A Potent Holiday Weekend in Colorado

Deborah and I got back from Colorado last night, just about midnight or so. It seems like often times when I depart from the Denver airport, there is some kind of weather incident afoot and yesterday was no exception from this perceived norm. In the couple of hours prior to my sister driving us from Colorado Springs to Denver, I had been watching storm clouds muster over the Front Range around Pike's Peak, grumbling thunder and flashing lightning. Often these afternoon rumblings amount to nothing and the storm's moisture dissipates in the thin, arid Colorado air. But yesterday the inclemency gained potency right around the time we hit the road for Denver and torrential downpours seemed to follow us on most of the trip.

Notwithstanding this, our plane took off on time. We got to the airport plenty early, anticipating holiday traffic delays. My sister backroad shortcutted a good bit of the route, eliminating a lot of that congestion, and so it was only the weather that slowed our travel a bit. When we pulled into the Terminal West departure area if Denver International, the eye of one of the thunderstorms was nigh upon us, though we were moderately protected from the precipitation by an overhanging awning.

Airport security was a bear, highly inefficient and disorganized and slow. In an absolute sense, I don't normally mind TSA weak sauce, given that modern aeronautic technology allows me to fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour to pretty much any destination in the world I want to go. But from a relative standpoint, it was pretty awful. Apparently, a bag of deluxe mixed nuts looks "pretty scary" (direct TSA staff quote) when viewed via x-ray machine (three times!). Yet even with the airport security gods working against us, we still made it to our gate with ample time to seek food before boarding our flight. Finding vegan options at the airport is never easy, but after a little searching, we found a place that could customize us a vegan salad, more or less. The only caveat was that they were out of the tofu they usually substitute for various meats on their salads. Sigh... The world is not vegan friendly, but we knew this when we signed on to this beneficial dietary lifestyle change, so we coped with the avocado that substituted for the tofu that substituted for the meat.

By the time our plane took off, the aforementioned thunderstorms had moved off to the east of Denver. The down side of this was that we had to fly east to get back to Madison WI. For safety, our pilot flew us north for a spell, into Wyoming, before turning east to bypass the apparent wall of storms now barreling across the Great Plains (which, incidentally, should be rolling into Wisconsin tomorrow some time). The flight was plenty turbulent, notwithstanding thunderhead avoidance, so much so that the flight attendants could not safely bring the drink/snack carts through the aisles but had to deliver their product manually. It wasn't tremendously bumpy in the sky, I didn't think, but they weren't taking any chances I guess. About midway through our flight, things settled down, but by then the flight crew had pretty much served up all the mini pretzels and juice cups manually.

Once we landed in Madison, everything was smooth. I retrieved our car from economy parking whilst Deborah scored her suitcase from baggage claim. I had wisely taken Deborah's credit card with me to pick up the car, because for whatever reason the auto pay machines in that lot do not like my credit card. Driving across town from the airport to our house in the middle of the night is always pleasant, because there are few drivers (Madison has some of the worst) on the road. We tried to watch some TV when we got home, but we were so tuckered out from the fun weekend in Colorado that we had to hit the hay rather expediently.

The weekend itself was action packed. We watched my niece and nephew compete in a homemade boat regatta race as well as some volleyball games. We also went up to my sister's partner Carl's mountain compound, where we partook of his wood fired sauna and made some pizzas on a barbecue grill (because his oven was on the fritz...that being said, the grill pizzas turned out really well and there were even some vegan ones!). We even had some down time to study for our summer classes and I took a two mile walk around my sister's hilly Manitou Springs neighborhood for some much needed exercise.

Those are the highlights. I hope you had a good Memorial Day holiday weekend too. I'd love to know what you did, if you feel like leaving a comment at the end of this post telling me how you spent it.

