Update: Middle Aged Keto Adventure

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So! It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to get some time to write, and boy have I missed it. I feel like I’m getting backed up. Like most Americans, life has been a little more than full. I’m blessed to have a full life. A full life is a good thing (but if the pace came off just a bit I’d be ok too).

A few months ago, I started an adventure in food intake called Keto. Most people are by now aware what Keto eating is. The general idea is to remove just about all carbohydrate foods from the diet, and replace those carb-dense foods with added fat and protein. The idea is to train the body to burn fat as the primary fuel source.

Rachel and I started Keto eating about 4 months ago. She was addressing some joint pain and inflammation issues. I tend to be really food-lazy (when left to my own devices, I usually find something left over and add alot of mayonnaise to it), so I figured why not? Perhaps sadly, I could eat the same thing 9 times a day and be fine (as long as it had alot of mayonnaise on it). See why Rachel handles the meals?

My aim in our adventure was to tone, tighten, try to hold my muscle mass, and make my fat places less fat (and ok, not cook).

We all have those places that we look at first in any reflection or picture of ourselves. We sigh. My areas were and are my abs and love-handles (waist), so thankfully I need to be mostly naked for those to show (which happens more often than it probably should. What?) At 59 and 1/2 (thank you financial advisor for pointing that out), I was not expecting bodybuilding show quality, but I do try to set a better-than-your-average 59 and 1/2 standard.

Plus, Keto just sounded groovy. I’ve never been part of an eating group, so of course I was anxious to try it out. Keto menus, keto ice cream bars, keto websites, keto workouts (mayonnaise is of course the top keto condiment – score!). For me it sounded like a slow fat one over the plate.

I have one or two Keto-bites every night day

Like most new adventures, I set my goals and created a plan. My goal was centered around a keto trend, but not necessarily going whole-hog (although, actually eating a whole hog would trend towards being keto-friendly, so there’s that).

My plan

– Be smarter about my selection of fats but maintain an increased level of fats in the diet
– Reduce the carbs but still maintain energy and strength
– Get those carbs largely from the garden
– Stay away from anything man-made (except after-dark bites of my Keto bars)
– Stop eating / snacking at night while watching “Alone” (Hey bear! Grilled muskox hooves!)
– Get another lipids panel pulled in 30 days
Reach 190 and order the new Speedo (Rachel said no but no can mean so many things)
– Consume a fine martini or two a night (Gin, of course)
– Maintain my love of all things fitness and slam my balls (It just never gets old)

How Keto Really Worked For Me

The real test of any plan is living it, and keto was the same. The truth is, for me, I didn’t alter a great deal of what I was already doing. Mostly, I cleaned it up a bit, learned more about how many carbs I was actually getting (yikes), and paid more attention to the evening snacking. To be honest, after awhile I found that keto was leaving me flat, feeling a bit thin, and lacking energy to slam my balls (and that dog won’t hunt).

The final answer for me was limiting my carbs and moving into a sort of modified keto. I left most of the processed food alone (rice cups, bread, and crackers). I just didn’t feel well adding a lot more fat to my diet. I did increase fats like avocados and peanut butter, but that whole bacon thing made me ill. The main achievement for me was in reducing my carb intake and switching what carbs I do get over to whole foods.

I tried to be food-aware every day; to lean into whole foods that would get me where I wanted to go, and to leave the ones that were boxed or packaged alone. I eat a lot of food every day, and more now because of the slam-ball workouts. In my quest to take up slightly less space on the planet, I sought to better understand the effects that carbohydrates had on my body.

We are awfully carb-heavy in this country (see what I did there?) and I was no exception. I became more aware, ate slower, thought about the food in my mouth, planned meals, didn’t buy the crap, and really evaluated portion sizes. I’m not a resrictionist; less and less is not a sustainable approach. I do believe in awareness, exercise, and fun, and more.

My Food

My daily food now consists of a morning Muscle Milk potion with blueberries (blueberries help keep lead in the pencil, and the antioxidants are an added bonus), or egg whites and cheese. Maybe half a banana. Tropical fruits like bananas have a lot of sugar, so I go easy there (banana and coffee. Yes.).

For lunch it’s usually some variation of leftovers from the night before or something with cottage cheese (tuna?) and mayonnaise of course. My mid-afternoon snack is probably more of the same as lunch. My after mid-afternoon snack (slamming balls takes lots of energy) is often an apple and peanut butter or the other half of the morning banana and peanut butter.

For dinner we grill some sort of protein or tofu (if you’ve not grilled tofu, don’t write it off just yet. Put the barby sauce to it and you’ll be surprised). We grill just about every night, year round, and we grill just about anything and everything you can think of, including all manners of vegetables and proteins. You name it, I bet I’ve grilled it (next up, muskox hooves). We mix that with a giant salad or grilled cauliflower or broccoli or carrots or brussel sprouts. Grilled broccoli tastes like steamed clams. Try it, you’ll see. Pretend you’re on the coast of Maine overlooking the surf and are rich. A fine martini (Gin, of course) really cements the fantasy.

