Here’s the Thing, Episode 1: “Vegetarian Fed” Poultry

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I’ll admit I’m on the organic train.  GMO feed scares me.  Insecticides, born of the chemical weapons industry, scare me.  People dying of things like bladder infections that have developed resistance to antibiotics because of the antibiotics in meat, scares me.  Organic makes sense.  I’m less thrilled about, but “okay” with, free-range, antibiotic and hormone free, and grass-fed meats.  They are all steps in the right direction.

But vegetarian fed poultry is not only grammatically uncomfortable (those poor vegetarians being fed to chickens!), it’s dumb.  Birds aren’t vegetarians.  They love bugs and bugs are not vegetables.  Bugs are a healthy and important part of their diet and, in fact, a bird’s entire role in the life cycle is to regulate the bug and vermin population, pollinate, distribute seeds, and for some species, sing pretty songs.

Do you know what the diet of a vegetarian fed bird looks like? It’s corn.  Yep.  The same GMO, insecticide filled corn that started this whole “special” meat movement to begin with.  Vegetarian fed poultry is just a cleverly branded version of what organic eaters refer to as a “conventional” poultry, but now people are paying more for it than they used to because they are too far removed from the food cycle to understand why it’s dumb.

And here’s the thing: If you think it’s gross to eat something that eats bugs, we need to have a talk about shrimp, lobster, kissing your dog, and the Easter Bunny.

My Father’s Day Cards

This year, for Father’s Day, my oldest four kids made me cards, three of them using a questionnaire template that I assume my wife found. The cards themselves were sweet – they all wrote a different message or drew a picture. Alex, my oldest, drew us running together and just being guys:

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Jackson, drew a very detailed picture of me and his older brother at the movies …

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Izzy, my oldest daughter, drew a simple picture of us holding hands …

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and Autumn filled a card with words…

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It was their answers to the questionnaire that I loved the most though. They really showed their age and how they look at things.

1. My Dad’s name is: James (they all got it right). My oldest even threw the middle initial on there the way I use it at work.

2. He is ___ years old.   37. They all go this one too.

3. My Dad’s Favorite Food is: “that for the soul” – Alex (eye-roll .. the kid reads too much); steak – Jackson; soup – Izzy

4. His favorite treat is: chocolate cake with vanilla icing – Alex; mint ice-cream – Jackson; pie – Izzy.

5. He is really good at: running – Alex; teaching – Jackson; teaching – Izzy

6. He always makes me laugh when: He cracks a joke – Alex; when he tickles me – Jack; when he tickles me – Izzy.

7. When my Dad goes to work he usually spends his day: wishing he could spend more time with us (oh, how right you are my son) – Alex; teaching – Jackson; with librarians – Izzy (made me laugh out loud because it’s absolutely true, but I had no idea she knew that).

8. One thing my dad taught me was: work smarter, not harder – Alex; ballista – Jack (attaboy); not cry or steal – Izzy.

9. Before he had kids, my Dad was: much less stressed out – Alex (this one made my heart hurt, clearly I’m sending the wrong message); was lonely – Jack; was in school – Izzy.

10. My favorite thing to do with him is: just spend time with him – Alex (me too buddy); go to movies – Jack; read stories – Izzy.

11. When I grow up, I hope I can ___ like my Dad: be a human lie detector – Alex; be – Jackson (made me choke up a little); get a job – Izzy.

12. I know my Dad loves me because: he goes the extra mile – Alex; he told us 100 jokes – Jackson; he gives me lots of kisses – Izzy.

All of Alex’s answers showed me how much he is paying attention. It was really good to see and also a little eye-opening.

With Jack, his answers plus the fact that he made breakfast in bed for me as well tells me what I’ve been suspecting with him for awhile – actions are everything for him.

Izzy mostly watches Jack right now and tries to do what he does but she’s got her own little mind in there and she’s very smart.

Thoughts on a 3 mile run …

ImageI took special care this afternoon to pay attention to the thoughts going through my mind during my run. Mainly because a co-worker asked me “What do you think about when you run? I get so bored on long runs.” I told her the truth – not much. I’m very aware of what’s going on around me and I have quick observational thoughts about that, but mostly I’m just trying to focus on a spot on the horizon and go and I repeat my mantra: focus … breathe … glide.

This is more or less what a 30 minute run looks like … for context, this route starts in a parking lot and then follows a 3 mile paved trail. At the beginning of the trail there is a pond, then the trail does a loop through the woods, comes back to the pond and feeds me back into the parking lot. The first half of the loop is pretty much uphill. The last half is mostly downhill.

