9 to 40: Discovering the “Garden of Youth”

As I mentioned in my previous post, Julianne is a learner.  She strives to excel and, most of the time, succeeds. It seems like years that she has been searching for her “fountain of youth.”  We have both struggled with our weight throughout this 40 years together, but, I am certain, Julianne has ultimately succeeded in her battle.

Fighting weight issues is a massive challenge for all that attempt it.  Most don’t ever really get there.  It requires dedication, planning, gumption,fortitude, desire and struggle to get there.  And, of all the people I know that have struggled to get there, Julianne is really the only one that has truly succeeded.

I can remember her years ago studying the Macrobiotic Diet, probably as a result of our time living in Japan.  The macrobiotic diet is a pescetarian diet (sometimes vegetarian or vegan) fixed on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism.  I think at the time she tried, it was too difficult.

Dr. John McDougall

After struggling with other diets, Julianne ultimately discovered Dr. John McDougall, an outspoken proponent of the consumption of a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB), especially advocating low-fat, starchy foods, like potatoes.  She studied his concepts intently and eventually was led to watch videos such as the famous documentary Forks Over Knives, which was based on the book of the same name, which ultimately became a number bestseller on the New York Times list.  The book (and film) suggests the adoption of a plant-based diet that helps people regain control of their health and their lives.

Forks Over Knives was on of Julianne’s catalysts for change
Jane Birch – Author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom

Julianne then became friends with an LDS proponent of WFPB named Jane Birch. She is the author of a book titled Discovering the Word of Wisdom.  She then pursued her efforts and, after a while had great success such that she was featured on Jane’s website. (see Julianne’s story here).  I think that this is where Julianne “discovered” what I am referring to as her “Garden of Youth.”

Discovering the Word of Wisdom
Julianne in her “youthful” 2019 look

 Julianne began digging into this Garden of Youth more and more.  The learner in her kicked in full-bore.  As an employee of the University of Kentucky, she could take classes and, in one of her classes she had to do a report.  In doing so, she found a disturbing article by Michael Moss titled “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.”  This article, published in the New York Times in Feb. 2013, revealed how the giant food manufacturers were intentionally making food addictive.

 

Julianne visiting with T.Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, a major publication suggesting a plant-based lifestyle

From there she focused on food addiction and realized her addictions, which drove her even deeper to overcome them.  Unlike most of us, including me, that are afraid to admit food addiction and/or are not willing to accept or take it one, Julianne dove in full force. She committed herself to change based on her research, evidence, and, by this time, experience.

Julianne and Chef AJ In 2019

She then found Chef AJ, who runs the Ultimate Weight Loss group, another program she loves. She has learned a lot from Chef AJ and her program really sent Julianne to the next level.

As Julianne’s husband of nearly 40 years, I have done all I can to support her efforts (short of jumping on board the WFPB train completely) to help her succeed. I really have.  I am proud of her fabulous success.  Since starting WFPB sometime in 2017, she has lost nearly 100 pounds.  She actually weighs less than she did as a 19 year old when we married in 1979. She looks 15 years younger than her actual age.  She is vibrant, active and happy.  She loves her journey and the many friends with similar mindsets that she has made.

Julianne with plant-based guru and author Rip Esselstyn, who also just set world swimming records for someone over 50

Ironically, in our 40 years of marriage, the past two have probably been the hardest for me.  In my life journey, I am still, admittedly, not willing to jump into WFPB, though I have seen first hand what the benefits are as I have seen the great progress of my strong and successful wife. Indeed, there are many who are in my same boat.  Perhaps its our lizard-brain, or our food addictions.  Much of the foods she prepares are wonderful, but I still find myself craving the meat and cheese and oil.

For those of you that may not know…Julianne’s dietary lifestyle is a radical change from how most of the rest of us eat. She eats no meat, fish, dairy products, poultry.  That’s a given in a plant-based diet (notice, I am NOT using the word Vegan here). But, she has taken many steps further — no processed foods, no sugar, no honey, no bread, no oils.  Her downfall and biggest temptation?  Tortilla chips and salsa.

