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Oct 5 15

Where nostalgia leads to ice cream and apples and childhood memories

by John

There is something about this time of the year, and I just love it. The air is getting colder, but it’s not yet “cold.” Many a morning, I’ll find myself wanting to lie in the bed, blankets curled tight around me, living in that area between “asleep” and “dozing,” as a cool, crisp breeze comes from an open window1.

This past weekend, we went to the Bloomsburg Fair, and had a wonderful time. As we were leaving, Duffy noted a stand from the Creamery — the ice cream shop from her alma mater, Penn State. We stopped & she got a little ice cream2. There was a look of pure elation when my wife took her first bite. I asked her “that good?”

She responded that, if she’s being honest, the ice cream from a local-to-us ice cream shop is, likely, better. But there’s something “fundamentally good” in the nostalgia from something resoundingly familiar.

Then, the next day, I felt the same, when winesap apples were on sale at my local grocery store.

It’s really a shame that the moments that are best etched in our minds require a level of tragedy. I can tell you any number of details about the day of the Challenger disaster, the Columbia disaster, 9/11 . . . the list goes on. But, the details of my high school or college graduation? My twenty-first birthday? They’re just “happy, nondescript” memories3.

My parents are divorced . . . but, unlike most who might share the “divorced parent” saga, my parents divorced when I was 22 years old. My formative years were well behind me . . . yeah, there were times that sucked, thinking back as a family, but there were great times, too.

As the weather turned from summer to fall, every year, we’d head out apple picking. And every year, we’d pick winesap apples, specifically to be baked into pies (my dad never baked much, but he had a knack for making wonderful apple pies).

I remember, going apple picking and gorging on apples as we went about (I’m still not sure of the legality of this, but, speaking to operators of farms, at present, it appears that it’s anticipated that people pick & eat apples as they go about, that such actions are built into the cost they’re charging, so as long as you’re actually purchasing apples, all is good). I remember countless jokes of “they should weigh us beforehand and afterward.”

The details of these days reside, not etched like those of a tragedy, but exist more like a watercolor — each stroke, simply, implying what’s there. The edges are fuzzy, the details are hazy — but the overall feel is unmistakable. Not every day was good, but the good times did exist. Thinking on this makes me sad for those who look at their childhoods where there were always two families. Or, if they remember “a single family,” the good times were far too few to stand out. Not every day in my own childhood was good — but the good memories are certainly present.

So, back to food, because, well, food is my favorite. We’re at the time of year where apples reign – and honeycrisp apples have become “all the rage” these days; if I’m honest with myself, I find the taste of a honeycrisp superior to any other kind of apple (which is interesting, in that it appears that honeycrisps were almost entirely tossed as a “hybrid experimentation that didn’t yield anything useful”). But, as I enjoy a winesap — there’s the crisp, sweet yet tart taste, and there are the floods of memories of happy, crisp afternoons as a happy family. A silly apple brings me back to happy youthful memories.

And now I need to figure out when to head apple picking with my brood.

1 I should note that this is an actual impossibility, if Benji figures out that you’re awake, he’ll pester you until you’re taking him for a walk . . . though walks in this current weather ain’t so bad, either.
2 I’m still focusing on “minimal refined flour/sugar” when it comes to my diet, and, while it was a “fun, family weekend” where I’d have loosened the reins, just a bit, I chose to spend my “throw away calories” on wine & beer.
3 Fine, the day my son was born — I can recall that with equal clarity, but, as it’s a fact that goes against my argument, I’m choosing to ignore it.
Sep 28 15

Where I think back on the past 1000 days

by John

We all know I can’t go too long without talking about diet & exercise . . . and, with today marking 1000 consecutive days on My Fitness Pal, I really thought I’d give an update to thoughts & stuff from what I’m doing, how I’m approaching life, and what I’m doing in a constant battle to better my physical self.

