Monday, September 28, 2009

Another "A Ha" Moment (After All These Years) . . .

I hope you are sitting down. I have some news. I, Sean Amore, bought a new pair of khakis a few weeks ago (two pair, actually - but only one matters for this story). And that is not the ONLY shock. The other part . . . I bought them at JC Penney. I know, I know. I NEVER shop there (I wish I could quit you, JCP!).

They are great! I bought them with a 32" inseam (I'm only a 30") so I can put a nice cuff at the bottom and they are a little loose (without looking sloppy) and they are heavy and combed/frayed . . . I love them.

So I washed them (as I do from time to time) yesterday and I was folding them - and the rest of the "shades of beige" load this morning (as is part of my normal Monday routine) and I held up my khakis and I was LIVID!

They looked tiny. Inadequate. Like they were Joy's . . . or maybe even Ava's . . . instead of mine. I had machine dried my khakis and shrunk them down and now they were only really "good" for taking up closet space and making me angry about my laundry stupidity.

How bad could it be? What if I can still squeeze in to them? What if they are sort of okay?

I stood up - pajamas still on and all (for those that might think I fold laundry in the nude (you naught mental picturists)) and started to put my pants on (one leg at a time - like any other man) and I pulled them up and pulled them over my ample, child-bearing hips and easily buckled the French fly and had the "room" I had before I laundered them.

Yep. Sure enough. The pants were fine - it was just my perception of how big a pair of pants had to be to fit me that was out of whack.

30 months after surgery and I still have the occasional "a ha" moment! Thanks, gastric bypass!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

For Our Children . . .

A little over a block from our home is College Hill Park. It's this great, 22-acre park in the middle of the "big city" of Wichita. Not that we Wichitans need an escape from the urban jungle but, regardless, it is a quiet, expansive space where "community" becomes real.

At any given time you can find adults playing tennis, children on the playground, teens just "hanging out," people of all ages and demographics walking their dogs, families out walking and my strong-minded fellow runners doing their thing. Sometimes you can see Shakespearian productions or hot air balloons being launched or high schoolers running cross country or people looking for easter eggs, flying kites, whatever.

Last evening I saw something I've never seen in College Hill Park. A stroller. Okay so I've seen strollers but I saw as stroller alone. Just sort of standing by the curb. Water bottle and a few toys in the netting below, no sign of an owner or a child at either side of or in the midst of a stroll.

The unattended stroller reminded me of something that I sort of lose sight of as a father. We do a lot of things for our kids.

We buy them over-priced strollers. We put them in our minivan and drive them to the park. We push them around. We make chit chat with the other parents. We acknowledge that we are, at the end of the day, just another parent. We do all that for them and we do it gleefully.

We give stuff up too. We sacrifice a latte of our Starbucks money. We turn in on our late nights and even later mornings sleeping off the late nights. We learn about bottle variations and formulas of formula. We learn to fold teeny-tiny clothes. We learn to eat strained veggies only to show them how "delicious" they are. We do it all for them and we do it gleefully.

We vow that nothing will ever harm them. We vow that nothing will ever go wrong for them. We vow that they will graduate top of their class (in high school, at the first Ivy League school of their choice for undergrad and then the second Ivy League school of their choice for grad and then the third Ivy League (or perhaps a Western or Southern Ivy for good measure) of their choice for their PhD). They'll get married - or a least find a loving life partner of in their gender preference and that they have as many (or as few) kids as they choose. Kids that they might someday drive the minivan, kiss overpriced coffee goodbye for and buy all the accoutrements and trapping of parenting for. Even that stroller. And they will do it all for them and they will do it gleefully.

But, for whatever reason, the owner of that stroller yesterday afternoon did something sort of ironic. They (mother, father or both) were so busy sacrificing, rushing, pushing and pulling, like we all seem to be in that park or any other part of parenting (loading the car up, going to the emergency room with split lips, begging for peas to be eaten or teeth to be brushed) that they forgot their stroller. They loaded the kid in the car. Strapped them in. Ensured they were safe and snug and ready to head out to the family's next Saturday commitment.

They did everything right. Sacrificed. Kept their focus on the child. Let everything else seem and be irrelevant. I'm sure they made it home safely yesterday afternoon and I'm sure the parent(s) of that kid got in the garage, unloaded the kid and the toys. They probably never realized the stroller was gone. It wasn't relevant in the context of being home and safe and happy.

But they will notice. Maybe it was today. Maybe it will be next week. Maybe it won't be for a month. They'll realize that they misplaced that stroller and then they'll realize what a stupid mistake it was. And how many lattes they could buy with the money they'll instead spend on another stroller. And they'll go buy another stroller. And they will do it gleefully, just like they did with the first stroller.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

UPDATE 2 - My Dad's Heart . . .

