So we’re moving to Florida…

…Orlando to be precise. I guess this sort of flies in the face of my initial post here. Oh well. I wrote about being happy in Ohio knowing that moving for my job was becoming more and more a distinct possibility. So maybe that was a reverse jinx of sorts.

I’ve been writing now and again in this space since the beginning of the year as a moderately safe creative outlet between my days of making spreadsheets and my nights and weekends of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This move should give me something to write about at least.

(But unless there’s a Loveland, Florida, I guess I’ll have to change the name. I’m glad I just used my own name as the domain address.)

The timeline is not certain except that it will be fast. I will be working out of Orlando on a permanent basis on March 18th. Just depending on how the sale of our house here goes, Mindy and the kids will be moving down in April or May most likely. I’ll make a few trips up in that interim period.

I’ve been dreaming of living in a warmer climate for some years now,  and this is my chance. I remember vacation in South Carolina a few Augusts ago when it was 95 degrees every day. My reaction was like, “yeah, this ain’t so bad, I like this”. Regardless, two-and-a-half months of brutally humid summers is more than offset by seven months of 75 and sunny. Just need to start stocking up on the sunscreen now.

But it’s not going to be easy, leaving a place where we’re comfortable. Mindy’s family is here. We went to college here. Our friends are here. My family is less than a five hour drive away. Seeing all of these people less will be a challenge. But at least we’re moving to a place where presumably people would like to visit.

So we’re treating this like an adventure. The kids will be fine. They’re young and haven’t reached prime friend-making age. Mindy will be fine. She adds friendships so quickly and prolifically…I have no idea how she does it. Me, I take forever to develop friendships. I remember growing up, wondering who my dad was friends with. All I could come up with was coworkers and the husbands of my mom’s friends. So that’s what I’m banking on. ( I just hope the Orlando office has a sufficient happy hour culture.)

Babysitting will definitely change. No more for free. So this will have to be a line-item added to the budget. And no more overnight babysitting either (unless we fly Grandma down while Mindy and I take off for the weekend).

But it’s worth it. I am still working for a Cincinnati company, so it’s not like we are severing all ties to our lives here. It’s a relatively low risk adventure, realizing that nothing is truly low risk. It’ll give me a chance to grow in my career. Trying to play it safe in the corporate environment is the real risk.

It’ll give the family a chance to grow too. We’ll all be out of our comfort zones, forced to be open to new experiences. I truly believe we’ll all end up better people for it.

So there it is. Florida. Here we come.


A President’s Day retrospective

President’s Day. This is not a holiday that is typically associated with seminal moments in one’s life. And this President’s day is no different. What it is is a three-day weekend. And for that, I am a fan of President’s Day.

I am kicking off this President’s Day Weekend by sitting in Mindy’s office with my laptop, listening to music and browsing the web while she works on of her perpetual side-jobs or projects. The same as it’s been for the last few weeks and months. And I’m fine with that. We watch a lot less TV because of it, but we still get to hang out and sort of relax.

So that’s what’s going on in our lives at the present. And since I’m not ready to write about what I was hoping to write about this week, I figured I just try to remember what I was doing on previous President’s Day Weekends. I doubt I’ll remember specifics, but I should at least be able to comment in broad strokes as to what was going on in our lives at the time.

A year ago was the first President’s Day in our current house. We were six months away from the arrival of Louie, probably taking the easy life of 1-to-1 parent/child ratios for granted. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.

Two years ago would be our last President’s Day in our first house. Newport was fun, but we had outgrown it. Earlier in the month, we put a low-ball offer on a bank-owned property in the ‘burbs. That offer was summarily rejected, but it set us on a course to move to our current house. (Who knows if we would have had Louie had we not moved to a bigger place.) So the three-day weekend was spent doing project after project getting the house ready to put on the market.

Three President’s Days ago, I attempted to give up caffeine. It did not go well. I was training for the Heart Mini Marathon at the time. I felt a little foggy on my five-mile-run that morning, but I made it. But by noon I had a headache that made it physically impossible to stand up. I went to lie down in bed and told Mindy to wake me up in a few hours so I could get ready for our friends’ kid’s birthday party later that afternoon. When she woke me up three hours later, I felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin. I did not attend the party. The next day I woke up with the same headache and desire to crawl out of my skin. I did little of use that day but persisted. I woke up on day three in the same miserable condition, walked downstairs to the kitchen and made myself a pot a coffee.

