Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Two Years Later

Sept 2012
This March 2015 marks 2 years since I made the decision to get healthier. There are several blogs herein that gives the whole long, long story so if you need the long version please go back and read. I'll wait...The Reader's Digest version is at 46 years old my blood sugar was out of control despite medication and my cholesterol and blood pressure were also skyrocketing. I was at least 40 lbs overweight at 235 lbs at 5' 9" tall (and having been as heavy as 297 in my life). After serious soul searching I made the decision to lose weight and take better care of myself. I wanted to lose 20 lbs and ended up losing more then 50 lbs getting down as low as 179 lbs in about a year. After the year I switched it up and became less about losing weight and more about maintaining weight and getting back to the level of muscularity I was used to sans the excess weight. All the while the
March 2015
health being the most important factor (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol). My primary tools to accomplish this were getting at least 10,000 steps a day tracking with my Fitbit and netting below 2000 calories a day logging food on MyFitnessPal. After one year I had cut my glucose A1C (the measuring stick for blood sugar over an extended period as opposed to daily readings) and my blood pressure and cholesterol were normal although the doctor thought it wise to keep me on meds for the time being as I had no adverse effects from them. At this point I declared Rich O 2.0 (the lame nickname I had given the "new" me) dead as that phase had gone as far as it could and I entered phase Rich O 2.1 (also lame) (AS of this writing my glucose A1C is "normal" (below 5.6) for the first time in 13 years!!)

So what changed? Well I was certainly happy with my vitals and my new streamlined look but I've been used to a certain level of muscularity my entire adult life much of which I'd lost as during the bulk of my weight crashing I had developed elbow tendinitis (tennis elbow, go figure) so I hadn't been strength training much. As soon as I was healthy I went back to weights 3 times a week at the gym. Sadly the weight loss and having beat my joints for so long meant that a lot of the power was gone. But I didn't care. Lean, functional muscle was what I was looking for. I also continued my daily calisthenics and body weight exercises switching off from  pull ups, push ups and squats to TRX
 exercises to dips and back again. Always changing it up. And I noticed a big difference. I also worked my core. Hard! At
least 6 days a week a put in exercise for my core and abs. Knee raises, yoga ball crunches, ab wheel, etc etc. And it's made a huge difference. My whole middle of my body feels so much stronger and looks much different. If you strain your eyes you can see visible abs below the lingering layer of flab, something I didn't have even in my 20's. When I look in the mirror I see the thick bulk of my power lifting days replaced by definition, my upper body more of a "V" shape and my legs from think tree trunks to ripped up looking. Now problem areas still exist like my lower belly and lower pecs. I'm not sure that without cutting more fat out of my diet if these will ever go away and I  am not sure I care. I kind of feel like this is how I always wanted to look in my minds eye (probably a little more mass then this but whatever) and am generally happy. While I'll never be "beach body" ready I feel now more like an athlete going soft as opposed to an out of shape guy trying to get into shape. I can live with that

As far as cardio goes I just kept on my path striving for 10,000 steps a day minimum and averaging about 16,000-17,000. Walking is still my primary means but this past winter forced me to change things up as the snow made walking all but impossible and at the least very unpleasant all to often. I used my exercise bike a lot but as I was still focused on steps first and all around cardio second I
 came up with new things. Like walking/marching/jogging in place. And going up and down the stairs in my building. And old school step aerobic inspired exercises. I also added heavy bag training as more a cardio burn then for steps. I don't really know what I'm doing but it certainly gets the heart pounding. Believe it or not I even started using the Kinect games on my Xbox like Boxing and Your Fitness Evolved on days I was trapped inside. Of course there's always the elliptical and treadmill at the gym. I tried running for a bit but it was just too much on my knees and calves so I went back to walking. I credit the constant, low impact cardio as the most important part of my fitness regime and am most proud to have hit my goal of at least 10,000 steps a day every single day for more then 2 years now! My pocket carried Fitbit One is showing signs of wear and tear and may need replacing but it's all money wells spent

