Hi & Welcome! I'm hoping this page will become an amalgam of all the things I love. A heap of environmental Q&A, a splash of kayaking, a sprinkle of hiking, a couple glugs of SCUBA diving, and a dash of snowshoeing as seen through the eyes of an overly nostalgic New Englander.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
While very little has changed in my professional life, my personal life has gone through several major shifts. For starters my crippling back and foot pains are completely gone. This was achieved with zero help from any doctors and no help from my now-cancelled gym membership (see previous post.) My hamstring muscles had shortened due to an almost constant state of sitting. Sitting in a car for two hours a day and then sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, followed by a couple more hours of sitting down with my kids to help them with their homework every night was (literally) killing me.
For those unfamiliar with the effects of long-term sitting I highly recommend reading this:
and watching this:
After raising my desk to a standing position (yes, I stand at my desk all day long) all the pain and symptoms went away within a week. I recommend this to everyone who has the physical ability to do it.
In other areas, about the time of my last post in November of 2012 I received an e-mail from a new employee by the name of Michelle who wanted to add a new nutrition component to our department’s Green Initiatives Framework (think of a green-team on steroids.) She wanted to introduce people to “plant-based nutrition.” I started out just helping her present her presentations and with setting up some A/V equipment but became slowly engrossed. As an environmentalist I’ve always agreed that a non-meat diet is the healthiest thing for our environment, but I did love a good cheeseburger or two, or three, or occasionally even four times a week. Her approach was a little different though. Instead of trying to inspire and persuade us, she simple provided a year long series of lunch-time lectures which included You-Tube videos of medical doctors giving cold, hard data. This was pure tactical genius on her part seeing she was presenting to a building full of scientists. After watching the evidence they (we) all took off to do our own research and try to dispel what we had just watched. All we found was more evidence backing up the facts Michelle had presented. I don’t think I can put into words how I became a vegetarian over the past 12 months, or how I am now standing on the very edge of veganism, but it all feels right.
The first changes came when I cut-out red meat in July and replaced it with rice, nuts, legumes, & beans: my hair and fingernails began growing faster. A lot faster. By the beginning of autumn I had given up all meat. I’ve been dropping about a pound a day while I’ve actually been eating (calorie wise) WAY MORE FOOD. My cholesterol has managed to drop 90 points this year. The last part of the challenge is cutting out the dairy. It was easy giving up the eggs and milk because I never really liked them anyway, but cheese is in almost everything I used to eat. Going just one week without cheese gave me my first break in my chronic rhinitis in almost nine years! I could smell things that I had not smelled in almost a decade! Like the pine trees in my back yard, the fall leaves on the ground, and that nasty moldy shower curtain I was completely unaware of. I never realized how a dark maroon shower curtain could work against me. I replaced it immediately of course.
The two videos that set me on this path and changed my life are from Dr. Michael Gregor and can be found here:
The Leading Causes of Death (2012)
Preventing Our Most Common Diseases (2013)
I was so inspired that I joined Michelle on a trip to Massachusetts last month for the Boston Vegetarian Festival where we met with Dr. Gregor in person. It was a blast and I can't wait to go next year.
I owe my new found health and happiness to my coworker and vegan coach, Michelle. Without Michelle’s guidance I would have continued to shrug off vegetarian and vegan diets as “extreme.” But thanks to her I’ve discovered that a plant-based diet is a lot less extreme than a heart attack, diabetes, or open heart surgery. A serious blow was dealt to my potential progress when Michelle came to me and said, “I’ve moving to California.” After all she’s done for me and the other here at work, she packed up her gold Prius (nicknamed Rose) and headed west two days ago. I’m guessing that she is somewhere in Colorado right now. I’m doing my best to keep it together and not fall to pieces. She decided to follower her passions, head west, and become a full time plant-based nutritionist. You can follow her cross country vegan restaurant-hopping exploits here: https://twitter.com/lovestobevegan On a less personal note I have been elected the VP of Education for my Toastmaster club and became an Assistant Scout Master (ASM.) I have a fair handle on the VP of Ed position, but the whole ASM thing completely eludes me. I have no idea what I’m doing. I guess that’s another area I’ll be doing my best to keep it together and not fall to pieces. If nothing else it will be fodder for some interesting future blog posts.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
As a professional environmentalist, I've been aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet for a long time. While I've experimented with it several time I've never committed to it fully. Even with piles of evidence right in front of me such as weight loss, disappearing heart-burn, reduced joint pain, more flexibility, and just feeling better all around. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't (and haven't) given this much thought due to the fact that I'm constantly bombarded by a meat-based diet, and my life moves so fast I don't always see what I need to see. This changed about a month ago when I couldn't get out of bet one morning.
