In 59 days I'll be in southeastern Michigan, walking the 2013 Michigan Susan G. Komen 3-Day. The 3-Day is a sixty mile walk over three days and the proceeds of the walk go to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.|
This will be my sixth year walking 3-Day walks and this will be my 11th walk as a walker. I've also served as a crewmember 5 times and will be crewing twice more this year.
I've been very blessed; I've never lost a family member, co-worker, or close personal friend to breast cancer. However, many of my co-workers and friends have suffered from the disease, and I've had to say goodbye to friends I've made on the 3-Day far too often. Each year the odds of beating breast cancer get better, especially if it's detected early, and that is due in large part to dollars and donations funding research and treatment and early detection, dollars from people just like you.
In order to take part in the walk, I am required to raise at least $2,300. That might seem like a crazy, absurdly high amount, but the high threshold serves two purposes: first, it keeps the size of the event manageable (there's no way you could provide camping for two nights for 40,000 people) and two, it guarantees that the event will make a major impact in the fight. Each 3-Day walk has between one and two thousand walkers (a few cities have more) and millions have been raised in the past, again, thanks to people like you.
To date, I have raised $1,344, 58% of the way to my fundraising minimum. If you would be willing to help with a donation, and even better, were to file for corporate matching, it'd be a huge help.
You can donate by visiting http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr and entering your donation amount. You can even split the donation over four installments.
If and when you file for corporate matching, it's important to use this as your matching gift target:
Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure/3-Day, 3-Day for the Cure/SUSAN G KOMEN BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION
205 N Michigan Ave Suite 2630
Chicago, IL 60601
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Website Address: http://www.the3day.org
U.S. Tax ID/EIN: 75-1835298
Also, when you file for corporate matching, please do indicate that your matching is meant to match a donation on behalf of Jay Furr, Michigan walker. You will probably get some sort of confirmation notification when your match goes through on your matching gift website -- if you could send me a copy, or forward that to firstname.lastname@example.org, it'd help ensure proper processing.
If you have any questions about the walk, about where the money goes, or anything else, really, please don't hesitate to let me know. I'm deeply grateful for the help my co-workers, friends, and family have lent me over the years and I thank you for taking the time to read this.
If you haven't listened to "The Shape I'm In" by the Band recently, go do that. Then come back and read the rest of this.|
Today was a bad day. Not because of anything that went wrong at work, because nothing did. (I'm in Aurora, Colorado, doing training at one of our customers. The classes today went fine. Nothing whatsoever is wrong vis-a-vis work.) But despite the sunny day outside, I've been sitting here like a bump on a log for 90 minutes and counting, too lethargic and morose to get up, get in the rental car, go back to my hotel and change, and then go do something.
The last few months have been an absolute fog. If it weren't for my Outlook calendar, allowing me to go back and say "what the heck did I do the third week of April?" I'd be in even worse shape than I am. A blend of various kinds of depression has sidelined me; I've done very very very little with my life and I've basically been on automatic pilot.
I last had this problem -- to this extent -- about five years ago. I felt like my life was going absolutely nowhere and had no real meaning. My friend Sandy challenged me to come walk the DC 3-Day with her, and more out of "what the heck" than anything else, I signed up, did the fundraising, did the walk, and was glad of it. I spent the next five years enthusiastically fundraising and walking in 3-Day walks, gradually becoming fairly widely known among the larger 3-Day walker and crew community.
But for some reason, I am finding it hard to get the same fire in the belly this year. And it's not because cancer's been cured or anything like that. In fact, I've seen more friends and acquaintances pass away from breast cancer this year than I have in any prior year. For some reason, I've been trapped in a perpetual "mañana" attitude. I'll blog tomorrow. I'll train tomorrow. I'll do this tomorrow. I'll do that tomorrow. And then I never do.