My father went to the hospital today and had his heart catheterized. No stint needed. Early signs of heart disease are present but they think they can attack it with diet, exercise and medicine.

The question is, of course, if my father is ready for the diet and the exercise part of it.

I'm rooting for him (as always) and I wish him all the best. I just feel better knowing that he's made it through this part of the process and seems committed to the next steps.

I love you, Daddy-O! Be well. TRULY well!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Biggest Loser . . .

To answer the four e-mails I received on the subject . . . Yes - I am very, very excited about the Biggest Loser being back but . . . No - I have not yet watched the season premier.

It's been a crazy week here in the Amore household. I HOPE to watch this weekend but Joy has class and a wedding to oversee/perfectly deliver on Saturday and I will likely be working all day Sunday (we are in RFP mode again at work - fingers crossed (again))!

I promise to post a full brief as soon as possible and PLEASE do not tell me what happened in the meantime!

Workers Comp for Lap Band? . . .

PS (Pre Script) - Thanks to my friend NYtoVa/Carrie for sharing this story with me . . .

Here's where the world of medical/legal drama could get interesting and the idea of "self responsibility alone" for obesity could get confused while the clear impact of obesity in the workplace could get simplified (it's a story that has my head spinning).

Here's the basic premise . . . a guy (who is obese) works at a pizza place. He gets hit in the back by a freezer door and blows out his knee. He needs knee surgery for the pain to go away but most lose considerable weight for the knee surgery to work/help. He opts for lap band surgery.

The man files for workman's compensation for the knee surgery AND the banding. And the court agrees the pizza place (a small business with considerable impact from insurance claims in the sum of the $25,000ish it would cost for these two procedures. If you want all the details, read out this article. If you want my perspective -read on.

I've still got your attention? Good, my loyal, little follower (smile)!

Two thoughts on this. ONE - the idea that obesity surgery is and should be covered by all health insurance policies (which is actually a responsibility of each state to mandate coverage first, not an issue of the insurance companies (foresay)) is not really up for dispute in my opinion (to repeat myself one more time - they don't deny oncology treatment for chronic smokers (thank you very much, American Lung Association)) and I think that all employers, regardless of size should provide health insurance and certainly workman's comp coverage for all employees (that's the raging Communist (just ask my Kansan co-workers) in me, though). So the idea of forcing the business to pay for the KNEE surgery is not an issue for me. The forcing to pay for the lap band surgery IS a concern for me . . . but not maybe for the reason you might expect.

I'm NOT in favor of this pizza place having to pay for the lap band because of one very simple echo effect . . . that business owner will probably NEVER hire an obese person again. And his fellow small business owners who read about the financial impact on the guy and his business might not too and - here we are again - continuing sizism and perpetuating the idea that hiring the obese is a potential liability (we take more sick time, we have more serious injuries, our productivity lags, our moods swing more, we cost more in real resources, etc. - this is all just fact).

Anywho, I'm happy for the guy with the bum knee. I hope he gets feeling better and I hope the weight stays off and I hope he bucks the stats and trends on lap banders (no offense, believers) and I hope that small businesses do the right thing and continue to hire people regardless of their physical mass.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UPDATE - My Dad's Heart . . .

Just wanted to share a quick update on my father and his clogged, little ticker.

Relatively good news . . . looks like a catheter and stint is all he'll need. He goes back on Tuesday for what should be a two-hour procedure.

Big, big, big sigh of relief. He still needs to make some serious changes in his lifestyle and he's not really out of the "woods" yet but it seems like he's going to get on top of it.

Much appreciation for those that sent notes of support, concern and best wishes. I'll keep you posted, as appropriate!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We All Love a Plus Sized Model . . .

Thanks to this post, I had the biggest week in the history of this here blog last week. 211 people came to my blog on Monday, September 7th alone and a total of 431 people came in the last week.

I'm really honored and humbled by that!

And many of them STAYED too. Clicked around. Read through the archives. Became return readers.

THANKS, beautiful woman, for taking your clothes off and giving me something to type about that was worth reading about! Conversation starter INDEED!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Compliment, Get a Tip . . .

When I was a younger man (and by that I mean as recently as a week ago) my mother would often say that I had two major flaws. I could neither give nor receive an apology and I could neither give nor receive a compliment.

She, as per always, right (that's not just pandering - I didn't realize or accept it for many years of my life but the woman is a genius with a moral compass more true than the North Star itself)!

The apology thing is coming along quite nicely (being a slouch of a husband will do that for you (smile)).

The compliments - work in progress!

