The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

November 25, 2014

Going Around the Table, 2014 Edition

Filed under: Family, Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:32 am

Well, it’s just about time for Thanksgiving once again, which is always one of the nicer holidays out of the year.  In many ways, I actually like Thanksgiving better than I like Christmas these days because aside from the occurrence of the holiday itself people don’t really make a big deal out of it the way they do for Christmas (although the creep of Black Friday into Thanksgiving itself does seem to be something of a worrying trend.)  That leaves us free to enjoy it for what it is: a time for the family to get together from its scattered  and give thanks for the blessings in our life, enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving feast (and the now traditional complaints about we keep having turkey every year) and watch certain people get way too worked up about the Cowboys game.  Also, as I’ve previously discussed on this Blog a number of times, one of the Vanderhoeven family traditions that we follow is that in one form or another, we all take some time on Thanksgiving to talk about the things that we are thankful for.  Although the format has changed over the years, the notional idea of “Going Around the Table” still remains, so I continue to stick with that.

As I’ve done each year since 2008, I like to take this opportunity to discuss some of the things that I am thankful for in my life.  And although the idea may admittedly seem a little trite these days, I still find that these posts serve as something of an annual checkpoint for me as to where I am with my various life goals and accomplishments, dubious as they may be sometimes.  To be perfectly honest, I really try not to write too much about my personal life here on my Blog, mostly because I’m pretty boring.  That said, I do feel that on occasion it is necessary to write at least a little bit here and there, partially because every once in a while something interesting does actually happen that’s worth sharing, and partially because I do keep this Blog as something of a personal record, and it can be useful to go back and have some of these things available to read again later.

Generally in these Going Around the Table posts I do try to talk about where I am and what I’m doing at any given time, but I do have the tendency to keep things vague, mostly out of respect for the privacy of the friends and family members who might not want me plastering their lives all over the Internet (and I can’t say I blame them.)  Nonetheless, when I go back and read these posts, it becomes pretty clear to me where I was at the time, and what was to come.  And although I generally try to keep these posts (and my Blog in general) fairly upbeat, there have been times when I can go back and read these posts and see that I was clearly struggling with one thing or another at any given time.  There used to be a time when I was incredibly cynical about…  well, just about everything really.  It’s a bad habit to get into, and even now I find myself falling into it every once in a while, but at least I think I’ve managed to get better at not showing it over the years.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure it manages to sneak in every so often.  Nonetheless, it’s still instructive to see where I’ve been and where I was going at the time (hindsight, of course, is 20/20.)

That said, I really don’t have anything to complain about right now.  Even if I don’t see them nearly as much as I used to these days as a lot of us have gone off in whatever various directions life has taken us in, I’m still grateful for a loving and supportive family that I know I can rely on if I ever need them, and which has seen the addition of a niece and a nephew over the course of the past year.  I’m also grateful to have friends that share my offbeat sense of humor (I have to say that we both do a surprisingly good job of putting up with each other’s antics, all things considered) and whom I can trust to be there when I need it.  I would be the first to admit that I tend to be slow to get to know people (some of that is me having trouble putting names to faces sometimes, and some of it is just me occasionally being a little stubborn) but I truly believe that the friends I associate myself with are there for a reason, even if it may have taken me a bit longer than it should for me to realize that.  I just hope I can do for them what they have done for me.

I’m also grateful for the job I have, even if it has been a challenge at times.  I’ll admit that the first six months or so that I spent at my current employer were a particularly challenging time for me, as the project I was working on didn’t seem to be going well and there were people I was having trouble getting along with.  Ultimately I stuck with it, and over time things have gotten better.  That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges, but I think I’ve grown into it reasonably well, and it does come with some nice perks, not the least of which is getting to mess around with a lot of the new phones when they hit the market, and I get to (occasionally) drive a really nice car as well without having to pay for the gas.  All in all, it’s actually a pretty good place to work.

I’m also grateful for the ability to travel, and the traveling companions that accompany me on my various adventures.  This year has not offered quite as many opportunities to visit new places as last year did, but we did still get a chance to see Alaska for the first time (which reminds me that I still need to finish up the post about the second part of my Alaska trip at some point) and next year should have some interesting things planned as well.  I know that eventually I will have to settle down and raise a family which will presumably put a damper on my ability to do so, but in the meantime I consider myself fortunate that I have the ability and the means to do so.

I do still have my challenges, and I do still have my shortcomings (who doesn’t?) but ultimately, I do think things are headed in the right direction, and I’m grateful for that.  And sometimes, that’s the best thing you can hope for.

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November 9, 2014

How Sicky-Sweet It Is

Filed under: Food — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:51 pm

It has now been about a month and a half since me and my friends got back from the cruise we took back in September.  Since that time, we have been making an effort to try to eat healthier, partially to offset any potential weight gain that may have resulted from a week on a cruise ship, and partially because we just need to get into some better eating habits in the first place.  For the most part, we are following what is generally known as the “No white food” diet, which means avoiding refined sugar as much as possible, as well as other processed carbohydrates (depending on who you ask milk may be off limits too, but I have heard mixed opinions on that one.)  We also have weekends as our designated “cheat days” since it can be tough to stick to something like this 100% of the time.  To be honest, the part about avoiding white carbs is where I have trouble with this one, but as long as I can plan ahead I can do a reasonably good job.  On the other hand, one thing that I wasn’t expecting when I started this was that sugar has proved a lot easier for me to avoid than I expected it to be.

Of course, it’s impossible to completely avoid sugar.  When you start looking at nutrition labels more closely you find that it’s virtually impossible to find anything that doesn’t have sugar in one form or another.  Just about any fruits and vegetables have at least some amount of natural sugar in them (although in most cases the amounts are relatively small.)  The same goes for milk and milk products.  If for some reason you decided to live entirely off of meat you might theoretically be able to avoid sugar, but the nutritional deficiencies resulting from such a diet would far outweigh whatever benefits of avoiding sugar.  In spite of this, I have found it surprisingly easy to avoid the obvious stuff (for the most part, I may or may not have been eating a Frosty while I was in the process of writing this) which actually came as a bit of a surprise to me.  One of the things you realize when you’re doing something like this is that it is very easy to casually snack on sugary stuff without giving it a second thought.  I don’t know how it is for other people, but typically when I eat sugary stuff I find that it leaves an aftertaste that can be annoying, which means that more often than not I tend to regret it fairly quickly.  I think it is this tendency that has made it easier for me than it would be to other people to just stay away from the sugar.

One interesting side effect I have noticed from this is that in eating less sugar and trying to avoid it, I’ve found that you start to notice it more when it’s there.  Even things you wouldn’t think of as being sweet start to taste a lot sweeter than you remember them being.  And it’s not always a welcome sensation to realize it.  Even small amounts of sugar (as little as 1 or 2 grams per serving) can end up seeming like a lot more than that.  Eventually you get used to the fact that you can’t get completely away from it and you just focus on avoiding the obvious pitfalls, but you can still tell that it’s there.  Gradually, as you go along, the cravings for sugar seem to gradually taper off, to the point that even when you can eat it you tend to eat less of it (at least that’s what I keep telling myself.)  In particular,  I know that soda can be a big problem for a lot of people, and sometimes it can be hard to avoid it, especially when it gets included with your food.  I also have the first-world-problem of having a soda fountain literally 12 steps from my desk at work (yes, I counted)  but even that I just haven’t been all that interested in.

As for results, it seems like this is doing something.  Exactly what it’s doing I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that even if I have trouble with the rest of the stuff that a diet should entail, at the very least cutting back on the sugar should do something.  Exactly what that is I’m not quite sure, but I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there.

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