In the evening when I get snacky, I go back for the blueberries (heh-heh) in a bowl, and add peanut butter, baking chips, and soy milk.

Of course, like I planned, I’ve kept the evening martini (Gin, of course) (or two), along with the great conversation time with Rachel. We plan our future, talk about goals, make plans, and recount the day. I’m working on perfecting the Blueberry Martini (Gin, of course).

But Wait, There’s More

I would be remiss if I did not mention that when I want a treat meal (not cheat meal. Stop thinking like that), I have it. We had pizza last week (loud noises and involuntary hip thrusts. Sorry neighbors). It is life, after all; eat the damn cupcake and have fun and make noises (just don’t do it every day). And then remember you had that enjoyment, keep a big smile on your face, and look forward to making plans over the next week to stay on your goals.

I would be remisser (?) if I did not also mention exercise. Although I might not be working with the poundage I used to (always a good idea to delay knee replacement), it’s really vital to the long term success of any life-health plan. I can’t say that enough. We have to move, and we have to maintain muscles, which means lifting things. Keep it fun, mix it up, get creative, work hard.

It’s been a little more difficult wearing a mask at the gym (feels like being waterboarded), but every once in awhile, because of the decrease in gym attendance, I get the place to myself…and…I mean…well?

Booby Dance!

Finally

I know most people want some sort of quantifiable progress so here’s that: Although I hate scales (they only really tell you what planet you’re on), I went from 202 to about 187. My body seems to want to stay right around that weight; some days a little more, some less. I closed up one notch on the belt. I ate alot of food. I didn’t take body fat percent or any of that, but I think my fat places are skinnier.

Here’s the real deal: I feel great. At almost 60, I have so much energy. I’m happy and optimistic. I’m ready to go all the time. I can’t wait for the next workout, or mountain bike ride, or aerobic housecleaning, or whatever it is. Again, I’m focusing on a workable health and lifestyle plan that’s fun and sustainable. Modified Keto did what I wanted it to.


As always, I’d love comments. I have zero interest in arguing, so if you disagree, be well and more power to you. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but often just having a real conversation about ideas can be the action that gets us past that sticking point. If you have pointers or a life-lesson, I could use all of them I can get.

It’s been fun. It is fun. I feel great as I near the end of my 5th decade in this realm. I’m still making positive changes. I eat clean and light most of the time. I eat often. I’m happy. I move in all sorts of ways. I lift heavy things. I have more fun. I look pretty good for my age and for someone who does not obsess (but, I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t do the booby dance when they can?)

Middle Age Slam Balls

Fitness is one of the pillars of my life. I enjoy it immensely; talking about it, planning it, eating for it (keto success update coming next post – I feel good!), teaching it, reading about it, and doing it. It’s definitely one of the things I’ll take into retirement and will devote significant portions of each day towards.

Sometimes I come home from the gym and tell Rachel I saw Moses. Seeing Moses is a phrase I use when my workout was really good; when everything just works and I’m firing on all cylinders. On particularly (really) good days, I tell Rachel I saw Moses and the Seven Elders, which means (of course) that my workout was over-the-top; I’ll probably be parking in the handicap spot the next day (or two).

This morning, I saw Moses, all the Elders (there seems to be more than seven now), and some other bearded guy (Abe?) All were raucous with applause and angelic singing. Oxygen deprivation you say? Music too loud you ask? 3rd Martini (gin, of course) last night perhaps? Nay, major nay. Rather, the workout was so amazing that it loosed me from earthly chains and transported me into spiritual realms.

No, seriously. In lay terms: I got there. Uh-huh. So good was the workout, in fact, that I came home and immediately needed canned clams and cottage cheese (email me for the recipe) to fill the carnivorous void (are clams meat?)

For a few months now, I’ve been Slamming Balls (?) Hm.
I mean, I’ve been Ball Slamming (longer Hmmm).
(Gets a running start)
For a few months now, I’ve been incorporating the aggression, speed, power, agility, and strength of using Slam Balls.

Slam Balls pretty much live by their name: weighted rubber balls (varying weights) about the size of basketballs, that are filled with sand, and are intended to be thrown (as hard as possible (!)) against walls – commercial concrete and brick, not house walls (learned that the hard way or floors. They can also be thrown in the air – not straight overhead (learned that hard way), or lifted and moved around the body for resistance moves. Slam balls don’t bounce and they don’t roll.
Think splat, thud; really heavy splat thud.

Think: pick up and slam, as hard as you can, as many times as you can, as fast as you can, before your heart explodes.
See?

