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The Great Purge (Saws and Tight Underwear For Sale, Cheap!)

18 Sep

(Note: This will be the last post here at New stuff will be forever at Adjust your bookmarks.)

One of the most exciting aspects of our impending move to London is what I’m calling the G-POOSH, or The Great Purge Of Our SHit. (Okay, I’m not really calling it that.) It’s the process of jettisoning everything but the essentials. For example, I have a shirt that pisses me off when I look at it because it fits a little funny. I like the idea of wearing it, but not the actual practice of it. At one point it had potential, but ultimately, it’s a huge disappointment. Needless to say, it’s not going to London. In fact, if it had a face, I’d punch it. Yes, I’m the kind of dude who would punch a cantankerous shirt right in the face without remorse. Pow!

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I'm not sure.

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I’m not sure.

That reminds me of my tight underwear. A year ago, I bought two pairs of tight underwear at Target to wear while I jog and exercise. You know, to keep things in place. I haven’t decided if they’ll make the trip. Sure, they’re small and take up very little space, but I haven’t touched them all summer. Each time I open the drawer where my underwear live, they’re like “You bastard, you better not abandon us!”

This will probably be a last minute decision. I’ll be at the airport with my tight underwear balled up in my hand, and the authoritative airport voice will say something like “Last call, get on the plane now or we’ll leave your ass in the United States!” and Jennifer will be, like, “Come on Mike, we have to go!”

Me: But what about my tight underwear? Do you think I’ll need them?

Her: Are you freaking insane?

As a family we have a thousand decisions like this.

But some have already been made for us. We have a Blendtec blender that cost about as much as a 1984 Honda Civic (with low miles) that is worthless in the UK. It’s not that they have strict anti-smoothie laws, but the thing just won’t turn on over there, or, worse, will electrocute my dumb ass for even thinking that a spinach-blueberry drink is a good idea. I would tell you why this danger exists, but I have no knowledge of basic electricity. I will just type words like “voltage” and “fire” and numbers like “120” and “240” and leave it at that.

Blendtec and 1984 Civic

Since I no longer know how to use electrical hand tools (I swore them off in 2009), I am especially happy that they won’t work over there either. Actually, I haven’t even checked, but I’m hoping really, really hard because I would rather read or sit around looking at the walls than saw boards and drill holes. Books will never, EVER tear my fingers off. (I especially hate circular saws. If I believed in hell, I would think there would be running circular saws all over the place.)Saw Injury

The most annoying problem so far are the toys we have accumulated in the “play room.” I would say that it looks like a tornado has swept through the room, but that’s an overused, boring expression. So I’ll go with this: it looks like three elephants devoured the contents of our kids’ youth and took giant shits all over up there.

I’ve collected enough broken crayons and pencils to choke a rhinoceros. No, a HERD of rhinoceroses. (If it were up to me, the plural of rhinoceros would definitely be rhinoceri.) I have amassed a pile of broken and mismatched toy parts taller than me. Tiny doll blouses. The smallest blue jeans you ever did see. Itty-bitty rubber shoes that won’t even fit on my pinky. (Where’s the doll wearing all this tiny shit?) Plastic pellets from exploded bean bags. Confetti. A headless Toy Story Woody doll that does absolutely nothing when you pull the string. And about four thousand pieces of paper with, like, one scribbled line on each.

What I don’t throw away immediately, I have been bringing down for Ainsley to go through, to choose what goes and what stays. So far–luckily!–she’s decided to “shitcan” about 95% of it. Since she’s discovered Minecraft, she’s much less interested in REAL blocks, like Legos. It’s pixels over plastic.

Okay, that’s it for today. If I continue to write about moving, that just means that I’m avoiding the actual work of preparing to move to the other side of the world.

The End of Seven Days + The Saddest Pancake You’ve Ever Seen

25 Sep

Day 6 – Sunday, Sept. 22

  • Steps Taken: 15,773
  • Calories Consumed:  Around 1,800
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  0
  • Total Weight Change: .6

Day 7 – Monday, Sept. 23

  • Steps Taken: 12,444
  • Calories Consumed:  1,600 to 1,700?
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  0
  • Total Weight Change: .6

My 7 Day Challenge was not a total success. I didn’t hit 15,000 steps on Monday for the first time and over the weekend I didn’t track my eating as closely as I had planned. Also, I didn’t lose those three pounds. I was probably overoptimistic about that anyway.

Yesterday, instead of continuing this experiment, I failed to wear my pedometer and didn’t track calories. Let’s call it a buffer day before I begin anew today.

