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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Today is the day.

My father’s funeral is today, so after this I promise some much more upbeat posts… However, combining the two is possible today – the funeral and upbeat.

We had the receiving of friends and family yesterday and after expecting a trickle of friends and family, we were happy to have the place packed, shoulder to shoulder, for three hours. There were plenty of condolences but many more laughs and remembrances of a great man, husband, father and friend. Even my last boss, now good friend, showed up. My buddy Brian came by for a time and even Canuck Steve and English Pete’s wife and kids (Pete is at a 10 day silent retreat, so pray for him!). Friends from the old neighborhood showed in waves, as did some family members. My mother-in-law and step father-in-law came down and stayed with us.

After the viewing we all, and the kids, went over to my sister’s house and shared pizza, salad and a whole lot of memories and laughs.

This has been better and more healing than I ever could have hoped. I am truly a blessed man.

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On the Celebration of Life…

I am going to try to be very careful about how I choose my words in this post because I have to be honest; after my dad’s passing, my brain to mouth filter is a bit more, um, porous over the last couple of days.

While I am terribly broken up over my dad’s passing and will miss him greatly, his death also provides many reasons to be grateful.

For instance:

My wife has been nothing short of stellar through this.  To say we’ve grown closer through this would be an understatement of Biblical proportions.  My dad’s passing has also given my wife and I the opportunity (and we’ve seized it) to teach our kids how to accept death and celebrate life.  It’s also given me a finer perspective on the importance of being a good dad.  My brothers, sisters and I aren’t often in the same State at the same time, let alone having the chance sit down and eat together.  We will have that chance several times over the next few days.  Also, working together to get the funeral through the burial together has been nothing but good for us as a family.  I spoke with my best friend for the first time in almost two years ago yesterday, it was good.  On a normal day I have distractions; this job needs to be quoted, that job needs manpower, this company is late in paying for their services rendered, that guy is going to miss work because his doctor only schedules appointments between 10 am and 2 pm – and obviously it’s too much to ask for a little notice…it’s always something.  For once, at least for a few days, everything has worked out so all I have to do is concentrate on celebrating my dad’s life and enjoying time with my wife, kids and siblings.  Finally, I have a tough time grasping, or maybe understanding, what my place is in society.  While I do have a healthy opinion of who I am, actually seeing evidence of how many people care has been really cool, even a little surprising.

So, while I’m quite broken up many good things have come from the process of grieving my dad’s passing.

 

It May Take a Village to Raise a Child… But it Took a Father to Raise a Man

My father was a good man, with some glaring defects.  There is no doubt though, he did a bang-up job with what he had.  I have written, on more than one occasion, that I am one of the few recovering alcoholics that I know of who can honestly say I had a great childhood.  It really was good times and noodle salad.

My dad taught me how to play baseball, he was a recruited catcher in high school but chose a different path, so I can throw a rope rather than some of these lame famous people who end up bouncing a ball to the plate for an opening pitch.  I learned the outfield and to play a mean first base (can to this day).  My favorite baseball memory was learning, in the front yard, the importance of not being afraid of the ball.  I was fine with a tennis ball but put me at the plate with a hard ball and I had no nerve.  My dad took me out in the front yard, made me put my hands in my pockets and threw the ball at my chest and stomach – not too hard, but hard enough that it hurt.  Today I think the sissies call that child abuse – but it worked.  I learned that the sting goes away and it’s not all that big a deal.  From that day on, I absolutely loved baseball.  The sports didn’t stop at baseball though, I played hockey, dabbled in football (too small) and basketball.  Finally, when I was sixteen, after hitting a golf ball through the neighbor’s window, my dad started taking me out to the driving range and started sharing his real passion with me:  Golf.

My dad and I played some serious golf together.  He creamed me too, up until maybe eight years ago.  We would talk about the game, watch some on TV.  Talk about the swing and how I finally learned to bomb it (after some serious work with a pro).  My fondest memories with my dad occurred on the golf course.  Starting about six years ago, I took off every Friday afternoon during the summer to pick him up and play a round.  Eventually he degraded to a point where he didn’t have the energy for the last few holes so he’d watch me finish up.  Then we were down to nine holes.  The last time I took him golfing he teed up a ball, turned around and hit it right at me.  I only played four more rounds after that day.  Each one broke my heart just a little more.  I haven’t touched my clubs since.  Now that he’s gone though, I’m feeling a little inspired to carry on, and pass on, the legacy.

