Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Do You Mean My Scale is Broken?


A few years ago I had a somewhat eye opening experience.  You see, I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life, but I always did enough for it not to be a real issue.  Then I graduate from college and eventually get a desk job and all of a sudden finding time to do anything physical between an 8 hour workday and a 1.5-2 hour commute is almost impossible.  In high school I weighed 220, in college I was anywhere between 240 and 280, but usually around 250.  After college when I was swinging a hammer for a living I was right around 260.  But within a year of moving off the construction site and into a desk chair I was 290.  Even at 290 it didn’t keep me from doing physical activities.  I played kickball and rode my bike.  But at some point 290 became 315.  I stayed around 315 for the next few years and continued to stay there, or so I thought.  You see one day about 4 or 5 years ago I went to the doctor because I was sick, they put me on the scale and it read 342.  In my head I said, wait that can’t be right, I weighed myself just a few days ago and I only weighed 318.  Well even I realized the problem, my scale was broken. 

After realizing I was over 340 I decided I needed to start doing more to lose weight.  I would work out off and on for the next few years losing 5-10 pounds each time.  It was always easy to lose that first few pounds.  Although I was never able to get below 325.  Then I would get sick or something else would happen and I would stop working out and put it right back on.  About 2 years ago I found out I had diabetes, again I said I need to do more, but again I didn’t really take it serious enough or would get frustrated that I wasn’t losing weight like I thought I should and lose interest. 

Then something happened.  In April 2016 during our company’s spring walking competition I started to lose weight and I was losing it fairly fast.  I have always pushed myself usually past what my body would allow to compete in this thing with my team.  I never wanted to be the weak link.  In past competitions I would lose some weight but my knees would usually slow me down by the end and I’d have to rest my legs after the competition in order not to anything worse to my body.  Plus I wanted a break, the competition is serious there is no rest for the month we compete.  But last year I lost 5 lbs. the first week.  Then I didn’t want to lose my progress so I decided that even though I would get my steps during my golf trip that I would walk each morning for 30 minutes to pad my daily totals.  I didn’t lose any weight that week, but it was mostly due to the drinking during and after the rounds.  I came back and continued the final two weeks of the tournament and lost another 7 lbs.  Over the summer I slowly started to do less but lost a few more pounds before the fall walking competition.  The good news is I didn’t put any of the weight back on. 

During the fall competition my goal changed from getting the most steps to using the motivation of getting steps to launch my workout program and getting the most out of each step I took.  So I would still walk each day but I also started doing the Couch to 5k program.  The running beat up my body more than just walking would, but I continued through the competition.  I didn’t make it far in the couch to 5k process though and then got sick right after the competition so I stopped.  Add in the cold of winter and I just didn’t make time.  But one thing did happen during the competition, I dropped below 325, which had been that barrier I couldn’t get past for the past few years.  So one day this past January or February I started challenging my wife and sister to the Work Week Hustle in the Fitbit app and had mini walking competitions.  I figured it would motivate me to get up and move and get me ready for this spring’s walking competition.  Then out of nowhere my wife decided to start running again and kicked our butts that week.  So the next week I decided I was going to start the couch to 5k again.  I decided I wasn’t going to let work be my excuse for not working out or the fact that I am not able to access the showers in the basement unless I pay for a gym membership that is overpriced keep me from working out.  So far my coworkers have not complained about any post workout body odor.

About a month ago a coworker and I started running during our lunch break on the National Mall.  I get up and go into the men’s room and change into my running gear.  I get looks from all the people in suits who can’t figure out why I’m dressing in shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt in the office.  I run, come back, and change into my work clothes in the men’s room.  I imagine it feels a lot like when Superman changes in a phone booth, only slower.  I “shower” with baby wipes and re-apply deodorant.  If only I could get access to that shower.  Anyways we are on week 4 last week, Mother Nature mucked things up by deciding to take away our spring like temps and give us winter finally, and it put a halt to the runs.  However this week I have started back with week 4, the runs are longer and more challenging but this week I felt better during the runs and had more energy.  However I did need to let my body recover some yesterday, but will be back out today.  300+ pounds is a lot for your joints to take but every week that number gets smaller.

The reason I decided to write about this today is last week I got on the scale and it read 314.9.  I finally made it back down to the weight I thought I weighed when I stepped on that doctor’s scale 4 or 5 years ago.  My goal is to break 300 by the end of this spring’s walking competition.  I plan to attack the walking competition with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.  Using the mantra that Jim Harbaugh uses with his football team, “Today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.”  My overall goal for now is to get down to 250, but getting to 315 was a big deal because I have now lost 30 pounds in the last year, hopefully I can say 45 in the next month.  As of yesterday I am down to 313.

I should also mention that working out was not the only reason the weight has dropped.  About 6 months ago I started to cut back drastically on the amount of beer I drank during the week.  That was the main reason I dropped weight prior to beginning my workouts.  It also helped that while I was sick back in December I cut my portions down because I didn’t feel like eating.  Since then I have been able to keep my portion sizes down so I eat less.
On top of the weight loss I just have a lot more energy.  I want to be active and I want to go outside and do stuff.  Plus if there is ever a Zombie outbreak like in The Walking Dead, I'll be able to run a little farther and a little harder to get away.