Julianne Before and After… on the left was early 2017. On the right late 2018

Her mantra is “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”  She has discovered her “Garden of Youth” and you can see it.  I am proud of her success and honored to be her husband…despite my own weaknesses.  Not many of us are privileged to be with such a strong and amazing person!

Julianne 1979
Julianne 2019 – looks better than ever!!

10 to 40: The Always Improving Inspiration

The ten day countdown has begun for our 40th Anniversary on July 15, 2019. What an amazing journey this continues to be for the both of us. The togetherness we have shared for nearly four decades continues.  But, today’s “togetherness” is not the “togetherness” of twenty years ago. Life changes and so do we.

Before we even became empty-nesters, our “together” paths began to become somewhat different.  With no children left in school, by the mid-1990s we both had jobs and our journeys were no longer totally on the same course.  How could they be? Different jobs.  Different schedules. We were soon developing our own interests that may or may not have been conducive to the other’s real interests.  But, in my mind, that was OK.  We have always been different people.   We shared the goals of raising good children and sticking together through thick and thin.

I the early years, Julianne was always doing things with the children.

Loving life together. She was always there for me.

For nearly twenty years Julianne was a support for me.  She selflessly sacrificed many of her interests and goals to make sure the children had a mother while I chased after careers and ways to sustain the family, including long periods of not being home due to jobs.  Once the kids were gone, those shackles on Julianne were removed and she had much more time to pursue life.  (Knowing her, she will never say she was shackled, but, she really didn’t have the kind of freedom to move about like I did.)

Century plants only bloom once every ten years

It has been a wonderful experience for me to see Julianne blossom beautifully like a dormant century plant, especially over the past decade.  This lovely lady is one that is always striving for improvement in all facets of her life.  She is an inspiration to me, to her children and to many of her friends and associates.

Seems like for years she has sought for a way to transform herself.  We both hit weight loss program after weight loss program with some minor successes.  But, a few years ago, Julianne took hold of the Whole Foods Plant-based Methodology…not only for weight loss, but for better health.  She refused to fail and today, as I write this, my vibrant wife of 40 years looks like she is only 45, she is vibrant, happy and an inspiration to many. (I will write more about this in a later post).  In any case, she has accomplished what I have had many a struggle trying to even conceive in my mind.  I am proud of this.

At a conference with Whole Foods expert Jane Esselstyn

Julianne with her boss Nicole (right) and another staff member from the College of Pharmacy

Soon she will be hitting her six year anniversary at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.  She has thrived.  Early on she had to one of those personality tests and “discovered” that she is a learner. (I ALWAYS knew that!).  And she has not only run with that inherent talent, she has excelled.  Challenge after challenge on her job has been overcome because she sought to learn.

https://vimeo.com/240555345

And this learning has carried on to other areas of her life.  She needed to learn Photoshop and she did.  She needed to learn Database management, and she did.

Studying a book to better herself for her job

As an employee of UK, she is able to take classes and she has always been at or near the top of each class.  Why?  She refused to quit until she got it. And then she would improve upon it.  One great example was her creative writing class.  I loved to hear her read what she had written for the class.  She most certainly could compile her class writings into a nice little book.

Julianne and Marissa kayaking on July 5, 2019

As I write this post, Julianne is out on the Kentucky River on a kayaking trip with our daughter Marissa.  Neither of them had ever kayaked before.  But, I am sure that Julianne’s all-day adventure on a kayak turned into a master class and she became the master.  I expect her to come and tell me that she wants to buy a kayak now.

Julianne is the other #1 in the picture

Bottom line, the Julianne of 2019 is an inspiration to hundreds of people. She may not know it or realize it either.  She is always surprised when she reads a Facebook post from someone noting how she is such an inspiration.  She humbly denies being an inspiration to people at work or church.  But, there it is.

Author Jane Birch, a proponent of Plant-based living said this recently in a Facebook post about Julianne:  “Her strength and resolve inspire me, and I hope it will inspire many others!”   I have seen similar sentiments by others.

Julianne is the “awesomerest”

 

Funny thing — I have become famous for my “How are you?” response when I say, “I am awesome, but I am getting better. There is always room for improvement.”  But, Julianne skips the “awesome” part and just continues to strive for improvement in all she does.  And that makes her the “awsomerest” wife and friend that one could ask for.  Yes, as the Antsy McClain tune attests… “I Married Up.”

