Category Archives: Aging

2016 and moving forward

Last time I did this I was at a tea house.  That tea house is long gone now and my oh my how things have changed since then but then again some things haven’t changed.

Let’s rewind a bit before the tea house.  I was at a coffee shop with an acquaintance.  She noticed that I was limping round because of my ankle injury.  She told me that her husband had the same thing and that it took him over 6 months to recuperate.  I mentally winced.  6 months!?!?

It turned out she was pretty dead on correct.  The injury was the centerpiece of the first half of my year. A daily nagging and painful reminder of how things were in general. I worked my way back from the injury and in fact I ran a 10k race in November.  The ankle is not fully healed.  On cold mornings it still hurts and I still don’t run on a daily basis.  But perhaps given more time it will one day heal totally.

This year has in some ways been a wake up call and a reminder of how time has passed.  Injuries like this that I could shrug off now take time to heal.  Beyond that I find that some of the interests of my youth no longer hold the same allure that they used to.  The science fiction novels, the action movies, the loud music just don’t interest or thrill me as they used to.  From time to time I still indulge but I find that I am far more picky as to what I spend my time on.

The business part of my life has picked up during the course of the year.  A 4 month-long sales doldrum finally broke in February and I’m slowly returning to form.  I find that the sales arena is now much more competitive.  We live in leaner economic times and I have to do my utmost on each and every sales opportunity and lead to try to convert them into projects for our company.

But of course the big news of the year was and still is the election. Along with millions of others I stayed up that Tuesday night in early November and watched dumbfounded as all the election polls were proven wrong.  The implications of what this election might mean to not just my life but the country and the world in general began to sink in that sleepless night and for many nights to come.

Panic has given way to anger and then determination.

In the past couple of weeks that determination to stand up and resist the new administration and to work to oppose the dismantling of our freedoms has become more and more pronounced.

It’s curious.  Thinking about the effects of this election and my need to speak up and act has made me think more about my life and my life goals in the last month than I have for a long time.

I’ve begun to realize that in some ways my life goals in previous years have been somewhat shallow.  In general, those life goals consisted of maintaining my employment, paying off my house, building up a retirement nest egg, and finally selling the house and moving to a retirement spot.  Possibly some place in Europe or maybe the southwest US.  Not the worst life but not the best either.

But now, now I feel that this election has given my life a certain focus.  I feel that this is a call to take action and to become more involved. I can’t just sit idly by and just go to work while things are occurring right in front of my face and not take action.

I’m not blind and I can see very clearly what is happening and that I have to lend my voice to those that oppose the changes coming to our country.  I’ve never been what you would call hugely political but then again I’ve never before felt such a threat to our democracy.

I don’t imagine that the next few years will be easy and I don’t think that we’ve hit rock bottom yet.  But I do think that if I hold on with steadfast determination that things will change for the better.  I also think that no matter what happens that my life will be the better for having participated and having done my part.

My life will at least be more interesting.

Changing interests

My remodeling caper precipitated a rare burst of cleaning and consolidation on my part.  Amazing how much “stuff” you accumulate in a couple of decades without even trying.

I’m going through a bunch of boxes and realizing that I’ve picked up more than my fair share of statements, and addenda, and advertising, and plane ticket receipts, and pay stubs, and who knows what else.

throw away your bank statements and keep love letters” goes a line from a popular advice column.  Ain’t that the truth?  My paper shredder is getting a workout.

I get past the miscellaneous papers layer and get into some books and manuals.  College textbooks that I thought would help me in my post collegiate career, magazines I saved from 20 years ago because they had one interesting article.  Then I find my engineering notebooks.

Among other things I had been in engineering school for a year.  Aerospace Engineering to be exact.  I was going to be a rocket scientist.  This was part of my “flying” phase that I passed through during my teens.  I was all about airplanes.  I wanted to fly them, I wanted to build them, I wanted to do nothing but talk planes all day and night.

I would go to the library and pore over the latest copy of “Jane’s All the world’s aircraft” and read and re-read every section till I memorized the vital statistics of every plane I saw.  I would hang around the engineering building and talk rockets with professors all the time.  My life was aerospace engineering.

But after a year I found that I was really not cut out to be a pilot or an engineer.  My eyes weren’t up to snuff to be a fighter pilot or a test pilot.  My mathematical ability wasn’t up to the advanced calculus required for the theoretical maths necessary for the latest air designs.

So after my freshman year I quit engineering school and moved over to the geosciences and finally found my way into geography.  A big change, I know.  But it felt right and I can’t say that I regretted the decision.

