Friday, November 30, 2012

And so it ends

As we end NaBloPoMo and enter the Christmas season, I thought I'd share some of my favorite happy memories about my second favorite holiday.

  • There were a few years when my Dad was trying to make a living as an entrepreneur or a musician, and money was more than tight. Heading through the final weeks of December there would be only one or two presents under the tree for each of us kids. And yet, somehow, every one of those years found the tree overflowing with box's and bows on Christmas Eve. I never knew how they did it, but we never did without more than we deserved.
  • My Mom is one hundred percent Scandinavian so we celebrated many Swedish traditions for Christmas including St. Lucia Day (Dec. 13) where we started the day with cinnamon rolls and orange tea and ended it decorating the tree as a family.
  • Every Christmas in my memory included a set of red glass bulbs on the tree. And from an early teenage age, every year I accidentally broke one of them. I inherited what was left of the set, and last year I decorated my tree with them, only to have Alli break one. LOL!!!
  • Alli's Mom donated an old tree to me last year and despite its size, it survived my sell-down of possessions and is proudly decorated (thanks to Alli) in the living room of my new house.
  • One of our Swedish traditions was opening our presents on Christmas Eve. With Christmas now a free day, we piled into the car and drove the two hours to my Grandparents' house in Latrobe, PA to open presents with my Dad's parents. Always a fun time and always lots of love.
  • My Dad had two aunts (my Grandma's sisters) who lived together. One of them, Aunt Ginna, was legally blind and wore these crazy inch-thick glasses that distorted her eyes. She was so blind, that even with those glasses, someone had to tell her who she was hugging when we visited her house. Despite that blindness, she made the most amazingly decorated cookies. To this day, those are my favorite cookies I've ever had in my entire life.
  • My Dad always told us a story of his parents buying him a puppy one Christmas. They put an alarm clock in the box so the ticking would calm the puppy. As my Dad told the story, he woke up in the middle of the night thinking there was a bomb under the tree. Well, when I was around ten years old, my sisters and I re-created the event with an alarm clock and a stuffed animal puppy. I still have the pictures of the fun.
  • Every single year, someone in the family got a present wrapped in layer after layer of wrapping paper. More often than not, it was my sister Kris who ended up with it because she was the most fun to watch.
  • Every year, the most exciting day before Christmas was when the giant box came from my Mom's parents up in New York. We never believed in Santa in our house, but my Grandma always labeled them, "From: Santa".
  • My Grandpa Thompson loved pickled herring, and I was the only one in the family that shared his love for it. Every year around Christmas we had a jar in the fridge.  
  • Even though we didn't believe in Santa, we always had stockings on Christmas morning. Every year my stocking included an orange, a toothbrush, and a Matchbox car.
  • Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale. Enough said.

And to end this good memory post, here's a couple pictures from the last Christmas at the Log House:

Merry Christmas to all within sight of this post. May God bless you and your family this holiday season.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

1 day oh no way

Adrienne shared the prompt for yesterday which was describing your worst trip. I’ve taken a lot of trips in my adult life so this was an intriguing question. So intriguing that I spent half the day thinking about it. I hope the bank doesn’t mind paying me to daydream. Whoops. The funny part was I had a hard time coming up with a bad trip memory. While I’m always ready to come home, the trips themselves are almost always enjoyable. So I had to think back a few years.
The one that kept coming to mind was the last trip Ell and I took to Anna Maria Island in Florida. I believe it was October 2004, and as I look back it was probably the beginning of the end for us which made it even worse. Here’s some of the low points:

· We were in the midst of the seven year itch (which is a very real thing, btw) so we bickered the whole time and basically didn’t enjoy each other’s company
· I was well on my way towards the fat slob I would eventually become, and I was already quite ashamed of my body. I swam everyday with a shirt on, we didn’t have sex the whole trip, and she wasn’t very interested in me either even though she thought she was hiding it well.
· The only time I actually laid out in the sun without my shirt on, I got burnt so bad I was sick for three days
· We were almost at rock bottom in our finances including taking the cash that should have been the next month’s mortgage payment and paying for the rest of the trip on what was left of our credit. (I took five credit cards, each with $100 to $200 available balance out of anywhere between $5000 to $10000 credit limit)
· My favorite restaurant in the whole world was on the pier of Anna Maria and served all-you-can-eat Grouper. Three months before we got there it had caught on fire (if I’m remembering the story right) and had since closed for good. So we went across the bay to another outdoor seafood restaurant… food was not good, it was so expensive, and we got eaten alive by bugs.
· We couldn’t stay in our usual place at her grandparents because her weird uncle was a hoarder and the place was filled with trash
· In relation to the previous point, where we ended up staying had no towels, no silverware, no glasses, but it did have two dirty bowls so stained I think someone was murdered close to them. We ended up going to Wal-Mart and basically stocking the cupboards like we would moving into a house.
· Her ninety-something year old grandfather was dying and on more than a couple occasions I had to help carry him up the stairs to the second floor
· We decided to visit my parents on the way home but timed the drive poorly. We ended up driving through Southern Ohio around 2am and in less than thirty miles we saw over two hundred deer. It was so scary.
· When we finally got home, it had rained so bad the ceiling in the bathroom had collapsed from water damage. (That damage never really got fixed all the way and the roof leaked in bad rain until the day I sold the house.)
So yeah, that trip sucked. As I look back, much of my bad vibe centers around the fact that me and her just didn’t enjoy each other’s company. White sand beaches, beautiful weather, nothing but alone time, all of which should have related to a romantic ten day vacation. But it was overshadowed by this general sadness in how we were feeling, even if we didn’t know why we were feeling it at the time. The money, my weight, her overall feeling about her Grandfather, it was all pretty heavy.
Wow, this was a horrible prompt for a post. Whose idea was this, anyway?! I need to redeem it with something really happy tomorrow to end NaBlo on a high note.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2 days delayed

I wrote out this long diatribe about bad friends, but I think I'll leave a heavy post like that until after NaBlo.

