Playing Hookie on Life

Playing hookie

If you write a blog, are writing a book, or are a journalist of some sort or another, you are always looking for content.  Invariably, if you are paying attention, someone will say something that gives you exactly what you need for your next topic.

Sometimes, it hits you immediately.  Sometimes it sinks in later that day, or even in the dead of night.  Somehow in regards to the latter, your subconscious was paying attention (that is funny right there), and didn’t let it slip by.  This happened to me today.

In getting a final tune up at my doctor’s prior to our departure for sunny California on September 14th, my doctor, who is awesome by the way, said “doesn’t it feel like you are playing hookie on life”?  It immediately resonated with me because I always play close attention to my doctor.  After all, she did originally set me on a path to get treated, and just in time I might add.

Here is the definition of playing hookie, according to some “slang dictionary”: Play hookie (verb): Skipping school, missing classes, taking as extended lunch, skipping out of work for the day/afternoon just to have fun. (It kind of fits here).

So, once I processed that comment, my first thought was, yes, it does feel that way. After all, we will be taking a hiatus from work (although for more than just a day/afternoon), we sold our home, so no need to pay taxes or mow the lawn.  A lot of life’s responsibilities with either be put on hold, or are gone for good. But then I thought, many of those things have been replaced by other responsibilities, and some are much larger in scope, although most are likely temporary.

For example, the planning of the route across America; the setting up places to stay; monitoring my health throughout the trip; making sure I am eating right and getting enough calories; RV maintenance and troubleshooting (there is always something to fix); promoting the event; keeping up with filings, regulations, etc., and of course, figuring out the finances for this endeavor.  I didn’t even mention the physical demands this walk is going to take on my almost 56 year-old body, or planning for the unexpected (unwelcome critters, trouble, ailments).  It didn’t take long to realize that life didn’t get all that much easier, it just changed.

Now, am I happy that a lot of those mundane tasks and obligations are gone?  Absolutely. I do realize however, that the next 7 months or so are not going to be a walk in the park, no pun intended.  We will be doing what we can to enjoy the moments and take in all the beautiful scenery and people this country has to offer.  In that regard, it will seem like we are playing hookie, however, we do have a lot of work in front of us to make this a meaningful adventure.  By that I mean to keep the purpose of the walk front and center, and to inspire others to get up and get moving.

Our goal is to make a bit of a splash in opening people’s eyes about what it takes to be heart healthy.  We want to inspire people as I stated above, but more than that, to bring heart disease to the collective forefront of people’s minds.  We feel that many have lost focus on their own heart health, and that heart disease has become somewhat overlooked as of late.

One last comment before I conclude.  I have often believed that people should take a reprieve from life’s crazy demands.  I had thought that six months to a year away from everyday life, to go do something, anything, that they want to do, would be awesome, especially when you are in your early 40’s (hey, maybe 56 is the new early 40’s).  In theory, it makes so much sense.  In practice, I realize that it is hard to do.

Whether it be financial constraints, job demands, kid obligations, or anything else, breaking away from it all, midlife, is difficult.  But why can’t it be done?  Think about what is holding you back and look at your priorities and see if it is right for you.  I will bet, in many cases, not all, but many, that it makes sense and will be one of the most fulfilling things you do while on this crazy ride called life.  Give it some thought, even if only for a brief moment.  Consider all the details.  If it doesn’t feel right, or you are just not comfortable with the risk, then don’t do it. Maybe it is something you can reassess down the road.  Sometimes it is all about timing.

However, if you do find the courage to jump in head first, make a good plan, and then do it with gusto and don’t look back.  It may help you avoid that end of life regret that you didn’t take a chance in life, or chase a dream when you could.  Just a thought.



What Changed?


Most days I am asked a question or two about heart disease, the planned walk across America, or just life in general.  The other day, I was asked a question that seems common and natural, however, I had never been asked that question before.

This question made me stop and think for a moment.  The answers, and there are many, are well-known in my mind, I just never had to format and communicate them in order to make sense of it all.  I will attempt to do that here, as my mind can be a jumbled mess at times.

First, the question.  It was, “what has changed for you since being diagnosed with heart disease?”  See, I told you it was a logical question.  Well, here is the answer…EVERYTHING.

Ok, I can be a little more specific, and try to focus on the root of things.  After all, everything from my job to my house to my future has changed.

The first thing that was impacted was my overall outlook.  I am still working on quite a few of those details, however, priorities have changed.  What may have seemed to be important before, like work, my golf scores, so many other details in life, still have importance to some degree, but they have been moved down the list.  The golf scores priority has moved near the bottom, as has my desire to play the game.

Let’s stay on the subject of golf for a moment.  It has been a passion of mine for nearly 50 years.  Some would say I have become an accomplished player, winning my high school tournament, playing in college, and competing in local events.  I even went as far as attempting to qualify for the US Senior Open when I turned 50.  I liked to play, and when I played well, it brought great satisfaction.

However, when you come to grips with your own mortality, as a friend once put it, it makes you realize that some things aren’t as important as you once believed.  Now a days, whether I shoot a 68 or the dreaded double snowman 88, I don’t get too excited, or get too upset.  After all, it is just a game.

I think that describes it pretty well.  The priorities have become family, purpose, and being a better person to all I come in contact with.  As I said, I am working on some details, but overall, that tops the list.

With that said, family is the biggest part of being a better person.  Being engaged in conversations, being present, being there if someone has a need or a problem are all ways to be a better person, and who better to do that for than family?

From a work perspective, money is no longer the major driving force, as it has been in the past.  Thinking that way may have led to some of my issues.  I was employed in a high stress job for years, and certainly it took its toll.

Today, I do the things that I like to do, with people I like to work with (not that some of that didn’t exist throughout my career, but perhaps I now look at those relationships in a different manner).  I look forward to going into the office and doing what I can to contribute.  In the old days it was a grind, with the constant pressure (and reminders) of the monthly quota that would hang over my head as a member of a sales team.

Enjoyment/satisfaction is another area that I could say has changed.  I now take the time to realize something cool is happening around me, or a scene like a beautiful cloud in the sky (nature’s miracles).  I have a better sense of appreciation for things like that.  This probably has slowed my mind down a bit as well, which is also calming.

Overall, it is all perspective.  That is what changed.  I looked at myself at age 55 and wondered what I have accomplished on this earth, and what more I could do, knowing now, that you never know which day will be your last.  I think of the people I love, and in turn, I try to do the things that would make them happy.  Heck, I even smile at complete strangers whenever walking through a store.  I remember a line Dolly Parton once said, “if you see someone without a smile, give them your’s”.

All of these things are a work in progress, but the foundation has been set.  I’d like to think I was a good person before all of this happened, but as with most, if not all people, there is always room for improvement.  I now work everyday to be a better person for all of those that I come in contact with.  If we all did that, what a wonderful world this would be!



Why Should We Exercise


We have attempted to tackle the reason why people either don’t start exercising, or they start and somewhere along the way, stop.  I have spoken to quite a few people who, for one reason or another, do not want to go to a gym to workout, and they do not have workout equipment at home.

Neither of those (we will call them excuses for now) should prevent you from exercising. There are so many exercises you can do in a 30 – 45 minute workout routine (3-4 times a week), that can get you in pretty good shape, without the aid of a gym or expensive exercise equipment.

The first step to any exercise program is to get clearance from your doctor.  Our audience is typically the over 40 crowd, and as we are well aware, the older you get, the more health risks there are.  So, it is always a good idea to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise routine.

The second step is to set a goal.  What do you want to accomplish?  Do you want bigger muscles?  Do you want a thinner waistline?  Are you preparing for an athletic competition or event?  Your goal will determine what type of exercises you should be doing and how you should perform those exercises.

For simplicity sake, let’s assume you want to lose some weight, firm up some body parts that for whatever reason (gravity), have begun to sag a bit, and get in overall better health.  All good reasons.

Here is a partial list of some really good exercises you can perform, without weights, kettle bells, dumbbells, bands, machines, etc.:

  • Air squats – one of the best all around exercises
  • Planks
  • Side planks
  • Lunges
  • Floor bridge
  • Push ups
  • Walking/running
  • Balance drills
  • Yoga poses

Weight bearing postures can actually build muscle, which is important to anyone over 40, as we lose a certain percentage of muscle tone each year.  You could add some dumbbell exercises to your routine to assist in strengthening certain muscles.  All it takes is a couple of 5 or 10 pound dumbbells to get started.  Heck, you could even start with a jug of laundry detergent, anything to add resistance.  It is funny, but since we sold our house, I don’t have any exercise equipment in my new living space.  I used a jug of detergent the other day to do shoulder raises.  It weighs about 8 pounds and did the trick. You can get creative here, but make sure the weight is correct (not too heavy for a particular exercise to where you may injure yourself), and it allows for the proper form (also to prevent injury).

Once a good routine is designed, make time in your schedule to exercise.  Put these times in your calendar and treat them like an important business meeting.  In other words, set a high priority to exercising and try not to miss a session.  Once that first session is skipped, it is easy to blow off others and before you know it, you are back to being a couch potato…don’t miss!

You can find information online about the exercises I mentioned above, or you could seek the help of a Certified Personal Trainer to get started.  Blend in some weight resistance as I mentioned above (push ups, air squats, both of which are body weight resistance), or dumbbell work such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, and bench press exercises.  Include core work to strengthen the all important stomach and back muscles. These include the plank, side plank, air squats, and floor bridge exercises mentioned above.  And don’t forget to elevate your heart rate with some cardio work (walking, running, jumping jacks, bike riding).

Once you get the routine down, you can add resistance as you get stronger.  This will continue your improvement and build your strength and endurance, which in turn will reduce the chances of injury performing daily tasks, tone up your muscles, and most likely reduce that waistline.

Give it a try and good luck.  Remember, we want fitness for a lifetime, not just until that big event that we want to look good for.