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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?!
Jan 13 14

Where I recount my Disney adventure

by John

We left from Elizabethtown, PA. Because of medical concerns, flying was out for my mom – and, well, driving with my family of four for a day would be…difficult (because I can become quite grumpy), and we were talking about traveling with a party of nine, so we took the train.

Only it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit when we left (or eighty-two bazaillion degrees below freezing when you calculate in wind chill and the fact that you’re traveling with toddlers). Our itinerary had us leaving Elizabethtown and heading to Philadelphia, where we’d pick up a train to Orlando, hop on a van to our resort . . . all well and good, until 9:20am rolled around and the 9:17 train had not yet arrived.

As I said, it was 7 degrees. There were….train issues. I still don’t know the actual story — somehow, the train left Harrisburg, PA on time, and in the one stop between Harrisburg and Elizabethtown, the train broke. And then the next scheduled train went through, but, according to someone “in the know,” they got the first train running again. Anyway, it was cold as balls, and my plan of “leave the winter coats behind because I’m going to fucking Orlando, Florida” was looking tragically moronic. Duffy, being of far more sound mind, got coats for everyone.

Two and a half hours after the train was supposed to leave, the train arrived. And stopped five or six times for “mechanical issues” between Elizabethtown & Philadelphia.

Did I mention that we had a scheduled, two-hour layover in Philly? But we then got a two-hour late start, and went significantly slower than anticipated? Anyway, we spent a fair amount of time on our cell phones with Amtrak customer support on the way, trying to figure out what would happen in the increasingly likely event that we would miss our connecting train.

But said train left New York almost an hour late.

But we were going slow. And kept breaking down (seriously, they had a mechanic on board who kept being rushed either to the front or the back of the train to deal with issues).

We arrived in Philly at 1:21. The train that we were hoping to catch left Philadelphia at 1:06. Obviously, that sucked for us.

But Amtrak was both amazingly brilliant and horribly frustrating on this adventure, all at once.

Frustrating, so far, was that any information about the late/broken train was impossible to come by. I’m someone who would rather know what’s going on, even if the truth sucks. than be left to my own devices and try to figure out what might be wrong (answer: a band of evil dolphins decided to contact the mothership, which, in turn sent meteorite-like objects to attack incredibly specific targets on earth, ensuring that anyone who might be able to provide information and/or assist me in being on time is now dead by evil dolphin attack). I kept on looking at the schedule on the Amtrak application and just saw a train that was “on time” (despite being 40 minutes after the scheduled arrival time) that then went “late” that then had increasingly later anticipated departure times.

However, once we hit the train, between the conductor and the customer service people, it was clear that there was something in the works, behind the scenes, even after it was apparent that we had missed our flight. When the train finally arrived in Philly, the conductor told us to stay put, and then Amtrak personnel showed up & we went running through the catacombs of the Philadelphia train station. Ok, maybe these weren’t actual catacombs, but we were rushing, blindly following two incredible Red-Caps through a twisted maze of elevators & escalators.

We were rushed to an Acela Express high-speed train, bound from Philly to Washington, DC. While nobody ever actually told us what was happening, we were able to glean that, since a crew change was scheduled for our scheduled train in DC, and we were being sent via high-speed means, that we were hoping to catch up with our train in DC before it took off (I’ll admit that everyone in my party had kind-of assumed that we’d just catch the four-hour later train . . . which wouldn’t be the end of the world, there were still enough sleeper-car openings to put us in, comfortably enough, but, obviously, keeping to our original schedule would be better).

So far, my frustration with Amtrak was, mostly, due to mother nature. Brutal cold sucks, and it does horrible things to moving parts, like engines and tracks. Sure, it would have been better to have more information, but, really, I was anxious because my travel plans were being made tense because the weather sucked. And the kids kept crying because it was cold.

But the conductor on the Acela was a doucecanoe.

