One Month At A Time

Wednesday Weigh In

Current weight: 202 pounds

Current goal weight: 180 pounds, though I am considering dropping that to 170.

Weight medical professionals believe I should be: 144 or approximately the weight of a chubby wildebeest.

Blood pressure: 97/70 (medicated, but we’re checking with the doc this afternoon about cutting back or dropping the meds –fingers crossed. I could spend that extra money on HBO)

Caffeine: Two cups of pretty decent coffee.

Cans of diet soda consumed this week: Enough that I know I’ve had too much.

Captain America t-shirt: Today, I’m wearing a dress shirt, khakis and dress shoes, which is very much out of costume. Four people have told me how nice I look, which is an improvement from yesterday when I was told that I looked taller in print, but that I’m more handsome in person.

I get the strangest comments from random men on the street or in grocery stores.

General outlook: Feeling kind of groovy.

Opportunity to try something

Just passing this along.
During the year I spent trying to be a vegan, I attended the Kanawha Valley Vegan Potluck several times. I never had a bad meal and always had at least one thing that seemed much better than I thought it had any right to be.
Every now and again, someone will ask me why I didn’t stick with the lifestyle and the diet. The short answer is that it was far easier not to be a vegan than it was to try and remain so.
Other people can do that just fine, but it was a lot of stress for me.
These days, my diet is plant heavy and healthier than before I did the year as a vegan. I make a lot of meatless meals, eat veggies I didn’t eat before, but I’m not a vegetarian.
Still, I learned a lot from going to the Vegan Potluck. You can pick up recipes, ideas and eat pretty good.
Nobody seems to mind if you get seconds. It’s sort of encouraged.
Anyway, here’s the release:
Sunday January 20th, 6-7 30 p.m.
Kanawha Valley Vegan Potluck Group, monthly meetup. All are welcome to bring and try out plant based recipes. Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd.  West, WV 25302
Looking at the start of the new year to get healthier, make more environmentally responsible life choices ? A vegan diet can offer all of these. Sit down over a plant based meal with area vegans, for wide ranging discussions and delish food. Not sure what to bring if you are coming for the first time, just bring something simple, fruit, or hummus. Lots of recipes ideas are also available  on the internet. All food is made without any animal products.
Contact Chris Higgins, Contact Phone # 304 881 7037

Monday morning update

Things are going along swimmingly with CrossFit. (no actual swimming is involved).

Friday evening, I tried out CrossFit Never Give Up in South Charleston. Today, I’m off to Mountain State Force CrossFit in Hurricane. By the end of the week, I should be visiting a CrossFit in St. Albans and, hopefully, making the trip to Huntington next week for CrossFit Thunder.

In between, I’ll be doing the WODs at CrossFit WV.

It’s a lot of CrossFit.

Meanwhile, I have rejoined self-defense class at Butch Hiles Brazillian Jujitsu –and by rejoined, I mean I attended one class over the weekend, the first in several months.

We learned some stuff about take downs and getting out of one type of headlock.

I also read to my usual groups of second graders. They weren’t fans of “Nate the Great.”

I don’t think they liked the old school art and they may not have been able to follow the detective story plot well.

The other book, “I Will Not Read This Book,” was a modest hit –just too short for the time allowed.

I’ll need to dig up something better for this week, perhaps do a little research.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions for books 7-year-olds might like?

The kids like rhymes and humor, but still lean more toward books with lots of pictures instead of something text driven.

Resolutions: Update 1

Last weekend, I got started with trying to loosen the grip social media has on me.

While I didn’t manage to stay completely off Instagram or Facebook, I did cut it back a lot. I was completely off Friday, mostly off Instagram and Facebook Saturday and used it a little bit on Sunday.

I’m going to call that encouraging. The point isn’t to shun social media, just get it back in check and keep away from mindlessly scrolling through canned updates and pictures of food, which feels a little like flipping through a magazine to look at the advertisements.

I hope to cut off social media after 6 p.m. tonight and, again, mostly stay off the sites until Monday morning. I will probably post check-ins for my current month’s project, which is coming along swimmingly.

It’s not easy being last, but somebody has to do it.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be visiting with two additional CrossFit gyms, taking a class with each of them.

The trainer at Never Give Up in Charleston promised something special.

I am hopeful she meant cake.

I don’t even want to know how many burpees that would cost.

Meanwhile, with the weight loss and getting healthy portion of the mission, I’m having to step up clearing out my closet.

The extra large button up shirts are getting tossed out, one by one. I’m a little sad to see some of them go, but… I really haven’t done a real wardrobe update in a couple of years and I was swimming in them.

