made the summit). The thin air was too much for me – or rather not enough for me. Next time, I acclimate at a higher elevation for several days. Next goal though is to fail to summit the highest point in the contiguous USA – Mt. Whitney in California.

Nutrition: as mentioned earlier, my weight has been decreasing. But, in my continuing quest to build muscle while losing fat I’ve been experimenting with my diet. My most recent experiment was to reduce my carbs significantly and increase my protein. There have been some conflicting studies on the effectiveness of this. But, I’ve known a couple people who really dropped the weight while doing this and my limited experience so far is that it does work. I’m still playing with how to add some carbs back in occasionally, since they have a place in the overall healthy diet and maintaining daily “energy,” so more on this later.

Mental Health: overall, I’m still a happy and positive person. Sure, I have my moments like everyone else, but I don’t have much to complain about. My “new” job is going well with supportive co-workers and supervisors, my friends are few but close, my family closer and my faith is strong. The only thing that threatens my well-being right now is the back and forth bickering on Facebook concerning the presidential campaign. Just a few more months…

So, overall things are good. I feel healthy, I look healthier, and I’m more active than I’ve been in a long time. Old age is still creeping up on me (I notice more daily aches and pains) but I’m putting it off as long as I can and hope you will do the same.

Onward!

 

Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: April 2016

The good news is that I’ve been keeping busy since my last blog. I’ve actually completed production on two plays that I acted in (one in February and one in April), I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my “new” position at work (I’ve been in it since September so I can’t really call it new anymore I suppose), and over all my health has been good. Not great, but good.

My Crohn’s seems to be more active over the last couple months. I haven’t had much in the way of full-blown flare ups but I’ve had some significant pain on and off, digestive issues, and an overall malaise/weakness/weariness which are all signs of Crohn’s activity. Things have been mild enough that I feel the Humira is still working but something has been going on. I’m also suspicious that some of what I’m attributing to Crohn’s is actually gallbladder related as the pain is just below my right rib cage. However, the “gurgling” and assorted noises sure don’t sound like my gallbladder! On top of this I’ve been plagued with a on again/off again cough. Sometimes it’s a full blown cold, sometimes it’s nasal congestion, all the times is annoying.

In terms of my fitness efforts, well…due to the previously mentioned feeling of malaise I haven’t been working out like I should. My weightlifting has been spotty at best, I haven’t been getting in my walks regularly, and as far as running goes…I don’t. I have had an attempt or two and now that spring seems to actually be here I really need to get back on track. I’ve been averaging less than 10,000 steps per day for some time and it’s time to get that count up at the very least.

On the plus side I’m at my lowest body weight this century! I have been tracking my food and macros so I think that is really helping. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting enough protein and too many fats so I need to reverse that. Especially since the protein will help me to retain/build muscle which becomes more critical as I approach yet another birthday next month.

I have goals for the summer which includes some mountain climbing on a trip to Colorado. If weather and conditions permit I hope to finally summit Long’s Peak – one of Colorado’s 14,000 footers. I had gotten as far as the Keyhole once in the past but due to a storm was not able to push on to the peak. Fortunately, I have a cousin who is an avid climber and he’s offered to take me up when I’m out there. But, in order to make it I’ve got to be in good cardiovascular shape – especially since I’m not used to the “thin” air – and my legs have to be strong enough to tackle the 15 mile round trip (half of it uphill).

The good news is that I won’t be lugging as much fat on the mountain. Wish me luck.

Onward!

longs-peak-aug-31
Long’s Peak 
In the Boulder Field of Long's Peak
Me in the Boulder Field of Long’s Peak back in the mid-eighties
Fruits and veggies

Crohn’s Update: February 2016

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all (or at least those who may be interested) on how my life with Crohn’s has been going. In brief: very well!

I did have a small flare-up in January which lasted two-three days, but it was mild even by my standards (no vomiting, “controllable” diarrhea, a lot of grumbling, gurgling, and gas). So, the Humira seems to still be doing the job.

I’m taking my vitamins each day (B12, Iron, Calcium, D, multi-vitamin) as per my doctor’s recommendations, and I’m trying to pay much, much closer attention to my diet. My macros are still off as I’m getting more fats than proteins but I’m getting better. I have been in touch with another fellow “Crohnie” though and he says that when he flares up he finds that the fatty, greasy food seems to go down better just like I do. I haven’t seen anything in the literature about this, so it may be imagination, but it was good to hear that someone else has the same experience I do.