Food wise I've made changes both on the plus and the minus side. On the plus side I continued with the big, protein filled breakfasts, medium protein filled lunch and small protein filled dinner. My meals are better balanced with every meals featuring carbs, proteins, dairy and fruits/veggies. I've consumed more broccoli, asparagus, egg whites/egg substitute and romaine lettuce then I thought possible. I've worked a lot of whole grains and "super foods into my diet like chia, cacao nib, and quinoa. While breads and potatoes are still a part of my life rice and pasta are a rare treat. I've also worked juicing more into my morning routine alternating with smoothies. I like the smoothies but as I use them as supplemental and not meal replacement the calorie count can get pretty high. Overall I think my "normal" eating habits are very sensible and I probably kept under my calorie goal (2 years straight of logging in to MyFitnessPal) 340-350 days last year. On the minus end I let the foot off the gas a bit as I decided to "live life". No more skipping pizza and beer night with friends or whatever. On days where I know I'm going to be "bad" I try my best to adjust my other meals and put more work in. It doesn't always work out but I always try to make it work. And if it doesn't, oh well. I simply won't let myself fall back into old bad habits and I'm secure enough in how things are that one or two bad days will not undo all the good I've done the past 2 years

So, 2 years later, has my life changed? Well, yes. And No. I feel better for sure. And I feel better about myself. I haven't really been sick since I started this new regime (keep in mind colds are not sick in my world). I haven't really changed much in how I act or how I dress (tho I will admit an affinity for compression fit Under Armour shirts at the gym which I would have never worn before). Sadly unlike in the movies and TV our protagonist losing weight does not suddenly make him/her irresistible to the opposite sex (dammit) but other then that I definitely feel less self-conscious about my appearance then at any point since my 20's. I feel accomplished as I feel like (for now) I dodged a huge bullet and did something about it. The downside? Well there's a lot of sacrifice. Exercising when you don't feel like it. Or you're tired. Or sick. Or hungover. Or on vacation. Skipping dessert and making smarter choices. Giving up some of your favorite foods. And there's the cost involved. Eating better in my experience costs more (cutting out processed food for fresh is a big part). And the time to prep your meals. I don't sit down after work until almost 9:30 by the time I'm done working out, making dinner and prepping  the next days breakfast and lunch. And clothes.Dear lord I've gone through clothes. In my jeans drawer alone I have 36", 34", 33" and 32" as I'm struggling to find the balance tween fit and comfort (ok, the 36" were from last year I just can't get rid of them yet as a veteran of the weight loss wars. And the compliments. I'm not one comfortable with compliments and usually deflect them with self-deprecating humor. And the disbelief. I've gone through everything from people thinking I'm sick or worse to people not believing I've weighed almost 300 lbs and most recently 240 lbs. But those are all minor quibbles in the overall scheme of things

I'm not "proud" of what I've done as if I had pride to start with I wouldn't have let myself fall so far. I do feel accomplished and somewhat satisfied. And I'm always willing to give what advice I can give. I'll end this with what of said all along- find what works for you but make a choice you can stick with, not a quick fix. End of the day it's all about diet and exercise and that will never change

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then

Well, nobody ever drove me to school when it was ninety degrees below, 
We had to walk butt naked through forty miles of snow. 
Worked in the coal mine twenty two hours a day for just half a cent,
and to sell my internal organs just to pay the rent!"
— "When I Was Your Age", "Weird Al" Yankovic

A while back I wrote about the odd, meaningless things I remember from my childhood (here it is if interested Recently I started realizing there are a lot of things happening now that I DON'T remember from earlier times in my life. I'm giving ample warning that while this is not intended to be a "middle aged, single guy without kids being judgmental" kind of list it will probably read like that. It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek but if you take offense to it, well, bite me! Onward!