2015 In Review: People, Friends, Family and More

Singing with Antsy McClain at Woodflock 2015The world is filled with people. And people enrich our lives. I have never written a post in the past just focused on the people in influences that they’ve had in my life. Any of my post to be included comments about people and it includes my life, but over the year 2015 I found it I had many people that had a profound and positive impact on my life and I wanted to make note of that in this post.

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

I was blessed to spend time with all of my children and grandchildren
at one time or another this year. That is probably the best and most
blessed of all of my people experiences. But there were many others, both old and newly made friends, and other people who I met along the road of life during the year.

All of these people added to the great year I experienced in 2015.

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Smile Man in Seattle

Smile Man in Seattle

I think of the stranger that I met on the streets of Seattle who stood on the corner holding a sign that you said smile be happy. He was not seeking donations. He was not seeking welfare. He was wanting people to smile. He kind of became a symbol for my year.

I made some new friends and acquaintances over the year. Some of these are artists or authors and I was able to enjoy and appreciate them.

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

One of these was former Navy seal and Author Rob Roy. I noted on more than one occasion how his book the Navy seal art of war inspired me and help me on my path to a more healthful life.

Then there is my friend the musician Pete Huttlinger. He too inspired me with his current. A great guitarist and musician who has performed over the years with John Denver and many others, Pete has suffered from a heart defect that almost caused him to lose his life. With his
wife Erin, they have struggled and he is come back. This year he to wrote a book with his wife, it is inspiring and I can’t wait to dig into it. And, as I do I will listen to his inspiring music as well.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

During the summer, beginning in May, I had wonderful opportunities to travel to San Francisco and up to Red Bluff, CA and visit with many old friends that are associated with my very close friend Antsy McClain. This was my first venture to Woodflock and many of the people that were in attendance were people whom I had met in the past or who I became very good friends with over Facebook as a result of my association with the band.

Along with too many friends there, I got to get back together with Antsy’s saxophone and slide guitar player Bruce Wandmayer. Bruce is
himself, a wonderful person and a fabulous musician. On this occasion I also got to meet with his wife who, during the event, did morning
meditation. And really took me to another level as I listen to her. She is one of those people that brings peace to you just speaking and mingling with her.

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

And this trip also introduced me to a wonderful host and sweet person
in Carla Lockwood. Known as Christmas Carla because she was born on Christmas Day, she picked me up and took me for three days to stay at her place and then took me up to Red Bluff. We traveled parts of San Francisco and then parts of north-central California on our way and enjoyed sightseeing and mixing and mingling with each other along the way. She and her good friend Ione Snyder, whom I have known for a number of years, were great hosts and so kind to me. I won’t soon forget the happiness and the good times we spent together during my time in California in May.

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

At that time I also got to spend time and meet with a number of other people. The Flamingoheads, as they are known, are a great group of people. I am thankful to be associated with them. Here are just a few pictures of me with some of my Flamingohead family.

With Jacque and James Ferreira

With Jacque and James Ferreira

Good friend and official "teaser of Sumoflam" Kathy Aspinwall

Good friend and official “teaser of Sumoflam” Kathy Aspinwall

Men with Hats...my pal from Cal...Ed Townsend

Men with Hats…my pal from Cal…Ed Townsend

And we did dance because we wanted to...with MATCHING HATS!

And we did dance because we wanted to…with MATCHING HATS!

Can't forget Uncle Fred...one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Can’t forget Uncle Fred…one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Woodflock

Woodflock 2015

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

Through my association with Rob Roy, as I noted above, I was able to go to Utah and participate in one of his training sessions as a photographer. That program was interesting in and of itself, but along the way I got to spend some time both in Lexington and in Utah with John MacLaren, another former Navy Seal. Johnny Mac, as he is known to many of his close friends, has been a trainer to the stars and to many others. My first meeting with him was in Lexington as I picked him up at the airport when he arrived in June for the Great
American Fitness Challenge. His first words to me were “are you from Utah or Idaho?” That was a shocker, but he was able to pick up on the slight accent that I had from Utah, as he too, was a graduate of high school in Utah. He has an intensity about him, but also a very peaceful and pleasant demeanor. It was good to meet an individual like him. Not all military or former military people are hard-nosed.

