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Fitness Quest: Mental Prep, Attitude, and Success

A friend of mine is a runner. Not a casual jogger but a real honest to goodness “why walk when you can run” distance runner. If there’s a race, he’s done it. Five Kilometers, 10K, 15K, half-marathon, full-marathon – you name it. But, though he’s put more miles on his shoes than most of us put on our cars, he told me that occasionally he gets negative comments while running. Here he is, working each day to better himself, and some loudmouth feels that it’s his right to pull up beside him and, for want of a better term, taunt him. Things like “run, fat boy” or worse and though he doesn’t have the typical marathoners build, he isn’t fat.

But, instead of letting himself get down over these comments though he keeps running, improving his times, his health, and his outlook on life. This is why he inspires me and kept me going through some of my own struggles (especially the running kind).

His experience though got me to thinking about all the comments I’ve heard or have been made to me about my working out and/or about my physique. These fall into two categories, positive and negative. Here are those I can recall:

Positive: 

  • I can’t lift that much weight (former workout partner after I completed my set)!
  • Your arms are bigger than his (comparing me to someone I thought was bigger).
  • How did you move that?
  • Your inspiring.
  • How do I get calves like yours?
  • You underestimate the size of your triceps.
  • Wow, you’re hard (mind out of the gutter – this was after she touched my forearm)!
  • Looks sort of like the Mississippi and it’s tributaries (comment from a technician about to draw blood from my arm).
  • You’ve been working out.  Your arms just blew up like…(makes a hand motion to indicate the size of a basketball).
  • He’s definitely getting bigger (a guy talking to my “trainer” about the workout I was using).
  • You motivate me to keep working out.

Negative: 

  • You’re fat.
  • You don’t have muscle tone.
  • Are you doing this to yourself (when my Crohn’s was at it’s worst and I weighed about 135 pounds)?

Now, notice that the positive comments I recall from over the years far outnumber the negative.

But guess which ones I focus on more? Right, the negative.

I think, unfortunately, it is in our nature to focus on the negative things that people say about us because deep down we want everyone to like us. So any negative thing is magnified. Sometimes to the point of wearing us down and causing us to stop looking at all the good things we’ve done and, frankly, just give up.

How much further in our fitness goals – or any goals for that matter – would we all be if we just focused on our progress, looked back at how far we’ve come, and kept going?

Try focusing on the positive things someone says about you for a day and see how you feel. Then try two days, then three, etc.

The world is full of jerks waiting to tear us down. Be determined to be someone who builds themselves and others up.

Onward!

 

 

 

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Things I Learned from the Internet

Facebook and Twitter have taught me many useful things in life. For example:

1. President Obama was the root of all evil.

2. The best way to express my views is to blindly copy everything I see on the internet which I agree with and share with all my “friends” before fact checking.

3. All comments made on any subject supported by someone else should be negative.

4. Donald Trump is the root of all evil.

5. The only opinions which matter are mine.

6. Cats are amazingly cute and fascinating. We should bow to them as our masters.

7. Hillary Clinton is the root of all evil.

8. All problems in the world would cease if we had more guns.

9. Sasquatch is real.

10. All problems in the world would cease if we got rid of all guns.

11. Bernie Sanders is the root of all evil.

12. Socialized medicine is the root of all evil. Unless it’s medicare or medicaid, then it’s a pretty good deal and hands off!

13. Ted Cruz is the root of all evil.

14.  (Insert the name of a recently deceased celebrity here) was the greatest person who ever lived.

15. Sasquatch is fake – but UFOs, those are real!

16. All movies are horrible pieces of trash and a waste of time and money.

17. Despite number 16 most movies that are “horrible pieces of trash” break box office records.

18. When in doubt about items 4, 7, 11, and 13 see item 1.

19. (Insert the name of a recently deceased celebrity here) was a fraud and should not be honored just because s/he passed away.

20. All major “mainstream” news outlets produce fake news and push a liberal, leftist agenda.

21. The exception to item 20 is Fox News. Which despite having higher ratings than most mainstream news outlets is agenda free and not part of “mainstream.”

22. The only facts which are facts are those that I say are facts – regardless of the scientific methodology used to determine other facts.

