All posts by Dr. Mike

A very early morning ride

5:30 AM
5:30 AM

It is 5:30 on Saturday morning, and I have already been up for a while.  Dressed and ready to go, but still sleepy, as I have yet to have my morning coffee.

Silently, my friend’s car pulls up and places itself conveniently astride my driveway.  We have done this routine so many times that a text message is no longer necessary.  In moments I’m ready to go, and out the door.

Traveling to his office, only a few minutes away.  Backpack containing a computer rests at my side.  His computer in a logo’ed nylon briefcase, tossed in the back seat.  Today we will focus on some business strategies, and we will try to solve some practical problems.  It may sound like work, but it isn’t. It is enjoyable, honestly it is fun.

The enjoyment and fun are derived from working with someone who has a similar  goal, but a slightly different perspective. The process becomes a ping pong game, with ideas bouncing back and forth. For me learning something new is the extra bonus. My friend’s work is completely outside my discipline, and so everything is new for me.  I like the fact that there are entire bodies of knowledge that I have yet discovered.  Their practical use unimportant.  They stand alone on their information.

Work, conversation, food, break, work, and so it goes.  Each element painting something on the canvas of the morning.

My goal for today is to acknowledge the satisfaction that collaborating with others brings.  My goal today is to be grateful that I have people who I can collaborate with.

Rockford Thoughts

Early morning on I88
Early morning on I-88

I started the drive in 2009.  Back and forth, rain or shine, I always went. Ninety miles, an hour and twenty minutes, two tolls. Traveling, only to return back to where I started in my round trip.

I travel mostly silently, surrounded by my thoughts.  Thoughts not of grand scale, but small thoughts that entertain me.  Small thoughts that keep me company. They reside privately with me, rarely to be shared.

They drift and slide, here and there, as I look ahead at the road before me.

I drive 90 miles to Rockford, then 90 miles back to my home.  Net distanced traveled is zero. This simple calculation misses the point of my journey.

I think small thoughts that  can be circular.  On the surface their value is also zero. But to value them based on this metric misses the point of their existence.

My introverted mind uses my trip time… my quiet time, to grown and recharge. In a pressured life that measures time in quarter hour increments.  Well spent time.

Today my goal is to accept who I am and celebrate it.  To judge myself based on my own self, and not by comparison to others. To known what I need, and to freely give it.

Today I needed to drive to Rockford, and to drive back home… and to think.

On a dark and rainy morning

A rainy morning drive
A rainy morning drive

It’s getting darker outside.  Partly due to my 3:50 AM wake-up time, and partly due to the ever escalating advance of fall.  This morning it was also raining.

I gathered myself  and found myself in my car at 4:25 AM, driving in dampness.  A block into my journey I was halted by the flashing red lights and the whooshing sound of a freight train.  But I arrived.

The gym seems to be gathering a larger crowd these days.  Early attenders with purposeful looks on their faces.    They assemble themselves onto their machines, and start their morning journey.  A stationary one.

I suppose that I am now joining their ranks.  I stepped on my treadmill and programmed it for my jog.  The gym seems less difficult now, as the inevitable personal training has become more of a focus.  My muscle more sore today, sorer than yesterday.  My resolve unchanged.

So many times I want things to come easy.  Without effort or energy. I don’t want to deal with rainy days, freight trains and personal trainers.

I know that I learn by repetition.  I know that I change by consistency.  Tomorrow I will don exercise shirt and shorts and move one more millimeter closer to my goal.

Why to I do this to myself?


I am unsure why I do this to myself.  It is not like I don’t know better, but I do it.

I will think of a question, and then I need to come up with a solution. Hopefully, multiple solutions.

Case in point: I am just getting familiar using WordPress.  In fact I created this blog as an experiment to learn how to build one for a friend… and then I started to post on it.