Everything else is going fairly well, too. My new job (which I’ve started in September) has been enjoyable and I feel that I’m in the swing of things with a supportive supervisor, staff and colleagues (always a plus), I’m keeping up with my workouts for the most part, and I’m in a play again with a different theatre group which is turning out to be a real joy (“One Slight Hitch” by Lewis Black at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, February 12, 13, and 14 – www.toledorep.org for tickets and showtimes).

My spirits are good and I’ve found time to take some vacation time with my family (New Orleans over Winter Break and a weekend in Chicago with my brother last weekend). So I’m certain that the relative lack of stress right now has helped to keep things calm in my digestive track.

Goals for the new year are pretty much the same as always: health and happiness. Looking to lose fat, build muscle, etc. like everyone else. I do want to also spend more time with my spiritual health and get back to being more studious of the Bible and my faith. I think that this helps with my overall calmness and happiness as well. Probably very important in the coming year. Election season you know…

Onward!

 

 

Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest: The Benefits of Becoming A Fitness Fanatic

One of the blessings of constantly searching the internet for workout ideas, plans, diets, etc. is that you run across postings by interesting and often inspiring people (we’ll ignore the dull and uninspiring for now who seem to be much, much more prevalent). One person I found is Davy Barnes, a business owner by day and an aspiring fitness model/bodybuilder pretty much the rest of the time. He posted something a few weeks ago that I think sums up why so many first picked up a weight and become addicted to it. Though I imagine this is true of runners and pretty much any other dedicated athlete I chose a bodybuilder because I like to pretend I’m one whenever I’m lifting weights. He has, of course, given me permission to share this with you.

In his words…

“I remember when I used to consume toaster strudels, Mountain Dews, Chips, energy drinks, etc. every day. I was nothing bu skin and bones and couldn’t have been healthy. I hated that and finally one day I decided that was going to change. I have worked HARD for six years. A lot of people just see the results, but don’t see the endless hours at work, in the gym or in the kitchen…I don’t think a lot of people understand. To me Bodybuilding or Fitness is not only about your physique or how you look in the mirror, although that is a great reward; it is a way of developing a connection between your body and mind! It’s a way of building a stronger character and persona!

It must not be a selfish, self-centered activity but rather a tool to build confidence and strength to go through life. It can help motivate and lift those up around you who are maybe overweight, depressed, sad and looking to change to a healthier lifestyle. Many people confuse bodybuilding with only lifting weights, drinking protein shakes, juicing [steroids], flexing in photos or for girls but I look at it as a much broader experience! For me it is a continuous process of self-betterment in and outside the gym! Because of bodybuilding I am able to be more successful at other aspects of life; I am more disciplined, organized and focused at achieving my goals. I’m not lazy and I learned the most valuable principle-hard work always pays off!

Because of bodybuilding I can reach thousands of people all around the world to deliver my message, inspire and motivate to live a fuller, healthier and exciting life, to chase after goals and dreams and most importantly, be a witness to others. Even the Bible has verses stating to take care of our bodies and to eat healthy. Besides that, with all of the unhealthy food choices and diseases now days, it motivates me to eat even more clean every day! As hard as it is, I try not to be the guy who puts down anyone who may be unhealthy or overweight because, hey, at the end of the day we are all in this together!” 

Now, Davy is very good at what he has been doing and dedicated (see the picture I’ve included for evidence of this) and he’s gaining recognition and followers on social media and from what I can see, his message has remained unchanged. I like that.

He has chosen bodybuilding as his method of relating and dealing with the world and I think that anyone who looks to improve themselves could do much worse than begin a regular program of exercise – even if you choose not to build a Mr. Olympia worthy physique, you’ll end up stronger and healthier for the effort. I think this is true of any physical pursuit whether it be weight lifting, running, yoga, or whatever. As long as you focus, are patient, and stick with it you’ll develop not only your physical toughness but your mental toughness as well (presuming you avoid drugs, etc.).  You’ll be able to endure during difficult times, set goals, push your limits and continue long after others have given up.

