Today marks Mom’s 2nd anniversary since being diagnosed with a Grade IV Glioblastoma multiforme (the worst brain cancer you can have). We were told we’d have around a year with her following diagnosis, but time and again she keeps proving the doctors wrong by having “stable” results. Whatever is in her special chemical cocktail is working some miracles, and I wish I could thank the doctors personally. I recall a story she told me a few months back of her doctor looking at her (possibly hugging her) in disbelief and saying “You know, you shouldn’t be here.” Morbid sounding, but when you’re this face-to-face with death, it’s a welcome musing.
Over the past two years we’ve matured greatly as a family. When you find out someone close to you is dying, you tend to open up to them, share things you wouldn’t have previously shared… You never know when the last time you’ll see them is so each and every word and goodbye is sacred. I prefer her still being with us, but damn it if two years of potentially final goodbyes aren’t hard.
We’ve also gone on two cruises together, Alaska, and most recently the Bahamas, which are our first vacations as a family since we were in grade school. Alaska was amazing and the Bahamas suck, but I digress; both provided equally great family time. If you don’t spend enough time with your parents, schedule a cruise. Few details to worry about and something for everyone.
Mom continues to fight the good fight. I know she’s in great pain, but she doesn’t let it get her too down (I won’t pretend everything is rainbows and unicorns). She is in desperate need of having her second knee replaced, but it’s not an option due to her treatment. Instead, she hobbles around with a terrible crunching and likely unimaginable pain in every step. She needed her appendix out this year, but that was also not an option so instead she had to endure days of pain while they were treated by drugs. She may put on the facade that it’s a cakewalk, but I know deep down it’s not. She doesn’t need to portray it the way she does, but she chooses to for the sake of those around her. Always the most selfless woman I’ve met. And my hero.
I love ya, Mom!
… now hang in there a few more years and I’ll get you some more grandkids, alright?
Better late than never.
Way back before the holidays, Heather and I met up with my family in Charleston to embark on a 5-night cruise of the Bahamas. It was a well-needed getaway as she had burnt all her vacation for the year back in April for our honeymoon; it was a long year for her.
When folks ask how the cruise went, my first reply seemed to put it best “It was good to see the family.” I’ve been on a number of cruises before and knew what to expect with a Carnival cruise, but was not prepared for the clientele who boarded in Charleston, the age of the ship, or the state of the Bahamas.
On the clientele, well, there were more than your average number of folks who were merely going away on a 5-day buffet. Boarding the ship, several families had to stop, sweating, in order to catch their breath for the walk up the next meager incline of the gangway. Everyone was pleasant, but I’d be lying if I said cruising from Charleston won’t depress you a bit.
Onto the ship, the Carnival Fantasy. While I did know it was Carnival’s oldest ship, the fact that it received a full renovation in 2008 had me hopeful. Aside from the flat-screen TVs they put in the rooms, I’m not sure what the renovation consisted of as the entire boat was clearly 1990-esque. Poor appointments, tacky decor, ungh…
And then the Bahamas. Or The Bahamas? No matter. While I’m sure there are a number of great islands amongst this small nation, Nassau and Freeport are not them. As usual, I tend to trot off the touristy path and really get to know a place.
In Nassau, we discovered absolute poverty just blocks from the diamonds and other overpriced “deals” that come with a cruise port. We did find a beach where we had a few beers, enjoyed a Cuban, and had some jerk chicken straight from a BBQ/barrel, and that was truly awesome, but then we began to walk. Slums. Shortly after being offered drugs by a pair of guys on a scooter, we were invited to a family BBQ. I’m sure it would have been a great time, but we were exploring and kept walking. Worth noting because people of the islands are damned friendly with the exception being those who are trying to scam tourists (here it was a set of guys saying we NEEDED to get round-trip tickets on our boat taxi).