If you search the archives of this hear blog you'll find a few places where I make mention of my commitment to getting better at giving and receiving compliments. Losing hundreds of pounds in a relatively short period of time leaves you almost forced to learn how to accept one and, frankly, receiving all those compliments makes you very likely to learn how to pay them back out as well (quid pro quo, better to give than to receive, etc.).

I have gotten quite used to the exchange of verbal kindness with those that I'm acquainted with. It's not that hard. STRANGERS though . . . that's still got me spinning. There are a few challenges to this. 1) Men hardly ever say kind things to each other for no apparent reason. 2) Any time I think about saying something kind to a woman I'm afraid she'll take it as flirty/inappropriate/awkward/terrifying and anytime a woman says something kind to me I just have to assume she wants to get in my pants (I only WISH I were joking)!

Then - along came Esquire. Specifically an article called "The Perfect Compliment" by one of my favorite writers in the world - Tom Chiarella. You can read the whole thing in the print issue (I'll put the link here when it is available) but here is the proverbial meat and potatoes of it all . . .

"I learned that a compliment is a partnership, because the pleasure of giving it lies in its effect upon the person receiving it."

The article has me feeling totally empowered so - this morning - at the QuikTrip (while pouring my morning iced tea) I caught the faint whiff of the man next to me at the sugar/creamer/straw/lids/stirrer "bar" and decided he smelt more delicious than the taquitos spinning feet from us. So what did I do?

I told him so. Didn't hesitate. I looked him in the eye and I said "That is a great scent you are giving off. It smells sorta' like an October evening in Upstate, New York - one of my favorite things in the world. Thanks for the happy memory on a Monday morning." (insert broad, genuine smile followed by moment of brief pause here).

"Thanks," he said. "It is Kiehl's Musk Blend. My wife bought it for me on a recent business trip to New York City. I wonder if she bought it because it reminded her of the same thing. She went to undergrad school at Cornell. Are you familiar with Ithaca?"

"Am I ever," I smiled. "Have a great day. Go Big Red!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Falling for Fall . . .

It is starting to feel a LOT like fall here in the Wichi-Wichi! There is (in my never humble opinion) better time than fall!

I am craving some distraction and happy news the last few days so I figured I'd just get my "dreamer hat" on and just let it roll. Turns out that, on top of a wonderful family, fulfilling job, great friends and one of Wichita's finest collections of rubber spatulas - I have lots to focus on.

Several things have me excited about this change of seasons. Here, in no particular, are the thing I am most excited about for the coming months . . .

1 - Hooded Sweatshirts - I bought my first hoodie the other day. It's grey heather (heather grey?) and it has a zipper that goes the whole way up. Drawstrings in the hood. I look like Rocky when I strap that thing on and hit the mean streets of College Hill. It'll be nice to have some cold and crisp air to justify a warm layer over my signature pocket t-shirt. Aaaaddddrrrriiiiaaaannnneee!

2 - Sweater Season - Speaking of cold, crisp air . . . bring on the sweaters. Lots of them. Crewnecks. V-necks. Cardigans. Vests. Shawl collars. Cotton. Cashmere. Blend. It doesn't matter. I'll wear them and love them and appreciate the warmth they give me!

3 - Where the Wild Things Are - I've read the book countless times, I've read it to Ava countless times, I give it as a standard "so, you're having a baby gift" to friends and family and now . . . finally . . . a movie . . . and a Spike Jonze movie no less! I'm THERE! Maybe a few times!

4 - Traveling - We're going to Dallas for the weekend. I'm going to Kansas City (see below). We're talking about going way, way East at Christmas time and I'm planning a surprise trip to visit someone I love and miss very much . . . all this fall. Shake the dust off the luggage, kids. It's time to travel.

5 - Ben Folds - October 25th. Here. In Wichita. Me. A few thousand other fans (new and old). I'm praying he plays Gracie, Landed and Jesusland but I'll settle for a chance to sway to the music of "The Luckiest" with my beautiful bride . . . just like we did the day she became my beautiful bride!

6 - Kansas City, TWICE - I get to leave the 316 and go just a few short hours up the road to a city that I really, really enjoy visiting. The best part of it . . . I'm going for work. BOTH times. Yep. "Proof" that the economy is turning back around - the return of business travel!

7 - Fall Television - I'm either going to log more hours on the treadmill than you can shake a stick at or just hours and hours and hours on the couch. Biggest Loser. Glee. Community. Fringe. And a handful of others. Get ready DVR . . . you and I are going to get some serious workouts this fall!

8 - Pumpkin Patch Season - If you need Joy, Ava and I on any given weekend between next week and Halloween we'll either be in class (Joy), at work (Joy) or at one of several Kansas pumpkin patches just blowing off steam and enjoying all that fall has to offer . . . with caramel corn and apple cider for the ladies in my life!

