One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

A long summer without much reason to write

Sometimes it seems like every time I turn around, a month slips away.

I was horrified to see that it had been more than a month since the last time I wrote anything here, but I’ll be honest. Sometimes I feel like a lot of the stuff I write has no effect at all, at least beyond the people who know me and love me.

Maddie in action.

And even with them, I feel like I’m off there in space somewhere and not connecting with them.

Earlier this month, Pauline finished her two-year tour in Surabaya, Indonesia, and came through Georgia on a the second leg of a six-part vacation that will end in mid-August with the beginning of a three-year tour in Kingston, Jamaica. We had a wonderful week with our grandchildren. Maddie is nearly 4 years old now, and little Lex is coming up on 9 months.

We had only seen him before at an age of about 5 weeks, so this summer was really the first time his personality is starting to emerge.

As you can see from the picture, taken only a couple of hours after they flew in from Spain (and boy, were their arms tired), Maddie had all sorts of exuberance and energy. Jet lag really is much easier when you travel west.

It wasn’t an easy week. My lovely Nicole has been struggling with her health for several months, and having a week when we were going somewhere almost every day was stressful to say the least.

Lex is almost crawling.

They’re gone now, first to New Mexico and then to Seattle. They’ll spend a few days in Southern California before returning to Washington, D.C., for a few days of work-related things for Pauline.

Then it’s on to Jamaica.

It’s pretty amazing when you realize how little most Americans ever see of the world — my best friend Mickey has never been outside North America — to think that my grandson won’t be a year old until November and he has already completely circumnavigated the globe.

One thing he has seen plenty of is hot weather. Surabaya is pretty close to the Equator, and Georgia feels like it is a lot closer than it really is. We had one day in the last month when the temperature in Atlanta hit 106 — an all-time high.

Maybe it’s the hot weather that has been getting me down, or maybe it’s the fact that we are in an election year at a time when America just seems to have gone completely insane. Enough said about that for now. I make enough disparaging remarks about Mitt Romney on Facebook to get them out of my system, at least for the present.

What do I want?

I want my children and grandchildren to be happy and healthy, and more than anything I want Nicole happy and healthy again. It has been a long time.

If I could have those things, I would feel blessed.

I might even start writing more often.



posted by Mike in Family,Georgia,Happiness,Health,love and have No Comments

Too many folks don’t pay attention to their vows

When you’re young and you marry, it’s all about the good times.

Unless you’re somehow forced by circumstances, you marry someone because you are happier with them than without them and you are optimistic that things will get even better the longer you two are together.

In sickness and in health

When you’re young, marriage is maybe the ultimate act of belief in the future.

You say the vows — better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health — but you don’t really believe anything bad will happen. You’re in it for better, for richer, for health and if any of that bad stuff happens, you’ll deal with it with all the invincibility of youth.

It’s different when you’re older. When you marry past 40, you carry the baggage of previous failure and the awareness that bad things happen as well as good things and you may not be able to control very much about either.

If your life has gone at all according to plan, richer or poorer may not be as much of a factor as when you’re younger, but health is much more likely to come into play. My good friend Mick and his wife have been married for nearly 33 years and both are dealing with health problems.

For the last six years of my father’s life, my mother was his 24/7 caregiver. She was only a year younger than he was and not in the best health herself, but she gave everything she had to help him. I don’t think there’s any better way to show love for someone than that, and I wonder how many of us could do something like that for as long as she did.

I know I couldn’t. I have such admiration for her efforts, and also for the help my sisters and my brother gave her. But I also know none of them considered it a chore, an imposition or even hard work. When someone you dearly love needs your help, there really isn’t any question whether or not you will help them.

Sickness or health never came into play in my first marriage. I was 25 and she was 21 when we took our vows, and I wasn’t even 30 when it all fell apart for reasons that had nothing to do with health. It was 30 years ago this spring that we spoke for the last time, nearly half a lifetime ago for me. Of course, I’m 62 now and health problems are becoming a reality both for me and for my lovely wife.

For me it’s mostly aches and pains, as well as elevated blood pressure as my weight fluctuates. I take glucosamine for my incipient arthritis, pills for my blood pressure and over-the-counter sleep aids to help me nod off at night. My wife is dealing with much more significant issues, most of them involving anxiety. At times during the last year or so, things have been extremely difficult for her.

