Restless

No, I’m not getting too little sleep, nor am I sleeping poorly. I’m restless in the sense of being the opposite of at rest. I’m fidgety, filled with a vague sense of incompleteness—something (I don’t know what) is out there waiting for me to finish it, maybe even just begin it. There’s some kind of light cosmic tapping on my shoulder going on, but when I turn around to see what’s demanding my attention, there’s nothing there I can see. Am I seeing nothing, or is there nothing to see? It’s an itch I can’t seem to scratch.

A bit of that itch, perhaps, I can reach: I haven’t written much in the last year or so (including this blog), and I know from past experience that writing helps me focus on what’s important in my life; writing helps me separate and clarify the things that block me from moving forward. So here I am, finally getting around to posting new (-ish) content. My readers may find this post a little light on “what have I been doing this past year or so” updates. For that I apologize; in mitigation, I plead respect of others’ privacy—my doings over the past year often intersected with family and friends in ways that shouldn’t be discussed in an open blog.

The most significant new event I can discuss is my decision to finally get serious about dropping weight. I know—I know!—I’ve done this several times before, so “getting serious” in this context is never guaranteed to be a permanent thing. Nevertheless, I’ve signed up through an outfit called Freshology to receive semi-weekly deliveries of ready-to-heat diet meals. This is a bit of an experimental plan for me. Readers might recall that I did a similar plan about six-seven years ago, but that was a more traditional reduced calorie “balanced” diet plan. This one is a modified keto plan; it uses meals that are high in protein and very low on carbohydrates to force the body into a state called “ketosis,” which supposedly speeds up the body’s consumption of it’s own fat. I’ve been on this new diet for about a month now, and it certainly feels like I’m losing weight—alas, my bathroom scale has died and I’ve yet to replace it, so I have no absolute confirmation. My goal is to lose 100 lbs. Wish me luck!

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COVID-19 Tribulations

It’s been a long time (almost four years) since I last posted to this blog. I suppose I could come up with a bunch of plausible excuses, but the truth is I just haven’t been motivated to post. Life over the past four years had settled into a rather predictable (dare I say dull?) routine with few bumps and budges worthy of writing about. Blah, blah, blah.

But now, here we are in the midst of the biggest crisis to hit New York since 9/11, and arguably the biggest crisis to hit nation-wide since World War II. COVID-19 is without argument the biggest pandemic crisis we’ve had since the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic (itself largely forgotten in history due to World War I’s long shadow), so surely this is worthy of blogging about. Surely now I have something to say since I had nothing to say previously.

The short answer is yes, and I will get to that later in this post. But now that I’m sitting here typing away, I realize that I’ve shortchanged myself and those of you who read the blog when I say nothing has happened worth writing about since 2016. No, I’m not talking about the election nor any of the shenanigans emanating out of Washington ever since. Those of you who know my politics might be surprised by my opinions on the matter–those of you who know me well won’t be surprised at all, and as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

So perhaps the biggest news of the past four years in my life has been my mother moving out of New York to a senior living community in Florida. In 2017, Mom had some health set-backs that made it less-than-ideal to be living by herself in her apartment on 86th Street, so we began to look at some sort of assisted living situation. Prices on such places in NYC and surrounding areas are insane, so we kept putting it on the back burner and hoping we could get by with some periodic aide assistance–which itself was not inexpensive by any measure.

Meanwhile, recall that my Aunt Jan lives at John Knox Village, a “Life Care” community in south Florida. Life Care communities are essentially one-stop-shopping for seniors looking for medical security as they age: starting off with independent living, residents can transition to assisted living or further to full nursing care all within the same campus. In JKV’s case, once you’ve moved in and paid the initial buy-in, there’s no additional cost to transitioning to/from the various levels of care. As is typical with my Aunt Jan, she got involved in JKV’s governance as soon as she moved down there herself, and by late 2017 was completely plugged into everything going on there.

So towards the end of the year we got a phone call from Jan letting us know about a promotion JKV had going on where they offered a substantial discount on the buy-in price of selected apartments. Having visited Jan at JKV in 2015 (celebrating Mom’s 80th birthday!), we were all familiar with the set-up down there and already had a favorable outlook on it. The reduction in price sealed the deal and Mom decided to sign up. We made the physical move in April of 2018.

