Eating Healthy (…or at Least Slightly More So)

I’ve never been the poster-child for healthy eating. I enjoy my desserts, the occasional candies, etc. Those things were created to be enjoyed, and I simply cannot get behind the idea that my food needs to be a source of bleak sadness in my life. I will enjoy my food, even if it requires a smidgen of extra effort to keep it from being the source of my death.

That “Everything in Moderation” claim makes the most sense to me. Unless you start talking about coffee. if you’re going to suggest moderating my coffee intake, you can take a very long walk off a very short pier.

My enjoyment of the occasional sweets and junk aside, I do still try to eat sensibly. My fruits intake is through the roof, and vegetables are never left over in our house. Red meat on occasion, chicken, rice…we do what we can to keep from feeding ourselves and the kids things that will kill us on a regular basis. Some of our favorite snacks in the house are berries. I’ll grab a salad for lunch here and there, or go for yogurt when the opportunity permits. So, I’m trying, and I’ve been trying for several months, which is important since my job keeps me sedentary for large periods at a time.

The other night though…I did something terrible. While working until 11, I got tied up on some small things and never had a chance to get a proper dinner. So, I grabbed a bag of chips (a big one) and two cosmic brownies from a gas station.

That was dinner, along with a cup of coffee and a can of green tea.

Now, before you chastise me over this miserable decision, let me just tell you that you don’t have to.

My body very much objected to being treated thusly.

It wasn’t but a half hour after consuming this….disaster….that my stomach started to kill me. I felt worse than if I hadn’t eaten at all. The gastronomic agony continued until well into the next morning too. I genuinely felt sick. My body simply would not accept what I had eaten as actual food.

After so many months of trying like hell not to be a death-bound pig, I went and did that out of convenience. It turned out not to be so convenient.

There is an up-side to it though.

The fact that I can no longer do that without feeling like I want to die is an indication to me that I’ve made some progress in altering a dietary lifestyle for the better- that I’ve become used to things that aren’t so bad for me.

Now, I failed biology in school. Also Chemistry. And I never took Nutrition. But it would seem to me that an adaptation of the system to a dietary trend is very possible, and the rejection of garbage from the other night is proof to me that not only SHOULDN’T I do that anymore, but I’ve turned a slight corner and CAN’T do it anymore.

This is uplifting.

This does NOT mean that I’m going to avoid eating M&Ms out of the boys’ Easter baskets this year (Two sets of grandparents for some reason see the need to supplement ‘the Easter Bunny’s’ contribution to chocolate supply.) Nor does it mean that I plan on swapping my occasional pepperoni pizza out for something called kale, which cursory research indicates is not actually a food(?)

What it does mean is that I am now biologically bound to my moderation mantra. The cosmic brownie isn’t off the menu from time to time, but it cannot BE the menu anymore. The chips are not getting thrown in the garbage, but they’re also not going to be crammed by the handful down a dorito-dusted gullet on a regular basis.

I’m still going to enjoy my food. The individually wrapped Snicker’s bars in the office are not safe from me. But I’ve reached a point where neither is a well-made salad, and that- I suppose, is the most important thing.

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That Which Heralds the Arrival of Spring

The days doth grow longer.
Mine nosehairs cease to freeze upon exiting mine abode.
Truly, even the deceiving calendar tells of warmer dates.
But lo! An even truer sign that things the great thaw will come.
A faint glimmer of green cleaves its way through the gloom and gray of winter.
Nay, I speak not of the grass or leaves, which still lay, doomed, beneath the mounds of snow,
Instead, I spy the true bearer of the word of spring, and I welcome it, weeping with joy..for the sight…means winter’s end, and warmth to come.

….Shamrock Shake is back!

Projectile Snack Foods to Combat Sadness

If you’ve got a five year old who is upset about something minor, it turns out that attempting to (gently) lob fruit snacks into their open mouth with a slingshot is a great way to distract them from their sadness.

Mothers will generally disapprove of this tactic, but its effectiveness cannot be argued against.

….I never said I was a good parent. I said I was trying. Sometimes I don’t quite get it right. Although he did have safety goggles on…so maybe I’m making progress after all.

The Time Everyone Thought I Was a Moron

My 6th Grade Yearbook Photo

I was browsing a gallery of funny notes that teachers had gotten in the classroom today, and it reminded me of an instance in the 6th grade when I did something as a joke that backfired and everyone thought I was a complete idiot.

The statute of limitations on embarrassment has passed, so I can tell the story and laugh about it now, but I’d wager that nobody would ever believe that what I did was on purpose with the intent to be funny. In fact, if I choose to bring it up when we go to my parents’ for dinner this weekend, they’ll still think I was the dumbest creature in existence. Anyway- here goes.

