A President’s Day retrospective

President’s Day. This is not a holiday that is typically associated with seminal moments in one’s life. And this President’s day is no different. What it is is a three-day weekend. And for that, I am a fan of President’s Day.

I am kicking off this President’s Day Weekend by sitting in Mindy’s office with my laptop, listening to music and browsing the web while she works on of her perpetual side-jobs or projects. The same as it’s been for the last few weeks and months. And I’m fine with that. We watch a lot less TV because of it, but we still get to hang out and sort of relax.

So that’s what’s going on in our lives at the present. And since I’m not ready to write about what I was hoping to write about this week, I figured I just try to remember what I was doing on previous President’s Day Weekends. I doubt I’ll remember specifics, but I should at least be able to comment in broad strokes as to what was going on in our lives at the time.

A year ago was the first President’s Day in our current house. We were six months away from the arrival of Louie, probably taking the easy life of 1-to-1 parent/child ratios for granted. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

Two years ago would be our last President’s Day in our first house. Newport was fun, but we had outgrown it. Earlier in the month, we put a low-ball offer on a bank-owned property in the ‘burbs. That offer was summarily rejected, but it set us on a course to move to our current house. (Who knows if we would have had Louie had we not moved to a bigger place.) So the three-day weekend was spent doing project after project getting the house ready to put on the market.

Three President’s Days ago, I attempted to give up caffeine. It did not go well. I was training for the Heart Mini Marathon at the time. I felt a little foggy on my five-mile-run that morning, but I made it. But by noon I had a headache that made it physically impossible to stand up. I went to lie down in bed and told Mindy to wake me up in a few hours so I could get ready for our friends’ kid’s birthday party later that afternoon. When she woke me up three hours later, I felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin. I did not attend the party. The next day I woke up with the same headache and desire to crawl out of my skin. I did little of use that day but persisted. I woke up on day three in the same miserable condition, walked downstairs to the kitchen and made myself a pot a coffee.

Who really knows what I was doing, specifically, four President’s Days ago. However, I am fairly certain I was yet to come down from my Super Bowl 43 high.

Five President’s Days ago, we were four months away from being first time parents. So our lives were pretty much focused on preparing for that. Our one-car family experiment that only begun six month prior was coming to an end, as we needed to buy a family truckster to cart the baby around. We’d buy a small SUV by the end of the month.

Eight President’s Days ago was our first as a married couple. Not sure what we did, but I’m sure we were up to our eyes in wedded bliss.

Nine President’s Days ago, I in the midst of streak of six annual Vegas trips with my college buddies. I remember seeing Elton Brand at Caesar’s at blackjack table by himself betting a thousand dollars a hand. Since he and I share the exact same birth date, I was always peripherally aware of his career progress. Needless to say, I still have a long way to go to catch up to him money-wise.

Fifteen President’s Days ago, Mindy and I had been together for a month or so, and I took her to my fraternity formal. Amazingly, she opted to stick with me after that.

Twenty President’s Days ago, it was unseasonably warm in Canfield, Ohio. I was in eighth grade. My friends and I played driveway basketball for three straight says. It was awesome. I want a driveway basketball hoop at my house now.


The perpetual roller coaster that is me and my current aspirations to lose weight

I just want to get healthy. You know, I want to take better care of myself. I would like to start eating healthier. I don’t want all that pasta. I would like to start eating, like, Japanese food.

I love this scene toward the of Lost in Translation. A tired Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) whines about wanting to be healthier, seemingly out of nowhere, on a phone call from Japan to his wife back home in the States.

I often share this desperate sentiment (I’ve literally said the pasta thing to Mindy several times). It’s mostly about knowing what healthy situations and unhealthy situations feel like and wishing you could magically make more of the former and less of the latter happen. But you can’t. Unless you have constant vigilance to maintain the healthiest of diets, you will find yourself in situations that are just too difficult to work around. Like when you’re trying to watch your carbs, and dinner at your friends house is spaghetti.