Beyond the sports, my father was a hard-working fellow.  He was so successful, his story can be summarized in just a few short sentences.  We moved to Michigan in 1975 so he could help my grandfather run the family business, my dad was just 32 years old.  I think he was on the job maybe two weeks when my grandfather (mom’s side, he owned the company) died of a massive heart attack.  My pops took the reigns, ran the company himself and grew it.  He did very well providing for us.  If there was a time we wanted for anything, I can’t remember it.  My dad did so well, my mother never had to go back to her nursing career which she left shortly before having me, until they divorced.

My dad was tough too (if you couldn’t get that from how he taught me to get over the fear of a hardball).  Even so, I can only remember him ever hitting one of us one time.  My brother and I were young, maybe nine and seven, and we were fighting in the basement.  He kneed me in the nuts, hard.  When I yelped, my dad came running down and asked what happened.  When I told him, he went to town on my brother’s butt.  I can still remember the cigarettes in his pockets flying everywhere.  From that moment on, whenever we reached my dad’s limit for our screwing around, all he had to do was slam his hand on whatever table he was near and we straightened up.

My dad, when I was in fifth grade, helped me put together the science project that would last a lifetime.  Before he and my mom met, he was a meteorologist in the Air Force.  In fact, his four years ended just before the escalation of Vietnam so he didn’t have to go.  Starting several months before my science project was due, my dad picked up a kid’s weather package and we hand-built wind measuring tools in his workshop in the basement.  For the wind speed measuring tool, my dad drove and I sat in the passenger seat with the window open and I hung out the door with the gauge.  I marked five mph increments starting at zero all the way up to 60 mph and with no seatbelt.  My God in Heaven!  I measured wind  speed, temp, precipitation, cloud cover and type of clouds present twice a day, for a month, dutifully recorded the information and laid everything out on a spread sheet.  The spread sheet and all of the tools were mounted on a display and submitted.  I aced it.  That little project, 33 years ago, has stuck with me to a point that I can still perform a look out the window, “rain will be here in fifteen minutes” weather report and be right every time (I was wrong once, down in Florida).

I started getting into trouble when I was 18 years-old.  My dad bailed me out every time and did his best to turn that into a lesson right up until I turned 21 – and some of those instances were big.  For one, I was facing real time.  It was after that, I ended up getting pulled over for drunk driving…  My dad showed up to bail me out and informed me that this would be the last time.  Any more trouble and I was on my own…  Monetarily and living quarters wise.  Of course I screwed up again and he let the hammer down.  I was in treatment shortly thereafter.  They took me back in after I left and I never let my parents down again.  Once my pops stopped bailing me out, I became a man out of necessity.

My dad had his fleas too.  I inherited my drunk streak directly from him.  We always knew he was loaded if he came home chewing cinnamon Dentyne.  Damn that gum.  He tried, when I was about 15, to turn quit and turn himself into Ward Clever but by that time my mom had given up.  They were divorced, if memory serves, by the time I turned 23.  In the end, that, combined with Alzheimer’s, did him in.

Being a drunk wasn’t my dad’s most glaring fault however.  His biggest fault, if it can be called a fault, was that he made being incredibly successful look, from where I sat looking in, easy.  It took a lot of years and a trainload of mistakes on my part to understand just how hard you have to work to make it, to pay all of the bills, to make the rent (now mortgage) and to be a good, honest person in the process.  I did make it though, and without the need of bailouts and hands up.  He set the example and I pulled up the boot straps until I could match his example, even surpass it in terms of being a dad.

My pops did an awesome job raising five successful kids.  He is survived by his three sons, two daughters, eight grand children and my mom.  A business owner, architect, fire fighter, fashion designer, stylist and mother, an independent beauty consultant and super-mom, a sign language translator and mother, a teacher and mother and a nurse.  We didn’t get to where we are because he gave us opportunities.  We made it because he gave us an example.

Rest in peace pops, you did a great job…and save a golf cart for me.  I’ll be along in 50 or 60 years.  Hit ’em long and straight, fairways and greens as always…and please, don’t practice too much – catching you down here was hard enough.  I can’t even imagine the back nine in Heaven (but I bet it’s beautiful).

