Think Again

There is a lot going on right now and a majority of our country is screaming for change and rightfully so. Unfortunately, there is a roadblock to change and that is people of every race, color and creed are dealing in absolutes.

Over the past several weeks I have been told the following by opinion pieces in the press, protestors on the news and even Instagram:

  • Because I am white I am automatically a racist.
  • I cannot support Black Lives Matter and also support the large number of men and women in blue who serve and protect the right way.
  • If I don’t speak up, I am complicit.

These are absolutes and when we speak in absolutes we divide people, which is exactly the opposite of what we need right now.

Absolutes stem from duality thinking. Duality thinking is either/or thinking. Duality thinking, or the dualistic mind, contrasts things like good/evil, beautiful/ugly, smart/dumb, without realizing there may be a many degrees between the two ends of each spectrum.

Duality thinking is where stereotypes are created and perpetuated. Think about autism and one or more of the following comes to mind:

  • People with autism are savants/geniuses – The Rain Man (w/Dustin Hoffman) stereotype
  • People with autism have no feelings or empathy
  • People with autism are violent and are a danger to society
  • People with autism have no language skills
  • People with autism need a caretaker

Guess what? I have autism and none of the above applies to me. Tell someone I have autism and they will reply, “but he seems so normal” as if it is an impossibility. This is the result of duality thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, duality thinking is not inherently bad. We need a dualist mind to function in everyday life. In professions such as science and engineering, duality thinking is a must. For many types of decisions, we want a dualistic mind. But the lesson here is, we should not apply duality thinking to everything.

Now is the time for a little non-dual thinking. I know it can be hard to hold two seemingly opposite concepts to be true, but we have to try. We do not need to fit people into different boxes to determine if they are with us or against us.

I will continue to support Black Lives Matter AND I will continue to support the men and women working in police organizations across the country who live the ideal “to protect and to serve” every day.

I will support the men and women who don a police uniform every day to keep our communities safe AND I will acknowledge that reform regarding how and when we police is necessary.

I will support equality regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation or creed AND I will still care for the relative who thinks homosexuality is a sin.

The changes necessary to prove we all care that Black Lives Matter and the changes necessary to ensure people, regardless of background or origin, feel welcome and have the same opportunities as anyone else require a TEAM effort. And we need the biggest team possible. I want anyone who supports the cause to be on the team. And I don’t care if they like brussell sprouts or not…

Words Are Nothing Without Action

I do not know where to start unpacking the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests that have grown not just beyond Minneapolis, but the United States as well. Saying the death of Floyd is a travesty seems to fall short of the mark. So, what do I say?

White people, like myself, are having a tough time with this and that is a good thing. We need to be uncomfortable right now.

It makes sense to want to comment about an injustice that has been the norm for longer than I have been alive. It makes sense to want to talk about supporting the cause of equality that has been too long coming. But what exactly do I say?

I am being told that if I am silent, my silence makes me somehow complicit. Hence, I should make some sort of statement. My white voice apparently needs to be heard.

But is that what the black community needs? I cannot speak for the black community; however, I would argue many of those who are speaking might be better off listening to the black community and then acting. When does the black community tire of the speeches and platitudes that ring hollow because they are they same speeches and platitudes that were trotted out the last time this happened…and the time before that…and the time before that. So many speeches; so many words; so little action.

The time has come to put the words aside and act. How does a white person act?

Activism. Show your support by marching arm and arm with the black people in your community.

If protesting is not in your DNA, then consider a donation to any one of a myriad of organizations that fight racial injustice. Or in these moments, perhaps donate to a group that is helping people protest safely and peacefully.

Perhaps the pandemic has left you economically challenged. There is still a way for you to act. In fact, everyone can and should do this. Vote. Voting only costs you time. Vote for politicians and leaders who will do something to not just promote racial equality, but act to get it done. November is rapidly approaching. Make sure you are registered to vote so you can push racist assholes like Trump out of office and bring in those who are committed to change.

I am registered to vote. And if a leader wants my vote they better have a plan for racial equality and they better have a record for getting things done.

My Brain Feels Like It Is Racing Uncontrollably Downhill

Anxiety is considered a hidden illness. Over 80% of people with a hidden illness downplay their true feelings to make others feel more at ease. I am one of these people.

