Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No Loss, No Worry, Savoring the Memories of Mouthwatering Meals

My 2-Day Diet Progress Week 25, April 27, 2014 
Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 62
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 38 in.
Weight end of this week:  180 lbs.
Gain/Loss this week:   no change
Total Gain/Loss:  -29 lbs.

It's been over two weeks since I posted a 2-Day Diet update, and there's been no change in my weight. This is a great success: for 10 days I was traveling, eating many meals in restaurants, not weighing myself daily as I'm used to doing, not "trying" to lose weight--just eating, as I've learned to do, reasonable sized portions of healthy foods with a particular effort to avoid simple carbs (sugars, white flour, starchy veges, etc.). So it gives me confidence that when I’ve reached my goal, I will be able to maintain my new weight for the long term without feeling as if I’m restricting myself. The fact is, I had really amazingly delicious and satisfying meals during my vacation, including a gourmet extravaganza at a very classy restaurant in Charleston, SC called McGrady’s – a 4 course meal (during which I drank three glasses of wine). I ate every bit of the first three courses, which included polenta and lamb from the not recommended on my diet list, scallops and red snapper. I had only one bite of dessert (Rita was happy to help with that).

And today, Wednesday, the day after my birthday during which I also drank more wine than I usually allow myself and had a delicious dinner, my weight showed a loss of two pounds (this doesn’t “count”—only the weekly weigh in, Sunday morning or the next possible morning does each week).

So even though I could be disappointed by this week’s report (I first reached 180 pounds on March 16), I am satisfied and on track. My plan and hope was to reach my goal weight by sometime in August, so I am still on track. And if I don’t manage to lose more weight between now and then, I will not lose sleep over it. I feel great, I look significantly different (okay, I look great!), and while food is still an important part of my life, I now view it so differently: I look forward to my healthy meals with the anticipation that I will enjoy and savor them, not with desperation to satisfy an out of control need.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vacation in Retirement?

I’m on vacation, in the car, Rita’s driving. We’re on our way to Edisto Beach near Charleston, SC from Chattanooga, TN where we were visiting with Rita’s nephew, Todd and his family (two boys: 3rd and 4th grade).

I have no “report” to make on my 2 Day Diet—this is the first time since I started in the beginning of November that I haven’t done a weekly weigh in, but though I suppose I could have weighed myself at Todd and Jamie’s house, it might not have been the same as our scale at home, and besides, I’m on vacation. We’ll find out if I’m capable of going 10 days on the road and in a beach area doing more eating out than usual (we’ll probably do a fair amount of cooking—the condo we’re renting has a small kitchen). If you’re new to my blog, suffice to say that I’ve lost about 30 pounds by eating low carb 2 days/week, and Meditteranean Diet the rest of the week: more green veges, fewer carbs and proteins, more fish than red meats, moderate amount of low-fat dairy. In so doing, my appetite has greatly receded, allowing me to do without snacks between meals if I choose and generally to feel more in control. You can go back in this blog and read plenty about what that felt like for me from week to week.

I’m looking forward to walks on the beach, bike rides, a little touring in the other Charleston, reading, playing music with Rita, and somewhat warmer weather than we’ve enjoyed in this long winter and cool spring, an anomaly one supposes in this era of climate change (cue Fox News: “Another colder than average day in the Eastern U.S.—so much for Global Warming….”).

Speaking of climate change, I’ve become somewhat involved in helping with the start up of a West Virginia chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national effort to get a “revenue neutral carbon fee” passed. Google it to read the details, but it’s basically a carbon tax that the promotor’s believe is passable because it doesn’t increase revenues, so if Republicans Congressional representatives ever feel safe enough to publically acknowledge the fact that carbon based fuels are causing climate change they will choose this as the best way to cut down their usage because it’s a “market based strategy” that proposes not to let the government “keep” the fees, instead returning them to taxpayers.

Somewhat involved. But as I mentioned last week, highly involved in AWARE: Artists Working in Alliance to Restore the Environment. Basically, it seems I’ve created a full time job for myself. I’m now a non-profit entrepreneur. You see, I’m founder and CEO (high falutin’ term for the only person working, and as a volunteer to boot—got to get something in return, and titles are cheap) of what is basically an effort to raise funds for environmental organizations, starting with those in WV. I don’t know why I don’t just limit it to West Virginia—it’s just that, who knows, if the model I’m creating, and it is, as far as I know a unique model, is successful, maybe it will expand to the region or spin off other groups. Who knows? For now, though I was not looking for the famed late life career you hear so much about these days, it seems that’s what I’ve taken on.

This Tuesday, April 22, is Earth Day, and that’s when I’m going to officially launch the web site and an Indiegogo crowd sourced fundraiser. I’ve been working feverishly for weeks on the website, preparing the fundraising campaign, writing pitches to enviro groups asking for support, and on and on—basically starting a business from scratch, which in this day an age is, one can’t say exactly easy, but probably ten times easier than it was before the Internet. So, for my dozens of loyal blog readers, if you haven’t gotten my Facebook event invitation to “attend” the launch on Earth Day (I created that this morning), here’s your invitation: On Tuesday (or, if your busy sometime later), visit the AWARE website at, read about what I’m trying to do, think about how you might help by either endorsing (saying—yes I agree it’s a great idea, but can’t help in any other way right now), supporting (getting involved in some way), or contributing (giving money). There’s a brief questionnaire you’ll be able to link to let me know which, if any, it will be, and you have the option of letting me use your name or not.

