Goodbye 12for2012; Hello 12for13

It’s been a fantastic year, as resolutions go. Just 12 months ago, I had no idea I would meet so many great people, have such incredible experiences and grow as much as I did. It seems like just yesterday that I first hopped on a unicycle and I’m already moving on to the next set of challenges.

It’s been quite a journey, but it isn’t over yet. As I write this, my final 12for2012 post, I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride as I begin 12for13: A Year Without Fear.

Thank You!!!

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GR12: Organ Donor

I went back to United Blood Services again on December 20th, but they sent me away, saying I had to wait until the 27th for the Haitian induced restriction to be lifted. With just 4 days to go before this year and its resolutions expired, I returned to UBS once again. They poked me, took samples, checked my vitals and asked the questions again. I made it past the Haiti question, but this time I was rejected again for a different reason. This time the problem was that I had lived in England for 6 years and this time the ban is for life. According to the rules of the FDA, there is a possibility that I may have come into contact with some mad cow tainted beef and therefore I can never donate blood in the United States. (As an aside, I did ask whether it mattered if I was a vegan and they said, “Hahahaha. No, but nice try.”)

I had been counting on giving blood to satisfy this, my 12th Giving Resolution for 2012. I had no backup plan. I was genuinely worried that I would fall short of my goal. Then, like a sign, I happened to pass the DMV on my way home. Suddenly it hit me. They can reject my blood, my hair and even my sperm while I’m alive, but they won’t reject my organs and tissue when I’m dead. Even if they do, it won’t be as demoralizing because, well, I’ll be dead.

I went to the woman at the “welcome” desk (by the way, she wasn’t very welcoming) and asked if she could check to see whether I had already elected to be an organ donor. “No one has ever asked that before. I’m not sure.” Score! I asked a question that she’d never heard before and I’m sure she’d heard plenty sitting in that seat.

Turns out she could find that information and the answer was, “No”. For $25, I ordered a replacement license that will have a pink dot on it, signifying that when they scrape me up, they should handle with care.

Organ Donor

Organ Donor Facts

  • Most commonly transplanted organs are kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.
  • They’ve even cured diabetes with a pancreas transplant.
  • Tissues transplanted include skin, bone, heart valves, tendons, veins, and corneas.
  • There are 117,059 people in the US waiting for organ transplants.
  • Each day 79 people receive organ transplants and another 18 people die waiting for one.
  • Up to eight lives can be saved through organ donation and 50 improved through tissue donation.
  • Roughly 1/3 of those eligible to be donors have elected to do so.

In light of this information and the fact that these parts will simply turn to dust when I’m done with them anyway, it seems to me, not electing to be an organ donor has to be the most selfish decision anyone could make.

It’s as simple as ticking a box the next time you get your license renewed. California residents can do it online by clicking HERE and all others HERE.

LR12: Learn How to Conquer Headaches

Ten years ago my daughter began suffering from chronic headaches. That means for the past 10 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, she has had a headache. This constant state of gnawing pain is only occasionally interrupted by something even worse, a debilitating migraine. When the migraines come, it’s hard for her to function at all. Instead she is relegated to lying down in a silent, dark room until the pain, nausea and heightened sensitivity subsides.

We’ve tried everything including pharmaceuticals, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, Eastern herbal remedies, glasses, TMJ mouth pieces, acupuncture, and even Indian tongue reading. Although her current medications brought the chronic pain down from a 7 to a 3, they don’t come without side effects.

Heal Your HeadacheYears ago one of our neurologists suggested a book called “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Control of Your Pain” by David Buchholz, M.D. He’d said one of his patients had a similar experience to my daughter’s, where nothing but powerful meds helped, and she hated what they were doing to her. She followed the program and within 8 weeks was experiencing whole days without any pain at all. She was able to wean herself off the meds and although she still gets the occasional headache, she now knows a) what triggered it and b) how to control it. Back then, I read the book and created a one page summary of what it proposes. The problem is, the program requires incredible discipline for anyone to follow it, but particularly for a teenager. My daughter rejected it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when during a business meeting with a local investor, I noticed that she asked the waiter whether a certain dish had aged cheese in it. I’d never heard anyone ask that question, but aged cheeses are a known trigger for migraines according to the Buchholz book. I asked her if she suffered from headaches and for most of the remainder of the meal we spoke about her chronic headaches, how she conquered them, my daughter’s experience, etc. Turns out, she is the woman who had followed the Buchholz program, cured herself and brought the book to our neurologist’s attention.