I like that there's so much discussion about simplifying and unplugging. I really like Andrew's story. I think more unplugging, on purpose or by accident, has the potential to slow people down and bring them together. I love how that looks. Some of the most beautiful moments in my life have been with close friends, lights dimmed, around a fire or by candlelight, just talking and sharing our lives with each other in conversation.

On another note that is exactly opposite the idea of simplification... I bought my first ever Powerball Lottery ticket last night. I know all the odds, but the anticipation (and eminent follow-up laughter) is worth the two dollars. :)

I am really going to miss not writing every day. This has been fun ladies. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

3 days preostao

Kimmy proposed an interesting thought...

Sam, I assume while you were on the AT, you were completely disconnected from the world of technology? What was that like? Was it awesome? Did you miss being connected to the world or was it kinda freeing?

Well, I did have my phone but most of the AT is deep in the woods with no cell service, so it was turned off and stuffed deep in my backpack. You can grab a signal here or there, but thru-hikers aren't thinking about that or have any way of charging electronics so very few hike with a cellphone turned on. And of course it goes without saying there is no electricity, running water, furnaces, cars, beds, or anything else the rest of the US uses and takes for granted every single day, all day.

So how did I feel about it? It really was awesome. There was something profound and real about surviving with only what you could carry on your back and find in the woods, but being disconnected was something entirely new for me. I grew up before the electronic age of ipods, cellphones, and the like, but that doesn't mean I haven't linked up to the point of someone like, well, Alli's generation. And I ignore the importance of light switches and faucets as much as anyone else. But being out there, it was a different world to be sure.

This brings to mind a summer evening many years ago. Ell and I were watching TV around 7pm when all of a sudden the electricity went off. No storm, no wind, just gone. We never had AC in the Log House, so there was no change in the temperature or any other comfort issue for us, but there were no other distractions to occupy our numbed brains. Within a few minutes, we wandered outside onto the porch and noticed all the neighbors were doing the same; us because we were bored and had nothing to say to one another and the neighbors to escape the stale air in their now un-air-conditioned interior walls. And then it happened...

The neighbors that lived behind us started fighting. We lived close enough to hear what they were saying and, basically, the lack of stimulation was too much to handle and they were just messed up by it and didn't know how to deal with it. I actually thought it was going to get physical for a minute. Before that happened, the husband jumped on his Harley and zoomed away. It was an interesting moment to watch humans react to being unplugged.

If you get the chance, Kimmy, or anyone else, do it. Get away. Unplug. Disconnect. You'll never forget it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

4 days following

This morning on NPR there was a story on the unspoken, “Rule of Reciprocation”. It was based on the work of a Sociologist at Brigham Young University in 1974. As the story goes, he picked up housing directories for a few local communities and randomly sent out around six hundred Christmas cards including within: holiday wishes, notes, and even pictures of his family. Five days later he started receiving cards back in the mail. Only one or two at first but then it started picking up to twelve, fifteen a day. In all, he received over two hundred cards, all from total strangers. What would compel a complete stranger to reply to something from someone he didn’t know? According to him and another professor they interviewed, it was the Rule of Reciprocation at work.
The Rule, it seems, is ingrained in us starting in childhood. You see it being taught as sharing, Valentine’s, thank you notes to grandparents, etc. “Do unto others…” as another famous rule goes. It’s almost instinctual.
The Rule stretches from gift giving to saying hello to someone passing by who said hello to you. When you don’t respond to the gift or the hello, you notice it, you feel uncomfortable, out of balance; that’s the Rule at its core. The second professor went on show examples such as the address labels we get in the mail accompanied by a donation request or the piece of candy the waitress brings with our bill at a restaurant. When we get something we didn’t expect to receive, we often feel a need to return the gesture. (The story also spoke of religious groups and politicians, but the other stuff was more resonating to me.)*
These kind of studies fascinate me; anything that has to do with human behavior. When I used to send cards for the holiday, there were always a few straggler cards that would come late in the month from people on the fringes of my life, and I always wondered if they sent one only because they received one from me. After listening to the story this morning, I think I found my answer.
I wonder how far the Rule of Reciprocation really goes as we become adults, though. Even in the NPR story, while the sociologist received over two hundred cards back, that means four hundred people didn’t feel enough pressure or see enough need to reply. And in regards to those address labels, I’ve only ever given to one or two organizations and that was over ten years ago. Do I feel guilty when I use the labels? No. So is it really something that’s still out there?
I think it is, but it’s probably different for everybody. Some people feel obligated to reciprocate when others do unexpected nice things for them, and other’s just simply appreciate the gesture and are thankful. And then of course there are those that give so they get or at least expect to get back as much as they give; in a manner of speaking they are banking on the Rule. That last group annoys me, but it’s all part of it, I guess.
Anyone have any good Rule stories?
*much of the wording in the first three paragraphs is taken from the news article itself

Sunday, November 25, 2012

5 days manentes

I'm in a weird mood today. Kinda nostalgic, kinda happy, kinda sad, kinda introspective. I'm missing some friends who are in Croatia which is causing me to analyze where my life is and where it could have gone. Not so much a bad thing, but causing some deep thought-processes. Where would I be if I hadn't met Alli, where would I be if I'd allowed myself to fall into the darkness that surrounded me two years ago, where would I be if I'd decided to chase certain dreams at certain times in my life, where would I be if I'd been honest with my feelings about certain people in 1996. Some of the answers I came up with were scary and some of them were melancholy. At some point I'd like my brain to just shut up and let me live in the moment, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

One thing I can say, the AT did a number on me and caused me to mature like I never expected. Before I left, the AT was (for lack of a better phrase) an escape from being mature and responsible and a run towards being wholly selfish. But in the course of two weeks on the trail I found myself wanting to be the kind of guy I despised in other people my age. What in the world?! Who was this guy who was craving the working-man's lifestyle? Who was this guy who wanted nothing else but to be a humdrum nine to fiver who worked only to bring home a paycheck to his family? And what was going to happen when this new man locked horns with the guy in the same body who refused to grow up?

