Health and Fitness Self-Reflection

Moob Over Dad Bod

Men, ever been bean dipped?  There is nothing on Earth that will motivate you more to work out than a good old fashioned bean dipping.  Let me explain.

I’ve got a nephew who can’t weigh 150 pounds soaking wet.  He’s a sample sized lacrosse player with a single digit body fat percentage, well defined abs, and attitude to match.  You know the type.  Every once in a while, usually when I’m feeling particularly good about myself, he “helps” me see that there is still work to be done.  How, you ask?  Well, imagine, if you will, a hand with an invisible tortilla chip in it (his).  Now imagine that “chip”, being placed strategically under the pectoral muscle of an unsuspecting victim (me), and then imagine that hand “scooping” (flicking) said pec (bean dip) so that it wobbles like a king-sized jello salad.  A good bean dipping is done publicly so that others can enjoy the experience.  Bonus points are rewarded if completed after swimming when the victim is shirtless.

I’ve had day dreams where he sprains his wrist, hyper-extends fingers, and even cries a little.  

So, using bean dip for fuel, I find myself once again making a run at it.  The past two weeks have been extremely rewarding. Take a look:

In addition to starting the second four week interval of P90X and spinning to my heart’s delight, spring has sprung and I was able to get out for my inaugural ride before I had to build an ark.  The weather has not cooperated since, water wise, but on the bright side, I have been able to de-winterize the “gym”.  No more heater, no more moving blankets, and no more layers, gloves, or hat.  It’s so refreshing to just go workout!

In a moment of clarity, I have also come to realize that I am skipping what is perhaps the most important aspect of P90X for an old guy like me.  In order to get the cardio I want (I am planning an extended bike trip later this spring), I only use the P90X program for strength training.  On the other days, my spin/bike days, I do the ab routines and a super modified version of the stretching.  So, it’s not that I’m not getting any flexibility work, it’s just that I know I could benefit from more.

Case in point.  Earlier this year some friends of mine, (very young friends of mine!) brought up the sit to stand challenge as a way to test longevity.  If you are not familiar with it take a peek at the video below.  

So, on top of being almost 6’7”, a recovered knee surgery patient, and as flexible as sheet-rock, I decided to give it a try.  It wasn’t even the fact that I hat to cheat to do it that bothered me, it was the simple fact that sitting cross legged with no shoes on forced the outsides of my feet into the floor with such force I was convinced they would leave impressions.  

New Goal: Flexibility training must be added to the routine.  

With the new goal comes the new dilemma.  How do I NOT make being in the garage the center of my universe and still cover all my bases?  Maybe I can figure out a way to get paid to workout.  This stuff is important to me, but it’s not everything to me.  


The Art of Art

I saw in a post yesterday Art that you died eight years ago.  How is that even possible? It reminds me of something I heard once, that just like a needle on a record player takes less time to complete a lap with each successive spin, so too does the amount of time a year seems to take as we age.  I would further argue that not all events in our lives are even on the same record- I mean c’mon, when has a week of work taken the same amount of time as a week of vacation?  On top of that, something strange happens when someone we are close to is suddenly gone.  It’s like that particular record has no speed control at all. When I think of you Art I can’t help but feel like you were just here, and at the exact same time eight years doesn’t seem to cover how long you’ve been gone, and all the while my own record keeps spinning.  I think the point is, I miss you.

The truth is, I’ve been sitting on this.  I’ve wanted to write to you(about you) for a long time, weeks even.  It just never felt like I’d be able to capture the essence of Art.  Then, a couple of days ago, I was sitting at a red light when I looked to my left and saw an image of the baseball logo you designed. It was like a slug to the gut. The last time I saw that logo was the last time I saw you, only a few weeks before your death.  You couldn’t even speak at that time-the brain cancer had taken that from you.  You gave me a patch with that same Minneapolis Millers logo. The one you reclaimed, redesigned, and proudly had placed on your boy’s team uniforms.  As I pulled through the intersection, a powerful wave of loss swept over me.  I knew at that moment, warts and all, this one had to be written.  

Our friendship started innocently enough.  Two dads with two pairs of kids the same age and gender, attending the same school, and involved in all the same activities.  At first, you were just a face growing in familiarity at the occasional conference or open house night. Later you evolved into “that one dad” that always sat near us during band concerts and plays. Eventually, you grew to become an actual friend. 