There is a movement afoot to bring hidden illnesses to light; to help others understand what may be going on behind the mask.

If you think someone with a hidden illness is simply broken, there is no need for you to read further. But for those who would like to understand what can happen to a person who suffers from anxiety, feel free to continue on.

Imagine being unable to tell the person you love how much. Imagine being unable to tell a friend what they mean to you. Imagine not being able to make a simple decision. For many people (even most people) these are things that are easy to do and something people do on a daily basis. Me, not so much.

A Simple Decision Can Be Overwhelming

Many years ago (before flat screens is how many years ago) my TV died and needed to be replaced. I did my research (like I always do) and went down to the store (Circuit City – yup, that many years ago). It’s a pretty straight-forward transaction. Pick the TV you want; pay the money; boom – new TV.

Except…

I was a full-time college student, with a full time job, with another job on the side, trying to make ends meet. And, I suffer from anxiety. Trying to choose between two nearly identical TVs, at roughly the same price ($10 difference), with the same recommendation caused my anxiety to spike. When this happens, my brain goes into uncontrolled overdrive, like I am running downhill like a wild stallion loosened from any restraints. I pace incessantly or randomly walk around. From a decision making standpoint I am paralyzed. Much like your computer being frozen.

This may make absolutely no sense, but I need to do something entirely unrelated to get my brain to stop. My reset button (to tap back into the computer metaphor) is to do something disparate or un-linked to the moment at hand.

I walked out with a CD player.

I did not need a CD player. Sure, it was an upgrade, but a college student on a budget (no student loans thank you very much) doesn’t get to splurge.

This is how I operate with anxiety. The more anxiety I have, the more clear cut a decision needs to be, or I cannot make it.

A Day Without a Phone is a Really Good Day

It is not that I do not want to call (or text) the one I love, good friends or family. It is because I cannot. My anxiety tells me that I will interrupt their day or a call or text will be bothersome or worse, they could care less whether I contact them or not.

“I am thinking about you” or “I miss you” is a simple text to type and send to the person you love. Calling or texting a friend to see how they are doing should be easy. But for me, contacting another person is like overcoming an obstacle – like a giant boulder in the road. If you have received an unsolicited text from me, I probably deliberated for an hour or more and likely typed and deleted that text more than a few times, because in any given week I will type many more texts than I send.

You Mean More to Me Than You Think

I have not been in a lot of relationships and friendships are below the mean. The problem is me; or really my anxiety. My anxiety prevents me from knowing (feeling, understanding) where I stand with someone. So oftentimes I do not say what I truly feel and I do not do what I want in order to show I love and care about people.

Because of my anxiety, the easiest thing to do (or say) is nothing, but unfortunately nothing is not the best thing to do. However, this is my world.

In my world it took over three months to write and post this. But because I finally clicked on the publish button, I get to say this:

There have been people that have come and gone and there are people in the here and now. Please know there have been many smiles on the inside that were maybe not so apparent on the outside. I appreciate the times (whether they be few or many) and the interactions.

If I was in a relationship with you, I loved you more than you could probably imagine. I apologize for often seeming so closed off and for not telling you how much you meant to me.

Jana (Tater) – you are one of the coolest and most fantastic people I have met and I am privileged to have been your friend for so many years (decades even).

Danielle and Bernadette – you guys are far too young to be hanging out with an old guy like me, but I appreciate that you often make me laugh and smile.

Colleen – Best bartender ever!

Jeff – we are more than just co-workers and it is awesome we can talk about pretty much anything.

Kristin and Bob and John and Kris – You are my people. There is never enough time, but the moments are always worth the time.

Jon and Lynette – Running (and likely craft beer) has been the thread of our friendship over the years. I sincerely hope the running and the beer continues.

Coby and Fran – How can I not smile when you guys are around.

Casey, Kadi, Holly, Jett – I am not your dad, but you are the closest thing I have to a real family of my own and you guys mean the world to me.

LMSD – You are the best sister a brother could have. You are my buddy and you are my friend.

Casa Jamoosh – Vacation Review

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you slice it, I have been on an extended “vacation” at Casa Jamoosh thanks to the Corona virus, which I am led to believe is a result of drinking Corona Seltzer.

