Remission: Back On The Horse

mostintrunningLate last year, it became apparent that the pounds I’d lost by May were coming back to stay. Rather than let them bring friends, I decided to get ahead of the curve and start running again. Only I remembered two things about running in winter.

It’s dark as hell by 5:30, earlier on the first day of winter.

It’s also cold.

The latter I deal with by reminding myself that having to jog in the cold is a First World problem, you pussy. Suck it up, put on some layers, and go outside. So I did.

And ran smack (literally) into the first problem. Pretty much any short route I take follows a short residential street in neighboring Amberly Village has decided isn’t worth the streetlights. So, one day in early December, I, being a responsible pedestrian, take my jog up into the grass to avoid on-coming traffic. Getting back onto the pavement, I discovered something else Amberly Village, which incidentally, is one of the wealthiest suburbs in Greater Cincinnati, needs to fund better: Pot holes. (Say what you will about Deer Park and Silverton, on whose fuzzy borders we sit, they fill their pot holes rather quickly.) My foot caught the edge of this seismic fissure in the Earth’s crust and…

“Moooooooooooommmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!”

Yes, a 47-year-old man fell down, skinned his knee, bruised a rib, and cried for his mommy. Don’t judge me. After realizing that 1.) I was no longer 10, and 2.) I hadn’t broken anything, I got up and walked painfully back to the house for a shower and dinner. I sat on the couch sulking with a beer when AJ came home from work.

“What happened to you?”

“I fell down.”

“Were you drinking?”

“Of course. I fell down. Why would I not drink after that?”

He rolled his eyes and went off to his room to play Smite. An hour later, Nita came home from school. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“I went out for a run and fell down.”

Did I get “Poor baby”?

“Oh. Class was horrible tonight…”

Running outside when you can’t see where the hell you’re going was turning out to be a bad idea. But what to do? Join a gym? Nah! That’s too obvious. And really, I didn’t feel like having to fight with them when I wanted to leave after the days got longer again. Then it came to me. Run in the basement.

Yeah…  We live in a small, four-room postwar cottage. So, we’re talking about forty feet of running room. Then consider that you can only run on one side of the basement as the other is the laundry room. On that clear side of the basement sits an old love seat in what’s now our family room. At the other end is my office. So that takes a few feet out. So what did I do?

Booted up the Mac, built a thirty-minute playlist, and started running back and forth. Silly? Yes. Is it working? Who knows. I’m not running outside until February, when the snows starts melting, the daylight hangs out until after 6, and, most importantly, I can see where I’m going.

The Year In Jim

It’s time to bid 2013 a fond farewell. Or maybe a not so fond farewell. I’ll look at the world’s year in review on Monday. For now, let’s talk about what’s truly important.

Me.

January

  • Nita and I kick off our effort to dump the excess weight once and for all. My plan involves running, followed by P90X, followed by more running. This is not a resolution. No, we don’t ever do resolutions. Never.

February

  • The fifth anniversary of the day Nita and I had our first date.

March

  • I take up running for realz. Actually, I’d been working up to it for weeks, but by the end of April, I’m up to three miles three times a week. G’wan. Ask me how that worked out.

April

  • I actually knock my blood sugar numbers back down to the normal range. This is where I usually get cocky about fitness, and this time, I do not disappoint. Well, not if you were betting on me to backslide.

May

  • The rewrite of Holland Bay is completed only three months after I originally planned.

June

  • Nita and I celebrate five years of marriage. Do the math. Yes, we really did go from first date to walking down the aisle in four months. Both of us are happier on this fifth anniversary than we were in our previous marriages’ fifth anniversaries, so we must have done something right.

July

  • I start writing a science fiction novel under a different name.

August

  • Nita and I start our final year of college. Which will take both of us two years to complete.

September

  • I vacation at the lovely Christ Hospital Resort & Spa in scenic Mt. Auburn, Cincinnati, Ohio, for a week, thanks to a bout of cellulitis. However, for $3000, I expect better food, a pool, and no IV sticking in my hand. My first order of business upon getting home is to grab a beer and a bacon cheeseburger.

