Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who - Part of 3 Post Series of Who, What, Where!

For a while I have been considering doing a series of three blog posts that I call - "The Who, What, Where of My Life".  Basically each of these posts is a short definition of something about me - the Who, What and Where of my life.  Classically these 3 words are always ordered Who, What, Where.  I am going to do them in order of Who, Where and What.  There is a reason for my madness.  The first and the last entries are the important ones - the Who and the What.  The who describes who I am and how I became to be exactly as I am today.  Most of this is disjointed thoughts and ideas but each one is important in defining who I am.  The what entry will describe what I am doing in life and what it is that I hope to achieve by my time on this planet.  The Where is much less important, that entry will describe how the places I have been have changed and influenced me.

I got the idea for doing this series of posts when I was looking through lots of old family photos and seeing pictures of myself at a young age.  I thought it would be interesting to spell out these different aspects of myself as I saw myself through the old pictures.

One important point to note:  I am purposefully obscuring some of the information that I presenting.  I do not want to put so much information out there that I give away things that would let people determine my personal information like my social security number, etc.  (Identity thieves if they know your birthday and the town in which you were born can figure out your social security number.  That is very scary but 100% true.)

My given name at birth was Gerald Francis Kromer.  Though I go by Jerry Kromer.  Neither of these is my actual legal name.

Though my early years everyone called me Gerald.  It wasn't until I was on my own in college that I told people to call me Jerry.  In all honesty I do not like my given name.  To this day most of my brothers and sisters still call me Gerald.  My nickname within the family is "Zard".  It is a shortened version of a long nickname that I had as a young kid.

I was named after my maternal grandfather - Frank.  Though his given name was Francisek - Polish for Francis.

I was born in January in the mid 1960's in a small town in Western Pennsylvania to parents who were both college professors. 

I was the youngest of 5 children and I had a happy childhood, free of any kind of abuse, turmoil, family dis-function or any negative events.  It was a happy time that I still cherish in my heart today.

 (Me when I was 4 or 5 years old.)

(On the floor with the dog we got when I was 4 years old - Tara)

(With my brothers and sisters eating watermelon on the wall next to our drive way.  From left to right - Lesley, me, Stephanie, Tim and Paul.)

(On a pony with my two sisters standing in front.)

(I'm guessing I was about 13 or 14 when this picture was taken.  Tara was my favorite buddy!)

There was a four year difference between me and my next oldest brother.

By the time I came along my brothers and sisters had done a good job wearing my parents out.  So while they had many rules and regulations growing up, I seemed to get away with murder.

My younger years were marked by a persistent shyness that earned me the nickname "Silent Sam" from my mom.

(Get a look at those pants - definitely 1970's fashion.  I even look shy in this picture!)

Because I was so small in comparison to my classmates and my hand motor functions were poor, I was held back from 1st grade and had to go to kindergarten for 2 years in a row.  I always make the joke that I flunked kindergarten as a result.

My mom was a devote Catholic.  As a result I was educated at Catholic schools.  Because the Catholic school nearest to my home wasn't that great (at least in my parent's opinion) each day they drove me 10 miles into a much larger town to go to school there.

We lived out in the middle of no where in a small town called Norvelt.  Given the age difference between me and my siblings, I ended up spend a fair amount of time to myself. 

Our home backed to a significant wooded area that I made my haunt.  I knew every trail, stream, hiding place, old cabin, - everything that woods had to offer.

When I was about 8 years old I started to collect stamps.  To this day I still collect them and have a massive collection of hundreds of thousands of stamps.

Throughout elementary school I did well but I wasn't an exceptional student.  I scored really high on all the standardized tests but my grades in my classes definitely weren't exceptional.

Boy scouts was an important part of my childhood.  I joined when I was 11 years old and did my first extended time away from my parents that summer.  The trip was a six day 52 mile hiking trip.  The back pack stretched from the top of my head to just below my knees.  On the second to the last day of this trip I got caught in a massive thunder storm with another inexperienced scout.  I ended up losing half of the stuff in my back pack as I ran through the storm.  That was definitely not one of my most stellar out door achievements!

(Me and Tim with our Boy Scout Troop.  I am in the front row on the left and Tim is cat-a-corner behind me to the right.)

After elementary school my parents sent me to a Catholic High School - Greensburg Central Catholic HS.  Thankfully I had a bus to take me there as opposed to my parents driving me.  I had to walk 3/4 of mile each morning to my bus stop - the only convenience store (actually the only store) in Norvelt - "The Open Pantry".

In high school I was still really shy and only ever dated one girl throughout all of high school.  I ran track freshman through senior years.  As a senior I ran the fast time in the mile that I ever recorded - five minutes 10 seconds.  When I was a senior I was also the manager for the football team.

(Me and Paul my oldest brother.  This was definitely the early 80's Miami Vice looking style.)

