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Mar 25 14

Where I notice subtleties in the behavior of my children

by John

Not long ago, I wrote about “uppy.” My kids enjoy it when I carry them about, and I’ve gotten really good at lifting and carrying both children at the same time. Heck, if I have somewhere that I need to be, this is my preferred method of foot transportation, because it means that I can walk at my own pace (which is considerably faster than the toddler constant of dilly-dally). Monday, during the preschool drop-off, we parked, I got both children out of their carseats, and asked “who wants uppy?” Both children said “me,” so I picked them up and worked my way to preschool.

But as we got close to the actual school, CJ started seeing his friends. And, suddenly, he wanted to walk.

I wonder if the days of cuddles with the cuddlier of my children are limited.

Leila is finally turning the corner with potty training. We still have accidents, but I feel like we’re getting close to the end of them. Now, though, when she thoroughly fills the toilet, she’s taken to saying “my poop is like daddy’s.”

I don’t know what to make of this.

I’ve taken to doing handstands & headstands in an effort to getting used to being upside down, which will aid in my doing handstand push-ups. My kids find this hilarious, but it’s going to kill me when one of them pulls off a perfectly executed handstand before me. And I know that’s going to happen — they have a LOT less mass to balance.

I typically sleep in my underwear or pajama pants — seldom do I wear a shirt to bed. This means that, at night or in the morning, I hang about, in my house, wearing little. Leila has taken to sucking in her tummy whenever I’m getting her dressed so that she “is like daddy.” I don’t know if this is a testament to my fat-loss, or if I subconsciously suck in my stomach whenever I’m not wearing a shirt.

As someone who can hear a song time and time and time again & barely know any of the words to it (I pay attention to the music, itself), it’s kind of scary how well my kids know the lyrics to the songs they like. They both seem to know every word to every song in Frozen. Whenever I have them alone in my truck, I just tell Siri to “Play Artist, The Beatles” and that’s what we listen to.

The other day, Leila was singing “Letter B”, to “Let It Be” which made me giddy. And at the end of the same trip, CJ asked me who Jude was, and why wasn’t she paying attention? Because, if Jude were paying attention, you wouldn’t have to call “hey” all of the time.

Tantrums as I get the kids ready for preschool are pretty commonplace. But the last made me chuckle: I was getting everything ready, and, as it was a Monday, I had symphony practice that night, so I had to put my bass in the truck. When Leila saw me pick up Lenore, she asked if I was going to make music.

I explained that, yes, that night I was going to play music. She wanted me to take Lenore out, right then, and play. I really, really hope this is the start to true music appreciation.

Mar 18 14

Where a tired mind makes for a disjointed post

by John
  • This is tech-week for Bat Boy: the Musical. I’m playing bass, but, with the way the theatre is laid out, I actually can’t see what’s going on, on-stage, at all. So I really don’t know what the heck is going on, I just see randomness with people backstage. In no particular order, this show involves: a very pretty girl wearing her underwear, a skinny guy with bat ears and fangs, the entire cast dressed as plushies, some shirtless dude with horns carrying a staff, gunshots.
  • CJ has expressed increased desire for “Ninja Lessons,” which is the term we use when talking about martial arts. So I think I’m going to figure out how to get him signed up . . . next week. This week, I have rehearsals every night.
  • My workouts have changed rather significantly. After a few, consecutive days of being unable to spend some quality time with the squat rack or a bench-press, I decided to think about what body weight exercises I might be able to do to replicate the exercises that I was hoping to. I came up with pistol-squats (stand on one leg with the other straight-out, lower yourself fully, and then stand back up without allowing the straight-out leg to touch the ground), dips (place yourself on parallel bars, lower your body so that your upper-arm is parallel with the ground, lift yourself back up), pull-ups (grab onto an overhead bar with your palms facing away from you, lift your chin above the bar). I was not able to do most of these, so I’ve adopted a bodyweight training program, just so that I can get the exercises I want without having to worry much about equipment. I still have my original goals: squat 315 pounds, bench press 225, overhead press 135, deadlift 405 — but the exercises I’m doing now should help me, even if I’m not actually doing those specific exercises. If nothing else, I’m sweating more from “weight lifting” than I ever have. And I’m doing headstands.
  • I haven’t “gone paleo” but I’m giving a LOT more thought to what I eat and what it’s for . . . mainly, I’m trying to ensure that every calorie counts . . . which means that I’ve just about cut sweets and chips out of my diet entirely . . . but I’ll eat guacamole by the spoonful.
  • I miss chips and candy. Though I’m not complaining about the way my body is responding to the lack of either.
  • My daydreams, increasingly, take me to the beach. I long to feel an ocean breeze cooling my body from a hot day.
  • Also, I want to hike. I think, once I can find a free weekend (not always so easy in my world), I’m going to take the family camping. Unplugging is good, every now & then.
  • That said, I fear CJ is associating the word “camp” with “Camp Halfblood,” because he talks, often, about wanting to go camping, and he’s listening to the Percy Jackson audiobooks. Something tells me that he’ll be disappointed to not find a minotaur while camping.
  • I’m giving serious thought to taking a week’s worth of vacation and sitting down to write songs. I wish lyrics were easy.
  • I’m stressing a bit about my schedule, especially when I start thinking about what the kids might need to do — the next several weekends:
    • Musical
    • Musical
    • Lord of the Rings Day, where I’ll play all three movies while serving foodstuff based on the books.
    • A marathon that I have completely under-trained for
    • A half-marathon that I’d say that I had completely under-trained for, but if I’m running a full-marathon the week before, so I can hardly claim the same here, because I’ll be perfectly trained for this race by then.
    • Another musical.
    • Symphony concert.
    • Mothers’ Day.
    • Then we’re sometime into late-May.
  • I really, really like getting myself breakfast for dinner.
  • I’m unreasonably proud of myself for making corned beef & cabbage over the weekend & preparing single-serve portions for lunch throughout the week this week. Next week, I’ll be doing the same with curried chicken & lentils.
  • I’m very sleepy.
Mar 17 14