What is your virus flavor…

I can neither confirm nor contradict the veracity of this, but Casa Jamoosh, which was once a Bed and Breakfast is now a Bed, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and occasional Snack. So let’s take a moment and review the accommodations, shall we.

Rooms

The rooms are a little small, but the beds are made promptly every morning, so that is a plus. I am in the biggest room, but have the smallest bed. I am not sure what that is about, but the bed in my room is comfortable and I cannot ask for more.

All rooms have their own on-suite bathroom which is also a plus. However, while I try to think of spiders as my friends, I also like to shower alone, so I am happy the manager has provided a can of bug spray in the bathroom.

Food

Weekend BBQs? Yes please and thank you!

The food is generally good and sometimes it is downright excellent. I get excited when the chef breaks out the smoker to satiate my meatatarion leanings. Ribs, pulled, pork, smoked sausage – all delicious. I hope I am here long enough to experience the pork belly again. Yum and double yum.

Sundays are also great because of the Sunday brunch. Bacon and sausage are a staple and after that it is random deliciousness on rotating Sundays. I have heard a rumor blueberry pancakes are happening this weekend and I don’t know if I have the patience to wait that long.

Cleanliness

The facilities are mostly clean. The vacuum runs once or twice a week and the kitchen and bathrooms are cleaned on a regular basis, but housekeeping needs to get out and buy a swiffer. Look closely and it is obvious somebody does not like to dust. I have been meaning to talk to management about this.

Theme Nights

One of the things that has kept me sane during this extended stay is management has theme nights every once and while.

Look what the manager put in my tent. Indoor camping at its finest.

Camping Night was fun, especially since I was provided an air mattress for underneath my sleeping bag. My bones are little old to be sleeping on a hard floor… Additionally, management set up a fan to simulate an evening breeze. So thoughtful and I was asleep in my tent within minutes.

Yeah – no girls aloud!

Then there was Fort Night. Not to be confused with Fortnite. Fort Night was the best. As you can see, no girls allowed in the fort and there is even a tiger guarding the entrance. Hello tiger! The manager ensured there was a fully charged tablet as well as plenty of pillows to lounge around on. This manager thinks of everything. And by everything, beer and cheese included in the fort. Needless to say, me and the tiger had a most excellent evening and we were not interrupted by girls once!

Views

The views here do not suck. One side of the accommodations provides a view of a courtyard and the side with the balcony is all nature all the time.

Nature says”hi”

The balcony is a great place for relaxing with a glass of wine or beer. Cardinals and blue jays are in abundance right now, so it’s great for bird watchers too.

Amenities

Other amenities include a workout room, free wi-fi and the bar has a solid selection of beer and wine. Sadly, no hard liquor. What kind of bar is this anyway – no hard liquor? Not only that, the bartender cards me every-single-time. I have been stranded here for over two months, you know me!

On the entertainment side, the music selections are awesome and I truly enjoy when management fires up the turntable in the evenings. Casa Jamoosh also has a decent selection of movies, so movie night is always something to look forward to. That said, how many damn Marvel movies in a row am I going to end up watching…

Overall

Casa Jamoosh isn’t quite perfect, but it is not a terrible place to be stranded. So I give it four out of five stars.

See the source image

Can we do another fort night…

Some Things I Know to be True – Covid-19 Edition

Barry Manilow writes the songs – dammit.

Normally it’s dogs. However, I have heard more kids on conference calls this past week than I have the entirety of my 34 year IT career.

Therapist: Now, what do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Walk confidently to the beer fridge.
Therapist: Uh, no.

The most important thing I learned from my first marriage is separate blankets on the bed.

I am going to be seriously pissed if the world ends and I did all this therapy for nothing.

Hamster butts…

When all this is over, feel free to continue staying six feet away from me.

Ladies, if you are over 45 and looking for someone who is dedicated, devoted and loyal, I have toilet paper. And a bidet. Just saying!

I guess us homebodies have been flattening the curve all along.

Dancing bears in the wild!

A microwave really only needs two buttons: popcorn and +30 seconds.

Seriously, remaking Purple Rain is NOT a tribute to Prince when you do it as a country song. Just stop.

