In the Eye of the Storm

This past week ended on a harsh note. I was at work on Saturday and at around 2 pm, we were hit directly by an EF-1 tornado. Even those of us who have lived our entire lives selecting rentals based on the available shelter options were a little shaken. The roof was caved in not 20 feet from where we were sheltered, and we watched as the water began caving in. Because of a gas line rupture, we were unable to retrieve our things, and so I was left with family in three different parts of the city, no way to contact them, and no idea of the path or the strength of the tornado.

As I drove around in the aftermath, encountering multiple road obstacles, it was clear this was significant. On the city’s southside, I did not notice any evidence of electrical power until I crossed the primary road that separates the city’s northside from the southside. Fortunately, the northside, where I live, was not hit by tornadic activity, and I was able to reach my family members and assure them of my safety, as well as assure myself of theirs.

It was a stressful day, especially for those who are not accustomed to this weather. For those of us who grew up here, it becomes routine, as you can’t live here long without knowing someone who has suffered significant loss at the hands of these storms.

It’s too much for some. And, although I currently live across the state line in Arkansas, it is what makes me proud to be an Okie. Because, for whatever flaws we have, we are a strong people. We stand together. We rebuild. And we don’t back down to the worst that mother nature has to offer.

We’re preparing today for another round of storms, and it’s my hope and prayer that everything passes by with minimal property damage and no loss of life. Because that is what truly matters.

Although I am temporarily displaced from my job, they are paying us while we are shutdown, and offering to give us options to travel to other centers to work if this shutdown is extended. So we’re not in a worry financially. We just have to heal the mental wounds.

Advertisements

Leveling Up

Radical change can never happen while you are comfortable. That is an immutable truth I have learned time and time again.

I’ve explored different levels to up my fitness game through the years. I have in the past walked 4-6 miles a day, never achieving the results I have experienced this go around (but, in the case of last year, experiencing a fall that took me months to mount a complete recovery). This time, when I reached 3 laps (1.8) miles around the park, I decided to try a different approach.

And the results, so far have been promising. To put things in comparison for those who don’t know me well, here is a picture of me from 2 years ago with musician, poet an all around inspiration David Amram:

2017 Amram

Now, for a not quite perfect comparison, a picture of me taken this past weekend:

mini me

My stomach is flatter, my blood pressure and blood sugar are lower, and I am well on the way to healing.

The approach I took was to begin running a portion. The course is conveniently marked off in 1/10 mile increments, and so it was relatively easy. I started running 1/10, then mustered the courage to run 2/10, then 4/10.

The original plan was to level up to 6/10 on June 1. But I’ve been feeling brave, and wanted to go up over a week ago. I decided to hold off until the middle month, and to give myself a backup plan to scale back to 4/10 if needed.

Today I ran 6/10. over 1/2 mile, and 1/3 of the total distance. Not a huge leap in the big scheme of things, but one small step on my way to a goal of reaching the best health of my life.

As I headed into the coffeeshop, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” was playing on the inhouse radio.

Thanks for the assist, Sir Reginald!

The Peaks and the Valleys

I’ve been feeling a bit puny the last couple of days. From what I’ve been reading, I simply need to make a few diet adjustments, and I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but coupled with a few days without walking, I felt a bit puny today. I still got the walk (and the run) in, but I had hopes of extending my running distance on May 15; it’s starting to appear more likely that I will hold at this distance until June 1 as initially planned. I am strongly considering a 5k on June 8; since it will be my first in many years, my only goal is to stay below my previously established (walking) time of 44:46. That should not be a tremendous task.

I weighed myself again. Despite the frustrating inconsistency of public health kiosks, I have enough measurements I can safely conclude that my weight is in the low 260’s. Blood pressure still very good at 121/81, and fasting blood sugar was 90 this morning, which is pretty much the norm these days. So those vitals, in particular, are good.

I’m hoping to get down to 250. For those looking to make their own progress against diabetes, I found this handy BMI calculator. Like weight, BMI can be misleading, but it’s a good start.

Meanwhile, if you are reading this, I am interested in your thoughts. More links? Recipes? Videos? What would be useful content on this page that would encourage you to recommend to a friend? I am interested, as I am hopeful my journey can help and inspire others. Feel free to contact me here or at handofjustice@hotmail.com with your input.

Keto or not Keto?

For those of you who have followed my progress on social media, one key has been the keto diet. I have completely eliminated processed sugar from my diet, and eat a negligible amount of carbs.

The concerns I had about keto are similar concerns I have heard about the healthfulness. In fact, it was an ANTI-keto meme that got me started down this journey. The meme suggested that people were ignoring scientific research that advises against high protein, low carb diets simply because of Google research. Not having a horse in the race, I decided to give it a try.

There are a good number of articles on keto diets, not surprisingly giving wholly conflicting information. But I needed answers, and the slow progress I had made earlier never netted enough forward momentum to maintain me on a healthy path.

