A few months ago, I got really, really scared. We were having a few friends over for pizza, and CJ decided that he needed to take his pizza with him to watch the movie that the other kids were all watching. There’s a step between the kitchen and the TV room, and he was watching the movie & didn’t pay attention, and he fell. And when he fell, the pizza fell off of his plate. And when he went to reach for the pizza to put it back on his plate, Snickelfritz snapped at him (food on the floor, as many dog-owners know, is in the doggie domain, but that’s not a lesson easily taught to toddlers).
We calmed the situation down and CJ was just fine. Heck, five minutes later, he was far more upset about the fact that he lost his pizza than the fact that the dog snapped at him1, but it really opened our eyes to the situation. Since Snickelfritz’s arrival, there has always been a little bit of a fight for “alpha dog” status in the house. Hobbes, whom Duffy belonged to when Duffy & I met, was older — but he just isn’t a dog that is motivated by food. If you give him loving and walk him, he’s happy. Snickelfritz, well, for him, food is love. And while I can try to put the wolfpack mentality to the house – it, simply, is that Hobbes doesn’t care enough to assert dominance about the things that Snickelfritz does. And, until children, that made for a happy situation.
But the past few years have made Snickelfritz . . . anxious. I try to find a better word for it, but I really can’t. Snickelftiz acts like someone who is living in constant fear that his wife is going to leave him, and he’s going to lose his job, and the cops might arrive any minute to arrest him for that one time he smoked marijuana 22 years ago.
This night made us change a lot about the way the dogs and the family interact. Our bedtime routine generally follows that
I fall asleep as the children play in our bed the kids fall asleep in bed with Duffy & me, and we transport them over to their own room . . . but, after that, they typically work their way back over to our bed before the sun rises. In other words, our kids spend a fair amount of time in our bed, and kids don’t always move predictably, or quietly, or gracefully . . . and when there is a dog in the bed who is always anxious, well, it can lead to a hairy situation. Nothing bad has ever come — but that doesn’t mean that it won’t. We made the decision to stop letting Snickelfritz sleep in bed with us (he’s a bit too out of shape in order to actually jump on the bed, himself . . . well, he’s not, but he thinks he is, and because he doesn’t think he can make the jump onto the bed himself, he won’t do it). We lock the dogs in a different room whenever the kids are eating, just in case.
For the most part, these changes haven’t affected the family dynamic all that much. Snickelfritz sleeps at the side of the bed, and is still a pain in the ass in the early mornings when I’m trying to take him for a walk. He’s pretty vocal about not liking that he isn’t allowed with the food-chuckers when they’re chucking food, but he’s not showing any more anxiety than he was before.
So, we’ve changed our reality. And it’s been working.
But this morning, I changed my routine, just a little bit. I woke up, and I wasn’t feeling very well. I walked the dogs and my sore throat and headache just got worse through the walk. After I got back, I chose, for the first time this year, to go back to bed (though I had planned to work out). However, my wife and kids were splayed out over the bed, and I didn’t want to disturb them, and I was cold from being outside . . . . so I took myself into the guest room. And Snickelfritz whined at the side of the bed. Without the kids in bed with me, I saw no reason to keep him on the floor.
But I’ll admit that I was fearful. As I said, Snickelfritz was anxious. I was afraid that he’d whine, and ask for attention, and want to play, and nudge my face with his nose. But he lied down, right next to me, nestled between my left arm and my body, his head resting on my bicep. He slept. I slept.
Shortly after we got Snickelfritz, we enrolled in “puppy kindergarten.” As we approached Christmastime, I stayed around an extra day, to spare one vacation day and to take Snick to a scheduled class. After we got home, we played for a bit and I took him for his nighttime walk. There were two, large Great Danes who were also out for their walk . . . Snick saw them and, immediately, asked to be picked up. He wasn’t more than a few months old at this point — terrier fierce, but quite small. It was cold, and I was wondering if he might have discomfort in his paws from salt on the sidewalk combined with the cold, so I picked him up. As soon as he was at a height greater than the walking great danes, he barked at them. “With my daddy, I’m bigger than you!”
That night, I allowed him to sleep in bed with me, as I was the only human home (we had been crate-training him to that point — he just didn’t understand his bladder well-enough to make it through the night, consistently). When he slept, he slept against the small of my back, as I lay on my side.