  • I commonly get asked “what is your secret,” and I always answer “diet & exercise,” which nobody likes to hear. But I think I need to change the answer – what has worked is that I’ve been consistent. I’ve been remarkably consistent. My workouts have become, in a word, boring. On weekdays, I walk Benji then fit in small sets of pulls, pushes, and leg stuff around getting the family ready (dressing the kids, packing lunches, etc) for the day. Every week, I change up something, but it’s all quite mundane – it started as pull-ups, push-ups, and lunges. Then I added kettlebell swings (because there was a kettlebell right there). Then I added goblet squats. Then I added push-presses at the end of the goblet squats. Then I changed up my hand position during the push-ups. Then I increased the kettlebell weight from 25 to 35 pounds (the heaviest I own). Then I started carrying the kettlebell as I did the lunges. Then I put a dumbbell in each hand as I did the lunges. Then I started holding my body at the apex of the pull-up and pulling myself from shoulder to shoulder. Then I added a set of chin-ups after I finish the goblet-squats to push-presses.
  • The true secret is diet. I’ve been reading a ton about “fad diets.” How so many people try this, or that, and it works . . . . then they put the weight back on. Diet is a word that has two distinct definitions — the first is “a restriction of food to promote weight and/or fat loss.” That’s not what I’m talking about — the trick is the broader definition of “the entirety of what someone eats”. People re-gain weight after Atkins, or Whole 30, or whatever because they go right back to their pre-temporary diet lifestyle. I’ve made sacrifices to the way I live my life . . . but nothing I’ve done is temporary – truly minimal amounts of refined ingredients (including flour & especially sugar). It means more cooking & less eating out or “just heating something up.” But, that also means that I’m eating healthier & saving money.
  • I miss sandwiches, I can’t deny that. But I can eat a loaf of bread, or a half dozen bagels, & feel no less satiated when I’m done. It’s just the way my body works, and always has. When I eat, I eat to address hunger, meaning I leave out those things which don’t make me less hungry, and I enjoy the results.
  • I log every bite of food. I log every sip of drink. I used to log every moment of exercise . . . but that was during a time when I was carving out huge portions of my day dedicated to workouts. These days, I’m fitting stuff in, wherever/whenever I can find a spare moment or two, and because of that, I’ve just stopped trying to list what I’m doing. It’s easier that way.
  • When I would work out a lot more than I do now, I used that as an excuse to, essentially, eat whatever & however much I wanted. Running 4-5 days a week, for up to an hour (sometimes two) a day resulted in the left — now? I run, maybe, once a week, or every other week, or once a month . . . if I feel like it.

    Before / After while Running

Sep 18 15

Where I’m a bit random on a Friday

by John

Work has been especially odd lately . . . I’m blaming myself for most of the bad stuff — basically, someone will come to me & ask “how long would it take to build a web app which can do this or that,” and I’ll give an answer. My problem is that, while I always put thought into said estimate, the estimate assumes that I’m doing the development, myself (and I know my strengths & weaknesses QUITE well), and that I’m working on ONLY that task. What I don’t think is that the person, to whom I gave the estimate, will expect me or my team to actually start work on it . . . and, whoever happens to be asking for the estimate assumes that my development hours are interchangeable with any given development resource, and that I, and my team, are just sitting around, waiting for an assignment.

Because I’ve been so . . . boggled, lately, here is a pile of random…

  • I just read Mandy’s missive about women being invisible after a certain age and I was reminded of how my kids are tattle-tales. While I’ve never trusted myself to sneak alcohol into a movie theatre (something I’ve thought about, often, but just haven’t managed to actually pull-off), the last time I took my kids to a movie, I was alone with the kids (don’t remember where Duffy was, but it was just me & the kids. We stopped by the grocery store to pay $1/box of candy, rather than the same stuff for $5/box at the theatre.

    Anyway, I was buying the tickets, and Leila started demanding to hold her candy, which was in a pocket of my cargo shorts1, the whole time, the cashier “pretending” not to hear the whines from my daughter about the mild-mannered father-of-two being all rebel-ish by sneaking in snacks & stuff to a movie.

  • We just got a new kitten — her name is Luna Ginny. She & Benji seem to get along fabulously. Also? She’s INCREDIBLY patient with the kids — Leila has been dragging her all about the house, holding her close, singing to her, basically doing all of the stereotypically-cute things that you’d anticipate a five year old girl doing with a kitten . . . and the kitten puts up with it, all. I hope that lasts.
  • I have a pressing need to write about Snickelfritz. But haven’t been able to get myself emotionally-ready to do so.
  • CJ has lost a front tooth. He’s in kindergarten. And I swear, every morning2, he feels, at least, a pound heavier than he was the previous day. This is bullshit that needs to stop.
  • I ran a 5k last Friday and a half marathon last Saturday. The weather was beautiful & the supporting cast who put the run together were fabulous. I met Christopher McDougall, who wrote Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greates Race the World Has Never Seen, which may be the single greatest influencer in why I’m as addicted to exhausting myself as I am. I haven’t been running much lately — but, these runs proved to me that I’m successfully keeping myself in shape, and I’m able to pull a half-marathon out of my ass, if I should happen to need to do so.
  • My “to listen to” list of Audiobooks is growing faster than I can listen. This ain’t a half bad problem to have, though.
  • I’m 10 days away from hitting 1000 consecutive days of tracking every bite of food & every sip of drink that I’ve put into my body on My Fitness Pal.
  • I really, really want a kayak.

