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.

Early morning along the lake


This weekend I was fortunate to bike ride with a friend at sunrise along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront.

The weather was cool and a bit on the damp side,  much preferable to heat.  The vistas were breathtaking, and especially unique for someone like me, who rarely travels beyond the suburbs.

I try to make it a practice to greet people that I encounter and in DuPage county I am almost always given a nod, a smile or a return hello.  Not so in Chicago, where only two people responded to me.  I found this fact sad.  All of those people, and all of them traveling alone.  Perhaps it is the way that you survive in the city. Perhaps people learn that friendliness is only an excuse to ask for money, or some such thing.

With that said, their lack of communication did not diminish the awesome beauty of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline.  I told my friend that that we should return to this path at least one more time before the cold winds of winter return.

Today I will continue to smile and greet strangers.  Consider joining me in this simple campaign of friendliness. You may brighten someone’s day and a return smile will brighten your day.

Chicago Skyline
Chicago Skyline

Thursday Morning 

It is early and the air is still damp with the rain of last evening. It smells fresh and good.  I’m waiting for the doors to open at the office complex that houses the gym. My early arrival is a sign of both progress and problem. 

Progress in the sense that I’m arriving earlier. Problem in the the sense that I can’t get into the building. The later fact will hopefully be rectified in a few weeks when I get a better keycard. 

It is strange how I can feels energized one day and exhausted the next. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to my altered energy states. For now I am just trying to accept them and adapt accordingly. 

I am once again reminded of the benefit of accountability as I try to move forward.  Knowing that someone is waiting for me pushes  me out of bed on days when an extra 30 minutes of pillow time would be welcomed. I suppose this is a personal reality for me, as I tend to be responsible and I dislike not delivering  when I make a commitment. I think different people have different motivators. 

Today I will continue move forward accepting the reality that on some days that movement will be more compromised than others. 

The empty gym

Today I arrived at  at the gym on time. The benefit of arriving early is that I had my pick of equipment. With that said, I only use the treadmill! As you can see, my photo steadying skills are lost when I run on it. 

I was absolutely exhausted yesterday, but an earlier bedtime has me back on the somewhat tired norm that I have recently become familiar with. This is a very different feeling from the sick exhausted feelings that I had prior to my behavior changes late last year. 

It is funny,in an ironic way, that I feel younger, more vital. The steps  that I’m taking are simple, but I’m also consistent and rational in my plan of action. 

My goal today is to keep moving in a forward direction. My goal today is to correct the inevitable deviations from my first goal. 

The List

A Sunday morning very fun 24 mile bike ride...
A Sunday morning very fun 24 mile bike ride…

It is Sunday night and tomorrow starts a new workweek. It is not uncommon for me to think back to all of the things that I didn’t do that I felt that I needed to do.  This weekend was no different.

However, I did do a lot of productive and enjoyable things too.  I spent time with people that I care about.  I grew a little more spiritually by hearing a decent sermon at church.  I paid my house taxes, took passport photos of the kids, cleaned the house and I did a lot more. I even baked some more of those no sugar muffins!

I wonder why it is so easy to look at my missteps rather than my accomplishments.  For many years I have resorted to a simple technique to realign my thinking. That technique is called, “The List.”

When I start to feel that I should have done more, when I feel that I don’t have the right to just sit and do nothing, I’ll write down everything that I did do.  I’m always surprised at what I have accomplished that day, or weekend, and I always feel better about allowing myself some sitting time.

Life is more than doing.  Today I will try to remember that sometimes just being is enough.

Random thoughts and my philosophy of life.