I hate math.

I suspect I’ve always hated math. But it became clear that I would not have a very good relationship with mathematics in the 6th grade. Up until that point, everyone had been telling me that “letters are not the same as numbers.” Then, right around here, they introduced algebra. All of a sudden, ‘A’ COULD be ’35.’ I despised the deceit and trickery that had been my education to this point. The lies that had been told. ‘X’ had no business being in a math problem. ‘X’ belonged on my spelling word list.

It isn’t that I couldn’t DO it, I was able to grasp the basic concepts of algebra- at least until some jackass told me that there was ACTUALLY something called ‘imaginary numbers’ – then I absolutely gave up.

But in the 6th grade, my relationship with the academic discipline known as mathematics began to sour. I struggled with concepts as they grew harder and harder. I even got packed off to remedial math for a while.

One thing I was GOOD at though….was English and Language Arts. I’d always enjoyed reading and writing, so I had a fairly firm grasp of that particular subject. (Remembering this will come in handy in a moment.)

One day, I was whining about math class, and told Mrs. Varelas that I didn’t feel like I needed to partake in that day’s lesson. She told me then that there was no way out of it…unless of course I could produce a note from my parents which said otherwise. She added this last part a bit smugly.

At this point, my still-forming 6th grade brain realized I was doomed to have to suffer through math that day, but damn it, I was going to have a little bit of fun first.

I tore out a sheet of notebook paper and scrawled a note across it.

“Dear Mrs. Varelas. I do not have to do math today. – Signed….Jay’s Parents” ….That is LITERALLY what it said. In its entirety.

I handed it to her, expecting a laugh.

No laughter.

Instead she sighed and made some comment that I don’t remember. I do remember though that she told my parents about it. Rather than recognize that I was CLEARLY trying to be funny- everyone sat me down and tried to explain to me how it didn’t make any sense, that is was probably the worst attempt at a forgery in the history of education. Literally not one person recognized that I was just being a smartass, trying to have a bit of fun, and everyone immediately forgot that my English and Language Arts grades were fairly good, so I should have recognized the grammatical and logical lunacy I had handed in…I had even won an essay contest of some kind…under the tutelage of this very same teacher. Irrelevant. I was a marked man.

That was the first time my sense of humor got me into trouble…but sure as hell wasn’t the last.

The Day Off That Wasn’t

….But still turned out to be pretty great.

We’ve been a single car family for quite some time, partially because of lack of funds to have two, but mostly because I keep crashing or otherwise breaking vehicles. Several months back though, we were given a second car. It’s an oldie, but in spectacular condition. Then, before I got a chance to put it on the road, winter came. It has been buried in more than a foot of snow and ice since sometime before Christmas at the bottom of our driveway.
The other day, my wife lamented that that the worst part of my many-hour work weeks was that she was literally stuck at home. That lit a fire under my ass. We had the dime, and I had the time. Yesterday was a full-fledged day off with zero plans. The opportunity to stop imprisoning (my word, not hers) my wife was at hand.

So, bright and early yesterday, I got up with the boys, gave them breakfast, packed them in the car, and headed to the DMV to register the new-to-us car.

….Yes. I took two small children to the DMV. It actually wasn’t that bad. Well. It wouldn’t have been. I had made a slight error in paperwork, in that I forgot to have my wife sign one of the forms. Since it was gifted to HER, she needed to put her Herbie Hancock on it (Bonus points and favorite reader status to anyone who can tell me what movie THAT came from) so, we got back in the car, drove the half hour home, had her sign the papers, then headed back to the DMV. We stopped for lunch, and I committed a major parenting fail. The boys had Happy Meals. (Gasp! Sue me.)

Anyway. We went back to the DMV, and paid a ridiculous amount of money to register a ten year old car. It took a little bit longer than expected again….because apparently the insurance company still had my wife’s maiden name listed on the policy, even though we’ve been married for six seven (crap, when was it again?) years. So, I had to talk to the insurance company on the phone at the DMV, confirm the name change, and got a bonus of what was probably the single most belated “Congratulations on your marriage” blessing in the history of the entire institution.
We then started home again, but stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few odds and ends. Mostly though, I was just killing time at this point.

See, my wife had gotten a few major orders for her etsy shop (oops…plug) in short order and had been working on them on and off all week. But with both boys home all day since The Narrator is on Winter Break from school, she can’t get much work done, so my having them out for a few hours was win-win for everyone. I got to hang with the boys, and she got to get some work done.

