Saying Goodbye to My Best Friend

For the past 11 years, I have had the honor of sharing a household with the most amazing dog. He didn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound or learn to speak Portuguese in a weekend or anything like that, although he was hands down the most athletic dog I’ve had in my 45 years of dog ownership. However, what made Rusty special among the many dogs I’ve owned and met was his startling ability to read the human situation.

Rusty saw our family through divorce, new love, marriage, blending households, death of friends and family members, work layoffs, illnesses, graduations, and – up until this weekend – an unprecedented lockdown due to a global pandemic. It is not hyperbole to say that he knew what you needed. He could read a face better than most humans I’ve met. He knew when we needed love sometimes before we did.

On Thursday evening of this week, Rusty went to jump onto our bed and he seemed a bit stiff. No big deal I thought. He’s eleven. On Friday, he stiffened up a bit more; Hopping on his back legs rather than trotting. Again, I’ve seen this before. A few years ago, he had a tight back for a few days. He came out of it in less than a week and was back to his full athletic prowess. I called the vet and told them the situation. With his reduced mobility and the lockdown, they agreed to prescribe the same meds as the last time. This time, things would not fare so well.

By late Friday afternoon, Rusty was hobbling. It was as bad as things had gotten the last time. Something felt wrong, but he was still moving, eating and drinking. I sat with him until 10 PM. He was stable, so I went to bed. At about 1 AM, I woke up to thumps and dragging noises. I rushed downstairs to find that Rusty had gone to the bathroom on the floor and was nervously dragging his back half around the room. He was panicked, looking to me for help. It was heartbreaking. I stayed up with him the rest of the night and carried him outside every couple of hours, petting him to keep him still in between. He had lost control of his bladder and bowels. I knew it was dire. Before the vet opened, I put him in the truck and we took him for his last car ride.

It took the vet about an hour and a half to call me and tell me what I already knew. My old friend wasn’t going to make it. I’m crying as I write this. The vet’s best guess is that he had a spinal blood clot that caused the shockingly fast paralysis.

Like me, Rusty was a runner. Actually, Rusty was a real runner and I’m just a plodding middle-aged trotter. I have plenty of videos of him running happily in the dog park. Just this past weekend, we were on a trail run with an old friend and his dog. I’ve never seen Rusty happier. The trail was full of mud and standing water. He and I were filthy by the end. His post-run glow and doggie smile were perfect. He came home and got an unwanted shower. He was a boy’s dog all the way. As I replay these memories in my mind, it is difficult for me to resolve that he’s gone.

The thing with dogs is that they touch us so completely but are comparatively short-lived. Our co-existence sets us up for this agony. I always knew he wouldn’t live forever. But with Rusty, he sort of made you forget about that. He retained his youthful exuberance up until his final 24 hours. I guess from that perspective we were lucky to have such incredible healthy and loving companion for 11 straight years. It still hurts.

Rest easy old friend. We love you.

Separated by Ideology

Earlier this week, I went for a run with a dear friend of more than 30 years. It was special. He’s a better runner than me by magnitudes, but he slowed down to my hobbling pace for a nice 6 mile run in a beautiful state park as we discussed life After COVID-19 (AC). We’re both introverts, so we mused that life AC hasn’t changed too terribly much for either of us personally. We had a thoughtful discussion about our direct experiences thus far. He is a paramedic, so to say that he’s on the front line of this thing is an understatement. I work in corporate America with access to some very good economic reporting, so I was able to bring that perspective. It wasn’t long into our run before our attention turned to some of the conspiracy theories about the virus.

“They’re saying that this thing was developed in a Chinese lab and was released just in time for the US election.” “I also heard Bill Gates had the patent on the vaccine.” “Oh, and let’s make sure we talk about the chemical trails, the 5G Network, and how wearing a mask is a form of government control.” We chuckled them off. Not because we have direct knowledge that they are false or that it wouldn’t be more dramatic to believe that there is something bigger going on. Rather, our experiences and our education have taught us to see the world through Occam’s Razor. Boiled down into my own terms, Occam’s Razor is the axiom that in the absence of direct knowledge, the least complicated explanation is generally the best. Applying Occam’s Razor means that this COVID-19 is a natural occurring phenomenon and our best way to deal with it is to follow expert advice on social distancing and wearing masks until we can sort out a vaccine. I know… Boring. The best things in life usually are.

Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced the same thoughtful dialogue or boring conclusion from other loved ones. I see old friends or family sharing conspiracy videos and taking a very real stance on calling COVID-19 a hoax designed to further enrich the ultra-wealthy or influence the US election. Wearing a mask has become a question of personal freedom. Protest signs reading, “My body, my choice. End the lock-down now” pock mark the lawns of US state capitals. This thing seems to have tipped into a special kind of lunacy where people are risking their own lives or the lives of their loved ones to prove a political point. But why?

Looking Back at Historical Health Calamities

For clues, I looked back at the bubonic plague. The plague killed roughly one third of medieval Europe’s population. Until it was well understood that it was being spread by fleas from rats to humans, the plague was a similar invisible enemy. Thanks to reasonably good record-keeping from the era, we know that society reacted in all sorts of kooky ways. The following excerpt offers up just a few of the popular preventive measures for the plague.

Fires were a popular method of warding off miasmas [corrupted airs believed to cause the plague]. They were burned at street corners; even the pope sat between two large fires. People were urged to burn aromatic woods, but other scents would do as well, including rosemary, amber, musk and fragrant flowers. When they walked, people took their scents with them, carrying packets of herbs. Some plague-proofed their homes by putting glazes over the southern windows to block the polluted southern wind. People were advised not to eat meat or figs and to avoid activities that would open the pores to a miasma, including bathing, exercising and physical intimacy. Stranger recommendations circulated as well, including not sleeping during the daytime and avoiding sad thoughts about death and disease.

excerpt from How The Black Death Worked by Molly Edmonds

OK, you might be thinking. Avoiding eating figs or not taking a bath are very personal decisions. They’re not conspiratorial – unless maybe you’re a medieval fig farmer or a soap manufacturer. Rest assured dear reader, that medieval Europe was not safe from conspiracy theories either.

In the 14th century, when the plague ravaged Europe, nobody knew how the illness had originated. Soon after, unfounded rumors surfaced that Jews caused the outbreak by poisoning wells in a bid to control the world. Jewish people were accused of being behind the plague — and were subjected to deadly pogroms and forcefully displaced. 

excerpt from Coronavirus and the plague: The disease of viral conspiracy theories by Christopher Nehring

The same is true for the more recent Spanish Flu, which Nehring writes was believed to be developed by Germans as a weapon after WWI.

Introspection

I find it both fascinating and frustrating that our human response to calamity is – for some – to assume others have set it in motion. When we should be pulling together to solve a common problem, some portion of us dream up dark schemes assigned to others and posit them as truths, which catch on and cost even more lives. What drives this abhorrent behavior? Perhaps an inward view will offer more clues.

I recall back to my younger days when I was more willing and even eager to buy into conspiracies. The difference between the younger me and the current model is a question of power. 20 years ago, I worked in small factories for a low salary and I had no say in how my company, my neighborhood, my favorite sports teams – anything – ran. I also had a lot more time to sit and stew about not having any power. On the lower rungs of the societal pecking order, it was tempting to think that the cards were stacked against me. Or even better, there are puppet masters pillaging the world for their personal gain and keeping it all to themselves. Now I had, if not an individual person, a group of people that I could direct my dissatisfaction for my lowly station. The man was holding me down.

The Truth is Usually Quite Boring

As I have gotten older, become better educated and furthered my career, I’ve begun to get access to power. Not real power like the 1% or the 0.1%, but some marginal levels of financial stability and the ability to have some influence in my various organizations. I’m learning the downright boring machinations of how the organizations work. I see clearly that I was never being held down. What was holding me down was my own ideology borne out of my dissatisfaction with the current state of my life. I wanted more. More stuff, more money, more importance, more say in how things went. In short, I wanted more power. Because I didn’t perceive that I had enough power, I looked for dramatic and sinister stories about the world around me to keep pushing the dopamine button. The man was holding me down. He was. His name was Troy.

Perhaps it isn’t fair of me to project my youthful feelings of powerlessness onto others. Perhaps they have firsthand knowledge that brings real credibility to these alternative positions. But generally speaking, the conspiratorial arguments fall apart quickly. When asked for more proof than some slick social media video or report from a alternative news source, there isn’t anything other than a fervent willingness to believe in the malicious motivations of others.

