A few quick memories of Dad

Happy Father’s Day all! I lost my Dad twelve years ago. Years of smoking did enough damage, even though he had stopped a dozen years before. Ironically, one of his best lessons was not to smoke, as any teen will tell you how could anyone do something that tastes that bad after they sneak a try?

When I think of my Dad, I think of how he loved his grandchildren. He would be the comforter and entertainer to allow us parents to have some needed time. He would invariably tend to children after a meal to let others linger over conversation.

I think of his dutiful pitching in my batting practice. He would throw a bucketful of baseballs and then we would collect them and he would throw them again. Doing that after working all day is a way he showed his devotion to his children.

I think of his company having potluck lunches at work. Dad would smoke a ham and turkey. He would get up during the night to check on the smoking process to keep the meat tender. As I recall, they would do this three or four times a year.

I think of his marvelous roast beef he grilled and terrific BBQ chicken. He would laugh when we told him the chicken did not have any wings. The chef would be sampling said wings outside before he brought the chicken in.

I think of him loving my mother. We kids would sheepishly hide our faces as they hugged and kissed in front of us. I remember the story of how my Dad fell into my Mom’s lap chasing a loose basketball when she arrived late to the college team’s game. She also accidentally pushed him in a pond at college when the Women’s Dean approached.

My Dad was a good man. He was not perfect and had a few demons in smoking and alcohol, but I remember him well. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Replacing bad habits with good ones

I was reading a post by M.L.Davis at the suggestion of our friend Roger of Woebegone regarding good things that happen when you make writing a habit. I have included a link to her blog below. As I mentioned to her, it reminded me of a book my niece suggested for me when I was discussing breaking a bad habit of mine called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I wrote a summary about the book in the link below.

Many of my older readers know that I am an alcoholic. But, I have not had a drink in going on twelve years. A blog I wrote on my sixth anniversary remains by far my most frequented blog (link provided below). I think we all suffer from a bad habit or two that we would love to change. I believe that is the reason for the post’s relative popularity. My reasons for change were the wife of a colleague dying from complications from alcoholism and the recognition I was a train wreck waiting to happen.

The best piece of advice I received came from another colleague as we waited in an airport restaurant/ bar for our planes in Cincinnati. When she noticed me not ordering a drink early on in my sobriety, she said her husband went through this. She then said he used the mantra “I am not going to drink today.” There is a reason alcoholics can count the days of sobriety. It is a daily struggle.

Even today, there is a faint whisper of wanting a drink. It usually occurs during certain trigger moments, which Duhigg references in his book. My greater triggers were getting home from work and grilling out on Sunday. Unwinding from a stressful day sent me down an easy path to drinking. And, watching football or golf, while starting the grill became a cue for Happy Hour.

Recognizing these triggers is a way to change the habit. You have to substitute a good habit for the bad one. My good ones were fruit juices, popsicles, and tonic water. The alcoholic brain craves something sweet, so this allowed me to respond to the craving. Non-alcoholic beer helped some, but those added more calories than I wanted.

Regardless of your bad habit, identify its triggers and what happens next. I recall from the book about a worker who snacked too much at work. His cue was going to the restroom that took him past the breakroom. When he realized this, he changed his route and went for a quick walk.

The book is a good read. The attached post does highlight a few examples and teachings, but falls short of what Duhigg’s writings instruct. And, if you are an alcoholic or know someone, please offer the final link below. I have heard good feedback on it as I share what helped me with my problem.

4 Things That Happen When You Make Writing a Habit

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/the-power-of-habit/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

Two Anniversaries

My bride and I celebrated 32 years of marriage this week. I think she gave up on trying to fix me up, so she is stuck with what she got. Kidding aside, my wife is easily the best half of us. She is “the girl who holds the world in a paper cup,” meaning she is as genuine as they come.

My wife likes to say we are friends first, when asked about our longevity. The friendship carries us through the ebbs and flows of the relationship. The other is keep a sense of humor. We often laugh at ourselves and can tease each other. Life is too short not to laugh more.

I had another anniversary this week. I passed ten years without a drink of alcohol. The cravings are far fewer and less intense, but they linger back there somewhere. My daughter asked me about my drinking habits as I made her and my wife aware of the anniversary as we traveled. It stunned them by the amount I drank, but at least I did it at home.

The key lesson I learned early in my abstinence is to say the following mantra, “I am not going to drink today.” This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know the number of days. Another piece of advice is to find a substitute – mine were green tea, fruits, fruit juices, popsicles or sorbet. The cravings will remain, you just need to drink or eat something else.

So, let’s toast with your beverage of choice (or necessity) to laughter, love and sobriety, at least for those who must abstain.

 

Gone to seed

We have a poverty problem in the United States. Too many of our declining middle class did not rise to the next strata, falling instead, to near poverty and into poverty. Yet, we do not talk about this problem enough. We have let their ladders out of poverty, go to seed along with their environment.

Poverty should be succinctly defined, as it is often misdefined along with simplistic diagnoses. Quite simply, poverty is the lack of money. The causes are many and complex, so the solutions must be holistic.

Some like to say it is due to lack of virtue. Some like to say it is due to lack of work ethic, while others may claim it is due to drug use or alcoholism. When I work with people in poverty, I witness hard working, often pious people. I see people with a lesser propensity to do drugs than general society.