1 This listicle is bullshit. Cargo shorts allow dads to be dads.
2 Call me an enabler or what-have-you, but I throw clothes on the kids every morning, rather than try to wake them and make them get dressed, themselves — simply, in the mornings, “doing it myself” means less frustration, and therefore, a far saner pre-coffee dad. However, because of this, it’s far from uncommon for me to have to carry one, or both children, while still asleep, from the bed to the car.
Sep 9 15

Where I wonder just what is running through my dog’s mind

by John

Tuesdays are crazy days for me. As with every morning, I start at 5 by walking Benji, then deal with a choreographed routine mixing in a workout alongside: getting the kids dressed, making coffee, preparing lunches for the family, and ensuring said family gets out of the door. Once those essentials are out of the way, I head to work…only to leave the office a little early in order to take my kids to karate, where we practice until I ensure they (the kids) are with a responsible adult as I head to band practice. From band practice, I head home & “call it a night.”

Yesterday, as is often the case, the schedule precluded me from stopping at home between karate & band practice, so my “dinner” was, essentially, beer as my band worked on our set (knowing this is a possibility, every Tuesday, I intentionally bring more than my normal amount of food for lunch, as I know some of you stalk look over the details of most everything I post online). Now, I should mention, here in central Pennsylvania, temperatures have been a bit hot lately. Yesterday, I left work & the thermometer in my truck read 97° (309 Kelvin or 1.337 shittonnes of hot). During karate, we’re working on our sparring, which means a lot of jumping around and kicking and punching and wearing sparring gear (pads on fists, shins, and feet, a chest protector, and a padded helmet).

Karate was, in a word, sweaty.

After kick-kick-kicking and punch-punch-punching, we (I, and the two kids) changed at the Karate school and I dropped them off before speeding off to practice. Band was, truly, fun. We have a gig coming up at the end of the month & we’re trying out some new stuff for said gig, and things are really working well for all of it. But, if any of you have seen me play, you’ll notice that I don’t, well, I don’t stand still when I play. It had been a long work day. Karate with the kids was fun, but left me drenched. And I continued to sweat through two hours of band practice.

I got home & had some work to do. I went upstairs, took off my pants, sat down on my bed, plugged in my laptop, and programmed away. As I programmed, Benji simply licked my legs . . . when I had enough of him, I’d try to close his mouth & he’d stop for a minute or two, and then he’d go right back to things. Dogs are weird.

Sometime between 11 and midnight, I decided that I had accomplished everything that I might accomplish before the end of the night, shut down my laptop, brushed my teeth, and put the covers over me.

Normally, this is Benji’s cue to abandon his post at the foot of the bed and come up for some hardcore puppy snuggles. Last night, however, I lied down & the silly dog hopped off of the bed, returning just a moment later. Into my hand, he placed something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I took this mystery item over to my bedside table, used my phone as a flashlight & found it to be a wrapped, fun-sized Snickers bar.

I’m thinking there are finite number of trains of thought from my dog:

  1. I picked this up and then forgot why I had it and I love you so I gave it to you.
  2. The kids like these things so I thought you might like one.
  3. Will you please unwrap this? I really like the inside but I don’t like the outside.
  4. My diagnostics from the thorough saliva tests I administered earlier concluded that you need to put on weight. Please eat this.
Aug 14 15

Where, for better or for worse, my kids mimic me

by John

I can still remember the night. I was in bed, watching TV with the whole family, drinking a glass of wine. With the wine in my hand, I got up out of bed and one of the dogs decided that, just then, was the right time to hop off of the bed. To not step on him, I shuffled my feet, and in so doing, the wine went EVERYWHERE.

I let out a very loud “dammit.”

Leila looked up at me and shouted “dammit” with a giggle.

Most any parent knows that “getting a child to eat” can be a battle in itself . . . and, when I’m home alone, the “stop for dinner” doesn’t always happen. Because I’m a shitty parent often preoccupied with a billion things. So, I’ll make the kids something simple and make myself something far more . . . John-friendly. The kids will eat quickly & go back to whatever they were doing while my food cooks . . . and then I sit down to enjoy it. Because I love food.

Anyway, CJ loves video games — so he’ll often wrap up eating whatever I made him and then head back to whatever game he might be playing. As much as he loves playing video games, though, he REALLY loves playing video games in a social context. So I’m used to hearing “Dad, will you play this game with me?”

My common refrain, at these moments, is “sure, once I’m done with dinner.”

CJ accepts this. But will then ask, every 30 seconds or so, if I’m done with my dinner. After a few of these, I’ll commonly respond with “does it look like I’m done eating?”

Well, now, CJ will respond with “does it look like I’m done?” when asked if he’s finished a meal. Or a snack. Or a drink. It drives me crazy – and I only have myself to blame.

