Friday, February 27, 2015

Whoops! Changing paths again!

Funny how the course of a blog, or a life, can change as quick as the attitude of a high strung toddler...It was a week or two ago that I switched up this blog from ventures in veganism, to the progression of a midlife crisis decked out in lycra, and riding a bicycle. I'll keep writing about the particulars of lycra, carbon fiber, carb loading, and aging over at the MAMIL website, but now I have my next new focus for this lil' ol' blog.

What precipitated this change? The 'L' word - no, I'm not going lesbian, I'm talking layoff. Just two days ago, I got the notice that I was one of many in my department that were being downsized on out of the company. I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't had a few poor-pitiful-me moments since, but truly they've been brief, and few. I also can't say it was a huge surprise; having topped out at Assistant Vice President about five years ago, no one (myself included) had talked much 'career pathing' in my regard, since. Though I've felt like a bit of an octagonal peg in a trapezoidal hole for much of my nearly sixteen year career, the company always treated me quite well and I have no complaints - ditto the separation, as the terms were more than generous and my management team was professional and gracious.

That brings me to what comes next with this blog, chiefly, it'll be about what on earth comes next with my life? The door is open for me to look for other positions with my former company, and there are scads of related organizations in the area that are similar that could be hiring. I feel like that would make perfect sense, were it not for that whole octagonal/trapezoidal thing. I mean, have you met me? I'm into art, literature, food, volunteerism, cycling, and oh of course my wife and FIVE children. The wife and I often say, "we had 'em cuz we like 'em." The single best thing about me working for a bank (please note that 'finance,' and 'mortgage,' appeared nowhere in that list of things I'm into) is that for over four years now I've worked from home where I can see those five little chuckle heads way more than if I had still been planted at the cubicle farm.

No, I'm planted at home. As I've been considering my life ahead for the past 48 hours, the thought that keeps coming back around is 'bloom where you're planted.' Since we homeschool the kids, that blooming for me could look a lot like that chap I have pictured here; yessiree I could take a more active role in my children's education. Their dad and their teacher! There was a moment this afternoon that felt like it really cemented the idea for me of organizing my life more around my family, as the most important organizational factor. I was walking down the sidewalk, with my beautiful two year old Selah Jane, and it was a moment touched by more than a hint of unreality; all was deeply quiet and still, snow and damp all around, despite our being in north Texas where snow only comes around for real every few years. Selah was not quite dressed for the weather, and was decked out in a few shades of bright pink as she perched on my chest in a rare moment of quiet, while awake. She could not have stood out anymore amidst the grey, really surreal. I could't imagine a moment more concrete, and vibrantly real moment despite it's inevitable brevity. Oh my, I'm not capturing it well - suffice it to say, it was a highly charged emotional moment where I decided I wanted more of that, and less of the stuff that normally takes up the time of a forty eight year old careerist.

The idea of me staying home, without a career, actually came about a month or more pre-layoff. Frankly, my wife's increasing income may well support such a move, so the layoff could really be an answer to prayer. In the ensuing weeks, I suppose other factors could arise that would change the plan, but.....I'm really warming to the idea of being Professor Weir to my little tribe, and for other homeschool kids too for that matter; imaging, I could teach P.E. at the park, carpentry in my garage, art in my dining room...

Thanks for reading, and stayed tuned if by any odd chance  you didn't zone out and click elsewhere after I said 'ventures in veganism.'

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CAUTION: blog changing course

Y'all, I haven't posted in a couple of years, because this blog started out with the single focus of my journey from fat, sick carnivore to fit, healthy herbivore and that journey is over. My diet and weight have stayed consistent (except for a bit at the holidays, because butter), so there is just nothing more I have to say on that topic, unless it pertains to my blog's new focus - endurance sports! Okay, mostly cycling, but, running and swimming come into play here and there.

Speaking of running, I'm training now for my first 5k. Well, I've done a half marathon already, and a 5k that was part of a sprint triathlon, but I've never entered a 5k that didn't involve swimming and cycling to get to the course. Despite my prior running experiences, I have to start from scratch to train for this 5k, after....sigh...foot surgery. A combination of crappy genetics, and overtraining for a marathon, built up major bone spurs in my right big toe. The surgery will fuse the toe joint - I expressed my concern to the doc about the toe never moving again, and he politely pointed out that it doesn't move anymore now anyway. A big concern for me is that I wouldn't be able to run again after the joint fusion, but then I saw a video of a guy cycling over the Pyrenees with just one arm and one leg, and another video of a guy with NO limbs playing soccer and dancing....yep, that shut my pie hole. Surgery is in a couple weeks, meanwhile I'm cycling, and avoiding the pool until the temps go up a whole bunch. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 10, 2012

the ugly kid in class

Imagine you grew up being kinda on the homely side. Not hideous, where people would stand outside your house with pitchforks and torches, just definitely less than attractive, worse than mere 'plain' even. Had you been a homely kid, you probably would have been made fun of by the mean kids, and your homeliness would have been tolerated, or at least not pointed out, by nice kids. More than likely, as a homely kid you would have had at least one family member that teased you about your looks, because sometimes family members suck that way. As you grew older, homely, you would have been hearing less about your looks from others, but you'd have been hearing plenty from the voices inside that you had internalized from your mean classmates or mean family. Yep, those voices would still be loud and clear. Really, if you were homely, it would shape everything about  how you interacted with the world, every encounter with new people would be colored by their view of you, real or imagined by you, as homely.

