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Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing

Author

gaylejordan

Lawyer, ironman, mom, gammy, farmer, hippie liberal atheist activist. All in one snarky package.

Workouts

This will be a fun post!

No, seriously. We’re having the best time.

To review, I’m shooting for an Iron-distance race in 2019 or 2020. This summer’s goals are a sprint race or two, and an Olympic distance (double the sprint length). And I’m planning to do it as a keto-fed, fat-burning, intermittent-fasting machine.

My workouts are built around the progressive training that incorporates all 3 sports. If you Google Triathlon Training, you’ll find dozens of plans, and there are trainers everywhere who are capable of taking you to that level.

I’ve trained for and participated in 3 Iron-distance races, each time with a little different training schedule. This time I’m building my own. Keep in mind I’m not competitive, which just means that my goal is to finish, and suffer as little as possible, not to establish any records or win any awards. (Although this is funny – I’ve won my division in this race before because no one else was in my category!)

Here’s what my training looks like:

Every week, on Sunday, I plan my workouts (and food) for the week. I have to work around the weather (bike rides), the lap lanes at the pool, my work schedule, social events, etc. And I have to stay flexible when life happens and scuttle the whole week and start over sometimes.

With a tweak in length/distances from week to week, this is what I schedule each week (blog posts to come about each session):

Two 45-minute full body strength training exercises

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Not me

 

One tabata sprinting session

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Not me.

 

One bike ride

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Me

 

One swim session

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Not me

 

Two walk/runs

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Me. And my honey.

 

One brick (2-sport workout like swim/bike or bike/run) or one long bike ride or run

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Tri humor. Try humor?

 

One rest day

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Definitely me

You can see that there are days when I have to have 2 workouts to fit them in to the week: strength training and swim in one day, sprints and walk/run in one day, for example.

Right now, these workouts are little more than 30-minute sessions each. As I build, some will become longer (although some, like the strength training, will stay 30-45 minute sessions).

Additionally, these are simplifications of what I’m actually doing in the workout. If I were to drill down, for example, in the 30-minute swim sessions, it would reveal that I’m working on form, sprinting, technique, breathing, etc. Then I’ll add open-water swims to the basic schedule. I’ll write posts further detailing each of these as I go.

There’s the overview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have equal parts structure and flexibility: without both, I’d never get the workouts done. The least worrisome part is what occurs within the workout time – getting there is more than half the battle.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more news about Iron Training 4.0!

 

 

 

 

We Tri Together.

There are those days.

Those days that have so much meaning, so much joy.

Today was one of those days.

I’ve blogged about racing with my kids. (Amy, Sam). I’ve tried to express what it means to me to have the children take an interest in what I do, to the point of training for, and competing in an endurance event.

Today was the icing.

Today I completed a triathlon relay with my honey and my grandson.

I recently blogged about a race that my grandson attended and cheered me on, and expressed an interest in joining me. We found a race that worked with our schedule.

Today was that day.

Most triathlons allow for a relay team to participate in the 3 sports: Swimming, Cycling, and Running.

The Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon is a popular, long-standing race in the Tennessee area. While Chattanooga is relatively close to Murfreesboro, it made more sense for us to go a day ahead, stay in a hotel, and be ready for the 4:30am wake-up alarm.

We divvied up the legs like this: Gammy on the swim, Eliott on the bike, and Aden as anchorman on the run. It’s a Sprint distance, so not too taxing.

Before I can get to the 4:30am wakeup call, we need to review a little race prep.

I’ve posted here that I’m in training for an Iron-distance triathlon in 2019 or 2020. I’ve posted about my training and nutrition, and I’ll post more as I do a deep dive into each sub-topic.

This race, however, was relatively chill. Short, fast, no pressure. Me in the water (400-yd swim), Eliott on the bike (14m), and Aden bringing us home (3m).

But it was the first opportunity for us to participate together, as a team, in a relay.

So off we head to Chattanooga.

First stop, Team check-in.

