Palm Fronds, The Poodle Tree and Banana Bread

We survived Irma. And did pretty well, thank you.

Aside from landscape damage and some fence sections down, the house is fine. The cats were listless and annoyed, likely due to temperatures inside the housimagese getting close to 90° during the 72 hours we were without power. All they wanted to do was eat and sleep, which is pretty much all they do during any normal day.

I made a bazillion trips from backyard to the driveway, dragging tree branches from the one shade-providing tree we had. Let’s just say that in canine terms, it was a big, shaggy dog before the storm. Now it looks like a poodle with a very bad haircut. About half the tree is gone (The Husband did the best surgery he could) and instead of throwing shade, it’s just throwing crumpled leaves.

One palm tree out front snapped in half, and about 10 palm fronds bent, pointy end towards the earth. The Husband expertly removed those, too.  It looks better out there, but my  Sunday afternoon shady car washing spot is history.

When the power returned, I used the bananas I bought pre-storm to make a good banana bread, and shared it with the ladies at my salon. I figured everyone could use a little sweetness at this point. And frankly, there’s nothing like turning the oven up to 350° and baking a loaf of comfort to remind you how nice it is that you can shut off the oven in an hour and the house will still be nice and cool.

Hurricane Irma was ugly in a different way than Hurricane Harvey. It’s made places ugly, unstable and downright unlivable by force of wind and some flooding, rather than wind plus the sheer magnitude of  rain. In both cases, people lost homes, cars, businesses, pets, power and boats. But most have yet to lose their sense of humor and determination to fix up, clean up, restore and revitalize what’s theirs and what belongs to their neighbors and community. Our own house is still a very, very, very fine house, to quote the Crosby, Stills and Nash song.  Keep donating to the hurricane relief efforts of your choice, and help make everyone’s house a very, very, very fine house once more.

 

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Filed under charity, Current news, donation, Hurricane Irma

Walking the walk as Houston weeps

Watching the news coming out of Texas is enough to make a person swear off TV and Internet access for a long time. You don’t want to watch, because it’s like the worst train wreck meets the worst airplane disaster on top of the worst car wreck, and all of it happens under almost six feet of water. But you can’t turn away, and you know that this massive disaster isn’t a Texas problem – it can happen anywhere.

So much is unbelievable, unreal and unbearable. Yet so much is compassionate, caring highwaterand offers consolation, reminding us that in the worst of times, the best in society come forward with no thought of reward or recognition.

The thousands of volunteers with boats and high-water vehicles performing rescues, buying food and feeding others, checking on their neighbors. The schools, religious centers, libraries and stores opening to stormed-out refugees. The benefit concerts, collections, financial donations, and the dozens of animal rescue centers helping to find and shelter separated pets.

In a TV interview, one man helping a family into an air boat was asked by a TV reporter why he volunteered. He replied, “In the Republic of Texas, this is what we do. We depend on each other.” In any other setting, such an answer would have sounded jingoistic. Standing in waist-deep water in the driving rain, it sounded exactly right.

Not everyone has the money to write the big check, or the time off to travel as a volunteer. Do what you can. Donate to the Red Cross, give blood at the nearest blood center, bring storm supplies to a collection site. Don’t sit and stare at the screen and think this cannot happen to you. At some point, whether by fire, flood, tornado or other disaster, you may be next. And the second-to-none volunteer spirit seen in Texas this week will be there to help you.

 

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College is funny and confuses me

Two of my nieces are now in college, one as a fcollege booksreshman and one a sophomore. And I am confused.

College campuses today are nothing like my college campus forty-something years ago.

Case in point: my brother texts me that he bought his daughter a block of 50 meals to get her started this year. I had no clue what he meant. I assumed he either:

  1. Went to the grocery store, spent a lot of money and borrowed a semi to haul the food to her new apartment,

or

2.  Ordered from an online meal delivery service, and six FedEx trucks would show up with a forest’s worth of boxes containing artfully packaged ingredients and instruction cards with pretty pictures showing what the final dish is supposed to look like.

Turned out to be neither of these options. He ordered meals on the university’s dining program and put them on her account, so she could grab quick and healthy food between classes without going to her off-campus apartment.