Do you remember the movie The Truth About Cats & Dogs? I, honestly, don’t remember too much about it – but I do remember Uma Thurman’s character talking about ordering a bagel . . . she doesn’t eat the bagel, but she loves ordering it. I was thinking about this, the other day, when driving, with my kids, to visit family. See, I keep candy in my car, but I’m incredibly strict on my diet, myself, so I buy candy . . . and then never eat it. It’s for the kids. And to “buy” a quiet, drama-free road trip, I’ll fully admit to being a shitty father to bribing my kids with said candy.

At the start of this road trip, I heard “daddy, can I have something to eat?” which is a common refrain at the start of any trip in which I’m driving. I mentioned the plethora of foodstuffs that I had, including candy and crackers and cookies . . . but The La asked for an apple. “Apples are healthy and I want to eat healthy.”

In the bathtub, there is a bar which can be used to help a grown-up person get out of the tub. On those days where I drink myself into oblivion while playing with suds I throw myself in the tub after a marathon, I use this bar, to get out of the tub, myself.

Well, the other day, CJ put both of his hands above his head and then grabbed the bar. And then attempted to pull himself up.

I just looked at him quizzingly.

“I’m doing exercises like you, dad!”

See, early in the mornings, on the weekends, my “I’ll play video games with you” response isn’t “after I’m done eating” but “when I’m done with my exercises.” So he’ll eagerly watch me do my exercises: pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, kettlebell swings, and goblet squats, just waiting for me to blow up aliens with him.

Now, when he shows up in my basement, he’ll ask me to lift him to the pull-up bar. He can’t actually get himself to doing a pull-up (heck, it took me over 35 years to be able to manage to do a single one), but he’s trying. And he wants it — determination in a kid is a wonderful thing.

Later that same night, the La asks “Dad, can you show us your muscles?” so I turned about with a dual-bicep flex. “How do you get muscles?”

“Well, you need to exercise.”

“What kind of exercises?”

“Well, daddy does a lot of push-ups.”

“Can you show me?”

And we spent the next 20 minutes trying to get my kids to do push-ups with proper form.

Jul 31 15

Where I pontificate global standards of “not belonging”

by John

I was chatting with someone the other day about children & “how they fit in.” While my son is no longer a preschooler1, during every preschool parent/teacher meeting, while there may have been some things that we needed to focus on at home, the predominant news I received was “your kids are kind, and are well-liked by their classmates.”

I’m the first to admit that I view the future with rose-colored glasses . . . and the past always with an air of skepticism. I assume everything will turn out ok — but after it’s done, I beat myself up over anything that wasn’t “perfect”, and I’ve always done this2. So, it’s possible that I’m thinking back to my formative years with memories that have been “overly influenced” by Sadness and I was actually more popular than I remember . . . but I never quite felt that I fit in. Hearing this news about my kids, well, I was left wondering if my kids might grow up feeling that they will, in fact, “fit in” through school3.

Then I thought about it some more — and I think there is more to the story for all of us — though, I believe we are loathe to talk about much of it. So I’m declaring the following public truths:

  1. Everyone has a nagging fear that, no matter what group/circle/clique they’re in, the rest of the group/circle/clique is only “putting up with them” because the alternative would be more difficult for them.
  2. Everyone believes people talk behind their back.
  3. Everyone is self-conscious about their art (including music/movie/book/etc) preferences. I happen to be listening to the Audiobook of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, and I believe this is actually, simply, a different issue than it used to be. It used to be that liking anything “nerdy” or “not cool” made you “nerdy” or “not cool.” Now, it really seems that enjoying anything “in the mainstream” is what’s avoided — U2 may be the greatest band in the history of music4, yet people were scrambling over themselves in removing a free album delivered to their iPhones. We won’t talk about the seemingly universal hatred of Nickelback.
  4. Nobody likes their body. While there may be varying levels of “it’s a work in progress,” I have a hard time believing that there isn’t a single soul who would Klosterman’s 12th Question without, at least, giving the matter some serious thought.
  5. Everybody always fears that they’re a fraud, no matter how great they are at something. It’s easy to forget that, as you practice, you get better at something — things that you find easy to do today, well, at one time, they were really fucking hard for you to do. Every time I play bass (be it with a band, or in the pit for a musical, or in a symphony), something will come up where I’ll start thinking about the fact that I don’t play as fancy a part as someone playing another instrument . . . and, if I screw up, even the tiniest amount (so that I’m the only one would could possibly know), I’m just waiting for the world to collapse around me “Hey John, you’re playing the easiest instrument in this group and you can’t even get that right). The thing is, I’m not playing the easiest instrument — yes, the violin player might be playing faster, but that’s a different instrument — there are things that I’m doing that the violin player, without practice, cannot do. In the heat of the moment, though, it’s easy to forget this.