We get bibs, bike numbers, swim cap, the usual. Weather threatened a bit, but didn’t muck up the whole affair. We stayed in a sexy hotel, The Chattanoogan, in a beautiful room that was comfortable and convenient.

Eliott and I implemented a 42-hour fast beginning with dinner Friday night, and ending at lunch on race day. All kinds of posts to come about that.

Our resident 14-year-old opted to fuel his race a little differently:

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Here’s his choice for night-prior dinner – bacon double cheeseburger, french fries, and Mountain Dew. You can see my and Eliott’s lemon, salt, and water shots.

Then to an early bedtime, with this snackage happening in the bed next to ours:

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Allow me to describe:

a couple of ziplocks of the prior’s day Krispy Kreme donuts

peanut M & Ms

his greasy bag of leftover burger and french fries from 5 Guys

sweet tea

Frito Honey BBQ corn chips

Haribo gummies

Hershey’s kisses from the desk check-in bowl

Digestion of steel. Whatever.

The next morning brings a 4:30am alarm to get down to the race site.

65198986_10219387139890064_8447122106159726592_nGammy has the first leg, so this means a pretty brisk 6:45a jump into the Tennessee River.

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My unsure-about-this-non-wetsuit-legal-water-temperature face.

This is a sprint triathlon – the shortest 3-sport race you can participate in. And short it was.

6 and one-half minutes later, I’m out of the water.

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Notice it’s a couple of minutes PAST sunrise.

Then it’s time to put the timing anklet on our bike leg racer.

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And off he goes

After a blistering 14 miles, we have one more exchange to go.

Our anchorman, grandson Aden, 14, takes off out of the chute, and reappears before 9am:

Who in the HELL is doing this hideous camera work?

Anyhoo, a fabulous day out on the circuit with my honey and my grand.

And if you wonder if we ever indulge and eat anything besides meat and vegetables, the answer is yes.

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Breakfast of insulin champions
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This ain’t keto.

All in all, a wonderful day. What a joy and an honor and a privilege to get to watch this boy experience the delight that is triathlon.

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Yes we do. Yes, we do.

Thanks for reading.

Food first.

What is keto? I can’t begin to blog about my training without beginning with nutrition.

I know I’m going to bungle this, but I’ve always believed if you can’t clearly articulate a basic understanding of The Thing*, you don’t have a full understanding of it. So here goes my extreme layperson version:

When we eat food, our bodies begins a series of chain reactions to process the food that goes into our stomach. One of those reactions is to deal with the rise in our blood sugar (blood glucose) that occurs when we eat certain foods. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar a lot, protein raises it a little, and fat raises it almost not at all. Our meals and snacks are usually a combination of all 3 of those macronutrients, and acids and enzymes go to work breaking down the food during digestion.

Our bodies carefully monitor the sugar that is in our blood, and it has some choices about how to maintain the level it wants. Our pancreas secretes insulin, which directs the body to put a certain amount of the glucose into our muscle cells, and when those are replenished, the rest gets stored in the liver and fat cells for later use.

A keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet that results in lower insulin levels. A consistent reduction in carbohydrates results in your body going into a metabolic state known as ketosis. This means that the body burns fat instead of glucose, because a) there’s limited glucose to burn, b) there’s plenty of fat available, and c) the fat storage hormone insulin is low enough for our bodies to access the fat in all of our jiggly fat cells. The fat we burn can come from what’s on our plate or what’s on our body.

The fewer carbs that we eat, the more consistently we can reduce our insulin response, and the more we become fat-burners instead of glucose burners.

This is far too simplistic an explanation to describe the many components, down to the cellular level, that are active in our organic, self-replicating bodies.

We humans have the ability to burn sugar or fat. As long as we restrict the sugars/carbs going in, our body is forced to seek sources of energy elsewhere. Not only does this give us a steady stream of energy (even lean folks have enough body fat to fuel for hours), we don’t experience crazy hunger surges. We can only store so much glucose in our blood and in our muscles, and once that’s depleted, and insulin is low, the body resorts to burning fat for energy.

There are some great analogies that help us picture what is happening when we are fat-burners instead of sugar burners.