Go! … back straight … breathe … glide … head up. Ugh … next song. I forgot to update my playlist again. No pain. Wait … pain. Injury? No. Old. Feel tired today. Relax. Nice car. Geese. Move geese. Move geese! GOSLINGS!! Ugly and cute. Ew. Goose grease. Fly fisherman. So much fun. Miss that. He’s not paying attention to what’s behind him. I’m gonna lose an eye. Jackass. Focus … breathe … glide. Pick a spot in the distance. Focus. Focus … breathe … glide. Love this song. First hill, lean into it. Tired. Pace myself. What is my pace? Whoa! Slow down. Easy day dummy. Focus … breathe … glide.

That’s about the first 5 minutes. It’s the busiest time of the run because I’m navigating my way to the woods where there are far less people. After that first hill, I’ll see maybe 6 people over the next half hour. I don’t have many thoughts. I’m just running. When I do have a thought, it’s usually in response to something nearby. I’m not pondering life’s mysteries. I’m just in the moment. I’m just trying to be. I’m more or less meditating.

People. Is he smoking? On a fitness trail? Doing it wrong! Jackass. Smoke going to make me puke. Focus … breathe … glide. Pace? Good. Form? Back, feet slapping. Bad. Focus … breathe … glide. Smells like rotting fish. Cool flower. Focus … breathe … glide. Don’t bounce … glide. Lungs getting tight. Feeling asthmatic. Distance? 1.5 miles. Typical. Inhaler? Pocket. Relax. Focus … breathe … glide. Why can’t shuffle only pick songs that it hasn’t already played!? Bike. Expensive hobby. Bike. Helmet. Gear. Just run. Focus … breathe … glide. Cruising. Love this hill. Flying. 2.5. Finish strong. Focus … breathe … glide.

I then more or less repeated focus … breathe … glide to myself for the next 1/2 mile. That’s almost always the fastest part of my run.

When I’m finished I usually feel balanced, calm, and clear-headed. Lately, the asthma from allergies has been having a pretty serious negative impact on that though. I joke that running is what keeps me from killing folks. It helps me work out my stress. It is meditation.

Weeding the Garden in My Mind

This image is from, and linked to, Olofson Design (http://olofsondesign.wordpress.com/ and http://www.olofsondesign.com), a clearly very talented maker of wedding cakes based in London, UK. To the artisan – You do amazing work and this image was perfect for my post – if you have any concerns with my using your image, please let me know and I’ll be happy to take it down.

This year for my birthday, I’m weeding the garden in my mind:

  • I’m forgiving myself for the things I’ve attempted that didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped.  I’m choosing to view those events not as failures but as (sometimes rocky) detours that led me to where I am, and I’m recognizing that without these detours I may not have any of the good people or things I have in my life now.
  • I’m giving myself the lessons I’ve learned from mistakes I’ve made and letting every other aspect of those mistakes go away.  I cannot live in a state of fear or paranoia.
  • I’m evicting the two tenants in my mind.  One constantly reminds me of the flaws in others.  One constantly reminds me of the flaws in myself.  Neither has ever paid a dime in rent.
  • I’m giving myself the ability to grow by letting go of anger and resentment; toward others, yes – but mostly toward myself.  Nothing good ever grows in piss and vinegar and what does grow is contagious.
  • I’m allowing myself to not give up on my dreams; No matter how unrealistic or distant.
  • I’m giving myself to right to appreciate the things I have. I will not feel guilty for having what others do not and I will not obsess over the things I still want. Things are things.
  • I’m giving myself the right to be proud of my five beautiful children.  Who are brilliant little sparks that need my care and my help to grow to their full potential.  I will not be apologetic for letting them be who they are, I will appreciate who they are becoming and I will focus more on encouragement and less on correction.
  • I’m giving myself the chance to appreciate my wife.  She is the most wonderful partner in life that anyone could ever hope to have and realizing that without her companionship, support and love, I would have burned myself away long ago.
  • I’m giving myself pride in what I have accomplished in my life.
    • I’m an Army veteran who served proudly in a unit distinguished throughout its history for its courage, flexibility, daring and skill.
    • I earned two degrees in fields I’m passionate about.
    • I have a house, a beautiful family, and make a good living working with some of the brightest minds in the country for a company I still believe in and I’m one of the ten best in the country at doing the job.
    • I’ve taken control of my physical health to the extent that I can and over the last few years I’ve gotten myself into great shape with a lot of hard work.
    • I’ve bounced from hobby to hobby and interest to interest since I was a young kid and I’ve been learning and storing knowledge all the way.  The unintended result is a good foundation of knowledge and experience with which I can usually tackle any situation.
  • I’m letting myself embrace the things that make me a nerd.  I love fantasy and science fiction at least as much as I love classic literature and poetry.  I’m a huge Woody Allen fan.  I have an active presence on almost every social network and I’d rather read than watch football.  I’m a hypocritical grammar nazi (which means that I love to point out others’ mistakes even while I make my own).  I still dig hair bands.  I can read a book and listen to an audiobook at the same time and enjoy both immensely.  I really enjoy legal research.  I have a goal of growing, gathering, hunting and raising all of the food for our family.  I love to tend my garden.  I watch politics like most men watch sports, and, nerdiest of all, for about 3 months a year starting in June, I drop almost everything and obsess about the reality show Big Brother.  I even watch the live feeds.
  • I’m giving myself a minimum of 30 minutes a day to write.   There are at least four novels and several short stories I’ve been kicking around in my head for the past decade – it’s time to put them on paper.