I also hope someone reads this and says hey that is what I’m struggling with, I hope that person realizes that it’s not too late to start and finds their motivation to lose the weight.  Once I get the next 15-25 pounds off I have a couple boxes full of clothes that will fit again, it will be like going on a shopping spree for clothes without spending a dime.  I also will be dressing in clothes my 24 year old self thought was cool so maybe I will buy new stuff.  If you are working to lose weight I wish you the best of luck.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bouncer



The other day a friend posted a movie trailer for a movie called A Dog’s Purpose.  I saw the post the morning I was taking Bouncer to the vet and knew nothing good would come from watching it and have yet to watch it as of this writing.  But the title stood out too me.  A Dog’s Purpose.  Dogs have many purposes more than I will take time to list.  But Bouncer’s purpose was to love and be loved.

I remember the day I went to the SPCA in Newport News during my senior year of college.  I went over there with my buddy Casey.  I’d always wanted my own dog and while I can say I didn’t intend to get a dog that week, I also didn’t intend not to get a dog that week.  We found this cool looking dog that was part coonhound and part Rottweiler.  He had the coat of a rotty, but everything else about him was hound.  I went back the next day and paid my $35 to bring the dog home.  I told the kennel my home was my parents’ house and not a dorm room at CNU.  I also told my parents my fraternity brothers got it for me as an early graduation gift.  What are two “little” lies for the greatest dog ever?  For the next month or so Bouncer lived with me on campus.  Since dogs were not allowed on campus I would have to sneak him out for walks.  I eventually talked my parents in to taking him home so I could focus on finishing my senior year.  My parents were thrilled, in the sense that they were absolutely not thrilled.

During the days I would take Bouncer to the fraternity house and tie him up in the back yard.  One because I didn’t want him barking while I was at class and two he got to be outside.   I don’t think Spencer ever told me this story until after I graduated, but he was at my apartment on campus studying with my roommate.  Apparently after they finished their assignment Bouncer got ahold of his homework and did what he would do to many a pieces of paper after that and chewed it up.  The next day Spencer went to his professor and told him his fraternity brother’s dog ate his homework.  Yes he used the old dog ate my homework excuse.  The professor figured either the story is true or you have got guts using that excuse that he gave Spencer an extension.  Spencer still brings this story up to me even today.

Bouncer was one of the few dogs I knew that was terribly afraid of water.  I don’t know if this is something he was always afraid of or something that happened later.  In college my girlfriend Nicole and I were traveling and we took Bouncer to my parents so they could watch him.  We stopped at her mom’s house and Bouncer was running around the yard, we were chasing him around the deck.  We had him cornered and he had no place to go, or so we thought.  He chose option C which was to jump in their pool.  It was late March/early April so the pool was not warm.  Nicole was yelling at me to jump in and I told her he will either learn to swim or he won’t.  He got to the side of the pool and I pulled him out.  Needless to say, he never went near water after that.

After college I moved in with my good friend Chuck.  Chuck got a dog not long after we moved in named Max.  Bouncer and Max loved to go on adventures.  Bouncer, like his name loved to jump.  Chuck and I would find Bouncer outside the fence and we always thought he had jumped the fence to get out.  Well one day we realized he had really just learned out to lift the latch with his nose.  Well one day Bouncer and Max got loose and ran all over Falmouth.  They were seen down by the river, running across route 3, and eventually in an office park.  The dentist that found him got them in his car and took them to his office where we met them to take them home.  After that Chuck bought a chain and a lock, he ran the chain through the fence and the gate making it impossible to get out.


Bouncer in the backyard at my brother and sister's house in Morgantown.
Bouncer used to get to go everywhere with me.  Back when we were apartment living he would go to Morgantown with me to visit my brother and sister.  They had a fenced in yard so he could run around with my parent’s dog and have some fun there.  On game days we would do our tailgating in the backyard since we could walk to the stadium.  One Saturday my mom ordered chicken wings.  I still haven’t found the thing that Bouncer wouldn’t eat.  We joked that he was a garbage hound because he would just pull things from the trash and eat it.  Well a group of my sister’s friends were sitting around the table outside.  One girl was holding a wing up and waving it around as she told a story.  Bouncer was watching it and his head was swaying back and forth with her hand.  Then out of nowhere he snatched the whole wing right out of her hand and took off running.  I know he swallowed it whole because by the time I got to him there was no bone or chicken meat to be found.  A few years later we were having a steak and cigar night at my place.  A friend finished grilling his steak and placed it on the table outside (with the dogs) then went inside.  When he went back outside the steak was gone and Bouncer was licking a juicy spot on the patio.


Bouncer laying on my while we watch TV.  It may be hard to see me behind him
Bouncer in his younger days weighed about 75 lbs., as he got older and ran less he was closer to 90+.  His size was great for a guard dog, but not so much for a lap dog.  Bouncer believed he was a lap dog.  Every night after work he would climb up in the chair with me and lay across my lap and I would just sit there watching TV and pet him.  If you weren’t petting him and he wanted you to he would nudge his nose under you hand and flip it up letting you know that it was time to pet him.  But Bouncer was a good guard dog too.  Nobody could come near the house without him letting them know he was there.  But he wasn’t the dog that would run towards the supposed danger, he would stay near you and make sure you were safe.  My mom was telling me about their walks the other day and said there was never a person that could walk up on her without getting by him first.  At some point Bouncer had become afraid of Thunderstorms.  With that he was also afraid of fireworks.  He would never leave my side during a storm or on holidays with fireworks.  Once our girls were born he would go to the landing outside their doors and lay there making sure nothing happened to them.  If their doors were open he would go in and lay at their crib standing guard.