October

  • With three exceptions, I decide not to submit to anymore non-paying markets. For science fiction, this isn’t much of a problem. For crime…  Well…  The exceptions are all crime fiction markets.

November

  • Too cheap (broke) to buy a copy of Photoshop, I proceed to learn the free, open-source alternative: GIMP. You’ve been warned.

December

  • The doctor tells me I’m still fat. I smell new year’s resolutions coming.

Giving Thanks, 2013 Edition

flamingturkeyIt’s that time of year again, when we in America pause to give thanks for what we have. In Canada, they do this in October (better weather) on a Monday (kills Monday for a week.) I sort of like the Canadian idea, but in America, it’s a rare four-day weekend. It’s a day for watching football (The Cowboys, the Lions, and, for some odd reason, now the Ravens). We consume huge amounts of the meat of a rather stupid bird, which puts us to sleep following dinner. It is a day for many families to embrace and indulge their dysfunction. Friday is a day that makes even Gordon Gecko despise capitalism, even if only for a day or so. It is the cultural end of autumn, the fiscal start of Christmas, and time when those of us who hate cold weather resign ourselves to that inevitable season we must endure for a few months: Winter.

But mostly, Thanksgiving is just that: Giving thanks. What am I thankful for?

Will code for food

zazzle.com, labeled for reuse

I work. Unemployment is still high, mainly because we have a Congress that, collectively, is the most useless in American history. Nonetheless, I have a job. Since 2008, when the economy tanked spectacularly, I was only out of work for about six weeks at the longest. When I lost my job at BigHugeCo, the VP who broke the news to me – whom I’d worked with for years – told me he regretted doing this, but at the same time told me to enjoy my summer vacation. They handed me twelve weeks severance. Within a couple of weeks, I was contracting, with only a two-week break that summer. There was a scary six weeks the following January and February where work jobs just weren’t to be had. And then I found work at Medishack, a job that was a hybrid of my old job as a desktop support technician and what I wanted to do, development. A lot of my good fortune was luck. A lot of it was persistence. And one thing I’ve seen during our most recent recession is that some people had a sense of entitlement that kept them out of decent jobs because the work was “beneath them.” These are usually the same people who complain the loudest about other people not working. So why did I not join in their reindeer games? All I know was that my creditors were asking where their money was, and it was hard for my wife to put food on the table with only my unemployment check to add to her income. I took less-paying work because I believe if you don’t work when it’s possible, you have no right to complain about not finding a job. It’s not like some people who literally can’t find work. Those people I feel for. The ones I had no respect for were the ones who asked me if I was insane taking temp jobs only two weeks after a layoff. I found that question insulting. At one point in my younger days, I worked three jobs at 60-70 hours a week. I don’t like idle time. Not without a fat bank account to back it up.

computer code

Photo: Carrot Lord, used under GNU FDL

I’m thankful I have a marketable skill. I write code. And I still fix computers. (No, I’m not going to fix yours. Forty hours a week of that is enough.) And I’m learning more about that all the time. Technology was a boon to me in the 1990’s. Through the Internet and cheap PC’s, I discovered several skillsets that will probably carry me through retirement, assuming I can retire. I don’t see why not. The more I learn, the more opportunities come my way. Add to that a business degree, and the opportunities open even wider. Nita is also getting a degree, a technology degree. This is going to help us open our own business. That, if successful, will secure our future. It won’t guarantee one or both of us won’t have to take a job welcoming people to Walmart at some point, but it makes it less likely.

Gabriel Iglesias

Photo: Tom Villegas, used under GNU FDL

I’m thankful for my health. Yes, I gained back all the weight I lost earlier this year. But after a recent hospital stay, my doctors were actually encouraged by what they saw. It’s only renewed my commitment to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. I need to renew my discipline – no snacking, more fruit, stick with and keep revamping an exercise plan.

