- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[cross-posted, and slightly reformatted, from Facebook]
A few thoughts that occurred as this evening unfolded:
- I’m looking forward to the time when Drunk History does an episode on the Trump administration — provided America survives his Presidency.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thankfully, alcohol does not deter me from using words such as “ostensibly.”
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.
A few odds and ends:
- There’s nothing quite like taking a two-week-plus sabbatical from proper eating and exercise to remind me that my default setting will always remain stuck at fat bastard. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly I can pack on pounds when all caution is thrown to the wind.
- All the planned LEGO beach builds I envisioned were mercilessly trashed by the realities of attempting to place them on the sand — particularly near the waves. Even though none of them turned out the way I would’ve liked — notably the planned Trumplestiltskin build, which I decided to scrap — I learned a lot for the next time we go to the beach for a vacation. Nonetheless, I have material for Brick à Brac later this week.
- Now that this vacation is out of the way. I’m now eagerly looking forward to the middle of November, when I’ll be making my longest trip to Philly since the spring of 2009. I enjoyed myself during our stay in Kure Beach, NC, but spending a week at the beach isn’t my preferred variety of vacation. Yes, Philly is my home, but any multi-day trip to a major city will recharge my batteries more than a week on the beach. I also feel like an extended stay in Philly is long overdue, so this particular trip will be especially welcome.
- I polished off two books while at the beach, but I’m still way behind last year’s pace. I really need to set aside more time for reading (I’ve been rather consistent with my audiobook listening for quite some time now.) A new Stuff Read post is forthcoming.
That’s all for the moment.
A little over a week ago, I received an email stating that Manchild made his Little League’s All-Star team. It was an exciting moment, and I couldn’t have been more proud of or excited for him. He loves playing baseball, and receiving this honor easily rates as one of his biggest childhood achievements. Amazingly, as great as the honor was in of itself, at the All-Star Game on Saturday he had one of the best days of his season: he went 3-for-3 with a double, two runs scored, & an RBI. Furthermore, he made a great play in the field that I will detail soon.
I too had a role in the game (aside from being a proud, supportive parent): I volunteered to keep score and count pitches for his team and thought little of it. It was an extension of a role I filled all season; ideally, I would’ve have volunteered to help coach his team, but the fact he played in Montgomery County, where his mom lives, meant I would miss at least half his practices. Luckily, my work schedule allowed me to attend all his games, where I frequently volunteered to assist in any way possible. When the All-Star coaches started looking for someone to maintain the team’s scorebook, I readily accepted the role. It meant I couldn’t simply enjoy watching the game and take pictures, but I truly wanted to help if possible.
I did get a few pictures, but I needed to rely on Manchild’s mom to perform the yeoman’s work of getting as many as possible. She didn’t disappoint (nor was there any concern that she would), and a large number of those photos, as well as videos of his at bats, ended up on Facebook. Next time I see her, I plan on providing her with a thumb drive that she can then place all the videos and pictures on it.
As much as I would have enjoyed taking my own pictures, my involvement in the game meant I was closer to the field than most of the other parents, and it allowed me to interact with Manchild at various times during the game. This most notably occurred while he was catching. He doesn’t particularly enjoy it, but he’s a consummate team player and will play any position the coaches tell him to field. During his first inning of work while behind the plate, there were a couple pop-ups that he couldn’t locate quickly enough to make a play on. On both of them, I very good-naturedly gave him guff, telling him, “Carlos Ruiz would have made that play.”
He persevered, and I received my comeuppance on his last play at that position. The bases were loaded with one out when the batter hit a routine grounder to second that resulted in an out at first. The runner on third scored, and then the runner originally on second attempted to score as well. Manchild took part in well-executed rundown and while running the runner back to the third, he noticed the runner who was originally on first scampering back to second from third. He made a perfect throw to second, and the fielder covering the base was able to apply the tag for the inning’s third out. As he returned from the field, Manchild emphatically pointed to second base and exclaimed to me, “And, Carlos Ruiz would’ve done that!” Once again, I swelled with pride, while simultaneously guffawing.
After the game, his mother and I took the time to speak with the coach of his regular team to thank him for all his hard work this season. Then, to my surprise, he thanked me for everything I did during the season, and pointedly stated that my volunteering to keep score during the All-Star Game was an example of the type of things most parents don’t do. Although not officially a coach for the team, my contributions were just as valuable, and he wished there were more parents like me. It always amazes me to hear things like that. Yes, I know that many parents are happy to simply show up and watch the game — those that actually do stay and watch, rather than just drop off and pick up — but I just cannot fathom how a parent wouldn’t volunteer if there was something they could do to help.
Anyway, Manchild has two more remaining games this spring before the season ends. No matter how he performs in them, I will view his All-Star game as the fitting end to his season. I’m looking forward to see how he’ll handle himself when he moves up to the next age division during the fall season, and I’ll continue to help his team in whatever capacity I can.
Last night, Sally and I returned home from an overnight trip to Winchester, VA — one of our favorite sans children activities. It is reasonably close enough to make a 24-30 hour visit worthwhile, maintains an incredibly pedestrian-friendly downtown district with plenty of shops and restaurants we love to visit, boasts a great used book store, and possesses amazing, reasonably priced, historic hotel that we love staying at. If we had the money, it’s the type of trip we’d easily make more often.
This time, the highlight of our stay was our visit to Handworks Gallery in the downtown district. For reasons neither one of us can recall, in all our previous visits to Winchester we never entered this store. We approvingly noted some of the items on display in the windows or on the sidewalk outside the store, but we just never decided to properly look around. Our initial perusal left us wondering whether this was a good or bad thing, because we spent a lot of money there yesterday.
In our defense, a significant portion of that expense resulted from a few items that became, later in the day, our 50th anniversary wedding gift to Sally’s parents. They have a number of animal metal sculptures in their house, and Handworks happened to sell some that we thought would be great additions to their collection. However, we liked a couple “Gnome-Be-Gones” so much that we ended up purchasing a couple of them for our own home. In addition, the store also stocked some rather amazing coasters made from cracked glass and pottery. It just felt like the right time to upgrade from the generic, cheap coasters that have sat on our coffee table since we moved in together.
Our experience in Handworks nicely concluded what was already a great visit to Winchester. However, as much as we love our trips there, the area never lets us forget that its deep in the heart of red country. The city may offer plenty of things for us to love, but it also harbors a large number of people whose viewpoints seem positively alien. In particular, something I wished I took a picture of: a pickup truck with a personalized VA “In God We Trust” specialty plate bearing the characters “357 MAGM”. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Hell, I saw it, and I still don’t believe it; the cognitive dissonance necessary to create such a license plate is astounding. However, it wasn’t out of place. I literally lost count of the number of Trump/Pence bumper stickers and signs still gracing cars and lawns littering the place.
As much as we love spending time and money in Winchester, as well as many other small cities and towns in the Mid-Atlantic region, these things serve as a continuous reminder that living in one of them might be problematic. As it is, we currently live in in the purple region on the western fringe of the Northern Virginia suburbian sprawl — a region represented by a number of politicians whose views are way to the right of ours. I find them infuriating at times, but at least they also support a a few key liberal programs. I just don’t know if I could live in an area where the local politicians feel no such need.
It won’t stop me from visiting Winchester and other locales like it. The hearts of such places just offer too many pleasures. It’s just a shame that fantasizing about retiring to one of these places can’t be as pleasurable.