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The Lifecycle of Traditions

We spend every Christmas with my mother-in-law (whom I love dearly, no monster-in-law jokes here), and we eat a proper multi-course Christmas dinner using actual silverware and goblets made of actual silver. This is very important to her, and it’s the only time all year the silverware and silver goblets get used. The rest of us care more about the food and the conversation, despite the obligatory “this was my mother’s and her mother’s” reminder, the significance of the silver is lost on us.

Here’s the thing. Silverware is fine, functionally not much different than stainless steel utensils, maybe just lighter. But silver drinking vessels are functionally deficient. Kinda like the aluminum cups a friend of mine from decades ago always insisted on using because he thought they were so mid-century modern cool. Like aluminum, silver is a great conductor, so within a couple of minutes your cold water is room temperature.

Of course the day before Christmas the silver has to be polished, because it’s been sitting for a year and has the inevitable year’s worth of tarnish. And when the meal is done it all has to be hand-washed, can’t put that stuff in the dishwasher. It takes a lot of work to keep this tradition alive, and it will only stay alive as long as someone remembers why it was ever a tradition in the first place.

These silver pieces were significant for my mother-in-law’s mother, and her mother, because they remembered how precious (literally pricey) they were and how they managed to keep these valuables during times of incredible poverty. And bringing them out periodically and using them, maybe that’s a reminder that abundance can be temporary. But it’s a hard tradition to continue because my wife and I have lived through decades of ridiculous abundance, we’ve never seen hardship even close to the likes of the Great Depression. And I suspect it will be the same for our children, they are also living in times of ridiculous abundance and lack of real hardship.

I hope I don’t sound callous, but when we inevitably inherit these silver heirlooms I doubt we’ll ever use them. We’ll probably keep them out of a sense of obligation, and then hand them down to our daughter. But the tradition, and the memories behind it, will be dead and likely she, or her daughter, will end up selling them.

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One of my daily goals. If I made this a poster, staring at it would instantly lower by blood pressure. :-)

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My religion says to kill you, and your religion says to kill me. Despite the misery, neither of us is willing to question our religion. So let the bloodshed continue.

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When you are a white middle class male (as I am), living in the most prosperous nation on earth, it’s easy to think that you have earned what you have through intelligence, hard work, and perseverance. And some of that may well be true. It’s easy to forget how little influence you had over being white, male, and born in the United States (and how much that influenced your ability to be middle class).

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Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

Morehouse School of Medicine’s new chief, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, has a healthier perspective on weight than the majority of doctors. In an article in the October 2013 issue of Atlanta Tribune, Dr. Rice says…

…because there’s great data that shows there’s a correlation between the fat around your stomach and your increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and what we call the metabolic syndrome.

And…

…because as you start to exercise you might put on muscle mass, and as you exchange muscle mass for fat you might see an increase in weight but a decreases in inches.

Kudos on your new position Dr. Rice, and on your good sense. I hope your influence spreads far and wide.

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Life Lessons

Certain lessons seem to repeat themselves throughout life. These are surely not the only ones, and I’m not sure putting them in a list actually helps anyone learn them faster, but just in case…

  1. Start with a soft cloth and water, only escalate to steel wool after you’ve tried the more gentle stuff. Impatience will make you want to escalate. Be patient. This is not (only) about cleaning.
  2. Take blame individually, give credit to the team.
  3. Once you’ve closed the sale, or convinced the other party, stop talking.
  4. Treat the attention of others as a priceless gift. Don’t constantly ask for it.
  5. Learning to appreciate what you have is the surest way to avoid always wanting more.
  6. If you treat a symptom and not the cause, you only create other problems with new symptoms.
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Baby Steps to a Healthier You

Folks who have been sedentary for years with a poor diet can’t go overnight from that to elite athlete. Here are some baby steps to get started down the road to better health, regardless of your eventual goals.

  1. If you eat peanut butter, use only all natural (only peanuts and salt).
  2. No sodas. Okay if you drink 64oz daily now, you probably can’t go cold turkey. Try cutting it in half every week until you’re down to 1/day, then quit.
  3. Simple bodyweight exercises like planks and pushups, arm raises, calf raises and squats.
  4. Fifteen minutes of sustained low-impact exercise (like walking). Doesn’t have to be fast, just constant body movement for 15 minutes.
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"Bodyweight" Workouts

In the past few months I’ve started involving my kids in my “bodyweight” workouts, especially in the morning while waiting for the school bus. They are stronger and fitter than me, as is obvious by them never tiring during these exercises even though for many of them they are doing the equivalent of a plank. And I think they get some joy at laughing how weak I am. Here are some of the exercises I do:

  • Kid curls: Child locks elbows by side, and standing behind him/her, I lift them off the ground by their elbows.
  • Overhead kid presses: Lift child to my shoulders, sideways. Position hands so their weight is balanced, and extend arms to straight.
  • Kid-on-back lunges: Let child jump on my back from the curb (not as much fun if I just lift them up, obviously). Then do walking lunges.
  • Kid-on-back squat jumps: Start same as lunges. Squat, then jump up, getting as high as you can off the ground. *They can get hurt on this one if they aren’t careful. Tell them to keep their face away from your head.
  • Handstand contests: Once you are as good at this as your children, then you can challenge them to handstand pushups. My older can do several, with much better form than I can manage a single.

Keep having fun, and keep moving.

A VIDEO

More kid weight exercises: trunk twists

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Overhead kid press