Tuesday, January 21, 2020

It's not EZ to stay humble!

I only managed to maintain my fast today until 1:00 pm. However, I did learn today that Robert I 'the Bruce' King of Scotland was THE HUSBAND OF MY 11TH COUSIN FOUR TIMES REMOVED!  

I made it EZ-ily.

I made it through my partial daily fast to 4:00 pm, at which time I consumed a small plate of leftovers followed by a quarter-cup of cashews as a treat. Nothing, then, until dinner at 6:30 pm, which was about three ounces of roast beef and some vegetables in brown gravy from Sunday's pot roast--no seconds, no dessert, and nothing but water afterward. I met my goal for the day! While not EZ, it wasn't as hard as I expected, and I surely consumed fewer calories and less bulk than I normally do. Yay, me! I'm going to try the same tomorrow. I think I'll plan a regular breakfast and light lunch on Thursday then another partial fast on Friday. Saturday is likely to be a heavy eating day as we are having family over and I plan steaks and baked potatoes.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Breakfast was the EZ part.

Reference my last post: I have decided to try a fast. Nothing fancy or too challenging; just skipping two meals today then eating a (hopefully light) dinner at or after 6:00 pm. I want to start easy and work my way up to more significant fasting.

My plan for today was to drink only fluids (water, black coffee--nothing with sugar) and perhaps some bone broth mid-afternoon. If I make it to mid-afternoon. I have defined mid-afternoon as 2:00 pm. Right now, it's 1:00 pm. I have successfully skipped breakfast and, so far, lunch. Breakfast was easy (probably because I ate so much over the weekend.) Lunch, not quite so easy.

By 10:22 am I was beginning to feel hungry. By 11:00 am the hunger was VERY noticeable. 11:00 am is my normal lunchtime, so--habit. Plus, I happened to be in the grocery store at 11:00 am. Oh, my! The food looked and smelled so good! Poor planning on my part, but I was able to resist the snacks and sweets on offer there. I did probably buy a bit more for later than I would have otherwise, but not too bad.

I'll report back later to document my level of success or failure!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Fasting? But eating is so EZ!

Of late, much has been written about the benefits of fasting. You can easily find an embarrassment of riches of opinion and stories extolling the sweeping and unexpected benefits of fasting. Such is available online at sites such as Medium, Pocket, and Facebook as well as in scores of books and articles, both electronic and print. A recent perusal of Amazon found over 4,000 books available on the topic of fasting—a Google search identified over 50,000 references to fasting on Medium.com. Healthline.com lists six popular ways to fast: 

  1. The 16/8 method: you fast for 16 hours each day. I've often used the inverted 16/8 method where I eat for 16 hours each day;
  2. The 5:2 method: you fast for 2 days per week;
  3. Eat-Stop-Eat: you do a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. If you do it twice, does this also count as an application of the 5:2 method?
  4. Alternate-day fasting: you fast every other day;
  5. Warrior fasting: you fast during the day, eat a huge meal at night. This is particularly popular in the Middle East during Ramadan. and, finally;
  6. Spontaneous meal skipping: you fast when it's convenient to skip a meal. This is also known as the "I've got a life" method.
Depending on what you read and who has written it, the possible benefits are broad and deep. Claims include that fasting:
  •          Reduces insulin resistance;
  •          Fights inflammation;
  •          Improves blood pressure and controls lipids;
  •          Boosts brain function;
  •          Prevents neurodegenerative disorders;
  •          Reduces calorie intake while boosting metabolism;
  •          Increases growth hormone secretion;
  •          Delays aging; and
  •          Aids in cancer prevention and increases the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Note that the listed benefits are “possible.” The science around fasting is not yet settled. And while there is a ton of anecdotal evidence and there are apparently supporting studies for many of the benefits from prestigious bodies such as the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Phil. It is also easy to find published studies and opinion that claim that fasting can be harmful as well as unpleasant and can even worsen your breath and body odor. These negative claims come from prestigeous bodies such as the University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Phil. 

