Category Archives: Life

End of 2020/Start of 2021

I don’t think I can really say anything that hasn’t already been expressed by many others since the pandemic started. Much about the year sucked, but all things considered, in many ways I was extremely fortunate in 2020. I know we are all “in the same storm,” but it doesn’t make me feel any less self-conscious about writing or talking about my struggles living in the time of COVID-19. So, I will simply state that I am happy to see this year end, and will be celebrating its demise later this evening.

Given the slow rollout of the vaccines and the still ongoing slow-motion attempt by Der Katzengröpenführer and his enablers to undermine American democracy, I don’t want to get too hopeful about the coming year, as the first few months will mostly represent an ugly continuation of 2020. However, there is a visible light at the end of the clichéd tunnel. So, provided we get through the month of January without a true Constitutional crisis (extremely low probability) and/or a bunch of 2nd Amendment solution types deciding to finally enact some of their fantasies about killing libtards (slightly higher probability, but still hopefully trivial), there is legitimate reason to hope that overall the coming year will be better. 

Another Week, Another Series of Bullet Points

Another week, another series of bullet points. Really, at some point, a proper blog post will appear here. No, I mean it… Stop laughing!

  • The sixth week of the eating and exercise routine went well. I’m now slightly over 15 pounds lighter than I was on the morning of October 12. The hope for this week is to merely maintain, as the plan for Thanksgiving is to gorge like Homer Simpson on Super Bowl Sunday (“Good bye, belt!”) Even if the weight goes up slightly this week, the year-end goal to get to 220 pounds, which is currently just under four pounds away, still seems very attainable.
  • My phone now contains three dictated/mostly written posts in need of some editing before they can be posted. The current plan is to get them online during the long Thanksgiving weekend. This plan, however, may easily be compromised by the other big weekend plan: fully assembling the 5,500+ piece Lego Diagon Alley set.
  • This household will be doing the right thing this Thanksgiving, in light of the explosion in COVID infections and deaths: we are staying home and inviting no one here. In fact, I have even tongue-in-cheek left a comment on one of my mom’s Facebook posts telling her that she is lovingly and cordially invited (with absolutely zero irony intended) to stay far from us this year. We want her, and everyone else we care about, to be healthy and able to see us next holiday season.
  • Along those lines, I have to give giant kudos to my friend Tommie. Brandon and I had plans to get together with him this past Sunday to watch some football, and he was the one who smartly canceled, without hesitation. I, on the other hand, was stubbornly obtuse enough to follow through with the plans had he not done so. I’m glad that he wasn’t being as willfully ignorant as I was. It’s highly unlikely any of us were sick or would have spread COVID to the other house, but it was absolutely the right thing to do regardless.
  • Because this past Sunday marked the day in the calendar that is the earliest possible date Thanksgiving could fall on, Sally and I decided to go ahead and start playing Christmas music. Given the past year, jumping the gun by five days is an absolutely defensible decision to make.
  • I am not getting ads in my Facebook feed for hair ties for men, by a company called “The Longhairs.” Really? I’m sorry, but men don’t need hair ties designed especially for men. What’s even funnier is the advertising copy in the ad: “Our products do 3 things – inspire confidence, develop masculinity & foster community.” Foster community? Seriously!? When I decide to start smoking pot, I am going to find out who their supplier is.

Mid-November Update

I hope to have a lengthy post online within the next day or two. Until then, more bullet points.

  • Today marks five full weeks since the newfound motivation to get myself back into proper shape. Official loss thus far is over 13 pounds. Even accounting for the fact that five of those were in the first week (which is typical when getting this serious about eating right and exercising), averaging two pounds/week is probably going just a little too fast. I haven’t been starving myself, but a slight increase in the average intake seems to be called for.
  • For over a week now, I’ve sat on two posts dictated into the phone and simply in need of proofreading and minor editing. It would be nice to state that there wasn’t sufficient time to get that work done and post them over the weekend, but I think we all know better. There’s another longish post half planned out in my head, so there’s plenty of material for posting online this week – provided I force myself to spend the necessary time pounding away at the keyboard.
  • Breaking down the Lego Halloween display and properly putting away the component sets was the big project this past weekend. Not only was it completed, work also began on the Christmas display. This year’s is going to be both the largest in terms of total pieces and involves the least amount of creativity. Essentially, it’s just going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with modifications to give it a holiday look and feel. The hope is to have it completed by the end of the month, but that may be a little ambitious.
  • Thanks in large part to the pandemic, our ninth wedding anniversary was a low-key affair — we ordered some Thai for takeout and watched some television together on the couch. Given that last year was spent at Universal Studios Orlando (in particular the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and poolside while a snow squall raced through the homestead, it felt like quite the step down. Hopefully, the pandemic will start winding down in time for us to properly celebrate our tenth anniversary next year.
  • It has now been over a year since my last haircut. No current plans or even ideas as to when the next one will be. Even if it is a low risk activity, it just doesn’t seem to be one worth taking. Admittedly, the fact that there is barely any visible gray in it all makes it easier to let it simply grow out. However, the beard is not following suit, and the difference has become rather striking. Nonetheless, there are no plans whatsoever to either color the gray in the beard or to shave it off.

