October 30, 2014

An Update on Me (And New Beginnings)

It's been an interesting year for the Browns. Kelly got a job at the start of the year and got an even better job soon after.  It's been amazing to see her passionate about her job. Mid-way through the year I got laid off from my job I worked for nearly eighteen years. It was a job I dearly loved.

I still haven't found another job yet. It has me both scared (how ARE we going to pay those summer electric bills) and excited. While I'm fearful and I'm also trying to discover what a second act of Christopher Brown might look like.  While I'm looking for jobs to fulfill my unemployment, I'm also trying to find something I'll enjoy, grow, be inspired, and learn.  In a city (that I love) like Fresno, that can be hard.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to learn HTML/CSS, and finding it mostly fun. But I fear it's not something I'll pick up with ease. I also trying to figure out what to do with The Married Gamers.  We've been on a mini-hiatus with the podcast. We're coming back, but with a busy schedule and being recently sick, it felt right to let it rest and return stronger in November.  The website is a larger issue. It might be time to rethink how we can make the site both fun and productive.... and make money, well some money would be nice.

The other thing I've just started in that infamous 'meantime' is a promise I made myself. I am now going to do one creative thing each day. It could be recording a podcast, writing an article for TMG, a blog post here on this blog, a poem, writing that story I've been itching to write, doing that guerilla Shakespeare troupe I always wanted to do here in town. Who knows?

To dust off that much too over-used analogy, I feel like it's time to break from this cocoon and become that butterfly.  Groan. Ignore that and just focus on that itch inside yourself. The one that has those mad ideas. Those fleeting thoughts of fanciful creation. Those words that cause the imagination to explode into a fiery display only to disappear into the evening. I don't want them to disappear. I want them to find a home in my story, in my biography. THIS, I did. I'll pass but here is my ever-present. I want that. I feel it in me, and I want to wrestle with it until I pin it.

More later.

January 23, 2014

Eating Better in a Rush

So Kelly is working again (hurrah!) which now presents a time problem certain days of the week. In addition to her new job, she is also taking a tech class which means on Tuesdays & Thursdays there is very little time to cook.

Fast food shouldn't be the answer. So again I turn to my supportive readers to offer some ideas to turn the 20-30 minutes she has at home (between work and class) into a healthy meal for her and me.  Any ideas?

Also, I need healthy alternatives for breakfast. While I am a creature of habit, there have been a day or two that I want something other than 2 cups of oatmeal or Malt-O-Meal and a cup of coffee (with a little creamer). What would you suggest for a one a week or weekend alternative?

(And yes that bowl of avocado & salmon salad pictured above looks so yummy. I think I convince Kelly into making something like that some night.)

January 15, 2014

Two Weeks & Counting....

I'm now two weeks into the diet and exercise, so it's time to check in with news, things I've learned, and begging some help from readers.

Right now I am using my FitBit Force to track my steps. I've had a few 10,000 steps days must mostly I average about 7,000 steps except on the weekends. I walk at faster than normal rate and often by the end of my 20 minute walks my shins are HURTING.

My awesome wife, Kelly, connected my Force to my MyFitnessPal account (TMGLefty) so it imports auto-magically my exercise. With the help of Kelly I'm doing very good with logging in my foods and am slowly becoming more thoughtful about choosing meals that are lower in sodium, in addition to calories.

Last weekend Kelly had me stand on our home scale. I last weighed myself at my cardiologist's scale mid-December. Since then I have lost ten pounds, bringing me to 370lbs. It feels like it's a drop in the bucket...but I'm learning to be positive about it and look forward to not just the weight-loss but gaining more energy in my day.  This Saturday will be my next weigh-in.

So here's my question to my readers. My university has a small exercise area that we employees can use. They don't really have much weight machines, mostly free weights. I want to start using them, but I really need to educate myself on what to use, what I should focus on, and how to properly use them without causing injury to myself. Anyone have some excellent resources or advice?

January 6, 2014

Open Source Lefty!

Last month when I sat down with my cardiologist, he really gave me pause. He wanted me to strongly consider a surgical way to reduce my weight. I really don't want to have surgery, but I've been morbidly obese for several years now.  It's time for a change.

I decided that if by December 31, 2014 I haven't seen a dramatic lifestyle change and weight loss, then I will begrudgingly take the surgical route. And in trying to make this change, I am turning to this new web community I'm a part of for help. In short, I'm open-sourcing my weight loss and exercise.

