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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rich O 2.0- 1 Year Later (Or The End Of Rich O 2.0)

size 52 jacket circa 2012
About a year ago Rich O 2.0 was born. He was born out of necessity. He was born out of need. He was born out of a guy needing serious changes. About a year ago Rich O got the proverbial physical from hell. His blood sugar A1C was almost an 11 (not good...actually quite bad), blood pressure was 140/88, weighed in at 234 lbs and jean size 38. Rich 2.0 was born to make right the horrible effects of Rich O's negligence. Starting the 2nd week of March a strict routine of diet and exercise was put into
size 38 dress pants circa 2012
effect. The results? As of this writing the A1C is 5.3 (normal but still on meds), Blood pressure is 111/69, body weight is 180 (about 23.5 % body fat tho I find these measurements inexact) and jean size 32/33! Better results then could have been ever expected in a year. Having said all that it's time to retire Rich O 2.0. We've all had enough of him. Rich O 2.0 was no fun. Rich O 2.0 was too concerned about everything he ate and did. Rich O 2.0 looked withdrawn. Rich O 2.0 was, frankly, a drag. So
having accomplished everything he could it's time to say goodbye and good riddance to Rich O 2.0....and say hello to Rich O 2.1 (c'mon you didn't think it would be that easy, did you)!

from tree trunks to shredded
Rich O 2.1 was actually born about 8 months into the Rich O 2.0 era. Having lost all the weight I wanted to I now wanted to get my body back to a muscularity I was more used to as opposed to the kind of loose weight-loss look I had developed. I didn't want to abandon the good habits I'd developed but I wanted to step it up. So while I still tracked all my food on My Fitness Pal and still used my Fitbit religiously (and I will swear to this day you can 100% achieve your weight loss goals using just this method) some tweaks were needed. So I started eating more and eating more normal and less strictly. The trick was not getting back into foods that were counter intuitive to the blood sugar thing. I added lots of whole grains like quinoa to my diet. Lots of healthy veggies too like broccoli, asparagus, spinach  and carrots daily. I start every day with a mostly veggie smoothie before exercising. I also increased my activity level to a silly degree.  An hour plus of cardio to start every day and usually another 30 after work. Weights at the gym 3 times a week. TRX body weight workout on non-weight days. Old school calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc) every day. Core work (I didn't know what core work was a year ago) every day.  It's to the point on days where my activity exceeds my food intake I supplement with protein shakes which I haven't touched in decades. The results so far have been a much healthier, toned physique then I ever had even in my best shape in my 20's!

But, like most things, there's a downside. It takes time, discipline, and sacrifice. I've said it before and I'll say it again- someone married with kids would have a hard time with my method. This is an idea of my schedule during the work week-

6:15 am- alarm goes off
6:30/6:45- feet hit the floor. Have my morning green smoothie
6:45/7:00- Start morning exercise for 1-1.5 hours. Typically walking but often stationary bike
8:15- Take AM pills, start breakfast. Do calisthenics/body weight exercises (abs, push-ups, pull-ups, etc)
8:45- Eat breakfast
9:00- Shower and get ready for work
9:45- 7:00- Work (I get in a minimum of 7,000 steps (around 3.5 miles) at work)
7:15-8:45- The gym for weights and cardio
9:15- Start dinner, start prep for next day (make lunch, breakfast and smoothie prep to save time in the morning, clean up, dishes, etc)
9:45- Eat dinner
10:15- More calisthenics
10:45- Self physical therapy- Rehab bad elbow, ice bad shoulder, stretch out ridiculous calves
11:00- Relax

12:00/12:30 Go to bed

Days off work are less structured but just as active. Now this may seem absurd but it allows me to live a regular, non-diet lifestyle. to eat what I want if the occasion calls for it and to worry less about "cheating".  Plus I put it on myself for letting myself get so out of shape. Mentally and emotionally I still have trouble with the sheer power I've lost. This is hard to understand unless you've ever been where I was in the power department from age 17-37. My functional strength is far better then ever but the raw strength not so much. But I'm as happy with myself as I've ever been. I get a lot of reactions to how "skinny" I look. As a formerly skinny kid I have trouble accepting this as the compliment it's intended. I think I look fit. I also know the manner in which I dress (baggy) does not really "compliment" my streamlined look but I'll always be a fat guy at heart. That's one of the reasons I'm posting these one time only "after pictures". As a guy with body issues this wasn't easy to do but it feels like closure. I still have work to do like increasing my cardiovascular conditioning and toning up my pecs and lower abs (some bodily abuses can't be fixed over night). My goal now? On July 5th 2016 I want to be able to say "my name is Rich I'm 50 years old and I'm in the best shape of mt life".

