Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year in Review - 2012

A long time ago some one told me not to look for changes in life on a day-day basis but instead on a longer time frame like a month or a year.  And so it is with my life.  As the final hours of 2012 slowly fade away I am stepping back from today and looking at where I was a year ago.  The changes that have occurred since December 31, 2011 are drastic and amazing.  For the first time since the late summer of 2005 I feel as though I have attained a calm, serene and content life.  There are no drastic pressures pushing me in one way or another.  My personal life is calm and drama free.  I am physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than at any other time since before Patty's illness and death.  In general I feel happy, content, secure, strong and looking forward to the future and new meaningful experiences.

So how was my life a year ago?  Let's look at what was happening to Zack and me.  First off, I could hardly move.  My back was a mess and the pain levels I experienced every day were out of this world.  On top of all that I was mentally and emotionally a wreck.  My life for the previous two years had been horrendous but I was too stupid to see it.  I had started a relationship with a person who was more interested in the trappings of a relationship as opposed to being a partner.  It was a mess and it had only end about 2 months before and I hadn't yet gotten my emotional and mental state righted.

Lastly Zack was suffering greatly from his episodes with anxiety and OCD.  As 2011 came to an end he was beginning a downward spiral into what I call the "black hole" of anxiety. 

We were struggling to make it through the everyday things we needed to do.  It was rough and I felt like I was at a breaking point.

The situation is so much different at the end of 2012.  Most important of all, Zack has been anxiety and OCD free for almost an entire year!  As the anxiety started to take a hold of him in early January, I sought out any kind of ideas from his psychologists and his psychiatrist.  This time as opposed to the many times in the past, a new medication was suggested and put in place.  Within a week of the introduction of the new medication, Zack had climbed out of the "anxiety black hole" and was back to his normal self.  And what was even more tremendous, was that his normal self was without any anxiety.  This time there were no small lingering effects of the anxiety - he was finally free of all that had plagued him since Patty's death.  By the end of January of 2012 my son finally had his life back after suffering for years from traumatic levels of anxiety and OCD.

On top of that tremendously positive change, I am now mostly free of the pain that wracked my back for so long.  It took 3 surgeries and countless (still ongoing) hours of physical therapy, but I live without pain medications and with only minor episodes of pain.  Coupled with the decreased pain, I have gained back 1/2 inch in height that I lost because of my herniated discs and as my activity levels have increased I have reduced my weight to a level I had not seen in 5 years.  Physically I am looking forward to the new year for lots of hiking, biking, snow shoeing and even running.  Once again tales of many hikes and bike rides taken will fill the pages of this blog!

My personal life is also much calmer and full of peace.  In late April I met Lisa and we have hung out since then.  Everything between us has been exceedingly low-key, serene and laid-back.  We have a good time being together but we can also do our own things - so it is all good.

There are too many other things that happened this year than I can even mention.  Some of the more notable ones for us have been trips to Costa Rica and Iceland.  A new kitchen and a family room really changed our home in a positive way.  Zack and I also worked hard at putting a new set of order in place in our home.  Now instead of it being a disorganized mess the clutter is mostly gone and everything is in it's place.  Well - I still have several major projects to complete before I can totally declare victory in my quest to organize the house.   But so much work has already been done it seem like a new home.

Attached are a few of the pictures that high-light the activities of our year.

(In Puerto Limon during March trip to Costa Rica)

 (Zack on the beach in Costa Rica)

(Beautiful seascape on the Eastern Coast of Costa Rica)

 (Zack and Cole in Rocky Mountain National Park in April)

 (Long Peak in RMNP)

(Zack the King of the Garden Gnomes!)

(High up in the Eastern Fjords of Iceland in July)
(A beautiful waterfall not far from Iceland's Eastern Coast)

(On our way to Papey Island off Iceland's Eastern Atlantic Coast.)

(Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth in late August)

(Aspens on the slopes above Georgetown.)

 (On the Golden Gate Bridge in September)

 (Point Bonita in the Marin Headlands to the North of San Francisco)

(Hanging with Lisa in San Francisco.  Yes - that's me in the sparkly costume.... not!  Just a street performer.)

As this year comes to a close I really hope that for all of you the year has been good to you and that 2013 will bring you many good things!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And A Merry And Happy Christmas To All!

To each and everyone I want to wish a happy, wonderful, joyous and merry Christmas!  It is a wonderful day and I hope that each and every person who reads this has been able to be with their family, friends and loved ones on this day.

Christmas is such a quiet and peaceful day.  It is the one day each year in which much of world seems to slow down and even stop for a little bit.  Most stores are closed, there seems to be less traffic on the streets and there is just a slow, low key aspect to this day.  I hope the peace and quiet of this day has been part of everyone's day!

