14 December 2010

On turning 48

Today, I am 48 years old.


The voice rises on the first syllable and falls like an anvil on the second. Compare that to twenty-one, where the voices rises expectantly on the second. Even numbers are strong. Sturdy. Resolute. Odd numbers are lingering hopefully, always waiting for something. Even numbers are Marshall Dillon. Odd numbers are Festus. They have a hitch in their giddyup. Forty-eight. My last even year on this side of the divide. That year whose name shall not be spoken is still a long walk down the trail. Today, I am 48, and 48 is good.

I got a nice birthday treat when D-ennis let me borrow his girlfriend for a visit. We had a great evening eating, drinking, reminiscing, and baking, which just happen to be some of my favorite things. Good company makes it all the more enjoyable.

It's been a remarkable year. I saw things I could have only imagined. I traveled from south Texas, to Rhode Island, and to New Mexico. I saw the Grand Canyon. I slept in parking lots, ate out of coolers, and wore out a great pair of hiking boots. I got a new friend in Scout, and I buried my Jake. It was a time of change but a good year all in all.

I’ll admit I’m past my prime. The knees are weak. The back has seen better days. Not like Scout who merely wills Frisbees to his waiting jaws on long, effortless arcs through the air. At 48, I still get wild ideas but I need six months to prepare. I’ve marinated a bit. I’m more like artisan bread. My shining moments require forethought. Methodical kneading. Time to rise. But, when I come out of the metaphorical oven, it is a satisfying smell. It’s got substance. Oh, I can still impress myself now and again with extraordinary feats of physical prowess, but not like the old days.

I’ve survived the years of angst, the years of self-doubt, the years of anger over betrayals both real and perceived. I loved and lost. And lost and lost. And picked my ass up and tried to love again. I’ve been hard when I should have yielded. I’ve compromised when I should have held strong. I’ve ignored red flags. I’ve made spectacularly bad decisions. Some of them still make me smile. :-)

I’ve learned most of life’s lessons the hard way. I’ve learned to forgive when appropriate, forget when it’s not, and push the worst of it out of the way so at least I don’t trip on it. I’ve learned to pick my battles more carefully. I’ve learned to stay away from toxic people. I’ve learned not to give anyone power over me they haven’t earned. I’ve learned to shut up and listen. I’ve learned that life doesn’t happen to me, and that I have control over how I integrate what happens into my life. I’ve learned to accept, reluctantly at times, the hand that I’ve been dealt (because, after all, I was the dealer) and to make the best of it. I know all too well my weaknesses, my foibles, and my bad habits. I know how hard it is to overcome myself. I don’t need everyone to like me. I’ve learned when to push myself and when to throw in the towel. I’ve learned when to ask for help and how to accept it graciously. I’ve learned what and who matters, thankfully, before it was too late. I know what I am capable of, even if I don’t always know where that capacity will take me. I can trust my abilities, my judgment, and my intuition. Experience is a hard teacher, but there is a melancholy sweetness borne out of that experience. I appreciate others. I know who I am.

When I think back now on the worst times in my life, I can see that even those awful experiences contributed to the person I am today. They shaped me. And since I like who I am, scars and all, I guess I have to accept that those things were in some small way…valuable. I think this is what they mean when they say “with age comes wisdom”.

But birthday posts aren’t all about aged reflection. They are about assessing where you are now and your vision of the future. For better or worse, after 48 years, this is where I am today.

Favorite Music: I seem to switch a lot, although 70s R&B still tops the list. I love Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Manhattans, the Temptations, and the Spinners. I’m also very fond of Elvis Costello, Flogging Molly, and Hootie and the Blowfish. Over the past year, I saw Willie Nelson and John Prine in concert.

My Secret Wish: To be effortlessly thin.

Favorite Food: Peanut butter and popcorn. Although, my current favorite food is Peanut Wonder (a lower-fat peanut butter substitute). Diet’s suck.

Things I Don't Like to Do: The dishes. Humor my advisor.

Greatest Accomplishment this year: Weight loss.

Most valuable lessons learned early:

People very rarely lie to you when they look you in the eyes.

The least among you is your equal. Same goes for the greatest among you.

I can say no, stick to my guns, and people will still like me.

Most valuable lessons learned late:

At my age, people are single for a reason. If you meet someone and can’t figure out why they are single, just wait for it. It will appear and when it does, you’ll go, “Aaaah, there it is.”

I am single for a reason. I know what that reason is, but you don’t need to…unless you want to date me.

Excess weight is a tremendously effective man deterrent, which is fine, you know, if you actually want to deter a man. Otherwise, not so much.

Coping mechanisms can outlive their usefulness. Unfortunately, by then they are often habits and habits can be very hard to break.

Something I firmly believe that probably isn’t true:

That most people are doing the best they can at any given time.

Squirrely ideas I harbor:

Some things you have to earn by achieving personal goals, including North Face jackets, trips to Africa, and soft pretzels. It makes no sense, but thems the rules.

Stuff few others would know about me:

I chew almost everything on the left side of my mouth. I have no idea why.

When presented with a plate of food, I eat the thing I like least first. I do this with tasks as well. I get the worst part of the job out of the way first.

Banjos and yodeling make me happy. Violins stir my soul.

My favorite Christmas carol is We Three Kings. I love baritone voices.

I do not believe in the supernatural. That includes heaven, God, the devil, angels, ghosts, zombies, black magic, and miracles. I can live with the world just as it appears. I think a lot of the world’s strife would disappear overnight if everyone believed as I do on this one.

Stuff few others get about me:

I’m addicted to novelty.

I like speed, descent, and adrenaline.

I do not lack for ambition. It’s just that my ambition is not focused on most people’s vision of success.