Life as a Series of Bullet Points

  • Today marks three weeks of exercising and eating properly following the newfound motivation to properly take care of myself again. The official weight loss thus far: 8.6 pounds. Alas, goal weight is 40 pounds away. However, Halloween came and went without gorging upon fun sized Kit Kats, Hershey’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Milky Ways, which means the first potential end-of-year obstacle didn’t present any problems.
  • With two months left in the year, I’ve already read the same number of books I read last year. That’s not as impressive as it could be, however — 2019 saw me read the smallest number of books I’ve read since 2010. It’s embarrassing to state that finishing 20 in 2020 would actually be the highest number since 2017. In fact, I’ll probably get started on my next book shortly after putting this post online.
  • One of my plans for later this evening is to simply put the Geek Tree out, without decorations. This will be the first holiday season for Otis, Charlie’s kitten, and we want to see how he chooses to interact with a tree before placing fragile decorations all over it. 
  • At Sally’s request, this year’s Christmas Lego display is simply going to be the new Diagon Alley set, with additions and alterations to give it a Christmas feel. The only problem is that the set is so big that it won’t all fit on the bookshelf. One or two of the buildings won’t make it, and I won’t know which ones until I start putting it together. Having said that, there is no way that Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes isn’t included. 
  • The dropping temperatures mean that our ability to find an outdoor table at a restaurant or bring takeout to a picnic table is rapidly decreasing. This also means that with the exception of going out for walks, there will be fewer opportunities to do anything outside of the house. As it is, I can do go days without leaving the house (other than to check the mail), and I’m not looking forward to the decrease in safe options for getting out of the house.

Something to Obsess About During the Pandemic

My body has ways of making it clear when it hasn’t properly been tended to for far too long — when the excess weight is more than just an inconvenience or annoyance. It did so during the early spring of 2011, and the health problems that surfaced in turn motivated me to drop 60 pounds. For most of the time since then, the desire to prevent those issues from happening again drove me to take significantly better care of myself than I ever had. 

But, like many people, I put on weight during the pandemic. Fortunately, that meant a small increase of between five and 10 pounds. However, that’s only because when the pandemic started my weight was already at its highest in over nine years. Without getting into the details, a few years ago a couple high-stress, chronic situations resulted in my employing the coping tactic that soothes me best: stress eating. Not that I want stress in my life, but it would be awesome if it resulted in the pounds shedding off rather than stacking up on each other as easily as LEGO Duplo bricks. Thank to this, when the pandemic started my weight was already the highest it had been since 2011.

A common sentiment going around these days is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for weight gain during such a stressful time — it’s more important that you maintain your mental health stability. Without question, I subscribed to it. By the start of this month, my weight was hovering roughly 10 pounds below my all-time peak. Then, on what should have been one of the best days since the start of the pandemic, my body decided to emphatically inform me that it was time to stop making excuses.

To be fair, it did send me a warning notice last month, when I experienced the worst hive attack I’ve had in years. At that time, Occam’s Razor provided the simplest explanation for my body freaking out: the months of cumulative stress brought about by living during a pandemic and mindfully trying to do all the right things (other than eating) finally became too much. Unfortunately, the simplicity of that explanation provided on easy excuse for me to ignore my physical fitness.

That purposeful lack of self-awareness came to a halt on Saturday, October 10, 2020. It should have been one of the best days of the year. It was my first day back in Philly since the pandemic started, Sally and Brandon were both there, I was seeing my dad for the first time since January, and the weather was exactly the kind we needed to safely spend most of our time in the city outdoors. When we did go into a few select shops, we felt relatively safe given that everyone was wearing masks, social distancing was readily evident, hand sanitizer was in ready supply, and the number of customers in them was actively being controlled.