Premium Slam Ball Prime | Power Systems

I started using Slam Balls at the local Idaho Fitness Center (love these little well-equipped, clean, inexpensive gyms) as a warm-up exercise. The balls there were 15 lbs and 20 lbs, and the more I played with them (the gym has cinder block walls that read “throw balls here” – Ok!), the more I liked the variety they brought to my typically static and form-conscious weight routine. I began to create various movements with the Slam Balls and found myself spending my gym time split between using the Balls and using weights. Plus, with my music blasting in my earbuds, it became sort of noisy-heavy-agressive-dancing-moshpit-slamballing.

I find as I’m maturing (read: becoming vintage and classic), I’m learning that I get bored easily with certain locked-in, by-the-rules (I hate rules) approaches to fitness (used to drive my son insane when we trained together). I’ve become more eclectic about fitness (ok – I’ve become more eclectic about alot of things). I almost always make it up as I go.

Sidebar: this type of what my mom used to call “energy,” is what got me into trouble as a kid (heyyy, I know what we could do….) Now, as a Middle Aged “Classic,” this energy is helping me create new and fun things – like Slam Balling.

After I had used the 15 and 20 lb slam balls at the gym for a few weeks, I was hooked and found myself wanting to go and just, well, Slam Balls. So deep was my new love for slam balls, that I knew I had to have my very own. I ordered a 30 lb Slam Ball. And loved it. I loved it so much in fact that I ordered a 50 lb slam ball.

Sidebar #2: It’s fun getting something in the mail that’s small, round, and weighs 50 lbs. I told the UPS guy I had built a cannon and needed a cannonball to test it (he scribbled a quick note at that point and nodded silently). The tape-covered shipping box had ceased being a box by all box standards and had become a wholly useless and dilapidated cardboard sheathing. I dropped it in the elevator and felt it bounce (the elevator, not the ball).

Here’s where I share with you that my fitness has become a new thing. The mix of slamming balls, added to weights and cardio, is just downright adventurous. Slamming balls leaves me breathless. Honestly, at first I thought the 50 lb ball was a bad idea (just getting it into the gym is comical). Because of it’s small size and shape, it seems really heavy. And it’s a mistake to start with that one (especially 1 week before my 59th birthday).

But I’m up to 7 slams (with the 50 lb) now before I am out of oxygen (or my lungs partially collapse – hard to really tell); my new goal is ten. I make a lot of noise and Oh.Em.Gee., the all-at-once-overall shoulders-legs-back-arms-lungs workout leaves me wondering how much the fine would actually be for parking in the nearest handicap spot (plus, who’s not up for the fun of coming home after a great workout and making endless jokes about slamming balls?) I mean, winner all around.

Additionally, we Middle Age men seldom get the opportunity anymore to use everything we have; to really go all-out; the explosion of speed, aggression, strength, power, and the sheer violence of throwing something so hard as to try to destroy it, repeatedly, until you just can’t anymore, reaches somewhere into the ancient animal of the soul.

Pure, unbridled, physical power.

Zen

Kill
Kill

It’s little wonder Moses and the Elders cheer and sing.

It’s yet another one of the things in life I never thought I’d find myself doing. I love that about life; being able to do things I just never thought I’d get to do. It creates optimism, hope, expectancy, and a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, it’s kind of fun when young bucks give me that Dude – what’s with the William Wallace? look.

Sidebar #3: Rachel just ordered her own 10 lb slam ball (I think she’s jealous of my spiritual audience and the access to never-ending joke material).
I thought it might be fun to develop a couples’ Ball Slamming (leave it alone) workout. This one could be more of a she-throws-hers-and-he-fetches-it-back (clearly a potential precursor for all sorts of other fun things).

Just the dialog alone could get the neighbors peeking over the fence.
Let your couple’s imagination run wild.
I have.

Middle Age Keto Adventure

In most adventures, many things go right. And usually there are some things that don’t go quite as right as hoped (in my adventures there are usually several, “Well…(long pause)…shit”). But adventure equals risk, and where there’s risk there’s the real option of screw ups, fall downs, minor crashes, and, the worst, going ass over teakettle. That’s how it is with my current keto adventure. At 59, and a long-time trainer, I’m experimenting with what I thought I knew and seeing if there are better options for the middle-age me.

If you’re like me (you should thank God you’re not), you’ve heard enough about diets, food plans, fads, and Keto. Eat this, that, and the other, don’t eat this, that, and the other, he said, she said, experts say, other experts say, doctors say, other doctors say, Facebook, experts this, experts that; you get the idea. Too many differing opinions. We’re left to sort it out ourselves.

But not venturing in is a 100% sure-fire way to not learn anything new and to remain where we are, so I ventured in. I wish I could report that I’d found Ponce’s youth fountain, but that would be a lie. I have actually learned, and am learning, some pretty cool stuff though, so read on and perhaps it may be of some use to you.