- I don't remember my mom needing hours of prep and endless supplies to leave the house with us in tow. While she probably didn't take us out as much as parents do now there just wasn't the hullabaloo, she just loaded us in the car

- I don't remember my mom needing to ply us with snacks wherever we went to keep us in line. A simple look or request to settle down was all it took

- I don't remember my mom having carriages or strollers the size of Escalades to get us around (and there were 6 of us with a total of 8 years in age between us). Or leashes. Again, in all fairness the poor lady didn't leave the house that much when we were babies and my poor sister Eileen became our surrogate other mom when she was "older" (like 5 or 6)

- I don't remember the need for everyone to have ginormous vehicles. We had one station wagon to get  the 8 of us where we needed to get to including work, sports and activities.

- I don't remember most of my friends going on lavish vacations which their families couldn't afford. Most of my friends who did go away it was typically because their family had some kind of beach cottage that had been in their family for decades and where you typically had to share space with your entire extended family

- I don't remember there being so many schools. Seriously, every day I hear about kids going to another school I never heard of! I was a public school kid and was familiar with and had friends who went to Catholic school (or parochial school as my parents called them) and knew of a few private schools but never heard of the majority of them. Or of foreign language schools. Or of charter schools. Or of Montessori schools. And sweet jumping Jehoshaphat the cost!!! $10,00, $20,000, $30,000???? Dear lord

- I don't remember the majority of my friends going to colleges they or their family couldn't afford and being in tens of thousands of dollars in debt into their 30's. Some, sure, but not the majority

- I don't remember needing to have so much crap with me at all times. I'd leave for school with a bag with my sports stuff, lunch and books/homework. When we went out if you couldn't carry it in your pockets you didn't need it.

- I don't remember the need to always have water and food with me when I left home. I also don't remember anyone dying of thirst or hunger on the mean streets of Arlington

- I also don't remember the need for bottled water. Tap water was just fine then and for me still is today

- I don't remember the obsession over sterilization. Hand sanitizer is ubiquitous now as is the practice of wearing gloves for almost everything

- I don't remember the overwhelming need to "keep up with the Joneses". Oh it surely existed but not to the level I see it now. My parents and most of my friends parents were realistic about where they fell in the economic food chain and rarely strayed from that spot

- I don't remember going out with friends and being way more concerned about people who weren't there then people who were. I was happy to give 100% of my attention to the people I was with and still try and do that now

- I don't remember everything being a celebration or reward worthy. Big events, big accomplishments, milestones, sure, all celebration worthy. Pre-school graduation, half-birthdays and the like, not so sure.

- I don't remember getting a ride everywhere. First it was unfeasible as we had 1 car and 8 people in the house. Second the idea of having my mom drive me everywhere was just foreign. A sign of (supposed) maturity and independence was the ability to get yourself from here to there on your own. When I was a young teen nobody wanted to be the person who's mom/dad dropped them off for a night of "who knows what" and you'd cross your fingers they'd have the decency to drop you off around the corner (tho I do remember my awesome mom driving us to Worcester for a concert when my friend's car wouldn't start which was pretty cool). And no, it wasn't a different world back then. It was just as dangerous/safe and just as many crazy people. We just didn't hear about them as much

Whether these things I don't remember are for the better or the worse is up to you to decide. Other things I do remember that are no longer as prevalent are even more significant but that's a blog for another day. And while I am taking a poke at modern life I am not silly enough to think things don't change be it for better or worse. And yes I know in many ways I'm a dinosaur (and out of touch and Peter Pan etc etc etc) but I still have an opinion and a keen sense of observation. And I'm sure my 15 year old nephew will some day be saying "I don't remember never leaving the house because everything we need is right here. I remember going out and doing things. That's the way it was and we liked it"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Luck O' The Irish

"The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself"
Douglas MacArthur

I'll come right out and say it- I don't believe in luck. I believe you make your own luck. Your success and failure can be attributed to many things but not to luck. I bring this up because I tend to be told often how "lucky" I am for certain things I have. Sorry, luck had nothing to do with most of my life. Making the proper choices or circumstances that have nothing to do with luck did. Here's the ones I hear most often and my rebuking of the "luck" of the situation

"You're lucky you don't have to shovel (mow the lawn, rake, etc etc etc)". Wrong. When I got myself off the canvas financially with a big assist from my mom and was looking to buy a home I weighed the options on a house versus a condo and chose condo. No luck whatsoever rather a calculated decision

