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Pizza and the Dodo bird

April 4th, 2012 No comments

The last few days, I’ve been really bored.  Wandering thoughts about junk food and overeating trigger me to take notice.  It’s very telling when I don’t have something to do or feel unsatisfied in some way how my mind starts to wander to food.  Even still, I am strong.  I’ll have to write another post about this issue.  over-eating doesn’t fix anything.  You just want to sleep.  Bleh.

Monday.  I really didn’t feel like going in (yet another post), but I dragged my butt out of bed, although not before giving Kumo and Danica some up-on-the-bed loving.  I think I enjoy it more than they do.  I love those guys.  Although I hate getting up on Mondays to go to work, the thought of what awaits me in the kitchen motivates me.  My chocolate Shakeology oatmeal. NOM NOM NOM

My oatmeal ShakeologyI microwave 1 serving of old fashioned quaker oats.  While it’s cooking , I take a fuji apple (honeycrips aren’t in season), save half for another time, core the remaining half, and chop into small pieces.  Once the oatmeal is done cooking, I then add chocolate Shakeology, Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein, Bell Plantation PB2 (peanut butter without the oil, non-gmo), and some cinnamon and add these to the now ready Oatmeal.  Because there’s so much dense food now in the oatmeal, I usually end up having to add some additional hot water.  By far my favorite meal of the day.

No fresh snacks at work means planning, …means stopping off at the grocery store on the way to work. Dear Whole Foods, please open a store near work or home.  KTHXBYE. Safeway.  Knew I wanted some in-pod edamane, but.. DOH, the only podded edamame is ‘best if used by 3/27′, HELLO that’s a week ago! Pass (sigh).  Needs to be portable, … let’s see.  Carrots, bananas, Fuji Apples (these look a bit long in age, but for some reason, the safeway near my work always has medicre apples), unsalted roasted almonds, a sweet potato (will end up covered in cinnamon I already have at work), a small pack of sugar snap peas.  Everything is organic except the snow peas.  Mission accomplished.

I’m 37 today, and Sil and Joe (work) want to take me out to lunch, very nice of them.  These days, I generally don’t like eating out.  Most places end up adding things ot your food that I don’t want (butter, cheap oils, and who knows what else).  I chose the Counter in San Jose, a custom burger joint.  I ordered a 1/3 pound grilled chicken breast over organic mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, fresh avocado, and some tzaziki sauce on the side (342 calories, though not enough carbs).  When I was eating more dairy, I used to also get their herbed goat cheese spread, btw, which is awesome.  But, for today, skipped it, and didn’t miss it. It was spectacular.  Forgot to snap a picture of this, ah well.  When I got back to work, I realized I still felt hungry, and broke into an organic protein food bar to get a few more carbs.  It should help hold me until a bit later.  These bars are awesome.  330 calories, 22 proteins, 33 carbs, 8 fibers, no GMO’s, no Trans Fats, alkalizing, and full of energy.  By far the best tasting, best ingredients.  Credit to Silvino for linking me to the Matt Danzig fighter blog post about his diet, which is where I learned about this awesome bars).

When I felt the need to eat for no good reason, I’d either pop an almond (1), or grab a carrot.  I estimate I ate 9 almonds and one or two carrots (always feel like bugs buny when I’m eating a carrot, sup doc?).  Around 3pm, I made another round of oatmeal Shakeology, but this time used a banana (tasty, great pre P90x food!).  This will easily hold me over until dinner.

Ben's Kickin Mango SalsaTonight is a special treat.  For my birthday, anna prepared my recipe for mango salsa, some sauteed zucchini, and some baked chicken.  The salsa  was healthy, fresh, and perfect.  We have been eating a lot of roasted veggies, carrots, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and parsnips.  My whole reason for coming up with the salsa recipe was I needed a way to zest up baked fish.  I can spice some sockeye salmon up well enough, but variety keeps it interesting.  This salsa was just what I needed to do that.  Thanks Honey.

Optimum Nutrition Casein Protein PowderAfter doing some additional reading and investigation, I’ve found that consuming casein protein before bedtime will keep hungry muscles fed overnight.  The dairy based casein protein digests more slowly than whey based protein, and as such, tends to sustain growing muscles overnight.  This idea reminds me of that old addage “a glass of milk before bed time”.  I don’t know when I first heard it, but from a muscle building standpoint, it makes total sense.  I also throw in some PB2 for good measure (chocolate needs peanut butter), and several dashes of cinnamon (helps keep you feeling full).  I then add several ice cubes, and blend for 30 seconds.  Talk about a killer dessert.

I did contact Optimum Nutrition, asking:

1) What is the diet of the cows that product your products?
2) Are your cows subjected to Growth Hormones? (rBST, others?)

Below is the response I received:

We deal with a large number of whey suppliers who buy from an enormous amount of farms, and as such, we cannot state that our products are rBGH, IGF-1, antibiotic, and BST free.  However, whenever possible, we try to select from companies that we know have a strong interest in humane treatment as well as natural methods.  One such company is _____ Cheese Company.  Please note their response:

 “_____Cheese Company is committed to producing the highest quality cheese and ingredients. This commitment begins at the source – the milk we receive from more than 260 family-owned dairies. Because dairy herd performance reflects the quality of care received at every stage of the production cycle, our dairy farmers rely on proven best management practices to maintain the health and welfare of their dairy cows. Dairies keep detailed records, continually work on hygiene and sanitation, and utilize new technologies – from misters to milking equipment, freestalls and barn innovations, and modern management practices to provide first-rate cow comfort on the dairy. Our dairy farmers extend their care beyond the cow to the environment, as well, with _____ Cheese Company having the greatest number of dairies certified in the environmental stewardship program administered by the California Dairy Quality Assurance program.”

I’m not thrilled by this answer, but what can I do?

