Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Just Got Here

I don't know if I can describe this interlude in a way that can convey both how funny and poignant it was. But I'd like to try.

I had just come home from work and the lovely wife, the kids and I fell into an impromptu soccer romp in the backyard. Even the 16 month old was giving it his all. There was lots of running and laughing. But soon Cooper was upset because he had a certain thing that he wanted to have happen and all of us were getting in the way. We tried to explain to him how soccer worked and that the ball goes back and forth between different people, etc. etc.

But he just grew more upset and finally said, "How was I supposed to know that? I just got here!" There was a moment of confusion -- he had come out to play at the same time as all of us had -- before we realized that he was making a much more existential statement. In the bigger, more cosmic sense, he just recently arrived here on earth. How was he supposed to know how things work?

And so, as with so many things, Cooper finds a new way to break my heart. What can a parent do about existential angst?

Especially when there are still so many times when I still feel like I just got here.

Elvis et al

In semi-celebration of our anniversary, the Lovely Wife and I went to an Elvis Costello concert in Norfolk last night. Man, what a trip. We were among the younger folks in the crowd -- I've never seen so many bald heads at a concert in my life. Once things got going, I was afraid someone might break a hip. I had forgotten how LOUD concerts are -- some of my favorite moments in the concert were the quietest.

He played many new songs, some of which it turns out I really like. He did a very cool transition from "Alison" to "Suspicious Minds." He did "Pump it Up" and "What so Funny ('bout Peace, Love and Understanding)" and "The Mystery Dance" -- all among my favorite songs. He had a guest guitarist who was David Hidalgo from Los Lobos who did a couple good songs but none of my LL faves.

There were two moments of pure magic in the concert IMHO: one of the first old songs that he did was "Watching the Detectives" which in the Elvis canon is pretty much a throw-away. But he was obviously having a good time playing it and the crowd responded so well, there was an electricity in the air that only comes at concerts. Then, the last song of the concert was a very pretty ballad on his latest CD called "The Scarlet Tide." For one of the verses, he stopped playing and went off mike and essentially asked everyone to be quiet and in this big room with maybe a thousand people in it, he sang a capella without any amplification. Being 30 feet away from a legend (in my mind) just singing his heart out...it was a shivers down the spine moment.

I drove home (ears ringing) and didn't get to bed until after 1:30am. It was some well-earned exhaustion.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Delay

Geez, has it been over a week since I’ve posted on this damn thing? There’s literally been a dozen times in the past week that I’ve thought of something to write but I never seem to get the time. What kind of a world do we live in when a guy doesn’t have time to blog?

Today is my official two months at maintenance date. Stopped in at WW on Wednesday and was officially down almost another pound. At home, have fluctuated between 159-161. This is starting to feel like a comfortable place. Have been focusing less on the eating program and more on the exercise lately: regular push-ups and crunches at home, at least one trip to the gym a week. Have also refurbished the bike and hope to get more road time in the coming weeks. Damn, spring is great outside weather in Richmond.

I’ve been following Adam’s always interesting political reflections. His blog is much more interesting than mine. Have mostly lurked though I’ve got all sorts of opinions bottled up. Hope to find some time to let them fly soon. On that front, read a short overview of the DeLay situation in this week’s “New Yorker.” It reiterates many things said elsewhere so makes for a good round-up of the situation. I am really hoping the gang who can’t shoot straight (i.e., the Dems) can may political hay out of this situation. I’m thinking the laying low strategy (allowing the bastard to shoot himself in the foot repeatedly) is fine for now. As long as next year sees some action.

Got the official word from University of Richmond yesterday – I’m in as a part-time student for the fall. I’ll be in the Master of Liberal Arts program. I smile every time I write it. In college 20 years ago I was a computer geek at first, then morphed into a policy wonk, eventually getting a dual degree in both disciplines. Now I’ll be a wooly-headed liberal arts guy! It’s always been a secret desire of mine to wear sport coats with patches on the elbows and get into really passionate discussions about Chaucer. This may finally be my chance!

Speaking of the writing thing, J has posted my latest ramblings on ’24.’ This is what I do instead of blogging.

I’m going to a kid’s musical tonight (“Suessical”) with 5 kids in tow, 3 of them five or younger. Let’s hope we all make it through it alive.