As I’ve been signing my e-mails about AWARE recently,
With Awareness

P.S. – We’re having an awesome time in our one bedroom condo on this picturesque island biking, cooking fresh seafood, reading, relaxing, and yes, Launching AWARE. Seems I was too busy to post this (or too laid back) until now (after midnight, Tuesday), so I’ll report that we got 94 Facebook likes, 5 environmental orgs endorsing, and 4 contributions totaling $140. Not a bad start, but there’s a lot of work to do!

Monday, April 14, 2014

What A Week! Granddad, Fundraiser....

My 2-Day Diet Progress Week 23, April 13, 2014 
Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 38 in.
Weight end of this week:  180 lbs.
Gain/Loss this week:  +1 lb.
Total Gain/Loss:  -29 lbs.

Gain a pound, lose a pound. Life goes on and I feel great. I've got a lot going on in this busy life of my so-called retirement! A grandchild, my only, therefore my first, was born this week. Jack Mullen Martorella is the healthy child of Rita's older son, Drew and his wife, Caitlin Green. Drew and Patrick, Rita's sons, were both adults when Rita and I started dating twenty years ago, so neither ever called me Dad, and I never really thought of them as my children, though I've certainly helped Rita with the kind of parenting issues that you never seem to outgrow. But there is no such thing as a step-Grandchild. Jack is MY GRANDCHILD as much as he is anyone's, and I have the same feeling of love and pride that any grandparent would. I'm sure it will get even stronger once I have the opportunity to hold the little guy--we had a FaceTime video chat using the big screen TV: it was almost like being there!

Those of you who know me well know I've worked with the Central West Virginia Writing Project (and National Writing Project) for many years. This is an organization whose mission is to improve the teaching of writing and learning, and as a teacher, I earned a little extra money presenting professional development workshops, co-directing summer writing institutes, and eventually co-directing the program, becoming director when the previous director became ill just before I retired. 

I have been in a transitional phase this year handing off the director role to a full time faculty member of Marshall University South Charleston campus (where the project is based), and directing the WV Young Writers Contest (possibly for the last time). That part of the work becomes very busy this time of year as we prepare for WV Young Writers Day, a big celebratory event held at University of Charleston, when we honor 300 or so winners and their teachers and families from 55 WV counties in grades 1-12. 

I'm getting ready to launch a small fundraising campaign to raise $1,200 to pay for cash awards for the 18 state winners. University of Charleston used to write the checks, but they've decided not to this year, and its much too complicated to try to get Marshall University or WV Department of Education to write checks to students--a bureaucratic nightmare. Luckily, Cat Pleska, my dear friend and now a bona-fide publisher at the helm of the non-profit Mountain State Press, has agreed to write the checks, but I need to raise the money because she works on too tight a margin to donate the money herself. Hope you'll help out if you can. I just launched an online fundraiser so you can contribute to the effort by clicking here:

And, I'm getting ready to launch a website, funding campaign, and the whole "kit and caboodle" as my mother used to say, for AWARE: Artists Working in Alliance to Restore the Environment, and our first event, a concert and arts/crafts show at the Civic Center on July 5th! Stay tuned for more on that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Losing Weight, but Experiencing Growth

May I be healed.
May I be free from suffering.
May my heart be filled.
May I find peace.
I don’t remember where I got this mantra. I believe it comes from Buddhist philosophy or the yoga tradition, though I probably got it from a self-help psychology book. I’ve been reciting it for years, not as a regular exercise, but in times of stress, or sometimes just to help me relax before going to sleep.

Reciting this gives me a sense of contentment and even joy. But it has no intrinsic power; it isn’t in itself anything more than a prayer or a wish, words. I learned it during a time in my life, after my divorce, when I was trying to understand myself and my emotions. Why did I stay in a relationship for so long that was dissatisfying and eventually painful? And then how could I, at age 40 (then), “fall in love” at the drop of a hat, then be so pained when it didn’t pan out?

Songwriting and performing was one of my responses to my pain, and I had a period of creative awakening, writing over a hundred songs in the early 90’s from which I chose some and made a solo CD of original acoustic music I titled, “Lessons Life’s Taught Me.”

I also started a seeing a therapist who helped me explore childhood pain, how those early experiences stay in our minds, coloring and magnifying our emotions and responses in the present. I learned not only how to recognize that so that I could keep the present in better perspective, but through a method described by John Bradshaw in his seminal self-help psychology books (The Homecoming, etc.) as “inner-child” work, I actually reduced or eliminated some of the early pain, making me much better equipped to operate as an “Adult in transactions with other people.” I refer there to elements of a kind of psychological model called TA, or Transactional Analysis, popularized in a book written some 40 years ago titled I’m OK, You’re OK, in which, to give the barest and simplest summary, people have three choices or possibilities in any interaction with another person: to be playing a Child role, a Parent role, or an Adult role. To play either Child (needy, immature, manipulative, emotional, also possibly full of wonder, curious, na├»ve, joyful) or Parent (authoritarian, directive, worried, angry…), often forces the other into the opposite role and causes “tapes” from childhood experiences to run in the background coloring the interaction. Even if only one person can consistently maintain the Adult role, generally logical, not emotional, there is a better chance of keeping the interaction on the Adult to Adult level.