Some might ask ‘Why the shakeology? Why not eat complete whole foods all day? Why use protein powder vs naturally occuring proteins?  Excellent questions!  First, I love the taste of shakeolgoy.  It always feels like something I shoudln’t be able to eat, that should be a no-fly-zone for those trying to have a healthy diet.  So, it fulfills that ‘aha’ part of my brain’s needs.  It also has a ton of rare nutrients in it from even rarer foods.  For the Casein protein powder, I could use Greek yogurt, as the protein in greek yogurt should conceivably do the same thing.  However, I’m trying to move away from eating whole dairy products.  Milk, unless organic, suffers from the failures of GMO foods (bad chemicals, cancer causing agents and precursors, food allergies, ..all bad).  Soy milk, well.. Soy has a tendency to cause fluctuations in testosterone due to the oestradiol it contains.  Those fluctuations can lead to increased inflamation (in the lining of your blood vessels), which can increase your risk of heart disease.  The main reason I’d typically add milk to a dish or eat it would be for the protein.  Most almond milk I’ve found doesn’t have enough protein to warrant it’s use.  And I don’t know of any rice milk based greek yogurt.  So, there ya go.  It seems, most dairy products dont’ have a place in my life.

This raises the question, what about the protein powder?  Whey is from dairy, and casein is from dairy, right?  This is true.  And honestly, I don’t’ have enough information on this subject.  It’s possible I’m doing exactly what I’m trying to avoid by eating those powders.  but, I figure, the less of the dairy product I eat, the less chance I have of suffering its negative consequences (so if only the protein powder, perhaps the process to extract the powder will also extract some of its other bad mojo.  :shrug:, more research is needed).

There’s also the vegetarian movement.  Although I find myself eating a LOT more veggies now that I’m not eating wheat or bread, I don’t think that I could sustain myself just eating vegetables and feel satisfied.  Maybe someday, but I’m not there yet.

Categories: Diet, General Tags:

A Different Drummer

September 14th, 2011 No comments

Heard today from Beatrice, my Trainer/Therapist/Masseuse:

“Are you such a racer! Always going, moving, so many things at once, always in motion!”
(in response to my attemps to ‘fix’ what ails me)

I’ve had heal pain in my ankle/Achilles since July 10th of this year.  It’s been just over 8 weeks.  I recently went to see Joyce Thom (more on Joyce here), and even she spoke about how in Eastern Medicine, the right side of your body is usually linked to the doing, being in motion.  And she thought it was intriguing that most of my pain was there (my right lower back, My right Quad, my right Calf, my right knee, my right ankle).

Beatrice, Joyce, and my father’s wife kandy, are all saying the same things.

-Just Be: Take the time to learn how to ‘just be’ (not to be happy only when in motion, doing, accomplishing).
-Relax: Everything really will be okay.
-Breathe: Breathe with a purpose, to calm yourself, constantly, deep breaths, mindful, from the belly.
-Trust Yourself: This one is a challenge for me.  Since my lower back injury, I’ve seen my body as a hidden weapon that only needs to be activated to cause incredible, instant pain.  I’m working on accepting my body as part of me, not the enemy.
-Appreciate Yourself: Give yourself credit for each and every accomplishment, focus on the positive, literally pat yourself on your back when you do something good for yourself.  Feel the good on the other side of the tough choices you make, focus on it, wait for the feeling before you move into the resistance, wait for the resistance to fade and the good feeling to saturate you.

My intellectual self is still trying to think and do what it can to ‘fix’ this.  I’m in the process of convincing myself to take time, make space, flow…

…It’s a very interesting and challenging time to be me :)

Categories: General Tags:

Make time to exercise everyday

January 13th, 2010 1 comment

When I was growing up, a lot of the time I was kind of chubby.  I was born into this world tipping the scales at 13 pounds!.  THIRTEEN POUNDS!  Talk about challenged from birth!  I’d love to take responsibility for weighing this much when I was born, but it’s not like I sucked all of the fat out of my mother or forced her to eat whatever she did.  Maybe I’m just a mutant?  SuperFatBoy!

When I was in 5th grade, I can remember during one of my subjects, we were reading alloud, and one of the sentences was “Ben has fat fingers”.  The whole class laughed (I was the only Ben in my class).  It’s funny the things kids remember and how it affects them.

When I was 9, I can remember my Step-mom cooking fast meals for us, yes, she would include carrots as a side dish, but the main course would be something like Macaroni and Cheese.  It was delicious the way she made it!  But, it was also extremely unhealthy.  I can’t remember my parents focusing on nutrition and fitness as I was growing up, either that or I was just a typical kid who knew better than his parents.  Probably both are true.

Around 13 years old, I found something I loved to do that required energy.  I started to go to the local park a few blocks away.  They had two tennis courts there.  On the court closest to the border of the park, on one side of that court, they had a green wood section up against the border fence, probalby 3 times as high as a standard net, but it had a white line where the net should be.  And so, I started to teach myself how to play tennis by playing tennis at twice the speed against that wall.  I’d bring a few set of new balls, and I’d practice aiming at different spots just above the net line.  I”m not sure I tied together that it was helping me loose weight at the time, but I knew that I would come home drenched in sweat.  Around that time, I also started eating  slimfast shakes for dinner. I had just become tired of being the chubby kid

I’ve gone back and forth with weight my entire life, up and down…But not anymore.  It’s healthy back for life.  That’s what I have written on reminders around the house, along with a very short list of the things that I need to keep doing, it says:

My Health Back for Life
Weight: 205 (lean)
-Healthy Diet: low fat, low carbs, low sugar
-Regular exercise (gym, walking)

Core Muscle Strength (build it / keep it)
-rehabilitiation
-Education
-Repetition

I know it may seem simple, but it’s amazing how when you have a positive reason and reminder around the house, how useful it is.

