Sunday, January 30, 2011

Struggles

I feel like I have really struggled to write here, at all, in the last few months.  Its somewhat appropriate, if not ironic, that what is on my mind is struggles of a different sort that I have had the last couple months.

I've struggled with continuing my dedication to exercise and better eating.  I hit the big plateau of 50 pounds of weightloss, and have pretty much stopped.  I haven't gained any back, thankfully, but I have not continued to lose, which would be easy (I think) if I could remain focused on my goals.  But I have failed to work out consistently, consistently "slumping" to 2-3 days a week, and my eating habits have worsened.  I can't really pinpoint a reason for it, except to say that I assume that such struggles are inherent in such a process.  But understanding that it may be so does nothing to reduce my frustration towards my inability in this regard.

I've struggled with the past few months in trying to remain...positive, I guess would be the best way to say it.  Shortly after Jackie's miscarriage and everything that entailed, I wrote about trying to maintain hope in the face of severe disappointment.  That has been difficult.  I am already, by natural inclination, a more negative, critical, or cynical person; as such, I often find striving for hope and optimism to be an uphill climb in normal situations, let alone in a situation that causes deep pain.  Its a process...

Finally, I've struggled greatly in the last few months with faith and belief.  I do not doubt that the trigger for this period of struggle, as well as a significant contributor, was the pain caused by the miscarriage.  From a spiritual standpoint, particularly with the divine references in so many, if not all, the words of comfort and solace we received, makes it easy for me to delve into those issues and questions, and increasingly, with little answer.  As I continue my class at our local church studying the Bible, as much as I enjoy the people and getting to know them better, I find more and more ideas, beliefs, positions, stances, etc. that are impossible for me to accept, and many that I completely reject (at least right now).  While I know things change, and many things in life, particularly things of this nature, remain fluid, I feel a genuine flow in one direction at this point.  Its not the rejection of belief and faith couple with the acceptance of a definitive stance in the other direction, but it is an embrace of doubt and skepticism, with little hope of clarity.  This, probably more so than the others, weighs on me the most - for lack of better wording, there's seems no place to occupy with such opinions...

So it goes.  I suppose I will continue to strive for more consistency in my workouts and better choices with my eating habits; in some ways, that struggle is almost a relief from the other two, as I feel like there is something I can do - the others seem, for whatever reason, out of my control.

"to be nobody but yourself, in a word which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you every body else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting" - E. E. Cummings

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reflection from Reading A Dog Named Slugger

A Dog Named Slugger


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As a dog lover, I really liked this book. The book follows the author's journey with, as the title suggests, a dog named slugger. The author has cerebral palsy, and she gets slugger as a working dog to assist her. We learn how the author decides to get the dog, and how the bond with Slugger grows and grows throughout the relationship. The book not only serves as a reaffirmation to me of the great companionship one can receive from a dog, but also highlights how that companionship can make one into a better person. In addition, the story also amazes at how intelligent working dogs can be, and how worthy of a purpose they serve and how much good they create in our world. There are stories that will definitely make the dog owner laugh, strengthen their own bond with their own dog, as well as cry. A great read for any one who loves dogs.





The above was my review of the book from Goodreads, which I often cross post on my blog.  But I wanted to reflect more here about a particular part of the book.  Throughout the book, it becomes obvious to the reader, and eventually to the author herself, how much more confidence (as well as a loss of excessive self-consciousness) she gains from having Slugger around.  This struct a chord with me, as I thought about our dog Ellie, and the ways she has improved me - made me a better person, at least in my own eyes.  It is directly related to being less self-conscious, specifically with how I interact and talk to Ellie.

In the past, I have always found it incredibly difficult to interact with young children - an ever present fear as Jackie and I continue our journey to hopefully have children of our own some day.  I would always note that others seemed to so easily talk, in what I deem a "baby voice" when they talk to a baby, infant, and so on.  I never really seemed to be able to do it naturally, partly because I would be so extremely self-conscious about what I was saying and how I was acting.  Getting Ellie really changed that for me.  I talk to her in a certain voice; I lose my worries about self-consciousness and just enjoy the moment and the interaction.  From that, I have found recently that I have improved my comfortability factor when interacting with infants and young kids, having interactions I would have never thought possible.  Its a small thing, and for many I'm sure it seems pretty insignificant, but growing up and having very rarely being around infants, its interesting for me to step back and realize the progress I've made in that regard.  And I truly do believe it has to do with Ellie....I mean, I hardly even call her by her full name unless I am directing or commanding her someplace - its always Ell-Bell, Sweetie, Sweetie-pie....for someone who has a problem with taking himself too seriously as I often do, being able to lighten up and enjoy these moments have been great experiences.