Then imagine that one day you woke up and instead of being homely, you were rather nice looking. Not nice looking like people would want to put a poster of you up on their wall or cast you in their next movie or anything. Just nice looking enough that when you put on some decent clothes people would compliment you on your looks. That would really change how you interacted with the world around you, wouldn't it? No longer would you automatically feel like you stood out somehow in a negative way, you might start to feel like you could blend in to a crowd in a nice way. If you woke up nice looking like that, and stayed that way, when a stranger caught your eye for a moment, that might elicit a sincere smile instead of a quick look the other way.

You know where I'm going with this. I grew up being kinda on the big side. At certain stages growing up I was lean enough, but most of the time there was just this 'bigness' about me. That was reinforced for me by one family member that teased me about it, and also by other people that would just remark on how big I was. Not that it was always said in a mean way, just an observation, but, those voices stick. As I became an adult, I certainly didn't get any smaller. In the Army I was a healthy weight for the most part, but even then my image was that of a big guy. On long marches, who got to carry the big, crew fired machine gun AND all it's ammo AND all the gear that went with it? Me, the big guy. After the Army, I put some weight on and kept it on, though over the years my weight would veer sharply anywhere from around 210 to 245. It was common for strangers and store keepers to look alarmed when they saw me. More than once I was stopped by police and questioned about what I was doing, just while walking down the street. Yes, I know the tattoos and (at one time) long hair, and then later the shaved head, added to the imposing look, but still, the bigness was the main part of my image. Need something heavy lifted? Ask me, the big guy. Need someone for crowd control at an event of some kind? Yep, I gotcha covered. The fact that I'm a very pleasant and kind person, yet looked to many people like a big imposing threat, has been a long running joke among my family and friends for years.

At 181 pounds (plant based diet; results are typical) I'm just really not a big guy at all. When people say I look really thin now, it's not just them being nice, and their not just saying I'm thin in comparison to when I was around 230. I don't get the same nervous looks anymore, even with the shaved head and tattoos. In some ways I think I look a little older this way, because maybe my skin sags a little more now that it isn't plumped out with fat. Looking older I think takes away from the imposing look. Yes, it really changes how I interact with the world. I think I'll keep rockin' the veggies folks, this is good. This baby that my wife and I are going to welcome in a couple of weeks will be the first of our kids that won't ever know a big daddy.

When I went to Google to find a picture for this post, I was thinking, 'what's a good picture for transformation?' Well, I had my first big transformation when I was four years old, thanks to a kind family member (that 'thanks' is to you Paul), so of course the first thing that came to mind to represent transformation was the cross. Jesus loved me as the big kid, the fat man, the big scary guy, etc. He also loves the homely, the lame, the simple, and of course the beautiful and brightest as well. Even if I lost my mind and scarfed down cheeseburgers and BBQ until I was 400 pounds, I would have that transformation, from Jesus on the cross. Now THAT is some spectacular transformation; sinner to saint, poisoned to blessed - Jesus Christ; results are typical.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pastry and Ice Cream and Cookies, OH MY!

Hi Friends!

My family and I just got back from 10 days of vacation in California. Mostly we visited family and friends. Also, we ate, and that's what I'll talk about here since this is mostly a food blog. Some folks were super weirded out and nervous to have us over for dinner because of the way we eat (or maybe it was also cuz there are six of us, and our children eat like locusts - come to think of it, they might get that from me...). Other people just took it in stride - one sweet family we  visited with had made chocolate dipped strawberries and banana slices using non-dairy chocolate, and had also picked up a bag of Trader Joe's Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies - they said "we didn't want you to feel like you had to compromise." AWESOME! What a way to feel welcomed, right? That was a great evening on many counts, and happily the food matters were a secondary (maybe tertiary) thing so we could just relax and have a great visit. Other than that visit, I was fully in vacation mode when it came to desserts - Marie Calendar's pie (twice), Auntie Nona's chocolate cookies (YUM), chocolate chip twist at a wonderful bakery in Laguna, etc. I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in avocados - plenty of those here in Texas, but in CA they are just so much more prevalent. When I got on the scale yesterday morning, our first full day home, I was up four pounds, but today I'm back down two from that. I'm guessing that within another couple of days back home I should be back to 187. (EDIT - as of today, the third morning back, I'm back to 187).