For us it has been a great day.  We hosted a Christmas Eve get together last night that was a lot of fun.  We had some excellent food, numerous bottles of wine and vodka were drunk and several rousing rounds of the game "Apples to Apples" were played.  We kept things going rather late and when the time came for everyone to go home, I think a good time had been had by all.  It was certainly the most lively Christmas Eve this house has seen since 2005!

Today has been much quieter with only Zack, Nancy and me here.  We exchanged gifts as soon as we awoke and have just taken the time to hang out together and enjoy each others company.  A big change from prior years was the time we arose.  You can definitely tell that Zack is now officially a teenager as he didn't get out of bed until 9:00AM!  I could have slept until noon I am sure as I stayed up late cleaning up the house after our Christmas Eve gathering and then started the work to wrap Christmas presents at 1:00AM.  Sleep didn't come for me until 3:00AM, so perhaps a nap is in order this afternoon.

Right now Zack and I are sharing some time together in the comfort of the warm basement.  There's a delightful fire burning in the fireplace so we are warm and cozy.  Zack is going back and forth between watching some TV and exploring all the features of his new laptop.  As he is going into high school in the 2013/2014 school year I felt it was time for him to have his own laptop.  This was his major gift for Christmas.

A little later today the three of us will head over to my brother's house for Christmas dinner.  We'll hang out there for much of the late afternoon and early evening.  Once I get Zack and Nancy back home, I'll head over to Lisa's house to spend the rest of the evening hanging out with her and her sons.

All-in-all this is the best Christmas that we have had in many years.  The best part of it has been spending the time with those who I love.

I really hope that everyone has been able to experience the warmth and joy of being with their loved ones on this wonderful day.

Merry Christmas! ~ J.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Repulsive, Digusting and Unbelievable

Today the National Rifle Association held a press conference to offer their "meaningful" contribution to the national dialogue that has taken place since Sandy Hook.  Their statement was grotesque, disgusting and unbelievable in light of the horrible tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary.  The essence of their response was "Everything else is responsible for this tragedy other than guns and to ensure safety in our schools we should have armed police or volunteers in every school."  For more details on what the NRA said, please see this article on NBCNews.Com -

What an absolutely arrogant and horrible response to the death of those innocents.  When tragedies like this have occurred in other countries there has been meaningful action taken by all to limit the prevalence of guns and ensure that guns are not easily accessible.  Only in the United States do we have such a vocal minority who think that gun ownership is the answer to stopping violence and will do anything in their power to ensure that no limits are ever placed on any kind of gun ownership.

A tragedy similar to Sandy Hook happened in the UK in 1996 when an armed man entered the Dunblane primary school and murdered 16 five and six year old students and one teacher.  In response to this horrific event several laws were enacted that effectively ended the private ownership of hand guns in the UK.  (Please note: The guns that were outlawed were guns that were meant to kill people.  Rifles and shotguns used in hunting were not outlawed.)  This has had a very obvious effect on the overall number of murders in the UK and the number of murders by gun.  In 2008, which is the last year for which I could find statistics, there were a total of 648 murders in the UK of which only 39 were committed by guns.  In the United State for 2009 there were 15,241 total murders of which 9,146 were caused by guns.  Granted the UK only has about 1/5 the population of the United States, so you would expect the numbers to be lower.  However extrapolating the UK murder rates on a population the size of the United States the murder rate would be 3240 of which only 195 would be caused by guns. (Please see this website for background on the analysis

The restriction on gun ownership has had a dramatic impact on the number of murders by guns in the UK.  In most other developed countries in the world, gun ownership is restricted or even outlawed.  Why do we have to be so different?  Why can't organizations like the NRA and many on the right wing realize that the abundance of guns in our society makes it so much easier for tragedies like Sandy Hook to occur?  Without the number of guns in our society it would be difficult for day-to-day arguments or break-ins to escalate to the point of murder.  Madmen like the Sandy Hook killer would find it difficult to acquire weapons in they weren't just laying around in so many homes.  Think too of the impact on suicides if guns weren't readily available.  Without a doubt the number of people who commit suicide based upon impulsive thoughts would certainly diminish.

I can only hope the voice of reason will win out in the coming debate of limiting the proliferation of guns in our society.  And as for the NRA - I hope that somewhere along the line they learned the stupidity of their position and realize how disrespectful what they advocate is to the memories of those who were murdered a week ago.

There is bound to be significant disagreement with my thoughts on this subject and I am will to hear it out.  So bring on your comments and tell me where I am wrong.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts about Parenting in Light of Sandy Hook

The entire country has been focused on the horrible shooting in Connecticut.  There are so many different angles that you can think about this shooting and comment upon.  Many of you know my stands on guns.  I hate them.  A childhood friend of mine was shot to death when we were 18 years old.  It wasn't a hunting accident or anything like that - he was murdered so that he couldn't testify in a court case.  Growing up in a rural area there were several occasions when I had guns aimed at me and once I was shot at by a hunter with a shotgun.  So in general I hate guns and think that they should be banned.  But that isn't the point of this post.

