In Case You Were Wondering

Mike sent me three questions he thought my blog readers would be curious about yesterday’s entry. I really didn’t know the answer his first question. I don’t know if there was any connection between my throat swelling up at dinner and my earlier fall. I know that the fish we ate (which was not crab) caused gastric distress for everyone at the table, though not the tightening of the throat. The huge bruise on my upper chest and collarbone indicates there might have been some swelling in the throat. I haven’t had any similar reaction to any of the foods we were eating, but I didn’t develop an allergic reaction to crab until i was nearly 35 years old, and it was a favorite, and common, food. Food allergies are notoriously difficult to detect.

What I can do is show you the birds that I crossed the street to photograph. Most of them were our local Chestnut-Backed Chickadee.

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

The other, probably the one whose bright yellow colors caught my attention, was this Golden-Crowned Kinglet.

 Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Neither shot was worth the fall I took, but both are some of the best shots I’ve gotten of these particular birds because they seldom expose themselves completely and are constantly moving. Even my expensive camera had trouble focusing on them before they flitted to the next branch.


Pride Goeth Before

I was about to write that despite all the hassles, I think my many techno-health devices have helped me to lead a healthier life by allowing me to monitor important physical aspects I ignored in the past. It‘s impossible to improve something if you aren’t aware of it; it’s difficult to improve something you can’t measure. I’ve made a number of healthier choices in the recent past, and, if the monitors I’m using are correct, I’m getting healthier, too.

Just how important that might be was called into question yesterday, though. After sunshine finally broke through the morning fog, I packed the car to go to Belfair and Port Orchard. As I was doing so I noticed a small flock of birds in the trees across the street. I couldn’t make them out, but they looked like birds I don’t often see. So, I took my camera, walked across the street and spent fifteen minutes photographing them. Meanwhile, a light fog had apparently settled in and the street iced up. As I walked back to the car I slipped and ended up flat on my back on the concrete. I hit so hard that I shredded the knee of my favorite pants and hit my back so hard that It completely knocked the wind out of me.

I didn’t notice the excruciating pain in my back and shoulder until I tried to get up and get out of the street. For a minute I thought I would have to call 911 because I wasn’t sure I could even make it back to the house. Somehow I managed to do so, however, and spent the next fifteen minutes on the front-room floor wondering if I’d seriously hurt myself or if it was simply a temporary pain that would soon fade. Apparently it was neither, because I didn’t end up going to the doctor but I’m still feeling the pain today despite several over-the-counter pain killers and am having trouble lifting my arm over my head. Still, it seems better today and seems like it will get better on its own.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I almost ended up in the emergency room on a totally unrelated incident later in the evening. We were eating dinner with Ted when I suddenly lost my voice. It wasn’t just hoarse; I could barely whisper. I could feel my throat swelling shut; though luckily it never reached the point of interfering with my breathing. Again, I thought of calling 911, but opted, instead, to go to our local Urgency Care Clinic. Before we left home, I took two Benadryl thinking it had to be an allergic reaction. There were a lot of people in line, and as I stood there waiting, my throat seemed to relax and I could begin to talk again, though it still sounded far from normal. It struck me that if I could actually wait through that long of line I wasn’t in critical enough condition to be at an emergency room, that whatever I was suffering from would eventually go away on its own like most allergic reactions I have had in the past.

I don’t think I would have reacted quite as radically to this event if I hadn’t already had two severe allergy attacks in my lifetime that have put me in the emergency room late at night. The first time was very similar to this one. I developed an allergy to crab and was nearly to the point of needing a tracheotomy by the time I decided I’d better not wait to see a doctor the next day. I haven’t eaten crab since, though I crave it at times. More recently, I ended up in the emergency room when I was overexposed to mold. I flew through the waiting line when they discovered I was having trouble breathing, and I discovered what my older brother must have felt like when he had asthma attacks as a child.

It may be worth the effort to try to stay in as good of shape as I can, but it’s hard to accept that nothing I can do will really make me immune to health problems as I age. It has always seemed ironical to me that I discovered my throat cancer when I was in the best shape of my adult life. My friend and I were hiking up to 25 miles a day in the mountains days before I ended up on the operating table. It was nearly two or three months before I could even start eating again, much less get out of the house to exercise on any regular basis. Of course, the doctor did say I had the best chance of recovery if I was in good physical shape, that he wouldn’t even perform the surgery unless I could walk at least a mile without stopping. Scary as these kinds of events are, they reminded me that I need to try to live each day to its fullest. As soon as I can hold my camera steady, I’ll be out shooting bird pictures again.


The Perfect Solution ?#!

I’m amazed sometimes how hard it is to gather up various thoughts and weave then together even when they seem to have a common thread. I’ve been trying to follow-up my earlier blog entry on the dilemma of “choices” with examples of how I’ve been frustrated while trying to find the “perfect” tool to make walking at the Y more enjoyable and more productive since experience shows if the walks aren’t “enjoyable” I won’t stick with them.

I’ve walked my whole life, and at this point in my life I’d rather go birding and photographing than do almost anything else. So, it’s easy to exercise on sunny days. I’m carrying nearly twenty pounds of equipment, and often walk six or more miles in a day without even realizing how far I’ve walked until I get home and sit down.

However, it rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest, creating less than ideal conditions for both birding and photography. If I’m going to walk I walk inside, and I don’t like to do that. It’s something I have to force, or trick, myself into doing regularly. It’s not enough to remind myself that I feel better when I exercise regularly, especially if I do it every day. That lasts for a week or two, and then I convince myself that I really shouldn’t overdo the exercise, that I’ll feel better if I take a day off (which, as it turns out, is often true). More importantly, if I have something going on at home that I enjoy, I’m severely tempted to skip a day, two, or more, at the gym. It’s always harder to start back than it is to take a day off.