My wife Anna and I go to the gym on a fairly regular basis, but there are nights where if I”m the one cooking dinner, making time, while possible, is not something I want to do.  So, here are some of the things I now have at home and do at home to keep things moving along for my health:

To Buy:
1. Swiss Exercise Ball: You can get these at $10 at target.  Don’t buy the more expensive ones, they won’t give you anything useful.  I use this ball for a bunch of exercises I do, and truly there are even more I don’t currently do mainly because of my back.

2. 10lb Medicine ball: I use this to increase the difficulty of some of the core exercises that I do.  This 10lb ball goes for around $30 at Target.

So,that’s it!  $40 plus tax.

The exercises I’m going to list are in no particular order, although I like to stretch first (and sometimes after as well, depending on how my back is feeling:

1. Hamstring Stretch (lying down):  This is one of the exercises my rehab specialist recommended I do at least once a day.  I do 15 seconds per iteration, 3 times per each leg with a 5 second break between the stretches.  Its important to try to get your foot parallel to the ground as much as you can as that serves to stretch out the hamstring even more.  Additionally, I use a small rolled up hand towl under my lower back at the top of the sacrum to make sure I hold proper form (the back tends to want to do the wrong thing with this stretch, it protects your back).

2. Piriformis Stretch: Yet another rehab recommendation.  I included a picture of where the piriformis is located (think lower glutes).  I use the rolled up towel again just above my sacrum for good form.  The goal here is to keep your back on the ground, put one foot on the opposite legs outide knee area, and lightly push the knee that is crossed over toward the opposite leg until you feel tension in your glutes (that’s the piriformis stretching).  According to my rehab dude, the piriformis is an often overlooked muscle to stretch, and this exercise does it safely.

3. Piriformis stretch #2: warning: This can be a difficult stretch for some.  Again using the towel just above my sacrum, you’re on you’re back.  Start by having both knee’s bent (Feet by your glutes), and bring one foot so it’s just in front of the other knee.  You can move it so that your calf is touching the other knee, but so that that leg is below the height of the other leg (the one still with foot touching your glutes or so).  You then hold the leg in front of the other leg comfortable, and while doing this, push the stretched leg (you’ll feel it) with the other leg toward your chest.  Make sure to keep your back neutral while doing this, and take it slow.  The first you do this, you may not being able to stretch it very far, but keep working at it over time.

4. Leg Lifts: Now we get into the beginning of the exercises!   No more towel under the lower back.  The picture to the left shows the starting position.  The idea here, is to keep your back neutral while dipping the extended leg (along with your back) down a few degrees, then back up.  You’ll be using your abs and back to do the work.  I do 10 per side twice (10 left, 10 right, 10 left, 10 right).  There’s a slightly more advanced version of this that I do now.  You see how her hands are on the ground to stabilize herself?  I now take my hands, and hold the medicine ball with both hands (arms extended) out past my head (above my head, if i was standing, my arms would be making a say 15 degree angle with the ground, this helps to also work your upper abs.

5. Bridge plus heal dig: We’re now no longer using the towel under the lower back / sacrum.  You lie on your back with your legs resting on top of the ball. To add difficulty, just put the heels of your feet on the ball.  Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor into a bridge .(A)  Tighten your abdominal muscles.Keep your hips and glutes off the floor while you pull the ball closer to your buttocks with your feet (B). Dig your heels into the ball for traction and to engage the muscles along the back of your thighs (hamstrings). Hold for three deep breaths.  Hold for two seconds and then return to the starting position.  I do two sets of fifteen.

6. Bridged Leg Lifts: In between my Bridge plus heal dig sets,  I do 10 of the bridged leg lifts pictured to the left (10 per leg, alternating).  This helps to really work the muscles even more.  Your muscles should be tired by the time you finish your second set of Bridge plus heal digs.  If not, try adding a few more leg lifts.

7. Superman Variant: This exercise felt great on my lower back.  You start in a crawling position with your knees and hands on the ground.  While keeping your back neutral, you lift one arm out in front of you, slightly above horizontal while simultaneously raising your alternate leg straight out behind you (slightly above horizontal).  If this is your first time doing this, be patient with yourself.  It will seem awkard (since your muscles dont’ usually do this naturally).  There’s a more advanced version where you take the swiss exercise ball underneaht your belly (positioned so you’re balanced on it.  Your arms will be in that same crawling starting position, but your legts will start out extended, with only your toes touching the ground.  The exercise is mostly the same, but although this might sound easier, it’s more challenging to balance on the ball and with your legs extended.

8. Exercise Ball Roll out: You start on your knees with the excise ball in front of you, you bend slightly foward at the butt, but will maintain a neutral back otherwise.  You put your hands on the ball, and allow your feet to come off the ground while your hands/forearms roll onto the ball, the ball rolls foward (To a comfortable point), hold it for 2 seconds, then back slowly to starting position.  Keep your abs flexed, this one works both your abs and back.  I do just one set of 15.

9. Squats with Exercise Ball:  This is the last of my rehab exercises.  This is just a form of a controlled Squat against a wall using the exercise ball.  You back up to a wall and place the exercise ball somewhere between the top of your sacrum and mid back (Depending on your ball size).  Spread your feet apart a couple inches more than shoulder width and slightly out in front of you.  As you come down (similar to the picture), make sure to allow your but to stick out (toward the wall) but maintain a neutral spine.  Come down until your knee to hip is horizontal to the ground, hold for two seconds, and then return to starting position.  This works the lazy hamstring (never gets enough attention).  I can see the definition that this exercise alone has brought!  If this is too easy (make sure it is first), you can do the same exercise, but put weights in your hands, but even if you don’t have weights, just do the regular exercise regularly.

10. Side Plank: If you’ve ever done yoga, you may recognize this exercise.  The goal here is to hold the position illustrated to the left.  I usually try to hold for 10-15 count per side, then repeat.  This is a great stabilizer exercise.  If you find it difficult to hold yourself up with an arm, you can do a variant where instead of your arm extended downard completely, you rest on the elbow to hand like this.