I’ve never looked back or longed to go back to that career.  I’ve kept these books and airplane plans mainly due to inertia.  They’ve followed me round from place to place and survived past cullings.  Every time I do one of these ‘cleanings’, one or more items from my old life go into the trash.  Most if not all of it will end up in the garbage this time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed my time as an engineer.  If I would have had the skill to make a go of it I would have been an engineer or a pilot right now and maybe I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I’ve broken away from several other interests over the year and I don’t regret letting go of them.  At some point you have to let go of the last vestiges of that old life to make room for the new.

Besides which, these are “things”, physical things.  They’re not that important.  That advice is correct.  Throw away those old bank statements (things) and keep the love letters (friends and family).  With luck and some care I have maybe another forty of fifty years of life left.

I have enough time to get more things, I can develop more interests, I can accumulate the detritus of life all over again.  The people though.  Those I intend to keep.



If you open your eyes, and I mean really open your eyes you will find that life can amaze, astound, appall, and leave you speechless on a nearly daily basis.

We have so many things that we fail to appreciate when we look at them that we will never be able to fully consider let alone understand in this life that I can’t even begin to enumerate them.

One thing that I have learned to appreciate however is how a subject can change meanings and become a totally different thing if you let yourself take a slightly altered perspective on the matter.

We can come upon a situation from one viewpoint and direction and if we fail to look at it objectively it can take on particular meaning and it is often difficult to change that perspective unless you alter the way you perceive that subject and then an almost magical thing can occur.

That thing that you were so sure about, that you thought you knew changes almost immediately to something else.

Houston is a great place to find these changes in perspectives.  Because we have no zoning laws the neighborhoods here are a mishmash of urban and suburban and country.  All right next to each other.  Poor neighborhoods alternate with rich.  High rises sit right next to ranch style houses and those next to poor apartment complexes.

It’s something that I see on an almost daily basis and I have to wonder if people living in these neighborhoods ever stop to wonder and think to themselves how their neighbors from different socio-economic backgrounds perceive the world.  Do their viewpoints agree with my own or are they so set into their situation that they can’t step back and see the overall situation from a different perspective?

the new 20s

I was listening to an NPR program about retirement and they touched upon my generation (Generation X) entering into middle age.  This reminded me of a one-off phrase that a friend of mine had used the other day.  Namely that “the forties are the new twenties”.

Thinking about it I certainly don’t feel like what I imagined I would feel like when I hit my forties.  Growing up in suburbia I didn’t really contemplate my future that much but when I did I imagined a stereotypical suburban future with button down shirts and khakis and minivans and whatnot.  My career would be well underway and would probably be spent at a single company for more than twenty years and would be backstopped by some sort of pension plan.  My family life would be typical suburbanite and traditional.

Little did I know what the future would bring.

But then again I don’t think anyone really knows what the future will bring.  Sure there are folks out there that do have that sort of lifestyle but it’s becoming rarer and rarer these days.

I never imagined a multigenerational household or that I would have to guard, tend, and cultivate my own retirement fund.  I never imagined that I would have to be more dynamic and keep abreast of the latest developments in my field and several related fields in case I had to change jobs.

“the forties are the new twenties” sounds positive but really I think what it means is that you have to not only think like a twentysomething to keep your head above water but you also have to have the strength and flexibility of a twentysomething in case you find yourself in a tough position.

The new economy is not only leaner and meaner, it’s more dynamic and requires us to think fast and move even faster in order to keep pace with developments around the world.

Thinking about my future I don’t see myself retiring at the “traditional” age of sixty-five.  Not only is it something that I don’t think I will manage to do.  I don’t particularly want to limit myself.  I want to believe that I can continue being active for as long as possible and to take advantage of my life right up to the very end.  Things are just to interesting right now to retire.

The new old age

I was out at an actual rock concert this week.  I don’t mean a concert by some local band but an actual large arena rock concert.  I can’t remember when I did this last.  Certainly not since college and possibly even since before that.  I was even more of a square back then than what I am now.

I went to see The Who on their 50th anniversary tour.  It was a toss-up between this or Rush in May but I figured this may be my last chance to see this band so I opted for this.  I figure Rush has another 10 years left in them at least.

I was worried I might look out-of-place at a rock concert.  Being a middle-aged dude at what is usually a young person’s event.  What would I wear?  Should I try to look more “punk” or “hard rock”? Would people think “what is he doing here?”  Boy, was I totally wrong.

