My other big dietary change – beyond the Healthy Heart stuff – has been cutting my caffeine intake to one cup a day.
If I’m to take a prescription to counter an unrelated medical problem, the caffeine has to be greatly curbed. Seems it counteracts the medicine.
This has been major. I’m a writer, after all, and a retired journalist. My habitual intake had been three to five mugs a day. Café au lait mugs, a third to a half filled with milk.
It’s the way I wake up and also the way I continue through the day. Or did.
I’m still waking up to a café au lait mug. We use dark-roasted beans or Spanish ground coffee, essentially espresso. It’s rich, flavorful, and stands up to the milk and sugar I add – enough, as I joke, to turn the brew into chocolate.
By chance, I came upon an instant coffee substitute – Cafix – at the local natural foods store, and this serves nicely for the second round.
By midafternoon, though, I’d really like a jolt of the real stuff. That I miss. Many days I find myself taking a nap instead.
Should we go to half-decaf on the real coffee itself? I feel that’s cheating.
Or cut out the coffee altogether? Now we’re talking daily ritual, as in showering or dressing.
Or just use a demitasse and take one quick gulp?
No, I’ll just resolve myself to slowly sipping the one I have. Down to the last drop, without complaining.
Well, then. Salud! And top of the morning to you, too.
You vegans out there, take comfort. Your cholesterol levels must be amazing.
After my near-miss non-heart attack, or whatever we want to call it, my diet’s undergone some drastic – even painful – redirection.
Look, I don’t want to sound like a victim or act the martyr, when it comes to food, it seems like everybody has some kind of limitation. Ever try to plan an all-inclusive menu for any social gathering nowadays?
Still, looking at the American Heart Association’s Healthy Heart guidelines has me thinking of perpetual Lent along the Greek Orthodox lines. Heavens! At least I can still have my daily martini, with the definitive stuffed olive.
Red meat is limited to once a week, and that includes pork. Three eggs, which you’ll find hidden in all kinds of food, and a microscopic amount of butter, which is likewise infused, as well as cheese – yikes – they’re are also out! (Well, we have found low-fat cheese. Ain’t quite the same. And while egg whites are allowed in unlimited amounts, it’s the yolks that have all the flavor.) So there went my three main fallback ingredients when I had a hunkering. A good omelet used all three, easily. Thank goodness mushrooms are still OK in other combinations.
Look, before all this there had many days when we didn’t touch any meat – nada – and I was perfectly happy. But now?
Let me tell you about the first time I stopped for fast food at breakfast and thought the muffin was allowed. Bonk! Or a doughnut. Ditto bonk!
At home, the butter I’ve loved has given way to apple butter or jams and jellies. That’s fine, though I still look at that yellow stick on the counter with some lusting. Oh, God, do I!
But six months into this routine, I had lost weight I couldn’t afford to lose. I had lost appetite, too. My wife and I independently came to the same conclusion: I needed to get more fat into my diet. We’re still working on it.
Get to a certain age and the conversation often shifts to personal health issues. (Sorry ’bout that.)
I am surprised by the number of people who tell me about their stents, for instance. This matter of running a probe from your wrist and up your arm into your heart is surprisingly commonplace. It’s also amazing what relatively small community hospitals are doing nowadays. (OK, ours is now a subsidiary of Mass General Hospital in Boston … like the best. Not that I really considered that at the time I was being wheeled off to God knows what.)
But that leads to other things like learning that my clerk at the hardware store and I have the same cardiologist, or did till said doc moved to Florida. (Well, that has to be a hot market for cardiac work!)
It also brings up others who say that they, too, felt no pain … thought it was a breathing issue rather than a pending heart attack.
Or that their cholesterol levels, like mine, had been normal.
As a factor, I’m convinced stress was a major component in my case. Seventeen years between marriages, with all of the relationship uncertainty, along with working under relentless deadlines as I did at the newspaper must have taken a toll. Besides, I wasn’t getting regular exercise in that period, other than dashing to and from the composing room.