My wife expressed some doubt about me doing the Pig, but I have 2 1/2 years to get ready. In the meantime, my health can only improve. It’d better. After 50 is when a lot of things start falling apart at inconvenient moments. I intend to be healthier at 50 than I was at 40.

Nita_picMost of all, I’m thankful for the lovely lady to the right. Nita has been the best thing to ever happen to me. After five years, she still accepts me for who I am, is not afraid to be herself, and lights up my days and nights. Because of her, I’m a stepfather. And AJ looks at me as more than just the dude mom married. He is a great son, and I’m privileged to be part of his life. Our home is cozy and warm, and we all laugh a lot. I’ve married a hair metal chick and live with a boy who loves Monty Python. I look at Nita and know that I have a future. I watch AJ as he works his first job and goes to UC Blue Ash and marvel at how his adult life is a blank slate. Thanksgiving at our house is just us three with a small turkey and one rule: Stay out of Nita’s way until she puts up the tree. Once the tree is up, then we can get involved. Until then, shut up and eat your turkey. Oh, and could one of you do the dishes after lunch?

Remission: Gearing Up For Running Again

Kyle-cassidy-running-1

Photo: Kyle Cassidy, used under Creative Commons

My original plan was to be running 5K and 10K races by now. Every year, rock station WEBN hosts the 5K Run Like Hell that ends in German Cemetery. That’s next Wednesday, I can barely make it half way around the block.

My fault. I stopped running in May when I pushed to get the Holland Bay rewrite finished. I also did not have a plan for after spring semester ended. I had an entire running plan built around my class schedule and failed to do the same with my summer classes.

OK, and I got lazy. Hey, I had my birthday. I had AJ’s birthday. I had my anniversary. And running outside in July is just so hot! Besides, those Nita Ritas won’t drink themselves.

Yes, I really got lazy. I did not plan. So now I need to plan. Last year, I thought I would limit myself to walking until February, when the days start getting long again. But after my recent reminder to take better care of myself, that’s not going to work. I will have to put on my big boy sweats and big boy running shoes, and go out in the dark and the cold after work. I was up to 3 miles a day last spring. There’s no reason I can’t get back to that by Valentine’s Day.

That’s not happening this week. I’m writing this on Sunday morning and already have my week planned out, but next week…? And I do make next week.

Photo: Kyle Cassidy. Sourced from WikiCommons

Remission: Suck It Up

Fruit bowl

Photo: Oliver Keenan, used under Creative Commons

I was a bad boy this summer. Mexican food – as in chimichangas. Lots of beer. Lots of bar food. And all summer, UDF (what Cincinnatians go to instead of 7/11) sold these Cracker Jack chocolate-covered snack bags for about $2 a pop. Oh, yes. I made a few trips across the street.

I also stopped running in June. I had school.

Two nights a week. It interfered with my running the other five days a week.

Yeah…

It worked just fine at the beginning of the year. I knew my schedule back in December and had a flexible daily running plan through the end of April. We can’t blame New Year’s resolutions. Those always die in February. I know. I used to go to a gym, fight with all the new true believers for treadmill and weight space the first two weeks of January and have the place almost to myself by the beginning of March.

No, I just didn’t plan ahead. And I told myself, “Hey, I’ve lost 20 pounds. I can relax a little.”

I could. Very little. I started snacking too much. I didn’t even take a walk, the easiest exercise to do.

Then the evil bunny came, the evil cellulitis bunny. And in the hospital, they gave me my numbers. Meanwhile, my coworkers gave me a fruit bowl. DId I need anymore hints?

Well, yes. My doctor says, “Your numbers aren’t bad. But they need to be better. Why can’t they be like you had them last spring?”

Yeah.

I’m typing this on Monday night after having a bunch of bar food, but I spent Sunday behaving myself. Still, some mornings, I look at the fruit bowl and think, “I really don’t feel like a pear this morning. I’ll grab some coffee cake on the way in to work.”

Um, no. Suck it up, bubba. Time to eat healthy. And take a walk, you lazy bum.