9 - Turkey Trot - Yep. This fat man runs (and risks nipple chaffing) with thousands of other Wichitans in just two and a half months. May God have mercy on all of our souls!

10 - Joe by Joseph Abboud at JCPenney - I haven't been THIS excited about new clothes at JCPenney since Ralph Lauren launched the "American Living" collection two years ago!

11 - The Monsters of Folk - I don't often get excited about new music (that is sarcasm, clearly) but when bits and pieces of some of my favorite groups in the world get together to form a "supergroup" I'll fall for it, get excited about it and pre-order it every. single. time!

12 - Up on DVD - The best movie of the summer. In the comfort of our home. And if Ava has anything to say about it - we'll watch it 15 - 20 times per week for a least the two months immediately following its release and - unlike a few of the DVDs in heavy post-bath, pre-story/bedtime rotation here in the house - I won't mind one stinking bit.

My Heart is with His Heart . . .

I've talked a LOT about my parents on this blog. I've talked about their weight and their health. I've talked about how much I love them and how grateful I am for the life they gave me and the way they raised me and the way they love and support me at all times. And I've talked about how grateful I am that I've had gastric bypass surgery that I might not have the struggles in my 60s that my parents are having now (we share a gene pool but we don't have to share some of the painful little rocks on the bottom of that pool).

The point? My father called with some bad news yesterday evening. He had a stress test on Wednesday and the results were positive. VERY positive.

I'll show you how naive my parents are to nutrition, health and their own bodies here when I tell you that my father was ECSTATIC to get a positive result to his stress test until his doctor asked about scheduling a follow up with a cardiologist. I don't want to come across as mocking my father (I would NEVER do that (smile)) but I think it is a good example of how my parents are eternal glass-half-full people who have maybe not taken some of their health woes as seriously as we might like them to in the last decade or so. Who have maybe just assumed it was all going to be okay. Who've maybe thought none of their aches or pains or woes were real.

Regardless - it is all very, very real to my father right now. It is very real for all of us.

My beloved father, my mother at his side, will go and be more thoroughly examined by a specialist on Wednesday. Modern medicine will go to work with hopes of getting him back on the right path to the next 40 years of his life.

He knows he has two real options . . .

"Best" case scenario, he'll have a stint put in his heart through a minimally invasive procedure.

"Worst" case scenario, he'll spend the bulk of a morning (if not the entire day) laying on a surgery table while a team performs open heart surgery.

There is no other real scenario. Not just exercise. Not just cut back on the fatty foods. Not just take this pill. Nope. He's in a bit of a crisis and this must be remedied immediately and with force.

I don't mean to sound crass about it. I guess I'm in shock and I'm just trying to boil it down to the basics and remove the emotion and subtleties because if I do that I don't have to think about my father being in this equation and my father's health being in such jeopardy.

If I just keep it all at arm's length I don't have to think about how scared he is. How scared my mother is. How scared my brothers (and the women we love) are. I don't have to think about how sick his heart is. I don't have to think about how my heart is breaking just thinking about it.

I sit here in Kansas. Far, far away. Unable to help in any real way (not that I could help with this anyway (I got a First Aid merit badge but that is where my medical prowess ends (come see me with a first degree burn though . . . I've got you)))!

Happy thoughts for Wednesday. Happy thoughts for my father. Happy thoughts for the next 40 years of his life!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Look, Kids. Fat People . . .

I love Facebook. I really do. You get to learn so much about your friends and co-workers (and family) and their friends and co-workers (and family). For instance . . . this little nugget posted as a comment/wall-to-wall on a co-worker's Facebook page (his status indicated he was headed to the Kansas State Fair today):

Will you be counting the morbidly obese and homemade tattoos? A favourite family activity of ours at the Fair.

Ha! Sooooo funny.

Perhaps I'm brushing over the tattoo part of your pithy remark but . . . You consider making fun of the obese a FAMILY activity? Really?

Despite the proper, snooty, pinky-out bologna of the u in favourite (yawn) I gather you might not be the most upstanding citizen on Facebook, my friend-of-a-friend.

Do you also mock the handicapped? Do you point out all the "people of color" (er, colour (sorry))? Are there bonus points for the first family member to spot a real-life midget?

Of course not. That would be absurd. You'd look like a terrible parent if you played those games. But the fat people? Point! Mock! Giggle! Stand behind 'em in the funnel cake line.

No offense, kind sir but if you and your family are bonding through sizism you might consider starting a board game night or reading a book about what you should NOT teach or encourage in your children.

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to go give Ava a pair of scissors and encourage her to run around the house with them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Memories . . .