11. Oblique Curls:  The exercise Ball is great for doing regular curls and Oblique Curls.  Here’s an illustration of how to do them to the right.  I do about 10 per side, then repeat, and i try to hold the up position for a second or two.

12.  Desk Chair Replacement (exercise ball):  I tend to unfortunately sit a lot at work and at home in front of a computer desk (what can I say, I’m a geek).  So, rather than let my core be lazy, at home at least, I use the exercise ball (on carpet) as a chair replacement.  It will tire you out quickly, so start with small stints at first and increase as you build endurance.  It’s very important when doig this to make sure that you are sitting with proper posture (neutral spine).  At first I wasn’t sure I could trust the ball (not to suddenly deflate, and have me fall), but I’ve built trust with it (heh), keeps the abs and back firing to hold you in position.

Well, that’s it for now.  These exercises have served me very well, and they’re something you can do everyday not even having to leave your house.  There are a ton more of the swiss ball exercises out there (google!).  Hopefully you find them as useful as I do!

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags:

Breakfast #1 – Ben’s Veggie Chicken Scramble

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

I’ve become a lot closer to older sister Melyssa in the last 6 months.  She’s a great inspiriation to me.  She went from being out of shape to running marathons (no small feit).  And, although she may not know it, one of the offhand comments she made to me got me to thinking.  She said “Do you ever make yourself a hot breakfast?”

I had gotten in the habit of just eating Honey-Nut cheerios with light soy milk, which… is good, whole grains in the cheerios, Protein and Omega-3’s in the Soy Milk, only 70 calories for the soy milk, and the honey-nut part sweetens it up a bit.  But, it’s somewhat carb heavy and as a result of not having a lot of protein, it doesn’t usually keep me full for very long (That’s not horrible, but I sometimes like to feel full.  I’ve had to redfine full in the last 3 months.  Most of my meals are one cup of food.

So when she spoke of hot breakfast it got me to thinking what I was craving.  I’ve streamlined the proces quite a bit so it’s not very timely, but has a load of veggies, some good seasoning, a bit of kick, and a load of protein.

So, first.. the veggies.  I’m VERY lazy when it comes to food (generally).  And, I tend to over-organize, so…One thing I found I Could do is make a veggie mix, for the week…cut it all up, mix it up, and seal it in a tupperware container.  This way, when I went to make my eggs (during the week), its not as time consuming.  My veggie Mix routinely consists of

1. Garlic: I take fresh garlic from the grocery store, peal the cloves myself (to taste, I use around 8 large cloves, I love garlic), and then mince it up into tiny pieces.
2. Red Bell Pepper:  They tend to carmelize in the pan, sweet, good for you, I used two large peppers, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
3. Green Bell Pepper: More Crunch, flavor, greens, I used 1-2 large peppers depending on the size, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
4. Sliced White Mushroom: I love mushrooms, I added a whole small supermarket tub of these to the mix, guessing its around 2 cups, they’re pre-sliced and cleaned.
5. Zuchini: More crunch, greens, pick up the flavor of whatever you cook, yum, I used 1-2 small zuchini. slice and quarter them.

So, that’s the veggie mix, I combine all of those ingredients in a tupperware container, mix it by spoon, then top it and shake it up a bit (think salad shaker).  The longer it sits in there, the more it picks up the garlic, …MMMMmm.

Chicken: I also use precooked and sliced up chicken pieces from Costco.  They come in a two-pack for around $8.  I measure out three ounches of chicken, and then cut it into smaller pieces.

Cooking:

I spray a nine inch frying pan lightly with pam, and add around one cup of the veggie-mix and the three ounches of chicken:

I also added some of this wonderful local garlic based seasoning, Garlic Dude Dust:

I can’t say enough good things about this seasoning mix.  It’s good on just about everything, is low sodium (yay!).  My sister originally bought it while she was down visiting, and we’ve since become addicted to it (heh).  We use it in soups, eggs, our stuffed peppers.  It’s a great product, and well worth it.

I let the chicken brown a bit (even though it’s already cooked) and absorb some of the flavor of the seasoning and veggies.  Also, the mushrooms have to loose some of the water, and I want that to cook off so the eggs don’t end up too runny.  Additionally, the red peppers will carmelize.  Cook as long as you want, I think I end up cooking and turing/mixing these for 5 minutes or so.

After the chicken and veggie mix is done, I leave it in the pan, and add one cup of Real Eggs (Costco sells six 2-cup cartons in one box for around $7 , cheaper than eggs, is mostly just the egg whites plus some flavoring and color.  They can tend to taste a bit salty, so no need to add any salt).  This is what your pan should look like at this point:

Once I’m done frying it up (eggs aren’t very wet anymore),  I scoop it into a medium sized bown, and immediately top it off with an eight to a quarter cup of this fat-free shredded cheddar that mylocal grocery store sells:

And after the cheese had melted a bit (say one to two minutes), I mix the cheese into the eggs (almost like a binding agent), and then top it off with 1-2 tablespoons of Pace Picante Salsa (mix it in), and after this, it’s done, healthy, tasty! EAT!

Categories: General Tags:

Worst Day of My LIfe

January 12th, 2010 No comments

I thought it was about time to add a post, and due to the relatively recent changes in my lifestyle, I’ve Lost around 50 pounds!  Some folks have asked me “Dude, …were you eating?”.  I laugh, because I have been eating, very well in fact.  I just educated myself about the right foods to eat, when to eat them, regular exercise, and decided….. it was time.

The big catalyst for me was back in September of this past year (2009).  I had been working out in the yard a lot, including moving 3-4 truck loads of dirt into the back yard to fill a troublesome pond for preparation for sod back there.

1. Shovel dirt from truck to wheelbarrow
2. ‘Barrow the dirt from the driveway to the back yard and dump.
3. Spread the dirt around, and Slam it into the ground with a heavy iron tool to build a good base for the sod.

