Somebody’s gotta pay

So here we are, Sonny boy is ready to take the plunge and make a decision when the rest of his letters come in.

How are we going to pay for everything?  I’m looking for advice on loans, grants, student loans, etc that will prepare me for the battle that is about to begin.  How did you do it, and if you could go back and do something different, what would it be?  Besides save more :)

Do I have to?

That was me at 8am this morning coming up with reasons not to go to my jujitsu class this morning.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the class.  Great people, Sensei is amazing, it’s outside in the elements.  All around a great way to spend a sunday morning.

I got in last night from Gillian’s tournament at 11:30, had to do some work on the CampCeliac website and some other stuff for work, so I didn’t go to sleep until close to 12:30.  I knew I would be upset with myself if I didn’t go, but I was tired, had a sinus headache, and came up with every single excuse not to.

Did it anyway.  Sunday morning class is my time.  It’s how I get my rah rah’s out – excess energy, anxiety and stress, etc – so that I can face the week.  I am sore, tired, and a bit foggy in the brain, but it was worth it.  Had a great class today, learned(relearned) two of the second set of sword kata, did some cho-bo and hanbo staff work.  Learned some kodachi techniques and had fun rolling around in the snow.  I’ve been gone for a while so I’m having to relearn some of it, but it’s a good refresher, and thankfully I’m getting back into the swing a lot faster than I had thought I would be able to.

And I felt really good after the class was over.  We typically meditate for a few minutes before and after class and that was the most relaxed I’ve been all week – kneeling in the snow, wet from my ass to shoulders, feeling real contentment fold over me like a warm blanket.  The sense of accomplishment I knew I’d feel after class was even better today, mostly because I pushed past all of the excuses to get back in bed and waste the day.

Don’t always roll your eyes when people order gluten free

Lately I see more rolling of eyes or sighs from other tables when I ask questions about how food is prepared and what’s being put into my food.  There are always going to be people who dramatise just about everything simply because they want attention or because they are so absolutely particular that everything has to be a specific way.

Me, I’m just trying not to puke.  My daughter and I both have Celiac Disease and you have no idea what a luxury it is to be able to finally be able to go out to dinner.  For a long time we always had to bring prepared food for her.  Think about how left out you feel when everyone else is ordering off the menu and you’re eating a grilled cheese sandwich that’s not super hot anymore while everyone else is having huge bowls of pasta or chinese food.

One of the things we found out the hard way in 2007 when Gillian was diagnosed, was that celiac disease was a difficult thing to deal with.  Going out to dinner was impossible and even making dinner so that it didn’t taste like cardboard was a struggle. It’s not easy to manage, and it’s a lot more expensive than people think.

I’m grateful in a way that going gluten free has become this trendy thing, because now labels have allergens listed in the ingredients and a lot of packaging has GF right on the front of the box.  I’ve had people try to talk to me about how they know everything about it and how it’s such a great weight loss system, etc.

So let me give you a few tidbits to take away with you so you know what the deal is.

  1. First and foremost, Celiac Disease is not an allergy, it’s an auto-immunity.  So yeah, CAN I have gluten?  Sure.  Will it cause my body to fight against itself?  You betcha.  Trust me, you do not want this.  There are people who test negative for celiac disease,  but are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive.  And no, they’re not trying to be difficult either, they’re trying to not make themselves uncomfortable or in pain.
  2. Unless you want my daughter to hurl on you from across the room, stop giving me looks or rolling your eyes.  My sensitivity isn’t that bad, I usually just get the runs, but Gillian’s reaction is pretty violent.  You think I’m going to mess with my little girls health?  Yeah, bite me.
  3. It’s not a choice for us, it’s a health necessity.  If you think I don’t want to get a fresh out of the oven everything bagel, slice that badboy open and have a sausage egg and cheese sandwich, you are fucking kidding yourself.  Again, I could, but it’s not worth it. see #4
  4. Could I ignore it?  Sure.  Leads to other fun things like polyps, colon cancer, fissures, and other great things!  Plus I like being able to stay awake, have energy, and not be doubled over in pain.
  5. Going to parties is fun too, especially when the host or we ourselves explain that the separated food is for us and that digging your crumb covered hand into a bowl of chips has now taken that off the table for us because of cross contamination.
  6. People who tell you they are doing ‘The Gluten Free Diet’ are kidding themselves if they think that eating gluten free will make them lose weight.  Removing grains will definitely help with weight loss, that much is true.  But the people I’m talking about are the ones who buy all of the gluten free breads, cookies, cakes, and bagels to substitute for glutenous ones.  This is absolutely false as the things they use to replace wheat, barley, rye, and oats are things like tapioca, almond, and other flours that are 2-3 times as high in fat content as regular stuff.