This is not really the forum to get overly political and I am not one to try to make something that I merely witnessed (despite living in Washington, DC at the time) "about me" so I won't get in to too much of my feelings on 9/11 (they mainly involve absolute sadness and a weird tinge of warmth and joy from the way people responded in the wake of the horror) but I wanted to share a vignette of the day.

I was typing with my former roommate (who shared my apartment with me on 9/11) and he remembered something I had forgotten . . . how absolutely PISSED I was that I could not get any place to make and bring me FOOD on 9/11.

Weird, right?! The world around me was in chaos and crisis (the Capitol literally up the street, tanks on the corners during my walk home, etc.) and I was worried about feeding the beast inside me.

The truth is that I had NO food in the apartment (my friend Al brought me fresh dinner every evening so there was no reason to keep food on hand) and since every bit of comfort I had in that part of my life came from food it was natural, sorta', that I was freaking out about not being able to get massive quantities of food.

Bob wanted to get home to his family. My brothers, parents and friends were calling. Most of my DC friends were with friends and family and ALL I wanted to do was eat (and/or get drunk).

I don't know what I would do if terrorists attacked Wichita tomorrow (hey, it could happen) but I KNOW I would not seek comfort in a knock at the door and food from a paper bag to follow.

Again, this is all very petty stuff in the face of real loss and real tragedy so please don't confuse this post as being anything of substance or relevant to the reality of that terrible, terrible day. Thoughts and prayers for all those truly impacted by the day!

Me? Eating a Donut?

Saw a former co-worker last night. He pulled up beside me on Central Avenue and started laughing.

When I got home I got a text from him that I was "busted" eating a donut. "Huh," I thought?!

He DID catch me eating some sesame seed crackers (we all have our little indulgences) but he thought it was DONUT. And he would not let it go.

Why would a person think I was eating a donut? Oh. Right. 30 years of obesity and a high weight of 530 pounds has a tendency to make people distrust your ability to NOT eat a donut.

Sad, really. For BOTH sides of the assumption.

PS - My apologies for two straight posts about (and featuring photos of) donuts (smile)!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Breakfast of Champions? . . .

I've added a new step to the morning routine. I really don't know why. My mornings are already borderline-disasterous enough as it is.

I mean I put a sorta' sharp object covered with toothpaste in my mouth and jam it around while still three quarters asleep and then, a few days a week, I run four blades over my face and neck . . . and then I have to pick out clothes that MATCH (scared yet?) so why would I take on any MORE stress and time commitment?

Simple answer. Hydration. I stop by my friendly neighborhood QuikTrip (actually it is the friendly neighborhood QuikTrip for my office (three whole miles from my house (don't be jealous people with real commutes (smile))) and I get a 44 ounce iced tea with five packets of Splenda and two packets of "real lemon juice" (I use the quotes because they put them on the packets) before pulling in to the parking lot at work at as close to 7:00 as I can manage (which is 7:45 some mornings (oy)).

I have laser-like-focus for my iced tea (my brain is still not engaged enough to really pay attention to anything else) but if there are people standing between me and the ice machine, I'll give them the quick, down-nose-glance "once over" (they are in my way . . . how dare they?!).

This morning I saw a gentleman that really got my attention.

He was pouring 64 ounces of Pepsi (not Diet Pepsi - PEPSI) in his cooler-with-a-built-in-straw. He was having hard time with the fountain because he was juggling two donut-thingys (they are these donuts that are made of a bunch of donut holes (9 0r 10, I think) that are held together with glaze and icing) and a chili dog taquito (that's right - they take a hot dog, dip it in chili, pour some cheese sauce on it and then wrap it in a tortilla (we're ALL counting our carbs, apparently). My post-GB (and post "that looks like a damned good breakfast") mind immediately tried to crunch the caloric count of this "first meal of the day."

There is no nutritional information on the QT web site but I found out that there are 800 calories in 64 ounces of Pepsi. There are 200 calories in the average hot dog. There are 30 calories in a tablespoon of low-grade chili and 25 in a tablespoon of cheese sauce. There are 100 calories in the average tortilla. There are 52 calories in a glazed donut so there are at least 936 calories in two donut hole bunch thingies. That is 2,091 calories (I won't even horrify you with the sugar and fat counts that go on top of that). In other words - this guy was going to get nearly TWO DAYS worth of my calories in his BREAKFAST!

The weirdest part . . . the guy looked like he weighed about 150 pounds (we fat people really, really loathe you skinny people who just eat whatever you want . . . Chris Delenick!).

Good morning! Good morning INDEED!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wifey and Me . . .

I just realized it has been a long time since I posted a photo of Wifey and I. Here's one of my favorites from the weekend. She'll probably hate that I posted this here (she is always very critical of/on herself) but I just can't help it.