Here’s Dr. Jason Fung on his fridge-in-the-kitchen/freezer-in-the-basement analogy (video version). And this is it in blog form.

There’s another illustration that describes switching from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner is similar to reworking a mechanical engine to burn a different type of fuel.

I’ve also read another comparing burning sugar to burning twigs and leaves, and burning fat is a big log on a nicely-banked bed of coals.

At some point all of these analogies collapse, as analogies do, but you get the general idea, and maybe one of these would be helpful.

I think my explanation was a little messy and wordy. You would be much better served hitting up a few good Google search links to get a more comprehensive understanding of ketosis and the ketogenic diet. Both of the following are awesome, but heavy on the science:

This site is called ketoschool:

The concentration of glucose in your blood is the critical upstream switch that places your body into a “fat-storing” or “fat-burning” state.

This site/blog is among my favorite: Virta Health  – it’s LOADED with good information and clear science.

I’ll post more extensively soon about what I specifically eat, but it’s pretty simple: meat, fat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and low-carb vegetables.

I don’t want to finish without adding this little thought: I’ve been working on understanding nutrition science for years. I’ve experimented with paleo, primal, and all the buzzwords in this category. It’s taken me a while to get it all dialed in, and I’m still tweaking and learning.

I’ll also write a post soon about what I would suggest if you are just starting out, because this way of eating (WOE) is so drastically different than the standard American diet (SAD), I think it would be overwhelming to jump from SAD to keto.

I’ll repeat my disclaimer here that I fully embrace that there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat. This is what has been working for me and my body and my training.

Thanks for reading.

*This works with financial investments, studying for the Bar Exam, defending your non-evidenced beliefs, and explaining your politics. 😉

 

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But are you surprised, really?

I don’t place much value on conventional wisdom.

This blog has served me through the years as a place to sort out my thoughts, express my feelings, absorb my rage, share my positions, and relate my experiences. I initially created it to write about endurance training, then it wandered into life on the farm, then religion, politics, the intersection of religion and politics, and now this entry circles back to endurance training.

I’ma do it again.

For those readers who haven’t followed this blog, I completed an Iron-distance race in 2010, the year I turned 50. It was wonderful and gratifying and difficult, and now I want to do it again.

Training for an ultra-distance race requires a progressive, linear plan that includes nutrition, running, swimming, cycling, recovery, research, and race planning, among other things. It’s my plan to compete in an Iron-distance race in either 2020 or 2021, which means my path to completion begins now.

Back to my opening sentence.

Conventional thinking holds that training for a race such as this is best promoted by the standard nutritional dogma of high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat. Science teaches us that the human body can burn different types of fuel, glucose/fructose or fat. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is one in which carbohydrates are abundant, ubiquitous, and inexpensive. Looking at high-performance through that lens, it’s reasonable to deduct that, since we do burn glucose, and a lot of fuel is required for endurance performance, one should consume volumes of this macronutrient in the form of carbohydrates, up to and including during the endurance event itself.

Here are 3 of the first-page Google results to “nutrition for ironman training”.

Men’s Journal:

Load 1/3 your plate with complex carbs.Energy is essential for an endurance athlete, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates—like potatoes, rice, and whole-grain pastas and cereals—replenish glycogen and stimulate insulin production.

Triathlete.com

Your body also needs a lot of carbohydrates to support training and recovery. Your carb needs can easily increase from 5 grams per kilogram per day to 8-plus grams when training jumps from an hour to two or more hours a day (a jump from 350 to 580 grams of carbs per day for a 160-pound athlete, and from 275 to 430 grams of carbs per day for a 120-pound athlete).

Livestrong.com

Most of the calories in your diet should come from carbs — 55 to 60 percent. That’s because carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy, especially when working out for a long period of time. Getting enough carbs also spares protein, so you don’t burn muscle when training. For proper fueling, most of your carbs should come from complex sources, such as whole-grain bread and cereals, beans, pasta and potatoes.

Or.

Not.