My 3-Day fundraising has suffered for it -- I've been stuck at $1199 for over a month now and no new donations have come in. Even when I have posted about the event and my fundraising goal, no one's donated. Would I feel more enthused if people were donating and I was nearing my $2,300 minimum? Maybe. But I doubt it. I'm just swimming in molasses.
I do have things that potentially might motivate me and get me fired up, much as my initial plunge into the 3-Day did back in 2008.
For example, I ran my first-ever relay leg in a marathon on Sunday. I did okay -- I ran/walked 5.5 miles in 53 minutes. In the pouring rain and temperatures in the 40s, I might add. Philosophically, I'd like to set a goal of running a marathon next year; it seems like I ought to be able to do 26 miles in 6 hours or less if I can do 5.5 in 53 minutes. (I only mention the 6 hour figure because that's the cutoff for the Vermont City Marathon. I don't know what cutoff other races use.) But I'm never going to get faster and develop more stamina if I don't run.
I should be out running now. I've already located a good running trail in Aurora and I've had more than enough time to leave work, go change, and head back out to run. But right now I feel so down I could just about cry.
I feel that my depression is almost entirely biochemical in nature. I don't think it's due to my personal life issues, although they could be contributing. It's been very stressful dealing with a very sick cat, and it's also very stressful coping with my wife's unemployment.
It may be unfair of me to say so, but I do feel that she could be doing much, much more than she currently is to look for and find work. I know, however, that she's dealing with depression, and that doesn't make it easy for her either. While she's unemployed, she tends to take out all her frustration and stress on me. Furthermore, she tells me that she has no interest in hearing anything I might have to share, which is at least open and honest of her even if it's depressing at the same time. I don't even bother telling her about work or about what's going on in my life. I've tried to tell her about running, but she instinctively tunes me out. According to her, my talking about running makes her feel bad about the bad shape she's in; she simply finds it impossible to be happy for me that I'm trying to get myself in better shape.
But as I said, she's dealing with her own depression, and it's not fair of me to demand perfection from her. Or even a middle-of-the-bell-curve level of attentiveness. She is who she is, and I am who I am, and that's unlikely to change.
Yes, I am taking medication. I've recently been encouraged to double my dose of citalopram, and I'm still taking a nightly trazodone to help me get drowsy and possibly help with depression at the same time. I'm also taking gemfibrozil and simvastatin for high cholesterol (thanks to heredity) and losartan and hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure. It seems possible to me that one of the aforementioned drugs could be impacting my depression, but how do you determine which? Drop off one and see if I start doing cartwheels? How long do I have to stay off said drug before I can be sure it was making a difference? What if it's some odd combination?
I know that running a lot would probably help my mental health. But there's the whole catch-22 thing: if I ran a lot, I'd feel happier, but I don't run a lot because I don't feel happy enough to do so.
I'm concerned about my lack of energy and about my overall fog. I'm contemplating trying to blog once a day, just summing up what the heck I did with my day, to sort of force myself to take stock of things and not drift through life as much. And, as a side benefit, it'd make it possible for me to look back and go "what DID I do that week six weeks ago?"
Normally, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the days getting longer and I used to bounce out of bed early each morning, ready to go out and seize the day when the sunlight came spilling in and 5:30 a.m. -- but not any more. We each get only so many springtimes in life -- and it's driving me crazy that I'm throwing this one away.
As many of you know, I'm trying to raise at least $2,300 for the fight against breast cancer by walking in the 2013 Michigan 3-Day this August. This is my sixth year taking part in the 3-Day, but this year has been harder than most to raise funds. I've been stuck at $1199 for over a month -- leaving me $1101 yet to raise, with the walk only two and a half months away. If I can't raise $2,300, I don't get to walk.|
Some might say "yay you -- you don't have to walk sixty miles in three days" -- but the fact is, I *enjoy* the walking, the chance to interact with breast cancer survivors who are determined to do every mile despite chemotherapy and radiation, the chance to talk with and walk with people who know what really matters in life (and, hint, it ain't American Idol). I also like knowing that my walking has helped fund clinical trials, education, treatment, and mammograms. It does make a huge difference.