I first started Keto eating when Rachel started it about 2 months ago. She was addressing some joint pain and inflammation issues. She handles most of the meals and cooking in the house, so I thought why not? I’m very food lazy. I could eat the same things 9 times a day and be fine, as long as it’s easy (see why she takes care of all the food?). I’m also a very active man (am strong like bull), lift heavy weights 4-5 times per week (I make noise), add all manner of resistance bands and weight balls (just bought a 30lb Slam Ball – so excited – sorry neighbors), mountain bike, hike, and love lawn and yard work and projects. But it’s probably a safe bet that at 59, eating like I did at 29 is a bad idea.

This year, pre-keto, 202 lbs.

I wasn’t really looking to lose weight per se; I wanted to tighten, tone, and add some definition to my abs. I also wanted to stay strong and have energy to spare.

It took some time to get used to. Keto meals take planning. I was used to eating alot of protein, but it was alot of fat for me. A few of the meals were crossed off the list after I beached myself and Rachel needed to roll me back into the surf. I soon learned that my activity level required a modified keto plan. From what I can tell, alot of keto plans limit carbs to under 20 per day, and that left me feeling a bit flat and thin. But I kept tinkering with it, and started seeing positive change pretty quickly.

After about 30 days, I’m down 9 lbs (193) and am seeing nice changes in my abs. My fat places are getting thinner. I think I’ve got the carbs figured out (I don’t count. I just try to be aware) and have learned tons. I feel good, have tons of energy, and am still strong like bull. My new goal is to get to 190 lbs and see what that looks like. I have to report that so far it’s been pretty easy (because Rachel does all the work and I just eat).

This was me.

It wouldn’t be fair or useful if I didn’t report my, “Well…(long pause)…shit” moments. I was already scheduled for a routine yearly physical with a full set of blood labs. While most indicators checked great, my doc had his own cardiac event when he saw my cholesterol level (245) after it had always been in the healthy range (170’s). His chart note read: strongly recommend reducing saturated fats and cholesterol intake in the diet. I did research on HDL and LDL and VLDL and triglycerides; a fella could get lost in there and never come out. I was a bit discouraged but more curious than anything.

To be fair, I eat alot of food. Like, an enormous amount of food. And I ate some of the meals too fast, and some were too heavy for me. Large amounts of heavy cream and butter can’t be good for me. My body thought I had declared war against it. And, ok, did get a little crazy with the bacon (well?) We have been doing alot of camping, and coffee, bacon, and the campfire is just what to do. I was also eating 4-5 whole eggs every day. With bacon. And these little keto muffins called fatbombs. With peanut butter (well?)

I had neglected to tell my doc I had started keto when we met. I just didn’t think about it. And high cholesterol levels are not something I’m prepared to live with (defib paddles are like $500). His chart reply read: Hard to say it if is adversely affecting your cholesterol, though. You might try increasing your protein intake and reduce your fat intake to see if that helps reduce your cholesterol numbers. As of now, however, your heart disease risk is well-managed and I am not going to push you too much on that. Overall, I think you are taking good care of yourself.

Mm. Not the definitive Mark! You’re a stud! Love keto! Eat more bacon! All is well! I was hoping for. But I had already re-modified my modified keto diet to stay clear of the saturated and animal fats (sniff, sniff) and align more with plant fats: nuts (mmmmm….peanut butter), guacamoles, olive oil, etc.

And here’s maybe the coolest part of my adventure. I’m learning that I was eating a medium sized Uhaul trailer full of carbs, even as I was trying to be smart and make healthy choices, like whole grain pasta or one small cup of Jasmine rice:

40 carbs per serving. It’s easy to eat 2 servings

50 carbs per cup. Sometimes I’d eat 2 a day

Even a banana will find you eating 30 carbs. Carbs convert faster to glucose and create an insulin response in the body. Elevated insulin levels in the body promote increased fat storage. Although I’m not anti-carb, I was unaware how many I was eating per day. By increasing healthy fats while lowering some carb intake, I can help lower insulin response and create the sensation of being really full.

So, here’s my next phase of the Middle Age Modified Keto adventure:
– Be smarter about my selection of fats but maintain an increased level of fats in the diet
– Reduce the carbs but still maintain energy and strength
– Get those carbs largely from the garden
– Stay away from anything man-made
– Stop eating / snacking at night while watching “Alone” (Hey bear! Scary!)
– Get another lipids panel pulled in 30 days
Reach 190 and order the new speedo (Rachel said no)
– Consume 2 fine martinis a night (Gin, of course) (what?)
– Maintain my love of all things fitness and slam my ball (heh heh)

So, “after” pictures are coming! I’m excited, and I find new opportunities and adventures really fun. It’s not about being perfect, or being as good or better than anyone else. It’s about improving, and showing thanks by taking care (a big one for me).

So, if you’ve had any experience in keto, please do add comments. Learning from others is the best way to learn.

Summer Fun Update!

Go ahead, say it: “Groovy baby!”

Rachel and I have just started our July 2020, and despite it being a unique summer for obvious reasons, we’re having a ball. As I write, I’m sitting in the sun on the 4th floor balcony, surrounded by towering sunflowers, green tomatoes, a cucumber bush (?), herbs, and listening to Jason Aldean and kids playing Marco Polo in the pool.

