- Biggest Fear
- Forgetting my priorities — I tend to invest myself into whatever I happen to be doing . . . sometimes, that “thing” I’m doing? Is entirely unimportant. And if I becomes all encompassing, well, important shit gets lost. I’m constantly telling myself to step back & look at what I’m focusing on, ensuring that I’m not missing something bigger.
- Current Time
- 9:30 on a Tuesday morning
- Drink I last had
- A mixture of pu-erh & white teas with lemon juice & apple cider vinegar
- Easiest Person to Talk To
- Favorite Song
- If I’m taking “song” at it’s actual definition, meaning a musical piece with words, well, this is still a fucking loaded question. It’s like asking Bob Ross about his favorite cloud. Seriously, this question freaks me out & stresses me more than I’d like to admit. Right now, there are several songs that I absolutely will stop whatever I’m doing to listen:
- The Pixies: Where Is My Mind
- Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt
- Allman Brothers: Midnight Rider (though I’ve also been digging Willie Nelson’s cover of the same)
- Mumford & Sons: Little Lion Man
- The Moldy Peaches: Anyone Else But You
- Lou Reed: Walk on the Wild Side
- Plain White T’s: Hey There Delilah
- Modest Mouse: Float On
- The Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday
- Pink Floyd: Comfortably Numb
- Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah
Then there are songs with an incredible amount of significance to me, which will always put me in a better mood:
- Jeff Healey Band: Angel Eyes
- Stevie Wonder: Isn’t She Lovely
- John Lennon: Beautiful Boy
- Billy Joel & Ray Charles: Baby Grand
- Tom Petty: Free Fallin’
And I have my “guilty pleasure” songs:
- Zac Brown Band: Chicken Fried
- t.A.T.u.: All The Things She Said
Then lets not forget my actual favorite musical pieces which don’t qualify as songs:
- Antonin Dvorák: Symphony Number Nine “From the New World”
- Edward Elgar: Enigma Variation IX (Adagio) “Nimrod”
- Pablo Casals: El cant dels ocells (“Song of the Birds”)
- Carlos Gardel: Por Una Cabeza (“By a Head”)1
But, if I’m listing a single song? I’m going with The Beatles, I’ve Just Seen a Face. For today. If I don’t let myself think about it too much more.
- Grossest Memory
- The La and repeated code browns.
- New Providence, New Jersey
- In Love With…
- Ok, this is stupid, because I should answer Duffy, or the kids. But I’m going to say “playing in front of a live crowd.” People have often commented on this to me, how I’m “more alive” after a great performance. And getting over the shingles, well, “feeling alive” does a lot for me. And, well, I’m actually feeling it (normally, I just kind of ignore the “good energy” comments if I talk to someone after a gig).
- Jealous of
- People who have the ability to sit down, plan out what they want to do, and see those plans to fruition. If I have the money to do something, I don’t have the time. If I have the time, I don’t have the money. If I have the time & the money, the task is, simply, unattainable.
- Killed Someone?
- Not today. Though the day is still young….
- Longest Relationship
- Well, I’ve been married for the better part of 12 years — but Ryan has been my friend since the first grade, so I guess it depends on how we’re defining relationship.
- Middle Name
- Number of siblings
- One sibling, Jessica. I also have a stepsister, two stepbrothers (one of whom is no longer with us), three brothers-in-law, one sister-in-law, and many close friends who happen to be so close that I consider them family & can sometimes forget that they’re not blood-related to me.
- One Wish
- That my kids grow to be happy, confident, and secure in themselves.
- Person who you last called
- People still use their phones as phones? Really? It was a work call to the Bangalore office.
- Question you’re always asked
- How did you get fit/lose weight? And/Or: How do you have the energy for what you do?
- Reason to smile
- I’m up to no good
- Song you last sang
- What Does the Fox Say? Because kids.
- Time you woke up
- 5:20 — I considered trying to go back to bed, which would have given me an extra hour, but Benji had other ideas.
- Underwear Color
- Vacation destination
- Chincoteague Island, Virginia
- Worst habit
- See greatest fear — getting so involved in a meaningless task that I tune out those in my life
- X-rays you’ve had
- So so many. Aside from regular dental X-Rays, in no particular order:
- Right Elbow
- Rib cage
- Right Shoulder
- Right big toe
- Right shin
- Right wrist
- Left pinky finger
Looking at that list, I guess it’s really not a surprise to see why the shingles decided to attack the right side of my body.
- Your favorite food
- Favorite food and favorite song in the same list? Really? Bullshit.
Cheese. A cheddar so sharp that it feels like it’s cutting into your tongue. Paired with a pinot noir.
- Zodiac Sign
Those of you who know me know that I push myself pretty hard — when I’m at work, I work hard. When work out, I workout hard. When I’m not working out or at work, I rehearse/perform hard. I am my own toughest critic, and I demand a LOT of out myself.
With the latest Jurassic Park movie being released (I haven’t seen it yet, but I want to), I’m reminded of the line “life, uh, finds a way.” I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder than normal, recently. And life, uh, found a way to slow me down.
Sunday was a glorious day. I woke up early, got a small workout in, visited with a band member in order to pick up some equipment so that a community theatre friend of mine might have a keyboard to use for a musical he’s responsible for, played my last Sunday at church for the summer, dropped off the keyboard with my director friend, and went to have a 5th birthday Linner1 for Leila (all you can eat sushi, and I ensured that I got my money’s worth). Duffy had rehearsal until late at night, and with no school the next day, I kind-of let the kids dictate bedtime . . . which meant that bathtime included far more play than normal and two five year olds’ eyes closed, perhaps, a bit later than normal, but there weren’t any tantrums. It was a good day/evening.
Monday morning, my alarm went off at 4:50am, because I’m a masochist. It was raining. Hard. I looked at Benji and informed him “sorry, bud, but I’m not about to walk you in this.” My pup was not happy. However, by simply getting out of bed, my children absconded my share of the bed, so I laid myself back down in Leila’s unused bed. Benji tried, for the next 10-15 minutes, to remind me that he hadn’t been walked (he has a dog door, so he can get outside to relieve himself . . . but he’s an exuberant dog who likes his exercise) before lying down next to me. Duffy went off to the gym. She came back to find me still asleep & asked what the rash was, on my back.