Will you help me by sponsoring me? You can donate here:http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr -- and if you prefer, you can set up your donation as an installment of up to four payments rather than donating all in one lump sum. I'm very grateful for whatever help you can give. Thank you all!
I'm a member of Faith United Methodist Church in South Burlington, Vermont. It's a good church -- not the largest church in the area, not the best attended, but generally supportive and full of a sense of community spirit. Each year we have a spring ham dinner and silent auction to raise funds for the church, and the last couple of years our minister has auctioned off a sermon. (For all I know, this has been going on for centuries, or at least since the church was founded in the 1960s.)|
For some strange reason that I can't really put my finger on, I decided this year that I was going to be the winning bidder on the sermon. Seriously, I have no idea why. I'm a big fan of our minister, Krista Beth Atwood. She's a few years younger than I am, very brainy, and always does a very good, thought-provoking sermon. But I don't particularly know why the idea of getting to choose the sermon topic struck my fancy.
I spent years as a member of Toastmasters International, starting in the late 1980s and continuing until the mid 1990s. I got to be reasonably good at public speaking along the way; perhaps that's why I've spent the last 18 years working as a professional software trainer. One of my favorite parts of a Toastmasters meeting was the section called "Table Topics", in which the "Topicmaster" of the meeting assigned topics to other members for short, off-the-cuff, one-to-two minute speeches. Some people absolutely hated Table Topics: the only way they could stand to speak in public was with weeks of rehearsal and preparation, and being forced to speak off the cuff took them into deep water. Other people loved Table Topics and delighted in taking the topic in a direction that the Topicmaster could never have imagined. When it was my turn to be Topicmaster, I probably spent more time thinking of fun, whimsical, borderline-cruel topics to assign than the participants actually did delivering them.
So maybe that's involved in my desire to call the tune for an entire sermon. Or maybe not. But in any event, come the night of the spring banquet, Carole and I were on hand helping run the thing; Carole was selling tickets and I was taking the tickets and assigning people bid numbers for the silent auction. I took a few minutes during a lull to wander around and look at all the donated goods and services that were up for auction and, frankly, didn't see much of anything I wanted. Carole and I are trying to watch our spending; she's been unemployed or marginally employed for quite a few weeks now and we really can't afford to blow $100 on something we don't need, even if the money does go to the church and could be considered a charitable donation. The one item I kept drifting back to was the sermon.
I put down an initial bid of $25. A few minutes later, I'd been outbid by bidder #40. I upped the bid by $5 and sat back down at my table. Every few minutes, I'd wander back over to check, find that I'd been outbid again -- by bidder #40 each time -- and I'd up the bid again. I checked my notes to see who bidder #40 actually was, and oddly, the name didn't ring a bell at all. Carole and I have been members of Faith UMC for about three years now and there are still some members whose names I'm not entirely sure of; hardly anyone in our congregation actually wears their name tags. I assumed that bidder #40 was one of the people who comes at Christmas and Easter and odd Sundays in between but wasn't otherwise super-active in the church.
Whomever they were, they were persistent: each time I upped my bid, they upped theirs. I was there to the end, right up until the "last bids" call at 7:30 pm sharp, having put in one more bid that raised the going price to $85, and was expecting our mystery bidder to come up at the last possible moment to bid over me. But they didn't. I'd outlasted them.
$85 for a sermon isn't exactly "me practicing financial discipline", but in a sense, it's like a very very targeted offering. Unlike the items that actually bore tangible value, I'm pretty sure 100% of the $85 can be considered a charitable donation.
The people there wrapping up the auction -- my fellow churchmembers and family members who were cashing people out and setting aside things that had been won by people who hadn't stayed to the end -- asked me what I was going to ask Krista Beth to preach on.
