semicolon ;

IMG_0871I couldn’t tell you the exact year.  Nevertheless, the fucking date.

I’ve always remembered it as November 28th.  But, that’s the mind of a 5 year old.

The Unix program “cal” tells me that the 28th of November was on a Monday in 1977.  It tells me that the 28th was on a Tuesday in 1978. I always remember it as 1978, but the math doesn’t add up.

I remember a Saturday.

I remember Laurel, MD.  I remember a 2 bedroom apartment where I lost a couple of teeth.  I remember that I was so damn excited by the ladder on the back of someone’s van;  I could see it from the window of our apartment.  I wanted desperately to climb it;  I did.   I was caught by some dude with lamb chop sideburns and greasy grey hair.

“What are you doing” he asked.
“I’m climbing,” I said.
“It’s not your van,” he said. I felt fear.
“No, It’s not.”  I ran up the stairs to our apartment.

I was 5.


My brother was 3. He doesn’t remember.

The Super Friends were on channel 13, probably; our TV was black and white, definitely.

I could see the colors.  Don’t tell me I couldn’t;  I could.  Everyone knows that Superman has a red cape and blue tights, with a giant golden S on his chest.  Yes, I could see the colors;  fuck black and white.

Who the fuck are you to tell me that I couldn’t see the colors of my heroes?

Really?  Who are you?

The man who would become my dad came out and said, “Boys, your mother has something to tell you…”

And I cried.  For a long time.  My “real dad” was gone.  He died.

He was 28.

I had questions.

How did he die?

Why did he die?
–there was something wrong with his brain–

Why didn’t the Doctors fix it?
–they couldn’t–

They didn’t try hard enough!
–they couldn’t help your dad–

I hate the Doctors!  They DIDN’T DO ENOUGH!!!

Years later I would learn that my dad had tried to take his own life several times.  He was finally successful when he pointed a .22 rifle at the roof of his mouth, and managed to pull the trigger.

To this day, I find the picture awkward.

Somehow, he managed.

I have very few memories of the funeral.  There was a blue and white cross made out of roses, atop the closed casket.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see his face at the time.  We rode in a black limo from the funeral home to the cemetery.  (I still don’t know where my father is buried, but I know it’s the same cemetery as my step dad.)  On the way, I must have pissed off the driver.  I’d never been in a car with power windows.

Up. Down. Up. Down.

The driver put on the window lock. Fucking Prick.

I have a vague recollection of the casket being lowered into the ground, on canvas straps, and someone shoveling the first bit of dirt into the grave.

That was that.  Blank.

We maintained contact with my Grandparents for a few years, but sometime (perhaps when I was about 12) that ended.

I grew up without any connection to may blood relatives on my father’s side.

When I was in 4th grade, my mother told me the truth about my father’s death.  I was home (ostensibly sick with a stomach bug) and watching a western from the 1960’s — The Big Valley.  I had a silver cap gun with plastic ivory handles that I was playing with.  When she told me, I modeled putting the barrel in my mouth.  Because, well, when you’re that young, experience teaches.

I never understood.  I probably never will, fully.

There’s a specific kind of pain, that can’t be described — let alone felt, unless you’ve been there.

There’s a specific feeling of hopelessness that nobody understands unless they’ve truly been depressed.  Not your run of the mill teenage angst, but full on depression.  The kind of depression where every thought hurts.  The kind of depression where sunlight is not welcome.  The kind of depression where you can’t imagine getting out of bed, let alone making it through the day until to dusk, when it is okay to go to bed.

If you’ve been here, you understand.  If not, consider yourself blessed — because you are.

My birth father took his own life.  When I understood exactly what that meant, I vowed that never, under any circumstances, would I do the same.  His escape from a wold of hurt, created a vacuum of pain for those who he left behind.

I have precious few memories of my birth father; the few that I have involve nature, rain coats and smiles.

I’m not angry with him. I don’t blame him.  I’ll never understand, and I wish that I could have known him better.  Maybe, made it better.  Probably not, but maybe.

There was a time, not long ago, when I disavowed my birth-father’s family.  I felt abandoned.  I felt ignored.  I felt angry.  I felt alone.

In the last year, I’ve been re-united with my father’s brother, my uncle as well as my cousins (one face to face, the other virtually).  When we first saw each other again, it had been 33 years.  Thirty-three years is long time, but when you’re family, somehow the time gap fades quickly, love takes over and all the hurt goes away.

My son has adopted his great-uncle as his grandfather (at least in his mind) and that makes me incredibly happy.