The great thing about awareness is that people have come forward and been wonderful and generous.  Imagine what it’s like when the teacher and the principal will enforce a no peanut rule, but ask them to not have cupcakes for bday parties in elementary school and it’s like you’re committing a mortal sin.  I just want my kid to not be left out, not sitting there crying in the corner because she can’t participate in the festivities.  The parents were worse at times.

For a good 18 months, Gillian wasn’t invited to birthday parties because they didn’t want to have to accommodate her.  Particularly frustrating when we made it clear and known that we’d send her with her own stuff.  The most wonderful moment was when a friend’s mom called to ask Fae how to make a gluten free cake because her daughter refused to have a birthday party if Gillian wasn’t coming.  She made it clear to her mother that Gillian’s wasn’t going to come if there was one spec of gluten on the table either.  Since then people have been wonderful and understanding and involved in making us feel welcome and not like pariah’s or pain in the asses.

So let me get down off my soapbox and leave you with a question.  If you know someone has a peanut allergy, you’re careful right?  That’s all I’m asking for you to do with me and others who have celiac disease.  No, I’m not going to die because my throat closed up, but it’s painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing when it happens.  So the next time you want to make a joke about how trendy it’s becoming when someone orders something off the menu and asks several times how it’s prepared or what’s in it, chances are they’re not doing it for attention or to be difficult.

They’re doing it because they have to.

Moving forward

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, seeing my life as it unfolds in front of me every day and have come to the conclusion that something needs to change.  A guy I knew in high school suddenly is dead from a heart attack, my 46th birthday is this week, and there are a lot of things I want to do in this life.  Then Fae posted something on FB that really made me sit back and think about what i’m NOT doing about all of that.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

I have this concept of what I have to do to support my family is keeping me from doing what I want to do, that a career is something that is necessary and excludes the ability to do anything else.

Life is too short, and whether you believe in heaven, reincarnation, or this is all we have, I realized that nothing is going to change until I take the first step.  Every part of me is scared that this will be yet another failure start that I get myself into, but  doing nothing is never going to get anything started.  Life is what you make of it, and if I can get out of my own way, I think I can make this work.

So I signed up for a creative writing 10 week course that I can do online at http://www.writingclasses.com/index.php.  The ability to do it when I have time instead of an actual time is going to allow me to do something constructive instead of spending hours on facebook trying to figure out what my spirit animal is, or see pictures of someone else’s life.

Wish me luck :)

A writer writes, right?

Heh, that was punny.

So, if I ever want to write, I need to just shut up and write. So many people, books, articles, and signs all say the same thing – shut up and do it.  How do you prioritize things so that you can accomplish the things you want to, along with the things that you need to?  I have a lot of things I want to do, I’m just inherently lazy – or that’s just the excuse that makes sense for right now.

“Make the time” is the most common response.  So, how do I make it so that there are more than 24 hours in a day?  Seriously though, I’ve read so many articles about successful people and how they have a routine in the morning where they get up early, go to the gym, write/read/organize things for their day, all before 9am.  You know what my routine is?  I wake up at 6am, stumble downstairs to make Gillian’s lunch, go up and shake the two of them out of bed, and then slide back into that delicious warm spot that hasn’t even started to cool yet, and pass out for another two hours.  Not productive, but damn that alarm going off at 8 feels good.

So the question is, what do I want?  Which task is more important?  Ideally, that 6am time is a perfect opportunity for me to do a lot of different things.  I could spend more time with the kids, but in truth, neither of them is super chatty in the morning, so I think all I’d accomplish there is annoy them right before school.  (Yes, I’m one of those morning people).