First off, he seemed to enjoy knowing our story, but absolutely refusing to tell us what the plans were. He was answering radio calls about “the passengers from train 644″ and then leaving the immediate area. If we asked him what was going on, the most we’d get from him was “it sounds like they’re trying to get you on your train in DC, but we’re not going to make it in time, so you’ll probably have to spend the night there.”

Then, we were just following instructions, boarding a car we were told to board. We had no idea that they put us in a quiet car at the time . . . but said douchebag conductor certainly let us know. The quiet car, with a 4.5 year old, a 4 year old, a 3.5 year old, and a 1.5 year old. For the start of the trip, things went amazingly well . . . but the baby just had enough about halfway through, and the douchebag was downright mean in telling my sister to take the kid and go anywhere else but there.

Alas, the trip (and, therefore, the time with the douchebag conductor) was short. We made it to DC, only to find that they were holding the train there not only for us, but for another connecting train. No unexpected overnight stay . . . left, late, from another point of departure, but on our scheduled train, heading to Disney.

This excitement, though, took its toll on all of us.

First off, Amtrak lets you bring liquor on board, and I had brought some booze with me for the stay in Disney (hey, several days with my extended family, a little liquid patience goes a long way). I broke out the whiskey first thing, and relaxed.

And, while that whole first part sounds like a horrible knock on Amtrak, aside from the one douchebag conductor on the Acela Express, it really seemed that Amtrak employees were willing to bend-over backwards to help us out. Everyone was nice, everyone was pleasant, everyone was helpful. Some went well above and beyond, especially Eastlyn.

Two meals were included in the southbound voyage, dinner then breakfast (to answer the question, I found the food to be far superior to anything I’ve ever had on an airplane, but certainly not up-to-par for anything that even a middling restaurant could offer — it was edible, and adequate, but not good). CJ fell asleep between ordering and dinner delivery, and he was *out*. I went back to our roommette with him, screwed around on Twitter for a little while before falling asleep, myself.

But when your four-year-old son falls asleep before 7pm, he’ll be awake, and he woke up just after midnight. From midnight until 3am, we talked. We talked about the train, and the difference between talking to strangers when mommy & daddy are there & when we are not. We talked about the importance of holding hands in Disney. We talked about the fact that Daddy had been here before, but he was more excited to head to Disney with CJ than he was any time before.

Then CJ fell back asleep.

And so did I.

Fin, Wednesday.

The next morning started with breakfast on the train, then arrival at the Orlando Train Station, a van over to Disney, and the start of our vacation. We stayed in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the original plan had us exploring the Animal Kingdom that first day . . . but we had dinner reservations at 5:30, and we didn’t get to the hotel until after 1pm, and it took almost 2 hours for our bags to make it via bell hop from the lobby to our room, and we had all been on a train for over 24 hours so we all needed to shower. In short, by the time we were actually presentable for adventure, it was just about time to head to dinner at Saana, the African/Indian fusion restaurant.

Where CJ fell asleep, again, between ordering dinner and the time that dinner was delivered.

Dinner was delicious. Service was impeccable.

Of course, CJ remained sleeping all of the journey to the hotel room (the room was 1/3 of a mile from the elevator to the room, just to put the scope of this hotel in perspective), so I took the Leila & my nephew to the pool with me, just to see if we could get them to blow off some steam. Until 9pm, we watched the end of the Little Mermaid (every night, they play a Disney movie at the pool) as my kids splashed around. Heck, the pool at the lodge had a very, very cool waterslide . . . while I could get neither my 4 year old son nor my 4 1/2 year old nephew to ride it for the entire stay, my 3 year old daughter went down the slide, twice, by herself.

Ariel kissed Eric, Ariel got her legs. The pool closed.

My friend Karen, a local (who actually was wearing a jacket while I was parading around in little more than my wet bathing suit) stopped by after picking up some much-needed groceries (we could have found everything local . . . but none of the grocery delivery services had any openings, and buying “regular stuff” at Disney is even worse than buying “nostalgic stuff” at Disney, when it comes to the price tag, and my friend Karen is totally awesome, and this meant that I got to catch up with her for a little bit). Fin, Thursday.

