Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stress the term

Wikipedia reports that the term "stress" is derived from stringere, Latin meaning to constrict. Walter Cannon used it in 1926 as a reference to a disruption to homeostasis. Which simply is equilibrium, and in my view of the stress I'm attempting to eliminate from my life, it is the disruption to the equilibrium of a peaceful mental state. It seems that as we age our equilibrium changes as does our peaceful mental state. In my case, I've noticed I am not at good at handling stress as I once was. However my space for peaceful mental space has expanded significantly from where it was when I was young. When I was young I had paralyzing stage fright, public speaking was not my friend. Now I enjoy it, I like speaking to people and sharing my ideas and opinions on subjects. On the one hand I am stronger than I was young, but I've noticed that when my equilibrium is disrupted now that I feel the harmful affect sooner.
As I said in an earlier blog, I think it's important to understand where you hold your stress. I believe that we all constrict or draw-in certain parts of our body when we are under stress. If you saw the Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart you noticed when he started to stress, he would hold and continually manipulate steel balls in his hand. And he  would even start exhibiting destructive patterns of thought descending into paranoia and delusions. Strawberry's on that I say!! What can we learn from our destructive Captain? I think that there are signs when you start to lose your equilibrium. I've noticed I tense my throat which constricts my breathing, the tensing of the muscles move down my throat ending as knots in the bottom of my lungs. 
When I stress it affects my breathing, and when I was young I was diagnosed with childhood asthma. I don't understand the connection but there may be. I don't understand whether it is important or not, just becoming self-aware enough to realize it feels a bit liberating. I've started to catch it, and now rather than diving deeper into whatever is stressing me I focus instead on the physiological changes I'm experiencing. If I work at it I can release the muscles in my throat and feel my breathing ease. 
Feeling all the muscles tighten in my body when something disrupts my equilibrium, helps me to realize that stress is a damaging reaction to me. Stress is helpful when you are in a life-threatening situation or can give you an edge when you are physically competing. However, when dealing with office politics or worrying about who is controlling the remote it is unnecessary. I hope to continue to learn more as this year goes on, hopefully it will be helpful to others. Self-discovery is a powerful tool, I hope to have gained this by the time it is over....


Friday, February 22, 2013


I've decided to try to eliminate stress from my life. One thing I've come to understand is, "it's a killer". No matter what our problems are, stress never helps. We all hold fear and worry in some part of our body. I don't mean some magical spot it emanates from, or that it hides in a part of our body. It seems to me that when we stress or worry we tend to tense some part of our body. For me it's my throat, and then down my spine and to my lungs. Literally, when I worry or stress, I feel my throat constrict and start to extend down throughout my body. It is only a thought, often no different than a dream. Funny how much it is like a dream.

Do you ever have dreams that seem so real that you wake up in a state that feels like you are still in the dream? It seems like you are still fighting demons or enemies, but it was only a moment in time a single thought that arouses and excites your body to a state of strong emotion. In the movie "What the Bleep" they talk about how your body trains itself through behavior to crave certain hormones and enzymes by developing receptors on your cells that favor the chemicals your brain produces. When you have thoughts that cause strong emotions your brain produces hormones and enzymes through the hypothalamus. Many times these can be harmful or damaging to your physical body. Thinking through this, I feel like I should try to eliminate these harmful chemicals. But how do I do it?

I believe the key has to be in training your mind to produce healthy chemicals. When you're happy or feel joy, when at peace or feel full of love. Just as when you are full of worry and produce potentially harmful chemicals, when you are full of joy it's easy to feel the positive impact on your body. So my mission impossible is to try to eliminate stress in my life. We will see how it goes~

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Did you ever get to the point of thinking this internet thing is not all it's cracked up to be? There seems to be no way to safely use this for your personal matters. Every time you turn around someone is hacking into something, getting our personal information or stealing money or scamming and on and on. Evidently, the Chinese government has a building full of hackers carrying out financial warfare, a military building. I often wonder if when people are making these choices, whether they ever consider the future this creates.

Whatever happened to karma? Isn't all the bad you put into the world supposed to come back on you twice as bad? You would think that there has to be some kind of justice in the world. I am not seeing it lately, but maybe the day is coming. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


When people gather and each person contributes a dish of food prepared by that person to be shared by the group, they call it a "potluck". Back in the 1500's Thomas Nashe wrote of it used to mean the food for an unexpected guest, they would get the "luck of the pot". In Ireland, woman would gather together during hard times of persecution and famine and put together their stores to help get their communities or families through. Nowadays we tend to shop for a dish at a store, buy candy or sweets and stuff ourselves beyond reason.