I’ve accepted that I can’t have complete perfection with my diet. I’m just looking for some sustainable healthy lifestyle. But my all-or-nothing personality only seems to allow me to eat healthily when I’m on a balls-to-the-wall restrictive diet. So I’m low-carbing it now–because I’ve had success with that in the past–with the hope to transition to a paleo diet next (which I hope to make sustainable, but I’m not so sure).

My weight (and overall fitness level really) history is sordid, but over the last decade or so I’ve been reasonably healthy. I hit my adult low in the low 16os around the time of my wedding over eight years ago. But I’ve since then, I’ve fluctuated between the low 170s and the low 190s. I blame the suburbs for keeping me in around the low 190s for the last year or so, and that’s what I’d like to change.

So what’s my motivation, really? It’s difficult to say. I’ve long said I’d like to live to meet my grandkids–a feat neither my father or my father’s father accomplished–but that will only go so far in keeping you away from that fouth beer and that fifth slice of pizza on a Friday night after a long, hard week at work. And dropping those last 15-25 pounds may not even to lead to better long-term health outcomes anyway. So I to need source my motivation from more short-run concerns.

The best one I can come up with is clothes. I like they way clothes fit when I’m in the 160s. Size 33 pants fit great. Since I’m a 29 length, any more in the waist just doesn’t work right. Also, I’m a solid medium shirt size at the weight, which is nice. Now where I sit–in the low 180s–I’m some medium/large hybrid, which makes shirt shopping annoying. And I need 34 pants, which are tight (34s fit well in the mid-to-high 170s, and I can drop down to 33s comfortably below the high 160s).

And as much as I want to be a minimalist and barely own anything, I do like wearing new clothes. I’m only motivated to keep updating the wardrobe when I have the body I like. And as advance in my career, looking the part is becoming increasingly important, and I want to get excited about getting some new suits.

But the bottom line is I want to stop weight loss from being always in the front of my mind. I’m like this about most things. For instance, whenever the Power Ball jackpot goes north of $200 million and everyone at work throws in a buck to form an office pool, we all trade stories of what we’d do with that kind of money. My fantasy never consists of large material purchases, but rather I dream of simply having an accountant manage my cash flow by giving me one credit card with which to spend a certain (very large) amount every month.

That’s my weight management dream as well. I have the body I want and I have some sustainable eating plan where I don’t have to think to hard about what I’m eating on a day-to-day basis. And maybe like my accountant in my lottery fantasy who would call if I was spending a few thousand too much in a given month, in this health fantasy I have some personal trainer-type health adviser who lets me know if I’ve had one too many burgers this month. (Actually, the combination of the lottery and health fantasies is pretty sweet.)

But in reality, there is no silver bullet. There’s just Mindy who’s trying to get healthier along with me. There’s the neighborhood biggest loser contest we’re competing in. There’s Daytum and Excel for me to obsessively track probably arbitrary health metrics. And most importantly, there’s my burning desire to do this. This desire admittedly cycles between about a 6 and a 10 on the passion scale, and I’ve been in the 8 to 9 range for the past couple weeks. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

On authenticity, dancing and sailing ships

When I watch things like the scene of Adam and Hannah dancing on Girls, I picture myself being a Brooklyn hipster dancing like a free spirit that didn’t care who was watching. And for a fleeting moment, I’m like, that’s what I could be doing with my life. I always do things like this. Like when I see someone posting Facebook pics of hiking Glacier National Park, I’m like, “I could’ve had that life where I go hiking in Glacier National Park”.

But like I said, it’s only fleeting. Because the next moment, I’m like, I have a pretty awesome life. And I haven’t even hiked in Ohio let alone Glacier National Park. Mindy and I are spending more time getting fit, no reason we can’t do that here.

But back to the hipster dancing. The ship has obviously sailed on me being a 24-year-old hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Or Barcelona. I don’t know if they have hipster scene in Barcelona, but being a 24-year-old dancing in Barcelona seems pretty great too.  (Many of my fleeting fantasies involve living in Barcelona. It’s 57 degrees there right now.)

Furthermore, I don’t even think I can be a 34-year-old hipster in Ohio if I wanted. I just got new glasses and Mindy tried to talk me into some hipster frames. But I couldn’t even pull that off. The ones I ended up getting were by quite possibly the least hipster brand imaginable: Brooks Brothers.

But there is at least one ship that hasn’t sailed on me yet, and that’s the joy of  dancing like an idiot. And I have my kids to thank for that. Some times we have Saturday morning dance parties in the basement. Most of the time it’s just impromptu breakdown sessions in the kitchen or living room while getting ready for a meal. I don’t know why my kids like it so much, probably something along the lines of everyone deep down likes to dance. It’s just at some point you grow too old and too self-aware.

And that’s why I like it. It’s the authenticity more than anything.

So every time I see something like that dancing scene from Girls, and I start to long for a life where I’m able to do things that I probably wouldn’t actually do anyway (like dancing crazily in front of a bunch of strangers…I’d probably just sit in the corner and drink), I just remember that I can do that now in the kitchen with Mindy and Edwin and Lyla and soon Louie.

Well, there is one place that I can dance like that. Weddings. I’m in a good friend’s wedding this May. Mindy and I plan to get an overnight babysitter and stay in a hotel. So I’m thinking I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink and dance like and idiot.

On which I try to describe something as an active decision but is more likely simple inertia…

Before our holiday travels, I took our dog to the kennel for boarding. This particular kennel is in a part of town that we would not otherwise venture to. Not sure how we even found the place, but our dog, being on the timid side, seems to do better at this establishment compared to others that we had previously tried (as in, the staff is actually able to get her to take a daily walk).

Since it was Christmas Eve when I went over there, I had some last minute groceries to pick up for the dinner we were hosting that night. I opted for the supermarket close by. The whole time I was driving through the somewhat unfamiliar territory and wandered the isles of a foreign grocery store, I couldn’t shake the recurring thought of, “man, who would live in this miserable place”.

Whenever I’m in a part of town I deem to be “inferior” to my part of town, these kinds of things run through my mind. Why would anyone live here? If you are born here, why wouldn’t you move when you got the chance? What’s keeping people here? These are obviously not a very fair sentiments. Who am I to think of another part of town as “inferior”. I mean, it’s just a different suburb of Cincinnati. In the grand scheme of things, there’s really not that much of a difference between the two places. (And of course it looked liked a miserable, it was your classic grey December day in Ohio.)

And after pondering it for a while, I realize that this is a microcosm of how the coasts view all of flyover country. To someone in New York, it probably seems crazy that anyone would chose not to leave Ohio for greener (or at least less grey) pastures. So I presume those people that chose to stay in the neighborhoods they grew up in probably do so for the same reason Mindy and I stay in Cincinnati vs moving to a big city: proximity to family, friends, and all the other things associated with that.

Now, I’m not exactly from here, but I’ve lived here for nearly half my life. And I’ve been plotting my escape since the day I arrived. But the thing is, my friends are here. Mindy’s family is here. My family is a four hour drive away. And now that we have three kids, this network is more important to us than living in a more cosmopolitan city. My daydreams of Mindy and I renting an apartment in the Greenwich Village and taking yearly trips to Europe have been replaced by daydreams of having our master bathroom renovated and taking  yearly trips to Hilton Head.

I’m not sure that we’ve made this decision consciously, but choosing to stay in this familiar environment surrounded by people we love will probably lead to a happier life than anything we could experience hundreds or thousands of miles away from our family and long-time friends.

And besides, as obnoxiously sentimental as it sounds, our kids are what’s most important these days. A major part of parenting (I think) is worrying less about being interesting and more about fostering a loving and stable environment for your kids. So for the foreseeable future, Mindy and I going to live in Ohio and daydream about that downtown apartment in that trendy neighborhood we’ll have when all our kids have moved out.