Thursday, July 28, 2011

Striving for Balance: off to the gym

I have a friend who has been posting on his Facebook page, his latest efforts to follow a Calorie counting/budgeting program online. More offensive, he continues his efforts to record his exercise regimen, and his interaction with this program, detailing the computer counts. The program them tells him (accurately?) how much weight he will continue to lose. This public posturing is shameless. I will neither celebrate nor endorse these efforts.

But, unlike me, he is off living life on two feet, and I am closing on an anniversary of the time I stopped walking. I grew tired of waiting. I had spinal surgery on May 24, 2010, and while I am not afraid of disappointment, I did expect more progress, much faster. People in my life wanted me to lower my expectations, and even today, I remain resistant.

So, in the year since spinal cord rehab, my life has changed. I get nerve function where I did not have it before. I can move my body with greater strength and agility than in the days prior to my surgery. I continue to regain strength in both my right and left leg, while at times am able to stand upright (for 60 seconds maybe) unassisted, holding onto no rails or devices. I remain grateful, but not complacent.

What other change would seem relevant for me? Like my friend, I have changed my diet. Like him, I do not see this as a proactive measure. Both of us are responding to changes in our health. In my case, it may seem a tad more obvious. Though, perhaps I have not gained much weight, My midsection has expanded, and shirts that fit well six months ago, now have to be rolled on to my body like a pair of stockings. I feel my dignity challenged by this. My body fat index has raised several points, and I have grown intolerant (mostly of my friend losing weight).

Due to my personal success in the past year, I am now able to leave my home for longer trips, and I toured the YMCA near my home. My guide, Joseph, followed my instructions and wrote the date, July 6, 2011 , inside the folder I was given to assist in my rapid application process. Yes, with the fitness trainers they have there, I can make some serious progress health-wise.

I need to get a swim suit. In this place they have an enormous pool, I can use to exercise. The progress I can achieve is unlimited if I fill out the application. It almost makes you wonder why I might hesitate. I quit therapy eighteen years ago, and do not philsophize on my feelings. But, at this pool is a special chair. This is a mechanical chair that can lift me from the water, and lower me back in to the pool. I will get started just because I have not been swimming in a long time. I think I miss it.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teh hijau dan Jahe (Green Tea with Ginger) and Where to Buy it

Teh hijau dan Jahe (Green Tea with Ginger)

I am okay with the closure of the last, real grocery in my neighborhood. One of my friends, my dear friend Jo Anne, is one of the finest produce clerks in the valley (I do anticipate her reading this), and has noted I do not visit my old place of employment. Safeway, very often. I will hop on out there if I want to grab some groceries, see old friends.

But in the absence, there is this weird void in my neighborhood, as I wait for a replacement, a counterbalance. Wheeling through my neighborhood, I went past the closed SaveMart, and past the Dynasty Chinese restaurant, a collection of Vietnamese noodle houses, hair-nail shops, French bakeries, and sandwich shops. You can throw a stone in any direction, and hit a store where you can procure a Vietnamese sandwich, a fruit smoothie -with such ingredients as durian, avocado or lychee- or a place where you can buy five gallons of filtered water, asian DVDs , and cheap cigarettes at one time.

Across the parking lot is a huge complex called Vietnam Town, a fitting addition to our neighborhood aside from one small problem. They have not opened. I watched the June 17 closing of SaveMart unceremoniously, and without regret. One block away, were the glorious banners advertising the Grand Opening of Vietnam Town. The storefronts all bear names of stores opening or "coming soon".

The variouss units show signs of life as men pull away the boards and enter the structure with tool belts and ladders. None of this would seem particularly odd if it were not for one detail: the sign outside the building, the festive banner over the entry drive-way to the complex says Grand Opening June 18. I watched the parking loty fill with people. I saw food booths, games, and a general atmosphere of celebration and excitement. But, not a single store opened that day. Today, a month later, nothing has opened.

Still, we lack some products, some services, and I do not view Wal-Mart , on one side of the freeway, and Target on the other, as the answer to those needs. I entered a quiet little shopping mall, also bearing the Dynasty name. I spun around, crossing a whole new group of shops, including some more eateries, some jewelry shops and an herb shop providing a varieties of teas .