I’m not terribly keen on conventional wisdom. It lulled me into accepting religious dogma for years. It betrayed me as a young adult into believing debt was a “financial tool”, which would serve me well as I matured. And nutritionally, IMO, it has kept millions of Americans (including me at one point) unhealthy, overweight, and unhappy.

So I’m not relying on conventional wisdom this time. I’m using my own research. I’m using my own data. And I’m using my own body.

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I will write about that which I am an expert: Me.

This biohacking, experimental, n=1 journey upon which I’m embarking will be based on loads of personal data: blood glucose and ketone testing, sleep patterns, fasting schedule, stress management, weight, training stats, mood, activity, workouts, nutrition choices, bio-feedback, and sensations.

At the present moment, I’m describing myself as a fat-fueled, high-fat, low-carb, moderate-to-high protein, intermittent-fasting human being. I seek to be in ketosis most of the time, which simply means being in a fat-burning mode rather than a sugar-burning mode. I’ll use the shorthand “keto” often to describe this state.

I won’t insult the scientists, researchers, and doctors by trying to lay out all the science-y stuff myself; I’ll post several resources that I have used to reach my current conclusions about nutrition (critical word “current” – science is ongoing, as is my learning). Nutrition science is not my field, it’s not my formal education, and at best I could only give a layperson’s interpretation of the incredibly complicated process of nutrition.

It’s my intent to have this blog be the journal of the journey. I commit to both honesty and transparency in relating my progress. My general plan is to compete in a Sprint triathlon or two and an intermediate triathlon this summer (2019), continue training through the winter, then compete in a Half-Iron, then a Full Iron in 2020, with wiggle room to delay til 2021 if beset by injury or illness or life circumstances. This will be in addition to various road- and cycle- races that catch my fancy and fit my schedule.

Buckle ups, buttercups. Here we go.

Thanks for reading.

 

Suggested resources – These are just a few of my favorites. There are scads of resources currently for the keto lifestyle. I’ll add specific topic links as I write about them.

Books: 

(If you shop at Amazon, and don’t have a dedicated non-profit that will receive a small contribution as you shop, please consider Recovering from Religion. Click here to set up your Amazon Smile account.)

The Complete Guide to Fasting: Jason Fung, MD

The Big Fat Surprise: Nina Teicholz

Eat Rich, Live Long: Ivor Cummins and Jeffrey Gerber, MD

Protein Power:  Micheal Eades, MD and Mary Dan Eades, MD

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Gary Taubes

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD and Stephen D. Finney, MD, Phd

Death by Food Pyramid: Denise Minger

Websites/blogs:

marksdailyapple.com

www.proteinpower.com

www.dietdoctor.com

www.idmprogram.com

Podcasts:

LowCarbMD

The Fat Emperor

2KetoDudes

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The Grand Tri

Feels good to put on a number.

Today was the Mach Tenn – a sprint triathlon in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been away from triathlon racing for a while, and this one is a great way to jump back in. I’ve done this race a half-dozen times over the last 10 or 12 years, and it’s always a good time.

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When you’ve lost weight, but wetsuits are expensive. Glue a tuck.

Triathlon is always the same 3 sports: swimming, cycling, running, but there’s a great variance in the distances. Everyone knows the big guy: Iron-distance, which is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 on the bike, and a full 26.2 marathon running. Sprint distance is a little mini-version of all that.

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Today’s race was 0.6 mile in the lake, 14m on the bike, and a 4-miler to close. It was fun and fast, but what made this race special, and different from all the others was my support crew.

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Team Gammy consisted of my ever-patient and most-supportive honey, Eliott, and my no-longer-a-child-yet-not-quite-a-man grandson Aden.

They helped me practice my transitions the week leading up to the race (tri-talk for the frantic moments between events in a race when one drops wetsuit/goggles/swimcap and dons bike shoes/helmet/sunglasses and so forth, while the race timer casually clicks away the seconds).

They loaded the car with all the flotsam and jetsam necessary for triathlon.

They got up pre-dawn so we could drive to the race, check-in, lay out the gear, and talk through our strategy.