I ran home to tell my wife and called my daughter at college. She was of course lying in bed in the middle of the day, fighting through yet another powerful migraine. The news was  encouraging and she decided then and there that she was ready to do whatever it took to overcome this. She wanted to take medical leave from college and focus solely on taking control of her life, to get rid of the medications and rediscover the woman hidden beneath them. I flew out immediately to pack her up and bring her home.

My new friend, “the investor”, agreed to meet us for lunch to explain what we should expect from the program and how it changed her life. We left that meeting inspired.

My part in the plan is to learn all I can about the program, the science behind it, set expectations, work with the neurologist to make for a smooth transition and most of all, coach her through this.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM

Step 1: Avoid Quick Fixes That Cause Rebound. This means she has to stop taking all the medications migraine sufferers turn to at the moment of peak pain. She cannot take decongestants, caffeine, excedrin, fiorinal or tylenol with codeine.

Step 2: Reduce Triggers

Dietary Triggers include caffeine, chocolate, MSG, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruits, dried/preserved fruits, ripened fruits, onions, fresh bread, aspartame, miso and alcohol although white wine and vodka are tolerated in small quantities.

Non-Dietary Triggers include perfumes, smoke, bright lights, dehydration, stress, sleep deprivation and hormonal birth control.

Step 3: Raise Threshold with Preventive Medications (if necessary)

HeadachesThe idea is that headaches are a function of 2 things; the accumulation of triggers relative to the threshold of a particular person. The triggers listed above are triggers for everyone, but for chronic headache and migraine sufferers, the threshold is much lower than for most of us.

Today is Day 1 of the program.

Below is the full list of “Things to Avoid”

CAFFEINE
Coffee, tea, iced tea and cola. Even decaf coffee and tea which contain other chemical triggers. Try caffeine free herb tea without citrus and other trigger flavors.
CHOCOLATE
White chocolate (no cocoa) is ok
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
Chinese & other restaurant food;
soups and boullions;
Accent & seasoned salt,
flavored, salty snacks;
croutons and bread crumbs;
ready-to-eat meals;
cheap buffets;
veggie burgers;
protein concentrates;
low fat, low calorie foods.
Look for these words and those that sound like them…
Hydrolyzed protein
(including vegetable/soy/plant/rice protein)
Yeast extract and autolyzed yeast
Natural flavors/flavorings
Broth, stock or bouillon
Soy protein concentrate/isolate
Textured protein
Whey protein
Protein-fortified items
Malt extract
Malted barley
Maltodextrin
Carrageenan
Kombu (seaweed extract)
Sodium or calium caseinate
Glutamic acid
Gelatin
Fermented or cultured items
Ultra-pasteurized items
Enzyme-modified items
Be suspicious of “natural flavors (or flavorings)”
CHEESE AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
The more aged, the worse.
Beware cheese-containing foods including pizza.
Yogurt (including frozen), sour cream and buttermilk are also triggers.
Cheeses that are ok: ricotta, cream cheese, and good quality American cheese.
NUTS
Avoid all kinds, as well as nut butters. Peanuts and peanut butter. Seeds are okay.
ALCOHOL and VINEGAR
Especially red wine, champagne and dark or heavy drinks. Vodka is best tolerated in limited quantities. Too much alcohol at once leads to accumulation of acetaldehydes, a trigger.
Clear, ideally distilled, vinegar is allowable.
Don’t overdo condiments made with vinegar incl ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
CERTAIN FRUITS AND JUICES
Citrus fruits incl oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, clementines and pineapples & their juices. Bananas, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates and avocados.
Raisins and other dried fruits if preserved with sulfites.
Fruits in general accumulate tyramine as they ripen, choose young, fresh fruits whenever possible.
CERTAIN VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY ONIONS
Plus sauerkraut, pea pods, and certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, navy and lentils).
Allowed: leeks, scallions, shallots, spring onions and garlic.
FRESH YEAST RISEN BAKED GOODS
Less than one day old; homemade (or restaurant-baked) breads, especially sour dough, as well as bagels, donuts, pizza dough, soft pretzels and coffee cake.
ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET)
Saccharin (Sweet n Low)
OTHERS
Cultured Soy (Miso)
Fermented Soy (Tempeh)
Soy Sauce containing MSG
Hormonal birth control
Regularity is key: you should sleep, eat and exercise on a regular basis. Get enough sleep each night, seven to eight hours or more, and don’t oversleep sporadically, as on weekends. Skipping meals is a common trigger for migraine. Stay on schedule for three meals a day, no more than six to eight hours apart. Snack in between if you wish—but only on nonrestricted items!
Exercise also enhances endorphin production in the brain and is a natural way to help raise your migraine threshold, which otherwise requires preventive medication. Aim for a half-hour or more of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.