"You're lucky you have parking in the city". Wrong. See above. I would not have purchased a condo without parking

"You're lucky you've never been out of work". Wrong. No luck at all. I work my ass off every day and have for 26 years. I have tried to always bring new things to the table to make my relationship with my job one that's mutually beneficial. I feel my own success and the success of my employer are in direct correlation. And trust me, there were many years when I had to listen to "you're still doing that"! I proudly say "yup, been gainfully employed for 26 straight years, can you say the same"

"You're lucky you don't get sick" Wrong. Well, diabetes aside. I get sick like everyone else I just have a different definition of sick then many. A cold won't keep me from work or doing something I want to do. Plus it's not luck, it's genetics. I come from healthy stock. Lastly it's mind over matter in many cases and your level of sick is directly related to how important what you want or need to do is to you

"You're lucky you only have to worry about you and not a wife or kids"...I'm not even going to dignify this one with an answer

"You're lucky you come from a good family" Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. My parents are/were awesome people who came from awesome people so that reduced the odds of them sucking dramatically. Both came from nothing and worked hard to raise their children properly. Not sure where luck comes into play there. If you want to put a name on it you could say "blessed". That's closer to the truth

I know the whole "lucky" thing is just a throw away line to describe envy over certain parts of someones advantages or fortunes. It just chaps my ass to hear about how "lucky" I am for what in most cases are scenarios I have/had total control over. Well maybe I'll get lucky and won't have to hear this claptrap any more

Friday, August 08, 2014

14 Simple Rules For Staying On Track With Your Healthier Lifestyle (OK, it's kind of too many rules to be considered "simple")

So, a couple months ago I wrote what was my supposed last post on the whole Rich 2.0 thing and at the time I meant it. I still do. However I've had a lot of friends and acquaintances approach me asking for advice. If you've been following along for a while you know my standard answer is "here's what worked for me but I can't guarantee it will work for you". I have 3 friends who have had similar weight loss success following my exact method of using MyFitnessPal to track calories versus exercise (some with and some without utilizing Fitbit as well). That's so awesome it makes me smile. So I thought I'd take a minute and write some thoughts on what's worked for me and some general observations about weight loss/fitness/healthier living. This is less about me (for once) and more for folks looking for some good rules of thumb

1) One change in lifestyle is a good start but multiple changes will lead to success- You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run so starting by adding or subtracting something right off the bat is a step in the right direction...but it can't be the only thing. I can't tell you the number of people I see training harder then me (running, biking, at the gym) or eating better then me (portion control, counting carbs and calories) still having minimal success. It's a combination of proper diet and exercise that will lead to continued success.

2) There is no singular, simple solution- Despite the ads, claims, and infomercials there is no simple method to healthier living. By drinking one juice/smoothie a day, by taking one supplement a day, by sending away for pre-purposed food every day won't get you to where you want to be without other changes along the way (see above). There is a kernel of truth in each claim but you have to read the fine print (not typical results, based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, along with regular exercise, etc)

3) Don't drink your calories- It sounds elementary but I think a lot of people don't pay attention to this. A small frozen Coffee Coolatta with cream is 460 calories and a Caramel Frappachino is 410 calories. A typical frozen mudslide is 460 calories and a frozen margarita can have upwards of 500 calories. A typical craft beer has 150 calories and even a "healthier" smoothie can reach 300-500 calories very quickly. Hell even a medium coffee with cream and sugar has about 160 calories. Not saying avoid but just be aware

4) Set yourself up to succeed by setting attainable goals- Have a goal! Goals are good! BUT make your goal realistic. Success breeds success whereas failure breeds failure. My initial goal was 30 lbs in a year and I got there in 6 months. This was because I got into good habits. Trying to lose 30 lbs in say 3 months likely means your crash dieting and that's not good in the long run. My mindset was a lb a week initially then 1/2 pound a week. I think both of these are safe, healthy benchmarks

5) It's a marathon, not a sprint- Be in it for the long haul, not short term. Make it lifestyle, not diet.