JRL 1941 – January 21, 2014

Special thanks to my wife, who my father picked as his last contact and who has made my life good.  I couldn’t be handling this so well without her.  To my mom, who is simply amazing through this.  To my brothers who are my closest friends on the planet.  Especially to my sisters who shouldered a huge load in carrying for our pop – I am so very thankful for them.  To the people at Shepherd’s Gate in Hartland, especially Angela, Jordin and Barb for taking such good care of my dad and doing the tough work that we couldn’t.  And finally, to Hospice of Michigan who made my dad’s passing quiet and comfortable.  A truly amazing group of people and a blessing in our lives.

Finally, to all of my internet friends, especially you Sandra, for all of your support and prayers.  When I wrote my post announcing my hiatus the other day, each and every time my phone chirped with a notification that one of you had left a comment wishing us well, I felt a little better.  Thank you so much, the prayers did indeed work and we needed them.

Minor Hiatus Needed…

I’ll be taking a hiatus for the next day or several.  My father has been fighting Alzheimer’s for several years now and appears to be at the end of that battle.  I’ll update the site as I can.

Eating to Fuel Endurance Training and Long Distance Races

An interesting perspective on endurance fueling indeed…

Mother Nature's Diet

A subject I am often asked about is ‘what is the best food to eat for marathon training, ultra-marathon running, Ironman training’ and so on. I have lots of friends involved in endurance sport, and I have a reasonable amount of experience myself, and there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about fuel for endurance sport. Personally, I have been in long distance endurance events with far more experienced runners than myself and seen them fail and drop out because they ‘got it wrong’ with their fuel, yet in my own experience, such problems are entirely avoidable most of the time.

This post will explain:

  • Why complex carbs are not the best fuel for endurance races
  • Why complex carbs are not required in great quantities pre-race (carb loading)
  • Why gels and bars are not the best fuel to consume during a race
  • How to be ‘a fat burner’, not ‘a…

View original post 2,629 more words

The Easier, Softer Way…

A common saying in recovery describes attempting to recover from alcoholism doing as little as possible to attain the desired result:  A happy, productive and full life.  At first glance it may seem a bit childish, probably because it is, but let’s not throw stones because it also happens to be human nature.  We look for the easiest, softest way.

This gets deep and can be used in a lot of ways, so please stick with me a second…

It may be tough to grasp, the concept of recovering from alcoholism, but it isn’t easy.  If you know how deeply the depravity can go, if you have seen exactly how sick someone can get, you might get a hint of how tough it can be to come back from that.  We only have to change everything about who we are and how we live and how we think.

To begin with, if we’re really fed up with the old life we take to the process pretty enthusiastically.  When we get to the tough stuff though, taking stock of who we are and why we do what we do, fear tends to get in the way.  Fear comes in the form of many unanswerable questions.  A few related to jail or prison, whether or not we’ll be forgiven by those who matter, and the general shape of how things turn out, just to name a few.  Add to the fear, the desire to “get to the good life” and the actual work of getting there can take a back seat in the hope that it’s not all that necessary.

Without getting too deep into it, this is “looking for the easier, softer way”:  How can I get the most out of recovery (or life) with the least amount of work.  In terms of cycling, say I want to race…  I enter my first race and get dropped.  Rather than actually training in a manner that will bring about the results I want, I attempt to get to where I want to be using half-measures.  The next month I enter another race and stay on but finish at the back of the pack.  While I have improved, I’m holding back from putting in the work needed to compete.  So I go back to the drawing board and change my diet a little bit and lose a few pounds.  My results don’t change, but I’m not so wiped out.  Back to the drawing board.  Now I decide to start hitting the gym…  You get the idea – rather than go all in and train like I mean it, I try to win with as little effort as possible.  Now, I can guarantee you racing a bicycle is an order of magnitude (or nine) easier than getting sober.

Now, let’s look at the easier, softer way in terms of something that affects a lot of people:  Fitness and losing weight.

This is where living a life of recovery really helped.  In terms of weight and fitness, for nine months out of the year, for more than 12 years, I gave running, cycling and swimming everything I had and it paid off.  Hindsight being what it is, I certainly tried for the easier, softer way when it came to the diet, but never the fitness.