I learned a lesson today, potluck days are dangerous at work. Food is all around and you feel obligated to browse through the maze of dishes and taste a little bit. I noticed that soon I was falling into a repetitive graze cycle through a cyclical path. When you combine that with all of the sugar I consumed, I believe I moved into another dimension. In that world I felt like a little kid eating anything I wanted and it was like Wonderland where everyone smiles at you and offers you more. But you know something is just not right. I became so happy dancing through my happy path, sampling little bits of chocolate and sugar coated goodies. I think I was semi unconscious because I actually started thinking of how lean tools and processes could be applied to my grazing pattern to optimize cyclical potluck-ing.

After sufficient laps through the sweet trough I began to tire. My stomach felt like a basketball and sweat dripping from my forehead. Well in this case it was from my nose due to the chili with andouille sausage. I knew it was hopeless to resist and struggled to my feet for one final lap.

The trouble really started about two hours later as the sugar began to wear off. My eyes began to feel heavy and the amped up sugar feeling began to fade. Whereas I had been buzzing happily around like a sprite, everything started to annoy me. People tried to talk to me but I just could not focus. The nodding game began, and whoa! Do you think anyone saw that? I'm falling asleep at work, and you cannot do that, right?

Made it home in time for a run, it felt good to try to pull myself out of my self-induced coma. And my wife was gracious to not rub it into my nose. I did do better at resisting the gorge-fest than I have in the past. My wife told me to focus on that. Maybe next time I'll opt out, good lord I sound like an addict. My wife the nutritionist would tell me I am. Well for now I'll have to focus on getting better. Day by day...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rainy Tuesday

Rainy Tuesday, a time to reflect. It's rained steadily yesterday, and this morning. It has stayed fairly mild throughout the days and nights but still haven't felt like making my way out for exercise. Maybe Yoga tomorrow night, and a walk in the morning.

It is my daughter's birthday tomorrow, I am so proud of her and have really enjoyed getting to know my first grandchild. My son-in-law is being a wonderful and loving husband and father, I am thankful for that. I still remember the day of my daughters birth, February 13th at 1:19 pm. My first and only child, I remember the wait was the hardest part. There is nothing that more fundamentally changes your life then the birth of your first child. So much love and hope for the future, for all of the dreams to come. Hope has to be one of the greatest aspects of being human. The ability to believe that it will get better, that everything will work out fine. I have great hopes for Isabella, that she lives her dreams and her hope is fulfilled.

I can only think that at your hour of death that hope is your greatest asset. It's been a hard few months, and today being the anniversary of my mother's death is not making it easy today. I've lost my father and brother and have seen the pain it has brought on my family and friends. I can only rely on my hope at times like these. I hope that my family and friends are comforted in their loss. The hope that this year bring far fewer deaths. I hope for the families that are suffering be granted relief. That the hungry be fed. My hope is that you who are reading this right now be filled with joy, happiness, and your life improves this year.

I really hope I remember that no matter what our differences or interests are, no matter what our station or situation is, that we are all members of the human family. A community on this mysterious planet, that we barely understand. So much to learn, and so many great things to accomplish. This could be our greatest year!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Taking our Path

"It is hard to look at old people
The lines on their face, their weathered skin
Betray the beauty once embraced
We try to deny and avoid the truth
Although a different path we may take
We share the same fate to be born, to live, to be born again"

Did you ever think about how odd of a fit we are in this world? We are the only creature that inhabits earth which can so totally dominate and control our environment. We are able to build and terra-shape our living spaces in ways unknown beyond us. If we really wanted to, we could ensure every person in the world lived a healthy, fulfilling, and safe life. It makes you wonder why we do not?

Growing old is one facet of life that seems contrary to what we see in nature. In nature we admire the majestic splendor of our mighty oaks, the beautiful century plant that raises up to the heavens prior to it's demise. In society, the elderly are managed in facilities meant to minimize the cost of patient care while trying to keep them entertained in a fishbowl environment. We do not actively try to integrate the positive affect of elderly people into the community, into our education and public service. It makes you wonder why we do not?