Therapist: Let's try this again. What do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Make a blanket fort so I can hide from civilization.
Therapist: You have learned nothing...

Go ahead, I know you secretly want to say “hamster butts” out loud. Just make sure you are muted if on a conference all.

Speaking of things to say out loud, isn’t it fun to say moo goo gai pan.

Now that I don’t have to deal with people on a daily basis, my anxiety is way down.

Hmmm, where should I go this weekend…

Sometimes I look at Instagram on my phone. Sometimes I look at Instagram on my computer. In these times you have to mix it up!

At least when my mom asks if I have a new girlfriend, I can say “coronavirus!”

Therapist: One last time. What do you do when you get anxious?
Me: Make a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup the size of a large pizza.
Therapist: Sigh...

I am smoking a pork shoulder this weekend which means I am going to have a pig ton of pulled pork. Time to get creative. I will not be broken.

I guess now is not the time to go out and recruit minions to facilitate my evil plans for taking over the world.

Be smart; be safe!

Farts!

The fart is under-rated. It is also elicits moments of mock horror when noticed via sound or smell. But the fart is good and yes, I will say it, the fart is satisfying.

Did you know you fart 10-20 times a day? That is a dozen or more little moments of joy nobody should be embarrassed about. Joy indeed.

Let us allow Purna Kashyap — a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, who studies the gut microbiome, breakdown these little joyous moments.

“There are a lot of carbohydrates that we consume — mainly present in vegetables, grains, and fruits — that our bodies don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest,” he says. “These end up in the large intestine, where microbes chew them apart and use them for energy, through the process of fermentation. As a byproduct, they produce gas.”

99% of the farts you produce do not smell, which begs you to ask the question about the other 1%. You know, those one percenters who think they are better than everyone else. Yup, in the fart world, one percenters stink. I think I see a parallel…

So what causes the stank in a tiny fraction of your toots? Beans, onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and dairy can cause some unpleasant odors due to the sulfur they contain. However, most of the gas produced by our large intestine is hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. These gasses are odorless, so the funky miasma that escapes our booties from time to time is not as common as one may think.

Farting means you are healthy! Indeed, farting is the result of a healthy, complex ecosystem in your intestines. Let’s check back in with Purna Kashyap:

“It’s a complex ecology, with various organisms coexisting and thriving. When a complex carbohydrate reaches your colon, some bacteria will break it down first, and then some of their byproducts will feed other bacteria. The whole community benefits from a single carbohydrate that you consume.”

Science!

I submit to you the fart is the single most consistently satisfying bodily function; surpassing a poop, a piss and a burp. I admit, in my younger years, taking a dump probably trumped all. However, as I have reached and passed my forties, sitting on the can becomes more and more like work with each passing day. And let’s face it, some sessions can be downright disappointing with respect to how much work is put in. The piss that elicits the heavy sigh of relief is rare and random and is often as much of a “thank god” moment as it is satisfying. The burp was never really in the running. It’s great for showing off in your teens and even twenties, but the satisfaction comes more from others’ reactions than from a physical standpoint.

That leaves the fart, a moment of pressurized vapor that quickly disappears into the ether and leaves you quite content. The fart has been there since day one, bringing a small level of joy (but joy nonetheless) with each release.

Respect the fart!

Thanks to Joseph Stromberg and Vox for some of the information in this article.

Quarantine Playlist – Album Version

Peeps are putting together Quarantine Playlists with any varying number of songs, which is a relatively easy thing to do. I, of course, will take it to the next level and provide my Top 10 Quarantine Albums. Well, at least for today.

Let’s do this, shall we.

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me

I am going vinyl on this one. This album is the reason I purchased my current turntable. As soon as the needle dropped and those first notes played breezily through the speakers, I knew.

Just close your eyes and you are transported to a dimly lit jazz club with maybe three tables, Norah, and a few musicians. It’s like you are there and Norah is singing to you and you only. The day at hand melts away and your focus turns to the music and the sweet sound of Norah’s voice.

Norah, call me. I have toilet paper…

Pet Shop Boys – Please

If you have a great set of cans (headphones), this album will certainly put them through their paces. I hear something new every time I play this album. It’s also a bit infectious, if I can use that word today.

