Minty Fresh

For the past week, I couldn’t figure out why I was burping mint. It wasn’t anything bad, it was just minty. I have been using a new fish oil capsule and was wondering if that was the culprit. I asked my wife and she checked the label. "Mint". Awww, yes. I guess that’s better than burping fishy smells.
#diet #supplements #burps

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Flood Duty with the Army National Guard

My heart goes out to those soldiers who are serving to help civilian communities. I was thinking back to a time in the mid-1990’s when I was called to flood duty.

Fortunately, I was done with classes, but my research plots were being planted and prepared for the year. I was a Doctoral graduate student in Crop Sciences working on diseases of corn. My help was badly needed, but the crew I worked with in my lab knew really well how to get the job done. So I am very grateful they could do the work in my place. However, I had a lab mate who didn’t see it that way.

Do you ever know someone who has traveled a bit and thinks what they’ve seen is monolithic in thought and presence for an entire community? As a young lady, she visited New Mexico for an extended stay. She experienced some aspects of Native American life. The problem is that she came to think she knew everything about Native America from that one trip. So she would infer things on me as a Native American about how I should think and do. There are around 567 Federally recognized tribes with their own traditions, languages, and history. You can’t make a blanket statement about two tribes that border one another, yet across the entire country. The problem is, her short-sighted viewpoints are reflected in many people’s eyes. I see it all the time.

This same lab mate also had a boyfriend who was in the Navy. She visited him a time or two and interacted with his ship and shipmates. She talked about the crazy things they did and "how sailors are". But she couldn’t leave it at that. She now extrapolated the experiences of a couple sailors to all of the military. So when I went away for weekend training or my two weeks in the Summer with the Army National Guard, she just thought I was one of her sailors. She didn’t have a clue about the legitimate work I was doing. As an Infantry Scout Platoon Sergeant, we often spent the entire weekend without much sleep doing maneuvers through the night. After a training weekend, I would walk out into the corn fields totally exhausted. Yet she would ridicule me for my goofying around all weekend. She didn’t have any idea of what I was doing.

I would say, before you make judgments about anyone, walk a few days in their shoes. Learn and understand what they really do in life. It might surprise you how hard and important their work is.

After a Spring of massive snow melt and heavy rain, I got a call from my guard unit. We were to report in 24 hours for flood duty. The rain was causing levees on the Illinois River to be saturated and in fear of collapsing. I always had a Go-Bag ready if something went down. So I grabbed it and went. We started loading up 2.5 ton trucks (Deuce & Half) with gear and people and convoyed to the staging area. Since school was out, we unloaded cots into a high school gymnasium. We got situated and received briefings about our conduct. Since I was the highest ranking enlisted man in my unit, I ended up acting as the Company First Sergeant. I also didn’t have any Officers, so I was a one-man show on the leadership side of things. Out on the levees, I was just one of the guys. But when it came to moving personnel, discipline, inspections, organizing food, and all the other things that needed to be done, I was the Man.

Every morning at 5am, I’d wake up my unit and we’d get ready to move. Since we didn’t have a chow hall or cook staff, we got loads of food from the local Hardee’s and other fast food places. That’s not all bad because I love their biscuits and gravy. Then we’d load up the trucks and take a half hour trip to a location on the levees. A dump truck would drop a whole pile of sand bags and we’d start putting them into place. For the unaware, a heavy sandbag gets really heavy in a very short time. You start to feel it in your back, shoulders, and legs. But the worst of it all is your forearms. Since you grip every single bag, your forearms swell to Popeye the Sailorman’s proportions. You’d have to open and close your hands several times in the morning or after a break to get them working again. Then you get to a point where pain turns to numbness and then back to pain and sometimes they stop functioning. You’d have to cradle sandbags in your arms because you couldn’t grip them anymore. Add to that, you are in muddy, humid, hot sun with mosquitoes and gnats in your face. In an even bigger flood, some of my guys talked about dead cattle and pigs floating by and water moccasins. When we worked at times at a sand bag filling location, we often worked alongside convicts from a local prison who were recruited to the same duty.

While on duty, each site had to have an evacuation plan and a rally point. We needed to have a good head count of our people at all times. At any time, a bubbling levee could give way and we had to know where our people were and if they were safe. If a levee actually blows out, it may not end well for anyone in the path of the water.

