Monday, September 23, 2013

Kids, it's how I met your mother.....

     I've been giving it a lot of thought lately, and I'll likely end the blog this year.  It's been a great outlet for my creativity, and I've been able to chronicle a lot of my family stories and to give everyone a great peek behind the curtain as to what makes me tick, but I have an impending fear that I will eventually repeat myself in a blog, which is to say, I will write an entire blog on a subject that I have previously covered and post it.  I'd like to avoid that and finish in a manner befitting how this blog got started.  I've got some milestones coming up, the end of the year, the 100,000 hit, or even the 200th blog so I'll time the end to coincide with one of these, but with the end looming, I want to make sure I've covered all the important topics, thus this morning's entry.....

      It's far from the traditional "love at first sight" story, and stop me if you've heard this one (as if you could), but this is how I met your mother.  It was 1981 and I was a Sophomore in high school in Canandaigua NY.  Like every other high schooler, I spent each day clawing my way up the school
That's how I rolled in high school
social ladder, with many of these mirroring the task of Sisyphus, pushing my boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down each night, but unlike Sisyphus of Greek mythology, I was at least gaining some ground.  I had earned some level of popularity, my sense of humor was becoming well honed and I'd started to develop the ability to converse with members of the opposite sex (a skill you've seen me use regularly) and was in fact, becoming quite good at it.  I had an English class late in the day, called Mystery and Suspense and to the left of me and within earshot of my witty banter, sat a few women, and among them, was your mother.  Now, I far from targeted her, for me at that time it was a numbers game, you know, talk to 1000 women, have 100 talk back to you, and find the 1 that would be stupid enough to date you and hope she asks you out (I said I could talk to women, I did not say I could ask them out yet).  At any rate, before and after class would start, I would regale the ladies with my stories of chicken wing slinging at Papa Frank's and they would enjoy the interactions.  Your mother was not if the midst of her high school years, she was a senior and soon to graduate and I suspect as the year drew to a close, she sensed our impending departures
What the quad would have looked like, if I went to Hogwarts
from each other, and very late in the year and at the end of class one day, she asked me to borrow my pen.  I handed over said, nondescript pen and then with the weirdest smile or smirk or whatever it was, she proceeded to the nearest window, which was ajar and led to a grassy quad in the middle of the school buildings, and dropped it out the window !   What a nutjob.  I'll never know her grand plan to get to know me better or how she perceived that it would go in that crazy little head of hers, but I'll say two things, I did not ask her out after that incident, but I did watch her and my stuff around her a lot closer after that (that tactic alone probably prevented me from eventually marrying the trashy looking, tangled hair girl that sat behind your mother in that class).  The school year ended and we went our separate ways.

     It was a few months later when I saw your mother again and even though she insisted later that she was not stalking me, she showed up looking for employment at the pizza shop where I worked, which incidentally was way uptown from where she lived.  She was hired and we started working together, but once again, there were a lot of women around and only a few guys worked there, so the
I was an idiot for not dating this beauty sooner.
numbers did not favor us getting together.  I was still in high school and she was starting out in college in Rochester and she had a car, and I had a bike, but there fate had put us, working next to each other, night after night, and weekend after weekend.  Towards the end of that summer, I did ask her out and we set up a movie date to go see Arthur (the original with Dudley Moore of course).  Just prior to the date, I got a call from a girl that I had met on a camping trip on vacation a few weeks earlier, and she let me know that she was being tested for mono.  Since we had done some kissing, she warned me that I could have it too.  I was feeling OK at the time, so I didn't see the need to cancel the date that week, but in fairness, my game was limited until I knew for sure that I wasn't a carrier.  So that Friday night, I biked down to your mother's
Dudley Moore as Arthur
house, got greeted by their huge black lab, Major at the back door, and we jumped in her car and headed to the movies.   It was hilarious and we stopped at McDonald's afterwards for a bite, but I had to play the perfect gentleman and the evening ended without so much as a kiss.  In retrospect, the movie's plot line was about a playboy type guy, with no ambition, who drinks too much and falls for a poor girl, and now I wonder who picked the movie that night?  A few days later when I got word that the girl didn't have mono, I was able to tell your mother why I didn't try and kiss her, but at that point I wasn't feeling a spark between us, so I didn't ask her for a second date and we slipped back into the familiar friends role.

