Thursday, December 29, 2011

Losing A Third of Myself

Losing A Third of Myself

June 2010 just before it all began
As the end of 2011 approaches and 2012 is about to dawn I thought it would be appropriate to write this installment of my blog about weight loss. Many of us have a tendency to overindulge in comfort foods and sweets during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve.  Really you cant blame anyone. Candies, cookies, cakes, pies, turkey, stuffing, ham, cornbread, pudding, all manner of delicious foods are brought out during this time of year. Many people feeling riddled with guilt will turn to some method or another to lose weight as the sun rises on January first or second. Some of you are like I was just two years ago, already overweight to begin with and your holiday gluttony will make little difference in your appearance, weight, or how you feel. 

Before you step on the scale and groan though Id like to share with you my own experience with weight loss and what I have found to be true about losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight as well as staying healthy. 

The first thing you must realize is that there are no quick fixes. Just as there is no viable get rich quick scheme that will make you wealthy beyond your dreams while working from the comfort of your own home selling widgets on e-bay and then selling your widget buyers the tools to start their own widget business, there is no fast healthy way to lose weight, remain healthy and maintain that weight. Much like making a fortune, losing weight and being healthy is a long term commitment, in essence it is a lifestyle change. Rule of thumb as all the exercise video and diet pill or system commercials start rolling out on January 1st, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Getting fit and losing weight is also not for quitters or those easily frustrated. It should also not be undertaken alone or without the support of someone close to you. The more support you have the better.

The last paragraph may have turned many of you off. For those who stuck around to see what Im talking about please pay careful attention. Lets lay out a few ground rules here. First and foremost, seek your doctors approval before you go to the gym or change your diet drastically. Yes you can roll your eyes but its true. Having a physical is a good idea, if your heart, joints and lungs cant handle the load of exercise youre likely to suffer some manner of medical malady from your attempt to lose weight rather than reap the benefits of it. That being said its also a good idea to know where you started, whats your weight officially, whats your blood pressure, whats your cholesterol (total, HDL and LDL), whats your resting heart rate. These are all numbers you should inquire about and write down.

 Next realize that this method worked for my wife and I. I am not promising you success by following what I did, however it would stand to reason that if you did follow what worked for us you should experience at least some kind of results. Last ground rule, commitment. There is no room for quitters, the quitters are the ones sitting at home right now grazing on a bag of greasy (insert snack food name here) and watching whatever garbage their television spits out and poisons their mind with. (No I am not anti-television its just if youre unhealthy you can do a lot better than sit around and watch the junk thats on tv while stuffing your face with junk and wondering why youve got more junk in your trunk).

Now we get down to the business end of things. My wife and I made two primary changes in our lives that allowed us both to lose significant amounts of weight and improve our overall health dramatically. This all started Independence Day weekend of 2010 (fourth of July). This was a typical weekend at our house, I was off work for the holiday and had spent most of the morning doing some yardwork. After showering I just wasnt feeling refreshed,I was still feeling sweaty and wanting to chill out for the rest of the day. So we headed to the local public pool. 

Me swimming @ YMCA
Upon arriving at the pool we found a sign, Closing early for Swim Meet. Who has a freakin swim meet on Independence Day weekend? At least we still had a membership at the YMCA was my next thought, though I probably hadnt set foot in there for six months or more. They had a pool and were less than five minutes away so we headed to the Y. Upon arriving we found that most of the pool was consumed with small kids and a few serious lap swimmers. There was however one lap lane open at the far end. So we hopped in. I felt instantly relieved, theres just something about the water that relaxes me, I dont know if its the sensation of buoyancy or something else but I always find getting in the water (as long as its a comfortable temperature) is relaxing. 