What to Do About Those We Love

Now that I have written this post, I find hope in navigating this tricky space. I was once a brooding soul weary of the man holding me down. Now that I’ve come through that portion of my life, I hold on to hope that my loved ones will too. If I’m honest, I have not reacted well. I’ve become frustrated and harbored sharp-witted thoughts in response to the conspiracy purveyors in my circle of loved ones. But sarcasm and sharp wit aren’t the answer. It only leads to entrenchment because there’s always a counter-argument. I think the best thing to do is focus on safety. As long as a loved one is taking care of themselves, let them believe and post and share what they want. Perhaps it will run its course. On the other hand if our loved ones are not being safe, we must speak up. We must encourage them to follow clearly documented health guidelines. Then we will have done what we can.

Wishing you well in these challenging times.

– Troy

Don’t Call it a Comeback

… I’ve been here for years…

LL Cool J

If you know that song, you’re welcome. It should be running through your head for the next 40 minutes or so. If not, I think it’s worth looking up. But music, like many creative endeavors, is a personal thing.

Speaking of creative endeavors, this blog had to take a back seat for a while. The primary reason is that I ran out of time and energy. In the second half of last year, I doubled the size of my team at work, which meant a lot of hours interviewing, which then turned into a lot of hours training and making sure we had the right culture. There were additional things – I broke my thumb and, ahem, required surgery (that’s a hoot of a story), my lovely better half finished up her Masters in Psychology, we had to stop traveling for some Lord Voldemort-ish thing called COVID-19, and so on. But there’s time to tell these stories.

As such, my wife and I will be restarting this blog. Obviously, this can’t be a travel blog these days. So the theme will be more about life in general. But even on the road of life, we’re still boldly going, and we’re (mostly me) still occasionally delusional.

Stay safe out there!

-Troy

Grand Teton National Park Trip

Wow! wow! wow! 

National Parks never disappoint in shocking me.  I joked with my friend Liz that I am so thankful for President Rosevelt by starting the National Parks, but there really are true extraordinary things to see in every National Park that I’ve visited.

We landed at Jackson Hole airport at around 4pm Mountain time and as soon as you get off the plane the Mountains are right there!  The airport is INSIDE the national park.  It’s also very small, so super easy to navigate to the rental cars.  We made our way to our hotel.  We decided to stay at Jackson Lake Lodge.  On our previous trip last year to Denver, we learned that you need to get to National Parks early because the parking lots at trail heads fill up and you can’t even hike!  I just wouldn’t have expected how crowded the outdoors would be 🙂 

Jackson Lake Lodge view on a cold morning with the fog. Just breath taking.

Anyway, we head to the lodge, after stopping at Lucky’s market to pick up some food for the time in the parks.  We’ve also learn, have lots of snacks because hikes take longer than you expect and food in general is far away.   The lodge has amazing views, but it’s a little rustic for the price.  The “lodge” is comprised of little bungalows all strung together.  The furniture is a mix of 1950’s and 1980’s decor and there is clearly water damage from the tough winters.  It was mostly clean but the location was the main event.  They have a back patio that is the best views to watch the sun set.  We were lucky enough to come on a day that it snowed in the mountains the day before so there was snow caps.  We also were about to experience the fog that lake Jackson creates when the air temperature is below the lake temperature.  It was beautiful.  

The view while hiking around Jenny Lake

We selected the Jenny Lake hike for first thing Friday morning.  It did not disappoint.  This is an 8 mile hike around Jenny lake with the most iconic views of the Grand Tetons.  The pictures are just amazing that I was able to take on this walk.  This hike has it all, waterfalls, mountains, water, and panoramic views.  After getting back from the hike we ate our packed lunch at the Jenny Lake Visitor center.  We stopped along route 191 on our way back to take pictures at all the instagram recommended spots and then nap time!  Friday evening we sat on the back deck in the sun, had a drink and relaxed.  We also had dinner and watched the sun set at the fancy restaurant.  I ordered Bison, because when in Rome, but honestly, I recommend traveling into Jackson to get better food.  We couldn’t get a better view.  