GR11: Book Drop

Book DropFor more than twenty years, my wife and I have been hoarding our favorite books. We never re-read them or use them as reference material, but we just couldn’t let them go. We’ve moved a lot over those years so we have shed quite a few at times, but still about 300 or so managed to make the cut each time. We haven’t added to the physical collection in quite some time, having gone digital with the release of the 1st Kindle back in 2007.

Library DonationWhen we came to grips with the fact that we wouldn’t be adding to the collection, it meant that it had become and would forever be, an incomplete collection. Many of the books were no longer representative of who we are and so we decided to donate them to someone who would make better use of them. We inquired with some of the local charities, but then we thought that the best place to donate them would be the place they were most likely to be used — the local library.

GR10: Stranded Hiker

Cold Spring TrailOn October 8th, I went for what was meant to be a quick hike up the Cold Spring Trail in Santa Barbara. I know the date because earlier that morning I had decided it was time for me to move on from the firm I’d help build. The purpose of the hike was to clear my mind and get to a calm place for the meeting I had called with my partners. I grabbed Stella from home and we headed up past several groups of hikers, including some families with young kids having lunch at the bench and a group of elderly hikers.

On the way back down, all the others were already gone, except for the elderly group. One of the older ladies was having trouble making it down a rocky section with medium sized boulders. In fact, she was stuck. She was afraid to take a step forward and fearful that if she sat down she wouldn’t be able to get back up. Her friends waved us past, but I wanted to make sure they’d be ok. Turns out the woman had injured her knee and any movement at all resulted in a lot pain, but also a lot of fear that she had done some real damage. Luckily it happened with only about a half of a mile left to the trailhead.

I offered to give her a piggy back ride down, but that would require me holding her up by wrapping my arms around her knees. Since that was the source of the pain, it seemed like a bad idea. Instead we opted to have her wrap her arm around my neck and shoulders, allowing me to sort of carry her down in an upright position. It was hard work and I was concerned about being late to such a potentially contentious meeting that I had called, but I didn’t see any other way of getting her down to the road. To be honest, what weighed on me more than anything was the fact that I was soaked with sweat from the hike that preceded this episode and this poor woman was forced to lean on me like that.

Anyway, it was slow going, but we made it to the trailhead where a doctor happened to be jogging by. She put the injured hiker at ease as we slid her into the back seat of her friend’s car. They all wanted her to go to the local emergency room, but she was concerned because she hadn’t any insurance. She asked them to drive her home to her husband, but they insisted that she have her knee looked at by the emergency room doctors.

As I said goodbye, she broke down in tears thanking me for helping her. She asked for my name and number, wanting to repay me in some way, but I refused. I said, “You’ll have paid me back in spades when I see you passing me on this trail again. For now, just listen to your friends and get yourself better.”

GR9: Paid Forward 1x

GR9 moves on from Santa Barbara, CA to Coral Springs, FLStacey paying it forward by donating bloodStacey K held up her end of the deal, paying GR9: Chez Magnifique forward to Matt L by donating blood in South Florida. Thank you, Stacey! Still working to get Samantha’s wish to come true. Also, a couple more Pay It Forward resolutions to fulfill, so open to more ideas.

 

 

 

 

LR11: Learn How to Rope (Lasso)

Riding along Professor Creek (Moab, UT)I like to say that when I moved out to California, I discovered my inner redneck. I prefer Jeeps to Ferraris, t-shirts to labels and there isn’t anything I’d rather do inside than in the great outdoors. A couple of years ago we rode horses in Moab, Utah and from that moment on, I decided the cowboy life was beckoning me. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on getting there eventually.

Learning Resolution #11: Learn How to Rope, will give me a skill I hope to someday apply on a daily basis. Cowboy hat? Check. Lasso? Check. YouTube? Check…BijaPoo Roping

 

GR9 (PIF3): Chez Magnifique

Giving Resolution #9 is a Pay It Forward that came in from Stacey K. via the request form.