Remission: The Evil Bunny Is Dead

Ugly feet

ar15.com

Last week, I talked about how I let a sore on my toe get infected, sending me last Sunday morning to the urgent care for some antibiotics and a couple days off from work. The doc had very specific instructions: Take all my antibiotics, stay off my feet for three days, and if the infection moves up past my knee (in a little phenomenon called “branching”) or I run a fever, go to the ER. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go. Right. That. Instant.

I came home, parked myself in the recliner, and thought, “Hey, tomorrow’s blog post!”

So I spent Sunday and Monday in our recliner. Plenty comfy, but I remember I got sick of it when I had my wisdom teeth pulled a few years ago. I got sick of it now, too. At the same time, I noticed Monday that the redness had not spread, and the foot was easier to walk on. Just the same, I took hourly temperatures. My normal temperature is actually in the mid-97’s, and there it stayed all day. After dinner Monday night, I settled in with a beer and prepared to watch Monday Night Football. About then, I said, “Honey, I feel funny.”

My wife shoved a thermometer in my mouth which came back 100. Yikes! Off to the ER.

Mind you, a guy with an infected boo boo is not going go ahead of the guy holding an icepack to his head or the pregnant lady in the wheelchair muttering that her contractions had better be real this time because she was getting sick of the trips to Christ Hospital. So I got caught up on How I Met Your Mother in the waiting room. I was even able to walk back and register myself. They sent me back a second time for vitals. Of course, the fever was gone. 97.6. “But honest, nurse. I did run a 100-degree fever.” The nurse just laughed. They see this all the time.

I tried to stay calm. One thing I don’t like is a lot of attention when I’m sick. (Says the guy who’s managed to get two blog posts out of a bad case of cellulitis.) However, my wife had to calm me down because I was talking a mile a minute. Finally, I went back to an examining room and took of my shoe for the nurse, the resident, and the ER doc to see. The resident took a Sharpie and drew a line around the main part of the infection, which was in my foot. When she finished, she said, “Looks like a bunny.”

“An evil bunny,” I said. “It’s eating my leg.” They pumped a bag of some high-test antibiotics in me, and off I went to my room.

I haven’t been in the hospital as a patient in years. I’ve taken Nita there a couple of times since we’ve been married, but I’ve been lucky. My health problems stem mostly from being fluffy, diabetes kicking in during a brief period when I was DAMN! Since 16 of the 22 pounds I’d lost earlier in the year had come back, I worried I was going to be put on insulin for the rest of my life. Nope. “It’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad. A unit after meals should get you through, and you can go back to medication and diet when you leave.”

Yeah, that’s what I took away from that. I was healthier than I thought I was, other than my foot being fire engine red, a bunch of streaks running up my leg, and a wound on my toe that looked like an alien spore had started growing in it.

I spent the night on another bag of antibiotics, this one called vancomyecin. Nothing changed when the resident dropped by the next morning. But when they unplugged me, it was like someone turned on a light. By the time the resident returned with the doctor and another resident, my foot had turned a lovely shade of pink, and the wound started looking more like a regular wound.

“Wow,” said the resident from the night before. “The rabbit’s dying.”

I told my wife that later. She said, “For once, honey, you want the rabbit to die.”

Nita was a miracle in all this. Yes, we expect our spouses to either stay with us in the hospital, at least during the day, or to stay with our kids. When Nita had chest pains a couple of years ago (acid reflux, but it was nasty), I went home because AJ was still in high school. Since I was the step parent, and there could be custody issues, we thought it best I stay home part of the day so it did not look like we abandoned him. Besides, AJ doesn’t do hospitals well. Can’t blame him.

But this was her birthday week. She took the week off and was going to rest up. Instead she spent several hours on Tuesday eating bland hospital food with me and watching the limited selection of daytime scream fests and judge shows on cable. I read when she wasn’t there, and dozed half the time.

With Wednesday came liberation. The resident came in and checked my foot: Black and blue from bruising caused by the swelling, but no redness. To quote Jar-Jar Binks, “Mesa going home!”* She said, “Looks like we got most of it.”

“Yes,” I said, “The evil bunny is dead.”

