Thursday, March 31, 2011

Every Morning

Every day, my friend Jenny sends the members of our merry band of writers a prompt designed to inspire and provoke ten minutes of writing bliss. Last week, I began sharing these prompts with my friend Jonathan who has since adopted the practice. This morning, Jonathan emailed me his response to the prompt: Every morning...

I thought I'd share it with you.


Every morning, I juice.  

I like saying it: juice!

The word 'juice' carries many connotations.  

It's the memories of my mom's old fashioned orange squeezer and the sweet concoction that she could whip up in minutes.

I've always thought of the orange as the single most compelling argument for atheism. If there were indeed a righteous god, how could he have given all that flavor, aroma and texture to just one of the fruits. No other fruit can compare.

Of course, the counter argument can also be made. Take a fresh orange and bite into it. Experience the sweet aromas that flood your sinuses and the squirting streams of delight that spray your mouth as your teeth tear through the delicate fibers. How could such an experience be were there not some higher power; it is perfect.

Another connotation of juice is steroids, an unnatural form of 'juicing' with a delivery method that is certainly less desirable and a focus that is all about results.

Recently, juice has taken on new connotations for me. It has become life sustaining. It is optimized ingestion of life force, of pure energy.

Every morning, as I assemble vegetables on the counter, I am excited; what great creation will I make today? I pick and choose the types and quantities that after months of daily ritual are still never the same. I cut, I wash, and I set up the order.

Today, it's tomatoes, celery, carrots, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and cucumbers. These are my staples. I add asparagus, chard, kale, collard greens, and spinach, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always a new variety, a new cocktail.  I feed the vegetables one at a time, listening to the augers grind through the fibers, hearing the first drops of life-giving energy fall into the basin below and watching them collect.  As the tide of juice rises, a layer of foam appears on top.

My machine is amazing. I appreciate the engineering and the melding of technology with organic purpose.

Now, I am ready to drink. I pour a glass through strainer, optimizing the pure juice that will be absorbed directly in body, the effects of which I will feel in just ten to fifteen minutes.

I take a sip tasting my latest creation; it is good. I add my spices: salt, turmeric, and pepper (to ensure the best absorption of the turmeric). I control my normal propensity to chug it like a beer on a hot steamy day by interweaving gulps of juice with cleaning components of my juicer. This whole process takes and additional ten minutes. Ten minutes to clean my machine, ten minutes to drink the juice, ten minutes to assure the optimal absorption of nutrients by my body.

As I finish my ritual, I feel great. I feel the energy coursing through my body.

Every day, I start the right way. I am amazed that I have sustained my ritual this long as my rituals tend to drop into the void of non-existence. However, this ritual is different. For me, it is life sustaining and anything that is life sustaining becomes easy when you consider the alternative.

Jonathan Harwood

---
PS Please don't miss Faith's post, That's not the Earth, below.
Teflon

That's not the Earth!

Everyone rushed over to the new wall map.  Eyes bulging, the oooo-ed and aaah-ed.  'Look!  Russia is close to Alaska!"  and "What are those little islands?" and "Where's New York?" The explorations went on for sometime, then Simonne said "I know what, Mommy! We'll each choose a country we want to learn about and we'll learn about it!"  Sounded good to me.  I quickly abandoned my agenda for the day.

Zachary chose Greenland and Simonne chose the continent of Africa.  After preliminary talks, we decided to flip through the atlas and a few other books to get insight into our location.  Many wonderful things happened, but I was really impacted by my conversation with Zachary.  Here are a few snippets.

F:Where's Greenland?  Here's New York.  Pretend we're standing here.
Z: North North East.
F: (startled look, pause) That's true. (I had just expected 'North'.  We had made our own compass a few weeks before with some postits on the table.)
.
.
Z: Why is Greenland so cold?
F: That's a great question.  Let's look at the solar system.  See earth?  Because of how it spins, ....
Z: That's not earth.  This is earth.  And that's the moon.
I look at what he's pointing to and see that he is right.  I quickly switch, feeling slightly embarrassed.
F: Because of how the earth spins...
Z: Because I was wondering, I was wondering why Earth would be behind Uranus, and behind Saturn.  I knew that couldn't be earth.
.
.
Z: So why is the ice sheet on Greenland melting?
F: we'll have to find out about that.  I think the air and water are getting a little warmer than it was just a few years ago all over the earth
Z: but so what if it melts?
we both pause
F: we can read more about that...
Z: But what will happen to New York? ..... I know!  Nothing!  Nothing will happen to New York!


Zachary always challenges me about making assumptions.  You can't always tell what he's taking in, but he clearly does absorb so much.  One day, he did a drawing class on lines and curves, and one of the illustrations  was a sail boat.  Zach didn't just do the sailboat.  He drew it a few times, and expanded on it.   Although I couldn't get his attention on anything anything else, he decided his writing practice for the day should be about his picture.  He pestered me to find something about sailboats for him to write.  Several hours later (the writing had to be cut out, glued to the picture, etc.) he started pestering me to give him something to write about lighthouses.  The outcome is better than any lesson I could have come up with!

I love learning alongside my kids.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For You

You delight and inspire me

Frighten and surprise me

Your energy ignites me

Your quiet consumes me

Through the gentle breeze you touch me with kindness, warmth, and love

Through the wild storm you challenge me with opportunities, pain, and hope

You are everything and nothing together in one breath

You are present and absent within the same thought

You are there when I want you until want turns to need

A spiritual connectedness in a world all our own

You inspire a love so deep, so pure

Your expectations are simple

You are you and I am me

Together we are something special that no one else can see

Do you know who you are?

Love to all, Kathy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Hard Part

What I didn't do was to react: react to the stench of rotting vegetables that entered the room about twenty seconds after he did; react to his complete disregard for personal space or body language; react to his apparent disdain for items such as soap and deodorant.

What I did do was to think. I thought about how he'd been when we were younger. How he'd walked into the band room after school one day with a Charlie Parker record, tossed it on the band director's turn table and cranked it through the PA system we used with the jazz band.

I thought of tsunami of notes and sounds that had flooded the room, crushing any pretense that we were accomplished jazz players, sweeping away all notions of pride and arrogance, leaving us naked with just our music to clothe us, and scantily at that.

I thought of being overwhelmed by the wall of sound, and how I'd thrashed about desperately trying to grab just a strand of the notes that flowed over me, my mind's grasp closing on emptiness.

The notes had been moving too fast and to focus too long on any one or any sequence, meant missing thousands of others. There'd been absolutely no way to stay afloat.

I thought about sinking deeper and deeper into the depths, drowning, dying.

I thought about him. How he too had been swept away. How he'd hadn't looked desperate, but instead, blissful. How he'd closed his eyes, allowing the rush to wash over him, to cleanse him. How he'd not tried to grasp anything, to reach or grab. How he'd just let the notes happen to him.

I thought about the the needle sliding past Ornithology into Confirmation, about pulling myself from the floor, rushing to the turn-table to lift the tone arm before the next onslaught.

I thought about dropping back to the floor, closing my eyes and wondering, "What the hell was that? How am I ever gonna learn that?"

I thought about the music starting again. How some intrepid soul had set the needle back to the start of Ornithology ready to give it another try, to listen and to begin the process of understanding.

I thought how the sound had been wrong. Too full. Too loud. There had been no band, no alto sax, just trumpet. Another recording? Dizzy?

I thought about opening my eyes to see him. How he'd picked up his horn and begun playing Charlie's notes as Charlie had played them. How at fourteen, he'd just listened to his first bebop record, first song, and then played it.