* * *

In other news . . .

Early Sunday morning Chloe finished off Ainsley’s “birthday” box of cereal: cinnamon toast crunch. It was supposed to be Ainsley’s personal, special occasion, sugary treat except for whatever she decided to share. To avoid a meltdown, I decided to bake Ainsley a single serving cupcake without the streusel. It was supposed to be done in 13 minutes, but it was still gooey, so I freaked out and tried to make her a single serving pancake despite the recent meltdown of our electric range.

I could have given her the more healthful oatmeal or Ezekiel bread toast, but she surely would have marched down to Lincoln Middle School to beat the tar out of her sister. Cereal is a serious business in our house.

I attempted to make the pancake in the Instant Pot 6-in-1 Pressure Cooker. This beauty can cook beans in thirty minutes. It’s a rice cooker. It’s a slow cooker. It can steam. It can vacuum the floor. Sometimes I squeeze my little butt in it and drive to the market. But it’s not a shit for pancakes. I tried the sauté setting and of course that provided way too much heat. In half a second the batter was stuck to the bottom. So I had to treat it like a big piece of broccoli, continuously flipping and turning it. Take a look at the disaster that she happily ate with some maple syrup.



Day 4 & Day 5 Summaries – Party Bomb

22 Sep

Day 4 – Friday, Sept. 20

  • Steps Taken: 16,521
  • Calories Consumed:  Around 1,800
  • Morning Weight: 137.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  +2.2
  • Total Weight Change: -1.6

Day 5 – Saturday, Sept. 21

  • Steps Taken: 21,006
  • Calories Consumed:  1,800 (+ or – 100)
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Change:  +1
  • Total Weight Change: -.6

I saved a thousand calories for Friday night because I knew Dewey’s pizza was coming. But nothing good can come from consuming a thousand calories of pizza at seven o’clock in the evening–all the salt, sugar, gluten, etc. And then Saturday I quickly realized that measuring food was not an option. I wasn’t open for all the ridicule that would come from carrying my kitchen scale around. I guess that’s why my weight climbed from 135 to 138.2 in forty-eight hours. But even yesterday I demonstrated a respectable amount of moderation, consuming just a small piece of cake and opted out of the fire pit smore-fest once the sun descended.

Instead of this being a 7 Day thing, I’m going to extend it indefinitely until I reach a “permanent” weight of 135.

(Side note: There’s a girl in Panera who looks like Shelly Duvall of The Shining and Popeye fame. I can’t stop staring at her eating her souffle. It’s freaky. Wow, she really ate it quickly and left. Maybe she noticed me looking at her. But we never made eye contact, so I doubt that. I wish I would’ve stealthily snapped a photo.)


Day 1 Summary – Success & Pizza Temperance

18 Sep

As I wrote about yesterday, I’m throttling my unwanted gluttonous streak for seven days by counting calories and eating mindfully, as well as pushing myself to score 15,000 on my ever-present pedometer.

Day 1 – Tuesday, Sept. 17

  • Steps Taken: 16,418
  • Calories consumed:  1,782
  • Morning Weight: 138.2
  • 24 Hour Weight Loss:  .6

I’ve read that it’s pointless to compare one day’s weight to the next, but to focus instead on week to week tallies. Nevertheless, I’m going to post my weight daily. Stepping on the scale is the first thing I do each morning. Our scale is upstairs in that unnecessarily large area between the three bedrooms, a closet, and the bathroom. I know there’s a name for this spot, but I can’t think of it. I tend to call it wasted space.

A curious reader asked why this is a seven day thing and not, like, a month.

Well, curious reader, it’s because I want to WIN at this game. A month would be tough. If, instead of referring to this as a “challenge,” I said “Man I wish I could do blah, blah, blah for a month,” I’d probably fail miserably. But as it is, I set the goal and I’m gonna do my best to reach it. If it goes well and I get my ass back into a healthy groove, I’ll do it again or add something to it, like a daily run of at least two miles. We’ll see. 

The Great Temptress, PIZZA, almost screwed me over on Day One. I needed something quick and easy, and we had an Amy’s “no cheese” Roasted Vegetable pizza in the freezer for Jennifer and I and a cheese and veggie pizza for the girls. I had only 300 calories to spare after eating the biggest salad EVER in the history of Earth, so I devoured a third of the vegan pizza and let Jennifer have the rest, which made her extremely happy. The entire pizza topped out at 840 calories. On a normal day I could eat the entire thing.