23. Lists of opinions are as good as facts.

24. Sasquatch and UFOs are fake – but roads can be fixed by cutting taxes!

25. Seriously, people really like cats.

26. No one knows whose picture is on any given piece of U.S. currency but by God don’t change it!

27. It is a confirmed fact that this list is the best list of its kind. There is no better list so you can stop looking now. Really, I mean it, this is the best list and not fake in anyway.

Onward!

 

 

 

Christmas 2015

What a difference a year makes!

Last year at this time I had just resolved a year long “crisis of faith” started by the passing of my father on Christmas day 2014. I had recommitted myself to a new fitness regimen by simply walking more and I had been re-diagnosed with Crohn’s.  And, this blog was less than a month old. So much has happened since then…

First, and most importantly, I still have my faith. This has and continues to be sorely tested given all the horrible events that we have witnessed in 2015 both world wide and at home. But, I have an understanding that God provides us with the tools to be better human beings. It is not up to him to solve all our problems we are not his pets. We are his children and the best way sometimes for children to learn is to allow them to figure things out for themselves. I firmly believe that if we truly commit to our faith – without perverting it for our own selfish desires and the principles of faith, hope and charity – the world would be a better place, regardless of your religion.

Second, my health is pretty darn good thank you. I started Humira as my only treatment for Crohn’s and this, along with watching my diet better, has proven to be a very good move. I have not had a major flare up since starting the treatment (there have been very brief “upsets”) and my energy is better than it has been for years. I’m stronger in middle age than I was in my thirties and that’s a bit of a miracle right there!

Third, I may not have achieved all my fitness goals but I’ve clearly made progress. I’m back in the weight room and rebuilding some muscle that I lost in 2014 (the tape measure and my lifts prove it) and I now not only walk but actually run. I’m even planning on doing some mountain climbing this coming June (Long’s Peak). A feat I don’t think I could have even considered a year ago. Old age isn’t for sissies as they used to say and it isn’t for being bound to a bed or a wheel chair. Stay active, stay strong, and I’ll show those tight skinned whipper snappers that a few aches and pains aren’t going to keep me down. Heck, I don’t even miss the hair on the top of my head anymore…okay, maybe a little.

Fourthly, I’ve committed to expressing my creative side in different ways. I continue with tap dancing, I’m working on my play writing again (slowly but surely), and I find time to audition for plays that I want to act in.

Fifthly, I did have some challenges and disappointments professionally this past year. But, by staying true to my work ethic and with some good fortune I’m still happily employed. The reality is that none of us is guaranteed work in this day and age regardless of how well you do your job and sometimes you are viewed as just a number on a spreadsheet. It doesn’t help to worry about it, but be smart. Keep the resume up to date and keep sharpening your skills!

And lastly, I’m talking to more people. Which has turned out to be good for me (I don’t know how the people I’ve talked to feel about it). I made a goal to not be the wall flower anymore. This has lead me to some interesting conversations with strangers and to even adding a few new friends. And thanks to social media I’ve even reconnected with people who I thought were long in my past. The only difficult part of social media is learning to ignore the negative and argumentative people…of which there seems to be an endless supply.

So, to sum up, I’m looking forward to 2016. If it’s like the past year it will be a wild ride, but I’ll be better for it. I hope you will be better for it as well.

Onward!

 

Life Along the Recycling Center Route

So as I’m pulling out of my drive to go to work this morning I see a large box lying in my yard from Bodybuilding.com. My first thought was that perhaps it fell off a delivery truck or that maybe Santa just missed my chimney.  But no, it was empty so I’m sure it came out of the back of someone’s pickup as they headed to the recycling bins. There was also half a sleeve of raisin bagels lying nearby. Upon further inspection I also found an unopened sample size of some Cellucor pre-workout – score!

Because of this discovery I’ve learned some important lessons today (and a couple not so important):

  1. Roadkill bagels taste better than store bought bagels.
  2. Don’t mix pre-workout with Diet Coke.
  3. If you do mix pre-workout with Diet Coke it turns out that you can type up to 150 words per minute (my keyboard is starting to melt).
  4. Based on the size of the box someone in my town is trying to get jacked up to Hulk like proportions. Let’s hope he, or she, has only good intentions for their new found strength.
  5. If you are going to the recycle center you should really make sure that all your boxes are properly secured in the back of your pick up. At least I hope the box wasn’t just tossed out the window…

Okay, so maybe I really didn’t eat the bagels or take the pre-workout. However, I’ve been toying with the idea of adding back some protein supplement into my diet and maybe trying a pre-workout again. So I’ll take today’s finding as a sign from the universe. I happen to have some sample packs that I have never used and should still be good (I’ll check the expiration dates first of course). I’ve never been a big fan of supplements but think that they do have their place. In the past pre-workouts have left me a little too jittery so I’ll be trying things slowly. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

By the way, a quick update on my Crohn’s – everything is still going well with the Humira. I’ve had some mild digestive “upset” here and there, but nothing that could not also be from normal indigestion/heart burn. I’m getting stronger from my workouts and except for the usual aches and pains of middle age feeling pretty darn good.

