Fourteen Years — And Loving It

Well, as I start this post, it’s 11:53 p.m., which means, for seven more minutes, it’s still our anniversary today.

Yup, Renee and I — 14 years. Isn’t that crazy? Crazy good!

How’d we celebrate? Well, Aidan went back to the doctor, and Erin only napped this morning which meant for a crazy afternoon. So, once the kids were down, I went out for chinese, Sam Adams and double chocolate fudge ice cream. We clinked bottles, enjoyed the food and, more importantly, each other’s company.

It doesn’t have to be a fancy celebration to serve as a reminder of something so special. In fact, I almost liked how simple of a day it was. Because, going forward, we’ll have a lot more days like today — and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than OK.

What’s important is that I love her. She loves me. And together — we rock it. We are fabulous friends, fabulous lovers and a fabulous team.

Fourteen and going strong.

Want to know what we were like before 14 years ago? Well, enjoy these:

Renee had this done before we were married. I wasn’t even there. She took a picture of me with her to the caricaturist and he created this. I loved it then. I love it now.

Take a look at these seven shots! How great are these? Of course, she has no idea I’m putting these here — but she will when she reads this! Top row: senior year of college, first in my townhouse, then getting ready for senior formal. Middle row: how hideous is my outfit with the red shorts and matching top? I swear they weren’t garanimals. The picture was taken on one of our first dates at Gilette Castle. The middle picture of Renee was taken at Harkness Park and the picture on the right was at my formal. Bottom row: Renee sitting on my bunk at school, senior year (love the long hair!). And, at right, Renee gradutes from college.

Forgive me for putting these up, Renee. Couldn’t resist.

Thanks for all that you do for me — for us.

Love you. Always.

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Forty by Forty — Damn You, Ice Cream

So I did something last night I haven’t done in a while. More than a month to be exact.

I got on the elliptical machine.

Exercise has been the biggest missing link in the Forty by Forty Campaign — which has been, overall, going very well.

When we bought the elliptical, it took a week to put together because we could only do it at night after the kids were down and it was a tedious process. I did it for three straight days and then we had to ready our basement for the waterproofing work. Needless to say, that was a major disruption and it was almost a month before the basement was put back together. All the while, no elliptical.

And then, once all set, there it sat. And I sat right next to it, in front of the TV. I know when I get going, that I’ll be fine. It’s just the task of getting going that is the hardest part for me.

And, I also know that this challenge is going to be hard. Yes, I’ve had great success so far, but my goal, at the end of two years (and it hasn’t even been one yet!) is to still be down 40 pounds (at least). Maintaining is just as important as losing.

Summer has brought pitfalls — or more specifically, temptations of ice cream, hot dogs and cookies. My theory is not to ignore these, but to have them in moderation. Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) that can be a very hard thing to do. And I haven’t had the best last couple weeks eating wise.

However, two things happened yesterday that have renewed my motivation.

During the day, I was walking to a location at work and a woman who I see infrequently said, as we walked by, “You continue to look fabulous! Keep up the great work.”

Then, when I was meeting with someone I see about three times a year, she ended the time together by asking me what my secret to success was.

Those were good feelings. Very good feelings. And to some degree, part of my motivation is to not let these people (and you) down. You’ve helped and supported me. I don’t want to disappoint myself by disappointing you. Whatever it takes, right?

Then, last night, Renee (who continues to look beyond fabulous and is also buying clothes much smaller than she used to) said, “Can you give me an elliptical lesson?”

So, there I was, telling her how to use it, and there she was, hopping on for 20 minutes. Well, jeez, how could I not get on after that? So I did. And I made 20 minutes, too.

And tonight I hope to do the same thing. And tomorrow. And Thursday. And Friday. This is the key week. I need to keep it going. For you and for everyone who has encouraged me to succeed.

And, quite honestly, and more importantly, for me.


Picture Day

It’s Picture Day here at I Got Nothin’.

My brother Tom is a self-taught photographer. He’s never really done much with portraits, but he’s actually got an assignment next month, so he’s doing as much as he can, as fast as he can. That meant free pics of the kids (and more).

So Sunday afternoon was spent in front of the camera. And, because I still feel like I need to make it up to you for a) being absent and b)  being in a funk, you are the beneficiary.

These haven’t been touched up at all. And, the lighting was a challenge. Tom was thinking he was just shooting individuals, but we decided, heck, we’ve got everyone here, let’s do a variety of things. I think most of them look great, but he was concerned about the lighting.

We  haven’t done enough ‘formal’ shots with the kids, so the goal was to get a few good ones. You be the judge.

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Yeah, not the best start.

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Now we’re getting there.

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Getting better!

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Ah, there it is!

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Aidan wasn’t the only one a bit nervous.

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But it didn’t take long for that to change!

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You can tell who wanted the spotlight!

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Mom’s boy.

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Daddy’s girl.

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My truly better half.

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An attempt at a family shot.

So, there you have it. Some good. Some great. All fun.

What else? I got nothin’.

OK, wait. I do have one more thing. Here’s proof that Forty by Forty is going pretty well.

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Don’t you think?


I’m Baaaaaaack.

Loyal readers, I have returned.

That sound you’ve heard lately? It was probably me. Swearing. Sighing. Or just making a variety of other noises while dealing with your wet basement. Yeah. Not fun. At all. We’ve had basement issues since we’ve been in the house, which is going on eight years. To make a long story short, we don’t always get water, which is what makes this frustrating. But, we get it enough where now we’re actually going to do something about it.