     It's taking a long time to get to the point of this story, isn't it?  This would be a good premise for a TV show or something, but I digress...    We spent over a year working closely together, and it was during that time where my feelings for your mother started to develop.  I learned more about her
Who's cooler than NPH?
growing up in a big family and how she helped care for her younger brothers and sisters.  I learned how she was not only putting herself through college on her humble earnings at the pizza shop, but also paying for her studio apartment, her car, and her insurance too.  I went through my junior and senior years in high school dating a few other girls, and taking them to prom, but I was slowly coming to realize that none of them were the caliber of your mother and although we weren't romantically involved at that time, she became who I started to compare any potential dates to.  She didn't sit idle during those times either, she had her share of dates but they didn't develop into anything more meaning than mine had.  As Easter approached that year, I started to spend more time looking at her in a more romantic way and wondering if she would give me another shot, if I asked her out again.  I was alone in the house as that weekend approached and I decided to make my move on that Saturday night.  I slipped her a well written note inquiring whether we could get together that evening for a nightcap at my house, and the reply was quick to come back, simply stating that opportunity sometimes only knocks once and that I hadn't opened the door, so she declined.  In my 18 years of life thus far, I hadn't shown any inkling of ambition, but that evening, that denial, sparked my ambition to get this date, and I wore your mother down until she finally agreed to come over.

     Our date started after midnight and she drove me home and I had her park by a neighbor, as it would have been scandalous to have a female visitor at my parent's home that late in the evening.  I
How prophetic these words were
had learned from Arthur that having some alcohol for dates wasn't a bad idea, so we shared a bottle of wine and we sat on my couch and talked deeply for hours and it was amazing how much we shared with each other, instinctively now trusting some of our deepest secrets and fears with each other.  We finally kissed and make no mistake, this time, I knew exactly how I felt about your mother.  We danced to "Open Arms" by Journey and the sun was coming up by the time our date ended.  I had been invited to dinner by my brother Ace and his wife out in Gorham, and your mother had plans too, so we decided not to get together on Easter Sunday, but I found my thoughts returning to her all day and when I got home that evening, I called her and asked to come to her place.  I walked over and we played Monopoly with her sister and her boyfriend, but honestly I was too smitten to pay attention to the game and I can't even tell you who won, if you can believe it.  We had lasted all of 12 hours before we wanted to proclaim our love to the world, and if you are looking for a sappy love story, this is where this one starts, because after that day, I've wanted to do nothing else but proclaim my love for your mother.  So that, kids, is the story of how I met your mother, it's a story of young love, of patience, of maturing and some gentle stalking but at the end, of undying and enduring love.  I wish the same for each one of you. 

Still going strong 30 years later


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On cat napping

     I used to use the expression that "Naps were only for kittens and babies", but admittedly as I've aged, I've grown to appreciate the benefits of short snoozes.

     I'll admit it now, I like a good, short, cat nap.  I've mocked those before who needed them or thought it represented a weakness of character, but now I've come around on the topic and think I am much better on those days that I get to incorporate a short snooze mid-day.  Although humans are
currently monophasic sleepers, meaning that we divide our day into two distinct parts, one of wakefulness and one for sleep, it's interesting to note that 85% of mammals are polyphasic sleepers who have periods of rest throughout the day.  Scientists aren't even sure that we are meant to be monphasic sleepers as we have portions of the population, for example children and the elderly, who practice polyphasic sleeping and in fact have whole cultures that incorporate a mid-day rest into their days.  I can only speak for myself but I know I am better able to focus, concentrate and execute in the afternoon after I have had a short relaxation period.

     It wasn't always the case, and as mentioned above, I used to think it was silly to need a nap.  My Dad napped when he wanted and where he wanted.  When Dad konked out in his Lazy Boy in the middle of the living room, it was your job to keep the noise down while he slept.  I'm not given that same courtesy when I nap on the weekends, doors slam, people yell, and if I complain, I'm told the
How my Dad slept
right place for napping is my bed, but that's not correct, I was taught better.  The right place for napping is a couch or a chair that is not your normal bed, because you want to differentiate where you get your actual evening sleep and where you take your naps.  One is meant to be less restful and short in duration and the other, if you are lucky, is longer and uninterrupted.  My Mom used to nap right before bed, and my wife does this too.  We'd be watching TV just before 10 at night and soon Mom's head would be tipped back and soft snoring sounds would be emanating from it.   This is actually the bad kind of napping as it could inhibit your ability to sleep when you do go to bed.  The good kind is more often done in the early afternoons or opposite the time when you would normally sleep.    