She gets more and more beautiful all the time, doesn't she?! Thanks for marrying me and suffering me and sharing your life with me, Joy. It is easy for me to remember how much you mean to me when we are at a wedding ceremony or you are trying to force me to dance with you at the reception. I apologize for not always keeping those thoughts and feelings top of mind on Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings as well.

And this post is NOT just me trying to get some "snuggle time" tonight . . . but if that's what comes out of it (smile)!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Virtual Friends . . .

A lot of people "poo poo" this whole "social media thing." Blogs? Facebook? LinkedIn? Postcards from Venice? Okay, not that last one . . . people don't ever poo poo things from Venice but I want to share the POWER of blogging.

Ava has never met Clara Thomas but she "knows" her well. She has her favorite photos, favorite expressions, favorite moments and favorite Clara hats. HOW? Well Clara (through her parents) blogs.

We told Clara about Ava's obsession with Clara and her blog and Clara was gracious enough to send a very special "shot out" to her biggest fan. We showed Ava the clip after bath time (which was a mistake since she got super excited and amped up from watching). Watch this classic reaction . . .

Thanks for doing us the solid, Clara. And thank you, Blogosphere, for giving Ava her first flavor of celebrity endorsement.

Who Says You Can't Go Home? . . .

We had a short-but-wonderful time in Baltimore/DC and enjoyed seeing the folks we saw and doing the things we did.

There was this nagging little sensation that something was missing though. Something just wasn't right. Something was "off" (and I don't just mean Joy's ability to ride in a car in DC traffic without screaming, swearing and hyper-ventilating).

We didn't have enough time while we were there to really figure out exactly why it felt odd but it certainly did. Anywho, we got back to the good-ol' ICT at about 10:30 AM CT on Sunday and we hugged and kissed Ava (who was NOT at all impressed that we had gone away and left her with her Grandparents for the weekend (the sneers continue as I type this) and realized what we already knew.

DC and Baltimore are no longer "home." They haven't been in years. Sure that is where Joy and I met and that is where our love grew and where we first found out we would be parents and where some of our greatest victories and setbacks have come and some of our very best friends still live there but - at the end of the day - we are Kansans now. Our life is here.

You can, to Bon Jovi's point, go home but you have to realize that it is more than just where your hat is hanging. It is where your energies and ambitions and hopes and dreams hang. Oh - and - GOD willing "home" is not New Jersey (no offense, Garden Staters - I'm sure it is a really, really lovely place (smile)).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The People "In" Your Life . . .

We went to a wedding this evening for one of Joy's very closest friends from her Baltimore days. We sat at a table with three of Joy's former co-workers and their husbands (two of them) and boyfriend (the third one) and a couple we had never met before.

I have always loved the social dynamics of a wedding reception. The idea of the bride and groom (or their planner or that overbearing mother-in-law or whomever) pouring over the details of the entire RSVP list and whom to sit with whom and how to mix the circles of your life with minimal friction. I've been to at least 30 weddings in my life and I've never NOT had a good time at the table I was seated at but I know plenty of horror stories and nightmares that friends and family have endured.

I am setting the table here (pun sorta' intended) for a larger point (realization, rather) that popped in to my head somewhere between the salad service and entrees.

Here Joy and I were - at one of the most beautiful wedding locations I have had the pleasure of witnessing nuptials at with some folks that my wife loves very much and the men they love very much and we spent the previous evening with friends that I love very much and the people they love very much and we had lunch with my brother (whom we love very much) and his girlfriend (whom we are loving more and more as we get to know her better) and we were back in a world where so many people that we love live and yet . . . we rarely talk with any of these people (save for my brother Ryan) and we e-mail rarely and mainly rely on Facebook and other "lazy man's" communications methods to stay up to date with them (and them with us) and yet we have no doubt that we really do love all of them and we "know" all of them and they know and love us.

The question then, I guess, is what does it take to really have someone "in" your life? How do you quantify or qualify friendship or other relationships (I'm not just rambling about friends here but what about family, etc.)?

Is it time spent in the same room? Is it phone calls or e-mails? Is it how often you think of them as you pull petals off a wild flower or throw pennies in a fountain? Is it how much you wish you could be with them? Is it how passionately you want great things for them? Is part of it how much time you had spent together or how close you were before you got separated by whatever forces that interrupted your time? Is it how often you got drunk or broke bread together? Is it how much you know about their families or lives? Is there ANY formula or rhyme or reason?

I'll get to my point now (big sigh of relief, dear readers) . . . I mentioned that we saw some great friends over the weekend but only one person (save for the bride and groom exchanging vows) that we spent time with made Joy and I cry. And that was the strangers at our table.