If anything I skewed towards the younger end of the spectrum and the more grungy end of the clothing.  I arrived at the Toyota center and I wondered if I got there on the wrong night.  The place was full of “suburbanite-like” people.  These people are here for the rock concert?  Where are all the long-haired hippie type people?  Then I realized that they were right there in front of me.

I bought a concert t-shirt and headed up to my seat.   I was walking round the giant stadium and passing some folks using walkers.  I sat down and proceeded to do some people watching, one of my favorite pastimes, as I waited for the concert to start.  A few rows down was a guy that looked like a silver-haired judge with his wife.  A guy sitting near me had a crew cut, wore a button down shirt and had penny loafers, and looked like he belonged in some office building instead of here.  Bit hard to imagine these guys as sixties teenagers jamming out to The Who but as soon as Roger Daltrey started belting out the hits they began coming alive.

Speaking of being alive, Daltrey and Townshend were amazing as they ever were.  They could still bring it.  It’s no wonder that they been touring for so long.  They were totally worth seeing.

I then began to reflect on what old age means now and what it might mean in the future.  It would definitely not be the “classic” definition of old age.  I mean of course the idea that at some point you “retire” from your professional life and also pretty much retire from interaction with your community. My dad unfortunately subscribes to this view of old age and has become set in his ways and pretty much refuses to try any new activity.  He frequently trots out the excuse “I’m just getting old” and with that refuses to consider trying anything new.

The new old age now focuses on transitioning away from the activities that you participated previously (an active work schedule, full social responsibilities, various commitments) to one that emphasizes relaxation and developing oneself.  Developing the body, developing new skills and interests, and just trying out other facets of life.  This is a far cry from the traditional model of just marking time and waiting for the end of life.

I find this oddly comforting and hopeful.  You don’t have to “quit” being you at some prescribed age.  You don’t have to “act your age” and not enjoy the music or activities of your youth.  You can still be you no matter if you’re 20 or 40 or 80.  Your life is yours to do what you want regardless of age.

Now more than ever I am thankful that I have begun taking care of my body.  I want to be able to enjoy what life has to offer and to contribute what I can to life for as long as possible.

it’s never over

One of those Facebook posts that seems to circulate all over your news feed really hit home today.  It was titled “The after myth“.  The post was an essay about a fat person who took the time and did the work to lose a lot of weight and succeeded but a few years after her success realized that there is no after, there is just the now.

I’ve been on my health kick for the last four years now.  Begun as a necessity to restore my health.  Starting slowly, having several missteps and finally starting to see results in the last year.  I mean really big tangible results.  The type where the guy in the commercial holds up his giant pants and steps from behind them to reveal his “new” skinnier version.

No matter how you do it (whether it’s exercise, diet, stomach staples, whatever) these ads gloss over the time, the struggle, the long hours which stretch into days and then weeks, months, and years.  The process gets lost to get to the point on the TV screen.

It’s gratifying seeing people who I haven’t seen for a long time and having them tell me how much better I look now that I’ve lost the weight but I find it puzzling. Before the weight or after the weight, it’s still me.

I’m still the same person regardless of the weight and I found that this essay was right on the mark.  For me there is no “after”.  I have to keep to this lifestyle from now on.

Back in March I had to deal with the flu that was going round Houston.  First I had to take care of a couple of people who got sick for a couple of weeks and then I got sidelined by it as well.  My exercise routine went to hell and I began to pile on some weight.  Maybe it was not noticeable to anyone else but it was to me.  Just proved it to me that I don’t have a magical goal number to reach.  This is my life now.

My metabolism has slowed over time.  It was never very high but now it’s slowing down as I age.  I need to keep working out. I need to watch my diet, I need to keep the process going.

I am still the same person that I was at 288 pounds that I am now at 181 pounds.  I am just more aware and more conscious about the type of life I live and the consequences of my actions or in-actions.

I’m not defined by the number on a weight scale.  No one is, or at least no one should be.  I hope that I am defined by my actions and thoughts.  Hopefully those actions and thoughts will lead me to a healthier and happier life.

Being an adult

Two of the hallmarks of being an adult.  Taxes and signing papers.  I did both this week.

The former of course comes around every year and can’t be avoided.  At least no one has come up with a plausible way yet.  With a primal regularity I’ve been going through the process since I was 17 and I expect to have to do this around 50 more times before I’m done.

The latter involved reading and signing a bunch of papers to first transfer ownership of my old car as part of a trade in deal and then of course paying for my new car.  I don’t quite remember how many papers I had to sign for my first car but I’m sure it wasn’t this many.

