Duncan Hospitality

I’ve learned a lot about myself on my many cycle rides over the past few years: how far I can push myself before my legs give out, how anger at the wind can drive me to overcome it, how much I value (and need) the serenity of a quiet morning with just the sound of bike tires and birds. I’ve also learned a lot about other people, though the teachings haven’t been nearly as positive (or as much fun for me.)

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Brr! It’s Cowd.

Plant sprout in snow

[My poor little garlic shoots are snowed under, except for this one hardy fellow.]

Our birds and plants have absolutely no idea what’s going on. In early January, we were bathed in 70 degree temperatures and covered by clear, sunny skies: a warm blanket of Solar Love. Late February has been a whirling dervish of ice, wind, and gray: an iron maiden of Frigid Hate. I’m ready for Spring.

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New Digs.

Heather and I have lived, loved, and (occasionally) worked along side one another for many years now. In one of those semi-spur-of-the-moment outbursts I’m prone to, after an otherwise innocent comment by her about a minor dissatisfaction with her blog at The Spotted Cat, she woke up Saturday morning to find that I’d spent the night before setting up a web server and teaching myself enough about PHP and WordPress to launch her a homegrown custom blog site (thankfully I already have my basics covered for Linux, HTML, and Apache.) A few quick clicks later and we had a domain. You can see some more info in her post.

Long story short, The Spotted Cat and The Incredible Shrinking Man are merging into this site, which should become the one-stop repository for all the tripe Heather and I see fit to drop on the internet.

I really don’t know that I’ll write much here. I suffer from a common problem. I think to myself “Who the hell cares what YOU have to say? Who do you think you are to spout forth like some foul-mouthed oracle?” I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to move the world every time you speak. Sometimes just sharing a small insight or idiotic thought you found humorous is enough to change someone’s day. Maybe if you do that enough the world moves a little without you noticing.

More posts will no doubt be coming, as will a whirlwind of changes as I discover all the glaring security holes I probably left open.

And just in case you were on the internet back in 1991 (when I first got on the internet proper- I’d been online for years previously but that was the first time I had true web/news/email/gopher access)… well you know what this damn graphic means:

under-construction

 

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How to Find Out What You’re Made Of

MIA

I’ve been pretty much completely missing in action from the internet this year. I haven’t made a post on this blog in a very long time. I haven’t made a blog entry at www.myfitnesspal.com in something like 8 months either. I haven’t been tweeting, or plussing, or pinning, or even sharing much on Facebook.  I’ve never been a particularly active person in terms of writing content for others or sharing existing content across the internet, but to stop everything online for the better part of 8 months is unusual, even for me. So what was going on?
 
I was discovering what I was made of.

Some Context

Frank Herbert’s seminal work Dune had a profound impact on me when I read it at the tender age of 14. While I didn’t appreciate the full scope of the book’s (and later books’) meaning until adulthood, the book was key in shaping me into the person I am today. Early in the book, young Paul Atreides is being tested by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. His hand is placed in a pain-inducing box, and he will be killed if he removes it. He feels pain beyond anything imaginable; as though his hand is being burned off completely. He passes the test and is shocked to find his hand intact afterwards. “The pain,” he says, and is cut off by the woman who tested him. “A human can override any nerve in the body,” she tells him. Her lesson is that humans can elect what to feel and are not slaves to their biochemistry and instinct the same way animals are.
 
That lesson resonated strongly with me, and it’s something that I came to appreciate the truth of more than ever over the last 7 months.
 
Heather (aka H4rpy on myfitnesspal) and I have been changing our lives over the past two years. Her write-up of the past few months spells the tale out far better than I could. Do yourself a favor and read it (and marvel at the strength and courage of this incredible woman), then pick this post back up.
 
 
I’ll attempt to summarize, but she really tells it better than I ever could.
 
If you didn’t read Heather’s write-up, you should. If you don’t want to, here’s my version. Hers is better.

Trial By Fire

 Heather has been infertile her entire life. This isn’t an especially big deal for us as children have never really been something we felt we needed in our life together. Over the last couple of years, she’s changed her lifestyle (and I’ve changed mine at the same time) for the better. We both eat properly, exercise frequently, and have lost significant amounts of weight.
 
This January, I told Heather about my intention to ride in the Dehydrator, a bike ride with various ride lengths that’s hosted here in Duncan, OK every July. I wanted to ride at least the 25 mile course, but was hoping to do the 50 miler. I was surprised that Heather expressed interest in doing the ride with me as well. We decided the 25 mile course would be a good goal for us, since she doesn’t have as much riding time as I do and would need more conditioning to get ready.
 