Friday saw me waking to run. Because I’m insane. See, after spending over 24 hours on trains, I wanted to be sure that my legs were ready for the half-marathon on Saturday, and I decided a slow 5k would do it. So I left my room a little before 5:30 and wandered and explored. A little after 6, I returned to the room to find that CJ had been awake, essentially, since I had left, wanting to go swimming, as he had gleaned that I had gone with his sister the night before. So we went swimming at 7 in the morning.

Then we got dressed and went to a character buffet breakfast at the Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom. It was incredibly yummy, though it’s really hard to go wrong with “all you can eat” and “breakfast food” with me. Seriously, I can eat scrambled eggs & bacon all day . . . if you’re throwing sweet pastries in the mix, you’d have to evict me.

So the kids got to meet several of the characters (Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Daisy), participated in a random African parade, and then we worked our way, via tram to the Magic Kingdom. Because, while the Animal Kingdom is certainly worth exploring . . . it’s not the Magic Kingdom, especially for 3 & 4 year olds.

We got to the Magic Kingdom & went to Tomorrowland — Stitch’s Great Escape proved to be a bit too intense for two four-year-olds, but the Atro-Orbiter was right up everyone’s alley (and didn’t have the 40″ height restriction, meaning that everyone could ride). From there, we made Fast-Pass reservations for the Monster, Inc. Laugh Factory (incredibly fun, especially if you’re into puns) and the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (I scored higher than everyone in my family, because I’m awesome). After the ride, we had pictures taken with Buzz, and then Stitch, and we split up. The taller among us (me, my son, my sister, her husband, and their son) to Fast-Pass Big Thunder Mountain Railroad while the shorter (my wife, my daughter, my mother, and my sister’s daughter) went to ride the teacups.

CJ fell asleep on the way to the roller-coaster, and slept through all of the line (while we had Fast-Pass’d the attraction, there was still a wait, though nowhere near the Stand-By wait), but woke up to ride. Afterward, he claimed that the ride was “too fast” but said so with a great big smile on his face, so I think I have a future roller coaster fanatic on my hands.

We left the Magic Kingdom soon after that, however . . . despite CJ’s nap, he was done, and I still had to pick up my packet.

Yeah, my race packet? Have I gone all this time without mentioning the secondary goal (primary was to have fun)? My sister & I were running the half-marathon on Saturday morning, which meant that we had to pick up our packets before 7pm on Friday evening. Leaving the Magic Kingdom at 4:30, we thought, would give us plenty of time.

But transportation at Disney is not always easy.

Jess & I had to figure out how to get to the Wide World of Sports, from the Magic Kingdom. Asking around to several Disney personnel, it seemed that our best bet was to head to any of the “All-Star” resorts and hop on a bus from there. So that’s what we did. We went to All-Star Music and waited. And waited. And Waited. AND WAITED for a bus as the “ESPN Wide World of Sports” sign, to no avail. Eventually, we found a Disney Employee & badgered her to find out that there was additional, unmarked chartered busses from a secondary location that were hired to take people to the Expo (where we had to pick up our packets). So we went to the additional location. And waited. And Waited. AND WAITED. Eventually, a bus that wasn’t there just to drop people off stopped, and we boarded. And we got our packets. And we found a bus back to our resort — we picked up a takeout dinner from The Mara (the lone quick-meal option in our hotel grounds) for everyone in our party, ate, and I was asleep by 8:30.

And I was awake at 2:30 in the morning.

Yes, on vacation, I voluntarily woke at 2:30 in the morning to dress, board a bus, and then wait around for a few hours before running a half-marathon.

Through some sorcery and/or witchcraft, I scored a spot in the “B” corral. Basically, they start the quickest runners with the “Elite” start, and then A/B/C/D/E….through P (for those who are quite slow or simply haven’t run this distance before & didn’t have a qualifying event in order to justify a target time that would have allowed them to start with a faster corral). I was hoping to start the race with my sister, but they pulled a “you would be disqualified” card when she tried to enter my gate (I’m just a slightly faster runner than she is), and neither of us thought to play the “but she isn’t going to win this race” card in return, so we didn’t get to start together.