They watched for me at every turn, took pictures, shouted my checklist, and cheered me on from beginning to end.

And they celebrated with me as I crossed the finish line, marking my return to triathlon for the next couple of years.

Showing all the restraint I could muster, I didn’t register Aden when I realized he would be in town during this race. He’s an athlete, and has mastered all 3 of these sports. He’s been riding his bike on our annual cross-Iowa family bike ride for years, riding every mile (428) in 2018. We even ran a 5k together when he was 8 years old. One of the things I learned as a parent is that children have to find their own way to their interests; our job is to expose them to as many opportunities as possible.

However.

Just as my evil scheme planned, he has expressed an interest in participating in a race with me. I’ll be looking for a sprint-distance we can do together. My children have raced with me in the past (Amy and Sam), and those moments have been life-highlights. To now share the joy of racing with my grand marks a new point on the spectrum of gratitude and humility.

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Post-race relaxation and reflection

Watch for more race reports to come. I’ve enjoyed my hiatus from racing and blogging, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my return to both.

Thanks for reading.

 

Like water. No, like oxygen.

25 days.

9172 miles.

4 children.

I am at the conclusion of my multi-state, post-election, JordanTour 2016. I have been traveling since Wednesday, November 9. It began with a quick trip to Georgia to visit my parents, and included Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Connecticut, not counting layovers and flyover states.

My narrative will follow the itinerary…not very creative, I know, but tells the story a little more coherently.

First stop: Las Vegas. Daughter Glenda is a performer there, and has been for 3 years. Recently, she and her honey have moved from apartment living to home living, and is it beautiful! Gives them a little space for their pets (Boomer and Ms. Whiskers) and guests (me). Eliott (my honey) joined me for the trip, and also a surprise guest (Amy! Glenda’s twin!) showed up. The more the merrier!

The Las Vegas Marathon is held the 2nd weekend in November, so on go the running shoes and off we go! Amy, Eliott, and I have run this race in some combination for the past several years. It begins at 4pm, and goes right down the Strip, which is closed for the day to auto traffic. Costumes, noisemakers, spectators – this race is awesome.

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Traditional after-race meal at Joe’s

Other highlights from the Vegas portion of the adventure include getting to watch Glenda perform on the tippy top of the Rio, at Voodoo nightclub. You can see her platform way up top when you are standing on the street below. Also, lots of good food, thanks to Eliott. We had one at-home feast prepared by everyone, that was sort of our pre-Thanksgiving. We also got to talk, commiserate about the election, talk some more, hang out downtown, and talk.

 

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Voodoo
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Glenda and honey Nick
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Glenda’s veggie chowder feast

My Glenda is my passionate human rights activist. Her sense of justice has been finely tuned since she was a very small child. Injustice and unfairness offend her to her very core, and her activism includes reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and civil rights. My visits with Glenda include deep conversation about these issues, and this young woman inspires me to seek out hidden racism, sexism, and bigotry in my own life.

The visit was over before we knew it, and all of us headed out – me to Washington, Amy to Oregon, and Eliott back to TN for animal duty at the farm. I barely had time to be sad about leaving Glenda when Ben was there to pick me up at the Spokane airport! What a joy to see his sweet face!

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So much to tell about Ben. He is currently almost finished with his first semester of law school at Gonzaga U in Spokane, Washington. That’s Gon-zaaa-ga (as in cat and bat and mat and sat), not Gon-zah-ga .Not only did I get to attend a few classes with Ben, and meet his friends, classmates, and professors, but I got to serve as the judge in a mock hearing the students had to do regarding a motion to dismiss. Plus, I got to see his new little home a mile or so from campus. PLUS I. Got. To. Study. With. Him. – what a dream. We covered Torts, CrimLaw, and CivPro. I even passed along the custom, sacred, Jordan-specific Flash Card Set. We should have made it a little more ceremonial.

We got to talk, commiserate about the election, talk, eat lots of good food, share a drink or 9, talk, and even watch a movie. We also celebrated my birthday together, and I participated in my nonprofit’s Thanksgiving fundraiser from his living room. We constantly joke about the name of our future law firm: Jordan and Mother. Jordan and Kid. Jordan².