I am so very happy right now. That I know. As I gaze on the x-mas tree that found its way into my cramped VW from Ohio to North Carolina, I smile. Alli loves this holiday so much, and it makes me to happy to share that with her. So I guess I'll just enjoy that for right now. How's that for, "in the moment"?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

6 days lasting

Showdown Saturday

I am a HUGE college football fan. HUGE. And today is the most exciting day in college football. Showdown Saturday. It's the day where all the major rivalries match up head to head.

Virginia vs Virginia Tech
Georgia vs Georgia Tech
Florida vs Florida State
Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State
Oregon vs Oregon State
Clemson vs South Carolina

The list goes on and on.

But the one that means the most to fans across the globe, referred to as, "The Game", is Michigan vs Ohio State. While Michigan (my team) has the edge in the century+ long series at 50-something to 40-something, they've only won two out of the last ten years. It's not been a good decade for me in relation to, "The Game". My sister on the other hand, a proud alum and now employed by Ohio State, she's been in football heaven.

The game started today with a healthy back-n-forth in the first half, but then both offenses seemed to stall in the second. And unfortunately, it ended with a 5 point spread in the Buckeye's favor. One more loss for me and one more win for my sister. Not that either of us ever played football for either team so it's not really a real win or a loss for either of us, but the emotions involved sure do make you feel like you're out there playing alongside the players.

Football has been on my television since noon today and with the Clemson/SC game and the Notre Dame/USC game being played picture in picture, it should be on for another few hours. I do love Showdown Saturday even if my team lost.


Friday, November 23, 2012

7 days removed

And now to answer the rest of Adrienne's questions...

  • Does Alli's family secretly, or not so secretly, hate you for stealing her and running off halfway across the country?
  • Well, I guess I can't answer the secret part, but they haven't made any audible comment to hating me. When she went to college, Alli chose Ohio Northern which was 4 hours away from her family. And then she went to Texas for her summer senior year internship. On top of that, moving to NC was ultimately her decision. When I got off the AT, my life was at a unique point where I could go anywhere and do anything, and I was looking at three or four different areas of the United States to move. Alli had fallen in love with Western North Carolina when she dropped me off there to hit the AT, so she pushed for it over the other places I had in mind. Her Mom respects her enough to let her make her own decisions, and so our plans were set in motion. So there wasn't really any stealing, and like I said, I haven't felt any hate directed at me.

  • Does Alli feel the same as you do/did in regards to not having children?
  • Did and Do are definitely different in my life now. Alli and I had some very serious talks early in our relationship about my beliefs in the area of children. And then she shared with me something that changed my life forever (paraphrased): "There is a love, a pure and complete and real love, that can only be found in the heart of a child for their parents. It is deep and genuine and cannot be compared to anything else in the world. It comes from within their soul, glows from their eyes, and stretches out in their hugs. There is no way I want to miss out on feeling the intensity of that kind of love." And while she respected my reasons as valid and genuine, and truly wanted our relationship to grow, what she wanted more, was for there to be children in her life that would show her that love. And in that moment, I instantly felt my heart ache for it as well. While I still don't disagree with my previous reasons, I know I want to feel that love and I know I want to feel it coming from our children.

    So there it is I guess, the official announcement that I now want children.

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    8 days stay behind

    I often chastise myself for not being thankful all the days of the year versus just today, but I can't think of any other way to celebrate this holiday than by making a list of what I'm thankful for this year.

    • My beautiful red house
    • My laptop
    • Good friends willing to open their home to us since we're so far away from our own families
    • A good job
    • Electricity
    • CPS and all my brothers and sisters there
    • Clothes in my closet
    • My pipe and tobacco cellar
    • Working cars
    • God's grace
    • The mild mountain weather
    • A free country
    • My Mom
    • My blogosphere sisters
    • Amazing friends
    • And certainly not least, my lovely future-bride, Alli

    Happy Thanksgiving to all within sight of this post. All the best to you and your families.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    9 days hanging

    Adrienne's first question: You made mention in the past of having a pride in "waiting" for Laura. Things appear to be taking a different path in your new relationship - do you have guilt from that and how do you deal with it?
    I want to make a note right here at the beginning that I am fully aware my Mom reads ELEVEN. I also want to make sure it is clear that even though I may disagree with certain things my parents did when raising me and my sisters, I do not doubt they tried their best and did so out of a genuine concern for us to turn out alright. So despite any embarrassment or discomfort that could come from discussing this in view of my Mom, I will not be dishonest or hold anything back. I think this is a great question that took guts to ask and I want to give it the respect it deserves. Here goes…
    My upbringing was a bit sheltered in that my parents were not very open about sexuality. There was never a doubt my parents loved each other evidenced by their flirting and innuendo, but for whatever reason, their opinion of the sexual process was, less is better. Some examples:

    · My Dad used Miracle Whip (yes, the sandwich spread) to define a certain part of sexual intercourse when giving me the sex talk. (I think you can figure it out even if you haven’t heard the story.)
    · I spent an entire semester in the hallway during my seventh grade Junior High Sexual Education classes because my parents didn’t trust the public school system to share the same ethics as themselves when it came to talking about sex.
    · I was a teenager before I learned it was called a, “vagina” and not a, “private-area”.
    · And only with the patient understanding of my high school girlfriend did I come to learn that a vagina is not the same thing as a urethra and that women do not use their urethra for sex like guys do. Apparently there's another hole for that which was that new thing, the vagina. (Why that girl stayed with me still boggles the mind.)We read a lot of books together and I learned a lot from her and those books.
    Obviously, my parents left out some important details about anatomy and function they probably should have mentioned. But at the same time, my parents also instilled in me the importance of saving your virginity for marriage. I just wish they carried that out using respect as the guiding force instead of fear. Some examples:

    · “When you have sex with a person you are having sex with every person they’ve ever had sex with.”
    · “Every time you have sex you have flashbacks of your first time, so make sure your first time is meaningful.”
    · “If you have sex before marriage, the sex you have during marriage will never be fulfilling.”
    · “Most marriages fail if there is sexual intercourse before the wedding.”
    · “A woman judges all future emotional relationships based on her first sexual partner.”
    Those quotes aren’t entirely ugly in-and-of themselves, but lumped together and then combined with all the incorrect physical information, it’s a wonder I made it out of adolescence. I grew up seeing sexual intercourse as a sinful act along with the fear I would never be able to satisfy a woman. Now that I’m an adult, it’s obvious my parents did all of that because they wanted me to respect sex and leave it sacred unto marriage. But the constant negative view of the act did not have a healthy outcome. Again, that was never my parents intent, I know that, but I just wish my upbringing and instruction/guidance could have been a little more balanced. I think (only my best guesstimate, really) that my parents were afraid that healthy, honest conversation would make me too curious and would make me want to experience it before the right time.
    A lot of talking and no answering the question so far, huh?
    First let me say to you Adrienne, I appreciate the language you used in the question. So many people, the majority even, assume certain things based on what the world says a situation should look like. Fat people are lazy. People who wear suits are rich. Certain parts of town mean certain types of people live there. Two guys that show lots of love for each other are gay. People that live together are having sex. I could go on and on; stereotypes are everywhere but they aren’t always accurate.
    The question of guilt… A conversation with me around guilt and sex needs to start fifteen years ago and start with Ell. Because of the way I was raised, there were many times I felt guilt about sex even within the allowable confines of our marriage. Ell’s reaction to sex didn’t help either. (She never allowed herself –or maybe wasn’t able to allow herself based on her own issues passed down from her parent’s dysfunctional sexual relationship —to completely lose herself in the act.) I never felt connected to her during sex and we never called it, “making love.” That wasn’t a secret either; we told people that all the time. We saw it as an act not as an expression. And in the last couple years of our marriage when our relationship was slipping away, she even went so far as to tell me she was having sex with me because it was her duty as a biblical wife. What a great way to build up the male ego, right?!
    I’ve shared the story about sitting with those three ladies last summer talking about sex before marriage. There was no guilt at that table, and an almost refreshing air that God had blessed their marriages even though sex predated the ceremony. That was completely foreign to me since I had previously seen pre-marital sex as an unforgivable sin. But as I reflected on that conversation, continued on in my single life, enjoyed that crazy night with the sexy blond, dated some more, and then met Alli, I started to see my life and my opinion of sex in a much deeper, more realistic light.
    The one thing about my relationship with Alli that I have never experienced with any other person is the feeling of rightness. I couple months ago I mentioned a simple life lesson Alli has taught me. That life lesson is very similar to the phrase, “It is because it is.” Alli is so matter-of-fact about life. Not in a blasé sort of way where she doesn’t care, but instead she doesn’t see a need to question. Which, as anyone reading here knows, is exactly opposite from me. Whether it’s as simple as opposites attract or more intense than that, I just know it works. She is fascinated at my intellect and turned on by my writing. She finds comfort in my voice and strength in my arms. And she knows she loves me, because she knows she loves me. It’s just that simple for her.
    When I am with Alli (feel free to use “with” any way you want to) it is right. There is no guilt, there is no regret, there is no other feeling except that I am where I am supposed to be. I am fully convinced God created and crafted her to be my partner and my mate, and I am encouraged that our closeness runs across all areas of the relationship spectrum: mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, and friendship.
    I started this by talking about my parents because that’s where I see guilt starting in the area of sex. But as we grow up and become our own individuals, I don’t see guilt as the over-riding emotion or reaction anymore. Alli had sex with other guys before me. Does she feel guilt over that? No. But there is regret she wasn’t able to give more of herself to me. And I think that’s where conversations like this need to go. I don’t think my parents should have steered with fear at the helm, but instead tried to instill in me respect for myself and for the ladies that would come in my life. Would it have worked? I have no idea, but if I am fortunate enough to have my own children I will definitely push respect over fear.
    To end this long-winded post, I want to address the pride part of the question. I think the pride I had at being a virgin when I got married was an attempt on my part to hold up the relationship. As I see it now it was more pride in my willpower, much like twelve years without pop or 6 years without McDonalds. And to be completely transparent, I’m not sure how “pure” I actually was when I got married, so I doubt I’ll be holding up that proud flag in the future.
    Thanks for the great question, Adrienne. I feel like there are other facets to this conversation such as the government's role in marriage, biblical references to marriage, etc., but this is already too long. I’ll hit the other two questions in a different post.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    10 days last

    In the wording of one of my best friends, "Shit just got real up'n here!" Adrienne threw out some A+ questions and I'm looking forward to answering them, but.......... they shall have to wait their turn in line. Kimmy's last two questions shall be first and then tomorrow they'll be some deepness and insanity intensity. :)

    4. Name three things you consider yourself to be very good at, and three things you consider yourself to be very bad at.
    I love this question but I have no idea how I'm going to answer it. I usually like to prepare for these questions, but tonight I'm just gonna wing it....

    - I think I'm a good writer. I don't know about the very part, but I feel like I keep getting better.
    - I'm dang good at gardening. One of the best I know. This side of the questioning makes the answerer sound a bit arrogant, but I have no qualms being arrogant about that little fact... I'm really good at gardening. 
    - I'm sitting here trying to figure out what else to write,and Alli states matter-of-factly, "Smoking a pipe." She's right, I guess. Many people think about it and some even try, but very few ever really get the hang off pipe smoking. It takes patience, effort, timing, and a lot more. Sure, you can smoke a pipe without worrying about all those things, but then you can kiss your tongue goodbye. LOL!!!