Where I wonder just how much money I’ll be spending on my daughter’s drama lessons

by John

This past weekend, my wife‘s uncle held a St. Patrick’s Day Party — and we were quite happy to attend (because beer family). I made guacamole (because green).

Knowing we would likely be dealing with sleepy (if not asleep) children when leaving the party, we packed pajamas, in the hopes of changing the kids into the PJ’s just as they started to show signs of growing weary. Leila, of course, as soon as she got into the house & saw her Minnie Mouse pajamas (with polka dots!), stripped fully and demanded to be put into her pajamas. I’ll always preach “wear comfortable clothes” to my kids, so, you know, why not! Pajamas for La!

As with most any good party, the food was plentiful and varied. As one point, I was helping CJ make a plate for dinner. He’s four, and he’s not a baby, and he can carry his own plate himself.

Except when he can’t.

So the plate dropped to the ground.

It was just at this moment that Leila came in, threw her arms in the air, looked me in the eyes, and said “uppy.”

If you’ve seen me with my kids, in real life, you know about “uppy” Basically, my kids like to be carted around . . . and I lift weights in order to be able to do this1. Because I’m a pushover I like to make my kids happy, I oft respond by squatting down, hugging my kids tight about their thighs, and then standing, with them both in my arms, when I hear this “uppy” word.

But there was a mess on the floor that needed to be addressed right then.

So I said “no,” a word that I don’t ever say say very often around my children.

Leila sighed, seemed to deflate in front of me, and sulked out of the room, as did CJ, who was very upset that he couldn’t hold onto the plate.

I cleaned the mess and walked out to make sure my kids were ok.

La, apparently, looked distraught to my wife and then broke into monologue. “Daddy yelled at me. He wouldn’t pick me uppy. He used to love me but now he doesn’t love me anymore.”

Sigh . . .

1 The real reason I work out is to look good naked be healthy, but part of that is being able to cart around 80 pounds of squirming toddler mass while walking/hiking2.
2 The only reason I crossed out “look good naked” in the previous footnote is because I already look great while naked. Though I’m always looking to look better3.
3 Vanity, thy name is John.
Mar 6 14

Where I answer the questions that I’m commonly asked at the gym

by John

Maybe it’s because I smile a lot. Or maybe it’s because I seem to be there with a mission (giving the impression that I know what I’m doing). Or maybe I have the type of body that people are trying for (see first question below). Whatever the reason, a lot of people have started asking me about their workouts as I’m at the gym – and being the wiseass helpful guy I am, here goes.

How do I keep from bulking up?

This is easily the most asked question (throw “I want to be cut” and “I want to look toned” in with the mix), yet nobody believes my answer, that you should find a set of lifts that you feel comfortable with, that work all of the muscle groups of your body, and proceed to do them, regularly and heavily. I always, always, always get the “but lifting heavy makes you bulk” counter, and that makes me cringe.

It’s true that, when you first start lifting weights, you’ll “appear to start to bulk.” What happens is that you’ll be exercising muscles that aren’t used to being tested, and that will make them grow. But that shuts off really damn quickly. From there, the only way to “get bulky” is to add mass. And the only way to add mass is to eat more calories. If you don’t want to add mass, and therefore keep from “getting bulky,” don’t eat excess calories. It’s as simple as that – and what I do. Now, I test my limits most every time I am at the gym – and, because I’m not eating a caloric excess, my body weight is staying mostly stagnant (over the last 180 days, my weight has been between 209 and 219 pounds), I’m not adding weight to my lifts as quickly as someone who is adding mass to their body as they add mass to their lifts. But, those gains are coming for me1 in their own time.

Again, the only factor for body mass is calories ingested versus calories expended. If you want to keep your weight where it is, set a caloric budget and stick to it.

Want to get “cut,” “ripped”? What you really want is to see your muscle definition, and to do that you need to cut down on your body fat percentage. The easiest way to do that is to add muscle while maintaining your body mass (because as you add muscle, if you’re maintaining mass, the excess mass in your body will come from somewhere, and that’s your fat stores). The less fat you have, the more you’ll be able to “see” your muscles through your skin — arms, legs, chest, and, yes, six-pack-abs, they’re all muscles, and all abide by the same formula.

What are these muscle groups that you target?
I do not do any isolation exercise. Every lift I perform, I perform because it’s compound (works a bunch of muscles) and I believe it will assist me in real life. I squat, as much as possible – because everybody has to squat. I do overhead presses because, well, there are times that I need to lift shit over my head. I do “pull” exercises (first rows, now pull-ups) because I have nightmares of having to pull one of my children up from over a cliff. I do chest-press exercises (first bench press, now push-ups and dips) because it’s far more cool to get out of the pool by propelling yourself up on the side than stepping out from the stairs or the ladder. Eventually, when I’m strong enough, I’ll be doing handstand push-ups because I think they’re cool. All of these use a variety of muscles – I do not touch any of the machines at the gym.