I do what I can to help, and we seems to have made at least some progress. I’ll be damned if I give myself any credit for it. When you have one failed marriage in your past, all you’re really trying to do is get even. I love her, though, and I’ll be here as long as she wants me and I’m still drawing breath.

That’s what “in sickness or in health” is all about.









posted by Mike in Family,Happiness,Health,love and have No Comments

‘Love and …” raises good questions about love

Some movies surprise you.

I’m not really sure why I decided to pick up the DVD of “Love and Other Drugs,” but it was far from being the romantic comedy I had expected. Jake Gyllenhaal is only my second-favorite Gyllenhaal, but I do like Anne Hathaway and feel like she has shown some decent comedy chops at times.

The movie started out funny, as Gyllenhaal’s character tries to make a success of himself as a rep for a pharmaceutical company.

It’s a fairly sexy movie too, but it takes a serious turn when we realize Hathaway’s character is suffering from Stage One Parkinson’s Disease. She pushes potential boyfriends away when there’s a chance of emotional involvement, possibly because she’s afraid she will eventually lose them.

The story of course becomes much more serious, as what was supposed to be just a casual relationship deepens.

It’s difficult to think of spending your life caring for someone with a chronic, degeneration condition. It is, however, an important part of love. Because real love — true love, so to speak — has only a little to do with lust and a lot to do with caring. My mother was my father’s primary caregiver throughout the last five years or so of his life, and as difficult as it must have been, I have no doubt she would have gladly continued it, or possibly have done even more, if it had meant keeping him alive longer.

That’s because love is about always being there, consistently putting the other person’s needs ahead of your own. Staying on your feet when your legs are so tired they feel like blocks of wood. Talking with them even though you’re exhausted and want nothing more than just to sleep,


In the present and in the future.

Love can be a lot of work, but there’s no work that is more fulfilling.

Love ennobles us.

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posted by Mike in Family,Happiness,Health,Movies and have No Comments

A milestone of sorts; 85 pounds down

In 1985, I decided to get into shape for the first time in my adult life.

I was working in St. Louis at the time, and I was 35 years old. I had been letting my weight get out of control for a few years and I weighed 243 pounds. I decided that it was time to do something about it, and on May 1, I started a program of diet — eating no more than about 1,000 calories a day — and exercise that lasted six months. I lost 84 pounds, and actually found myself weighing less than I did when I was 16 years old.

I didn’t keep the weight off, and I had to do it all over again four years later when I was living in Reno. I think I lost 82 pounds that time.

Down 85 pounds in four months

The problem both times, and later times when I lost lesser amounts of weight in shorter diets, was that I always saw a diet as depriving myself and I always looked at my goal as a sort of finish line.

I’ve written before about what I’ve been doing this year, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post. I’m writing today to celebrate the fact that as of today, less than four months into my lifestyle change of 2010, I surpassed the 1985 total today. As of this morning, I have dropped 85 pounds.

Since I started at a much higher number, I’m only down to 195 this time.

There’s no way in the world I’ll get anywhere near 159 this time. I’m 60 years old and I would be totally happy to get down to 180 and stay there.

It’s staying there that matters.

I have changed some of my lifelong habits permanently. No more candy bars, a lot less dairy and grain products. I have walked five or six miles a day every day since I returned home from Texas, and I plan to continue that.

The way I see it, I got another chance.

I’m smart enough not to waste it this time.

posted by Mike in Happiness,Health and have No Comments

Good habits are turning into a good (new) lifestyle

Somehow, I seem to have fallen into a new lifestyle.

I remember hearing that if you do something long enough, it becomes a habit. Then if you have a habit long enough, it becomes your lifestyle.

I think walking every day — walking at least five or six miles — has become my lifestyle.

It was one thing to do it at the fitness ranch in Texas. I was paying a lot of money to learn how to take care of myself there, and I walked nearly every day for 11 weeks. Even at Rancho Cortez, though, I occasionally took days off. I came home 19 days ago, weighing 213 pounds, down from 280 earlier in the spring. I was pleased and I fully intended to continue my weight loss, but it wasn’t easy to figure out how and where I was going to hike.

I started walking through Montrose up to the 210 freeway, but it wasn’t as much fun as it had been walking in the countryside in Texas. But I plugged ahead every day without ever skipping one. Even on the days I was doing other things — like my surfing lesson earlier this week — I still found time before leaving to hike.

A single step

As of today, I have hiked every day of the 19 I have been at home. Today I walked five miles around the Rose Bowl this morning with my friend Mick, and then I went back out and hiked a little more than three miles on my regular route this afternoon.