    - I think waaaaay too much. My brain just never shuts off. I have a few friends that know me well who like to play a little game where they say, "Stop" and I have to tell them every line of thought I've had in the last ten seconds. It's usually a list of three to five different streams. Funny to them, a bit annoying to me. I just analyze and analyze and then analyze some more. Every life situation or conversation or action has multiple reasons for its existence within a matter of seconds inside my brain. Sometimes I'd just like to lose myself in something. That has only happened once or twice in my adult life. (One of which has to do with Adrienne's questions. wink wink)
    - I still have that over-eating gene inside me. It takes over at rare times but I've found many ways to control it. I still hate it though.
    - I'm not always that good at managing money. I'm very generous and give away as much as I keep, but unfortunately that is sometimes over the allowed budget. When I grow up I swear to take better care of that.

    5. If you can remember the first time you met me, what was your impression? How does it differ from what you know of me now?
    I feel like the first time I met you was at the Upper Room. You started going there with a group of people (not the least of which included Rich) and my immediate impression was wondering who all the new cool kids were. Seriously. I'm not sure I can compare you now to that person then because they are on such different wavelengths, but I still think you're one of the cool kids. I really want to give you an honest answer since it mattered enough to ask, but I'm not sure I can answer anything better than that.

    Raise your hand if you're ready for some good shizznit tomorrow.

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    11 days متفضل

    I really should be making the post with ELEVEN in the title, something extraordinary. But I feel like my trip to Ohio caused me to neglect my fellow NaBloPoMo ladies. So I think I shall go back and read Kimmy's and Adrienne's missed posts tonight and then make my own post for tomorrow something significant. Sorry to disappoint anyone awaiting something profound.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    12 days oставащ

    I might just make another cheat post. We were out until well after 2am this morning, and unfortunately my internal clock still woke me up at the buttcrack of dawn. So I'm sitting at the Dutch Village Inn sipping on some Starbucks. Alli is certainly still sleeping, so I may be here for a couple hours until I get her groggy text, "Bring me some coffee."

    If I have a free half hour later, I'll come back and write something more meaningful. :)

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    13 days loiter

    Sneaking in a cheat post.

    Just woke up from a much needed nap and leaving in a few minutes to party all night. Probably no chance I'll be able to post but I surely didn't want to miss a day. ;)

    Until tomorrow...

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    14 days delayed

    We've had some good and bad outcomes of our plans here in Ohio.

    Good: Figured out a lot of stuff for the wedding including nailing down the layout of the location, meeting with our amazing flower lady, working through budgets with her Mom, and deciding on some good cupcake ideas. I got my tires for the GTI. We went to see our local banker to sort out some banking mess from living in NC and combining our checking accts. I also got to meet up with some dear friends for long hours of catch up.
    Bad: My tattoo was supposed to be last night, but the artwork turned out to be flawed in design which is not good news for something that will be on my skin forever. So no new ink for Sam. I'm a little bummed because the guy that was going to do the work is one of the best line guys in the business, and this design (large, two-sided celtic knotwork) is all lines.

    We still have some more wedding stuff to do tomorrow morning, and a party with our friends tomorrow night. We're really looking forward to both of those.

    Since I have nothing worth blogging about in my own brain, let's dig into Kimmy's for a few questions...

    1. What do you miss most about living in Ohio? What do you miss least?
    I miss my garden, and I miss my friends. Those two things are on my mind almost every day.
    Least? For some reason I find that question hard to answer. I really like Ohio and didn't move to run away from anything or because I hated anything, but just to start anew. So there's not much I dwell on that instantly springs to mind about this question. Maybe the weather swings of Ohio..... yeah, let's go with that.

    2. Do you believe in ghosts? Do you have any personal experience with apparitions or hauntings?
    Yes. I'd get long-winded if I were to explain it, so I'll just give the setting and maybe talk about it another time. Ell and I were at the Mansfield Reformatory for an overnight event.

    3. Aside from beer, what is your favorite thing to drink?
    Water; without a doubt. Sometimes I buy fancy artesian waters just to experience nuances in something so pure and simple. I drink a lot of water and find happiness in it. On a side note, I haven't had (soda) pop in twelve years.

    I'll leave the other two questions for another time. We're working on plans to maybe go to the Steel Trolley Diner tonight. Mmmmm...................

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    15 days at the back

    Since I have a feeling I'll be the driver all day for two ladies gabbing about wedding plans, I'm going to make this a quick post just in case I don't get another chance to blog. Already today we spent an hour at the place where the wedding will be, getting an idea of how we'll set everything up. And after Alli gets cleaned up, we're headed to the florist and who knows where else. I hope that doesn't sound mopey or frustrated, because I'm really enjoying this. :)

    Until tomorrow.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    16 days waiting

    Getting in today's post early as Alli and I are headed to Ohio as soon as she gets off work. I have a lot to do today but right now all I'm doing is holding down this couch from floating away. I'm a little worried about getting in all my NaBlo posts while I'm up there, but I'm pretty sure I can swing it.

    So here's what's on tap for our five days in Ohio.
    • Getting a tattoo added to my ever-growing Celtic 3/4 sleeve
    • Having lunch with my buddy Chip
    • Meeting our prospective wedding photographer
    • Partying it up with some great friends
    • Going over other wedding plans with Alli's Mom
    • Dinner with our dearest friends, Mike & Ginny
    • Picking up special-order tires for my GTI that I ordered back in May
    • And not to mention a nine hour drive to get there and another nine hour drive home

    This will be our only trip home for quite a few months, so we are happy for the opportunity even if it will only be for a few days. Since the trip is shorter than originally planned, the trip to see my own Mom isn't going to happen, which sucks, but I'm sure she understands. I grew up living pretty far away from my Grandparents (her parents) so this is nothing new; just a part of life, I guess. Still, I'm so excited to be going home.

    Alright, I'm off to clean up and pack.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    17 days in arrears

    I have been intrigued by the blogosphere conversation the last few days around marriage and relationships. Entering into my second marriage after a very painful divorce two years ago obviously puts my brain in a different place than many of my friends, and at the same time allows me the opportunity to analyze man and woman in a different perspective than I ever thought I would. In a million years I never thought I'd be a divorced man, and part of that mindset was at the root of my laziness and my lack of committing wholly to my marriage with Ell. In my naive mind as a twenty year old, I thought I was supposed to get married and that that marriage would just last forever. I was pushed into it and was too immature to know what I should have been looking for. I just wasn't ready for it, and frankly, wasn't man enough to be a good husband.