When I woke up, still ahead of my emergency alarm2, I adjusted myself, lying on my side. Snickelfritz got up and curled himself in a ball, at the small of my back. We acted as heating pads to one another, just as we did when he was a puppy.
This is a premature post . . . a single, difficult situation is not something that I need to truly regroup from, but it’s still better for me to organize my thoughts for a little bit. And I’ll just take the rest of you along with me.
Today, in a truly unfortunate series of events, my stress level went from “manageable” to “full-on emergency.” Everything was handled, but I was . . . worked up, to say the least. Since then, my heart-rate has returned to normal. I’m chill, once again. But, damn, do I want to eat.
Immediately after the emergencies were handled, I talked myself out of chips from the vending machine. My logic was that, if I’m going to splurge, I want to make it worth it; I have no real options to splurge aside from the vending machine.
When the call of possibly-stale Doritos struck, though, I reminded myself that I have a couple of hours to kill after work, before my triumphant return to symphony rehearsal tonight . . . and my favorite bar has Guinness and All-You-Can-Eat wings and curvy bartenders wearing skimpy, form-fitting tops.
That thought got me past the lure of the Doritos — but I absolutely cannot allow myself to visit that bar if I want to maintain my healthy posture.
I’ll admit, I’m really struggling in talking myself out of that Siren’s call . . . but I will head directly to the gym after work. I will work out for, at least, an hour. I will shower. And then I will sit down and take inventory. Just how hungry am I? What am I actually craving (my guess will be protein and veggies and a little salt . . . and beer, and I’ll be trying hard to not think about this article)?
And then I’m going to try, really hard, to not think about the way that hot sauce & blue-cheese dressing mix with crispy fried chicken skin, and how well a cold Guinness neutralizes any discomfort derived from capsaicin. I’ll find something reasonable. Somehow.
You can file this under the “no shit” category, but I haven’t been posting much lately. Unlike most of my blogging dry-spells, though, this isn’t because of lack of ideas. Between my kids, and my pets, and my job, and my diet & workout regimen, and my music, and my “Johnness,” and Lance Armstrong, I have ideas aplenty.
I can blame a lack of time . . . and that would certainly be appropriate. But that’s not really it, either — I type fast, and, despite being busy, my thoughts have been strangely organized. I can churn out a post in just a few minutes, if I just focus on it.
What’s been missing is my swagger. Like Austin Powers needs his mojo, and Peter Pan needs his shadow, there is a self-confidence that I need in order to be “me,” and that’s just been hiding.
I’m not really sure what’s eaten it, though. Toward the end of last year, I lost a little of my momentum working out . . . and the more I’m moving, the more my swagger grows. Toward the end of last year, I stopped caring about what I was eating and I stopped caring about how much I was drinking. And, the better I look in the mirror, the more my swagger grows (here’s a little secret: despite my continuous self-portraits on Instagram, I do not consider believe myself to be especially attractive1).
Last week, though – I was at a work function, and something clicked (it could have been a wine-fueled click, but I’ll chose to think it was just a “break out of my shell moment,” despite the tasty, tasty wine). Suddenly, I felt like I could do anything. I remembered the feeling that I had when I first decided that I was going to run a marathon. I remembered the way I feel after a late night gig, where physical exhaustion is no match for the adrenaline rush of watching people enjoy themselves because of the music I’ve been playing. I remembered the way I feel, during a workout, when I push through the “this is stupid, why don’t I just quit” stage and something deep inside of me takes over, bringing about the “the longer and harder you go, the better you’ll be in the long run” time.
Simply, I felt a swagger in me that has been dormant for quite some time.
I still have exhaustion — I wake up in the morning, and I workout. Working out is great for my mind, but leads to me being physically exhausted. I then get ready for work, and then work, which leaves me mentally exhausted. Then I head home and parent, which brings about rewards and exhaustion and frustration and joy of new heights. Somewhere, in all of that, my swagger has been suppressed.
But I feel it’s working its way out. Despite work frustrations, despite a neverending schedule, despite endless commitments, I’m feeling a bit more “John-like.” It’s a fantastic feeling.
I’m tired, and it’s cold, and my life has been a bit crazy, so anything fancier than bullet points won’t ever get published.