There’s good and bad to the change. On the very good side, all of us in the family, including Mom, are much happier that she’s in a situation where help is immediately available and where support systems are in place to make her life easier while still enabling her to live independently. Also on the positive side, her sister lives on the same campus and her nephew, with his wife and kids, live nearby and frequently visit; her niece, whom she’s very close to, comes down from Alaska to visit Jan a couple times a year, usually with her own kids. All this means there’s plenty of family around.

The only real down side is that she misses seeing me and Andrew as often, and she misses seeing her best friend, a neighbor in her old building. And, of course, we all miss seeing her as often. Andrew and I fly down about every four months for a week’s visit, and we keep in touch almost daily by phone (and occasionally, when the tech Gods are smiling, by FaceTime!). It’s still not the same, of course.

Our next scheduled visit in in early June, and that’s where I’m going to transition into talking about COVID-19, because at this point nobody can predict if that trip will happen or not. Currently, maximum “social isolation” protocols are in place, so any travel right now simply isn’t in the cards, and likely won’t be until at least the end of April–I suspect the end of May is more realistic, and even that might be an optimistic target.

New York City is really strange right now. The streets are very quiet compared to a “normal” weekday–the feeling is very much like a Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. I only have one client I’m seeing on a regular basis (twice a week) and she has been kind enough to have her driver pick me up and drop me off at home. Every time I step out of the apartment, I’m gearing up with mask and gloves, and hand washing has reached OCD levels or close to it. So far, Andrew and I haven’t had any trouble getting supplies, although the selection of restaurants still making order-out deliveries is shrinking. Ordering groceries for delivery is nearly impossible–not because FreshDirect or Amazon aren’t doing deliveries, but because delivery slots are snapped up as soon as they’re made available. If you’re not banging the “reserve” button as soon as the new slots pop up as if you were on Ticketmaster for the hottest concert ever, well then just forget it. Bottom line: we have to go out and shop in the local grocery stores, which means that much more possible exposure.

I must admit that this whole social isolation thing brings up mixed feelings. In terms of daily lifestyle, not a lot is different–I’m mostly a stay-at-home kind of guy anyway, so not being able to go out a lot doesn’t make a big difference to me. However, there are some things I enjoy doing that I can’t do, the two biggest of which are going to church services and going to Mankind Project meetings. I also miss the short walks to and from subway stations and my clients’ homes–actually, I miss people-watching on the subway (even if I don’t miss rush-hour crowding!). These are small things, but not having them is like having tiny pin-pricks of life disruption that over time is quite wearing.

Perhaps the most wearing of all is this general feeling of unease, of low-level anxiety about what the future holds. Will I get sick, and if I do what will happen? Will any of my clients get sick? Are more restrictions going to be needed? Will it become more difficult to get food and supplies? All these questions and more rattle around in the brain and all, to greater or lesser degrees, are ultimately unanswerable in the here-and-now. Only time will tell. Physiologically, we can handle flight-or-fight–a lion is chasing me, run away!–but we’re not designed to thrive with a constant low-level threat. I find it draining.

Be well, everyone, and I’ll see you on the other side.

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Patch Sprint 2016

As has been our custom for many years now, Andrew and I drove up to Willsboro for the Memorial Day weekend, leaving Friday and returning Monday.  While any visit up there is worth the time and effort regardless of any other purpose, our main excuse for this trip was to again participate in the annual Patch Sprint fundraiser for the Adirondack Scholarship Foundation.  The Foundation provides tuition support for children, who might otherwise be unable to afford it, to go to summer camp at Pok-O-MacCready Camps, where Andrew and I spent many enjoyable summers as kids.

Seymour stretches out before the race assisted by trainer Dr. J. Rayburn

Seymour stretches out before the race assisted by trainer Dr. J. Rayburn

The event itself, held on Saturday, is a road and trail foot race that passes over three mountains (Bear, Rattlesnake and Sugarloaf) and ends at the top of a fourth (Pok-O-Moonshine), a little over 12 miles in total distance.  Don’t get any crazy ideas–neither Andrew nor I actually raced!  Besides donating to the event, we acted as informal event volunteers and ground crew for John Rayburn.  Excuse me—I meant to say for Seymour T. Bear who races with the assistance of his trainer, Dr. J. Rayburn.

