Almost Two Weeks Straight Gluten-Free

Wow. Can you believe that? I’ve stayed gluten-free for almost two weeks now! I’ve still not gotten my Cyrex Array 3 back yet but it’s a matter of days now I would think.

Alas, I naturally ate gluten-free all during my vacation (having discovered many delicious options for both eating at home and eating out), including entrees, snacks and even desserts! As much as I was dreading it, I can honestly say the discovery has been a ton of fun! It’s a new way of eating but I don’t necessarily feel deprived.

As far as changes in how I feel? Holy shit! I no longer struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I’m up and revving straight away. I’m much less irritable. My clinical depression has lightened dramatically. I don’t feel like I’m about to crash come mid afternoon. I’ve also lost some weight without even trying. My “skinny” pair of DD’s? I can button them again! I don’t have them with me right now (as I loaned them out to someone else for the time being), but that was huge when I was able to.

Does the work day still suck? Oh yes. I still hate the shit out of my job (which yesterday marked four years in the crane and rigging industry for me). I’ll still leave that toxic industry behind sometime (trust me fellow Aspies/Autists – you do NOT want to work in the crane and rigging industry), but I’m not as edgy as I was before.

Further leading credence to the gluten reactivity theory is a physical exam of my tongue. I had a large, jagged fissure in my tongue prior to cutting gluten out. I always thought nothing of it, but apparently it’s a sign of food reaction (according to a certain Functional Medicine practitioner I know ;-)).

Right now my biggest challenge staying gluten-free is a family that does not practice the lifestyle. I’m having to do my own thing and for now actually hide it from them, because I don’t want them thinking I’m a hypochondriac as they have in times past (such as my own Asperger’s self-discovery and when started having heart problems about 10 years ago, which was later shown to be WPW). Rather, I will wait until I get the test results back to disclose so I have some scientific backing for my lifestyle change.

Anyway, just some random observations. I know with 99.9% confidence now that I am reactive to gluten. What form that takes will be seen soon (I’m hoping Non-Celiac as that’s easier to manage). All I know is I feel loads better following a gluten-free diet.

So that’s where I’m at now. I’m anxiously awaiting the test results, but noting the marked changes in how I feel, for now I’m sticking with being gluten-free.

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Cigar Review: Southern Draw Rose of Sharon

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This offering from Southern Draw cigars features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan and Dominican long fillers. The size smoked for review is a 6″ x 52RG box pressed Toro vitola.

The first light revealed a slightly snug draw but producing ample creamy, medium-bodied smoke. The first light flavors revealed a general nutty flavor profile supported by a big pepper blast on the retrohale. Fairly plain out of the gate, but ramped up quickly.

As the cigar develops into the first third, a rich bouquet of smooth flavors enter in – the nuttiness takes on a distinct cashew note and is followed up with notes of sweet cream and vanilla extract. The pepper is still very present on the finish and retrohale. All flavors are very well blended and nothing dominates over the others.

We see only a slight transition into the 2nd third as the pepper starts to diminish slightly, allowing a heavy, aromatic oak to enter the mix. The final third saw another subtle shift as the vanilla started to diminish and the pepper ramped back up. Finishing out at 1 hour and 20 minutes for a very impressive burn time for a Toro sized stick and bringing in a surprising medium nicotine strength.

The construction was absolutely perfect with a near razor-sharp burn all the way down and the ash holding on solidly for a third of the cigar at a time. High-quality self-adhesive bands that were easy to remove and did not damage the wrapper leaf in any way.

Wow, is the paradigm shifting when it comes to Connecticut blends? I’ve gotten a number of them recently that have defied my expectations for what a Connecticut would be. Maybe we’re seeing a market trend toward more flavorful, complex Connecticuts? I hope so, as I do like to smoke milder cigars in the morning (my palate is quite sensitive).  This one is definitely in the upper echelon, right up there with the previously reviewed Henry Clay War Hawk and the Blanco Liga Exclusiva de Familia.  Great with a nice strong, dark roast coffee. Rating: 4.5/5.

Phoenix, You’re A Fine Girl

Wow. Just, wow. That’s about all I can say right now.

Since we’ve already secured me a place to live, that freed Laina and I up to have some fun the rest of my vacation week, and that’s exactly what we did today when we took Phoenix out for a 330-ish mile (530-ish km) road trip end to end today, on some of the most fun terrain I’ve ever driven any vehicle on.

We set out around 11:30 AM for Kerrville by way of Texas State Highway 16, a route I had ridden with her once before that I just knew I had to drive Phoenix through. Multiple elevation changes and twists and turns galore – some rated as low as 15 MPH “safe speed.”