After promotional messages from the sponsors & notes about how wonderful RunDisney events are, we got underway — one corral started two minutes after the previous (so I started 4 minutes after the official gun) with fireworks, so that was pretty cool.

But, unlike most big races, I started off too fast. I realized my mistake early on, and corrected my pace, from 8:15 to closer to 9:00/mile. In the back of my head, I had hoped to set a personal record, but I hadn’t been running a whole lot lately, and it was hot & humid. I knew a personal best was a bit of a pipe dream . . . and then I saw the photo opportunities. Every mile or so, they had a character set up — some characters had a significant line . . . but you could stop and wait & have a picture taken with them. Other characters, though, had no line. I stopped to have my picture taken with Lilo & Stitch, Cinderella’s mice, and in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Each time, the act of stopping & taking my picture taken couldn’t have been more than 15 seconds . . . but when you add the act of stopping, and then getting going again . . . well, when you add the humidity concerns, hopes of a personal best went out the window.

But I had a blast, and I kept running strong. My time was under two hours, and I was happy with that.

After the run, I cleared medical (volunteers were sending people, left and right, to the medical tent after making eye contact with them — I figured I was a goner, but everyone seemed to think I was ok), boarded my bus, got back to the hotel, actually ran from the elevator to my room (because, after 13.1, what’s another third?), showered, and then went back to the Magic Kingdom, where I arrived just shortly after opening. CJ & my nephew were getting made up as pirates, so I met up with my mom, wife, daughter, and niece and we went to visit Tinkerbell & Periwinkle before flying on Aladdin’s Flying Carpets.

Then we met the boys pirates and rode the Jungle Cruise. Over on the monorail to Epcot for a fish & chips lunch before heading back, again on the monorail, to the Magic Kingdom. The afternoon had fast-passes of a visit with princesses Rapunzel & Snow White, Ariel’s Grotto, and Peter Pan’s Flight before riding the carousel and then waiting “the actual time” for a second flight of Aladdin’s flying carpets, Pirates of the Caribbean (which CJ almost found too scary at parts), and the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. We seriously considered heading over to the Haunted Mansion (one of my all-time favorite rides) but with CJ being almost scared by pirates, we decided to call it a night. Heck, I was done . . . and my kids weren’t far behind me. Home to bed. Goodnight, Saturday.

Sunday was a crazy day – we knew this ahead of time. I had talked to the front-desk at my hotel to see if the kid needed to be present for Jedi Academy at Hollywood Studios. The answer I got was, “as long as you’re signing up for a future time, that shouldn’t be a problem,” and CJ, the Star-Wars fanatic, had a 10:30 appointment to have tea with his grandmother. So I waited at the start of Hollywood Studios and ran to the ABC Sound Studio, only to find that the kid needed to be present in order to sign up for Jedi Academy, and there was no lie I could tell that would change the rule. My only hope was to get CJ back later, and then to sign up for an even later show. So I left to be with my family.

At this time, however, the Disney Marathon was in full-force (I’ll admit not small amount of jealousy to those running the full marathon . . . and those running the Goofy Challenge (the half that I ran and then the full marathon the next day) . . . and those running the Dopey Challenge, which was a 5k/10k/Half/Full on consecutive days — though I still feel like I ran the race that most enabled me to be “dad” while still running), and I knew that traffic was all kinds of fucked up (at this time, a steady stream of runners was running on the path from Hollywood Studios to Epcot for the end of the marathon). I decided that the fastest way to my family, who would be at the Grand Floridian hotel, would be to hop on a boat from Hollywood Studios to Epcot, take advantage of my Park-Hopper badge, run through Epcot (as marathoners were doing the same), get on the monorail, and then take the monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom resorts.

What got me was that I showed up at the Grand Floridian at 10:35 . . . five minutes after the start of CJ’s tea, but left me with a wonder if, had he been with me, if I could have signed him up & actually gotten him back in time. I don’t think that was the case, but I’m left wondering.