Who really knows what I was doing, specifically, four President’s Days ago. However, I am fairly certain I was yet to come down from my Super Bowl 43 high.

Five President’s Days ago, we were four months away from being first time parents. So our lives were pretty much focused on preparing for that. Our one-car family experiment that only begun six month prior was coming to an end, as we needed to buy a family truckster to cart the baby around. We’d buy a small SUV by the end of the month.

Eight President’s Days ago was our first as a married couple. Not sure what we did, but I’m sure we were up to our eyes in wedded bliss.

Nine President’s Days ago, I in the midst of streak of six annual Vegas trips with my college buddies. I remember seeing Elton Brand at Caesar’s at blackjack table by himself betting a thousand dollars a hand. Since he and I share the exact same birth date, I was always peripherally aware of his career progress. Needless to say, I still have a long way to go to catch up to him money-wise.

Fifteen President’s Days ago, Mindy and I had been together for a month or so, and I took her to my fraternity formal. Amazingly, she opted to stick with me after that.

Twenty President’s Days ago, it was unseasonably warm in Canfield, Ohio. I was in eighth grade. My friends and I played driveway basketball for three straight says. It was awesome. I want a driveway basketball hoop at my house now.

So I couldn’t even crack the 150-word mark this week

So far this experiment has served it’s purpose well. I’ve written, in my opinion, a thoughtful post each week for five weeks. (And I think putting weekly lists of my Tumblr activity and link lists, making for 3 items per week in this space, has kept me engaged here even more.)

Each of the aforementioned five posts have been about one of the two or three things that was on my mind that week. And this week there’s been one thing dominating my thoughts. And it’s been dominating my thoughts because it’s been dominating my time. And since it’s been dominating my time, I really haven’t had much time to write about it.

But I will. Next week. So, yes, I’m sort of punting this week. But a punt still counts as a play from scrimmage, yeah?

The perpetual roller coaster that is me and my current aspirations to lose weight

I just want to get healthy. You know, I want to take better care of myself. I would like to start eating healthier. I don’t want all that pasta. I would like to start eating, like, Japanese food.

I love this scene toward the of Lost in Translation. A tired Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) whines about wanting to be healthier, seemingly out of nowhere, on a phone call from Japan to his wife back home in the States.

I often share this desperate sentiment (I’ve literally said the pasta thing to Mindy several times). It’s mostly about knowing what healthy situations and unhealthy situations feel like and wishing you could magically make more of the former and less of the latter happen. But you can’t. Unless you have constant vigilance to maintain the healthiest of diets, you will find yourself in situations that are just too difficult to work around. Like when you’re trying to watch your carbs, and dinner at your friends house is spaghetti.

I’ve accepted that I can’t have complete perfection with my diet. I’m just looking for some sustainable healthy lifestyle. But my all-or-nothing personality only seems to allow me to eat healthily when I’m on a balls-to-the-wall restrictive diet. So I’m low-carbing it now–because I’ve had success with that in the past–with the hope to transition to a paleo diet next (which I hope to make sustainable, but I’m not so sure).

My weight (and overall fitness level really) history is sordid, but over the last decade or so I’ve been reasonably healthy. I hit my adult low in the low 16os around the time of my wedding over eight years ago. But I’ve since then, I’ve fluctuated between the low 170s and the low 190s. I blame the suburbs for keeping me in around the low 190s for the last year or so, and that’s what I’d like to change.

So what’s my motivation, really? It’s difficult to say. I’ve long said I’d like to live to meet my grandkids–a feat neither my father or my father’s father accomplished–but that will only go so far in keeping you away from that fouth beer and that fifth slice of pizza on a Friday night after a long, hard week at work. And dropping those last 15-25 pounds may not even to lead to better long-term health outcomes anyway. So I to need source my motivation from more short-run concerns.