Now here’s where this gets fun, and we’re going back to recovery to give this some heft:  Once all of the half-measures are used up to no avail, generally we’re left with pain (I’ve been there).  I no longer have my escape or the good results to continue with a happy life.  At this point, one of two things happen:  We either start drinking again or we throw off the half-measures and give it everything we’ve got and recover.  This is why recovery from addiction is so hard and winners so few and far between.  Statistics show about 3% who attempt recovery make it to five years – you can imagine how few make it to 20.  There are exceptions to the rule though – Dawn Farm (the treatment center I went to), last I knew, enjoyed an 85% success rate for those who complete the program.  The difference?  Well, partially it’s time.  Dawn Farm’s program is 3-9 months while the standard center is 28 days.  The rest is all about half-measures.  Dawn Farm accepts no half-measures.  They give you what it takes to make it and then make you use it or they boot you (or they did when I was there).  Most treatment centers just poke around the edges hoping that you get it.

Now apply that principle to weight loss and fitness.  The question that begs an answer is do I poke around the edges with half-measures or do I give up the fight and embrace a healthy lifestyle?  If I choose to poke around the edges, if I apply half-measures, at best I get partial results, a lot of consternation and pain.  On the other hand, if I shed the attempt to hold on to the old lifestyle and embrace the healthy with everything I’ve got, I get the results I was looking for from the beginning…

In other words, giving it all I’ve got from the beginning is the easiest, softest way.

Please don’t take this post as advocating a specific diet – especially vegetarianism or veganism.  While any diet has its enthusiasts, I eat an enjoyable, no sacrifice diet and according to my doctor, am the model of health.

The Week in Funny…

The Week in Pictures from Power Line:

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For the liberal who doesn’t even “get” the explanation on the photo: The pistol handle is staged the wrong way… Only a liberal would set the pistol down that way. In fact, only a liberal would find it necessary to put the pistol on the table – but that’s a much longer post.

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Son, I spilled more than you ever drank…

How do you respond to negative input?

I can remember, like it was yesterday, the first time an old timer exclaimed with incredulity, “Son, I spilled more than you ever drank”.  My offense?  I quit drinking at 22 years-old while he’d waited till he was in his sixties.

My eyes narrowed slightly and the corners of my mouth curled slightly into a wry smirk, “If you hadn’t spilled so much, old-timer, you might have quit when you were my age”, I replied.  Now I’d love to tell you I was that witty but I wasn’t.  I was prepared in treatment for the first time someone hit me with that.

I held no resentment after that, in fact that became a defining moment in my sobriety.  I belonged because I said I did, not because some old-timer thought I hadn’t tried hard enough to drink successfully.  Besides, I didn’t quit drinking to please that old fart, I quit to save my life.

However, when viewed through the lens of today’s “fat shaming”, where people snap photos of themselves fitting their entire body in the legs of an old pair of pants, or in a two-piece swimsuit after their third kid and certain people absolutely freak out as if some law of decorum were trampled, the magnitude of some old guy calling out a young kid like that takes on a new meaning.

Folks, this world is inhabited by a lot of really decent people.  It also has its fair share of jerks.   That isn’t the end of the discussion though.  As in the instance I described above, the crappiness of a jerk can be used for good.  In recovery we learn early on that it is good to take an honest inventory of one’s life on a regular basis (to some extent, daily) and to look at that inventory critically.  Where do I fail, or succeed?  Where can I do better?  Did I cause misunderstanding because I didn’t explain myself well enough (I’ve been guilty of that one many, many times – especially on this blog).  The point is, criticism is never without merit.  It can be looked at objectively before I make the decision that I have something to improve or decide that the offender is simply an ass.

This is obviously against the current whiny nature of things.  Far better to cry over my last piece of that large pizza that someone who made better choices than I do is bad for being happy with their good decisions.  Damn them!

Let’s go back to my initial scenario…  Imagine if I had been dumb enough to give that old-timer’s statement weight rather than smack him back (verbally of course).  Imagine I contemplated it seriously…  Maybe I didn’t have enough experience with drinking to quit.  Maybe the doctor was lying when he said my liver enzymes were as bad as a 60 year-old chronic alcoholic.  Hey, maybe I should go out and get loaded after all of that crap I went through to get sober!