Hidden waterfall off of Jenny Lake hike

Saturday started with a float tour down the snake river.  We used Solitude Float Trips and it was just the right about of time on the river.  Our guide had done the rafting tours for 18 years and you could tell.  He knew a lot about the area.  He was happy, and he recommended where to eat in Jackson, which was nice.  We saw tons of bald eagles during the float and of course spectacular views of the mountains. 

Adult bald eagle with young eagle in lower right

The second half of Saturday we decided to drive up to Yellowstone.  Even though we didn’t plan to this originally because Yellowstone is so big and overwhelming to try to see, but we were about 2 hours away from Old Faithful so we gave it a whirl.  We ate our packed lunches on the drive and arrived at Old Faithful as it was erupting.  I saw it from the approach road. LOL!  Old Faithful erupts every 90 minus +/- 10 minutes so we decided to go see the other Geysers in lower basin.  Again, the park is just awe inspiring.  We were able to see quite a few geysers erupt and thermal pools.  We headed back to see Old Faithful, got parked and I missed it by 1 minute!  I ran to see, but I saw the last little bit of the eruption.  The amount of people waiting and watch was just crazy though.  You can drive down the road to the lower basin and see multiple geysers erupting and Old Faithful has 5 rows deep of people surrounding it to watch.  The other thing is, it’s not that big!  I was just so shocked.  It’s a lot like looking at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  There’s a lot of other great things to see that you don’t have to fight a crowd.  The parking lot was a mess now that the main show was over, so we decided to have a snack before leaving the park.  We made the 2.5 hour drive back to Jackson and made it to our hotel for the night.  By the time we made it to Jackson we were exhausted and just wanted some pizza for dinner.  We walked less than a block from our hotel to Snake River Brewery for an excellent dinner and some craft beer.  It was nice to stay in a normal hotel for the night.  I will warn you also that there are a TON of tour buses staying at the lodge and in this hotel.  You’ll want to stay slightly off the tour bus schedule to not get caught up in the masses.  

Jewel Geyser, the cooler easier to see geyser 🙂

Our last in Jackson we relaxed a bit.  I did my long run utilizing the bike trail, which was so nice.  We went for breakfast at Jackson Hole Roasters Coffee House.  The breakfast was delicious and I tried nitro cold brew, which was also a new favorite of mine.  We walked around the town to take the iconic pictures of the elk horn arches and then decided we should check out Teton Village.  We took the Arial Tram to the top of the Grand Tetons and again just had another amazing view of the Jackson Hole valley.  The Teton Village is like Breckenridge or other ski resorts in the US.  It has shops and food, but it’s clearly for a captive audience.  We had waffles at the top of the mountain and then made our way to the airport.  Our flight was delayed, but only for a tiny bit, so I’m writing this review on the plane.  I’m not even going to get into air travel these days, but I can tell you that the Jackson Hole airport checks all food items in your bags and asked to check my banana.  I’m happy I have snacks for the ride home.  I have a tight-ish  connection in Chicago and I do not need to be hangry with people.  

Jackson Hole valley from Rendezvous point at 10,540ft.

Uh, there went a month

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

I don’t even know where I left off, but my month of Detox didn’t really work.  Not to say that I’m not going to keep trying.  I still want to lose the last 10 lbs. and I still want to cut back on spending.  I had a wonderful weekend with my friend Liz in Grand Teton National Park.  We also explored a tiny bit of Yellowstone, the town of Jackson, WY and Teton Village, which is a swanky ski lodge area.  I will need to check my weight when I get home, but I ran my long run and estimate that I haven’t lost or gained.  Which hey, is better than nothing.  

Before I left for the trip, I was trying to persuade my ex-husband to let Jackson go to the Dominican Republic trip that he was invited to compete in for soccer.  Jackson’s dad did not budge and Jackson admitted that if it was his money, he would not pay for the trip.  He also wants to play baseball so we decided to not spend the $10K to take him.  It would have been a fun December though.  I left Columbus a little sad that I had told Jackson no.  I like to provide all the opportunities I can for my kids.  

So, let’s check in with the goals:

Spending through 12/31/19: 

1) Can buy house hold items that need replaced or are non-existent now – I doubt I’ll do much of this while in school.  I did start taking down items in the family room. 