I thought about asking him how he'd been able to do it, to listen just once and to hear everything.

I thought about him responding, "Hearing everything isn't the hard part. Knowing what parts of everything are worth listening to is the hard part."

What I did was to think, to think of that time in the band room, to think for what seemed to be hours, and yet was apparently just a few seconds, the time it took him to see me from across the room and walk over, his hand extended in greeting.

Happy Tuesday,
Teflon

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Operation was a Success

It's likely that you're pretty bad a diagnostics, i.e, figuring out what's wrong when something doesn't work the way you want it to.

Your diagnostic skills come into play whenever your car won't start or the television plays without sound. You use your diagnostic skills to understand why you're not quite feeling yourself today or why you gained a couple of pounds last week. You use your diagnostic skills to determine why your child isn't doing well in school or what caused your relationship to lose its spark. You use diagnostics to tune a guitar or to determine what to wear or to edit a story.

Being able to quickly and accurately diagnose problems is one the single most critical skills that you can acquire. It can improve your relationships, save you gazillions on healthcare costs, win you promotions, make you money, and save you tons of time. And yet, you're probably terrible at it.

One of the reasons you're terrible at diagnostics is that you rarely ever diagnose. When something doesn't work do you stick with it until you figure it out, or are you quick to call someone or to google an answer? Once you find a solution, do you simply reapply it the next time the problem occurs or a similar problem occurs, or do you take time to figure out why it happened again? Most likely your diagnostic skills have been supplanted by look-up-and-remember skills.

Look-up-and-remember works much of the time, because things that break tend to break in the same way repeatedly and because, in a browser-on-every-phone, socially-networked world, access to experts is just a sweep-of-the-thumb away. However, there are many cases where lookup and memorize don't work so well.

Cause and Effect
One of the hardest things to learn in diagnosing systems is:
oftentimes, the thing that's not working
is not the thing that is broken.
The corollary is:
the thing that is broken
may appear to be working just fine.
For example, if a child is struggling with math, we often do things to help her with math. However, the cause of her challenges with math may have nothing to do with math. It could be her eyesight needs assistance. It could be that her math class is the one with the kid who picks on her incessantly. It could be that math class occurs just before lunch when her blood sugars are crashing or just after lunch when she's hyped up on preservatives, sugar and caffeine.

More often than not, the problem you see is the side effect of something that appears to be unrelated or something that in isolation appears to be working just fine.

It's a System Thing
Last week, I was working with a group of engineers trying to solve a curious problem with a large database system. The system has several software components that operate independently of one another. One program uploads new data to the database. A second program retrieves the data and generates reports. A third extracts the data, analyzes it and stores the analysis in yet another system.
In a large system all the parts can work
and yet the system can fail.

The problem was that whenever the analysis program connected to the database to retrive new data, the database told it that there was none. Looking at the database directly, one could see lots of new data. However, the analysis program didn't. After a week in which no one had made any progress in diagnosing what was wrong, I decided to figure it out. So, I started asking questions.

Everyone assured me that the system had been functioning just fine for months and that the problem was a new phenomenon. Each of the engineers told me that "his" program was working the way it was supposed to work, proudly demonstrating that it indeed did what it should. And yet, the system wasn't working. So, I donned my virtual deerstalker and started doing a little diagnostic detective work.

The first thought that occurred to me was that if the components were working individually, the failure must result from some interaction when they run concurrently (at the same time). So I asked, "What happens when you run everything at once?"

Silence and blank stares that shouted, "Huh?"

I explained, "Diagnosing a system by trying components sequentially is like diagnosing traffic jams by allowing one car on the road at a time. Each car does just fine. The problem occurs when you bring them all together."

Apparently this hadn't occurred to the guys working the problem. So we launched two programs at about the same and voila, the second one immediately managed to disconnect the first one.

Was It Really Working?
Here's another important diagnostic tool:
Verify that the system ever worked!
I can't tell you how many times I've helped people save what hair remained by asking the question, "Are you sure this ever worked?" and following up an affirmative answer with, "How do know that?"

Oftentimes systems that appear to be working are not. You never really know how well you accounting and budgeting are working until you have limited funds. You can't tell how great your sales team is if you have a product that everyone wants. You can't tell how well your marketing is working if you have a sales team that is knocking down doors and taking names. You can't tell how well your reserve gas tank works if you've never actually run out of gas.

Oftentimes we think things are working when in fact they've never really been tried.

In the case of last week's databases system, I decided to check the log files of one of the applications I'd been assured had been working to see whether or not it really had. When I got on the system and looked at the files, low-and-behold, they weren't there. It turned out that rather than appending new information to the files, the software had been overwriting old data with new data. Of course, this told me four things:
  1. The software had never been working properly.
  2. Even if it had been working, there was no evidence.
  3. No one had been checking the log files to verify the software was working.
  4. The guys who'd assured me that it was working were unreliable
That little tidbit changed everything.

Fix It
Whether you want to lose weight or become a better musician or get your car to run on cold mornings or keep your computer from crashing late at night, the first rule in figuring out what's wrong is:
fix what you know is broken.
None of the things that you see are broken may end up being the root cause of your problem. However, the cumulative effect of several things broken at once can cause problems that no one thing would and oftentimes, the tiny, unrelated thing that is broken turns out to be the basis for all the other problems.

Experts
The problem with many experts is that they're recognized as experts because of what they know and not because of what they can do. Experts tend towards the look-up-and-remember approach and they can be great resources in regard to information. However, they're often terrible at diagnostics, and in particular, in diagnosing something they've never seen before.

What often happens is that the expert will recaste the problem into something that she knows how to fix, rather than adjust her tool set to what's really going on.

Diagnostic Monday
So, how about steering clear of google today, avoiding asking for answers and tuning up those latent diagnostic skills? Take something that you've been trying to figure out for a while, dig out your virtual Deerstalker cap and Calabash pipe and perform a little diagnostic detective work of your own.

Happy Monday,
Teflon

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World Autism Views

This morning I would like to share a special research project started on the Relate to Autism website.

They started a world-wide survey called World Autism Views 2011. Below you will find some of the information listed on their website:

With about one in 100 children in the US and the UK being diagnosed with autism, some say that autism is a raging epidemic and others that it is simply being over diagnosed. Potential causes range from psychological trauma to genetics to toxic poisoning. Some argue that there is no cure and others argue that autism is completely reversible. Some see autism as a blessing and others as a curse.

Perhaps the reason that the experts can’t agree on the causes of autism is because there are in fact many causes. Perhaps the reason that the experts can’t agree the best approach to autism treatment is that each child is different; the best approach for one child may not be the best approach for another. Perhaps the reason some view autism as a blessing and others as a curse, is simply a choice of the viewer. There are countless opinions, numerous agendas and few answers. In the end, each parent must choose as individuals the path they will pursue for their child.

With so many questions still unanswered and so little scientific information translated from English into other languages we are in the dark about how people across the globe view autism.

The World Autism Views Project aims to give a voice to people everywhere so researchers can design appropriate programs for children with autism. The survey is available in over 20 languages and is anonymous. The results will be available by May 1st on an interactive map.

contribute your view

Kat Houghton, the designer of this survey, would like to have as many different people all over the world to participate in this survey.

To support this amazing project I would like to ask you to take 10 minutes to participate in this survey and by inviting others to do the same. You do not need to have a child with autism, or be trained into the area of autism to participate.

Your answers will be anonymous and will help researchers design culturally-sensitive programs for children with autism.