I recently read about #semicolonproject and #projectsemicolon (seems there’s a dispute about who “founded” the project which really doesn’t matter to me) — I don’t care who came first, the idea is powerful:

The semicolon joins two independent (but related) clauses in a sentence without the use of a transitional word or phrase.

Semicolons indicate a pause; a reflection — perhaps a change in perspective.

A Semicolon is powerful.  More powerful than a period, exclamation point, or a question mark — all of which end a sentence.  A semicolon indicates a willingness to pause… perhaps recollect… perhaps re-think…

Take time —

pause;reflect — live

That Horse Looks Kinda, Really Fucking Big

A few weeks ago, a good friend posted something to the effect of “Why does the horse always look so much bigger when you’re trying to get back on it?” on his Facebook page. I “Liked” it as did so many other folks, because, well it’s funny and it’s true.

Somewhere over the past, oh I don’t know, six to seven months, I really fell off the horse.  Perhaps this is evidenced by the fact that I’ve not posted anything on this site since March.  Or perhaps it’s better evidenced by the fact that I didn’t ride my bike for 2 months straight after my MS ride in July.  Or perhaps by the fact that I stopped paying attention to my weight, and ballooned to an all time high of nearly an eighth of a Ton.  (That’s 250 pounds folks).

Or perhaps…

The list of things that I should be doing but haven’t been is as long as the list of things that I should not be doing but have been is short.

Rather than bare my soul with a gut wrenching list of my failures, I’ll just list out some things that I am now working on.

  1. Eating a whole foods diet.  My doctor recommended that I look into the “Paleo Diet” and while I was pretty skeptical of it, after reading the book it seems to make a lot of sense.  I’m trying it out.  Basically, what it has come down to for me is no wheat and no dairy.  It’s a lot of lean animal protein, veggies and fruits.  As Michael Pollan says, “Eat Food, Not too much, Mostly Plants.”
  2. Getting some exercise again.  Last spring I ended up at the doctor’s office and ultimately in 3 months of physical therapy because of lower back pain.  PT did wonders, but I foolishly stopped doing the exercises after PT officially ended.  And so, back pain came back into my life.  Walking, and cycling need to be on the list of things to do.
  3. Acupuncture.  I regularly went to get acupuncture for about 3 years to treat migraine headaches.  Thankfully, I haven’t had many migraines, but I haven’t been going to get acupuncture and I miss it.  Even if I’m not having headaches, 45 minutes of relaxation a week is probably a good thing to add to my routine.
  4. Cutting down on the booze.  This pretty much goes hand in hand with getting a good diet going.  There are so many reasons to cut down.  Lots of unnecessary calories.  Lack of presence.
  5. Reading and writing.  It’s time to start reading again and to start writing again.  Most likely that means putting some stuff on this site.

Yeah, that’s a big horse.  I’m gonna get back on it and if I fall off, well, I’ll get back on it again.

Things I wish I’d known at 13

Recently a friend of mine asked me to contribute to a list of things we wished we’d known at 13 for a boy who is about to turn 13.

Here’s what I came up with:

Things I wish I’d known at 13

  • For every person who breaks your heart, there is likely someone who you’ve heart-broken.
  • Shined shoes are one way potential employers judge whether you’d be the right person for the job.
  • Everyone is delicate on the inside. Treat everyone you meet with the respect you’d expect them to show you.
  • Life is not fair, don’t expect it to be.
  • Don’t expect that people will do what you expect of them. Very often they won’t meet your expectations. Accept that they are doing as best they can, and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives that may be impacting them.
  • You won’t meet others expectations all the time either.
  • Some days you won’t have it in you to do your best, that’s okay too. Pick up where you left off and give it your best the next day.
  • Nothing fixes a bad day like laughing. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Don’t smoke. Anything. Ever. It will kill you.
  • Some things you won’t understand until you are much older. Some things you may never understand. That’s okay, too.
  • That girl (or boy) you want to kiss but are afraid to…Just give them a kiss. You might be surprised. (Or embarrassed, but embarrassment fades quickly and you’ll never know until you try.)
  • When you find the person who is the love of your life, you will know it. There may be people you think are “The One”. There may be people you convince yourself are “The One.” These people may not be “The One.” But when you meet the person who you love and can live with forever, you will know it. It may take years to find that person.
  • There are many paths to “success,” your job is to find the one that suits you the best.
  • “Success” does not = $
  • “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”

Back on the Bike

Ever feel like your legs are made of lead? That’s how I felt today. I went for the first ride of 2014, a full 147 days after my last ride of 2013. I struggled with 8.1 miles. Minor bumps in the landscape felt like impossible ascents. It is clear that the last few months of not biking have taken a toll on my stamina.