I never had that choice. You lived on campus, you ate on campus (and the food was pretty good). You lived off campus, you were on your own. There were no food courts, coffee shops or pick-and-choose meal plans. The closest we came to choice was the line of vending machines in the Student Union. A walk downtown meant fast food, diner fare and the bars, but the legal drinking age was 21 and you’d gain that “Freshman 15” in a month if you frequented the local restaurants (I do still have a soft spot for sticky buns and Wuv’s onion rings, however).

College kids have ID cards now. The cards are a form of campus credit, used to pay for books, meals, laundry, printing and the like, which is a fine idea. Sadly, the cards identify students, as opposed to angry and violent strangers lurking on campus. I never had that worry back in the day.

Political correctness is a bigger issue today than it used to be. I like the idea of fairness, equality and the need for every voice to be heard. But forty years ago, when a controversial speaker was coming to campus, you did not go to listen if their message was not your message. Or you protested peacefully. There were no threats, violence, beatings or people killed for their personal conduct.

I hope the girls have a great year. I hope they learn a lot and advance in their chosen professions (pre-law and actuarial science). But even more, I hope they enjoy meeting new people, value commitment to a kind and generous world, and never become complacent.

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Filed under Children, Current news, family

Entering the (dev)ice age

I recently took stock of the things that keep my human bits going day after day. It’s not an attractive list.

Multiple prescription meds, including the one recently added for chronic dry eye syndrome (not caused by swimming, but probably not helped by it, either). The OTCs, including pills for major muscle pain; the balms, salves, ointments, creams and patches for assorted aches; the earplugs (so I can sleep), the elbow brace (keeps my right arm straight to prevent nighttime cramps), saline nasal solution (periodic allergy relief), mouth guard (for TMJ), the toe separator (bunion that needs removal some day)…

keds

For the days when this was all we needed for play.

Some of the issues are age-related: the body breaks down and does not recover like it used to. Some are stress-related, some are inherited. As I gaze at the medicine cabinet, with more first aid products than my local pharmacy, I sometimes wonder how I still get up and function. It does not surprise me that people give in to pain, relying on prescription painkillers, booze and the indulgence of others to relieve their suffering. I used to watch a show on the A&E network called Intervention, where family and friends of an addict would lead them into a meeting and tell the addict they were loved and cherished, but admission into a treatment facility was something they had to do, or everyone in the room was forsaking them. I was fascinated with how people got to the point of addiction and living at their lowest point in the first place, particularly when many addicts seem to start out with a normal life. Both the state and county I reside in are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, where people overdose and die every day. Most of these dead are young people, whose lives were unremarkable until things took one bad turn. Pain started,  pain moved into unbearable territory, drugs came next and the war they would never win began.

 

I am happy every day for my average life, with average challenges. I’ll take this any day, along with average aches and pains, over dealing with worse. Meanwhile, I noticed these new compression running socks online the other day and I was wondering…

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A job update: I am starting part-time work next week, with a very nice property management company. Nice people, good hours, and interesting work. Looking forward to trying something new!

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Filed under athletic competition, blogging, Current news, Cycling, drugs, Exercise, mental health, opioid

Day One of a Next Life

enjoylifeIt rained all day, courtesy of Tropical Storm Emily. A surprise storm that the TV weather wonks did not see coming, despite their constant bragging about using the latest in advanced radar technology.

But a surprise like this is fine. It’s been a good first day of a different kind of life. I ran, had breakfast and got down to the business of working on what I love – writing. I took a break to clean the bathrooms, went out on some errands, had lunch, worked some more and rode my bike on the indoor trainer before dinner.  My life is still as disciplined as it was when I punched a time clock, but now it is ruled by lists on a legal pad and a pair of white boards in my home office.