I had no clue that there was a rash on my back . . . though I had a painful area, I figured that I’d done something stupid while working out, so I was dealing with some muscle pain. Upon her asking me about it, I wondered if I had bumped into something that I didn’t remember & well, this was the result2. Then she asked if I was feeling all right, and I had to answer that no, I wasn’t.
Now, I had eaten far more sushi, the previous day, than any one person has a right to eat. And I did drink a little bit of wine, but far from drinking to excess. So I wanted to blame my feeling crappy on that combination . . . but, then I found that I had a fever. So I called off of work. Then I started having some stomach issues, and decided to make a doctor’s appointment.
I sat down with my doctor3 . . . the rash/scrape on my back was the least of my worries, but was at the forefront of his. He looked at it, and had a diagnosis immediately. “Sorry, my friend, but you’ve got shingles.”
Apparently, the chickenpox virus hits a child — you get over it and it lies dormant, just chilling behind the scenes. For most everyone who had chickenpox as a child, that’s the end of the story – Valar Morghulis: All Men Must Die . . . and, when most who had chickenpox die, they never hear from the virus a second time. But, sometimes, the virus chooses to revisit.
I’m past the initial suck. My stomach has calmed down. My fever has, mostly, broken (every now & then, I check & find that I’m running a low grade fever). I’m no longer feeling the need to lie down as soon as I stand up. The rash has spread from the right side of my back to my right elbow (which is, basically, a collection of bubblegum and wire) and wrist (which the doctor speculated might happen – it would either move up my back or spread to my hand, but keep on one side of the body, as the virus attaches itself to one side of the spinal column, which is a neat bit of biology — and I’d be fascinated by how that’s even possible were it not for the stabbing pains with which I’m frequently greeted).
In short (too late, I know – hey, I’m wordy), I’ve been sidelined. This morning, I walked the dog, and that was about all the exercise I could handle. I’m going to bed early. The past two days have seen me napping a significant amount of time (I’m pretty sure I spent most of Monday asleep). Post-work activities have been put on hold. I’ve been more focused on video games than pull-ups. Honestly, going with the video game analogy, I feel like I’ve just pressed a reset button. I’ll be back to my old habits, I know that much (heck, today, I’m even back to my typical diet plan, though I’m still fighting a general lack of appetite, which *could* be related to the lack of exercise, and my body just trying to figure out what the heck is going on). I’m just hoping, when all has returned to
normal my regularly scheduled life, I can remember what happens when I press myself too hard for too long.
- We just had my daughter’s fifth birthday party (her actual birthday is this coming weekend, but we held the party when we could maximize attendance). I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I have two five year olds. There are two human beings, of whom I am fully responsible. And they’re both five years old. This is difficult.
- This past weekend, we had Geekend 2015, wherein a group of people gathered at my house, binge-watched the television show Firefly, ate copious amounts of Chinese food, and drank copious amounts of booze. We kicked things off Friday night, with a meal at the local Hibachi Grill, which offers All-You-Can-Eat sushi. My waiter could not fathom how much sushi I’m able to eat (to be honest, I could have eaten a little bit more before we left, but everybody at the table was done eating & I was eager to head back to the house so that my son & my friend’s son could play video games together), saying “you’re becoming a legend among the staff – a skinny guy isn’t supposed to be able to put this much sushi away,” and I was taken aback by the term skinny. It’s not a word that, until very recently, could ever be used to describe me.
- I’m going back for more All-You-Can-Eat sushi this coming Sunday.
- My daughter has taken to voicing her displeasure over life disappointments in song — last night, my nephew was over, and he chose to play swords with CJ, rather than make an art project with her. So Leila sang “he never wants to play with me, he always wants to play swords. Why won’t you do art with me, Charlie?” in a singsong voice. This makes me deliriously happy for two reasons: first, it’s ultra-creative. More importantly, she’s finding a creative outlet to avoid a tantrum.
- I have a lot of good stuff in my life right now. A lot. I’m very fortunate.
- It’s a few months before my next running event, and I’m finding it difficult to find the motivation to run.
- Aiding in the lack of motivation are terrible nighttime leg cramps — I’m not sure what’s bringing them about, but part of me feels that I should be resting my legs more, or something. Anyway, it sucks to have to get out of bed (which, typically, means that I need to detangle my legs from both the blanket and Benji) in order to use my bodyweight to force my calf muscles to relax. While I feel that “rest” should equal “fewer cramps,” that doesn’t appear to actually be the result . . . so I may start trying to run more to see if, just maybe, keeping my muscles near a state of exhaustion might help alleviate the cramping.
- My wife is officially off for the summer. Meaning that I don’t have to dress the kids every weekday morning. This kind of makes me happy (more “me” time) — and, at the same time, makes me sad. Because, when the school year starts back up again, there’s a good chance that both kids will be dressing themselves. Refer to the first bullet point as to why this is bullshit.
- That I can dress my children, pick them up, and buckle them into their car seats without waking them really, really scares me for their teenage days.
- I find myself wondering if I should focus on restricting my coffee intake. While I drink a good amount on the way into work, most days, that’s the only coffee I drink in a day (some days, I get an afternoon pick-me-up . . . today, well, today may include a few afternoon pick-me-ups, see bullet point about leg cramps for why). But, while “less coffee” seems like a good idea on the surface, the most recent research on low-fat diets (essentially, fats are far from being your enemy in living a healthy lifestyle) makes me question just how bad caffeine might be fore me.
- The amount of rain we’ve had recently has me really, really excited for my garden over the next few weeks.
- As I knew I would, I completely lost steam in the “organize everything in my life” stretch, with which I started the year. But, I went through my T-shirt drawer yesterday, separating the “I like it and it fits” from the “I like it, but it’s too big for me” tshirts while getting rid of a bunch of “maybe I’ll wear it to work out” t-shirts. That little bit felt good.