Anyway, I had lunch with my lovely wife, sister, brother-in-law, and niece while Duffy recounted the trials & tribulations of Leila choosing pink hair extensions at the Bippity-Boppity-Boutique. Tea ended, I saw my made-up-daughter, and I got very grumpy waiting a very long time for transportation back to Hollywood Studios. It was well after 1pm that we arrived there, and by then, the Jedi Academy was booked solid . . . I felt like a bit of a let down as a parent, here, because this was one of the highlights that I had been promising CJ.

However, the Hollywood Studios had us do the Indiana Jones stunt show, then CJ & mommy went to Star Tours while Leila & I took pictures with Mulan, Stitch, The Green Army Guy (who proposed to my daughter, who was dressed as a punk-rock princess, and I still don’t know how I feel about this), Genie, and Mary Poppins. We saw Belle (La’s favorite), Phinneas & Ferb, Aladdin, and Maleficent . . . but either the lines were too long or, as we got close to them, their handlers found other things for them to be doing.

We met back up with Duffy & CJ and went to the Muppets 3D-show (which might have been the highlight of the entire trip for me – I just wish Electric Mayhem had been the backup band, instead of the penguins – who were great, but not Electric Mayhem), climbed around the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” playground (as I realized that my kids haven’t seen this movie yet, which is something that I need to rectify), before heading to the Disney Junior puppet show (which was spectacular – easily the best show for the kids through this entire adventure, including the great Peter Pan & Ariel rides in the Magic Kingdom).

We had to leave Hollywood Studios without the Ariel show, or the car stunt show, or any of the bigger rides, but it was all good, because we headed directly to the Disney Contemporary Resort for a pirate firework show. Two pirates (both named Patch) competed with punny one-liners as Captain Hook & Smee looked on & took pictures with the kids. Then we went out on lake-boats (and, I must admit, it was downright chilly when this happened . . . nevermind that it was still north of 50F, it was chilly, as enough of the “local weather” had worked its way into my bones.

The show was great — pirate humor cracks me up, and the fireworks were Disney. However much I might have gotten frustrated by the waits for transportation or getting misinformation from one Disney representative, or dealt with an employee who would just say “I don’t know” instead of trying to find someone who might be able to help me, a little bit of magic goes a long, long way — and the fireworks were like nothing I ever remember seeing. I left thinking that life was magical . . . until I waited over an hour for a tram back to my lodge (I, seriously, don’t do well when I’m left waiting).

I got back to the room, got myself some dinner, packed, and went to bed. Goodnight, Sunday.

Monday had us picking up the train back . . . I’ll admit that there was a small part of me that thought about getting 2, single-day passes to Hollywood Studios for CJ and myself, just to see if he might have been able to get CJ into the Jedi academy — but, I couldn’t guarantee that we’d get an early slot (and anything but an early slot would have meant that we couldn’t do it), and single-day passes are fucking expensive, and I was damn tired, and CJ actually seemed to be pacified by the Star Tours ride. So we went to the pool and then to the train station.

I’m writing this, now, from the train on the way back home. I’m feeling incredibly wordy . . . and, at the same time, I feel like I’m leaving everything out. In short, I’m a bit disappointed with my half-marathon time, but I had an absolute blast running. I’d have loved to spend more time in the parks. This won’t be my last time doing this with my kids. It was exhausting, frustrating, but magical. And my kids are still smiling. I am happy. Even if I hear that there is snow in the forecast at home.