The best one I can come up with is clothes. I like they way clothes fit when I’m in the 160s. Size 33 pants fit great. Since I’m a 29 length, any more in the waist just doesn’t work right. Also, I’m a solid medium shirt size at the weight, which is nice. Now where I sit–in the low 180s–I’m some medium/large hybrid, which makes shirt shopping annoying. And I need 34 pants, which are tight (34s fit well in the mid-to-high 170s, and I can drop down to 33s comfortably below the high 160s).

And as much as I want to be a minimalist and barely own anything, I do like wearing new clothes. I’m only motivated to keep updating the wardrobe when I have the body I like. And as advance in my career, looking the part is becoming increasingly important, and I want to get excited about getting some new suits.

But the bottom line is I want to stop weight loss from being always in the front of my mind. I’m like this about most things. For instance, whenever the Power Ball jackpot goes north of $200 million and everyone at work throws in a buck to form an office pool, we all trade stories of what we’d do with that kind of money. My fantasy never consists of large material purchases, but rather I dream of simply having an accountant manage my cash flow by giving me one credit card with which to spend a certain (very large) amount every month.

That’s my weight management dream as well. I have the body I want and I have some sustainable eating plan where I don’t have to think to hard about what I’m eating on a day-to-day basis. And maybe like my accountant in my lottery fantasy who would call if I was spending a few thousand too much in a given month, in this health fantasy I have some personal trainer-type health adviser who lets me know if I’ve had one too many burgers this month. (Actually, the combination of the lottery and health fantasies is pretty sweet.)

But in reality, there is no silver bullet. There’s just Mindy who’s trying to get healthier along with me. There’s the neighborhood biggest loser contest we’re competing in. There’s Daytum and Excel for me to obsessively track probably arbitrary health metrics. And most importantly, there’s my burning desire to do this. This desire admittedly cycles between about a 6 and a 10 on the passion scale, and I’ve been in the 8 to 9 range for the past couple weeks. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

On authenticity, dancing and sailing ships

When I watch things like the scene of Adam and Hannah dancing on Girls, I picture myself being a Brooklyn hipster dancing like a free spirit that didn’t care who was watching. And for a fleeting moment, I’m like, that’s what I could be doing with my life. I always do things like this. Like when I see someone posting Facebook pics of hiking Glacier National Park, I’m like, “I could’ve had that life where I go hiking in Glacier National Park”.

But like I said, it’s only fleeting. Because the next moment, I’m like, I have a pretty awesome life. And I haven’t even hiked in Ohio let alone Glacier National Park. Mindy and I are spending more time getting fit, no reason we can’t do that here.

But back to the hipster dancing. The ship has obviously sailed on me being a 24-year-old hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Or Barcelona. I don’t know if they have hipster scene in Barcelona, but being a 24-year-old dancing in Barcelona seems pretty great too.  (Many of my fleeting fantasies involve living in Barcelona. It’s 57 degrees there right now.)

Furthermore, I don’t even think I can be a 34-year-old hipster in Ohio if I wanted. I just got new glasses and Mindy tried to talk me into some hipster frames. But I couldn’t even pull that off. The ones I ended up getting were by quite possibly the least hipster brand imaginable: Brooks Brothers.

But there is at least one ship that hasn’t sailed on me yet, and that’s the joy of  dancing like an idiot. And I have my kids to thank for that. Some times we have Saturday morning dance parties in the basement. Most of the time it’s just impromptu breakdown sessions in the kitchen or living room while getting ready for a meal. I don’t know why my kids like it so much, probably something along the lines of everyone deep down likes to dance. It’s just at some point you grow too old and too self-aware.

And that’s why I like it. It’s the authenticity more than anything.

So every time I see something like that dancing scene from Girls, and I start to long for a life where I’m able to do things that I probably wouldn’t actually do anyway (like dancing crazily in front of a bunch of strangers…I’d probably just sit in the corner and drink), I just remember that I can do that now in the kitchen with Mindy and Edwin and Lyla and soon Louie.

Well, there is one place that I can dance like that. Weddings. I’m in a good friend’s wedding this May. Mindy and I plan to get an overnight babysitter and stay in a hotel. So I’m thinking I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink and dance like and idiot.