I don’t know if there has been an unusually large number of such articles directed to me in 2020, but it certainly seems that way. Perhaps it’s just the annual New Year’s Day resolution rush. There’s a good chance I’d find a similar spike in the publication and discussion of the benefits of less alcohol, regular workouts, running, meditation, ample hydration, and safe sex as well. For this New Year, I have made my usual resolution. I’ve even written it down: “Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep.

Still, my reading this year has me pondering fasting. Should I try it? Could it be right for me and my health? There are lots of reasons for and few against fasting.

Arguments For Fasting:

Since my retirement at the end of 2017, my weight has continued to creep upwards. I now weigh in the vicinity of 236 pounds and that’s too much. My muscles, bones, and joints as well as my heart, would be happier if there were less of me to carry around. Fasting may help with some weight loss. In a study published in December 2019, Harvard found that intermittent fasting, defined as severely limiting caloric intake for about two days a week, may be as effective for weight loss as long-term calorie-restrictive diets.

It could be good for others for a couple of reasons: (1) My professed religion teaches the value of fasting for a 24-hour period once each month. We are asked to abstain from food on one Sunday of each month then donate the cost of meals not consumed to a fund used to provide assistance to the less fortunate. The church uses these funds to operate a huge international welfare program which PBS called “the world’s best” in 2016. We are taught to fast with a spiritual purpose and to pray and study about that purpose during the fasting period. Other beliefs, spiritual and secular, also ask for self-denial, giving to others, and meditation, so this is not an unusual teaching. (2) In August of 2019, NBC News published an article by Dr. Samantha Cassetty claiming that the best way to protect the planet from the scourges of overpopulation is to simply eat less. CNN and the BBC have published similar popular science pieces. Lose weight and do good for others at the same time.

Fewer dishes to wash and reduced time grocery shopping.

So if I could lose weight, improve my health and my spirituality, and help others all in one action, why wouldn’t I? Irresistible!

Arguments Against Fasting:

The discomfort of hunger. That’s about it. A day of fasting isn’t going to have negative health impacts. Humans don’t starve to death that quickly. An old survivalist saw called The Rule of Threes said something along the lines of, “A person can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours in extreme heat or cold, three minutes without oxygen.” I wouldn’t plan a fast of anywhere near three weeks in duration.

Still. I hesitate. Remember that poor impulse control I mentioned earlier? A lot of that plays very closely with my enjoyment of and appetite for food. I’ve never even been very faithful at fasting the one Sunday each month as I’ve been taught to do since my youth. And my New Year’s resolution? I don’t care for the idea of trying something that I’m not convinced I can succeed at. I’ve always been a believer that success builds success so I have often limited myself to things that I’m pretty sure I can succeed at. Why would I want to promise myself a fast if that is setting me up for failure? I ate today’s breakfast three hours ago and I’ve had a snack of cashews since then. And I feel hungry. And there’s food available…

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Memes aren't EZ

Today a friend posted a meme to Facebook that basically said to stop "giving" money to rich people because they horde it and don't stimulate the economy whereas a poor person would spend it with the result also enriching others.  This is my response:

Rich people "horde" their money? So rich people have a big vault, like Scrooge McDuck? Here, all my life, I believed that rich people put their money into real estate, rolling stock, stocks, bonds, banks, and credit unions. What do Wall Street and the banks do with that money? Why, they invest it so that others may buy homes, cars, and operate businesses.When Mr. Bloomberg buys a new yacht the shipbuilder pays hundereds of suppliers and workers, who generally like to be paid. I wasn't given my home, I had to borrow money to buy it. Thank God for the rich people who invest their money in mortgage banks so that I can avail my family of that service. The only "static" money of significance is the $20 bill we keep tucked in our wallets in case of emergency and those silver bars you have hidden under your bed (and once upon a time, you paid for those, too). Of course, money invested returns more money, because that's how smart people invest. I'd like to find these people who are "giving" money to rich people. Having said that, our society cannot afford to give unfair advantage to the wealthy and powerful at the expense of anyone else.But neither should we "eat the rich." That's been tried, and has never, ever, ever worked out well. A progressive and equitable tax system is an indespensible feature of a free economy.