6) Don't get discouraged- This one is huge. Most people stumble and fall when they finally don't lose weight or put weight back on. It's NOT the end of the world!! Refocus, regroup, and keep on keeping on. I think this one makes me shake my head more then most. I've put 5 lbs back on since my lightest weight last summer but it hasn't changed how I approach the whole thing. I know I'm doing it the right way and am happy with that

7) No Days Off!- This goes back to the lifestyle thing. I have cheat days (and nights), trust me. Maybe more like cheat meals. Or cheat beer blasts. But when I know about these before hand I make sure to get more exercise in that day and that my non-cheat meals are far more in line with normal eating. Don't just say "well if its gonna be a bad food day lets go all in". Live the life and even if a you have bad day record it all and use it as motivation

8) Dress for success- If you have a lot to lose chances are you'll eventually need new clothes. Unless its necessary for work temper your buying binges until you've settled in on your end weight. I finally had to get all new jeans, shorts etc last year and now those are also too big. That kills the cheapskate in me! Get by as long as you can until you've plateaued. Oh, and dress appropriately. We all want to show off our slimmer bodies but odds are if you had a lot to lose you're still not supermodel material so don't wear anything you'd cringe at looking at a picture 5 years from now

9) Don't skip breakfast- Honestly, don't skip breakfast. It is indeed the most important meal of the day bar none. It's been proven that a healthy breakfast is important to a healthy metabolism. It sets your food tone for the day. It's the meal that will sustain you through the first half of the typical work day. I'll take it a step further. Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day. Because of my diabetes my nurse recommended a "reverse pyramid" diet with meals decreasing in size as the day progresses (big breakfast, smaller lunch, even smaller dinner). This way you're not sleeping on your largest calorie intake of the day

10) Drink Lots Of Water- I mean LOTS! Like an inordinate amount. It' keeps you hydrated, it keeps you full.The body craves hydration and water is still the best way to do this. It helps, trust me

11) Record Everything But Be Consistent- Tracking food, exercise and progress are important. That said, for progress it's important to do so in regular intervals in similar conditions. For example if you own a scale then that becomes your scale of record. If you weigh yourself in you underwear, always weigh yourself in your underwear. If you start the process by weighing yourself in the got it, always weigh yourself in the morning. Most importantly stick to some kind of regular interval and don't stray from it. Randomly weighing yourself with a different scale in different conditions can be a major blow to your psyche. Also, scale aside, the mirror doesn't lie so "look" for progress in areas other then just weight drop

12) Find The Time- You do need to work in the time to eat healthier and exercise more. There's no way around it. For me it meant getting up 3 hours before work to get my exercise and food prep in. It's meant living on 5-6 hours sleep. It's meant working more time into plans so I can walk somewhere versus driving.  It's meant dragging my ass out of bed even on vacation to get the work in. Time is one of the hardest things to find especially for those with kids but you owe it to yourself and your kids to be healthier so you need to make it work (I've devised some simple 15-20 minute "total body" workouts all using body weight resistance (some using simple apparatus, some without) that get you a great, quick workout and burns about 100-120 calories to boot. I'll post them sometime)

13) Healthier snacks yes, daily desserts, no- Despite what you may or may not have grown up with desserts should not be an every day thing. They should be a luxury to be enjoyed occasionally not after every meal. Healthier snacks to hold off hunger between meals are a definite but large, sugary desserts full of empty calories should be something to look forward to, not something expected every day

14) Set a good example- By taking better care of yourself you're setting a good example for your kids, younger siblings, etc. America is in crisis with more cases of obesity (and severe obesity) in young children then any time in history. By setting the example it's much easier to be able to say "hey, if I can do it you can do it"

If you have health or dietary restrictions you really should consult your physician before embarking on any kind of diet and exercise regime. There are probably more diets and lifestyles out there now then ever (vegetarian, vegan, Palleo, clean eating, South Beach, fasting diet, etc, etc). However you need to find what works for you initially and more importantly what you can stick with over time. It's not easy. Never has been, never will be. But, if you're like me, in the end you'll find it worthwhile. Success breeds success and is contagious. Anyhow, that's how I see it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Older I Get The Better I Was...NOT!

