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Apr 4 17

Where I poke my head in during a busy streak

by John

So it’s been far too long since I’ve posted – and as I’m wont to do when I try to get myself back in a writing groove, I present bullet points:

  • As soon as Duffy and the kids leave for school in the morning, Luna, my cat, likes to follow me around. Every now & then, I’ll ask her what she’s up to — and she always responds. I don’t speak cat, but I like to think she’s saying “sneaking.”
  • My schedule has been truly obscene as of late – somehow, I’ve ended up accompanying two community theatre productions (Assassins and Sister Act) simultaneously, just as Lent reaches its apex and the kids (and the me) are getting ready to test for the next karate belt.
  • Fortunately, I’ve been able to fit running into my work day regularly – if only because I’m looking at some pretty huge milestones in the near future: The Disney Dark Side Challenge1 and the Flying Pig 4-Way With Extra Cheese2 all coming within the next month. After the marathon, I may take a bit of a break for a little while.
  • Did I mention Disney? The kids are super excited. I might be, as well.
  • On the running front, I’m finding that, if I skip a few days, I run considerably faster – which certainly makes sense. If I run the day after a longer run, I run slower – again, no surprise. But, when I look at my mile-by-mile splits after one of these recovery runs, I’m always running far faster at the end of the run than the beginning. The only way I can explain this is that my legs take a very long time to warm up — troublemakers, don’t get old.
  • I can’t really deny it — I haven’t been in the best place, mentally, as of late. For whatever reason, it feels like anything I might do isn’t “good enough,” yet there is no real benchmark about what “good enough” might actually be. Simply, I feel like I’m constantly letting myself down. And therefore am letting everyone in my life down. If I knew what was wrong, I’d address it – but, well, it just feels like it’s everything. Maybe it’s the schedule that I’ve been trying to maintain. While I realize there’s a relatively simple “well, just agree to do less,” solution – if I do less, I feel like I’m letting others down, and that gnaws at me.
  • At least my diet & exercise haven’t suffered too much with this rut — I probably eat way more than I should. And I know, once I realize I’m “in for the night,” I commonly let myself drink a bit too much (or, I just fall asleep as soon as I stop moving) – but, I’ve been keeping to my diet fundamentals. And, with rare exception, I’ve been able to talk myself into working out after walking the dog & making lunches, instead of taking a little snooze.
  • I say my diet & exercise are mostly under control. While I’ve put on about 20 pounds over the past year, I constantly have to remind myself that extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean “something bad,” as my waist measurement hasn’t budged.
  • I’m making a concerted effort to get more baseball into my life this year. Come the afternoon, at work, I’ve been drowning out the world as I get deep into coding (mornings are usually far more interactive as I work through issues with my European coworkers) with Classical Music — but, now that we’re in baseball season, I’m live-streaming baseball games.
  • With regular running means I’m getting regular time to listen to audiobooks. I cannot recommend that you read/listen to The Hate U Give strongly enough. I’m now working my way through old Stephen King novels, but I think I’m going to start a string of memoirs.

1 A 10k on Saturday and a Half-Marathon on Sunday.
2 A mile on Friday afternoon, a 10k + a 5k on Saturday, and a Full Marathon on Sunday.
Feb 28 17

Where I share my end of run thoughts

by John

So, I’ve been running a fair bit more, lately. I’m still trying to figure out just what my running schedule will be throughout the year, but I do know I’ll be in Disneyworld, in April, running the Dark Side Challenge. And, howevermuch I like to claim that I can just “pull a half marathon out of my ass,” if I want to run 3/4 of a marathon over two days and still enjoy some time with my kids and not want to feel like I’m going to die, it means I need to train.

