Wrapping up 2019

After Christmas we made it back down the mountain to Johnson City.

We spent Friday night at home washing clothes and unpacking. On Saturday after lunch, we parked the kids with my parents and met three other couples for a trip to Asheville for drinks and dinner.

The occasion for the trip was our friend Kristen’s 40th birthday. Kristen’s husband scored a luxury sprinter van (TV, massage chairs, the works) for the trip.

We parked the van at the Asheville Visitors Center and then made the short walk to The Montford, a rooftop bar at the top of the Hyatt Place hotel. After that, we walked over to Cucina 24 on Wall Street. MC and I have eaten there twice, and it’s one of our faves.

From there, we walked over to Biltmore Avenue and down a side street to a place called En La Calle, which is billed on Google as a hip Latin tapas and cocktail bar. After that, the evening slid into chaos and we ended up at a dueling piano bar.

After an hour or so at the piano bar we called it a night and trekked back to the van to ride home. We capped the night with a visit to Waffle House.

On Sunday, we got up and re-packed, then picked the kids up and headed back up to the mountains. We’d made plans to attend the club’s family-friendly NYE party on the night of the 30th, and some friends were driving in from Knoxville to stay an extra night.

We made a big batch of tacos with cookies and ice cream for dessert. After dinner the kids (eight of ’em) disappeared downstairs to play Jackbox TV and try out Buddy’s VR gear.

On Monday, we sipped coffee and sat around for most of the morning. After lunch, the other dad and I went down to the gym and got a workout in. When we got back, I had lunch and then collapsed in bed for a 20 minute nap that ended up lasting about 90 minutes.

When I got up, another set of friends was arriving from their house in Banner Elk, so we all sat around and enjoyed a chat and a beverage before it was time to head down to the clubhouse for the party.

We were among the first to the party but when we got there the clubhouse was decked out with a DJ, a dance floor, appetizers and a bar. We hung out for about an hour and then when through the buffet line and ate dinner. Not long after we sat down to eat, bingo games started, so we tended to our bingo cards while we ate dinner.

In the last game of the night, Buddy and his friend won $160, which they’d agreed beforehand to split.

After dinner the younger kids danced while the older kids did whatever teenagers do.

At some point in the night, Blythe performed her tap solo on the stage and got props from all the in-the-know dance moms in the room.

The party wrapped up with a balloon drop at 9:00, then we all came up to our house to hang out for a while longer. The adults took turns trying out Buddy’s “walk the plank” game on his Oculus headset.

On Tuesday our guests packed up and rolled out, and I ran some of the kid guests back down the mountain to Johnson City.

Buddy and I got back up here around 4:00 p.m. yesterday. MC spent the day taking down Christmas decorations and then launched into making a batch of fudge when I arrived with ingredients.

After dinner (baked potatoes and salad) we piled up downstairs to watch the Lego Batman movie on the big TV. Very funny. Highly recommend.

Franklin went to bed after the movie and MC and I stayed up for a bit with the other two kids, but ultimately we folded and went to bed around 10:30.

The page turned quietly from 2019 to 2020 as we slept.

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Christmas and such

Christmas came and went without a hitch.

We had gorgeous weather for the annual yule log hunt, and after starting our yule log careers five years ago by winning the competition in back-to-back years, the Hart family hasn’t won since.

After the yule log hunt but before dinner, Dad and I snuck in a fire in the chiminea while the rest napped, read books, or played on their screens.

Christmas Eve dinner was nice. Big buffet with salad, green veggies, potatoes, salmon, and a beef tenderloin carving station.

Back at the house after dinner, the younger kids were dispatched to their beds so MC and I could begin making Christmas magic.

MC and I were both still recovering from a virus, so by 8:30 p.m. we were dead tired and just wanted to go to bed. We put out gifts, stuffed stockings, set out milk and cookies, and then crashed.

On Christmas morning, Blythe was at my bedside a little before 7:00. She’d been awake for a long time, but was afraid to come out of her room because she didn’t want to spoil any surprises.

I made coffee and one by one, people began to stir. When everyone was up and all the right people were caffeinated, we started opening gifts.

Here are the highlights of what everyone got:

Annie got a set of Airpods as her big gift. She also got some books and clothes.

Buddy got an Oculus Quest VR headset and not much else.

Blythe got an American Girl doll and a mannequin head that she can practice doing hair and makeup on.

Franklin got an electric Razor scooter, a remote control car, some Legos, and a punching bag from my parents that he loves.

I got Mary Craig a Breville Barista Express espresso machine.

We spent the morning cleaning up the mess from unwrapping everything and playing with our new gadgets.