Taking over!

We’re just back from several days of camping in Featherville, Idaho, and are preparing to head out again to Stanley, Idaho. We recently purchased all new camping equipment, after having sold it all because we were positive we were done with camping, and absolutely positive (no, honest, really) we were done forever with tent camping. So much for having life figured out, huh? That’s twice now I’ve been taught the “Never say never” lesson. I’m trying very hard for it to be the last.

We love the new truck tent and sleep so well with the fitted air mattress
And we love camping on the water

My profession allows me to have half of June and all of July free from work. Although I pick up some summer add-on hours, my days and weeks are largely mine to fill as I choose. It’s a great time to begin to practice retirement, and I like the arrangement and opportunity. Many people are thrust into retirement with no real time to “dabble.” It can be a real challenge to find meaning and purpose when the profession goes away.

Rachel is still enjoying her year of sabbatical, but has just recently begun applying again. We have a better idea of what she does and does not want to invest in, and we’re leaning strongly toward finding something online full time. We’ve been able to do very well on just my income; again one of the benefits of being debt free.

One financial side note and a good lesson for us: after buying the truck tent, the only real drawback that we found was that it’s a pain to go exploring or run to the nearest town because we have to take down the tent to go anywhere. Although it only takes about 20 minutes (read: first-world problems), we were finding it a pain. So, we started looking at side-by-sides, razors, UTV’s, etc, to add some fun and solve a practical issue. The type of size we wanted would cost us right at $20K, and we wanted one badly. After several days and multiple dealers, we both came to the conclusion (over a fine Martini; gin, of course) that, although it would have been a cash deal, this was not the season of life to buy one. I believe that season is coming, (along with a blog post called Seasons), and soon, but it’s not quite time. I was proud of us (but oh boy someday!)

Zoom zoom!

Our other most recent adventure is Keto, low carb eating; a whole new approach to food for me. Rachel discovered, after years of research and several doctors, that she is challenged with insulin resistance (I’m challenged by liking chocolate fudge whoopie pies. Omg. Colors). She’s been teaching me the ins and outs of the diet, and we even stay on it when camping. It’s hard work, takes discipline and planning, and we’re both seeing incredible results. I’m still dialing it in, as it’s not really designed to support the intense type of workouts that I perform daily, but I can see a physical difference in my abs (at 59, I’m getting obliques back). Kind of fun.

Finally, this summer is allowing me to explore another dream: fly fishing. Ever since I saw the movie A River Runs Through It, I’ve wanted to live in the west and fly fish. Half of that dream has been realized; time for the other half. It looks like such art when performed well (and by well I mean not getting washed downstream screaming “Mayday!”), and it seems like it would pair nicely with camping on the water. Fly fishing seems founded in western rivers and streams, it’s not something I heard much about back east. It’s going to be a very special moment for this Man when he lands his first fly fished fish. Little things (no laughing Fred! I can do this!)

I know you’re out there!

So there it is. Summer 2020. Add in some extra mountain biking, pool time, and writing, and it’ll be a quick 6 weeks of retirement practicing. Lots of good things happening. I’m working on several new blog posts for the fall: Things my mom says (she thinks she might be Hispanic now), The 55 and over world, and the aforementioned Seasons. I’m looking forward to getting those put to page.

Be well and safe my friends.
MP

Middle Age OMG

OMG.
Oh.
Em.
Gee.
Endorphins are a wonderful thing. So is the feeling of feeling your body move. Muscles and tendons and joints and lungs and even spleens (?) doing what they were designed to do.

After a very-too-long absence from the gym, I’m back as of this morning. And Oh My Goodness (!) it’s incredibly fantastic.
It’s true; it really is Goodness.

I knew I had to be a bit cautious. Although I’ve done a great job of maintaining during the close down, there’s a difference between body weight movements and resistance weight movements.

It was glorious. Better even.

I’ve never considered myself to be a gym-rat. I actually strongly dislike the term. I do however take fitness seriously; it’s a significant aspect of my life. For me it’s a mental-physical-emotional-sexual (what?)-spiritual experience. There are a thousand ways to be fit and strong, and I support all of them. And there are some really smart people who have designed some really cool equipment that allows the body to strengthen itself in ways that simple body weight movements can’t.

Fitness is an amazing life tool.
And with underlying health factors becoming a real thing, there’s never been a better time for Middle Age folks like me to tend to the house God gave them.
It’s a Lifetruth: Growth happens when we overcome resistance.
And it’s wicked fun.

I was expecting the little local club to be packed; overrun really. The fit and not-so-fit masses storming the doors. Lines, masks, people being weird and offended and freaked out and you’re too close! The whole planet knows that gyms on Saturday mornings are mobbed. Gyms on Saturday mornings after being closed for months will be Toilet-Paper-Aisle-Lock-down insanity.
What happened was none of that.