While we're at it, let's include no-cost-to-student lunches in the operation of all public elementary and high schools.  Have an EZ day!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Why can't sleeping be EZ?

So last night I failed my second medical sleep study.

I failed the first one about a month ago. The room was far too cold for me to sleep in my light pajamas and I'm too claustrophobic to sleep under heavy covers. Add to that a rat's nest of wires and sensors glued to my body and I did not get much sleep. It was, apparently, enough to tell the sleep specialists that I suffer from sleep apnea and would benefit from better, deeper, safer sleep by using an assistive breathing device. In fact, there are indications that I have "central" versus "obstructive" apnea, meaning that my airway doesn't get blocked. Rather, my body just forgets to breathe. They sent me home sleepy and feeling exhausted with an appointment for later follow up.

At that later appointment, I was fitted for a mask that covered my nose, mouth, and chin, and two devices were tested on me.

CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. As the name implies, the pressure is continuous. A variety of pressure levels were tested. I hated it. Breathing in was fine, breathing out required overcoming the positive pressure and just seemed impossible, or at least very uncomfortable. CPAP is the oldest and least expensive of the sleep apnea treatment devices.

BiPAP: Bi-level positive airway pressure. This device is supposed to provide positive pressure for inhalation but minimal pressure for exhalation. I hated it a little less. The medic said this would be the correct unit for me.

Now keep in mind that I am so claustrophobic that I have problems in an airplane and car seats and full-blown panic attacks in other situations. I cannot do an enclosed MRI. Years back we tried to do one on my lower back with me heavily sedated. I don't remember being moved by gurney to the MRI room. I don't remember being moved onto the MRI table or ever being inside the MRI machine. What I do remember is waking up on the cold, hard floor of the MRI room with my paper gown around my neck and my fingernails bloodied and broken. The upper inside of the MRI machine was streaked with blood, too.

During the fittings for the mask, I had discussed my claustrophobia with the medic. Recognizing that it may be a problem the doctor sent me home with the mask selected for me with directions to wear it without the pressure machine for increasingly long times until I was comfortable with it.

They then scheduled me for last night's adventure.

In the days between appointments, I faithfully wore the mask. A few minutes on, a few off. An hour on, a few minutes off.  I was in control and could take it off any time I needed to. There was no backpressure against my exhaling. I could deal with that! I actually thought I would do OK.

"Welcome to the Sleep Center," said the sign.

After changing into my pajamas (three layers this time so I wouldn't freeze) and taking care of my evening ablutions, I was wired up by the tech. Leads on my chest, leads on my legs, and leads on my head. My vitals were checked. BP-114/77, pulse 61, respiration 12. So far, so good. Then I was fitted with the mask and it was attached to the BiPAP machine which was turned on. "Lie back and relax. Just sleep normally." said the tech.

Right. Cold room. Three layers of PJs. Wires. Sensing straps around chest and belly. Mask. No way to scratch my itching nose. Positive pressure against my airway. Pressure that tickles my lips. Cameras recording my movements. Sleep normally, my ass!

But I tried. I really did. I tried self-hypnosis. I tried chanting. I tried a variety of relaxation techniques. But the BiPap didn't seem to me to operate as advertised. There would be pressure on the inhale--nice, cool, sweet, moist air. About 2/3 of the way into my inhalation cycle, the pressure would go away as the mask made a faint popping sound. It felt as if someone had just pressed their hand over my nose and mouth and required great effort to complete the inhalation cycle. Then, on exhale, I'd start with no positive pressure but before the exhale was finished there'd suddenly be positive pressure that I had to overcome to breathe out. I complained to the tech that it was out of coordination with my respiratory cycle but he told me that it is supposed to sense my breathing and adjust accordingly. It didn't work for me. About the 12th time it stopped my inhale at the 2/3 point, I began to feel the panic attack of claustrophobia building in me. The mask had to come off. I told the tech that I couldn't do this.