But don’t you need to work your core?

Look at the previous closely. I do work my core with every lift I do. When I squat, I need to keep my core activated, lest my upper body falls forward or backward as I get up from a squat. When I overhead press, I do so while standing, and my core supports my body, keeping it rigid. The main reason I’ve switched from the bench press to dips is because, while the primary muscles worked are much the same, doing a dip forces you to keep your core active, lest your lower body sway as you try to dip – and that keeps you from completing the exercise. The entire time you’re doing push-ups, you’re maintaining some form of plank. When I’m finally able to maintain a handstand, well, you need to keep your core active or your legs will just fall forward.

I fear I may never have six-pack abs, but that’s not because of lack of core work — too many years of too little attention to my body has this nice layer of skin around my middle — even if my body fat were to shrink to the point where I should start seeing “a six pack” (12-15% for guys), the skin will just hang there.

How much protein should I eat?

This is more complicated. My philosophy is that I want to hit my calorie goals — 2700 calories on a day that I don’t work out (I came to this number via a LOT of trial & error since the start of 2013, when I started trying to lose weight in earnest — 2700 seems to be what I need to keep me where I am, which is consistent with a lot of calorie calculators for a moderately active 36 year old man). Add 300 calories if I lifted. Add 800 if I ran more than 6 miles or cycled more than 20. Add 1000 if I both lift and run in the same day.

For those calories, I try to only eat when I’m hungry. When I eat, I try to chose high-protein foods (lean meats — enjoying a good steak works lovely here, eggs, I mix protein powder into my morning coffee — protein satiates me more than anything else) and shy away from sugary foods. I don’t shy away from fat, though I try to avoid trans-fats like the plague. But I don’t stress over “hitting my macros,” because then I get a little bit crazy, and “just eating and logging” starts to feel like a diet.

One of the most useful side-effects since the start of 2013 is that I know what it feels like to be hungry. I’m fortunate enough that, if I want food at any given moment, I can have food. Even if money is tight, I have something in my pantry that I can eat or I can scrounge in my truck and find a few quarters for a trip to the vending machine. But since I’ve been really giving thought to what I’ve been eating, I’ve allowed myself to get hungry. I hope to know that feeling on sparse occasion, and only when I consciously want to remind myself what it feels like – but it’s useful. I try not to eat because “it’s time to eat,” (though I do try to make sure that I’m starting to get hungry at a time that is “socially acceptable” for dinner), and I won’t allow myself to eat because I’m bored.

What is this (pointing to the Smith machine) good for?

In my opinion, the Smith Machine (a machine with an attached barbell on a rail that allows you to make fixed, vertical movements) is good for very little. Squatting is one of the key motions that everybody has to perform – but when you squat in real life, you do NOT squat on a fixed vertical axis – there’s a little horizontal movement. I squat, now, to add muscle and to ensure that I’m able to squat “worry free” for as long as possible (getting old sucks). Using a regular barbell on your back, you need to squat properly. Sure, if you fail, it’s scary (that’s why I always squat in a safety rack – if my muscles simply won’t allow me another repetition, I can just sit down from the bottom of the lift, and then be a man, walk around, and take the plates off the bar before re-racking it), but that’s also how you get better.

The Smith machine is great for learning how to do pull-ups. You can set the bar at different heights for inverted pull-ups, which I think are far better to getting yourself to doing actual pull-ups than bands or counter-weights.

1 I should note that I love to eat. Like, seriously. Looking through the book that my parents made of all of my grade-school art projects & stuff, I recently ran across an “all about me” book that I made in the second grade. It read “My name is John. I have a cat. Her name is Ebony. I love to eat.” My cat’s name, now, is Pip. The rest of that autobiography? As accurate today as it was in the second grade.

Because I love to eat so much, I’ll readily admit that the main reason that I’m loathe to add calories to my diet2 is that I do not trust myself to add more calories than I should, in the name of “gotta bulk up.” I can keep myself honest at present. The other reason is that I am a runner, I enjoy running . . . and it’s easier to propel a 212 pound body for 26.2 miles than it is to run that same distance with a body that weighs, say, 250 pounds.

2 Here, I’m using diet as a noun, as in what I eat on a daily basis . . . I do NOT diet (verb). I am not looking to cut my caloric intake — just watch what I do eat.
Feb 25 14

Where I contemplate malaise

by John

Really, I don’t know what this is. Maybe it’s just being tired of the weather. Maybe it’s my worried lack of sleep rebounding upon itself causing more worry (and therefore less sleep). Maybe it’s the exercise I’m doing keeping me so sore that my mood has adjusted accordingly. Maybe it’s my refusal to ever admit that I’m sick conflicting with the fact that I am sick, and whatever “this” is is just the manifestation of the converging illness and delusion.

