How I Ate An Elephant

I Know Where You’ve Been-Queen Latifah

HOW I ATE AN ELEPHANT

I started walking in January of this year. My friend said he would meet me for coffee at the Starbucks if I walked there. I considered his offer with a lot of fear and self-doubt. I was uncertain if I could walk 1.5 miles. With one foot in front of the other I did it. One day led to the next day.  One week led to the next week.

I continued to walk, and then I started to jog.  In reality it wasn’t really a jog, just a faster walk.  I would move forward a few feet, only to collapse inward with tachycardia and shortness of breath.  I would stumble along for a bit, and then attempt a few feet more.  This accomplishment, trivial for most, but momentous for a person who became visibly weak climbing a single flight of stairs.

It is difficult for me to do things for myself.  It is easier for me to do things for others.  I know this about myself, and I chose to use this information to push myself forward.  You see there was a little church that was just over the river from my house.  The church on Jefferson Avenue was exactly one-half mile away.  I pondered if I would ever be able to jog all the way to that little church.  I thought it impossible, but something drove me forward.  A few steps, then a few more.  The interval between walking and jogging becoming shorter.

I motivated myself by imagining that I would do an inspirational video for others.  The man who could barely walk, now able to jog a half of a mile!  Like many of my grandiose ideas it started simply with me wearing a GoPro to film the event.  Soon my imagination included my son with a camera behind me.  Then my daughter would have a camera in front, and so it went. I even thought about the dramatic finale with several people clapping for me as I ran into the church parking lot, panting and near total exhaustion.  The thought of doing something creative drove me forward.  The thought that someone could watch the video and be inspired to improve their health drove me forward. I was jogging more and walking less.  Never easy, but less difficult.

I selected a soundtrack for my proposed inspirational video. Strangely, it was a quasi spiritual from the play “Hairspray.” A song triumphing the strength of a group discriminated against. A song of hope and commitment. A song of a better life. The song resonated with me and the discrimination that I had felt.  I would listen to the song when I would attempt to jog, and it pushed me forward.

All of the ideas, all of the planning, and then it happened. I’m not sure how it happened.  I was jogging past the little church.  I was jogging the 1.5 miles to Starbucks.  Each 100 feet that had seemed so incredibly difficult in the beginning, now joined together. The creation of my inspirational video had become meaningless, as I was now running three times the distance. The purpose of my video was to inspire. The thought of making it was inspirational.  I guess that the inspiration was intended only for me.

This morning I was jogging, not to Starbucks, but on a motorized and rubberized mat in an almost empty gym.  Next to me was my Starbuck’s friend who was jogging on his own treadmill. Earbuds in my ears, iPhone playing “I Know Where You’ve Been.”  Still not effortless, but less of an effort.  I wondered… should attempt a 5K in the spring?  One foot in front of the other.  Right, left, right, left… one foot in front of the other.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  Today my goal is to remember this.

Bran Muffins

A better bran muffin
A better bran muffin

Bran Muffins

If you haven’t already guessed, I tend to find lessons in simple everyday things. I  don’t believe that everything has to be disaster to be significant.  And so it is with today’s post on bran muffins.

As you may recall, I had been on a quest to come up with a simple breakfast that I could eat in the car.  Muffins were the perfect solution, but the store bought ones were loaded with both calories and sugar.  Two things that I was trying to avoid in my efforts to move ever closer to health.

I came across a simple low sugar bran muffin recipe and the results were pretty good.  As I continued to make batch after batch I became over confident with my baking technique and muffin quality suffered.  My last batch was edible, but the muffins were slightly gummy and very uninspiring. I ate them, but I didn’t enjoy them.

Back to the drawing board.  What did I do to fix the problem?  When the recipe called for soaking the bran cereal for 15 minutes I soaked it for 15 minutes, not the 5 seconds that I did last time.  When the recipe called for a cup and a half of this, or a tablespoon of that, I used real measuring utensils, instead of “eyeballing” it.  I even checked to see if the muffins were done by inserting a toothpick!

The result?  My best effort yet!  Even my wife Julie commented that they were delicious.

Today my goal is to realize that there is no substitute for doing things the right way when making muffins , or for that matter in life.