    As I've mentioned before, there were eleven weddings the summer Ell and I got married (thirteen in six months), so there were a lot of couples all starting down life's road together that year. We all grew into our marriages, into our families, into our adult lives, all at the same time. But despite the timing, that's where the commonality ended. Some started having kids, some went back to school, some moved in with their parents, some bought and sold houses, some stayed in the area, some moved away, and yes, some got divorced. It was an interesting time.

    Thirteen years later found me alone; in body and mind. I'm not going to go back into all that ugliness, but I will say, looking at new love in my mid-thirties was much different than it was at twenty years old. Which brings me to Adrienne's questions...

    Do you believe in 'a soulmate'? 
    At first glance, I would say no. And then I met Alli. There have been many things in my life where I knew God's hand was at work in my life, and that has shown itself over and over in my growing relationship with Alli. I often use the joke, "Where have you been my whole life?" in regards to why I couldn't have found her sooner, and her answer is usually something like, "In kindergarten." LOL!!! But then as we retrace the steps of our lives, we keep coming up with multiple instances where our paths probably crossed, which always awes us. And then the other night she shared a story she'd never told me before. We were at the bank shortly after we met where, as usual, I was goofing off. I took her arm in my hand pretending to do a tattoo. In that moment where my hand rubbed her arm, she felt a shiver course through her body. Then she felt herself warm at the feeling of our skin touching, and as that warming came over her entire body, time slowed down. She admitted to me as she told me the story, that the only other time she'd felt that kind of intensity was as she came out of the water after being baptized. Her baptism was a rebirth for her and in that moment she knew God had a plan for her life. In the same way, as time slowed for her with my hand on her arm, she knew her life was going to be changed forever. Do I now believe in soulmates? I'm not sure, but knowing God blesses a union speaks volumes and then leads into the next question.

    Do you think marriage should be work? 
    Absolutely. In reference to the last question, even if God makes a man and woman specifically for one another, thinking that gives you a free pass is like lighting a fire on the floor of your living room instead of in the fireplace just because it's closer to the couch where you need the heat the most. You have to put effort into what God has granted you to make it work. Which reminds me of something my Dad used to say: "Moses had to get his feet wet before the waters parted." When you make effort, you are rewarded for that effort.

    If so, do you believe social media makes it difficult for everyday people to make marriage last because it isn't always fairytale?
    Interesting question. When Ell got bored/frustrated with me and our marriage, she found release and escape on social media. She met her guy there, and there started her journey to infidelity. But I don't see that being the only problem. As stated in your blog, Adrienne, movies, television, etc., also portray this larger-than-life hormonal intensity that is wholly unattainable. Those images are made to tug at heart strings and make the viewer want an always-heightened sense of love, which, of course is unrealistic at the end of a hard work-week, with sick kids, behind dirty dishes and clothes, and under the weight of bills and debt. Do we all want gushing happiness all the time? Of course we do. The only problem with that desire is when we can't see the forest for the trees. And that's when people go looking for it elsewhere. Sure, social media makes it easier to go searching, but people have been cheating as long as there have been people. I guess to answer the question directly, I don't believe social media makes anything harder than what was already a slippery slope.

    That was a long post. I think there is still a lot to think and talk about on this subject.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    18 days 남은

    Today was a bank holiday for Veteran's Day, so Alli and I had a weekday off together. Since we live in an area known for its hiking trails almost as much as its beer, we decided to climb one of the mountains that surround us.

    We packed a daypack with lunch, donned our hiking clothes, filled our Nalgenes, headed to a local tourist shop for a free map, and drove to the trailhead. A couple thousand foot ascent made our calves and thighs burn with fire, but we made it all the way to the summit of Lookout Mountain. It was Alli's first summit of a mountain, so she was super pumped.

    I cooked up our lunch on my trail stove and snapped some pics of our town from way above.

    The burning of our thighs and calves we experienced climbing up turned into tight knees and feet when we had to go back down those same twelve hundred feet in about a half mile. These next pictures are of the actual trail.


    We had a great time on that hike.

    We followed it up by sightseeing down some unfamiliar roads when we came across two abandoned houses under the shadow of the mountain range closest to our house. I L.O.V.E. abandoned houses, so of course I pulled up the overgrown driveway to check them out. As I parked the car, I noticed something black in the weeds in front of the garage. I got out and walked through the weeds and found it..... a dead black bear. The little girl was less than six months old and couldn't have been dead more than a day. There was no gunshot wound, no telltale signs of a car accident, nothing. She simply looked like she'd just walked to that spot and died. (No, I didn't take a picture.) I talked to a friend this evening who said the Mama bear probably had more cubs than she could care for and this one just died from lack of food. It didn't dampen the great day we'd had, but it was still sad to see.

    And now we're watching the Steelers on Monday Night Football. The best part of our day? We were both getting paid the whole time. Oh yes, bank holidays are nice!

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    19 days residual

    I'm listening to the newest Manchester Orchestra album and the song, Deer is playing right now. It starts with the words, Half a year and here you are again..... Half a year again and now it's a whole..... I bought and listened to that CD exactly one year from the day Ell announced she was leaving me. By then I was over the utter pain and depression I had lived under the weight of for so many months, but that song was still deeply penetrating to my soul and heart. Now it's been two and a half years since that fateful day, and that specific song still stirs up a certain amount of reflection. I am so far from being sad or remorseful or from missing her at all, and I am so very happy with where my life has travelled, but hearing it this morning was strangely coincidental to a string of similar events that happened over the past few days.