After lunch, Dad and I (with help from Blythe) collected firewood and built a fire in the chiminea. I dragged out outdoor furniture from the garage and we posted up in the front yard for most of the afternoon keeping the fire going. The weather was perfect. It was a great way to spend a day.

I took a brief break from the fire mid-afternoon to make a pot of chili.

Late in the afternoon we let the fire die out and went inside to eat the chili. After dinner, we played a few games on Jackbox TV before calling it a night.

It was a very nice Christmas.

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Christmas Eve Eve

With our daughter’s dance performance in the books, on Sunday we turned our attention to Christmas.

MC woke up Sunday saying she didn’t feel 100% and by the time we got home from church, she was sick enough to get straight in bed. She rested all afternoon, fighting an intermittent fever.

The kids spent time cleaning their rooms, folding and putting away laundry, and playing Roblox.

We had dinner at my parents house, where dad served up a big grilled paella.

By early Sunday evening, I was starting to feel sick, too. We went to bed early and I tossed and turned with fever dreams until 2:30, when I went ahead and got up.

On Monday, I had a couple quick errands to run and then we spent the rest of the morning cleaning the house and loading up our cars to head to the mountains. We shoved off around 1:30 and drove through cold, misty rain to our mountain house.

After we unloaded both cars, the kids decorated the tree up here and stuffed all the Christmas gifts under the tree. Blythe and Franklin also discovered that our Elf on the Shelf followed us up here, although Blythe is leading a campaign saying it’s not the same elf we have at home. She’s 100% right.

MC and I napped for about an hour and then my parents arrived. Once they got settled, we all reconvened in the living room to hang out. The kids started working on a jigsaw puzzle with my mom. Other people had books out, and some played with their screens.

For dinner we grilled three teriyaki flank steaks that my parents started marinating two days earlier. Add some potatoes au gratin, homemade pinto beans, and squash casserole to the mix and you’ve got yourself a tasty little dinner.

After dinner we did sled presents. Sled presents are a tradition our family has been keeping for decades, but I don’t know the origin. They’re called sled presents because my parents have a small ceramic sled they put on their dinner table at Christmas. My parents fill the sled with little five or ten dollar gifts for everyone around the table.

I’ve always loved it, and now my kids look forward to it, too.

MC and I didn’t last long after dinner, so we medicated ourselves up and settled in bed for a quick episode of Friends from College on Netflix before we turned the light off. As we were going to bed, our big kids were heading downstairs to watch Brooklyn 99 on the big TV.

Today (Christmas Eve) we have the yule log hunt at 2:00, then dinner at 6:00.

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Let’s get Christmas break started

Here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to:

To begin, I’ll close the loop on my last post and let you know my calf strain is healing up nicely.

I had a session with a physical therapist who did a dry needling treatment and the muscle bounced back in short order. Dry needling is like acupuncture, except the needle penetrates deeper into the muscle tissue and then once the needle is set, an electric current is run through it. I don’t know all the science involved, but I think the primary goal is to stimulate the muscle and bring a lot of blood flow to the area.

I was able to stay and workout after the treatment (with a few modifications) and for the last week or so, I haven’t done any serious jumping or running.

Yesterday was the oldest girl’s big winter dance performance. It was spectacular.

She has come so far as a dancer and it made me really happy to get to watch her in the six numbers she was in. The very first number featured some of the very young dancers and our girl was one of two helpers for the group. Her role in the number was to give a visual lead to the younger girls, but the choreographer styled up the dance so the older girls could show off a bit. Lovely show.

Friday was party day for the kids at their schools. MC spent Thursday cooking sausage balls to send to three different schools, and then led Franklin’s class party on Friday morning. They played Christmas bingo and stuffed themselves with doughnuts, fruit, sausage balls, and Chick-fil-a nuggets.

She made time to pop into Blythe’s party and was going to pull her out early, but the class was in the thick of a movie and Blythe wanted to stay and watch.

Keeping with family custom, we took the kids out to lunch when school got out for Christmas break. Nice little meal at Mellow Mushroom.

On Friday night, we partied at our old house in the Gump Addition.

The people who live in our old big white house have a “fancy party” every Christmas and are kind enough to invite us. Our friend Laura, who lives in the house, tells a great story about the inspiration for the party.

Several years ago, while living in Oregon, they’d been invited to yet another ugly sweater party. Laura sighed her disappointment to her husband Evan, saying “I’m tired of ugly sweater parties. I want to get dressed up for a fancy Christmas party.” Evan took the idea and ran with it, and the next year Evan and Laura hosted their first Fancy Christmas Party in Oregon.