So, my lower back was starting to hurt.  It all came to climax when while at the local dogpark, I bent down just a bit to clean and fill the water dish, and BAM!  I felt that horrible sharp pain in my back, ..I had (again) pinched a nerve.  The amount of pain is difficult to describe.  The only thing I think might compare is being stabbed in the back with Crocodile Dundee’s knife.

The load of just standing causes horrible pain and you’re not sure what to do to relieve it.  Do you lie down in hopes that the decrease in pressure will make it subside? Risking maybe not being able to get up?  Do you stay straight in the hopes that no bending will help it to calm down?  It’s a horrible feeling.  Fortunately, somehow, I was able to get Kumo back onto the leash and waddle home.

The Next Morning is a day I will never forget.

As I woke up, I could feel that my back was very sore.  Not a good sign I thought to myself, ..typically those first moments as you wake up are the best your back will be that day.  So, I could feel sharp discomfort as I tried to get myself sitting up.  Once I managed that ,I realized that as soon as I tried to put any weight on my right foot (right side back pain), I had to immediately lie  down again.  Anna was at work, and my phone was downstairs….Shit.

It was then that I also realized I had a migraine headache…pulsing, aching, …hot.  So, knowing that I wasn’t going to do anything upstairs, and I had a dog downstairs in a crate that needed to go out…

…I crawled.  I crawled from our uptsairs bedroom, down the hallway, down the stairs backwards, over to his crate, let him out, over to the back sliding glass door, and let him go outside to TCB (Take care of Business, we tell him to ‘Get Busy’, he knows what to do), all the while my head is POUNDING, …I finally break down and am actually tearing up from the pain.

I manage over to the sofa, and roll myself up onto it and lie down.  My phone was on the table in front of it.  I call Anna to tell her what’s going on.    At that moment, I had no idea I’d be stuck on the couch for a month.

I had ruptured my L5-S1 disc in my lower back, and there was a moderate sized protusion putting (a lot of) pressure on the nerve root (…..ouch).

Finally, relief came when I started taking Celebrex (a very strong non-steroidal anti-inflamatory pill), and it came fast.  In several days, I was up walking around again.  Made a doctor’s visit up north, and he said one of the things I could do was to get a shot in my lower back of Steroids (Cortisone), which was much stronger than anything i could take orally.  Anxiously, I agreed to the procedure (done on 10/17/09).  Although I was very nervous while I was on that operating room table, on my stomache, with an undoubtedly massive needle looming over my L5-S1, ..it made all the difference.

I was mobile again and not on Celebrex (good for short time, bad long term, can cause vascular problems, heart attack, stroke…ya know, bad stuff).  During that week, I decided, I was going to make a lifestyle change.  Get my body fat under control, build up my core muscles (abs, back, surrounds), and get fit and stay fit, for life, including what I eat.  I may not be able to fix my back completely, but there are things I can control.

When I first went in to the doctor after the disc rupture, their doctors scale read 253 (WHAT!  Two Hundred and fifty three pounds!  I’m 6’2″, but that is ….well…fat..).  Today?  I weigh:

200lbs (~3 months later).

The blog entries that follow this one will be about how I did it, and the tools that have brought me success.

My back still hurts a little now, think I may need another shot, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been during my adult life.

ben at 207 pounds

ben at 207 pounds

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags:

Fear is the mind-killer.

February 9th, 2009 No comments

I don’t know that I have ever been more anxious than I am right now.

Last Quarter, my company did layoffs the day before our company meeting.  Wednesday marks the date of the next company meeting.  SO, if the company follows suit, tomorrow could conceivably mark the next round of layoffs (should they be deemed necessary).

I’m nervous because the work I do is not automated (unlike most of the other kinds of data my department creates).  So, when Joe Bean Counter comes along, and looks at pieces of data created, I will be at the bottom of the list.  And knowing how my company works, that scares the shit out of me.

We just bought a house back in July of 2008.  I know we won’t be able to hold out very long if I can’t find work quickly.

What can I do?  update the resume?  and if it comes to pass, what next?  I understand the state of the economy, and that most companies will be looking to downsize (not hire).  So, that would put me looking for a job with many other tech folks, something i haven’t thought about in quite some time.

I just don’t like this feeling :(

I need to recall my core, ..how I think about things when the chips are down, I know better than this, that if it comes to pass, there will be a reason, and my karma will guide me to something good, maybe something better, and there will be a good reason, and the result will be perfect.  I just find it more and more difficult to remind myself when I see the the things so close to me, ..like my ability to see past the now is reduced, …or maybe I”ve just forgotten and need to remind myself strongly (Matt did attempt to kick my ass at work today, maybe that was it? the kick I needed? (sigh)  …I can hear myself TALKING to myself.. be positive, ..and it will be so, make the best of it, no matter what comes.  I just need to listen.

When we were figuring finances to buy our house, you try to make the best calculations you can, to make sure you’ll have enough money left over each month to do fun things, or to save.  However, we haven’t minded our plan, have eaten out too much (our biggest fault), and as a result of that and cutting it too close to begin with, find ourselves with no ‘fun’ money fairly regularly.  Granted, we haven’t adjusted my income at work for the new numbers (since taxes should be greatly affected), but it’s still enough to stress me out.

My track car sits on the trailer, broken.  And I don’t see any coming hope of getting it fixed (10k?), let alone track days ($500/pop with hotel/food/gas/etc).  That was one my one (large) comfort that I afforded myself, which looks lost and hopeless.  God, I listen to msyelf talk, who is this guy?  Why am I so forelorn? (sigh)  But, this is the conversation I have with myself whenever I think about all of this, ….gone are the days of speed at the racetrack, and here, I have this house..this big expenditure that needs constant tending and care.  I can’t help myself, I constantly wonder, was the house a mistake?  Was this house just too expensive for our finances?