You can contribute to World Autism Views 2011 survey from March 27-April 16, 2011.

Click here to go to the survey page

With all we still have to learn about autism, I am excited to be able to promote this survey on this site. I hope you are excited too and will fill out the survey, just like I did this morning.


Love,
Iris

Friday, March 25, 2011

ADHD and Ideas

Previously we had some discussions about ADHD and medication, and now I want to suggest another consequence of ADHD: being great at coming up with new ideas.

Creating New Ideas
Today I received an email from a friend in my Danish Philosophy Network. We regularly meet to discuss this blog's related topics. In the email he asked me for a topic idea for our next meeting. I hadn't thought about it, but I easily came up with five topics without missing a beat. This was what he expected because he also wrote, "or do you have a whole list of topics?"

Whenever I talk with the mom running the autism program that I volunteer in, I am often in awe of all she has been doing in the playroom since the week before. And yet, as we talk after my sessions, she always has three new ideas of things to try in the next week. She's never at a loss for ideas.

Creative Meditation
This skill is very useful when teaching meditation. Many people have challenges when they are asked to meditate at home, but when they tell me about their experiences I can usually help them with ideas of how it might work for them: ideas ranging from listening to music, to meditating two minutes before driving, to doing active meditation while swimming, to meditating while peeling potatoes. I always have more than enough new ideas to help people.

From time to time, one of my friends will call me with a problem saying, "I have no idea of what to do!"

In this case, she means that she can't think of anything to do.

I'm never at a loss for ideas of what to do. If I do say, "I don't know what to do", it's because I don't know which idea to pursue, or I want some help implementing my ideas, or I'm just becoming impatient.

I've never thought about how I create new ideas. I've never experienced an issue where I have had absolutely no ideas. I do have times where I judge my ideas as "too difficult" or "not likely to work." But, I always have ideas.

Input Delivery Machine
When people ask me for input, I am often surprised by how much knowledge I have on what seemed to be an unknown topic to me.

I was invited to attend a meeting at work tomorrow, because even though it is not directly related to my daily job, it seems that no one else poses as many helpful questions in meetings as I do. I get invited to all kinds of planning meetings to help with creative ideas, everything from workshops to children’s birthday parties.

How do I do this? First I just start talking, mentioning everything that comes to mind. Then I ask what ideas resonate with others and what ideas don't. We continue from there.

When people ask for input it is often as if the thoughts in my mind fight to see who gets to come out first. I really don't understand how people can sit in a meeting being asked for input and have nothing to say.

Responding to Ideas
Some people are great idea supporters; if you bring up an idea, they'll jump in with a thousand reasons why it is a great idea. I could do that, but I would struggle with all the reasons why it would not be a good idea or why other ideas should also be considered. I have lots of ideas about ideas.

When people present an idea to me, I actually don't always know what to do. I'll usually ask them.

Sometimes people will present an idea to get my input on whether or not it will work. Other times they present an idea they've already decided to go through with.

It's much easier for me when people want me to help them to create ideas than if they want my input on existing ideas (especially ones they've already decided to pursue.)

What About You?
I believe I may handle ideas differently than most people. So I'd like to ask you:
  • Do ideas come easily for you or do you struggle with ideas?
  • What are times when ideas come easily and what are times when ideas come with difficulty?
  • How do you respond to new ideas? To your own? To those of others?
  • How do you normally react when you are asked for input?
  • Do you jump in and build on them or do you look for what might be wrong or missing?

Falling Up

Iris stares across the table at me, blankly. Save for her eyes being open and her sitting upright, there are no signs of life.

This is the third time in the last two minutes that she's missed her turn in the conversation. I wave my hand back and forth across the space that I estimate encompasses her field of vision and on the fourth pass, she manages to mutter, "Mmmm, hmmm!"

The waiter arrives with his pad and asks if we've made our decisions. Iris turns her head towards him as if to say something. Her jaw drops open, but nothing comes out. He looks at me, his eyes questioning and I say, "Blood sugar crash. We need food stat. She'll have a burger medium rare, no bun, with whatever veggies you can put on top of it and sweet potato fries. I'll have the fish tacos."

The waiter hurries off, Iris still staring at the space he previously occupied. She looks at me again and utters, "Thank you."

Just knowing that food is coming seems to help a bit and Iris says, "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"

I respond, "Well, I was talking about Faith's post this morning and the whole concept of falling up."

"Falling up? What's that mean?"

"Most of us who've been practicing this happiness thing recognize that, when deciding to be happy, the decision point isn't a point at all, but is more of an ongoing process. In practice, much of what we do is unhappiness preventative maintenance: eating right, working out, meditating, writing, taking time to think, and so on."

"So, we end up being happy most of the time because we adopt a lifestyle that places happiness above say, making money or getting ahead or being popular, etc."

"Additionally, we tend to be really good at recovering from unhappiness. When we fall into anger or frustration or fear or sadness, we don't dwell there, but instead pull ourselves out of it quickly and easily."

"So we're good before and we're good after. The question I'm pondering is, 'What do you do in mid-fall?'"

Iris stares at me, but not so blankly.

I wave my hand.

She snickers, "I'm listening; I'm just thinking about what you're saying."

I go on, "For example, you've become really good at avoiding blood sugar crashes by paying close attention to what and when you eat. However, there are times when you miss a meal or just forget, and then you get to a place like you are right now. So the question would be, What could you do right now to pull yourself out of the sugar crash?"

"Well, I'd just order some food and then avoid talking or responding to anything until I have a chance to eat."

"Right! However, that's the recovery part. What if you couldn't get food for a couple of hours? Your blood sugar fell through the floor. You feel like crap and you can't get anything to eat. What would you do?"

Iris responded, "Well, how about you? It's late at night and you're really tired. So, you start getting hyper focused and super intense. So intense that the heat from your exchanges is melting everyone in the room."

"You're so focused that you can't even see it. Tomorrow, after a night's sleep, you'll be fine. But in that moment you don't see it. You're in free fall. How do you stop it?"

I think about Iris' question. She's definitely got the concept down and she's managed to turn it back on me in a really effective way.

"Hmmm...", I ponder aloud, "Well, I think the main problem is awareness. When I'm in that mode, I'm not aware of my intensity. I'm not aware of how people are responding to it. I'm not aware of my own body language and feelings."

"What are you aware of?", asks Iris.

"Ummm... I guess I become consumed with reaching closure, arriving at a logical conclusion to the discussion or argument. My memory regarding what each person has said becomes eidetic, I have a multidimensional map of the conversation laid out in my mind with ever thread and segue clearly marked, and my whole being seems to be wrapped up in reaching a destination."

"OK, so what does that tell you?"

"It tells me that the problem isn't lack of awareness, it's being overly aware of one thing to the exclusion of other things."

"So..."

"So, the key to stopping my free fall would be to break the awareness that is muscling out everything else, to rip my focus away from reaching a goal or destination. Hmmm... "

I continue, "It would be similar to what Paul did when he rebuilt our driveway. He didn't just put a drainage ditch along the side, but also strategically placed large rocks along the way to break up the flow of water and slow it down. Without the rocks, the water would continue to gain speed and momentum until it reached the bottom. With them, the flow never gets too fast."

"So, what I need is something akin to those rocks, something that keeps me from building too much speed and momentum, even after I've started to flow into hyper-focus, even after I've started to fall."

"And how would you do that?"

Good question.