Neither of these was a glamorous and in fact they were rather monotonous events but I find that a good portion of being an adult really involves just getting on with taking charge of all the little niggling details of life.  Kids usually go on and on about how cool things will be when they’re adults but really they don’t realize what it takes to keep things going as an adult.

One of my pet peeves involves being at a party or a gathering with an artist or a speaker or someone who has just done something impressive and someone complimenting that person by saying “I want to be you when I’m an adult”.  Firstly because the person usually saying is an adult but mostly cause this really misses the mark of what it is to be an adult.

Being an adult mainly involves accepting responsibilities, putting up and keeping up with a lot of tiny but important details, and just managing to outlast life when things get tough.

Sure there are lots of cool things you can do when you’re an adult.  But if you want to do those cool things it usually means you have to do many other things you would rather not do.  It means not just grudgingly but almost gladly accepting that these details are at the heart of what it means to be an adult.

Being an adult means responsibility.

A ripe old age

A few months back one of my friends that regularly eschews all health related advice was discussing longevity.  Someone pointed out that some simple lifestyle choices may help him live a longer life.  He retorted “maybe it wasn’t that he would live longer but rather that it would seem longer.”  Meaning of course that he would have to get rid of all the enjoyable parts of life and live a pretty dismal existence just to get in a few more years of life.

The reason I thought about this conversation was that I saw a couple of news articles the other day.  One was about a 100-year-old woman who celebrated her birthday by skydiving and the other article was about a 104 year old that drank 3 soft drinks a day.

How is it that some people can live seemingly reckless lives and still feel vital in their later years while others practice control and are careful and may be lucky to reach 70?

Certainly genetics plays a large role in this.  Research has shown that some people are not only genetically predisposed to live longer but also may be predisposed to sidestepping certain congenital diseases such as cancers or heart disease.

Lifestyle will of course count somewhat in how you fare in your later years.  No matter how lucky you are in the genetic lottery mistreating your body is still a terrible idea and mistreating your body to the point that you cause it severe damage is just a bad overall strategy that may mean that you will not be able to enjoy all the benefits of your body into your later years.

But I suppose the main crux of my friend’s argument is that making sacrifices for the long haul just isn’t so appealing if in the long run you have nothing to look forward to but a bland existence.  In that I think he misses the point.

Just because you don’t go out and party every night when you’re young doesn’t have to mean that you are doomed to a spartan existence for the rest of your life. Rather, living a more regulated and moderated lifestyle gives you chances to do more down the years.

I feel lucky that I have survived my younger and wilder years fairly unscathed and that I am now more serious about my health.  I look forward to many years of exploiting my continuing health to try out more experiences, do new things, and savor what the future may bring.

Sure I get frustrated when someone on social media posts about a new restaurant or when someone tells me about a hot new bar or whatever place that they went to.  I would love to do more of these things.  But then again I also hear about their hangovers and having to go to the doctor for stomach problems or having to refill prescriptions that I have thus far avoided.  They won’t get to look forward to some of the things that I will get to enjoy later in life.

As long as I can keep my moderated lifestyle going I think that over time I will be the one that enjoys life more.

Reminders of the past

Rainy, cold days are made to tie up loose ends and clean up the past.  But sometimes you forget what you had in the first place and it really makes the mind work when you find it once again.

All the holiday decorations and presents and boxes and gift wrap all make for a huge mess.  Even for someone like me that doesn’t really do all that much in the way of decorating.  My garage was piled high with open cardboard boxes and Christmas light strings and bits of tinsel and whatnot on the floor.

Trying to organize and stuff boxes wherever they would fit I went rummaging round and found an old footlocker that I hadn’t bothered with since college.  I dragged this along with me when I left for school back in ’89.  Mostly it just got in the way in the tiny little dorm room that I shared with my roommate.  Then I dragged it along to a couple of apartments  while I was at school to store the miscellaneous junk that one acquires but doesn’t quite fit anywhere else.

After college it just automatically followed me wherever I went.  Finally I brought it to this garage when I moved in six years ago and I stacked boxes on top and forgot about it till just now.  The lock was broken.  I broke it years ago when I lost the key.  Took all of two seconds to break with a screwdriver which tells you how good a footlocker it was.  The hinges were rusty but they opened up easily.  A musty damp paper smell blossomed out from within. Not a good sign.

Inside I found everything wrapped up in a bed sheet from some twin bed that I no longer owned.  What was the great treasure within?