This year the weather was unusually hot for so early in the season, so many runners dropped out along the way—even more than in 2013 when it was so cold there were snow flurries on top of Poko!  (Weather in the Adirondacks is definitely a movable feast—if you don’t like it, wait a minute.)  Seymour, urged on by Doctor Johnny, finished the race albeit well over his personal best time.

The next trip up north will be for a sadder occasion: to inter Molly’s ashes at Flat Rock.  That takes place in late June, and then we may go up again a couple weeks later for Great Aunt Frisky’s memorial service.

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The Reverend Molly McGreevy, 1936-2015

mollywebEarly this morning, All Saints Day, my Aunt Molly McGreevy died after a long decline.  Molly was my father’s sister, six years his junior in age.  In many ways they were alike, especially in their ability to see and appreciate the humor and ridiculousness of life.  In many other ways, they were wholly unalike–Molly was a die-hard liberal politically while my father was an equally die-hard conservative, as just one example.

Above all else, however, Molly loved and was loved by many, many people.  She became an Episcopal priest at a time when the whole idea of women as priests was controversial and too often met with hostility within the Church.  After being ordained, she worked tirelessly with AIDS patients at a time when victims of the disease were treated as pariahs by a public that reacted with fear and loathing towards a disease they didn’t understand.  Molly was a fearless person, not just in what she did, but in how she thought and how she related to everyone around her.

My thoughts and prayers are with her daughters, Pam, Jessica and Barbara, and with her grandchildren Natalie and Alex.  Along with them, with the rest of the extended family and with her many friends, I will miss her dearly.

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A trip to Citi Field

WDP-ASP-in-seatsThis past Saturday afternoon, Andrew and I attended a New York Mets baseball game at Citi Field.  It was a cold and wet day (the game had been postponed from Friday night due to rain and wind), but we braved the elements anyway to get our fix of live baseball.

The last time I saw a Mets game was at the old Shea Stadium, so this was my first visit to the “new” ballpark.  Wow!  I’m really impressed; the design is fantastic.  For all that it holds some 45,000 plus people, it has an intimate and accessible feel to it.  The main field-level concourse goes completely around the park, all the while with views of the playing field, and contains a wide array of food and drink vendors along with the usual souvenir shops.  MrMetBehind the outfield is the main food court and attractions plaza, including a play-area for kids.  Nearby the kids zone, Mr. Met posed for pictures with fans (see at right).

The game itself was a bit of a bust.  The Mets were playing the Washington Nationals, and since we had already clinched the National League Eastern Division title many of our star players were sitting the game out.  Noah Syndergaard was on the mound and pitched a good game, but the Mets’ bats were largely silent and didn’t provide him with any run support.

It could have been worse:  in the later game of the day/night double-header, the Mets were on the losing side of a no-hitter.  By then, Andrew and I were home and watching on TV instead of freezing our butts off in the stands.

View-from-seatsOur seats were actually pretty good (view from our seats at left).  We were on the “Excelsior” level, which is the first open-air tier above the field level seats and is just above the ring of luxury boxes.  We were in a section known as “Caesar Gold,” which meant we had access to the Caesars Club bar and lounge located behind us inside.  Between us and the club were the press boxes, so the club itself did not have views of the field but rather looked out on the plaza in front of the rotunda entrance.  Although you couldn’t walk all the way around the field as on the field-level concourse, there was also a concourse on our level that was similarly designed so that you always got a view of the field while walking around on it.

Access to the club was key to enjoying the game.  It gave us a place to go warm up, grab a bite to eat and some hot coffee or hot chocolate, with TV monitors scattered around comfortable chairs so we didn’t miss out on too much of the game.  SNY-boothAnd (bonus!) we got to pass by the SNY broadcast booth on our way to and from our seats–if you look closely at the nearby picture, you’ll see broadcaster and ’86 Mets 1st baseman Keith Hernandez in the booth doing his thing.  The entrances to the club are on either side of the broadcast booths, where the maroon uniformed ushers are standing.