In February, she noticed a big lump in her abdomen. Heather has always had a number of small uterine fibroid tumors so small lumps were nothing out of the ordinary. This wasn’t small, and more concerning, it moved from day to day; sometimes up to 12 inches. One morning it would be down near the top of her pelvis, then next morning, 3 inches above her belly button. We knew something new was wrong, so we scheduled an appointment as soon as possible, which was about a month away.
 
As the days turned into weeks, Heather’s condition began to deteriorate. She was in a significant amount of pain and was rapidly losing endurance. She had to stop going to the gym in late February. She couldn’t go to the store on her own in early March. By early April, she could barely work anymore because she couldn’t sit up long enough to accomplish anything meaningful at the computer.
 
We went to the appointment and were referred to another doctor, who saw us a week or two later. Heather had to undergo a battery of tests, including a CT scan. I looked over her CT scan when we got home since it was going to take a day or two to get all the results, and I immediately saw the cause of the problem. I have no medical training, but I do have a pretty solid understanding of basic human anatomy. None of her organs were in the right place. Where her spleen, stomach, intestines, and reproductive system should have been was a solid mass of grey matter. On a CT scan, that means solid tissue.  Heather had something in her somewhere between the size of a large bowling ball and a small tire. I could even see where one of the lobes of it was pressing on her spine in the exact place she had herniated one of her discs a couple of years before. The conclusion seemed obvious to me- immediate hysterectomy.
 
When we saw the doctor, everything she said backed up what we’d seen. Heather had to have a hysterectomy as soon as possible. The largest fibroid was 26 centimeters in diameter. It had numerous brothers and sisters nearly as large.
 
Heather underwent the next set of examinations and tests to rule out any complications before surgery- tests for cancer, infection, etc. The day after those tests, I was on an unscheduled trip out of town for work for the day (my job often carries me around to various parts of the state) when she got a panicked phone call from the doctor.
 
She was pregnant.

She was totally infertile, but she was pregnant. There are any number of possible reasons, but we both feel pretty strongly that her new, healthy lifestyle was the catalyst. The cause doesn’t matter. She was pregnant.

She drove to the hospital (I can’t put into words how I hate myself for not being there to take her) and I left the work site immediately to meet her there. The ultrasound confirmed that she was indeed pregnant, and also that she was hopelessly riddled with fibroids, all of which were growing in overdrive due to the increased blood and nutrient supply that were supposed to be nurturing our unexpected child.
 
Unfortunately, she was also bleeding.

Trial By Thermonuclear Fire

She started on the way to the hospital and it got worse each hour. The pain mounted until she could only sit with a glazed expression on her face, fighting to hold herself together. Heather and our child fought for life, but there was never any hope of going full term. A bit over a week later, our family of three was two again.
 
We were, of course, crushed. I can’t really express the feeling. I don’t think anyone can. I think trying to would fail to do it justice, so I won’t.
 
This is where Dune comes in. I wanted to scream and rage and kick and yell about the unjustness of it all. I wanted Heather to stop hurting, to be able to smile more, to be able to cry less. I knew that what I wanted didn’t enter into the equation, and that screaming, raging, kicking, yelling, and crying would do precisely nothing to make her feel better. My focus became laser pointed: I would do anything and everything I could to make it easier for her to endure what she was going through. Doing so would help me to keep the stress and grief at bay.
 
This was when I began to feel the strain. Work had been insanely busy for the first four months of the year and wasn’t winding down. The financial strain of making sure we were going to be okay with all of the medical expenses was daunting. The stress of watching and fearing for Heather was beginning to wear me down. One night I was thinking about all that had happened so far, and I remembered that section of Dune. I thought about the fact that there was a deeper lesson to be learned.
 
Animals react to what they are given, or to what is done to them. A true Human doesn’t choose to disregard their reaction. They choose how to react to what has happened.

I decided that I was going to see for myself what I was made of.

The Power of Choice

I had been doing most of the house duties already, but I endeavored to be more diligent with them. I tried to find things that needed doing so that I could do them before she asked. If she didn’t have to ask, she didn’t have to worry about it.  I spent every free moment on the weekends tearing apart our flower beds and building huge new raised beds and containers for her, then planted a multi-level flower display and a small but robust vegetable garden for her. It felt good to nurture things, and I’m sure it was a subconscious need on both our parts to watch something grow under our care, if only to reassure ourselves that we would have been good parents to our little bundle.
 
Her surgery was finally scheduled in mid-May, and it went off without a hitch. She followed her doctor’s orders to the letter, walked when she was supposed to, and we got to leave the hospital after only two days.
 
Heather spent the following weeks at home with me. I finally got to take off work for a bit to help her recover, so we both got to rest a little. We sat in her new garden, which had just started to bloom. We ate fresh tomatoes and green onions from the vegetable beds. We watched the birds raise their young and teach them to use the feeders we set up. I biked, and I spent time in the work shop, building and tinkering. Our love for one another, always strong, somehow grew stronger still.
 