Whatever it is, it sucks. Things that I typically receive great joy from: symphony, band, working out, running, writing . . . they all feel like chores. Heck, I even worry about heading home — don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but I fear that, whatever marbles I might have remaining will disappear during post-bathtime cries of “I’m hungry” as I’m climbed upon, despite the fact that both children adamantly claimed to “not be hungry” during dinner, and that the food I made was disgusting. I’ve taken to just cooking whatever I want and just happily preparing a microwaved hot dog or peanut butter sandwich for the lesser crowd – it’s no skin off my back. But, oh my god, the whining about being hungry minutes after whining about the fact that they weren’t hungry as I try to get them to eat.

A long run clears my head, but getting out the door is trying. Especially when you’re fighting the cold and the ice and the wind. And running with numb feet is no fun.

I have no idea why I’m waking up with numb arms in the middle of the night, most nights, but I know the act isn’t helping anything. I wake, and “why the fuck are my arms numb” gets added to the list of voices that I worked so hard to silence just to get myself to sleep in the first place.

Fatty, sugary foods call to me, right along with salty, crunchy ones. But I know those are false cures. I wish I was as sure of the same for wine, though I truly believe I have that devil in me held at bay. Most days.

I much preferred the days of constantly smelling faintly of spit-up to the days of wondering what new & interesting places I’ll have to clean shit from. It wouldn’t be so bad if said clean-up weren’t also a footrace with overeager dogs.

Then I feel guilty that I haven’t walked said dogs in a long time, because of the weather issues at the top of the post. So that gets added to the list of voices that will keep me awake tonight, along with the worry over the fact that I still haven’t “just passed out” and slept through the night, like I’m certain I will, one of these days. Just like those who play the lottery, religiously, are certain that it’s the next jackpot that they’ll finally win.

I need to lose myself in something — I just wish I knew what.

Or I just need the weather to warm up. Or something.

Feb 10 14

Where I describe a truly absurd dream

by John

Dreams are a bit like a meal . . . as soon as it’s done, the memory starts to fade. If you have a truly outrageous one, however, even if the precise details of it might leave your memory banks, you’ll still remember the basic facts. And this one — well, this one was odd, and I decided to write down what I could remember before it ends up being a mish-mosh of randomness.

I was on the Titanic — not the actual Titanic, but a ship named the Titanic that was making a voyage from New York to some place in Europe. Rather than an iceberg, though, the ship crashed into a mountain, crushing many of the lifeboats hanging along the side of the huge cruise ship.

It was obvious that the ship was going to wreck, but it was going to take its time in doing so.

So I made sure that Duffy & the kids were secured on a functioning lifeboat and then stayed to help where I could. Only everyone kept saying that the musicians needed help. I figured they needed to be rescued from somewhere . . . only, no, they needed a piano player. So I played piano while everyone ran amock.

I was very frustrated because the band was playing songs in different keys than I was used to until I realized that it was stupid to be playing piano on a ship that was, surely, going to sink in just a little bit. So I just stood up and left.

And then I got lost in some catacomb-like structure beneath deck and wandered around for awhile. Until I met a father of triplets. He had a triple-stroller with young boys (I’d guess 6-9 months old) in it, and he had given them each a stuffed animal. He gave me a very large box and told me to come with him — the box was necessary because he needed a place to put the stuffed animals if/when the kids got tired of them.

I got very frustrated with this father, gave him the finger, and yelled that “figuring out where to put a toy when our lives might be ending is stupid.” He didn’t like me very much after that & stormed off.

And then I woke with the cat licking my forehead.

So, what say you, peanut gallery? Aside from my being crazy, that is — we all know that, already.

Feb 7 14

Where I beat back the weather with bullet points

by John
  • I hate the dreadmill treadmill. Not only do I get incredibly bored when I run on it, but, every time I log significant miles running without going anywhere, my left knee/foot goes numb and then hurts for a week aftward. So I don’t run on the dreadmill. But I do love to run . . . but I won’t run outside when I fear cars slipping on the ice and failing to stop before hitting me. So the weather that we’re currently dealing with, in central Pennsylvania? It’s not letting me run.
  • I didn’t get out to shovel the inch-or-so of show that fell on Wednesday. This wouldn’t be horrible but then ice fell. And then it froze hard. I don’t think I could shovel it now, if I tried. So my driveway is kind of a death trap — I’ll heavily salt everything tonight. Hopefully that will work.
  • Typing “death trap” put “suicide rap” into my head, so know that I’m fighting off Bruce Springsteen lyrics as I type the rest of this.
  • Despite not running, I seem to be making steady gains on my weightlifting goals. And I do have some big runs coming up. I just hope the roads clear before March, as I have a full marathon scheduled for April.
  • I really, really need to trim my beard.
  • I think I’m going to be signing CJ up for ninja lessons martial arts class right after I finish my run as music director of a local high school musical.
  • I respect people who do not need coffee to get going in the morning. But I don’t know if I trust them.
  • One of the un-anticipated downsides of shaving my head is that my cat, at 2 in the morning, will wake me by licking my scalp to “groom me.”
  • I’m starting to think that “busy” is just my way of life. I just wrote out a list of dates that I’m not available to gig with my band, and that caused me to break rule one of being busy: “don’t think about it.” When you run from one thing to the next, you just learn to deal with it. But when you stop to think about everything you need to do, and everywhere you need to be, it makes you tired. So I just made myself tired.
  • That said, I have a whole lot of interesting stuff coming up – musicals, symphony concerts, bar gigs, and Lord of the Rings Day1.
  • One of those musicals is Bat Boy the musical. When the music director who recruited me last spoke to me about the show, he said that he wasn’t going to be able to be director anymore. So now I need to figure out if I’m still playing (likely, since it’s a volunteer gig), and if so, what instrument (piano or bass). If I’m not playing, I need to figure out if I have the time to myself or if I’m expected to direct the show. Ah, the life of a musician.
  • I really, really want to be strong & graceful enough to do handstand push-ups.
  • I have three subtly-patterned Hawaiian-style shirts. I wear them to work when the weather has been too cold.
  • I really had to fight off the urge to stop in a Dunkin’ Donuts this morning & order one-of-everything (which would kind-of be useless on me, because I despise chocolate, so half of the pastries would be wholly unappetizing to me).
  • I fell asleep before the end of the Super Bowl. For the second year in a row. The sports-fanatic teenaged version of me would be furious with me right now.
  • I’m still eating Super Bowl leftovers. Damn, I’m a good cook when the food I’m making is absolutely horrible for me.
  • That said, it’s been awhile since I’ve made myself jalapeno poppers. Or a great big burger. I think I just figured out my next “I ran a shitton2 of miles today” dinner.
  • After getting through the audiobook of Doctor Sleep, I’m quite tempted to re-listen to all of the Stephen King. Seriously, the book was that good. But first, I think I’ll finish up the Dresden Files thus far.
  • The first porn title I ever remember “The Dresden Diaries.” I’ve been to Dresden – I remember being disappointed that everyone wore clothing.