In Freeport, we boarded a “bus” (completely beat ancient minivan) to the tourist-trap called Port Lucaya. Grabbed some decent food and then made our way to the beach to catch some rays. Freeport is a rather sad state of affairs with very clear poverty being the result of years of being taking advantage of [presumably] the white man. Massive amounts of industry have gobbled up and polluted the land. Hilariously, I think the largest property owner was the United States, which had a massive port for shipping and ship repair. The scammers here were again the cab drivers who insisted that we pay them the full return fare when we arrived and they’d pick us up at a special spot and at a special time (they were trying to beat waiting in line with other cabs). Knowing their schemes, I declined, which clearly he wasn’t expecting. In the end, we received a free ride back to the boats because they never asked us for money. Clearly a broken system, clearly a lot of scamming going on, but I wasn’t about to correct their mistake when they were trying to pull one over on us.
So… the Bahamas left a very bad taste in our mouths. If you’re okay with laying on a bright, beautiful beach, while what basically appeared to be slavery is occurring all around you, it’s a great place for you. We’re not and will likely never be going back as there are far too many other bright and sunny places out there.And then Charleston. After the family hopped back into their car for their short trip home, we found ourselves alone in this cool little town. In our pair of days before boarding the plane for home, we basically checked out the whole of downtown and ate some amazing food. Pro tip: Go to Pearlz and get some Happy Hour specials. It was a great time and a nice change of pace from the cruise.
Overall, the trip was a good one. Again, it was great to see the family, and it allowed us to not travel for the holidays and instead spend it with her family. Two birds, two stones, but smaller stones than they could have been.
No, we didn’t go reenacting.
Last night, Heather and I embarked on a bit of an experiment. At 5:30PM, I went around the house and unplugged everything electrical, turned off all of our devices, lit a half-dozen candles, poured two glasses of wine, and sat down on the couch.
What ensued? Well, drinking of wine, lots of reading, and a lot of writing things down on paper to look up the next day and to add to our electronic to-do lists.
It was a fun little exercise in the same vein as folks going without their smartphones, and leaving their gadgets at work, but we took it a step further and forewent TV, social media, lights, and even clocks. Granted, I did use a cyclocomputer when I went to the basement to ride my bike, but I did my riding via candlelight. Granted again, we did read on our Kindles because that’s where our books reside, but you get the idea…
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was able to get about three hours of reading in (only 28hrs to go in Game of Thrones: Book Three!!!) without the constant nagging of feeling like I should be checking e-mail or Facebook, and above all else we had some pretty good conversation. I’m quite certain we’d get along perfectly fine if we did this for a longer period of time, which is a bit surprising to me; I thought the urge to connect would be stronger, but maybe I’m not as reliant on connectivity as I had thought?
Will we do it again? For sure, but next time we’ll be prepared with a few more unscented candles; light was hard to come by and the house was a smorgasbord of smells.
Highly recommended activity.
I’ve struggled all week with what I wanted to do with my goal setting for 2013, but I think I’ve finally figured it out. I thank you for your patience 😉
Each year, I come up with a lengthy list of “smart” goals. The problem with this is it results in goals that are very number-based. While I’m a huge fan of numbers and statistics, I end up approaching each day rather robotically. At all times I know where I stand against my goals, what I need to do each day, and what I need to sacrifice to get them. While that does result in me attaining most of them, it’s not a particularly nice way to live. The other problem with number-based goals is the need to increase them year over year. Over time, that becomes impossible. Last year, I felt as if I had zero free time. If I increase my numbers this year, I’ll have less than zero time. That would suck. This year? No numbers. While I do have some in mind, I’m not going to keep close tabs on them; if they happen, they happen.
The following are what I’ve come up with:
- Find a place we love and can also afford to start a family in (Boulder, Portland, and Austin are the shortlist, but there are a handful of others).
- Spend more time with friends, both here and out-of-town.
- Beat some video games that I had previously put down.
- Keep up with my reading, reviewing, and blogging.
- Perform better in athletic competition.
- Eat smarter and lose weight.
- Strengthen our marriage.
- Overachieve at work.
- Do less.