"The Older I Get The Better I Was"

Now I'm not 100% sure the above expression is a song, a famous quote or just an adage but it's one I'm familiar with. In fact someone recently left it as a comment on something I had posted on Facebook referring to the "good old days". A throwaway line for sure but it got me thinking "is it true"? I'm not so sure. Unlike a lot of people I never really had a "glory days" to think back on. A time when I was at my peak of whatever. I was never a great athlete, never spent summers away in cool places, lord knows I was never much of a lady killer. No, my favorite time period was when we were all together having fun being loud and stupid and, quite honestly, if others would do the same, I could still do that today. So I got to thinking- was I better when I was younger? I decided to pick an arbitrary time of 20 years ago when I was in my late 20's to compare and contrast to today in my late 40's. You may be surprised at the conclusion, I know I was

Physically- In my late 20's I was just starting my ascent into being really fat. I 'd say I was likely 270 lbs when I was 28. I was also at my physical peak strength wise (I had a legit nearly 500 lb drug-free bench press), hadn't had surgery of any sort and wasn't, as far as I know, diabetic. My hair was at least salt and pepper heading to pure salt. Today I am at around 185 lbs and in the best condition I've been in since my early 20's. Unfortunately much of my once vaunted strength is gone but it's been replaced with conditioning. I'm diabetic although recently re-diagnosed  as pre-diabetic because of taking better care of myself. I've had surgery on one knee and 2 shoulders and have a left hip that just plain tends to disagree with me about everything. The hair is snowy white but I actually don't mind it. All that said I feel the best I can remember so I'll call it a push Advantage- Even

Financially- This is an easy one. In my late 20's I was broke! I was struggling to get out of pile of credit card debt which kept me living at home until I was 36 years old. I owned the clothes on my back and a 7 year old Ford Probe that leaked when it rained. Today while I'm hardly living on Easy Street I'm doing ok. I own a condo (with a mortgage), a car that's paid off and have money set aside for retirement. I do well enough to be able to do MOST of the things I want to do and still live for the most part in the black (well, mortgage aside) Advantage- Now

Relationships- Um, right Still not married, still no kids, still not great with relationships. Advantage- Even

Work- Also pretty easy as I have the same job! That said I'm a lot happier with my job and a lot better at my job now then 20 years ago Advantage- Now

Life Skills- No contest. I didn't have any until I moved out by myself in my mid-30's. I couldn't balance a checkbook, cook anything beyond pasta, etc. Now, even tho it is for one, I run my home pretty efficiently. I do pretty well my managing my bills and finances, have taught myself to cook to a better then average level, and have mastered my time management skills Advantage- Now

Friends- OK, I'd say I actually have more close friends now and I'd say a couple of my closest friends I made in the years since my late 20's. However I don't see any of them to the degree I saw my friends from 20 years ago. I was never as close with a larger circle of friends as I was in my late 20's. Ironically 28 was around the time we all started moving on with life so literally 20 years ago was the end of my favorite time in my life as far as friends go. Advantage- Then

As A Person- Again, no contest. 40-something Rich is a much better person then 20-something Rich was. 20-something Rich was a good friend, a pretty good son and brother and a great guy to hang out with. 40-something Rich is far more developed. I'm a nicer person, I'm a better friend, son, brother and now uncle then I was then (and still pretty cool to hang out with).  I'm more tolerant, less angry, less moody, more contemplative, more in touch with my emotions...honestly, just a much better person. The ups and downs of life can take it's toll on you or make you stronger. For me it's been the latter Advantage- Now

So, in this very unscientific way, there it is. I'm the best Rich O I've ever been. I already knew that as I LIKE this me better then any previous version. I'm comfortable being me and don't give a rats behind if someone has issue with that. Let's face it, "looks" have never been a trademark for me (I was never cover model material). but I feel like I've "grown into my looks". When I look in the mirror sure I see the gray hair and the only just now appearing lines on my face.. But when I look "inside" I don't see 48. I don't see any age. I see a guy enjoying the age he's at. Maybe my decision to not marry or have kids (or maybe this was the decision of the women who got to know me well enough to run away) that's kept me feeling like I'm living life in a stasis chamber. Whatever it may be I'm cool with it. I plan to be a better version of me at 58 and 68 (78 is probably a stretch) as well. And hey if I'm not then I can look back on my late 40's as my "glory days".