Since we were in a lap lane, we decided to see if we could actually swim a lap. Let me set this up for you; one lap is counted as down to the far end of the pool and back. The pool itself is 25 yards in length. Thats seventy five feet to one end and seventy five back. That doesnt sound like much does it? I swam as a kid all the time, friends pools, local public and private pools, swimming was fun, swimming was easy, how hard could it be to get from one end of that pool to the other, easy right? WRONG! Oh so utterly and terribly wrong. By the time I made it to the opposite wall I was panting and really thought I might drown, or have a heart attack, or both. 

After resting for about five minutes I swam back to the other side of the pool. For some reason I decided to try this a few more times that day until I had completed four laps. A whopping 200 yards of movement.  A strange thing happened though, I had a good time, my wife and I had enjoyed laughing at ourselves, and I think we both enjoyed the challenge. Besides it felt good to be in the water. Although neither of us had great technique, form or grace in the water we decided to come back again later that week.  I had on previous occasions stated a desire to get back into better shape and be healthier, but in my laziness I had neglected to find the medium to do so. This appeared to be it. 

I also was motivated by a recent incident that previous winter in which I took my mother to the doctor and was mistaken for her husband. Now I have never thought that my mother looked her age, but the nurse had the chart, which would have indicated her age and I was sitting right next to my younger brother who is only two and a half years younger than me. So either I looked old or she thought my mother was one crafty cougar. Either way it did not sit well with me.

Three weeks after we had first tried lap swimming Sydney and I were hooked on it.  We were able to put together 20 laps at a time, it took us about 30 minutes. By the end of September I could swim 35 laps in about 45 minutes, 35 laps is a distance of 1mile in the Y pool. An entire mile, I could swim a mile. Also by that time in September I had managed to lose 25lbs, I was down from 267 to 242. Sydney also had lost about 10 lbs by this time. 

We also made changes to how we eat. We started by reducing our portion sizes at all meals. I went to eating a half sandwich for lunch a handful of chips and a pudding cup. I ate a single cup of yogurt and half glass of orange juice for breakfast, no more doughnuts. I ate one serving/portion at dinner instead of two or three. I began curbing and eventually all but fully eliminating my intake of fast food. I love a good burger and fries, but eating the Supersize was literally killing me. I went to eating off the dollar menu, $1 fry, $1 cheeseburger, $1 diet coke. I switched from regular coke to diet sodas (although I dont drink that much soda to begin with). I decreased the amount of sugar we put in a pitcher of tea (Sydney drinks water only except at breakfast).
1 year later, July 2011
Sydney and I both have a sweet tooth. Sydney is also a great cook, but we made a choice to stop keeping sweets stocked up in the house. No more stacks of cookies, large pans of brownies or cakes. Instead we keep granola bars, yogurt, nuts and fruit in the house. These things tend to fill you up faster and are better for you (if you buy the right kind). Eventually I phased out fast food burgers nearly altogether, instead choosing to go for low fat sandwiches at Subway, occasionally I will still eat a burger from a fast food joint but its a rare occurrence. 

 It is worth mentioning as well that if I eat fast food now for lunch I pay for it later. I dont pay for it on the scale, but I truly find out what the meaning of empty calories is. Within three hours of consuming this type of junk food I am dragging, Im tired, my stomach hurts, my head hurts, I just want to lay down and sleep, my skin feels greasy like my body is trying to purge the offending fat through its pores, I honestly wonder how anyone can eat like that on a regular basis. I really wonder if its like a drug and people get addicted like I imagine smoking is, seemed good at the time, but after youve been off it for a while its terrible.
Running on the beach, July 2011
By Christmas of 2010 I had lost over 50lbs, I was approaching 215, Sydney had lost nearly 30 lbs. I was already satisfied at this point with the way I looked and felt, and that was what I consider a crucial key to our success. We counted every pound as a victory, by that Christmas I knew if I didnt lose any more weight I was already healthier, I was already doing so many things right. 