15 MPH? Heh, is that some kind of a joke? Well, maybe not if you’re driving a big-ass pickup or SUV, but Phoenix in her low, sleek Jetta GLI profile? Try like 35-40 MPH negotiating those. Whatever the road threw at us she powered through consistently 20 MPH above the specced speeds, never leaving the demarcations of the lanes. Lots of down and upshifting, revving the engine hard, but never turning the wheel more than about 60 degrees in either direction. You could totally feel the G-Forces as we navigated the terrain, but at no point was she at the remotest risk of rolling over or tumbling down a hill.

We arrived in Kerrville for a nice lunch at their location of Fuddruckers (or, as we jokingly call it, “Ruddfuckers” :-P). Surprisingly, I’d never been to a Fuddruckers in my life. I went out on a limb and orderd an elk burger, on a gluten-free bun and loaded it up with various toppings. It was absolutely delicious.

After re-fueling our tanks (as Phoenix had gotten a full tank of Chevron Techron Supreme earlier in the day), we set back on the return trip, which I drove even slightly more aggressively than on the trip up. Again, she totally owned it, but we weren’t done yet!

On a total limb, we decided to take a side trip to make the loop known as “The Three Sisters” or “Texas’ Twisted Sisters” (which consists of Ranch Roads 335, 336, and 337). Let me tell you what – that name is no joke. Steep hills, tight turns, switchbacks and a hairpin all rolled into one. Once again, Phoenix never missed a beat as I dropped her into the lower gears, powered through the turns much faster than rated (including a hairpin rated at 10 MPH that she negotiated at 30 without blinking an eye), and powering up the steep grades, revving to the redline.

To say it was a total adrenaline rush would be a gross understatement. We lost cell signal in many places, leaving me wondering if we were really on the right path or we were just totally lost. I almost had a panic attack, but Laina (bless her heart) kept me focused through it all as I drove it in hard and made it stick. Sure, we had a couple of incidents of wildlife that we had to evade, as well as a construction zone, but never a hiccup through any of it.

Before I knew it we were right back to where we started, completing the loop end to end. High as a kite, and in desperate need of a piss, we stopped into a Family Dollar to relieve myself and then completed the journey back to home HQ (which I can now call it such as well).

Of course, all this going on while Laina blared her tunes in my CD as we sang along (well, she sang along and I made my pathetic attempt to, best described as caterwauling) shot the shit, punctuated by our ritual belching and throat clearing contests at times, and she totally entertained me by her facial expressions and random exclamations as I negotiated the obstacles. She even went so far as to tell me how impressed she was with my skill level, and I hadn’t even driven like that ever in my life! I guess it comes naturally to me.

Maybe I should consider a weekend gig of being a stunt driver for car commercials? You know, those car commercials that say “professional driver on a closed course – do not attempt.” I’m sure they make good money.

At any rate, needless to say Phoenix really impressed me today. This might be the first time she’s been driven for the purpose she was designed for. Make no mistake about it, the Jetta GLI is, for all intents and purposes, a sportscar even though it isn’t listed as such. It shares nothing in common with the “regular” Jetta and it might damn well be the best car VW builds (assuming, of course, the proper maintenance schedule is followed). After that outing, Laina and I ultimately agreed that despite the initial issues I had, I made the correct choice when I opted for her over the Honda Fit.

So as to what kind of trouble we’ll get into the rest of the week, we don’t quite know yet. All I know is this might be my best vacation ever.

 

The San Antonio Chronicles: Move Date Set

Well here it is folks, I now have a move date set!

I’m on vacation this week as I had set aside a full week to devote to dwelling hunting. I figured I’d take the full week in case I did need to shop around a bit for something in my price range and in a good part of town. I was fully expecting it to take some time, and it did – maybe an hour.

After looking at various candidates and creating a “short list,” I went about prioritizing my selections and devised a plan with the help of Laina – we would start with my first choice and work down until I found the right place.

Did I say work down? Hah! Not in this lifetime. There was no working down at all as I scored a great unit at a great price at the property that was my top choice. I was in and out, done, within an hour (pending some minor verification of things, which shouldn’t take long at all).

Well guess what? I will be living in the same complex as Laina, just a few buildings down! Like how cool is that? We’ll be able to see each other pretty much whenever we want with just a short walk. I’ll have someone to pal around with whenever I want, to shoot the shit with, have dinner with, watch IndyCar racing with, you name it! Like could it get any better than that?