I’m happy with it. I can’t create a nifty spreadsheet to chart my progress on these, but they’re clearly defined, attainable, and are not all reliant on BS things that are somewhat out of my control like my knees holding up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still collecting numbers on everything I do because that’s simply how I do, but they’re not toward any specific goal. Instead, they’ll merely be accomplishments.
2013, let’s go.
Whirlwind of a year. Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Goals (green = accomplished, orange = unobtainable, red = failed)
- Run 1000 miles. Dumb idea, just like it was last year. My body seems to only want to do a certain amount and it’s quite vocal when I exceed. While I used to be able to recover 3 miles a day, I can only recover 1 now, and this is the second straight year of it. I ran 350, which is half a mile more than last year. Given vacation and injury (my left knee has been bugging me this year), I’m pleased.
- Ride 2500 miles. Cake. Finished this with more than a month to go. Ended with 2715.
- Swim 50 miles. Crazy. Didn’t even come close. Swam 10, which was an improvement over last year so I’ll take it. I also didn’t schedule any triathlons so this was far less important than I’d have liked it to be.
- Compete in a road bike race. Did not due to wedding/honeymoon eating the prime training month, but did start and compete in most of a cyclocross season, which I’ll count.
- Bench 225. I was on pace for this, but once I hurt my knee I got rid of my gym membership and this goal went by the wayside.
- Go sub-19 in a 5k. Given running 1/3 of the mileage I planned, I still only missed this by seconds. Very pleased with my 5k speed on no training.
- Read 15 books. Finished with 16 and am a good part through the next, but that’ll count for next year. I read a lot of shorter stuff this year so while my book count increased, my page count decreased. Oh well.
- Review 36 spots on Yelp. Did it.
- Brew something. Never made my radar.
- Reach 170lbs. Didn’t come close. Need to focus better this year if I want to really compete.
- Write 52 blog posts. Smashed it, although I’ve been slacking of late.
- Get Netflix queue to 200. Went from 263 to sub-200 in half the year, but haven’t progressed much further as I’ve been adding plenty and often watch items not on the queue.
While I missed quite a few, I feel like plenty was accomplished and I was focusing on goals near every day. Lesson learned: do less.
January – Visited the family in North Carolina, and Mom became an odds beater (surpassed 51-week average) and also hit the one year mark of being a Grade IV brain cancer survivor.
February – Turned 30, celebrated V-day at Komi after having spent more than an hour receiving busy signals to make the reservation, and went to Richmond for wedding planning.
March – Went to Richmond again for more wedding fun, attended Fahad’s wedding, tried CrossFit, had my bachelor party in New Orleans, and saw First Aid Kit in concert.
April – Ran a sub-7 pace for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, got married to the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met, and proceeded to spend three weeks with her across France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland.
May – Ran the Race For Hope (5k for brain cancer) with the whole family, visited North Carolina, and visited Louisville.
June – Ate a pig, rode in the Crystal Ride (20mph+ for 65 miles), and attended Greg’s man baby shower.
July – Moved into a new house (renting), and injured my knee and got an MRI in the process.
August – Got a new road bike (Cervelo R3), spent a week in North Carolina, built a new commuting/cyclocross bike, and my company was acquired.
September – Sold my original road bike, sold the first bike I built, attended the JMU v WVU game at FedEx, rode all 50 states in DC, and attended Hickok-Cole art night in Georgetown.
October – Spent a long weekend in Williamsburg, replaced a sink, split a massive amount of wood, and did my first cyclocross race. and second cyclocross races (6th and 13th)
November – Hosted two 5ks, hosted a game night, took a day off to ride my bike 108 miles through Maryland and back in VA, did two more cyclocross races (12th and 12th), and managed a 19:08 5k at the Virginia Run Turkey Trot.
December – Had a great final cyclocross race of the season (3rd), spent a week with the family on a Bahamian cruise and followed that by a long weekend in Charleston, SC.
2013 looks to have a whole lot going on as a handful of close friends are getting married, and we scour the US for places to end up. ADVENTURE TIME!