Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

A eulogy

Posted: July 12, 2014 in family, friends, grief, I has a sad, regrets

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a funeral and the celebrant obviously knows nothing about the dearly departed.

I feel that’s disrespectful. As such, I stood up and volunteered to eulogize my mother. It’s not something I could leave to chance. I couldn’t let someone sum up this extraordinary life with a few trite sentences about how JoAnn loved her family. Yes, she loved her family, but there was much, much more.

Without further ado, I present the first eulogy I’ve ever written.

Good afternoon.

I volunteered to take a few minutes to talk about JoAnn. Whether you called her JoAnn, Mom, Sis, Niece, Aunt, Cousin, hey you… she was certainly a unique and wonderful individual. We are lucky to have had her in our lives.

As you know, mom passed very suddenly. I was on my way home when I got a call from the dentist’s office informing me of what had happened. As anyone who has ever ridden with me knows, I can be a bit… impatient with other drivers, especially when I need to get somewhere. Turns out that the driver I was impatient with was driving a large farm tractor. Hey, it IS Lancaster County.

To make a long story short, I got home, picked up Laura and we were on our way to Reading. I opted to ride shotgun, seeing that I was pretty freaked out. We fully expected that mom would be sitting up in the emergency room, wondering what we were all doing there.

The fact that we are all here today proves that to be wishful thinking. I honestly always thought mom was indestructible. We assumed that when the apocalypse came, the only living things left on earth would be the cockroaches, Keith Richards and my mom.

Enough about what has happened. It is done.

This is a celebration of the life of an extraordinary woman.

A woman we all loved dearly.

Again, those of you who know me well know that I have a certain way with words. If you are expecting a eulogy that is sorrowful, well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If there’s one thing my mother was not, it was sorrowful. As such, I wanted to share some remembrances of her.

Now, many of you know that while mom could be incredibly perceptive, she would also be completely oblivious from time to time. I remember one time I had her convinced that the stealth fighter was, in fact, invisible to the naked eye.

Yeah, I did that. She was a good sport about it, though. She usually was.

She taught me most of all the things I know about cooking. Everything else I know is due to the Food Network. Just don’t put the two of us in the same kitchen.

She taught me the value of working for something I wanted. Case in point. When we moved out to the spread on Rivervale Road, the soil was extremely rocky. Mom got the bright idea to pay Michelle and I a penny a rock. Me being me realized that there was no size parameters for the rocks being collected… we still got a penny if it was a piece of pea gravel or a boulder. You all can probably guess what I tried to pull. I threw a few large handfuls of gravel in the cart and said, “That’ll be $5.”

As you can imagine, that was not well received.

Mom was always very self-reliant. She hated asking people for help, no matter what it was. She usually didn’t mind asking me for help at inconvenient times, though. I seem to remember her asking me about an error message she had gotten got on her computer a few weeks before, as I was tiling a bar top. She would also ask me esoteric questions about her diagram less crossword puzzle while I was driving. Kind of hard to drive, chat and look something up on Google at the same time. Trust me. I’m certainly going to miss it.

That was mom.

Whenever I drove her anywhere, I’d have to tell her that I disconnected the brake pedal on her side of the car.

There was also the time at Michelle’s birthday party when she, well, kinda sorta, managed to start her shirt on fire.

We all have so many memories of times spent with her. For the family, the biggest might be her summer parties at the Rivervale house, where the pool was open, the food was yummy and plentiful, and mom was the driving force to put it all together. Dad and I would do a lot of work, but we had no part in the master plan. We were strictly manual labor.

Fact is, mymom was full of life and love, and had a good sense of humor. She was also known to leave us speechless. At our wedding, Mom had a few too many. (OK, one… not one too many… one) Turns out my father-in-law had assigned one of the young bartenders to keep an eye on mom and make sure she was taken care of. They were bantering back and forth and at one point, the bartender joked about taking Mom home. The next day, at brunch, mom said, “I should’ve taken him up on that. I could use a roll in the hay. After my jaw audibly hit the floor and my ears stopped bleeding, the best I could come up with was, “MOM!!!”

She just smiled her JoAnn smile and a legend was cemented.