I stopped in there, and found boxes of Prince of Peace Green Tea, and Prince of Peace Honey Ginger Crystals. I bought them, remembering these products from my days at Orchard Nutrition in Redding. Having now toured this little mall, I will definitely come back. My only reflection on the products is one from before: what will Jesus say when he returns from Heaven to find "Prince of Peace" is now a registered trademark.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

today's exploration...

"And Sharkey says: All of nature talks to me. If I could just
figure out what it was trying to tell me. Listen!
Trees are swinging in the breeze. They're talking to me.
Insects are rubbing their legs together.
They're all talking. They're talking to me. And short animals-
They're bucking up on their hind legs. Talking. Talking to me.
Hey! Look out! Bugs are crawling up my legs!
(You know? I'd rather see this on TV). Tones it down.
And Sharkey says: I turn around, it's fear.
I turn around again, and it's love.
Nobody knows me. Nobody knows my name."
--Laurie Anderson , "Sharkey's Day"(1984)

Back in high school, one of the artists I thought most exciting was Laurie Anderson. So, when my friend gave me a copy of her album Mr. Heartbreak, I was thrilled listening to her poetry, her music, and her weaving of images and sound. Strangely, it is to her music to find my peace, and recapture hope. I listen to Mr. Heartbreak, and I listen for nature talking to me. I stay hopeful, thinking that nothing can be gained in dwelling in fear for the future.

Just now after listening to Sharkey's Day, I turned on a discussion about President Obama and his ominous statement that Social Security checks may not go out on August 3. Living in a house where everyone's rent and food come from those checks, it is amazing how scary that statement can be. I am not certain if I am the only one here who knows this news. This talk could do little but unsettle my home. I was listening to Laurie Anderson before all this; I feel a tad bit sidetracked.

Back in 2004, a friend in Canada told me she was going to a rally to protest "globalization." Being oblivious, overly proud, or profoundly indifferent, I never got around to asking her the question, what is globalization. Even after six years -of listening to comedians bagging on President Bush, watching countless Michael Moore movies, and insane ideological stonewalling over money in Congress- I still was not sure what this thing called globalization is, what all is encompassed, and what are the two sides to it.

I am grateful for a book my sister brought me in 2010. It was Thomas Friedman's third edition of The World is Flat. I eventually read it, a volume filled with glowing reviews on the blossoming of new life in old economies, an explosion in the movement of products/services across the globe, and how so much of it occurred because of the dot-com bubble burst of 2000. Because of Friedman, I now realize that millions of people losing their life savings in a stock market crash is unfortunate, but a small price to pay when a second generation of telecom investors get to buy up miles of installed fiber optic cable at pennies on the dollar. In fact, I see it is a good thing.

All of Friedman's optimism is exciting. It is good to pull from his forward thinking to capture a sense where all this unbridled market liberalism and full-on privatization of government services can take us. I will be reading his book Hot, Flat and Crowded next to see how his perspective stands since 2008.

But, I also started reading from economist Joseph Stiglitz, and his views on the state of globalization, privatization, market liberalization, and the flatness of the world. Unlike my friend in 2004, I am not under the belief that a global economy is a bad thing. Trying to stop it seems even silly, especially when the very means by which we share this information exists because of that global economy. The question is how do we exert our influence to manage it better.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan popularized the concept of trickle-down economics. Joseph Stiglitz says most economists regard it a failed experiment. Still, across the globe, many are singing the praises of this philosophy: where, if you load up the corporations with enough money, their prosperity will trickle-down to the middle-class, and to the severely impoverished. There is a large amount of information for me to understand, and I feel like I am starting to sort it out. Maybe if I started reading these books when they were written, I would have been able to come out of my cave sooner.

Still, I have Laurie Anderson playing online. "I turn around. It's fear. I turn around again, and it's love."

I will keep sifting through the books, learn in turn what the word aggregate means in the economy world, and wonder why the word profligate gets mentioned so much. But that is all I can share with you for now.

Thank you for reading.