And so I’ve been training. These are the random thoughts that accompanied the end of today’s run:

  • Dammit, I thought I was running faster than that.
  • If I want to run faster, perhaps I should pay attention to my pace
  • But paying attention to my pace will mean that annoying voice cuts into my ever-valuable audiobook1.
  • I do so enjoy audiobooks.
  • I think running makes me more sane.
  • That’s only because I can have prolonged conversations, with myself, as I go.
  • Dammit, now I have to skip back because I wasn’t paying attention to the story.
  • So running faster. Why wasn’t I running faster? Probably because I’ve been running more and not giving my legs adequate time to rest.
  • Also, your back hates you.
  • And lunges.
  • Maybe I should look into a training program, if I’m at-all serious about running faster.
  • I should write these thoughts to my blog.
  • Remember when I used to blog? That was awesome.
  • But blogging regularly is a lot of work.
  • I wish running made you regular — runner trots are no fun.
  • You know what else is a lot of work? Sticking to a training plan.
  • But training programs involve fartleks.
  • And fartleks are a funny word to say.
  • Dammit, gotta skip back in the audiobook again…

1 Today’s Audiobook: Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer
Feb 24 17

Where I ruminate on European Stereotypes

by John

They say “Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.”

I shall simply add, in Heaven, the cheesemakers1 are Dutch. Obviously, there is no cheese in Hell.

1 And blessed be the cheesemakers.
Dec 31 16

Where I look at 2017 Resolutions

by John

So 2016 is coming to an end. And I say good riddance. There is no shortage of things which leave me happy for new beginnings: the election results, Prince’s unexpected death, the election, the arrest of a friend, Donald Fucking Trump, Carrie Fisher.

But when I look at why I’m disappointed in 2016, I’m realizing that I am upset over a bunch of shit that I had absolutely no control over. And because I let those things consume me, I let things in my life go on, unchecked. I’ve gained 15 pounds since The New York Marathon. I’ve decided that it was easier to have a few glasses of wine & not worry about thinking than confront a bunch of stuff which was on my mind. I’ve chosen not to work out time and time again because I was sore or tired or “just didn’t have time,” when I should have just re-programmed what I was doing. Time and time again, I found myself choosing take-out instead of cooking.

So, 2017, I’m focusing on the stuff I am in charge of. My country might be falling to shit around me. The grim reaper will take who he declares “it’s their time.” I cannot control if someone I thought was a friend is making decisions which are . . . far from ok1.

I am in charge of what I put into my body. So every weekend, I will map out my meals for the week. I will give myself one point for making the menu, and then one point for every day that I adhere to the menu. For any day that I know I’ll need to eat on the road, or pick up something, I’ll even account for that. I will LOSE a point if I skip accurately logging a meal before I eat it. (8 possible points)

I am in charge keeping my body strong and hale. When I plan out my menu, I will plan my workouts for the week. Every week, I will introduce something new – I will progressively plan. I fucking want to be able to maintain a handstand, and do a muscle-up, and run a four-hour marathon (without feeling like death at the end). I’ll get a point for making my week’s plan, I’ll get a point for every day I adhere to the plan. I’ll LOSE a point if I’m dealing with injury or insane schedule and NOT program some alternate. I’ll gain 3 points for any week where I log my weight and blood pressure every day of the week. (11 possible points)

I am in charge of my writing. There are three creative pursuits I’m working on: a novel, a musical, and my two blogs. Every week, I will plan out and write posts. I’ll get one point for every time I post. I will NOT get a point if I post what wasn’t planned. I will get a point for any day which I make progress on either my novel or musical or in working toward learning a new musical instrument (max of one point per day). (11 possible points)

I am in charge of my finances. As I plan out my menu & workout, I’ll set the budget for the week. I track every single purchase. I’ll get five points when my spending is less than what I’ve set out. I’ll lose a point if I find a truly gratuitous purchase – even if that purchase was for the children. (5 possible points)

Every week, I’ll tweet how many points I’ve given myself under the #DRALChallenge. I’ll tweet my weight and average blood pressure at the end of the week. I’ll log it all.

I’ll aim for 500 points throughout the year.

I’ll check in, regularly, here, as I might tweak the points based on where I’m succeeding and where I’m lacking.

What about you? What things are you in charge of, in your life? What choices can you make to make yourself more healthy, more happy, more confident?

1 You know, though, it’s fucking hard to make a new friend as an adult. So this whole episode has sucked. But I need to stop treating myself as a victim. It sucks, I need to move on.
Nov 10 16

Where I run the New York Marathon

by John
Running the Course

As I’ve mentioned, I switched jobs in April — my new employer happens to be one of the major sponsors of the TCS New York Marathon. I was just checking my work email, randomly, on a Saturday night when I noticed “guaranteed entry to the New York Marathon.” I read it. I was intrigued. And five minutes later, I had agreed to run it.