Mom was also a great friend to many. Many of her friends she stayed in touch with since she was in grade school at Hyde Park Elementary. They liked to call themselves the Silver Belles and there were a few road trips of which the details are kind of sketchy. Something like, “What happens in Florida stays in Florida.” One detail about that trip that made it out was the time that mom, Joanne and Janice went to see a Phillies spring training game in Tampa. Mom called from the stands, and was commenting that former Phillie Pat Burrell was a good looking man. In the background I hear one of her companions say, “And he’s got a nice tushy!”

Yeah. That did happen.

She also learned how to text in recent months. And somehow she learned a lot of the text abbreviations that these kids today like to use. I’d send her a long text on my smartphone and she would send back, “love u2.” I asked her about that one time and she said that while she could text a little, she never quite figured out how to capitalize a word.

That was mom.

In addition to friends and family, Mom was always a particularly soft touch when it came to Michelle’s friends and my friends. They thought she was the coolest mom ever. She was, but try to get a teenager to admit that they had a cool mom. Later, when her and my dad moved to Exeter, she became a surrogate grandmother to some of the neighborhood children, not to mention keeping up her role as den mother to the neighborhood. She was someone you could talk to so easily that most of us did. Michelle and I certainly would yak her ear off. But she always had time for you.

My mother was also very spiritual. She was always quick to tell me of what she read in her daily devotions. She was also one who took those readings to heart and tried to live her life in accordance with her faith. There are a lot of people who trumpet how faithful they are. My mom just showed her faith by how she lived.

I know that mom has gone on to a better place. That she’s off in the afterlife with our dad, our grandparents, some of her favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. I know she’s getting licks from her dogs that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before her.

I know she is going to be OK.

Somehow I just know.

I also know she is worried about all of us. Because that’s what she did. She constantly thought of others before herself. Without fail. She sacrificed a lot so that Michelle and I could get an education. We might not have had a lot of the frills, but we had everything we needed to succeed and, most of all, we had the best mom you could ask for.

I believe our task is a simple one going forward. To live our lives to the fullest. She wouldn’t want us to be sad. Mom would want us to think of those happy times. Take each day as it comes was pretty much her attitude. I’m also pretty sure that right now she’s looking down on all of us and wondering what the fuss is about.

So, with all that being said, kids, make sure you take any available moment to tell your parents you love them and how much you appreciate them. Because they can be gone with no warning and you don’t want to carry that guilt. It’s saying (and really meaning) three little words that mean so, so much.

Finally, I’d like to close with the following quote from some Italian dude whose name I have absolutely NO idea how to pronounce, but I’ll try anyway, E.A. Bucchianeri, “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”

To have this much grief, you had to have a lot of love. That we did. And while it might not seem like it, someday it will balance out. We are hurting now. That’s natural. But the grief will fade and we will always have those wonderful memories of which my mom was a huge part.

Thank you all for coming this afternoon.

 

It’s been a long time since I wrote about the trials of my personal journey, leaving many of you to assume it’s going perfectly.

It’s not.

Truth of the matter is that due to all sorts of external stressors, I’ve been fighting a losing battle on the food front.

Oh, it starts innocently enough… the thought that having a rough day somehow entitles me to eat a Tastykake or ice cream or something like that. Then it becomes less of a treat and more of a constant. Next thing you know, the scale starts creeping the other way.

This ain’t a good thing, y’all.

During my last visit with the surgeon, I mentioned the troubles I’ve been having and he put me in touch with the psychologist that the practice is affiliated with. It took awhile, but I finally got an appointment to see Dr. Collins and it was eye-opening, to say the least.

See, the sky is not falling.

The train has not wrecked.

Dr. Collins thinks that I’ve gone a little off track, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. As such, I’ll be starting a “Back on Track” program next month that will reinforce the stuff I’ve sort of forgotten and hopefully get me motivated again.

While we were chatting, I realized that what problems I’ve had with my feet are so minuscule compared to what I saw over the weekend. Seeing cancer patients like Kim Markey (who did her last chemo the week before the Dopey Challenge), or the folks on full prosthetic limbs… they have problems. I have inconveniences. Big difference.