My social feeds, my circle of friends, family and followers contain several folks who have been able to lose weight and become more fit. So I am going to open source my diet & fitness this year!  I invite my well-meaning friends, family and followers to send me advice, tips, tricks, recipes, eating plans, aerobic (and later weights) workouts, and of course positive feedback and well-wishes.

I want this journey to be a success. I would love to be able to do more things. I've always wanted to skydive...but frankly at my weight that's on hold. And don't get me started on trying to fit into sports jerseys (i.e. Seattle Sounders jerseys) or other clothes for that matter. Who knows how much it will also affect things like my snoring, my diabetes, my neuropathic pain in my hand and feet, my sex drive or always being given "that look" when someone realizes that they are my airline seat neighbor for a 5-hour flight.

I want to be another success story. I know it doesn't come easily. I've done more than a decade of damage to my body that frankly may take years to get under control. Still, I so want to avoid surgery and I definitely want to become this healthier, more active person my obesity has denied me my several years now.

So this blog will feature my journey but you can also check me out at the following places:

Fitbit: http://www.fitbit.com/user/256ZWV

MyFitnessPal: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/user/tmglefty/status

Also some of this will be highlighted from time to time on my Facebook and Twitter feed.

Last but not least, I will be starting a gaming & weight loss podcast and am looking for a few co-hosts. Ideally I am looking for two co-hosts that also are trying to lose weight and another that is a medically-licensed physician or dietician that self-identifies themselves as a gamer.  If you are or know someone that would be interested, drop me an email.

July 9, 2013

Stupid Shit I've Done (Recently)


Stupid Shit #1

The picture to the left, in case you can't see, is a HUGE bruise I have on my arm.  I also have bruises on my legs as well.  Yep, they hurt.

I got these shiners after falling down in our bedroom. One of things I hate about my diabetes is that I have tingly numbness in my feet and also my pinkie and ring finger on my right hand.  It sometimes affects my grip, on in the case of my bruises, my balance.  So this weekend as I was putting my socks in the hamper I slipped and fell into some furniture in our bedroom and then onto our hardwood floor.

I'm thankful that I didn't break anything.  We need to buy a rug runner for our bedroom, the hardwood floor didn't help my balance being a little slippery as well.

Stupid Shit #2

So San Diego Comic Con is always a big event and sells out super-fast.  Despite it being over-crowded and poorly run (for press access). it's an event we at The Married gamers have been privileged to cover for a few years.  Kelly and I were gearing up for covering it in a few weeks, and I found it odd that she was getting press releases and I wasn't.  So I did some digging, and lo and behold I discovered I forgot to respond to an email link for the final step of press confirmation.  It was a simple thing I was supposed to do, but it came during PAX East stuff and fell into an email Mariana Trench and was forgotten.  Of course I found this out a couple weeks after final registration had closed.  So no SDCC this year and all because of a stupid, stupid mistake on my part.  That makes all the harder to bear.


June 19, 2013

Shake the Disease

The AMA recently decided that obesity is a disease. This is welcome news to me because down the road it will make it easier for obese people like me to find cheaper ways to, in the words of Depeche Mode, shake the disease.  Right now through my HMO, Kaiser Permanente, it is cheaper for me to buy my insulin than it is for me to attend workshops to help me eat and exercise better.  I can't even begin to think how much of my budget it eat up if I hired a trainer or chef to teach me what I could do to change my life.

I'm also excited that the AMA has taken this step because all my teen and adult life, I've always felt like there was something wrong with me.  Even back when exercise was a frequent part of my life I felt I was fat and doomed to it. Maybe I am predisposed to this disease which has made my struggle even harder without access to help that comes from a society (and health insurance system) that believes that it's entirely poor lifestyle and eating choices.

I'm not using this disease designation as an excuse for being morbidly obese.  I could write an overlong post about my struggles in learning how to eat better and how to exercise (believe me, real big guys like me face different problems in exercising than most slightly overweight or healthy folks do...try doing jumping jacks when your knees want to divorce you).   Like alcoholism, these is some malfunction that makes a healthier me very difficult.  It doesn't mean I can't attain it.  I haven't met one morbidly obese person who didn't want to change, and if they continued a sedentary and dangerous lifestyle it's because they had lost hope.  I empathize with them.