- It’s really freaking cold – so cold that one of my dogs, the other day, when I started getting ready to take the dogs for a walk, said “meh,” and decided to stay in bed. So I went back upstairs and said “hey buddy, don’t you want to go for a walk,” which CJ, very eagerly agreed to. Only it’s cold. And it was 4:30 in the morning. And he should have been asleep. So I felt super guilty as he cried and I forced the lazy dog out for a walk.
- Leila seems to be practicing the “cross her arms in front of her as she says ‘no’ and puts on a grumpy face” routine. Which of you taught that to her?
- After a long search, I’m getting a new bass tomorrow. I have very mixed feelings about this — on one hand, I’ve missed playing and I’m really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. On the other hand, I kind of feel like a widower who isn’t quite ready to go out on his first date. Anyway, look for something here over the weekend – I do have special plans for the introduction of my new mistress.
- And, of course, I’ll be naming my new bass. In the six basses that I played, only one of them truly spoke to me, but I haven’t had enough time with her to actually figure out her name. So far, Peisinoe (one of the Sirens), Lenore (of Poe’s legacy), Kaylee (of Whedon’s legacy), and Ophelia each have equal footing. Tomorrow, I plan to spend a fair amount of time playing, and I’m certain she’ll tell me her name.
- With the super cold temperatures, I haven’t been running — it’s just not worth the misery, if I have other options to work out. So, I’ve been spinning in my basement — and thanks to the power of Netflix, I’ve been watching some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen as I’ve sweated. It’s been awesome. I chose to watch “Hooking Up,” because of the cast. How can you beat a movie with Corey Feldman, Dante Hicks, and Cousin Balki in the same movie? Especially if the latter is playing a middle-aged heartthrob1?
- I need to figure out the copyright rules about ideas – because I think, if I posted the general outline of the musical I’m working on, I might actually be more-motivated to work on it . . . but, if, by posting the general outline of said musical, I open the gates to someone running with my musical idea, well, I wouldn’t feel too good.
- I am fighting the call of the wild — I’m tempted to just pick up, rob a camping supply store, and head out and hike the Appalachian Trail, leaving my phone behind. But then I think about how anxious I am whenever I’m without my phone for an extended period of time & I realize that I don’t stand a chance.
- Still, I’d love to spend a significant amount of time outside of the conveniences of modern electronics, armed with little more than a notebook for journaling the experience.
- I want a house elf. And a hover board. And Rosie.
- I daydream about boobs. A lot.
- My diet continues to be effective — I’ve lost almost 20 pounds in the month of January (that number is, quickly, leveling out to a manageable weekly loss). When I’m as busy as I’ve been, it’s actually easier for me to make good eating choices while working . . . simply, I’m too busy to do much of anything. But, when I’m as busy as I’ve been, I get quite stressed, and that makes me want to reach for all of the foods when things calm down enough for me to eat something.
- I no longer have coffee every day (though I do have a cup on most days). My urge to stab people has been much less than I thought it would be.
- I have two fun gigs coming up, if any of you are inclined to head out to see me play – February 9, I’ll be playing bass in the pit of a theater review for the Carlisle Theater Company. On August 31, my classic-rock band, Landslide, will be playing the Gettysburg Battlefield Resort. Of course, most every Sunday, you can find me playing with my organ.
- I’m giving serious consideration to getting rid of cable, save for high-speed connectivity, and using some combination of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu+ for entertainment. My major point of trepidation is sports. The thing is, I spend a lot less time watching sports than I used to, so I’m not actually sure I’d be missing out.
- I find it odd that, immediately after Lance Armstrong’s confession, one of the regulars at the gym asked me if I’d be interested in taking nutritional supplements. I’m not sure if this means that I’m “in the cool crowd,” or if I was just asked (in some coded way) if I’d like to buy drugs, or if my body is not reflecting the intensity for which I work out. In any case, I declined.
It seems that, every few months, I need to write one of these posts — but here I go again, because, well, I haven’t posted in awhile and I just need to organize the crazy in my head. But I have a ton of thoughts running through my head, so here I am to try to organize them.