- I’ve recently teaching a bass student, which had me looking through my old music from when I was a student, myself. One piece, in my handwriting: “less motion, moron.” If you’ve ever seen me play, you know that I move around, quite a bit to the music — I can only imagine what I was doing to make me think that, as a solo player, my physical moving, as a I played, would be seen as a distraction.
- There is a possibility that my schedule might be a little less crazy, each & every day, for a little while . . . I may actually get myself a decent guitar & start trying to play it. For real, this time.
- I’m just wrapping up the Audiobooks of the Lord of The Ring — I know the next book I’ll be working on, but then I need to figure out what’s after that . . . I have a bunch in my Audible library that I haven’t yet listened to, but I’m always eager to hear suggestions.
- Every weekend day, for the foreseeable future, contains something epic: an amusement park visit, my daughter’s actual birthday dinner, a private party gig with my rock/jazz/funk/fusion band, Father’s Day, Camping (x2), July 4th, the matinee/final show at the local community theatre, a weekend with great friends at their pool (x2), the trip to the beach at the start of a vacation, the first full day on the beach . . . as I said earlier, I’m quite fortunate.
- I have been on a SERIOUS avocado kick lately (it started with an attempt to ensure I was getting enough potassium in my diet . . . see bullet point about muscle cramping). If I find myself at home, with a ripe avocado? I split it in half, dig out the pit, fill each pit divot with an egg, and then bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes . . . dippy avocado eggs! For lunches? I’ve been mixing a pouch of tuna with an avocado instead of mayonnaise for a tuna salad. I’ll be sad when these green pieces of heaven return to regular prices at the grocery store.
Just a big ‘ol pile of random today:
- Yesterday was the last day of preschool for CJ. I am the father of a kindergartner. I’m having issues with this reality.
- If you’re
one of the three & a halfregular reader s, you’ll know that I take karate with CJ. Often, there are too many of us in class to perform warm-ups all at once, so we team up. Every time we do this, CJ comes straight to me. The other day, he went to one of the friends in his class & asked him. Part of me was happy to see him branching out, but part of me felt like the last kid to be picked on the playground.
- We had a “family night” at home last night. Between symphony, karate, band practice, theatrical shit1, swimming lessons, work events, family parties . . . well, it’s been quite some time that the four of us were under one roof, with no pressing item on the agenda dictating our schedule. I made prime rib. We played board games, took a bath, watched mindless kid television shows on Netflix, and read books. I have always tried to keep myself busy – but, lately, it’s been a bit overboard. While it’s one thing for me to constantly feel that I’m “catching my breath,” I’ll admit I’m a bit worried about overtaxing my kids: karate, swimming, soccer, ballet, tap . . . well, it seems that there is always something for them to get into. I do hope they play, for the sake of playing, often.
- Speaking of “playing for the sake of playing,” part of me gets very concerned about my kids’ reliance on electronics — they always want to be watching something on their iPads or the TV, or playing video games. But, when the screens are turned off, they play very nicely & come up with elaborate storylines to their playtime. In other words, while I will continue to worry, I think they’re mostly ok.
- I’ve given up trying to buy pants in stores – it sucks to have to order stuff without having tried it on, first, but I can’t seem to find my size anywhere.
- My vegetable garden is planted: tomatoes (roma, grape, and cherry), peppers (jalapeno, banana, & sweet-mini-red), lettuce, cabbage (green & purple), cucumbers, squash (butternut & zucchini), green beans, sugar snap peas, and watermelon. Last year, we used a small wooden fence to keep the dogs out of the vegetables (the vegetable garden is bordered on two sides by a chain-link fence) . . . but, well, Benji wasn’t deterred by that fence at all, so I’ve ripped it out. I’m using a line of marigolds (that I’ll regularly fertilize with coffee grounds) to try to keep pests away.
- After years of shaving my head, I’m letting my hair grow back in a bit — it’s a bit startling to see just how much gray is coming in, alongside the dark.
- I’m hosting a “Geekend” at my house in a few weeks — bunch of people coming over, binge-watching the TV series of Firefly and eating Chinese food. I’m very excited.
- I’m getting SERIOUS itches to start practicing guitar and to start work on my next tattoo. I fucking need more time in my day, every day.
- Is it wrong that I’m already a little jealous that I’m 99% sure my daughter is going to take home a baseball from the minor league baseball game we’re heading to, this evening, yet I’ve been to HUNDREDS of games throughout the years, and I’ve yet to catch a foul ball?
- My daughter’s dance recital was just about the cutest thing ever. I can’t contain the excitement that I have in seeing how energized she was by performing in front of a crowd.
If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know that I’m a musician. Yes, I’m a father. And
a nutjob someone who takes his health seriously. And a web developer. But I’m a musician — in fact, lately, I’d say that I’m “a musician” more than I am most anything else1. Music makes up a HUGE part of who I am. So, with the “these are the songs that made me” meme going around? I feel the need to play along.
- The Beatles, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Truth be told, I had no idea what the name of this song was, who performed it, or, really, much anything about this song, until I was a tween – possibly even a teen. But, I knew the song. See, my dad — well, I can say that I’m a musician — I play several instruments, some of them quite competently. And, while I concede there is no way to measure this, and while I consider myself an “avid reader,” I believe I read music better than I read the English language. My dad is not a good reader of music — but he’s a better musician than I am. He can hear something and then sit down on the piano, or the guitar, or the clarinet, and reproduce what he’s heard – honestly, it’s a talent that I envy (though, in not having said talent, I’ve had to develop my ability to read music, which, I believe, is something he envies about me). Anyway, when my dad would sit down at the keys (an upright Steinway that his mother had rescued from a junkyard), LSD was a common chorus played. I just new it was a “happy tune,” but never knew the words, until I really started listening to music on my own, and studying rock, and finding the Beatles.
- Art Garfunkel, 99 Miles from LA. Yeah, Paul Simon might have been the musical genius between Simon & Garfunkel, but I grew up listening to “The Voice.” I hear this song, and I’m transported to staying up past my bedtime, bugging my dad & his friends sips of beer, trying portwine cheddar spread. My parents didn’t host a lot of parties – but, when they did, and we were inside, and music was played – this song was featured, always.