MAM: 2
Last 4W: 161.2
Last HSW: 160.0

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Button

Tuesday’s post by my pal, Don Q, prompted a small tidbit of memory from last week. I was on my way to a job interview, so I was wearing a suit. Whether it was the way I had my suits tailored 8-10 years ago when I last bought a suit, or whether it was because of my blubber-itude, I’m not sure, but I have never been able to button the buttons of a suitcoat comfortably. Oh, I could get at least one button hooked in there, but it was always kind of bulgy and didn’t feel right at all.

Almost every night on his show, David Letterman unbuttons and rebuttons those buttons on his suitcoat and I’ve always kind of marveled at that. Either he has a good tailor or he’s in pretty darn good shape, I thought.

Last week, I was able to button both suitcoat buttons quite comfortably and I realized it’s not the quality of David Letterman’s tailor that affords him that ability. It felt quite amazing to do this simple thing because I can honestly never remember doing it before.

Which in a circular way, gets me back to the “why” of this whole thing. I started up in Weight Watchers at the beginning of the year for three reasons, 1) to support my lovely wife in her quest to lose weight, 2) to lose weight myself, and 3) to figure out a way to maintain my weight loss after achieving it. This last reason was the most compelling one to break out of my previous non-strategies for weight loss. Something about turning 40 (maybe) makes you see more clearly how you’ve been spinning your wheels without really developing a true strategy for change and also, makes you less proud about accepting that someone else might have already developed that strategy. If the weight was going to stay off, I needed to see clearly and act definitively.

At this point, nestled fairly comfortably in maintenance mode, I realize that there have been a lot of other really great side effects of the weight loss. While none of these would be the thing that would have inspired me to lose weight in the first place, hopefully, they are the kinds of things that will keep me motivated to stay here. Among these are:

Clothes. I can wear everything in my closet. Downside: I don’t really care to wear a large percentage of the things in my closet. Time for some spring shopping!

Energy. Have much more of it. Even averaging only 5 hours of sleep a night, I don’t feel desperately run-down until the very end of the day. Next quest: get more sleep.

Agility. Something about not having 25 extra pounds to carry around translates into a lot less groaning and complaining about little things (like getting up in the morning) and bigger things (I was climbing a tree last weekend to finally extract the Christmas lights I’d hung last year, and could maneuver between branches easily). I feel much less like a grumpy old Jewish man every morning. Am starting to seriously consider checking into rock-climbing. Tried it out some 15 years ago and think I was too porky to throw myself around a rock very easily.

Self-image. We all play that game of “what do I really look like?” where we try to get an accurate image in our mind of what the world sees when it sees us. This is complete fallacy of course, because we process what every person looks like through so many emotional and subjective filters, no one more so than ourselves. Anyway, the image I used to have of myself was of “generally attractive middle-aged guy who looks like he was vaguely athletic but has gone somewhat to seed.” This was my personal translation of “pudgy middle-aged guy.” Now that I’ve lost the weight, my self-image has changed to “slender middle-aged guy” and I think it’s a generally accurate image. I don’t worry so much about the “athletic” part; maybe that’ll come around once I can fit more regular exercise into my routine. And I don’t really care about the “attractive” part so much either because my sense is that most people consider slender more attractive than pudgy (a look across the magazine pages would seem to reinforce that) so whether I am “objectively” attractive doesn’t bother me so much because I know that in some way, I’m more attractive than I used to be. This feels really shallow when I write it out like this but (as Simon Cowell would say), if I’m being honest, this is one of the things that plays out in my head.

I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve been writing too much and I’ve got to figure out something that resembles work to do around here!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Guidance

To continue on this little parenting jag here (perhaps that’s what this is becoming about), I was thinking about the relationship between my two sons. The oldest of the two seems to take opportunities to cause harm to the younger. It isn’t exceedingly malicious but it’s not entirely subtle either – edging him toward the end of the couch, jostling him enough to make him lose balance while running, etc. The youngest has begun to respond in kind though it is usually in the more blunt manner of a toddler – trying to rip his brother’s eyes out, for instance.

I find myself wanting to counsel the elder one, to say, “you should be nice to your siblings. They are your best playmates and can be your closest friends. And later in life, you will be grateful to have companions and confidants who have known you nearly since the day you were born. Though you are just playing around, there is always that chance that you could cause your brother serious harm of the kind that might haunt you forever.”

Then I reflect on my relationship with my sisters, two of whom I adore, and then one who, objectively speaking, is a hateful, sorry excuse for a human being. I have had many nasty and hurtful dust-ups with this latter sister. She has caused friction between me and my wife and between me and other members of my family. I have wasted way, way too much time trying to “help” this sister, to be rewarded with more distain and more hateful behavior. I now basically keep my interaction with her to a minimum, but this is functionally impossible. So on a semi-regular basis I have a reminder of this malevolent, damaging force in the world and, indirectly, in my life.