Samantha of Food Hurts“There is a teenage girl named Samantha who suffers from an Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease (Eosinophilic Esophagitis).  She is allergic to food.  Samantha is fed formula through a tube in her stomach, her only safe food is white potatoes.  Although Samantha can’t eat, her dream is to become a chef.  She loves cooking for others, it helps her feel connected to meals which are such a central part of our lives.  Think of how much of our lives revolve around food – imagine if you or your child was permanently isolated? Samantha had wanted one of the cooking shows like an “Iron Chef” or “Top Chef” to challenge their chefs to prepare food eliminating the Top 8 Allergens.  I think it would be amazing for Samantha to get to see her dream become reality while spreading awareness for EGIDs.  As an orphan illness we receive $0 in government funding unlike other gastrointestinal disorders.  Many children have few if any safe foods and live on formula; no cake at birthdays, no eating in the lunchroom or family meals, repeated doctor visits, tests and hospital stays… it is truly heartbreaking… Samantha wants a cure so she can taste the food she cooks.  I would love to at least see part of her dream come true by one of the cooking shows doing the Top 8 Elimination challenge, but how much greater if she could actually BE there and meet the chefs?!  She is a brave girl who has done numerous YouTube videos to spread awareness, I would love to see her given an opportunity to spread awareness even further.”

WOW!!!! How could I not try to help this courageous and inspirational young lady?

There are a few ways I may be able to help and I will try every one of them.

  1. I have contacted Samantha’s family to let them know her efforts have not gone unnoticed and that people like Stacey and I are working alongside her. (I encourage you to do the same via her Facebook page.)
  2. I will try to promote Samantha’s cause via this blog and all the social media tools I have at my disposal.
  3. I am forwarding her request on to every contact I have in television, particularly those at Bravo, which airs Top Chef.
  4. Posting links to her cause wherever I think it may gain traction.

I have no idea if my efforts will make her dream a reality, but nothing would make me happier than seeing Samantha on TV.

Food HurtsPlease add your name to Samantha’s Change.org petition. It only takes a second.

Make a tribute donation via CaringBridge.

Make a donation to CURED. Get this, 100% of your donation goes into researching a cure. 100%!!!

Visit her Facebook Page.

Watch her videos on YouTube

GR8 (PIF2): Learning Adventures

Pay It Forward #2 was requested by a teacher who has given up the confines of the traditional walled classroom in favor of experiential learning. Her new venture has exposed kids from around California to some of the great wonders of the world, not the least of which are the extraordinary cultures of Southeast Asia, via Friendship Tours.

From the Friendship Tours website…

Educational travel and community service programs for students and teachers. Experiential learning and volunteer projects create diplomacy and mutual prosperity for a more peaceful world.

We invite you to…

  • Transcend ordinary tourism.
  • Experience living history.
  • Join meaningful learning adventures.
  • Support global communities healing from war.

Teachers Travel Free!

Lead students on life-changing discoveries.

Friendship World ToursMy job is to review the educational material she has created to ensure that those joining her tours gain as much perspective and historical knowledge as possible. She wants the kids, and teachers, to maximize the intellectual returns on their investment of time and money. I love it!

There are 5 Units, each one broken down into 5 or so sections, plus quizzes, powerpoint presentations, worksheets and best of all, “Simulated Activities” for me to review. I am to go through it all looking for typos, to make sure lessons are clear, formatting is correct and essentially, that the material fulfills its intended purpose.

I’m looking forward to learning from the material and hoping this resolution will call attention to the great work Friendship is doing. To learn more about the tours, click HERE. If you are a teacher, you should definitely look into this. Teachers travel free!

Considering the work she is doing, asking her to pay this forward almost seems redundant, but she has agreed to do so. I’m hoping this PIF will reach across the globe following her travels.

GR7 (PIF1): Musical Mold

The first Pay It Forward giving resolution, sent to me via FB, is officially set.

“I was trying to think of a way for you to help the music programs here. But I can’t get past the ‘not in a financial way.’ I’ve been trying to come up with another way for you to give to that program. I need a few more weeks. Brain is fried. Maybe that’s what you need to give me–some new brain cells!

Maybe some sort of instrument drive? Or if I had the time and skills to research and apply for grants, that would be great too. Both the middle school and high school my kids are zoned for are Title I schools. There is little money in the county and state for music to begin with. Because we pull from a lower economic bracket, there isn’t much in the way of fund raising and personal donations. Our middle school band director said he wouldn’t recommend any of the school-owned instruments to the kids because they are full of mold. Gross! But for many families, renting a school instrument is the only option.”

So, how can I help the music program without writing a check? Well, if I could find a way to rid the instruments they already have of the mold, that would go a long way toward improving the music program. That way, more kids could play an instrument, the school won’t have to come up with funds and I’m not an enabler of financial waste.