    Less than twenty four hours after she walked out, I started writing about the day-to-day roller coaster of my feelings and did so for about six months. In the midst of those months, I had a slew of people tell me I needed to write a book about what I was going through and possibly make it a book directed at men going through divorce. I saw a stark lacking of books on that specific subject and seriously considered it for awhile. But then I experienced an intense (albeit caraaaaazy) relationship with a tiny little blond named Tabetha, then a few other short flings, and then found the absolute love of my life in Alli, and my emotional state swung sharply from defeat into pure happiness. Writing about sadness and fear and insecurity and loss was so far from where I was that the idea of that book slid to the background of my brain.

    Earlier this week a dating couple in their sixties came into my office. The lady opened herself a checking account to accept direct deposit from her new job. After she left, the man hung back and after some discussion, opened an account for himself. As we went through the opening process and I asked the probing questions that make me good at what I do, he revealed to me that he was the victim of infidelity on his spouse's part which left him divorced after forty years of marriage. He was an English Professor at a local college, and then went on to ask me if I had ever written anything. Proud as I am of my book, I shared with him my publishing journey and the plans for my next book. Then out of the blue, he offered to collaborate with me on a book about divorce from the man's point-of-view. I came home from work and shared the story with Alli, who (a little shocking to me) was energetic about the idea and suggested I take this man up on his offer.

    Last night as Alli and I were watching football, an advertisement came across the TV for a website/forum directed at men to help them understand and deal with emotions and other aspects of life in general. A little while later, there was ad for an attorney who specializes in divorce on the man's side called, Divorce for Dads.

    And then on shuffle, this song comes up on my iPod this morning.

    All the signs point to, write the damn book already, right?! I just don't know.

    On the one hand, I fully and personally understand the lack of resources for men dealing with divorce. I really think a book like that needs to get out there because there are so many difficult emotions and circumstances that accompany divorce and no one gives men credit or compassion for what they're going through. On the other hand, writing a book like that will drag me back into where the events of those couple years found me and I'm just not sure I want to go there again. I'm not even sure I could get myself back to that place which is definitely necessary to make the writing true and relevant. I am so happy right now, I'm not sure I could even convey how sad I was then. I'm not sure it would come through in written word.

    So many signs in such a short amount of time does make one wonder.

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    20 days deferred

    I don't have anything deep to share tonight, so I'll just post a pic of some of the projects I've completed since living in this house. To clear up any confusion, I built the entertainment stand, the record racks, and the bookshelf but I did not paint the painting or lay the carpet.

    Friday, November 09, 2012

    21 days linger

    It's the little things that make me smile.

    On the way to work this morning my gas gauge warning light came on so I swung down to the gas station to get a few dollars. When I got out of the car I saw a small yellow sign that read, "FANTASTIC FRIDAY". The special was Premium gasoline for the price of Mid. Since my car takes Premium, and most stations down here charge .15 more for it, this was golden. It wasn't that I saved me enough money to start a retirement fund or anything, but it was still a win, and it made me smile.

    Thursday, November 08, 2012

    22 days persist

    Alright, time for some tough, thought-provoking, deep, possibly uncomfortable questions...

    1. Have you been writing a certain way or have certain things in mind knowing Kimmy and I are just about the only folks trolling the blogosphere this month?
    2. You may have addressed this before... Do you plan on having more kids? If yes, how many do you want in all? If not, why do you think you've hit the perfect number of chil'ins?
    3. How often do you shave your legs and underarms?
    4. How often do you and Adam fight? Not simple arguments, but all-out fights?
    5. If you were going to cook me a full course meal, what would it consist of? Be specific.

    1. Have you been writing a certain way or have certain things in mind knowing Adrienne and I are just about the only folks trolling the blogosphere this month?
    2. Do you have any weird loose skin or embarrassing side-effects of losing weight and getting healthy?
    3. How many purses do you own and how many of them match at least one pair of your shoes?
    4. If you could slap one person right across the face and then walk away as they stand there shocked and bewildered, who would it be?
    5. If you were going to cook me a full course meal, what would it consist of? Be specific.

    Of course, you can both answer each other's questions, in fact that might be fun. :)

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012

    23 days leftover

    Years before I started blogging, I used to write my thoughts in a journal of sorts. That thick black notebook is filled with hard-to-decipher scribbled penmanship but deeply intense thoughts and prayers and insight. I've never shown it to anyone.

    One of the things I wrote about many times in that notebook was the topic of friendship. A few of the friendship writings were driven by a sometimes rocky relationship Ell and I shared with another couple. At the time, this other couple was doing some ugly stuff to us despite calling us their best friends. Lying, deceit, talking bad about us to other friends behind our backs, and much more. And while there were a lot of legitimate reasons for us to be mad, when I sat down to write my most honest thoughts in that black notebook, the words ended up being much more about me than about those two friends. My shortcomings, my selfishness, even my own dishonesty. It was one of the most eye-opening exercises in humility I've ever experienced.

    From that point on I've been very introspective about the friendships in my life. Being raised a child of my Mother, it not like I needed more help to make my brain more intense and confusing, but that friendship had an affect on me that's been hard to overcome. I'm hesitant to let people in, I'm nervous about overdoing it around new people who could potentially be friends, and I'm often just downright annoying. While I've never had anyone tell me I'm not good friend material, I'm honest enough to admit I can be a handful.

    Another twist on this whole friendship thought-process was Ell leaving me. All I could do was sit back and watch all of our couple-friendships try to sort out their feelings for each of us individually as well as deal with their own sense of loss. Even our closest friends in the world started replacing weekends with us by spending time with other couples. No one would admit it (or possibly even understand they were doing it) but just as Ell had left me, many of my couple-friends started putting distance between themselves and me. It had to have been hard to accept me as just me the individual and not me and her as a couple. I don't envy their emotions and frustration and sadness, and I don't blame them for what happened in the year or so that followed our separation. All I can say is that my internal issues understanding true friendships were even more convoluted after 2009.