If we recognize the simple definition of poverty as lack of money, we can focus our attention on providing ladders out of poverty. We can invest in the communities that have gone to seed, both with economic and social capital. We can start with redeveloping depleted assets. The term coined with a successful program in Atlanta is ABCD – Asset Based Comminuty Development.

ABCD could focus on repairing and not closing a community school, recognizing the during and after school value it offers. Or, it could be redeveloping a gone to seed golf course or empty textile or tobacco mill. Or, it could be repurposing a mall to be a school, church, charity or governmental building. Replacing or refurbishing blighted assets makes a huge difference.

Coupled with these investments must be education and career development, or social investments. Jobs and careers are scarce in too many areas. Opportunities must be introduced and nurtured to make them sustainable. STEM education, apprenticeships, trades skills are part of an all of the above tactical strategy,

But, we must be mindful of four negative trends in areas that have gone to seed – crime, opioids, food deserts  and single families. Community policing by people living in the community is key. Targeted help with the opiod epidemic is important. Better food choices must be available as they may not have a grocery market. And, we must have holistic sex education and access to planned parenthood tools and birth control.

What we cannot have is kicking tens of millions off health care insurance. We cannot reduce an already minuscule food stamps program. We need to think about improving the minimum wage.

These are just a few ideas. But, first we need to address what people in poverty lack – money.

 

 

 

A few preventive health tips

As a former HR consultant and manager of benefit programs for a large company, I have been involved with health prevention and wellness initiatives dating back to 1994. The impact of early detection and intervention is huge for employees, their families and the company who may offer such benefits. In short, we are all train wrecks waiting to happen, so the sooner we can take stock of ourselves, the sooner we can begin some intervention and keep the train on the tracks.

I have written before about this topic, but do yourselves and family a favor and take some action to understand your health. In the US, we are the most obese country in the world and have been for some time. As we age, this obesity will cause us many problems. We are also the most medicated country in the world, which can be good and bad. The bad is we would prefer to take a pill rather than make a lifestyle change. And, note a pill can lose its veracity over time if the problem does not get better managed.

So, here are a few tips, even if you feel healthy:

  • If you do not have healthcare coverage, get it. You are one accident away from needing a “Go Fund Me” page. You may qualify for a subsidy under the ACA.
  • With this, get a primary care physician, preferably one within a larger practice, where the doctors and nurses can see you on Saturday or even Sunday, if something arises.
  • Know your numbers. Blood pressure, BMI, weight, cholesterol, etc.
  • Know your history both familial and geographic. The environment you grew up in can impact you as much as your family genes.
  • If in your 50s, get a colonoscopy – there is no better prevention test out there, as the doctor can fix some things during the test and confirm any future problems.
  • If a woman and in your 40s, or sooner if you have a history, get a mammogram. We ran a mobile mammogram program in the 1990s and tested 11,000 female employees or spouses. The tests found 11 cancers. The testers also showed women how to better do a self-exam.
  • Take your medicines all the way through. People usually stop taking medicine when they feel better
  • Walk, walk, walk more. If you don’t like exercise, walk. After dinner, short errands.
  • If you smoke, find a way to stop. Nothing good comes from smoking. And, for you young folks. it does not look cool. It looks stupid.
  • If you self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol, see a counselor or your doctor about stopping. I have not had a drink in eight years, as I was an accident waiting to happen.
  • Do not supersize the fast food and reduce the number of fast food meals. Some of these restaurants, actually have healthier options, so check them out.

There are many more things you could do, but if you do a few of these, you will be better off. Note, I am not a doctor, so please do not construe any of this as medical advice.

 

Happy Independence Day Early

Best wishes all on a festive, but important anniversary in our US history. A few reminders to all, including my family, friends, and me.

– Don’t drink and drive – it is a bad idea anyway, but many police officers will be doing road checks looking for overly imbibed drivers.

– Along these same lines, remember alcohol, testosterone, and fireworks do not mix very well, so please leave the lighting to those who are more coherent.

– Stay hydrated if outside. So easy to forget, so easy to fix.

– Drive safely as many of us will be on the road. If you can read my bumper stickers, you are too close, unless we are at a traffic stop. And, the trucker sticker is true – if you can’t see his/ her mirrors, he/ she cannot see you.

– Remember the sunscreen song that began and ended its many lessons with advice to lather up when you go out – this is particularly true if drinking is involved, as a drunk lobster of a person is not at his/ her best (and will be in pain tomorrow).

– Keep an adult or older teen eye on kids around water. It only takes a few seconds. If you have folks to your pool, lake, river, etc. for a swim, make sure all can as hosts can get caught up in the event.

– Remember to hug loved ones close when you leave. It only takes a few seconds and means so much to both hugger/ huggee.

Finally, let’s remember the true meaning of July 4. It celebrates our freedoms. So, remember your freedoms are as important, as my freedoms. Not more or less. That is what we fought for and our history has been one of making sure that is true for all. Happy 4th of July!!!

 

 

Just passed my seventh anniversary without a drink

People have reacted well to the post I published on my sixth anniversary of being alcohol free. Thank you. I hope it is helpful. I think the acknowledgement that I still want to have a drink resonates with some and surprises others just starting out on their quest. I think they are hoping the feeling would go away. It does subside, but it takes a day-to-day effort of saying “I am not going to drink today.”

Below is a link to the post. Please feel free to offer your comments or questions. I am just another imperfect person battling his impulses, which in my case, when I failed in the battle put me in bad place. I will shoot straight with you on what has helped me, much of what I included in the post. Best wishes on your quest. Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/