At that point, he said, well, there is one other type of PAP device we can try tonight. The newest and most expensive technology for the treatment of apnea: ASV: Adaptive servo-ventilation. This machine adjusts pressure delivery based upon the detection of pauses in breathing during sleep. ASV is primarily used for the treatment of central sleep apnea (which is the kind I supposedly have). I say supposedly because I've been sleeping with the same woman for over 51 years and she says she's never noticed snoring or signs of apnea.

Well, "OK. Let's try that one." And we did. It seemed to work very nicely, very closely attuned to my breathing rhythms. Gentle pressure on the intake, no back- pressure on the exhale. And it was much quieter than either of the other machines. It was good enough that I ALMOST went to sleep. Three times. But each time I'd come back suddenly from the edge of sleep in a panic from having my face enclosed within the mask with straps over and behind my head. And, when I was able to relax, I was also having a problem with saliva. My mouth makes a lot--dentists have commented on how healthy that is. When sleeping, I have three options: swallow, drool, or drown. The mask made drooling almost impossible so I was swallowing. Every time I'd swallow, the machine thought that I was inhaling so it gave me a blast of positive pressure which wound up in my gut with the saliva. After about 20 minutes of this my stomach was distended and I was belching into the mask. After about 20 minutes of belching into the mask, I gave up, sat up, and pulled the mask off.

"So," the tech said, "it's midnight and you obviously can't do this. Do you want to go home?"

"Absolutely, yes!" I replied.

And that is how I wound up at home in my own bed before one am on a Thursday night with no respiratory assistive devices or wires attached to me. And I slept well. I felt great when I woke up at seven am. Before leaving the sleep center I pointed out to the tech that I normally really felt pretty good for a man my age. I'm relatively active and I don't have headaches and such. I also told him that I would rather die in my sleep than have to sleep with a PAP device on my face.

I failed a sleep test, even after studying and preparing for it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The trip couldn't have been better even if it had been EZ.

We got home from San Antonio at about 7 pm last night. I was tired but restless so I watched TV until 11 pm (just junk, the worse the better for my exhausted mental state at the time). Then I slept until 9:30 am. I don’t remember the last time I did that.

We had a great trip. The flights both ways were fine, on time and delivery of service as promised. Still not my favorite way to travel. In coach, I mean. In First, yeah, that’s my favorite way to travel. But, our air fare was $230 each RT PHX to SAT in American’s “Basic Economy.” With this fare there are additional fees so we paid $30 each way for one (large) checked bag and $30 each each way to select our seats (otherwise, with Basic Economy, you likely wind up in center seats in different rows.) Plus parking in Phoenix was $72 and our UBER from the San Antonio Airport to Derek’s was $18 and I passed out a total of $30 in baggage, porter, and driver tips. So the air portion really cost a total of $758 for both of us. American isn’t as bad as some of the other airlines when you buy the cheap seats. United even charges to use the overhead bin and you have to pay for peanuts and soft drinks. “Fly the Friendly Skies of United,” indeed. American includes those in the cost. Still, a two-hour flight each way means more time with friends and family and less time in transit than driving. Plus it would have cost that much or more to drive by the time we paid for fuel, hotel, and meals—even if we did it on the cheap, which I’m too old and worked too many hard years to do—I need a good bed, lots of hot water, and a decent evening meal. I admit to being spoiled. I will proceed to submit evidence of said spoiling, below.