My weight loss has continued. Today I weighed in at 204, which means I have lost an additional nine pounds since coming home. It also means I’m just five pounds away from being under 200 for the first time in more than nine years.

It’s weird to think I have lost nearly 80 pounds and am still over 200, but there’s no use in being upset about the past. Yes, my weight was worse than ever earlier this year. I was stressed, and in the past, when I was stressed, I ate too much and exercised too little.

But now things are different.

Now I have a new lifestyle.

I love it.

posted by Mike in Happiness,Health and have Comments (2)

Body may be failing, but there’s still golf

It’s 11 days until I finish my 11 weeks here in Texas, and although I have enjoyed almost every minute of it, my primary goal now is just to survive.

My body has reached a point of diminishing returns, I fear, and just about the only time I’m pain-free anymore is when I’m sleeping. If it isn’t my obliques or my lower back, it’s my weak ankle or the blisters I’ve had on both feet for the last two weeks.

Somehow, though, I keep plugging away. I shoveled manure and then hiked 4.5 miles this morning, and I played 18 holes of hole at Flying L Ranch in the afternoon. My weight is down 53 pounds, but my ability to exercise seems to be getting less and less every day.

On the links at Flying L

That’s where golf does seem to come in handy. I’ve played three times in the last eight days, and there’s enough fun in the exercise and enough exercise in the fun to make it worthwhile.

Every time I have played here in Texas, whether at Flying L or down in Utopia, I have played by myself. I am amazed at how much more relaxing it is when I’m not playing with other people, even when the other people are my friends.

I’m hopeful that the four days or so it will take to drive home will help me to feel better.

Until then, at least I can play golf.

posted by Mike in golf,Happiness,Health,Texas and have No Comments

Four weeks down, a lifetime to go

Down 30 pounds in 28 days

Four weeks down.

Thirty-one days to go.

We weigh in every Monday morning here at Rancho Cortez has been very satisfying, and after my first 28 days, I have dropped 30 pounds. Even better, I have lost an inch and a half off my neck and two and a half inches off my waist.

I don’t want to get carried away with happiness. I still weigh 242 pounds, which is very heavy for me. I need to get to less than 220 before I start feeling good and under 200 before I start feeling proud of myself.

There’s no way I can lose 43 more pounds here in Texas, but there is a chance I can get below 220 before I start for home.. The thing is, even though I’m eating between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, I don’t really feel like I’m on a diet.

It’s really more a question of making changes in my lifestyle. I haven’t had any milk in the last four weeks, and I’ve only had red meat (in small quantities) four times this month.

Those are things that are going to have to become permanent, and so is the idea of eating differently. The center for Health Promotion & Wellness at MIT has come up with a Hunger Scale that is really wonderful to use. With stages from 1 (so hungry you’re ready to collapse) to 10 (so stuffed you’re ready to collapse), the idea is that you should eat small enough amounts often enough to maintain yourself at around stage 5 (enough fuel to keep going, just starting to feel satisfied) and 6 (fully satisfied but not stuffed).

That’s where I have been for almost all of the four weeks. I have actually skipped some meals and eaten a 100-calorie snack instead, and it’s very rare for me to be so hungry I bemoan the fact that dinner is still an hour away.

I feel extremely optimistic about maintaining this as a lifestyle. If I can exercise once a day as well as going for a short walk each day, and eat like this, there’s really no reason I can’t be healthy for the rest of my life.

And doesn’t that sound wonderful.

posted by Mike in Happiness,Health,retirement,Texas and have No Comments

Every picture really does tell a story

I really hate having my picture taken.

Down 21 in 18 days

Part of the problem has always been that I had features that I didn’t think photographed well — my hair, for instance. I’ve solved that problem in recent years by getting my hair cut almost to the scalp once or twice a year.

But the one feature I couldn’t hide was the extra weight I was carrying. I found myself looking back longingly at the pics taken when I was 20 years old, 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds. Of course in those, my hair often looked odd.

I just wasn’t designed to be photogenic.

But in recent years, things got worse and worse. My belly got bigger and fat appeared in places it never had before. In a couple of instances, I think, my fat even had fat.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hit 280 earlier this year, which is at least 70-80 pounds more than I should weigh if I want to be a healthy man.