2) Can buy items to finish decorating the boys rooms – no purchase

3) At the beginning of each month, thoughtfully determine the 3 wardrobe items that make the most sense – get rid of what they replace if they replace items 

September items I want to buy:

1) Small items while traveling = trucker hat from KY & long sleeved T from Jackson

2)  I will add as I think about what I want… 

4) Determine a plan for Christmas – Troy is not ready for this discussion 🙂

5) Can buy items for the boys that they need, such as sports gear – nothing recently

Weight management for the month of September:

Goal weight = 140, current weight  153.4 (well, slightly the wrong way)

1) Drink alcohol only once a week (usually, Monday night climb and wine) – I’m going to give this goal another whirl in the 2nd half of September

3) Plan a meal strategy at the beginning of every week -luckily, Troy and I have gotten into a rhythm of salads and dinners… hopefully the soon-to-be colder weather doesn’t change our trend.  

4) Track calories using My Fitness Pal – I fell of the band wagon while traveling last weekend to KY and this weekend to WY.  I will pick this up going forward 

5) Weigh myself daily – re-commit (you’re going to notice this will be a trend)

6) Continue with the Garmin running plan, climbing for fun, and add to the fitness routine Ab workouts – I did add the Abs workout and I’ve graduated to the 1/2 marathon training because I was super successful in the 10K!  It’s interesting.  I always get more hungry and struggle to loose weight when training for a run.  I’m not sure how this will go. 

Even though I didn’t meet all my goals, I went in the right direction.  I’m going to do a trip report to post about the Grand Teton’s trip and then focus on the work ahead.  Until I check in next time!

August Detox Update 3.5

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

Well, friends, I’ve hit the part of the month where the rubber hits the road. Doesn’t it seem like when you get about 2 weeks going on some change, the rest of the world changes and it makes it almost impossible to chug through?
I’ve been exhausted for days now. My husband and I have been doing all sports all the time on the weekend. Really maximizing the outside time and incorporating as much fitness as possible. Then we start our week with “climb and wine on Monday’s”. Doesn’t that sound like an awesome date night? We have our favorite wine place here in central Ohio, with our favorite food. But, I starting to feel like I start the week in a hole. It might be because school has started back for the kids and we’re on a more rigorous schedule in general. I’m not sure. The week started up hill. Then on Tuesday night we find out that my 13 year old is going to Parkour class but not really participating.

WARNING: This is where the blog is about to get real. I’m a real mom, not a sugar coating, thinking my son’s are perfect kind of mom. I even curse most days. Please skip my freakout below to the bottom if you want to see the progress without the commentary.

What the actual F?!!! Why ask to go to a class from 8-9pm and then just sit there and not participate? He’s also so extreme. I can’t go bat shit crazy on him because he will not be motivated by my pushing. I just had nothing left in the tank to even yell at him too much. I picked him up from parkour. AND that’s the end of that.

I told billy that he has to come up with his own plan and stick to it. No more electronics when I’m home. I just want to burn the place down. AND how do I deal with stress? I buy things and I want to sleep. I’m just SO exhausted. I’m drinking coffee right now and have slept 8 hours and I could go back to bed (It’s 10am). My body just decommissions. So that’s the environment my check-in is within:

Spending through 12/31/19:
1) Can buy house hold items that need replaced or are non-existent now – purchased nothing this week, blind still isn’t hung 🙂 .

2) Can buy items to finish decorating the boys rooms – no purchase

3) At the beginning of each month, thoughtfully determine the 3 wardrobe items that make the most sense – get rid of what they replace if they replace items
Current items I want to buy:
1) Black blazer for work – SO, i pulled the trigger on this one. I got a classic black blazer at Banana Republic for $40!!! It was on triple sale and I decided to go for it even if it broke my 3 item rule. Maybe I should measure per amount spent?
2) Climbing shorts – done and no more
3) Running shorts – not needed replaced with running bras
4) A traditional jean skirt – uh, well it was on triple sale too so I bought this from the Gap for $15. So although I’m over in number of items for my goal the skirt + the jacket are still less than a full price jacket.