But even more than the physical toll was the mental toll. After a week, you become zombies. Knowing home is not far away, you start to think about your options in life. You wonder about decisions you’ve made. My guys start to get into trouble for sneaking alcohol or partying at night and not functioning in the morning. And of course, I was the guy who was supposed to stamp out trouble. Many of the farmers were extremely thankful for our help because their farms and homesteads were in peril. They would bring baked goods out to us or sandwiches and drinks. We were grateful for those treats when we could get them. However, one County Commissioner didn’t make me very happy. He was close to us talking with one of his officials. He said "we need to get more peons working on this site!" Really, peons?!! I was a Ph.D. student. We had lawyers and doctors who were among our group; and many intelligent and hard working people throughout our ranks. When I was on Active Duty with the Army, this wasn’t true. Almost all of the enlisted troops were right out of high school like me. Only the Officers had gone to college. Whereas, I’d say 60% in the National Guard are college graduates or currently in college. The rest of us were electricians, salesmen, carpenters, politicians, or serving society in some significant way. So his lack of appreciation threw me for a loop. I just kept thinking and reminding my troops of the good we were doing for that community.

After several weeks on the levees, we all returned home safely. We were happy to do our part for our State and communities. We were ready to heal our aching backs and forearms and get back to normal life. My wife and dogs were so happy to see me and I was happy to be home. I was ready to get back to my research and tending to my field plots. But that one lab mate who knows it all gave me her same old gruff. I was just goofing off according to her. I really wish should could have spent one single day doing what I did. She would know of the intense physical and mental hardship we faced every day. The same is true with troops and sailors all around the world. You can’t even fathom what they are facing every single moment of the day and night.

Appreciate first. Be thankful. Never judge.

Thai Yoga Massage: Back walking

I’m a huge fan of Ashiatsu massage, where they walk on you while the therapist holds on to bars mounted to the ceiling. Its one reason I love Thai Yoga Massage too. There are so many opportunities to be creative. I use a walker for back walking, which is stable but kind of creaky. I know of therapists in SE Asia that balance without holding on to anything. Ahem, my weight fluctuates a lot and I’m currently at 194 pounds. That might be a bit too much for someone. One-footed pressure works super well too and I do it all the time, especially for legs and calves.

No Response

I was in a meeting with a colleague yesterday. I guess you could say we are Old School military guys. We are only a few years apart in age and we’ve been down some of the same paths in life. We got to talking about recent interactions with researchers.

One thing about me is I dislike having unread emails, texts, social media replies, or unanswered phone calls in my queue. Those things add up really fast in our busy world. I don’t even like having a stack of mail. I try to wade through all of it as fast as possible. Efficiency experts talk about touching any correspondence only once. Don’t file it away to deal with later. Touch it once and be done with it. If it needs to get tossed in the trash, toss it. But don’t let it sit there. If you let it pile up, it becomes a mountain and you’ll completely demotivate yourself from climbing the mountain. It all gets to be too much.

So my colleague is going to be out of country and asked that I let him know of any changes to our projects. He said he’s having trouble with a lot of the new guys he works with. They never update him and don’t respond to emails. Wow, I know that only too well.

I wonder if it is that I was in an era where if you didn’t answer the phone (a landline, not cell phone), you missed the call. We didn’t even have answering machines for the longest time. And there wasn’t caller ID. Those are things I come to depend on today. But I learned long ago to be responsive and efficient.

I wonder if the newer generations are overloaded. They were raised in an era where the firehose of information has always been on full blast. So their way of coping is to just not think about it. The result is, I don’t get responses to emails or texts. I don’t get a response from yoga teachers who I offered to sub for them. So I don’t know if I’m subbing for them or not. I don’t get responses the days before a business trip where we are to fly out of town. So I just run with the plan I offered and hope they read it. If they would just respond to communications, all would be a lot less stressful.

In CrossFit, we have workouts called Chippers. A chipper is a list of exercises that are done for however many reps. You do the first exercise, then move to the next. One example is the Filthy Fifty. Its like 8 or 10 exercises done for 50 reps each. If you try to wrap your ahead around the entire WOD and how long its going to take, you freak out. So you don’t think about it. Instead, you "Chip" away at it one exercise at a time. Finish that exercise and go to the next. In the end, you’ve chipped away at the mountain.