But, it was the first day back on the bike. It was the first step of the journey. If I keep it up, by April these pains and frustrations will begin to fade. By May, I’ll be back in reasonable form. And by June, I’ll be riding effortlessly.

That’s the plan. I’m sticking to it.

Winter Update

I promised myself, this winter would be different. I wouldn’t fall behind on all my normal activities and hibernate. I’d keep riding my bike. I’d keep in touch with friends. I wouldn’t let the cold keep be indoors. I would write in my journal. I’d write on this blog.

Pretty much none of that happened. It’s March 1st and the last time I wrote for was in November, around Thanksgiving. I haven’t been on my bike since October. What the fuck have I been doing?

Predictably, the month of December was a mad house. One thing about being in a pre-sales engineering role for work is that the end of the year matters. Work was busy. The days were shorter. The darkness crept in and blamo, it was full on winter blues even if I didn’t recognize it.

Then there was Christmas, and Mr. Grey’s birthday is two days after Christmas. So pretty much that week was shot. Next came our company sales kick off meetings, and an unusually active January and February as far as work goes. Suddenly, it’s March 1st and I don’t really know where the time went.

On the positive side, I have started using a Jawbone UP24 and now know a bit more about myself. For example, if I have an appointment that’s an hour away from my home and I don’t deliberately walk, I may only get 2000 steps in that day. And if I am left to my own, I’ll sleep 8.5 hours a night or even longer.

Today, as I was walking my 3 mile walk to get some steps in, I passed a biker on the B&A trail and it dawned on me that I should have gone out for a ride. It’s not going to happen today, but maybe I can get myself to get up and move toward the bike in the morning. If I don’t, it will be at least another week as we’re about to get pummeled with 8–12 inches of snow here in Maryland.

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite holiday of the year. It’s about giving thanks, being with family and most definitely food!

When I was a child, my mother hosted most of the Thanksgiving meals. I have fond memories of Mom and Dad putting together the stuffing early in the morning and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in my pajamas. Later, the family would start to arrive and the house would fill with people. Mom-mom and Pop-pop. Uncle Danny and Aunt Sue. Uncle David and Aunt Debbie. Grandma Jennie and Grandpa Tony. Later, cousins Pat and Brennie. On rare occasions we might get the Germans — Uncle Michael, Aunt Kerstin, Cousins Gabby, Marc and Evan as well as Uncle Arthur, Aunt Gailee and cousin Christopher — if not there was the phone call.  Many of those people are no longer with us, but I remember them fondly and while there’s a twinge of sadness, it’s mostly happy memories that come back to my mind.

After marrying Mrs. TKD in 2004 I started hosting Thanksgiving. We’ve had it more often than not and somehow this feels right to me. I’m carrying on the traditions from when I was a child and giving them to Mr. Grey. We’re also creating new traditions.  Somethings are the same but some are different. He’d rather watch Iron Man than the parade, and that’s okay. Unlike Mom, I only have one brother so the house sometimes didn’t always seem as full as it was when I was younger, but that’s changed as more small mouths have shown up at the table. At times, we’ve had friends as well as family over for Thanksgiving and that’s always been wonderful.  Even if folks don’t make the main meal there have been times when extended family and friends have stopped in for desert.  So the house generally feels fuller now than it once did.

This year, it looks like it will be family – though you friends who have the invitation are still welcome – Mom, Frank and Guinness and the kids, and Papa will be in attendance. The house will be crazy with representation from a wide range of ages (3 – 73) – the open floor-plan ensures that noise will carry from one room to another. And in the midst of the whirlwind, I’ll be cooking. I truly can’t wait, I thrive on it.

So, here’s the menu:

Roast Turkey — basted with white wine & butter
Grandpa Gibbons Stuffing – the secret is bacon fat
Mashed Potatoes
Collard Greens Gratin
Mr. Swanson’s Green Beans – sautéed in bacon fat (again)
Sauerkraut and Kielbasa – it’s a Baltimore thing
Roasted Beets
Cranberry Orange Slaw – Mrs. TKD’s annual contribution.  Who knew orange rinds were edible?
Nantucket Cranberry Pie
Pecan Pie

It’s only Tuesday — can we skip to Thursday now?