How old would you be, if you had no idea how old you really were?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pushing My Comfort Level

From the time I was 12 years old until I was 65 I had a job. Sometimes two jobs. Started with paper routes, ended teaching special ed and science in a high school on the Texas/Mexico border. In between I had social work jobs, teaching jobs, consultant jobs. I spent 9 years teaching people skills to young family practice resident doctors. Mostly, I was good at what I did. Sometimes better than others.

So here I am retired, seventy-two years old, operating with a some spare parts, a new heart valve, a below the knee prosthesis, and a pacemaker and one day I offer to join our local volunteer fire department. Even more surprising, they take me on, outfit me with turnouts and a helmet, and a radio and begin training me to assist on fire and medical calls. My mentor is a nineteen year old fireman, who is also an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).

Seventy percent of emergency calls to our department are medical calls. My wife a retired middle school principal, is a paramedic who also works for the department. I saw no reason why I shouldn't follow that same path and now I am going to school at the local community college to learn to be an EMT. We started in January and will finish in May. My study partner is a 22 year old fireman. In the class we operate pretty much as peers. Our grades so far are in the nineties.

In spite of the decent grades I often find myself way out of my comfort zone. Most of my life I've made my living, talking. I've been a social worker and an educator. That was comfortable for me. But an EMT has to do much more than talk. An EMT spends most of his time on his knees working on someone who is on the ground or the floor. An EMT has to touch people and make on-the-spot decisions that are often a matter of life and death.

So I'm way out of my comfort zone. But it's OK. Probably good for me. Sure is exciting. Never considered myself an adrenalin junkie, but am enjoying the rush and excitement that is part of answering emergency calls.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Motivation for Getting and Staying Fit

There's a saying in amputee circles (and that's a pretty exclusive club), "Amputees do what amputees want to do." In other words, if you have to face the world without the luxury of one or more of your limbs, your only real limitation is your self. Get to know amputees and you will find them doing all sorts of things, water skiing, running marathons, mountain climbing, that you might have thought were out of the question.

That same sort of thinking also applies to us older citizens. You want to be careful as you get older that you don't let the number of years you have under your belt start to limit your activities. It's easy to begin to shut down and accelerate our own aging. The answer might be to forget about the numbers and just do what you want to do, what you feel like doing. For example racquetball might not be on the menu for most 80 year olds, but I've played with a couple of 80 year old racquetball players who were still very competitive. My mother in law, was still a very good driver in her early 90's.

Both of my parents were dead and gone before they reached their mid-fifties, but in my wife's family everyone is alive and kicking right into their nineties. I'm looking to my in-laws for inspiration and example. Probably makes sense to avoid our peers who are reveling in their ailments and hang out with friends who don't seem to know how old they are. It really is possible to push the limits of our genetic inheritance with a positive attitude.

My version of pushing the envelope at 70+ has been to join the local volunteer fire department. I don't really expect to charge into burning buildings but I am learning how to operate the pumps on the engine and am scheduled to begin EMT training next month. So far the biggest problem has been how to quickly get the bulky "turnout" pants on over my prosthesis.

The down side of this experience has been living with some anxiety about knowing what I'm supposed to be doing on calls, most of which are medical EMT calls, and worry about getting up and out when calls come in the middle of the night.

The pluses are some really interesting and exciting experiences, learning a whole new set of skills, and increased motivation to exercise and to stay in good physical shape. A big plus has been the opportunity to get EMT training. In the past I've been a pretty good student and test taker. Will I, the oldest member of the department, be able to handle the training and the testing? Oh yes, it may be difficult, but I know how to study, and have the time to do it. And I expect that the course work will help keep the synapses in this old brain of mine firing and connecting.

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Low Sodium - Almost Instant - Chili Soup

This soup is a relative of my Almost Instant, Low Sodium Potato Soup. The recipe was concocted a day or so ago when I couldn't find anything for lunch to suit my fancy. It has all of five ingredients and all you do is mix them in a pot, heat, stir, and enjoy.

You will need:
  • 1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 - 15.5 ounce can of Cuban Style Black Beans
  • 2 t. of chili powder
  • 1/2 of one Chipotle Pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
Mix the ingredients in a pan, simmer for 5 or 10 minutes and enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

You can, of course, adjust the heat with more or less chili powder, more or less chipotle pepper. Be careful with the chipotles. Lots of heat there

The Cuban Style Black Beans came from Trader Joes. You could substitute no salt black beans and add a bit of spice. (coriander, cumin, dried onion, etc) That would substantially decrease the sodium.

The counts for a one cup serving of this version of Almost Instant Chili Soup
  • Calories 120
  • Fat 0.5 mg
  • Sodium 400 mg
  • Fiber 6
Weight Watcher Points for a one cup serving 2

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Starbucks Saved My Life

These days I read what I please. If I pick up a book or a magazine and find the writing tiresome or beyond my interest at the moment, I don't hesitate to put the piece down. I read when the subject matter interests me, when the writing is smooth, when the words are true, when the read is effortless.

How Starbucks Saved My Life is a little book I read from cover to cover pretty much in one sitting. I read the book a couple of months ago and decided then to give it some press in this blog. Finally today I began to draft a note and returned to the book for a quick review. I read from the beginning and had read fifty pages before I stopped to think about what should go in this short review.

In his fifties Michael Gill loses his six-figure salary, gets divorced, and is diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is hanging out in Starbucks making calls, trying unsuccessfully to make a living as a private consultant when he is offered a job. All dressed up in a two-thousand-dollar suit he finds himself begging for a job serving lattes. Totally out of his comfort zone he gets the job and eventually becomes very successful. He boasts about being great at cleaning toilets.

This little book is a lot about Starbucks, but even more about how Michael Gill regains his self esteem in an unlikely and surprising way. That rang true for me. I'm retired from a long and reasonably successful career that covered Mental Health, Education, Business Consulting, and then high school classroom teaching. Being retired with no obvious day to day mission can erode one's sense of self. Aging brings it's catalog ailments and my faithful old body now operates with a number of body part replacements, including a prosthetic foot, a pacemaker, a new heart valve. While I'm happy to have the spare parts, it's hard not be aware that this body I live in is just a bit beyond it's prime.

So what I tuned into as I read, and reread, this little book was the way in which Michael Gill managed to rise up from what looked like a hopeless situation to a place where his self esteem and joy in life surpassed anything he'd experienced in his life as a high powered advertising executive.

Find and read this little book. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Food Data Widget

Just a quick post here to point you to the right where you will find a new (on this site) widget which will retrieve nutrition data on most foods. For some time I have been using this site but just now found and installed the widget.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Losing Your Job Could be a Gift

Michael Gates Gill lost his six-figure advertising exec job. He made too much money. He was told someone younger would work for less. Gill was devastated. But when he stumbled into Starbucks for a cup of coffee he found himself in the middle of a hiring fair that saved his life. He loves his new $10/hour job and is now the author of a best selling book, "How Starbucks Changed my life." For more of the story go to

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Handicapped or Inconvenienced ?

At the left is what I think most "handicapped" stickers should look like.

I've got a handicapped sticker. I got it after my heart surgery. And I did use it some after that surgery and for a while after my below the knee amputation. After that it has been stuffed away in a hard to reach compartment of my van.

Especially after the amputation I was happy to use the sticker. For a couple of weeks I was in a wheel chair and then spent some time on crutches. But I really never liked thinking of myself as "handicapped." One ought to be careful about accepting that sort of a label. I was afraid that it would slow down my recovery and make me older sooner.

Having only one foot and dealing with a prosthesis is sometimes a real pain in the lower regions. Any shoes I buy have to fit on to this non yielding plastic foot. That means lots of pretty cool dress shoes don't work. Walking more than three of four miles is sometimes pretty uncomfortable. Most pants have to go on before the prosthesis and I can't wear cowboy boots.

But, I can travel anywhere I want. I can negotiate bathrooms and showers and locker rooms. I can walk through airports and stand in line when I need to. When I first tried to swim laps I had to learn to swim in a straight line with only one swim fin. When I get the chance I can play a competitive game of racquet ball (with my peers). Basically I can do whatever I want. (I can't play the piano now, but I never could play the piano.)

So why would I call myself "Handicapped?" I'll settle for "Inconvenienced"