And these are traits that can carry you through most any other part of your life as well, personal or professional.

Onward!

Davy Barnes Progression

Starting upper left and then going clockwise, Davy Barnes in 2007 (when he first took up weights), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Patience, perseverance, and hard work paid off for him. You can find more about him on Facebook @davybarnesbodybuilding (aka Davy Muscle) and Instagram @davyb2333

 

Talking to Strangers

As children we were all told by our parents or guardians “don’t talk to strangers.” This warning was practical advice for children, because there is danger out there for all of us and a particular evil that preys on the young. However, this warning – right or wrong – also goes against our natural human curiosity and trains us to become more guarded in the information we share. Again, this may all be well and good, but as adults I think that we need to be re-trained to do the opposite. To reach out and on occasion at least, talk to strangers.

I consider myself an introvert. Those who know me may find it hard to believe, and probably think I never shut up, but I find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people I know well and nearly terrifying to speak to someone I haven’t met. If they approach me I don’t have much of a problem (though I’ve been told I can come off as cold and aloof). But to start the conversation…well, let’s say that there are many a times when I pull the tactic of just hanging back and waiting for someone else to notice me in both social and professional situations. Like most wallflowers, taking the risk of making a new connection is a learned and forced behavior.

However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I need to talk more to strangers. We live in an ever increasingly complex world and to navigate this world we need to be able to draw upon a wider range of knowledge and experiences both professionally and personally. Google is great, but it doesn’t replace the first hand experiences of someone who has lived through something.

So, I’ve started ignoring my mother’s advice and am trying to talk to at least one “stranger” each day. This may be as simple as a quick “hello” to someone in passing and with the holidays on us I can certainly greet more folks with best wishes for the season. Sometimes, it’s more involved, like noticing an interesting article of clothing or someone doing an activity and making a comment on it and striking up a conversation. Sometimes the conversation is brief and you never see that person again. However, sometimes you “hit it off” and find yourself with a new friend. More often than not, I’ve discovered that the results are somewhere in between.

For example, recently while traveling I noticed a young man at the airport with an athletic bag and a college sports team. I approached him and asked if he played for that team and this began a conversation as we walked through the airport and I learned about his business, which happened to be in a field I’m interested in but outside of my usual work. We exchanged names and a quick Google search later (surprisingly easy to do and not at all stalker-like…) and an invite on LinkedIn and I have a new connection. Will be lifelong friends and best buddies hanging out at the mall after work? Not likely, but I have no doubt we’ll stay in touch and who knows? The old me would have just walked on without taking the chance. But because I reached out, maybe we’ll one day share information that will benefit one or both of us in some way.

And speaking of Google and LinkedIn, what a marvelous world we live in with the advantage of social media. I know that social media has taken a beating in the news and among some circles as an outlet for bullying, pornography, etc. However, used properly it’s power for sharing and making connections cannot be denied and for those of us who are inherently shy it is a “safe” way of making and maintaining contacts we would otherwise never have.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no – I repeat, no – substitute for good old fashioned face to face human contact. We need to meet other people, be friends with other people, love other people, to thrive as humans. Even our rivals and enemies have the potential to make us better. But for those who find it difficult to talk in person and/or are shut in, social media provides at least the semblance of human interaction. Thanks to social media I now have friends, followers, connections, etc. with people I never otherwise would have any contact with. I communicate regularly with people throughout the USA, Canada and much of Europe. Our bond may be as simple as we all have the same disease (Crohn’s), are interested in the same things, or maybe met once in an airport, hotel, amusement park, or hiking in the woods (all places I’ve met people who are now friends).

My point is that, as we say in NACAS, make “connections that count.” Why don’t you go out and make a couple new ones today.

Onward!

 

 

 

Charleston

I’m going depart from my usual type of blog post to comment on a recent tragic event. The murder of nine good people in Charleston. It really is not my intent to anger or upset anyone with this post, thought I may, but to provide some food for thought. I’m sure someone will point out any faults in my logic, and that’s fine so long as it’s pointed out with civility.

So, here we go:

No doubt this horrible event will evoke the following all too predictable reactions among the media and political pundits in this nation:

1. Race relations are horrible in this country. Why do whites hate everyone else?
2. Why is the act of one lone gunman an indictment of all white people in this country?
3. Are you sure the shooter wasn’t a Muslim?
4. Gun control would have prevented this (he got the weapon to easily).
5. Less gun control would have prevented this (if only those poor people had been properly armed themselves).