If somebody asked me what made you so unique in my eyes I would say that you were one of those rare individuals who was independent of the good opinion of others- a concept that couldn’t be more foreign to me.  Sure, you were kind, and loyal, and funny, and a million other things, I had other friends like that, but you had a clarity about you.  You knew what you liked and simply did that.  For a guy like myself, still trying to figure it out, there couldn’t be anything more alluring. 

Look, this was never meant to be a eulogy, just an acknowledgement that your life mattered to me a great deal and that even now I’m affected by you. I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast today, but I’ll never forget the look on your face when you dunked the ping pong ball on your first and last ever beer pong shot.(The look on everybody else’s faces were pretty priceless too when you gently laid your paddle down, said the word “fun”as if you’d rather be knitting, and left the room to go down in history as the only player ever to have never missed a shot!) 

I raise my glass to you today on the anniversary of your death and repeat, in your own immortal words, “Every Beer’s a Sandwich!”

Thanks Art. 

Mission Self-Reflection

Turning Off The Tap

This one’s radioactive! (Please remember the magnifying glass is already pointed at me so…) Question: When I reflect on my life before I felt it was important to check the news cycle every few minutes was I happier? Answer: Hell yes! The steady stream of “information” is not critical to my happiness. So why have I been acting like it is?

If junk food is defined as “food” that is high in calories but low in nutritional content then the term is a perfect match here. When I am truly honest about where most of my mental capital has been spent over the course of the last few years, I have to admit it has been wasted on the equivalent of mental junk food.  If only I were talking about watching cartoons all the time, or videos of peoples falling down.  No, I’ve been much more sinister.  I’ve been justifying my beliefs.  I’ve been finding evidence to prove I’m right.  Mostly, I’ve been looking for ways to prove people I love and care for are wrong.  It’s eaten away at me, and it has to stop!

The purpose of this blog is simple( “Better, Stronger, Faster” ): Documentation of “a commitment I have made to myself to become a better version of me.  When I say that, I don’t just mean in some figurative or nebulous way.  I mean it in every way possible.  I mean it about myself physically and mentally, professionally and privately.  I intend to be a better friend, and better with my family.  I mean it in both qualitative, and quantitative ways.  If there is a way to improve me, I’m doing it.”

I think I’ve been very true to this mission…to a point.  However, the elephant in my living room lies in the line, “I intend to be a better friend, and better with family.”  In this, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have failed worse.  

The Sneetches- By Dr. Suess

The Sneetches- By Dr. Suess

“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches Had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big.  They were really so small You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches.” With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort “We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!” And whenever they met some, when they were out walking, They’d hike right on past them without even talking.”

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s nobody better at loving people in my echo chamber.  It’s the Sneetches with “no stars upon thars”  that I’m struggling with.  Sadly, I think pretty much the whole US, whether they admit it or not, has joined me in this failure.  Remember that line Mom used to say all the time? “It’s more important to be kind than to be right!”-me either.

I thought of a bumper sticker a number of years ago.  (I’m an idea guy, but my follow through is wanting.  You are welcome to run with this and make millions!) 

“Is it hypocritical to exclude the intolerant?”

Deep, huh?  Loving one another is supposed to be a value common to all of us.  I’d even be willing to bet there isn’t a healthy religion or community in which love of your fellow human is frowned upon.  To me, it’s also the hardest part of sharing a planet.  But, just how can any of us take the moral high ground if we are not willing to reach out to especially those who are hardest for us to like right now.  Most of us are acting as if we’re one winning argument away from converting the masses. What I think we need to remember, though, is that intolerance is the refusal to accept (or perhaps, even listen to?) others beliefs. People are probably not listening to us anyway, but they are sure as hell watching us.

You know what I realized about my bumper sticker this year.  It’s not actually a question at all.  It’s a command.  Try to dodge this:

“It is hypocritical to exclude the intolerant.”

Ouch!  If I don’t do everything in my power to include everyone, even (especially!) the people I don’t like right now, then I am behaving no better than those who I perceive to be the worst offenders. Apparently, the only capitol that needs storming is my own mental capital.

It’s going to take some time to do this.  I’ll have to extend myself a little grace.  I think the first thing I will do is turn off the information faucet.  My hats off to the people in the media, we need you to keep us honest, but how you work in your field day after day without the barnacles of cynicism taking up permanent residence on your minds, I’ll never understand. Second, there are some zoom happy hours that need to happen immediately. Finally, I need to do internal audits of my intolerance regularly because Mom was right, I would rather be nice than right.


