Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings (from the country)…

Sunday musings (from Amish Country)…

1) Buggy. Some of the fanciest horses I’ve ever seen pull a buggy. Only on Sunday.

2) Croce. The late singer Jim Croce is part of the fabric of my in-laws’ culture. His children grew up with my wife, and his music is often the soundtrack of our Hurst family gatherings. So it is today as I sit here musing. Classic Jim Croce on vinyl no less!

3) Culture. Specifically, cultural sensitivity. Being in a cultural enclave of law-abiding citizens who have done their very best to accommodate their deeply held religious beliefs with the larger culture of the country that surrounds them makes it all the more maddening to see other groups insulate themselves behind a virtual wall of disgust for everything non-them. The Amish and Mennonite communities of East PA live quiet lives of varying degrees of piety, inter-woven with the “English” that live around them. Indeed, they make more allowances for us, both large and small, than we make for them by at least 2 orders of magnitude.

Mrs. bingo and I were out on our daily walk through and around the farms that surround her folks’ house commenting on this. Now, it was in rather stark relief not so much because of the actions of the Amish as it was the gross insensitivity demonstrated by the tourists visiting on this Holiday weekend. Cars and motorcycles screamed by buggies and bicycles on their way to or from Sunday services, horns howling and fists shaking at the very things they presumably had traveled so far to see. The behavior of the “English” was appalling, mostly in that it was so unnecessary.

The Amish and the “English” who live side-by-side do so in quiet respect and with quiet understanding, two peaceful peoples who want nothing more than to live together in harmony.

4) Nutrition. Welp, my great nutritional experiment, begun with so much optimism in January, has gone almost completely off the rails. Now to be truthful, my serum cortisol–the stress hormone–did go down ~20% over the last 6 months, and I will have to say that I am sleeping better, but man, everything else came a-cropper. My total cholesterol went up 25%, and my LDL (the bad stuff) shot up 33% (still waiting on the fasting glucose that drove so much of my decision making).


Brief recount: in response to a dramatically elevated cortisol curve and fasting glucose I shifted my carb intake so that it was very low in the AM and rather high in the PM. Fat intake was relatively flat; protein up a bit. Consistent with the general macro- plan I made less of an effort to choose low glycemic index carbs, and in order to get enough of them in at night I ate rather high carb-load foods. Unfortunately this all went along at the same time that I had major abdominal surgery, and while I have been suffering from a mysterious glute issue. These conspired to reduce both my exercise volume and intensity. What a disaster.

We talk about fitness studies performed with an n=1, and this is a great example. In an effort to fix one area I messed up two others. It’s back to the drawing board for me now. For the moment I will return to the Zone-like, low GI carb diet of the last 10 years in an attempt to return to my 12/2015 baseline and go on from there. At the same time I will do my best to maintain the strength gains I’ve made while simultaneously working classic CF high intensity work into my ever-busier weekly schedule.

Measurable, observable, repeatable is an ever-evolving, never static process.

5) Breath. “To die before age 40 is uncommon; to die is not.” Paul Kalanithi M.D. When Breath Becomes Air

On January 8th, 2009 I began “Turning 50”. Man, I really sucked a turning 50. Funny thing, though: I’ve been relatively good at being 50+. Our mutual CF friend Hari shared the wisdom that allowed this. Prior to 50 it’s all about preparing, either yourself for what’s to come, or your children for what they have upcoming. After 50 you’ve done all of the preparing and it’s time to just live. Beautiful words shared with me at precisely the right time. Thank you again, Hari.

It turns out that there is just a bit of preparing for us over the age of 50, though. Both preparing ourselves and once again preparing others. I shared with you last week that I am really missing my Dad, gone since October. My good friend Dave shared in a simply lovely FB post that he found himself in conversation with his late father on Father’s Day, a conversation that seems to occur more often as time goes on rather than less. My visit to Pennsylvania Amish country is a bit about that last bit of preparing, I think.

The men in my family have tended toward cardiac calamity relatively young in life. Hence my efforts noted above in #4. In a reasonably good version of my world I’ll stick around a bit, or at the very least not get taken our by a (reasonably) controllable cardiac risk. Dr. Kalanithi is precisely right above. To die young is uncommon and unfortunate; it is much more likely that we North Americans will live long lives, and therefore our responsibility to prepare in order to make those later years good ones. It is the second part of his statement that asks us 50+’ers to prepare ourselves and others, the part about death being common. While we continually push the eventuality out further and further, it is after all still an eventuality.

And so it is that I find myself here, in this peaceful enclave of Amish and “English” life, making one of a dwindling number of visits to my wife’s ancestral home to visit her folks. To join her Dad as he so aggressively and positively continues to live at a time when most other’s would be simply about the doings of dying. We are preparing, Bob and I, for that most eventual of commonalities. Preparing ourselves, our family members, and each other. Such a lovely man. Such a lovely spirit. We come from backgrounds so vastly different it’s nothing short of miraculous that we’ve been such good friends these 35 or so years. Part of our preparing has been about that, finding the closest distance between those differences, directly and by proxy. Doing so, in the end, we will be as close in all ways for all things as we will ever have been.

What a blessing it has been, is, and will continue to be to be able to share this bit of living with him. Hari was mostly right, that we are done preparing once we hit 50. And if you look at a certain way, he may actually have it all the way right. We’ve most likely prepared for this simply by living for ourselves and our loved ones once we stopped preparing. Preparing now may be little more than doing more than “not dying” today. Having prepared is to be living today, like my father-in-law Bob is doing with such grace and dignity.

There’s may be no other way to prepare, for either or any of us, for what comes next.

I’ll see you next week…


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