My Ben is my passionate political science activist. This kid has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from U of Colorado, Boulder, and the patience he shows to those less educated takes my breath away every time. He could respond to a Facebook post with the tap of a couple of keys, calling out bigotry, sexism, racism, and downright ignorance, and instead, he chooses to respond with a word of encouragement to the poster, to encourage them to research and consider thoughtfully an opposing view. I’ve been amazed, over and over, how generous he is with his knowledge and education.

What a great time we had, and once again, the visit was over in a flash. I left Spokane on an early predawn flight and hated leaving.

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30 minutes with Little Blue Eyes

I couldn’t be sad too long because after a quick layover in Salt Lake City (where I got in a serendipitous visit with grandson Aden, who was also passing through!), I was met at the Portland airport by sweet daughter #2, Amy! It was to have been the Eugene airport, but that didn’t quite work, so she had to drive 90 minutes or so to get me.

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Home to her place, which is also her honey’s place, which is also his family’s place (hereinafter known as the Burgdorfers), in beautiful Eugene. Amy is looking for work, which worked out well for me, selfishly. We were able to talk, commiserate about the election, see a movie, talk, shop for Christmas, and talk.

Our Thanksgiving Day began with a Eugene tradition: hiking up Spencer’s Butte, to the summit complete with coffee (Bailey’s) and fresh,hot, homemade cinnamon rolls. It was a terrific hike, just arduous enough to be rewarding, and appetite-inducing for the later-in-the-day feast. The view from up top was gorgeous.

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U of O arena right there in the middle

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Our feast was a traditional one, with the families and friends that the Burgdorfers have been feasting with for years. What a joy and privilege to have been included in their annual tradition. The food was delicious, the conversation stimulating, and the environment resplendent.

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After Thanksgiving, Amy and I took a quick road trip up to Banks, Oregon, where we got to spend a few precious hours with my cousin Stephanie. Reminiscing, laughing, sharing a beer, and reconnecting with my closest cousin was one of the highlights of the trip to Oregon. The shared experiences we had as children bonded us in a way that has transcended time and geography.

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My Amy is my passionate outdoor activist. She has always sought work that allows folks who may not have the traditional ability to participate in the joy of outdoor sports and activity, to have that experience. Her undergraduate degree reflects that, and she has spent time as a ski instructor, a sea kayak instructor, and as an interpretive ranger in a state park.  Amy recognizes the value of the experience, in and of itself, and does everything in her ability to see that others are accommodated to whatever degree they need, in order to have that moment.

And again, the visit was over as soon as it started. However, this time, Amy jumped on the plane with me as we made our way to our last visit, to see son Sam, who is in graduate school at Yale, in New Haven CT. Amy and I concocted a little scheme to surprise her sweet brother, so after he had picked me up at Baggage Claim, and loaded my suitcase into the back of his pickup truck, he got to see his little sister sneaking out to smile and giggle and give him an unexpected delight!

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So much to say about this visit. I have spent very little time in New England, and it was just barely close enough to the tail-end of the fall season, that we got to see the colors and leaves and the architecture of this Ivy League institution in all of its glory. AND we got to attend classes, and a faculty panel, see Sam’s lab, stay in his tiny little studio apartment, eat clam pizza (srsly), and spend the day in the Yale museum. We got to talk, commiserate about the election, sightsee the campus, tour the law school and library, and the main library, and meet a few of Sam’s colleagues and professors.

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Rare book collection at Yale
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Law library
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Looking for owls

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Even the coffee shops are liberal

My Sam is my passionate environmental activist. We even attended a panel on Sustainability Under the New Administration, which broke my heart. Sam has a love for our natural world that was manifested when he was in grade school, when he wrote a letter to Tennessee legislators expressing his concern over some ominous leaking 50-gallon barrels he observed in the rock quarry near our home.