I know, with the first one . . . that’s a biggie for me. I’m constantly convinced that everyone in my life simply “puts up with me” because it’s a lot easier to do that than to deal with the fall out of trying to arrange for me to not be in their life. I know this is stupid and asinine and whatever . . . but it’s the truth. I actually think it’s part of why I keep myself so busy — because, if I’m just “sitting around,” part of me wonders why I’m not hanging out or doing something with friends5, and I fixate on that.

Or, maybe I’m just crazy.

Anyway – what did I miss? Or is the Cheshire cat wrong?

1 That my son is “a kindergartner” causes more emotional harm to me than anything I may be mentioning in this post.
2 We can talk about the fact that “perfect” is something that happens to be fully unattainable – but, well, that’s speaking rationally as we look at a blog post . . . it’s entirely a different story when you’re thinking, emotionally, on past events.
3 Part of me also wonders how much all of this “fitting in” is an introvert/extrovert fight — my inclination is to be extroverted . . . yet, there are times that “that’s it, I’ve had enough” and I just want to sit by myself for a few decades hours. And I feel guilty about that — time is a precious resource, why “waste” it by being by myself. In my daughter, I’m seeing a little of this developing — there are times that she claims “she needs to be alone.” Now, part of it, I think, is that she “wants to be alone” because she wants to watch what she wants to watch on a television or her iPad or whatever device happens to be serving as a replacement parents as I get drunk be her focus at the moment — but part of me also wonders if it’s heredity, and the electronics just so happen to be how she needs to “lose herself in the moment,” something I find myself doing by meditating these days – but, in years past, it was in masturbating playing video games — even today, I shy away from the “massive online worlds” when I play a video game, and, almost solely, play games where it’s “just me vs the computer”.
4 And this is a Beatles fan saying this.
5 The reason, of course, would be because I didn’t call any friends to make plans . . . but, when one is feeling sorry for oneself, well, one feels sorry for oneself.
Jul 15 15

Where I kind of like going to the dentist

by John

I’m aware that I’m in the minority here, but I actually enjoy going to the dentist. Don’t get me wrong, when there is shit that needs to be done in my mouth, it’s no fun at all (and I’ve had fillings, filling replacements, a crown, and two crown replacements — all of which have sucked). But, for a routine cleaning, I enjoy it. You see, I’m someone who tends to always be “on.” I’m plugged in, I’m available. Even when I go on vacation, I keep my cell phone handy — if something happens at the office, I get a phone call. When I’m “just sitting around,” I’ll find myself texting or playing games or checking email or facebook or twitter.

In short, I am seldom “bored.” My mind seldom “just drifts.”

It’s that “drifting” where I come up with my best ideas — where I start formulating stories, coming up with key concepts and then tying stuff together. It’s where I envision melodies that often become songs.

It’s where I feel I’m at my most creative.

And in the dentist’s chair, I can’t be plugged in . . . I need to “just be.”

I found myself thinking about this truth the other day. As many of you know, I’ve been recovering from shingles. I really think I’m getting better — but, as I get better, I get increasingly discouraged by any setback, no matter how small. Rather than waiting to be “fully healed”, I chose to run after work. I had several free hours on my hands; I drove myself to the “hilly part” of the Harrisburg Marathon, with the hopes of running a technical 5k course a couple of times.

I had no pressing matters, yet I found myself stressing about getting started.

There was no reason for me to be stressing. And? I was actually dreading the run because of this. I got to the park and felt, immediately, that I needed to run out & find a place to change into my running gear . . . if I was quick, I’d be “running” in just a few minutes. Fortunately, I figured out that I was stressing for no reason at all; I was following some fabricated schedule which only existed in my mind. I stopped. I took my time changing into my running gear. I stretched and meditated before starting the run. I started the run with a clear mind; I enjoyed myself.

I had nowhere to be. I had no time constraints — I allowed myself to relax, and it was good.

I find myself thinking the same heading into the next week — I am heading to the beach on vacation. “Getting there” is stressful in itself — there are lists to ensure that we’ve identified everything that we’ll need while there1. There is packing. There is the actual driving. I start thinking about everything that needs to be done, and I start to stress . . . but the thing about vacation? It starts when I get there. If we leave the house at 8 in the morning, we leave the house at 8 in the morning. If we don’t pull-out of the driveway until the early afternoon, so be it. Part of me wants to schedule everything to the minute – as much of my life is scheduled to the minute. But here? There is no need . . . once I’m at the beach, there might be two things that I need to be at a certain place at a certain time — but that’s it. And neither of those events require me leaving the house by a certain time, or crossing the Bay Bridge by a certain time, or pulling in at the beach house at a certain time.