Regardless, this program gives me another chance to get it right. To learn to stop the mindless eating and the stress eating.

One other thing Dr. Collins told me as we were wrapping up. She said, “Those people you finished that race with? They support you and love you and they know you can do it. That’s a big part of your support structure and if they did that race with you, they will be there for this race, too. Don’t throw all that support away by thinking you have to do it alone.”

Once again, Team AllEars FTW.

More soon.

 

Yes, I’m STILL coming down off the weekend’s good feelings, but I’m headed back to work soon, so I’m pretty sure it won’t last much more than three or four minutes once I get back.

Them’s the breaks.

I’m planning on doing a couple of upcoming posts on some of the inspiring people I met over the course of the weekend. Hoping I can make that happen, because these are stories that need to be told.

One of the best first-hand reports of the weekend’s experience has been put on the WDW Happy Place podcast. I recommend you give it a listen… Ashley and Sam do a great job and it’s inspiring to hear Sam talk about his personal journey.

I had also told you that there was video of my running across the finish line… without further ado.

With Bryan and Melanie after finishing the 5K and receiving our medals

With Bryan and Melanie after finishing the 5K and receiving our medals

It’s not much, but it’s way more than I could’ve done last year at this time. I just hope to keep improving as time moves on. Now if only my stupid big toes would cooperate.

I know I had previously stated a desire to compete in a half marathon by next January. Sad fact is that the evil toes will probably not allow that. Instead of setting my sights on a 5K and 10K back to back. The reasons are varied, not just my toes, but I saw the kind of grit and determination those folks show and I know I’m not there yet. Maybe by 2016? Who knows… maybe the feet will cooperate.

Speaking of feet, I think my trusty Beasts have given their last. I have put well over 300 miles on them in training, and that doesn’t count the times I’ve worn them for every day use. Soon I’ll be heading back over to Inside Track for another pair. I’ve become quite enamored of Brooks… they have pretty much surpassed New Balance as my footwear of choice.

Alas, I must return to my daily humdrum life. More in the coming days!

 

It’s been a long stretch of little sleep, standing on the side of the road yelling at complete strangers, and it’s not much of a vacation.

But it ranks as one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

“But why?” you might ask.

Simple. It comes down to the most amazing group of people I’ve even been associated with. These are people from all walks of life… bankers, lawyers, professors, nerds, and even a singular typesetter. These are people I am proud to call inspirations and proud to be associated with.

I saw pretty much everything, most good, some things that I wish I could unsee (Speedo guy). I saw the full range of human emotion, ranging from people in tears as their minds and bodies began to give up to people who were all smiles, enjoying the fact that they were doing something that not many others will ever even attempt.

I’ll start with the good…

I wasn't kidding... he did 39.3, playing every mile.

I wasn’t kidding… he did 39.3, playing at every mile.

Seeing the joy in my teammates faces as they came by, all the while enjoying that we were out and supporting them. Seeing the pride in which people wore their medals around the parks. Seeing my teammates and other friends complete their first race, or first marathon. Seeing my new friend Sam grind his way through 48.6 challenging miles, never giving up and claiming his medals. Seeing some random dude do a half marathon and full marathon, all the while carrying and playing a sousaphone.

I kid you not.

The incomparable Joe Weeks with the AllEars cheering section

The incomparable Joe Weeks with the AllEars cheering section

There was a juggler and a guy dribbling two basketballs. There was a guy dressed as Buddy the Elf, complete with snowballs (Yes, that was Bryan). There were men in kilts, men in skirts, men in tutus, and one of the most genuine people I’ve even met wearing a Team AllEars shirt (Talking about YOU, Joe Weeks). There was a woman doing the half and full in full firefighter gear, including an oxygen bottle on her back.

Jamison and Deb reveal the year's fundraising total

Jamison and Deb reveal the year’s fundraising total

I mentioned that Saturday was the big reveal of the year’s fundraising total. This was a huge deal because it is the last year of Team AllEars. So we gathered in Ballroom 6 of the Walt Disney World Swan and reminisced. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of applause and a lot of tears. Good tears, because we managed to obliterate last year’s total and come up with almost $105,000, all to fight cancer. So, thank you to everyone who contributed to my personal page.

