Memorial Day Weekend

On Memorial Day weekend, I vowed to tidy up my soul. Whenever I have spare time, I feel incredibly restless and pace around the house bothering everyone. Weekends are especially hard for me because I tend to wake up at 6 or 6:30AM with loads of energy, waiting for Jaclyn to wake up, like a kid on Christmas morning waiting for his parents to give him permission to begin the day.  Usually, I take the dog and disappear on a trail for hours. This weekend, I just wanted to try and relax.

On Saturday, I dropped my car off at the dealership for an oil change (my father will cringe upon reading this – he made me watch countless oil changes and the only takeaway from the experience is that didn’t ever want to change my own oil if possible), then walked the 3 miles back home. We tidied up the house and in the afternoon. Dalia went to the neighborhood pool in the afternoon and saw all of her friends, she reports that she can now do a flip off the diving board! Winston was sick, so I took him to the theater and we watched the Angry Birds movie, it was like an extended Saturday morning cartoon and that was fine by the both of us.

Sunday, I rode my bike to a Starbucks about 3 miles away and it nearly killed me. The hills in Pittsburgh are relentless and grueling. When you are hiking, you can go at a slow pace or stop if you are winded, but when you’re riding on a road, everything is different:

  1. If you slow down while going up the hill, you lose momentum, making it even harder to pedal
  2. The hill is finite, you just want to make it to the top and then you can coast for a bit and catch your breath, but then you coast for about 5 seconds and start on a new hill and you are still out of breath from the last one
  3. Frankly, it is embarrassing to have to hop off your bike and walk it up a hill as cars pass you. The assumed criticisms that the motorists would say about me was enough to motivate me well past my capacity. At one point, I was totally exhausted, out of breath, and feeling pretty horrible, then I heard a real crazy noise reverberating throughout my head and thought something terrible was happening to me, but I quickly realized it was just the cicadas.

I made it home, grabbed a giant glass of water and laid on the hardwood floor for about 15 minutes while the dogs licked me (I did my best to discourage them, but they persisted).

On Monday, we went to 7 Springs resort and the kids did summer tubing (images above) and they also rode their first chair lift and tried their hands on the alpine slide. Both kids did very well and I believe are adequately indoctrinated in mountain adventuring for our Colorado vacation that is fast approaching.

cicadas are everywhere in our backyard

our dogs are eating hundreds, if not thousands of them

i was worried that our dogs might be destroying their entire population, but Jaclyn recommended that I watch this video


The Lord of the Rings

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageOn Saturday, I came down with an acute case of cabin fever. It has been rainy or cloudy for 1,985 days in a row and I was pacing around the house bored out of my mind. Despite the rain, we ventured outside and took a 7 mile hike which everyone handled with ease. The kids only complained that we didn’t pack enough snacks, but their legs held up fine. Little Rosie, the daschund, kept up with us without any issue, I was proud of our effort.

When we returned from the hike, I was in the garage and my wedding band flew off, rattled and bounced off one hundred items and settled somewhere that I could not find. After losing about 60 lbs., it was falling off often and I was in desperate need of a new one. I went back to the Philadelphia area on Sunday because I had a follow up kidney appointment on Monday. Sunday afternoon, I went to Lambertville and walked into a jewelry shop in hopes to find a replacement wedding band. The shop was not your typical jewelry shop, it was rickety, not bright and flashy as I was expecting. It was a weird emporium, reminded me of the movie Gremlins, the place where the father bought Gizmo.

Anyways, I asked if they has wedding bands and the clerk replied with an enthusiastic affirmative. She took me to a case of about a dozen old rings, some whose polish wore off years ago. She explained that this was an estate jewelry store and that this was all essentially “used”. One of the rings looked good enough, I put it on my finger and it fit much better than the last one. We completed the transaction and all was good, or so I thought. People are suggesting the possibility that the used ring was sold due to unfortunate circumstances and could possibly be tainted with bad karma. No one ever assumed the opposite (that it possesses an amazing super power, like it could make me invisible if I turn it just right). This is my third wedding band and figure it cannot have worse luck than the first two. I will say that the luckiest thing about losing my first two wedding bands is that they both were lost right in front of my wife. You are going to catch hell for losing your wedding ring, but I suspect it is less hell if she sees how it happens. My first band is in the Delaware River, my second is in the garage. Let’s hope this one lasts a lot longer, I am averaging about 5 years per band.


Had the good fortune to receive free tickets to two Pirates game in the same week. Which of course means I ate a foot long hot dog two times in one week (in each case complimented by a large can of Iron City Light Beer). Pirates won both games, summer is almost here.


One of my favorite moments of attending the Pirates game is walking across the big Roberto Clemente Bridge before and after the game to return to “Downtown” where many folks park their car. The bridge is open to traffic most of the time, but they close it off exclusively for pedestrians whenever there is a game. Picture above is returning back to the city after a victory.

A picture of the stadium blasting through the night.





Movie Scenes

When I am watching a movie, I require silence and forbid distractions. I want to see everything on the screen and hear every word. Sometimes a scene will be dark, two characters are intensely close and they whisper something important, but I cannot hear it. I will rewind and replay that scene over and over until I hear it all and understand it.

This blog post from 2008, reflects a scene in my life that often plays over in my head:

Primarily, I run through everything that happened, why it happened, what I could have done to prevent it from happening, how I could have handled it differently?