There are better pictures but this is the only one on my phone.  Savannah was maybe 4 or 5 months in this photo.  I always loved watching her play with him.
The day I picked Bouncer up from the kennel his cage had a card on it.  The card had his name, age, weight, and information provided by the previous owner.  Bouncer was 35 lbs. and 16 weeks old.  The note said, “Do not get this dog if you have small children.”  Funny story, when I got Rollins the owner said I wouldn’t get this dog if you were planning to have children or have small children at home.  You see both dogs at 4 months of age loved to jump up on you when you walked in.  That is something you have to train a dog not to do.  It’s not that the dogs were or have ever been bad with children, it’s that their previous owners didn’t take the time to train the dogs to not jump.  Bouncer has done nothing but love our two girls.  He would walk over sniff them and then lick their face and walk away.  Even the last week he was around when I started to notice his decline he still let Savannah climb and play with him.  He just loved the attention.  You see he just wanted to be loved and because of that he loved us unconditionally.    That was his purpose.


This was a weekend at Grandma's house while Ashley and I were away.  Bouncer is in the front, Rollins is the brown dog behind him.  Sammy is the Beagle on the right in the front and Tabby is the black dog in the back.  In the last 2 years we have had to say goodbye to 3 of the 4 pictured. 
Bouncer was my dog for 13 years.  The last half he saw me marry my wife and have two little girls.  The first half he was the reason I was never alone.  He made me smile on days when nobody else was around and kept me getting up and moving forward even if it was only to get up to feed him and walk him.  There were days when I never thought I would meet someone, but I always had him.  He hasn’t been able to climb on the couch for a while or even into the bed, but I will miss having him lay on my lap and keep my feet warm at night.  Like I told Savannah the other night, Bouncer may not be here anymore but he is watching over us every night.  He will keep you safe whether he is here physically or not.  From Guard dog to Guardian Angel.  We’ll miss you Bobo.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My All-Time Baseball Starting Lineup


Every once in a while a buddy and I sit down and discuss our all-time starting lineup in baseball.  We do variations, our all-time Phillies or Orioles lineups, all-time lineups for players who have played in our lifetime, and all-time from any era.  If you are a fan of baseball you know these conversations and sometimes debates can go on forever, especially when you widen the pool of players.  Are you looking for defense, offense, both, power, or OBP.   Pitchers are even more difficult.  Sometimes you won’t pick a guy because he played on your rival’s team or was just a jerk.  For my all-time team of any era, its why guys like Clemens didn’t make the cut.  But no matter how hard I try, it’s hard not to show favor to guys from my lifetime.  Anyways here are my starters, I also added my bench players, a 5 man starting rotation, along with bullpen.  But since this is an all-time team there are only 3 relievers, I figured having hitters was smarter.
Outfield:

Left Field – Barry Bonds.  I know this decision brings with it a lot of controversy, but before his head swelled he was one of the best hitters of all time.  He was even a power hitter.  All he did was, what a lot of other players did and I won’t hold that against him.  The difference is he was already great, now he was out of this world.  I don’t care about whether he did or did not take steroids, it was what the game was at that time and I like everyone else enjoyed watching the ball leave the park every 3-4 at bats.  But I would rather have pre-steroid Bonds because he was a better defensive player and had more speed.

Center Field – The Kid, Ken Griffey Jr.  It was a toss-up between him and Willie Mays.  But Griffey was amazing with the Mariners.  The only thing that made him seem unforgettable with the Reds is he just wasn’t as amazing as he was in Seattle, but he was still great.  I couldn’t wait to turn SportSCenter on as kid to see what kind of highlight catch he made the night before or whether or not he launched one out of the park.  If not for the strike in 94 he may have broken Roger Maris single season homerun record. 

Right Field – Willie Mays.  The outfield was the most difficult to fill.  So many great outfielders over the years.  Do I fill it like the All-Star game with the 3 best regardless of position or put guys where they played.  Well I initially started with Tony Gwynn here then thought Mickey Mantle, but ended up with Willie Mays.  Willie Mays had power and speed and played great defense.  I only wish I could have seen him play.  Watching his highlights all I can think is how did he catch that ball.
The Infield:

First Base – Miguel Cabrera.  Miggy is an amazing hitter.  He won the Triple Crown a couple years ago.  As far as fielding goes, he just has natural instinct.  Size and speed.  I remember early in his career a guy was trying to walk him intentionally.  Well there is a reason pitchers throw so far from the plate when they intentionally walk a guy.  This time the pitcher didn’t get far enough away.  Cabrera takes a swing and drops it in front of the center fielder and gets an RBI.



Second Base – Chase Utley.  I will admit this is a somewhat biased pick, but in his prime he was great.  The way he played second was unmatched by anyone else.  At the plate he had clutch hit after clutch hit.  He swung for average and power.  He may not have won an MVP like Ryan Howard or Jimmy Rollins did for those Phillies but he was consistently great over that time period and was the MVP of those teams.



Shortstop – Cal Ripken Jr.  Cal is one of my all-time favorite players.  The only player I can for sure say I like more is Mike Schmidt and spoiler alert he made the lineup.  The Iron Man, played in more games without missing a day than any other player before or since.  A record that I truly believe will never be broken again.  I remember watching him that night when the game went official and he did his curtain call.  I remember his memorable homeruns like he had in his final All Star game or when A-Rod went to third in that game so he could play short.  There were two things you could count on when I was growing up.  Ripken would start for the AL and Ozzie Smith would start for the NL at SS.  Ripken eventually moved back to third base where he started his career but that didn’t keep him from being voted into the All Star game.