UltrasonicAfter doing some research, I found out that mold in instruments is not a unique problem. The most common and effective way to get rid of the mold is by dipping the instrument into what is essentially a giant ultrasonic vat. There is a company out there that manufactures one big enough to dip an entire tuba. It holds 36 gallons and costs about $3,000. There is an instrument shop called All-County Music in Andrea’s area that has one, but they charge about $150 per instrument for the service.

Then I had an epiphany. I know someone who used to have a large ultrasonic machine in their factory, for a completely unrelated purpose. They’ve since retired, but I thought it worth a call to see if (a) he still has it and (b) it is big enough to fit a musical instrument. The answer to both questions was, “yes!” It’s only a 10 gallon version, so it won’t fit a tuba or trombone, but it will certainly do the job for almost all the other instruments when broken down. To make matters even better, the gentleman offered to deliver it to the school..

Andrea put me in touch with the music director so that I could work out the logistical details, but of course nothing is that easy when a bureaucracy is involved. While he was incredibly grateful for the help, he informed me I would have to seek approval from the county before we could proceed. I have moved it up the chain of command and as of this moment am awaiting a response.

However, as per my definition, even if they refuse my help, I have satisfied my resolution and look forward to seeing how Andrea pays it forward.

GR Resolution 7-11: Pay It Forward – “Success or failure for the GR will be determined solely by what I can control, namely that I carry out a favor, get confirmation that the favor will be paid forward and pass along the information for tracking it.”

LR10: Mindful Endurance

Barefoot HikingLast week one of the analysts at my firm (20 years younger than me) asked if I was doing the Pier to Peak half marathon 5 days later. Now I can’t explain why I respond in this way, but that isn’t the purpose of this post so it’s irrelevant right now. I answered by saying I didn’t realize it was this weekend, but sure, “why not?” So I immediately signed up (after checking “my” schedule with my wife). That was it. Five days later I would be participating in the 5th toughest half-marathon in the world.

Forget that my only exercise over the past several months had been barefoot hiking, so my cardio was even more limited than usual. Not to mention that I am still at the stage where my feet are breaking down so that they can toughen up. Every hike results in the soles of my feet getting a little bruised, the pads getting burned or scraped, and a toe or two getting beaten up. Ultimately, the goal of barefoot hiking is to slow my pace down, to allow me to be more mindful of where I am, not to get in shape. That is great, unless you decide to participate in a grueling endurance race.

P2P StartThe day before the race I was feeling antsy and needed to get out for a hike, so I did a 5 mile barefoot hike to the site of the yarn bomb. It was a nice cool day, so my soles didn’t burn, but I did manage to find lots of small, sharp pebbles to poke into the soft parts of my feet and create tiny polka dots of bruising. I would come to regret that hike less than 24 hours later.

Saturday morning at 6:30am, I lined up along side 371 other nut jobs to run 13.15 miles from the Santa Barbara pier to the lookout tower atop La Cumbre Peak, roughly 5,000 feet higher than the start. The course is rated a Cat 1 Climb, the steepest grade on a scale of 1 to 5, only to be outdone by what is called the “Hors Categorie”.

By mile 6, I was already questioning the intelligence of the decision to participate without any preparation. I hadn’t even thought through the right shoes to wear and the hot spots were beginning to develop.

P2P Mile 8By mile 8 my feet were in agony. Every step was pressing on the bruises and the thick padding that’s been developing across the balls of my feet felt like they were beginning to separate from my foot. I feared they would break away, leaving a very large, raw, open wound in a most crucial spot.

P2P Mile 11At mile 10.5, Gibraltar Road finally meets Camino Cielo, where I had expected the trail would turn left, leaving the majority of the remaining distance to be somewhat flat. I was wrong. They turned us right for a grueling half mile psych out that climbs up and around several blind corners. You know that every step you take will at some point need to be retraced, but you can’t see how far it is to the turnaround. Every runner coming back assures you “it’s just another 200 yards,” but only one of them is correct. My hamstrings are so tight, I can imagine just the slightest misstep will cause one or both to snap. My feet are on fire and I can no longer feel the three smallest toes on my left foot.

Finally, I reach the turnaround and head downhill for the first time since we started. I thought it would be a relief, but it made it even worse on my feet as they were mashed into the front of my shoe with ever step. The three little piggies on my right foot mentally disappeared as well. My mind was clear, I felt great cardio-wise, but my legs were shot and my feet, well, I don’t know how to describe the anguish they were causing me in those shoes. Uphill, downhill, it didn’t really matter. I just needed to get off of them and out of those shoes.