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

During my trip to Utah, I was honored and excited to spend a littlebit of time with my very close high school friends Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I wrote a blog post in detail about that visit, but just want to show them again here. Both of them had a profound impact on my life in the direction my life took after high school.I owe them a great deal in terms of setting my life in the right direction. I will eternally be indebted to these two great men, both of them strong members of the LDS Church and great leaders. Yet, also very good friends.

Then there are the people that you meet in every day life. A couple of these people have become good acquaintances. And I want to point them out in this post because in their own ways they too have had an impact on my life just as the examples they set.

schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

Schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

 

One of these is Joe Seebold. Joe,is a good-natured car repairman. The manager of an oil change place, I have been associated with him for a few years. But it’s always great to speak to him about things other than car repair. And, over the last couple of years Joe and I have become good friends. Not through religion, not through common beliefs. But because we’re people and we enjoy each others company and that’s what is important.

 

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro's JJ Chen

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro’s JJ Chen

 

This past year, Julianne and I begin frequenting a restaurant near our house. The Asian Bistro Express is a great little Chinese place. The gal that runs the place with her husband is JJ Chen and as we have frequented the eatery, we have become friends with her as well. It’s nice to speak with them about things other than their food or their restaurant. Nice to learn about where they’re from, and what they do, what their goals are, about their children, etc. (They have a cute little girl in 4th or 5th grade). We all share a common trait in this world and that is we live life.

 

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Over the last couple of years I have become Facebook friends with folks near and far, many whom I have not met in person.  But, occasionally there is the unique opportunity to meet some of them.  One of these goes by the name Al Luminum (not his real name).  Al is an Airstream Gypsy with his family.  They travel the country in their Airstream and live off of a rental property income and who knows what else.  In the winter you can find him and his family staying in the quiet of the desert and in the summers they may be up north in any of dozens of locales.  On one occasion they pulled into Lexington, where they stayed in a church parking lot. He gave me a ping in Facebook and I went over and finally met them all in person.  What a delightful family!

I left the visit with envy as they travel freely in this beautiful country…something that I wish I could do full time!

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty's

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty’s

On another occasion I was with the family in Washington and we ventured into a unique eatery called Fat Smitty’s (see my blog post about this quirky place), near Port Townsend.  I was in there taking photos and there were three Russians (Ukranians actually) enjoying a wonderful Fat Smitty burger. One of them, named Alex, noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!  You never know who you can meet in this wide world.

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Then, as many of you may know, Julianne and I have strived to change to a healthier eating lifestyle.  We have moved predominantly to a Whole Food Plant-Based regimen.  She has been more perfect at it than I, but I too am trying!  As a result of this effort we had a unique opportunity to go to an advance screening of the Documentary Movie called “Plant Pure Nation” back in April (see my review of the movie) Nelson Campbell, son of the acclaimed T. Colin Campbell (author of “The China Study“) was there. We met Dr. T. Colin Campbell as well, along with the Producer John Corry, who also happened to produce another famed documentary called “Forks Over Knives.”

Meeting joe Cross, of 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" fame in Louisville

Meeting Joe Cross, of  “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” fame in Louisville

Along the same lines, a few weeks later, we met another famed Whole Foods Plant Based proponent in Joe Cross, who produced the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and has also authored a number of books on whole fruit/veggie juicing. (See my post about this)  We picked up his new book, which has some great inspirational stories that helped me out.  His talk was great and he was very understanding of the plight of big people.

I consider myself blessed to meet people like Nelson Campbell and Joe Cross, both of whom are on a mission to get people to eat healthier and live better, happier and healthful lives.  Yes, they may be famous in their realms, but it is not the fame that they desire as much as the ability to help others.

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Speaking of famous folks, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with one Jolly old elf in the small town of Santa Claus, IN just a week before Christmas.  The town was named after this guy and he looked like the REAL one….hmmm… I wonder.  He did know some stuff about me and about my grandkids….