 

Shoes

Me on the top of a bluff. Note the green "emergency" poncho in my pocket.
Me on the top of a bluff. Note the green “emergency” poncho in my pocket.
Brand new just hours before, now muddy and dirty the way hiking shoes should be.
Brand new just hours before, now muddy and dirty the way hiking shoes should be.

On Friday, after work, I went camping.  I left for Baraboo directly from my Rockford job shaving a few hours off the total trip.

My day started early.  I got up before 4 AM and headed off to the gym.  There I met Tom, my co-camper.  Tom and I are both helpers by nature, and that morning he reminded me, “Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes.”  I replied, “Already packed.”

I drove to Rockford, worked, and then I was off to Beloit to connect with Tom and Charlie.  Less than two hours later, and we arrived at our campsite.

We had talked about the possibility of rain. We had decided that if it was raining we would pack up and leave.  It was raining and it looked like it was going to continue to rain. Beyond rain, it was cold.  What did we do? We decided to stay.

Shortly after arriving I heard an untypable utterance from Tom followed by, “I forgot my hiking shoes.  I saw them in the laundry room and I made a mental note to bring them.  Then, I forgot them!”  Ironic, as he had just reminded me to bring mine that morning.

It turned out that hiking shoe issues abounded.  Charlie had his, but they were soaking wet.  I had mine, but they were dripping too.  My feet were wet and cold, and that was just from walking about the campsite.  How in the world would we be able to hike for hours up and down muddy and slippery bluffs? Wet plus cold feet equals one miserable hike.

To hike anywhere Tom had to buy some shoes, and luckily he knew of a great shoe store a few towns over. We piled into his car and off we went.  Tom got new shoes, and Charlie and I did too.  All waterproof.

We headed off on our muddy and slippery hike.  We were cold, we were wet..  but we had happy, dry feet.  It was a wonderful hike.

It is always a good idea to plan and prepare, but sometimes a mistake can have its benefits too.  In this case the mistake of one made three hiker’s feet dry and happy.

My goal today is to understand that sometimes I can’t control everything.  My goal today is to understand that on occasion my lack of control can lead to a better outcome.

Today’s Camping Adventure 


I’m finishing up my workweek and getting pumped about a camping adventure. This will be a very different one for me as most/all of my camping as an adult has been family centered. 
This weekend I’ll be with friend Tom and his son Charlie. The weather is cool and it looks like it will rain tonight, but those are small deterrents, as far as I’m concerned. 

My eventual life goal is to travel a bit as I write and document with my camera. 

I have been slowly moving towards that goal. First I reconfigured my professional life to a less stressful one. Then I gave up foods that were making me sick. Then I lost some weight, and then I started down the down the road of being more physically fit. (The above with considerable help). 

On the writing front I’m trying to be more honest with my feelings, as I write in ever more public forums. 

Now this piece. I need to be able to leave my family for a little bit and understand that they will do just fine. I’m not used to taking care of myself, it is so much easier for me to take care of others (as I have done all of my life). 

There are other pieces still to come. I need to become more functional as an extrovert, a pretty tall order for a shy introvert like me. 

I don’t have illusions that all of this will lead to the NYT’s best seller list. With that said, I feel compelled to continue this mission. That compulsion drives me forward. 

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship- 4/20-Standing By

relationshipstandby

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-4/20-Standing By

I have had relationship that I thought were significant in my life, but when I was going through difficult times they suddenly were too busy for me.  These were not good relationships.

It is easy to spend time with someone during fun and exciting experiences.  It is more difficult to spend time with someone who is going through a rough or difficult  time.  The ability to put someone else first is not a sign of codependency.  Rather, it is a sign of empathy and maturity.

I fear that we live in a “what about me” world.  A place where everyone is making sure that they get what they need.  However, there is great reward in being there for someone who is going through a rough patch.  I known that my role is to stand with them, not to fix their problem.  Any burden is lightened when it is carried by more than one person.

In a good relationship there are many times where both parties are free from the need of support.  In a good relationship giving support is a two way street.

My goal today is to be grateful of the great gift of being able to support those people that I care about.  My goal today is to be grateful of the great gift of allowing someone to support me when needed.

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship- 3/20 Missing!

missfriendship

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship- 3/20 Missing!

In a healthy significant relationship you miss the other party when they are not around.

When I care about someone, I enjoy spending time with them.  When I am apart from them, I miss them.  