By April I was down to 200 lbs. I decided to add running to my weekly regimen. Sydney cant run, she had back surgery a few years ago and the surgeon specified no running. So she stuck to swimming only. By my 32nd birthday in September of 2011 I was down to 185lbs. Today Im at 182. I have run in multiple 5k races and one 10k race. Im signed up for the Derby Festival Mini Marathon this coming April. I just ran 10 miles for the first time a few weeks ago. I am up to swimming 2 miles a couple times a month when time permits me to do a one hour swim.  We swim 30-50 minutes 3-4 times a week and I run an additional 3 days a week for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time.

So whats your secret? Thats the question I am asked the most when I encounter people who I havent seen in a while. I will sum it all up below for you and I promise there is no other magic or tricks, no pills or secret formulas, just what I list.
1.     Commit that you are going to change your life to be healthier. Realize that exercising and eating healthier are like marriage, they are intended to be a long term commitment for better or worse and til death do you part. AND if you cheat you are only cheating yourself and you WILL feel guilty about it.
2.     Exercise 3-5 times per week for 30-60 minutes at a time. This needs to be exercise that gets your heart rate up, preferably aerobic or close to it. Running, biking and swimming are great for this. There are also dance classes, step aerobics, zumba, aqua fitness, jazzercise, all manner of workouts you can do in this area.
3.     Exercise at the YMCA. The YMCA worked great for us, we were able to get solid advice and tips from the people who work there. The Y is family oriented and does not tend to be intimidating.  I suggest if you cant go to the YMCA because of location or scheduling that you locate a family friendly gym or, interview and hire a personal trainer. The bottom line here is you need some guidance, do some research and get some help with setting up your program. If you cant do these for financial reasons then do one of two things. Find somewhere to make some cuts so you can fit this in your budget, or do some research online, read some books and some articles and work with your doctor to help you develop a basic plan that you can follow at home.
4.     Have a partner. Just like going through life is easier with a partner, so is getting in shape. It does not have to be your spouse although I tend to believe that if you are working out together then youre both on the same page about where your health should be and your marriage will be better for it. It also helps keep you off the couch when laziness and frustration strike, not wanting to let your partner down or them getting you back in line and motivated is a great asset in the war against your waist.
5.     Adjust your diet appropriately. You dont have to eat sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower 24/7 to eat healthy. You don't have to become a vegetarian or give up pizza or steak. There are tons of low fat, low salt, high protein, high vitamin, incredibly tasty and good for you recipes out there. There are loads of them online.  Do the research, your body will thank you.  Cook at home often.  Plan your meals ahead of time and even prepare your food ahead of time as much as possible.  Then you will not be tempted to eat out when you are tired after a hard day of work.  Also dont deny yourself. If youre at a party and you want a piece of birthday cake, eat it. Dont be rude by not having at least as small piece, but dont go back and eat another piece followed by two or three more. You can still have a steak or a slice or two of pizza, you just need to look at those foods as treats instead of staples of your diet.  Take a break once in a while and hit your favorite restaurant for a good sit down meal. Divide your plate in half or split it with someone. Save the leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day. This keeps your portion control correct but allows you to really enjoy something you might have been craving.
6.     Reduce your sugar intake. Switching your drinks to water is the best bet, but you can also switch from regular to diet sodas, just don't drink them in excess. If you prefer tea or coffee try using less sugar, and give yourself time to adjust.  Also realize that alcohol, (beer, wine, whiskey) is full of sugars or empty calories even though you may not be able to taste it.
7.     Understand that getting in shape and getting healthy takes time. It can take you a year or more to get in shape and get healthy, depending on your goal and your current condition. Stay focused, stay motivated and seek support when you feel down.
8.     Set realistic goals and count every pound, every mile, and every lap as a victory. Focus on the positive, look at what you accomplished today, not what the scale says you havent accomplished YET. Also if youre having a down moment remember that if you are off the couch and moving youre doing way more than you would be if you were sitting still.
9.     Eat a snack. I tend to pack a snack for in the morning and late afternoon. I will munch on a handful of almonds, an apple, a cheese stick, something healthy between breakfast and lunch then again between lunch and dinner. This helps me not feel like I need to eat as much at the next major meal, it also keeps my energy up.
10.  This last one is a controversial one. I canceled my satellite TV service. I grew tired of having over 200 channels and flipping through to find only something numbing to watch as I vegd out and fell asleep each night. I was truly disappointed with the offerings on TV during prime time, either disgusted by the things I saw or unimpressed at the lack of imagination in it. Im not a huge sports fan either so many nights there was little on that I actually wanted to watch. So I cancelled my service, subscribed to Netflix and now I watch about an hour of TV a day and the local news before work and before bed. Some days more TV some days less, but I dont have it pulling at me to come watch something that I might miss, or DVR 100 hours to catch up on over the weekend instead of exercise. With Netflix itll still be there when I get back home.
I'm pretty sure I could keep going but this blog is already long enough.
Old pants (navy size 44) and new pants (khaki size 32)
Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, coronary artery disease, arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis, are all scary terms. I cant promise you that by doing what Ive done that you will not at some point in your life face one or more of these dreadful ailments. What I can tell you is that even if you do, if you are healthier your chances of coping with those conditions and improving your health are much better.
I started out at 267 lbs, maybe more since I didn't weigh myself for about 2 weeks at the beginning; I was in a size XXL shirt and a 44 waist in my dress pants. I weighed myself on the first and third weekends of the month for the entire year as I progressed. When I started out my elbow, my shoulder and my knees would pop and creak as I got out of bed every day. Seldom do I have a problem like that any longer. I can keep up with my young nieces and nephews when I get together with them; Im able to play whatever game theyre into at that time. Today I wear a medium in most shirts, a large in some but thats usually due to my shoulders not my stomach or waist. My dress pants are a 32 and that's at my belly button not hanging below, I weigh 182 lbs, I'm the size I was when I walked across the stage at my high school graduation.