The New York Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world, in what might be the most-bustling city in the world. For the most part, I run smaller races, and nothing about this race is small.

Signing up, you need to list three items:

  1. Anticipated finish time (I stated between 4:00 and 4:15)
  2. Whether I’d be using the bag check or receiving a parka (I chose the latter, which I’ll talk about in detail)
  3. What option I’d use for transportation to the start: get myself there, take the Staten Island Ferry, a NJ bus from the Meadlowlonds, or a bus from the New York Public Library. I opted for the NJ Transit option.

After that, it was all just getting through the race.

I don’t know if I chose hastily or what, but I didn’t read through everything that went into choosing the NJ Transit bus option. I knew I’d need to get back home that evening . . . so not having to drive myself out of NYC had a lot of sway in my thinking. What I didn’t realize, though, that there was no parking at Giant’s Stadium for this option.

When I discovered this, my original thought was to just get my way to the Staten Island Ferry . . . but I ended up staying the course. I parked at the Seacaucus Junction rail station, knowing it would cost me $29.00 for the day ($20, if I happened to get back before 12 hours elapsed), and scheduled an Uber to pick me up at 5 in the morning. I had the Uber drop me at MetLife stadium, hopped on the NJ Transit bus, and everything went SUPER easily. After the run, my plan was to either hop on the subway or walk back to Penn Station, take the train to Seacaucus Junction, and drive on home.

Heading into the race, I had to head to the Javitz center on Saturday to pick up my race bib and, simply, enjoy the Expo. Of all of my transportation decisions, this is the one I erred, as I drove into the city. Traffic was heavy all throughout Manhattan and parking cost an arm & a leg. Much like my plan to get home included mass transit, I should have, simply, parked at Seacaucus Junction, hopped on the train into the city, and walked to the convention center from Penn Station (about a mile). Alas, I did park, at Port Authority1. I walked to the convention center and had my bib and in about 10 minutes.

Considering the number of people running, I cannot get over how well-organized this whole thing was . . . though I guess every detail has to be planned, at an event of this magnitude, it’s quite obvious that every detail was thought-of and acted-upon. Truly, I was impressed.

I spent about an hour walking about the expo — just checking out the different vendors. As the mornings are getting darker and darker as I walk my puppy, I actually spent a few bucks on a pair of fingerless gloves which include rechargeable LED lights. Also, I collected brochures from most every other marathon who happened to send an ambassador there. Because, yeah, I don’t think I’m done running marathons.

After I had enough of the vendor spiels, I worked my way back into NJ, where I spent the night with a friend of mine.

In the week leading to the race, I stopped by the local Goodwill store and purchased a bunch of winter clothing: knit hats, sweat pants, sweat shirts, a winter jacket — all of which came with me into NJ for the start. On race day, I woke at 4am and by 4:30, I was dressed for the race, along with layer-after-layer of warm clothing.

By 5am, I had made my way to the parking lot. The Uber driver arrived minutes later.

10 minutes after that, he dropped me at Parking Lot K. My bib was checked and I was on a bus. NJ transit operates continually between 5am and 6am (I’m pretty sure, as long as you’re there by 6am, they’ll take you). They pack one bus fully and send it, then start filling the next. I was at MetLife stadium for less than 10 minutes.

While on the bus, I was informed that I had time to move my car, if I had parked at the stadium . . . but I’m not entirely sure that I did have time, as I have no idea where I could have parked.

I think the trip to Staten Island took just north of an hour, but I was busy chatting with other runners. One of the guys I sat next to someone who was running this marathon for the past 8 years. His advice:

  • Pee at the portapotties after your corral, as they’re far less crowded.
  • Remember that the first mile is uphill so don’t push too hard.
  • The second mile is downhill but don’t let your nerves take off.
  • Use the 5k mark to start moving into your own pace.

Once at Fort Wadsworth, there was a quick check through security and I worked my bundled-way to my village where I grabbed a Dunkin’ Donuts beanie (which was more comfortable than the hats I brought) and chatted with a few runners before finding a cozy batch of ground and taking a two hour nap.

Bundled Before the Start

I woke from the nap, drank a bunch of free coffee, and worked my way to the corral.