Heather’s six week post-operative appointment came and went in June with flying colors. The doctor pronounced her fully recovered, and gave her the official blessing to carefully begin working out again. I knew our chances of riding together in the Dehydrator were slim to none. We had a month to go and she hadn’t ridden a bike in well over half a year. I hadn’t ridden more than ten miles at a time in five months.
 
The day after her release, we went to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, hiked up a hill with our bikes, and rode around one of the scenic loops of the park. Heather did this with a twelve-inch incision in her belly that was barely healed. She spoke cautiously of wanting to do the Dehydrator, even if only the 10 mile.
 
I bought her a new bike for her birthday a bit early, and we did a few training rides to see if it was possible.
 
On the 26th of July, Heather and I completed the 2014 Dehydrator. She was 11 weeks out of surgery. It had been a bit under four months since we found out she was pregnant, and then found out that she wasn’t pregnant.
 
So I got to spend the last six months or so finding out what I’m made of.

The Power of Fusion (Or When Two Become One)

 Heather tells me often how glad she is for my strength. She’s glad that I was there to do all the small things around the house. She’s glad I built a garden for her. She’s glad I pushed her to ride. She’s glad I went to every appointment with her. She’s glad I stayed in the hospital with her. She’s glad I stayed up all night to make sure she slept. She’s glad I cooked her what she wanted and took her out to eat when she wanted. She’s glad I was there, waiting on her hand and foot, watching and hovering like an overprotective mother hen.
 
She says these things as though they were hard for me. Not doing them would have been far harder. It would have been far harder to let her endure in silence, to know she was crying alone at night without an arm around her.
 
I found out what I’m made of.
 
I’m made silver and glass. The strength that Heather says she’s so proud of me for showing is just a reflection of the strength she’s shown me every single day of our life together.
 
 
To all of you who helped us through our tests this year, whether you knew you were helping us or not: thank you.
 
We love you.
 
–B
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Motivation, Will, and a Little NSV

I’m coming up on one of my milestone goals.
I arbitrarily set them every 25lbs, so I’d have 10 “Milestones” on my total journey from 475 to 225. I’m getting close to 350, which is the halfway point. I guess that makes this a MILESTONE GOAL instead of a milestone goal.
I’d been told, have read, and heard many times that this is where things will start to get hard.  That’s accurate.  It IS starting to get hard. The aches and pains are becoming a little more pronounced at times. That nagging feeling in my lumbar nags a little louder than before. Some gym days are exercises in pure willpower to get dressed after work and go to the gym when I really don’t want to.
It’s not because I’m tired. I’m not.

It’s not because I’m hurting. I’ve dealt with pain for much of my life, I’m used to it and don’t let it dictate what I can and can’t do.
It’s worse.
It’s because… it’s working. I know that doesn’t make sense.. let me try to explain.
When I started work at my current job two and a half years ago, I bought some new clothes. I had worked in an industrial office environment and now was working in a more formal office environment. I bought slacks, shoes, shirts.. you name it.  The shirts were 4XLT (4x Extra Large, Tall) shirts. I’m NOT tall but I needed the extra length so the shirt was long enough to tuck into my pants after making the Magellanic circumnavigation around my enormous gut.
They’re great shirts- they were priced well, look good, and have held up to daily use for 30+ months.
… but they don’t fit anymore. I’ve lost almost 125 pounds since I bought them, and they fit me like a 55 gallon Hefty garbage bag fits a kitchen trash can. So at H4rpy’s prodding, I bought a pair of new shirts.  I had been waiting, because I wanted to get two sizes down- I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on 3x shirts that hopefully won’t fit for more than a few months.
But 2X? The last time I wore 2X shirts, I was in pretty good shape from a muscular standpoint, I was 26 years old instead of 36, and I weighed 260 instead of 360. “There’s no way,” I thought.
 H4rpy insisted I should get them, because if they don’t fit perfectly now, they will soon, and I’ll get years of use out of them. She was quite right, so I ordered two shirts to test.
They fit.
I don’t mean I could squeeze into them and they’re strained. I mean they fit. They fit properly.
I weigh 360 pounds and have a gut the size of the Death Star, but I’ve managed to burn off enough fat and add enough muscle to my body that I fit into a 2XL (note: NOT a 2XL Tall- just plain old 2XL) shirt and have it look right.

Do you know what this means? 

I can go clothes shopping in normal stores again.