My usual t-shirts are just fine, though I suspect I will have to replace some of them by summer.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

This one goes back to year one and the thing I did that still haunts my dreams.

On the other hand, I also got a nice pair of boots that same day for less than $20.


Everyone seemed baffled that I’d never been to Bridge Day.

Each year, tens of thousands of people come to Fayette County to watch people defy death, leap off the edge of a perfectly good bridge and parachute to the ground.

There are also people selling corn dogs and nachos to eat while you watch, if you’re interested, but I’ve never really wanted to go.

It was a general lack of interest. I didn’t care so much about watching people jump off a bridge, and I absolutely had no intention of doing something like that myself.


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Wednesday Weigh In

Height: 5’7″

Current weight: 204.2 pounds.

Current goal weight: 180 pounds.

Weight medical professionals believe I should be: 144 or about three second graders.

Blood pressure: 127/79 (though medicated and I maybe dispute this. The machine said my pulse was 60. That seemed unlikely)

Caffeine: Quite a bit, actually. A coup of green tea, a sugar-free energy drink and a cup of coffee. My co-worker Jenn suggests I should maybe drink more water, which might account for my low pulse.

Cans of diet soda consumed this week: They’re on special. It’s fine.

Captain America t-shirt: Today, I am sporting a plain sweater and khakis pants, if you can believe that.

General outlook: Kinda hungry, actually.


Doing things

Every now and again, someone asks me about how I come up with ideas for “One Month at a Time.”

The usual answer is that about half of the topics are things I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much to learn about. The other half are things either an editor or someone else has come up with that sounded pretty good for one reason or another.

Good is a relative term. Often, what makes for a good idea is something that sounds awful to me like handling guns, performing in front of a large crowd or committing to some kind of exercise plan.

Generally, these are also the things I come to with little actual knowledge but some preconceived notions.

I also have a list of things that I’d like to do, but haven’t been able to work out for one reason or another.

A few of these include Islam, scuba diving, caving and working in a Chinese restaurant.

When I thought the newspaper might be ending (or at least the part of my life where I worked for a newspaper), I chose to bump up learning to fly as a topic.

That was a fairly harrowing month, actually.

There is also a list of things suggested to me that sound like terrible, possibly career-ending, ideas that I consider and reconsider from time to time.

I’m not going to post any of those.

I do take suggestions. Some of my favorite months came from topics pushed forward by readers. It’s how I found myself performing with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Kanawha Kordsmen. It’s how I got involved with Spring Hill Cemetery and a historical reenactment.

So, what do I need to make a suggestion work?

Well, contact with people who can help me do the work and move the topic forward.

Sometimes, when people write or call in, they have great ideas. One that gets brought up over and over is spending a month with the police, but… it’s never the police who bring this idea up.

Feasibility to accomplish something inside of about a month.

The police example is problematic because to actually be a police officer requires quite a bit of training. Nobody is going to turn me loose with a badge and gun and tell me to go fight some crime.

Probably, Fox has already turned that into a reality television show.

Even walking me through the high points would be time consuming for everyone involved –and the suspicion would be that the police would shield me from actual danger, like going on patrol and dealing with the evil-doing public.

So, that probably wouldn’t work.

Also, cost.

A column like “One Month at a Time” is a labor of love for me. This is the best gig I’ve ever come up with, but like all other writing I’ve done, it’s not particularly lucrative.

I put a lot of time in. Some of it, I get paid for. Some of it, I do not.

I have expenses. Some of these I can turn in. Others, I can’t for one reason or another.

I operate on a shoestring budget. So, a willingness to invite me along as a guest instead of a paying customer helps.

Every once in a while, we’ll have to pick up the check for something, but it’s best to keep my costs low for long-term viability.

Generally, I think this works out. I try to be upfront that I’m going to write whatever needs to be written, whatever I notice, whatever happens to me, whatever I learn, but the exposure for whoever is probably good.

Anyway, if you’ve got an idea for a month or want to invite me along to do something, send me an email:

Monday morning updates

On Mondays, I’m going to try to update on what’s happening with my ongoing “One Month” projects –these are things that I’ve picked up and continued, even after the month is done.

People often ask whether I’ve kept up with anything past the usual, one-month engagement.

So far, I’ve remained a member of the Kanawha Kordsmen.

I still go (mostly) to Monday night rehearsals at the Columbia Gas Transmission building, still perform with the group and still have a long way to go before I feel really happy about the way I sing.

By the way, every Monday night is guest night. If you feel like giving it a shot, stop on by at 7:15. It’s a pretty good time.