This is likely the last ever blog on my fitness goals. I've adopted this as lifestyle for the foreseeable
future. I know friends, family, and coworkers are probably sick of hearing my talk to people about it BUT if there is any advice I can give on what's worked for me, please don't hesitate to ask! Below are links to some of the sites and products that have helped me along the way. Stay active my friends!

My Fitness Pal- My calorie tracker and safety blanket

Fitbit- 10,000 steps every day for life baby

Digifit- For tracking non-step cardio (stationary bike, elliptical, etc)

Polar H7 HRM- Heart Rate monitor to accurately track calorie burn during workouts

Every Move- A site that rewards activity with discounts and donations to charity

Runtastic Apps- Start a regiment of push-ups, pull-ups and free squats

Runtastic Six Pack Abs- Like the name implies

7 Minute Workout Challenge- Great in a pinch

Fitness Buddy- Replaces notebooks and charts for tacking gym workouts

MotionX24/7 sleep tracker- How much are you actually sleeping??

Steam Vita- Tasty, healthy steamed food

NutriBullet- Healthy "nutri-blasts"

Yonanas- Creamy desserts, no added sugar

Gorilla Gym- The ultimate doorway gym

Perfect Fitness- Home of Perfect Pushup and Ab Carver

Friday, January 31, 2014

Drive Me Crazy

I admit I consider myself a pretty good driver. If it wasn't for the state of New Hampshire I would have no driving citations other then one involving an accident 25 years ago. Not bad for being a licensed driver for 30 plus years now. In my recent rebirth as a constant pedestrian and as someone who lives and works in busy, thickly settled areas I've noticed overall driving skills and adherence to written and unwritten rules of the road have waned quite a bit over recent years. I'd say the #1 culprit is cellphones as it's impossible to pay attention 100% to the world around you while in conversation. Impossible. Other mitigating factors could be the number of drivers who learned the rules of the road in a city, state or even country different from Massachusetts, USA. Finally I think a lot of unwritten rules simply aren't passed on as much to newer drivers as they were when I was tutored by my mom and the drivers ed folk. These are just a few recent observations

- For many the concept of "pedestrian crossing" is less a law then a target to aim for

- In busy city blocks drivers and pedestrians often get the green light/walk signal simultaneous so cars turning left or right still need to give right of way to the pedestrian. So pay the f*#k attention and lay off your horn you ignorant tool!

- That many drivers no longer understand the etiquette of funeral processions. Twice recently I'm been in funeral processions only to have other drivers cutting in and out of the procession of blowing right through where the funeral director had traffic stopped to allow the funeral to pass. This is something my parents taught me was very important as it is the respectful thing to do if not an outright law

- That people are often so wrapped up in other things during inclement weather they drive through large puddles and slushy snow at full speed regardless of soaking pedestrians on the sidewalk, bus stops or standing in front of schools

- That people can drive cars that will save the environment and tattoo their cars with stickers telling us all the things they support from far off countries to animals rights yet still treat pedestrians in their own backyards like cannon fodder because of distractions or their hurry to get to where they are going

I've been guilty of some of these transgressions myself but have become a more attentive driver since becoming more of a pedestrian. I put most of the onus on talking on the phone while driving. You will never, ever convince me this should not be highly illegal. I don't and won't do it (I have done speaker phone and Bluetooth before but usually just wait until I've stopped) Multitasking while driving is a dumb concept as simply driving deserves you full attention. In my opinion any moving violation fine or accident caused by a person driving while on the phone the penalty would be doubled or more. All I'm really asking is pay attention people! My life may depend upon it

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sincere Gesture Or Pre-Programmed Auto Response?