P2P Mile 11.5As I faced the final 1.65 miles, I recalled why I was there in the first place. It wasn’t a moment to escape, but a moment to revel in. This was the moment to become mindful of the anguish, to breath in the fresh air, to appreciate when my feet feel good and my legs are powerful. This was a highlight in my life, not a lowpoint. I wanted to experience every ounce of pain, for it was the extremity of the pain and anguish itself that made that moment stand out from all the mindless, petty stuff that takes up the majority of our lives. This, was a break from the mundane. This, was living and I wanted to wring every drop out of it. While I heard others complaining about the heat, I was mindful of even the slightest breeze and felt cool. I saw the steep climb that lie ahead and wished it were steeper. I knew that physically I was tapped out, but mentally I was gassed up and ready to go. In my head I was running at full speed, but to anyone witnessing my actions in the real world, I was barely giving the tortoise a run for his money.

P2P FinishAt the finish, I just wanted to grab my shirt, get on the bus and take off my shoes. During the party bus ride back down, it dawned on me that this was my first endurance event since becoming a vegan. I felt better aerobically than ever before, probably a result of the 13 pounds I’ve lost and the reduction of body fat by 33%. What I found most interesting is that normally after completing an event like that I have a mad craving for steak, but this time I simply craved calories. I thought it odd, because cravings are not a conscious choice. The fact that I had absolutely no interest in ingesting meat after this race, tells me I have accomplished Learning Resolution 7: Eat Right (Vegan).

LR10: Drilling for Mindfulness

Nothing, and I mean nothing, brings you into the moment like extreme pain. Actually the moment you realize with absolute certainty that its arrival is impending, now that is the moment of maximum mindfulness.

BeforeAt the risk of losing those of you who were on the fence about my sanity, I share this experience. A few weeks ago a piece of my tooth broke off. It’s a tooth with a very large old mercury filling. Today I went to the dentist to have the old filling removed and prep work (drilling) done for a new crown.

The dental hygienist led me to the chair saying, “I’ll take care of numbing you first.” Her jaw dropped when I told her I don’t get numbed for dental work. Just then, the dental assistant walked in and said, “Oh, right, Stephen doesn’t get numbed.”

I started getting dental work without any anesthesia or novacaine about 10 years ago. You see I hate that annoying numb feeling that stays with you long after visiting the dentist and even more, I hate all the shots in the gums. One visit, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to be numbed. It’s my right to do without it. That first time, when I had a cavity filled without any anesthetic, my senses were heightened beyond belief. I think the dentist was as nervous as me, too. He was worried I would flinch if he touched a nerve, which would have created a real problem for both of us. He gave me the warnings, then set up a signal I should use if I couldn’t take it any more.

In the ChairI won’t lie, it hurt like hell. The endorphins started to flow and that’s when it happened. I recalled a story about Dale Earnhardt, when during a race, he began snoring over his radio and his pit crew had to verbally wake him up. His ability to maintain calm to the point of sleep, even under the most extreme duress, earned him the nickname, The Intimidator. Some people are challenged by marathons. I am challenged to maintain calm under extreme physical duress. This was my Ironman triathlon.

I close my eyes and focus on every breath. I try to get a fix on my heartbeat and then physically slow it down with my mind. I visualize the instruments being used, how the tooth is being transformed and most of all, I create a mental image of the nerves. As they are sparked, I imagine something like a laser being shot from the end that was triggered up to my brain. By visualizing what is happening, I feel a sense of control over it. It’s difficult to describe, but it converts the pain from a feeling into something tangible, which is observed rather than experienced. (Is any of this making sense?)

AfterAnyway, since that time, I have had a tooth pulled, two root canals and many old fillings replaced, all without anesthesia and today was no different. At one point, the dentist used some kind of water/laser gadget that works like a drill but instead of spinning, it pounds away at the target. It turns out I have a cavity in the tooth next to where he was working and while trying to take care of it too, he bore through a good chunk of my gums as well (see picture). I saw colors and felt the pain radiate from every nerve in my body, but I never flinched. The assistants both even commented on how they were watching my hands to see if I was clenching my fists, but they saw no sign of anguish. I was focused on my heartbeat and breathing. I was aware of the pain, but I was merely witnessing it. It can’t be ignored and you can’t avoid it. I felt every bit of it, but it didn’t matter.

When he was finished, I was good as new. No numbness or pain. I said to the dentist and his assistants, “I can’t be the only patient who comes to you who does without anesthesia.” They all thought and looked at each other before answering, “Actually, you are.”