I was there early-ish (a little after 7am), and there were just two cars in the lot (huh?) My first thought was Crap. I was wrong; it’s not open or I’m too early. Nope. I walked into an almost empty gym (huh??) There was one other woman doing yoga and a younger guy on a bike.
The front desk lady smiled with a big happy, “Good Morning! Welcome back!”

It was quiet. Peaceful. Clean. Light. Everything in its place. No caution tape (I have Caution Tape PTSD now thank-you-very-much). I asked if there were any special rules and the Happy Good Morning Welcome Back Lady said, “Nope. Just extra squirt bottles if you’d like and some of the treadmills have signs that ask you not to use them.”

I was in disbelief. She stared. I almost cried.
I found my favorite weighted fit-ball and put in my ear buds and did warm up wall-bounces and felt my body say omg yeessssss…

Halfway through my first warm up set of assisted pull ups I just stopped to hang and stretch and be thankful.
“Oh My God that feels good,” I whisper-prayed (you know how when you’re wearing ear buds and the rock music is up and kick ass and you think you’re whisper-praying quietly just to yourself and it’s really not so quietly just to yourself? Yeah, that).
The yoga lady moved her mat.

For a little over an hour I just moved and let my body push and pull and stretch. Two people left. Two more came.

My own personal private peaceful reentry into life.
I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.
I can’t wait.
I’m so thankful.
It’s over. Thank You God it’s over.

Middle Age Mark’s Year in Review

I am generally not a big fan of year-end reviews. They depress me. Time has passed, I’m a year older, my bald spot is bigger, famous people have died, it’s tax time and the days are short. I’m not a big looker-backer. Too many people refer to the past when asked how they’re doing, and begin a diatribe of struggle and glum. Makes me insane. But then I throw away old pictures, so I might not be the best litmus when it comes to wrapping up the year.

Having said that, 2019 was a wicked good year (shout out to my Maine peeps). Perhaps one of the best I’ve lived. For reasons I’ll unpack shortly, I saw more beneficial change this year than any year since. The year started in Mesa Arizona with one word, prepare, and little did I know then how that word would help usher in a new era in life.

I start every new year with one word. It’s my Word For The Year (WFTY). Nichole (daughter) created the practice. She’s a beautiful spirit-forward person, which means she senses you way before you have the chance to tell her anything. We spend just about every New Year’s with her and her husband Joey, and it’s a great environment for setting a new word-path for the year. We make drinks, have a little ceremony, and hope to see our spirit animal (ok that last part is just me). More on that in a bit, but if you want to adopt the practice, it’s kind of fun (and it really helps to focus you forward).

As I mentioned, we started 2019 at the Baby House in Mesa. Nic and Joey were down for New Year’s with Rachel and me, and we partied like it was 2099 (see what I did there?) I remember a rousing rendition of how-low-can-you-go on the dance floor and thinking how amazing it all was (I could hardly walk the next morning, but still). It was that trip that Nic first shared that she was having a change of heart, and they were thinking of getting pregnant in a year or two. We shared some very close, quiet conversations. Life stuff.

The word prepare had been on me for some time. I don’t remember where it came from or why, but I sensed something was coming and I wanted to be ready. It was on that trip that Rachel and I decided to put all efforts towards climbing out of debt; the school loans, the cars, the cards. Rachel was sick (literally) of medical management and had had a run of very tough surgeons and situations. I had been reading Dave Ramsey and Fritz Gilbert and knew the first step towards having options was removing drag. We looked at the numbers and set a date for November 2020 to have zero debt. We left there very excited.

It was in the spring that we learned of Nic’s pregnancy. Rachel made me a special martini and delivered the news. All I could repeat was, “You gotta be shittin’ me!” I cried and then I wasn’t able to talk. I’ve never seen any women be so pregnant and yet not at the same time. She said she told God that this was His deal and she didn’t have time to be sick (she’s not had even one day sick) or stop doing yoga.

The summer was wonderful. Rachel took some extra time off, and we decided to try our first July in Mesa. As July’s go there it wasn’t particularly hot. Mornings started between 75-80 and days topped about around 110. In short, we loved it. We did what we needed to do during the mornings and early afternoons, and then hit one of 3 pools with our shaker martinis. It was like our own private resort. We had the “opportunity” to replace the AC, but things like that should be expected.

It was on that trip, during one of our floating finance sessions, that Rachel dropped the bomb: “I think we should sell the house.” We had talked about it on and off for years. So we did it; we left there and went back to Boise and immediately called our realtor friend. After a few weeks of intense prep, it was on the market and sold very quickly. After some research, we used the profits from the house to advance the debt free date, and we began a new phase of life, that of no debt, minimalism, and condo living. Rachel writes a blog on living a minimalist life. The whole package is wonderful (even I’m surprised at how much I like the condo life).