That might have seemed weird and off-the-wall to most people, but as I said, I've been a member of the church for three years or so now and most of them have worked out that I have a strange, pointless, and fairly inane sense of humor. So they didn't press me for details.
But truth to tell, that is what I want her to preach on. Or, to be more precise, on what cheese represents to me.
You see, I have a problem with cheese. I can eat virtually unlimited amounts of it. I can spend a day watching my calories and exercising and taking all things in moderation, but if there's cheese in the refrigerator, the odds are high that I'm going to shamble out of bed in the middle of the night and have some. And not just a little. A lot. I'm with cheese the same way a lot of people are with chocolate. Or alcohol.
G.K. Chesterton was the same way: in his essay "Cheese" he begins with the immortal phrase "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese" and continues, noting "If all the trees were bread and cheese there would be considerable deforestation in any part of England where I was living."
But cheese isn't my only problem. I have lofty ideals for how I should live my life. For how I should get the most out of my time and avoid things that are wastes of time.
Long ago I came up with a Grand Theory of Time Classification. Setting aside time spent in the course of doing one's job and looking only at discretionary time, all time can be divided into four categories:
- Category X: Meaningful and necessary chores. Unloading the dishwasher, shopping for groceries, mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, paying bills, etcetera, etcetera. Things that have to be done but that aren't necessarily enjoyable.
- Category Y: Meaningful and useful self-development. Running, walking, bicycling, kayaking, making tie-dyed shirts, practicing music, etcetera, etcetera. If you bake because you enjoy it and because you learn something each time you bake, then that's definitely Category Y.
- Category Z: General recreation: watching a TV show that you particularly like and enjoy, going to a movie that you really want to see, reading a good book, spending quality time with a friend or friends, etcetera, etcetera. "Appointment TV" falls into this category.
- Category W: W is for waste. W is watching hours and hours of television, watching shows you don't even like, just to avoid having to stand up, get off autopilot, turn your brain on, and do something with your day. W is sitting at a computer surfing the net for hours, not in order to learn something specific or shop for something you actually need or something else that's actually productive. but just aimlessly following links. W is playing endless games of Spider Solitaire or Freecell. W is going to out to the garden to weed and somehow losing track of time in an obsessive-compulsive nightmare and suddenly realizing that it's six hours later and the sun's going down.
One of the big problems with my life and, if I may be so bold, with the life of a lot of people I know, is that things that might appear to be safely located in categories X, Y, or Z can ooze into Category W. Playing one game of online backgammon on your cell phone after work might be relaxing or even fun. Definitely Category Z material. But if you leave work and you pull out your Droid and start playing backgammon and suddenly it's 10 o'clock at night and you have no idea where the time went... you're in the Category W zone.
It's like the way that a very small dose of a poison may have a therapeutic effect, but deadly in larger quantities. Heck, even oxygen can be toxic at high enough pressures. Something that might be good for you, pleasurable, relaxing, and enjoyable ceases to be "good" when you take it to an extreme.
It's bad if a workaholic stays at work late every night and neglects his family. X becomes W.
Visiting quaint little antique stores in search of furniture to restore might be category Y. Until you're spending all your time in quaint little antique stores but never actually buy anything and never restore anything. Then it's just an unhealthy obsession.
Watching a favorite TV show is fine. Watching TV for hours and hours every day, using it like a drug... at that point Z becomes W.
What falls into Category X, Y, and Z for each person varies from person to person. I can go weeks without watching a minute of TV. It just doesn't fall into any of my categories as a good and enjoyable way to spend time. And I don't judge someone who does like four or five (or six or seven) programs and can't imagine going a week without watching them. But when TV watching becomes compulsive and takes up so much time that categories X, Y, and Z are neglected... that's when you have a problem.
There are all manner of things I would like to do with my life. Running is high up there. Writing is up there too. But ask me how many nights I've told myself "I'll go running tomorrow for sure" and stayed at my computer, just browsing the web and watching the minutes tick by.