I then finding myself wanting to counsel my son, “you should be nice to your siblings. But if you aren’t nice, at least be selective.”

Kids suck

This past Saturday, my youngest was up at 5am. My wife, though lovely and wonderful in many ways, is not a morning person. So I was up at 5am on Saturday, still posting a 99.5 temp. My mood was a bit black and I found myself ruminating on how much kids suck.

I’m thinking about “sucking” beyond the obvious, physical sucking that the youngest is still doing (though, I’m thinking some wean-age is on the horizon…) One thing is the “Reverse Algernon” effect that my eldest is currently going through. She is a lovely, talented and extremely bright child. Her 6th grade report card has been full of nothing but “A”s this year with only 2 or 3 “A minuses” mixed in. She continues to surprise me with her ingenuity and determination when it comes to solving certain problems.

So why then, does she seem to be losing brain function? Some have argued it has something to do with her approaching teen-age, which may be true, but it’s scary just the same. It’s not just some of the decisions, choices, or arguments she makes but the vehemence with which she makes them, as if illogic had become the new physics so OF COURSE people walk on the ceiling now, dad, COME ON!

Removing items from a list makes the total number of items on said list fewer. Correct? It’s basic 1st grade math. However, the eldest will insist she likes to eat just as many foods as she always has, though more and more things are being deemed unacceptable. Sandwiches have been a lunch no-go for a while; she recently added yogurt, because “you always give me yogurt.” Uh, yeah, honey – because there’s nothing else you’ll eat!

“I have nothing to wear.” “What about all of these clothes in your dresser drawers?” “They’re dirty!” “Why are they in your drawers?” “Because they’re not that dirty.” “So why don’t you wear them.” “Because they’re dirty!”

There’s a half-dozen more of these kinds of back-n-forths. She’s also become the queen of subtle misdirection: This morning I overheard a conversation about her unwillingness to share her hairbrush morph into an indictment of our unwillingness to help her study.

And like some cliché right off of the comics page, the level of self-involvement is bewildering. Friday while I staggered around with a 101.5 temp, still trying to complete my morning chore of making lunches, I suggested perhaps she could make her own lunch for once. As she lay on the floor timing how long it takes her sister to comb her hair, she complained “but I have other things I have to do.” Yeah, dear, like STARVE at lunch time.

More heartbreaking though is how our eldest boy has gone from a daddy-lover (at age 1) to a daddy-despiser (at 4). He’s a darling boy, can be very charming, and is cute as a button. But twice in the past week he has given me the look that says, “if I had a flamethrower, you’d be charcoal right now.” The worst moment of it was when I forced him to return a toy he’d taken from his younger brother and his eyes actually rolled back in his head as a result of the rage he was feeling.

Intellectually, I know my daughter’s brain function will return or the logic module will slip back into its slot or something. And I hope and expect to take my son out to happily toss the football or take in an R-Braves game in the years to come. But, during the intervening years, the little brats just suck.

How Parents Are Different

On Sunday, I mentioned the following little anecdote to my friend, Ruby’s Mom (given my new status, all references will extend outward from the child), and figured it was worth sharing to…well, everyone else.

I was in a toy store with three of my children on Saturday and realized the youngest had a full and fragrant diaper. As I was carrying him out to the car to change him, I noticed a small patch of something brown and sticky on my pants. This, it turns out, was just a stray splat of mud. But, as a parent of a younger child, I had to consider the very real possibility that the substance in question might be, in fact, poop.

It occurred to me that probably a significant percentage of the first-world population goes through life without a realistic expectation of finding themselves splattered with human excrement. This may be helpful for those trying to understand the ways in which becoming a parent changes you.

Friday, April 08, 2005

More responses

Sarah and Adam -- have you embarked on the WW trail yet? I'd be curious to know how it's going. I was sooooooo resistant to the WW gig at first, thinking it was nothing but fat women complaining. Two things I learned at the last meeting I went to (a mid-week, after-work meeting): 1) some of the women are downright hot, and 2) guys definitely make up a minority but there is consistently anywhere from 2 to 5 guys at every meeting I've gone to. In fact, at this last meeting (with 5 guys in attendance) I was wishing the guys would shut the hell up so that I could here more of what the hot women wanted to say.