On a more micro note, my approach to fitness changed this year. Although I still crave resistance training, at 58 my joints no longer always love the heavy weight. There’s a difference between good and bad pain (wink), and I knew it was smart to listen to the form. I tightened up the diet (which of course excludes martinis), shaved a bit from the weight stack, and added more cross training. I feel great and look pretty good too.

So we came into fall and the holidays. Rachel got candy in case we were visited by any trick-or-treaters (eternal optimist), and she began to plan for Thanksgiving. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of Thanksgiving to Rachel. It was one of the challenges of becoming condo-livers; there needed to be a place with enough room for the whole family. Enter the condo clubhouse, with all the amenities for cooking, serving, and enjoying the Thanksgiving day (and 3 big screen TV’s and pool table). A better day was never had.

Christmas has come and gone, and it was wonderful as well. We got a skinny tree and decorated the front door. Rachel and I celebrated early with the kids like we do every year, so that they can be more free to relax or see other family on the actual day. Nic hosted for the first time (after a morning session of maternity yoga), and carried the mantle of easy, relaxed holiday enjoyment perfectly. It felt right, us going there, as soon Kepa will wake us with excitement about what Santa brought. Can hardly wait.

And finally, we ended the year with perhaps one of the biggest life changes in our relationship yet. Rachel tendered her resignation and departed the corporate world for an undetermined sabbatical. Already the change in her spirit is evident. A surgeon friend described her as radiant during a recent small gathering, and I could not disagree. I can see the weight being lifted more every day. She’s coming back to the surface. We both wear smiles most of the day, inside and out.

My 2019 word was prepare.
We got debt free and small.
Kepa is on his way.
My toast each night is Blessed Life.
What a year.

Could SugarDaddy be one word?

Middle Age Optimism

Now that I’m coming out of the stage of life that has been a major focus for that past several months (getting debt free), there are other things that I’ve been itching to write about. Financial rightness is certainly a component of a well-loved and well-lived life, but it is one component; it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all.

Life has foundational pillars; necessary substrates that we gather and erect to support and create a fulfilling and satisfying time here in this realm. There is no one right mix. Too much of one and not enough of another can topple the structure of our life. Each person can and will have a different life-pillar support arrangement; some smaller, some larger, but my contention is that there are some common ones. I’m on a mission to label the pillars and get them upright and justified in my life.

Health is a significant pillar. It’s not something that I paid much attention to when I was younger, for obvious reasons. I was bullet-proof when I was young(er). I ate things and drank things and did things that might put me under the covers for a day or a week now. I don’t recover as fast as I used to. I’m teaching myself new ways to maintain fitness and well-being, and as a long time trainer, weight lifter, and strong guy, it’s tough sometimes to talk myself through new (lighter) strategies. Tough, but still fun.

Purpose is another major pillar and also one that I didn’t give much thought to when I was younger. Purpose? I worked. I loved my family. I paid my bills. I went on vacation. I was the drummer. The cycle repeated. It’s not that I felt I was lacking purpose, it just wasn’t anything I thought about. It’s a major one now as I look forward to solid support for the 3rd act of life.

Faith is one of my big life-pillars. I like knowing that I’m not It, I’m not Him, He gets a big kick out of me, and I’m part of Something alot bigger than me.

Optimism has been on my mind and heart these days as a life-pillar. Among it’s definitions, it’s an overall attitude of belief or hope that life in general will be positive, favorable, fulfilling, desirable (and fun). It can be called different things: hope, expectancy, anticipation, enthusiasm, gusto, positivity, zest.

Whatever it’s labeled, I’ve met people with it and people without it. I’ve met positive people that brighten the room and cynical people that suck the light and life out of it.

Being cynical is an easy trap to fall into. We don’t want to get too far out over our skis lest the landing not go as planned. There’s drama in being cynical, and there’s power in drama. Cynicism can be a safety measure, a protection. It can create a “Hey look at me and how hard I’m battling against life; it must mean that I’m important.”

Let’s face it, “My day was blessed and fantastic,” is not nearly as dramatic or intriguing as “Oh my God, you won’t believe the day I had.”

I talked to my mom yesterday afternoon. I call my mom about 5 times a week. She’s 83 and lives in Maine and told me the cardiologist said she has “extra heartbeats.” She’s scheduled for a heart surgery this week and might need a stent. She doesn’t see the point and thinks extra heartbeats should not be a concern.

After we hung up I thought what a magnificent time to be on the planet when doctors can roto-rooter your heart and give you back quality of life.

I’m not advocating for not being honest when life becomes a bumpy ride. Serious things happen and they suck.
I am advocating for refusing to succumb to a negative perspective.

My dad was cynical. He still can be. That alone might cause extra heartbeats. Every bright hope had potential awfulness, every adventure more risk than reward, which he was quick to articulate.
I resist that with every fiber on my being.

So this morning, as the sun overtakes the foothills and the coffee is hot, I needed to write an ode to optimism. To me, optimism is like air and an absolute must-have life-pillar. It might not be in metrical form, but my ode is certainly full of enthusiastic emotion, and I might even make up a song (sorry neighbors).