Since the vast majority of people do not escape early childhood without some emotional pain, and relatively few ever go through therapy to help them deal with it, it follows that there are likely a lot of people walking around dealing with various levels of childhood pain coloring their responses to the world. In extreme forms, it might look like road rage, but for most it’s probably just difficulty communicating in relationships or pettiness, overreactions of hurt feelings, anger, sadness, in a given situation.

But before I go any farther, let me correct any impression that I think therapy is the only path to healthy emotions and relationships. Some people, I’m sure, successfully work through programs or exercises provided in self help materials. Others find the same kind of liberation from childhood pain in their religious or spiritual experiences. I actually believe that the goals, or at any rate the potential results of religious practice and that of psychology amount to much the same things.

Fast forward twenty-two years, and you’ll find me, retired in my early 60’s, remarried for the last eighteen years, and in the midst of another awakening of my creative soul, my muse, call it what you will, but not limited it to music. In the past couple months, I must at least partly attribute it to my change of diet, I’ve had a host of creative ideas, many of which I’ve acted on, and to my great satisfaction, they are yielding interesting results.

MCHMess (that’s my word for the chemical spill/water crisis around Charleston, WV that began on January 9, 2014 and continues to affect the conversation here), has had a big impact on me. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog know it hasn’t affected me like most people: I’m not afraid to drink our tap water, though of course I didn’t drink while the advisories were in effect and didn’t choose to drink during the period that odor from the chemical lingered in the water in my house.

No, my assessment was that the efforts to contain and clean up the spill were effective, the chemical, while nasty and not a substance that should ever have gotten in our water, is likely not dangerous at the low levels it has been found in some tap water since the “Do Not Use” order was lifted, and that the CDC got it right or very close to right when they set the “screening level”, the level at which it was not likely to affect public health. That reasoned position is not very popular in the affected region.

My response to the spill, however, was to spur me to action on environmental issues well beyond chemical storage, which is, of course also important. I decided it was time for me to do something more about Mountain Top Removal (MTR) coal mining and to learn more about fracking and its environmental impact. It’s time to get serious about doing something about Climate Change as well.

I attended some meetings and some rallies. I wrote new verses to Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land and sang it at big MTR rally at the Capitol in Frankfort, KY, and again at the Capitol in Charleston. I walked the halls of the Capitol on E-Day, a day when WV environmental groups have a big lobby effort. And soon after that I decided that meetings and lobbying weren’t my best use of time. I decided the people already doing that needed more resources, more money, so I would do what I love to do and do pretty well, create and promote music events. I began talking with others about my ideas, including WV artist Mark Blumenstein, and a Charleston area software engineer and musician, Kevin Crump, and out of those conversations came AWARE: Artists Working in Alliance to Restore the Environment. And now, AWARE is about to “go live” as a project of West Virginia Citizen Action Group which I direct. The website is not quite ready for public viewing, and I’m not going to spend time in this space describing the project, but briefly, we will raise money through holding events: concerts, art shows, craft fairs, and encourage others to do so in our name and send us proceeds. We will distribute the money we raise to environmental action groups in West Virginia (possibly expanding in the future).

I’ve gone far afield in this long blog post, but if you’re still with me, I’ll wrap up shortly. Starting up this organization has been as creative an act as I’ve ever engaged in; it came, as great songs sometimes do, with inspiration and because I was open to my “muse”. Part of my openness to my muse at this time is, I believe, due to changes in my body from losing weight and eating differently.

My metabolism is different, and there are no doubt chemical/hormonal changes—I’m sleeping less (my brother is concerned I may be going through a thyroid induced energy burst which runs in my family and I’ve agreed to be tested), and I’ve been finding when I do my little Yoga routine that is basically a series of stretching exercises I haven’t ever done on a regular basis, I’m compelled to expand the stretches, hold them longer, and try new positions, sometimes experiencing “rushes” of energy as I “open up” into a position my body hasn’t been able to make since youth (and I didn’t do yoga then).

And I’ve found myself reciting the mantra I opened with more, but felt like I needed to revise it to reflect my current thinking. This is what I tell myself now:

May I be one whole being: body, mind, and spirit.
May I be free from fear, anxiety, and the slavery of painful emotion from the past
May my heart be filled with unconditional love.
May I be at peace

My 2-Day Diet Progress Week 22, April 6, 2014 
Beginning weight 11/3/13: 209 lbs.
Height 5'8" Age: 61
Goal weight: 165 lbs.
Total loss goal: 44 lbs.
Beginning waist size: 43 in.
Current waist size: 38 in.
Weight end of this week:  179 lbs.
Gain/Loss this week:  -2 lbs.
Total Gain/Loss:  -30 lbs.