From time to time, I've wondered why a just and loving G-d would let suffering happen in the world. Why wouldn't he come down here and fix everything? But thinking through it, I am starting to understand. For in my life I hardly cared about the fate of the elderly, not until I started to age. And we live at a time when people will strap bombs to small children or themselves just to destroy as many people as they can in the name of religion. We have a policeman who has gone into a rage of vendetta against innocent family members. We have people who would take advantage of their friends, neighbors, and country just for the disease of greed. I could go on and on as you probably are now with savage examples of how we do terrible things to each other and this world. The point I see is our nature prevents us from being able to learn the right choice until we make or see the wrong choice.

Maybe that would be one more valuable experience the elderly could bring into service for our communities. They have made or witnessed countless mistakes that could be shared with our children, perhaps helping the next generation of people from perpetuating our mistakes. 

We have shining examples of caring and love. Michelle Obama comforting the families of the 15 year old girl shot dead in Chicago. Gabby Gifford who shows such bravery displaying her limitations and disabilities, coming from a place of distinguished position to try to force people to overcome short-term personal interest for the sake of our long-term safety in our homes and communities. George H.W. Bush for his work in support of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Katrina. My mother who quilts to raise money for those less fortunate. 

To us all that are aging, we need to take up service to our family, our friends, our community and our country. Whether it is volunteering, speaking, lending a hand, writing, singing, or working in service, we must take our place and shape the world we want to see. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

It was a beautiful crisp morning, the temperature was in the low 40's but a stiff 15 mph wind made it feel in the low 30's. I still remember the freezing mid-west winters like a bad nightmare it stirs images of sub-zero and winds blowing the snow back in my face, tearing at my skin as I shovel the driveway. Hard to believe I find the 30's cold now, but your body adjusts to its environment. We had decided the night before to go for a run this  morning and we found the will and determination to bundle up in the cold weather gear for a run.
We live by the water, surrounded by wildlife and marsh and river settings so it's never an ordinary run. We saw a white crane, an egret or two, and the usual assortment of gulls, ducks and geese. We made our way into Hampton Park, which is a beautiful 60 acre park originally part of the Gibbes plantation. The park is so beautiful with an assortment of beautiful trees and local plants. My favorite tree is the live oaks which often are draped in spanish moss, and have great size and character. They are a treasure around Charleston and seem to come to life with their large branches some comparable to tree trunks. The park was busy this morning, it just had reopened after a brief closure to add a bike and walking lane.
We've heard some complaining around the neighborhood about people violating the new norms of proper direction on the lanes and even some malcontents violating the lane protocol altogether. It was nice to see all of the people out getting exercise and enjoying the beautiful park. We made our way around the road that circles the track which is about a mile and runs the same course as the horse race track that occupied the park area in the pre-civil-war 1800's. We headed out of the park and through the Citadel, which is still a military college. They are also the company that fired the first shots of the civil war on Fort Sumter.
We faced a stiff wind as we rounded the corner and headed toward the RiverDog's stadium.
Brittle-Bank park was breezy but the river was pretty with some geese and ducks fighting some choppy waters. Farther down by the marina we saw a marsh crabber picking up some oysters along the marsh banks, taking advantage of low tide. By that time I was warm enough to loosen the zipper a bit on the wind-breaker. It's a great feeling to run, after you get over the stubborn body part of wanting to quit, it becomes like a drug. The endorphin's bring a focus to your mind. I saw a report yesterday that physical exercise helps your slow wave sleep which could improve your memory. Time to exercise more! Today I was thinking how wonderful this world is, with all of it's flaws we are all blessed to be able to experience this time and this world. I am grateful to have someone who loves me, a wonderful family and truly extraordinary friends.
We ran down to the Battery on Charleston Harbor, the scene of many battles and legends, and even a few pirates. Then up Rutledge to truly one of the best bakeries we've ever experienced. If you get to Charleston you have to go to Wildflour and try one of their cinnamon buns, sticky buns or our favorite the strawberry jam scone. It is frequented by ordinary and celebrities alike. Happened to see Bill Murray in there one day. As always the scone was great, and we even picked up a few cookies for the Super Bowl dessert. It is a neat story two brothers facing off in the Super Bowl, imagine that experiencing the best and worst at the same time in the same family. Hopefully well see some good sportsmanship today, we really do need it. With all of the cheaters and liars popping up in the news due to enhancing drugs, I feel cheated for all of the seasons we didn't see. All of the athletes who would have shaped sports if we'd only had a chance to see them. It might had been completely different. Well, enjoy the game y'all and all y'all have a good day.