In fact, I’ve seen all these comments already in the short period since this event occurred and President Obama is already leading the charge to greater gun control and saying that these events do not happen as often in other “advanced” countries because they have greater gun control.

Now, I am not an advocate for gun control as a rule. Even though I can’t understand why any private citizen needs a military grade weapon. I mean really folks, despite what television and movies might lead you to believe there isn’t and never will be a zombie apocalypse and if we are invaded by foreign troops (or even our own) these weapons won’t help much against drones armed with missiles, tanks, grenades, etc. They are only good for taking out most of your neighbors (who may be as well armed as you) and I would hope that in the case of a complete breakdown of society that maybe we all might get along a little better instead of wiping each other out (yes, I know, I’m an optimist who believes in basic goodness in everyone – so sue me).

So, I am going to abandon my liberal roots here and suggest something else. Frankly, something more destructive and harmful to our society than any number of gun laws.

The shooter was said to have made some comments before opening fire along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing) “you raped OUR women and took over OUR country.” Now this statement, if true, tells me a a few things:

  1. The shooter has a poor understanding of American history and doesn’t realize that the same thing could be said by any Native American to him.
  2. The shooter has no concept of the distribution of wealth and power in this country.
  3. The shooter seems to believe that women only have sex with men when violently forced into it.
  4. He felt powerless and a victim. Another sad indictment of the culture of “victimization” rampant in our society. Especially since the alleged shooter is a white male. Arguably the least victimized ethnic group in history.

Now, what also occurs to me is that of the items above two of them (1 and 2) indicate a poor education in both history and economics. The third item reflects poorly on his upbringing, social skills and possibly love life and I won’t comment further on this. The fourth is a bigger issue than I can even think about now. I don’t know why everyone seems to feel that they have been wronged and don’t understand that sometimes life just plain sucks. Maybe I can address this in a later blog.

But I will speak more to numbers 1 and 2.

What also occurs to me is that on the whole other “advanced” countries not only have greater gun control but that they also tend to invest more heavily in education and health care than the USA on a per capita basis. Why? Because in our ongoing effort to pay as few taxes – if any at all – as possible we continue to demand that cuts be made and those cuts usually come from education at all levels. On top of this much of the mainstream media, which despite claims to the contrary, includes FOX, Limbaugh, and other right wingers, suggest on a daily basis that science and history cannot be trusted (global warming, etc).

I recently saw some statistics which said that this next generation (generation “Z” – which does not stand for “zombie”) will be the most educated in history. I disagree. I think you can say that they will have the most degrees in history. But, I don’t think that they will learn as much. Regardless of the number of “advanced” college level courses we insist our children take in high school (and coming soon, junior high in Ohio). We continue to cheapen and dilute it with every election and every vote. Make college affordable again and you remove the main reason for pushing kids into the AP classes – cost. In my opinion, we as a whole would be better off allowing our students to progress through K-12 at the same speed to give them all a chance to absorb the information before being rushed into an advanced courses.  Let the brighter students mix and mingle with the others to discuss current events and other thoughts with their age appropriate peers. And most importantly, stop having the colleges and universities do the job of the high schools!

Likewise, we continue to push education as a means only to get a job. This has resulted in a devaluation of society of the basic liberal arts education which, in my opinion, is the most valuable (full disclosure, I have two degrees in English). Why? Because a liberal arts degree doesn’t teach you how to “do” something it teaches you how to think about something. How to appreciate art, literature, science, history. The very things which separate us from the animals. Things much more important than any job (yes, I realize that you can’t eat a poem – but I’m trying to make a point here). You learn how to think for yourself and to not blindly accept whatever some “talking head” or, as probably was the case here, some idiot online tells you.

So, what I am suggesting is that we as a nation must look beyond gun control and race relations for solutions to these shootings. We need to leave education to the educators and to properly fund and support them at all levels instead of wasting time breaking those “evil” teacher unions and removing tenure – both put in place to keep educators from being fired on a whim and allow for the free exchange of ideas – and start thinking about our children.