Featured Image: Photo by Peter Gollowitsch on Unsplash

Go, OK. Maybe, This Time. 30 Aug. 2005,

Seuss. The Sneetches, and Other Stories; Written and Illus. by Dr. Seuss. 1961.

Health and Fitness Mission Professional Growth Self-Reflection

When The Wheels Fall Off


And do you know what the worst part is? I let it dam my flow!  I’ve come to learn that it is so much more fun to write when things are going well.  I’ve also learned that I need to publish immediately, even if I’m not proud of the contents, because that’s what blogs are for.  Who’s to say that posts about honest struggle carry less value to the reader or the writer than brag posts?

A quick recap:  I am in the middle of a massive self-reconstruction project.  (It’s massive to me, but I don’t think anyone outside the audience of this blog would have any idea that I’m doing anything out of the ordinary.)  My goal is to take this Covid time-out and use it to completely change.  My goal is to be a better person physically, mentally, and professionally, and in any other way that occurs to me.  It occurred to me early on that this really is an opportunity like no other, like a caterpillar in the cocoon, I’m leaning into the voluntary social distancing required to stay healthy.

So, even though you, the reader, are probably only interested in parts of this post, I thought I would use it to do a general check-in on all plates I have spinning around me all at once. Yes, that’s clunky, but I’ve fallen behind.  Good luck readers!


I might as well start here and get the disappointment out of the way.  Unlike other posts you will find no graphs or tables here today.  The injury I sustained to my back two Sundays ago has proven to be persistent.  That said, I have 5 days of extremely light resistance and gentle stretching under my belt.  I’m close to getting back to it, but it has taken a complete fortnight to get to this point.  

In addition:

I have learned that there are limitations to my garage gym.  I was able to deal with humidity and melting snow from the cars, but the weather forecasted above is only a continuation of the weather we have already endured.  January was jungle hot compared to February.   So my new gym is literally a 6’ X 7’ landing near my basement stairs-literally the only place in the house where I can lay without stacking couches or beds.  And you know what?  It’s perfect!  I’m absolutely prevented from undertaking anything that could further injure me.  It seems I’m being instructed from above to ease my way back(pun intended).


My “Dry January” turned into “Dry Close Enough!”  Yep, tripped at the finish.  On a positive note this has become a bi-annual undertaking, as I take Septembers off too.(If I have successfully completed two January and one September liquor fast am I allowed to talk about it like this is a thing I do?)  I think it was my frustration at not being able to work out as much as anything that was responsible for my falter.

I am also not using Fitness Pal to track my eating at this time.  This was never meant to be a long term intervention, rather a mental calibration to get a feel for what portion control should feel like.  As I stated in earlier blogs, I’m not out to lose weight.  If anything I probably need to gain some.  My ultimate goal is to maintain mass as I traipse through time.

What is really helping me most is that, as a family, we are extremely motivated to eat well right now.  My current belief is that rather than restrict the amount eaten we should add fresh vegetables to every meal.  A salad or a soup, when added to a meal, fills in the cracks before the naughty foods can.


Almost Five Weeks

This is the view from my Rosetta Stone progress plan.  I have completed 4 weeks, and have one more lesson in week five.  As I mentioned earlier, for me this program is best used in conjunction with Duolingo as it focuses way more on pronunciation.  However, I find myself counting the seconds for each lesson to be over.  In the program’s defense I usually do it after I have already completed an hour or two of Duolingo.  How fair is that? 

On January 3rd, when I last posted about Spanish I was at 19500 XP, so as you can see, I’ve earned almost 4000 points since then(with corrections that’s like 5000 questions!)  Check out the streak of days!

Duolingo Points
Hey, at this point I have to celebrate even the little things!

Professional Growth

I’d like to start by mentioning this very blog.  This was new to me.  I’m going to give myself a pat on the back here.  No, this isn’t Catcher In The Rye, but I do try to put a little thought into what I produce here.  Also, putting yourself out there publicly has to be worth something too.  So there it is.  Another 10 posts during the month of January.  Not terrible.

This Counts!

In addition to blogging I have completed 5 online education classes for my teaching licensure to date(Digital Literacy and The Connected Classroom from Eduro, and Cultural Competency(2 parts) and Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents from EQ Learn.