"I guess that I would need to practice it? I'd want to start in situations where I wasn't tired or overly focused and then practice shifting gears, moving from one focus to another, learning to do it smoothly and easily. I'd want to do it enough that it became routine for me. That way, whenever I found myself in free fall, the discipline would operate like an autopilot taking over and reversing the direction."

The food arrives. The waiter cautiously places a plate in front of Iris; it has a large burger covered with lettuce, tomato and onions and a heaping side of fries. He hands me my fish tacos and scoots away.

Iris looks at her food and smiles, "No more talking, we're eating."

Happy Friday!
Teflon

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the Downpour

A Rain Day
For the first 20 years of my life, rain was something to be avoided.  Not that rain wasn't a good thing, it just wasn't something human beings engaged.  If the weather report said we were going to have rain all day, it was a day off from school.  No, the schools didn't close, but it was as if they did, for both students and staff are likely to be missing.  And this was warm rain, since the average temperature in Jamaica was hardly below 85 degrees Fahrenheit .  I definitely concurred with the idea of staying out of the rain.

Out in the Rain
Rain hardly drizzled in Jamaica.  The sky opened up and it came down. A downpour could last 5 minutes or 5 hours.  Usually, when it was over, the sun was back out, very bright, birds were chirping, and water was busy running on the streets, rivulets crowding to get into the nearest drain or pothole.  Rain here is different.  Take this morning for example.  It was tiny pin like drops, persistent and cold.  It went on in that weak fashion all day.  Irritating, slushy, on and on, hardly making a sound, the drops were so small.  I really don't like being in the rain, but I dislike this even more.  The downpour is a reasonable excuse to stay inside, to just avoid the whole mess.  Take a rain day.  Stay in bed.  The persistent drizzle mocks you.  C'mon, this is isn't enough to stop you, it taunts.  And it isn't... well, one minute of it isn't, so I ignore my inner voices, and with umbrella in place, and reasonably water proof shoes, I head out to engage my day.

Now, a normal day has it's normal occurrences.  A child may poop or pee in the wrong place, someone pours shampoo down the drain, a business associate isn't clear on something I said, Isaiah does something I don't like, a volunteer doesn't seem to be understanding basic principles of playing with Jay.... regular stuff.  On regular days, I usually have a plan, an intention, a strategy of some kind: meditation and prayer, juicing, positive affirmations, vitamins, exercise, eating breakfast, the timing of the coffee break, sequencing my commitments,...  any combination of stuff that, to use Tef's words, helps me regulate myself. I actually anticipate the disregulating effects of the normal things, and have a plan in place that is readily accessible.

Stuck in the Rain
On rainy days, however, it feels like the drizzle is actually using up emotional, physical, psychological resources that would previously have been used to put all these high tech plans in place.  By the way, the rain could be anything. When it's not actual rain, it could be what feels like internal rain, the low level buzz left behind from a sleep deprived state, the low level blah feeling that I've come to recognize as PMS, the vacant feeling from having several appointments outside my home and not realizing that I haven't yet eaten at 3 in the afternoon.

Yesterday, Teflon commented:

I think for me, the hardest time to regulate is after the point where it would have been really nice to have regulated. You know, like moderating the flow of water before the dam bursts.


All my good thinking has been in regard to, "OK, next time!" But, perhaps it's time to get good at regulating after the fact? You know, rather than avoiding the bar, learning how to put down the drink as it leaves the table heading towards your lips.
After an extremely unregulated few days last week, I'm really motivated to think about all this.


Sensory Rain
When I've been in the rain for a while, trying to do 'normal life' I feel like I literally run out of resources.  The proverbial 'straw that breaks the camel's back' can be anything, and the break takes only a second.  The persistent cold, wet drizzle becomes a downpour, and I'm just sitting in it.

Teflon said he tends to be under stimulated.  That means his neurological pathways need to have a lot of input to feel well utilized, and the actual 'normal' input seems weak to him.  For some reason, it loses it's punch as it travels along the pathways, till it gets to the point where he needs to do something with it and it's hardly there... Well, I'm now describing my Zachary.  Zach's persistent position is 'huh?' because the input just wasn't strong enough.  Zach is really good at keeping himself stimulated, just not at the same time as he is dealing with the rest of us.  He's only 6, so I have faith he'll figure something out, and my backup plan is to send him to chat with Teflon.  

In contrast to Zachary and Teflon is Faith, Simonne and Jaedon.  We tend to the over stimulated end of the sensory processing spectrum.   It's as if I amplify the stimulus as it's coming in, and continue to amplify it all along the pathway.  The fun thing in our home is that the things Zach does to regulate himself as exactly the things that are speeding up the rain in my head.  On the downpour days, I feel like I'm in the gridlock at times square.  I have to literally get out of myself, stand back, assess everything and yell "stop! You! move on! You! get away".  Of course, if the deluge is intense, not even that happens.  Me and everyone else in the intersection just suffer until the traffic clears.

So back to Tef's comment.  What do we do in the downpour?  It would have been ideal to have had really good rain gear, or better still, just not be in it, but here we are, in a gridlock, in times square, in the rain.  What do we do?

To Handle or not to Handle
These are early days for me, in thinking about this particular phenomenon.  The more I think, the more ideas come to me, but I haven't yet taken the opportunity to do much testing of the various thoughts that I come up with.  I'll share some that are in my head right now, in no particular order. 
  • Stop everything.  Sometimes I become so focused on fixing the situation, planning for the next time so it doesn't happen, etc, that I don't just stop and tune in.  Guaranteed, when I stop, quiet all the internal voices, I notice stuff I didn't before.  I gain insight into what may be really happening for me.  As I'm willing to pay attention while in the downpour, answers come that won't come any other way.  I have to resist my 'fix' or 'flight' tendencies to get this done!
  • No Judging (akin to stopping).  I realize that if I recognize that this experience will pass and can allow it to do that, the world looks so different.  It's  like a stuffy nose during a cold, or headache during allergy season.  You know you've survived many, and that they don't typically mean death and that they pass. Self recrimination is extremely unnecessary.
  • Celebrate!  Celebrate what?  I don't know exactly what but the act of gratitude does sooo much for me.  The world is such a different place through the lens of gratitude.  Iris said she celebrated herself, the other runners and the spectators in her recent marathon.  Celebrate anything you notice as you stop.
  • See the opportunity in the downpour.  To be fair, the downpour is an extreme stimulus, and on 'normal' days,  these questions and possible solutions don't even enter my mind.  On 'normal' days, what I'm doing works.  My downpour days take me to the current known boundaries of my capacity.  I don't often get to look at these boundaries, examine them, think about moving the boundary posts.  Some interesting and even helpful thinking happens around these boundary markers, even though I'm often not interested in examining my boundaries.  The presense of a downpour provides great motivation.
  • Stop/Start something.  I realize that I have the power to move one or more of those cars out of the intersection, almost by magic.  I can take something out of focus.  I've seen Zach bring something else into focus to amplify his experience.  Zach doesn't often look 'appropriate' at these times, but then, if it works,... Maybe we need to be less concerned about looking appropriate.  I wonder what a business meeting would look like with some executives bouncing on therapy balls or bouncy chairs while others wore weighted vests, or drummed a steady beat on their chests.  Maybe there are ways for all of us to regulate ourselves, and still not get in the way of the corporate and personal goals.  Maybe we can modify how we conduct meetings and training sessions.