1 I’m having people over my house to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies while I serve coffee, breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, snack, tea, dinner, dessert, second dessert….we’ll all eat like Hobbits. It will be awesome.
2 1.342 shittonnes.
Jan 31 14

Where I respond to the challenge that was my wife’s response to my challenge…

by John

Since I’m all about fair play, I’ve decided to answer the 11 questions for anyone who responded to the challenge that I set out, after answering High Heels & Training Wheel’s blog challenge. First up, my lovely wife, Duffy.

  1. Would you rather be a famous actor, director, or musician and why?
    I actually think I’d choose author – but it wasn’t a choice here. I think I’d have to say musician because I already feel that I’m a pretty good musician . . . I’m more than “just ok” on an instrument or two. If I had the same discipline as I currently have, in regards to both my body & my art, when I was in high school & college . . . well, I think “rock star” wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities for me. And let’s face it, being a sex symbol is as much a part of being a famous musician as being able to play your instrument.
    And you all know I’d be a kick-ass, internationally-known sex symbol.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world and in time on an adult vacation where and when?
    This is a far better question to my TARDIS question. I’d say in/around Vienna about the time of Beethoven writing the 9th Symphony. I’d LOVE to be at that premiere and understand a bit about what was motivating Ludwig at the time . . . though Queens, NY in August of 1965 or a farmstead between New York & Albany in August of 1969 are way up on the list.
    A very real part of me would LOVE to visit America – especially the Pacific Northwest, prior to the landing of Columbus.
  3. Same question for a kid vacation.
    Here, I keep thinking back to heading to Disney with my kids just a few weeks ago . . . my son loved it, but might have been just as happy with a trip to a waterpark. The Disney Magic worked on him, but he was going to find his own fun.
    So, let me say 13-year-old me to the inaugural Space Camp. Or the opening of Lego Land.
  4. If you could wipe out one thing (or kind of thing) to extinction so people didn’t even know it ever existed, what would it be and why?
    My mind immediately went to smoking — I just find it a horrible habit . . . but without tobacco, I don’t think the backwoods nation that we happen to be a part of ever gets off the ground.
    I’ll say rape.
  5. If you could have just one kind of food for the rest of your life what would you choose? (Note: It doesn’t have to be exactly the same every day. You can get it from different restaurants, use different preparations, etc)
    My wife would answer pasta to this question. Me? I’m going with cheese.
  6. What is your favorite genre of movies and why? Does it differ if it is television? How about books? (I know that is three questions, but I thought it would be cheating to make it three questions.)
    B-Horror is, easily, my preferred genre of movies. Last weekend, I watched movies where the plots were: “A group of cheerleaders get lost in the woods, find a cabin with a lot of booze, tell sexy stories where they lick chocolate syrup off each other, and are hunted one-by-one by a crazed escaped inmate,” and “a group of sorority sisters rent a house that happened to be the site of a serial killer’s work, so when the power runs out during a thunderstorm, they break out the tequila and ouija board.” I couldn’t have been happier.
    Television is far different. Here, I want to watch things that make me laugh and make me think and where I can talk to other people about the show. I can talk for HOURS on the merits of The Wire or Breaking Bad. Parks & Rec, Modern Family, and Community are my favorite shows currently on the air not just because they make me laugh, but because I can talk about the episodes with my wife.
    Books win if they make me think.
  7. If you could be another person who exists for just one day, who would you be and why?
    Part of me wants to say Obama, because I’m truly curious to know what it’s like to wield that much power. Part of me wants to say Yo Yo Ma, because it would be wonderful to walk about having more talent & worth-ethic than anyone else on earth. Part of me wants to say The Rock because I want to turn heads and be the baddest ass in the room, whatever room I happen to be in.
    So I think I might take a bit of each and say Bono.
  8. Lemon or lime?
    Lemon, if by itself. Lime, if used in cooking.
  9. Which is your favorite Indiana Jones movie and why?
    The Last Crusade – though it may be because it was the first Indiana Jones movie in which it didn’t just go over my head. While I love Short Round, but play between Connery & Ford just made this movie for me.
  10. If challenged to give up electronic devices for a year, do you think you could do it? Would the incentive matter?
    I think this is the question my wife most hoped I would answer. My question would be “what is the incentive?”
    Do I think I could do it? Yes. I do. But it would require me, basically, to Pull a McCandless. There is no way that I’d be able to maintain a job. There is no way that I’d be able to even have access to a car. But I think my survival skills are in-tact enough to make it through a year. Heck, after reading Into the Wild, I half WANTED to head to the Alaska wilderness — just unplug & go out . . . there’s an allure there. Though it’s very weird to think about barely being able to function, because of lack of light, in the mid-afternoon.
  11. What is the first memory that comes to your mind when you read the word funny?
    The Midvale School for the Gifted
Jan 23 14