(DISCLAIMER - I'm a HUGE fan of the human experience. I'm a firm believer that people who keep secrets or harbor themselves are not really living to life to its fullest (I used to be that way - WAY over-rated). I'll also acknowledge that I'm very much in the minority on my belief that you can not "over-share" if your sharing is genuine and sincere so the following might shock some of you.)

Joy and I were seated next to the "newbies" at the table so we took it upon ourselves to exchange pleasantries. "I'm Sean, this is my wife Joy." "We live in Wichita, Kansas but used to live and got to know Rob and Elise while living here in Baltimore." "I do enjoy the Smothers Brothers but more for Dick than for Tom." "I work in advertising and Joy is an event planner." You know - the usuals. Then came that exchange that can either immediately bond or break any casual chat with strangers at a wedding reception (no, not "Do you know how to do the Electric Slide?" . . . "We have one daughter. Ava. She's three. Do you have children?"

Awkward silence. Welling of a tear. Quiet response "Yes. We have a daughter, also Ava, and we lost her twin brother. He was stillborn."

Plenty of people would have faked a cell phone call, reached for the bread and butter or just turned back to the party on the other side of the table at this point. Not Joy and I though. Nope. Joy leaned in and we were off to the races of story telling, understanding, empathizing and crying. Such a striking story. 10 years of IVF. 10 years of praying and worrying and trying. 10 years of frustration. 9 months of joy and happiness that you are having twins and your prayers have been answered. 1 defining moment when your family gets reduced by 25% before you ever get to hug or hold him. What should be four is now three. WAY better than two but . . .

Joy and I know about losing pregnancies and fertility woes. We know nothing (first hand) about still born babies but we know about frustration and sadness and anger that comes out of the challenges to create life. We bonded instantly with our neighboring couple and felt such a connection to them (I leave their names out of this post because this is their story - not my place to share (in case anyone thinks I didn't catch their names here)).

Then, one of those moments I will never forget happened. The proud mother slid a "brag book" across the table. "These are some pictures of our Ava," she beamed. "And then, in the back, is a picture of our son," she whispered. "You don't have to look at it. We (gestures to husband) still haven't and don't know when I will," she gently wept.

Joy and I looked at each other and started thumbing through the pictures of Ava. We made eye contact at the last picture of Ava almost asking "Do we look?" I mean I didn't know if we were talking about an ultra-sound here or . . . Luckily Joy was in control of the flipping and she was insistent that we honor these parents and look at their children.

She flipped that last page and there he was. In a cap. Wrapped in a blanket. Eyes closed. Lips pursed. Looking exactly like (no more or less angelic) any other new born baby. I cried (I'm crying typing this) at the idea of carrying around a picture of a deceased child, having never seen him or held him or them never knowing you or your post-womb comforts. It all seemed impossibly unfair and beautiful. I ached for our Ava. I wanted to hold her and kiss her and tell her I love her. I ached for their Ava who might never really (pray God) truly understand why her Mom and Dad are sorta' sad every year on her birthday.

My emotions forced me to hug and kiss (on the cheek) a total stranger and to hold the hand of a man I had just met moments earlier. I looked at them and sobbed "He's absolutely beautiful and looks so peaceful and happy, thank you for sharing this with us." They nodded back an implied "Thanks." I realized that I had not said something too stupid or overbearing and I had not over empathized or made myself out to be too much of an ass (trust me, dear readers, this could have gone HORRIBLY wrong for Old Sean and his love of champagne at wedding receptions).

I share this story to round back to my original question. What defines a relationship? Who are we "allowed" to love? How do they know we love them and are we just assuming they love us back?

We shared this evening and the larger weekend with friends from a previous life who we still consider friends and who we still have affection for. We had a daughter 1,300 miles away. We have parents and siblings tossed around Kansas and the Northeast United States. We have friends every where we've ever been and yet I've never seen anyone have a clearer connection to another human being than these parents had for their son.

They had never held him (save for the mother holding him in her womb) or kissed him. He'd never heard their voice. They had never soothed him back to sleep. He'd never won the science fair and made them proud. Yet here they were, forever tied. Forever a family. Forever impacting each other. Forever, through sharing their story and seeing that picture, impacting Joy and I.

We had a great weekend. We saw some good friends and promised to see them again soon and to do a better job of staying in touch. We met the daughter of good friends. We saw a couple in their early stages of love. We saw a couple start their official shared life together. We saw places and faces that meant so much to us. None of that, for me, had the impact or importance of this couple and their son.

Their sharing made it okay for me to go on saying that I love the people that I don't spend enough time with or speak with often enough. It is not, I realized, about time spent or e-mails exchanged or text messages sent. It is not about empty promises to see each other "soon."