I recently went about replacing my iPad 1 with a new model. I saw that MicroCenter was running a sale thru MLK weekend but as I was working pretty much every hour they were open I decided to go pay online and pick up in person to get the deal. It went reasonably well although I never got the confirmation email that my pickup was ready (they pride themselves on 18 minute pickup) but it wasn't a real concern as I couldn't get there that night either way. After a day of no confirmation I call over just to make sure and they are befuddled why I didn't get it but assured me the order was there awaiting pickup. Cool. So I finally get there and after a quick browse of the place I go to the pickup desk. The man working the desk gets my item and upon looking at it asks one of the other guys to page a manager for a "thank you". Sure enough on the package is written "give thank you". Huh. Maybe they feel bad about the confirmation thing and are going to offer me...something? Anyway a thin, pale young man, looking very uncomfortable in a suit and tie, introduces himself as one of the managers and says "thank you for buying your iPad here" and shakes my hand. I say "you're welcome" and then we all stand there awkwardly until I say "goodbye"

Now many of you know I've been in retail sales (well small business retail entails a lot more then sales but for brevity's sake...) for over 20 years so I treat fellow retail employees with nothing but patience and respect. However, I'm still debating to myself whether I should take this as a genuine gesture or a corporate ordained come on for people buying Apple products. I always finish my sales with a genuine "thank you" and proffer a handshake even if the sale was painful. This is because 1) I mean it and 2) In a small business every sale really makes a difference to the bottom line (even for those of us not on commission). So on the one hand had the "thank you" happened organically, as in he just happened to be nearby, or if the kid at the desk had just said "thank you" it would have felt genuine. Instead with the paging, note written on the work order and practiced speech it came off instead as disingenuous. I dunno

I'm struggling with whether my standards for retail are too high as I'm a lifer at it and (if I do say so myself) very good at what I do. Practiced thank yous, phone salutations and sales pitches are so foreign and phony to me they make me roll my eyes. But then again maybe I am just becoming more jaded and cynical as I get older. At the end of the day it didn't affect my thoughts on the experience and I will shop there again but something about the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way (and yes, this was going to be a Facebook post rather then a blog but , ya know...)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Hope I Die Before I Get Old (Or, More Accurately, Start Acting Old)

"Youth is wasted on the young"
George Bernard Shaw

"Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything"
Kurt Vonnegut

"Lighten up Francis"
Sargent Hulka (Warren Oates) Stripes

"And we wanna have a good time. And that's what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time..."
Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda), Wild Angels

The Joker (Heath Ledger) The Dark Knight

 "I hope I die before I get old"
The Who

Remember when you were younger and carefree? You did stupid, immature, often regrettable things. But man, did you have fun! Why is there some universal law that says as you get older your level of propriety has to be so high that all the fun seems sucked out of you? Look, I understand as "adults" certain things are expected of us versus younger folk. But I also know getting older is not an excuse for not having fun. Now I'm not saying you have to be "The Dude" but you also don't have to be so tight-assed that your sphincter whistles when you pass gas! I truly believe that NOT acting your age 24/7, 365 keeps you younger. For some of us this is easy. For others it requires getting out of you comfort zone now and again. Whether it the same zone you've always had or a new one you've developed over time is an individual thing. Here's a few suggestions both broad and specific

***I want to be perfectly, crystal clear (and I will mention this several times more) that I am NOT recommending drinking to excess or doing anything illegal or dangerous. I know some people have issues with substances and obviously certain small parts of this diatribe mentions alcohol. I also want you to know what I am saying is not just the ravings of a guy with less responsibilities then many as I've had this same conversation with friends of mine who are married, have kids, parents to care for, jobs of renown, etc etc. Now on to the drivel***

1) Get loud- We worry so much about our noise levels that we're used to speaking in hushed tones when there are others about. Yes, in most setting this is polite and proper. However, if you're at a club, bar, or concert all bets are off. Tell loud, funny jokes. Laugh a bit louder then is appropriate. Sing matter it a band, jukebox or your mobile device., just because its fun. Find a nice, quiet, secluded spot and just...SCREAM at the top of you're lungs. You'd be surprised how liberating it is