I’m not going to overload you with everything in one post… that would be too much, and it’s still pretty damn emotional to me (typed as tears are welling up again)

I will write more soon, and even have a video of me lumbering across the finish line with me “entourage” in tow. But, before I go, I want to take a moment to acknowledge every member of the team…

Thanks to Deb, Mike, Michelle, Melanie, Brad, Barb, Chris, Amanda, the amazing Ellie (more on her later), Debbie, Heather, Matt, Stephanie, Molly, my awesome mentor Rich, Laura, Laura, Jessica, Dominic, Tom, Julie, Eddie, Heather, Stan, Kim, Jamison, Phill, Steven, Holly, Sara, the amazing Ed, Tabitha, Tammi, Lesley, Dave, Jill, Eve, Dave, David, Mike, Julie, Christina, De’Dee, Bryan, Linda, Tim, Michael, Alex, Ashley, Mike, Robert, Evelyn, Daniel, Lee, Charlie, Laura, Judy, Sara, Beth, Susan, Christine, Brad, Beth, Joe, Erwin, April, Karen, Tracy, Terry, April, Helen, MaryJean, Debra, Suzanne, Joan, Phil, Ana, Christine, Sandie, Pam, Amy, Dan, Julia, Rhonda, Jason, Cindy, Penny, JT, Ethan, Pamela, Kerry, Kirsten, Jason, Wesley and Jeremy. You all are the best! I also want to thank the Nerds… their support has been invaluable throughout and I look forward to their 2014 Virtual Race Series.

More soon!

The morning, I completed my first ever 5K.

I know… it’s hard to believe.

Mr. “I only run if chased” actually did it and even ran a bit of it.

I’ve been wanting to do this and working toward it for so long that I didn’t think I could get too emotional afterward. Then I reached that point where I just overfilled with emotion and starting crying. Tears of pain, relief, and joy. What a combo.

See, in a surprise move, the dastardly tag team of Wayne and Stubby have been acting up.  I mean, why wouldn’t they? I’m in my supposed happy place and I would have no desire to not have to wrap my toes like an Egyptian mummy, right? So, as late as Tuesday night, I was thinking about bailing on the whole thing. Then it really struck me just how much it meant for me to do it. Then yesterday, we hit the expo. Things really started to click at that point. We met up with our friends from Colorado at the expo and braved the chaos. I never saw anything quite like that. Just a sea of people milling around the Wide World of Sports complex. It was pretty freakin cool. I also met some other folks from the team and to have strangers telling me how proud they were that I was doing this started pushing me toward the happy scale.

I didn’t want to let my teammates down.

Team All Ears and friends before the start of the 5K

Team All Ears and friends before the start of the 5K.
Photo courtesy of Tom Troost

So, at 5:30 this morning, Supportive Partner Woman (5K finisher!) and I were at the team photo.

See? Lots of people

See? Lots of people

Then the waiting begins, because, as it turns out, there are a LOT of people doing this race. We were, of course, in corral E, which was the last one. Thankfully, a lot of my teammates stayed with us and walked along. I wasn’t planning on running, you see, due to my issues with Wayne and Stubby.

As we plodded along, the rains came. Not a heavy rain, but one that was starting to dampen my spirits. My inner Debbie Downer started to gnaw at me and I fumed to myself, thinking, “Well isn’t THIS just ^@$## perfect?”

I kept a smile, but that voice kept yelling at me, “What were you THINKING, you dumbass?”

Still we plodded along.

Then something magical happened. We came across a single team member standing by the International Gateway and she was just screaming for me. That’s what started my inner bitch-slapping of my inner Debbie Downer. (Big thanks to Laura Ozo!)

I realized I only had another mile to go. My pace started to pick up… the heavy feeling in my legs started to dissipate… We came around Spaceship Earth and hit the three mile mark. I saw a group of teammates and I started to hear them cheering for me. Just then, that huge lump of self-doubt flew out of me. I looked at Mike and Brad and said, “I got this.”