GR7-11: Pay It Forward

I’m going to take a slightly different tack with giving resolutions 7-12. For the remaining GR’s I am asking people to tell me how I can help them or someone they know, directly. In return, all I ask is that they pay that favor forward to someone else with the same stipulation. I will select 6 “favors” and we will track each one independently over their life. The hope is that a competition of goodwill will develop, we will see some interesting acts of kindness and meet some fun people along the way.

Success or failure for the GR will be determined solely by what I can control, namely that I carry out a favor, get confirmation that the favor will be paid forward and pass along the information for tracking it.

It all begins with you. Keep in mind how I have defined my Giving Resolutions when submitting your request, for that definition still holds for these.

Do 12 charitable things that don’t involve writing a check. I’m looking to inspire others and myself to be more caring and considerate by gaining a new perspective.

I’m hoping for some outlandish requests that will really make me push my limits physically, mentally or even socially, but I have a feeling it will be the really simple requests that are likely to have the biggest impact on me. If you can’t think of anything please share my request with someone who might.

 

LR8: Parkour Lesson 5

Parkour InjuryThis week we attempted to learn how to vault over higher walls, about 5 feet high. I pulled off a Kong vault and even a few 180’s, walking on my hands in mid flight. The biggest accomplishment of the night was my first cartwheel and the beginnings of a handstand (always wanted to do those). I said in the previous Parkour blog entry that every week I’ve gone home with a different injury and my record still stands. This week I rip my big toe nail back on itself. Not to worry though. I wrapped it in some paper towel, taped it up and was good to continue. Enjoy the video.

LR10: Barefoot Hiking

Sandstone

The goal for LR10: Mindfulness is to learn to live more in the moment, to strip life down to its essence. To get rid of the nonsense, and truly experience what I normally take for granted.

Becoming a vegan is perhaps the purest, most consistent way for me to be more mindful for it forces me to think about everything I take in. There is no drive thru for a vegan. When you’re at a party you can’t just grab a handful of whatever is put in front of you. You have conversations with the creators of your food, the chef. I think through the menu before making a reservation. I call days in advance to chat with the chef about possible dishes. It has made me more mindful of the chef’s part in my meal. Every meal has become more intimate for me.

Spiked Oak Leaves, Sticks and RocksLast year, I broke with my long held tradition of not running unless someone was chasing me. After reading Born to Run (my favorite book from a previous resolution to read 50 books in a year), I developed an interest in running. It started with weekly 5k’s, then a half marathon, a sprint triathlon and finally an ultramarathon. I bought a GPS watch, started tracking my trail runs and competing against my best times. Instead of enjoying my time in the mountains, just Stella and me, taking in the scenery, breathing in the air and sorting through my thoughts, I was focused and concentrated. It took all the joy out of hiking.

Sharp, annoying little rocksI wanted to return to my old ways, but it’s hard to break a habit. In fact, it requires extreme measures at times to break a habit, even one as simple as not running when you go for a hike. My solution? Go barefoot.

You see, running barefoot hurts. These aren’t asphalt surfaces, they are trails of spiked oak leaves, lined with poison oak, populated by rattlesnakes, with lots of sticks, sharp Atop Saddlerock Trailrocks, hot sand and tons of sandstone, which is like walking on sandpaper, not to mention the occasional dog poop. When you hike in big hiking boots or even trail runners, nothing fazes you. Water, rocks, poison oak, even snakes are of little concern. Hiking barefoot, on the other hand, requires you to be aware of every hazard including the threat of a stubbed toe. Essentially, it forces you to be mindful of your environment, to be aware of everything directly in front of you. Everything else is a distraction.

LR6: Ballroom Dancing Lesson 12

Barb and I have been taking lessons with Cassia at Arthur Murray in Santa Barbara for 2 months now. We’ve settled into a 2-3 times per week schedule lately and really enjoying it.  I’m beginning to understand what it means to lead on the dance floor a bit more, but it’s a process.

Couple of observations I’ve made, whether they are true or not, it’s at least accurate from my perspective. First, the ballroom is one of the few places left in this world where it’s ok to think of the male/female relationship in the traditional sense. It means the man calls the shots there and the woman takes her cue from him. He makes decisions and she simply follows. No discussions, no arguments. However, with power comes responsibility. I’ve come to understand that the man’s role is one of stability and determination. The woman’s role is that of the risk taker. She spins, she follows, she turns, etc. all at the man’s discretion. The man is effectively showing his woman off on the dance floor. His job is to make sure she actually looks good when the spotlight shines on her and then give her a safe, secure place to return to when the move is finished.