Like all of the others, this visit passed in the blink of an eye. Amy and I loved every moment of our visit with Sam, and left him studying for his final research papers. We can’t wait to go back, and we both left feeling a little smarter just from having been on that campus.

A couple of days visiting with my parents in Atlanta, and just like that, it was time to point that 2003 Corvette back toward Murfreesboro. My honey had been on farm duty since the Vegas portion of the trip, and he greeted me with a hot dinner, a clean house, and chilled white.

I posted pics on Instagram, FB, and Twitter with the hashtag: #electionrecoverytherapy, and it was that it every sense. These kids have a way of putting in perspective for me all of the toils and troubles I experienced, both with my own election, and the national election. If the hope for the future of our country lies with these millenials, we’re all going to be okay.

Harder than I thought, but not for the reason you might expect.

This post was written in late May 2016, and was published on Nov 15, 2016. 

 

This morning is all campaign stuff. Yesterday was all campaign stuff. Tomorrow is all campaign stuff.

I’m running for the Tennessee Senate, and I’m loving it. I’m loving the excitement, meeting the folks in the district where I’m running, the infectious enthusiasm from the campaign volunteers, the camaraderie with the other rookie candidates. I even love the tedious fundraising calls and district research to find contacts, events, elected officials, etc.

I’m in the early stages of the campaign, and the election is still 5 months away, so I’m spending some time doing some preliminary stuff before it really kicks into high gear. One of those things is “cleaning up” my Facebook page for inappropriate pics (kegstands and all that. JK. I’ve never done a kegstand). I’m also going through my blog.

I am running as an openly secular person in a very red, very Republican, very religious district. I am neither campaigning on my lack of belief nor hiding from it. In other words, I’m handling it very politically. It will become an issue at some point in the campaign, and I have a prepared response for it, but I believe it will ultimately become a dealbreaker for being able to win, but that’s another blog post.

What I’m struggling with right now is making private those blog posts where I specifically deal with my secularism. My atheism. There is a difference in the eyes of most believers between the statement: “I’m not a religious person” and “I’m an atheist”. To those of us on the secular side of the spectrum, there’s not a gnat’s whisker’s difference in those statements. These blog posts often use the word Atheist, and some are harsh in their judgment of religion and religious ideas.

WHICH OF COURSE IS THE STRUGGLE.

I am running because I think that the people who live in my district have needs that are not being met and voices that are not being heard. I want to be able to speak for those folks, to represent them. I’m aggressive and articulate and unafraid, and I want to use all those skills to fight for the people in my district. But I can’t do that unless I get elected. I can’t get elected if I don’t proceed cautiously with how I handle being a non-believer. Religion is very important to these people (and don’t get me started on whether their beliefs factor in to why they often vote in opposition to their self interest).

So I’m taking these posts, these posts that I’ve labored through to write, these posts that express how I left my religion behind, and why, and how painful, and making them private. I’ve made private the most aggressive. But I can’t hide them all. I won’t hide them all. Some of them may help someone understand, and may reach someone who needs to know they are not alone in their unbelief.

And of course this one is private. I have 5 more months of campaigning. As much as I’m enjoying it, I’ll be glad when it concludes. I’ll be changing those posts back to public in November, win or lose. I’m an atheist. Proudly an atheist.

Thanks for reading.

Deck, Sam style

Home Improvement Time!

After a winter of some inside projects, pulling up old carpet and refinishing hardwood floors, and redoing a suspended ceiling, it was time to turn attention to an outdoor living addition to Freethought Cottage!

Son Sam, with a few weeks to spare before beginning graduate school, came home and brought his construction experience with him. He is a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wyoming, and there is a reason he was selected for that position. He is a patient and knowledgeable teacher in addition to being a competent craftsman with an eye for detail. Along with constructing the porch, Sam walked me through the steps of building.

The weather, in typical Tennessee spring fashion, was different every day. In our week of construction, we had a warm sunny day, 2 cold rainy days, a cold clear day, and an overcast day.

Let’s begin with the before pictures:

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This area stayed muddy and bare, even in summer.

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Big Vaughn there, the big black lab. I heart him.