- Del Shannon, Little Runaway. as was this.
- Neil Diamond, America. My family would spend a week, most every summer, with my mom’s best friend’s family, close to the beaches in Delaware — it worked for a cheap getaway for a family on a budget. My mom’s best friend’s husband? Loved this song — I hear it and, *poof* I’m taken to playing with a Samoyed and eating crappy pizza and bracing myself for long shopping trips.
- Elton John, Crocodile Rock & the California Raisins, Heard it Through the Grapevine. The first mix tape that my dad made . . . these are the two songs that my sister & I requested, the most, while driving about. Of course, it was a tape, so if we wanted to listen to a track over again, we had to stop and wait for the damn thing to rewind.
- Roy Orbison, You Got It. When we drove, my parents listened to a lot of country — basically, my mom liked it, and, at least in the 80’s, any “inappropriate” references in country songs were way over my head. Naturally, I claimed that I hated country, because of this, at the time2. But, then the movie Pretty Woman came out, and Roy Orbison shot to national prominence. Then the Wilburys formed, and, suddenly, this older, old-school country artist was “popular.” You Got It was the first song that I figured out my own arrangement for. Heck, I think I can still remember the little things I brought into the piano part.
- Alannah Myles, Black Velvet.
- Queensrÿche, Silent Lucidity. Part classical part hard rock. The opening acoustic guitar riff still gets stuck in my head. This was the piece that told me “it’s pointless to say that you like, or dislike, a genre of music.” And now, when I sit down at a piano with nothing much in mind, I’ll look to play a repeatable bit, to get it stuck in my head, and then tweak that to see if I can make a song out of it . . . I don’t know that’s how Silent Lucidity started, but it sure feels that way.
- Carlos Gardel, Por Una Cabeza. German riverboat cruise, I never did know her name.
- Smetana, The Moldau. I wrote about it in pretty great detail, back when I used to post far more regularly.
- Billy Joel, We Didn’t Start the Fire & Piano Man. I can still recite each & every word. I still debate what the fuck “shared a drink they called loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone” actually meant.
- Don McLean, Vincent. Yeah, I enjoyed American Pie, and trying to figure out what lyric referenced which artist as much as anyone else — but Vincent, listen to it. It actually FEELS like Starry Night.
- Elgar, Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. The first piece to make me bawl. Heck, I can’t hear this, now, without tearing up.
- John Coltrane, Naima. Just look at my son’s name. I would listen to this piece endlessly when I played with my first band, The South Street Jazz Machine (well, my first band was titled Peripheral Vision — and I can still recite the words to Matt Sitomer’s original “Blind Side,” and still warm up to some of the bass lines from some of the original Peripheral Vision numbers — but Peripheral Vision never gigged, and the South Street Jazz Machine did gig). If the high-school me had a weakness as a musician (besides having an over-inflated sense of my own talent), it’s that I wanted to push . . . this piece – it might be slow, but it drives. It “feels right”.
- BB King, Lucille. He passed away yesterday, but this would have made the list, regardless. That I name my instruments didn’t start with BB King — it was Mary Skweres, the orchestra teacher back from elementary school. But BB King taught me that it wasn’t a stupid practice . . . and, well, he has a relationship with Lucille — you can hear it in the lyrics of the song and in the way Lucille sings . . . my instruments are like that with me.
- The other night, we went to the drive-in (honestly, it was my first time to the drive-in). Waiting for sunset, my kids were climbing on a large pile of rocks in front of the screen and I was sitting around, just keeping an eye on them. I looked over at Leila a few times & she asked “Dad, why are you looking at me?”
I responded “I like looking at you, you’re pretty.”
She, thusly, responded by flipping her hair and stating “Oh, I know.”
My hands, they’ll be full with this one.
- CJ and I continue to take karate together (though, lately, I’ve been playing a show that means that I haven’t been to half of the classes . . . it’s a little disconcerting to see CJ progressing in skills beyond what we learn in class — I mean, it’s good, but it catches me off guard). When I pick him up for class, I always try to make sure that I have snacks for him – usually some fruit and something sweet. Yesterday, he critiqued my selection, so I found myself restocking stuff to store in my truck while at Target that evening.
- For Mother’s Day, the kids filled out a little sheet about their mom — according to Leila, Duffy is 6 years old. What’s funny is that I can tell you, precisely, why she would say that. Just like anything that happened in the past “happened last week,” Leila is acutely aware that she’s 4 years old, and is turning five. Anything beyond that, at this stage, “older,” which, to her, is “six.”
- We’ve been big into reciting our full names . . . just in case the kids should ever have to talk to the authorities or something. I know it’s just a kid saying stuff, but CJ revealed that he thinks his name is “so boring.” I could only respond with “you may think lots of things about your name throughout the rest of your life, but, I assure you, Coltrane is not a boring name.”
- Leila’s first dance recital is this weekend. I know there may come a time where I dread events like this . . . but, for right now, I’m giddy to see it.
- For Mother’s Day, we ended up grilling at my sister’s house for dinner . . . my kids & her kids sat at a kids’ table & actually ate a meal, discussing Star Wars the entire time. The combination of geekitude and the kids all growing up & getting along, the kids actually eating what they were supposed to be eating (when they were supposed to be eating it), and being able to eat a meal without interruption . . . well, it all made me incredibly happy.
- Leila has taken to carrying around a pen & notebook most anywhere she goes. She “writes down” things of note. However, my daughter is shy of five . . . she is barely aware of the letters of the alphabet — reading is beyond her. Writing? Yeah, it’s foreign. The other day, she came up to me & pointed to a scribble. “Dada, what does this say?”
“Hmmmmm, I don’t know, Leila. But you’re the one who wrote it — what did you write?”
“I don’t remember, Dad. And I can’t read!”