I have two interviews for part-time work scheduled this week, along with a volunteer gig that I have looked forward to and missed for a long time. I have given up contact with the standard nine-to-five world, but I’ve already gained a measure of calm and purpose. It’s not the same when you don’t leave the house and go to the same job every day. There is some sense of imbalance, a lack of the sure and steady grip on life. But this is part of the process of scaring myself into doing something bigger, different and more challenging. I was very good AT my last job, and I think I left the office in a better place than it was when I started. But I was not very good FOR that job. I was not forced to think or amaze anyone or use any of the skills I’ve learned in life. I thought about taking a holiday, a kind of “gap week,” to regroup first before moving on. But my energy is good and my mind is ready to head out and get to whatever is next.

 

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Filed under blogging, Careers, charity, employment, freelancing, unemployment

Defy Life – Don’t Be One of Them

I stopped at a locaoldmanat tablel bagel shop yesterday to pick up some of their fine homemade product for the long weekend. There are usually a few people sitting outside at the smoking tables; I call it the Old Dudes Club. These guys show up early, get their breakfast and coffee and then sit around and talk for hours.

Yesterday they were inside, still chowing down, and still talking. A South Florida July chases even the toughest old dudes indoors, I guess. Over time, I’ve caught snatches of their conversation as I’ve walked in, waited in line and left with my to-go bag of fresh bagels. Most of the talk is predictably about their health – operations, doctors, meds, and what hurts at the moment.

On the one hand, I get that these are, well, old dudes. They’ve been through hard work, hard wars, and hard life. They’ve earned their time in the breakfast club chair and maybe the right to commiserate. But I don’t want to end up like that. I don’t want to be one of those guys, complaining to anyone who will listen (mainly because they’ve lost the ability to move away) about how it hurts to get out of bed everyday, how it stinks to keep track of daily pills and how I’m not as (young, good-looking, fast) as I used to be.

We live with a political administration whose leader actually thinks exercise will kill you. He has zero scientific evidence to back this statement, but frankly, it comes across as just one of the many nonsensical yips that emanate from the District of Columbia these days. I say defy the dudes, tune out the yips and forge ahead. At this point, I hurt when I get out of bed anyway, and even now, have to track pills daily. So it won’t get better with increasing age.  I say find a goal and go for it. If you do sprint triathlons, train for an international. If you walk, train for a 5K. If you swim, train for a meet and swim a few 50s and 100s. It’s easy to sit back and cheer for others, as we do when we watch professional and Olympic sports on TV, or even our kids’ teams. Putting ourselves in a pair of running shoes, on a bike, behind home plate, on a soccer field or in a gym for the first time is a stomach-churning, catch-in-the-throat sensation. But the first time only happens one time. Then you are not one of those old dudes anymore.

I always thought the name for this blog, Notes for My Next Life, was just a name I came up with that would mean something someday. Someday has arrived. My Next Life starts in August, with a major life change in terms of my working career. I will pursue more freelance writing and other options, more athletic training and work part-time. How will it all work out? I’ll keep posting and let you know.

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In the thick of things, a new training toy

Anyone who trains for swim meets, runs, cycling events or triathlons knows the inevitable will happen: you will collect a variety of training gadgets.

Sometimes, you will actually use them.

Sometimes, that sometimes will turn into devotion to the device and you’ll wonder why you ever did anything without it.

This is an example of that:

1.05.120-Image-Studio-Yellow-1

It’s a Finis Tempo Trainer. It is about the size of a half-dollar and I should have had it inserted in my brain years ago. Basically (at least at this point, because I am still learning how it works), you can set it to time yourself to swim a certain distance in a certain time before it beeps in your ear, letting you know you either made it to the wall and turned in the set time or you didn’t. It has other uses, such as maintaining stroke tempo, and for running and bike training.

Right now, its primary purpose is to be annoying and let me know that I don’t need to look at the pace clock for feedback. It does not play music or emit other nice sounds. Just that regular persistent beep. I find myself wanting to #beatthebeep now. I like it because I can already see it helps, but I want to hurl this aquatic accessory into the locker room sometimes. In the long run, I think any training tool you buy that benefits your performance is a good investment, and I  think this trainer will be one of those. At least this item is small and relatively inexpensive.

Now if only I could stop hearing that beeping noise in my sleep…

quitting

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Filed under athletic competition, Cycling, Exercise, Ocean swimming, Running, Swimming, thought, triathlon gear, Triathlons