Big surprise.  Books.  paperbacks. My original copy of “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy“. All the pages yellowed with age. College textbooks that I must have thought would come in handy in my career or were just interesting.  FORTRAN 77.  Probably out of date even back then.  Hand sketched blueprints for a gear assembly, something I’d done for engineering drafting class.

Three wire bound notebooks.  Notes from classes, sketches, doodles, whatnot.  On one page two columns of numbers.  The first, a set of dates.  The second column of numbers steadily decreasing in value down the page.  A budget that I’d written down one day.  I could make a twenty-dollar bill last all weekend long back then.

My handwriting sucked even back then but compared to now it looked so professional.  I need to practice my handwriting more.

Four hardbound books with silver bindings.  “How things work”  Examples of all sorts of mechanical and electrical devices all laid out in pieces.  Beautiful acid free end papers.  My old man bought these for me before I went off to college. Still in good condition.

Boardgames that I hadn’t played in ages.  A deck of cards used to play Hearts and Spades in the Commons lobby on many a night.

An old hard plastic bag full of rulers, pencils, erasers, and a drafting brush.  All the supplies needed for engineering drawings.  The plastic bag now hard and brittle after so many years in the heat.

A cheap little sake serving set, a rice bowl, plastic chop sticks, a tatami mat, a bokken, and an incense holder from my “japanese” phase.

Wires, extension cables, 5.25″ floppy diskettes none of those newfangled 3.5 ” diskettes for me, thank you very much.  Some old landscape sketches I’d done for art class in high school.

An envelope from Fox photo labs spills out and the garage floor is covered with glossy photos. Sitting on the cold concrete as I look them over.  Some trip photos from here and there, blurry and dark bonfire pictures from some November night, some photos of old friends and people who I haven’t seen since school.  A photo of Mark, my best friend in college.  Rest well, old friend.

It’s getting cold out here.

A different life.  I find it hard to connect the person that I am now with the young man who stored all of this stuff back then. Less idealistic?  Possibly.  Much less naive?  I certainly hope so.  Definitely more banged up. What do these items say about who I was back then?

I try to think back, try to consider why it was I stored away some of these items.  I must have thought that there was real value in hanging onto these trinkets, that maybe one day I would need them.  No easy or obvious answers come to mind.

Most of this stuff ends up in a pair of garbage bags.  A few items I hang onto and bring into the house.  The footlocker itself isn’t in that good a shape.  Made from light metal.  Cracked in a couple of places, it’s still serviceable but it’ll fall apart one of these days.  So out it’ll go on heavy trash day.

If I had to put some things away from my present life and store them for some future date, what would I put away.  What would these items say about who I am now?


Last Friday night I was trying to wind down from a hectic holiday week and decided to do some writing and enjoy some tea at Te house of tea in the Montrose area.  After a couple of pots and about two hours worth of writing I found it was still somewhat early so I headed to Siphon coffee for a Mocha latte.

Fifteen minutes later I began to regret this.

Don’t get me wrong.  Caffeine and I have had a long and profitable relationship.  Ever since I got my first taste of Coca Cola as a child I got hooked.  Back in my high school and college days I could drink as many as seven or eight cans of Coca Cola a day and not feel any ill effects.  Cola drinks have helped me pull all nighters in school and they were definitely the key to a four-day and four-night work marathon that I had to do back in the late 90s.

The only time I ever did go overboard I had to really push things.  Freshman finals were coming and I needed a boost to keep me going.  I got a giant (back then it was giant) 44 ounce travel mug and filled it with Jolt cola (a cola drink with twice the caffeine of normal colas) and just to go that one extra step I added two caffeine pills.  I was ill for an entire weekend.  I felt constipated and nauseous at the same time and couldn’t fall asleep and had to lie awake for the entire ordeal.  Now you know what caffeine poisoning feels like.

This Friday didn’t feel that bad but I felt somewhat anxious in the pit of my stomach.  I was wide awake till about midnight when I could finally doze off.

Over the past few years I have been curtailing my caffeine intake severely.  First, about 6 years ago I weaned myself off regular cola drinks and onto diet cola drinks and then to bottled teas.

I still needed the bottled teas as a boost in the morning to go running but in the last year I have been cutting that as well.  As a result I now really feel the effects of caffeine as I never have before.  If I control it properly I can get a good energetic boost from the caffeine but if I overdo it then I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

This just reminds me that I need to practice more moderation in everything I do and not depend so heavily on one sole factor but to develop my life in such a way that I’m in a better shape to do what I need to do.  Whatever that may be.

A healthy body and a healthy mind work better without any sort of chemical supports or stimulants.