Old shirt XXL, New Shirt M
Recently I had to do some work on my roof at my house, I noticed my balance had dramatically improved from the last time I was up there a little over a year and half ago. I also recently helped my brother move into a new house, again not being out of breath at every step when I was helping with something heavy was a great. It's also nice to not run out of breath playing tag or any type of ball game with my nieces and nephews.
The last thing I will say is this. We only get one life, one chance to be here on this planet. I want to be with the ones I love for as long as I possibly can, hopefully exercising and making healthy choices will lead me in that direction. Chances are your loved ones want you around too; there is no excuse outside of being limited by a medical condition that you can give me or them that is a good enough reason to not make an effort at being healthier. Even if you dont get to live that longer life, you will at least be able to say when your time is up that you did everything to get the most time possible from a health standpoint. Too often we look to mediocrity as the standard or the acceptable achievement in our society, accepting it as ok. What we should be looking towards is excelling, especially in the area of our health.

This blog contains the author's experiences with weight loss. The author is not a health care professional or fitness instructor. This information is presented as an example of how two people lost a significant amount of weight. If you are planning to undertake a weight loss, diet or fitness program you are strongly encouraged to seek professional and medical advice. The author assumes no responsibility for anything good or bad that results from your use of the information contained herein.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Truly Blessed

Truly Blessed
As we approach Christmas day I find myself looking back on this year and seeing just how blessed I really am. Counting your blessings is nothing new. People have been talking about it for centuries, perhaps since the dawn of civilization. I wonder though, how often in our fast paced, gotta have it now society do we really pause to count our blessings.
In one of my favorite Christmas movies “White Christmas"Bing Crosby sings a little song about counting your blessings. This song is actually my favorite in the movie, more so than the song which shares the same name as the title or any other in the entire film. To borrow an expression from my friend Travis McClain if you were raised by heathen wolves and have never seen “White Christmas" well I have to question your upbringing but more importantly you should watch this Christmas classic, it’s from a golden age of cinema and music.
So in keeping with the Christmas theme let’s talk a little about why we’re so blessed, why I feel like I’m blessed and why that might truly be enough for most of us for Christmas.
 Let’s start with the basics. If you are reading this, as far as I know you are still alive (I don’t know how else you’d be reading it and thinking about that is kinda creepy). The precious gift of life bestowed upon each of us alone is both miraculous and perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all.
Moving on, let’s talk about health. You’re alive aren’t you? Yes I know some of us have all manner of ailments, terminal illness or conditions. I don’t mean to make light of any of it. I’m blessed enough to be in very good health this year, the best health I’ve been in years. How are you doing? If you’re not so great consider that much of the rest of the world outside the USA may not be as healthy as you are. Imagine if you lived in a country where something as simple as penicillin was nearly impossible to get, or where you had to sleep under a mosquito net at night and pray you didn’t get malaria.  If you’re able to hug, and greet your loved ones this Christmas you are blessed with at least some semblance of health.
This brings me to my next point, family. I have my family. I have a wonderful wife, whom I love dearly. I often hear people complaining about marriage and I just don’t get it. Yes there are times we don’t agree and we about once a year get into a heated debate or argument. We never yell and we don’t fight. Maybe our marriage is different, I don’t know, but I truly am blessed with a wonderful wife to share my life with. Both my parents are still alive, I get to spend time around this Christmas with each of them. All of my siblings are still alive and I look forward to seeing them, making jokes with them and visiting this year. For the first time in eight years all my siblings live within a 15 minute drive of one another. This too is a great blessing. There are nieces and nephews to see and play with and even Syd’s grandparents who are in reasonably good health and in their 90’s. If you have any family at all to share this Christmas with, you are blessed.