I always feel that relationships should be about pushing you forward, making you a better person and making you desire to be that better person.  As I continue to believe that companionship with a dog is a worthy relationship, the fact that I can see how I myself have become a better person because of my relationship with our dog reinforces this truth for me. 

 Thanks Ell-Bell...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Thought: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


An easy and enjoyable read, the book is Bryson's memories of growing up in the 1950s in Des Moines, Iowa. He relates many, many anecdotes from his childhood experiences, and told with the perspective of that child - which is to say, different from the perspective of an adult. What he relates, besides some humorous stories from childhood mishaps and fantasy, is how both the simplicity of the time was a blessing and a curse. Life was simpler, in a way, everyday life had more freedom and was not bogged down by the many complications that society seems to have today. Yet, that simplicity also produced a lack of awareness, almost a naivete, where people were so excited about some of the new stuff that they never stopped to think about its consequences (particularly when it came to military weaponry research). In addition, one can see through the memoir the veneer of life in the 50s, where on the surface everything appeared on the up and up, and yet, for minorities it was still a time of struggle and conflict. One can also lament the lost of the individuality of towns that existed in the 50s. The loss of unique downtowns and every city being different to the current marketplace where certain big stores and restaurants are everywhere. Good read, particularly, I imagine, for anyone who grew up in th 50s or for anyone just wishing to get a small glimpse into what it meant to come of age during that time. I thought it was humorous at times, but not laugh out loud funny as some as have suggested.



Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions

I often think that New Year's is a holiday created for me. Why? Because I am always making resolutions; truly, always, and New Year's always provides a nice clean demarcation line to use, similar to birthdays and anniversaries and so on.  But because I am so used to making so many resolutions in my life, there's never one thing I can point to above anything else.  In 2010, it seemed much of my focus was on losing weight, which is the cliche resolution to make.  Yet, personally, that resolution was made a few weeks before 2010 started due to health concerns, as I wrote on the blog at the time.  And, it wasn't a single year resolution, but a lifetime one.  When you constantly make resolutions like I do, remember when you make them, resolutions confined to a single year are rare.

Anyway, I enjoy making resolutions - because I find it reminds me that I always have things to work on, to improve, things at which to better myself.  They don't always fit nicely into yearly things, but the cleanness that comes from a new year does provide an adequate opportunity to reflect on past resolutions and their current progress, and think about ones that need to be made.  Much of what I seek to improve upon is ongoing, and I occasionally write about here, but something that is a continually gnawing is striving for more efficiency.  The reality is that there is only so much time available to accomplish certain things, to read certain items, to write certain ideas, etc.  So, the question of efficiency is to prioritize what things have time spent on them and analyze how that time is spent.  This is a daily/weekly/monthly thing for me - in some ways, its kind of counter-productive, how much time do I needlessly waste thinking about how to use my time more efficiently.  That's a little more meta than I want to be at the moment, but it does crop up every now and then.

But before I digress or babble on even more, what is currently on my mind today is my use of Twitter.  In the past, I have written a lengthy post or two about social networking sites and my use and attitude towards them.  The reality is, I think, is that I hardly use Twitter for any actual social networking or keeping up with friends, Facebook does that for me on the web, and frankly, in person is and always will be the primary goal.  Twitter is primarily a news source for me.  More and more, however, while the instant access to the news and opinion is enticing, its also inherently less thoughtful and more shallow than what I get, say, through a magazine subscription or through a subscription in Google reader.  Those things take more time to read for sure, but they also create a better information source.  Efficiency versus completeness.

I think the truth of the matter is that, for whatever reason, I feel compelled to participate in any tool that I deem worthy enough to have an account to begin with; and yet, doing anything with Twitter would be redundancy overkill combined with Facebook, a blog, Goodreads.  There's nothing more to add to a Twitter feed that wouldn't be covered somewhere else, and considering where most of my friends and family make their online presence at, there's not a great benefit to sharing on Twitter.  I would miss the instant access to news and information, but would gain time to do more writing, as well as substantive reading in books, as well as through Google Reader.

Its ironic really.  All of this, this entire blog post, is a way of getting to a conclusion that may have been most efficiently stated in the 140 character limitation of Twitter - Dear Twitter, I think I'm leaving you.