We made another stop at my parent’s house on the way home, again just to buy a little bit more time.

Finally getting home for good nearly seven hours after we left the first time, I punted the kids into the house and started shoveling out the newly registered car. After the better part of another hour, it sat running and mostly cleaned off behind our Fusion. I’ll mount the plates this afternoon, and tomorrow I’ll schedule its inspection and take into town to fill the squatting tires. Then, I’ll be driving that. She’ll get the new car, mostly because I’m more apt to wreck it than she is, and also because I’m too lazy to swap out the car seats. It also has a few little mechanical niggles that I don’t feel like sticking her with.

After that little escapade, I went in and made dinner and put both boys to bed while she wrapped up an order that had to ship today.

All in all it was a great day, even if I ended up going to bed early because I was drained by its finish. The boys and I had a really good time out and about, the Mrs. got a ton of work done, and by the end of the weekend, she won’t be tethered to the house anymore.

Dinner didn’t turn out too badly either. I was going to chronicle it here, but it wasn’t even remotely a failure, so it would have just been some boring guy posting pictures of his pan-fried chicken cutlets, as if the internet needs more of those. So I spared you.

The next time I melt something, burn something, or create a chemical abomination in the kitchen, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I’m back at the work scene today. The second of my two fifteen hour days this week kicked off at 6:30am. Actually…No, that’s a lie. It was closer to 7 by the time I got done mashing the snooze button a couple of times. I’ll clear the IT job, which by the way is completely dead since the school is on vacation, then head to an 8 hour night shift at three.

In spite of the running yesterday, I’m not all that beat. Mostly because I feel like we got a lot done in a short amount of time, and I made up a severe deficit of daddy time, while giving my wife a smidgen of time to herself.

That isn’t to say that I won’t be needing a five hour energy drink and several cups of coffee halfway through shift tonight, but as of right now….I don’t really hate being awake. Or anything really.

One good day begets another it seems.

Enjoy your day readers.

Chemical Energy

On the go since Mini-Me woke me at 4:30am.
Skipped breakfast, gas station chili for lunch.
Five hours working IT, an hour off, then straight to my road shift.
Dinner was a five hour energy drink, large coffee, and box of “Good and Plenty” candies.
Three hours until end of tour.

I’m not sure I can fit any more glamour into this existence of mine.

Big plans for my day off tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Driven By Fear

Greetings readers, and apologies for not being around much of late. Adjustment to the new schedule is- as expected, taking its time, and it doesn’t help that I keep adding to it. 
I got a dirty look from my wife today when I told her that the old IT job at the school wanted me to put in a few morning hours before my full time shifts kicked in at three. 
Two fifteen hour days- IT followed by PD, Three PD shifts alone, one full day of IT, and two ambulance shifts this week. 

My wife is of the opinion that I’m working too hard, that I’m doing too much- more now than when I was working three jobs. She’s shown me the bank statements, she’s assured me that things are getting a bit better.

Still, I can’t slow down. The drive to work, and to earn has nothing to do with being greedy, its because it wasn’t all that long ago that we would sweating out the end of the month between paychecks with our account balances in the single digits and creditors howling outside our door like the winter winds we’re dealing with here in the Northeast now. 
I hated it. As my wife stayed home to raise the boys, I went out and worked. The idea that I wasn’t making enough to cover our expenses and take care of things- that is devastating. I lost so very much sleep wondering exactly how we would be able to take care of simple things like groceries or gas in the car- not to mention bigger things like student loan payments, and rent.

Now, with my working full time for the first time since 2011, those days seem like they’re on the verge of ending, and I do NOT want to go back. I’m paranoid that something will go wrong, that something will happen….and that I need to do as much as I can to make damn sure that we’ll never be back to losing sleep over money- or lack thereof.

Yeah, early nights and long days are ass-kickers. Having one day a week to get things done and spend some actual quality time with my kids is difficult.

But I’m fully aware that I can’t have it easy and be comfortable at the same time. Working hard is never something I’ve been afraid of, and I know for sure that if I want to make certain that I never have an empty refrigerator, stomach, gas tank and bank account all at once…I’m going to spend the next few years working my ass off, and I’m good and ready to do it.

My own father used to work days driving a bus and working as a custodian, then drove himself to college an hour away for night classes to get his teaching degree so he could give my mother, my siblings and I a better go of things. On weekends he would split firewood or do work around the house. The man was always busy, always working, always sacrificing something so that in the long run, things would be better. He did his part. He paid his dues. Now its my turn, and for the first time in a very, very long time- it looks like I can pay them.

Literally and figuratively.  