Moving on there’s country. If you think about it, if you were born here in the USA, you hit the lottery, by comparison to many other places. There are some in the political realm as well as others outside it that would have you believe that our country is in poor shape, I disagree. Yes we have our issues, but would you rather live somewhere else? Really? Come on and think about that for a minute, most of the freedoms we enjoy including the one I’m exercising to write this blog, are but a dream in other countries. I’m not going to bother going through the bill of rights here, and I’m not going to enter into a political debate about this group of people versus the other. I’m simply going to say that no matter what side of any issue you’re on, this country is still pretty  fantastic! If you live here in the USA, you are blessed.
I have a job. Yes that’s something to be thankful for and count as a blessing in these difficult economic times. I will admit that there are days when I gripe about my job. There are even days when I wonder what it would have been like to do something else. I sometimes consider if I should finish my degree and pursue something else. I think though that this drive to be better than I am is just part of who I am and this blog is about being happy with what you have. So let’s face it, if you are working you are blessed. You’re not scrambling over a border fence, hopping on a raft or begging in the streets. Again I don’t mean to belittle anyone, I certainly have empathy for those who are struggling here and in other parts of the world but whether you are sitting in a corporate office or flipping burgers in a fast food establishment you are blessed if you are able to work and have a job that provides you with at least some income. And if you’re not working by choice then you are truly very blessed indeed.
I have a home, a roof over my head. Again I don’t mean to drag this out but I think many of us take for granted having a place to call home. Every night I have a warm bed to sleep in, a pillow to rest my head on and a roof over my head. I have doors that lock (to hopefully keep people out that aren’t supposed to be in my home), running water and electricity. All of those things are rare in many parts of the world. Right now having a home that’s still standing is rare in some parts of the country, if you don’t agree take a look at the folks of Joplin, MO, where vicious tornadoes destroyed most of the town and the homes this past spring. If you have a roof over your head, consider yourself blessed this Christmas season.
I have my faith. I’m not going to preach to you except to say, I have the salvation and peace that can only be found in Christ. My faith is the rock I lean on in hard times and stand triumphantly upon in the good times. I often pray about difficult things, but I also try to remember to say thanks for the little things as well. My faith gets me through the bad and the good, and I try to be mindful of it and thank God for it in both types of situations. If you have faith, especially in Christ at Christmas time, you are blessed indeed.
I was sitting around last night (I drafted this on Monday) and my wife was preparing to do Christmas shopping, we already covered what I really want for Christmas in a previous blog, she was asking what “material” thing to get me. I couldn’t really give her an answer. I really feel so blessed and fortunate this year that there is nothing in a store or shop that she could buy me that would make my life more complete or happier. I have all that I need.  Sure there are gadgets and toys that I want to play with. Those gadgets and toys however new and shiny will fade, wear out, become obsolete or break or I will lose interest in them. The things I am blessed with are the really important gifts, the ones that are permanent and lasting.
This does not mean that I’m implying that any of us should stop buying, should stop shopping or consuming. Our frenzied need to acquire things, upgrade old things and consume commodities drives our country’s (and in many cases the world’s) economy. I’m simply saying if you pause to truly take stock of what you have already, do you actually need anything but that which you are already so blessed with this Christmas?
I could continue counting blessings that most of us take for granted, clean water, food that is not contaminated, access to healthcare professionals, the list goes on and on. I will instead close this entry by simply saying this; we should all follow Bing’s advice in that song from “White Christmas”, “when you’re tired and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep, then you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”
Merry Christmas Everyone