Categories: Ben, General, Introspection Tags:

When They Turn On You

October 6th, 2008 No comments

I still remember the first time I met Anna’s daughter Cassidy (I call her Anna’s daughter only so that anyone reading this know’s who I am talking about, hell, for all intensive purposes I’m her Dad!).  She came out from taking a bath, just before bedtime at her GrandMa Amber’s, very sweet, full of innocense, with the “That’s not my Dad” look on her face.  Anna and I were getting ready to go out on one of our first official dates in Bakersfield, and Anna’s friend Amber was going to watch Cassidy for us.  Even then, I really don’t think I fully understood how much of a defensive wall I’d be fighting for many years to come.

Cassidy doesn’t want me to be her Dad, because any acceptance of me as her Father, on some level, leads to an acknowledgement that BioDad hasn’t been everything he’s supposed to be.  …And that’s not something that she’s ready to do yet (not suprising really, she’s only 9 10).

Very recently, things have gotten worse.  Even though she is being well cared for, recently started playing the flute, has started having more interaction with her BioDad, she has decided she has justification to not have to remember to do her stuff.  I say stuff since this includes just about everything on the freakin’ planet!  From her morning chores, bringing her homework home, doing her homework, picking up after herself, cleaning herself in the shower…just about everything that she is supposed to be responsible for lately we have to remind her to do.

I went so far as to even get her a planner, so she can check it in the morning, before she leaves school, when she gets home, and before she goes to bed.  I went over how to use it, helped her by showing her examples of how it can work.  But, as I suspected, just like any tool, it’s useless unless you use it (sigh).

I wouldn’t be suprised if there is a link between me being the one to follow-up with her (more than Anna), and also the one to be the ‘bad guy’, and her resistance to taking care of her responsibilities.

The only way I know to influence a child to do what they’re supposed to or what you want them to do is:

  1. Positive Reinforcement
  2. Punishment
  3. Non-Interference (not usually successful on its own)=

Since Cassidy was going to go down to see her Dad for her Birthday, Anna and I hadn’t gone out to get presents for Cassidy.  But, since Troy’s Mom passed away, we suddenly needed to provide.  Anna decided to go pickup presents without me.  When Anna came home from buying gifts and came through the front door alone, Cassidy knew she had been shopping for presents (without me).  When Cassidy opened her presents, she didn’t thank me, she thanked Anna (only), and Anna didn’t correct her (“These are from both Ben and me”).  So, now, I’m the bad guy, AND the presents were from Mom and Mom alone.  Granted, to be objective, I should have gone with Anna to get presents, but Anna didn’t ask if I wanted to go with her, and Cassidy was home, so… wasn’t ideal either way, but at the root of it, Anna should have corrected her.

To me, this just serves to give Cassidy  more justification for her continued lack of responsibility (when I follow-up with her).  I’m talking with Anna about how to best deal with the imbalance (me bad parent, her good parent), because this is getting out of hand.  Right now, Cassidy could give a rat’s ass about me (it’s very apparent to me).  She think’s I don’t do enough around the house, and think’s she can lie her way out of anything.  I’ve spoken to Anna about the imbalance and how the support I’m getting is not enough.  One thing I read online was to put up a chore board (as more of a way to show the kids all of the things that the adults do every day to make sure the world keeps on turning, because they don’t usually know).

When I watched her (Cassidy’s) interaction with her friend McKayla while she was over this weekend, I noticed that she tended to show signs of ‘only child’ (lack of social know-how, and arrogance that comes with the lack of social know-how, didn’t say thank you for the gift she was given by her friend, needed to 1up her friends, I realize some of that comes with the age).  It looks very much like she’s starting to form selfish traits.

Since we moved to Gilroy, she hasn’t been working hard to make new friends, and spend time outside of the house with kids.  Anna reminded her this weekend that even at the old Coniston House, originally, she had to work to make friends.  She didn’t just have friends right off the bat.

If anyone reading this has some well-throught-out ideas about how to deal with a 10yo girl not wanting to do what’s required of her, I’m all ears.

Categories: Anna/Cassidy, General Tags:

The Longer you wait for the future, the shorter it will be

July 9th, 2008 No comments

Several Years ago I first took my old Convertible sports car onto Buttonwillow Raceway.  I realized very quickly that part of me that had been sleeping for most of my life.  Even though the M3 Convertible was really not suited for what I was doing with it, and my driving skills were in their infancy, I had found a second home.

If you have never been up close to a race-car or a bunch of race cars that have just been driving all-out on a racetrack, it’s quite an expereince.  There are some ambient elements that don’t come through with words on a blog.  The sounds and smells are intense.  The sweet odors of freshly burned 100 octane, …and burned up R-Comp Tires (Racing Compound), along with constantly climbing exhaust notes (Each motor and Exhaust design seems to have its own exclusive melody).  You’ll come upon folks that have been doing it for years.  They’ll be the guys trailering their fully race-prepped, non-street-legal cars.  They’ll have boxes of extra gear that they have with them or off-load at the track.  Anything from spare parts, tools, to coolers for drinks on a hot day, sunscreen.  The list goes on.  Always best to be prepared out there.

Anyway, back to the M3 Convertible.  While the M3 Convertible was a great car for freeway cruisin’ or backroads drivin’, it just wasn’t well suited for the track.  And, unfortunately, since my torso was so damned tall, with the top down and my helmet on, the top of my helmet would actually stick out OVER the top of the roofline!  Now, if you don’t understand how bad this could be, look at the picture to the right and imagine the car flipped over upside down.

There were also other problems with the car.  While the car came with basic rollover protection, it did NOT have a true motorsport roll bar, let alone a true 8pt motorsports cage.  No fire safety equipment.  Due to the car being a convertible, the chassis did not have the rigidity that would be required as I became a better driver.  So, even if I wanted to improve things, it became clear that this wasn’t the right car (sad, but true).