So, even if my wife gives me grumpy face when I go out the door tomorrow for the first of two fifteen hour days, I know why I’m doing it, even if I hate it, and I don’t know if I can explain it to her. Or even if I’m explaining it very well here either.

The bright spot of the week? Since today is a holiday, and I’m working, I am entitled to an eight hour shift off….WITH PAY.
Readers…I’ve been working per diem and part time for so long that the idea that I am allowed to do nothing one day….and still get paid for it completely baffles me. I thought I was being messed with by the guy telling me that- until I heard it directly from the chief….and there’s still part of me that believes he’s yanking my chain. 
Still, I’ve taken Wednesday off this week. It’ll be a good break between the fifteen hour days of Tuesday and Thursday, and I literally have NOTHING on the schedule. I’m toying with taking The Narrator to the movies, or- if it’s warmed up even a little bit, spending a good amount of time outside with the cabin-fever ridden little rascal who is on vacation for President’s week.

I just hope that my quest for security doesn’t put me on a collision course with an epic burn out, but time will tell…and if you stick around, you’ll come along for the ride

Exactly How Cold Is It?

One more quick update from me because this is too good not to share.

Temperatures on the thermometer mean nothing these last few days. As agonizingly low as they are, they do not depict the whole picture, since the ‘wind chill’ and ‘real feel’ are even lower- but we all know how those work.
Last night though, I got a taste of just how cold it is out there.

Ten minutes before my shift ended at 11PM, I got a call for an alarm activation at a house. I drove up to take a look. There were no tracks in the snow anywhere, so it would have been easy to call dispatch and tell them “Everything looks secure, goodnight.” But I was out, so I figured I’d better do it right. So I got out and began to circle the house. I got to the back deck where there was about a foot of snow blown up there and heard the alarm, from below me. There was no other way to get there except to wade through knee-deep snow. Groaning inwardly, I did just that, and found a door had been blown open by the wind. I closed it, plowed BACK through the snow and climbed, frozen, into the car. Dispatch tells me that the homeowner called and wants me to call him. So I do. He tells me that there’s a trick to making sure the door is locked from the inside, so I volunteered to go back and check for him.

Back into the snow, knee-deep with wind kicking it up into my face. I got the door locked, exited through the garage with the homeowner on the phone directing me, hiked through the snow again, bid the man goodnight, called myself out of service, and headed home.

It was at that point that something dawned on me….in spite of all of the plowing I did through the snow with my body….my pants were BONE DRY. There was literally no moisture on them. My socks…dry too.

It was so damn cold that there was no snow melt on me whatsoever. four trips through the snow, and I was as dry as I had been when I went in in the first place. I was a bit COLDER…but not even remotely wet. It had been like walking through sand. Only a lot of it.

THAT is how cold it is here.

I’m very much ready for spring to get here.

Museum Trip

Several months back, while I was driving around town, I ran into a high school friend of mine. He lives in NYC, but frequently visits our hometown. He was with his daughter, who is just slightly younger than The Narrator. We did the typical “We should meet up soon” exchange, even batting around the idea of taking the kids to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. We parted ways, and as much as I liked the idea, I figured it wouldn’t amount to much more than the usual pleasantries that people exchange with old friends on chance meetings.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a text message from him while I was working a security detail. “I have my daughter next weekend. Museum?”

Anyone with children knows that planning anything less than two weeks ahead of time is considered ‘short notice,’ but I decided to take a crack at it. Saturday is my only day off, so we planned for that.

At the last minute, my wife decided to stay home with Mini-me, but encouraged me to take The Narrator.

It promised to be an interesting trip, and it was. Very much so.

First off, we live far enough outside the city that driving would have been silly. I opted for the train, which was excitement #1 for my son. He’d never been on a train other than the short little jogs of the wintertime ‘Polar Express’ trips we’ve done. Now he gets a real ride with real scenery….and ultimately real boredom.

When he heard we were going to Grand Central Station, that was excitement #2. He’d heard about it and seen it on TV, and was thrilled at getting to go.

…we never made it that far. At the last stop, Harlem and 125th street…our train broke down. I called my friend, who said he’d drive down and pick up up there. So we hung around a train station for a half an hour.

Eventually, we made it to the museum, and the usually shy Narrator hit it off right away with my friend’s daughter.

Talk about sensory overload. Between the train, the handful of blocks we walked to the museum through the heart of Manhattan, and everything the museum itself had to offer- the poor kid very nearly went insane.