The biggest difference for this marathon than all of my previous marathons is the start time & procedure. While I’m kind-of used to arriving, hanging out for a little bit, and running . . . here, I had probably walked, at least, 2 miles prior to starting. And that “hanging out for a little bit” was 4 hours of waiting. Honestly, though, my running strategy as of late worked quite well for me – as I’ve been running, mostly, over lunches, I’ve had a two mile walk with Benji beforehand, and when I do run, there is little more than coffee in my system.

Anyway, the cannon blasted around 10:40, and I was off.

Running the Course

When they talk about NY being deceptively hilly, it’s because the bridges have some grade to them . . . but the course is quite flat – I really don’t consider a climb of 150 feet worth mentioning. But I kept easy for the first mile, tried hard to rein myself in for the second mile, and, right around mile 3, started to find my pace.

Normally, when I run, I put in my earbuds, turn up the volume, and try to use the music or audiobook to help me into the runner’s high. This race, though, I chose to avoid the earbuds altogether. It’s not that I wanted to avoid the runner’s high (I can’t tell you too much about most any mile marker, so I absolutely reached this little bit of nirvana), but I wanted to soak in The New York Marathon. I wanted it to flow through me. And, honestly, I’m quite glad I took this approach . . . the were just so many runners. The entire time, I had to keep mentally focused, because if I didn’t, it would have meant a 200 pound runner barreling into another runner or, worse, one of the heroes from Team Achilles. Plus, I wouldn’t have gotten the full picture of the crowd.

And the crowd was, simply, the best part of this race. For almost the entire route, the roads are packed with cheering, supportive spectators. Every block or so, a different band plays (be it a middle school jazz band, a bunch of retired guys playing bagpipes, or a death metal duo). People of every race, of every creed, cheering you, for every step of the way. The feeling was, in a word, amazing2.

My mindset, heading in, was to relax early, then break the race into each borough: get through Brooklyn (which is essentially the halfway point), into Queens, take solace in the quiet of the bridge into Manhattan, enjoy the run as I head north up Manhattan, get into the Bronx and mile marker 20, and then ride adrenaline back into Manhattan to the finish.

Running the Course

And the plan worked, until I got back into Manhattan.

Any runner who has ever run knows how annoying cramps can be. And right after I crossed the bridge back into Manhattan, my left quad started to complain. Rather than fight through it, I stopped. I walked, found a place to stretch and stopped. Only, as I stretched, other muscled started to cramp. I’d get the cramping under wraps, only to have it start again a few hundred yards later. The worst was when my hips & *ahem* nether-region started to seize.

Posing for the cameraman

Mom, you probably don’t want to read this paragraph. Guys, you know when you’ve had a particularly long dry-spell? When your schedule is so very crazy that, not only do you & your certain someone have any alone time, but you don’t even have alone time by yourself? And then, *poof* you find some, and you’re getting into it, getting close, and then the kids wake up, the house catches fire, and your boss calls your cell phone all at the same time? So you have to stop doing what you’re doing. Then you try to walk? That ache? That’s what it felt like.

Running the Course

I managed to get all of my *ahem* issues under control by finding a seat and actually taking the weight off my legs for a minute. No fewer than a dozen people came up to me, as I rested, offering me Gatorade or bananas or water or their shirts off their back (well, not literally, though you got the sense that everybody who was cheering you on would have gladly given you whatever you asked for, if it meant that you’d get your way to the end — seriously, I can’t get over how good the vibe from the crowd was, the entire way).

Never leave a kid hanging for a high-five along the course

For the last 5k, I was able to run again.

Crossing The Finish

I finished.

I felt that I succeeded.

With My Medal

I had a blast.

Following the race, you walk a good distance. They hand out the medals, then the film sheets (by this point, I was quite chilly — the weather was actually just about perfect, but once the sweat started drying on me, I got a major case of the chills), then a recovery bag, and then, finally, the parka. I was QUITE glad to get the parka . . . not only did it mean that I was warm and now own a pretty freaking cool piece of outerwear, but it kept me from having to worry about my stuff not making it to the end-point.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I walked to Penn Station from Central Park. Yeah, I could have taken a subway — it would have been faster and more comfortable, but I just had the sense that my legs needed to keep moving in a way that wasn’t taxing them.