Which was good. I was ready to leave. My agenda for the day was, after leaving, 1.) a long, hot shower, 2.) an ice cold beer, and 3.) a bacon cheese burger. Technically, I was still on bed rest, but we went to our favorite bar for dinner anyway. Daddy needed his burger. Mama needed a crown-and-Coke for all she’d been through. AJ needed to kick his best friend’s ass at pool, which he did three times in a row.

That was one tasty burger.

*Oh, chill. I hate Jar-Jar, too, but that’s a great line for getting out of there.

Remission: A Wake-Up Call

So all the weight I took off came back . Mind you, it took longer to put it back on than to lose it, so I did something right. Unfortunately, I also had a serious wake-up call.

Last week, I had an itch on my foot, probably residual athlete’s foot. It was driving me crazy, so I took off one shoe and rubbed the heel of the other on it.

Don’t do that. You could break the skin. I did. But I never put anything on it. Bad move.

Yesterday morning, I woke up after a rough couple of days. I got only two hours of sleep Friday night and had to go to class Saturday morning. I spent the afternoon sleeping and didn’t really feel all that good when I woke up. No biggie. I’ve had insomnia before, and it usually takes a couple of days to recover. Sunday morning…

Yikes!

The wound not only got infected, but it started its merry way up my leg. Off to the urgent care. I almost went to the ER. Worse, they took my sugar. I hadn’t eaten, and my sugar was high.

Crap. Not only am I taking lousy care of my feet – a no-no for diabetics – but I’d pretty much wiped out most of the progress I’d made on weight, blood sugar, blood pressure…

And now I can’t do anything about it for a few days because I’m confined to the recliner (Oh, darn. Have to write and watch television. Woe is me.)

At the same time, the numbers I got from one urgent care visit told me everything I need to know: I need to get back to where I was in the spring. I need to go further than that. It’s one thing to knock off 20 pounds. But even that’s not enough. I need to get the weight down to where I no longer have to worry about the numbers. Well, I don’t have to sweat the numbers.

And on a morning when I probably should have gone with my wife to a local park for a two-mile hike, I’m instead wondering, do I go to the new Mercy emergency center in Norwood? Or Christ Hospital, to which my doctor is attached? Coming home won out.

I stated here I want to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. I can see now I’m going to have to redouble my efforts. I was up to an easy four miles running earlier in the year. At some point, I tried Insanity. Wasn’t ready for it, but I learned some moves that will get me through the short, dark days of winter.

Getting my foot amputated because I didn’t do one simple thing – clean up a wound and keep it bandaged – would make that difficult. And I’d have nobody to blame but myself.

Insomnia – Nothing To Lose Sleep Over

insomniaLast week, I had one of those nights. You know. You go to bed at 10, 11, 12, whenever is normal for you. An hour later, you’re still awake. Two hours, same thing, and try to alleviate the problem by going to the john. Except an hour later…

Insomnia is not a chronic problem for me. If I have a particularly bad night, I call in sick and sleep it off. If not, I’ll be too tired to worry about it the next evening. The one time I did try to power through it, I regretted it. If you’ve never experienced caffeine overload, I recommend dropping it from your bucket list. It took two shots and two beers to bring me down from that one.

This past week was stress. By the third time I woke up, I decided to turn off the TV. I’ve slept with the TV on for the past five years because Nita has always slept with it on. To me, it’s white noise, and I’m usually asleep before it can bother me. Not this week.

Instead, I was up around ten ’til three, and went out to get some aspirin. We’d reached the point where it was giving me a headache. On my way back to bed, one of those ads for phone sex came on, as they usually do after 11 PM. This really cute chick in a negligee says, just as I walk into the room, “Looking for someone new?” Yeah, right. The one who answers the phone is probably three times her size and sitting in a recliner muting Maury Povic so she can soak you for $4.99 for the first five minutes, $1.99 for each additional minute. Already cranky because sleep eluded me, I muttered, “Oh, shut up, you stupid whore.”  I managed to keep it to a whisper as this was the bedroom TV. The last thing you want to wake your wife up with is the phrase, “Shut up, you stupid whore.” The TV went off and…

I fell asleep. I only got about three hours that night, but at least I could finally sleep. Anything less, and I would have called off that day. Nita woke up the next morning and said, “Hey, why’s the TV off?” I explained I couldn’t sleep and turned it off as a last ditch effort.

