Monday, September 27, 2010

Education: Choices and Sacrifices

There was a segment on the NPR program Tell Me More (09/21/10) that struck a chord with me. The segment was about parents going back to school to complete a degree. I completed both my bachelor's and master's after becoming a husband and father. The essential element for me completing both degrees was the support of family.

As a child, I saw my parents make the economic choice to complete their education. I call it an economic choice because that's how it was explained to me. My father, a teacher, looked at the union rules and understood that earning a Master's would increase his paycheck - so he earned his Master's. My parents ran the numbers and figured that if my mother completed her degree in education it would have a positive impact on the family finances. It did. Then my mother completed her Master's to increase her paycheck. There was a clear understanding and explanation of the economic importance of completing an education.

My parents encouraged me to complete my degree while I was single and childless. I did not listen. My educational path was in many ways the opposite of theirs. Instead of focusing on the economic benefits of a degree, I focused on subjects I was curious about. I changed majors: architecture; computer science; and finally communication studies. I completed my bachelor's 20 years after I started it and in a different field than my career. Along the way, I got married and became a father. I didn't full understand or appreciate my parents' sacrifice until I became a parent and discussed those same sacrifices with my wife and children. As a parent, I appreciate even more the sacrifices my parents made and the lessons imparted about education. Now, I encourage my children in their educational pursuits. I let them know they can achieve their dreams on their time table – as long as they never give up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Healthy irony

This year, I made a resolution to lose weight and get in better shape. I joined a gym in January. It’s a mile from the house and I started going three days a week. I went after the kids were in bed asleep; I went when I felt great; I went when I would rather be a couch potato. All the hard work is paying off. I’m smaller than when I got married.

I also went to the doctor for my occasional physical. When they say annual, they really mean every other year. Blood pressure 120 over 80, heart rate 71; cholesterol 100 (I need to raise the good cholesterol). They suggest exercise and more leafy green vegetables to raise it. Additionally, my doctor recommended an increase in the amount of exercise. 250 minutes a week to lose weight; after reaching the goal weight, just 150 minutes a week. I increased my workouts to five days a week.

I felt great, and committed to a 5K. The time for my first 5k is not important - I finished. Stating it as “my first” indicates my desire to do more of them. All is well right? Wrong. I woke up on Father’s day in incredible pain. This time, it was in my leg. I could barely walk. It was 3:00am and my wife was still asleep, so I wrote her a note “change in plans for Father’s day – take me to the ER please.” When my wife awoke, she read the note and took me to the ER. Yep, a blood clot. I am on anticoagulants. As the folk in the ER are gathering my history, they hear computer geek and ask “do you get any physical activity – and picking up the remote for the TV does not count?” I tell them I just ran a 5K. I tell them I work out five days a week. They look skeptical. They check my numbers: Blood pressure 120 over 80, heart rate 78; They scratch their heads. Now that I am back on anticoagulants, I have to limit my intake of leafy green vegetables – the same leafy green vegetables that would help raise my good cholesterol.

In January I walked with ease. Sure, I was 330 pounds, but there were no mobility problems. Now, I am 265 pounds (30 pounds to go to hit my goal). I walk with a limp. It takes me longer to get where I am going. Oh the irony of being “healthier”.