The song-craft across the album is strong, belying that this is a debut effort, making it more than just an album for the dance floor. Feel free to move and groove at your leisure, because sitting at your computer hour after hour is not good for you.

Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

Steve Earle once said this album was the world’s first blend of heavy metal and bluegrass. I don’t necessarily know about that, but Steve Earle is a story-teller whose songs will take you away from the mundane hours of sitting in front of your computer all day.

I am streaming this one to the stereo because the bagpipe lead-in on the title song must be heard through speakers! And don’t play this through those cheap ass bluetooth speakers. Don’t do it – you deserve better and so does Steve.

Monophonics – Into the Infrasounds

Do you know what the cure is? Funk is the cure. The uptempo horns and groove laden bass lines throughout the album bring on the funk to wash away all the dirt of the day because we know that since you are working from home showers have become optional.

If you are new to funk, definitely play this album and you will be wondering where funk has been all your life. While you are at it, share this with your neighbors, because they will thank you. They are not yelling because it is loud, they are yelling because they want you to turn it up.

Oingo Boingo – Best of Boingo

Let’s face it; you need some fun in your life right now and Oingo Boingo is nothing but unabashed fun. It’s even fun to say Oingo Boingo. Go ahead, I dare you – say it – out loud: Oingo Boingo! Now, don’t you feel better.

The frenetic pace of some of the songs will certainly push the impending sloth away and if the pace doesn’t do it, the lyrics will. Further, if you are the right age you will cheer when Weird Science cues up.

Mark Knopfler – Privateering

This is another excellent album for your headphones. If it has been another long day of conference calls and your eyes glued to a computer, let’s face it – you need to chill. Grab a sipping beverage (maybe a scotch; perhaps an imperial stout; maybe a glass of red), sit back and relax with Mark.

This album is 90 minutes long, so you have some sipping to do my friend.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mojo

If you know me, you know Petty will be on just about every damn playlist I build. But, would you have guessed this one? Mojo reflects Tom and crew’s love of the blues more than any album before or after.

This album feels like the band was just laid back and having fun, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Additionally, there is great storytelling from Tom that let’s you be somewhere other than your living room

King Solomon Hicks – Harlem

Speaking of the blues… These times are made for the blues and if you are looking for something new, allow me to direct you to Mr. Hicks. This debut album dropped barely a week ago and is in high rotation in my abode.

Reminiscent of Robert Cray, Hicks doesn’t go heavy on any song, but provides enough groove and bluesy licks to create a blues sound that will rock – well – your blues away.

Skavoovie and the Epitones – Ripe

And now for something completely different. Take your musical pot, dump in a cup of swing, drop in some jazz influences, infuse a heavy dose of ska, and stir vigorously. Now you have a pick me up that will get you through the evening without a thought about the outside world.

Charles Bradley – Black Velvet

About this time you need some soul and I present you an offering from the late Charles Bradley. This album is dripping with the heart and soul of Bradley and you will feel the emotion and intensity of every song. Listen to this instead of stress eating for sure.

Bradley’s version of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is sung with the passion and evokes the sorrow the lyrics demand. Additionally, his take on Nirvana’s “Stay Away” will leave you speechless, let alone if you even recognize it. And me, I’m all about the “Luv Jones” baby.

And there you have it. Ten albums to help with your quarantine. A dose of this and a dose of that, but all music that will take you, if briefly, to a better place.

Peace my friends.

On Being a Runner with Anxiety

In December of 2019, I came out to my friends. This was something that was suggested by my therapist, so at a gathering, I informed my peeples that I suffer from anxiety.

It is said activity is good for anxiety. Working out, hiking, running and more. I have said many times running is my therapist. Coincidence? I think not. I truly enjoy running. Especially when I am free range running.

For the uninitiated, free range running is just running to run. No pre-planned distance, no route, no time; just run where and for how long the whim takes you.

When it comes to anxiety, running is not the problem. In fact, running soothes my frenetic mind. It is getting to the running that anxiety steps in and makes a mess of everything.

