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A humbling lesson from… Walmart December 23, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in humor, life, Marriage, Patience.
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Image from pt’s Photostream: http://flickr.com/photos/pmtorrone/150955293/

My original thoughts about this foot surgery was that I was going to be out-and-about within a few days, resuming my normal activities, albeit a little slower, but without much hindrance none-the-less. When I went for consultation prior to my surgery, Dr. Snyder stated that it would be 6-8 weeks before I could even begin to resume any normal activities.

double_diamond“Bah! I’ll show him!” was the first thought that crossed my mind. I’m a guy who climbs small mountains (novicely), skis down double-black diamond slopes(haphazardly), participates in 24 hour mountain bike races (recklessly), runs marathons (averagely), rafts wild rivers (carelessly) and, bottom line: just can’t sit still (expertly). I was not going to let a little foot surgery hold me down!

Walmart made me think differently.

First off, let me throw a disclaimer out there. I am not a fan of shopping at Walmart. While there is nothing morally wrong with low prices and cheap, Chinese goods, I prefer to shop locally, supporting businesses and services in my hometown and the surrounding area. There are times, though, that the convince and availability is to tempting. Besides, I’d been stuck in the house for 4 days straight and when my wife (a nurse by profession and a bulldog by years of caring for others) felt I could join her to pick up a few things, I jumped at the chance. I was more excited than Ernie is when he knows he’s going for a walk. Her only requirement was that I ride in one of the little, electric, mobile shopping carts the store keeps at the front door. “A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G! Just get me off the couch!”

My pride got the best of me as I walked through the doors of the mega-mart and saw cartthe little cart. It suddenly became a symbol of immobility and, to me, getting older. “ There’s no way I’m riding in that thing!” I insisted to my wife, as I leaned on my trusty, mountaineering pole I was using as a makeshift support. “I am not riding in that thing. No way! I can manage with my trekking pole (I refused to call it a ‘cane’)”. My wife looked at me with those bulldog, caring eyes and then smirked one of those nurses smiles when patients refuses to take their medicine.

“Fine.” was her reply.

Hobbling along, I relished being back with humanity, enthusiastically saying hi to people I didn’t know. I was drinking in the chatter of people and stimulated by all the commerce taking place. At that moment, life couldn’t be better.

It was 10 minutes into my jaunt, halfway to the back of the store, near the frozen food section that something didn’t feel right. Swelling of the foot… pain… a little dizziness… “Bah!” I said, I’ll manage. Five minutes minutes later… nausea and a bit of a sweat formed on my upper lip. I met my wife’s eyes. The nurses smirk was there.

“How are you doing?” she asked, with those bulldog, caring eyes.

“Uh… I think I’m going to go sit in the car.” I said.

“Fine.” was her reply.

Waiting in the car, I sat gloomy and embarrassed. It became clear to me that this recovery would not be as swift as I anticipated. “Six to 8 weeks before you can resume normal activities.” Dr. Snyder’s words reverberated through my head.

My wife got to the car, stowed her purchases and climbed in the driver’s seat. There were no bulldog eyes or nurses smirk. She leaned over and gave me a gentle kiss and a caress.

“How are you doing?” She asked.

“I’m fine,” I replied.

Staring out into the dark night as we drove off, I realized I missed my couch, knowing that it was my symbol of patience and recovery.


Muses of a taste test… December 22, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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Confined to my couch all day, while recovering from foot surgery, I’ve been watching a bit more TV than I normally do. It hasn’t been all that bad as I’ve enjoyed a few documentaries and a number of the “Mega” series shows on the History Channels where they do stories on mega things such as ships and rockets and trucks and buildings. It’s fascinating the demand we have for bigger, faster and stronger machines our world demands for manufacturing and shipping.

Throughout some of these shows, I’ve been bombarded a number of commercials, which is to be expected. But the one that gets the Couch Journal Annoying Commercial Award goes to Burger King and their Whopper Virgins campaign. It’s probably one of more ludicrous, most absurd commercials I’ve ever seen. I had a fleeting thought of linking one of the commercials to this post, but felt it might end up offending my readers.

In the commercial, the company travels to remote places in Thailand, Greenland and Romania, looking for people who have never eaten a burger. They then perform a taste-test in between the Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac. The commercials show the locals experiencing their first taste, and, of course, they naturally choose the Whopper.

This commercial boggles my mind on many fronts, but do you want to know what the first series of questions were that ran through my were the first time I saw the ad?

  • Who made the Big Mac? How do we know that the Whopper people didn’t slap a piece of fried goat between a few buns, dribbled with a questionable sauce?
  • Was Ronald McDonald around to ensure quality control?
  • Did they get fries with their order, or the opportunity to upsize?
  • Were the testers surely and rude, just like the Burger King employees I’ve encountered, giving the tasters the true, Burger King experience?

We need answers here people! The reputations of virgins are at stake!

Seriously, one of the biggest complaints about the ad is Burger King’s exploitation of different cultures and their methods of introducing highly commercialized food products into these cultures. In response to criticism, Burger King issued a press release stating:

In keeping with BKC’s philanthropic philosophy to give back to the communities in which it lives and works, at the conclusion of each taste test, Burger King Corp. worked cooperatively with local authorities to make donations, tailored specifically to benefit each individual community that participated in the ‘study’ and make a lasting contribution in each region.

While it makes me feel better knowing that some village in backlands Thailand has a new community center, it makes me wonder if that building is emblazoned with a big ‘ol Burger King logo on the front and a statue of the King standing in the village square?