- Every morning, I make Duffy a mocha – meaning that I have a good bit of leftover, frothed chocolate milk. Most every morning that the kids are awake as they leave the house (many a morning, we carry them to the car as they sleep), I offer them this little treat. They, knowing it’s a coffee ingredient, knowing they dislike coffee, and therefore thinking that I’m offering them something that’s “for adults” and something they don’t like, refuse the offer of chocolate milk.
My poor performance at the marathon had been looming over my head for a full week, which isn’t entirely horrible. Because, with the way my mind works, I’ve been figuring out how I can run the distance again, and run it better, and do better, and, you know, actually feel like I ran a marathon. While a very real part of me was talking of “retiring the distance,” I don’t want to have my last marathon have such a sour taste in my mouth1. So I’m already devising running plans so that my next marathon will be stronger. And, injuries aside, it’ll happen in 2015. I might not get to four hours . . . but I’ll cross the finish line strong, with a smile on my face.
While last week was a week of recovery, both emotional and physical, this past weekend was necessary on many different levels . . . even if it didn’t allow me to catch my breath – because, well, what’s “rest” when there is fun to be had?
We’ll start on Thursday. As I mentioned previously, my son absolutely rocked his karate belt test. However, in our school, you don’t receive your belt when you test — the results need to be validated by a third party . . . which means the belt ceremony, where you get the next belt, happens the next week. This happened on Thursday. And CJ, having achieved something he really wanted, got to pick where we went to dinner. He choose a local hibachi grill – you know, the kind where they cook the food in front of you with a little show. CJ loves this place – especially the sake part (for adults, the chef squirts sake from a squeeze bottle from the grill to any willing participant at the table, quitting when they beg out or when the drink starts dribbling down that person’s chin — then, for kids, he does the same, only with water in the squirt bottle — my kids are DANGEROUSLY good at this). So, we went out for a fun dinner. I had sushi, and steak, and salmon.
Damn, I love food.
Friday had me at work all day . . . so, well, I guess Thursday wasn’t really part of the weekend, but it really felt detached. After work, I got the kids, got home, made dinner and spent the night watching movies & playing video games and, well, just enjoying being with my kids.
Saturday, forgot to reset my alarm, so my phone started going off at 5am. I tried to reset it — but I have a two-stage alarm. First, there is the electronic alarm that is my phone . . . then there is the physical alarm that is a 50-ish pound shar-pei mix mutt that likes to lick my face. Especially after the alarm goes off. I think I managed to say in bed for the better part of an hour, thinking “Benji will grow tired of bugging me, eventually” but I was wrong. So I got out of bed. I walked him. I got Snickelfritz, and fed both dogs. Then I dressed . . . to run.
I “only” ran 4 miles — and, honestly, I was fighting pain for much of the run — my knees and hip are still dealing with the marathon. And I really don’t know what’s going on with my shoulder, but it’s still not happy. But, I ran. Just for a little bit, I lost myself in the sweat, the “going.” It was splendid.
I had big plans for the day, so I got right back to work after getting home.
First, the kids showered with me, then we got dressed, and then we got out of the door. The National Aquarium in Baltimore beckoned.
My first job out of college was as a software developer for a startup firm headquartered in Baltimore — I worked directly across the street from the aquarium. When work got to be too frustrating, I’d find myself taking lunch at the aquarium — I’d make a B-line to the sharks (avoiding the crowds where possible, completely skipping the rainforest exhibit) and just watch them for awhile. If time allowed, I’d make a second loop of the aquarium, taking everything in, marveling at the colors and the . . . serenity that are fish swimming about.
My kids — well, they’re four and five. Sitting around, looking at fish? Not super high on their priority list. I mean, sure, fish are cool & everything . . . but there is a definite lack of appreciation for just “watching.”
I told Leila the highlights from when I used to visit regularly: the poison tree frogs, the anaconda, the octopus, the puffins (that she insisted on calling penguins . . . I stopped correcting her at some point, though we revisit penguins in just a little bit), the seahorses, and the sharks. Every time I tried to stop to admire something, I got a “Dad, you’re getting distracted,” and she wanted us to see what she wanted to see, which was what I said was cool. Most things, we got a cursory glance of, not much more. But that was expected.
Fortunately, I was able to point out the seahorses . . . watching the comprehension that I wasn’t just “looking at sticks in the water” and was looking at “real seahorses” was pretty cool. The touch exhibit was recently opened . . . Leila was very happy to be able to touch horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, whelks, and stingrays. CJ wasn’t quite brave enough to try.
CJ was quite happy to see a tarantula — but happier that it was behind glass. Leila was disappointed that the poison tree dart frogs didn’t come in pink. The rainforest was a hit, if only because it was “just like the movie Rio 2!” Everyone was hugely impressed with the “nice sharks,” with CJ being especially fond of the sawshark, whom he named Sir Shark.
The dolphins were a HUGE HIT – and the kids even paid attention, a little, to an instructor explaining why porpoises have bite marks2. I considered the outing, despite the breakneck pace through the exhibit areas, a huge success – and an educational success, at that.
But, on the way in, CJ saw a huge sign with a Lego figurine on it . . . and he really wanted to see it.
And, to be honest, I kind of wanted to see Port Discovery as well. I had never been.
Now, there was some kind of major running event going on in Baltimore when we arrived — but it really didn’t affect us heading into the aquarium. I think the very large beergarten near Port Discovery was tied to said event. But maybe not. What I do know is that, as we approached Port Discovery, there was a VERY VERY long line of 20-50-somethings and very loud music. But, I think this, actually, worked to our advantage . . . as nobody there was actually heading into the children’s museum, but waiting to have their ID checked for some beer event. And, while a beer event sounded great on the hot day (it his 85F/30C), it’s not the most child-friendly decision I could make. So, long line of people waiting for beer meant less of a crowd in the kids’ museum.
The kids played with Legos. They climbed intricate treehouse-type structures, they slid down slides, they experimented with water flow, they blew bubbles. They, basically, played at a huge toddler park (I may have climbed said treehouse-type structure, as well . . . because, well, I’m me – and CJ wanted help, half-way up).