For the record, this is not the only place I record my thoughts. I have a journal I have kept on and off for almost 30 years(mostly on!). I mention this because, in looking over what I have written so far, there are some pretty major omissions that I’m still not at the point I want to share publicly. My spiritual journey and future plans make up a large portion of what goes into it my hand written journal(incidentally, there is nothing better than a fountain pen and a good journal to coax out the most stubborn thinking!) Perhaps, in the future, I’ll pull back the curtain on some of this growth as well. For now you’ll just have to be satisfied with that Duolingo streak. Whoa!

Photo Credit

Featured Image: Photo by Mark Zamora on Unsplash

Health and Fitness Self-Reflection

Full Stop

Rest, that period of time when going forward feels a lot like a going backward…It’s extremely hard not to judge myself too harshly when my well laid plans go awry.  However, I realize that even when I am at my most careful, I am not perfect, and therefore open myself up to injury.  The irony of my last health and fitness post being titled “Bulletproof” is not lost on me.  To think, I expounded on how I was using exercise as a means to make my body injury proof…sheesh!

This has always been my history. Even when I was lifting weights that were much heavier than I was, I could still bend over to tie my shoe the wrong way and experience the electric jolt my spine makes when it decides to go on vacation.  This time around it was more like a slow leak.  If I had been ice skating alone on Sunday I probably would have taken my skates at the first, low level pinch.  However, as I was with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I pushed on, hoping my back would loosen.  All I can say is that it’s a good thing no one was watching when I finally took my skates off because I’m sure it looked like there were invisible magnets preventing my upper torso from getting anywhere near my lower torso.  I pretty much had to kick my skates off.

He might look friendly, but this guy pushes me!

The other day, I was flipping through the news when I came across an article on this guy, Ed Whitlock.  Ed was able to, at the age of 74, run a marathon in under three hours.  I HAVE to cling to the memory of Ed, and athletes like him, during weeks like this.  There will be setbacks!  As long as I can continue to take the long view I’m all set.  At the risk of sounding like I’m just making excuses for progress not made during my lifetime to date, I have always adhered to the idea that life is not a sprint.  I didn’t play professional sports or go to the olympics, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to develop type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, or morbid obesity by embracing a sedentary lifestyle, eating in a way I know to be counter to my long-term goals, or by GIVING UP!

I have a poster hanging in my garage that I use to help motivate me for this long-term view of health. The photo is taken from a book entitled, Growing Old Is Not For Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes– by Etta Clark. The grizzled man in the photo almost looks photo shopped. His craggy, weathered head sits upon the chiseled body of a man who has known deprivation, work, and drive. Were it not for the Rocky Balboa’s sweatpants, one would be tempted to search for evidence of a seam at the neckline.

I choose to believe that both Ed and this guy looked upon fitness with an eye for the long run. In the clip above Ed states, “Everyone has to find their own recipe for success…you never know…you always have to be kind of tweaking things and trying to figure out what is best. You never really know if you’ve got the best recipe for success. All you can do is keep trying to find it.” Would it be ok if I take tweaking to mean rest this week?

I found this interesting, according to Healthline, “In addition to heavy lifting, any activity that puts excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause an injury. Sports such as football and golf can lead to back spasms because they demand that the back turn suddenly and repeatedly.” The one thing that I did both Sunday and the day that I last experienced back joy was shoveling.  Turning the back repeatedly sounds a lot like moving snow.  Maybe I’ll have my wife film me so I can analyze my form.  It never hurts during the snow flurry, only when I attempt to do something immediately after.  Wouldn’t shoveling warm up the back?  

So, without any more stalling, I proudly present my abhorrent data for week 4. 

I’m not going to lie.  I thought this would be much worse.  I’ve crept up a bit here this last week, but I think when you look at this next chart you will understand why.

Only two workouts this week!

If you look closely you will see that after Sunday’s skating fun, I have done nothing to jeopardize the hard work Dr. Bob puts in to get my back into alignment.  I was given some mild stretching exercises and a lower back strengthening move to practice.  That was the extent of my physical work this week.  On a positive note, I’m feeling like I can probably get back to it in the morning.