Last year saw me choosing to make bad decisions for my health. I was drinking, a lot. I was eating, mostly, “healthy” food – but I was seldom concentrating on how much of that food I was putting into my body. I was getting to the gym 2-3 times a week, but I wasn’t all that active when I wasn’t there. I wasn’t running regularly. I wasn’t cycling regularly. I have a hard time saying that I was “in a rut,” but that’s precisely where I was. Things were not good.
Now, I’m not a big believer in new years resolutions — I think, if you want to change something in your life, that day you recognize that is the day you should start. But, I was screwing around on Twitter one night when I noticed that two of my friends were talking about starting a weight-loss competition amongst themselves . . . and I wanted in. This was just prior to Christmas, and I knew I was going to cheat, and cheat badly, if I imposed any kind of restrictions on myself until the holiday was over… so January 2 saw me turn over a new leaf.
I know how miserable I can be with any diet — when hungry, I am a monster, so I didn’t want to make things impossible for me. I started with two basic rules:
- Log every bite of food that I eat
- Log every minute of exercise I perform1
From there, I also decided that I would limit to alcohol intake for the month of January — only drinking (and drinking in moderation) for special events. A family party might allow me a glass or two of wine, but no more. Band practice means two beers, and only two beers. A band gig would limit me to whatever my cheering fanbase chooses to buy me2.
I would try to work out before work every day which I could (I have a 6am videoconference on Mondays which means that I need to wake up at an ungodly hour, so Mondays make morning workouts damn-near-impossible), and I’d continue making it to the gym, over lunch, on any workday that allowed.
As these all played out, I realized that I needed a few more goals — first, just how far was I going to run (see, I do better when I have a “big picture” goal ahead of me)? While I did have pipe dreams of running a marathon a month, that’s just not feasible at this moment — I can’t guarantee a five hour block every month (I’d need four for the running, and then an hour to get myself to a point where I’m no longer useless) . . . and, even if I rearrange things to ensure that I have a big block of time set aside one weekend a month, there’s no telling what the weather might be. It’s one thing to run through a downpour if you paid an admission & someone is going to give you a
motherfucking medal at the end . . . it’s quite another to make loops around the neighborhood as everyone questions what you might be doing.
Through simple arithmetic, if I run for 45 minutes, 3 times a week, plus a 2 hour run every-other-weekend . . . and run 10 minute miles, at the end of the year, I will have run 1,040 miles. Allowing for inclement weather and illness and injury, 1000 seems a nice, round number (especially if I budget myself 60 or 75 minutes for many of my pre-work runs).
Next, I wanted to determine how much I could cycle. If I can cycle for 45 minutes, 2 times a week, plus a 3 hour ride every-other-weekend, and I cycle at 15 miles per hour, that puts me at 2,340 miles . . . and since I like round numbers, I think I can make that to 2500 for the year.
Of course, this has me working out every day before work, and every day during the weekend. . . but I’ve done that before in my life (mind you, I wasn’t a father at the time, but this is my pipe dream I’m living), so I’m going to insist that I can keep to it.
The last little bit that I gets me through this all is that I’m no longer treating the scale as my enemy. I was, and am, a firm believer that the scale, merely, reports a number — and that number is indicative of, only, the influence of the Earth’s gravity upon your personage — but, in all honesty, I didn’t like the number that was reported.
I started this adventure at 256.6 pounds, which is the heaviest I’ve been in a long time . . . but I don’t exactly think of myself as un-attractive, either. I just put a lot of stock that muscle weighs more than fat, and that my recent gym visits have seen me doing a lot more weight-lifting than cardio.
Early on, I got smacked by the flu, and that sidelined some of the workouts . . . but I made allowances for illness, so I’m not truly off-track. But my weight has dropped over 12 pounds at the time of this writing, and, honestly, I’m feeling really good. Though I do miss wine.
But, well, I need some help with motivation . . . two goals of 1,000 and 2,500 miles is a lot to wrap your mind around – so tell me, what events are you training for (I’m always looking to race with people)? Are you on My Fitness Pal or Runkeeper, where I can use all of the support I can get?
Lastly, I’m setting a goal weight for myself . . . it’s 220. There was a time in my life where I was south of 200 pounds, and I can, honestly, say it was amongst the least-healthy times in my life. I would weigh myself, daily, and, if I didn’t like the number that I read one day, I’d practically starve myself until the scale started looking better. I don’t ever want to get to that level of obsession. But, at the same time, I know there’s a fair bit around my middle that’s not doing me any good, and I’m certain that I’m listing a weight that I’ll be able to maintain without going crazy.