I started my day at 6am in the hot tub. Rachel is home sick and I thought I’d better quick disinfect myself. While in the hot tub, I sent two emails, watched a jet with 250+ people fly overhead into a great new exciting day, ordered and started a book, watched an early morning hawk, ordered a movie for the weekend, checked my calendar, did my hot-tub-yoga-stretches, prayed, and checked the agendas for two meetings.

How awesome is life?

After I got out of the hot tub I spent a few minutes in my part-time living room. It’s a cool place and allows for a different environment while still having access to all things professional. Sometimes ideas flow better when I change environments. I can get a new perspective on a challenge that I’m overcoming. It even has a glass conference room (I sit at the head of the table).

How even awesomer is life?

After that I crossed the parking lot and came back to the condo. The sun had just crested and our little home was almost blinding in the morning sunlight.
I was suddenly overcome with gratitude.
I let it take me and thought about how much I love my life.

I have so much to be thankful for.

I love and am loved.
I have great friends that set a high bar.
I have a good bed and a good pillow.
I am warm, safe, well fed, and healthy.
I love my 30 year old mountain bike.
I love the way we give.
The Patriots are 5-0.
I love sitting on the balcony at the end of the day with a fresh martini (gin of course) and reflecting.
My phone is waterproof if I move really quickly.
The morning sunlight pours into our home and makes me emotional.
I love my work and my team and every once in awhile feel like I really made a difference.
I love Sunday nights and Al Michaels’ voice and homemade french bread pizza.
I have a new red couch and a glass coffee table and I put my feet up and watch cool things when I can get the rabbit ears right.
I love my morning chores and learning new ways to make the bed.
My garage door goes up and down with a button.
I have a garage.

I never want to miss the little things.
There are no little things.

I’m going to continue to invest in optimism and keep surrounding myself with optimistic people. Why would anyone not?

I’m standing that life-pillar up and cementing it in place for ever.
I’m willing to bet it helps support a really fantastic life.




Middle Age Actionating

I turned 58 this weekend. Happy Birthday to me! I purposely asked for it to be a very quiet, non-celebrated event. Not because I feel old, or embarrassed, or bothered by either my age or my birthday. It’s mostly because it’s 58. 58 is a boring number.

I ate alot of cake. Alot. I got a whole one and I ate alot of it until my lips went numb. And none of that cheap whippy-fake frosting either. This was the real 80 proof cane sugar right into the blood stream frosting. I really like (fantasize about) birthday cake.

I also opened the bottle of Bardenay gin that my realtor and friend Mike gave me when we closed on the House of Wales and made a top shelf martini. It’s really good gin. That night I dreamed of Genie on I Dream of Genie. She had a little yappy dog and wanted me to take it.
I said no and she was not a happy Genie.

Some people use birthdays to look back at the year that was. I’m not a person that looks back alot. I don’t see much value in it. It’s depressing. I almost hate looking back.

I threw out alot of pictures when we sold the house and downsized to the condo. Pictures are all about looking back. I’m not a big picture keeper. Mostly people look at pictures and talk about how young or thin or hairy everybody looked. Then they say things like how fast life goes by or how little little kids were or how long Grandma has been dead and get depressed. Throwing away pictures is like criticizing the Pope or Mother Teresa (and I’m not even Catholic); it’s just not done. I still remember the look on Rachel’s face. Kind of like I might be a guy that runs over kittens or pushes old ladies into traffic.

I suppose if we looked back and used the past to teach us actionable lessons there might be some good use for that. That’s if we’re actually going to actionate (yes, that’s a thing. And if it’s not it should be). But hardly anyone wants to actionate. Mostly they say something wishful or depressing and put the pictures back in the box and the box back under the bed. For year 58 I want to take less pictures and actionate more.

I don’t feel 58. I tried to think about how old I actually felt when I woke up this morning and I decided 38. 38 seems like a good age even though at 38 I think I could still see the alarm clock. I’m not sure how a 58 year old is supposed to feel because I’ve never been 58 and I don’t have any friends that are 58 and I don’t remember how my parents acted when they were 58.

I have tons of energy, tons of optimism, take the stairs to and from the 4th floor even on leg day, am pharma-free, and still gym and mountain bike every day. I don’t have as much hair as I did when I was 38. I think my feet might be bigger than when I was 38.

I felt like I wanted to go out and do something to commemorate becoming 58. When you’re 24 months away from being 60 you should make a statement about not going gently into that good night. More than eating alot of 80 proof frosting cake. I thought about a chest tattoo of a roaring Bengal tiger or going for a ride on the motorcycle while wearing an eye patch or shaving my head again. I asked Rachel about the tiger tattoo and she looked at me like I had thrown more pictures away. I decided to ride my mountain bike to the gym and do a chest workout.

I crossed on the no walky guy sign though.