I want to shake this disease.  Every time I see, hear, or watch something on the effects of obesity and diabetes I cringe.  Every time I think of all those activities I wish I could do if I weighed less I get depressed.  Every morning when it's hard to get ready for work in the morning because my feet and right hand are having it's constant "tingling" pain I get upset.  The depression makes it all that more difficult to watch what I eat or help motivate me to exercise.

When I going through therapy, my therapist told me something that I am now going to apply to my diet and exercise.  I spend far too much energy trying to solve the mystery on WHY I was depressed instead of just applying changes.  So I'm going to apply that to changing my lifestyle and hope and pray I have ideas, people, prayer, and support that come alongside to help sustain me in those times when I don't think I can do it myself. 

If you follow me on Facebook then you'll see me reaching out to my friends to see if they know of any doctors who are gamers who would like to be a co-host on a new male gamer diet & exercise podcast I will be launching soon.  Also, I may use this space on leftybrown.com to be a little transparent on my diet and weight-loss.  And I'm becoming more open about asking for help, even if it's prayer or questions.

This is a disease I aim to shake.

June 18, 2013

Jesus Is A Little Bit Country

I've been listening to a lot of classic country and western via Pandora (after a good friend let me know about the station).  Other than finding some killer stuff that I didn't know existed ,or might have never heard and now love (like Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA"), I've been entranced with the depth and duality of country and western music.

This is personified in Johnny Cash (and many others but for sake of brevity let's stick with the Man in Black).  With some knowledge of Cash's music catalog, you KNOW that he was a man that truly treasured his religious faith and his belief in Christ.  At the same time, he's also a man that did some "hard living" through out his life, abused drugs and alcohol, and sang about dark themes, including murder.  Cash was a flawed person and his music offered funny songs, dark songs, and also songs about redemption and grace.

In many ways Johnny Cash is a man I understand and see traits in myself (traits not talents).  I'm also a flawed person.  I see those sinful, prideful, hurtful things in myself...but I also see the promise, God's grace, and the love that binds me to my family, friends and others.  I am far from a model Christian and frankly, there are times when I have my doubts in the reality of a living God.  But through it all there's an ember that keeps this bag of bones warm with the hope that I too will be redeemed when I breathe my last.

For now, I need to learn to accept me as I am.  Sure I do want to work on being a better person, but that is born out a desire to be more human, not because this work will save me.  Listening to country and western music (the classic "good" stuff) and the stories of sin AND redemption reminds me that Jesus took upon ALL sins of the world so that will might be saved by his grace.

May 31, 2013

Lefty's Top Five for May 31st

Man is it Friday already?  Well time for the Top Five this week.....

#1  The Married Gamers podcast

Gee, how very narcissistic of me.  Actually tonight we record episode 300 of The Married Gamers podcast which is a monster milestone for me.  For nearly six years my wife and I have recorded a topical podcast and through it has healed our wounded marriage, fallen in love with each other, and are STILL having a blast doing it.  Episode 300 will be out on June 10th, we are also recording episode 299 tomorrow (which will be out on Monday), and this week we sat in on two other podcasts, The Broke Nerdcast and Gamertag Radio's The Balcony.  We also were recently guests on Game on Girl as well.  So we sort of did a small circuit tour for our 300th.

Anyway, I'm so happy that through sic years I've had a fantastic co-host, had some guests that have been dynamic and interesting (most I'm proud to call my friend as well), and have done some very cool stuff too.

I wouldn't wish the heartbreak that Kelly and I had to go through that was the impetus of TMG, but looking back I do see that God can take two hurting and broken people and create a pretty interesting story of faith, grace, and love out of it.

#2  Uncanny Avengers

Last weekend when we were visiting friends in SoCal, we visited Golden Apple comics.  In addition to picking up the first appearance of Dazzler in Uncanny X-Men, I picked up the trade collection and issues 6-current of Uncanny Avengers.  Brian Bendis has been doing awesome X-Men work in All-New X-Men so I have wondered if this was a series I'd enjoy.  Well, I do very much.  The art is good (the rotating artists escape me right now), and the storylines have been good (I finished issue 5 and am looking forward to the Kang story).  It is good but not awesome...save for one thing.