So when is this going down? My move in date is tentatively scheduled for October 3rd, so it’s coming up in about a month and a half. When something is the right thing, it just happens to move along rather quickly doesn’t it? This definitely does feel like the right thing too. I’ve never really felt at home anywhere I’ve lived, yet when I come down to San Antonio to visit, it just feels like I’m coming home.

Well, come October 3rd, I will be coming home and staying. I’ve already sniffed out a good little chunk of town too where I can have my entertainment. I’ve found a number of great eateries with ample gluten-free options, a few grocery stores close by, a Friday/Saturday night hangout. Now all I need is a cigar lounge to kick it at (until I open mine) as well as a couple of places to do open mic and/or karaoke at (which Laina swears she will drag me to, come hell or high water!).

Anyway, I’m still glad I took the week off because that means the rest of the week I get to have some fun. We’ll maybe take Phoenix for a road trip somewhere (there’s a stretch of road I’ve been dying to drive her on to really put her through her paces), go explore some hangouts, among other things that are way more fun than looking for a place to live. It’ll be great to “mark my territory” as it were, which is important for a big city as you don’t want to be fighting traffic to traverse the entire city on a daily basis.

While I’ll miss my family and Abilene friends for sure, I know this is the right thing for me and I’ll be in a better place. As such, even when I might be having second thoughts in my mind, I’ll push through. Getting up the nerve to make a big change is the hardest part, then the change itself. Once it’s behind you, it’s done and then things really smooth out after (after all, Laina and I already have a list a mile long of fun stuff to do). Now, I just need the inner strength to follow through.

Wish me luck during this major transitional step, I’m gonna need it.

The Beginning of a Possible End…

Well, yesterday I visited the vampires to have a tube of blood taken from me – and we will see once and for all if I am in fact reactive to gluten (or maybe even something else). Hoping for the best, but preparing for (and honestly expecting) the worst.

As I sit here nursing down an Old Rasputin Stout, maybe the last one I’ll ever get to have. Sigh. My world might be about to get shaken up in a big way.

I’m so not ready for this.

As a side note: tattoo numbing cream/gel works great for blood draws. To me blood draws are way more painful than tattoos. Ugh.

The Long Road to Pantheism

My personal religious/spiritual journey has taken a lot of wild roads over the years, from Christianity, to atheism, to Unitarian Universalism, back to pure atheism, and then finally to where I am now. It’s been a wild ride for sure, and here’s a look at that.

I’m one of a rare lucky few people who did NOT have religion forced upon me as a kid. Of course my parents let me dabble, but it was never forced on me. My great-grandmother was a Buddhist (owing to her Japanese heritage), my mother nothing in particular and my (adoptive) father a lapsed Southern Baptist but not really serious about it. For the first 12 years of my life (my Roswell days) religion was absolutely not a part of my life. We never went to church, prayed, read holy texts, etc. ever. It just wasn’t a thing for us, and probably for the better for me as I didn’t have any indoctrination to undo later in life.

Moving to Abilene at age 12 changed everything. All of a sudden we were closer to my grandmother (dad’s mom) who is a very devout Southern Baptist. She insisted my younger sister and I go to church with her, which we did and thus I dabbled in that sect of Christianity for awhile. I have to say it didn’t make much sense to me at all, but I went along with the motions of a “profession of faith” and baptism anyway, mainly for the sake of placating my grandmother. I do have to say I found the whole fire-and-brimstone ideology quite frightening, and even somewhat contradictory – how could a loving God do that to any of his supposed children?

Needless to say that phase of my life didn’t last more than a few years, even though I remained believing some of the tenets of Christianity. I just knew I didn’t jive with that particular sect, and that’s when my then middle/high school art teacher brought up an activity at her church (an Episcopal church)  that I might be interested in – English-style bell ringing (or change ringing if you will), of which Abilene had one of only then 38 rings of bells in North America. The concept seemed appealing to me, so when I was able to drive myself I went up there to check the hobby out, but also to the service. I have to say I was hooked on change ringing from the outset, and the services were beautiful with the liturgy, etc. – it was something I hadn’t experienced in the Southern Baptist tradition. I was enamoured. Instead of the fire-and-brimstone focus, the focus on love, charity, the divine just kind of struck a chord with me. A year later, at the age of 17, I was confirmed an Episcopalian.

I would remain a steadfast and devout Episcopalian until my sophomore year of undergrad, deviating only with a short time dabbling with Mormonism on account of a very close friend (which didn’t last long, I should say). I went to a United Methodist affiliated institution for undergrad, so naturally we were required to take classes on religion. The first one I took was intro to Christianity, which was taught in a very non-sectarian, non-pushy way, almost from an outsider’s view – very objective. Studying Christianity from this point of view it made absolutely no logical sense to me, and as such, I began withdrawing from my faith, not entirely sure what I was.