That wasn’t enough, and I had to figure out how to relocate the blog so it could become  a website,  That wasn’t enough, and I had to figure out how to re-direct my other domain,, to point and mask to  Why?  I have no idea, but I spent the last few days thinking about it, and a frustrating few hours tonight making it happen.

I just can’t seem to stop myself.  I’m always solving problems and finding problems to be solved.  It is a strange affliction, and one that apparently has no cure. It is the process itself that drives me.  The process and possibly the second of euphoria that I experience when it all come together.

So now I have a blog that is redirected from several domains, it also automatically posts to several social media outlets; and I feel satisfied.  Solving problems must be my Mount Everest.  I solve them because they are there. Strange things amuse me.


A day of reckoning

Today was the day.  The anticipated day, The day of stress, the stress that I paid for.

Today was the day that I started with a personal trainer.  The morning started early.  Coffee using my new speedy coffee system, homemade low sugar muffin, then a 15 minute car ride.

My trainer is pleasant, but business like.  My ability is as expected.  I fatigue easily and the “next” set seems more difficult than the “prior” one.  After exhaustion using TRX bands and running “suicides” I’m told that I just completed about 1/2 of a normal exercise session.  Not even a hollow victory.

I’ll return to the gym tomorrow and run on the treadmill.  On Friday I’ll face more training.  Training that I don’t look forward to.  Training that reminds me of high school gym class and my inadequacies.

This journey started years ago with a dedicated effort to reduce my stress.  It continued a year ago with a dedicated effort to give up sugar.  It continues today.  A journey, part of a greater journey.  A journey with an unknown destination.

Despite my soreness, I also see the irony in my life.  As I try to “let go and let God” strange things happen, and I am pushed forward.  I don’t think that I would have started walking if it wasn’t for a friend.  I don’t think that I would have joined a gym, if it wasn’t for a friend.  I know that I never would have engaged a personal trainer, if it wasn’t for a friend.

My goal is to become strong so I can move my life in a different direction.  Hike national parks, explore, write, photograph and ponder.

As I was leaving the gym, already feeling sore, my friend said, “You are working towards having 5 more good years of  hiking in national parks.”  He was right.

Here is the irony.  My friend is not a very religious man and yet he is serving as an agent of change for me.  In reality, he is serving as an agent of God, and he doesn’t even know it.  For some reason this understanding makes me smile.

My morning continues, and my workday starts.  Life flows on.


A welcoming lobby
The machine
The machine

Celebrating the day

Sunrise on Lake Michigan

It strikes me as interesting that simple pleasures have become profit centers.  Where I live kids don’t play softball games in the street, they join a club that structures that activity for them.  The same can be said of adults, who take classes or partake in activities, all for a price.

My comment is not to be derisive of purchased experiences, as they certainly have their place.  However, I don’t think that they should replace all of the many things that are free for the taking.

This last weekend I went on a bike ride along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.  The weather was cool, and the sky was clear.  I went with a friend, and shared good conversation.  I was dazzled by the beauty of the sun rising up from the lake.  I was stunned by the elegance of the Chicago skyline at dawn.  I was amused by my people watching.  Total cost, free.

How many times do I pass up free experiences?  Do I think that something has to have a cost to have a value?  Today, and everyday, I hope to have the wisdom to see the “sunrises” that present.  All free of charge, and all plentiful.


A familiar path

This morning is a family business morning and so a change in my recent routine  A return to an old one, my downtown walk. 

So many welcoming sights and smells greet me. Then a change. The early morning ghost town of the Last Fling. 

Tossed along the riverside, standing stark and industrial. A contrast from the serenity of the river. Yet, still and quiet at this morning time. Another experience for me, and only available because of my early arrival.  Soon the space will be filled with crowds and calliope music. A moment destroyed and a new one created. 

I sit in Starbucks and I sit grateful for this day of new experiences. Enjoy your Saturday. 

Gnats in the air

Yesterday was a day full of gnats.  Not the real bugs, but little things that bugged me.