The pain had started as a dull back ache in early October. My lower back had been getting weaker and weaker everyday. I had been suffering from planter fasciitis for about a year (pain in the connective tissue on the bottoms of my feet) and now I was having back problems too. It was getting harder to walk and every morning was harder and harder to overcome the stiffness and pain. Until one morning I was in too much pain to roll over or even sit up. It took me an hour to get out of bed. I have no idea how many times I gasped, screamed and collapsed. I had been reduced to walking with a pair of old ski-poles so I could brace myself whenever my back decided to lock-up or cut-out on me. I had also been reduced to sleeping in a reclining chair so I could get up in the morning. The doctor said I did not have a spinal injury and my discs were fine, but all the muscles in my lower back had stopped working and I needed to develop my core muscles again. He also said that the fasciitis was a bruising issue and needed to go away on its own over time. The chiropractor told me the same thing. Based on these two coinciding theories, I set out to rebuild the muscles in my core and lower back. I got a personal trainer and even went to see a guy who fired electricity into my back to "jump-start" my muscles. I did low-impact stuff at the gym and it didn't help at all. My trainer added more weight to the routine and suddenly I was right back to where I had begun; unable to walk and in constant pain. I was still sleeping in the same chair after a month of torture with absolutely no results at all. I was starting to accept that this may be my quality of life forever; that I would never run with my kids again, never snowshoe or kayak again; and never go hiking in the woods with my family again. I started to wonder if maybe I had a tumor growing in my spine and was just about ready to call the doctor for an MRI appointment, but I had a bizarre thought at 3:00 AM while sitting in my recliner, "Could the fasciitis and the lower back pain be related?"
I'm no doctor, by any stretch of the huge imagination. I'm sure if these two things had been related they would have told me...right? Wrong! I Googled "LOWER BACK PAIN + PLANTER FASCIITIS" and I got about 50 solid hits, and they all gave the same diagnosis - "SHORTENING OF THE HAMSTRING MUSCLES." My hamstrings had shortened, pulling the back of my pelvis out of alignment while simultaneously pulling the connective tissue off of the heal bones in my feet. I just had a four day weekend for Thanksgiving and I spent it stretching out those hamstring muscles every hour on the hour for every waking hour. I am now 90% better. I can still feel some bruising in my pelvic joints from the prolonged situation, but it gets better every day. The only pain in my feet is a small area in my left heal. I can't believe that this simple fact was overlooked by an M.D., a chiropractor, a muscle therapist, and a physical trainer. But I'm thankful that the thought popped into my mind at that ridiculous hour...however it got there.
You're probably wondering where the diet comes into play. As I was hobbling around the house for almost a month, it really slowed my life down and forced me to look at things I would normally skip-over or dismiss. I experimented with all kinds of foods and after 30 days of on-line research and countless YouTube instructional videos I've discovered that vegetarians and vegan are quite possibly the most beautiful, amazing, positive, and fun people on the planet...and I want in.
Now that I'm physically able to take that next step, I'm going to place my feet on this new path and see where it takes me. I grew up in a house full of carnivores, I was raised a carnivore, I live in a house full of carnivores. I expect this to be the greatest personal challenge of my life. As Oscar Wilde Said, "I can resist everything but temptation." I wonder which steps will be more painful; the ones on this journey or the steps from the journey I just finished.
Friday, June 29, 2012
So I had an issue with Blogger and Google+ that caused multiple accounts to be created and as a result I was locked-out of this account. I still haven't got it all cleaned up yet (so there might be two of me on here) but I'm trying.
I haven't been doing much on the personal side of things, just working, participating in Toastmasters, getting ready to volunteer at the Scouting Camp and trying to maintain the homestead.
I wanted to post a bunch of pics of some cakes that I've made, but I can't see any of the pics I post to Blogger. They upload OK, but I just can't see them after I add them to the post. I think it's a firewall issue.
I did an awesome Jaws cake, a very classy baby shower cake for my little sister and a couple of themed cakes for some folks at work. But I can't post them at this time! If you hang out in the Twitterverse you can find my (and my cakes) at twitter.com/deano1138 Follow me and mention Blogger and I'll follow you back.
So I'll be taking a little break from Blogger for a while until I get things squared away. See you guys soon.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I made the fondant while the cakes were cooking. By the time the cakes cooled I had most of the small pieces sculpted. I started with the small parts so they would have time to harden. This makes them easier to adhere to whatever I'm adhering them to.
|Arms, noses, eyes and facial hair|
|Gold buttons and red holly berries|
Next came the body segments (snowballs) and the heads
|I was surprised to find that Sam was made up of 5 segments (including his head.) I've never made a real snowman that has had more than 3 pieces.|
|It was at this point that I discovered Sam is just a heavy-set Colonel Saunder.|
Next was his derby. A simple black hat with a gold hatband and a piece of holly.
|Those are coloring jells, not prescription bottles|
|Bodies together and hats on|
Once the heads were on it was time to make the vests, place the buttons and his gold pocket watch.
|Adding the buttons|
|With his tie, arms and pocket watch (with chain.)|
I was very happy with the texture of the vest. The chain was a little heavier than I was picturing but I was also doing this in record time so I didn't really beat myself up over it.
The finished Sam...
|The "brown trunks" and some quick decorations|
The final product:
Total sculpting time was about three hours. As I was finishing these guys up the radio started to play Burl Ives' Holly Jolly Christmas. A fitting song seeing how he was the one who voiced Sam and gave life to this handsome snowman almost a half of a century ago.