KEYWORDS: vegan diet, best weight loss diet, lifestyle coach, punk rock


It Is Rare That I Pound Out a Day as Potent as Today

I biked all over the place today. In total, I rode 17.77 miles. That wasn't my initial plan for the day. It began as a rather humble and short 3.5 mile round trip bike ride to the post office and back to mail a small package to my sister and her family out in Colorado (Hi Sis! Keep an eye out for a small package, the contents of which are self-explanatory). En route to the Middleton USPS branch, I swung by my wife's place of work and caught her at the tail end of lunch just to say HI. It was a phenomenal weather day (aka, a perfect day, in the vernacular). After returning home from leaving the package in the trusty hands of the USPS staff, I got a text from a friend who had lent me her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) last year for a class. She wanted it back to study for her licensure exam. We coordinated to meet at a coffee shoppe for the handoff and I decided to bike there and back, given the fantastic weather. That was about a 12 mile or so round trip. After Deborah got home and we had dinner, I decided to go to the gym, whilst Deborah had plans with her family. I had gotten ample aerobics biking during the day, but I wanted to lift some weights at the gym (see my prior post about Popeye arms). I biked to the gym anyway, because it is close to our house and the route is pleasant - relatively flat and passing through a scenic nature area. Plus, I had not driven in an automobile yet today and I wanted to keep that trend going....you know...to save the planet! The weight room at the gym was overrun with testosterone engorged blood sausages, so I did my weight lifting expediently and left before I got splattered with explosive raw machismo. On the way home, I stopped in at the Common Ground coffee shoppe, a new local venue that hosts live music. I actually performed there last Saturday. I wanted to enquire about the open mic nights there. As it turned out, an open mic night was happening when I arrived. It was a low key affair, because other than the host, there were no performers present. The host asked if I wanted to play. I did want to, but I was sans guitar. The host said that was no problem and let me play his guitar. I punched out 4 tight songs to an audience that numbered in the single digits and then stuck around while the open mic host, Alan somebody, rounded out the night. I biked home feeling like I had really maximized my day, even though I hadn't really started it until shortly after noon and some of the successes were happenstance. Well done, if I do say so myself. The only downside is that I only burned about 900 or so calories with all that biking. I thought it would have been at least 1200 calories, based on my caloric burn when I do the exercise bike at the gym for an hour. I grant you that I took the biking at a leisurely pace today, but it was still over two hours in the bike saddle, all told. Nonetheless, I am fully satisfied with today's level of potency.

KEYWORDS: lifestyle coaching, marriage and family therapy, punk rock

A Solid Yard Work Day

The weather yesterday was not originally supposed to be phenomenal...but it was. And even though I did not get out into said weather until about noon, it was action packed when I did. I mowed our sizeable and substantially overgrown (due to a lot of recent rain) yard, using some of the grass as mulch in various weed prone places in the yard. I also cleared the back deck of tree litter from the accursed weeping willows that loom over the back yard. I even fired up the grill and cooked some vegan veggie burgers for Deborah and me. Then I hypothetically planted the vegetable garden. What I mean by hypothetically is that I put seeds* into the soil in the raised bed and I hope to soon disprove the null hypothesis that they will not germinate and grow, thus supporting the alternative hypothesis that I successfully planted the garden. Once that milestone is achieved, the next hypothesis to be tested is whether I will get any yield from said vegetable plants. I planted green bean, scallop (aka, pattypan) squash, and habañada pepper seeds in the soil of the garden. I did transplant one preformed seedling into the garden, a roma tomato plant I picked up at the local grocery store. So, to the extent that it takes off and yields, as romas oft do, I technically have, at present, a tomato garden. This acts as a sort of control group in the aforementioned empirical gardening experiment. This experiment is confounded by the fact that I am using grass clippings as garden mulch this year. According to my web research, grass clippings make good mulch for raised beds. They are rich in nutrients and proved a weed preventing thatch, while also being porous enough to allow the soil to breath. In previous years I have used landscape fabric to achieve this goal but why not make use of already available and easily applicable yard waste? Our lawn is ridiculously dandelion free due to a professional "weed and feed" application we have done semi-annually. So I am not worried about dandelions infesting the garden at the moment. Anyway, I have rambled on far too long about the garden. After completing all the spring cleaning in the yard, I somehow still found the energy to go to the gym for 30 minutes of aerobics and 10 minutes of weight lifting. This morning, I can quite exquisitely feel many of the muscle groups in my body that had been underutilized this past winter, notwithstanding regular gym attendance. Mowing, raking, sweeping, and hauling use a wide assortment of the body's available musculature that simply cannot be replicated at a conventional gym.

Anyway, it was a potent day yesterday. The weather today looks to be comparably awesome, and since most of the immediate yard maintenance needs are taken care of, I am not entirely sure what to do with myself. I will take it moment by moment, starting with the preparation of a nice breakfast. I will probably read some articles in anticipation of my summer class that begins a week from today. It's a class about working with children and adolescents in marriage and family therapy and I expect it to be both educational and practicable. I was not expecting to have pre-assigned readings before the first class, but that would appear to be the case. So much for a week off between spring and summer semesters! But at least I love what I am studying.

*Note: Thanks go out to my buddy Brandon for sending me a sampling of garden seeds, as well as some coffee beans that I am going to try to cultivate indoors.


A Lull

I wrapped up a potent semester of graduate school at the end of last week. I think I got all A's in every class, although I did get docked a point or two here and there. Mostly the small demerits were for good and minor reasons and included constructive feedback. There's only one I am somewhat ambivalent about, and I'll journal it forthwith as a form of catharsis (see below). But first, I wanted to say that I currently have a week off between finishing my semester and starting my clinical internship training next week. To say it is a week off is really a bit of an exaggeration, because I actually have to cram a pantload of spring cleaning and yard work, weather permitting, into this week and next weekend. But I should find time for ample self-care and mental recharging.