I want to be a kinder, more considerate, less judgmental person. I need to spend more time working on that as well. But far too often, I let my temper get the better of me and I say mean, thoughtless, dumb, or cruel things. I should be working on meditation and reflection: classic Category Y stuff. I should be volunteering more in my community and doing what I can to be the kind of person I want to be. But I don't.
And there I am at 3:00 am, standing in front of the refrigerator, eyes glowing with a fiendish lust, rummaging in the deli drawer for the last half of a block of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. But tomorrow I'll stop binge eating. Tomorrow I'll use my time well and go for a run after work.
St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, put it this way: "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."
I can't stand the way I watch my life flit away on garbage. On waste. On pointless pursuits and useless endeavors. And I'm not equating "time not spent on actual work" as "wasted." Not all "fun" is Category W.
Pointless effort, mindless effort, directionless effort -- that's what takes us into Category W. And while it's easy to blame the Imp of the Perverse for my tendency to fritter and fribble my life away, ultimately, I have to take responsibility for what I do with it.
Is it sinful to waste the lives we've been given? I don't know. Consider the Parable of the Talents. I've been given great gifts. And yet I do so little with them. Not in the celebration and service of God. Not in the service of my fellow man, or of myself. In many cases, not at all. And I constantly set goals for myself that I fall short of, not by trying and failing, but too often, by simply failing to try.
"Cheese" is just a metaphor for my constant failure to live up to my goals and promises. I have a feeling though, that if I ever developed the strength of character to resist the siren call of cheese in the refrigerator, all my other problems would evaporate as well.
"Cheese As a Metaphor for Personal Weakness and Failings" may be one weird sermon topic, let alone as a Toastmasters "Table Topic", but ... we all have our angels and demons that we wrestle with. This one just happens to be mine.
Hey, everyone. It's that time of year again, where we Spackle our lawns, reseed our driveways, and contemplate removing all our body hair.
As you all know, I'm going to be walking in the 2013 Michigan 3-Day, a three day, sixty mile walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. I've got to raise a minimum of $2,300 just to take part in the event. Right now I'm at $899, with $300 in matching donations pending, so when that goes through I'll be at $1199, a bit over halfway.
I'm willing to shave my head (except for eyebrows and the most persistent nose hair) and KEEP it shaved until after the walk in August -- and film the shaving ceremony, and even mail out small baggies of the hair, if people want that kind of thing -- if people would be willing to help me reach my fundraising minimum. (Okay, to be honest, I'd probably let my beard grow back. I'm not the most attractive guy and the beard helps cover up all the ugliness.)
So a challenge to everyone: if I reach $1500 in donations (not counting that pending matching money) between now and May 11 (Saturday), I'll shave my head in a humorous, Yackety-Sax-filled way, film it all, and keep it shaved all spring and summer. That's only a few hundred dollars -- a small price to pay for unleashing a nightmarishly bald Jay on an unsuspecting world. What say you?
If you're willing to donate, my donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr. And thank you!!!
Since my last blog post on furrs.org, life has been ... frustrating, to say the least.|
My father's doing MUCH better, thank you -- that's not one of the frustrating things. He has recuperated very well from his emergency hip surgery in mid-February. He got over the delusions that he was plagued by post-surgery and he's gotten to the point that he can walk without a walker.
I've been struggling with severe depression, absolutely unrelated to Dad. There have been days that I sat at my desk in my office for four hours after quitting time, just aimlessly web-browsing and thinking "I should go to the gym and run" and then, once finally in the car, just heading for home and crawling into bed. I'm taking citalopram and trazodone every day and seeing a therapist a couple of times a month. I know that the trazodone has been not so good to a lot of my friends because of the drowsiness factor, but that's actually why I'm on it. I gave up coffee a couple of years ago (and try to avoid caffeine in general) and that really improved my sleep, but there have been too many nights when I lie awake, fretful and restless. The trazodone helps with that... much more so than the Ambien they had me on a couple of years ago.