Gun control might not have prevented this latest act of evil but proper education might have.

Just my two cents.

NEXT UP: Civil discourse – How to Express Yourself Without Resorting to Cussing.

January 25, 2015 Update

It’s been awhile since I last posted, mostly because January is one of my busy times at work and between work, working out, and other activities for the past couple of weeks I just haven’t felt like blogging! Things are slowing down now and I can once again start to gather my thoughts and update on my progress or lack thereof.

The good news is that I’m making good use of my UP 24 (by Jawbone) band and changing several habits – mostly taking the long way around when walking and trying to add more steps instead of saving them. I need to be purposeful in keeping up with walking and moving on weekends, but during the week I’ve had very little trouble getting in at least 10,000 steps per day. I’m also back to the gym. The first couple workouts left me a bit sore, as expected, and I actually welcomed the tightness which followed – as well as the pump during the workouts. As I’m sure some of you are aware, it’s good to occasionally flex and feel like something is being flexed!

I’m doing very well with my diet, too. I use MyFitnessPal and have logged everything I’ve put in my mouth each day for about a month now. It has become habit and has helped me to make better choices. I have to say that I miss my Little Debbie though…and Krispy Kreme…and…well, you get the drift. However, there are better ways to use all those calories than one or two (or three) fatty treats each day. Oh, and this morning I was told by my Pastor that I looked thinner! I’ll choose to believe that he was talking about my waist and not my chest and shoulders.

Downside, I seem to have reached a fat loss plateau of some sort. My weight is edging down much slower than my exercise level and calorie intake should be creating. I’d like to think it’s because I’m putting muscle on as fast as the fat comes off, but that would be wrong (probably). Nothing to do but to stay consistent and keep upping the cardio.

Emotionally, I’m doing good except for the sadness and depression which followed the death of my cousin John this past week. He was three days older than me and born with Down Syndrome. Despite this he led a good life. He had a strong sense of humor and loved his family deeply. We had much in common including that we both enjoyed Star Trek and Scooby Doo. I will miss him greatly.

Upcoming for me this week a “double balloon colonoscopy” to further investigate my Crohn’s. This treatment will involve a two day prep and I’m on a clear liquid diet starting Tuesday and a full day of bowel “cleansing” on Wednesday. I’ll post more on this afterwards on Thursday (after I wake up that is).

Onward!

Should old acquaintance be forgot…A Year in Review

It is customary, it seems, at this time of year to take some time to reflect on the previous year and to make plans for the next. And though it may seem cliche I do have to say what a difference a year makes.

2014 started out without much hope or promise. Yes, my family and I tried to celebrate as best we could that New Year’s Eve but the reality was we were going through the motions since the day before we had just buried Dad. Our lives, like anyone else who has suffered major loss, will never be the same. Then the weather seemed to go crazy on us and the snow just kept falling. I work at a college and for the first time since I had started there we had multiple snow days – there was not one week in January were we worked the full week in fact. Though we all like an occasional snow day, it was getting ridiculous and creating more stress knowing that nothing was getting done (and still being held responsible for this by our customers even though they too could not get out any more than we could).

Spring brought hope and some relief. It was my niece’s final season with the University of Michigan Softball Team. Though they played well and fought their way to another Big 10 championship the NCAA crown eluded them. Still a great season by any measure, but a little heartbreaking as well as we knew that we would never get to cheer Caitlin on to a Women’s World Series Championship (which, come to think of it, most families never do get to do for their players).

I lost a close election in my theatre group and for the first time in well over a decade I found myself not on the board (I was off the board for a year by choice during this time though). I was okay with this, because that’s how elections go, and I had plenty of other things to keep me busy (the Community Theatre Association of Michigan board of directors, Masons, Church) and frankly could use the free time. Still, it felt odd.

The summer was okay, but nothing special until July when I attended a play writing workshop offered by CTAM and conducted by playwright Jim Henry . This was the creative spark that I needed to get writing again. I was enthused about my off stage work again and currently gave two plays which I’m working on with the goal of getting paid to have at least one play produced this year (a rather ambitious goal actually, but I’m going for it).

The summer was unusual in that I didn’t even get on a roller coaster – and I love roller coasters – until the fall this year. The good news however,  was that my Crohn’s was pretty much inactive (yes, there was the occasional flare-up but nothing out of the ordinary).