 (Me looking all aloof and teenagerish.)

By the time I was 14 years old, I was riding my bicycle everywhere.  My parent had no clue but during the summer I would go out each day and ride anywhere from 30 - 50 miles from home.  Most summers I would ride my bike over 1500 miles.

I did pretty well grade wise in high school.  I usually got A's for most of my grades.  Though when I was a sophomore and junior I was convinced I didn't want to go to college.  Instead I wanted to join the military.  Not that there is anything wrong with the military, but thankfully I changed my mind and decided to go to college when I entered senior year.

In high school I lived kind of a double life.  During the school year I was low-key and well behaved.  During the summer I worked at the Camp Conestoga - the Boy Scout Camp for the Westmoreland-Fayette Boy Scout Council.  Each summer I worked there, I raised as much hell as I could. Me and all my fellow camp counselors partied and just acted out of control.

When the time came for college, I applied to two - my first choice and the fall back. My first choice was the Georgetown School of Foreign Policy as I wanted to be a diplomat. Unfortunately I got wait listed there. My fall back was Carnegie Mellon University - so I ended up going there.

My first 3 weeks of university were about one thing - partying.  Thankfully after the first three weeks were over, I realized that my parents were paying $20,000 per year for my education.  So I stopped drinking and started working.

Within the first month of university I had started dating the girl that I would date for almost my entire college education - Moni.  She was of Indian origin and was from Boston.  We dated for our entire freshman, sophomore and junior years.  She broke up with me at the beginning of our senior year and that was that.

My first semester of college was my roughest in terms of the grades I got.  I only maintained a 3.25GPA that semester.  From there on out my GPA just got better with me achieving either a 3.8 or 4.0 every semester of my junior and senior years.

In October of 1984 one of my best friends from my teenage years - John Mihm was murdered.  He was shot by an assailant who he knew.  I developed a loathing of guns as a result of this.  I was haunted by nightmares for several years after John died. 

Carnegie Mellon had an excellent career center and before the start of the last semester of my senior year I already had 3 job offers.  I ended up taking the highest paying one - that was with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in Pittsburgh.  For a starting job it paid me a remarkable $25,000/year plus bonus.

I met the woman who would become my wonderful wife (Patty) in the fall of 1987.  We started dating on October 23, 1987 when we went to an REM concert together.  We would date for 7 years before we married on November 19, 1994.

(From left - my brother-in-law Paul, me, my oldest brother Paul.  Circa 1988 - This is the picture I am adding because they are so hard to find the right ones.  I have over 4 Gig of .jpgs that we scanned from my parents house after they had both passed away.)

I graduated college on May 15, 1988 and started my first day of professional work on July 25, 1988.  In the two month in-between I did pretty much about anything I could to keep my head above water financially.  My parents helped out by giving me $2,000 to get things started with life.  I used the $2,000 to buy suits and work clothes as I would have to wear a suit, a long-sleeve business shirt and a tie to work everyday.

When I first started working for Andersen Consulting, I went through 6 weeks of training in their Pittsburgh Office before being shipped off to Chicago for a month of company indoctrination.  Because it was a very hierarchy company you did want ever you were told.  My first assignments outside of training were making massive numbers of photocopies for one of our clients and escorting the luggage of visiting client executives.

Until February of 1990, I worked exclusively in Pittsburgh or the surrounding suburbs.  Then in February of 1990, I began my first out of town assignment in Minneapolis.  Back then you only got to fly home every other week.  Since I had a distinct fear of flying back then I did really mind too much.

During the summer of 1991 I took a two week hiking trip through the Wind River Range of the Rockies in Wyoming.  In the midst of a raging thunderstorm at an elevation over 11,000 I had what I consider to be the most spiritual event of my life.  I won't try to describe what happened, but it's significance to me set me on a course to move from Pennsylvania to the Rocky Mountain West.

After I started traveling, I traveled all the time for work with one short exception in 1992.  Besides that three month exception I was constantly traveling for work until Patty and I moved to Denver in 1995.

For the first 2 years of me traveling out of town, Patty would take me and pick up at the Pittsburgh airport for every one of my flights.

Patty and I spent so much time at the Pittsburgh airport that I proposed to her there in December of 1993.

In the fall of 1991, Patty became a vegetarian.  Back then it was hard to find vegetarian items in restaurants.  I became an expert in seeking out restaurants that carried vegetarian dishes.

When Patty and I got married in 1994, I used some stored up "gratitude" a partner owed me to request a transfer to Denver.  (Back then Andersen Consulting was a privately held partnership.)  Without so much as one e-mail or piece of paper, I received my transfer to Denver effective March 1, 1995.  Patty and I packed up and moved to Denver on May 1, 1995 - my father's 80's birthday.