NONE of that is what real relationships are about. They don't define you in a relationship. Nope. If you love someone and you carry them in your heart and if you have ever suffered for and with them or if they have ever suffered with or for you that is all it takes.

In my opinion (and that is truly all that matters, right?) you can be friends or family (or both, ideally) or share any other level of a relationship for life just for sharing love, affection and struggle.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dinner with Friends . . .

Well, after a very long day of traveling (we were at the airport at about 6:30 AM CT, got to the hotel at about 2:15 PM ET and then had a late lunch and headed to DC at around 4:15 PM (apologies to the folks we were hoping to try and catch up with on Friday afternoon accordingly)) we finally stepped on the fertile, fertile soil of Northern Virginia in time for dinner with some old friends.

The first plan we made . . . after confirming we were going to DC/Baltimore for the weekend to begin with, that is . . . was to have dinner with my beloved Michael and Megan Thomas and my equally beloved Valerie Williams.

We had a delicious dinner at (now that Red Sage has closed) my officially-favorite DC restaurant. I not only had hummus for the fifth day in a row, (thank you very, very much) but I enjoyed a chicken shawarma that was every DROP as good as I remembered with a handful of people that were even better than the drops that I had remembered.

Seeing these friends was totally worth the potential stress of reemerging ourselves in DC/Baltimore traffic (at 4:00 on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend, no less) and driving through DC and in to Arlington in a rental car with all the oomph and power of the Pink Cadillac Escalade Power Wheels Grandma and Grandpa Terry gave Ava a few Easters ago.

It is always weird (for me) to see people that I have not seen in a long time (almost three years in this case) to realize that they are taller, skinnier, funnier, more attractive and/or more loving (in this case, all of the above) than you remembered or than you compressed them to be on the iPod like storage space that is your brain (do I KEEP the Indigo Girls greatest hits or get rid of them to make room for that catchy Kings of Leon song the kids are listening to? - REAL debate/struggle for me, by the way).

I had, of course, that awkward moment where I realized (as we approached Megan and Clara and then later Michael and Val) that I was a few hundred pounds lighter than I was the last time I saw them (suddenly I felt myself sucking in my remaining gut of hanging/excess skin) and tried to smile a little wider and hoped that my sunless tanner had me looking super bronzed and that my new outfit had me looking skinny). The compliments came so I have to assume the "new" first impression was a success. Big sigh of relief.

THEN I had that even-more-awkward moment where I realized that these people loved me and supported me and befriended me through my most arrogant, rude, drunken and self-loathing years. They not only suffered me but they loved and supported me through all of it.

I didn't really reach out to many other DC friends. A few folks on Facebook and a few people through e-mail. I was not sure if I really wanted to see too many people. It makes me very uncomfortable to have to really face some of those people at this point. I felt bad about missing some of the folks that wanted to see me (it felt good to be in demand) but between the scheduling of my trip and my general neurotic demeanor at this point, it was just not all that attractive to me to make myself too crazy to see too many people (I DID want to see my old roommate, Ben and my friend Carrie but just didn't figure out the time/logistics to make that happen!) and to worry about what they might think of the person they knew and what happened to him or how my demeanor has changed or if my tan was deep enough to make me look presentable/arguably-attractive.

ANYWHO - Thank you so much, Thomases and Valerie, for making time on a Friday evening to break bread with Wifey and I and, more importantly, thank you for being good friends to me for 11 years now and for allowing us to come in and out of your life with minimal friction and maximum enjoyment.

I hope we can see you again . . . SOON!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's Coming . . .

Who's excited?! My favorite show AND my favorite contestant are BACK! Watch this and get EXCITED!!!

It is hard to believe that it has been TWO YEARS (to the day) since we took ownership of our house in Connecticut and I spent my Tuesday evenings watching The Biggest Loser with my dear friend Casey (snacks in hand), splayed out on her couch.

Where does the time go when it's not around here?!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Breaking News - Our Kids Are Fat . . .

I hope you are sitting down. I have a stunner to share. Yep! This just in . . . our kids are getting fatter (as are our adults).

Watch the video. Learn very little. Go back about your day.

Enough with the finger pointing, skinny people and so-called "experts."

The idea of taxation of junk food, certainly the suggestion that "social networking" and peer monitoring and SUPPORT (not just mocking and abuse) among kinds might be beginning and the notion that we might/should/would/could all take responsibility for our own families thrills me but . . . if you do not have a solution besides banishing sugar, outlawing sugary drinks, meaningless posting of nutritional information in restaurants (REALLY? McDonald's is not my best option? REALLY?!) and blaming child over-scheduling and other lameness that will never be truly impactful . . . enough just talking and talking and talking about it . . .

Let's be honest - all the sitting around and talking instead of ACTION is what got us in to this obesity epidemic to begin with!