The point is just to love your children.  There is a blog post going around the web these days from a woman who is afraid her son could turn into one of these mass killers.  She describes all the horrible things her son has done and yet how she still loves him.  If you want to read her blog post you can find it at:

As a read her blog post I couldn't help but think of Zack.  He is one of those people who is obviously brilliant but sometimes has difficulty socializing and relating to people.  He likes to think of himself as a geek or a nerd.  Despite it all, there isn't a mean bone in this boy's body and over the years he has gone out of his way to demonstrate his love and concern for people and animals.

So as much as I get frustrated by Zack's silly and nerdy ways, I can't help but think how lucky I am to have such a loving and caring son.  He learned that trait from his mom who was in my opinion one of the most loving and gentle people who has ever walked this earth.  Zack got the best of her traits and still has them in him even after she left his life so many years ago. 

Zack and I have often talked about his feelings about violence, guns and much of the attitude that seems to take over kids as they become teenagers.  And though he does exhibit some teenager mentality and attitude he is forever against violence and guns.  He describes himself as a pacifist and says he would never use violence unless someone was hurting another person or an animal.

I love my son very deeply and though he may not be perfect he has a very good heart.  Sometimes it is very important to remind myself of that as I can too often get angry and annoyed by him getting a bad grade or doing something dorkish.  He still exhibits that innocence and goodness that those sweet 6 and 7 year old massacred by the mad man had.  It makes me sick to think of someone hurting and killing those precious little children.  Yes - he was a madman because no one who is sane or rational could get it in their mind to bring such harm to innocents!

For me the whole thing is just a wake up call to show my son I love him even more than usual and let him know that he is the best thing that ever happened to me!  I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be one of those parents whose child will never come home again.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Kitchen Reveal

Despite the fact that the work on my kitchen has been done for quite a while I have resisted posting pictures of it either here or on Facebook.  My reasoning for doing this has been simply, I wanted to have everything absolutely 100% complete.  Unfortunately I am still looking for several pieces of furniture that will make the space "perfect".  Given how particular I am about the pieces of furniture for which I am looking, it might take me another several months to find them.  Therefore, I am going to go ahead and do the big reveal of what the kitchen looks like.

Without further adieu here are a number of pictures that show the layout and style of the kitchen.  You'll quickly be able to tell one of the reasons it took so long for this work to complete is the exceedingly intricate and extensive amount of tile and natural rock that was used throughout.  Sometimes I think the tile/rock guys were going insane due to the amount of "puzzle" solving they needed to do to put it all together.  In the end the beauty and functionality of the kitchen have been well worth the amount of time and effort that it took to complete this project.

(View towards the fireplace.)

(The image on the TV is there because I was using the flash on my camera.  The couch on the left is going to go into the TV area in the basement and I am going to get a set of chairs for that spot.)

(View towards the stove.)

(This area used to be mostly enclosed and was my pantry.  Now it is open and is used as a "butler's pantry". )

(I will say...  I love the refrigerator!) 

(The stove - it is a dual cavity gas stove.)

(The wine on the table is a Christmas gift from my cleaning ladies.  Note the sliding glass door - prior to the construction that was a box window seat.  There used to be two other doors, one to the immediate right of the sliding glass door and one to the left of the stove.  Those areas have been walled in and windows used to replace the upper half of what was the door.)

(Finn taking a break in one of his favorite spots.  This area needs more furniture and art work on the wall to make it complete.)

There are lots of stylistic comments that can be made about the kitchen.  Many of you will not like the style and decor that I have utilized in this space.  Regardless it works for Zack and me!

We are very happy with this new space in our house.  It has totally transformed the entire look and feel of almost the entire house.  Besides modernizing the look it is also inspiring me to keep the rest of the house almost spotless on a day-to-day basis.  I am doing a lot more house work than I have ever done before!

There is more that I want to write about the house in general as there have been some tremendous transformations in the place in the last year.  But I will save those updates for a later date.

It's now Thursday evening and I am utterly exhausted by a week of very early morning conference calls and not enough sleep.  I am sure I will sleep like a rock this evening as I am having a hard time keeping my eyes open even as I type.

Despite being tired I managed to catch up with an old friend of mine who is in town on work this evening.  Rahul and I have known each other for about 8 years as we started working together in 2004.  Back then we were in very different positions as he was based in India and I had a totally different set of responsibilities with my company.  It is so good when I can catch up with old friends as that doesn't happen too often.  Most of my close friends are spread out all over the world so getting the chance to spend time with one of them is fantastic!