Happy when I am running

I have three stages of running anxiety. The lowest is when I am going out for a solo run. My anxiety at this stage is more of a nuisance than anything. Then there is the group run, where I am meeting people to run at a specified place and time. My anxiety ramps up significantly by adding people to the equation. Then there is race day. This is when my anxiety is off the charts.

It’s In My Head

I normally do not sleep much the night before a race. It is not uncommon to have pre-race jitters the night before. In fact, many runners admit sleep comes hard the night before a race. But my brain is literally running the night before. I run the race over and over in my head, considering every likely and unlikely scenario; with one thing and everything going wrong and one thing and everything going right.

I worry whether or not I have chosen the right gear. I wonder if the pre-race morning I have laid out is correct – Am I leaving too early or too late? Have I allotted enough time before I leave? I even worry about high/low fiving a kid’s outstretched hand too hard or missing altogether.

It’s hard enough when you worry about a race the next day. Add anxiety to the mix and my brain is racing through the same scenarios again and again and again at a pace I wish I could run on race day.

Maybe or Maybe Not

I don’t cannot look at the weather until a day or so before a race. It will drive me insane. And it is not because I am worried about the weather. I subscribe to the wisdom that you can choose a race, but you cannot choose the weather. Whatever the Weather Gods decide is what you get.

However… I will waffle back and forth over what shirt to wear or how many layers with every degree change or wind speed change leading up to race day. This has nothing to do with color coordination whatsoever, because even without the weather element, I will question myself.

34 degrees at race start and I went with a singlet!

It is not that I am making wrong decisions. It’s just that anxiety makes me re-think the clothing I choose even though I know 90% of the time I will wear a singlet. Hence, I don’t look at the weather and I don’t change my mind 367 times about what to wear.

Where Does All the Poop Come From

Some folks may be in a position to say, “hey those things are no big deal, they happen to me too.” So let’s get to the poop. Did you know anxiety can affect your excretory and digestive systems? Welcome to my world on race day. I don’t just poop and I don’t just poop once. I don’t just poop twice. I am a minimum three pooper on race morning. And it does not matter how good/great the first one was.

I poop when I get up. I poop right after I put my racing togs on. I poop when I am ready to walk out the door. And when I get to the race, if there is any poop left, I will poop again, or at the very least I will feel like I have to poop again.

It amazes me that pre-race, runners are standing around, drinking coffee and munching on bars of some sort and I am searching for the shortest port-a-potty line.

Each significant action (for example, putting on my race day clothes; getting ready to walk out the door; etc.) causes my anxiety to ratchet up another notch and with it my digestive system works overtime to evacuate anything remaining via the fastest route. Normally, my butt. I guess it is better than throwing up.

But Here’s the Thing

At Surfside a few weeks ago, the first thing I had to do when I arrived is go to the bathroom. I had to go again right before the race started. Several years back when I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon, I was in the bathroom when the race started. Ack! The Oklahoma City example is not the norm, but it wouldn’t be unexpected. My experience at Surfside is more common.

But here’s the thing. They were both good races.

All that anxiety building up to the race melts away in the first mile. Once I get moving, the anxiety sheds off me like water off a duck (quack!). All is right with the world as I move up a street or down a trail, one foot in front of the other. My brain and the rest of me is at peace.

Peace to my Brothers and Sisters!

Because of my anxiety, it’s not always easy to get out the door for a run. But it is always worth it.

Woodlands Half Marathon

This morning I toed the start line of The Woodlands (Methodist) Half Marathon. I was not sure what to expect, but the hope was I could equal or better my performance from two weeks ago at Surfside.

I have not run since Surfside in hopes my hip would get better and apparently the layoff was just what I needed.

The Woodlands puts on a great race. I was surprised we had two full lanes to ourselves for so long. And even when we finally did scale down to one lane, the lane next to us was still empty. Just plenty of space to run from beginning to almost the end.

Random Thought: I continue to be surprised by the integration of phones into running. And it is not just the pre-race, post-race, and during the race selfies. Phones are also running coaches now – “You are one minute behind; you can do it.” By the way, I don’t think that person did it. I certainly do not want our computer overlords talking to me via a phone while I am running. Hence, I may have been the only person not carrying a phone. Just rocking it old school and running happy.