This past Mother's Day weekend, I performed a music show on Saturday night, and I have been kind of riding the afterglow of that the past couple days, doing pretty much nothing directly useful on Sunday and Monday. I did study a bit of Spanish whilst at the gym both days, and I made a vegan dark chocolate chip banana bread today, mainly to use up three overripe bananas. But Deborah forbade me to keep the decadent loaf of sweet, warm, moist goodness in the house, and so I promptly delivered it to Deborah's mom, who lives not too far away, on my way to the gym this evening. I also did an hour of hospice volunteer work on Saturday morning, now that I think of it.

Speaking of the gym, I am implementing a modified fitness regime of doing five 30-minute aerobic workouts per week, instead of three 60-minute ones. Mathematically, this saves me a little bit of time on the gym floor, although the time saved is probably going to be lost to the additional driving to the gym and changing into and out of my gym clothes. Still, it feels easier to find 30+ minutes on any given day to work out than 60+ minutes. Additionally, the modified plan is also designed to allow me 10 minutes or so on either side of the aerobics to lift weights a little bit. I was noticing last week that I am starting to get "Popeye" arms, losing muscle tone in my biceps and triceps. My forearms have always remained well toned because I use those muscles a lot in everyday activities like writing and music. So that's about all that I have going on. I suppose it's time to commiserate on the aforementioned cognitive dissonance about one of the project grades I received this semester.

For my final presentation of the semester in my last class of the semester, I put together a really nice Powerpoint presentation and honed it to a razor sharp edge. I included lots of redundancy on the infrastructure side to prevent technical difficulties from derailing me at any point, including emailing it to myself as well as the professor, and uploading it to the proverbial "cloud." In an effort to save the planet a little bit, I decided to bike to class that night, giving myself ample time for the 3.5 mile bike ride. I had packed a change of shirt in my backpack in case I got sweaty on the ride. Nonetheless, as I was leaving the house, I had a slight feeling I was forgetting something. But in my head, everything had been checked off on my TO DO list. I arrived at the remote adult continuing education campus of my school, where my class was held, with plenty of time to cool off and don my fresh, clean tee shirt.

When I arrived in the classroom, the professor noticed my attire (shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt) and informed me that it was not up to snuff for a formal class presentation.

"Were we supposed to dress up for this?" I asked, surprised. None of my classmates had gussied up very much for their presentations the prior week.

"Yes, it's supposed to be a formal presentation," the professor said. "You are supposed to dress like you would at a professional meeting."

"Bust! I totally missed the fine print on that," I admitted, chagrined.

"It was in the assignment description on Blackboard," chimed in one of my classmates who had overheard this exchange. Blackboard is the online assignment submission interface we use in some classes.

"I biked here," I said, for lack of any other justification for my normal casual classroom attire.

"I gathered that," the professor said. I should note here that I am paraphrasing the conversation as I remember it. This is a skill I will need to hone during my internship as a marriage and family therapist, although I have no idea how good I am at doing it.

I was furious at myself for overlooking this minor thing. I brainstormed and decided to call my wife Deborah and ask her if she might bring me a collared button down shirt, since we live not far from campus. She kindly abided the request and delivered me a crispy pressed shirt just in time for me to change into it before I presented. Granted, I was still wearing sandals and shorts, but the shirt gave me a serious upgrade in my appearance and I was even able to incorporate the incident into my presentation in a clever and humorous way.*

Even so, when I got my grade a couple days after presenting, the professor had docked me two points (out of 25) for the dress code biff, notwithstanding my partial save (this meant I only got a 92% on the presentation...an A minus! NO!!!). I can't argue against it, since on paper I had failed with regard to the fine print on the assignment (I really should have read it more carefully). However, a part of me thinks I ought to have gained two points of extra credit for quick thinking in a crisis situation, which would have canceled out the demerit. After all, I am well on my way to becoming a marriage and family therapist, which will necessitate improvising in crisis situations, which I did in this case. Plus, I was saving the frickin' planet by biking to class! Conversely, I appreciate that this professor was trying to keep my humble by slapping me with a small fine. So I'm torn...

What do you think? Should I have been docked the two points or was it a wash?

*Note: The presentation was on "The 5 Love Languages," by Gary Chapman, and one of these so-called languages is doing "Acts of Service" as a way to show love and admiration for your spouse or partner. Deborah illustrated this love language in bringing me the shirt and so I incorporated that into the presentation with a bit of humor.