Lately I've been considering taking up some kind of endurance sport, because it seems like that would be a good way to get REALLY lean. Any suggestions? Running probably wouldn't suit me - bad knee and flat feet; biking is cool but my old mountain bike is in a sad state of disrepair - besides, a road bike would make way more sense in the flatness of Texas and the notable lack of any riding surface other than pavement around here; swimming? hmm, too cold most of the year. Well, something will come up, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

227 and 40 - 188 and 34

Just taking an opportunity to make a quick post here - my 'office' downstairs is being cleaned so I'm upstairs committing chronocide.

When I started this journey in March, I weighed 227 pounds and my pants were a size 38 waist. That does not mean that my waist measured 38 inches, it just means that I wasn't willing to admit that I had gotten fatter by buying bigger pants. Instead, I did what many middle age guys do - started wearing my pants lower. In the dress pants that I used to wear for work, my belt was creeping ever lower down the front of growing belly, and with shorts I just gave up and wore them around my hips. I'm estimating that my actual waist size was 40 inches, but it could have been bigger. I won't name names here, but a number of guys I know have said 'oh my pants are a size 36' or 'I've been wearing a size 34' since high school.' DeNIAL. Yes, I am sure their pants ARE that size, but they have stomachs that hang over their belts, which are located perilously close to the top of their butt crack instead of many inches higher where their waist actually is.

As of Tuesday, I weigh 188 pounds, and bought some new pants that are a size 34 because I can actually wear those where they are supposed to be worn. Of the three pair I bought, they all fit a bit differently because they are from different makers. In all honestly, one pair is a wee bit tight when worn at my waist, BUT, I am not done slimming down. Not yet. None of the three are anywhere near close fitting enough to make me look like a grape smuggler.

I don't have a firm idea of a goal weight or size, but I do know that when I started this, 177 (a 50 pound loss) seemed daunting. At 188, it seems downright feasible, like maybe even in the next 4 to 6 weeks. Could I be a size 32 eventually? Do I have what it takes to keep going to the gym and working hard five days a week? What if I got to 170? In any case, it's a fun project so I will keep going. Well, fun, and I also feel way  better and I'm plenty more healthy and energetic.

It's comforting to know that I'm not headed for a big ol' backslide (or a big ol' back side) when my diet changes, because I don't intend to change it. Why would I? I still LOVE eating, and there is nothing I miss enough to go back to the fat. Besides, I still choose to eat food sometimes that is not exactly fantastic for my body, but is fantastic for my mental and emotional well being. For instance, last week I lost three pounds, and that was despite having a mini cupcake with my daughter on her date day, and splitting a big basket of fries with my six year old while watching the Rangers game at our local sports bar/restaurant. I'm free to eat whatever I want! Happily, I don't actually want meat and cheese after not having it this long. French fries I will ALWAYS want, so I will have them once in awhile. And cupcakes...those are too lovely to swear off forever. So there you have it - my diet can be described as plant based, no meat, no dairy, VERY limited oil, plus french fries and cupcakes. Shoot, what doctor would say that was bad, right?

This journey is worth it. Beyond worth it. Care to join me?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Happy Herbivore and the Crampy Carnivore

I mentioned awhile ago that my wife and I were getting a bit bored with our plant based eating. To rectify that situation, we went recipe book shopping (on our anniversary!) and bought a fantastic book called "The Every Day Happy Herbivore." Did I call it fantastic? It's ultra-fantastic! So far we've tried the pesto sauce, quick black bean burgers (pictured at left on Ezekial 4:9 toast), Tortuga Rum Cake, and some desserty thing that included yummy cinnamon and apple bits. I won't risk turning the Happy Herbivore into the Angry Carnivore by posting her recipes for free here online, but lemme just say that her quick black bean burgers are QUICK and have very few ingredients. Off the top of my head I could easily recite the whole recipe! Super tasty of course! Oh, and the pesto sauce (ludicrously simple, and totally lovely) is great on pasta of course, but also great as a salad dressing. There is no meat or dairy in her recipes, and if there is any oil it's just the spray kind I think. She offers the suggestion of using parchment paper to keep things from sticking during baking, instead of spray - of course! Great idea. Oh, my link section here includes a link to the Happy Herbivore's blog - check her out and say hello for me! Or just check her out and don't say hello for me because we're not close. As in we've never met - she's an actual chef with a real blog, vs whatever this is that I do here.