They brought their fledgling tradition to Johnson City when they moved and opened up their home to friends on the Friday night before Christmas four years ago.

It’s always a fun night and people really do get dressed up. You’ll see a number of guys in their tuxes and ladies in formal dresses. It’s a friendly crowd and one of the highlights of the season for us.

With the dance recital behind us, we are “all clear” for the year. No more parties. No more kids activities. Just a straight line between us and Christmas.

Since my brother and his family were here for Thanksgiving, my parents will stay in town (rather than flying to California) for Christmas. The joined us last year and we’re really looking forward to having them with us.

I’m sure there’s more to report but that’s all I’ve got for now.

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Calf strain pain

I screwed up my leg at the gym on Saturday.

I woke up Sunday with sore calves, which I totally expected. By Monday, it was clear something was off.

I don’t have full range of motion on the left side and it’s hard to put weight on that foot. When I sit for a while and then stand, the stretch in the calf and lower hamstring hurts.

I spent a while Googling to self-diagnose yesterday.

One thing that pops into mind is it could be another bout with rhabdomyolysis, like I had in 2015. But I don’t think that’s it. There’s enough symptoms of rhabdo that I’m not experiencing that I think I can rule it out.

My best guess is this is a painful calf strain.

I went to the ortho walk-in clinic yesterday, but was turned away when I didn’t have a referral from my primary care doc. I spent a while being angry about what a scam healthcare in America is but then I calmed down.

I was able to arrange an appointment with a physical therapist who sees clients from the gym, so tomorrow morning I should have a recovery plan in place.

I iced my leg while we watched TV last night and that seemed to help. It didn’t bother me during the night and seems to have made incremental progress. My goal for today is to stay off it as much as possible.

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Nice little Saturday

Yesterday was a nice little Saturday.

I started the day with coffee on the couch while MC prepped to head out the door for all-day yoga training.

After a long time with coffee and my laptop, I headed to the gym for the 8:00 a.m. class. The workout was a fun, Tabata setup at 10 different stations.

After the gym we had an hour until it was time to head out to Franklin’s basketball game. He’s still recovering from his cold, but he played hard and scored two of his team’s four points.

We celebrated with Barberito’s and then came home. I unpacked the Christmas closet and hauled tubs full of Christmas tree ornaments downstairs, then let the kids decorate the tree while I cleaned the kitchen.

Next I put together a menu for dinner, jotted down a grocery list, and went to the store. When I got back, I unloaded the groceries, had a snack (pork rinds and guacamole) and did some meal prep for the week.

The afternoon sailed by. One kid disappeared out the door to play in the neighborhood. Another kid went for a jog. Another kid spent the afternoon learning how to build and . publish Roblox levels.

I started dinner around 5:30 p.m. Rotisserie chicken, roasted kale, creamy garlic egg noodles, and fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in olive oil and balsamic. The kids enjoyed it, and I fixed a plate for MC to heat up when she got home from yoga at 7:00 p.m.

Franklin was ready for bed around 7:30. After I got him down, I decided to dive into Disney +. We watched a few shorts and then plunged into S1E1 of The Simpsons. By Simpsons standards it was low quality but there were still plenty of funny parts. I think the kids are gonna like it.

By the time we finished The Simpsons, it was past 9:00 p.m. and I was ready to call it a night. We sent the ten year old off to bed and told the big kids not to stay up too late. In our room, we scrolled Netflix for a minute to see if there was a wind-down show we wanted to watch, but eventually bailed on that and just went to sleep.

Nice little Saturday. Let’s see how Sunday goes!

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A collection of Saturday thoughts

Here’s a mishmash of notes from the week:

In a dream last night I missed out on getting a dream job because my LinkedIn isn’t all that great. When I woke up this morning, I made sure to check my profile to see if it needs work.

I’m not sure who to blame for this, but the most obvious answer is my brother who works at LinkedIn.

Franklin has been fighting a cold this week. He gets his fair share of sniffles and coughs, but he’s always had the best school attendance record of any of our kids.

He missed school and a basketball game on Thursday, and I’ll have to see what his status is for today’s basketball game. At bedtime last night, he was still pretty congested.

I had lunch in yet another grocery store cafe yesterday. I spent half a day cleaning stuff out of MC’s mom’s mountain house and when it was time to grab some lunch, I had my choice of two different McDonald’s but I blanked on where I could get a healthy lunch.

I drove to the Lowe’s grocery store in Banner Elk and built a monster salad, then ate in their little seating area. The people-watching at any grocery store is usually pretty good, and yesterday did not disappoint.