I could sit down and write for an hour at least, but they don’t leave until close to 7am, and truthfully, with them puttering around and how I’m easily distractable (squirrel!), I know that all I would accomplish is to sit and Facebook until the gray matter in my head turned to jelly, but at least I’d finish that level of Candy Crush (woo!).

Or, I could do what I had originally planned on doing, and have managed to find every excuse not to do – get up, wake the kids up, get Gillian’s lunch made, grab my bags and just leave.  Bring my clothes with me and go to the gym across the street from my office – I know, how simple.  Workout for a bit, take a shower and get dressed, and go to my office where I can write for a while, or even *GASP* develop something (I’m part manager, part database developer).

So what’s stopping me?  My bed has gotten compliments from everyone who has lain down on it (get your minds out of the gutter you sick bastards), and according to everyone I work with – I look exhausted so I feel like I should definitely go back for another two hours, definitely (wapner).  Even on the days I’m not really tired, I get the same reaction from people.  It’s kinda sad actually.

I guess the conclusion is the same as the intro – shut up and do it.

How do you do the things you want to do?

Captain America – Winter Soldier

So I woke up this morning, feeling like utter garbage and called into work.  Thankfully, my amazing wife got up and got the kids off to school and let me sleep until around 9.  I’ve been taking it easy and doing a little writing, but my head was starting to hurt so I rented Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Couple of things.  I LOVE comic book stories rendered in movie format, in most cases.  I enjoyed the first Capt. America, it didn’t take itself too seriously, and it was a great movie to watch.  Some really great performances by a wonderful cast.

I think they did it better with this one.  I am not ruining anything by saying who the Winter Soldier is because hopefully everyone knows by now – I’m still amazed it’s taken me this long to watch it.  I really don’t like Sebastian Stan’s work.  He seems to always play the stuck up rich kid in most movies, and I did think he did a decent job in the first Captain America movie.  I have to say, I take it all back.  He didn’t have a lot of lines in the movie, but the emotion that played out on his face was real, and well acted.  So Mr. Stan, I apologize.  I have a feeling that he will be part of the franchise for a while since he signed like a 9 picture deal, so I’ll be interested to see if they do go down the road that some of the comic lines have done and use Bucky to take up the shield at some point.

The other high point for me was Anthony Mackie as Falcon.  I’ve seen some of his work and I really like it a lot, but he made the Falcon for me.  Even knowing what was going to happen, I found myself getting excited to see him and what he could do with the suit.  He did not disappoint there, nor when he was simply Sam Wilson.  His honesty comes out in the role as it did for me in the comic book, so nicely done Anthony.

Maria Hill, Natasha Romanov, and Fury?  Yeah, they rocked.  I had also seen Shield TV series, so I knew some of what to expect, but seeing him put on the glasses at the end tied it into the series, I really hope they do some good cameos in the next season of the series.

Oh yeah, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch intro at the end of the movie?  Duuuuude.  Can’t WAIT for the next Avengers.

Right place, right time

There are days that I don’t know what to do next there’s so much going on.  There are days that are calm and productive, and days that are exciting and frantic.

I feel like I finally found a job, a boss, and an environment that suits me.  I’ve been so far outside my comfort zone since I started, I have no idea where it is anymore.  I’ve had to do so many different things, be responsible for so many items and people, that there are days where I don’t know which way is up.

And there are days that make me truly thankful that I am where I am right now.  the great thing about this job is that those are most days and I really don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way before.

Disconnect & Reconnect

Every summer for the last 5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go up to Lake George with my parents, brother & sister’s families, and my two aunts for a week of relaxing and fun.  I realized something really important this year.

One of the things I look forward to most is the point about 5 miles south of the place we stay, my signal cuts out.  And I mean completely.  There’s signal in about a 1 foot square, and it moves randomly around the grounds so that I don’t even bother.  The only thing I use my phone for is to take pictures.  It’s really nice to not be distracted by electronics for a while.  It gives me a chance to interact with all of my family and to reconnect with them in a way I wouldn’t be able to if we were tied to the internet and distracted by facebook, or youtube, or things like that.