Oct 29 13

Where I dust off the blogging cobwebs with bullet points

by John
  • At one time, I thought I was busy — then I became a parent. However, over the busiest weekend I ever remember having, I barely saw my own kids. Friday, I worked & played a show. Saturday, I woke, ran a Zombie 5k, played an alumni concert with my college jazz band, played a show, went to a birthday party. Sunday, I woke, ran a half marathon (and set a personal record!), went to a board meeting with my symphony, finally saw the kids, bathed the kids, fell asleep.
  • My daughter is three, so “just crying” is a common thing, especially when she’s tired. However, the best way to get her to stop crying when she’s in a “just because” moment? Give her the television remote.
  • Just after the Super Bowl, I got rid of cable — I was barely keeping up with stuff we had DVR’d, and everything I watched was on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon. So, we took the monthly cable bill and subscribed to those three services — I did not think through the greatest time of the sports year, however, which is right now — the baseball postseason, the height of the football season, and the dawn of the basketball season. I need an over-the-air antenna.
  • I am tempted, quite often, to ditch work & head to the movies (paying a single admission and then trying to sneak my way through showings of every movie that I want to catch that happens to be playing). The main reason I don’t do this now is because I can’t talk myself into justifying that much time away from work/gym/kids.
  • I have been making an honest attempt to log every bite of food & every drop of drink that I’ve consumed for this entire year. As such, I weigh 45 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the year, and I feel better about myself. But I am still tired — I’m always tired.
  • I think I’ve actually made NEGATIVE progress on my musical during this year.
  • I worry that my son may be growing painfully addicted to the X-Box, but it’s just so easy to use the X-Box as a reward for getting himself dressed, and then as a substitute parent as I go about getting Leila dressed and starting the day.
  • On that same token, I really hope that CJ never figures out that there is a full-version of all of the games that I have loaded demos of, provided we just pay for them.
  • I will fall well short of my goals of 1000 miles run and 2500 miles biked — I, simply, have been spending more time lifting weights where I used to run/cycle. Because of the new focus, however, I’m not going to be disappointed in the failure.
  • I still want to get myself swimming more.
  • I need to vlog myself making my morning coffee, but I’ve been making myself a blended coffee drink containing french-pressed coffee, protein powder, honey, ghee, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, maca root — it’s a very strange mixture, but it’s tasty & works as a good breakfast replacement.
  • Few pants makers make 30×36 pants — which is my size now. I believe this is just more reason for me not to wear pants, ever.
Sep 17 13

Where I run a half marathon & remember that I like music

by John
End of the Bird-In-Half Half Marathon

Every now & then, I forget my screen name . . . Daddy Runs a Lot because, you see, when left to my own devices, I run. A lot. And I’ve actually been running a fair bit, lately . . . though, to be honest, because my name isn’t “daddy write a lot,” I haven’t been telling you about it. A little while ago, I ran the Bird-In-Hand Fireman’s Challenge, and it was amazing.

Because I can’t ever say no to my sister, I agreed to run a half marathon in a quaint Amish village. However, on the event website, they made it clear that you needed to pick up your packet the day before the event1 — and that event was well over an hour from my house. I wasn’t happy about having to head all that way until I saw that there was an option for a 5k the night before. Now, I haven’t been running quite as much as I once did – but I was still under the impression that I could “pull a half marathon out of my ass,” and a Friday night run, well, if I had to be there, anyway, great.

So I went to the farm that marked the start/end point, grabbed my packet, walked around the village, toured the farmer’s market, met up with a friend, and ran a 5k.

As I said, I haven’t been running as much as I once had – but, I have run both the 5k & half-marathon distance a whole lot. I didn’t expect to break any personal records, especially not knowing the course, but I did have times in mind — 25 minutes for the 5k, 2 hours for the half.

The 5k was beautiful – they started blowing up hot air balloons just before the start (the weekend split booking between a race weekend and a balloon festival weekend), and before I knew it, I was running.

Traditionally, for most any event, I hang around with the slower runners at the start, especially if the event is “chip timed” so that, in the highly unlikely event that I actually would qualify for a prize because of my time, it only would matter how quickly I ran, not necessarily what the clock read as I crossed the finish. However, I’m really starting to second guess this approach when it comes to well-attended 5k races.