One other thing before you get to the video. I’ve discovered some great new music since beginning these lessons. One of my favorites, Dark Waltz by Hayley Westenra, can be heard beginning at 1:32 in the video when we are dancing the waltz. I play it every single day at home. The other favorite is a rhumba tune by Enrique Iglesias called Ring My Bells. I think it’s a pretty sexy tune and love dancing to it, but Enrique gets on Barb’s nerves so it’s a point of contention. Anyway, I play it all the time at home and occasionally we dance to it at the studio.

I know many of you have been dying to see video of our ballroom dancing experience, so here it is. I must warn you however, I’m not very graceful and it may be painful to watch at times. Tonight’s lesson was solely about learning a new move for use on the rhumba and waltz.

GR6: League of Professional Educators’ “What If” Campaign

Americans tend to be visually stimulated, meaning we tend to respond to images and videos over text and auditory messages. So in order to help people understand what the League of Professional Educators is trying to accomplish, we are creating an image of what the world will look like when our plan is fully implemented. Here are the first three steps in that direction.

What if America's BEST TEACHERS were revered like pop icons?What if America's BEST TEACHERS were paid like corporate titans?What if America properly valued the contribution of its BEST TEACHERS?

LR8: Parkour Lesson 4

Jackson returned from UCLA Film School to rejoin the parkour class with Joel at the new Valhalla Elite Training Center. I had to rush over immediately following my third ballroom dancing class of the week. I’m really packing it in these days.

We focused mainly on what are essentially vaults over short walls. We started by reviewing the vaults each of us had learned in previous lessons. I warmed up with the Butterfly, then learned the Shoulder Roll (gotta tuck more at the end), Kong (loved this one) and then we really pushed it by attempting the Panther. The panther is similar to the Kong, but you build a lot more momentum by almost diving over the first barrier. Success at all of this essentially comes down to simply letting go of the fear and going for it. Although it may look easy when you’re watching these videos, I can tell you it’s much harder than it looks. I’m encouraged by the fact that I go home with a different sore part each time. I think that means I’m pushing myself in a new way every week. This week it’s my left shoulder.

LR9: Klout

I was out for dinner the other night with one of my hedge fund’s investors and the topic ofBijaPoo on Klout Klout came up. I’d heard the word mentioned earlier in the week while on a business trip to NYC as well. Two unrelated mentions in one week perked my ears and piqued my interest, so I had to find out more.

First, both conversations focused on the fact that Justin Bieber has the most influence of anyone on the Internet and that companies are actually paying him to essentially do product placements on his Twitter, Facebook, et al accounts. How do they know he’s the most influential person in cyberspace? Well, he’s the only person in the world with a Klout score of 100 out of 100.

According to their website,

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others.

The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

    • True Reach: How many people you influence
    • Amplification: How much you influence them
    • Network Impact: The influence of your network

I’m a pretty heavy user of the Internet, so when I first signed up and received a score of just 13, it was pretty shocking. It made me wonder how low my less Internet friendly friends must be and also what it takes to boost it up. Then I saw a friend who isn’t social media savvy with a score of 17! I had to understand the score better.

Again, according to Klout’s website, “influence is relative so it depends on your goal and peers. The average Klout Score is not 50; instead, it is around 20. The Score becomes exponentially harder to increase as you move up the scale. For instance, it is much harder to move from a 70 to a 75 than from a 20 to a 25.” Wow, 20 is average and I’m a 13?! I wondered what it would take to improve my score to a more respectable level. Klout says, “the best way to increase your Score is to consistently create great content that people want to share and respond to. For the most accurate Score, we also recommend connecting all of your social networks.”

Turns out, it takes a couple of days for your networks to update on Klout. The 13 represented just my Twitter account. Once it added my Facebook page my score jumped to 23. It still hasn’t fully registered all of my networks, like YouTube, Instagram, 12for2012.com, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Blogger, but my score is already a very respectable 51. Pinterest, ravelry and many others are not yet incorporated.

Why should my Klout score matter to me? Power and influence is a good thing to have, whether in the real world or cyberspace. If I am going to be successful at launching LPE, it will certainly come in handy. (LPE’s Klout score is 23, but for some reason it’s only registering the LPE’s Twitter account. Since it’s influence is much greater on Facebook, that score should be much higher when it does register.)

Besides, even as it affects this blog, it’s much more fun writing for an audience.