When we had seen all that could be seen there, we started working our way back home . . . when CJ asked about the zoo.
And we didn’t really have a timetable to abide by. So we went to the Baltimore zoo.
In retrospect, this was a parent mistake — but not a huge one. If you were to ask me for advice in planning an adventure to Disney, the first thing I’d say is to “schedule downtime.” There is no need to be doing something active at all times — it’s a recipe for child (and adult) meltdowns. This . . . well, it kind of made for a minor meltdown. First off, the kids had been going strong since 7am, and I mean GOING STRONG. Things were in constant motion. It was a hot day, and the sun was blaring — I put sunscreen on them, but, well, the sun still takes a lot out of you . . . especially when the winter has been brutal and the kids, simply, aren’t used to sweating when walking about outside. The Baltimore Zoo has a significant walk between the entrance area and the first exhibits . . . all of that made for some grumpy.
On top of that, it was a mid-April day, and there are some animals, that prefer the hot, that the zoo keeps elsewhere, until some time in May, just because freezing, in April, happens. But, because of the temps, many animals that would normally be about were hiding in the shade. Essentially, there were a lot of what appeared to be empty exhibits to the kids.
And my kids were done.
I reminded myself that I workout because I want to be able to carry my kids. So, I picked both children up. They rested their heads on my shoulders. And I walked them back to the car. We drove home. The zoo, sure, we could have skipped . . . but the kids did get to see real penguins (though I’d argue that puffins were cooler). They saw zebras and giraffes and polar bear and rhinoceroseseses. They had a good day.
Not unexpectedly, bedtime was quite easy Saturday night . . . we watched The Lego Movie (because, hello, we had been playing with Legos most of the day) and the kids, kind-of, put themselves to bed.
Sunday woke with a dog walk, because, well, Benji is relentless. Then I made lunches for the week. Then the kids were dressed. We went to church and did the church thing (heck, CJ even spent a significant portion of the service sitting next to me at the organ), then I went to watch a show. Duffy has been helping backstage for the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which is just a delightful three-person show, and I really wanted to see it. So the kids went with my in-laws and I watched a show.
It’s very rare that I sit in the audience and enjoy a show . . . I’m far more-used to putting on a show. But I had a blast, and the cast & crew of the Oyster Mill Playhouse should be very proud of themselves for a truly high-quality production.
Then, it was time to rehearse, once again . . . because, well, it’s what I do. I’m playing bass in a production of Schoolhouse Rocks, Live! next weekend, which meant that Sunday night was the cast sing-through. There were minimal costumes, next to no dancing, no dialog . . . but, I can already tell this show will be fun. So that’s that.
But now we’re at Monday — I’m exhausted (and am looking at a week of work & rehearsals — little else), but, well, I’m feeling much better than I was, at this time, last week. So there’s that 🙂
Four hours. It’s my goal time for the marathon — it’s FAR slower a time than “Boston Qualifying.” But, it’s a nice-round number. And, well, it works for me, at present. Four hours — it’s what I’m striving for.
That said, today’s marathon, I knew I wasn’t going to hit four hours. I can tell myself any number of reasons – but, the truth is, running has not been my priority. I think I’ve been out, in calendar year 2015, 4 times. One of those times was to run a sanctioned race, where I put more care into how I was looking than I did into my stride rate and pace. None of those four even approached the 26.2 miles that I was set to run this morning. I’ve been working out, surely – but running – improving my distance, improving my speed, working to become a better runner . . . I’ve done none of that.
Before the race, I said, with complete honesty, that I “just wanted to finish.” I knew I wouldn’t hit four hours. But “just finish” was a bunch of bullshit, as well — I wanted to finish, finish strong, and finish with a smile. One of those three things happened.
I knew I was in trouble after the first mile. I started in the very back of the pack, but never fought to make my way to an area where I could run “my pace.” Where there were gaps among the runners, I’d move up, but I was far more a leaf in the river than the salmon swimming upstream that I feel like, at the start of most every race. The only way I could have speculated as to my time, after the first mile, was that I was just starting the third song of my playlist . . . which made me feel that I was running “average, maybe a little slow.” But, again, I just wanted to get through, so who cares what my time might have been.
What bothered me after the first mile was that I just wasn’t “feeling it.”
Every runner has to deal with running. I have yet to meet anyone who can go out for any run and can honestly say “yeah, that was amazing” the entire time. For me, I need to overcome the inner turmoil at the start, every time . . . usually, by the first mile, I am enjoying myself . . . but there’s a changeover that happens in there. The first mile hit here & all I could think was “something doesn’t feel right.”
Mile marker two came, and I started wondering if I should flag down a support vehicle. My right knee was very unhappy, and I was afraid that I might be doing some damage to it by continuing to run. But, the field was QUITE crowded at the time, and this was probably just me saying “you know you’re under-prepared and you’re looking for an excuse to get out.”
Mile marker three came, and I told myself that I’d flag down a support vehicle for a ride back at the half-marathon turnaround.
Mile marker four came, and my knee was no longer at the forefront of my brain.
As Winnie the Pooh might say, I started feeling a “rumbly in my tummy.” As my kids would say “Pooh!” As any experienced runner might say, “runner’s trots.”
Mile marker five came, and I told myself that I’d just turn around with the half-marathoners, get through the damn race, and chalk it up to a bad day.
Mile marker six came with the same thought.
The half-marathon turnaround saw a rather aggressive woman looking at bibs, telling people to move forward or to turn around. I was wearing a “full” bib. I was told to keep going. I kept going.
The next rest area, I stopped. I think I continued the run several pounds lighter than I had just previously been.
The marathon is fickle. 26.2 miles is a really fucking long way. But, it’s an attainable distance. I’d argue that most anyone can complete a marathon . . . it’s just that, well, if you don’t want to hate yourself & everyone around you when you’re done, you really need to train for it.
And, again, I hadn’t trained.
In addition to the physical endurance needed to keep yourself going, step after step after step after step, you need to do something to keep your brain occupied. This is where the “runner’s high” is so wonderful . . . there are times, during a run, where I lose track of the fact that I’m running. I am not actively thinking about much of anything . . . I am. Just, simply, I am.