There we were. Two dads with their kids, wandering around what has to be one of the greatest museums….anywhere. We didn’t even come close to seeing everything either. We spent a handful of hours there before my friend’s daughter began to sag. He took the exhausted little girl out to the main entrance while I rushed The Narrator through the dinosaurs and gift shop. By that time, even he was getting winded, so I promised him we would go back, and I meant it, I’m already planning a trip back with the rest of the family when the weather warms up a little.

The kids really enjoyed themselves- as did I. Some of what they have to see there is completely astounding. Most amazing to me was the life-sized blue whale they have in the ocean live exhibit. It was so massive that I couldn’t stop looking at it.

I don’t have many pictures, because most of the time I was juggling coats, holding hands, or dealing with various drinks and snacks.

My son got his wish though, on the way out, we were dropped off at Grand Central to depart from there….and we missed our train by seconds. They were closing the door as we hit the platform. So, we bummed about the station for a while until the next train out, which was just a few minutes later.

On the way home, everything caught up to him, and he passed out on the train ride. I don’t mean he was asleep either…he was completely unconscious.

It turned into a very long day, but was so totally worth it. The train ride was fun, the city is- as always- transfixing, and the museum was absolutely amazing.

If you’re in a position to get to the American Museum of Natural History, go. Especially if you’ve never been there. If you HAVE been there, go again, because odds are…you missed some of it. There’s no way you can see it all in one day. I looked at their site the other day and counted the exhibits and exhibitions that we missed….and they totaled more than we HAD seen.

Plus I got to do something with another adult that didn’t involve interviews or speeding tickets….which was a nice break.

Remembering Flight 3407

February 12th, 2009. My very pregnant wife and I were headed to bed. I caught the tail end of a news report that said something about a plane having crashed near Buffalo New York. I didn’t think much of it, my brain automatically scanning my friends and relatives- as we all do in such times- to see if I knew anyone out there.

I remember thinking to myself ‘I really only know one family out there.’ The details of the crash were still coming out, so there wasn’t a lot of information yet. I went to bed.

The phone rang.

My mother-in-law was on the line, a wreck.

Turns out, the only family I knew in Buffalo…had a plane land on their house just a few hours ago. It was the family home of a good friend of ours from college- a girl who was dating my brother-in-law at the time (They’re now very happily married)

Shock kicked in. What happened? Were there any survivors? Was the family home?

It turns out that the plane crash claimed the lives of 50 people, including my friend’s father, a man I had met a few times. Somehow or other, her mother and sister, who were also in the house, managed to escape.

The weeks and months that followed were a mess. We drove out for the funeral, nobody really knowing what to say. We met with my friend’s mother and sister, the survivors- and heard their stories in an intimate family setting, where I felt incredibly awkward. I remember sitting in a small house with family members surrounding the women, away from news reporters and cameras.

On funeral day, a bunch of people arranged a trip to the crash site. My wife, father-in-law, and I chose not to go along.

I remember a frozen, snowy burial in a cemetery. My friend’s father was a veteran, and taps was played for him in such a way as to make you forget the Buffalo winter was whipping around you.

In the time since the crash, 3407 has become another name, another number, another accident to everyone not touched directly by it. Just like every other tragic event though, the people close to the epicenter of it are forever changed, forever hurt, forever missing something, someone- and that will never change, no matter how much time passes, and no matter how many incidents follow along behind it, eating up news time, and burying it beneath newer pages of history.

I once heard someone say- that if you throw a rock into a pond, a splash and ripples indicate the violence that is the shattered surface of the water. Eventually though- the ripples fade and the water becomes calm again. Passers-by to the pond will not know of the splash, the ripples, and the violence…but no matter what the surface looks like, underneath, that pond is forever different with the addition of that rock to its bottom.

Tragedy throws its rocks into all of our ponds. The waves and ripples all will fade over time, but the changes underneath are forever.

3407 cast a large rock- a boulder possibly- into the ponds some people I love very much.

Two years ago, there was a memorial 5K run in the area where the plane crashed. Hundreds of people showed up for it, from the causal joggers, to the hardcore runners who were using this as a qualifier for one big race or another. In the middle, was me. I ran alone, weaving through packs of people. At one point, I was completely alone, the pack of pros was far ahead of me. The others were far back. All along the route were pictures of the victims as a memorial. I passed name after name, picture after picture. Smiling faces, some in uniforms of various services. Young, old…it was an incredibly emotional run, and I’ll never forget it.

Today is the anniversary of the accident. I’ll be thinking of my friend and her family. I’ll be thinking of the other families as well, and some of those faces I saw on giant posters during the run. I’ll be thinking of them because remembering might hurt, but forgetting just seems to much worse.

3407 Wiki