LAST week my family and I were in Buena Vista, CO for a family camp that we were blessed with for FREE because one of our kids had melanoma, and the one we're expecting has some of her organs developing on the outside of her body - silly baby. For more on those stories, you can check out Zion's Caringbridge site and Selah Jane's Caringbridge site (Zion is not in the picture there on the left just because he was having some altitude sickness, not some horrible melanoma manifestation, and my wife wisely declined that particular hike, what with being 6 and a half months pregnant).

Along with this vacation time came some food choice challenges. On the way there, we stopped at a Denny's, and were pleased to find a veggie burger among all the bacon wrapped and cheese stuffed mystery meat items. I enjoyed the veggie burger very much, but my wife felt it had too heavy of a soy taste. At a hotel breakfast I tried a breakfast burrito, sans meat and cheese, but did include Egg Beaters - will NOT be going any further down the Egg Beater Road. Along with being an animal product (albeit with no cholesterol), it turns out they have zero taste and a bunch of bullsh ingredients.

Once at the camp, we did inquire at some meals about alternate offerings if everything being served was heavy on the animal products, but this being a totally free ride we declined to be picky. For the most part we were able to stay plant-strong with our eating, but I did make one exception on purpose. Breakfast one day was cooked outdoors over an open fire, at a gorgeous mountain site reached by horseback -the offerings were French toast (served by being flung from the chef to the recipient about 10 feet away, a game as well as a meal! ) with plenty of dairy, eggs with bacon and cheese and such, and quesadillas with eggs and cheese. I happily ate some of that, and the next day the breakfast was sandwiches with eggs, cheese, and bacon and I ate that because it was what was offered. Later that day, I was in some abdominal PAIN. That did not encourage me to embark on a return to the land of meat and dairy. At all.

Back now at home and in our happy plant heavy kitchen, I'm way more happy with my eating, and still dropping weight - 192 yesterday, whoo HOO!! I used to always grill up a huge steak on Father's Day, but this Sunday we'll be cooking up some fantastic vegan Thai. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20th

Skinny? TINY? (also, it's more challenging now)

Lately, some very kind folks have described me as 'skinny,' and even 'tiny.' To be fair, the person who used the term 'tiny' may have had a couple of margaritas. Now, I certainly appreciate the kindness, BUT, those terms do not apply to me quite fairly at 6' (okay okay okay 5' 11") and 197 pounds. Since dropping 30 pounds, I have been wondering at what point I really would be skinny, and how much more weight do I really need to lose? Should I go for an even 50? Would I look good at 177 or would I look like Skeletor? If I looked like Skeletor would I like that? Actually I just did a google image search for Skeletor and it turns out he's not skinny, he's uber buff - weird for a skeleton. Okay, so, at 177 would I be gaunt? Is it even possible? Am I rambling? Oh hell to the yes I am. I suppose the most reasonable thing to do would be to keep eating this way and exercising and just see what happens.

For years now I've bought XL and XXL shirts. Many years ago I went through a phase where I bought all my shirts at one of those 'big and tall' men's stores, and picked everything in at least a 4X, if not a 5X or even 6X. Was I weighing in at 300+? Nope, I was about 235. Clearly, I have body image issues. In the past decade I've at times been at a size where a L would have been okay. This week I bought a MEDIUM t-shirt. It's a stretch for me - no, I don't mean I'm stretching it out, I mean it's a stretch for me to wear a shirt that touches me all the way around, at least lightly, instead of flapping like a sail.

I'm going on 3 months now of not eating meat and dairy. A few weeks in, I grilled 30 cheeseburgers for the local middle school soccer team, which was an engagement I agreed to prior to my big dietary makeover. The experience was not pleasant, the burgers looked yucky, and I had no temptation to eat them. A couple weeks ago I had the second of such engagements, and this time the burgers looked intoxicating. The aroma and texture of the worthless white bread hamburger buns, the sizzle of the cow flesh, the rich look of the thick slices of cheddar cheese....breathtaking. No, I didn't partake, not even a nibble? Know why? Because I realized I didn't want one, I wanted THREE, at LEAST. That's a problem. Moderation and me are not exactly on close terms when it comes to junky food. Then a couple days ago I went to a potluck with my coworkers and I had fried chicken, huge deli sandwiches, and large hunks of BBQ sausage - meaning, I had those things available to me, didn't eat any of it though. It was hard! I felt like an alcoholic at an open bar. Happily, I had brought lentil chili and someone else brought some unadulterated fruit.

My wife and I have been discussing how we are getting a little bored with how we're eating. What we'll need to do is read more recipes, and learn more skills. For me, the temptation to go back to meat and dairy kinda dies away every time I consider how that might take me back to the land of 230 pounds.

Since the middle of last week when the Engine 2 Diet site was kind enough to publish a guest blog that I wrote, LOTS more people have read my humble little blog here, and I've had so many wonderful comments! Thank you all so much! Feel free to keep the suggestions coming for other animal free food ideas coming!