The real problem came when I pulled the cheese pizza from the toaster oven. I fought back the urge to eat a piece, because that would have turned into two and then three and possibly four. That moment when I resisted, when I put the stupid pizza down, exemplifies why I’m doing this: to pressure some goddam self-control.

My Seven Day “Step and Calorie” Challenge

17 Sep

When I put my ice cream bowl in the sink last night I got the idea–forced myself to have some kind of behavior altering idea–to put myself on a seven day “steps and calories” challenge with the daily goal of logging at least 15,000 steps and consuming less than 1,800 calories.

Why am I doing this?

  • To lose a few pounds – This morning the scale read 138.8. After seven days I’d be thrilled to be at 135. That’s my “fighting” weight. In my adult life I’ve weighed between 126 and 155 pounds. That low end is way too light and the high is way too heavy. In my early twenties I decided I was going to do something about being so skinny, so I started eating horribly unhealthful. Then one day I was brushing my teeth in front of the mirror in the hall and noticed some belly hanging over my pants. Oh my God! That was the last time I’ve ever tried to gain weight. I was probably at my heaviest on that day, but quickly slimmed down to something more reasonable. I weighed 126 for a short time just a couple of years ago when I was experimenting with the calorie restriction lifestyle. There exists a whole society of CR people! If you don’t want to click on the CR links, I’ll summarize in one sentence: Studies show that people live longer when they eat less–more specifically, 20% less. I’d like to have the discipline to do that, but, as you can guess, it’s damn difficult. I don’t need to look like welterweight boxer, but it’s important that I don’t have flab hanging over my shorts. Ever.
  • To stop mindless eating – I do a lot of this in the evenings. Picture a shirtless man with a spoon and a jar of homemade almond butter staring into the cabinet wishing he could find some goddam chocolate. Last night it was ice cream. I shove food into my mouth whether I’m hungry or not. I guess it’s emotional eating. I’ll talk to a therapist about this some day.
  • For an excuse or a reason to write every day – I’ve been feeling some kind of pressure to write in a certain way lately and it’s killing me. (You’re killing me Smalls!). When I decided to do this last night, I immediately thought Hey, I can blog about this and it will keep me accountable.

This is my pedometer I’ll be using. Yeah, I don’t have a fancy fitness tracker that’ll weigh my bowel movements and predict the future and rub my balls and all the other stuff they do, but I like the inexpensive Omron. It’s my second one. My wife has the Fitbit One; my sister-in-law has the Fitbit Zip. I’ll be tracking my calories here on the CRON-O-Meter (CRON is an acronym for calorie restriction, optimal nutrition.)

Well, it’s 3:00 on day one and everything is going smoothly. I have half of my gigantic 1,500 calorie salad left to eat and my pedometer says I’ve already taken 12,000 steps.

I’ll report back tomorrow.

Bipolar 2: The Sequel?

13 Sep

I haven’t been posting here because my creativity tank has been pathetically empty. I’m running on goddam fumes, folks. It’s been frustrating and led me to this realization: I must be more depressed than I even realized. That’s how it goes, it seems; you get depressed and the depression screws up your brain so you can’t even see that there’s a problem. It just becomes sort of a normal. You have to think back a year and then it’s oh I remember enjoying writing and posting. I remember how it felt to hit that publish button, why the f**! isn’t that happening anymore?

So I went to my doctor in Maryville and told him that my Effexor wasn’t working and that I wanted to try something else. I said, dude, I’m up for anything, but I didn’t use “dude” because I never, ever talk like that. I’ve never began a sentence with dude.

Anyway, Dr. Kopjas recommended a psychiatrist in Edwardsville, blocks from my house. Dr. Hammer. I sat there wondering how I failed to know there was a psychiatrist with such a kick-ass name right in my neighborhood. I’ve been to four other mental health professionals, two psychologists, and two master’s degree-level counselors. I liked the idea of talking to a psychiatrist.

Ten years ago, before I talked to a psychologist in Springfield, IL, I felt funny about talking to a “shrink,” a little embarrassed. I didn’t want to be seen walking in her door. That was stupid. I now believe that every human should be talking to a trained mental health professional. We’re all flawed in some way.

One of my flaws: I have a tendency to avoid using the phone, so I didn’t call “the hammer” right away. I understand that this is insane. Just pick up the phone, dude! Yeah, well, it’s not that easy. I finally called and got an appointment for three weeks out.