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mid December Madness

Mid December Madness

It would seem that for most of us December is a particularly hectic time of year. The Christmas Season (I refuse to be PC and call it a “Holiday” season). There are gifts to buy, cards to find, fill out and send. Parties to plan or attend, house cleaning for guests, food to prepare, last minute changes and last minute guests! Did I mention the tree to put up as well as the lights and decorations? Don’t forget to call, text, tweet or facebook appropriate greetings to everyone you know on the appropriate days.
Piling on top of the typical December festivities for me though is an unusual phenomenon that plays out every few years. It would seem that many major events in my life have occurred within a few days of each other on the calendar though in different years. I’ll try to go through those chronologically for you now.
When I was in high school I was in band. I will admit to being a band geek, if you were in band you must face the fact that you were on at least some level a band geek (there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a fact). Regardless of the “geek” status my experiences with band were mostly positive. During my four years in high school band we were a mostly close knit family of friends. In fact several of those friends I keep in touch with today. We worked hard together, we laughed together we even cried together. The crying is what brings me to this particular event.  December 19, 1994. This was the first weekday of Christmas break. I was a sophomore, 15 years old. I think 3 of my friends had spent most of the weekend at my house hanging out, playing video games, watching movies, typical teenage boy stuff.
Sometime early that afternoon the phone rang, it was a band parent. I believe that particular parent thought on the phone that they were talking to one of my parents and not to me. A band member had been killed in a car crash that morning. Windy Wyatt was gone, a junior, flute player, member of the color guard, a friend. She had perished in a single car crash on hwy 393, just a few miles from school. I had just spent part of that Friday talking with Windy in the band room before the bell rang signaling the end of school for two weeks. What it was that we talked about I can’t recall now, I simply remember that she had spent some time with me and some other friends. I can’t say we were extremely close, but we were friends none the less.
Of course the funeral and a memorial service followed such sadness and loss so close to the day of the year that was normally for most of us so happy. I can remember much of the details like they were yesterday even though it was nearly 17 years ago.
Obviously this type of event affects any normal human being, but it probably does even more so during those turbulent years of adolescent development.  I can remember I wrote several papers in English class for years to come reflecting on the events that unfolded during this time (and obviously I’m writing about it again today in this blog for the first time in 15 years). This was the first and only time in high school a friend of mine would pass away. Those who make it through their school years without experiencing such loss should consider themselves lucky.
Flash forward a year later to 1995 and I began what was the longest “relationship” of my teenage years. Somewhere around this same weekend I began dating the same girl I would date for the rest of my high school career and into the first semester of college. We went to the prom together, oh those magical days when you think you’re inseparable and you know you’ll spend together forever. Most high school romances seldom workout to be forever. Mine certainly didn’t. She moved to Florida a few months after I graduated, we had of course all manner of differences and obviously we just weren’t meant to be. So sometime in this same week of weirdness, nearly two years to the day after we had first “officially” gotten together, we split sometime in mid December of 1997.
Needless to say I was devastated at the time. Most of my close friends had left and gone to school far away. I had a limited social network with which to lean upon. Further my own little world that I had built around her being a part of was suddenly shattered; I was unattached, undating for the first time in two years. For most of my high school career I’d had a girlfriend on my arm. Now I was in college, things were different, I was different, it would take me a long time to recover from this, but the good news is I came through it better than ever.