I don’t know the secret to avoiding all setbacks. I seem to find new and unique ways to injure myself on a weekly basis. For the record, I’m being very careful to warm-up before any resistance training, I lift light weights or use my own body weight when possible, and I cool down. I also try to stretch or do some light yoga here and there too. the bottom line is that injuries are going to hit. Successful individuals taking the long view of fitness “tweak” themselves back to health and get back to it. If you need me tomorrow I’ll be in the garage.

Works Cited:

Clark, Etta. Growing Old Is Not for Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes. Pomegranate Calendars & Books, 1993.

Ed Whitlock Tribute #RememberingEd, 20 Oct. 2017,

Johnston, Simon.  Full Ahead…Aye Aye Captain.…

“Medical Information and Health Advice You Can Trust.” Healthline, Healthline Media,


Taking A Journey

Have you ever wanted to teach abroad? Maybe you’re feeling you’re in a rut. In this post I will relate how my family found itself in Korea for eight wonderful years.

A number of years ago, after having taught urban middle schoolers for eleven years and emotionally behaviorally disordered elementary students for five, I felt mentally and emotionally drained, like there was no more ink in the pen.  About this time a new teacher at my school sat down next to me at a staff meeting.  She proceeded to pull out what could only be described as a tome, the book was thicker than the yellow pages.  Something compelled me to ask what it was.  She slid it in front of me and proceeded to explain that it was a school catalog put out by International School Services, an organization that recruited teachers for 100’s of international schools all over the world. 

As I flipped through the pages I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The pages were packed with contact information, benefit estimations, curriculum delineations-basically almost everything you would need to know in order to decide whether or not a school would be a good fit for you, or not. It was as if invisible tumblers aligned and something clicked into place inside me. I knew instantly that this was exactly what was missing from my own teaching experience! This was the fresh challenge I craved!

Over the ensuing weeks my wife Jo, and I, discussed the matter further, and agreed it was something we should pursue.  However, like all crazy ideas it seemed to wilt in the bright light of reality.  Were we really ready to pick up, leave everything behind, and drag our two children (10 and 13) to some foreign land?  And then, something extraordinary happened.  We went to see the Pixar movie “Up.”  In it, there is a montage at the beginning where Carl and Ellie agree that they are going to pursue their childhood dream and travel to Paradise Falls in South America.  They begin to save their money, and the coins begin to pile up in the glass jar, only for life to step in and require them for everything from car and home repairs, to doctor bills, and the like.  

Pixar’s “UP”

(This was not unlike the dream Jo and I had had to join the Peace Corps early in our marriage, only to be told we didn’t have the skills they needed at the time, and then, later, to be told we couldn’t bring our children.)  I remember walking out of the theater, and both of us, without prompting turning to each other and in unison saying, “We have to teach abroad!”

The next day, On December 28th, 2009 we entered Spyhouse Coffee armed with computers.  After two casual cups of coffee and some obligatory small talk, I opened my computer and logged into the only site I knew recruited teachers, ISS.  The reason I remember the date was because we learned the minute we connected to the site that December 28th was the absolute last day the organization was accepting teachers.  

We spent the next few hours firing off emails, some to buy more time, some to beg for letters of reference, some seeking advice.  When all was said and done we were granted a two week extension, signed up for and attended a job fair in Boston a few short weeks later, and found ourselves having to make the difficult decision of choosing between placements in Moscow, Manilla, and Seoul.  We had stumbled upon Seoul Foreign School’s website earlier when doing a preliminary search for school’s with orchestra programs that we knew would challenge our daughter.  However, when it came down to it, it was my brother’s last minute text, “Six months of winter or eight, go with Seoul!” that ultimately swung the pendulum in favor of Korea.  

Never, not for even a second, have we ever regretted our decision.  Oh sure, there were plenty of frustrations, but the positive impact living abroad had on our family was immediate and permanent.  From the moment we walked into our new apartment and my son Christopher plopped down on the couch, looked up at us and said, “I can get used to this!” to this very day. I’m convinced that getting out of our comfort zones is how we learn best. Nothing gets you out of your comfort zone like living in a different country.

My “Urban Camouflage” I’m the one in the hat.

In my next post I’ll share what I’ve learned about the nuts and bolts of how to go about securing a position overseas.

Photo Credit:

Featured Image Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash


Your Own Bucket

When it comes to taking personal responsibility for the decisions one makes in his or her life, in learning and otherwise, my dad has a favorite, and rather colorful, expression, “Everybody’s gotta carry their own bucket of shit,” he would say. (Stay with me, it will make sense in the end.)