While it wasn’t the most pleasant day for a baseball game, it was an excellent scouting trip for a more substantial visit next season.  Perhaps Andrew and I will get our mom and a couple friends and go see a game on a lovely summer day…!

 

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Cooking again

After a year on the LeanChefs plan, I’ve decided it is time for me to take the training wheels off my diet and start managing my own food again.  So, beginning last week, I ended the plan.  LeanChefs did a fantastic job for me:  in a year I lost 56 pounds.  Beyond just the simple fact of losing the weight, I’ve also gained valuable reference points on portions and types of food I really need to be eating to continue losing and to remain healthy.  I got some great ideas for meals that I might not have thought of otherwise–one of my favorite breakfasts now is ricotta cheese mixed with granola.

However, I’ve been away from preparing my own food for a year, so my cooking skills have become pretty rusty.  I’m also now a bit spoiled by the variety of meals LeanChefs provided, so returning to the limited range of meals I knew how to do seemed, well, limiting.  So, I’ve decided to try Blue Apron.

Taiwanese 3 Cups ChickenSome of you may have heard of them, or companies like them.  What they do is send a weekly box of ingredients, with detailed instructions, for three 2-person meals.  Everything you need is included, with the exception of a few basics like cooking oil, salt and pepper.  The recipes are all easy to follow and do not require more than basic kitchen equipment (they will even sell you those if you don’t already have them–at modestly marked-up prices, of course!).  Monday night, for example, Andrew and I had a very delicious Taiwanese Three Cups Chicken (click the link for the recipe on Blue Apron’s web site), which you see pictured nearby.

The portions on the Blue Apron meals are also appropriate for me.  In the past I might have felt they were a bit on the chintzy side, but now I know the portions are correct.  My challenge, then, is to plan and manage portion sizes on the other meals of the week, which inevitably will include at least one order-in or eating-out meal.  My usual repertoire of meals were grossly over-portioned, so I have to figure out ways of either cooking less or creatively using left-overs for next-day lunches and so forth.

And, of course, there is the elephant in the room: exercise, or more precisely my lack of it.  That’s the next step for me, and ultimately the only real path to losing the 2nd half of my 100 lbs goal.  Stay tuned.

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Life, the Universe and Everything

Wow.  I’ve really neglected this.  Sorry!  Time for me to update you on the past 10 months…

First, the diet plan.  The very good news here is that I’ve gone from a starting point of roughly 300lbs down to 245lbs, a loss of 55 in nearly a year.  The progress is slower than I would ideally like, but the key word here is “progress,” which is a good thing.  I seem to be in a pattern of holding steady for a couple weeks, then dropping a bit, then plateauing again, and so forth.  I’ve learned not to scale-watch and just let my body do its thing on its own schedule.  Meanwhile, I have a lot more energy just moving around the daily routine, and I’m spending money I’d rather keep on new clothes (down 4 inches in the waist, for example).  People tell me they really notice the difference.

As for other doings…

JHPcakeIn February, Andrew and I accompanied our mother down to Florida to visit with her sister (my Aunt Jan), who had invited us all there to celebrate my mom’s 80th (!!!) birthday.  We had a wonderful time visiting with Jan, who lives at a “continuing care” senior living community in the Pompano Beach area.  Jan’s son Marc (with his wife and two sons) live a few minutes away in Sea Ranch Lakes, just on the seaward side of the Intercoastal Waterway.  A number of other relatives on my mom’s side of the family showed up (Florida is popular in February, it seems!), and we had a series of birthday parties, each with yet another cake (example pictured nearby).

As has become the tradition, Memorial Day weekend saw Andrew and I up in Willsboro to volunteer at Camp Poko’s Patch Sprint fundraiser benefiting the Adirondack Scholarship Foundation.  John Rayburn aka Dr. Johnny ran the race with me and Andrew acting as support crew–he set a new personal record by quite a wide margin.

GardCot6-15Andrew and I were again up in Willsboro at the end of June for a Friday-Monday super-long weekend.  Our old family friend Marian Bradley was at Flat Rock Camp that week with a pile of family and friends–it was great to catch up with them.  Because the camp was full to the bursting point, Cousin Peter was gracious enough to let us stay at the Garden Cottage, a small lakeside summer house about a five minute walk from Flat Rock itself.  It’s a lovely spot, with two bedrooms and a screened-in porch overlooking the lake (see nearby photo).