     On my travel days, it's tough to incorporate a nap into my schedule.  I get up early for flights, like this am, often prior to 3:00 am and then I run all day frequently getting back to my hotel in the late afternoon or early evening.  Those days are tough and I'm wiped out physically and mentally at the end of
This is how I sleep on planes
them.  The work I do those evenings tends to be sub-par, so I'll try to not do spreadsheets and things that require a lot of focus.  I can do repetitive tasks well but my creativity is low and my concentration suffers.  Alternatively, on my home office days, I get to incorporate a short nap into my lunch break.  I've recently read that one of the most productive way to nap is the "caffeine nap".  It works by downing a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage and then immediately hunkering down for a 15-20 minute nap.  The caffeine takes some time to work through your system, so at the same time you would awaken from your sleep inertia, the caffeine is clearing your body of adenosine, the chemical that makes you sleepy, so you wake up refreshed in two different ways.  That's my new favorite way to incorporate a nap and when I go back to my office, I feel the same as I do when I go out to my office in the early morning.  I'm glad I don't 
How I feel if I don't nap some days
work in a corporate or office setting because despite all the scientific evidence there is that shows napping makes you a better employee, there is still a stigma attached to napping that you are "lazy" or "old" if you use naps.  What benefits do you gain,  you may ask?

      Studies have shown that naps can restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents.  Naps improve your working memory, they prevent work burnout and reverse information overload.   They improve your mood and health and they heighten your sensitivity and creativeness.  They may be good for heart health too as a recent study in Greece showed a 64% reduction in deaths due to cardiac disease among those who napped 3 times a week for 30 minutes.  A NASA study on pilots showed a 34% improvement in performance and a 100% improvement in alertness for those pilots that napped 
How Nibbler sleeps
for 40 minutes.  Now I called this blog cat napping, because in my house it's difficult to lay down in a common area without our cat, Nibbler seeking to join you.  There is no stigma attached to Nibble napping wherever or whenever she wants, we all think it's cute when she does it.  I'll close this short blog, defending the practice of non-nocturnal sleeping by mentioning that if you nap, you are in good company (aside from my cat's).  Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison and George W Bush were all ardent nappers.   I don't claim to be a world leader or famous inventor, but I do claim that I have this one habit in common with them all, and with that I say "to sleep, perchance to dream"  Good night, I've got a plane to catch and hopefully some zzzz's too.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The day I lifted 600 lbs.....

     It's a common story where a child is trapped under something heavy and a parent (usually the mother) finds the strength to lift a seemingly impossible weight to free the child.  That is not the story I'm about to relate, no children were involved, just a grown man who acts like one. 

     There's a lot of back story necessary for this blog, and you have the right to get the picture painted with the widest brush.  I'm choosing to keep the location anonymous for this blog and you'll see why as you read through it.  I'll preface the story to say that I had been working out for over a year straight before this happened.  My girlfriend had invited me to join her at the gym in the early mornings and I had accepted her offer.  Initially I used only the elliptical which was the equipment that I used most
while traveling, but over time I started incorporating the Nautilus weight machines into my workout too.  Over the course of that year, I gradually kept adding more weight to my workouts and as I did I discovered that my legs were far more fit than my arms were.  I could "lift" a lot more weight with my legs than my arms and it was true for every machine there.  Just prior to the events in this story. I had even maxed out one of the leg machines at this gym for the weights that it had on it, the leg curl machine.  It's pictured above to give you an idea.  That machine, like a lot of them at this gym, uses preloaded weights and you move a pin up and down to the desired level. The other type machines use free weights that you load yourself onto bars.  This gym has two of those types for leg
How I pictured the weights
presses, one that pushed the weight straight out and away from you and the other where you lie inclined with the press plate above you and the weight suspended above your body.

     I'd used both machines multiple times each week and I had kept on adding weights to them as I did so.  Mind you, the goal wasn't to set a weight record or anything, I just added weight as the previous weight got easier to do.  With the inclined press I soon was pushing more than 400 lbs up and pretty happy with that level.  On almost all the days that I went, as I approached the machine, I would have to add weights
What the inclined leg press looks like 
to it prior to starting my workout, which as a highly competitive person, told me that no one else at the gym was lifting more than me on that particular piece of equipment.  It was a good feeling to have considering I really had only been at it about a year.  So every day, as I did my workout, I'd get a little ego boost as I approached some of the machines and have to add weights manually or move the pins down a few places before I started, and for those of you that know me well, you know how important ego boosts are to me, which should now set you up well for the day that this story takes place.