In life I can’t always be around the people that I care about.  They have things that they need to do, and I have things that I need to do.  In fact, I may enjoy a break from a connection from time to time. This is normal.

I know that I’m very connected to someone when I think about them when I’m not around them.  If I never have those feelings in a relationship, it is likely that the connection is casual and less significant.  These types of relationships are fine, but they require less examination, as they have less bearing on me or my life.

I understand that some people have an intense fear of abandonment, where even a mild threat of losing a relationship creates tremendous angst. That angst can be expressed as extremely needy, demanding or threatening behavior.  This type of “missing” is not healthy, and it is not a sign of a healthy relationship.

Likewise, I know that a close or committed relationship is in trouble when one or both parties don’t miss the other person when they are apart. A lack of desire for a connection, or a lack of effort to connect,  can indicate serious problems in a significant relationship.

Today my goal is to examine the significant relationships in my life, and to utilize this basic feeling to gain a better understanding of my connection with them.

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-2/20 Stay Present!

Every day can be a new beginning.
Every day can be a new beginning.

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-2/20 Stay Present!

Dr. Mike’s 20 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship-2/20 Be Present!

A good relationship thrives in the here and now.

I can learn from my past mistakes, and I should plan for the future, but I should spend most of my relationship life in the here and now.

If I find myself  constantly going back to past hurts, or if I am constantly reminding my relationships about the past sacrifices that I have made, something is wrong, and the correction to that problem needs to start with me. If I am unable to do so, perhaps it is time to move on. The latter suggesting that I’m too inflexible, or that the relationship is too dysfunctional.

Naturally, a knowledge of the past can prevent me from making the same mistake again.  Naturally, if I feel hurt, upset, or undervalued by a past event it is OK to voice those feelings.  However, if I am frequently living in a past space, all I am doing is grinding salt into an old wound. That salt not only corrodes me, but it also corrodes my relationship.

It is much more important to focus on now.  What can I do today to strengthen my relationship?  Sometimes that focus needs to be the rediscovery of enjoyable parts of the relationship.  Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by exploring new, healthy territories.  Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by adopting new behaviors.  Sometimes I can strengthen my relationship by viewing the positives of my connection, rather than constantly rehashing the negatives. The goal is not to achieve a perfect relationship, but to create a flexible, adaptable and enjoyable one.  

A relationship involves two individuals.  To strengthen a relationship my alter needs to be doing the same. In a relationship I am not a one man show.

Today my goal is to learn from the past, but live in the present in the relationships of my life.

 

20 Characteristics of a Good Relationship-1/20 Be Silly

laughingcouple

Dr. Mike’s 20 Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship-1/20 Be Silly!

Most humans are obsessed with relationships, and we have many different kinds.  I have been thinking  about this topic and one early morning I jotted down 20 characteristics that I feel promote a healthy relationship.

I think these points apply to all types of adult personal relationship.  Spouses, friends, relatives, and so on. I’m not talking about parent/child relationships or work relationships, although some of these points would apply there too.

I thought I would spend a little time over each point, and I reserve the right to add or subtract points as I fancy.  Interested?  Let’s get started!


A good relationship should be fun!  A good relationship should be silly!  

Think about some of the best connections that you have had in your life.  Were they always serious?  For me, I would say no.  I love relationships that allow me to be a little goofy at times.  

My goofiness may be different from yours.  For me, it may be about finding humor in something that is a bit odd or different.  For me, there are times when I want to act like a kid and do silly things.  For me, I may want to joke with the other person.  In fact, I tend to show affection by kidding. 

Life is not supposed to be all doom and gloom.  Our personal connections with others should not always be formal and business like. When you explore the light side of any relationship, you also explore your light side. When you explore the lightside of a relationship, you also discover a secret tool that can be used during tense times.

It is easy to get too serious, too self-absorbed, too “What about me?,” in relationships.  A little humor can break a deadly moment, and return balance  to your connection.

Today my goal is to find the fun in the connections around me.  Today my goal is to realize that humor is only funny when both parties think it is.  There is a difference between having fun with someone and making fun of someone.

The Less Than 20 Mile Experiment

Not quite 20 miles
Not quite 20 miles
Taking a selfie at my turnaround.
Taking a selfie at my turnaround.

 

The Less Than 20 Mile Experiment.