Most everybody I passed on the street told me congratulations. I know New York city quite well . . . I’ve visited it numerous times. The number of conversations I’ve had with random strangers in Manhattan, until marathon day, could be counted on one hand. Yet, it seemed that everybody who I passed was eager to know how I did, was this my first marathon, was this my first time running New York, what did I think, how do I feel. Again, the vibe was a good vibe . . . I even get the sense that most New Yorkers don’t mind the clusterfuck that the marathon brings to the traffic conditions. It’s a feel good day.

I got to Penn Station, even the ticket seller at the NJ Transit booth told me congratulations. I hopped on a train, got to my truck, chatting with people all along the way. I got to my car as Giants and Rangers fans shouted their congratulations to me.

As I drove off, even if my finish time (4:10:55) was a bit later than I was hoping (I really wanted to beat four hours), I felt, truly, accomplished.

1 This provided a bit of happy nostalgia, at least. Growing up, about once a month or so, my family would head into New York. We’d park at Port Authority and walk to China Town for a meal before walking back. So, parking here brought me back to memories of my childhood, though the area around Port Authority is quite different than the place I remember.
2 Well, there was a Hasidic area of Brooklyn where the spectators were . . . subdued. They were watching, but watching quietly, as their religion would advise. There was a “you’re running. Why?” vibe — it wasn’t bad, just different.
Nov 9 16

Where I remember I’m Daddy Runs a Lot

by John

Sometimes, I need to remind myself who I am. I’m a father, a son, a brother, a husband, a musician, some kind of weird technical person, a joker, a weekend toker, Some people call me Maurice. And I am Daddy Runs a Lot.

What am I not? Daddy Writes a Lot1

So I’ve abandoned you, my dear, six and three-quarter loyal blog readers. Life has been . . . crazy, to say the least. I’ve missed writing here, though. Also, I’ve missed reading your words — the only non-filed, non-deleted emails I have in my inbox are advertisements promising me a humongous cock if I simply pay $8,294,211 for some magic pills blogs from you blog authors who I love to visit, but just haven’t made the priority to do so. It’s really my fault, though, actively choosing to work while at work and then *gasp* play with my kids.

But, alas, I miss writing.

Lack of writing has not left me not running, however. In fact, I’ve been running with regularity as of late. It’s kind of wonderful. See, a little while ago, I switched jobs, and with the new job is an in-house gym and locker room. And in the locker room is a shower. The only thing that was keeping me from regular running, in the past, was this stupid belief that I should shower after I run because I believed my coworkers would take my post run scent2 poorly.

On top of the regular “just for the fun of it” runs, of course, there are actual running events. This year, I’ve:

  • Run a half marathon in conditions that I can only define as “blizzardly.”
    Me and snow and medal
  • Went running along the beach, as I am wont to do.
    Running and my happy place

    Maybe I shouldn't run naked...

  • Went on an epic road trip to Canada to run a 5k (dressed as a pirate whilst wearing a kilt) and then running the most beautiful half-marathon course imaginable3



  • Set my personal record in the half-marathon running the Hershey Half Marathon for my sixth time.
    The group before the Hershey Half Marathon

Oh, yeah, and I ran the New York Marathon4.

It’s funny — the weather is crappy today; the recent news has me wanting to binge eat ice cream whilst binge drinking bourbon whilst binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer; if I try to stand on one leg for more than 5 seconds, my entire body starts to cramp . . . yet I’m still drawn to run. Heck, if I didn’t have to play with my organ in front of a crowd if the bishop wasn’t going to be in (meaning it would be a really crappy week for me to ditch my organist duties), I’d seriously be considering breaking the post-New York Marathon running fast by running the Harrisburg marathon. I’ve felt horrible after a marathon before and I had a really bad moment running this past one . . . but, unlike before, my head never caved . . . and dare I say, Daddy Runs a Lot may be back.

Just don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.

1 Though, when I do write, I usually write using a lot of words.
2 Imagine if you found a roadkill skunk and set it on fire.
3 I’m a sucker for the ocean and quaint neighborhoods, so Halifax kind of won me over.
4 Hopefully, in the very near future, the details of the event will be listed in their own post.
Apr 27 16

Where I return with stories of changes, running, and of course, random

by John

It hasn’t been my choice to disappear . . . I’ve written before, about “not making a priority” for key things in my life. And, as loathe as I am to say it, blogging has not been a priority as of late. Part of the story of why I haven’t been around here is quite good. And, of course, part of it isn’t. But, as is my fashion, here are all the deets1 in the laziest possible fashion my favorite conveyance, bullet points.