This year’s One Second Everyday video is up-to-date. I spent a little time this week making sure all the holes were filled. Now I just need to make sure I’m snapping pics for the next few weeks so we can have a strong finish to the year.

I heart all the year-end stuff my various apps send me, especially Spotify Wrapped. I wouldn’t be who I am without music and it’s really fun to take a look back and slice-and-dice some of the data.

I’m convinced Spotify’s data isn’t 100% accurate, because last year it told me one of my top albums was the soundtrack from The Greatest Showman, an album I listened to zero times. So clearly my kids’ listening is sneaking in somehow.

But I think overall it’s pretty close to the mark. In 2019, I listened to 35,000 minutes of music, which is a lot but actually less than in 2018 when I listened to 45,000 minutes. I chalk up the difference to finding some long form podcasts this year. My time in the car certainly hasn’t changed much.

Spotify also told me that my artist of the decade is Bleachers, which makes sense. I think it’s really easy to connect with an artist or group in adolescence and then ride that band to the bitter end. That band was R.E.M., a band which is getting some buzz at the moment for the 25th anniversary of its Monster album (which came out my freshman year at Presbyterian College).

Anyway, it seems less likely to connect with an artist the same way the older we get, but Bleachers is one of those groups. I like ’em a lot.

Buddy got braces this week. He’s been in a holding pattern for about two years waiting for teeth to fall out, but when MC took him on Wednesday, it was time.

He’s looking less and less like our little boy every day and if I think about it too much I’ll get sad, so let’s keep this moving.

MC is out of pocket for yoga training this weekend, so it’s me and the kids. Our oldest has dance practice (big performance coming up!) most of the day today. We’ll see what I get into with the other kids.

Our Christmas tree is lit and has a big ribbon swirled around it. Maybe I can summon the motivation to drag the ornaments out and let the kids go wild decorating the tree.



Posted in Family, Food, Music, Nonsense | Leave a comment

Lunchtime in a stainless steel bath tub

So here’s a crazy thing I did today.

A few weeks ago, my fitness trainer friend Ani posted some pics on her Instagram of a huge stainless steel tub full of water, which as it turns out is a big contraption used to calculate body fat percentage.

“Hmm, that’s pretty cool. I wonder what my body fat is,” I thought. And then I didn’t think another thought about it.

Until two days ago, when Ani sent me a link to the company with the big stainless steel tub. They’d scheduled a day in our town to do body fat percentage calculations. I could sign up for a 15 minute slot and for $45, I’d get a quick dip in a stainless steel tub as well as a personalized report about by body fat percentage.

“What the hell?” I thought, and reserved a spot.

I’m not sure why I want to know my body fat percentage, but as I’ve noted here recently, I’m investing more energy into getting my body right in hopes of staving off migraines.

(Which reminds me – I got a lead on a new doc who may be able to help. More on that in another post.)

Before my test today, I googled some images of what our bodies look like carrying different body fat percentages. I guessed I was somewhere between 20 and 25.

All the testing is done in the back of a modified box truck. It’s equipped with the big tub, a small changing room, and just enough elbow room for two test operators. One of the operators walks you through what to do (lean back, blow all the air out of your lungs, etc.) while the other runs the computer that compiles your information.

I took my little dip in the tub and before I could fully dry off, they had my report ready.

Turns out I’m not between 20 and 25 percent body fat. I’m 17!

Considering all the bullshit I’ve shoveled into this body over the last 43 years, I was very, very surprised.

The report also gives some examples of how to change your body fat percentage, depending on whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle. Pretty interesting.

Anyway, I’m just parking this here to re-read at some point in the future. In the meantime, I need to find the part of the report where it tells me how to drop body fat while eating nothing but pizza and salty snacks.

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Just another laid-back Tuesday

Don’t worry, kids. I bounced back from Sunday’s migraine episode and I’m feeling pretty well.

On Monday, we stared down the threat of snow. The kids were desperately hoping for a two-hour delay, but alas it wasn’t meant to happen. When my alarm rang on Monday morning, the air was bone dry and nary a snowflake had fallen.

I knocked out some office work in the morning, then split after my afternoon meeting to work on the afternoon logistics of groceries, kids activities, dinner, etc.

Still kinda zapped from Sunday, I fell asleep quickly on the couch during the second episode of Yellowstone. I think MC finished the episode without me, which works out fine. If she had to wait for me to stay awake through an entire episode of a show to make her way through a series, she’d never finish anything.

Tuesday morning I had an early meeting, so I got to the office and prepped everything. The meeting went well and as soon as I wrapped that, I got to work on another urgent project.

