For all you soccer fans out there, the US women’s team is in the World Cup final tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it and thought I would share this great Sportscenter commercial with you.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Kathy and I still struggle with the loss of our daughter Ellie.
It is strange to have loved so deeply our little one that we hardly knew. A strong bond developed between us in the few months that we did know her—one that will last a lifetime.
We have several routines that we have developed to remember Eleanor. Most mornings and evenings we fold a crane for her. If I forget or don’t have time, I try to make it up by folding an extra one. Especially in the beginning, we would write messages to her in every one. I don’t do that every time now, but it is still nice to write a little note to her: a snippet about my day, something that happened recently, or just sweet nothings. Our counselor compared them to baby talk—we often talk to babies as if they can understand us about various nothingness. Below is a very simple one that I shared with friends.
Candles are another object we use to remember Ellie. We have a several candle holders around the house (including the one pictured below) that we light in her memory. We also asked our small group to burn at candle when we get together every week. We don’t make a big deal about the candle—it simply burns on the table as a reminder of her—but I am always happy and honored to see the candles every week!
We also have a shrine for Eleanor. Our coat rack has a shelf where we put a couple photographs of her, as well as her ashes, and some flowers. We decided to have flowers in her honor for at least the first year. There is a tradition in our church to welcome new babies in the congregation with a single stem rose. We started out with single stem roses, but transitioned in to various other cut flowers since good roses are hard to find in the winter. For a while earlier this year we had an orchid on the shelf, but I felt that this did not fulfill the same purpose. More than having beautiful flowers to look at, it is the act of maintaining, watering, replacing that commemorates Ellie. The orchid became another decoration sitting on a shelf where the cut flowers are a persistent reminder that we need to care for each other and nurture each other, as well as a reminder of the beauty of life and its impermanence.
Besides cranes, candles, and shrines, Kathy and I have been spending quality time together, whether it is breakfast at Rachel’s Bread most every Saturday, trying to eat lunch together as often as possible, planning a business that will allow hopefully us to work together, or simply cuddling on the couch watching a movie. We have grown closer over the past 8+ months, even though I thought we were pretty close before that. We support each other, provide space, offer shoulders for crying, plan our future together, and share thoughts on life and love.
While I would rather have Ellie back, I am very grateful for all that has happened since she left us, and I am especially grateful that Kathy and I have grown closer together instead of falling apart.
I want to leave you with two things. First: a thought. We love Ellie and we enjoy thinking about her and talking about her. Please feel free to ask us how we are and to reflect on her life with us. If we are not in the mood, we will let you know. If we are having a good day, you will not ruin it by asking. I recently sent an email to a friend explaining this:
Ellie is part of our lives, even though she is not with us. We are proud of her, and so glad that she is part of our lives. Obviously we would rather things were different in some respects, but we don't regret the choice we made. We are indeed trying to move on and trying to figure out what it means to be parents, and what it means to be parents without a child. Dealing with situations and learning and growing is life.
We very much appreciate when you check in with us--good day or bad. Good days are when I think of Ellie and remember her with fondness and the mental baggage of losing her doesn't matter. Bad days are when I think of Ellie and wonder why me, fate sucks, I wish it was different, etc. etc. I think about Ellie on both days--and on neutral days for that matter.
In other words, a good day doesn't mean that I am not thinking about Ellie, and when you ask she will suddenly be in my mind and become a burden.
Second: a poem. Some friends read this at Ellie’s memorial service. I reread it and wanted to share it with you.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz
by Pablo Neruda
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Friday, April 1, 2011
For those of you that are friends with me and Kathy on Facebook, you may have noticed a trend recently: Running. Here is a sampling of posts.
New shoes! Nike Free Run. I'll try them out in a bit.
I read this conclusion on an article yesterday. I was convinced. To sum up his conclusion: "If you want to [do that], that's how you do that..., if you want to [do that], that's the exact info how to do it."
Just signed up for the Kalamazoo half marathon at the beginning of May. I'm not as ambitious as several of my friends (Craig Glick Miller Danica-Pizza Vera Hernandez Keefe Brian Keefe Ed Kenny Steve Glick) who are running the marathon! Hopefully they'll still hang out with me. =)
2+ hours of running with Kathy today. The sunshine made it quite pleasant. The pace made it quite easy. The company made it quite wonderful!
Wait, one of those wasn’t about running…
A while back I signed up for the Kalamazoo marathon which is coming up in just over five weeks. A couple weeks ago, Kathy signed up for the Kalamazoo half-marathon. So we’ve been running together, and it’s been quite wonderful.
Sometime early in the year we had a conversation with a friend who is also a runner. He mentioned that he tries to run like a robot, and Kathy took it to heart. When she first started running with me she was concerned about her knees since she has chronic tendonitis that started in high school. Once she started running like a robot she didn’t have any trouble with her knees. Our friend also talked about 180 strides per minute which shortens your stride, lessens impact on joints, and allows increased stride length during races. I only had 150 strides per minute when I first checked, but have increased this to closer to 180. Kathy made a playlist of songs with about 180 beats per minute, making it easy to time the strides.
Working on our form has helped both of us quite a bit. It’s amazing how better form leads to less injuries and better stamina. If you ever want to be bored, ask us about running in general and form specifically and we can go on for quite a while.
I have had a couple of nasty colds that set me back a bit in my training. I initially had a goal of 3:30 for the marathon, but the quickest thing to go with extended time off is the lungs. I can run a long time if I go slow enough to keep my breathing low. If I try to pick up the pace than I run out of breath and out of energy way too quickly.
We are both enjoying keeping in shape, working off a few calories (1500+ during last Sunday’s run), and spending some time together!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Early this year we received notice that our health insurance premium was increasing. This was expected. However, seeing as it crept up over $600 per month we decided it was time to do something about it.
