On Tuesday, I Hit Some Tennis Balls

The last time I played tennis, Mark was three. That was 30 years ago. We were living in Chesterton, Indiana. One Saturday morning, Mary and I drove down to the public courts and hit the ball around for an hour or so.

Our brand of tennis back then was less about developing our games and more about finding a family activity that offered the adults some entertainment, while affording Mark the chance to romp around. The fenced-in nature of our venue wasn’t lost on us.

Like so many activities that drop away, life, parenthood, and moving back to Maine pushed tennis out of our lives. I’d eventually dust off my baseball glove and find out I could still pitch competitively. We sold our racquets. Continue reading

Another Year of Books and Reading

With the commencement of a brand new year, I set out once again reaching for what I’ve established as my personal baseline figure for books to read over a twelve-month period. While far from being scientific, I arrived at my number of books to read per month, and in the course of setting the bar, I learned that I’m way above the average number of books read annually by almost all other Americans. I now believe that doing so keeps me sharper (I think) than less ambitious types.

As it shakes out, my bedrock number of 36 books read is triple the U.S. average, at least according to Pew Research, my researcher of choice in this matter. The “average American” in the U.S. reads 12 books per year.  That’s a paltry number, but it’s the average. That means many of the people you work with and interact with read a lot less than that.

My wife reads a lot of books. My son once more hit a reading number that dwarfs my own 2015 total of 53 books, which exceeded my goal for the year, but fell short of last year’s total of 66.

Previous end-of-year book summaries also served as attempts at advocacy, citing the benefits of being a reader. Two would be broadening your awareness and increasing knowledge. But I have to remind myself periodically that we live in a time when ignorance trumps all else—most wouldn’t consider broadness an asset—and they wear ignorance like a coat of arms.

Not only are Americans light readers, I’d go one step further—if they do read anything at all, their tendency is towards books offering cover and validation to their views on politics, culture, and any other subject that they have an  awareness about. Or, they read simply for pleasure and escape. I get that and I’m not opposed. Miss Mary is a reading-for-pleasure kind of girl.

My 2015 reading list seems a bit more pell-mell than some of my previous ones. Scroll down and take a look back at 2013 and 2014, and you be the judge.

John Gould and a few other books from 2015.

John Gould and a few other books from 2015.

Continue reading

The Process of Aging

I try to swim two times each week. Usually, my swim days are Monday (or Tuesday, if I miss Monday) and Friday. If I leave my house just after 5:00 I can be in the Bath Area Family YMCA pool around 5:30-ish.

For a guy who never thought he could learn to swim, let alone swim well enough to complete triathlons, this has been a revelation. It’s taught me to never underestimate your ability to learn new tricks, even when you feel like an old(er) dog.

Actually, age is relative, or that’s what the salesman is now selling. What, with all the talk about 60 being the new 40, Botox treatments, and Google—shoot, they’ll probably eradicate death one of these days. Or, maybe not. Continue reading

Hunkering Down

January is the longest month of the year. By “longest,” I mean it’s cold, dark, and 31 days (compared to February’s 28, or 29 during leap years).

For active types, remaining engaged becomes a challenge. Running outside, biking on the frozen roadways, and other outdoor activities conducive to warmer temperatures get put on hold.

It is true that you can substitute cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for running, which is great when the snow begins piling up.

January is also a good month for hunkering down.

Peddling, but not going anywhere.

Peddling, but not going anywhere.

I’ve put my road bike on the indoor trainer in the basement. The beer fridge is well-stocked, and I’ll be making comfort foods like homemade granola, and an ethnic favorite of mine, sauerkraut. Continue reading

A Different Approach

It’s always easy to focus on yourself. I know, I know—your situation is important and you don’t have time to think of anyone but yourself, or to ask about how I’m doing.

I’m re-evaluating most of my relationships. I remember a friend of mine from years ago mentioning that the “masses are asses.” My recent experience would validate his assessment. However, I’m trying to give people the benefit of the doubt and maintain a positive view of my fellow humans. Continue reading

Beyond Barriers

Learning to swim like a fish.

Learning to swim like a fish.

In February, I decided to become a swimmer. My goal was a simple one, really—to swim well enough to complete the swim portion of a sprint triathlon in June.  While the goal was simple in the setting of it, the mechanics in reaching it were more complex.

If you’ve been following my quest, you know that I was successful. I completed the Pirate Tri on June 9, at Point Sebego. The swim portion was actually easier than I imagined that it would be. Continue reading

Being Healthy; Getting Fit

Back in 2009, I lost a lot of weight; almost 60 pounds. I’ve kept most of it off for the past three years. “Most” is the operative word here.

Here’s what I know. Losing weight is the easy part. Well, maybe not easy, but you can take weight off using a variety of tricks, gimmicks, and eating plans that wouldn’t constitute being healthy. Continue reading

In training (again)

Mathias Steiner of Austria completing a lift @ Athens Olympics (photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Mathias Steiner of Austria completing a lift @ Athens Olympics (photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

I’m a big guy. By that I mean that I’m 6’3”. I am a mesomorph and generally look athletic.  I generally carry excess weight well, perhaps too well.

Like many people, as I got older and passed into my late 30s, I had gained a considerable amount of weight compared to what my weight was in high school. A more sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise were major contributors, as well as an American-style diet tilting towards processed foods. Heck; I like to eat, what can I say? Continue reading

Zumba on parade

Too bad Americans are so easily diverted. Right now, it’s “silly season,” the period every four years when people take leave of their senses over a couple of issues and reveal their utter lack of understanding about the state of America, let alone their ignorance about our political system and how there’s so little difference between either candidate. Note the “breadth” of the topics touched on tonight.

Actually, most Americans don’t care at all about what happens in Washington. Politics has been handed over to the wealthiest, who decry current tax rates that are the lowest they’ve been in 70 years. In the land of the free, money talks and when you have money like the Koch Brothers, you can drive almost any debate. If you have been paying attention to the tea leaves, you know the train’s left the station, at least for this four-year cycle. Continue reading