Then I ran.

Lumbered, really, but is that really a bad thing?

Getting a medla and hug from Lori was a great ending to an amazing morning.

Getting a medal and hug from Lori was a great ending to an amazing morning.

I crossed that finish line in stride to be greeted by a dear friend who was volunteering with a big hug and my first-ever medal.

See, they may say that running events are a solo thing. Maybe they are, but in my case, my team made me able to run.

This was followed up with congrats and pictures and a tasty brunch. Supportive Partner Woman went off to the parks, I came back to the room to write and to rest the toes.

This little bit of time has allowed me to reflect on what has happened to me today. Oh, and also to start thinking of how I’ll handle a back to back 5K and 10K next year. Because runDisney has its hooks into me now. I want that feeling again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few people who have really helped me. First off would be our team founder, Deb Wills, and our team captains, Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean. Also, my friends Melanie and Bryan for putting the bug in my ear and just generally being awesome. Brad Garfinkel for being a friend and pushing me to do better. Rich Gairing, for being a great mentor and just an all-around awesome human being. It also goes without saying that the rest of my team gets credit. They are all rock stars and it would take too long to list every one of them individually.

I also wanted to thank the Nerds for a great virtual series. These folks have been so supportive as well (and yes, there’s a lot of cross-pollination) .

A "We did it" selfie

A “We did it” selfie

The real rock, though, is Supportive Partner Woman. She thinks I deserve all this credit, but the fact is that it is due to her support and encouragement that I was there at all today. I was truly blessed to have her in my life.

So, the rest of the weekend will be taken up by cheering for my teammates as they finish the other races. I hope that I can give them the same lift that they gave me. There’s also the other event coming up… the big reveal of this year’s fundraising total. That becomes available on Saturday and I will be sure to keep you updated.

After that, well, there’s the brand new Mickey Milers team, an offshoot of the Mickey Miles podcast. This will help to fill the void of Team AllEars. I’m already signed up and I’m sure I’ll be begging for donations to help Give Kids the World before too long.

Until that time, keep on moving.

The US holiday of Thanksgiving is almost upon us. For many folks, this is a chance to gorge oneself on turkjey and stuffing, loosen your pants, sit on the couch and sleep though a game featuring my favorite team (which would be whoever is playing Dallas), then hit up the fridge for leftovers.

It’s an American tradition.

Not for this guy. For me, Thanksgiving will be giving thanks that I changed my life around.

Thanks for another year with family and loved ones

Thanks for vacation starting next week.

Thanks for the friends I’ve made through the Disney community and my teammates.

And thanks that we still have a few freedoms left.

ThanksgivingLet me first start by thanking my totally awesome big sister for her very generous donation toward my Avon goal. Only $119 to go! I might add that thanks to the generous support I’ve received, I’m closing in on tripling my original goal. So, thanks to you as well.

Had the opportunity Monday to have lunch with an old elementary school friend who I’ve not seen in around 25 years. He was back in Pennsylvania from California and we had a nice time. It’s funny… you start out kind of stiff, then you realized why you liked each other and it’s like old times sake. It was great to see him and I hope it’s not another 25 years until we see each other again.

Also, Supportive Partner Woman (devoted Whovian!) and I managed to see the Fathom Events simulcast of Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor. It was so awesome to see it in HD on a theater screen and even more awesome to see David Tennant back in the role, alongside Matt Smith. The theater was loaded with nerds, which isn’t a bad thing, and the audience was quite appreciative.

That’s something else I need to give thanks for. SPW truly is the perfect match for me. We can do nerdy stuff and have a blast. We can also agree to disagree. She thinks I’m too good for her, but truth be told, she deserves much better than me. Do we agree on everything? No. But that’s OK.

So, if you have your own SPW (os SPM), give thanks for them and to them. They make it all worthwhile.

Happy thanksgiving, everyone!

Song of the Day: Be Good to Yourself – Journey
Currently Reading: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

 

So, the saga of Brian’s toes continue.

Wayne had a callous that cracked last week. It was not pretty to look at, but then again, my toes usually are NOT things of beauty.