    And so here I am nine hours away from home, living in a new state, in a new house, with a new woman. I am surrounded by beautiful mountains, I have a great job, I'm happier with Alli that I've ever been in my life, and................. I'm starting over in the realm of friendships. The two of us have been developing a good couple-friendship with Jason & Diana (aka Limbo & Bird - the friends who thru-hiked the AT in 2009 and I posted their trail journals), but they have their own circles and we aren't interested in breaking into those circles without earning our place. We haven't yet settled into a church or other social circles where we can find quality friendships, and we've been so busy settling into our jobs we haven't made those kind of outings a priority. The one thing I can say with much love and appreciation in my heart, there are a few of my old friends who have accepted Alli into their lives and have accepted us with open arms. That has meant more to me than anything else these last couple years.

    So where is this post going anyway? With me, who knows?! LOL!!! When I left for the AT, I was blessed with an amazing circle of friends who surrounded me to say goodbye, and then when I came home broken and then lost my Dad shortly thereafter, those same friends once again surrounded me with love and support. God has blessed me with more friends than I deserve, and even though I'm many miles away from all of them, I still feel their friendship. A week from tonight Alli and I will be on the road to Ohio to visit them for a few days, and I can't wait to wrap my arms around every one of them and know miles will never take away their love.

    And what of those friends who prompted those writings almost a decade ago? They are as close as ever and I love them both. :)

    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    24 days Überbleibsel

    Alli is on her way to vote. (I voted early; last week.) She may have worked all day, this state may already be decided, but it is very important to her that she cast her vote. While I can get political from time to time, she is more than me ten-fold. Don't get her going unless you're ready for an intense conversation. Her passion for what drives politics and law is impressive.

    I've never told anyone here or on CPS, or even with my friends, who I vote for. And I don't plan on making a change to that stance tonight either. I will say, I've never missed voting in a Presidential election and have only missed one local, primary, or non-presidential election opportunity since I was eighteen years old. I see voting as something we are granted as a privilege and a gracious chance to speak out in support of Democracy. I will never spit on someones choice to evade voting, but I just don't get it. I have multiple friends in other countries, and I see those countries (and so many others) who don't have this kind of freedom and I shake my head in confusion why people here in the United States of America who don't see it as important.

    I know there's only a few people reading blogs these days, but I have to voice my opinion and annoyance if you're reading this and didn't vote. I get busy lives and extenuating circumstances, but this affects your future and the future of your family. Even if you don't vote for a President, the local choices affect you on a personal level. At the very least do your research on those races and vote for them.

    Off my soapbox. Now to sit back with some popcorn and beer and try to figure out what our country will look like tomorrow morning.

    Monday, November 05, 2012

    25 days restante

    One of my biggest pet peeves involves bad drivers. I've mentioned the fact that NC cars don't seem to have very many working turn signals, and I thought I'd be used to it by now..... yet I'm not. Every single day some numbskull turns in front of me, leaves me waiting at an intersection, or almost causes me to run into them... all because they don't seem to have the working motor skills to flip a lever. Grrr......

    On a somewhat/somewhat-not related topic, I've noticed a trend amongst vehicle ownership down here in NC. The predominant truck brands are Toyota and Ford. The rest, Chevy's, Dodge, Nissan, and others are few and far between. For every one of those other brands I see on the road, there are four or five Toyota Tacoma's and three or four Fords, in F-150 or Ranger trim. When it comes to cars, the hands-down number one brand is Subaru. For all the other car makers combined, there is at least one Subaru to match it. Another trend --one I've enjoyed observing-- is many people tend to find a specific brand or model and that's all they own. The closest neighbors both have Saturn SUV's, even though different colors. The people across the street from them have Honda SUV's, also different colors. A house down the road has three Subaru's of the same model. Me? Well, there happens to be two black VW's in my driveway. :)

    I seem to be writing about cars a lot lately, don't I? LOL!!!

    Sunday, November 04, 2012

    26 days remaining

    For this post, I think I'm going to make one of my own MeMe things. A little selfish maybe, but who's blog is this anyway? LOL!!!

    What is your favorite cheese?
    Swiss. I think I get that from my Dad who loved him some Swiss cheese. One time my friend Grant put Blue Stilton into burgers and OH. MY. GOODNESS. GRACIOUS. those were tasty burgers. But even though those burgers were almost better than sex, my go-to cheese would still be Swiss.

    What music do you enjoy that might surprise other people?
    I am not a fan of country at all, but I really like Bluegrass. I even bought Alli a brandy new banjo a few weeks back and am looking forward to listening as she learns to play it.

    What is your favorite chick-flick?
    Nottinghill. I just love that movie so very much. My favorite part is where they sit around the table and try to out-do each others' misery.

    Every parent has a favorite child, even if they won't admit it. Who is your parents' favorite child?
    I would have to say me, but don't tell my sisters.

    What is something you enjoy to do in your spare time that some people might be surprised to find out?
    Building stuff with wood. In the short time I've lived here, I've built a tall bookcase, an entertainment center, two racks for my records, and just today I made a distressed wooden box to hold my Dad's architectual drawings of kitchens and bathrooms from when he had his cabinet shop.

    Who do you think will be most shocked by these answers?
    Well, my sisters, of course. :)

    Saturday, November 03, 2012

    27 days still to read

    I have so many things in my head to write about, it's hard to choose which one to go with.

    Instead of trying to figure it out, I think I'll share something else that's been on my mind.

    I get a lot of spam comments that Blogger stops from going onto the actual post. I still get to read them in my email, but most of them are advertisements for medications or timeshares or other such nonsense, so I usually just delete them. Well, yesterday I opened one of them and then clicked on the post which was from NaBloPoMo, 2009. It seems (I don't really remember) everyone participating that year asked everyone else a list of questions. These weren't general questions anyone could answer, but direct to that one person. The particular post this spam comment brought up included very personal and real questions from Kimmy to me... the kind of questions so real some people might shy away from answering. Well, I didn't shy away and it was a fascinating conversation.

    (Here's a link to the post if anyone cares: LINK. )

    You two ladies (or anyone else I guess) interested in doing this for 2012? If so, post your questions in a comment and let me know if you'd like some of your own questions.

    Don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight. :)