In this run, I never got “the high.” What I started doing was taking a physical inventory at each mile marker. By mile marker 10, my knee and belly weren’t as pressing . . . as I was developing a nasty headache. “Duh, doofus,” I said to myself, you just dropped off a load of water — double up at every rest stop. And I did.
At mile marker 11, I told myself that I’d just “run a half marathon” and then flag down a support vehicle to take me back — my knee hurt, my belly wasn’t right, my head hurt . . . simply, I wasn’t sure I wasn’t harming myself by being on the course.
Mile marker 13 came, and there was a rest stop soon after. I stopped again. I got back on the course, again, lighter than I was previously.
The thing about running is that the act of getting yourself “up to speed” takes considerably more effort than “staying at speed.” So, while actually stopping left me feeling just a little bit better, and thinking “maybe I can get through this, after all,” the extra little bit of energy that it took to just go from “moving” to “running” left me sucking wind yet again.
But I was running again . . . I’d continue to 16 miles . . . that’s the “long run” minimum for marathon training . . . if you can get to 16 comfortably, some schools say, you’ll be able to complete the last 10. I got to 16 — my knee wasn’t hurting quite as much, but my head was throbbing. I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything in my stomach for my stomach to really be upset. My left big toe was hurting, and my right hip was starting to speak up.
Remember how I mentioned that the marathon was a mental exercise? Well, juggling all of that, and then trying to adjust your pace so that you aren’t damaging yourself – it makes for a long race.
By mile marker 20, my right foot went into a full cramp/spasm and I had to stop, take off my damn shoe, and work the muscle cramp out before starting again. As soon as I did, my right quad/hip/buttcheek started spasming. In addition to double water with every rest stop, I started adding a 1/3 of a banana to my intake. I was walking. Painfully. At this point.
I walked up “the hill”. Heck, I limped/walked most of the last 8 miles.
I never called for a support vehicle, though I was tempted to, often.
A big part of what had me going, as I approached the end? Poop – and not my own.
This race is part of a two-race series . . . the other race is in September, a half marathon — if you run both in the same calendar year, you get a plaque with hose poop shellacked onto it . . . I want this. Last week, I got a trophy for running a race in the best costume. 2015 will be the year of “weird race bling,” and, well, if I finished, I would be that much closer to this plaque.
Now, hours after the fact, my right butt cheek is still spasming and I have a greatly reduced range of motion in my right hip. I can’t walk down stairs without going step by step. I’m sun & wind burned most everywhere. The blister on my left big toe has opened up, leaving what looks like an odd biology experiment inside my sock. My right shoulder hurts like a motherfuck. My shoulder — from running. Bullshit (well, no – I can tell you that a shoulder will hurt from running in the same way that knees hurt from running — thousands of steps create shock, and that shock works its way up the body — it gets absorbed as it goes, but every joint is going to feel every step, in some way/shape/form — I’ve been having a lot of problems with my left shoulder, lately, from an ill-fated attempt at performing a muscle-up . . . it only makes sense that, subconsciously, I was favoring my left shoulder and . . . as such, punishing my right shoulder just a little bit more than the left, so, on a day like today, the right shoulder would, essentially, stop working . . . though, seriously, it feels like I’ve been stabbed).
Oh, the wind. Holy shit, the wind. The weather was just about perfect . . . just a little bit cool at the start, but, considering I was running, that’s not a bad thing. The sun shone brightly. But the wind? Wow. It was consistently blowing 20-25 miles per hour. Gusts were up to 45 miles per hour.
I’m lighter than I’ve been in quite some time . . . normally, when running a big race, having less of you to drag around is a good thing. However, well, in the wind? I don’t know if I wouldn’t have minded an extra 10-15 pounds, even if it was pure fat . . . just anything to help fight through the resistance.
My time was 5:25 — a good hour more than I finished, last year. Almost an hour and a half more than my target time. A minute away from my first (and worst) marathon.
But I made it to the end.
I knew I would fall short of my time. I haven’t been running . . . my diet? It’s been pretty-much spot-on target. My workout plan? I’ve been sticking to it — it’s just that running has not been my priority. I make
explinations excuses, but when push comes to shove, I have chosen not to run. Yes, I have less body fat than I once did – and because of that, the cold affects me far more than it used to. Yes, I have a legitimate fear of slipping on ice and/or being seen around snow banks when running before the sunrise. Yes, I have severe guilt issues heading out for a run when my kids are awake (where I need to choose to leave the house rather than spend time with them).
I am getting really damn close to “having the body I want.” I’m lean. I’m strong. Fuck, I have honest-to-god six-pack-abs. Pull-ups, where the hope of a single pull-up was once a distant pipe dream, are “just a thing I do, when I want to some strength training but don’t have a lot of time”.
So, I’m left pondering things. Do I continue working on the marathon? Was today’s poor performance more a result of my lack of training or my body simply saying “fuck you” to my overloading it? Why does burlap chafe so? Was sleeping on my sister’s couch the night before the most prudent idea? Was the fact that I the statement “I worry about the amount of blood in my caffeine stream”
Was my inability to find the “runner’s high” a result of a fully-conscious knowledge that I had under-prepared for the race? Was it because I hadn’t been running and subconsciously felt the need to keep “in tune” with my body? Was it because I’ve packed my brain so full of shit/worry that my brain was actively trying to clear itself, but as one thought/worry faded, another would just rise to the surface? Were my physical ailments truly based on injury, or was my brain telling me that I had a long day/night ahead of me, and a little extra energy might be needed1? Were the thoughts that keep me from getting a good night’s sleep the same that allowed my head to clear during the run? Just how bad is the fact that I can say “I worry about the amount of blood in my caffeine stream” and have it only partly-be a joke?
I won’t be giving up running, entirely . . . but I may retire the marathon distance for the foreseeable future.