  • I recently switched jobs. A few months ago, I got a message, out of the blue, from an old boss, about my possible interest. I was quite interested . . . time passed the position changed even more to my liking, I interviewed, and *poof*, now I have a new job. Mostly, I’m doing the same stuff – syntax is a bit different (technically, I’ve gone from an environment which was primarily J2EE with an Oracle backend to one that’s primarily .Net oriented with a SQL Server backend), but the crux of the job is the same. And maybe it’s just a good honeymoon, but while the job isn’t exactly stressless, the major gripes I had from my last position are an item of the past. Professionally, I’m a good bit happier.
  • My son celebrated his 100 day celebration of kindergarten. This whole idea is something I did not have in school in the days where we walked uphill both ways as I went through — and from the sounds of it, the “100 days smarter” is a relatively new thing. But I loved it. It happens just as the kids are in the rut of the “post-Christmas” pit, the weather is crappy . . . and they get to have a great bit celebration. About learning. It’s just about perfect.
  • One of the perks of the new job is a fitness center on premises. Which means I have a shower available to me. Which means that heading out for a run over lunch is a very real possibility. So I’ve been running a bit more.
  • A few weeks ago, I ran the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon. I have a bit of a history with this course . . . over the last two years, I’ve run the full marathon. Two years ago, I was doing great, then my hamstring started spasming and I ended up limping for a bit before it calmed down right around mile marker 25 and I ended up running to the finish. Last year, the race just about ruined running for me. So, I decided, this year, to “just” run the half marathon2 . . . so I should have been prepared for a curveball. I’m someone who will skip a training run because it’s “too cold” or “it might rain.” I ran this half marathon in freezing temperatures and what I can only call a white-out (though, thankfully, the snow wasn’t accumulating on the road). These were, honestly, the most miserable conditions I’ve ever run through . . . and because you know me, yeah, I’m kind of disappointed at myself for not running the full (though I was downright giddy at the half-marathon turnround, knowing that I “only” had to run another 6 miles, and not another 18).
  • For the most part, the lack of writing has actually been good for me — see, there are three things that I do to “keep the crazy at bay:” run, play music, and write. In each of them, there are moments where I will, simply get lost. When running, I’ll commonly look at my distance flabbergasted because I figured I had gone a mile or two . . . and the reality was closer to 10. When writing, hundreds of words turn into thousands, magically. When playing music . . . well, the moments that I’ve actually lost myself are few & far between . . . but when they happen, when playing becomes entirely reactive and there is nothing between my thoughts & the music that I’m making . . . well, that’s magical. Fortunately, the need to simply lose myself has diminished in my life as of late. But, on that topic, I was chatting with a priest at my church (a man who has recently taken up running, himself) and we talked about getting into that “lost time” feeling in regards to prayer – how it should be the aim of any person’s prayers. Well, I’m not so sure prayer is for me (I’m truly dubious as to whether anyone is listening) but if I could turn this “losing myself” feeling toward something truly good — lose myself in playing with my kids, in reading books to my kids, in volunteering in the community . . . well, I’d be a better person.
  • As the weather turns nicer, I’m getting more & more excited about this year’s version of my garden: cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapenos, squash, and green beans.
  • Between my last day at my previous job & my first day at my new job, I had a daddy/daughter day . . . we went out to breakfast, she got a manicure . . . it was truly a wonderful morning. And made me wish I had the ability to do more stuff with either child, individually.
  • Every few years, I re-listen to some of my favorite audiobooks. So I just started Stephen King’s The Stand. And then Prince died with seemingly the only thing wrong being that he had the flu. I feel like I brought this on.
  • I keep telling myself “once I get through this” or “once that is over,” my life will be far less overly-scheduled. But shit always seems to come in & pile up, and what I once through would be a “relaxed weekend” has me running from place to place on end. But with that said, I’ve actually said “no” to several community theatre productions3 lately because I’m far more interested in riding this “not as stressed” wave as long as I can.