I spent 7 days walking everywhere, kayaking, swimming, diving off rocks, not to mention taking the kids all wake boarding and tubing.  We all made dinner, all sat and talked over games and ice cream…it gave me a chance to get reaquainted with the people I care about most in the world.

Do yourself a favor, disconnect and reconnect with your loved ones.  Now is only around for a short time, don’t regret time spent online rather than with the people who matter.

45

Well, I made it to 45.  Interesting ride so far.  Didn’t think I’d still feel so young, or at least young at heart by this time.  Thinking back on 45 when I was in elementary school, I wondered which brand of wheelchair I’d be in instead of which workout I’m going to do at the gym.

So where am I now, and what have I done?

Been married to my best friend what will be 20 years this New Years Eve, I have a 16 year old son and a 14 yr old daughter that make me proud enough to burst and crazy enough to snap all in the span of 5 minutes.  We live in a nice area of a nice town in central Jersey.  Yeah, as a kid growing up in Long Island making fun of Joisey, never thought I’d end up here, but I really like it.  I even went so far as to not date people from NY and NJ in college because I wanted to marry someone from MD, VA, or south :)  So I went to school in Virginia, to meet a girl online in Houston who actually grew up 80 miles from me….in New Jersey.

For those who don’t know, I was at James Madison University in 1993 playing a game on the school computers that was a role playing, text based game based on the Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey.  Back then everything was telnet, Bulletin Boards, and Compuserve. It was all text based, black screen green type, old VAX machine stuff, and yet somehow, before the internet really existed, I made a connection online with a person in Houston who I ended up marrying a few years later.

I learned that I love scuba diving more than any other activity else I’ve ever experienced and yet I still live in NJ where there is next to no diving at all.  I’ve seen colors and fish in the waters around Aruba that still take my breath away thinking back on them.

I have a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and loved teaching it for 3 years.  I’ve studied martial arts for the last 20 years off and on, lately more off, but found that there’s something that connects me to western culture finding real peace when i’m moving through forms or sparring.

I got hit by a 26 foot delivery truck in my car and spun it 180 degrees, then flipped it 3 times travelling from the left shoulder to the right shoulder of a three lane highway and somehow walked away with glass in my hair, a wrecked car, coffee all over me, and what ended up needing minor surgery to fix my elbow.  I’ve had both elbows operated on, I’ve had ‘the good’ skin cancer (13 yrs no issue) and lately I am in better shape because I went paleo and found out that I have celiac disease so now I eat no grains.  I’ve had pneumonia, bronchitis, chicken pox, found out I have tinnitus and skin cancer, and I’m still walking around :)

I’ve had good jobs and horrible jobs, worked with great people, and nasty pieces of work, but through it all I’ve thankfully always learned something.  I’ve travelled less than 10 minutes to one place that was 1.5 hours driving each way and into the city which was 2 hours each way, if I was lucky.  The job I’m in now, my manager is fabulous and the prospects at this company are amazing, plus I’m only 15 minutes away.  Now that I’m a manager of a full group of people who are all local (most of my former management exp has been consulting companies), I appreciate some of the hell I put some of my managers through so I believe I’m doing my pennance  :)

I’ve made mistakes, learned from most of them, wasted a lot of time in certain periods of my life and paid for it in others.  Would I go back and change anything?

Nah.  I like me where I am now.  There have definitely been some rough years in there, but we got through them and I think we’re all better for it.  Am I where I want to be?  No man, I don’t own that island yet that has the huge house on it that I go scuba diving every day, but I’ve corrected the mistakes I’ve made and put myself and the people I love on the right track and see where I need to go and what I need to do to get there.  If I can get off my ass and finish my book, maybe this will be more of a reality :)

We’re on this planet for a finite period of time and then who knows what happens.  I won’t say the next 45 years are going to be doing everything on my bucket list, but there’s a quote I like –

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the  intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming — WOW– What a Ride!”

I don’t see the next 45 years as me being reckless, but I think it’s going to be pretty fun, regardless :)

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