My depression is biochemical in nature. It's (probably) not due to life stress, although there's certainly been plenty of that. The depression waxes and wanes even when life conditions stay constant. I'm aware that my body is fighting my brain and saying "DO DUMB THINGS. OVEREAT. DON'T EXERCISE. SIT HERE IN YOUR OFFICE AND FEEL SORRY FOR YOURSELF." It's one thing to know that and another to actually be able to fight the urge.
On another front, I was going great guns on running at the start of the winter. My speed was increasing and I had gotten to the point that I no longer had to walk at all during a 5K session on our local indoor track. I ran in the Shelburne Spring Fling 5K on the first day of spring and did amazingly well -- I finished in 28:27, by far the fastest time I'd ever had at that point in an actual road race.
Then metoprolol happened. I've been concerned about my high blood pressure for the last year. Prior to last May, my blood pressure was pretty amazing. Then ugly personal events happened in May (which I may never blog about, but they were pretty bad), and my blood pressure went straight through the roof. We tried lisinopril, which gave me a bad cough, then switched to losartan, which helped somewhat, but not a huge amount, then added hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic), which also helped a bit, and then there came a day when I absent-mindedly checked my blood pressure at work and got a reading of 190 over 120 or something. And I freaked. And next thing you know I was on metoprolol, which lowers your blood pressure by turning you into a heavily sedated zombie of some kind. I liked what it did for my blood pressure, but when I tried to run after about a week of metoprolol, I found myself running 5K in thirty seven minutes. I could barely run at all. Most of the distance was spent walking. I felt like I was on heavy anesthesia.
I had a choice -- I could punt on any thought of running, or I could opt out of the metoprolol. I decided that I didn't want to have healthy blood pressure at the cost of feeling winded when I climbed a flight of steps, and simply stopped taking it. It took a few weeks to get entirely out of my system, but I seem to finally be "back". I'm back to the point where I can run 5K on an indoor track without stopping to walk at all, and I've run several sub-30 minute 5K distances in a row in the last week. Today I had my personal best time ever at that distance: 27 minutes, 50 seconds. First time I ever got below 28 minutes.
Now I need to start working on distance... upping the distance run to 10K and beyond. Fortunately, spring is finally coming to Vermont and that should be possible.
But with every step forward, there've been multiple steps back. Our dear little cat, Thursday (it's short for 'The Cat Who Was Thursday', a reference to a work by G.K. Chesterton) has been very very sick lately. She started avoiding food and showing no energy whatsoever last week, and I insisted on taking her in to the vet (Carole initially though that she was just being finicky). Turns out that she's essentially suffering from chronic renal failure and her BUN and creatine levels were unbelievably unhealthy. They kept her for about 48 hours on an IV and got her back to the point where she had an appetite and would take solid food. But we've been giving her subcutaneous fluids and potassium and an antacid and an anti-nausea drug, and that's helped a bit, but today she's been back to refusing food. We think it's because of mouth ulcers -- she's got bloody ulcers in her mouth and occasionally drools blood... and I suspect that it just hurts too much to eat. We're going to beg the vets tomorrow for something to help with that.
We know that she may get to the point that she's "better" and can live for a year or two more. Friends with cats in this sort of condition have gotten their pets past the hump and to a stable condition. But on the other hand, if Thursday's quality of life doesn't improve (case in point: she's not cleaning herself and her fur is matted if we don't wash her ourselves) and she just lies around feeling too sick and ill to move, we may have to make a very hard decision. I know many of you have faced that same decision in the past and some of you may be thinking "it's cruel to keep her alive and in pain", but again, lots of cats have faced this and mostly recovered. We don't want to give up hope yet. Thursday has been with us 15 years and we love her very much.