Where I accept High Heels & Training Wheel’s Challenge

by John

Just yesterday, I was thinking “I really should figure out how I can ensure that I’m posting here, at least once or twice a week.” The problem? Finding something that’s post-worthy, that I want to write about, when I have time to write about it. Just as I finished said thought, though, one of my favorite bloggers, Sara from High Heels and Training Wheels tagged me in a tweet where she challenges me to complete the same challenge that she completed on her blog.

The rules of said challenge:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

So, without further ado, 11 random things about me:

  1. I’m tall (about 6’3″, or just shy of 2 meters), but I haven’t grown since, about, the fifth grade. I distinctly remember, in fourth grade, we had a substitute teacher. She looked at me & sent me to the principal’s office. I, being a good kid who followed instructions, just stood and walked out of the room. I got to the principal’s office & said that the substitute teacher told me to come here. They called back to the teacher to find out why I was sent. She said that a high school student was parading as a kid in her class. The secretary laughed, and the principal escorted me back to class, explaining things to the substitute. I don’t think she ever really trusted me through the full day, though.
  2. To bring in the New Year in 1999, I played with my college jazz band in the town square of Vienna, Austria. Despite it being bitterly cold, we reached an audience of approximately 20,000 people – and that was pretty cool.
  3. I started college fully intending to major in music education. My hope was to take over for the string teacher in my hometown as she retired. But, after a year, I decided that I’d probably have an easier life if my career revolved around computers, and not music, so I switched from music education to computer engineering.
  4. After years of barely playing after graduating college, I do everything possible to keep music prevalent in my life these days. Heck, there are times when I wonder if I could actually make a living as a musician, but not having a steady paycheck would absolutely drive me crazy.
  5. I try to only drink a single serving of coffee a day. However, this “single serving” is a 750 calorie concoction that pours into two travel mugs (that I drink through my way to work). 24 ounces of french-pressed espresso roast coffee, 1 scoop of whey isolate powder (vanilla flavored), 3 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of ghee1, 4 teaspoons of maca root powder, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. I need to stick the concoction in a blender because there is absolutely no way that I can stir it and actually make it drinkable. But, blended together? It’s delicious & keeps me energized (and not hungry) until lunch (most days).
  6. I want to vlog more often, but there are times that my work situation doesn’t allow me to watch videos, so I know there are others who find a vlog entry from me difficult to watch — and then there is the fact that I hate the way I look/sound on video.
  7. Because everybody has different goals & missions & body limitations at the gym, I hold my tongue when I see someone doing an exercise that doesn’t really give them the benefit of the exercise they’re doing — even when that person started doing the exercise after watching my own workout routine. As I try to ensure that every movement that I make, during every workout, is as useful as possible, it’s getting more & more difficult to hold my tongue around such people.
  8. I have one tattoo and four piercings. I want more. Many more.
  9. Before having kids, if I had found myself, unexpectedly, without a job, I had planned to hike the Appalachian Trail and journal the journey. Now, if I find myself, unexpectedly, without a steady source of income, I’ll worry myself into an early grave, though I still love to hike and, as the Appalachian Trail winds through the town in which I live, I’m starting to take the kids on mini-hikes.
  10. I have a truly bizarre & absurd appreciation of B-Horror films. The more gratuitous nudity/gore, the better.
  11. I met my wife online, through – her profile was, perhaps, the geekiest possible self-advertisement. I read it, chose to pay the bare minimum membership fee to send her an introductory email, and the rest is history.

Sara’s eleven questions:

  1. Do you believe you have a purpose in this life? If so, what is it?
    Yes – I believe it’s my goal to provide dick jokes in inappropriate contexts. And to raise children who will make this world better. And, as “just a regular guy” to try to inspire greatness in others. But mostly the dick jokes.
  2. What scares you the most in life?
    Not being able to provide for my family.
  3. What is your favorite vacation spot?
    Chincoteague Island, Virginia — not necessarily for the spot (though it’s amazing), but for the experience. I’ve written about this before, but we head down, every year, with a group of 25 or so, renting several houses in close proximity to one-another. Everybody brings their own foods for breakfasts/lunches, and each family is in charge of a single dinner. I wake up early, get to the beach to do yoga with the sunrise over the Atlantic, then play with my kids in the sand & surf for hours on end, then enjoy a delicious meal, then slowly get drunk with many of my best friends before calling it a night. For a week. It’s magical.
  4. What is your favorite way to unwind?
    I sit down in front of a piano & “just play” until my blood pressure lowers and I feel more centered. If I don’t have a piano at my disposal, I’ll run, or lift weights, or go hiking.
  5. What’s your home decorating style?
    Messy & cluttered & “let’s hope the strewn about laundry isn’t soiled.” Seriously, Duffy is a saint for putting up with me.
  6. What’s a favorite childhood memory?
    I’m not usually a fan of linking to prior posts, but I wrote about this in detail: Walking the Charles Bridge in Prague shortly after my grandfather’s death.
  7. If money wasn’t an issue would you want a bigger home, smaller home, or stay where you are living now?
    This is, actually, something that I think of, often. If I had a great windfall of money, I’d stay right where I am, but make some serious improvements to my current house (take out the porch, putting in a patio, do some serious landscaping, replace the outdoor shed, double the size of the master bathroom by cutting into the master bedroom, new floors anywhere that we haven’t already replaced the floors, new cabinets in the kitchen, put in an endless-pool). I’d also really, really like a modest vacation home close to the shore that had internet & a piano.
  8. What was your favorite age? Why?
    Does this mean chronological age, of myself? Or ‘time period’? If the prior, I’d actually say “right now.” My kids are growing & learning every day . . . while they, regularly, drive me crazy, I love them more every day. My job situation leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s steady, and it allows me to get lots of time with those kids, and lots of time to play music. If the latter? I think I’d have enjoyed living in the Romantic Age. Though I often wonder, at my height/body type, what life would have been like as a warrior in the height Ancient Rome.
  9. What’s a guilty pleasure?
    As I wrote above, B-Horror flicks with lots of boobs. I am not ashamed.
  10. What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
    You know, I, simply, don’t do a lot of things spontaneously. It might be, soon after breaking up with my fiance, as I was living in Baltimore, by myself, just going out & buying a fish tank. Because I thought it’d be fun.
  11. Why do you blog?
    Because I work better when my thoughts are organized, and blogging, even my silly bullet-point posts, makes me sit down and organize my thoughts.

Eleven bloggers that I want to see more from:

  1. Mommy Undressed
  2. Libelletage
  3. Smedette
  4. Best of Fates
  5. Julie Gardner
  6. Crowning Victoria
  7. Baby Feet
  8. The Flying Chalupa
  9. Dances With Chaos
  10. Mom Got Blog
  11. Sure D, It’s All Good

And, lastly, my eleven questions:

  1. If you could have the ability to fly or the ability to turn invisible, which would you choose? And how quickly would you visit a locker room of your preferred-to-look-at sex once you became invisible?
  2. If someone invented a TARDIS-like machine, allowing you to travel to any place/time, but there was only a 50% chance that you could return to the present time/place (there is 100% assuredness that you’ll be transported to your intended time/place, but if you could not return, you would be forced to live in your new time/place from that point forward, unless someone were to show up with another space/timey-wimey machine – but now we’re getting into the absurd), would you take a trip? If so, to where/when would you travel?
  3. Would you rather be famous for a life’s work, but have said work be lost to time (here, I’m thinking of something like performing the Macarena or Who Let the Dogs Out), or to complete a work that would receive little notice during your lifetime, but live on for the ages as a masterpiece?
  4. If a kind benefactor were to show up & offer to cover your current bills and fund your education to provide you a new line of work, would you take the benefactor up on the offer? What would you study to become?
  5. If you could offer one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would that be?
  6. If you could deliver one message to your 87-year-old self, what would that be?
  7. It turns out that someone managed to tap into your mind & recorded your dirtiest daydream, selling the rights to said daydream to a pornographic movie producer. That person will be filming a pornographic movie from it. Only you & the daydream recorder will be able to trace you as the content-provider of your daydream. However, you must provide a name for the writing credits – what name do you provide?
  8. If you won the showcase showdown on the Price Is Right, and it included an “all expenses paid” trip, to where would you prefer that trip be?
  9. Your receive a fancy, wax-sealed, parchment envelope where your eldest child’s name and description of the location of his/her bedroom in relation to the house is written on said child’s eleventh birthday. What thoughts run through your mind?
  10. If you could magically sculpt your body to match someone else’s, while retaining your face, who would you chose as your new physique? Answer in the form of a haiku.
  11. The Earth receives word that an alien race is coming and anticipates making contact on March 1, 2021. There is no hint as to the intentions of the visit, and the visitors made it clear that they would not be able to submit another transmission prior to arrival. Does this news change the way you live your life? How so?

  12. 1 Clarified butter, or, basically, butter that has been separated between fat & solids and the solids removed . . . in short, I am taking only the fat from butter.
Jan 20 14

Where I blather on about my health goals for the next year

by John

I freely admit that I don’t post here nearly as much as I should. We will blame lack of time & lack of subject material — sure, the kids are as diabolical awesome as ever, but life keeps me so busy that, by the time I can sit down to write about the last awesome thing they did, that memory is so far into the past that I just wait for the next moment. And the cycle continues.

Suffice to say that potty training sucks when the potty-trainee simply doesn’t seem to mind being soiled, watching my kids actually start to comprehend the rules of grammar is awesome, I see no reason why everybody doesn’t count to 10 as 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 2, 6, colors & shapes are commonly & properly identified, there is knowledge of the concepts of “left” and “right” (though they’re abstract concepts, at best), and watching two best friends grow up together is both awe-inspiring & horrifying all at once.