 This is a huge victory. This is one of those life moments where it all starts to pay off, and you see the results becoming real for the first time.
It’s the perfect time for the voice of Self Sabotage to speak up from the shadows of my psyche, needling me just when I’m feeling good, when I’m at my most vulnerable, when I think I really CAN do this, reminding me that I really SHOUDLN’T feel good.

“You’ve made it, big guy… so take it easy! Slow down, you’ve beaten me.. I yield! You don’t need to keep doing this to yourself! Take a day off, rest a bit.. hell, have a treat! You know you’ve earned it, right?”

 My response is thus:

&@#% the voice in my head, and !#@% 2XL shirts.

I’m done when I say I’m done, not when my insecurities tell me “It’s Good Enough.”
The voice in my head can piss off, because I’ve got lifting to do and miles to ride before this is over, and I’m the one who decides when the train stops.
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Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 2

There was a little more of a gap between Part One and Part Two than I would have liked.
As I mentioned in Part One, I was concerned about going into a local bike shop and being told (politely or not) that they wouldn’t be able to help me. I’m still a magnificently fat bastard, after all- 365 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, even if it IS a hundred+ less than my peak weight. That overwhelming fear of rejection and ridicule drove so much of my day that it was kind of shocking to have it rear its head so strongly again. It DOES still influence me deeply, and honestly, I am quite sure it always will. There will always be a little voice that says “You’re the picture people see when they think “Well at least I’m not as bad as THAT ONE GUY.” You’re the Worst Case Scenario.” That’s better than it was (seriously; I leave the house willingly now. I go shopping and walk the streets without prodding or bribery from H4rpy), but I have a lot of work to do still.

 Anyway.

I was being a complete dumbass. 365 pounds of pure, Grade AAA, All American, Corn-Fed DumbAss. I knew I was. H knew I was. You ALL knew I was. So I told The Little Voice that I was going to sack up and do this, and if he didn’t like it, he could suck on a teabag.
We made the drive to Oklahoma City and were at the bike shop for all of 30 seconds before the owner we were supposed to meet came right out and greeted us. It was probably all of 120 seconds later (after a few questions to make sure he had his numbers right) that he led us over to a couple of bikes that he thought would do the job. I gravitated strongly towards one in particular, largely because of some options it had that I knew I wanted in my next bike (disc brakes and lever shifters, plus a better gearing ratio. I knew I wanted a hybrid because I was going to be mostly on the road, but I can’t handle the riding posture of a true road bike yet.)
He talked with us about the bike (a 2014 Giant Roam 2) for another 10 minutes or so while his crew got one ready for me to test ride (the one on the floor was a large frame, and he thought I would benefit from a medium frame since I have short legs but a very long torso.)(He was quite right.) I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one- the price was right, the size was right, and it was a huge upgrade over what I had, but not a jump all the way to top-of-the-line (with the price jump that would entail.)
Once the bike was ready, we took it outside and I hopped on for a test ride. H saw the smile on my face and that was it- we knew we were coming home with it.
 photo 2013-09-21150008.jpg
So for the last week I’ve been an insatiable monster, wanting to ride the new bike everywhere. No matter how much my ass screams about the tiny new seat, I scream back louder: “YOU WILL GET USED TO IT, ASS.” I feel like I’m cheating, because it’s so easy to ride and I can go so much faster than I could on my Schwinn (better gearing and larger tires.)
After having it for a week, I decided it was time to give the Schwinn an overhaul.
 photo 2010-07-19154001.jpg
The Blue Bomber (and its sister, pictured above shortly after we bought them) has a fair number of miles on it, badly out of adjustment brakes, a broken spoke, an out of round rear wheel, and generally just needed a lot of love. So I spent most of this last Saturday working on it. I taught myself how to disassemble the rear freewheel, remove the cassette, install and properly tighten a new spoke, retrue wheels, etc etc etc. After I was all done, it was time to go for a test ride to make sure I didn’t ruin anything.

Something unexpected happened.

I fell in love with the Schwin again.

Don’t get me wrong. The Giant stays, and it will indeed get the lion’s share of my Ass->Seat time. But riding the Schwinn after riding the Giant for a week made the differences between the two immediately, SCREAMINGLY apparent. The Schwinn is indeed a comfort bike. It rides like a cloud, soaks up every bump, goes slow, handles like a tank, and is perfect for a leisurely cruise to the store to get some milk, or for a jaunt with H. It felt good to ride the Schwinn again- the Giant made me appreciate all the things that felt the same between them, all the things that were RIGHT about my Blue Bomber, and now I realize I didn’t just get a new bike for my birthday.
H got me two new bikes- the one I always had and had forgotten about, and the new one from the store. I love them both and I’m going to use them both.

In the next 12-24 months, those two bikes are going to take me down to 200 pounds.

That’s what H gave me for my birthday, and I love her for it. 

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