Tell me which, if any, of these you've used while standing in your downpour and if you found any of it useful.  I'll let you know how I fare, as I am certain I will have opportunity to think about this more in the coming weeks and months!  Whatever you do, have a wonderfully regulated day, even in the downpour.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Learning

It's amazing to me how the process of learning creates new motivation for more learning. I spent this last weekend with a few wonderful friends learning an approach called HANDLE. HANDLE refers to a Holistic Approach to NeuroDevelopment and Learning Efficiency. It was a wonderful combination of physiology, social development, diet, toxicity, and other approaches to development combined into a wonderful approach of working with children who operate "differently" in our world. Many of these "different" people have all kinds of labels like autism, ADD, ADHD, PDD NOS, mental retardation, etc. What was most beautiful about this training was the people who practice HANDLE don't have any interest in the label, they only have interest in the people, their families, and everyone's ability to build new neuro pathways in their brains. They believe in the power of beliefs and as a result believe that anything and everything is possible. It was wonderful to be surrounded by friends, teachers, therapists, and other everyday people of all ages who simply believe in the power of trust, commitment, beliefs, and love.

The days were full of exercises that would benefit everyone who has challenges. I learned that we all have challenges, some are simply more accepted by society than others. It was fun to learn that like my son, I have challenges with proprioception. Proprioception refers to the brain's unconscious sense of body- in- space. Have you ever tried to bring your body through a hula-hoop without touching the hoop and then trying the same exercise going through the hoop backwards? It is amazing that for some people like me, no matter how big the hoop is, I have trouble going through backwards. My issues with proprioception result in a discomfort backing up while driving, or occasionally bumping into things if I am moving backwards while David's issues result in discomfort in crowds, hysteria over hair washing, swinging between pieces of furniture and a host of other "different" behavior. Who would have known that hula hoop exercises would benefit both of us.


This seminar was a wonderful reminder of how much I don't know about so much. It re- inspired me to learn more every day, to surround myself with people smarter than me, and to share all I know. Learn about HANDLE. If nothing else, you will have some fun!


Love to all,

Kathy

Regulating You

Houses do it with thermostats and heating systems. Cars do it with tachometers and automatic transmissions. Dogs do it by panting. Governments do it with internal audits and reprimands.

Sometimes we do it well.

Sometimes we don't. Nonetheless, we all self-regulate.

For us humans, self-regulation is something that we do in response to what we perceive as too much or too little stimulation of one or more of our sensory systems. You get hot and you perspire. You get cold and you shiver. An ambulance races by, it siren blaring and you cover your ears. You step into a shower that is hotter than you anticipated and you jump out or you try to deflect the water with your hands. You mistake wasabi for guacamole and you quickly scan the table for something to drink (poor regulation) or some ginger (better regulation).

Self-regulation allows us to operate in multiple, diverse environments. Without self regulation, we would be quite limited in where we could go and what we could do.

Across the Spectrum
An inability to regulate well is at the core of challenges such as autism and ADHD. By well, I refer to a manner that is socially acceptable and sustainable. A child with autism walking in circles muttering is simply trying to manage an over-abundance of sensory stimuli. A child with ADHD who is bouncing off the walls is trying to manage a shortage of sensory stimuli. We see the atypical behavior as the fundamental problem and we're tempted to correct it. However, you might as well tell someone who has just jumped out a scalding shower to jump back in. The naked person tripping through the shower curtain and pulling down the rod is a side-effect of a more fundamental problem, water that is too hot.

With autism and ADD, a child is simply doing something that works her, but perhaps not for everyone else.

Working?
There are cases, where we regulate in a manner that is socially acceptable, but doesn't work or perhaps over-works. For example, we regulate hunger by eating. We regulate stress by drinking. We regulate depression by sleeping. There are entire industries dedicated to helping us regulate and then others that help us respond to having over-regulated.

To be clear, phrases like autism and attention deficit disorder are misleading, first and foremost because the words imply that autism and ADD exist. They don't. They're simply ways of classifying groups of people who experience similar challenges with self-regulation. The people within each classification vary vastly in their challenges with self-regulation and the resultant challenges with socialization. Yet, we tend to lump them together.

In a very simple way of thinking, you might consider autism to be at one end of self-regulation spectrum (too much stimulation) and ADD to be at the other (too little stimulation). Although this is overly simple (our regulation challenges vary from sense to sense and in combination of senses), it may help to better understand your regulatory challenges and those of people around you.

Regulatory Me
I would be placed in the ADD category. I am generally under-stimulated: way under-stimulated. Sitting at dinner making small talk is akin to being thrown into a tub of ice-water and told to enjoy the bath. On the one hand, everything inside me is screaming, "Get out of here", on the other hand, everything I've been taught is that I should enjoy being with people and show some appreciation.

So, rather than jumping out of the tub, I try to heat the water. In the case of brain-numbing conversation, my heating techniques tend toward provocation, asking questions or making statements that elicit a response that has at least an inkling of emotional attachment. It works for me, but is often less socially acceptable than walking in circles mumbling or bouncing off the walls.

For me, being tired exacerbates my sensitivity to the absence of stimuli and this can be quite confusing. I become more animated (and apparently more energetic) as I become more fatigued. I get tired; I go faster.

For me, world generally feels like it's moving in slow motion and this may sound a bit ridiculous, but the physical sensation is akin to being stuffed into a closet full of coats and having the door shut. It's a sense of suffocation; the dearth of stimuli might as well be a dearth of oxygen.

As I write this, I realize that I've never really articulated the sensation before. It sounds so extreme and I should be able to control myself. But as write I'm thinking, "Yeah, that pretty much captures it."

Over the years, as an alternative to provoking the shit out of anyone who happens to be sitting across from me at dinner, I've learned to regulate chemically: the three chemicals being endorphins, aderall and alcohol. When I know I've got a long evening ahead, I work out hard for a solid hour and I'm good to go (at least for a few hours). If I have a day of meetings, I delay taking my aderall until about twenty minutes before we begin. If I can't work out and I've already gone through my day's allotment of aderall, I beat the conversation to the punch by self-numbing my brain with a couple of glasses of wine.

So, those are my self-regulation strategies. They all work, but to varying degrees and with varying side-effects. And of course, some are more socially acceptable than others.

I realize as I write this that one of my greatest challenges in self-regulation has been judging the fact that I need to regulate in the first place. As a result, I've dismissed the physical experience as ridiculous or something that I should be able to handle. Seeing it as no different than seeing a kid with autism flapping her fingers in order to feel comfortable in the face of too much stimulation somehow makes the whole experience different for me. I'm gonna think some more about this.

So, where are you on the self-regulation spectrum? In what situations are you over-stimulated? In what situations are you under-stimulated? What are your regulatory procedures?

Happy Tuesday!
Teflon

Monday, March 21, 2011

You gotta love it

I signed myself up for the New York half marathon just before it closed in November of 2010. I had just finished the half marathon in Key Largo and I felt strong and excited and ready for the next challenge.

Quickly I heard I got in and I started training, but when it got colder outside I fell of the boat. I had a hard time motivating myself to get onto the treadmill and continue my training schedule. Once in a while I got myself tu run inside, and ended up with a whole bunch of little irritating injuries related to stiffened muscles because I didn’t workout consistently.

In the morning of our first gig evening in Las Vegas I did a nice run for the first time in weeks. Then during the performance the cold air form the air conditioner blew directly on my back and stiffened my muscles. For the next week I had irritation in my lower back which made it hard to stand long and move around I promised myself to find a trainer to help me do core work before I would pick up running again. I also said goodbye to my upcoming Manhattan race, knowing I would be in no shape.