I need to remind myself that it’s not imperative that I am constantly in motion . . . when life allows for relaxation, I need to step back and relax. When life allows me to smell the roses, I need to smell the roses, and enjoy the act of smelling the roses — and to not turn “rose smelling” into yet another itinerary item.

In short, I think I need to spend more of my time living like my kids do – where everything in their world is only what is happening “in the now.”

1 We won’t talk about the time that my wife went & packed a bag . . . and, somehow, that bag stayed, perfectly packed, in the bedroom while the family made it safely to the beach.
Jul 4 15

Where I chime in on the hot-button issues of the day

by John

There is a LOT in the news these days. And, well, I think it’s about time I shared my two cents with everything that’s happening.

The Confederate Flag
After the senseless shooting of nine individuals at a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina, there is a lot talk of banning the Battle Flag of North Virginia from flying over public places. Many major retailers have stopped selling said flags. Heck NASCAR has even asked its patrons to not display said symbols.

Now, I fully support an individual’s right to fly/display/wear-as-a-toga any flag. This is a pretty cut-and-dry free-speech issue. And, while I may think anyone displaying this flag (or, really, any flag – the Nazi flag, the ISIS flag, the Rhodesian flag) is, at best, an ignorant jerk – but, more likely, a racist traitor to my nation, that doesn’t mean that they should be suspended of said right.

But, let’s go to NASCAR for a moment — because I’ve heard a LOT about NASCAR trying to “censor” its fans. It’s doing no such thing. NASCAR events are not open events, you need a ticket in order to get in, meaning it’s private . . . whoever is holding a private event can make the rules for their event. Enforcing those rules is not censorship. If the government says that you can’t fly the flag? That is censorship. I do believe that any organization receiving public funding should be prohibited from flying / displaying said flag outside of a purely historical context (e.g. a museum display).

To anyone who believes that I’m misguided in my thoughts here – how is the display of this flag not a traitorous act? If it’s truly a symbol of “The South” and not “of racism,” if the Civil War were truly about “states rights” and not slavery (and it was about the states rights to maintain slavery), how does that change the fact that the flag is a symbol of not wanting to be a part of America? People who fly the stars & bars next to the American flag perplex me.

Gay Marriage
The Supreme Court recently passed a decision that any state law prohibiting two people of the same sex from getting married is unconstitutional. I applaud this – I believe government has no place in dictating how people should lead their lives, as long as the way a person leads his/her life does not impede on the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of another.

I try to place myself into the turn of the last century, when pillars of the community were giving impassioned arguments about why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I try to place myself in the middle of such discussions, to think that someone so misguided as to the change of our nation’s direction isn’t necessarily a bigot — but I can’t.

However, I find myself the organist of an orthodox church – an organization which, absolutely, believes that the supreme court got things wrong here. They will not be blessing same sex unions at any time in the future. Leviticus spells it out pretty straightforward:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
– Leviticus 20:13

But, why are we picking and choosing bible passages to follow to the letter of the law?

You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.
– Levitus 19

For anyone with a religious objection to the allowing of same-sex unions (and I’d argue that two men cannot lay “as man and woman” because the angles are somewhat different . . . and I see nothing prohibiting sex between two females), why do we focus on this passage and not care that most all clothing sold these days has a mixture of cloth?

Race relations
There have been some tremendous incidents in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore over the past several months. In each case, an unarmed black male was killed by the police. In each case, demonstrations have turned violent. To try to put some perspective on this, I’m going to talk about the whitest movie I can think of: A Christmas Story. Ralphie is picked on by Scott Farkus, time and time again. It sucks, and he just runs away, feeling minimized with his dignity removed – but, for the most part, he ends up unscathed. But, one day, he’s simply “had too much” and beats the everliving shit out of Scott Farkus. I’ve never heard a fan of the movie talk about “violence isn’t the answer” or “Ralphie should have been in jail.” Everyone cheers for the kid “standing up” to the bully in the only way he could. And, well, I can say that violence isn’t the answer – that bringing about violence in a tense situation makes things worse. But, I’ve never been frisked just because “I might be up to something.” I’ve never been arrested because I “fit a description”. I can see systematic mistreatment of a population simply ruin relations between “the authorities” and said population . . . I think it’s happened in each of these instances, and think talk of “criminal behavior of citizens” without addressing police behavior & neighborhood/police relations is causing far more harm than good.
Recently, rounds have been made about adding peas to guacamole — in theory, they add a wonderful sweet accent while proving to be a “color stabilizer” that will keep guacamole green after a few hours. My take? Try it, and if you like it, bully for you. Seriously – I don’t think there is anything gained in being a “food purist”. That said, the best guacamole I’ve ever had was made with an avocado & a series of spices, mixed on a beach in Mexico. The guacamole that I’ll be making today will include avocado, jalapeno, onion, tomato, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and lime juice. I’ve been working on the recipe for years – it’s how I like it. Sweet and spicy has never really done it for me.