Somewhere, a phenomenon has started where “race walkers” work their way to the far-left of the street and start walking as they throw out their elbows. Now, I’m far bigger than most everyone else on the road (I’d guess the average runner weighs between 130 and 160 pounds . . . if I am anywhere close to 200 pounds, I’m “too skinny”), but, when I hang around at the start, I’m also a good bit faster than most of the other runners. So I spend too much energy weaving my way about the crowd, trying to “find my pace.” And, as a non-British driver, I expect the faster lanes to open up to the left . . . but then you run into once of these race walkers, throwing their elbows about, almost daring the crowd to bump them. I take my “bigger than normal” size seriously – I know, if I bump into most anyone on the race, I’m going to win the collision, and someone else is likely going to be hurt . . . but, seriously, there is no reason for a slower runner/walker to set up shop on the far-left of a road, in a crowded race, throwing their elbows about. Most every 5k I run, I find people who do this — it makes me angry.

Anyway, after a mile, I had cleared the pack and was well on my way — I will admit that it was neat running through Amish land & having people in Amish clothing: dress pants, suspenders, and dress shirts for guys, dresses for women – keep up with and/or pass me. I finished just shy of 25 minutes, within the time that I had set for myself . . . but, more importantly, I was really eager for the next day’s run.

I spent the night at my sister’s place that night, as she lived a good bit closer to the event – and we got to the start line by 6am the next day. After walking about, watching the hot air balloons inflate, it was time to run.

As a wannabe musician – music plays a very important part of my life. But the thing is, I seldom listen to music when I’m running (heck, I didn’t bother listening to anything during the 5k because my earbuds wouldn’t stay in my ears). Music can push to run faster like the promise of hot sex at the finishline few other things, but I can grow tired of songs and then everything will just backfire. When I run, I traditionally listen to audiobooks — but, months ago, I created a playlist of two hours of music that I’d use if I ever needed to remind myself to keep calm. “Start slow & taper off” is the mantra of many a distance runner — and, in a crowded field, good advice for myself.


The gun fired at 7:30. Each song was unexpected. The temperatures were cool, the breeze was light, the sun was glaring. It was a beautiful day.

With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it

I was light on my feet, despite being bigger than most everyone else on the course.

Ballerina, you must have seen her, dancing in the sand

Speaking to others after the race, they said it looked like I was gliding.

Well I see skies of blue and I see clouds of white, the brightness of day, I like the dark

The first mile was crowded, and I weaved in & out, trying to find a stream where I could run at my own pace.

You must be the mermaid who took Neptune for a ride.

I finished just shy of two hours – but I spent very little time worrying about my pace or my time. Simply, I’d gaze at my phone at each mile marker to wonder, approximately, how long I’d been on the road.

She’s got a smile that it seems to me reminds me of childhood memories

Having made the play list months prior, I had little clue what might be coming next. Each song made me smile.

Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost, he’s found the answer that we lost

I hit “the high” prior to mile three, and it stuck with me until well past the tenth mile.

I wonder what I would find if I met you, let my eyes caress you

If you’re not a distance runner, “the high” is difficult to explain. You see, at the beginning of every run, be it a race or “just a run,” there is a voice in the back of my head that says “stop this, this is stupid.” I need to make myself continue. Every step is purposeful.

Won’t you please take me far, far away

But, at some point, that voice goes away. You’re just going. That’s the runner’s high, and it’s an amazing experience.

I wanna be your friend, I want to guard your dreams and visions

Normally, I “force” myself to run my first 5k, and it’s mile marker 8 or 9 that the voice creeps back in. This race, I shut the voice up sometime between the first & third mile marker, and it stayed silent until past the tenth marker.

Sing for the laughter and sing for the tear

I was taken out of the high not because my body said so, but because, for a half mile stretch, the road was in poor repair and the path climbed. I run in Vibrams, so I had to be purposeful with every step.

She’s standing in her underwear

The loss of the runner’s high was aided by a cute 20-something running alongside me — She & I had been playing chicken for awhile – she would pass me on every downhill, and I’d then pass on the next uphill. She was jubilant about seeing her kid at the finish line, and that she was convinced that she was going to break two hours for the first time in a half marathon.

Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box

I did have to push myself after the course returned to well-paved streets. But, there’s something about a run as the distance winds down. When you’re running a half marathon – you only really need to hit mile marker 10, because, from there, it’s “just a 5k”.

Take me to the place I love, take me all the way

This run, the weather really felt like it was conspiring to make lifelong runners of the field. When a breeze blew, it seemed to always blow against my back — or into my face as I ran downhill, helping to keep me dry.

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

I spoke to several, at the finish line, who had just completed their first half marathon. I wanted to remind them that not every run is this beautiful – but didn’t want to ruin the moment for them. It’s difficult to hurt too much when you’ve accomplished something you’ve set out to do & the sun is smiling on you.

Rate yourself and rake yourself, take all the courage you have left

Now, the race wasn’t all rainbows & glitter.

You know feeling good was good enough for me

Soon after I lost the high, there was a water station set up. I worked my way to the far left to get a cup of water when someone came across my line of momentum at a perpendicular. Seriously, it was like he was running on the far right, just noticed the water station, and made a right-angle-left-turn to get there in the closest path possible.

Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good.

I easily doubled this man’s weight. I ended up dancing my way around him, and walking for three or four steps to ensure that I didn’t hit the ground. But, no harm, no foul. And I was able to get myself right back up to somewhere between “starting slow” and “tapering off” without having to take a step through the rest of the race.

I’ve seen a million faces an I’ve rocked them all

There were also Amish kids who thought they were helping cool people off by running a light-pressure hose into the race path . . . but, alas, Amish kids don’t necessarily understand that I’m running with electronics, so I can forgive them, and I was always able to make my way out of the water stream.

My car’s broke down and you seem real nice, would ya let me ride?

As we got closer to the end, more & more children were lining the streets – and almost all of them were wearing finishers medals from the kids’ 1 mile race the day before.

I don’t mind stealing bread from the mouth of decadence.

You know you’re nearing the end of a race, when you’re not an elite racer, when you start seeing people wearing bibs either walking or running back toward you. I kind of hate the ones who are running back along the course, as if the finish wasn’t far enough for them.

Wanna fly to a place where it’s just you and me, nobody else so we can be free

Heck, though, I’m sometimes one of those runners — I knew, after mile 10, that I was going to be Done after 13.1 . . . . but, if I had a full marathon on the horizon, I could easily see 13.1 just being the long part of a longer run.

Boy you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down

And there really is nothing like seeing the streets lined with people as you actually start to approach the finish line.

Push me up against the wall, young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra

I, um, may have worked off a fair bit of energy trying to rouse a crowd that had been cheering for half an hour to cheer even louder as I approached the finish.

I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I knew I was maintaining a pretty consistent pace . . . I knew I was running, about, 9 minute miles. I knew at least a minute had passed between when the gun went off and when I stepped over the start line. But, I knew that I was pushing myself at the end. So when you see that the “gun time” is less than the time you were hoping for, well, it’s a pretty cool feeling.

I said, “Can I take you home where we can be alone?”

The clock said 1:58 and change. I ran hard to the finish. I got a very heavy medal . . . I’ll admit I had to step carefully after putting it around my neck to ensure that I wouldn’t topple over. I drank water. I ate Amish baked goods. I waited for my sister. I was happy.

(I’ve peppered random lines from every song of my playlist in here . . . pat yourself on the back if you know all of the songs)

1 I’m pretty sure that any event that says “you have to pick up your packet at such-and-such a time” doesn’t actually mean it . . . it just means “it sure would be a whole lot better for us if you picked up your packet at such-and-such a time” so that most people will pick up their packets at that time, and then the people picking up their packet just before the run would be few in number. And, heck, even if they steadfastly refuse to give you a packet because you “didn’t follow the rules,” if the race is held on public streets, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent you from starting a run with several dozen/hundred/thousand other runners and running a route very similar to the one laid out by the event organizers, and ending the run where several dozen/hundred/thousand other runners finish.