Third Base – Michael Jack Schmidt.  Mike Schmidt is the first player I remember cheering for as a kid.  He is the first person I remember being elected into the Hall of Fame.  He was the first poster I had on my wall.  I don’t even think I knew how great he was when I was watching him until I was older and he had retired.  Growing up outside of Philly I knew he was special.  He will always be my favorite player.  One of my favorite videos of him is Harry Kalas calling his 500th career homerun.  I wish now as an adult I could go back and watch him play and truly understand how great of a player he was not just in Philly but across the league.



Catcher – Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.  I remember the first time I saw Pudge play in the All Star game and thinking, “how can this guy be so good.”  It was like he could throw anybody out that tried to steel on him, he was so fast.  One year Lenny Dykstra who was the Phillies speedy center fielder got the jump on a steal to second.  I thought there is no way Pudge is getting him.  Next thing I know the ball is in the fielder’s glove and they are swiping Dykstra out.
Pitchers:

Starters – Clayton Kershaw, Josh Gibson, Justin Verlander, Curt Schilling, and Greg Maddux.  This might be the position that most people argue over the most.  But Schilling is possibly one of the best post season pitchers ever.  Maddux didn’t over power people he just was able to place the ball where it needed to go like nobody else.  Kershaw and Verlander are possibly the best pitchers currently playing, they almost seem unhittable on most days.  Josh Gibson, every highlight I have seen of Gibson looks intimidating.  I honestly think he could pitch against the players of today and still be as successful.

Relievers – Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, and Rollie Fingers.  Fingers is the father of the closer roll so he has to be included.  John Smoltz is one of the best pitchers to play the game whether he was a closer or starter.  As for Rivera you cannot have a list of closers without including this guy.  I know there are not a lot of relievers but did you see the starters?
The Bench:
Tony Gwynn
Mike Trout
Mickey Mantle
Ryne Sandberg
Ted Williams
Babe Ruth
Ozzie Smith
Albert Pujols
Johnny Bench
 
I don’t think much needs to be said about the bench.  These players could start on many teams that others might create.  I’d love to hear your version of an All-Time Baseball lineup.

10 Things I Loved About Sports in 2016

10. Stewart Wins in Final Season

The last few years have been tough as a Tony Stewart fan.  With injuries and other things keeping him off the track for long periods of time and winning being absent it was difficult to watch at times.  His team was winning, but not the 14.  Seeing him fend off Hamlin at Sonoma for what seemed like too many laps was the most excitement I’ve experienced while watching a NASCAR race since Tony won his last championship and was fending off eventual runner up Carl Edwards.  Those final laps reminded me of everything I loved about Tony’s career.  The way he masterfully worked that car through the turns and even as he dove under Hamlin at the end to get the win.  NASCAR has lost another great driver this year with Tony’s retirement.  WAR TONY STEWART!
9.  Michigan back in the National Conversation

Jim Harbaugh has made it fun to watch Michigan Football again.  The games I was able to watch this year I saw a team that has returned as one of the NCAA’s elite teams.  There is so much hope for the future.  Highlights from this season were the Wisconsin game for sure.  The way the defense showed up and kept the team in the game until the Offense found their moment to shine.  I don’t know if I liked Darboh’s touchdown to take the lead or Lewis’ one handed interception to seal the game.  I cannot wait to watch them play on Friday night against Florida State.  Go Blue! 
8)  Hope in Philly

I do not know what it was about the 2016 Phillies but I loved watching them play this season.  The young squad was just fun to watch.  I am very excited about the coming season.  The same can be said after watching the Eagles this year.  Wentz looks like the real deal.  If only they had Lane Johnson all season how different the season might have been, but next year looks bright.
7)  The Rio Olympics

Do I need to say more, it was the Olympics?  I also go into more specifics further down.  U-S-A.  U-S-A.
6)  Army beats Navy.

I don’t have a rooting interest in this game like many of the fans on each side.  I’ve always cheered on Army because my Grandfather was in the Army during WWII.  The game itself is something I look forward to each year.  I even had the chance to go this year, but my wife turned down the tickets thinking we were busy.  One day.  It was great to see Army finally win this game for the first time in over a decade.
5)  USA wins Little League World Series (LLWS).

This year my wife and I cut the cord and have gone almost full streaming.  Our provider provides free local channels with our internet plan.  All that means is we sometimes just watch what is on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and TBS.  Not sure how the last one made it in there.  But one Sunday we got sucked into the LLWS championship game.  The USA rarely beats whatever team wins the international bracket.  This season it was so cool watching these young men play their hearts out.  It was great seeing these kids celebrate their victory. 
4)  USA Wins Ryder Cup.

Starting to notice a trend?  Again no cable and each round was on local channels.  I was glued to the TV anytime Patrick Reed was on.  He was crushing it.  This year’s team was so energized in a way that made them fun to watch.  My wife still doesn’t get how I can watch golf on TV and I don’t have an answer that makes sense.  One an unrelated side note, seeing Tiger come back a few weeks ago was awesome, I can’t wait to watch golf next year.  Jordan Spieth has also been a joy to watch.  Then to watch him go all Tin Cup at the Masters this season.  It makes me feel better about my game, only 4 months till Myrtle Beach.
3) Usain Bolt:  Another Triple.