And we found out that things were pretty screwed up.
First we went in to see about raising our deductible. This helped lower our monthly premiums. While we were looking at that, our advisor discovered that I still had a write-up on my file from several years ago when I was having panic attacks. I told him this hasn’t been an issue for the past several years. Since I started taking medication things have settled down quite nicely. He didn’t think the write-up was for the medication, but rather for the counseling I was receiving at the time. He recommended I write a letter explaining the current situation and he would try to get the write-up removed. After I did that and they reviewed my account, they removed the write-up. Oh, the write-up added an extra 25% to my premium.
We both are on the same health plan. Neither of us have direct health benefits. When I was hired, they bumped up my salary to cover some insurance, and Kathy’s boss would write a check every month to cover half of her health insurance. While we were looking at numbers, we discovered that the reimbursement amount had not changed in the past three years, even though our premium had increased each year. When Kathy talked to her awesome boss about increasing the amount he reimburses, he decided he wanted to go ahead and cover 100% of her insurance!
So we took three steps to lower our premium: increase deductible, remove write-up, and change Kathy’s work benefit. Let me tell you it was a success. Instead of increasing our monthly health insurance premium by 15% this year, we actually lowered it by 15%--for a quarterly payment! That's 60% less per month! Excellent news since I started taking classes and money will probably be tight.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Late last year, I decided it was time to learn more about photography. So I signed up for classes at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division. In early January I headed back to the classroom.
The Art Institute works on a quarter schedule, and each quarter is broken up into two sessions for the online program. Full time is two classes per session, but since I am still working full time as well I only signed up for one class. My first two classes were Fundamentals of Design and Survey of Modern Art. While neither were directly related to photography, they were both very interesting. (In case you’re curious, I am on spring break this week so I have time to write blog entries.)
In Design, I learned about the basic building blocks of design and how to use them to convey ideas. I enjoyed sketching up some very basic designs, mostly in black and white. The final project was a bit more involved and introduced the concept of color. My theme was Suffused with Light.
My instructor like the horizontal version better. I liked the symmetry of the vertical one. Either way it was a fun project.
In Art History, we learned about various movements starting with Neoclassicism during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. A lot of styles, artists, and paintings were covered during the six weeks of this class. I read a bunch and wrote a bunch, but my favorite part was probably the studio assignments every week. I copied a Klimt and painted in the style of the Fauvists, as well as digitally solarizing a photo in the style of Man Ray.
I jokingly said this was the first painting I had done since I used my fingers in elementary school. Sadly that might not be far from the truth.
Getting sick the penultimate week of class was pretty stressful. And I was concerned about finding time to finish my final paper—a 7-page paper on art as political statement—until I looked at my grades and realized I only needed a 50% to get an A in the class. I have a hard time not turning in my best work, but knowing I didn’t need my best work made the paper much easier to complete. Basically I turned in a first draft and called it good. I ended getting 38 out of 40 points.
The best part of these classes has been learning new skills and rekindling old ones. Writing is something that I enjoyed in college (not colloquial writing like this, but paper writing with research and citations), but have not done since then. I am definitely going to try to find an outlet for writing as I continue schooling and look to the future.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Yes, we have been remiss in updating this site. But instead of apologies, I am going to promise a plethora of updates. For at least the rest of this week, you can expect to find an update every day. Check back often!
For now, I wanted to share with you a video that a friend shared with me. Michael Wolff’s demeanor and ideas resonate with me. He talks about his muscles of seeing: “I better have muscles of seeing that allow me to see better than my colleagues.” In the video he expounds on this muscle as Curiosity, Appreciation, and Imagination.
I am working on these muscles. They are atrophied, but getting stronger every day. Enjoy this video; notice the beauty around you.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
A lot has happened since our last post. We celebrated Christmas. We entered a new year. I signed up for photography classes and gave up my wisdom teeth. Kathy joined me in my running ventures.
Christmas was on a Saturday this year, which lead to a short, full weekend. We spent a little bit of time with both families. Pretty much the entire weekend we had a tea light burning for Eleanor. The little light reminded us of her and gave her a presence that would have been completely missing otherwise.
We miss her dearly.
After a second short week, we went up to Grand Rapids for an indoor Ultimate tournament. We have finished off the year at this tournament for the past 3 years or so. Fun was had and no one got seriously injured. Kathy and I were both pretty tired by the time we got home so we stayed at home and watched a movie. I think we remembered to smooch at midnight.
This week, I finally got my wisdom teeth taken out. For the past couple years, my dentist has been telling me I have a cavity on one and I should get it removed (and while you’re at it get them all out). I finally decided I needed to schedule it and get it done or I would keep putting it off.
They are now out and I am doing fine. Still taking pain killers, but have not had any major pain yet. I’m thankful.
Next week, I start taking photography classes at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh—online. For now I am only taking one class per session, but I hope to expand on this and continue to grow as a photographer. I’m sure you’ll hear (and see!) more as time goes on.
Kathy started running with me! It used to be that we would go over to the Rec-Fit and she would work on a machine for half an hour or so and then run a few laps, maybe up to a mile. Well, she caught the running bug and now she comes over and does the whole run with me. She ran 5 miles on Sunday—her longest run ever. And followed that up with 6 miles on Monday!
We have also been talking and reading about running quite a bit. We’ve both changed our gait, and Kathy is determined to “run like a robot” which a friend recently informed us is his goal. I have been counting my stride rate and trying to get up to 180 steps per minute. I used to be between 150 and 160 so adding 20 more steps per minute is quite a challenge.
I’ll leave you with this song that a friend recently shared: