Hugh Howey: Don’t Wait

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This post originally appeared on Hugh Howey‘s blog, The Wayfinder, on January 11th, 2016. For more posts by Hugh, please visit his website (and buy his amazing books).  

I’m sitting on my boat in Georgetown, Exumas, watching the sun rise. The last time this was true was seventeen years ago. My boat then was Xerxes, a 27′ Watkins that served as my home for five years. I dropped out of college after my junior year and sailed south. It was one of the defining moments of my life, that decision. I’ll never forget the terror I felt selling everything I owned and tossing my dock lines. It was petrifying, but I trusted that the rewards on the other side would be worth it.

They were. In spades. Sailing the islands put me in touch with nature, gave me time to contemplate myself and life, filled me with the adventures that would later fuel my writing, introduced me to a lifestyle that would help me shun possessions and debt for the rest of my life, and imbued me with the larger dream of sailing around the world, which kept me focused and gave me direction.

Here in Georgetown, you meet lots of people with similar trajectories, but their stories are so different and so inspiring. On a hike yesterday, I met three nineteen year old boys who sailed from Maine on their father’s old wooden boat. They took a year off after high school to sail to the Caribbean and back. We talked about where they’ve been and where they are headed next. With just a little dinghy-sailing experience when they set out, these are now three wizened and salty experts. I pegged them as being in their mid-20s before they revealed their age or mentioned school. Their eyes were already older. They stood more upright. They didn’t bounce around like teenagers. They weren’t relentlessly checking their phones. There is a calmness and patience that traveling at 5mph for thousands of miles instills.

On the beach, I met another couple via their awesome dog, Safron. After flopping into my lap, and lots of apologies, and my having to explain that their dog just made my week, I got their story. In their mid-30s, this young couple set off from Canada just this year to sail around the world. But it’s the genesis of their trip that blew my mind. They had flown to Georgetown last February to stay at a resort here. They saw all the sailboats, got to talking to some of the people who lived and traveled on them, and they went home with a plan.

In this, they aren’t unusual. Lots of people hear about living aboard and sailing the world, and they dream of doing the same. They read articles, subscribe to magazines, follow the blogs of those who are doing it. But this Canadian couple didn’t waste time. They sold everything they owned, bought a 34′ Hunter (an imminently affordable boat), and they set off. Like the boys from Maine, they are now experts, even if they didn’t feel like it and are humble about their abilities. By this time next year, they will be wrapping up a Pacific crossing. All because they didn’t wait.

It doesn’t have to be this particular dream. You have your own dream. Of writing a novel. Of learning a musical instrument. Of driving coast to coast. Of moving to be closer to family. Of getting a different job. Of going back to school. Whatever excuses you are using to protect yourself, stop. The beach here buzzes with children who are sailing with their parents. Kids of all ages. Each one is a perfect reason why it would be impossible for their parents to go sail around the world. Instead, they became the best reason to. You don’t think you have time to write for thirty minutes every day? Or practice strumming that guitar? Or brushing up on your French? Or getting some exercise? Or honing that job skill? Or putting that sweat equity into your home? I say you do. You have all the time in the world. As long as you don’t wait.

Desperate Times Call for Critical Transformations…

After a series of (mostly) positive transitions in the past few months, my body was left feeling spent and terrible. Sugars were at an all-time high, my energy bottomed out, my carpal tunnel syndrome raging in both hands, joint aching, and my moods more variable than the Oregon spring weather. Even good change is hard.

But then I got some terrible news about my Dad.

Dad has been in heart failure for the past couple of years – he’s 58. Heart failure is a fatal condition in which the heart simply doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with the rigors of running a body. Also a type-1 diabetic, Dad spent years neglecting his self-care and that neglect had serious consequences: heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, you name it. He is now biologically much older than his actual age and his quality of life sucks.

There was some (though not much) hope that his quality of life and longevity could be spared through either a heart transplant or a less-invasive procedure, a heart pump. However, a few weeks ago, Dad got rejected for both procedures. His weakened state and history of high blood sugars made it unlikely that he could withstand the anti-rejection drug regimen that follows a heart transplant. His high risk of infection made him a bad candidate for the pump because there are components of the pump that exist outside of the body (think open wound). Without either of these procedures, Dad is destined for few remaining years, which will be of poor quality.

What does this have to do with my diet? 

It is now more important than ever that I get my diabetes and general health in order for two reasons: First, Dad wants to see me healthy and happy before he goes. He has been an amazing (ah-mazing!) source of emotional and logistical support in both my move to Oregon and my transition into private practice (yeah, still working on that – anyone need a lawyer?). He needs to know I’ll be alright, and it’s my responsibility to get there. And although I absolutely want this for my own reasons, be it performance, aesthetics, and quality of life, Dad’s circumstances have slapped me back into the reality of doing the hard work. Ladies and gentlemen, we have exigency. 

Second, Dad’s poor prognosis has shined a spotlight on my own health and the potential consequences of continued diabetes mismanagement. For those of you who don’t know, diabetes effects everything. From your eyesight to your hydration to your circulation. Everything. Dad serves as an unfortunate bad example of how I may end up if I don’t get my act together and figure out this diabetes thing. So yeah – the bad family news and my own poor health resulting from crippling stress served as a pretty legit wake-up call. And getting my act together starts with the food I eat.

It Starts With Food

Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food.  

~ Hippocrates, 460-377 BC

It is no mystery that our quality of life is deeply associated with the quality of our food. When I am stressed, I go straight for low-nutrition convenience foods. Needless to say, I’ve been feeling terrible – my 14-day BG averages have been hovering between 185-200. Yikes.

I conducted a little experiment: I switched over to an almost exclusively plant-based lifestyle with an emphasis on whole foods for two weeks. I have been flirting with the idea of going vegan for a little while now and it wasn’t a hard thing to do, given that I have been an on-and-off-again vegetarian for the past decade.

Why Plant-based?

There is a litany of reasons why I am choosing a plant-based diet. In short: proven health benefits, nutrient efficiency, respect for my animal neighbors, and to protect the environment. It also limits my food choices – when you’re vegan, you’re not burdened with a sort of decision overload with food.

The Results

I have gone from a 14-day average of 200 down to 160 in two weeks. I have more energy. I feel lighter. My moods are evening out. My sleep has improved. Can I attribute all of this to a plant-based lifestyle? Not quite sure yet because a lot has been going on lately and I’m only just starting to carve out my new routine.

Of course, I’m wondering as much as you are,“can I even pull this off?” There are scores of diabetic athletes, including members of Team Novo Nordisk, diabetic vegans such as Adrian Kiger and Melissa from Type1Vegan, and vegan athletes such as Rich Roll and Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete, but where are the diabetic vegan athletes? Those sound like unicorns.

Can I be that unicorn? Let’s find out.

Activism: Clint Smith and The Danger of Silence

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.   ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

Clint Smith has provided one of the best TED talks I’ve seen on the hidden power of everyday advocacy – advocacy is not just found in prolific uprisings and protests of society’s activists, but also in our own simple refusal to keep quiet when we are confronted with the wrongs of the world in our daily lives.  You can be an activist in your smallest of circles and with your smallest of actions.

Smith reflects, “Everyday all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide, and war.” Systemic atrocities or institutional violence/discrimination are not born overnight – they begin with a trickle of negativity or intolerance that is permitted by our silence to grow into a cascade of dangerous, galvanized action.

In his classroom, he encourages his students to find ways to open up and fill the void left by silence with these four core principles:

Read critically. Write consciously.  Speak clearly.  And tell your truth.

Call to Action 

Listen to this talk.  Enjoy the cadence of this man’s spoken word.  And then, I encourage you all to find your voice and speak up when injustice sneaks its way into the world around you.

“Validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence.” 

Merry [Pump] Christmas!

merry christmas batman

After eleven stinking months of bitching at strangers on the phone, switching over to Oregon Health Plan (due to losing my job at the shitty, shitty restaurant), and fulfilling all of the compliance requirements in order to be approved for a pump by Kaiser’s weirdo DME committee….

I FINALLY HAVE A NEW PUMP!!!

Allow me to introduce you to Mister Plum, my brand-spanking new Medtronic Revel 523:

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What a handsome little fellow!  

This little monster is CGM-compatible and comes loaded with new, handy features (and complimentary gadgets) that will improve my diabetes management, including:

  • Post-meal BG reminder:  My A1c was recently rose back up to a dreadful 9.0, and my endocrinologist determined that a large part of the problem is my failure to test after meals. I simply forget. This function allows me to set my pump to squawk at me two hours after I eat, so forgetting is out of the question. The sooner I catch highs post-meal, the better I can control my overall sugars until I can determine what I’m doing wrong to get high post-meals in the first place. So stoked.
  • Capture Event function:  This function lets you capture certain moments in time that can be incorporated into your overall trends, such as BGs, exercise, insulin intake, and meals.
  • Missed Meal reminder:  If you have a problem forgetting to bolus with dinner, you can set a span of time to remind yourself to do so.  This is not as helpful for me at the moment because I do not eat at the same time every day.  Also, I generally do not forget to bolus with meals.
  • Bayer Contour Next Link blood glucose meter:  I *love* this thing:
    • The lancet device is less painful and the strips require much less blood than One Touch Ultras.
    • This meter is programmed to automatically ask you to categorize your reading as “Before Meal” and “After Meal” before you even see the reading itself.  This makes it easier to analyze whether you are off on your basal, carb-to-unit ratio, or are possibly in need of a carb-counting refresher.
    • Additionally, this meter has a built-in USB port, and communicates with your pump when plugged into the computer.  And now that CareLink has been upgraded to be more Mac-compatible, I will be able to get a better sense of my overall trends and behaviors.

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BG Reminder!

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The fancy Bayer Contour Next Link BG meter.  My new love. 

Lessons Learned

If you are in pump purgatory as I was, hang in there.  Be patient with the health administrators on the ground who are trying to get this done for you.  I promise you that they want to accommodate you, but because of the administrative hurdles instituted by top-down execs who mercilessly seek to cut costs, it will take time.  Try to humanize yourself to administrators to gain their sympathy (read: cooperation) and remind them why you are an excellent candidate for insulin pump therapy.  As an athlete, I argued that my dynamic and active lifestyle would be jeopardized by the constant eating you have to do while taking long-acting insulin* injections.  You can’t ramp down your insulin intake after you’ve taken a shot, so if you decide on an impromptu bike ride or random mountain climb, you have to eat beforehand or you’ll go low.  This makes weight management difficult, which in turn can affect how much insulin you require in the first place.  It’s a cycle, and remind them of that.  Keep your head up! 

Here’s to great control in the future with my new gadget!

Photo Credit: memecenter.com/keptinkurk

*Nota bene:  I am not full-scale attacking syringe-based insulin therapy.  Many respectable athletes use long-acting insulin.  I just believe that you have to be extremely regimented to make it work.  I am not.

Shameless Plug: Help me fund my public interest law firm in ONE WEEK!

For those of you for whom I do not have email addresses: 

Dear Inner Tribe of Friends, Family, and Colleagues,

Thanks for taking the time to read this message! As most of you know, I moved to Portland shortly after earning my law and environmental masters degrees. I moved here for several reasons – the amazing landscape, temperate seasons, tasty food, amazing craft beer, active outdoor/mountaineering community, and to finally fulfill my childhood dream of journeying out West for adventures. But the most important reason I moved here is to fulfill my ultimate professional goal of protecting the environment and those people most impacted by its degradation.

The road hasn’t been easy – traditional governmental and non-profit jobs are scarce in a market saturated with new lawyers and environmental professionals. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past two years, it is this: There may be a shortage of jobs, but there is not a shortage of work to be done. And so, I realized that I must carve my own path toward helping the greater good.

But I need your help.

I wish to open my own private public interest law and consulting firm. A private public interest law firm is a rarely-utilized, hybrid-structured firm that is dedicated to promoting social, political, environmental, and economic welfare, while maintaining a profit-generating arm that keeps firm financially sustainable without the assistance of grants. In my firm, my areas of practice will be strictly harmonious to public interest ideals, so as not to undermine the integrity of my public interest work. I intend to work with low-income, minority, and tribal communities to ensure their voices are heard in regard to environmental decisions that directly impact their well-being.

My profit-generating practice areas will include FOIA requests and FOIA litigation, benefit company formation and annual reporting, non-profit formation and assistance with organizational best practices, employee rights, disability rights, and real property due diligence for property redevelopment. As my expertise grows and my team expands, I hope to increase my impact.

I am currently a woman-owned sole proprietorship functioning as a contract attorney. This means that my clients are my fellow attorneys and I am under their direct supervision. I have spent the past two and a half years cultivating my legal skills under the guidance of several amazing lawyers in Portland. But now is the time for me to step up – there is a lot of work to be done, and I have the skills necessary to contribute meaningfully to the greater good. 

How can you help?

Oregon lawyers are required to purchase malpractice insurance before they are able to independently take clients. Due to these restrictions, my earning potential is limited, and this has negatively impacted my ability to acquire enough capital to form my firm.

In one week’s time, I will be launching a crowd funding campaign on indiegogo.com to raise $7,500.00 in funds. In addition to being able to finally purchase malpractice insurance, these funds will go to the following expenses: marketing and branding consulting, website assistance, assorted legal software, business entity formation, and a few pieces of office equipment. Please note that I intend to be an Oregon benefit company and engage in sustainable business practices.

While I cannot as a lawyer offer direct perks to individual donors because it may affect my professional independence, for every $250 raised, I will donate one hour of my time to help preserve Native Alaskan water rights and keep harmful chemical dispersants out of Arctic waters.  If we get past $7,500.00, I’ll double those hours.

Irrespective of your individual ability to give, I want to thank each and every one of you for helping me in some capacity along this journey – it truly takes a village of all kinds of support to begin your own venture, and you all have given me just that. If you can’t donate yourself, please pass the word on to someone who loves the environment as much as I do!

I look forward to your participation in the Sharing Economy.

Yours Truly,

Kellie

My Hiatus: Blowing my World Wide Open

All-great-changes-are-preceded-by-chaos Hi everyone!

After what seems to have been quite a hiatus, I have decided to come out from underneath the radar. Since my last post in late March, a lot has been happening… some good, some bad.

Here it is in broad brushstrokes:

  • Working conditions (and tips) at the shitty, shitty restaurant started to go downhill.
  • Working conditions at said shitty, shitty restaurant (and to an extent, those high sugars) triggered an acute bout of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, resulting in pain and weakness in both hands, primarily my dominant hand.
  • I excused myself from a stagnant and unhealthy relationship.
  • I got let go from my shitty, shitty restaurant job and had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get on unemployment. Won that battle, but went completely broke in the process.
  • I started jogging again, albeit slowly.
  • I used my newly-found free time (and newly-found mental energy) to connect with scores of friends who I had not been able to see on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night in months.
  • I went WHALE WATCHING! I even saw some whale parts.
  • I slept in a yurt.
  • I committed to climbing a MOUNTAIN! Finally!
  • I cycled 45 miles over all of the bridges of Portland. It was rad.
  • In the wake of losing a shitty, shitty restaurant job and the realization that what I want to do for a living doesn’t fit within one professional position, I decided to open up my own integrated services firm. I will be commencing a crowdfunding campaign for start-up costs in the near future and I hope to have your support in this endeavor.

As you can see, a lot of the distractions in my life stemmed from my highly negative work experience at the shitty, shitty restaurant.When I was working there, I could barely get out of bed and had to pep-talk myself to walk in the door. My mantra was “PIT STOP.” The negativity that sprung from that place was utterly astounding, and it deeply and fundamentally depressed me. While going through that whole ordeal, I retreated inside of myself and put some of my fitness goals on hold. While I am sad that my body recomp is not progressing as quickly as I would prefer, I have not completely shirked training. I have instead focused on activities that boost my innate happiness, particularly activities involving the outdoors.

I’m not sorry I did this, and here’s why… 

I. AM. FREE.

Losing my shitty, shitty restaurant job opened up my world in ways I have never imagined. I used it as a crutch for not doing something better. I let fear overrun my potential to give back to the world and make a living at the same time. Losing that job yanked the security blanket right off of me. It put exigency back into my mind – I have to do something effective now.

And I am confident that getting my personal and professional life in order will allow me the mental space to maximize my physical potential.

Chaos has reigned supreme as of late, but big changes are on the horizon…

Photo Credit: Muchzen.com 

Goal-Setting: My Ideal Body in Pictures and Numbers

In his book “Thinner, Leaner, Stronger,” Michael Matthews recommends setting tangible goals before you even pick up a weight, drop a calorie, or hop on a treadmill. I wholly agree.

I did not do this in the first few weeks because I was extremely motivated to get started and I didn’t want to plan myself out of execution, which is consistent with my rather cerebral tendencies.  But goal-setting is just as important as knowing your baseline, and now that I’ve had a few weeks to really reflect, I’m ready to articulate those goals.

In setting up your goals, Matthews recommends assessing (1) what your ideal body looks like; (2) what your ideal state of health would be like; and (3) why you’re doing this in the first place. Today, I will focus on my ideal body.

A Picture of my Ideal Body

Matthews recommends not just using mere words to describe your ideal body, but pictures. So I found a few. Here is my favorite:
Fit Chick 1What a fox! She embodies a lot of qualities I am looking for: Strong, good lines, lean… but NOT “skinny fat.” I’ve been around this size before, so I’m confident this is an attainable goal (with time and effort). I want a body indicative of a healthy, happy lifestyle, in which I’m not engaging in negativity or self-punishment.

And most importantly, I want my thighs to still touch:

Fit Chick ThighsThe Thigh Gap is not welcome in this house.*

My Ideal Body in Numbers

I finally got my body fat percentage tested at 24-Hour Fitness, by Corey, my new trainer. Sadly, it’s at a whopping 35%. With a body weight of 150 lbs, this translates into 97.5 lbs of muscle, and 52.5 lbs of fat!

I’m carrying a spry tween’s worth of weight on my thighs, hips, ass, arms, and belly. YUCK. No wonder I’ve been feeling like crap.

My ultimate goal is to weigh approximately 135 lbs and have 20% body fat, which means I need to lose 25.5 lbs of fat and gain 10.5 lbs of muscle. I’m not ignorant to the fact that this is a fairly significant “body recomp,” so I set a first milestone to weigh approximately 140 lbs and have 25% body fat. Corey estimated that at a healthy rate of losing 2% of body fat each month, I can reach this goal in five months.

((whimper)) …wish me luck!

*I have A LOT of opinions on this Thigh Gap and Thinspo garbage circulating the internet and infiltrating the minds of young women out there. Stay tuned for more information on this dubious subject, and the all-out war to follow. It’s on, bitches.  

Video: Get Sugar Smart

This is a wonderful video by Prevention Magazine that shows you the different amounts of added sugar in whole versus processed foods.

There is sugar hidden in pretty much all processed foods – even savory foods, which are then balanced out with copious amounts of salt. It is things like this, coupled with dubious advertising, that can make controlling your diet very complicated: As a young child, raisins were advertised as “Nature’s Candy,” a healthy alternative to sweets. However, based on the amount of sugar they contain, they are no different. Pulling ourselves out of this paradigm of life-long programming via advertisements is a challenge for us all.

The only way to effectively control your sugar intake is to eat as much of a whole foods diet as possible. Skip the processed juice, and go for the apple.

Update on the Stupid Stupid Leg

I suffered a crappy fracture of my distal fibula last July. I was stuck on crutches for a little over a month and in a walking boot for an additional month and a half on top of that. It grounded me, took me away from my bike right as the beautiful Oregon summer started, and made me completely miserable and unable to provide for myself financially. The road to recovery has been a little longer and rougher than I anticipated. It has been quite frustrating, as it has limited my options for transitioning back into peak performance. I can’t jog or do any dynamic exercises, so a lot of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is out (for now, damnit!).

When I got healthcare through Kaiser Permanente, I was referred to a great PT named Rachel. I had my follow-up physical therapy appointment with her today. Mixed feelings.

Bad News: Still no jogging, jump squats, or anything else fairly dynamic.

“DAMN YOU LEGGGGG!!!!” ((throws fists to sky))

Good News: I have gained a significant amount of flexibility and strength back in my ankle and have been graduated up to more functional and aggressive forms of PT. I have a check up in a month to see (1) more progress and (2) to assess if I can start more dynamic activities. She suggested more pool and bike time, so I’ll be doing that.

LESSONS LEARNED
I think back to when I fractured my leg and all I can say is that I am so so so thankful not to be on crutches anymore. However, the fracture taught me a few good life lessons/self-observations:

  1. I learned the generosity and kindness of strangers and my awesome friends, who continuously opened doors, walked out my groceries for me, and entertained my bored ass.
  2. But…. that other kinds of strangers SUCK, like the ones who have the brass balls to hit on me on while crippled. Please, oh please, DON’T tell me to smile or how pretty I look while I’m tooling around on my “fun sticks.” I’m not going to give you the change in my pocket…. or sex.
  3.  I am learning here and there to ask for help. I am a stubborn cow.
  4. My former relationship was not as strong as I thought. This was a tough lesson to learn, but without the outdoors as a buffer/bonding mechanism, my relationship fizzled. Though I’m sure there were more complicated factors than just that. But it surely didn’t help a new relationship in need of nurturing. C’est La Vie.

Anyone else have any valuable life lessons/self-observations from a substantial injury?

Sunday Stats: Week of March 16, 2014

Sunday, Bloody Sunday…. self-disclosure time!
Loudspeaker

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence showing that people who track their fitness see more progress, likely because they know how they measure up against their goals. Now that I am starting to develop a fairly regular health and fitness routine, I’ll be publishing my stats every Sunday to track my progress. They’ll be pretty basic to start – weight and BG stats for now. Next week, I’ll start tracking the inches ((shudder)) and RHR. Also, I’ll be posting about my goals in the near future…

I have a quarterly appointment with my endocrinologist in April, after which I’ll publish many of the same stats I posted in my Baseline Assessment. I would loooovvveee to see my a1c below 7. Fingers crossed.

WEIGHT: 152 ((sigh))

DIABETIC STATS:
     7-day BG average: 181
     14-day BG average: 190
     30-day BG average: 216

     Before Meal 7-day average: 131
     Before Meal 14-day average: 146
     Before Meal 30-day average: 178

     After Meal 7-day average: 241
     After Meal 14-day average: 254
     After Meal 30-day average: 282

     Lowest BG of the week: 40
     Highest BG of the week: 344

THOUGHTS
I’m liking the overall downward trend of my diabetic stats, particularly my pre-meal BGs. I’m down 15 points for my baseline 7-day average of 196. Unfortunately, this was the only stat I took down from my meter to establish my baseline – I’m excited to see what my 14-day and 30-day averages are going to look like next week!

I clearly need some improvement in the After Meal category, as this seems to be the major source of my high BGs. This could be an issue with carb-counting, my carb-to-unit ratio (currently 1 unit of insulin for every 12 grams of carbohydrates), or a little of both. I suspect the most likely culprit is carb counting. It is not even remotely an exact science, and I am in need of a major refresher. Luckily, my endocrinologist referred me to Kaiser Permanente’s nutrition department, and I will be setting up an appointment soon.

Nota bene: A lot of my lows are going unreported. When I was without health care, I had to severely cut back on my blood sugar testing to conserve test strips, so I was taught not to test for lows because I don’t need a meter to know when I’m low (hot neck, cranky, sweaty, disoriented, HANGRY).

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I will be getting in the habit of testing for lows to show that trend to both my readers and my endocrinologist. While we’re on the topic of evil, evil lows, I’ve been having at least one hypo a day for the past four or five days, and I am not a fan of this trend. Lows feel like shit on a stick.

Anything else you guys think I should be tracking on a weekly basis? Chime in and leave a comment!

Photo Credits: ideasmile and http://efficientawesomeness.com/