Trainer
Six weeks ago, I finally made my first appointment with Ari at Zorn Core Fitness in South Egremont. I told him I am a runner whom is not self-motivated right now and that I wanted his help on strengthen my core, so I will not get injured when I start again in the spring. He said OK, and we started working.

We started slow and built up the training over weeks. Ari’s enthusiasm and crazy exercises helped me to get into the mindset again of this is fun, and really got me motivated to get in better shape then I was last november.

About a week and a half into the training I decided to start running again. First two mile runs, which was way more than I started with last year, but which felt as hard as 13 miles last November!

Half Marathon preparation!
When I had built up to ca. 5 miles running I changed my mind again and decided that I would participate in the New York Half Marathon. The plan was to run half the marathon (about 7 miles) and then walk the rest.  It would be a great preparation for the next half marathon in May (which Mark and I going to run together, and you are invited to join us!). The race would take me ca. 3.5 hours and I would have an amazing time!

Then while looking at the participant info, it turned out that there was a three hour time limit. The organizers structured the run in the following way: around mile 8, when the runner had not kept a speed of at least 13:45, then would be taken of the course and driven to the finish line.

“Oh, No! I don’t want that to happen”

I decided that my goal would be to finish myself in the three-hour time limit, without being picked up. I was a bit skeptic about it, knowing that my longest race had only been 6 miles, but having ran a half marathon before I knew it would all be about keeping a steady pace, and I believed that I could keep that 6 mile steady pace at least another two miles longer. This would mean I would have passed the pick up place by the time I crashed and would probably be allowed to walk to the finish! Yeah! What a plan (sigh!)!

Race day

On a very cold March morning I take the metro to central park at 6 am, where 15.000 runners are collecting before the race. We are placed in corals by speed, and I move up to a slower coral knowing that I will run myself into pieces at the first couple of miles if I am not careful. Everyone is blowing their hands, jumping, shivering, standing together closely to stay as warm as possible.

When the start shot arrives 45 minutes later we start moving like ice popsicles. We go down, we go up, we go down. The first couple of miles I mainly think "go slow so you don’t hurt your muscles, warm up slowly." After three and a half miles everything finally felt comfortably warm, even my fingers.

I loved the run through central park, where people where cheering and jelling. I loved when we came out of central park and ran over 7th Ave towards 42 Street. I was counting the miles and just kept running and running. It was a totally adorable, memorable race and I loved every minute of it. After miles 10 it got tough. And I told Ari in my mind a couple of times: "it’s because of you that I am here right now, and it’s because of your fabulous training I am going to finish this baby."

The last miles where more like running half a mile, walking half a mile, and than a final spurt at the end to the finish line. I arrived in 2:24:39, which is only two minutes slower then my first half marathon I did. That is totally amazing after just a five week preparation and very promising for the next one. Also, the first 15 km, I ran in a totally steady pace of 33 minutes per 5 km, which is awesome and with a bit more training I should be able to pull this through to the end.

Learnings
Don’t give up when you have a set back.
Every time you renew your efforts into something you have done before it is going to be easier and faster to get back to the same level you were before. You did a diet and then got off, you can get back on track faster then you did before. You used to play trumpet and have not done it in years, you can get back to it faster than before. Did you use to be able to run 6 miles and now not even 6 minutes? You can get back to it even faster then before.

You gotta love it
You have a goal but working towards it is not enjoyable, then find a way to make it enjoyable. When you love it, you will do anything to continue. When you don’t love it, it’s going to be very hard to keep up your goals over time. You gotta create inspiration. You can find others that do inspiring things and ask them how they do it, you can think about what it is you need to get to a place of inspiration again and than, fulfill that need. Do what is needed to get inspired and so you love what you are doing.

Celebrate the little things
Celebrate the steps you take along the way. Now only when you have lost 6 pounds, but also when you skipped the birthday cake that was offered to you. Celebrate when you make an appointment to go for a walk with a friend, or when you call the health instructor to make your first appointment. Celebrate that you went out to meet with your friend at a breakfast place, while you felt to depressed to get out of bed.
During my run I celebrated every mile I covered, but I also celebrated the people along the route cheering for us, the bands that were playing for use, the people that dressed themselves up for us.

All right everyone, have a very celebratory week!

Love,
Iris

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One More Thing

It's 6:49 AM, Sunday March 20, 2011 and it's a good day.

The sun is rising on China town and the sounds climbing the walls of the buildings lining Grand Street have shifted from the drunken english of 3:00AM to the industrious Chinese of dawn.

It's funny how you adjust to your surroundings. Living in Cambridge, I had got to the point where I'd reply "What train?" to questions from guests regarding the roaring waves of sound that washed over our condo every twenty minutes or so. As a result of now living in the country, I was able to hear everything happening in SOHO last night, incorporating pretty much all of it into my dreams.

This morning was one of those rare ones where I didn't need to slip out of bed so as not to awaken Iris. Instead, I was escorted into consciousness by the sounds of water splashing on tile and an angelic voice singing Son of a Preacher Man. Iris was up, feeling good and ready to run.



Yesterday, we walked from SOHO up to 48th Street to visit music row and then back downtown for dinner and a visit to the 14th Street Apple Store. As Iris and I walked past Bryant Park, I told her that I was really happy she'd decided to become a runner. She looked at me and asked why and I responded, "Well, if you hadn't decided to become a runner, I'd probably not have started running again."

She nodded and smiled, adding, "You're probably right!"

On Friday, I finished my third week of running clocking in 31 miles at an average speed of nine and a half minutes per mile. Running has become part of me again and I'm delighting in it.

As we continued onto Broadway, my phone announced a text. Iris, not waiting for my ritualistic search for glasses, grabbed it and read aloud a message from Eila's boyfriend asking for the make and model of our juicer. The day before, I'd received an email from Kathy with a similar request. Over the past couple of weeks, five or six folks have told me that they're starting to juice as well.



Clay shot a question through the wireless spectrum, his deep voice made tinny by digitization, compression, and reconstitution, "So man, exactly how many hours do you sleep a night anyway?"

I responded, "Let's see. I usually go to bed around midnight, and I get up between five and six."

"And you're like this all the time. I mean, like all that energy and everything?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"And it's all because of juicing?"



Back to China Town...

So as I type this morning, I realize there's one more important factor to making all this work: more than important, mission critical. Something without which nothing else really matters.

You gotta love it.

It can be made manifest in many ways, but the it is your life.

It's a bit of chicken and egg. I'm not sure that the sequence matters. Sometimes you start something and learn to love it. Sometimes you love it and then start doing. However, there's a feedback loop between loving and doing that is either growing or diminishing.

Sure, taking in all the nutrients I need in a package containing fewer calories than Mark K might consume in a snack is a huge benefit. However, if it weren't for the fact that each night when I go to bed, I'm so excited about all I want to accomplish the next day that I can hardly wait for the sun to rise, it's unlikely that effect of those nutrients would be as apparent.

It would be like maintaining a car and keeping the tank full when you've got nowhere to go. Sure, if you've got somewhere to go, having a car that will always get you there is great. However, if you're not exactly thrilled about where you're going, then even a meticulously maintained luxury sedan won't make the experience that much better.

It all starts by striking the match of intention, kindling the flicker into something you desire, and then fanning the flames of desire into roaring passion, so much passion that you can't wait to get up in the morning.

That, and juice.

Happy Sunday!
Teflon

Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting What You Want from Others

Over the past week or so, I've had a bunch of conversations with friends who were dissatisfied with fellow residents of their spheres. As we talked, it became clear to me that the dissatisfaction was not general, but instead, focused on the target of dissatisfaction being non-compliant with certain desires and requests. i.e., the other guy wasn't doing what they wanted or expected him to do.