"The older I get the better I am"

Rich O'Rourke
July 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

20 Years Gone, Still Unforgettable!

Life is made up of a series of moments, of benchmarks, of highlights (in a broad sense) that tell the story of where we've been. Graduation, wedding day, a milestone birthday or anniversary are all good examples. Sadly not all of these moments are happy. Not all anniversaries bring joy. June 27, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the loss of our beloved sister Mimi. It's still hard to say those words and it's still hard to believe it's been 20 years and she's still unforgettable

Mimi doing selfies 20 years before they were trendy
I'm sorry some of you never got to meet her. Born Patricia Ellen she was Mimi from day one it seems and was so until the day she died. She was a trip. Those of you lucky enough to have met her know what I mean. At her best she was smart, pretty, hard working, caring, stubborn, rebellious, loud and one of the funniest people I ever met. She was wacky in a good way. She was loyal and played favorites. Her favorites also tended to be the targets of her incessant, all-in-good-fun "busting of chops". She was uniquely Mimi from the top of her bleached platinum blonde hair to the soles of her white Doc Marten work shoes. She was unapologetic about who she was and we loved her for it  She was, simply put, unforgettable

I'm not going to discuss the circumstances of her death as it's neither the time nor place. If you were there you remember. If you want to ask me person to person I'll discuss. Suffice it to say Mimi died shortly after turning 27 years old. I was also 27 at the time as we were born a mere 11 months and 11 days apart (Irish twins dontcha know). I always think of June of 1994 as the end of the innocence. Gosh, we were such babies then. I didn't have a care in the world in those days. Work eat, sleep, party. Repeat. It was like being an eternal teenager. We were thrust headlong into adulthood that summer. You can't understand catastrophic  loss unless you've experience it. You just can't. There is simply nothing to compare it to. And sadly no one walks away from such loss unscathed. We had become such a big, close group of family and friends by this time that no one who knew her or my family walked away unaffected. But you get by. How? Why? Because that's what human beings do. You hurt, you grieve, you cope and you go on with life. I think all things considered we've done pretty well even with a giant hole in our lives. It was like a bright, shining life blinked out that day and, sadly, never came back on. The fact we got to bask in the light that was her too short life is something to cherish

Mimi chillin down the Cape
I still think about her a lot. We rarely talk about Mimi in any sad overtones but more about what a character she was. How funny. How awesome. How much her nieces and nephews would have loved her. How crazy she drove my dad. I honestly don't waste too much time thinking how different things would have been if she was still with us. It's truly impossible to say. Things would have been different for sure but in what way? Who knows. I won't even start to drive myself crazy thinking of it (butterfly effect and all that jazz). I will say this though, things would have been a lot happier and a lot funnier. Unforgettable in every way!

Below eulogy I wrote and read at Mimi's funeral. I've written a lot since that day but still nothing was ever more from the heart, more difficult to write, nearly impossible to read or more important to me. Rest In Peace sister, rest in peace!

A Tribute To Mimi

I've asked for a few minutes to speak to you about Mimi. Mimi touched many different lives all in the same way. She was simply unforgettable. Family, friends, co-workers, patients, and more people then I could mention here were touched indelibly by this unique soul

Her smile was like no other. She lit up a room when she entered. She knew how to make an entrance. Some people walk into a room, Mimi exploded into one. Whether it was the shock blonde hair, the outrageous outfits or simply her overwhelming personality, she always turned heads

Mimi was unique. To say she marched to the beat of a different drum would be a gross understatement. Mimi danced to the rhythm of a completely different symphony. It was her uniqueness which  will always hold a permanent spot in our hearts