I chased that project around for most of the day, taking a break at lunch to hit the gym. My performance at the gym was less than stellar, but I had to remind myself about all the medications and stuff I’d taken on Sunday. It’s probably best to tip toe back in after a day like that.

By late afternoon, I’d done everything I could on the project and split to go pick up a kid from her after-school club meeting. Then it was off to the grocery to grab some fresh vegetables for chicken and veggie curry for dinner.

If there’s one thing I enjoy about the colder months, it’s a night like last night. We weren’t overwhelmed with activities, so for much of the night, kids whittled away at their homework on the kitchen table, while others casually watched Netflix or scrolled on their phones. It was a low-stress breather night during a season when there’s often a ton of stuff happening.

After dinner, bedtime activities commenced for the younger kids. We reconvened later for two episodes of 30 Rock with the big kids (I fell asleep during the second) and an episode of Schitt’s Creek after the big kids went to bed.

Pretty good day all around.

Posted in Family, Food, Headaches, Migraines | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving weekend hangover

Well, Thanksgiving weekend didn’t end on the right note.

I woke up on Sunday morning (after our big night at the Sesquicentennial Ball) to a migraine in the making.

I took a Maxalt at 6:00 and walked around the house waiting for it to kick in.

No relief.

I took another at 7:00 and waited for it to kick in. I took a long shower because when I’m in the shower, there’s enough sensory stuff happening that I don’t directly feel the pain in my head.

No relief.

Around 8:30, I knew my fate was sealed. I was going to have to go to urgent care.

It was all but confirmed when I went to the bed to wake Mary Craig up, then did a 180 and ran to the bathroom to puke.

She hopped right up and started getting herself dressed. I called the urgent care clinic and scheduled an appointment. The earliest they could take me was 9:45. I got back in bed to wait it out.

MC drove me and got me checked in at the clinic. Luckily, when I go in with a migraine, they seat me on the “well” side of the waiting room and not on the “sick” side, so at least I didn’t have to marinate in cold and flu germs.

After a while they got me back into a room, but then it was forever to be seen by a doctor. I dozed on the exam table. Forty five minutes in, MC stuck her head out the door and then we were seen promptly.

The doc saw in my file that I’m a frequent flyer for migraines at the clinic, so she was able to skip some of the exam. But she still gave me a decent neuro exam just to make sure something else wasn’t going on.

She prescribed the usual three shot cocktail of anti-inflammatory, steroid, and nausea meds and headed out to give the order to the nurse.

Very quickly, the nurse came back in and gave me the shots and then, since I’ve been there before and since I was under MC’s care, he let me go right away instead of waiting the 10 minutes or so to see how I was responding to the meds. I’m glad for that.

Back at home, I got in bed and slept for two hours. I woke up around 1:00 and talked to MC for a minute, then rolled back over and slept until 3:00 p.m.

I was hoping to join the crew for dinner at my parents’ house at 5:00, but my headache was coming back, so I stayed home. I took another Maxalt, tidied up the bedroom a bit, then climbed into bed and did a 20 minute Headspace meditation.

I got up from the meditation feeling the best I’d felt all day.

While I waited for the fam to get home from dinner, I nursed a sleeve of saltines and drank some water.

After the kids were in bed, MC and I settled in and watched the first episode of Yellowstone.

I had a lot of time to sit and think about what might have triggered this migraine attack. I think a few things stacked up.

First, I think being slack with food choices over Thanksgiving weekend set me up. I probably had more sugar than was healthy, but at the same time, it’s not every day I get to eat my mom’s homemade ginger snaps and pound cake. There was also an item on the Mexican buffet Friday night (the mole pork) that had a strong flavor that was suspect to me. And then Saturday after we got home from the mountains, I hit the Pal’s drive through for a quick and easy lunch for the family.

Second, if I’m being perfectly honest, I think I had a bit of a stress hangover from the Sesquicentennial Gala.

Anyway, I’m feeling better today but I’m convicted about making better food choices. A few months ago, I was eating almost a keto diet, with carbs and sugar as low as possible. I’ve read that a keto-ish diet can be helpful for reducing migraines, and I think I saw decent results. But then we traveled a whole lot during September and October and I fell off the wagon.

I couldn’t start December eating 100% clean since I spent most of last night shoveling saltines into my face, but I’ve made progress today. I fasted until lunchtime, then had a salad with salmon and tofu from Earth Fare for lunch. I followed that up with MC’s chicken tortilla soup. Not sure how that fits in the low-carb realm, but none of the ingredients were made in a factory, so that’s good.

That’s it for now.

Posted in Headaches, MC, Migraines | Leave a comment