     The morning of the "incident" started like any other, except for the fact that I awoke with virtually no pain, stiffness or swelling.  I have a mild form of arthritis that almost daily presents itself with one of these conditions and affects primarily my feet and hands.  I'm able to manage it with ibuprofen, so normally within an hour of rising, I can go about my day in a fairly normal fashion.  On this morning, however, no symptoms presented and I was feeling my oats like at no other time and it
My view from the bottom of the inclined press
was a workout day, bonus !  I went to the gym and started attacking the weights with vigor.  Soon the regular crowd came in and I was joined by my girlfriend, a neighbor, a local, and a couple of high school students getting an early workout in.  I moved from machine to machine adding more weights to each one than I had ever done and successfully pushed them up, thereby gradually increasing my confidence.  As I rotated on to the inclined press, I stopped and stared at the machine and the weight on it.  There were about 6 - 45 lb weights on each side of the machine, which put the added weight around 540 lbs plus the weight of the press plate.  This was a lot more weight than I had ever attempted but I was feeling really, really, good and I just couldn't bring myself to take any of the weights off.  I'd never had to before, I said to myself, so why couldn't I do this much?  The person before me presumably had done it, right? If you've ever doubted previously that I was good at sales, that morning I was the master of selling myself on the idea that I could actually lift that much weight. 

     As I inserted myself under the pile of weight, I called the neighbor over to spot me.  He asked me
What the pressure felt like on my legs
thrice if I was sure of my decision, which should have been enough of a red flag for me to not attempt it, but I tested the weight with my feet and was able to lift it up a few inches and set it back down with my legs fully extended so I assured him that I knew what I was doing.  I asked if he was ready and I threw back the safety catches that held the weight and then took the 600 lbs onto my feet.  I slowly started letting the weight come down and by my measure I had lowered it 5-6 inches successfully before my legs would not cooperate the the weight started falling faster than I intended and simultaneously I experienced a severe pain in my groin.  I called to my neighbor to assist me, and he wrapped his arms around the 
weight, but my legs weren't really working at all to hold the weight anymore, and he could only slow the descent of the weights.  The press came down and slowly squished my 5'6" body into a more compact position, and then the high school students came and helped lift the weight back off from my body.  As I lied there broken and contemplating the extent of my injuries, I looked over at my girlfriend and she was as white as white could be.  The other local walked by and I'm not sure what I expected him to say, but what he said was, "Good, you just stay there and think about what you just did"  Only then did the feeling of foolishness overwhelm me, and it lasted well after  I crawled out from under the machine and limped out to my car to head to the doctors. 

     The diagnosis, after the expected lecture, was a torn sartorius muscle and it would heal on it's own given enough time.  The ego would take longer.  I know how foolish it was to attempt.  I know I
The sartorius muscles in the thighs
shouldn't have even tried it, and that I put my friends through an awful thing, however, you've got to know my nature by now, I can't walk by that machine to this day without me thinking I should start to try to do it again.  Even the pain of having my groin split like a wishbone doesn't stop the thought from coming.  I even named this blog, "The day I lifted 600 lbs" not "the day I failed to lift 600 lbs".  Rest assured, to this day, I haven't even been able to get back under there at all, much less start to load the weight on.  The moral is, that if some morning you see me, headed to the gym, feeling my oats with a skip in my step, do us all a favor and pull a Tonya Harding move and whack me in my knee.  Trust me, it will hurt me less than the alternative. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Where the heck did this weekend go?

     It was a 4 day weekend and you'd never have known it looking at my house.  I had the best of plans on what we were going to do, but then life got in the way.  Does this ever happen to you?

     It started like any other weekend, except I was still traveling on Friday.  When possible, although I do travel almost weekly, I like to keep it to Tuesday-Thursday so I don't endanger my home time with late planes and such.  Last Friday, however, I was still traveling home from a trip to Ontario Canada.  I had ambitious plans for Friday afternoon but on the way home I stopped by Molly's house in Buffalo to check out her car (she had a small fender bender) and then over to see her new workplace.
The bar inside of Nektar
She has started work as a waitress again at a bar/restaurant called Nektar that is located right around the corner from her.  She'll actually make more money in this job and the quality of life is definitely better, but for the life of me, I don't understand how in the health care field you can go from being worth $9.00 an hour to $35.00 an hour after you get your RN, but with no steps up in pay in-between?  I blame President Obama, can't say why, but he seems like an easy target.  I met the owner of Nektar, Stavros who complimented Molly's work ethic, which I liked, and then took a Gyro home with me to eat at my desk, which I liked even better.  I finished work late on Friday afternoon and then went down and opened the kitchen in the Garaj-Mahal to start prepping for a wedding rehearsal next week.