I once claimed that I was able to “pull a half marathon out of my ass,” and that holds true. I ran a difficult half-marathon course last week, where I put more effort into my costume than my actual running preparation. I fought a headwind and my costume throughout the run. I ran the race in just north of two hours. I was sore afterward, sure, but I went about & had a normal day.
I had planned to run “the marathon” in four hours. But, more than that, I wanted to turn running the marathon distance into “just another run.” If I ran one a weekend morning? It would be no different than if I had woken up and did a typical workout. Right now, where I’m barely able to walk, as I complete this post about 24 hours after the starting gun went off? I can tell you that the marathon was not “just another run for me.”
The half-marathon — I will finish in 2 hours, give or take. If I work on it, I’m pretty sure I can get my time down to 90 minutes. I can choose to run a half marathon in the same time that I’d take off to watch a movie. I enjoy the distance. And, truth be told, I believe I can excel at the distance.
I was five minutes away from my goal. I was 8 minutes per mile away from my goal. I was close. Reaching my goal was palpable.
But, right now, I am miserable.
This fall, I currently have two half-marathons scheduled — one in September and one in October. The Harrisburg marathon is in November. I head to the beach in July. I think, when I make it to the beach, if I can work on my tempo, start working on my endurance, and start truly establishing a training program . . . if if if. I’m not saying that I’m not going to run another marathon. Heck, I’m not even saying that I’m not going to run another marathon this year.
But I won’t run another marathon as unprepared as I was for this race.
One could argue that I’m moderately fond of my children.
My life is far from perfect. I’m not the world’s most perfect father. Or husband. I’m not a perfect musician or writer or runner. I am not perfect. Nothing I produce is perfect. Nothing I attempt yields perfect results.
Probably the only “perfect” thing in my life is my love for my children. It is innocent and all-encompassing. It fuels me when life is a bit . . . overbearing. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting up with *whatever my brain has decided is bullshit right at that moment*? Why? Because I love my kids. And they’re worth any amount of any given bullshit activity.
So yesterday just cemented that fact.
I picked up my son from my mother-in-law’s, allowing him to eat a little candy on the way to the Dojo — a little sugar energy never hurt anyone. We got to the school, changed into our uniforms, and started stretching & practicing.
Before we knew it, the test started.
We recited the tenets of the school. We bowed. We did push-ups and sit-ups and jumping jacks. We stretched. We punched and kicked. CJ was focused like I had never, ever seen him. After each step, not only was he eager to move onto the next item, he wanted to know how he could do better. I love my son, but my pride for him was growing.
Normally, testing is a two day process — the basics are done with the local school, and then several schools pull together for a second day, where the form and breaking are evaluated. However, as previously explained, in excruciating detail, this Friday, the second day of testing, happens to be Good Friday for me & CJ. Testing wasn’t a possibility . . . so, we did our entire test yesterday.
CJ was ready for this. However, as many of the students were being dismissed & CJ wasn’t, he started to get excited for his new belt & nunchuks. I explained to him that, while he tested today, he won’t get the new belt or nunchuks until after the test has been completed & the testing results verified. It’ll likely be a class or two.
The lack of instant reward, for a five year old, is difficult. He broke down. There were big tears.
And this is where my pride for him grew even deeper.
I told him that he needed to finish the test, if he were to get those things. He sat down, wiped his eyes, breathed deeply, and got himself under control.
Next in the test, we demonstrated our forms. CJ was asked to do the first form, first . . . between the abundance of emotion and not immediately starting with the second form (the main form he had been practicing), he was flustered. He did quite poorly. He was asked to do it again, and he did markedly better. He was asked to demonstrate the second form, and did so, nearly flawlessly.
When it was time to break a board, he didn’t perform it on his first try. He breathed deeply, focused, and tried again. The board snapped when his elbow hit it.
I am so incredibly proud of that little boy. Heck, the “young man” seems more apt, now, than when I use it when I’m frustrated with him.
Last weekend, I ran a half marathon. This coming weekend, I have a full marathon. I’m Daddy Runs a Lot. You’d think my thoughts would be focused on the running.
But they aren’t.
That first word is Daddy — and that’s a big word. The meat in the running sandwich, this week, is a karate belt test. CJ started taking Tang Soo Do over the summer. And, when it was time for us to determine whether we were going to have him continue or finding something else to
try to burn off endless child energy focus his attentions, I asked him if he’d like karate better if I did it with him. CJ was pretty emphatic that karate would be “more better” if I did it with him. So I signed up.
Being an adult among the kids is kind of fun. I’m someone who takes his fitness very seriously – I end up being a combination instructor/authority figure/student in class. I can’t really do much in the ways of explaining how to do a specific move/form (because I’m still learning them all, myself), but basic exercises? Well, I’m a helpful coach for push-ups, sit-ups, suicide runs, etc.
Anyway, tomorrow, CJ & I are looking at our second belt test (we tested, and received, our yellow belts a few months ago, assuming we pass, we’ll have orange belts). This is a pretty significant hurdle for CJ – because it means that he’ll be allowed to start his weapons training (to receive the next belt after orange, you need to demonstrate a nunchuk form). I’m still coming to grips with the fact that we’ll be giving my son nunchuks (though, to be fair, he’s held my old wooden nunchucks from my Kung-Fu days).
Anyway, martial arts schools don’t necessarily do well in not allowing their students achieve what they set out for — the fact that CJ has been invited to test means that his instructor has seen enough from him that he’s confident that CJ will pass the test. But CJ doesn’t know that. As far as CJ is concerned, tomorrow will be a “get it or not get it” moment. And he has been FOCUSED. He wants to start training with nunchuks. Heck, the other day, he started talking about how he really wants a black belt — and the focus has me super excited.
But, before we get to getting nunchuks. Before we get to black belt planning, we have to get through the next belt test. And the “biggie” is the second high form. CJ knows it . . . he knows it down cold. But when he does it in a group setting? He second-guesses himself. He watches what others are doing and, sometimes, overthinks himself. My mission? To get CJ to have confidence in his abilities.
CJ – if you mess up, do it confidently. Be strong. Be proud. If you hit a wall? Make sure there is a CJ-shaped hole in your wake.