I've been an Uncanny X-Men reader for decades.  For me, Charles Xavier's vision was one in which mutants and humans would be in peaceful co-existence with one another.  However, in all that time the X-Men have all been made up of mutants.  Uncanny Avengers take Xavier's "dream" a step further (well in a superhero framework) by blending mutant, human, and super-human together on a team in a public way.  Sure Avengers have had mutants on their team for a long time (even X-Men have been Avengers prior to Uncanny Avengers, like one of my favorite characters Beast), but this Avengers team wears it's unity stripes front and center which serves as a reminder to BOTH human and mutant.

I'm excited to see where this idea grows in later issues.

#3  John Fogerty  "Wrote a Song for Everyone"

I am usually not a fan of artists revisiting their classic works alongside new artists, but when Rolling Stone gave this album five stars ("Classic" status), I knew I had to download it and listen.  It's good.  Man alive it's good.  This album is, by my definition, "vinyl worthy," and will be picking this up on vinyl. 

This album has some unique pairings including Foo Fighters, Miranda Lambert (with Tom Morello no less!), My Morning Jacket, Kid Rock, Allen Toussaint (with Jennifer Hudson), and many more.  The result of such pairing peels back that "elder statesmen of Rock" that Fogerty has earned with me, to reveal that this is a man with fire in the belly still.  You got to check this out!  You will be FLOORED by the first track alone, a rocking Fortunate Son with the Foo Fighters.

I think I found my summer album.

#4  Arrested Development

I'm not quite ready for Season 4 of AD on Netflix, because I am watching this with Kelly who has never seen the series.  We're in Season 3 and I think I'm enjoying it again and STILL finding new stuff to laugh at.  That said, next week we'll be in season 4 territory and I'm excited to seeing something new that I haven't already seen six times before.

#5  My Summer Project

So my summer project consists of reading through as much of the Game of Throne books as I can and to also finish the video game Skyrim.  Last night I restarted my journey in the Elder Scrolls game and spent a lot of it trying to remember where I was.  This is made harder because I was playing this on not only the Xbox 360, but also on my gaming laptop and taking different approaches to how I played the game.  That said, I am catching up to speed quickly.

On the Game of Thrones front I am 15% through the first four books and am about 80% done with the first book I think (judging from where the book matches with the first season of the HBO series more or less).  I'm enjoying the book, but really like the portions that weren't included in the television series.

May 24, 2013

Friday Top Five

Here's five things that's been eating up my time this week:

1.  Xbox One

Microsoft's new console was announced this week.  I really enjoyed the presentation which focused on the hardware much like any new tech announcement.  This naturally got "core" gamers upset because it wasn't all about games.  Hopefully those naysayers will be amazed at the E3 event. The messaging afterwards has been all over the place, so MS really needs to work on that and trying to satisfy the hunger for reliable and true information.

So what was I excited for?  Well, the snap feature is something I'll use a lot since I like to multi-task.  I LOVE the speed of the new console which appears to respond nearly instant when switching from different tasks.  The use of cloud servers really is the next step forward in gaming, and something where I think Sony will fall far short (I AM excited for the PS4 still).

I am interested in clarification about owning a game in a household with two separate account/consoles, because right now the rumor is that it will mean a single player game will cost twice as much if both Kel and I want to play on our own machines.  Fingers-crossed that that isn't true.

2. Me and Mrs. B.

Along with the Xbox One announcement, Kel and I can finally talk about our video/photo shoot we had with Microsoft while we were out in Boston for PAX East.  We had a very short, blink and you miss us in the Xbox Anthem:

And we also had a short vignette about how The Married Gamers and Xbox Live had a part in saving our marriage.

3. Game of Thrones

Kelly and I watch Games of Thrones together and she's actually asking less questions about which characters are related to each other and such.  Also, I am actually hooked on reading the books on the Kindle.  I have the first four books on the device and because they are all "smooshed" together, I can say I'm 10% though the first four books, which I'm guessing is about 2/3rds through the first book.

My summer plans are to read through the books while also trying to complete the long-delayed game Skyrim.

4. Green Lantern

Green Lantern is my favorite DC character.  This was before Geoff Johns ever laid his talented hands on it and really gave it a mythos that will last for decades.  Essentially Green Lantern is about space cops, and for some reason that resonates for me as a vehicle to tell great science fiction tales (though 90% of the time it's mostly superhero antics).