While not American, Bolt is the type of athlete that draws people to the Olympics.  He may not have as many medals as Phelps, but he is equally as successful if not more having won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay for 3 consecutive Olympics.  If there were more sprinting events he would have more golds I am sure.  I love watching him run.  He just looks like he is running on another plane than the rest of the runners in the field. 

2) Michael Phelps:  Just keeps winning.

Nothing new can be said about Phelps.  He is the most decorated swimmer in the history of the sport and the most decorated Olympian of all time.  To compete at the level he did and for as long as he did is incredible.  I’ve loved watching him swim.  London was tough to watch.  This year in Rio was refreshing, he seemed to be enjoying himself for once and at times it felt like he was the underdog.  But he just kept making the podium.  He will be missed at the next Summer Olympics.

1)  Cubs Win!


The Cubs winning the World Series was my favorite sports memory of 2016.  Growing up my Grandma Lamb would take me to Wrigley with my cousin Jeff.  She loved Chicago sports.  Her love for sports was one of the bonds we shared.  I remember one year we were at my Uncle’s house and the Bulls were playing and she was sitting there on the edge of her seat.  She closed her eyes and said I can’t watch it’s too much.  I am the same way at times when I watch a game.  I can only imagine her watching Games 6 and 7 thinking the same thing as the Cubs came back.  I was in Baltimore watching the game in my hotel room.  I was texting with friends who were watching it.  I was thinking about my cousins who are all Cubs fans to this day and how they must feel watching what was happening.  I thought about my dad who grew up watching Ernie Banks and cheering the Cubs on.  But most of all I thought about my Grandmother who passed away last year.  I thought about how much she would have enjoyed this, I went to bed with a smile knowing she was up in Heaven watching all of us watch the game and celebrating that her Cubbies had finally won the World Series again.
2017 will bring a new slate and I can’t wait to see the memorable moments that come with it.

 

Friday, January 2, 2015

An American Sniper


I don’t read a lot of books, but when I do sometimes I read something that is really good and needs to be shared.  This was one of those books.  I won’t share too much about the book; it’s worth reading and hearing it for the first time.
 
I just finished reading the book, An American Sniper, the story of Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle.  I’d wanted to read this book for a while now but just never got around to it.  I actually read another of his books this year, American Gun.  In American Gun, Kyle tells the history of America through 10 of its most prolific firearms.  In American Sniper he discusses his life’s story.  The book mostly deals with his early life as a rancher in Texas and his decision to join the Navy and eventually the SEALs.  The bulk of the book tells the story of his time in Iraq and ends with his decision to leave the Navy and his life after.

3 years ago I watched a TV show that paired celebrities with retired military and had them perform different missions each weak in a competition.  Chris Kyle was paired with Dean Kane.  This was the first time I heard about Chris Kyle.  It was also the first time I heard of his book.  He is officially listed as the America’s most deadly sniper by the Department of Defense.  He has over 160 confirmed kills and from the sound of it in the book there were plenty more that could be added to that list.  He wrote about one shot he took that was over 2100 yards.  An insurgent was aiming a rocket launcher at an ARMY convoy.  Kyle had two options, take the shot or not.  He took the shot and hit the insurgent and more than likely saved the men in the convoy.  He admits in the book that the shot was pure luck at that distance.  
 
The book didn’t just focus on the war, he also spoke about the struggles of being a SEAL and a husband and father.  There were inserts into some chapters where his wife would tell her side of the story.  It showed at times how both of them were at times on two completely different pages in their marriage.  The book was just very honest and I couldn’t put it down.  That is saying a lot for me, because reading is not my favorite thing to do. 

In 2015 a movie will be coming out by the same title that is based on the book.  I am really excited to see it.  The preview that I have seen shows a scene from the book that is depicted exactly how I envisioned it in my head.  Kyle writes the book in terms that anyone can understand.  Some of the military terms and many of the acronyms he explains along the way and usually again later in the book.  It showed the good and the bad of war and he definitely does not try to glorify it or sugar coat anything.  I would recommend this to anyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 A Year in Review.


2014 turned out to be a big year for me.  A lot of things happened, both good and bad.  In the end it was a pretty great year.  At the end of 2013 the wife and I had just put in an offer on a house and just found out we were going to have our first child.  We started the year in West Virginia celebrating my in-laws wedding anniversary and my mother in-laws birthday.  It was a lot of fun, but as usual when we visit West Virginia at that time of the year there was snow and lots of it.  My wife and I both still love the snow very much, so for you complainers of the great white flakes you will get no sympathy for us.  It could snow every day from now until March and I would be happy.  As usually I am hoping for a White Christmas.  Although this year it looks like it will be wet, but not cold enough for the white stuff.  Here’s to hoping the temperature drops some.  Maybe we could get one of the Artic Blasts on Wednesday night.

Anyways the hardest part while traveling to celebrate the New Year, a wedding anniversary, and a birthday is hiding the fact you can’t drink.  At this time only my wife and I knew about the pregnancy.  Luckily we showed up early enough to get the waitress in on it and just bring out virgin drinks while we were there.  But it seemed like all of January and most of February we were coming up with new and fun ways to hide her not drinking.  Mostly I just drank enough for her to justify being the DD.  Ashley’s Birthday was probably the hardest day to get through.