I have a killer patio on the south side of the house, which is great all summer long – it’s completed shaded by big leafy trees, from morning til sunset, and in the dog days of summer it’s wonderful for picnics, coffee, cocktails. But in the fall and spring, I’m longing for warm sun. The deck will get sun almost all day long.

The obligatory Home Depot trip:

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I would recognize this printing anywhere.
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1st cartfull…
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Some assembly required.
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Beginning of frame, end of Day 1

DAY 2

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Rainy, rainy workday
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Very soggy crew.

DAY 3

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Cold but sunny for Steps day.

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DAY 4

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Note the mud…
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Final touches
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Party time! 
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Here it is!

It’s perfect. The sun is warm and delicious at sunrise, and soft and beautiful at sunset. C’mon over for coffee in the morning, picnic in the afternoon, or wine at dusk.

Sammy, what a wonderful gift you have given me. Best kid ever.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Fighting God, by David Silverman

This is my review of David Silverman’s recently-released Fighting God. This review is cross-posted at Goodreads.

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No bones about it. David Silverman IS Fighting God.

In this manifesto, Silverman tells us, topic by topic, why he does what he does. As president of American Atheists, Silverman is the head of the largest, and likely most militant and litigious, atheist organization in the world. And he’s over it.

He’s over “live and let live”. He’s over “respecting your beliefs”. He’s over “coexist”. He’s over all this, and he explains in this book why: not because he’s an intolerant hater, but because religion won’t allow him. He cares too much for other people, and he cares too much for America and its values. Religion, as he sees it, invades every corner of our cultural and political arenas, and not in a good way.

He spends some time at the beginning of the book defining terms so that the reader can get firm footing on the power of language that has for so long worked in religion’s favor. For example, many flavors of Christianity fall under the broad term Christian (Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, even Mormonism). This is not true for people who have no belief in God (seculars, agnostics, atheists). This becomes important when statistics are used to prove that America is a “Christian” nation, because the numbers are skewed. Silverman emphasizes in this chapter the value and extreme importance of non-believers using the term atheist, which regardless of the baggage, every non-believer is.

Silverman then takes us on a journey through all religions, not just Christianity. He carefully addresses every topic used in defense of religious beliefs, and shows them for the smoke they are. One of his strongest sentences, in Chapter 3, states:

“Beyond the rhetoric, beyond the lies, and beyond the marketing, never once in the history of our species has any religion found, offered, or shown any verifiable and testable proof based on scientifically valid evidence and the scientific method (you know, the way we would prove anything else) of any supernatural being or phenomena. Ever. As I said before, if I am ever proven wrong on this point, I will quit my job and donate the proceeds of this book to that specific god’s religion, and I shall do so in a tremendous hail of publicity so that everyone will know.”

This book builds with intensity. As an attorney, my favorite chapter is Chapter 8: On Fighting Unpopular Battles (but Being Right). The chapter addresses the problem of religion in politics in America. Even the most devout of believers will agree that religion has a position of privilege in our government. This is perhaps the most powerful reason in a series of powerful reasons to push back against the ubiquity of religion, and to push hard. So many divisive issues in our culture have at their roots the ugliness of religion: gay marriage, abortion, women’s reproductive health, and even wealth inequality (remember the “poor always being among us”?). Silverman reminds us that religion will never, ever concede its position of privilege, and it will only be taken from religion with muscle, stamina, and determination.

Silverman’s book concludes with a variety of speeches he has made, and after the beatdown silent non-believers have taken throughout the book, these speeches not only assuage those wounds, but serve to inspire and motivate. Patriotism has been usurped by the religious right, and these few pages go a long way in reclaiming it.

For the purpose of full disclosure: not only am I an non-believer, but I’m one of those firebrand atheists Silverman describes. This book does a wonderful job of explaining why I am the way I am, but I would also have loved to have read it when I was on my way out of religion. Instead of slinking quietly away, I would have hired a marching band, drill team and all, and I myself would have lead the parade, carrying the atheist banner.

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Thanks for reading!

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