4) Determine a plan for Christmas – Troy is not ready for this discussion 🙂
5) Can buy items for the boys that they need, such as sports gear – none this week
What I bought that was not on the list 😦
1) Running shoes
2) Kayaks, but that was a shared purchase and not really part of wardrobe

Weight management for the month of August:
Goal weight = 140, current weight 151.5 down 3.5 lbs in August
1) Drink alcohol only once a week (usually, Monday night climb and wine) – nope, still not hitting this goal.
2) Go to Conci regularly to check in and progress off the Optifast diet – need to go next week
3) Plan a meal strategy at the beginning of every week – this week I have been a mix of salads out and frozen meal options. When I work at different buildings, I don’t always have access to a fridge or microwave so I buy salads out.
4) Track calories using My Fitness Pal – did this all days, but did not stay within calorie goals on Saturday when my parents were visiting.
5) Weigh myself daily – completed
6) Continue with the Garmin running plan, climbing for fun, and add to the fitness routine Ab workouts – did Abs once this week, plan to work on while working with Billy for his fitness plan.

Overall, I feel the week has been a struggle. My kids are causing stress and I’m putting a lot of energy into helping them understand life. It makes me want to cut corners and zaps my energy. Yesterday I wanted to drink myself to sleep, but lucky for me, I had plans already and got to hang out with some amazing women. I’m hoping once I help Billy through his fitness plan, I’ll feel better. Cheers!

I Have Become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principal

First, let me get it out of the way in saying that I have the utmost respect for Mr. (Matt?) Mitchell and in this piece I mean him no harm. If there is any “shade” being thrown here it is all internally focused. You, dear reader, will also note that I am unsure of Mr. Mitchell’s first name. These are recollections from more than 30 years ago. All the more interesting that I have now become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principle some 30 years on.

I have talked about Scioto County before; my birthplace in the Appalachian foothills in the Ohio River Valley. I love my home, so it is with perfect clarity that I see it for what it is: steeped in tradition, conservative, protestant, hard-working but not ambitious, provincial, suspicious of outsiders, rural, local, and individualistic. With two feet in the Midwest, but leaning hard to the American South, our people put practicality about 30 feet higher on the priority list than presentation.

My wife and I noted this on our last trip to Europe in which we sailed up and down the Douro River in Portugal. Even Europe’s squalor is classy. Old homes lay in ruin along the Douro, but all that is left is the timeless stonework. It looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover, mystical and legendary. No plastic flapping in the wind, no garbage strewn about. That cruise could never happen on the mighty Ohio River. Both the Douro and the Ohio are working rivers, but the scenery is not comparable. On the Ohio, manufactured homes with blue tarp serving as replacement shingles and plastic flapping from windows mar the otherwise picturesque greenery. I have digressed.

However, this practicality-over-presentation is exactly the point I want to illustrate. Mr. Mitchell held the position of Assistant Assistant Principal. Yes I know that sounds weird. This was the time when corporal punishment was still common in public schools. I am pretty sure that Assistant Assistant Principal was the school’s way of not calling Mr. Mitchell the “Corporal Punisher.” Mr. Mitchell was a HUGE man. A former football player, it was clear that he lived for the former glory. He was a coach on the all-important middle school football team. The only thing more important in the community than this team was the high school football team. Mr. Mitchell dressed like a coach. Every day. Polyester coach’s pants, white socks, all black training shoes that could be used for refereeing, coaching, or – in many cases around Scioto County – comfortable office shoes. On hot days, he would swap out the coach’s pants for coach’s shorts: same polyester cut with double snaps at the waist, just cut above the knee to display calf muscles that could (and probably did) move automobiles.

As I dressed for work this morning, I slipped into my pro-golfer branded “Traveling Pants.” It was my wife and better half who pointed out that these are essentially the same as the 1980’s polyester coach’s pants. And yes of course, to help protect my feet from the day-to-day pounding I give them while running, climbing, biking, etc. I have paired my Traveling Pants with all black trainers. I don’t wear my all-black athletic shoes all day at the office, but I wear them to- and from- the office for comfort and to protect my office shoes from the often harsh Ohio elements. Practical. So this morning, I paused in front of the full length mirror to offer one last check before heading out the door and confirmed it. I have become my middle school Assistant Assistant Principal, only much less imposing.