In January, my brother, mom, and I drove out to Michigan to visit with my Grandfather.  We had just received some bad news about his health and a couple of weeks later my mom went back out to stay with him in his final days.  The trip in January was bitter sweet.  It was great spending time with family and my grandfather, catching up and telling stories.  It was sad knowing that it would likely not happen with him around again.  I was truly lucky to get to spend the time with him the last few years.  In February my grandfather passed and the family reunited for a weekend in Muskegon, MI.  Once again enjoying the time we had with each other.  It was also the weekend we decided to announce to our family that Ashley was pregnant.  If we didn’t I’m sure people would have started to notice the bump.  Another fun part of this trip was all of the snow in Muskegon.  It literally came up to my shoulders.

Upon our return to VA we also started to tell all of our friends.  This was one of the hardest secrets I’ve had to keep from people.  But it was a lot of fun to share the news with everyone.  In March we finally moved from Burke into our new home in Stafford.  Although we didn’t start living there yet, there was no heat.  Ashley, Bouncer, Rollins, Tabby, and I moved in to my parent’s house for the next month. 

I also attended the California State University – Northridge (CSUN) conference in San Diego.  After months of bitter cold, sunny San Diego was quite the change in pace.  CSUN is a conference that focuses on Accessibility and technology that helps provide access to things for people with disabilities.  At the conference a colleague and I presented on our Trusted Tester process that our office created.  My hotel was right on the San Diego Bay.  One of the highlights of the trip was on Wednesday night when I went our looking for a cigar cutter at the nearby Cigar shop.  The owner invited me to join their cigar club for the evening.  I sat around and met some cool guys while enjoying a nice smoke.  Due to the cold weather back home I had not had a chance to smoke a cigar in a few months.  On my last day in San Diego I was sitting in my room when a bus pulled up outside.  The bus was carrying the VCU Rams pep band.  I think I forgot to mention that the University of Arizona Wildcats were staying at our hotel for their first round matchup in the NCAA tournament.  The VCU band showed up as the Arizona fans and pep squad were getting ready to load the buses.  All the way out in California there was a little bit of Virginia with me.  I went downstairs to watch the bands “battle” each other.  I got a picture with the Ram’s mascot before they headed out as well.  One other very touristy thing I do when I attend this conference is eat at the bar where Goose played Great Balls of Fire in Top Gun.  They have pretty good bbq for California.

In April we finally moved in and started staying at the new house.  April is also the month that Spencer and I travel down to Myrtle Beach with his dad and we play golf for 4 days.  We left a day early and stopped in Raleigh to play a round with the Chandlers who were also joining us this year.  Spencer and I started going on this trip in 2013 and we knew right away it would be a trip we would mark on the calendars each year.  When you play on courses that look as nice as the ones in Myrtle Beach do, it doesn’t matter that your golf game is terrible.  At the end of the month we made our annual trek to Richmond International Raceway for the Busch Series race with my fraternity brothers.  This year was a little wet but it didn’t keep us from having a good time.  Ashley was in WV for the weekend so on Saturday my dad and I returned to Richmond for the Sprint Cup series race.  Since Friday nights race didn’t end until around Midnight it was close to 2 or 3am when I got home.  My dad and I did not get an early start back down to Richmond on Saturday, but the good news is it did not rain.

It felt like every month in 2014 was busy, each time I start a new month I want to say it was really busy.  May was no exception.  My brother and sister turned 30 so we had a party at my brother’s house.  At the end of the month we flew to Fort Worth, TX (Aledo) to visit my cousin Kevin and his family.  We had a packed 3 days with them.  We didn’t waste time getting some good Texas BBQ.  We stopped on our way to their house.  The next day we went to a brewery called Revolver.  We enjoyed some beer and live music.  After that we headed to the stock yards.  I didn’t get a chance to see these when we were there for their wedding so I’m glad we did this time.  We say them drive the long horns through the streets.  We also went to a rodeo that evening, which was a lot of fun.  It was my first time at a rodeo.  For dinner that evening we had Mexican, it was another culinary item we needed to check off the list.  We also had more Mexican for breakfast the next morning.  Sunday we mostly spent swimming in the pool.  Our last day was Memorial Day, we stopped and toured the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas.  I was finishing up reading Decision Points so it was really cool to see a lot of things I had just finished reading.  We grabbed lunch before heading to the airport at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill.  If you are familiar with the show Fast n’ Loud the name of the garage is Gas Monkey Garage.

June started with a trip to a Phillies game on Father’s Day weekend.  A trip that I intend to make a tradition with my daughter starting in 2015.  The Phillies lost, which they did a lot of last year, but it was a lot of fun.  We also had two baby showers on back to back weekends.  The first was in West Virginia.  I spent the morning playing golf at the local course.  The second one was at our house the following weekend.  The wives all brought their husbands and we went to a local brewery (Adventure Brewing).  Afterwards we had our house warming party.  It was great getting together with everyone and just sitting around and enjoying each other’s company. 

With the babies due date being at the beginning of August you would think our lives might start to settle down, it did not.  We made our annual trip the Chandler’s 4th of July party.  The following day we went to Richmond to celebrate Bolt’s 30th.  His girlfriend was throwing him a Beer Olympics party.  Our team won Silver.  It also happened to be the last party before the baby came.  The next weekend we took our baby moon at Rocky Gap Casino and Resort.  It is located just outside of Cumberland, MD on a nice lake nestled in the mountains.  We enjoyed some really great food.  On Friday night I had maybe the best crab cake of my life.  On Saturday while Ashley got a message I played a round of golf. Since I was playing solo I was paired with 3 guys from the DC suburbs in Maryland.  We had a really great time.  The course was awesome too.  I’d enjoy going back and playing.  Each night we sat outside on the patio at the bar and listened to live music.  The band on Saturday was better than the one Friday night.  Saturday night while looking for a seat an older couple invited us to sit down.  We enjoyed listening to the band and talking to the couple.  They shared stories about their children and the guy talked to me about how awesome it was to have a daughter.   