The morning started with an exercise routine that I did poorly on.  It transitioned to me trying to help my friend with some software issues.  I was unable to help him, and I felt bad about it.  Then onto a day of tele-psychiatry.  My patients were a bit more complicated and for some unknown reason my prescribing software locked me out preventing me from writing prescriptions.

By the evening my muscles were hurting more (from the exercise) and I was on edge. It was easy to be a bit snappy. It was also easy to feel sorry for myself.

Dear reader, I was focusing on the negatives of my day instead of the many positives.  Here are just some of the positives:

  1. I tried a new exercise routine.
  2. I did help my friend with some other things.
  3. I started to think of solutions to his computer issue.
  4. I was able to work from home.
  5. Despite a stressful work day, I did help some folks and the software lockout eventually got fixed.
  6. I had a zero commute day.
  7. I had dinner and time with my family.
  8. I went to a documentary that was well done and interesting.
  9. And more…

When I looked at the positive list my day appeared to be pretty good, not bad at all.

I know that I can learn more about myself when I pay attention to how I feel.  I know that a lot of what bothered me was not being able to “deliver” to others.  I felt bad that I couldn’t solve my friend’s software issue, I felt bad that I couldn’t fix the problems of all of my patients, and I felt bad that I was burdening my nurse by having her call in prescriptions (due to my software glitch). These were feelings that I was imposing on myself.  Since I was the imposer, I also could become the liberator, and that is exactly what I did.  I ran through positive list and I embraced it.  I accepted the fact that my friend would be OK with me, even if I didn’t have the answer to every question.  I figured out how to get my patients their meds, despite the fact that technology had reared its ugly head.  My day of gnats became just another day.

Today I will try to realize that for every negative in the universe there is a positive.

Muffin Madness

I have to admit that I’m a compulsive person who comes from a long line of compulsive people.  It is who I am.  I actually like my compulsivity, but it likely drives others a bit bats. When you combine my compulsiveness with learning something new… then I’m having fun.

I also love to find solutions to problems… and this has led me to become the Muffin Man.  OK perhaps, that title is a bit over-stated.

As you may recall, I am moving into a new health direction that involves getting up very early and going to the gym.  My personal chemistry requires that two things happen before I step past the gym’s threshold.  1. I have to have a cup of coffee. 2. I need to eat something.

My morning mainstays have been oatmeal, and fruit with peanut butter.  However, I need to be able to eat in the car, and both of these foods don’t travel well.  I have experimented with simple foods, like nuts… but they get boring.  Hence, Very low sugar muffins.

When you combine the terms “low sugar” and “muffin” you are left with only one possibility, make them yourself.  I have now tried 3 recipes, and honestly they have all been pretty decent.  Even Julie and the kids will eat them!

Yesterday’s experiment was these whole grain pumpkin muffins.  I substituted Splenda for the brown sugar and added a little more cinnamon.  Results: yummy!  I thought I would pass on the recipe to you.  About 140 calories per muffin (compared to 500-600 for a commercial one).

Multi-grain low sugar muffins
Multi-grain low sugar muffins
Mixing it up
Mixing it up
How to make them
How to make them

Waking up sore, waking up strong

Yesterday I tried some free weight exercises in preparation for next week when I’ll be working with a personal trainer. Add to that a very long workday that ended around 10 PM.

Today I feel sore and tired.  I’m dressed and ready to go to the gym, but my heart isn’t in it.  I would rather sleep-in.  Even better, I would rather take the day off.  Neither will happen.  In a few minutes I’ll hop into my car and off I will go.

It would be easy to give in, just for today.  But today becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow the next day. My patterns with my new behaviors are not set, they are only slightly gelled.  So I sip my coffee with my muscles aching,  my eyes burning, and I look at the clock on the computer, and I prepare to leave.

Today I will not let myself defeat me.  Today I will let myself move me forward.  I often have two sides to myself, and today I will listen to the side that wants me to be strong.