A relationship that has run its course

Ten years ago this month (or maybe next month, I don’t really remember) I made one of my proudest and most responsible purchases: a 2001 Chevy Lumina.

In the previous December, the lease ran out on the S10 I drove in college, so I actually went without a car for few weeks. I remember that time vividly, waiting for the bus after work, staring longingly at people driving late-model Pontiacs, thinking to myself, “that person has car, why not me?”

Working for a bank, we had a program called “Hot Deals on Cool Wheels” where employees could buy lease turn-ins and repos at fairly reasonable prices. I scoured that page on the intranet every day looking for the something, anything to save from the misery that was relying solely on friends and public transportation in the city of Cincinnati.

Then I saw it. The ’01 Lumina in all its glory.  A repo with 33,000 miles. Unattractive green exterior somehow outdone by its even more unattractive grey cloth interior. And they only wanted $7,000 for it.

I call this my most responsible purchase because unlike many recent college grads I was hanging around with at the time, I wasn’t interested in locking myself into a $400/month payment on a Passat for the next five years. My next five years would include getting married and buying our first house, so not being burdened by a large car payment came in handy.

I could only afford to put $1,000 down on it, so I ended up having a $175 or so per month payment for four years. As soon as I signed the loan docs, I told myself that this was the right thing to do. And to prove it, I promised myself I would drive the thing for ten years (thus, six years with no payment).

But the thing about driving a car like this, is that you have to put on a front that you don’t care about cars, and this gets you from A to B, and that’s all that matters. Which is sort of true, but you’re still kind of embarrassed to be driving the thing.

So it creates the effect similar to liking a cheesy pop song. You’ll scan the Top 40 stations on the radio whenever you’re in the car to look for it. You’ll play it on YouTube at home when no one else is around. But you won’t bring yourself to drop the $1.29 for it on iTunes because then you’d have to admit to yourself that you like it. With the Lumina, I was like that with taking care of it. I would never get it washed or keep the interior clean and organized, because then I’d have to admit to myself that it was something worth taking care of. So that leads to the negative feedback loop, causing you to drive an even crappier car that you should have to if you’d just take care of the damn thing.

But still, the simple fact that it’s a Lumina trumps whatever poor condition it’s in. I have to laugh with people now when I discuss my chances of getting a new car soon. They react like, “it’ll be nice getting rid of that old car”. My response is alongs the lines of the fact that it’s old is still really only 20% of the issue.  80% of the issue is that it’s a Lumina.

I mean, it’s really not attractive in the least. I could never get away with this thing if I was single. I was dating Mindy at the time I bought it, and she married me in spite of it. And over the years, I watched my friends get nicer and nicer and cars. But I stayed committed to my ten-year plan. Even through the air conditioner giving out.

But this really wasn’t a big deal. Eight years in, I had only put another 50,000 or so mile on it. I was living only a few miles from work, taking the bus almost exclusively. The Lumina was only unleashed on the occasional weekend when Mindy and I had to be in different places at the same time.

And this worked until it didn’t. And it didn’t when just after the 8-year mark, we moved to the suburbs. And suddenly my 3-mile round-trip by bus turned into a 45-mile round-trip. I tried the park-and-ride, but it just wasn’t convenient enough.

So 50,000 miles in the first eight years turned into 20,000 miles in a year-and-a-half. And commuting (wearing a suit!) with no A/C for two summers has really tested my resolve.

But, alas, I’m here. I’ve made it to ten years.

A couple Saturdays ago, I’m working through the family budget planning for the year, and I’m realizing all the things we want to spend our money on in 2013. I start to entertain thoughts like, “well, maybe I can ride this thing out another year”. I mean, it’s got barely over 100,000 miles on it, it still runs fine. We’re in the dead of winter, so the no A/C thing is more of an abstract concept then something tangible at the present. Yeah, it still looks like shit, but who am I trying to impress?

But then only three days after entertaining these thoughts, I blow out a tire at full speed on the interstate during the commute home. (Fortunately, I was able to pull to the side quickly and safely.) Standing next to the side of the highway waiting for roadside assistance for an hour in January in Ohio certainly puts a damper in your desire to keep commuting in a 13-year-old car.