As one buddy said, if you lined up a hundred guys our age, he would have been the first to be tagged for this problem and I would have been the last.
Well, he’s had a few health issues, but cardio hasn’t been one of them.
For you younger readers, take warning.
Cheers! And good luck …
On this day a year ago, we woke up to a big snowfall – the biggest of the season, as it turned out. It was coming down like crazy, and I was even hoping to get out on my cross-country skis, at least do a few loops around our yard, unlike the previous year.
Thought I’d clean off my wife’s car first and the steps and walkway out front, just in case.
But that’s when I had to stop and try to catch my breath. I’d felt this sensation, something like what I’d heard asthma described like, several times in the past few months. I thought it was the aftermath of a nasty bug the previous fall, and several people in the know said it sounded like a walking pneumonia. Once, in particular, it hit me at the end of a length in the indoor swimming pool. Another time, while carrying a three-year-old down from Mount Agamenticus. After the third time, I went in to see my primary care physician, who said my lungs sounded fine, ordered an X-ray, and scheduled a stress test. Oh, yes, and if the symptoms returned, go straight to the emergency room.
Yeah, yeah. Just what I needed – more inconclusive tests.
So as the snow hit just two days before the stress test was scheduled and the symptoms returned, I figured I could ride it out until my appointment.
That’s when my elder daughter showed up. “My Prius is cleaned off and warmed up. Get in.” My wife seconded the motion, and reminded me they had my doctor in their corner.
OK, drop me off. I’ll give you a call when I’m done.
Remember, there was no pain. No chest pain, especially. This was a breathing problem.
Travel’s been largely on hold for me – just too much to do at home, for instance, especially when it comes to writing. But what if that were to change?
- San Francisco, Seattle, and Yakima. I haven’t been back to my beloved Pacific Northwest since leaving in 1990. This would provide a basis for an memorable sweep.
- The East African Quakers have much to teach the rest of us, and I can’t think of a better introduction to this mysterious continent.
- Cumbria, England, and Lurgan, Northern Ireland. These two places, a short hop apart on the Irish Sea, are central to my Hodson ancestry. I’d love to see where we’re from.
- Apart from the museums, classical music, and theater attractions, I’d want access to some early Quaker minute books – especially those pages marked “too faint to microfilm” in Lurgan’s surviving records.
- Alsace, France/Germany, and Switzerland upstream. On my Grandma Hodson’s side, these are my places of origin.
- Kyoto, especially. Did I mention my long fascination with Zen Buddhism or Japanese cuisine?
- The Himalayas. Or my interest in Tibetan Buddhism along with the world’s tallest mountains? (Yes, I know it will make it more difficult to appreciate the summits back home, but that’s got to be well worth the encounter.)
- Canadian Maritime Provinces. These are just up the coast from us but have remained a world away. Think I can fix that in the upcoming future?
- Anasazi ruins and Albuquerque. The American Southwest is a huge blank in my explorations. This sweep would end with a visit to some very special friends in their new locale.
- Australia and New Zealand. From here, they seem incredibly unimaginable. Only one way to fix that.
What’s on your travel dream list?
Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.
You’re dressing better than usual, paying attention to the personal hygiene, even cleaning the car or apartment. My guess is this could be serious, especially if you’re coming down with any of these symptoms.
- It’s ALL magic when you’re together. Everything else becomes secondary.
- You glow in your darling’s presence. Yes, lightness.
- Make that giddiness. And fumbling.
- You’re convinced this is fresh history. The past is just that. Life’s beginning anew or maybe for the first time, ever. You’re even talking funny. To match your emotions and wit.
- You like their car or dog even though you’ve always been an ardent cat-hater or dog-kicker.
- You agree to go places or do things you’ve never ever imagined yourself venturing.
- You feel joined at the hips and shoulders … and not just the lips.
- You’re Superman and Wonder Woman at last.
- When you’re apart, you’re falling through space … without a parachute.
- You get knowing looks … from strangers.
The obvious signs must be endless. Which ones can you add?
Continuing the poetry parade, see what’s new at THISTLE/FLINCH.