Actually, it was the best day I’ve experienced since the pandemic started, but enjoyment of it was notably tempered by the fact that my sciatica announced its presence with authority throughout the day. The thing is that it’s only a problem when I’m grossly overweight and spending a significant amount of time on my feet — especially if most of that time is standing still or walking very slowly. To make matters worse, grabbing a table somewhere we could sit for a while and have a snack and beverage — the thing that would have best helped to alleviate the problem — simply wasn’t an option. Although we were able to settle on some solutions that eased some of the pain, such as simply sitting down for a half hour or so in the park immediately next to Christ Church in Old City, it didn’t lessen my overall frustration with simply having to deal with it.

That frustration and annoyance did not subside after returning home or during the following day. The more I thought about how the sciatica affected my day, the greater the frustration I felt about myself. So, much like the health problems back in 2011, that day in Philly is now motivating me to lose weight all the excess weight yet again. Using all the techniques that have worked in the past has already yielded results: I’m now down nearly 10 pounds in just 2½ weeks. Of course, knowing the holiday season is nearly here makes me question the wisdom of starting this endeavor at this time, but I also know to take full advantage of this kind of motivation.

So, I’m now obsessing about calories (both the quantity and kind of), getting enough exercise, and getting on the scale every morning. With some luck, the holidays won’t present too much of an obstacle. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Philly, the sciatica won’t flare up at all.

Accountability Posting

Back at the beginning of January, one of my cousins stated on Facebook that she was going to start periodically posting about her various goals for the year. The notion was that it would help her keep herself accountable, and I thought it was a great idea. In the past, I used weekly updates as a similar means of keeping myself motivated to eat healthily and exercise regularly. However, despite my previous success with such posts, I did not follow her lead.

Over this past weekend, I decided that was a bad idea.

Two first two months of the year went as planned: I managed to spend more time reading and got off to a good start embarking upon yet another round of eating properly and exercising. March devolved into a disaster on both fronts. Although Gravity’s Rainbow became my new most-hated book I’ve ever set eyes on and understandably brought my reading pace to a halt (more on this in a future post), it wasn’t a viable excuse for my reversion to last year’s crappy eating habits and sporadic visits to the gym.

So, in an effort to get myself back on track, I am beginning my own accountability posting this week. Tonight’s post is the return of the Weekly Weigh-In, which I supposedly made a permanent feature of this blog at the beginning of last year. Rather than wasting anymore time preambling about it…

Today’s weight: 229.0
Target weight: 190.0

All future weigh-in posts will be on Mondays as well.

Tomorrow: the first reading accountability post.

Gone Fishing

This past weekend, Moosito and I made the trek up to New Jersey for a long overdue visit to see the family. Much of it was your typical family get together – though I’m sure most families don’t have a brief Saturday night discussion over whether to play Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity with each other. However, Sunday morning started off in a much more Norman Rockwell-esque manner, with all of us going to a nearby diner for Sunday breakfast.

Shortly after we settled at our table and placed our order, a balloon animal artist came over and asked if any of us were interested in having him make something. I thought this was a little bit of stretch. Moosito was the youngest one there, but at 15 he is well past his prime balloon animal loving years. Actually, he never really liked them. Thanks to his non-neurotypical settings, he harbored a serious aversion to balloons for most of his formative years. The noise from popping balloons scared the bejesus out of him.

But, I digress.

After a little bit of banter back and forth, I experienced a burst of inspiration, and launched into a quick monologue: “I’m speaking for myself here. I appreciate the offer, but I am totally over balloon animals now. I’ve had too many of them break my heart. You care for them with all your heart, but one small slip, and… BLAM! If that wasn’t bad enough, they clog the toilet when you attempt to give them a proper burial. Then it gets even more tragic and heart-breaking when the plumber has to snake out the remains. I’m sorry, but no.”

I was proud of myself for that; I managed to both gracefully decline and make the balloon artist laugh. Following a little bit more banter, he moved on to the next table, and shortly thereafter our food arrived.

I was enjoying my Spanish omelette when balloon guy returned to the table. He proceeded to tell me that I had inspired him and that he wanted to bring me the final result.

IMG_4337

I loved it. Almost immediately I thought, “It’s the inevitable conclusion to Pixar’s Nemo trilogy: Flushing Nemo.” I thanked him profusely, and my dad tipped him for his work.