Sunday was a beautiful day.  Dry and just cool enough.  I took Saturday off from exercise, and I felt that I needed to do something, otherwise I could move into my, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” mode.

My riding circle is limited.  My friend Tom had been up all night, on vigil, at his son’s campout.  My wife had other plans, and my kids were busy in various way.  Those are the people that I ride with, and that is why I rode solo on Sunday.

There is a different atmosphere when you ride mid-day.  A less friendly one.  On early morning rides I get acknowledged when I greet people.  A big smile with a hello almost also gets me some sort of positive response.  That was not the case on Sunday afternoon.

I think my acknowledgment rate was under 10%, a sad state of affairs.  Most of the people that I passed looked right through me, and some actually looked away from me when I smiled at them. It is odd to think that my cheerful hello could be interpreted in a negative way.

What concerned me most was the looks on many of walkers, runners and cyclists. They had an unpleasant look that went beyond determination or grit.  Many  had a tortured look about them. Doing what they had to, as if they were taking some bad tasting medicine.

I peddled on, and got caught up in the moment.  I entered part of the bike path that I had last been on 25 years earlier. During my last attempt to get fit.  During the time that I injured myself.  During the time that I  gave up on exercise.

After 25 years the path looked familiar, to some degree. I had remembered that there was a little park that you could access from the Prairie Path, and I thought that would be the perfect place to stop and have some water and my squirrel snack… a bag of nuts.

I peddled on and on, but the park was no where to be found. I looked at the odometer on my bike and I realized that if I just went a bit further I could meet, and likely exceed, a 20 mile bike ride.  For a moment I was stoked, but then I came to my senses.

I was out to enjoy a bike ride and I was out to get some exercise.  These two facts were dependent on each other.  Enjoyment + exercise = today’s bike ride.

Going 20 miles meant nothing to me if I didn’t fulfill that equation.  I thought back at all of the miserable looking people that I saw on my ride.  Frowning, looking sad, some  looking outright angry.  Were they enjoying their exercise?  It certainly didn’t seem so.  It appeared like they were trying to reach an artificial goal.  Doing what they had to, not liking it and letting the world know.  Something that could have been fun had just turned into another miserable job for them.

I was determined to not let that happen to me last Sunday.  My artificial goal had become 20 miles or more.  My real goal was to get some exercise and enjoy a bike ride.  To break the pattern I deliberately decided to ride less than 20 miles.  I decided to remove the artificial goal from my agenda and focus on what was really important.  I turned around and headed back.  I thought my total travels would be about 19 and 1/2 miles.  It turned out to be just under 20.

I don’t want to become an individual who looks at everything as work.  “I had to call my family today.”  “I had to go to a party.”  “I had to make dinner and eat it with my family.” “I had to drive my kids to___ and spend time with them.”  What a way to NOT live!

Today my goal is to celebrate the fact that I have free time, and to realize that non-work activities are to be enjoyed and celebrated.

Lost and Found

Mismatched
Mismatched

Lost and Found

The last 24 hours have been a bit frustrating.

I tried to use a projector to show a movie at a friend’s house, and the projector wouldn’t work because the movie (which was purchased) had copyright protection.  Frustrating!

I brought a camera to the same place yesterday, and I couldn’t find my little camera pouch with the  charger this morning.  Frustrating!

I charged a set of earbuds in anticipation of going on a bike ride after church today.  When I unplugged the USB cable I discovered that one of the wings that keep the earbuds in your ears was missing, and I couldn’t find it.  Frustrating!

Dear Reader, these are trivial things, but they are frustrating none-the-less.  Time to pause and think…

It would have been much worse if I couldn’t show the movie at my friend’s son’s birthday, but I was able to figure out how to use a different streaming solution.

It would have been much worse if I had lost my nice camera, instead of its charger. My camera uses USB to charge its battery and I have other USB chargers.

It would have been much worse if I had lost the earbuds.  I have another set of  bluetooth earbuds and I was able to borrow a pair of “wings” from them.

I don’t like to be frustrated, but sometimes it happens.  Today my goal is to realize that frustration is a part of life.

It is also my goal to realize that sometimes frustrations have simple solutions and sometimes they don’t.  When I can fix something, I should.  When I can’t, I need to accept that fact and move on.

 

 

 

 

 

Random thoughts and my philosophy of life.