Yes, he did tell me I was nice (and NOT naughty like some in my family may have tried to lead others to believe!)

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

While in California on the road with Carla (mentioned above), we stopped at Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA. Quite the quirky place (see my post about it), it was perfect for the travel writer in me.  While there I had the chance meeting of the founder and proprietor John Schaeffer. He was also the author of the Solar Living Sourcebook, a book I had procured back in1990 while working with Asahi Solar in Japan. It was a great opportunity to meet one of the founders of solar energy in the US.  I left with a smile, a great photo and a new, signed copy, of his book.

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

 

In November we had the great chance to go to Louisville and attend the Broadway traveling musical “Wicked” (see my post and review).  It was especially meaningful since Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd was a performer in this musical.  As a result, we were also afforded the opportunity to go backstage and see the props and learn more about the entire production.  Tregoney also came over to our house on Thanksgiving and the three of us went out to a wonderful catered dinner.

 

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati in April 2015

Of course, I have to note my good friend Antsy McClain.  A week doesn’t go by when we are not talking.  He is like a brother to me in so many ways.  It is wonderful to have a close friend who is also a musician, story teller, amazing artist.  We have been friends since our first meeting in 1992 at an auto plant in Kentucky. Much has happened to both of us since that time.  I am grateful for friends like Antsy McClain!

I have seen him go from a newbie in the business into a world traveling musician.  I have met many wonderful musicians who have since become friends, as a result of my friendship with Antsy.  I have seen his family grow as well.  Accomplished musicians and artists in their own right.

IN MEMORIUM 2015

MemoriumAs I get older there are those that pass on before me. Seems like the older I get the more I am seeing of my friends and acquaintances making the journey home. The year 2015 was no different as I lost a dear brother in law, a couple of friends and a couple of Facebook friends who I had become well-acquainted with but never got to meet in person.  I want to remember these folks as well.  They too had an influence in my life, if even minimal.

Ultimately, our lives are canvasses and every individual we meet adds their little piece of color to our complex life portrait.  I am grateful for the relationships as they all enrich my life.

Jamie Showkeir - August 16, 1952 - August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir – August 16, 1952 – August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir was my brother-in-law and mentor and was a down to earth solidly wonderful individual.  I wrote about him on his passing (see my post). He passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  He knew from the outset that his days were numbered.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him. Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me.  He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and his wife Maren, my wife’s sister, had authored two books).  I miss Jamie.

Dan "Photoman" Smith - Aug. 5, 1959 - June 16, 2015

Dan “Photoman” Smith – Aug. 5, 1959 – June 16, 2015

I first met Dan online through Facebook around 2010.  We shared many common interests, especially our love of photography in the Lexington area.  I had a couple of opportunities to finally meet him.  The first time we met was at Jacobson Lake, a favorite photographic stomping grounds for both of us.  He was out shooting a sunrise and I walked up and said “Hey Photoman!” and surprised him.  He knew me because of my Facebook photos. From then we met for breakfast a couple of times.   Dan was one of those who ended up losing a job and worked at a call center.  Photography and writing were his passions. He was a libertarian at heart. I am glad to have had the pleasure of his association over the years.  Dan collapsed into a coma in mid 2015 and never fully recovered. I am sure he is enjoying the heavenly sunrises.

Phil J. Norris - Dec. 3, 1962 - Dec. 29, 2015

Phil J. Norris – Dec. 3, 1962 – Dec. 29, 2015

I never got to meet Phil in person, but we had become Facebook friends back in 2013.  He was an avid Antsy McClain fan and friended me through the Flamingohead Family group. Our last communication was on my birthday, Oct. 4, in 2015.  We both lamented that we had not yet had the opportunity to get together.  He was in Idaho and I was in Kentucky.  We had chatted via Facebook Messenger weekly with our many common interests of family, LDS Church (he had served an LDS mission but later went inactive), Antsy McClain, Aussie musician Pauly Zarb (another good friend of mine) and grandkidz. Like my friend Dan, Phil went into a sudden coma in December, slipped out of it for a day or two and then back into it  He succumbed on Dec. 29 to the dismay of many of his family, Facebook friends and Flamingohead cousins.  I will miss our nice chats.