Like I said, I don’t have this happen very often. It’s rare enough that I can burn off a PTO day to recover. Even when I’m woken in the middle of the night, I still manage to go right back to sleep.

But God help me if I ever have chronic insomnia. That’s even worse than before I knew I had sleep apnea.

Remission: Backsliding

Big guy and big burger

walterfootball.com

At the end of April, I had achieved a weight of 255 pounds, down from 274. My blood sugar was negligible. For the first time in years, my doctor did not scold me about angry liver. I felt I was on the verge of getting rid of the Darth Vader mask at night.

And then my birthday came. Hey, we have a new casino with a Jimmy Buffet’s inside. So I wasted away again at Margaritaville. (And they learned how to make Nita Ritas that day. They learned fast.) Then came Mother’s Day, and, well, AJ and I needed to spoil Nita. Then came AJ’s birthday.

And I had two full semester classes during the week.

And I finished the new version of Holland Bay.

Excuses, excuses. The result is that I lost most of the ground I covered by the end of July. My weight stays in the high 260’s (which kills some of the urgency to get it back off), but occasionally strays back into the 270’s, land of diabetes, angry liver, and high blood pressure.

This is my fault. Summer was when I was going to be able to run five miles easy. September was when I would find and run my first 5K race since 1983. Next spring meant 10K’s while 2015 was the Mini-Marathon. 2015 is still on, but I’m going to have to work a lot harder.

With class off, and no homework for a couple of weeks, I’m out of excuses. And next semester does not promise any new excuses. I have one weekday class and an accelerated weekend class that ends in October. Guess who has two thumbs and needs to start running again and needs to work back up to the Insanity workout he bought last spring.

This guy!

Remission: Back On The Horse

I did pretty good losing weight. I went from 274 pounds down to 252. I was proud of myself, especially when I leveled off at 255 pounds. But then it happened, as it inevitably does. I slacked off on running. Then my birthday hit. Ten of those pounds came back. Sometimes, I get up to 267.

That’s a holiday thing. Always happens around Christmas. Part of it is I quit watching calories and slacked off on running. That’s gotta change. Yes, weight loss is the goal. I need to be under 240 pounds after Christmas, which means I need to stave off that holiday bloat as much as I can.

Which means I need to get back on a program. Right now, I’m not as worried as I might have been in the past. I’m still on only two medications. My sugar is fairly low, and my blood pressure is somewhat normal. But increased weight and lack of exercise can reverse the progress I’ve made so far. I don’t want that. I like being able to eat a candy bar without worrying about a diabetic coma. (I am not exaggerating.)

So this week, I need to restart running. It’s warm out now, and daylight goes past nine o’clock. So there are no excuses. I need to finish up my weekly trail ride this year. And I need to jump start the weight loss again.

I’ve decided, once I finish the bike trail this year, to do Insanity, one of the Beach Body workouts. I got the 30-day version. I’ve decided to spend June being insane, do some running in July, and, when classes end at the end of July, do Insanity one more time. So what’s that do for fall?

Well, with all that running, biking, and Insanity (which includes a diet plan), by fall, I should be ready to start training for a couple of 5K races. That will involve returning to my beloved Little Miami Trail for some distance running on weekends, visiting a park near Medishack for its par course, and possibly joining a running club. We’re also going to need a treadmill. There are three of us in this house, and we all have reasons to keep exercising. Nita and I wish they were AJ’s reasons, but AJ won’t even see 20 until next year. (I miss 20.)

The trick is not to have a program and stick with it. The trick is to always plan ahead.

That’s why I’m not swallowing half a dozen pills every morning and a few more every night. I want to keep it that way.