2) Stay a little longer/later then you planned- So often we go out with a preconceived time limit on how long we'll stay. Or how late we'll stay out. I tend to go out with an open mind. If I'm not having fun I'll leave early. If I'm having more fun then anticipated I'll stay longer.  Now those with young kids do need these outs but often it's just a crutch. "I have to work tomorrow". "I need my sleep". So do we all! Once in a while staying out for 4 hours or more and getting 4 hours of sleep or less isn't gonna kill you (if it did I'd already be dead)

3) Loosen up- This one has a zillion caveats so stick with me. I'm not advocating drinking , smoking pot or anything else. Far from it. I'm also not advocating drinking to excess and putting yourself or others in danger either. But if you do like to go out for a drink now and then, and if someone else is driving or you can walk or take a cab, every once and a while get a little loosy-goosy. Letting go of you inhibitions is good for the soul now and then (plus it gives you stories to talk about and try to live down)

4) Do something crazy (for you)- Again, not advocating anything dangerous or illegal. But now and then it's good to do something you would "never do". Wear a stupid hat or loud clothing. Go to a dress up theme party and enjoy it. Do something personally terrifying, just for the adrenaline rush. Run around in your underwear or go skinny-dipping. Grow a stupid mustache for Movember. Paint your face or chest for a sporting event. Go to a drag show....I could go on and on here

5) Screw the weather- I'm starting to feel like I have a legal team looking over my shoulder...I'm not recommending stupidity during the most severe of weather. I'm recommending stupidity during plain old bad weather. Do something despite the weather rather then not doing something because of the weather. Go for a run or a walk in the rain, snow or searing heat. Dance in the rain. Jump in a puddle. Belly-flop through the mud. make a snow angel. Have a snowball fight.

6) Make a fool of yourself in front of strangers- Why we worry about what strangers think of us I'll never know. I'm also guilty of this. But why? We don't worry much about making a fool of ourselves in front of friends and family we see all the time so why worry about people we'll likely never see again. So go do Karaoke badly. Go to open mike night. Take part in a audience participation show. Put yourself out there because, well, who really cares?

7) Say "yes" now and then rather then "no"- Let's say you have a group that get's together now and again for cards, or board games, or book club, or whatever. And you're always invited but you never go because "I don't like..." whatever. Well in most cases whatever they're doing is more or less an excuse to hang out with friends more then for the stated reason. Now and then say "sure, I'll be there" and enjoy a good game of poker or Catch Phrase (or um, talk about Nicholas Sparks latest tear jerker)

8) Try something new- This is probably where I'm personally guilty most often but I'm getting better. Eat a cuisine you "don't like" because you've never tried (that was me with Indian food). Go listen to a band who plays music that "isn't really your thing". Play darts, go bowling, take a hike, go rollerblading, rent some skates and hit the ice, try snowshoeing, There are so many enjoyable things we've never tried because we think we won't (or don't) like them

Now some of you are saying well sure Rich, you're just a big kid. Thank you, that's a compliment. I've been accused of being a bon vivant before (and had to google it to see what it meant) and didn't totally disagree. But it's not like I'm not a responsible adult. I've been gainfully employed for 25 straight year missing less then a 1/3 of a day a year for reasons of sickness or whatever. I also manage a home, bills, investments, etc all by myself. I am a single man without kids but also a responsible adult who likes to let it "all hang out" now and then. Also everyone's definition of fun is different. There's about a a million things I like to do that don't fall into the above categories but they fall into the atypical "adult" category that frankly aren't much fun to talk about. Lastly, most of my friends are not like me from a lifestyle standpoint but most (tho not all) share my love for acting childish now and then. They are husbands, wives and parents. They are professionals and working stiffs, Some are younger, some older. They are lawyers, teachers, and corporate drones, Some are well off and some just scraping by. Many on the surface would seem an odd match as friends of mine but we share in the joy of FUN!

Anyway I don't judge and how people live their lives is their business. That said how I live mine is my business and shouldn't be judged either. I hope I never start acting my age. My dad never did. Up until he got sick he was still the life of the party. Even tho he'd been sober for decades he went to every retirement party, neighborhood or high school reunion. He was the first to dance at any occasion. He told corny (often off-color) jokes to anyone that would listen. He yelled and whistled and made a fool of himself during exercise other words he had FUN! I can't imagine a better role model then you pop!