When I play it back, I ask myself, “Wasn’t I a good employee, didn’t I work hard enough to deserve a job?” The answer is an emphatic yes, I never in my life worked longer hours than I did for that company. The team lost a bunch of people and I picked up all their slack, I was doing the work of about 3 people when they let me go.

Then I think that the whole ordeal was humiliating and embarrassing. I just sat in that office like an idiot and kindly accepted the brutal reality of the company’s assessment. I accepted that I was expendable, I accepted the tiniest severance package, I accepted that I was now painted head to toe in failure…a father without an occupation.

I think I play the scene back in my head because I realize there was opportunity to handle the situation differently. Like when someone insults you and you come up with an excellent comeback about 6 hours later (in my case, 8 years). It doesn’t sadden me when I think about it now, it aggravates me, I want my present day self to represent me in that layoff discussion.  Perhaps it was all for the best, it sure motivated me to seek continuous improvement, build a large network of people who would vouch for me to insulate myself in the event of future employment disruption, and it also has made me into someone who tries to treat his ad agency partners compassionately!

I also play back scenes of me in the aftermath, spending quality time pushing Winston in a stroller through Frenchtown. We would go to a park and there was a big sunken oval covered in green grass that he’d play in, it was dug out when winters were cold enough to fill the hole with water to make a seasonal ice rink. We enjoyed warm spring days in that grass, not thinking about past or future, just enjoying the time off.

A couple weeks ago, Winston (now 9 years old), Dalia, and I gobbled down a huge bag of popcorn, shared a giant soda and watched two hours of non-stop fighting & explosions in the newest Avengers movie. I loved it, made for a entertaining summer flick. I asked Winston what he thought of the movie and he said, “It was dumb, all the fighting could have been avoided with better communication.”

He was right, it all could have been avoided if things were fair, but who would watch that movie?

Cross Creek Lake

Went to Cross Creek Lake where Pennsylvania’s largest largemouth bass was caught this morning. The carp were mating and causing a big ruckus and Benny went to investigate.

Also found this caterpillar.


The Orchestra

For Mother’s Day, I decided to take the family to the Pittsburgh Orchestra. Jaclyn loves music and would sincerely appreciate this type of event, my only hesitation was whether or not the kids could make it through without disrupting the performance or ruining the event for the audience around us.

Of course, the orchestra is mostly associated with stuffy rich people who do not want to be bothered by squirmy children, so that was why I got very excited when I saw the orchestra offered tickets in a “Family Circle” section. I figured that I’ll buy tickets in the Family Circle section where we will be surrounded by other parents in a similar dilemma of trying to subdue their children and factoring a simple bell curve to the equation, our children would probably be on the lower end of behavior curve but some other outlier brat would cause a huge scene and by comparison, our kids would look closer to the norm. However, it is never good policy to depend on an outlier to determine your outcome!

We got to the orchestra with our “Family Circle” tickets in hand and everyone was dressed in tailored suits, gowns, and fancy garb – we were not in “evening attire”. We did see two other kids about the age of Winston & Dalia, but they were childhood prodigies at the piano and performing a duet in a ballroom before the symphony began. The prodigies were also in little tuxedos for 7 year old kids.

We asked an usher to help us to the Family Circle section, my hopes of seeing other families with little kids were quickly extinguished – everyone around us was superbly dressed, no children, and some even had those fancy binoculars to see the stage with greater clarity.

The orchestra was wonderful, it’s cost was the same as going to a ballgame and the performance was truly magnificent. The piano player (Daniil Trifonov) in the video above was performing, he was worth the price of admission alone as he is not typically in Pittsburgh and travels the world and accompanies many orchestras. He swings wildly from banging away at the keys like a mad demon to caressing it so lightly with his face inches from the keys. Just watching him perform provided true entertainment, the kids leaned forward and watched his fingers jolt across the ivories, then the kids leaned back into their chairs seemingly unimpressed.

The kids reached deep inside and gave their best behavior in their lifetimes. They did not talk for the entire time, they barely kicked the seats in front of them, but they still managed to draw attention to themselves from the stuffy guests due to the following:

  • Squirming in chair caused a little noise as their clothing fabric rustled against the seat fabric
  • Their shoe tapped the ground which was quite audible in the quiet setting
  • We provided them gum to minimize talking, but their chewing was loud enough to disrupt others at times
  • I told the kids that if they were feeling squirmy, they should just relax and close their eyes. At one point, Winston closed his eyes and laid his head on the arm rest between him and Dalia – then Dalia pulled her arm back away from his head (perhaps to give him some space for his nap…) and then forcibly elbowed him right in the face to signal that she was unhappy that he was dominating the shared armrest. Fortunately, Winston slid off the armrest without much fuss.

These are nit pick things in almost any other setting, but these were really noticeable to the fellow audience members around us in the acoustics of Heinz Hall. While I wanted the audience to not be distracted by my kids, I am always thankful that our family could participate in the event. The pros outweighed the cons, at least for us!

The kids were hankering for a snack prior to the concert and they had never been to the famous Primanti Brothers, where they make six inch high sandwiches covered with fries and coleslaw. The kids ate chicken fingers and observed the cooks assemble the gigantic sandwiches, they were more mesmerized by that than the orchestra.

Happy Mother’s Day Jaclyn!