Dave Ramsey is a financial adviser who uses a similar concept for debt reduction. You chip away at debt until it becomes more manageable and then goes away. The idea is the opposite of what most people do. If I have 10 debts, then work on the smallest first. Pay it off completely. Then take the money you were putting into that smallest debt into the next smallest. This accelerates the rate at which you get rid of debt. In the end, you just have one larger debt to get rid of. But you use all that new capital to eat quickly away at the big debt. When you get rid of debt, then you put that money that you’ve been using for the debt into savings. Then don’t touch it. Eventually when your car breaks down, your furnace goes out, whatever, you can pay with cash and not credit. Never get into debt again. And by all means, don’t turn your savings into a vacation fund. That’s not why its there.

This is true with communications as well. If you list of all the contacts you need to make, then quickly make the easy ones first. Do it and get it off your list. But once you’ve completed all those contacts, then stay on top of them. Only touch them once. Don’t wait to respond. Just contact them right away. Answer the email. Answer the text. Then you won’t have a "debt" of responses. You are free and clear of anything hanging over your head. It is so mentally releasing to know that nothing is outstanding.

Communicate effectively and efficiently. Only touch your mail once. That’s the key.

I don’t give advice anymore

Well, I give critiques all the time as a yoga teacher. When I was a new yoga teacher, I would give unsolicited advice to people that I saw online as well. Whew was that a stupid move. When I think about it, I would never just walk up to some random person in a gym and say, hey buddy, you’re doing it wrong! That advice never goes over very well.

Yes, I want people to be safe. Yes, I want them to function better in life. But if they are not asking you for help, then I don’t offer. In a yoga class, yeah I’m the teacher. I am supposed to instruct. But out on the street, I’m just any old Joe Blow who needs to mind his own business. Who am I to say something?

Yet I see people critique form all the time. The YouTube comments, Instagram advice, and Facebook critics are all ready to yap their gums. I’d say maybe 1 or 2% of the people will respond positively to advice when not asking people for it. The rest are going to tell you to take a hike.

The only place I say things is in places where I have a qualified voice to speak and a position of authority. When I was a yoga teacher for a local health club, the marketing person would ask me to provide a paragraph to describe a class or workshop I was teaching. Then, they would supply an image. The problem is, they don’t know yoga. A lot of clothing companies, especially back in the day, would place a model into a yogic pose when the model often didn’t do yoga. The alignment, drishti, hand placement, everything was wrong. If you look at Ardha Matsyendrasana on Instagram, nearly half of the yogis turn the wrong way (like in the picture above). Their warrior poses look awful. It just doesn’t work. So in this case, I’d say something.

To be honest, I don’t like having people tell me what to do either. I was in the Army for a long time and had enough of getting yelled at (even though I was a yeller myself as an Infantry Drill Instructor). But if you go to a yoga class or a CrossFit session, the teacher has the authority. You go there to get useful instruction. And that’s what I provide in those settings.

I was just listening to a podcast which spurred on these thoughts. They are super qualified to instruct people, but they don’t offer it when its not their place. Everyone should know their boundaries. Even when I take a yoga class, I don’t critique the yogi next to me unless it appears extremely unsafe. But I almost never see that so I don’t say anything. I’m just another yogi.

Stay in your own lane people!

Its not Tendonitis

The poor little tendons always get a bad rap. Then people want to mash on them when its not their fault.

I’ve told this story before. When you get tightening in your muscles, resulting in trigger points, the muscle shortens and stays shortened. That’s the answer. You don’t have to read further.

But if you insist, muscles stretch much further than a tendon ever could. A tendon only stretches to 2-5% of its length, which is not very far. A tendon’s function is to attach a muscle to a bone. Its function is not to stretch. It needs to be very firm and solid to the bone.

But we tend to want to rub all over it and blame it for our woes. Yeah, sometimes you feel pain in the tendon. So we call it inflammation of the tendon, or "tendonitis". When really it doesn’t have much to do with the tendon at all. Its the muscle that is shortened that is pulling with all its might against the tendon. Then, when we try to function by walking, squatting, or whatever we do, we feel it in the tendon. When the problem is a muscle that has shortened and seized into that position.

If you work out the trigger point through massage, heat, and stretching, then the tendon pain will go away. Its as simple as that. It can be released in a single massage session or may take some extra work to release. But I promise you it will release and you won’t have pain in your tendon anymore.

Click on the "Book Now" button on my Facebook page to find healing. Thai Yoga Massage was made for this. Not only do I use focused pressure at the trigger point, but I also stretch it to get the muscle fibers gliding properly again. Come see me!!