So this week, Geoff John said goodbye to Green Lantern with a huge story that will have lasting results on those "space cops".  I loved the book mostly but the book ended with a look into the future, which admittedly can always be changed (this is after all a comic book), that seemed to give away the endings of the character a little too much for my liking...but now I wonder if it's because Johns knows that someday this "New DC" while be exchanged for a "Newer DC" with new histories.

Anyway, Johns has his pulse on what fans like me want, and he really did a bang-up run on GL.  I should also mention that he also had some of the best artists in the biz making his stories look very nice as well.

5. Football = Soccer

The Barclays Premier League wrapped up their 2012-13 season.  This was the first season that I paid attention to it and rooted for my 7th place finishing Liverpool (I spent part of the season deciding if I would support Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool).  I've never seen soooooo many games played in the rain before.  Sheesh!  Other than waking up early for a few matches, I really enjoyed the quality of play.  I look forward to next year...and hopefully Liverpool finishing in the top 4.  I still need to understand what happens to the bottom teams that get relegated and which teams take their place in the BPL.

As for US MLS, I'm am decidedly a Seattle Sounders fan, although really the Portland Timbers are a VERY VERY close second.  Heck I love nearly all the West teams...except for Chivas.  The Sounders had a magnificent game last week against league leading FC Dallas, so I am beside myself that I finally get to catch the Galaxy vs Sounders in L.A. this weekend.  Can. Not. Freakin'. Wait!

May 23, 2013

Social Media and My Bully

Yes, since no one asked, I do plan on updating this site with new content.  Lord knows I have plenty to say, it's just valuing the time to say it.  I'll admit it's much easier writing 140 character messages or small chunks of update in my Book of Faces. 

Here, on this blog, it requires more thought.  It's an area that, while it still exists on the same internet, and actually has less privacy than I have on Facebook, I feel that there's more room to speak my mind.

So, for today let me tell you about a bully and business....

{I've edited this to the barest of details, because I don't want to "wake the dragon" but do want to share where my head is at}

If you follow my online existences on Twitter and Facebook you have seen an occasional entry about dealing with a bully. For the past year and a half (possibly longer) I (and by I it also extended to my wife and company, so more We than I) there's been this one person who has gone out of his way to spread lies, impugn my and my wife's relationship, and has cause me real and significant mental anguish. As a result, my name, my business and my wife's name was but through the wringer online.

He had an online megaphone, and I had thought to answer back but under great restraint I choose not to. Let me explain why....

First, I not only represent me, but as a business owner I also am tied to The Married Gamers, my business partner (and my wife) Kelly and the freelance staff.  If I were to trade blows it might make for interesting reading from the sidelines but the real effect is that it cheapens me and most importantly my wife, TMG staff, and the TMG business.  I need to think of all of these things even when it feels so very personal.  I have got to think of my business first.  We have built the website into something very special, redefining what a game/geek indie site is with our focus on women & family bloggers and emphasis on marriage equality as a good thing for gaming.  We have built great relationships with other websites, partners, and other businesses and I want that to continue.

Second, I like to keep this bully and his business as two different entities.  He is not the sole owner, so out of respect for his partners I refrain from disputing things.  Through it all I wish no ill towards his business.  It was a website that prior to his co-ownership of it, I counted myself a community member of (under different management/ownership to be fair).  I view it this way, if I have a problem with an employee at a store, I understand the difference between the actions of the employee than that of the store's.  He is part owner, true....but I need to trust like any good company if there is a rogue exec then they will bring him in line or buy him out.

Third, my own self-image.  Like it or not I do have image problems.  I'm obese and very self-conscience of it.  The internet finds it easy to pick on people like me, so I worry that I'm an easy target for their slings and arrows (maybe I could have phrased that better).  If I tried to stand up to my bully, I fear that my image would only increase the bullies ten-fold.

So I try to think before I type, as evidenced by this fourth draft of this blog post to make it less about my bully and more about my reasons for how I react.  I will say I'm in a much better headspace now.  Speaking with a therapist helped (this bully was one of the symptoms of my depression), the support of my awesome wife helped as well.  Kelly has helped me to open up and not internalize my grief.  Lastly my friends have been such a blessing.  I have been prayed for, wished well, spoken well of, given advice from a great many friend.  They have helped take away much of the sway this bully had over me and have given me a healthy frame of reference and willingness to take legal action if this silliness on his part continues.