If I were weak enough to allow another person’s assessment of my life, after having known me for all of 30 minutes, to change the course of my life I would deserve to be drunk in a ditch.  That inventory I spoke of earlier demands rigorous honesty.  If I look at his comment objectively, I can see that the old guy is not a jerk, there was something more than that.  He was reacting to something I said about getting sober and things finally working out in my life after all of that wreckage…  The truth is, he was just an angry old man.  He was jealous.  In other words, he was simply sick in the head.

There is no such thing as fat shaming when the situation is used properly.  There is no spoon Neo.

When I was heavier, I didn’t need anyone to shame me – I had enough on my own.  Once I took control of my life and started making the right decisions, there was no cause for shame.  I became one of those people having to buy new clothes.

The Unbelievable Awesomeness of the Cannondale SR-400 Frame…

Cannondale - on the left, with my wife's Secteur (Right)

Cannondale – on the left, with my wife’s Secteur (Right)

Now before we even get into this, every single photo I’ve taken of my Cannondale, every one, was taken before I knew how to properly stage a bike…  I am well aware, and apologize profusely for being a noob and not knowing any better than having the drivetrain on the opposite side of the bike for a photo.  In fact, I’m planning a new photo session with the bike this summer so I can properly add it to my “My Bikes” page.

With that out of the way, I’m taking it into the shop today – I’ve finally found a use for those DT Swiss wheels that I broomed from the Venge because they were too heavy…

Now, this gets intricate so I’ll do my best to explain this well…  Anyone who knows anything about older frames knows that the rear dropouts are between 126.5 and 128 millimeters wide (for the noobs, the rear dropouts are the parts that hold the wheel in the frame).  This is a big problem when trying to upgrade an older aluminum frame because the newer wheels require a 130 mm dropout.  With a steel frame, you simply stretch open the dropouts and line them up so the wheel tracks straight.  An aluminum frame is different however, you can’t stretch them.  The aluminum is heat-treated so it’s very brittle – you run the risk of cracking the frame or one of the welds which could ultimately lead to a failure of the frame at speed and an accident.

The SR400’s Criterium frame is different though…  I read on a message board just the other day that stated modern wheels will fit, if snugly, into the dropouts as they are.  The SR400’s dropouts are set at 128.5 mm which means that they’re only 1.5 mm too narrow for a modern wheel.  What you end up with is a perfect, yet snug, fit of a modern wheel in an old frame, no stretching necessary.  The only trick will be getting the old cassette on the new wheel but we’re fairly confident that a spacer or two will do the trick.  One could make the leap that the snug fit will cause friction with the hub but I can assure you, it’s not anywhere near that snug – the skewer will cause more friction than the fit.

I also considered, for a minute, upgrading the shifters, chain rings, chain, derailleurs, cassette and going whole-hog with a modern 10-speed drivetrain but honestly, with the Venge and Trek in the stable, the decision came down to whether or not I needed to go to that length.  I don’t.  Either way I’ll be dropping at least two pounds on the Cannondale by switching the original wheels to the DT Swiss 4.0’s and gaining some fresh new wheels at almost no additional cost.

To round out this little project report, when I checked to make sure the new wheel would fit in the first place, I had to make sure that the wheel was sitting properly in the dropouts, that it wasn’t cocking to one side or the other (that the wheel tracked straight).  Unfortunately it didn’t, which I thought doomed this little idea before it even got started.  Just to make sure, I put the original wheel back on – and it was worse.  Who knew!  So there are a few ways around this without scrapping the bike.  I talked over three options with the Matt at the bike shop and settled on the last one…  It’s not off very much so we’re going to sand out some of one of the dropouts so the wheel sits in there straight.

Finally, I’ll wrap this little project up by giving her a new white saddle and I’m going to go with white bar tape to get it back to a more original look.  Photos to come once the snow melts.
UPDATE: She took a lot of work to get right… The dropouts were out alignment and way off center. Matt got it done though – two wheels from a 2013 race bike onto a 1990 Cannondale, with a 7 sp. cassette. Matt changed my mind on the saddle and bar tape too… Because it’s my nasty weather bike I’m going to go with black.

Yes Ma’am….

GetSickSoon

I’m feeling a little under the weather right now as a matter of fact…