(Note, I’ll be back to boob references & thickly-veined thinly-veiled dick jokes in the near future)

Jun 30 15

Where I list the A,B,C’s of Daddy Runs a Lot

by John
Biggest Fear
Forgetting my priorities — I tend to invest myself into whatever I happen to be doing . . . sometimes, that “thing” I’m doing? Is entirely unimportant. And if I becomes all encompassing, well, important shit gets lost. I’m constantly telling myself to step back & look at what I’m focusing on, ensuring that I’m not missing something bigger.
Current Time
9:30 on a Tuesday morning
Drink I last had
A mixture of pu-erh & white teas with lemon juice & apple cider vinegar
Easiest Person to Talk To
Favorite Song
If I’m taking “song” at it’s actual definition, meaning a musical piece with words, well, this is still a fucking loaded question. It’s like asking Bob Ross about his favorite cloud. Seriously, this question freaks me out & stresses me more than I’d like to admit. Right now, there are several songs that I absolutely will stop whatever I’m doing to listen:
  • The Pixies: Where Is My Mind
  • Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt
  • Allman Brothers: Midnight Rider (though I’ve also been digging Willie Nelson’s cover of the same)
  • Mumford & Sons: Little Lion Man
  • The Moldy Peaches: Anyone Else But You
  • Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
  • Plain White T’s: Hey There Delilah
  • Modest Mouse: Float On
  • The Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday
  • Pink Floyd: Comfortably Numb
  • Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah

Then there are songs with an incredible amount of significance to me, which will always put me in a better mood:

  • Jeff Healey Band: Angel Eyes
  • Stevie Wonder: Isn’t She Lovely
  • John Lennon: Beautiful Boy
  • Billy Joel & Ray Charles: Baby Grand
  • Tom Petty: Free Fallin’

And I have my “guilty pleasure” songs:

  • Zac Brown Band: Chicken Fried
  • t.A.T.u.: All The Things She Said

Then lets not forget my actual favorite musical pieces which don’t qualify as songs:

  • Antonin Dvorák: Symphony Number Nine “From the New World”
  • Edward Elgar: Enigma Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod”
  • Pablo Casals: El cant dels ocells (“Song of the Birds”)
  • Carlos Gardel: Por Una Cabeza (“By a Head”)1

But, if I’m listing a single song? I’m going with The Beatles, I’ve Just Seen a Face. For today. If I don’t let myself think about it too much more.

Grossest Memory
The La and repeated code browns.
New Providence, New Jersey
In Love With…
Ok, this is stupid, because I should answer Duffy, or the kids. But I’m going to say “playing in front of a live crowd.” People have often commented on this to me, how I’m “more alive” after a great performance. And getting over the shingles, well, “feeling alive” does a lot for me. And, well, I’m actually feeling it (normally, I just kind of ignore the “good energy” comments if I talk to someone after a gig).
Jealous of
People who have the ability to sit down, plan out what they want to do, and see those plans to fruition. If I have the money to do something, I don’t have the time. If I have the time, I don’t have the money. If I have the time & the money, the task is, simply, unattainable.
Killed Someone?
Not today. Though the day is still young….
Longest Relationship
Well, I’ve been married for the better part of 12 years — but Ryan has been my friend since the first grade, so I guess it depends on how we’re defining relationship.
Middle Name
Number of siblings
One sibling, Jessica. I also have a stepsister, two stepbrothers (one of whom is no longer with us), three brothers-in-law, one sister-in-law, and many close friends who happen to be so close that I consider them family & can sometimes forget that they’re not blood-related to me.
One Wish
That my kids grow to be happy, confident, and secure in themselves.
Person who you last called
People still use their phones as phones? Really? It was a work call to the Bangalore office.
Question you’re always asked
How did you get fit/lose weight? And/Or: How do you have the energy for what you do?
Reason to smile
I’m up to no good
Song you last sang
What Does the Fox Say? Because kids.
Time you woke up
5:20 — I considered trying to go back to bed, which would have given me an extra hour, but Benji had other ideas.
Underwear Color
Vacation destination
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Worst habit
See greatest fear — getting so involved in a meaningless task that I tune out those in my life
X-rays you’ve had
So so many. Aside from regular dental X-Rays, in no particular order:
  • Right Elbow
  • Rib cage
  • Right Shoulder
  • Right big toe
  • Right shin
  • Right wrist
  • Left pinky finger

Looking at that list, I guess it’s really not a surprise to see why the shingles decided to attack the right side of my body.

Your favorite food
Favorite food and favorite song in the same list? Really? Bullshit.