And sanity — well, sanity, for me, is a prized treat. Like wine.
When I was in high school, I was very active in my church1. In fact, I was one of the founders, and the original president, of the church youth group. Any group, big or small, needs some kind of funding to exist — and we were no exception. Basically, we looked to raise money to pay the entrance fee for any dance/retreat we went to. We would then donate any funds, at the end of the church season, to a charity (usually with the money earmarked toward aiding the victims of a recent natural disaster).
The fundraisers we had were of varying success — the talent show we put on was a lot of fun, but didn’t bring in a lot of money. The pie sale, I think, in the end, we ended up losing money on. Leaf-raking and snow-shoveling were inconsistent. But our real money came from what we called our “shaming the parishioners” activity.
Our small, suburban, Episcopal church had a regular schedule of tasks – lay reader (people who read the lessons before the Gospel), acolyte (people who assisted in the preparation of communion – you may be more familiar with the term “altar boy2), counter (people who would count & record the money given during the offertory), and chalice bearer (people who offer a chalice of wine to the parishioners after they had received the communion wafer). Most of the time, the people scheduled for these tasks would show up, and show up on time. But, not always.
And that’s where the youth group fundraiser came in.
If you didn’t show up to church, when you were anticipated, we covered the task for you. And then, in the mailbox, we left a note saying “hey, don’t worry, we covered when you weren’t here, even though you were scheduled to be here. And, in case you didn’t know, we do accept donations.”
Not a single “pick up” went by that didn’t increase the size of our coffers.
The one difficulty from taking these tasks was that of chalice bearer, though. Not anyone can just stand up & be a chalice bearer — you do need to be licensed. So, while we’d often send a freshman up in front of the church to read a lesson, only the most senior members of the group ever were chalice bearers.
The thing is, as we were qualified to perform each of these tasks, we were also on the schedule for each of these tasks.
One day, during the summer, as I put on my robe to take my scheduled turn as chalice bearer, someone came up to me. “John, I’m very upset,” she said — and she seemed very upset. “Last week, I was all set to enjoy a Sunday in church without any responsibilities when I had to put on my chalice bearer robes. You need to come in when it’s your turn!” And then she lectured me about responsibility for the next 20 minutes or so, until church started.
I sat through the service, sick, convinced that I had misread the schedule, and that I was supposed to handle my duties the week before, not this week, though nobody else had stepped forward for my responsibilities. After the service, I walked up to the schedule — my name was listed for that very day. For the previous week, my name wasn’t on it. However, another member of the youth group was. This woman proceeded to lecture me, because it was, obviously, my fault that someone else didn’t do their job.
That brings us to today. I just got back from lunch to find an email box filled with vitriol. There were 8 voice mail messages awaiting me.
I’m the manager of an off-shore development team. Someone in the offshore office, but someone who does not work for me, and has no relation to me, entered a critical request ticket for something that was not a critical request. Alarm bells were sounded, people got called at home and on their cell phones. In firefighter terms, a three-alarm fire was claimed because someone wanted to be sure that they properly extinguished their campfire on a damp, cool, windless night.
I agree that the “sky is falling” alarms suck, especially if they’re completely unwarranted. However, I came into the office from lunch to a pile of suck, all because I have two employees, working for me, who happen to be located in the same physical office building as the person who called in the false alarm. Basically, a whole bunch of people needed someone to yell at, and rather than yelling at the guy who called in the false alarm, or looking at an org chart to determine that person’s manager, or that person’s manager, or that person’s manager . . . it all came to me.
So I’m left with a sick feeling for a problem that has nothing to do with me.
I’m certain that it’s not really a surprise to any of y’all that I enjoy music . . . and Christmas music falls into that realm. I won’t listen before December, but I love the mix of sincere & cheesy. Years ago, I started making my holiday playlist, with a few simple rules: any artist may only appear once on the album (unless said artist is related to me), and the the album must fit on a standard-length CD. So, without further ado, I present this year’s playlist: read more…
- I can’t raise my left-arm above my head without wincing. So I should just stop trying to do that.