     I had to make a quick trip down to Penn Yan for a few things prior to starting, so being the hunter-gatherer that I am I also offered to grab a pizza.  I stopped at a local farm store for some Hungarian Peppers (shout out to Tomion's), and then at the grocery store for some cream cheese and Italian
Making Armadillo Eggs
 sausage, I then gassed up and headed home.  Char and Nolan offered to help me with making the appetizer, which was Armadillo Eggs ( How to Make Nolan's and Bill's Armadillo Eggs ) but even with the help, it took a couple of hours to do the 150 of them.  I actually kept track of what they cost to make this time and surprisingly it was only $.25 apiece but then if you add the labor, they cost $.85.   One of the things that makes it easier to work in the kitchen out there is the music.  I bring my Ipad out and use the free Spotify app, but I use my Bose Soundlink speaker that I set away from me to listen to it.  Char got this for me for Christmas, and it is probably one of the best gifts that I have ever received.  It was even more impressive considering that I mentioned it just one time at a Super Bowl party the year prior, and she remembered and bought it for me (I had 
My Bose Soundlink
long ago forgotten it and was a little stumped when I opened the box).  Anyway, it's great sound and you can control the volume from the Ipad that is nearby but still have the music coming from across the room.  Come to the Garag-Mahal sometime and you can check it out.  We finished the work, cleaned up the kitchen and then headed into the house.  We had just enough time to watch a taped episode of Castle, then we all headed to bed.

     We picked up watching Castle this summer during the rerun season, so we've been taping them and trying to watch them in order.  We like the show, but I'll agree with some other people that it is kind of like Bones but with the roles reversed.  I skipped breakfast with my brother Saturday am, but Nolan and I had an early work gig for Scouts.  We cleaned out the Troop room where we kept our things for the last few decades.  The building was sold and the church that purchased it needed the space.  We'll be buying a Troop trailer shortly, but a kind parent is letting us store the stuff in her barn in the meantime.  We had a quick lunch and then Char and I headed off to BJ's to do the shopping for
 the wedding rehearsal.  They had a great deal on 0X1 Strip loins so I bought one of those too, to cut into steaks later.  Char put some time in at work on the computer, while I set up equipment that I would need. I layered a crockpot with chicken to make some Mexican stewed chicken for use in another appetizer.   In the late afternoon we set up an old army tent that we found in amongst the old stuff in the Troop room.  We got an invitation to my girlfriend's ( My girlfriend Stretch) house to hang out at her fire pit, so we threw a quick entree together and headed out around 6:30.  Our friends built a beautiful big fire pit at their house with an inset pit and a stone patio surrounding it. We've got to enjoy it several times this summer.  We headed to bed as soon as we got home, no time for Castle that night.

     We made it to church the next morning and heard the new pastor, Father Stan.  We liked him.  We ran into close friends that we hadn't seen all year and managed to catch up before mass started.  Back at home Char had laundry to do and Nolan and I were checking on some drainage work on the property and fixing a split hose.  I got to wear a tool belt and everything.  We cleaned up by mid-day and we headed off to different parties.  Nolan's was in Cdga and ours was local.   That killed almost the rest of the day, but we did squeeze in a quick couple of Castle episodes (We are on season 2 now). 

     I got up early next morning to pull the chicken (stop it already, I was shredding stewed chicken).  I spent the am running around to my brother Ace's house to get some catering equipment and stopped in to see my sister Wilson too.  Wilson's son hit me up for some Boy Scout popcorn, he saw me
It's Boy Scout popcorn time
pulling in and ran and put his uniform on.  He knows that I have a standing rule about not saying no to a Scout in uniform.  I made some salsa after I got home and Char and Nolan walked the block to sell some popcorn too.  I packed for a trip but tried to stay out of the office.  I snuggled up with Nibbler and took a quick cat-nap and then went back to the Garaj to cut up the strip loin.  I got 16 thick cut steaks out of it and I set 3 aside for dinner.  The strip was 
$4.99 a lb and the per steak cost was $4.00, so I was pretty happy with both the price and the quality.  I roasted some corn to go with dinner and Char made a fruit salad and we ate on the deck to finish off our Holiday weekend.  There was enough time to watch a couple more Castle's before we headed to bed and so we did.  That's the long and the short of it, it doesn't seem like a lot, and no big projects got finished even with the 4 days, but that's how it goes some weekends, just slip-sliding away.