Without fail, my first question in situations like these is: Well, what was in it for him?

And nearly without fail the answer to my question is: huh?

Then I explain that every time you ask someone to do something for you, they do it in exchange for something of value to them. It may be money. It may be a sense of satisfaction in the work. It may be belief in your cause. It may be feeling good about helping someone in need. It may be the desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. It may be wanting to get laid.

Regardless of the specifics, whether you call them "altruistic" or "selfish", everyone does what she does because she receives something in exchange. There are no exceptions.

Nonetheless, when enlisting the support of others or trying to effect a changes in priorities or just getting our kids to clean their rooms we forget this. Worse, we often ignore the interests of the motivatee and focus on those of the motivator.

Faith and Clay
My friend Faith is starting a business and wanted some help with her website. I introduced her to my friend Clay who is a software guy and has been coming up to speed on new web technologies. It was a perfect match! Faith has no money to pay Clay; Clay doesn't really need the money and could use the practice. Faith is doing work that helps people; Clay is motivated by helping people. Faith is energetic and enthusiastic; Clay typically answers the question, "How you doin?" with "I'm getting by, I guess."

As Faith and I talked on Tuesday, she said, "I'm not sure about Clay. I don't know if he's really into this. He doesn't get back to me and he hasn't really committed to helping me. Maybe I should be looking for someone else."

I asked, "Well, what have you done to recruit Clay? What's in it for him?"

Faith actually inserted a long silence before her "Huh?" and then proceeded, "What do you mean? I don't have money to pay him."

I responded, "I understand that, but you do have a lot to offer him in exchange for helping you."

We went on to list all that Faith had to offer Clay: Doing something that would significantly benefit others... Being part of a team of energetic and enthusiastic people... Honing his skills on more than practice exercises... Making new friends...

Faith had a lot to offer Clay. That brought us to the next question. What exactly did Faith expect from Clay in exchange? I asked Faith and she said, "Well, I want him to do develop the website and to supervise my interns."

I said, "I understand that conceptually, but how much time are we talking about here and for how long?"

Faith replied, "Well, that's another problem. I keep asking Clay how much time he has available for me and he never really answers!"

Step I: Be clear and concise on what it is that you expect in the exchange.

"How much you got?" is never a great opening line when trying to inspire trust and confidence. Even if someone has bought in completely to what you're doing, she will still be reluctant to commit until she knows what it will cost her. Importantly, the cost must be specified both qualitatively and quantifiably. Until then, you're operating in the world of hypothesis; you can have lots and lots of discussion that never actual results in concrete action.

So, if you've been struggling with getting people to behave in accordance with your plans, perhaps it's time invest in your recruiting skills.
  1. Recognize that recruiting others to participate in your plans always involves an exchange of some kind or other.
  2. Understand what you're asking for both qualitatively and quantifiably (e.g., over the net six weeks, I'd like you to spend three hours per week raking leaves in my backyard.)
  3. Understand what the other person finds motivating and rewarding
  4. See what you have to offer that matches those motivations
  5. Make an offer


If you pay close attention to the transaction, you'll find that you dramatically improve your success rate in getting others to do what you want them to do.

Happy Friday!
Teflon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Perspective

Uncommunicative or communicating with everything?  Thoughtless or thinking about other things? Developmentally disabled or brilliant? It's all about perspective.  I'm not saying much today because I'm giving you time to watch this video done by an autistic woman exploring her interactions with the world around her.  Most of my musings may seem random I you haven't watched the  video, so please, hurry and waatch it.  I'll be right here when you get back....

I've been using the video to train some new volunteers in Jay's home program and the discussions that have come up!  I was really moved when one of the ladies commented that people who perceive as Jay does are seen as healers in her native culture. 

This past week, my in-laws were visiting with us.  They haven't seen Jaedon since last May when we visited them in Jamaica.  My mother-in-law was effusive about how changed Jaedon is.  Now, according to my perspective, he may even have regressed since they saw him last.  The sleep challenges seem to have gotten worse, and he seems to be on speed or a related upper.  His speed is focused on his current passion: food.  By 11 a.m. I'm winded from the chase.  From her perspective, however, he is much more sociable, he is playful and teasing with her, he responds what she says, even when she is setting boundaries (previously, she said, he only responded to me), his movements seem more fluid, and his demonstrated understanding of what is being said is off the charts.  WOW!  I hadn't really seen much of that.  Our perspective determines what we see.

Bigger than all that, the video helped me see again the beauty in each person, a beauty that isn't defined by their capabilities, a beauty that is made up of everything to do with that person, every quirky, unfamiliar to me, strange thing.  It's a beauty that doesn't fade, even when they don't any longer do something that they used to do.   I reflected last week that emotions are thoughts.  Actually, thoughts and our representations of those thoughts are varied and wide.  Who then can say whether someone has thoughts or not?

Sometimes I judge my own thoughtfulness.  I hear old voices yelling my stupidity.  Although I may want to think differently about something in the future, I thought, and it's a beautiful thing.  As I think about judging myself as thoughtless, I recognise my own judgement on others.  Thinking thoughts that are different from mine has somehow become aligned with stupidity.  Is this any different from those who would challenge my son's thought life and suggest he is mentally retarded?

I get to chose my perspective everyday.  Today, I chose curious engagement, over knowing all the answers.  What perspective do you choose?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Experiencing Other Lives

I have been having fun reading light novels full of energetic, fun-loving characters who cherish life and seem to be incredibly happy. Choosing these types of books is new to me as I typically find myself reading books to enhance my practice of leadership development, books steeped in different, thought provoking philosophical beliefs, or murder mystery novels to better educate me on a possible second career as an FBI behavioral profiler.

What I have realized through this journey is that I have historically approached reading as a means to better educate myself. Rarely have I read simply for the pleasure of throwing myself into someone's life for a few hours a week to see if I like it. Before today, I might have viewed this as a waste of time.

As some of you may recall from previous posts, in addition to commitment issues, I have issues with productivity. I often characterize everything I do as productive or not productive with a very narrow, somewhat boring definition of productive.

At the core of my productivity beliefs is a belief that the "productive" stuff I do now will help me control the future. Working hard will lead to promotions, working out will lead to weight loss, doing homework with Aly will ensure she does well in school, etc.

My momentary leaps into the lives of others through my "non-productive" reading has been incredibly enlightening for me. I am experiencing characters who work hard, work out, do homework, etc. with great pleasure and enjoyment. I have realized that although I am doing all that too, I almost never enjoy it. Quite frankly, I can't remember a time I have enjoyed work less than I do today.

The irony for me is that I have accomplished everything I dreamed of accomplishing and thought was important. Big job, lots of accountability, high salary, incredible bonuses, great people to work with, generating measurable value to the company, etc. Achieving all of this feels amazing when I reach an important milestone and then that feeling is gone the next day.

As I reflect on this phenomenon, I am realizing that I am excited about the achievement but find the journey to be less than desirable. It's as if I continue to choose the path up the mountain where the sights and sounds and smells are not available. The experience of climbing is simply a means to get to the top and that experience lasts a lifetime while reaching the summit lasts only a minute.

As I throw myself into the lives of others, I am envious of their climb. The sights are amazing, the sounds are mesmerizing, and the smells are delicious. I have realized that I need to find a different path up the mountain or perhaps start rock climbing instead of.