I needed solid, peer reviewed research to back up the diet. So it wasn’t long before I found a link to NIH, which has published many studies, including the link found here (don’t worry; it opens in a new tab, so you can read it right away).

Promising. But what about blood pressure? For those who weren’t there, my blood pressure in February was a whopping 180/110, and it had literally been years since my diastolic (the bottom number) numbers had been below 100. In fact, the small dose of lisinopril I had received before had negligible effect. Again, the NIH to the rescue.

Now this is, of course, not medical advice. I can only tell you my experience. And there are certainly some considerations to be made, such as doing it right (for instance, no, I don’t eat a ton of bacon. In fact I don’t eat pork at all). In my case, I focus less on fatty foods and more on lean proteins, specifically affordable ones.

And I’m settling in to a new normal. From 292 pounds to 260 in less than 3 months; blood sugars reduced from an average of 250-300 to fasting blood sugars of 85-90; blood pressure rarely ventures far above 120/80. Of course, medicines and medical advice (this is key; PLEASE consult your doctor, not the Internet!) have aided in this, as well as exercise (I do 1.8 miles daily and now run .4 miles in that stretch), so it is, at best a COMPONENT of a healthy lifestyle, but I have done the exercise and the medicines before without near the results.

If you have questions, I would be happy to answer. You can find me on Facebook or email me at handofjustice42@hotmail.com, and I will answer any questions you have. I will also be producing some videos, which I will embed here. They should not be a substitute for medical advice, but if you can achieve even a fraction of the results I have, I guarantee it will be worth it!

Tale of the Tape

Today begins my journey.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this coming year and what it means. When I was younger, I didn’t expect to live past 30. And considering the fact that I buried 2 brothers by the age of 23, that was a reasonable expectation. I’ve put a lot more miles in than I expected.

And then I got to thinking, the 50th year is the year of Jubilee in Jewish tradition (as it should be in Christian tradition as well). The year debt are forgiven. The year chains are broken. And I’ve carried a lot of debts and been encumbered by heavy chains for a lot of years. So I’m going to claim that!

every journey must have a starting point. This is mine. And so I’m recording my stats for next year to compare

Weight: 262
BP: 113/73
Blood Sugar: 85
Waist size: 38

I’ve come a long ways to get to this point. But I still have miles to go before I sleep.

A New Look

This blog is very much a lifestyle blog. As you may be able to tell by the new URL, we are heading in a new direction, an exciting one. I’m not ready for the big reveal yet, but I am hoping you will join us on this journey.

A LOT has happened since I last posted. We finally had to move to a new city, I’ve been on unplanned hiatus from the music, travelled to DC with the Poor People’s Campaign, fought high blood pressure/blood sugar, and have been doing quite well in finally having my medical care managed. In short, it’s been quite a ride. And there’s even more in store.

Over the next (roughly) 48 hours, I will be doing a lot of work for the relaunch. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. In the meantime, I have been using the hashtag #GettinYoung on Facebook, and I invite you to explore it.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Every Road Has Its Bumps

A lot of you who follow me know about our recent breakdown in Boulder, Colorado. As an activist, I felt somewhat shamed by the backlash that followed, the insinuations that I didn’t have my priorities straight, and that asking for assistance for an expensive repair bill was the wrong approach (when that is precisely the reason crowdfunding platforms were launched!), and I let myself listen to the voices.

Never listen to the voices.

Yesterday brought me back into sharp focus. A couple we have been trying to reach out to shared with us the fact that they were trying very hard to keep their family intact, living in a tent while the two year long housing wait list prevents them from being safely housed, and being unable to wash their kids’ clothes at regular intervals. They had gotten tokens from the day center, but two tokens doesn’t go very far for a month for a family of six. And this was creating problems with DHS.

I won’t go in to the specifics of their situation, because one thing I have learned is that we can rationalize away from helping ANYONE if we try hard enough. Maybe they’re addicted, maybe they’re a felon, maybe they don’t put out as much effort as we think they should. All of those reasons can lead us to continue onward to Jerusalem and leave that bleeding and beaten soul lying in the ditch.

ALL of those reasons, if we follow the Galilean, if we “Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” as the trite Christian anthem attests, are wrong. Our duty is to that bleeding and beaten soul, not to our rationalizations.

Yesterday reminded me of what I am doing. Only a precious few understand. I am serving in an unfunded ministry, to reach out to those who have turned away from traditional ministers because of the judgment and and shallowness that they have found. It is an impossible ministry, because I will never have esteem, I will never have money, and I will never have the things that our culture tells us we must. But my understanding of my faith as it is, is that it is about sacrifice and servanthood, not about safety or  security.

And so I shall continue, as continue I must. Because this is one story; there are millions more. And I cannot reach them all. But I can continue walking in the footsteps of Tom Joad, in the footsteps of my savior, and in the ministry to which I am called.

And I will. Regardless the cost.