- We went out to dinner with another couple last night, there were no kids present. After the normal pleasantries & talk of our jobs, we talked about Doctor Who, and Song of Ice & Fire . . . until we started talking about poop. Because, when you’re a parent with wee-ones, that’s what you talk about.
- I haven’t heard confirmation from my Mugswap 2012 match yet, so I don’t want to put anything up here . . . but I think I made a great mug this year – and it was a lot of fun to make.
- I really, really need to find a way to add more time in the day. I’ve been feeling particularly inspired, toward a few different projects lately, but I haven’t been able to get the time to do anything. It drives me crazy.
- Eggnog is yummy. Eggnog lattes are from the devil.
- I’ve yet to be given the music for the Christmas pageant at church. This makes me nervous. But, it’s like this every year (only once did I receive an oddball arrangement in a strange key, at the last possible moment1, but I know it’ll happen again)
- I haven’t made my Christmas CD yet, and this makes me sad. I think that it’ll be my priority tonight.
- I’m worried about how possessive CJ is becoming to certain things.
- I’m more worried that Leila can entertain herself for hours when placed in front of a mirror while dressed in something she thinks is cute.
- I’m starting to think that I may be the only person who actually enjoys fruitcake.
- I need to get myself into regular yoga.
- I took the kids to storytime with Mrs. Claus last weekend . . . they survived a half hour, when the call to press buttons on the library elevator was much more enticing than anything Mrs. Claus had to offer.
- I’ve been told that I need to vlog more often (and not just to make an ass out of myself. We’ll see if I can start that.
When I was growing up, it was important to remember to decorate the tree evenly, all around. I remember one year, where I was, simply, trying to finish up the decorating as quickly as possible1, when I was “politely reminded” by my mother that I needed to decorate all around the tree. I complied – but thought climbing around to the back of the tree was silly.
That is, I thought it was silly until later that night, when family came over, and Aunt Beverly commented how the tree looked different, but gorgeous, from every angle. And then I realized that my mother, just maybe, might have been right in being a bit controlling in her ensuring that the tree be decorated properly. We lived in a split-level house, so the tree was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door, and was visible from most anywhere you might go. And the tree was, rightfully, the focal point to any of the family gatherings from December until early January.
I was reminded of this night from my teenage years just this past weekend, when we pulled out the tree. Sad to say, things started grumpy on my side. Duffy & I got married on December 27, and we decorated with Christmas trees . . . lots of artificial Christmas trees, and we’re still using one of the trees we purchased. Only, to get the tree to the basement, we have to travel through a narrow basement staircase, and that scrunches up all of the branches. And then, to get the tree back upstairs, the branches get even more scrunched up. And those artificial needles? Well, they hurt, a lot, when they embed themselves in your hands as you have dig in to de-scrunchify the branches. And the boxes of Christmas lights and ornaments and decorations, I swear, are heavier every year.
Then, the first string of lights I plugged in didn’t light. I tripped over the chord soon after I started to put a working strand of lights on the tree.
But then, we started decorating as a family.
CJ became fixated upon the train that we were going to set up beneath the tree…until he saw the Star Wars ornaments, where he became fixated upon them. As Yoda made noises when you hit a button, he insisted that the R2-D2 ornament was broken when it didn’t do the same (R2-D2 was “just an ornament”). “Han Sholo” had to be put up next to Chewbacca. And then all of the Star Wars ornaments had to be taken off the tree and played with. Because, obviously, that’s what Star Wars ornaments are for.
Leila was a spitfire. I found myself, commonly, thinking back to my days of decorating, wanting to shout “no, don’t put all of the ornaments together like that!” but, well, a toddler wants to do what a toddler wants to do — and that includes putting the ornaments all together. She couldn’t get ornaments fast enough to put them on the tree. And, god forbid if she ran into an ornament box where the ornament had already been placed on the tree. “It empty!” she’d protest, until you handed her something new to put on tree.
I decorated all around the tree, focusing, mainly, up-high . . . because, well, I’m somewhat tall.
Duffy focused on the middle of the tree.
Roughly 2.5 feet off the ground, is a jumbled, haphazard cluster of ornaments. And I’ll argue that they look perfect, from every angle.