We stayed at Derek and Jill’s. They gave us their room with a wonderful bed which was incredibly kind of them. I think maybe they’re trying to make us feel bad for moving. Our UBER driver from the Airport was a recent “escapee” from the socialist paradise that is Venezuela and he spoke no English. Fun. Thank God for Glenda’s Spanish proficiency. Derek loaned us his car for the stay, and I managed to put a few hundred miles on it. Jill fixed Thanksgiving dinner with ham, stuffing, and sweet potatoes which gave us leftovers for snacking most of the weekend. We did eat out quite a bit, as there are “go-to” cafes in the San Antonio area that we really, really missed.

Friday we had eggs Benedict for breakfast in Schertz at Able’s Diner. (https://abelsdiner.com/) Later, we drove by our old Hull Street house (looks fine) and we got to visit with Jack and MarJo Jones, Schertz neighbors that we have missed since we moved at the end of 2009.  That evening (Friday) we went with Derek and Jill to Johnson City 62 miles north of San Antonio to see the holiday lights display sponsored by Pedernales Electric Cooperative. 3.2 *million* lights in the display. We got a hay ride behind a vintage Farmall tractor and ate Texas-style BBQ at a booth in the fair. There were over 100 vendor booths set up in Courthouse Square as part of the event. I even bought Glenda a sterling chain and medallion with an agate setting that she likes. The vendor was from Nepal. Marvelous time and very Christmassy, if green grass and sweater weather under the Texas stars fits your idea of Christmas. (https://www.pec.coop/our-community/pec-holiday-lights/)

Saturday Derek, Jill, and Ian accompanied us to meet with Amy and family. She brought Lauren, Sarah, Connor, and her eldest son James along with his wife Dulce and their daughter Charlotte (Charlie). We met at an IHOP near Amy’s home and had a great brunch – enough food to have fed Venezuela for a day. There was great discussion and fun around a huge table assembled for us from several by the IHOP crew. We then went to Amy’s for a visit in her home. We got news of Jamie and Daniel though they couldn’t join us. Jamie is engaged to Jackie Acosta (he’s been dating her for several years, so it’s about time) and Daniel is in the Army currently at Fort Hood in central Texas but leaving there soon for an assignment in Alaska. Before we left Amy’s I handed out some small gifts that I had brought for all the children, to include Ian. I didn’t know that Charlie would be joining us, but Amy had a spare new, big stuffed toy of Olaf from Frozen 2 which was a perfect gift for 2-year-old Charlie—Amy saved the day! Hugs and tears of love preceded our departure.

Saturday afternoon I got a 90-minute massage from Phaedra at Moon Goddess Massage – she was our massage therapist for nearly 10 years before we left SA, and I’ve not had a massage since we moved until Saturday. (https://www.facebook.com/MoonGoddesssMassage/) She is a marvelous therapist, and as usual, I was weak jelly afterwards and had to be poured into a recliner when I got back to Derek’s. We may have watched a movie at Derek’s in their theater room, but I really don’t remember. I did sleep well that night. Glenda didn’t get her massage from Phaedra until Monday afternoon, but she did get a mani-pedi from Tulip at Nail Talk (her former and still favorite nail tech) at the same time I was being transported to another plane of existence on Phaedra’s table. That evening we got our Tex-Mex fix at Taco Cabana. (https://www.tacocabana.com/)

Sunday morning we attended church in our previous Ward in SA—Eden Ward in San Antonio East Stake. Great Sunday Sacrament Fast and Testimony Meeting and Glenda bore a succinct and strong testimony. We saw and greeted many, many of our old friends, as we had hoped to do. While the ward has a new bishop (Named Chandler who moved to SA from the Val Vista and Broadway area of Mesa about a year ago!?!) the bishop who had been “ours,” Jonathan Abercrombie, was there and we got to greet him. After church we met my dear friend Nancy Hanna and her husband Edwin Matos at Starbucks inside Barnes and Nobel and had a nice two-hour chat. I’m very glad we got to see them. Sunday evening, Derek, Jill, Ian, and we met with Jennifer who is in town for some training from USAA for dinner. We had a great family meal and dinner at Nicha’s Mexican Comida. (https://www.nichas.com/)  Lesson learned: Don't order a salt-rimmed drink when you have chapped lips. We got home late, but slept well.