Oh, and I’m giving myself an opportunity to take my sons to see Star Trek at the theater.  Tonight.

… and then I couldn’t breathe.

20130524-090220.jpgYesterday, I was really looking forward to my run. It was a short run day and nothing was hurting … not even stiff calf muscles. It was cool and not humid. The only thing working against me was that the pollen count was high and my allergies have been really bad this season.

I made it through my work day, finishing up right on time and MamaAcorn and I loaded up the troops and headed to the old Army base near our home for some track time. I love track days. Sure, going round and round in a circle is monotonous, but I like that I can monitor my pace on each lap and that there are no hills. I really can’t stand hills.

I watched the baby while the other 4 kids and Mama ran. With the exception of the oldest, the kids were all in flip-flops – which they quickly dropped, opting to run barefoot. The kids were constantly bothering Mama, but I didn’t realize it at the time. They kept trying to talk to her while she ran and it was understandably driving her crazy – she’d been a little on edge, and I was hoping the run would help – but she finished near a state of rage and I felt horrible for not catching on and intervening. Truthfully, I was too busy playing with the baby and marveling at my two boys running.

My 12 year old’s form is atrocious, his arms are rock stiff and he’s hunched over most of the time, but he does distance running like it’s not even a challenge. He barely even breathes hard and I have yet to see him build up any serious sweat. I’ve got him working a 5k training plan on my phone and he seems to be enjoying it. It makes me proud to see how he doesn’t quit when he’s tired.

My 8 year old looks like he was born to run. He said he was going to do 3 miles and I laughed and suggested that he start a bit smaller. He did 3 miles. He walked some, but he never really stopped. We always joke around here that his volume level is either silent or screaming, there is no middle ground. He runs the same way. He would walk 50 feet or so, then take off at a sprint for 3/4 of a lap. without much of a complaint. Barefoot. On a hard black-top running track. The boy is a marvel.

The girls each ran about a mile as well, but they took a lot of shortcuts and stopped to do things along the way.

Then it was my turn to run and I hit the track feeling great. I did my first lap at a pace that would have given me a sub-6 minute mile and felt great. I was only supposed to go for two miles yesterday, so I had intended to go fast – but that was a bit too fast for me so I dropped the pace a bit and settled into about a 7:30. I finished my first mile around 7:15 and then things started going south. Halfway through my 5th lap, I started noticing stars. Not in the sky. Everywhere. Then the edges of my vision started to go black. I was worried I was going to black out so I stopped at the end of the lap … and then I couldn’t breathe.

I’d always imagined an asthma attack would feel like I couldn’t take in enough air. It was the exact opposite. It felt like I couldn’t push enough air out to allow me to get air in. I was gasping like a fish out of water and the muscles in my neck started to cramp from the effort. The stars weren’t going away, I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a bit – there is no memory there – and I. could. not. breathe. That is a really unsettling feeling.

I’ve always had a couple of post-run wheezing fits a year – usually the first run of the season. I think of it as spring cleaning for my lungs – getting rid of the cobwebs. But that usually passes in 5 minutes or so and I can run the next day with no problem. This was far worse.

10 minutes. No better. 20 minutes. No better. At 30 minutes, we decided to go to urgent care. An hour later, I could breathe again following a nebulizer treatment and had a prescription for two inhalers and my very own nebulizer.

So yeah … apparently I have exercise induced asthma … and I think that sucks.

Lessons learned:

  1. Cool days with high pollen counts are terrible days for people with asthma and allergies to run according to WebMD.
  2. You can develop asthma at any age for any of several reasons.
  3. My kids, especially the 8 year old, need running shoes.
  4. When you’re going to run or exercise, you should have your ID and Medical Insurance card on you.
  5. There is an urgent care clinic right down the street from my house.
  6. Breathing is highly underrated.