Regrettably, schedules and bedroom availability meant that we didn’t get as much time in Willsboro as we’d have liked, but even a short amount of time is a blessing.  I consider myself fortunate to have relatives and friends that make room for me up there.

So that essentially concludes the whirl-wind tour of What You Missed in my life since the previous posting.  I promise I’ll be a bit more diligent.  Really.  Honest!

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October 2014 NWTA

NWTA October 2014Over the weekend of October 23-26, I participated in my sixth New Warrior Training Adventure staffing for the Mankind Project.  Above you see the group photo of the staff and newly initiated brothers taken at the end of the training.

This was my fourth training as a declared elder in the community.  I’ve spoken about the role of elders in MKP before; for me, it is an incredible gift and a blessing to be able to fill that role on these NWTA weekends.  I come away from the weekend energized and inspired by the work these men do to make the world a better place.

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Leaner and Meaner

Most of you know that I’m seriously overweight.  At my worst, I tipped the scales at 300 lbs, easily 100 lbs more than I should be for my height; since then, I’ve hovered around 295.

In the wake of my pulmonary embolism episode (see here), my doctor basically read me the riot act—lose the weight or die before your time.  Those kinds of words tend to get one’s attention.  In my case, being somebody who goes quite unconscious around food, it took a while for that to sink in, and I’ve had only limited success in the past with weight loss efforts.

So I decided to try something new.  I signed up with an outfit called Lean Chefs, a service that delivers a daily cooler bag of prepared meals right to your door overnight.  Unlike programs that send frozen TV-dinner style meals, Lean Chefs’ meals are locally prepared and are either eaten cold (salads and the like) or heated up in a microwave.  I can take the cooler bag with me if my schedule has me out of the house at lunch or dinner time, and at the end of the day I simply leave the empty bag outside my door for pickup.

The downside:  they’re expensive.  Signing up for a full month (which gives you the least expensive daily rate) costs a little over $1,000.  This sounds worse then it really is, because normally I spend between $600 and $700 a month on groceries, dining out and other food-related expenses, so the true budgetary cost is more like $300-$400.  That still stings, but what price do I put on good health?

So far, the program is working.  I’m closing in on the end of the first month, and I’ve gone from about 295 lbs to 284 lbs.  My ultimate goal is to get down to 200 lbs—still technically overweight for my height, but much more attainable and sustainable given my lifestyle.

Wish me luck!

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Flat Rock Vacation

Bill at Flat Rock

Bill at Flat Rock

My brother Andrew and I are upstate on Lake Champlain again, enjoying a little time off at Flat Rock Camp by kind invitation of Marian Bradley, one of our honorary aunts (childhood friend of my Aunt Molly), who is renting the camp for this week.  Molly, unfortunately, was not able to come up this trip, although we did get a chance to visit her, our cousin Pam and Pam’s two kids in Pittsford before we headed up here this past Friday.

The camp is beautiful, as always.  The weather was absolutely perfect until yesterday, when it turned cloudy and rainy.  Today things are starting to clear up, and I hope to have a few more days of lovely weather before we most reluctantly head back south to the city.

Bradley-reading-papers

Bradley reading papers

One of the great things about the camp is the huge number of guests that can be housed here.  Two of Marian’s children, along with a substantial collection of grandkids and dogs, stayed for the first part of the week, and then some of her husband Bradley’s family came to keep things hopping though the remainder of the week.

I hadn’t seen Mike and Kate, Marian’s children, since we were all children ourselves, so it was a lot of fun to catch up with them and meet their kids (Kate’s ages 16, 15 & 12, Mike’s age 8).  We had a beach fire down by the dock with s’mores;  Andrew told a ghost story, complete with off-stage scream at the appropriate narrative moment provided by your humble correspondent.  The effect of the scream, however, was a bit spoiled by the reaction of the dogs who naturally went berserk at the noise.  Luckily, they decided on charging up to me in the woods that I was a friend.flowers-and-lake

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