So, I sold the car, and eventually ended up with a 1997 M3 Coupe (hardtop).  By this time, I had realized the error of my ways (safety had to come first).   And on June 21st of this year (2008), all of my planning on this currrent car was realized when an idiot driver not paying attention slammed into me at around 80mph at Thunderhill Raceway.

The damage to the car is sad, and while it’s a lot of damage, it’s repairable (back to perfect working order).

Me, however… My MRI shows that my back is in less than perfect condition.  The final finding for the MRI (after a lot of very worrisome details) was this:

Findings: Central and right paracentral disc protrusions L2-L3 through L5-S1, likely compressing the associated nerve roots at L4 and L5 levels.  Moderate foraminal narrowing bilaterally.

Now, if you’ve never had a nerve pinched in your back, this is what happened the evening of june 21st as I was walking back from having dinner with some of my track buddies.  I can’t compare it to child birth pain since I will never experience that, but it was definitely the worst pain I have ever experienced before.  I have had pinched nerves before, but I think due to some swelling in my back due to the collission, the nerve pinching that day was inevitable.  In the past when I’ve had a pinched nerve in my back, I’ve been able to lay down (which I did), then eventually get up (which I did), limped myself up to the hotel room, and woke Anna up so she could move over and let me lay down (my new home for the rest of the evening).

Very late that night, I had go get up to go to the bathroom, and I assumed by then that my back had calmed down.  I should have taken more note that when I slowly moved to a standing position that ther was still considerable pressure on my spine.  Naked, I slowly hobbled to the hotel bathroom, and fearfully planted myself on the toilet.  Just as I had finished a very short round of #2, I felt the spasm start to creep back into my lower back.  Psyhologically speaking, this is horrifying.  The only thing I know to do is lay down flat on the ground, but… I haven’t wiped and if you’re familar with most hotel bathrooms near racetracks, the floorspace in those bathrooms is not exactly well suited to a 6’2″ guy trying to lay completely flat in there.

My back starts to spasm.

I quickly try to move myself into a semi-flat position on the floor, but this ends up prolonging the spasm.  In short, the first position I end up in is… my head is near the edge of the tub and the wall, and my legs are between the toilet and the wall… the wall that leads to the door that goes out of the bathroom.  This is tough to visualize, but in short, I couldn’t get my right leg into a position where the spasm would stop.  I ended up trying to use my arms to help straighten my back, and meanwhile grabbing onto any loose flesh on my body to create pain somewhere else to take my mind away from the spasms piericing up and down my back.  After several nightmarish minutes of pain, my back finally calmed down.  But it wasn’t over.  I still had to get my right leg out that bathroom door to extend it, and to do that, I’d first have to bright the right leg closer to my torso.

This ended up making my back spasm again for several more minutes, but I was able to get the leg out the door (finally).

After my back finally calmed down again, I was able to through several minutes, finally rock myself carefully into a ‘crawling on the floor’ position, and this was the way I came back to bed.

The next morning, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  I was thinking I might try to drive the truck (with trailer on back with wrecked race car on back, badly loaded), but when simply walking out from the hotel to the truck was enough to make me have to lay down on the 100 degree parking lot black top, I knew that wasn’t going to work.  So, Anna’s first experience of driving this truck with this car on the trailer would be on this day.  I managed my way into the passenger’s seat, and we propped it back as far as it would go.

On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant to grab some lunch.  The walk from where we had to park the truck (because of the trailer) to the restaurant was probably 40 yards.  This time i made it into the place, but by the time I sat down in the booth, I was hurting pretty good.  I had to hold my back straight while eating, which was tough to do in that kind of booth.

Once we got back into town, we brought the trailer and car back to the trailer yard (unsure of the fate of the race car), and covered it up.  We then drove over to the Camino Medical Urgent Care Center.  This sounds like an ER name, but it’s just the name they give to a place you can go without an appointment that is not an emergency.   The Doctor there took some Xrays which came back normal (that’s a good sign at least).  Next, she had me siting upright (I could feel the pressure on my spine), and she performed that standard old knee reflex test with the reflex hammer.

Left Knee: check. (great reaction)
Right Knee….. uh……Right Knee?  Hello?  Hello Right?  Ben to Right Knee?

The right knee was showing little to no reaction.

This greatly concerned the docor since she suspected either nerve damage or swelling around the nerves, the former of which could need immediate care.  So, they ambulanced me over to the Camino Hospital, and Anna followed in the truck (I haven’t been to an emergency room in YEARS).  The two ambulance dudes were great (both very nice guys, friendly, caring).  Once we got over to the ER, and the folks that got me immediately setup in a room realized I wasn’t about to die, I think I was placed pretty low on the totem pole of priorities.  In any event, the doctor eventually did come in and due a simliar kind of test to my knees.  However, when he did, he had me laying flat on my back (no pressure on the spine).  So, this time, the reaction on both knees was normal.  I guess this was good since to me, this at least meant that the nerves were at least partially intact, and it probably just meant that there was swelling in the area from the accident.  They HAD been talking about getting me an MRI before that, but after that, they decided to send me on my way and have me FIRST go see my primary care doctor (what a pita that all was).

They eventually gave me a very painful shot in the butt, and prescriptions for Valium and Vicodin.  I spent the next week mostly on my back, icing, ibuprofening, with a litle pain killer at the beginning.

So, now, I’m up and able to walk around, but its not like it was before the accident.  My back seems fragile and more susceptible to fatigure and pressure.  I have an appointment on july 18th with the Camino Medical Department of Physiatry.

Some folks may ready this and say “See!  Racing cars is a dangerous sport!”, but even now, as I write this, this is not the message I would wish anyone to draw from this.  The reason I’m here today, the reason I’m sitting here typing this blog is because I stuck to a very specific design philosophy when planning out that race-car.