The next weekend we toured the hospital where the baby would be born.  What a way to spend our second anniversary?  We stopped to get lunch afterwards and went to the restaurant where we had our reception.  Little did we know that would be the last weekend we would be able to do anything for a while?  The next weekend Ashley was sent to the hospital on Friday night.  I was halfway up there when they sent her home.  We took it easy that weekend.  On Monday I went to work, Ashley wad an appointment with her doctor again.  Her doctor sent her back to the hospital and said it was going to happen.  I wrapped up what I was working on and called a friend to pick me up at the metro.  Spencer dropped me off and the waiting began.  That evening Spencer and Nicole came over to hang out with us until my mom and brother got there.   They also brought me dinner.  We had a lot of fun and it helped to take our minds off of what was about to happen.  The next morning, Ashley’s parents and my dad showed up.  At 10am the nurse told me to go get food so I didn’t pass out during the birth.  By 11:55 am Savannah Ray had joined out family.  It is something I will never forget.  The look on Ashley’s face as the doctor passed Savannah to her was amazing.  The rest of the day moved by pretty quickly after that. 

Two days later they sent us home.  Ashley’s mom stayed with us for a couple of weeks helping out.  Then my mom came over a few nights the following week to help out.  After that we were “on our own,” there were some learning curves to get past, but 5 months later she is still the greatest gift I’ve ever received.  I love playing with her and teaching her to do things.  A few weeks ago I taught her how to stick her tongue out and make noises.  Then one night Ashley picked her up and she looked her right in the face and did it to her.  We were both on the floor laughing.  Last week she went to see Santa and gave him the biggest smile. 

As you may have guessed our August was learning to be parents, which really means learning how to live with another person in the house.  September came and we headed back to the Chandler’s for their Labor Day party.  It was one of the first times many of our friends got to meet Savannah.  September was also when our family lost another member of the family.  Sammy was our family dog since the summer of 2000.  Her presense is still missed whenever we are back at my parents house.  I honestly don’t remember much else about September. 

In October things picked up again.  We went to WVU’s homecoming one weekend.  WVU beat Kansas.  The next weekend was O’Gradyfest.  The pig was amazing.  It was also a chance to introduce Savannah to some more friends.  Later in the month we attended CNU’s homecoming.  Spencer and I hosted the SigEp alumni tailgate.  It was a great success.  The following weekend we returned to CNU for SigEp’s 10 year charter anniversary.  In 2003 I decided to join Sigma Phi Epsilon.  The fraternity was just starting on campus.  In 2004 the fraternity received their charter.  It has been awesome to watch our chapter grow.  The young men I have had a chance to meet at homecomings, alumni picnics, and golf tournaments have more than impressed me over the years.  The chapter is in great hands and I look forward to what the next 10 years have in store for us.

November slowed down a little bit.  I celebrated another year of birth.  We traveled back to Morgantown for my nephews first birthday.  Then it seemed like Ashley, Savannah and I took turns getting sick the rest of the month.  Just before Thanksgiving we were in the ER with Savannah because she had pneumonia.  We had to cancel our plans last minute.  Luckily Giant had everything we needed for a last minute Thanksgiving feast.  

December is not quite over yet, but we have already attended my companies Christmas party.  It was a lot of fun as usual.  It was a reminder to Ashley and I that just days after the 2013 party is when we found out she was pregnant with Savannah.  My mom joined us at the Ritz this year to watch Savannah and our friend’s newborn while we were at the party.  Grandma does not miss a chance to spend time with her grandkids.  I was able to meet up with one of my cousins who was in town for a conference for work.  It was nice to catch up and we both decided that our extended family needs to do a better job getting together outside of weddings. 
We just returned from another trip to WV to celebrate Christmas with the in-laws.  It was a lot of fun.  It was great to see how much Savannah enjoyed spending time with them.  She has so much love in her life.  This week we prepare to celebrate Christmas at my family’s house.  I have always loved Christmas, it is by far one of my favorite holidays.  However, this year seems to be more fun.  Have a kid to buy for brings Christmas cheer to a new level.  We are starting new traditions this year at our house that we look forward to being a part of Savannah’s and any future children’s lives.

I hope that all of you also had a great year.  I’m eagerly waiting to see what 2015 has in store for us.  Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year.

God Bless you all.

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Heart of The Phillies

 
 
I’ve been a Phillies fan as long as I can remember.  I remember going to the Vet with my father as a kid to see guys like Mike Schmidt, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Curt Schilling, and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.  Most of those guys all played on the same team.  Mike Schmidt is still one of my favorite Phillies of all time, but the rest of that list is the first team I fell in love with as a kid.  Schmidt retired a Phillie, he spent his whole career in Philadelphia.  Dykstra retired with the Phillies, but started with the Mets.  Kruk only spent a short time in Philadelphia, he came up with the Padres and played for the White Sox for a year or two after leaving Philly.  His time with the White Sox was not memorable.  Dutch left a few years after the World Series run in 94 to go to the Marlins.  Schilling was probably the best player on the team in 93.  He started with the Orioles.  He left Philly after some bad seasons for the team.  He was still the only bright spot during those years.  Other than him Mike Lieberthal was our best player.  Schilling left to go to the Diamondbacks.  He won a World Series with them in 01.  After that he went on to the Red Sox and played for a few more years where he was part of two World Series teams.  I always cheered for him and was happy for his success.  Wild Thing left right after the World Series.  He was run out of town by the fans after giving up that (this still hurts to think about) home run to Joe effing Carter.