When I was twenty three I started my own business, shooting photographs at racing events and at weddings (a strange combo I know but I had a knack for both). I was a good photographer and a decent writer. At that time I wasn’t nearly as good of a business man. I made several egregious errors. I chalk those up to being naive and knowing too little about the actual day to day operations of a business. On December 13, 2004 my business folded for good, it was finished and I walked away from that chapter in my life. The monster of mid December madness claimed yet another victim, my dream of working for myself and doing what I loved.
I still shoot photographs, I do the occasional wedding. I also consult and provide photo services for attorneys. I just do that work on the side. Sometimes work requires my photography skills and it’s nice to step away from my desk with a camera and do something different for a few minutes. Occasionally I take on a project just for me, for fun. If you’re reading this blog then by now you understand that I still write. I had almost forgotten for a few years how much I truly enjoy getting my thoughts on paper. I had forgotten too how much fun it is to be behind the lens of a good camera.
December 17, 2004 is to date the most memorable and important day of my life. It’s the day I married my best friend, the love of my life, my Sydney. We fell in love quick, meeting on Derby day in May of that year. We were engaged in July and married that December. She loves to recall that I gave her two options when she asked what I was thinking about a wedding date, Christmas Break or Spring Break (she’s a teacher). She said something along the lines of “well I don’t want to wait let’s get married Christmas Break”.
So on a chilly Friday night in December at Duncan Memorial Chapel in Crestwood, KY we said our “I do’s” in front of only family and a handful of very close friends. Her face as she walked down the aisle is forever burned into my memory.  Our lives together just seem to get better and better every year. The madness lost this one, instead we get a happy day and that makes all the times the madness took a day as it’s victim seem less sad.
As I write this today, December 14th, my little sister has just given birth to her second son. She and her husband are celebrating the birth of little Micah, 6 lbs, 10oz, 19” long. A healthy little boy, with two very happy parents and one probably anxious big brother, sitting here writing this I can’t wait to meet Micah for the first time.
It is worth mentioning too that while it was not mid December, it was on December, the 5th of 1996 that my niece Kaelin was born. Kaelin was the first grandchild for my parents and thus my first niece. Her father (my brother Dan) and I were always really close as I grew up even though he is nine years my senior. I spent a lot of weekends at Dan and Sherry’s house playing with little Kaelin, feeding her curly fries from Arby’s as a toddler, though most of the time she licked the ketchup off and handed me back a soggy and cold fry. Kaelin’s birth and the time I spent with her when she was little are some of the brightest memories I have of my teenage years.
I should also say that I don’t believe some cosmic phenomenon, or supernatural force is at work or just chooses to pray upon my life at this time of year.  It’s only been in recent years that I’ve noticed the correlation between these events and the calendar. I just find it interesting and something worth writing about. I’m not out for sympathy or shock value, there are certainly those who have endured far worse around the holidays than I have. That said I just want to stress that this blog is more about the unusual relationship between the dates of these major occurrences in my life, rather than a “woe is me”.
Whatever the mid December madness brings, it would seem that it’s quickly piling up the happy over the sad these days and that my friends is the reason why I don’t mind all the memories good and bad of this time of year. The secret is to remember the lessons of the hard and sad times but to focus more intently on the joy of the happy ones.