Then in the late fall my world began to shift. Things weren’t going so well at work (declining enrollment at the college among other issues), but things were going well with my professional association, acting, playwriting, and other aspects of my life. I left the CTAM board (term limits you know) and even more time became available to me. Then I went to see a new doctor and he said, “I’m not sure you have Crohn’s.” You can read more about this in earlier blogs but the effect of suddenly not having the thing which, for better or for worse, had defined me for nearly thirty years was surprising. I felt liberated and then happy. For the better part of November when someone asked me how I was doing I would respond with “I’m unreasonably happy.” I can only attribute my good mood to the idea that I might not have Crohn’s. I was no longer a slave to a daily pill. Of course, I knew that there was still something wrong but I think I actually had hope that something could be done and I might get better.

Of course, there have been tests and now the doctor is 95% sure I have Crohn’s but we need yet another test to get a biopsy. And he seems to be hinting, strongly, that surgery is probably in my near future – if they can actually find the fistula and Crohn’s which the CT Scan indicates is there. But, again, I’m not upset by this. I’m actually still hopeful that something can be done.

So, I’m ending this year I think on a high note. My faith in God has been restored. I like blogging and finding a new community of fellow “Chronies” as well as a new audience. . My Facebook “Get Fit and Healthy” group seems to be thriving with new members who are embracing the idea that we are all more successful together and put up with some of my random posts which do not interest them (but of course, interest me). I’m committed to getting healthier than I’ve been for several years in terms of weight and muscle tone. Things are getting better at work, because I have very supportive bosses and staff, and I’m developing other avenues to explore which may allow me at some point to be less dependent on a “regular” job in the future or at the very least provide a few extra dollars (the threat of layoff is very real this coming year). And most importantly, in many ways I’m closer to my family, including cousins, than I’ve ever been even if we are separated by miles.

Loss is always painful and some losses we never recover from. But, even in loss there is something to be gained, even if it takes a while.

And I think that this is the lesson for me from 2014.

May you all have a Happy and Prosperous New Year – onward to 2015!

A Journey of 10,000 Steps

So, I’ve started using an UP 24 (by Jawbone) which like Fitbit and other devices along with the appropriate telephone apps is a device to aid and push a person towards better fitness. In a very basic way though it’s a glorified pedometer that does some other nifty things too (it lets me know how often I wake up at night for example – usually once) and one of the first goals to achieve is taking 10,000 steps through the day.

My first day I did okay and took over 8,000 steps. So 10,000 should have been easy right? Wrong! I got to 8,000 only because we went to see “The Lights Before Christmas” at the Toledo Zoo (yes, yes, we saw the “Lights BEFORE Christmas” AFTER Christmas so sue me). The next day (Saturday) I only got in about 1,800 steps. Granted I was at home and not at work but clearly I needed to step up my game so to speak (“step up” get it?). So today I took a walk around town…and when I say around town I mean around the entire town. I followed a path that roughly estimated the city limits of the small town I live in (actually near) and after about an hour in the cold guess what? I only added about 4,000 more steps to my daily total. This left me without about 2,000 more steps to take.

So, on a whim I came up with a different idea. Instead of walking around town, what if I walked around my yard? I paced the perimeter of my yard off I discovered I could get in about 400 steps by doing this. Then I thought what if I also went around my house? Bingo – another 200 steps. What if I went around every bush and tree? Well, what do you know I could get almost 1,000 steps just by tracing a path in my yard. Then while walking around, counting to myself I had a thought. Gosh, this is almost like a labyrinth.

Now many of you may know that labyrinths, patterns drawn on the floor of a church, were a tool used by many early Christians, and presumably other religions, for meditation and prayer purposes. It’s also my understanding that many of these early Christians used the labyrinth to take the place of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There’s a nice article on labyrinths at the Washington National Cathedral’s website if you want to know a little more: http://www.cathedral.org/worship/labyrinth.shtml

So all in all, I’m pleased with my day. I got a little healthier by getting my steps in and stumbled on a way to clear my head and meditate and prayer in my own backyard. No the only question is what will the neighbors think when they see me wandering around and muttering to myself. I better get one of those blue tooth headsets so it looks like I’m on the phone.

Onward!