It helps some that I have the Y fees automatically taken from my banking account because I’m frugal enough that the thought of wasting $90 a month keeps me going back at the end of the month when I get my bank statement. However, it takes more than guilt to go every morning for the whole month.

I’m also goal oriented, and I’m still trying to reach the “magical” 175 pound goal I set for myself last Spring. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but the last 5 pounds, the belly fat that I really wanted to lose, seems impossible to shed. I love food too much to starve myself enough to lose it, so I have to keep exercising if I want to lose it and not regain much of what I’ve lost already.

Sadly, technological toys also help keep me motivated. I started with an Omron pedometer that kept track of the distance I’d walked, the calories I’d burned, and the number of aerobic steps I’d taken. Instead of simply walking for a certain amount of time I began to set goals for a set distance, for a certain number of aerobic steps, or for a certain number of calories. Like most toys, though, it lost much of its appeal with time, even though it’s by far the best pedometer I’ve ever owned.

Then I strapped on a Polar pulse monitor that I bought several years ago but hadn’t used the battery ran out. That way I could time my walks and make sure that more of my walking was aerobic, which became harder to do the more I exercised. It reached the point where I couldn’t walk fast enough to get my pulse up to an aerobic level. So I found myself having to jog a lap every so often to get my heart rate up. The challenge and novelty of that kept me entertained for a few more months.

I was soon up to walking two and a half to three miles in 40 minutes four to five days a week at the gym. I was happy with the constant improvement, and the challenge of going a little further every day in the same time kept me entertained for a while longer. Eventually, though, the boredom of circling a small track 36 times in a row began to wear on me. It began to remind of those infernal treadmills I could never stand longer than five minutes. I was at the point where I was going to have to jog the whole way to go further or to maintain an aerobic pace, and I’d long ago decided that jogging that much set off the arthritis in my hip and lower back.

So, I bought an iPod Shuffle and started listening to music while walking the track, something I’d sworn I’d never do. I generally find music annoying while exercising because I like to focus on how my body feels. I’ve never understood why people would walk at the beach wearing earphones since listening to the waves break at the beach or birds sing are a vital part of the experience of being out in nature. However, walking a 1/12th of a mile track for forty minutes was so boring I needed something to make it bearable, and listening to music did that.

I should have been perfectly satisfied with this set up, but I was carrying so much gear that more often than not, particularly on mornings when Leslie and I l had to leave at 6:10 am to go to Tai Chi, I would leave something home. Even when I didn’t forget something, I was frustrated with all the wires needed to make those electronic devices run. I knew there had to be a better solution, and I thought I’d found it in the new iPad Nano with bluetooth.

With a bluetooth headset and a bluetooth heart monitor everything could be run through a clip-on about the size of a pack of gum, no cords needed. The perfect solution. I should have known it wasn’t to be. The Nike’s Nano’s pedometer didn’t even need setting; I walked a mile on the track and it showed I had walked .99 miles. Then I discovered that there was no permanent record of any of those walks. They were erased as soon as you pushed “stop.” That didn’t make me happy. Even worse, despite showing it had connected to the pulse monitor my pulse wouldn’t show up if was walking. Apparently you have to be running to make it register. Of course, none of the reviews or promotional material I’d read from Apple or Nike mentioned that.

Now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just use my iPhone, which works perfectly on my outdoor walks using GPS. And since I always carry a phone, wallet, etc. when I’m away from home, the extra weight isn’t a problem like it is when wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt. I would have to buy an additional strap to mount my iPhone on my arm since there’s nowhere else to put it. What really bothers me, though, is that I will have no real use for the $150 iPod Nano I just bought.

Reluctant to do that, so far I’ve just carried my pulse oximiter and looked at it when I want to check my pulse, with the added advantage of being able to check my blood-oxygen levels. It works fine, but it’s “clunky,” and I have a tendency to leave it home. It’s certainly not the elegant solution I was hoping for.


Dirty Face Lodge

Leslie and I spent a long weekend at Dirty Face Lodge just outside Leavenworth with Lesie’s daughter and family, It was Leslie’s Christmas present from Margaret.

Saturday morning all of us set out snowshoeing at Lake Wenatchee State Park. Since this is the first time I’ve snowshoed in several years I didn’t want to carry all my camera equipment since I wasn’t sure how well I would do. Big mistake. The best photo opportunity of the trip was this shot of Dirty Face Mt across Lake Wenatchee. The light was nearly perfect. Luckily, I was carrying my iPhone.

 Lake Wenatchee

It may have produced the best shot of the trip.

Saturday evening we went on a sleigh ride.


It was a fun trip, but I should have worn heavier snow gear.

I took my wide-angle lens and not my telephoto lens in hope of getting some good snow shots. Leslie and I spent several hours Sunday stopping beside the Wenatchee River trying to capture some of it’s natural beauty.

Highway to Leavenworth

Even HDR photos seemed incapable of capturing the beauty of the snow unless the light is perfect. I knew from experience that it would be difficult to capture the texture of the snow, but I may have underestimated just how hard it really is.

The only way I know to improve, though, is practice. So, here are some more practice shots.

Highway to Leavenworth

I really loved the combination of rushing water and snow but had an even tougher time capturing both because you couldn’t use HDR because of the need tot “freeze” the water.

 Wenatchee River

Still, this was my favorite Sunday shot. I do love visiting the snow in the mountains. I only wish it had been warmer when we got home.