1 Apparently, the lingo all the cool kids are using for “details”.
2 Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know saying “just a half-marathon” is the mark of an asshole but I keep myself in *just* enough running shape that I’m able to run 13.1 miles without training.
3 I know! I’m as surprised as you are!
Dec 16 15

Where I share a few fun stories about my kids

by John
Kids with Santa

Just before Thanksgiving, we went as a family to visit New York City, which included a trip over the river to Medieval Times. There, Leila got a “jewel,” a blue glass paperweight shaped like a cut gem. After the show, we went back to the hotel, and in the morning, the kids were playing with the stuff they got (CJ, of course, got a sword, because he loves swords). In playing, the kids entered the closet of the hotel room, where they encountered a hotel room safe. Leila, having a “jewel” chose to put her new acquisition in there, because a safe is there you put things that are precious. And, of course, as we were packing up, “the hotel room safe” was the last place that Duffy or I thought about ensuring things might be stored. I like to think that the next person who looked into the safe thought they had scored a major “found treasure” for a minute before inspecting things more closely and/or taking the glass paperweight to an appraiser.

We’ve been listening to a lot of music whenever I’ve been driving with the kids, lately — I like trying to push the kids’ preferences toward the stuff that I prefer. This doesn’t always work (preschool playlists combined with “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “What Does the Fox Say?” are the most often played songs in my car), but it does reap some benefit. Not too long ago, “Hey Jude” came over the speakers. After the song, CJ asked why Jude wasn’t answering.

To now, the six-month difference in age between my children hasn’t amounted to much, but lately I’m reminded of reading Stuart Little as a kid. Leila is trying, really hard, to get the concept of what kindergarten is, because the scope of her world is what she does at preschool. And I’m reminded of Stuart not knowing what the kid did when he went to school – but he knew that there were peanut butter sandwiches. And he wanted to go to school because he liked peanut butter sandwiches. Leila sees that I pack CJ a snack every day, which, almost always, includes either potato chips or mini-oreo cookies. She sees that, in his lunch box, every day, I include a Hostess cupcake. So she really wants to go to kindergarten because she wants the cookies & the cupcake.

I’m quick to admit that a big part of my reasoning for working out as I do is so I can pick up my children. Leila is truly turning into a “daddy’s girl” and asks for “uppy” whenever possible . . . and, even when I’m tired & grumpy1, I oblige the “uppy” requests. CJ, unless he’s so sleepy that he can barely walk (kindergarten is hard, yo) or is absolutely asleep, eschews requests for “uppy” unless I’m willing to pick him up, upside down, and then it’s for the adrenaline rush of being carried while inverted. I guess that’s what I should expect from “a kid growing up.”

1 This is almost all of the time.
Dec 1 15

Where I check in with some random

by John
The Family with Santa
  • I ran the Harrisburg Marathon
    • I fared a good bit better than I did during my last marathon. I came in nowhere close to the 4 hours in which I was hoping to finish, but I felt good about my effort. Basically, I started out really strong, and was feeling great. I don’t know if it was the rapidly increasing temperatures (it never got “hot” or, really, even “warm,” but the race started really, really cold and it was quite pleasant by the time I finished) or the fact that I wasn’t really training to run 26.2 miles, but the wheels started to fall of, for me, right around mile 18, where a cramp started to form in the back of my right hamstring. I tried to ignore it, until about mile 20, when I stopped to actually stretch it. But when I stopped? Cramps formed in my lower back, shin, and foot. So I started to walk . . . and that worked. For about a 5k (miles 20-23) I walked while trying to ease through these annoying cramps. Around mile marker 23, some people I was chatting with at the very start of the race started running past me, the cramp in my hamstring started to abate, and I ran with them to the finish.
    • 2015 Harrisburg Marathon Finish