Mimi loved being a nurse above almost all else. She was a nurse's nurse. She brought out the best in both her patients and coworkers . I don't think you could find a patient or their family or anyone who ever worked with her whose lives were not deeply touched by time spent with her

I ask today on behalf of Mimi's family and friends to remember Mimi for exactly what she was- an irrepressible bundle of energy who's far too short time with us will affect our lives from now until forever

God bless you Mimi, we will all miss you

Your brother Richard O'Rourke

Friday, May 09, 2014

Social Distortion

"It's important for people to talk and get beyond the wall of Facebook and social media"
Billy Corgan
It's a brave new world kids. For better or worse life has changed irrevocably since the simpler days of my childhood, my 20's and even much of my 30's. It can be summed up in 2 simple words- Social Media! Two simple words strung together that bring with them mixed feelings and many ironies. Like the fact that "social" media invites anti-social behavior towards real life, face-to-face situations. Or that social media has made the world oh so much smaller yet infinitely less, well, social. And believe me the irony that I'm writing a blog, a kind of social media in itself, and posting links to social media is not lost on me. It's a "good with the bad" type of thing. Like most things we enjoy, a modicum of moderation is usually the healthiest option. Having said all that I've found that socializing about social media can lead to socially awkward situations

1) Trying to decipher the word "friend" used in conversation! Someone mentions something a friend said. So is this a high school friend? Work friend? Or a Facebook friend?? I've written more then one rant about use of the term "friend" in social media settings and my distaste for it. For me there has to be more of a connection then wall postings to qualify as a friend. I'm proud to say that 95% of my Facebook friends I've  met face to face or at least spoken to on the phone so they actually do qualify as friends. Oh, and the term "follower" is just way too arrogant

2) Talking about what you posted/Tweeted etc- I'm not a Twitter guy but I hear a lot of the younger kids I work with talking to each other about what they Tweeted/Re-Tweeted etc. Something  about this is bizarro world to me plain and simple. Not, say, talking about the Bruins game last night directly but talking about what either they or someone else Tweeted about the game! Again, bizarro world

3) Social Media and lazy journalism- This is more a general observation then a social thing but something about national, "legit" media quoting famous folks Tweets and posts seems pretty rinky dink to me. If I wanted to know what these folks were saying on social media I'd follow them and find out for myself

4) That awkward moment when meet up with someone you have "conversations" with on social media and realize that's all you have to talk about- If you're on Facebook or Twitter you've likely experienced this. You have an acquaintance that reads and comments on all your posts. You share the same sense of humor and views on life. Then you see them in a real world setting and its just...weird. The sense of familiarity goes out the window and awkwardness ensues...

5) The perceived importance of sharing what social media folks are saying about where you are/what you're doing with the folks that are actually there with you- This goes back to my old irritation of a group of people out together all on their cell phones talking to people who aren't there. Now days it's more a group (or parts of a group) "checking in" or updating their status or posing pics and then telling everyone else what everyone else was posting about them being there. It's...Just...Mind Boggling!!

I enjoy social media for what it is. I've been part of it longer then most starting with AIM/Yahoo chats and then Myspace long before most (and I actually met cool, new people in both situations). I was on Twitter long before most people knew about it but had as little use for it then as I do now. I really like Instagram and Facebook is my comfort zone. Facebook allows me to keep up with real life friends I just don't get to see that much anymore and for that alone I'm grateful for social media. I'm also grateful its given me a voice to express myself beyond the folks I see every day (for better or worse). Heck I'm even grateful it's created a whole new genre of jobs which didn't exist pre-social media (and for those folks, including one of my best friends in the world, I let a lot of the above issues slide as they are just doing their job (well, as long as it's job related)). But like with all things there is a limitation to how much is too much.

I can see society slowly sliding into a nightmarish sci-fi vision where we no longer need face-to-face relationships anymore and will rely solely on electronic communication. I'm hoping this is long after I'm pushing up daisies! As much as I love social media it should be used more to set up actual real life meet up with real life laughs and real life hugs and not just LOL's and XOXO's. It's time to get our noses out of our phones, look our friends  in the eyes and enjoy the company of the ones with us, not the ones riding the information highway of life