Onward!

P.S. – Please don’t eat bagels found along side the road!

 

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!

 

 

 

A Year of Blogging

WordPress has told me that I’ve now been posting this blog for a year (since November 19, 2015). So I thought maybe I should reflect just a little on what’s been going on with the blog.

First and foremost, I enjoy keeping the blog. For me it is a little bit of a journal of my life and a way to occasionally vent and/or muse about things. I started out focusing only on my fitness journey but soon changed things up to cover a wide variety of topics including my life with Crohn’s disease, comic books, leadership and management, and whatever else strikes my fancy at the moment.

Here are a few stats I find interesting:

I’ve made 68 posts so far.  33 in 2014, 28 in 2015 and the rest are dated 2013 or earlier and were imported from another site.

Over 1,000 visitors (I’m sure many are repeat) have been to the site and looked at things 1,680 times.

The most views on one day occurred on December 2, 2014 with 49. The blog entry was “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage” from the day before.

The most popular time to read my blog is on Sundays at midnight.

I have 35 regular followers (thank you).

I’m read from all over the world now (sort of). With most views coming from the USA.  Followed by Italy (where I have a friend), then Ireland (another friend), Italy (yep, I know a guy there too), Germany, the UK, Russia, India, Switzerland, Portugal, Singapore, Pakistan, France, Croatia, Denmark, Bangladesh, Australia, Netherlands, Greece and Argentina.

In 2014 the top 5 blogs where:  “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – a New Wrinkle (115 views),” “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage (58),” “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45),” “The Day After…Thanksgiving (39),” and “A Day in the Life of a Crohn’s Flare Up (39).”

So far in 2015 they are: “A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56),” “Early Inspirations (43),” “Crohn’s Update: Humira (31),” “January 25, 2015 Update (30),” and “When is an Arm Considered Big? (23).”

Overall Top 5 Posts:

Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Courage (59 tie)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – A New Wrinkle (59 tie)
A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56)
Reflections on A Visit With a Doctor (47)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45)

Not surprisingly, most of the most read posts have been in regards to my Crohn’s disease. Not the direction that I had intended for this blog, but it seems to be the one that people are interested in.  After Crohn’s fitness/bodybuilding has the most reads, social issues, and then coming in last my thoughts on management and leadership. To be fair, all the stats are not kept in WordPress as my blog is cross posted to other social media sites. So, for example, my posts on management do much better over on LinkedIn than on the site here.

So, as interesting as this all is what will I do? I’ll keep posting things as I like and hope some folks have enough interest to follow along and even comment on occasion. Watch for more about Crohn’s and fitness and I’ll be talking more about roller coasters and my play writing pretty soon.

If you’d like to see me post on a particular topic just let me know. Chances are I’ll be glad to share my thoughts and opinions (of which I have many).

Onward!

Superman and Supergirl: Observations on Character

If you are a fan of comic book super heroes it is a good time to be alive. After decades of being relegated to comic book stores and garage sales, comic book characters have hit the big time: movies, television, toys. No matter where you look there’s an Avenger, a Justice Leaguer, or some comic book themed movie or show you didn’t even realize was from a comic book (“Walking Dead” anyone?). Yep, it’s a good time to be alive…

Except when it isn’t.

One of the frequent complaints from fanboys and girls) is that whenever a character makes the leap from the printed page to the silver or small screen is that the character isn’t treated properly (just listen to the amount of complaining, grumbling, and skepticism surrounding the new Fantastic Four movie – much of it, in my opinion, justified). However, I think that there is a bigger problem and that’s when writers in the characters home medium (comic books) don’t seem to understand the characters that they are writing about either.