Anyway (why is it that all of my posts seem to have an "anyway" moment?), good luck on your quest. If you go core, the LW can probably give you at least a couple of recipes that she's made that are core (including her scrumptious Tamale Pie!) And really, fat-free cheese is not all that bad, particularly the pre-grated kind (the extra air invokes extra flavor, I believe) and particularly if you are putting it on something relatively decadent. For instance, this WW gig has prompted my return to my teenage love for Steak-ums semi-meat food product and cheese of any kind tastes great on them.

And Mr. Short, if you can eat pediological veggies, FF cheese should be no sweat.

Sir Chubalot -- I did notice that you had named me as your second and I was most honored. I will do my best to help you put a ripe spanking on that tight-ass Russian. The beer is free, right?

And one last thing: though written in the hazy onslaught of some mysterious ailment, I was able to crank out a '24' commentary which J has posted at:

Hour 16 of 24

I apologize if any of the incoherent ramblings brought on by fever got in the way of my usual incoherent ramblings.

Lifetime

A couple of days after we returned from Arizona, I popped into a Weight Watchers meeting to see how I was doing. I really didn't know what to expect. I had tried to be "good" on vacation but, hell, it's vacation so I had more than my usual share of muffins and non-core foods.

As it turned out, I had actually lost a couple of pounds from the last weigh-in. Losing weight while on vacation is a monumental feat, I believe, and a signal that this whole thing has really taken hold. I didn't feel like I was depriving myself, I just tried to make the best choices I could. Of course, the lovely wife gave me a nasty look when I eschewed ice cream when everyone else was getting some. But hey, I ended up eating plenty anyway by magnanomously accepting "tastes" from my daughters and finishing up Cooper's order when he lost interest half-way through.

So the bottom line is that my last weigh-in put me at 6 weeks below my goal weight which qualifies me as a "lifetime" member of Weight Watchers. The leader at the WW meeting made a special little presentation of my lifetime membership card and a little WW charm to put on my charm bracelet. I'm thinking maybe I'll have a nipple pierced and hang the charm from that instead.

Anyway, it was very nice at the meeting. There was a warm round of applause when I was recognized and then on the way out of the meeting probably a half-dozen people said "congratulations," and not in that smarmy, I-know-I'm-supposed-to-say-this kind of way, but in a real genuine, wow, you've really accomplished something kind of way. It felt good.

Since then, particularly with this illness I'm currently working my way through, my weight has fallen even further to a pretty worrisome degree. I'm regularly seeing numbers below 160 and on Wednesday, registered a 157.5. I've been more consciously working on eating more but have remained about the same and didn't eat after about noon yesterday so I woke up today at 158. I never thought figuring out how to eat MORE was going to become the problem. So it goes.

Below are the stats. With the confidence that comes from lifetime membership, I'm moving to Months at Maintenance. Since I am not mandated to go to WW every week anymore, weight loss will become less of a focus on this blog. When I figure out what will become more of the focus (probably around the time I figure out how exactly to eat more), I'll be sure and let you know.

Months at Maintenance: 1.5
Last 4W: 162 (total weight loss = 25.6 pounds)
Last HSW: 158

Rap

The most enduring aspect of rap on my life has been the fact that I can't think of the phrase, "I'm back" without thinking of Eminem. Call me shallow, but that's it.

Anyway, I am back. I've been back since last Sunday but haven't had even a spare second to blog. First there was the decompression and re-assimiliation into life after our lovely trip to Arizona. It's a beautiful state full of dramatic scenery (if it's not obvious, we didn't spend any more time than we had to in Phoenix). We did a lot of great things: flew over the Grand Canyon, saw the red rocks of Sedona at sunset, etc. But really, the best part of it all was that the kids had a great time hanging with their buddies. Even our youngest at all of 15 months bonded with the 3-year old daughter of the family we stayed with. In fact, she became a little obsessed with our guy, nearly falling apart when we finally had to leave.

When I got back, I was thrown immediately into the final stages of a whirl-wind project at work that had it's deadline moved up from next Friday to this Friday. This precipitated one night at work lasting until about 11pm and every spare moment at work spent actually working. This is an unusual situation for me and I'm sure it had something to do with the illness I contracted yesterday. I left work at the end of the day with a raging headache and the cold sweats. Woke up this morning with a 101.5 fever. Spent most of the day tossing and turning feverishly in bed until around 3pm when I think the fever finally broke.

I'm still pretty woozy though and the only reason I'm back to blogging is because it's about the only activity I can muster in my broken-down state of health. I guess it's time to make up for lost time and empty the flotsam from my mind on to this here screen.