The following year I took a world religions/comparative religion class from the same professor. In studying all the various religions we studied, I have to say none of them made sense to me. As such, I had but one default position to take, the only one that made sense to take at the time – atheism.

This is where I’d remain for the next 12 years of my life. At the beginning I was a very angry atheist too, and while that anger faded over time, it never really faded. During my grad school years I dabbled with Unitarian Universalism as I really missed the social aspect of church and such. It was a place I could be atheist and still feel like I belonged. I would be active in various UU congregations for a couple of years, withdrawing from it upon my return to Abilene and finding the one here was rather disappointing. That combined with a far-left political agenda, I was made to feel like a real outsider. When I left, not only was I an atheist, but I felt totally disconnected, bitter and detached. I was spiritually dead as it were.

And that brings me to recent events. This past March, when I went to visit Laina in San Antonio, she brought up my Sidereal chart and started walking me through it. As skeptical as I was (and especially since Tropical astrology didn’t really speak to me), I couldn’t help but notice uncanny bits of truth in it – it was like reading a book almost, except for the book was me. Of course, I would remain understandably skeptical, but as the months wore on, it would continue to speak to me in an uncanny way. I started believing it, because there was too much there that it seemed to know about me for it to be mere coincidence.

Then comes a July visit to San Antonio. Laina and I were hanging out by the pool at her complex, having drinks, cuddled up with one another and just shooting the shit. When the topic came up, she said something to me that took me by surprise – something along the lines of “and if you believe that, you’re not an atheist anymore.”

I thought about that on the trip home, long and hard. It was like “OK, whatever” but I didn’t know as though I wasn’t anymore yet, until she re-iterated it again a few days later. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right – I wasn’t. Of course that doesn’t mean a personal god exists, and I still don’t believe that (and neither does she). The notion of a personal god still doesn’t make the remotest amount of sense to me. However, in noting we are one with the universe, another form of spirituality started to fall into place for me – Pantheism, the belief that we are all a manifestation of the divine.

I couldn’t deny it any longer – I was, and am, a Pantheist. It’s so much more fulfilling than Christianity ever was for me, and definitely more fulfilling than atheism. As I begin to learn the ways of the universe and feel in tune with it, this becomes something that not only makes logical sense to me, but spiritual sense. Too many recent life events have taken place to dismiss as pure chance, but still impossible to chalk up to the handiwork of a personal god (which, if you look at the religions that have one, those are mostly religions of hate).

So that’s where I’m at now. Having leanred so much more about myself, that rings so true, but also much more to come. Though I still don’t refer to “god” personally (I personally prefer to say “the universe works in mysterious ways”), I feel in tune with the universe, an infinitesimal poart of it mind you. If a historical Jesus existed (a matter of debate), I think it’s safe to say he was ahead of his time. He knew he was god (or, as I prefer, a manifestation of the divine universe), as we all are. Of course, the whole virgin birth thing and resurrection 3 days later is hokey, but we know how stories get embellished over the years, especially when that whole thing didn’t come about until decades after it supposedly took place.

Hence my journey until now. I’ve still got more to learn, not only about astrology but of course the universe. I’m gradually learning its ways though, and will more as time goes on, with my impending move, to starting my business a little later on. The secrets of the universe will be paramount to making my business succeed, from finding the right business partner(s) to making smart business decisions. Above all, I finally feel like I’ve found something that brings me inner peace instead of the turmoil that I was left with for the first 32 years of my life. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Peace be with you all.

Whoa, Phoenix!!!

After an excruciating two weeks, yesterday the VW tech brought Phoenix back out to my house, after which I settled up with him (to the tune of $1,652 and change!) and we exchanged keys and he drove the loaner back to the dealership. Easy peasy.

So what have we got? Idling smooth as butter, no misfires, no nothing. All new spark plugs, ignition coils and fuel injectors, plus a carbon cleaning. We’re talking the motherfucker of all tune-ups.

So today, for the first time, I got to REALLY put her through her paces. After running to the liquor store from some wine on Tax-Free Tuesday, while talking to Laina via phone (no, not holding the phone, I swear) I decided to “dig in” and really open her up…

…I nearly pissed myself as it startled me.

Laina will be the first to tell you, too. When the turbo kicked in it caught me off guard. I got sucked into my seat and off I went. Before I knew it I was up to the speed limit on the little backwoods farm-to-market road I live on. It shocked me. I didn’t know a little 4 cylinder engine could put that much out.

OK, I’m not feeling so bad about my purchase now. LOL!