But, hey, there was no other damage. All that was needed a new tire. The Lumina was back in commuting shape after only a day off. So my ride this thing out for a little while longer plan was back on…maybe.

Well, the next day the EVP from my division asks me for a ride home. I say sure, have a panic attack, run to the parking garage to give it a quick cleaning, then run back to the office to tell him I was ready to go.

I’m not superstitious, but I’m taking the events of that week as signs. I need to get a new car.

Figuring out when to let my kids figure things out for themselves


One night last week after just arriving home from work, Mindy quietly motioned for me to look at Edwin. He was walking around in the house with headphones on and eyes glued to his tiny Nintendo DS screen. Occasionally, he’d shuffle his feet in an attempt to mimic some of the dance moves from whatever music video he was watching.

Mindy said he’d been doing it all day. He figured out that his DS came pre-loaded with a music video (I have never heard the song before–it appears to be some boy band ripping off Blur). When she told me that, I immediately had flashbacks to when I was about his age. I would sit in my room for hours listening to the same songs over and over on a mini record player.

And seeing Edwin’s face that evening and remembering sitting in my room nearly thirty years ago, I felt something visceral: joy. But bigger than just the joy of listening to music. Now don’t me wrong, I love listening to music, and that’s definitely part of it. The other part is about control.

When you’re four years old, there is not a lot that you can control. But each day you gain more and more agency, and the one day someone hands you this magic box that fits in your hands that play can play music. You’ve always loved music because your dad was always playing it for you and singing and dancing to it with you. Now you can control the music yourself.

So seeing that joy, I couldn’t help but want to help him even more. Watching your kids have fun is almost as much fun as having fun yourself. I immediately knew I needed to figure out how to get some more songs on there for him.

But that’s sort of par for the course for me since he got the DS for Christmas few weeks ago. We got him some games that we knew he’d love, like Lego Batman.  However, besides playing a few easy games on our phones or Kindles, Edwin doesn’t have much experience with video games. So games like this are probably a little too difficult for him. When he struggles to figure out what to do, it’s a little sad to see him get frustrated. So you can’t help but try to swoop in and bail him out when he can’t get past that same giant mushroom on Mario (sadly, I’m useless on Lego Batman).

The weird thing is we really didn’t want to get him video game this early. Edwin’s next door neighbor buddy has a DS. And sometimes when playing over there, Edwin would just sit there and watch him play it. This made us think that maybe we should get him one of his own 1) to fit in with his friends and 2) a little tech skills will probably be helpful for kindergarten next year.

I did some reading and became thoroughly convinced that we were fine waiting a few years before introducing video games, even if that made us the weird parents. But then we found out that Grandpa had bought the kids child-friendly tablets for Christmas. Then we saw Edwin had made his own pretend DS by folding a piece of paper in half and drawing controls and a screen on it.

So we said screw it, take back the tablet and get him a DS.

And so in a matter of about a month, I went from strategizing on how to postpone the introduction of video games into our home to worrying my son was getting discouraged due to not being good enough at playing video games. Such is par

I then taught him how to find the music on the main menu screen, and reviewed the symbols of play, pause, forward and reverse with him. He was so proud of himself the first time he played music for the whole family without any help. (And after hearing those three songs on loop for the past week, I’m regretting not being more forceful in my suggestion of uploading more).

He gets a little embarrassed we catch him dancing. I could even notice a hint of embarrassment when he told me the songs he liked. He and I are the same that way–it’s a wiring thing or a self-esteem thing–either way he got it from me,

So another thing I want to teach him not to be embarrassed, and that it’s OK to ask for what he wants (I’m not sure I’ve even learned this for myself yet). But some things a person just needs to come to on their own. This will be tough for me because I’m always over-explaining things, then later I think “well, I figured it out for myself, so what was I worried about?”

This has to be one of the one of the tougher aspects of parenting in the big picture. Knowing when to teach and when to step back and figure things out for themselves. I’m going to do all I can to teach him to do what he likes and not embarrassed, but more than likely, he’s on his own for Lego Batman.