Now, some difference in interpretation of character is to be expected in comics. Most characters are handled by multiple writers and artists over many years, if not decades for the most popular, and let’s face it – times and expectations of the audience change. However, in some cases, the mishandling of the characters actually happens from the beginning. For example, let’s look at the last survivors of Krypton – Kal-El and Kara Zor-El aka Superman and Supergirl.

I’d be willing to wager that Superman’s origin is well known to the vast majority of the western, and possibly the rest, of the world. Rocketed as a baby by his parents, Jor-El and Lara, from the doomed planet Krypton, he was found by a kindly couple, the Kents, and raised as their own son in America’s midwest and grew up to be a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper fighting for truth, justice and the American way.

Now a lot of this makes sense (in a comic book way). If Superman was raised on Earth in America’s heartland (Smallville, Kansas for those who don’t know) of course he has good old fashioned American values. And for several decades he was portrayed as pining away for the planet he never knew. Presumably, like the adopted child who never knew his parents he searched and did everything he could to embrace their culture without ever knowing it. This was sometime’s taken to extremes though and even dealt with in a wonderful story by Gerry Conway (I think) where Supergirl and the Kandorians (more survivors of Krypton…for a time there it appeared that only Jor-El and Lara actually died when Krypton exploded) go so far as to try and convince him that he is not actually Kryptonian and needed to stop obsessing about it. This plot was undone in part because they never came up with an explanation for Krypto (Superman’s dog) and other small loose ends. Okay, I can go with that…mostly. I actually prefer John Byrne’s interpretation that though Superman learned about Krypton’s society later in life he never really missed it – because he didn’t live it. Heck, for most of his formative years he didn’t even know where he was from!

My real issue is that Supergirl (Kara Zor-El by the way, not one of the other similar characters to be named Supergirl over the years, including a clone of Lana Lang who later was merged with a human being and became and angel…yeah, it’s complicated) has usually been portrayed as completely accepting her lot, loving people, and rarely if ever misses Krypton. The problem? To my memory every version of Kara Zor-El, including presumably the version who will be seen on CBS this fall, actually spent her formative years on Krypton! She was a teenager when sent to Earth by her father (Jor-El’s brother). She was not raised by humans, let alone in the American heartland. She is truly a stranger in a strange – and technologically primitive – land. Superman was the baby rescued when adopted. Supergirl is the refugee who’s world has been destroyed and thrown into a situation completely against her will.

To be fair, Supergirl was first created in what we would call a more innocent time when kids, not adults, actually were reading the comics. Her purpose was to not only expand the “Superman” brand (i.e. merchandising) but to draw in young girls to comic books so many of her early adventures involved romance (a trap that even Wonder Woman fell victim to, by the way).

My point in all this? Not sure I really have one. However, I think that as a writer it is important to pay attention to the origins of any character you might be writing about. Whether it is a play, a short story, novel or even comic book, you are better off if you don’t deviate from your core character without writing in a reason. And when it comes to movies about comic book characters it’s always my hope that the writers of the movie or television show remember what made a character popular for so many years. And for the writers in the comic book world to do the same,

Onward!

2015 Looking Into the New Year

Well, back to work today and back to the normal routine. . At first I was worried I didn’t get done everything I wanted to get done during my holiday, but I did get to spend quality time with family, establish some new healthy habits (another 10,000+ steps today – a six day streak) and cleared my head about a few things. So I guess all in all not a bad holiday break.

Looking forward into the New Year I have quite a bit to keep working on. My diet needs to be cleaner, leaner and more “natural” and by that I mean I need to prepare more of my own food and eat out less. It’s just healthier in general and I think with Crohn’s the closer you can get to natural foods the better anyway. A friend sent me an article on one woman’s experience of going Vegan with Crohn’s and it worked well for her. I don’t see myself going that far, or even vegetarian, but I do see more leafy greens, veggies in general, and raw fruits in my diet.

I’ve started working more on cardio fitness for many reasons. One, I’d like to live well into old age. Two, it’s easier to finish 5Ks when you are not gasping for breath.

I’ll be hitting the weights again. I’m not getting any younger and my body seems to remind me of that each day in new and interesting ways. Plus, I kind of like the feeling of my sleeves being just a little snug…

Creatively, so much to finish. Ditto concerning my professional life as well. All in all, another typical year but this time with an atypical outcome!

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!

2014 in Review By the Numbers

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Just some interesting information on the short life of this blog. Thanks to all who have followed along so far, there’s more to come in 2015!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 660 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.