Cheese. A cheddar so sharp that it feels like it’s cutting into your tongue. Paired with a pinot noir.

Zodiac Sign
Jun 17 15

Where I ruminate on being sick

by John

Those of you who know me know that I push myself pretty hard — when I’m at work, I work hard. When work out, I workout hard. When I’m not working out or at work, I rehearse/perform hard. I am my own toughest critic, and I demand a LOT of out myself.

With the latest Jurassic Park movie being released (I haven’t seen it yet, but I want to), I’m reminded of the line “life, uh, finds a way.” I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder than normal, recently. And life, uh, found a way to slow me down.

Sunday was a glorious day. I woke up early, got a small workout in, visited with a band member in order to pick up some equipment so that a community theatre friend of mine might have a keyboard to use for a musical he’s responsible for, played my last Sunday at church for the summer, dropped off the keyboard with my director friend, and went to have a 5th birthday Linner1 for Leila (all you can eat sushi, and I ensured that I got my money’s worth). Duffy had rehearsal until late at night, and with no school the next day, I kind-of let the kids dictate bedtime . . . which meant that bathtime included far more play than normal and two five year olds’ eyes closed, perhaps, a bit later than normal, but there weren’t any tantrums. It was a good day/evening.

Monday morning, my alarm went off at 4:50am, because I’m a masochist. It was raining. Hard. I looked at Benji and informed him “sorry, bud, but I’m not about to walk you in this.” My pup was not happy. However, by simply getting out of bed, my children absconded my share of the bed, so I laid myself back down in Leila’s unused bed. Benji tried, for the next 10-15 minutes, to remind me that he hadn’t been walked (he has a dog door, so he can get outside to relieve himself . . . but he’s an exuberant dog who likes his exercise) before lying down next to me. Duffy went off to the gym. She came back to find me still asleep & asked what the rash was, on my back.

I had no clue that there was a rash on my back . . . though I had a painful area, I figured that I’d done something stupid while working out, so I was dealing with some muscle pain. Upon her asking me about it, I wondered if I had bumped into something that I didn’t remember & well, this was the result2. Then she asked if I was feeling all right, and I had to answer that no, I wasn’t.

Now, I had eaten far more sushi, the previous day, than any one person has a right to eat. And I did drink a little bit of wine, but far from drinking to excess. So I wanted to blame my feeling crappy on that combination . . . but, then I found that I had a fever. So I called off of work. Then I started having some stomach issues, and decided to make a doctor’s appointment.

I sat down with my doctor3 . . . the rash/scrape on my back was the least of my worries, but was at the forefront of his. He looked at it, and had a diagnosis immediately. “Sorry, my friend, but you’ve got shingles.”

Apparently, the chickenpox virus hits a child — you get over it and it lies dormant, just chilling behind the scenes. For most everyone who had chickenpox as a child, that’s the end of the story – Valar Morghulis: All Men Must Die . . . and, when most who had chickenpox die, they never hear from the virus a second time. But, sometimes, the virus chooses to revisit.

I’m past the initial suck. My stomach has calmed down. My fever has, mostly, broken (every now & then, I check & find that I’m running a low grade fever). I’m no longer feeling the need to lie down as soon as I stand up. The rash has spread from the right side of my back to my right elbow (which is, basically, a collection of bubblegum and wire) and wrist (which the doctor speculated might happen – it would either move up my back or spread to my hand, but keep on one side of the body, as the virus attaches itself to one side of the spinal column, which is a neat bit of biology — and I’d be fascinated by how that’s even possible were it not for the stabbing pains with which I’m frequently greeted).

In short (too late, I know – hey, I’m wordy), I’ve been sidelined. This morning, I walked the dog, and that was about all the exercise I could handle. I’m going to bed early. The past two days have seen me napping a significant amount of time (I’m pretty sure I spent most of Monday asleep). Post-work activities have been put on hold. I’ve been more focused on video games than pull-ups. Honestly, going with the video game analogy, I feel like I’ve just pressed a reset button. I’ll be back to my old habits, I know that much (heck, today, I’m even back to my typical diet plan, though I’m still fighting a general lack of appetite, which *could* be related to the lack of exercise, and my body just trying to figure out what the heck is going on). I’m just hoping, when all has returned to normal my regularly scheduled life, I can remember what happens when I press myself too hard for too long.

1 Lunch/dinner
2 This is the cause of most bruises/scrapes/bumps that I get . . . something that looks nasty as a result but I have no recollection of how I might have attained said bruise/scrape/bump.
3 My vitals were all in good shape, aside from my fever . . . after years of having “borderline” high blood pressure, and talk from my doctor about possibly putting me on medication, my combination of physical fitness, diet, and meditation have lowered my average BP from 135/80 to 110/70, so that’s something, at least.