    • During the Garden Spot Village Marathon, I was angry with myself & the world. This time? I wasn’t super happy with my time (4:17), but I didn’t feel angry. I’m very glad to have replaced the last marathon memory with this one.
    • The course this year was different, and the ending in “Downtown Harrisburg” was really nice — but having to walk about a half-a-mile back to my car afterwards was not a fun walk. Heck, my sister was enjoying a beer with some friends at the finish and invited me to share a brew with her. Only that would have meant: walking back to my car for my wallet/id, walking back downtown. Um, yeah, I didn’t make it.
    • I’ve often told myself that I’m “retiring the distance,” but despite walking a good bit, I feel MUCH better about my performance here. I may try “pulling another marathon out of my ass” some time.
  • It’s so rare for Leila to be able to laud something physical over CJ – but the fact that he’s a boy’s boy1 is difficult to ignore. The other week, we were visiting my brother-in-law in New York City. Strangely enough, a five year old & a six year old wake up before a 28 year old musician living in the city. To kill some time, we took the kids to a park in Brooklyn. There was a climbing wall at the park. Leila? No problems climbing up & over the wall. CJ? Well, the kid propel himself on monkey bars like nobody else, so I don’t think it’s a lack of upper body strength for him. But, perhaps it’s a lack of coordination or (more likely) confidence, but he just couldn’t manage his sister’s feat. So The La, well, she’ll randomly go up to passers-by and inform them that she’s “more better at climbing rock climbing than her brother.”
  • We have entered “The Elf on the Shelf” area of the year — Bo2. I’m happy to announce that I have not yet failed in moving him (I’ve actually placed a reminder on my phone, every morning, set to go off just as I return from walking the dog), but I’m concerned about repeating places and/or dealing with the kids waking before 5:30am.
  • Last Sunday was a strange Sunday, in that most regular members of the church choir had announced that they wouldn’t be in church. So, the choir director called off the choir. And, if there is no choir, there is no organ. As I am the organist, I did not need to be at church. We had tickets to “Marvel Universe Live” (a stage show with superheroes & explosions) in the afternoon, at Hershey Park. But, after breakfast (which only partially got rid of my morning crankiness) & some holiday shopping, we decided to take advantage of our season passes at Hershey Park & visit the park. And wouldn’t you know that Santa was there. And, sometimes, at the spur of the moment, you end up with a fun family pic 🙂
  • Every now & then, I feel bad for Luna, the new kitten, when Benji just picks her up by a limb or her head. But, as soon as I start to feel bad for her, I hear a puppy yelp and see that she has firmly affixed herself, via claws & teeth, to his face. If he tries to ignore her, she will try to tackle him, despite the fact that he’s about ten times her size. So, I guess she kind of likes being carried around.
  • Cuddling Pets

  • When they’re not actively wrasslin’, the pets are actually the best of friends. And I’m left wondering just what goes through their minds – are they aware that they’re difference species?
  • While I remain “on target” with my diet & exercise plan (every weekend, I plan out & prepare my lunches for the week; every morning, I pack lunches for myself, my wife, and my son; every morning, I walk Benji and do something within the realm of strength training — based on the day, how I’m feeling, and what’s planned for the day that something might vary in intensity, but there is something every day), I am truly concerned about my desire to drink a shitton (1.337 shittonnes) of wine or tackle all-you-can-eat-buffet when either opportunity presents itself.
  • The symphony with which I’ve been playing just played our Masterworks concert – Mahler’s First. We really performed well. The rehearsal following the concert, though? Well, sight-reading music is always hairy . . . but it was downright painful.
  • I need to find more time for audiobooks — the list of stuff that I want to listen through is growing far faster than the list of items to which I’m actually listening (at present, the Millenium Trilogy before tackling The Girl in the Spider Web while I’m alone, and The Autobiography of Santa Claus when I’m with the kids.

1 We all know that the fact that “he’s a boy” really doesn’t amount to much, and makes no difference to me. But the truth of the matter is that CJ is a very stereotypical boy, and Leila is a very stereotypical girl. When playing in a group, CJ is likely to want to pick up swords & mock sword-fight and/or just run around and create a ruckus. Leila is quite likely to recommend that everyone “play tea party.” Because of this, CJ tends to best his sister in any physical contest.
2 When we first pulled out the Elf on the Shelf, the only word/sound/saying that The La would make was “Bo.” When we showed her the doll, she pointed, excitedly, and said “Bo!” So, Bo is his name.
Nov 25 15

Where I play my wife’s birthday game

by John
Me & Duffy, Enjoying Chinese Food

All year, Duffy has been writing an acrostic for those most-meaningful to her, on their birthday. And, as today is her birthday, I figure it’s only fair to play along.

Ubiquitous (as any good mother tends to be)

Happy birthday, dear. I love you.