I managed to work it down close to 270 on my own, but I was still just above that level when I weighed in here at Rancho Cortez on May 3rd for the beginning of a 59-day stay. The plan was to lose 50 pounds and go home at about 220 with some good habits established and only a little further to go to be where I needed to be.

After 18 days, I don’t know if I’ll reach my goal, but I know I am on track enough that I have a good chance of accomplishing it. I’m down to about 250, a loss of 21 pounds, and I am pretty solidly into the eating routine. I’m working my way into the exercise program, which usually consists of five or six different classes or activities every day.

Today for the first time I’ll do five things — mucking out the stables, hiking, strength training, water aerobics and stretching.

Everything on the schedule except kickboxing.

I’m pleased enough with my progress to post a picture of me taken about an hour ago. I’m still big. I’m still fat, but I think I’m getting ready to leave the neighborhood of obese.

I don’t plan to make a return trip.

posted by Mike in Happiness,Health,Uncategorized and have No Comments

Beautiful park makes for great hiking

When is a state park not a state park?

In Texas, at least, state parks are called “state natural areas,” and in my first three weeks in Texas, I have seen two pretty nice ones. Two weeks ago, we went to Garner, where there was a wonderful dance floor all the way back in 1941. Today we visited Lost Maples, which some folks consider one of the very nicest SNAs/state parks in the Lone Star State.

On the road

If you look at the link above, you’ll see that Lost Maples is incredibly beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing. But on this late spring day, when we arrived a little after 9:30 a.m., it was a little bit foggy, a little bit drizzly and pretty much the only color was green.

We were there for a medium-long hike, and we took the East Loop, which starts out nice and level and then has a fairly steep climb of about 500 feet. Those are the hikes that are most difficult for me, with my 60-year-old knees and the extra weight I’m carrying.

But I had made up my mind that I was going full tilt today, and it worked out well. We hiked for about 3 1/2 hours, covering a little more than six miles. A fairly slow pace, but the rocks during the climb — both up and down — were slippery from the drizzle and we had to be careful.

I got some wonderful pictures at the top, looking down on the first part of the trail.

A breathtaking view

I was certainly happy at that point to be at the top looking back down than at the bottom looking up.

Things are going great here, at least within the expectations I arrived with. I have lost 20 pounds in my first 16 days, putting me 40 percent of the way toward my goal. But the biggest surprise of all came when I had my blood pressure checked in the late afternoon.

I have hypertension, and I have been taking blood pressure medicine for at least 10 years. When I’m doing well, it brings my pressure down into what might be called “high normal” range.

This afternoon it was 91/65, a number I don’t think I’ve seen since my twenties.

It may be a fluke, and I need to remember it’s still a medicine-aided number, but it made me feel great.

That’s good enough for now, even if we never did find those lost maples.

posted by Mike in Americana,Health,Travel and have No Comments

Texas trip looming on Eastern horizon

Well, I’m getting ready for Texas.

In four days I’m going to get into my Hyundai Tucson, point the nose east and drive to Bandera, Texas, a small town that calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” I’ll be taking along clothes, toiletries, etc., to last me two months at Rancho Cortez. In addition, I’ll be taking along the new workout clothes, hiking boots, swimsuit, etc., that I bought this weekend.

Water Aerobics

This is it.

I am an extremely fortunate man in several respects. First that I had a wife supportive enough of me to let me disappear for two months and work on my life. Second that I had enough money to afford it. When I used to read about famous people going off to spas or “fat farms,” I always thought that expenses like that were for people who had more money than they needed.

Well, I’m not in that position. I just decided that this was a crucial enough situation that I had to spend some of the money I had saved to do it.

So when I leave on Thursday, I’ll head to Phoenix and then turn south toward Las Cruces, N.M., El Paso, Texas, and on to Bandera near San Antonio. Mapquest says its a little more than 1,300 miles, which means giving myself three full days to drive there will make it a little bit of a leisurely drive.

I won’t be getting completely away from it all. I’m taking my laptop and I’ll make use of the wireless Internet, and I don’t go anywhere without my BlackBerry.

But what really matters is getting into a good routine of eating healthy and exercising. Only one of the 21 weekly meals includes tofu, so I can either learn to like it or skip Sunday lunch. The thing that really blows me away when I look at the schedule is that there are six different exercise periods each day — morning, afternoon and evening. Hikes, swimming, weight training and more.

I figure it’ll either get me fit or put me in a wheelchair.

posted by Mike in baby boom,Family,Happiness,Health and have No Comments
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