Well - I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead.  I know Zack and I are definitely looking forward to it.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finishing Some Unfinished Business

In November of 2010 I signed up for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team-in-Training fund raising effort.  It had only been 2 years since we had lost Patty to Acute Lymphocyte Leukemia and I wanted to do something that would help me raise money to fight that horrible disease and I also wanted to do something that involved me in an activity greater than myself.  When I signed up for Team-in-Training, my goal was to raise over $4000 and train hard enough to complete the Canyonlands Half Marathon on March 19, 2011 in Moab, Utah.  I accomplished one of those two goals.  Through a little bit of self promotion and bugging the hell out of people I managed to raise $4600 for the cause.  However I never finished the half-marathon.

In the weeks leading up to race day I had experienced some pretty significant pain in my left leg.  No caring to think that there could possibly be anything significantly wrong, I continued my training as normal and just ran through the pain.  The day of the race my leg felt pretty good, but that quickly changed as I began to run.  Within a mile and a half of starting the race I felt a pop in my leg and then an excruciating rush of pain.  Being the utter idiot that I am, I decided to continue to run through the pain.  I could only make it for another 2 miles before I had to stop as I couldn't even stand due to the severe muscle spasms and pain that was running through my left leg.  As I sat by the side of the road waiting for the "sweep van" to pick me up I had no idea of the damage I had done to my leg and the long journey of recovery that lay ahead.

 Self-portrait of me from race day 2011 - about 30 minutes before I broke my fibula.

 Of course for those who have followed this blog since then, you are aware that pop I felt was the second largest bone in my calf - "the fibula" snapping in half.  Due to a bio-mechanical issue with my running gait, I had put so much pressure on my left leg throughout my training that I caused a severe stress fracture that sheared the bone the whole way through.  The impact of this broken bone cascaded throughout my body and eventually caused two discs in my back to herniate.

Almost two years after this injury I am still in the process of putting my body back together.  But there is some unfinished business of which I must take care, regardless of the condition of my body.  The 2013 Canyonlands Half Marathon is approximately 100 days away and today I found out that I had been selected through their lottery process to be one of the 4000 runners who compete in the race.  I am going back to Moab on March 16, 2013 and I am going to finish my unfinished business and complete the race.

The Canyonlands Half Marathon is a very popular run and the number of prospective runners is in excess of the 4000 slots that are available.  To ensure a fair shake for everyone, a lottery process is used to determine who gets the 4000 spots.  I submitted my application a while a go and the lottery took place within the last 24 hours and I was one of those selected.  This time around I will be running the race on my own without the support of the Team-in-Training program.  (For whatever reason TnT is not working with Canyonlands this year.

Perhaps it is stupid that I am attempting to run this race again.  But for me it is an important step to prove to myself that I am on my way to recovery from the the pain and suffering of the last two years.  I will cross the finish line this time.  There is not one doubt in my mind that I will reach my goal!

I hope that everyone is having a great week and is starting to look forward to the holidays.  We might finally get some weather here in Colorado that makes you think the holidays and winter are coming.  For most of the last month the temperatures have been running in the sixties and we haven't had a trace of snow but this weekend there is the possibility we might see up to six inches of snow in the Denver area.  We can only hope, as the drought conditions here in Colorado are getting worse and worse!

As always - thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Still Blogging!

Time sure does fly when you are having fun!  Umm...  Well - time sure does fly whether you are having fun or not!  It's been a bit since I have updated the blog so I thought I would just put a short post out to say "I am still alive and blogging". 

For whatever reason the inspiration to write has just been missing in the last several weeks.  There hasn't been anything wrong, I just haven't felt like writing.  Instead of spending my free time in front of my laptop penning blog posts, I have been spending my free time working on the house and doing something really stupid - playing a video game.  World of Tanks has been calling my name for the last two weeks and when I am not working for my employer, doing things for Zack or working like a fiend to organize and improve the house, I have found myself trying to out fox my adversaries in a game of WWII tank battles.  It hasn't been a very productive way to spend my time, but it is fun.

The big news for this week is that Zack is way on his school trip to Washington DC.  The trip was originally scheduled for his fall break in October.  However due to the Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy, the trip was postponed.  We found out about 2 weeks ago that it was re-scheduled for this week.  Zack was extremely happy to hear that he would miss two days of school because of the trip.

Since dropping Zack off at the airport on Thursday morning at 5AM, I have had the house to myself.  I thought I would be inspired to do all kinds of things.  Instead I have used the majority of the time to lounge around and do basically nothing.  Don't get me wrong I have gotten something things done.  Actually I have gotten a lot done, but I have been no where near as productive as I figured I would be, either in terms of doing fun things or in terms of getting work done.

Zack will return on Sunday evening and has to be at school on Monday morning.  He is going to be one very tired young man I figure.  But he has to go to school - that was one of the conditions of the kids getting to go on the trip on a school week.

Hopefully my inspiration to write will shortly be back.  There are a couple of things about which I want to write.  Til then - I hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.