It’s for this reason, that I believe in organizations like Epic Change. Their aim is not to just dump aid on those in need; we have many organizations that do a good job of that. The goal of Epic Change is to provide the financial resources, in the form of interest-free loans so that the community can improve their own efforts and making a better life for their community members while maintaining their unique their culture. A built-in side effect is of these loans are the repayments that are recycled to fund other projects and help other communities.

Join with me as I work to make that difference… even from my couch.


Every Adventure needs a sidekick… December 21, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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Meet Ernie, my sidekick during my couch adventures as I recover from foot surgery. Ernie is named after the famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Ernie’s a two-year old long-haired dachshund and very easily lives up to his namesake.

Any chance Ernie gets, he’s right along side of me, willing to take part in any of my daily adventures, from jet skiing, to kayaking, cross-country skiing and even riding along in a backpack when I go mountain biking. The benefits of the small, little guy is that he can go just about anywhere… and he rarely says no. But size does not matter to him. He usually forgets that he’s one quarter the size of most dogs with whom he plays.

To be honest, I think Ernie’s just as challenged with this couch-bound adventure as I am. He does not quite understand why I can’t join him in the yard, chasing balls and sticks or running the geese out of our back yard. He’s constantly bringing his favorite toy to me, wanting me to chase him down and wrestle it away. While I think he’s disappointed at the restrained attempts I make to play, I believe he understands and patiently waits.

Ernie’s taught me a few lessons about life over the two years I’ve had him. Having been a bachelor only until last year, I’ve learned almost as much about commitment, dependency and the need to let others in my life, as I have from my wife (Oops… I’ll make up for that comment in a future post!).

Don’t forget, this journal is about change, and the changes we can make, no matter our situation. Epic Change is one of those that is trying to make that difference. Check out the Epic Change widget at the top of the page.

Join with me as I work to make that difference… even from my couch.


The Couch Journals begin… December 21, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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The Couch Journals begin…

For those who know me, I’m normally a pretty active guy… And although I’m no Conrad Anker or Sir Edmond Hillary, I tend to enjoy the more adventurous side of life, which means that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t quite my style. But, on December 19, I underwent a bit of surgery on my feet to correct a hereditary bunion problem (thanks for that gift, Mom!) with my feet. While most bunions can be managed without surgery, mine is a case of bunions gone terribly bad. This required some cutting and shaving and repositioning of the bones, along with a few screws to hold it all together. I’m happy to say the surgery went well, but I am now required to be completely off my feet for a week for a swift recovery.

Recovery meant that I ended up stuck on the couch with my foot propped and the rest of me in a reclining position. Included with this are all forms of entertainment including TV, the internet, DVDs and many books, magazines and blogs to read.

The first half-day of marooning went well, but very soon it got real old. The second half of the day, I got very restless and even started feeling sorry for myself. “Enough of that!” I finally said. Even in this predicament, I am still far more fortunate that others around the world. It was then that I decided to see how much of a difference I could make, even from my couch… and so, the Couch Journals began…

While my secondary goal is to provide a journal of the general observations of couch living (from a not so couch living sort of guy), my primary goal is to see how much of a change I can make. And I am doing that through my little campaign for Epic Change.

Epic Change is a small non-profit that uses donations to provide interest-free loans to local partners to finance many community improvement efforts around the world. They then work with the recipient to repay the loan by collaborating with them to share their stories. In a continuing cycle, they”pay it forward” by recycling repaid loans to help fund Epic Change in other communities. It’s really a self-sustaining gift that keeps on going. Read their mission statement, and the values. http://www.epicchange.org.   They do make difference.

To be honest, I have no idea how much I can raise while I am couch-bound. I hope to be surprised. Please note that 100% of whatever comes in goes to Epic Change. Check out the giving widget on this page. Give as little as you want or just be aware of the opportunities you have to give when you are able. And if anything, you can join me on my latest adventure… from the couch.


Takeoff from Ell Portillo December 4, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in journey, travel.
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Back in March of 2001, several good friends and I met at the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in El Portillo, Dominican Republic.  Had a great time and returned there several other times.  The easiest and safest way to get there was by air.  I recently came across this video I took with a digital camera of one of our valiant take-offs from the tiny airstrip in El Portillo. We almost had to flap our arms to help with lift!

Growing old… NOT! December 2, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in humor, journey, life.
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I turned forty a few years ago… but it didn’t bother me at the time. A few weeks ago, I innocently mentioned several aches and a few pains to my wife after doing an early morning run. Her response: “That’s what happens when you get older.

My response back her through clenched teeth: “I-am-not-going-to-get-older!”  And that’s the truth.

I refuse to feel my age. I refuse to recognize a little of the spread that’s taking place in my mid-section. I refuse to acknowledge the grays appearing on my top section. And I refuse to give up on the youth that I have always felt within me; the silliness, that care-free attitude toward life… that quest for adventure every waking hour. But, then… how do I ignore the inevitable?
I came up against that question once again, very recently while reading a book by Joe Simpson. Joe is best known for the incredible account of trial and tragedy in the mountains in his book Touching the Void. In his latest book, The Beckoning of Silence, he writes on many topics surrounding his mountaineering adventures, the loss of close friends and an introspective look at the risks he has taken in his life and what that means to him today. In particular, he relies on his insight and wisdom of his age (he is the same age as me!) and writes about youth and old age. In challenging his own advance down the trek of time, he offers this quote by Samuel Ullman [updated 9/27/10 with the correct author reference]:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a temper of the Will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a tempermental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin; but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair – these are the long, long years that bow the heart and turn the greening spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the sweet amazement at the stars and at starlike things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what next and the joy of the game of living. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

Yeah… me… that’s me… I-am-not-going-to-get-old!