Around the year 2000 some new players were playing for the Phillies.  Scott Rolen was at 3rd and he was supposed to be the new Mike Schmidt and Jimmy Rollins was at short stop.  We had guys like Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome playing in the field as well.  It should have been a great time to be a Phillies fan but we sucked still.  Rolen left, we traded Thome, and eventually traded Abreu.  The one that stuck around was J-Roll.  In 2007 Rollins won the MVP.  The first MVP won by a Phillies player since Mike Schmidt.  2007 was also the first year the Phillies made the playoffs and won their division since 1993.  At the beginning of that season Jimmy said the Phillies would win the division.  All of a sudden all the years of being a Phillies fan were about to pay off.  The team in 2007 came from 9 games back in September to pass the Mets for the division lead.   We had guys coming into their zone.  A new era of Phillies greats, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Pat Burrel, Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz, and Jayson Werth.  The Phillies were swept that year in the first round by the Colorado Rockies.  It was hard to watch, but it was the first time I could remember having hope for the next season.

The next season happened and Jimmy Rollins predicted the Phillies would win 100 games.  At the end of the season the Phillies once again won the division.  However the only way they would win 100 games would be to make to the World Series.  The record at the end of the season was 92-70.  Heading into the World Series that season they had 99 wins.  4 wins later and they had lifted the trophy and were World Champions for the first time in my life.  Jimmy did more to get the team to the playoffs than predict wins.  He had key hits along the way to lift the team when they needed it most.  In game 5 of the NLCS he led off the game with a home run.  The Phillies never looked back. 

The Phillies never reached the peak again after 2008.  In 2009 they lost to the Yankees in the World Series.  In 2010 they lost to the Giants in the NLCS.  In 2011 they lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS.  It was all disappointing.  The core never changed during those 5 years of playoff appearances.  Victorino, Hamels, Howard, Utley, Werth, Chooch, and most of all Rollins were keys to our success.  Sure the Phillies added pieces.  We brought in Cliff Lee, Doc Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Jonathan Papelbon, Hunter Pence, and Raul Ibanez to help get the team back.  In 2011 the Phillies won 102 games.  None of that mattered.  Life as a Phillies fan changed.  We went from the fans of a team that lost 10,000 games as an organization to a team that has won the World Series and competed with the top teams in the league.  Our expectations changed.  We were no longer happy with winning a few games a year.  Now we expected playoff runs.  Then making the playoffs wasn’t enough we needed deep October runs in the playoffs. 
 Now in 2014 I would be happy to make the playoffs, but I’m just happy winning a few games here and there too.  As long as we win against the Nationals, Braves, and Mets, I am usually a happy person.  But in 2012 Werth left the Phillies.  That stung a lot.  He was a key guy in our 2008 run through the playoffs.   He was one of my favorite players.  Now I have to watch him do the things he did for Philly for the Nationals in the playoffs.   Maybe after he retires I’ll be able to be happy for his accomplishments since he left Philly, but now it hurts too much.  Then Victorino left a couple of years ago.  He won a World Series with the Red Sox.  Cliff Lee left and came back.  Doc lost his speed and shut it down.  Oswalt was dealt away.  Papelbon seems to be willing to tear this team apart from inside the clubhouse.  Pence was traded to the Giants and has won two World Series.  Burrel went to the Giants and won the World Series in 10.  Ibanez left and had a good year or two with the Yankees.  Meanwhile we have kept the core together or Hamels, Chooch, Howard, Utley, and Rollins.  Even after the last 3 years of losing we could still look forward to seeing these guys put on the Red Pinstripes and play ball.


After yesterday the one player that was there through the bad and then the good and then the bad again was traded.  Jimmy Rollins not wearing a Phillies uniform in 2015 might be the hardest thing I will have ever been asked to do as a fan.  Regardless of all the locker room drama that you may hear about Jimmy Rollins he is a Philly guy.  This has been his team and he gave all for them for 14 seasons.  I wanted him to go out the way guys like Jeter, Ripken, and Schmidt did, with the teams that gave them a chance.  I knew and was willing to accept that Howard, Hamels, Chooch, and even Utley were on the trading block this season.  I know the Phillies need to rebuild if they want to compete again in the near future.  I guess deep down I knew it was a possibility that Rollins would be traded too.  I really just didn’t want to believe it.


If the others are sent away in the off season it will certainly be the beginning of a new era in Philly.  I hope that we might find the next Jimmy Rollins or the next Mike Schmidt in that group of youngsters.  Maybe they don’t even play in the Phillies system yet.  Maybe they will be acquired through one of these trades.  Win or Lose I will always be a Phillies fan.  There are just too many memories to walk away from for me.  Too many visits to the Vet with my dad.  Too many trips to Wrigley with my grandparents to see the Cubs play the Phillies.  Too many trips to Citizens Bank park with my wife.  I don’t know who we will cheer on in 2015 but it will be the guys wearing Phillies uniforms.  At least I know they will never trade the Philly Phanatic.  Man I love that guy.

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