Zoom ahead three weeks, I walked into Dr. Hammer’s office and found an old, plump man wearing suspenders. His large expressive eyes sat under bushy brows. I was expecting more in the line of Alan Thicke, or Dr. Jason Seaver, from Growing Pains, but it’s not like I almost walked out.

I sat down as he was looking over the questionnaire I had just filled out in the waiting room. Then I got right into it. I said “I think I have dysthymia,” and I told him why I thought this. He asked questions for just ten minutes before diagnosing me with bipolar II disorder.

Uh, what?

Oh great, I’m bipolar like freaking Charlie Sheen. I told him that I don’t have those wild crazy-ass mood swings. When I think of bipolar I think of various damaging “sprees,” whether it’s gambling or shopping or killing. That’s not me.

“That’s typical,” he said. “You’re describing bipolar I, you probably have bipolar II, your lows aren’t as low and your highs aren’t as high.”

I was stunned I hadn’t read anything about this. He went on to argue his case quite superbly with a slideshow on his over-sized monitor.

Finally he got around to a treatment plan, which I was eager to hear, of course. First, he talked about the the meds I wasn’t getting: lithium, depakote, and others I can’t recall. Finally, the one he was going to prescribe: Lamictal (generic, Lamotrigine).,

He compared the possible benefits to The Wizard of Oz when it switches from black and white to color. Or maybe he meant I’ll feel like singing and dancing with midgets, not sure. I’m hoping he meant that I’ll wake up one morning and think holy shit, is this how I’m supposed to feel?

Unfortunately, I have to start with a low dose and bump up every two weeks. So now I just wait.

So, yah! I’m bipolor. Go me! And I’m being honest. I’m thrilled with this because it sends me off in a new direction in hope of squashing some of the demons.

Lift – Because I Need Help Doing Shit

24 Jul

Lift Logo

I don’t know what my problem’s been, but I’ve tried three times before today to write a post about this website I’ve been using to build positive habits and to squelch bad ones. I’d write something and get bored after a few sentences. I’d yell “screw it!” Then I’d go eat chocolate. I have no clue why. Today I’m powering through to break out of this blogging slump.

The website and app is called Lift

From the peeps at Lift: “Lift helps you track and achieve habits through data visualization, streaks, and community support.”

If you’re like me you want to be healthy and happy. To do this I need to do healthy stuff every day. Right now I have 27 habits on my Lift page. Here are some of them: Run, Read, No TV, No sugar, Meditate, Yoga or stretch, Eat a vegan diet, No food after 6, and Clean for 15 minutes.

Two years ago I created a similar system on paper to keep my life on track. I think I called it my “Healthy Living Check List.” Yeah, kind of lame, huh? I assigned points to each habit to make a game out of it. The harder stuff was worth more points. For instance, “run” was worth five points. Each time I walked the dogs, two points. The more I completed my daily goals the higher my score. 

Unfortunately, this habit of tracking my habits didn’t stick because I kept messing with the points or adding/subtracting habits. This would make comparing point totals over time meaningless. A bad day meant I would conveniently forget to even mess with the damn thing, thus defeating the whole purpose. I didn’t want to face the fact that I had scored, like, ten points after scoring sixty the day before.

I thought it was a good idea and If I were smarter I would have translated it into an online site and mobile app and made a million dollars. IF. IF. IF.

So Lift is like my old fashioned paper habit tracker, but instead of points, I receive encouragement through nifty graphs, daily e-mails and from other people who are striving for the same things. If I’m on a five day streak of running, they let me know and it makes me feel good and encourages me to continue.

I use Google Chrome browser. (If you’re still using Internet Explorer, get your head in the game and download Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.) I keep a Lift tab open on our PC in the basement, on the laptop I’m pecking away on right now, and on my tablet. There’s also an iPhone app.

It’s easy to add habits. You can look through what other people are doing or you can search. Simply entering the word “eat” and searching will give you all kinds of ideas, like “eat breakfast,” “eat fruit,” “eat clean,” and “eat vegetarian.”

If you’re not like me and you don’t have a list of things you want to accomplish each day, then I am completely baffled by you. You should be just like me! Just kidding.

I know for some people their day goes like this: Get up, take a shower, grab a banana and a Coke, drive to work, do what you’re told for 8 hours, drive home, eat, spend 30 minutes with your family and then watch whatever’s on TV until you fall asleep on the couch.

Wow. What a day. If this is you (or maybe you grab a Mountain Dew and a granola bar in the morning) I think you might benefit from something like Lift.