Monday morning I went to Jim’s Coffee Shop, a San Antonio tradition since 1959, for a light breakfast. (http://jimscoffeeshop.com/lincolnpark/) While there I noted the restaurant was busy with people of many colors, ethnicities, backgrounds, politics, and beliefs. Wait staff moved around the restaurant chatting easily with everyone. Greetings and remarks flowed from table to table in a spirit of good will to all and laughter seemed the language of the day. This cosmopolitan feeling is common in San Antonio. I miss that, because you just don’t find that everywhere. Then I got Derek’s car washed and detailed and filled it with fuel. I can still hear my father telling me: “When you must borrow something, ensure that you return it when promised and in better condition than you got it.” His teachings have served me well for nearly 70 years. I also helped Derek with a couple of simple repairs in their home – took only a few moments for each and I was able to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

Monday afternoon Derek, Jill, Ian, and we took a small spray of white carnations to Vincent’s grave at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. (https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/ftsamhouston.asp)  Today, December 4th, is the one year anniversary of his passing. While we were there, Jillian was able to find her maternal grandparents graves—she had never visited them before. We also signed up to have Vincent’s grave included in the Wreaths Across America program ((https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/) This was a sobering but wonderful experience—alone, this would have been worth the trip to San Antonio.

That evening we visited with Alex and Amanda Cabrera in their home. That used to be our home on Overton Road. They’ve done it proud and I think it looks better than it ever did when we lived there. The home has a presence – a spirit, if you will. We felt it when we first saw the home in 2009, the Cabrera’s say they felt it on first entry in 2018, and I profess it is still alive. The Cabreras are the fourth owners of this Morton-Southwest 1972-built home. The first owners were the Holloway family. Mr. Holloway was the lead engineer and builder for Morton-Southwest in San Antonio. We think that he may have had the construction crews work a little extra hard on his own home. The son, Mike, is now a respected custom home builder in San Antonio. (http://www.mikehollaway.com/) The second owner was the Catholic Church and housed five lay ministers (not ordained) of the Focolare Movement (https://www.focolare.org/usa/). In order to buy the home, we had to wait for a signature from Rome. We were the third owners and the Cabreras own it now. We were joined by Martha Beard, next door neighbor, and we all went for a wonderful evening dinner at La Marginal Puerto Rican restaurant on Nacogdoches just north of Loop I-410. The restaurant has set the standard for Caribbean Hispanic food and immaculate service since 1999 in the same location. Can’t argue with 20 years of success! (http://www.lamarginalrestaurant.com/) I have, in the past, asked the owners what the name meant, as there doesn't seem to be a direct Spanish-English translation and the restaurant is certainly not 'marginal.' I was told it was intended to indicate the location in the suburbs near the edge of the city. The location hasn't been near the edge of SA for many years. A great meal and wonderful conversation was enjoyed by all. I was surprised when Alex asked me to say grace over the meal. Protestant, Catholic, and LDS joined in mutual compassion, respect, and gratitude.

Tuesday morning was time to pack. Of course, we couldn’t leave SA on a Tuesday without first enjoying a lunch of BBQ Frito Pie from Smokin’ Joe’s family-run restaurant. (http://smokinjoesoftexas.com/) This is Jillian’s favorite place in the world to eat and is only about 1 mile from their home. A delight. (Side note: The ham we had eaten for Thanksgiving had been smoked by Joe for Jillian. They have a family-like relationship with Joe and his family.) After lunch, we bid our farewells with hugs from Jillian and Ian. Derek dropped us with a big hug at the entry to Terminal B at the San Antonio airport and we were on our way home. Dak had been well cared for at our home by our friend Chandra Buchanan, but he seemed to be as glad to see us as we were to see him. Puppy kisses were shared by all.

It is good to be home. It was good to be in San Antonio with friends and family. It is good.