For our honeymoon, Patty and I took a ten day trip to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  We were there over Thanksgiving of 1994 and were surprised by all the culinary delights that were available in the islands for Thanksgiving dinner.

My family got my first dog when I was 4 years old.  Within 20 days of buying our first house Patty and I had acquired our first dog - Bailey.  In addition to Bailey I have owned three other dogs.  The current dogs in residence in our house are Lex - an 8 year old chocolate lab and Finnegan - a 1 year old mix that we got from a rescue league.

I have never voted for a Republican or conservative candidate in my life.  I am a dye-in-the-wool Democratic party member and liberal.

Zachary - my one an only son was born on my Mom's birthday in 1998.  His birth made for a special day for my Mom as she was dying of cancer at the time.  Besides Zack, Patty and I had 5 miscarriages before we gave up on the idea of having any other kids.

After Patty's Dad died in 2004, we move her Mom out to Colorado to live with us.  Nancy moved in on August 8, 2004.  We bought a new house so she could have a bedroom on the ground floor.  

Because of  my work I have flown over 1.2 millions.  Unfortunately that is split between 2 different airlines.  So I haven't become a one million mile flyer on any airline yet.

I have lived in the same neighborhood within Centennial, Colorado for the last 17 years.  During this time I have owned 2 houses in the neighborhood.

Both of my parents had died by the time I was 36.

In January of 2006 I was mistakenly diagnosed with lymphoma.  No one has ever found out what caused the acute illness I had back then, though it is thought I picked up some kind of exotic food-borne illness in my frequent travels to India in 2005.

Six months after it was discovered my diagnosis with lymphoma was incorrect, Patty was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

One of the few things I truly regret in this life is the fact that I was not at the doctor's with Patty when she found out she had leukemia.  I had a conference call for work and Patty had routine appointments with this doctor because it was suspected that she had a benign blood disorder called ITP.  So we thought it was just a routine appointment - not confirmation that she actually had leukemia.

The hardest decision I ever had to make was terminating the life support system for my wife after she had been on a ventilator for 10 days during her battle against the side of effects of a bone marrow transplant.  Her brain function had stopped and her blood oxygenation was only 64%.  The bone marrow transplant was a treatment for leukemia.

Since Patty was diagnosed with leukemia in August of 2006, I have donated almost 6 gallons of blood and platelets to Bonfils Blood Bank of Colorado.

In December of 2011 I suffered a serious back injury that has required surgery to correct.  The first round of surgery was ineffective and I will undergo a second surgery on February 29.

I am not religious but I am not an atheist.  I have my own personal spiritual belief system.

I love living in Colorado and though I may move away from here for periods of time, I will always consider Colorado home.

I have climbed 8 of the Colorado's 54 mountains with summits over 14,000 feet.  I don't think I will climb all of them because I don't like technical climbing and some of them just are too hard.

Zack is the center of my life and I will do anything to be the best parent to him that I can be.  He still mourns his Mom and had high hopes that I would get married and he would have a step-Mom but that has never come to be.

Though challenged by the loss of his Mom, Zack has demonstrated time and time again a very high intelligence.  From the time he was 5 years old he has wanted to be a physicist.  He already knows more about physics than I ever learned in my life.

I suppose I could go on - but actually I think that sums up a lot of my life.  It definitely tells a lot of the Who I am.  It was an interesting experience to write this entry.  It took me several evenings to write it.  I would write some, stop and then come back to it.  If you have never done something like this, I strongly suggest it.  It helps put your own life in a perspective you may have never looked at it before.

Well - it's Wednesday - hump day!  Yay!  So begins the slow slide into the weekend.  I will be thankful for the weekend as my head seems to be spinning from the work week as is.  On top of all that is going on with work, I had an appointment with another back doctor today and I got confirmation of what I highly suspected.  I will need a second round of back surgery to fix what is currently wrong.  As soon as I was finished meeting with the doctor for the second opinion I called my surgeon who did my first surgery to get one their schedule.  My surgery is currently scheduled for next Wednesday, February 29th at 9:00AM at Littleton Adventist Hospital.  Once again I will be hospitalized for one or two days.  I am not looking forward to the surgery, but I am looking forward to perhaps having my back finally healed.  I cannot begin to tell you what it I think it will feel like to live without pain for the first time in months.  I had a brief taste of it for 2 days after my first surgery, but I am so looking forward to long term relief!

Thanks everyone for reading!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


NanaRose said...

Very interesting. I love to read your blog because I want to know what younger people feel politically, how they view life. You are what makes me not lose faith in our country or its young people. You are raising Zack right and taking him to see our magnificiant world. Best of luck with the upcoming surgery. Hope and pray for success.

JoHanna said...

Gotta just the pants!! Glad to hear you are having surgery in an Adventist Hospital. Hope your surgery goes well and that you have a pleasant stay there(I'm Adventist).