Then Monday, I noticed Stubby had a crack in the callous on the tip as well, plus Wayne was looking kind of nasty. I had an appointment to see the boys, so on my way, I called my podiatrist.

He could see me in about 90 minutes.

I did an abbreviated workout at the fitness center, went home, washed my hair, collected Supportive Partner Woman (Brave little toaster!), and went back to the Health Campus (or should I call it the Suburban Outpatient Pavilion?).

Dr. Miller was right there, and gave me crap about needing my Dr. Miller fix, since I had only been there the week before. He looked at Stubby first. He (Miller) wound up trimming the edges of the crack and gluing things back together.

Then it was on to Wayne.

Turns out, the reason Wayne was getting a little gushy was that there was a blood blister under the nail. So, it was off with the toenail. I do have some increased feeling, so it did ache pretty good, but I’m happy to report he’s healing nicely.  I was sent off without being sentenced to the Boot of Shame, but I was also admonished to rub my feet every day with ammonium lactate cream to keep the calluses soft and less prone to cracking.

See, Monday was an all-around lousy day.

Mom and Dad in happeir times

Mom and Dad in happier times

It was my dad’s birthday, and that’s always tough to deal with since he’s gone. He would’ve been 78 and I still miss him every day. Of course, tomorrow would’ve been the folks’ 43rd wedding anniversary. That’s also tough. It reminds me of the last one the celebrated. Dad was in the rehab center at the hospital and my sister and I brought in a nice steak dinner from a local restaurant, dressed in nice clothes and acted as the wait staff, even had candles. It was one of the last happy times… he was gone a month later.

Losing him to cancer has been one of the major reasons why I support many of the cancer charities. I’d give anything to have him back and if, through my efforts, I can save someone else from the anguish that I’ve been through, I’m going to do it.

Whether that be supporting the Avon Walk with my participation in Team AllEars or my newest endeavor, the Nerd Herd Racing Series (which supports stupidcancer.org), either way, I’m doing something to help others because so many folks have helped and supported me with my efforts against my own diabetes.

Now, many of you might be wondering what the Nerd Herd Racing Series is all about. Simply put, it’s a series of running (or whatever form of locomotion that you prefer) events themed around various nerdly events. The first race was the May the Fourth 5K (Star Wars), the second was a Happy Birthday Harry Potter 5K or 10K (Harry Potter, duh!) and the third will be a 5K or half-marathon to celebrate Banned Books Week (We’re talking really subversive stuff like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird).

I came late to the party, but there were a few slots open for the trilogy and I managed to get signed up for all three of them. Not only do the proceeds go to stupidcancer.org, you get some sweet bling to display. The best part is that you get a week to complete each event and you can choose to do it all at once or break it up into manageable chunks for those of us who are running-challenged.

Now, if you’re thinking these folks are small-time, well, allow me to enlighten you. The series (through two races) has donated some $10,300 to stupidcancer. That total is only going to go up. If projections hold up, the total should eclipse $15,000. That’s pretty good numbers.

Good people doing good work.

That’s the real lesson… do something good with your life. There’s more to life than petty jealousy and selfishness. Make an impact on someone else’s life. Even if it’s just throwing a couple extra dollars in the Salvation Army kettle or dropping your spare change in one of the myriad good cause cans at your local pizza joint. You’re helping someone less fortunate. Hell, by donating blood, you’re helping someone in dire need.

The Big Whoop

The Big Whoop

In other news, SPW and I managed to make it to Root’s Market on Tuesday. Managed to get some nice produce and some fresh turkey bacon. I have to cook that up (probably tomorrow) and see how it is. I’m constantly amazed by how much local food is available at Root’s. There are so many local farms and butchers selling fresh stuff, not to slight the folks making baked goods and the fast food-type places. We passed the “Big Whoop” which I thought would send SPW (Fan of Whoopie Pies!) into a swoon. It was the size of my head! Thing was huge!

P.S. I managed to walk 20 miles last week. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. Makes me think I’m going to complete that banned books half marathon.

Song of the Day: Tears are Falling – KISS

Currently Reading: The Book of Fate – Brad Meltzer

Current weight: 271 (109 pounds down)