And a good run it was. A little tightness here and there, but nothing that bothered me. I ran a negative split, running the second half two minutes faster than the first half. Finishing time (still unofficial) = 1:58:08.

Honestly, I was surprised I kept the pace I did throughout the race. The weather probably helped with temperatures in the mid-40’s at the start and only rising to the low-50’s toward the end. We also had a decent breeze on the long leg back that kept things cool.

The race ends on the The Woodlands Waterway, which is nice, however the waterway path is relatively narrow, even for the end of a race. All of us, who were nicely spread out, were suddenly jammed together.

Not fun to say the least (I like my space). I was elbowed several times, which I didn’t hold against anyone, but was not pleasant. So I decided I would sprint to the finish. Something I don’t normally do, but I decided I didn’t want any more unintentional abuse.

Stroopwafel – my reward for a race well run. If you have never had a Stroopwafel, your life is incomplete. Please remedy this immediately. In addition to an absolutely delicious Stroopwafel, I feel I have probably earned a few brews today. Fortress Brewing, here I come!

The Driveway

My Grandfather died in May of 1997. I was able to visit the farm one final time after his death before my Grandmother sold it. My Grandfather’s death was tough as I always looked up to him and I learned so much from him. Knowing the place I had called “home” for so long would no longer be “home” was a mental blow as well. So I wrote what you can read below as a bit of therapy, if you will.

It always begins at the foot of a small hill just off Meadows road. The sky is blue with a few wayward clouds hanging in the distance. Hills on all sides and the mountains further back, a presence at all times. Maybe that is why there are only a few clouds this day; they just can’t make it over the mountains.

At the top of the driveway there are two boxes. One for mail and one for the paper. This is how it has always been and this is how it will always be.

Your first steps yield the crunching of gravel as the driveway is nothing but dirt and gravel. How much of which depends upon the time of year.

As you walk slowly down a short decline you may see a rabbit or one of the random farm kitties scurrying through the bushes. If it is early or late enough, there may be deer. There could be a snake as well, but usually not.

There are always birds. Different kinds; different noises. The pheasants waddle away before taking flight and the crows – well, the crows just watch from their perch in the trees, which move easily in the breeze.

You used to see cows, but that was another time. Now just a field of amber. The field could be green or even brown. The season dictates year after year.

The driveway stretches well over 200 yards. As you walk, you may as well know that as a kid during the summer, my Uncle Mike and I filled the holes in with gravel. I don’t know if any of the gravel I put down is left, but the memory of it is.

The grass is tall this day on both sides of the driveway. It doesn’t get mowed as often as it should. The smaller animals probably like it that way though.

If you continue your walk, about halfway down you will notice an open space to your left. There used to be a trailer there. My great-grandmother lived in it. Sometimes she was scary and sometimes she was nice. Mostly she was just old and I was too young to understand. But I always stopped when beckoned because there was normally a piece of candy in it for me.

Just past the trailer used to be a pen for turkeys. The kind you eat for Thanksgiving. Most of the animals on the farm were eventually eaten. Not necessarily for Thanksgiving either.

Continue walking and you will pass a small well house and come upon a line of bushes and trees. When you pass between them you are officially at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

My Grandfather built the entire thing himself. He started with the garage, which the whole family lived in for a couple of years until the house was completed. Since I moved around frequently as a kid, it has always been home to me. Always the same; always familiar.

But the place I have called home for 35+ years will soon be home for someone else. My Grandfather has passed on and the house and the farm are too much for my Grandmother.

My Grandfather was a good man and he was a fair man. He worked hard and believed everyone should work hard as well. When I visited the farm on vacations, regardless of the season, regardless of my age, I worked. Everybody else worked too.

My Grandfather gave me my first beer. I wasn’t three yet, to my Mother’s horror. I have enjoyed many beers with him since then. Even as a kid, despite my Mother’s pleas, he would always leave me a few sips in the can for me to finish.

My Grandfather is gone, but my memories are indelible. Important people in your life always leave something with you. Something that becomes a part of you. Something you carry on. My Grandfather carries on in my memory and in my soul.

For one final time I go back up the driveway. One last time I can look back at my youth. The driveway that shaped my life more than anything else.

A small cloud of dust settles behind me, a small change, a small difference, but carrying on just the same.