I can talk about them for forever (be glad you’re not with me in real life, because that’s, actually, what I do just about all day), but I don’t know what to say more than the fact that I love them. A lot.

So I’ll talk about my workout routine. Now that the “resolutioners” are starting to clear out of the gym (though I was both annoyed & pleasantly surprised to see a fairly packed Planet Fitness over lunch today), I feel it’s the right time to talk about what I’m doing & what my goals are for 2014.

In 2013, I quickly dashed hopes of both running a marathon & cycling a century every month, replacing those goals with running 1000 miles and cycling 2500. None of that happened. Heck, I didn’t even run a full marathon in 2013 . . . for “Daddy Runs a Lot,” well, I would ahve been disappointed if my focus wasn’t elsewhere.

In 2013 I lost about 50 pounds, and in so doing, discovered a fair bit about myself & the best way to push myself. I started by logging every bite of food I ate (a practice that I continue to this day, religiously, though it’s become such a habit that I don’t even think twice about pulling out my smart phone & putting in the details of a Starbucks coffee on the way home or the itty-bitty details of the dinner salad I’m enjoying), and I realized that I’m busy enough that I really need to focus on more “bang for the buck” when it comes to working out.

And, in so doing, I discovered weight lifting.

When I first started dropping weight, my main focus was on cardio — if I watched what I ate & made my heart work extra hard, the weight would drop, and that was my goal. But, as I approached something called my “goal weight,” I didn’t have the body that I wanted. So I looked up some beginning weight-lifting programs, stumbled upon Strong Lifts, and decided to give things a shot. All I can say is that I wish, when 2013 saw me focusing more on my health, I had started lifting sooner. Due to complications due to muscle-imbalance & pokey elbow & shoulder bursitis, I’ve actually developed my own plan from Medhi’s 5×5, but since I’ve been going about, I’ve seen pretty vast improvements in my running speed & stamina (without running very much).

At least three times a week, I barbell-squat. It’s my main exercise, as it targets so many of my muscle groups in a relatively short amount of time. By July 1, I will squat at least 315 pounds (which means the barbell plus 3 of the “big plates”, which weigh 45 pounds each, on each side of the barbell).

Every time I squat, I try to overhead-press, as I’ve done little through my life to target my shoulders, and I want to get my body strong enough to do handstand push-ups1. By July 1, I will be able to overhead press 135 pounds (the barbell plus one of the “big plates” on each side).

Next comes the bench press — I hated the bench press when I was in high school . . . I always had trouble just keeping my form. I think my long arms are to blame. By July 1, I’ll be able to bench press 225 pounds (the barbell plus 2 of the “big plates” on either side — you may be noticing a relatively simple method of measurement that I’m instituting on each of my lifts).

Finally, I keep a barbell loaded in my basement. Every time I walk downstairs, be it to play XBox with my son, or to play XBox by myself, or to grab a beer, or whatever, I make myself deadlift it. Currently, it’s set to 325. By July 1, the load will be 405 pounds, and I’ll still be deadlifting it each time I walk downstairs for whatever reason.

Getting to these weightlifting goals means that I need some sort of routine. When I get to the gym, if I can, I squat. Then I overhead press. Then I incline bench-press. Then I bench-press. Then I row (because, to go along with handstand push-ups, regular pull-ups are in my sights).

On those days that I don’t have enough time for everything above (I get through a workout there, if the gym isn’t too cluttered with people, in about 40 minutes), or don’t have the squat rack available to me, I do a silly “goblet-squat to push press” exercise that really targets your core, and I do lunges.

Whenever I go into my basement, I deadlift.

That’s it.

Well, I still do some cardio. I joined a silly Twitter running challenge . . . and while my Disney adventure means that I’m playing catch up, I am going to try to wake myself up to run early most every morning, despite the cold (but never in icy weather — I barely trust myself to stop short, I sure-as-fuck don’t trust cars to stop short if the roads are slick). With that, I hope to see a full-marathon time of less than 4 hours within 2014 (and I have a slew of races already lined up throughout the year). However much I have taken the focus off regular running, I find that, when I can get in decent runs, I’m far more sane. So I’m hoping to run a fair bit. Despite the “Daddy Runs a Lot” monicker, though, the running goals are secondary to the lifting goals. I’m really finding that, when I lift, and lift heavy, the benefits keep with me throughout the day . . . and help me look better naked, which, really, is what this is all about2 :-p

So, to recap:

  • By July 1
    • Barbell Squat: 315 lbs
    • Overhead Press: 135 lbs
    • Bench Press: 225 lbs
    • Deadlift: 405 lbs
  • By the end of 2014
    • Marathon: under-four-hours
    • Handstand Push-up
    • Muscle-up (pull-up into a dip, all in one complex motion)

1 because handstand push-ups are awesome.
2 Truthfully, as my kids get bigger, I’m finding the need to squat more & more & more, as, if I lift them with proper squat technique, I know I’m not going to blow my knees/back out, and, however much it might be silly to carry around kids all of the time3, I like carrying my kids around all of the time. Even when I’m tired. Which is all of the time.
3 How the fuck did my kids go from being babies to actual kids?!