How are the sights, sounds, and smells on your climb? Are you having fun?

Love to all,
Kathy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Deal with the Witch Doctor


Do you notice the blank spot in my Blood Glucose readings? From last Wednesday till mid-day Saturday I got fed up with trying to manage my weight loss/diabetes issue because the colliding parameters of the various different advice I've been getting were more than I wanted to deal with. So I asid f#@k it and just stopped trying. By mid-Saturday I was several pounds heavier and decided to get back to what I had been doing before. By today I have lost most of the weight I had gained (2 pounds to go) and am moving on to my next, more constructive, step.

I sit here today armed with a new resolve to simplify my approach and follow just one program.

So today I had my phone appointment with Dominique, the Witch Doctor. He looked at my trend chart for the last two weeks and my food diary and told me - "Look, this isn't the diet I laid out for you. Give me 2-3 weeks of REALLY doing what I tell you to do and I guarantee that your Blood Glucose Level will be more than in control, it will be consistently below 100.
I have found that a real hard part of keeping this program going is that it asks me to make food choices and construct my meals in a very different way than i am used to. I have this persistent belief that if I follow his program I will not be able to feed myself in a way that I find satisfying enough to stick with. Now this is somewhat unusual as Dominique, besides being a doctor, is French and a 5 star chef. He has provided me with many recipes to make my job easier. however, consistent with my belief that this will be too hard, I haven't even read the materials he gave me.

However, Dominique is so hell bent on helping me succeed that he has schedule another hour for me tomorrow just so we can sit down together and actually plan out a menu for the next week, day by day.

I see that I have a lot to deal with in terms of overcoming my own resistance and veering away from my steadfast dedication to failure. This promises to be an interesting ride. I am putting my other advisors on hold and going after this path for a while to see where it gets me (Sorry Mark, juicing is off the menu for now, wish me luck!).

I still feel very in the dark about what I'm doing, but not knowing the answer and doing something seems better to me than doing nothing while figuring out the answer. Tune in next week for the results of week one!

You Still Should Be Juicing!

About a month ago, I suggested that y'all should be juicing. I wrote about my friend Jonathan calling in mid-November to tell us that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer and how Iris and I had decided to join him in his initiatives to make his body as inhospitable to cancer as possible. In support of Jonathan's initiatives, we'd eliminated simple carbohydrates from our diets and taken to making vegetable juice every morning.

I went on to extol the benefits that we'd experienced from juicing including having more energy, needing less sleep, being more focused and clear, not feeling hungry, losing weight, and of course, not loading up our bodies with cancer fertilizer. Anyway, that was a month ago and since then I've concluded that y'all still should be juicing.

Running
Since I first wrote about juicing, I've discovered additional benefits.

Three weeks ago I started running and I'm already up to 28 miles/week. Not too shabby. Is my rapid increase in milage a result of juicing? Not totally. However, much of it is.

Because I'm juicing daily, I weigh less, so there's less wear and tear on my body when I run. Given the lower weight burden, my legs feel like newly coiled springs making running a lot more fun. Because my body has an ample supply of nutrients, my recovery time after hard runs has shrunk from 48-56 hours down to 12-16 hours.

Steel-Belted?
There's another funny side-effect of losing weight: your clothes change. It started with my needing a belt for my winter jeans and corduroys. I don't normally wear belts and often forget to put one on, so in January, I cut new button-holes about an inch-and-a-half further into the waist-bands to keep my pants up sans belt.

Yesterday, I finally pulled out a pair of my summer jeans, because the winter ones were simply becoming way too big. When I put them away in November, my summer jeans were a too tight (even after wearing them for a couple of days.) However, yesterday, well, they were loose (even after having been washed and sitting in a cabinet for twelve weeks). So, I went from snug 34-inch winter jeans to loose 31-inch summer jeans. Was I dieting? Nope! Just juicing and therefor not feeling hungry.

Getting Easier
Another cool benefit of juicing every day is that juicing gets easier and easier. This morning, my friend Flat Stanley and I made juice using carrots, celery, tomato, cucumber, asparagus, garlic and ginger (Stanley passed on the garlic and ginger.) Because juicing is part of our routine, we had everything ready to go in the refrigerator and it only took a few minutes to juice and clean.

Cart and Horse
Of course, since experiencing the benefits of juicing, I've been talking about them to anyone who'll listen and in exchange, listening to the various tactics and strategies others have employed or are employing to become healthier and feel better.

I gotta tell you, there's a lot of cart-before-horse going on.

One of the things I learned early in diagnosing problems with large computing and communications systems is this:
if you see something that you know is broken, even if it appears to be completely unrelated to the problem at hand, fix it.
You'd be amazed at how many times the experts sent in to remedy a telecommunications crisis spent days overlooking the obvious cause simply because the obvious cause didn't seem related to the apparent problem.

Similarly, regardless of what your physiological or emotional challenges might be, if you're not adequately supplying your body with nutrients or if you're fueling your emotional roller-coaster with sugar, before you run off looking for esoteric solutions, fix what you know is broken. Juice!

Happy Tuesday!
Teflon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is It Worth It?

We typically hear it asked rhetorically rather than inquiringly. Sometimes it's said simply as a trigger for reflection. You ask yourself, "Was it really worth it?"

There are two it's in play here. The desirable it (the benefit) and the undesirable one (the cost or penalty).

The undesirable it might be the grief you receive from the people around you. It might be the hangover you wake up with the next morning. It might be a mountain of credit card debt that never seems to diminish into a mole hill or an unwanted pregnancy or spending your would-have-been care-free Saturdays repairing a house or the additional baggage packing your midriff.

Oftentimes, at the point of decision, the undesirable it seems smaller that it turns out to be (perhaps even irrelevant). However, that's not typically the point at which you ask oneself the question. No, the question tends to be asked after the fact and certainly only seriously considered after the fact.

As humans, we tend to be fairly terrible at asking and responding in a timely manner to the question: Is it really worth it?. And yet, the opportunity do so presents itself many times each day, the first time frequently being while you're still lying in bed, e.g., should I get up or should I grab another ten minutes of sleep?

Ultimately, the question of an additional ten minutes of sleep is transactional (i.e., Is sleeping another ten minutes worth the frenzy I'll experience later as I rush to get everyone out the door?). However, we don't typically view it at such, but instead make it a matter of value (i.e., I could really use another ten minutes of sleep) without considering or even recognizing the inevitable cost of the implicit exchange. And so it goes, exchange after exchange after exchange without every really considering the costs, until that is, the bill collector shows up.

The donut seemed like a great idea at 7:45 when you couldn't seem to get your system running, but as your blood sugar crashed through the floor at 10:45, well... Sleeping in felt great at 6:15, but not so great as you watched your bus roar past the bus stop while you were still a block away. Telling the boss just what you thought of his big plans felt great when you heard you'd been passed over for a promotion, but not so great as you sat reviewing your COBRA plan in the HR director's office. Skipping your lunchtime workout seemed the only reasonable thing to do when the pressure of the morning started squeezing you, but by 5:00, you could have used the energy and clarity it would have provided.

All day long, we make tradeoffs and exchanges. Yet, we tend only to consider half the equation.

Perhaps it's time to reorder the sequence. Instead of the typical:
  1. Decide
  2. Act
  3. Pay
  4. Recognize that a decision was made
  5. Consider the costs and benefits
Try
  1. Recognize that a decision is about to be made
  2. Consider the costs and benefits
  3. Decide
  4. Act
  5. Pay Less


Happy Monday,
Teflon