Nemo safely arrived back home in Virginia with me, and he’s now sitting on a living room bookshelf. I sincerely hope it will be a while before I have to call the plumber.

Overdue Posting and a Belated Happy New Year

I don’t need to look over the old LJ archives to know that this is the longest I’ve gone without posting somewhere other than Facebook. While all the excuses and rationalizations applied to past dormant periods apply to the most recent lack of blogging/journaling, there’s another reason that I won’t get into in public (alas, one of the features that WordPress lacks is an easy method of making certain posts accessible only to those you allow to see it), but it has been something of a doozy. The last few months, in particular, have made it extremely difficult to focus on a lot of things: writing, reading, Brick à Brac, taking proper care of myself, and even basic housekeeping. In place of those things, I’ve spent way too much time playing mindless games on my phone and iPad — something I made a determined effort to severely curtail while on a holiday vacation for the past 10 days.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, but the start of every year nonetheless brings a renewed determination to better focus on the items that require attention. Over the coming days, the plan is to post about the aforementioned neglected items, in addition to taking action on them. In the meantime, a belated Happy New Year’s to anyone I didn’t already wish to, as well as the hope that 2018 is a better year for you than 2017 was.

“Oh, alcohol, would you please forgive me…”

[cross-posted, and slightly reformatted, from Facebook]

A few thoughts that occurred as this evening unfolded:

  1. I’m looking forward to the time when Drunk History does an episode on the Trump administration — provided America survives his Presidency.
  2. Alcohol is the great enabler — it lowers my inhibitions enough to allow me to raid the stash of Tastykakes in the panty, which were ostensibly purchased for the kids’ lunches.
  3. It’s a good thing for everyone who knows me that I wasn’t properly made aware of The Smiths when I was in high school.
  4. Thankfully, alcohol does not deter me from using words such as “ostensibly.”

15 Years of Online Blogging & Journaling

This morning I spent a little time on one of the many long-standing, unfinished projects that just seem like they’ll never near completion: properly archiving and then printing hardcopies of the now defunct LiveJournal pages. This is easily the most daunting of the long-term tasks that never seem to near completion. I know it won’t take as long to complete as finishing Gaudi’s Sagrada Família, but it certainly feels that way.

While copying-and-pasting entries from November 2002 into a Word document, the number and size of the posts once again astounded me. Coincidentally, today marks the 15th anniversary of my very first LJ entry — a fact I didn’t properly recall until reviewing the site earlier today. The Word file dedicated to the 2002 posts is now complete through November 26, and is currently over 50 pages long. I’m fairly certain that’s far more than my combined posts to Facebook, Brick à Brac, LJ, and Twitter for all of this year.

Although a change of priorities is a primary cause for the decreased volume over time, the timestamps (as well as my own recollections) for most of the LJ posts make it clear that the overwhelming majority of the posts were written while goofing-off on the job. Looking back, it’s easy to see how that dynamic quickly transpired. Though qualified and possessing the necessary skills, I hated my job and was often happy to procrastinate and put forth the minimum necessary effort to complete the work. Combined with the ability to sense where corners could be easily cut, this resulted in a need to find something that would create the appearance of looking busy. Make sure you do your writing in Word, and it’s very easy to create that illusion.

Although that dynamic is no longer at play — the current paying gig is far more agreeable and provides more than enough work to keep busy — it’s disappearance doesn’t account for all of the decreased pixel generation. It’s not a coincidence that the first notable decrease in output corresponded with Facebook becoming my preferred social media platform. It’s a nice tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, but its design discourages the type of writing most frequently found in blogs and online journals. I adapted, but I also believe that my ability to write long, thoughtful entries suffered as a result. Taking the time to compose posts such as this just feels more difficult; that it takes more concerted effort than in the past. Like so many others, I often find the path of least resistance most tempting, and deviating sometimes seems non-rewarding — especially when Facebook allows readers to reward you with “Likes” and the feedback on a forum like this is much more limited.

It’s important to ultimately remember that writing on site such as WordPress or LiveJournal should primarily always be a personal endeavor. Though the work is harder, it’s also more personally fulfilling. Though you won’t get the rewards of posting frequently to Facebook, you will find that your voice is better used and understood. I won’t pretend that this particular entry will result in more frequent kinds of post. Simply, I’ve made and broken too many similar promises and resolutions over the past 5-10 years to foolishly express even a hope of this. However, reading some of those LJ entries from 2002 makes it clear that I’ve really lost something by not setting aside time to write more often in this manner.