I’m also considering doing one of the Valentine’s Day quartets, but that’s pretty in-your-face –and like I said, I have a long way to go before I feel really happy about the way I sing.

If we could just increase the quartets to about eight people, including four other basses, I’d be good, I think.

I’m still doing Read Aloud, which was the one thing I picked up in 2018.

I still have my two second grade classes and I’ve recently added a Pre-K/Kindergarten class, which had a bit of a false start this morning. They had some kind of safety drill, which threw off my schedule.

Never following a fire alarm seemed like one of those rules in show business I didn’t want to break. On my way out, as the alarm sounded and I watched a teacher console a terrified, little girl who thought it was the end.

I don’t know. I may have screwed up there. “If you give a Mouse a Cookie” might have helped soothe some nerves, but I’m still new at this.

In December, I did a repeat on my performance with the Charleston Ballet. That was a good time, particularly since I wasn’t pretending to be Jane Goodall.

If I can work it in again, I’d love to be part of the 2019 production, but there may be scheduling issues. I have entered into negotiations for a project that may not allow me to participate.

According to my bank account, I am still taking self defense classes. I just haven’t been attending regularly for the last six months.

I’m a work in progress, I guess.

Resolutions for 2019

Every year, almost, I make a list of things I want to do or try or things I want to give up and then I kind of fail at around half of them (or much more).

This is pretty normal. Most resolutions by most people fall by the wayside.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking about lists and what I want to do and what I want to change. From my newspaper pal Becca Carballo, I heard about S.M.A.R.T. resolutions (which I would have heard about earlier, if I’d followed through with another resolution to read the New York Times every day).

The acronym stands for:

Specific (concrete goals)

Measurable (Find a way to document your progress)

Achievable (within the realm of possibility for you)

Relevant (Make the goal for the right reasons)

Time-Bound (Achievable in the time allowed)

This seemed like a good place to start.

Meanwhile, my former cubicle-mate Carlee Lammers posted this really interesting way of setting goals incrementally, to build habits instead of setting yourself up to fail with big, sweeping statements about doing this or that.

So, I have sort of adapted the two concepts into something I’m going to try.

The things I most want to change or improve in my life are my health and how I spend my time outside of work. I lean more and more toward being sedentary, spend way too much time on my phone or in front of a television, and not enough time interacting with the real, physical world.

I often talk about doing things and going places, but tend to just skip them in favor of something easier and cheaper.

It’s learned behavior; a habit that can be corrected.

What I’ve come up with is 12 months of changes that I hope will make me modestly happier with myself by the end of the year –nothing too crazy.

Here’s the schedule:

January –Turn off social media on the weekends (6 p.m. Friday night).

February –Meet four different friends for four different lunches.

No social media on the weekends.

March –Read one big book (something longer than 200 pages and more complex than your average pop fiction novel)

Two lunches with two different friends.

No social media on the weekends.

April –Clean out closets, cupboards and bins at my house, toss old clothes and stuff I don’t use. Reduce clutter.

Read one big book.

Two lunches with two different friends.

No social media on the weekends.

May –Run at least one 5K race.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Read one big book.

Two lunches with two different friends.

June –Spend one weekend without internet, television or video games.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K race.

July— Attend the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky (I have already purchased tickets, but having tickets has not stopped me from skipping in the past).

One weekend without television, internet or video games.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K race.

August –Participate in the Spartan Race at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

One weekend no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

September –Attend either the Dublin Flea Market in Pulaski, Virginia or the Hillsville Flea Market in Virginia (both are huge markets I enjoyed as a kid)

One weekend no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

October –Clean up yard, prune and get ready for winter.

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

November –Holiday with family (I’ve gotten out of the habit, but hope to do this every year).

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

December –Take a vacation that is free and clear of any work obligations.

De-clutter house for winter.

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.



TBT: How this all got started

Ideas sometimes come from weird places.

For example, just before the office Christmas party, where I planned to eat my weight in ham, turkey and cheese, I got an email from a publicist for something called “Veganuary.” The email read:

“The worldwide Veganuary campaign is back, and they want everyone to try great food, feel fantastic, reduce animal suffering, and tread lighter on the earth.

“People in 115 countries pledged to try veganism this past January. The final tally: 71 percent of participants felt an improvement in their health in just one month, 65 percent learned something new about animal agriculture, and a whopping 51 percent said they’re staying vegan permanently. Best of all, organizers say, Veganuary 2015 saved the lives of 1,596,180 animals.”

After snickering about another hippie marketing campaign, I took a second to think about it — what did I know about vegans or veganism?

Not much, really.


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