Favorite restaurant food: Currently, chicken chimichanga. I think my favorite part (since I always eat it last, is the refried beans with corn chips). Pizza is a perennial favorite.

Things that make me happy:

Driving with the windows down.

Traveling with dogs.

The West.

That moment in a long trip when it actually sinks in that you are free.

Cold, crisp, clear, sunny mornings in the mountains.

That deep blue that spreads across the sky just after sunset.

Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London. I always howl.

Things I wish I could master:

Tolerance, patience, the violin, dancing, and the French language.

Things I've got in mind for the coming year:

Meet Jahi. Meet Roo. Have my picture taken next to a giant redwood. Visit at least one foreign country. Visit Scott and Sue. Whale watch. Camp a few nights in the desert. Finish the job on this weight loss.

Favorite day of the year:

The first really warm day of spring.

Things I Miss:

Double-double animal style, ice cold Coca Cola in a glass bottle, camping in the desert, Jake, Nevada, Dakota, Olivia, Melissa, Suzan, Scott, Jahi, Josh, Kristal, reading for pleasure, free time, bread soaked in olive oil and Parmesan, most cheeses, cooking, and having a man in my life.

Stuff I’ve noticed:

If people worked as hard to find me a date as they did finding me a dog after Jake’s death, I’d be in a successful relationship by now.

Dogs are wonderful companions. In many ways, they trump humans. But I still want a man.

Most of my clothes are dark blue, dark green, or maroon or red, but my favorite shirt is pink.

I spend more time agonizing over hiking shoes than I did over my wedding dress.

I must have something to look forward to. Otherwise, I’m irritable and lost.

Things I’m looking forward to: Graduation, climbing a mountain, snow skiing (snowboarding?), steady employment and a livable paycheck, with hope, meeting someone special


I have a few. Would I do it all the same again?

Hell no.

I’d do it bigger. Faster. Louder. Sooner. And I’d take more pictures.

I am Daktari. Forty-eight. On a screaming roller coaster toward 50 but not half done yet. Oh, no. Not even close.

05 December 2010

Remember me?

Maybe you remember me? I'm the one who had the bright idea that I'd be able to blog, do my work, play on Facebook, read my email, and scour the vast internets for new cooking ideas--all through my 3G mobile network.

Yeah. That worked.

So I bit the bullet, squeezed some blood out of my budget and got the slightly-less-than-speed-of-light internet package from my cable-internet company and here I am.

But even then, I've been sort of ignoring this blog. Oh, I've enjoyed your many posts. In fact, I would actually get incensed on days when NONE of you post something for my entertainment. The nerve of me! OK. Enough is enough. It's my turn. But first....let's catch up.

It's December again, and if you guys find Sherman and Mister Peabody and take the Wayback Machine to last January, you'll remember that my New Year's Resolutions (both of them) were to get in shape and stay there. So, I dutifully began a weight loss-exercise program in January and did pretty good right up until the field season began in April. Then, I basically took the summer off. I had lost about 20 lbs and put seven of it back on by August. In September, my sister (without asking ME, I might add) signed me up for Weight Watchers. WW gives you an allotment of points per day and you can use them as you see fit. On the up side, I will say it works, which is basically what I'm looking for in a diet program. And it's true that there is no food off limits. After 10 weeks on the program, they did a complete overhaul and revamped their points algorithm. No problem, I thought. I live for change.


One would think that I should be able to eat the same foods I was eating before (and losing weight) on the new program. Oh contraire. Transfer my old diet to the new program and I was over my points allotment every single day. In addition, that claim that you can eat any food you want is a bit disingenuous because it is virtually impossible to follow the program and eat any bread product without starving for the rest of the day. I kid you not. Two slices of even the lowest calorie bread on the market take up such a chunk of your daily "points" that you will go hungry. Contrast this to the program they had in place a week ago on which I had a sandwich every single day--and still lost weight! They have made some concessions. I can fit more meat and beans into my diet and they give you fruits and vegetables for free. I still suspect if I ate bananas everyday, that the diet wouldn't work, but I'm willing to give the program a chance. I will be quite upset if I plateau because of these changes. (It's all fine and well to change a program to integrate new research, but if it slows down progress for people WHO ARE PAYING FOR IT, that seems like gouging.) This feels like the South Beach Diet now. I have done the South Beach Diet and it works, too. My thing is, if I wanted the South Beach Diet, I can do that on my own.

I guess the positive thing from the entire Weight Watchers program has been my self-realization that I'm pretty good at losing weight, but I'm even better at packing it back on. I don't really need someone to hold my hand through the weight loss process (I seem to have a sufficient amount of willpower and self-motivation). My problem is that I have no idea how to go off a diet and not gain weight. What I need is help in maintaining a healthy weight and that is why I am sticking with Weight Watchers. Once you become a "lifetime member", you no longer pay as long as your weight remains within two pounds of your lifetime goal. I want to get to the free stuff.

I can't say I'm thrilled about the brand new changes they made but who is every really happy about dieting? In any event, I've been following the Weight Watchers program (old and new) and have gotten back into the gym for regular exercise. By regular, I mean shooting or 5 hours a week, and usually getting at least three to four. For my exercise, I have concentrated on elliptical machines. They are a good aerobic workout and with my still mending hairline-fractured tibia, something I can do without jolting the hell out of my leg. Plus, this girl in New Mexico convinced me that I need to learn to ski. She's always getting me into trouble. Like that time she convinced me that what we really needed to do was poke a Mojave green rattlesnake. You know. To get a good picture.

So I have been researching, teaching, exercising, dieting, and playing with Scout dog. It's been a busy fall. Thanks for not giving up on me. I promise I'll do better with the blog.