Safety First.

1. I had a Hans Device on at the time of the impact
2. I was in a Racing Seat with Head Protection.
3. I was using properly secured 5-pt Harnesses (seat belts).
4. I had a well built 8-point Roll Cage
5. I started with a car that was known to be well built (good crumple zones)

The part that I’m struggling with is my future.  Doctors will likely tell me:
“Racing is a hazardous sport, and your back isn’t in great shape, we would encourage you to give it up.

My heart tells me
“If you can do it, and you’re physically able, get that car fixed, and get your ass back out there!’.

But, I know, in my heart, that if I take another impact like that, that it may even more severely affect me and the rest of my life (sigh).  At least, I have that feeling (I’m not a doctor).  And that’s where my mind is at.

Categories: Ben, Bens M3, General Tags:

Purge

May 22nd, 2008 No comments

Every once in a while, I take a closer look at the many interesting ways I manage to screw my life up and hold those experiences up to a magnifying glass, looking for some crumb of evidence that I’m doing something right, but more often find that I’m not. I just want to make my life better. There are those that look up at the stars and dream and hope. Hope is nice. It is what I hang onto when I’ve done all I can do and everything hangs by it. However, until that moment comes when all of my efforts have been exhausted I usually end-up turning my world upside down. You can’t change others(which I have found to be an ultimate truth in the universe) nor should you try! (unless they come looking for guidance, and sometimes not even then). So, you might as well start fixing things right under your nose.

Lately, I”ve been reflecting a lot about my choice and or willingness of myself to bend to the will of other people; To be the one to change, to ‘give in’ to the things that I am not willing or wasn’t willing to put up with or to be a part of in the first place. Often times during heated discussions and arguments, I’m reminded that I’m not as flexible as I used to be. So, I find myself reflecting on those moments even after much time has passed, looking at the way I acted, the choices I’ve made, and looking for a path through the issue that might have resulted in everyone ending-up happy, or in the very least, happier. Sometimes that is and was possible, and sometimes it wasn’t. The point is, I’m a thinker. I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s feelings, thinking about how the way I acted or didn’t act might have affected their lives.. and hell, my own life too! It doesn’t even matter sometimes if the other person totally screwed up and went off on me like a 5th grader, I still reflect on it, and you still feel it long after their words are gone.

I’ve carried this weight of ‘over thinking about others’ feelings’ on my shoulders for a very long time. I’m not sure why I’ve been carrying it. I think part of it is because I want people to be happy, and I want them to have what they want to have, many times before I have what I want. Its just part of who I am. So, do I bend? Do I give up what I want so they can have what they want? Sometimes… okay, probably more than I should. Well, at least I used to. So, something must have changed at some point.

I know I wasn’t always this way, I wasn’t always as inflexible as I have become. There was a time when I was younger that I used to bend all the time, and what I found was that generally other people would walk all over me, and i would rarely get what I wanted. Even after I took a great college level writing class, and my ability to persuade people increased dramatically, I still found that many folks didn’t want to be persuaded (i.e. words were not enough, even good words and sound reasoning). Some people just want to have their way.

Looking back now, I can see that I made it a mission in my life to stand up to people like that in my own way. It was an active choice, to ‘not’ be a reed in the wind to people like this, to ‘not’ be swayed by people who would not sway, that is unless they decided to become more flexbile in their own views for the issue at hand. It didn’t always mean that straight out Mortal Kombat was necessary, but often times just reflecting back at them their own rigidness would be enough to spark the beginning of change. Sometimes, it would lead to disaster.

So, For myself, I would ponder “Is worth it to stand up for a friend when nobody else would, even if it meant some of the other folks you thought were friends would ostracize you, or standby silently, only to not call or message you as often if it all, or even ridicule you publicly for your actions, separating themselves from you.

It is. However, it doesn’t make the suffering any less painful.

This thinking reminds me of my old friend Bob Delaney. He had a girlfriend at the time whose name I now do not recall (blame: topamax/age). She claimed to be able to tell a lot about a person by simply touching them. The very first time I met her, she simply asked to and held my hands, and one of the things she told me was, “Ben, you have a good heart, a very good heart…but bare in mind, due to your compassion and feeling for others, you will endure a difficult and painful life. ”

So, Is this what she was talking about? When I stick up for folks I call friends, and everyone else hangs their heads low, and shuns me for doing it, …is this was she was talking about?

This idea is one that has kept me up at night. When I help those I care about by sticking up for them, and I see friends sit by, …acting indifferent to the suffering of others around them, what am I to do about that?. …However, ya know? it’s not really indifference. They see it…. They see the suffering! They complain about the suffering! Yet, when the time comes for action, to rise up and do something to fix the problem, they sit idley by and hang their heads low, hoping that nobody else will notice their inaction, and that someone else will fix the problem and take the crap that comes with being the one to rock the boat, and not only that, they will attempt to silence the one trying to fix the problem in hopes of claiming the right of the ‘peace-keeper’ and somehow becoming a hero.

These people act like friends, but in every reality, they are something else.

I have good friends, and for those I am very thankful.

I’m left asking myself, what needs to change in me:
-If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
(be more aware of this, e.g. trust your instincts)
-Establish friendships with individuals
(not groups)
-Try to keep to your age group for friendship.
(younger folks are immature just like you were)
-Don’t trust unconditionally, and give full trust more slowly.
(I tend to trust too much too soon)

Other than that, I fully intend to keep on standing up for my friends. It’s just part of who I am, for better or for worse.

Categories: Ben, General, Introspection Tags:

Thank you honey!

February 2nd, 2006 7 comments

I just wanted to say thanks to Anna for upgrading me from Spam Ridden B2 BLogger to WordPress. I may actually start posting now that I know I can control the evil spammers! Die Spammers, DIE!

Anyway, thank you honey!

Categories: Anna, General Tags: