About mid-life crisis

Deeply in the throes of my mid-life crisis, I decided to share goofy but true stories, thoughts, events and stuff that happens to me in a way that hopefully takes the mundane and makes it a bit more fun.

“What doesn’t kill ya…”

fighting

Remember when you’d get sick and some old codger would say ‘What doesn’t kill ya makes ya stronger.”?

That might be true with viruses and other annoying illnesses like the flu, but not so much with bear attacks and power tool accidents.

I always hated that saying because like most men (and my loving family will confirm), what I’m usually looking for is sympathy…and room service…and the TV remote.  Not life advice.

But it does get you thinking about what MIGHT kill you.

Statistics will tell you that men die younger than women, not because women have a stronger internal system, but because men are more likely to do something stupid enough to kill themselves, thus skewing the numbers in women’s favour.

Darwin’s theory of evolution was probably right.darwin  It’s not the fittest but the most adaptable to change that survive.  And men have a distinct disadvantage to women on that front.  It’s called testosterone.

Testosterone is what drives men to prove they don’t need to adapt, or be safe, or make good judgement decisions.

This is particularly true of younger men….and oh, boy! Do they prove it!

When I was a kid, I really didn’t think about dying at all – that’s what old people did.  When I was a bit older though, death-defying stunts became all too common, and I started to wonder what I’d do that would kill me.

I don’t think I ever deliberately pushed the boundaries of life and death, but I sure made the grim reaper sit up a few times.

grim

It’s funny how your perception of how you’ll die changes as you age.  When I was younger, I figured I’d go out in a blaze of glory strapped to a nuclear warhead and shot into a tanker full of fuel and the explosion would cause an earthquake and everyone would say ‘Wow, what an epic death!’.

Pretty stupid, eh?  I mean, how would I get a hold of a nuclear warhead?  Amazon wasn’t even invented yet.

After you’ve had a few close calls though, you figure that it’ll be something a lot less glamorous than nuclear warheads.  Probably a chainsaw accident or alcohol poisoning would be more likely.  Or an alcohol and chainsaw combination.

Now I’m beginning to understand that it’s not stupid testosterone-induced stunts,  but what’s gonna go wrong with my internal system that’ll finally take me out.

I seem to be spending more time at doctor’s appointments than seeing if I can beat that freight train to the level crossing with my car.

car

I find myself comparing notes with my brothers about colonoscopies and cardiologist results, and discussing the benefits of eating kale and drinking 4 liters of water a day.  I never thought we’d sit around comparing who had the most polyps.

I think my wife likes this change in me. She made this pact with me while I was asleep one night, that she had to ‘go’ first, so that she didn’t have to face old age alone.  I don’t recall agreeing to any such pact, and I don’t think there’s much retribution if I renege on it.

It does mean that I’m spending more time being careful than being carefree, but I’ve managed to put off joining a yoga class so far.

It could be that all those stupid human tricks I did when I was younger really did make me stronger, since they didn’t kill me.  I guess the old codger was right – what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.  Except for bears.  Bears will kill you.

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Seniors Moment

senior

Despite my youthful appearance and demeanor, I do sometimes worry about the sands of time creeping into my life and suddenly I’m an old man.  The uncomfortable grit of time is a sneaky bugger.  Like a day at the beach, you’re having a great time until you’re walking back to the car and notice a sand-wedgie forming in your shorts.

Sure, when I see pictures of myself I sometimes think ‘who’s that old geezer wearing the same clothes as me?’.  I usually chalk that up to bad lighting and bad photography.

…and I’ve been offered the ‘seniors discount’ more than once. Ouch!

The outward signs are there, despite my denial and generally immature behavior.  Aches and pains, white hair, taking a handful of pills each morning and night.  The usual stuff.

But I’ve started to notice less obvious things lately.

I find myself walking around with my hands behind my back a lot more.  Only old folks do this.

hands

Maybe that’s because during the Great Depression they were told to ‘look but don’t touch’. Maybe it’s about creating balance since old guys get a bit of a paunch and need to offset the forward weight.  I don’t know, since I’m new at this.

Something else old folks do that you don’t hear any more is whistling.  Old guys whistle a lot, but no one else does.   Maybe t’s a lost art, like cursive writing or dialing a phone. I heard a guy whistling all through the store the other day.  whistleIt seemed odd….and a bit annoying.  He was doing bird calls.  He was very good at it, but he wouldn’t shut up. ‘Whistle, whistle, whistle’…non stop! I wanted to choke him after the 10th bird call.

Apparently, having no patience for things is another sign of old age.

I guess the most disturbing trend are these things we call ‘seniors moment’;  when we forget what we were doing or go looking for our glasses while we’re wearing them…or forgetting your wife’s name when introducing her to your old class-mates (true story).

Even calling it ‘seniors moment’ shows that I’m aging.  I used to call it a ‘brain fart’.

Now, we all get them from time to time, right?  You do, I do, everyone does.  Start driving and get on the on-ramp to go to work when you were heading to the grocery store, or walk into a room and forget why.  Very common and very natural.  That’s just being distracted.

The problem is figuring out when it’s just a brain fart/seniors moment, or when it’s old age.  I figure the frequency of it has to be factored in, right?  If you forget where you put your keys occasionally, that’s just normal.  If you have to wear them around your neck, you might have a problem.

The severity of the forgetfulness is probably part of the equation too – If you forgot where you put your glasses, that’s normal.  If you forgot that you wear glasses…well, you might have to sell those aluminum pots.

I’m trying to keep all of this in perspective.  I haven’t forgotten where I live or that I was supposed to be wearing pants today, so that’s good.  I just wish these ‘senior moment’s’ were a bit less frequent, you know?

Meanwhile, I think I’ll stroll down to the Blockbuster and rent a Matlock video while I whistle with my hands behind my back.  And if I see a little kid along the way, I might do the ‘I’ve got your nose’ trick with my thumb.  Kids love that!

 

 

 

More Is Better

strength

Do you get pounding headaches?  Sure you do! Who doesn’t? That’s why you’ve got a bottle of pain-reliever in your medicine cabinet, right?

I get really, really bad headaches – migraines, in fact.  They’re nasty buggers, I tell you! No messing around with ‘Oh, I have a headache, but I’ll keep on hammering this nail in’ kind of pain.  Oh no, baby!

Migraines are all-consuming, whatever plans you had, well, they ain’t gonna happen kind of headaches.   I wouldn’t even call them ‘headaches’ – they’re more like a ‘I’m gonna put your brain in a blender and your world is gonna stop working for a while’, kind of thing.

Because I get migraines, when I feel a headache coming on I know that it’ll escalate into that crippling, soul-sucking, stop-the-train pain, so I take something right away…and it better be the ‘Extra Strength’ stuff.

HEADACHE

So I have to wonder why, if anyone feels the need to take a drug to help ease their pain, they’d ever take regular strength when ‘extra’ strength is right there on the shelf beside it?  Are they some sort of pain martyr?  Do they feel that they want to only relieve some of the pain, but not all of it?  Are they trying to prove something?

It’s like coffee – I never understood why anyone would drink decaf in the morning.  Isn’t the whole point of drinking coffee in the morning about waking you up?

“I’d love a coffee – make mine a decaf”  Huh?  I want the coffee but I don’t want it to do what coffee was carefully harvested, hauled down the mountain, roasted, shipped to my local coffee shop and sifted through boiling water to wake me up, was meant to do.

Batteries are the same – if you have a choice, wouldn’t you get the ‘Heavy Duty, long-lasting’ ones, and not the ones that’ll lose their juice after 10 minutes?  I hate buying batteries and I hate replacing them.  I’ll get the long-life ones, please!

I just renewed my passport – same thing;  I have a choice to stand in line, get a new horrible photo taken, stand in line again, then wait for 3 weeks for it every 5 years, or get a 10 year one that costs less than double the 5 year, and I only have to take a terrible photo every 10 years.  passport

Who would do 5?  Do people actually enjoy sitting in a Government queue all day?  Not this cowboy!  See you when I’m in my 60’s and I don’t care what I look like any more.

Marketers know this.  That’s why you see so many products with ‘Extra’ or ‘Plus’ all over them.  People want more, not less.

“Get 20% More for Free”

“Now With More Cleaning Power!”

Who doesn’t want more?  More is good.  Extra is good. Longer Lasting is good.  Regular strength is not.

…don’t get me started on de-alcoholized beer!

The Shape of Things

shape

Most of us obsess about body image – especially around the New Year resolution time of the year.  I can’t say that I ever really gave it a lot of thought although some of you might argue that I probably should have.

For most guys, our healthy egos keep us firmly planted in the the ‘Damn, I look good‘ fantasy, so we tend not to shame ourselves about our shape or about putting on a few extra pounds as much as the stronger sex does.

My Uncle would joke that his doctor tells him that if he were an inch taller, he’d be round – then we’d laugh and laugh…and eat bacon cheeseburgers.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and no matter how many tofu burgers or yoga classes they attend, they ain’t getting any taller or making their legs longer.  I really admire their tenacity and dedication though.

My overall size and shape hasn’t changed much in the past 20 or 30 years, not because of any stringent ritual of healthy diet and exercise, but probably because God figured going grey at 30 and having a bad complexion were enough of a burden for one guy.

I can pretty much always buy the same size pants off the rack – wider than long, but consistent.  I always figured my body shape was pretty normal.

That is, until I took a trip to China.

In China, I was lucky enough to have a business suit custom tailored from scratch – every measurement and seam was made just for my less than perfect body.

I picked out the style and the material, then the tailor went to work, measuring stuff that I figured he had no business measuring, but what did I know? I’ve never had a suit made just for me before.

tailored-suit

The tailor hand-delivered it to my hotel room but I didn’t get to try it on before I flew home.  When I did, the jacket was perfect – shoulders fit beautifully, buttons did up without me having to suck in a lot of air, arm length left just enough room for shirt cuffs. Perfect!

But there was something wrong with the pants.  The length was exactly what it should have been, but when I pulled them up they’d just slide right down – in fact, they wouldn’t stay up at all unless I cinched in the belt.

The tailor must have mis-measured my waist somehow.  Funny, since the waist is generally the most important measurement in pants, right?  But that really wasn’t it either – the did fit around my waist properly.  They just didn’t fit but they still fit.

I don’t wear suits a lot, but every time I’d wear this one, the pants just wouldn’t stay up on their own.  Then it finally dawned on me.  The pants were tailored to my exact shape…

old-ass

Apparently I have no ass!  The pants slide off because there’s nothing there to hold them up.  I hate that tailor!  All the pants off the rack have a built-in butt, so I never noticed this deformity until that guy in Shanghai exposed it in his own passive way.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things, a flat butt isn’t the worst body issue one could have.  Maybe if I wore high-heels, it would perk up a bit.

Twerking is definitely off my bucket list, though.

Grocery Store Extreme Workout

groceries

Over the past couple of years – okay, the past decade –  I haven’t really spent a lot of time at the gym….okay, no time at the gym.  At all.

I gave up the dream of washboard abs a long time ago, and settled on a tub washer with a lint trap.  Settling is nature’s way of achieving all your mediocre dreams.

I did get a gym membership once – carried that sucker around in my wallet for a whole year, but didn’t lose an ounce.  Total waste of money!

Well, I have to tell you my latest secret for staying in such great shape….average shape….I have a shape.

I get groceries.

That’s right – the geriatric crowd has kept this little exercise tidbit from us all this time. It’s probably why they go shopping every day.

capture

Here’s my routine:

‘BAD WHEEL SHOPPING CART FOREARM CRUNCH’

This exercise is simple, but you need to spend some time finding a cart with an annoying wheel that doesn’t turn properly – usually pretty easy to find at my store;  I just look for the abandoned ones.  Now, they will either constantly pull to the right or the left – to balance your workout routine, try to swap it out halfway through your shopping trip, or be sure to focus on the other side on your next trip.

The constant ‘pull’ to one side provides a steady anaerobic resistance that over time will develop not only your forearms and wrists, it might just clear up that sciatica problem in your hip.  Be sure to navigate the store in the opposite direction of the pull or you might spend the day circling the broccoli and never get to the snack aisle.

‘ DROP AND GIVE ME 10…CANS OF SOUP’

Soup cans are surprisingly heavy if you hold them long enough.  Carrying around an arm-full will get you ‘feeling the burn’ in no time.

Try getting the soup from the bottom shelf – this incorporates deep knee bends with the repetitive weight lifting of the cans.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the soup down there – this is about more than your sensitive pallet.

You can get some good aerobic exercise as well if you load up your arms then find that your spouse/training partner has moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘BOTTLED WATER WEIGHT TRAINING’

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Pick up the biggest bundle of bottled water they sell – again, preferably on the bottom or top shelf – waist height is a waste of time.

Be sure that when you try to put it on the lower rack, the shopping cart keeps moving backwards so you have to crab-walk along trying to heave the darn thing into place.

Also, as mentioned above, you can get an extra workout if your spouse/training partner has again moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘REACH FOR THE SKY…HIGH PRICED DOG FOOD BAG’

The great thing about this is that most grocery stores put the heaviest dog food bags on either the ground or 7′ up.

Haul that sucker onto your shoulder and once again attempt to slide it onto the lower shelf of the cart.  Be sure to stretch fully to extend your soon-to-be tight tendons.

Cat food doesn’t count – they don’t eat enough to give you the weight resistance you need.

Even if you don’t have a pet, you can hang out and help someone else get theirs.  That’s a double win – exercise and some goodwill!

‘BAG OVERLOAD ARM CURLS’

Just because you’re done filling your cart and are heading to the checkout, the workout isn’t over yet!

Make sure all the canned goods are packed as tightly and as high as possible into one or two shopping bags.  Take advantage of this to work your biceps by lifting them off the belt and into the cart – then out of the cart and into the trunk.

Once you’re done, give the cart forearm crunch one more good go – walk that antagonistic annoyance all the way back into the store…maybe hand it to another shopper who could use a good workout.  I’m sure they’ll thank you for it.  Eventually.

Tragic

tragic

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment regarding the recent news about the price gouging for the last run of the Tragically Hip, a well-loved Canadian rock band out of Kingston, Ontario.
For background, let me quickly explain what’s been happening: The Tragically Hip recently announced that it’s lead singer and front man, Gord Downie has sadly been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and will die. The band decided that a last Canada-wide tour this summer was in order – a class act from the band, and a brave gesture from Gord.
The tickets went on sale and were quickly snatched up by organizations like Stubhub and Ticketmaster, who are now re-selling the tickets at highly inflated prices. Fans of the band are not happy about this to say the least, sighting that this shows complete greed over what will be the band’s last concert tour ever, and forces loyal followers of the band to pay exorbitant prices to see them one last time.  It’s not how we envisioned this Canadian iconic bands last tour to go down.
This is all true, but there’s a few things that don’t sit right with me about all of this. Agree or disagree as you see fit.
  • every party in this situation has the freedom to do exactly what they want. The ticket resellers can buy up huge volumes of tickets because the purchasing system allows it to happen (they’re in business to make money, don’t forget), the ‘scalpers’ can jack up the prices because they know people will pay (supply and demand), and the fans can decide if they want to pay the market rate to see the band one last time. If they do, they become unwitting participants in the price increases.
  • the bands management should have seen this as a potential outcome when the announcements were made, and should have known that this was going to happen. They could have offered to sell the tickets only at the actual box offices where the band will be playing, and limiting the number of tickets any one person could purchase…but they didn’t.
  • the band could have offered to play one or two final shows in a large open-air venue for free, or offer the profits up to cancer research or something classy like that. Maybe they will.  Maybe they could have done a great Canadian deed and offered a concert benefiting the families and businesses in Fort McMurray.
  • no one HAS to pay $2,000 for tickets. This whole thing has dissolved down to greed and selfishness both on the part of the scalpers and on the fans who would pay these prices.  If we all decided that we’d only pay face value and not a penny more, there would be no market for the scalpers.
ACID TEST: If the tickets were put up to auction at face value and they were bid up to $2,000, would we still be as outraged? Would we still call people ‘scum-bags’?
My 2 cents worth. I would love to see the band play their last concert in Kingston, Ontario, but I probably won’t.
My prayers go out to Gord Downie, his family and the band.

Closing Windows

closing windows

There’s an old saying about windows.  It goes something like ‘when a window closes, another opens’ or a door opens, or something – and it’s usually linked to a picture of a bunch of unicorns and rainbows or a stream with woodland creatures or something you’re supposed to like.

The idea is that there’s always good news to follow an ending of something, so we should happily embrace the ‘closed window’ because something great will happen when a new window opens.

Well, there’s one new window that keeps trying to open and I want it closed.

Windows 10

Frankly, I’d nail it shut if I could.  I’m resisting the Windows 10 ‘upgrade’ with great effort, but the unwelcome folks at Microsoft seem to be on the other side of my computer screen pushing it open every chance they get.

It started out friendly enough; ‘Hey computer guy, how’d you like to upgrade to our new operating system for free?’.  Then, after some time of ignoring them, their tactics became a bit more direct:  ‘Would you like to load your new Windows 10 now or later?’.  The ‘if’ part of the offer seemed to disappear.

It’s not that I’m against change – heck, I LOVE change!  I have a drawer full of change.

The trouble with this particular change, however, is two-fold.

First-fold, I hate the idea of something being forced on me without my consent or permission.  It just showed up one day and it won’t leave.  I want to be able to decide what operating system I work with.  Who are they to tell me that I need to change how my home screen looks and feels, and I sure don’t want to have to ask ‘Cortina’ where all my files went.

Full disclosure; I’ve been accused of being a control freak, demanding that things be done my way.  Shocking, I know!   But I don’t really need to control things…except maybe how the dishwasher is loaded, how shopping carts are driven, how groceries in those shopping carts are organized, how the grass is cut, how other people drive, grammar…really nothing at all.  But my computer, my personal computer, should absolutely be controlled by me.  If not my computer, then what?

The second problem is that I spent 2 years figuring out where the stupid ‘shutdown’ button is on my current operating system.  What contortions will I have to go through with Windows 10?  Will I have to ‘control-alt-delete’ to do anything?  What other ‘new’ things will take up hours of otherwise good web-surfing time?

Why can’t I choose to keep this window closed?  I’m not buying the bunnies and unicorn thing on this new window idea.  This is a change for them, not me.

I can picture those pasty Seattle-tanned autobots smiling fakely at me like the Borg, telling me that ‘resistance is futile’ and ‘I will be assimilated’ into this new world of Windows 10.

resistance is futile

But I will resist as long as possible.  I will force computer shutdowns instead of allowing this evil new system to invade my safe world of Windows 8.1, risking that 1 in 100 chance that I could lose everything. No, Mr. Microsoft, I will not go quietly into the night.  You can keep your new window closed, thank you very much.