The only problem with that? The “doing something about it” is going to cost a significant chunk of change. But, you know what? It’s peace of mind more than anything. It’s to the point where we could be somewhere on vacation, see a rainy forecast for back home and wonder what we’re going to find when we get there.

So, when I meet with water guy tomorrow, hopefully we’ll be one step closer.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll welcome me back into your blogging life. Not only have I not slept a lot in the last few days, but I’ve barely read any of my favorites. I promise I’ll be catching up with you over the next few days. Because, well, I can admit this, I actually have missed you.

And, if the water thing wasn’t going on, there’s always work. But, see, I’m in a funk. I love what I do. And love where I do it. There’s just a ton going on and I’m in a bit of a rut, thanks mostly to, well, leadership. I hate that I’m this way, but I am. The question is, figuring the best way out of it.

I suppose I could think of Bon Jovi. What a show on Friday night. Amazing as always. And, to top it off, when he came out in the audience to sing in the crowd, he was, yeah, 20 feet from us. Pretty incredible. I didn’t have a camera, but I did give my email to a woman in front of me who had one. No email yet though. I can only hope.

And, to win you back, to help keep you with me, because I do want that, I’ll leave you with two new Aidanisms.

The first was with me.

I was sitting, well, on the toilet. He was sitting at the table finishing his breakfast. Renee had already dropped Erin off, so it was just us guys in the house. And, well, I know you enough to say that when it’s just us and I’m in the bathroom, I leave the door open so we can still talk and stuff.

But, at this point, I was also desperately trying to finish a book I was reading — Angels and Demons (which, by the way, I think is better than DaVinci Code).

“Dad, what are you doing?”

“I’m reading, A.”

“How can you be reading, Dad, I don’t hear you saying any words.”

I love that.

The second one was with Renee, as they were driving by a local restaurant.

“Mom, do we rest at a restaurant?”

I love this kid. And hopefully pics of both of them coming soon.

Thanks for taking me back, readers. You’re the best.


She…

My wife’s birthday is Saturday. Here are 38 reasons I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

She…

1. …is beautiful.
2. …is the best Mom to Aidan and Erin.
3. …never complains, at least to me, if I make her crazy (and I’m sure I have). 
4. …makes the best chocolate chip cookies.
5. …is very simple — in all the right ways.
6. …is the most unaffected person I know (and this is a good thing).
7. …handles our checkbook.
8. …makes me laugh.
9. …makes me smile.
10. …makes me proud to be her husband.
11. …was my friend first.
12. …gets it.
13. …is the math teacher you want your kids to have.
14. …is commited to things she gets involved in.
15. …can be surprisingly creative.
16. …knows when I’m in a funk and let’s me get through it in my own way.
17. …makes awesome zesty rice lasagna.
18. …likes to watch sports with me.
19. …has learned to deal with my procrastination.
20. …has an incredible way with Aidan and Erin.
21. …went through more than anyone should go through when trying to have kids.
22. …likes Bon Jovi almost as much as I do.
23. …recently entered me for a gym membership in a radio contest for my Forty by Forty campaign.
24. …is the best navigator when we go on trips.
25. …looks better now than before she was pregnant either time.
26. …loves to cook and bake.
27. …is organized enough for the both of us!
28. …will get up early to let me sleep in a bit.
29. …is smarter than she believes.
30. …doesn’t say anything if I leave clothes or shoes lying around.
31. …is, and has always been, a genuinely good person.
32. …looks great with little to no make-up.
33. …has made her parents incredibly proud.
34. …is strong under pressure.
35. …is adventurous.
36. …is a great kisser.
37. …was “it” the first time we met (and I think we both sort of knew that).
38. …married me!

Happy Birthday, Renee. Love you.


R.I.P., Death

Dear Death ~

You know what, I’m done with you. You’ve wreaked so much havoc in my life. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of you. Would you please go away for awhile?

Not that I wish bad on anyone, but, honestly, could you go bother someone else?

First it was my dad, eight years ago this month. This is always the time where I start to think about him a lot. How can I not? He clearly was suffering at the end before you took him. And that’s one reason why I don’t like you.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, you went and took my brother this year. And, OK, he probably didn’t suffer — but the unexpected side you bring to the table doesn’t make things any easier. I know that now. And, have you no timing? I mean, you do realize that my daughter was born five days before my brother died?

You have no class, death. No class.

I especially know that now. Why? Because you took an amazing woman from this earth yesterday. She wasn’t immediate family, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Diane battled cancer for more than 15 years. She was one of the strongest people we know. Beat it. Comes back. Beat it again. Back. Goes away. But, no, you can’t stay away. Not enough other things on your plate.

And, you know what, death? It was kind of fine for me to deal with you. I mean, I’ve had experience with you. I know how you work. Butt this time, while your latest move affects me, it really affects Renee.

Diane was Renee’s mentor, a colleague when Renee first started teaching back in 1992. She took a new teacher under her wing and a bond was formed. I came home last night and Renee was sobbing. All because of you, death. All because of you.

Diane was also our landlord. And, get this, we paid $330 a month rent. She wasn’t about making a buck. She was about making this world a better place. That doesn’t satisfy you, though. You go and take her. And for what? Because she was suffering? She beat it before. She’d beat it again. IF you gave her the chance.

I knew Diane before I knew her son, a man who I have called a friend for more than 10 years — despite that he’s both a Yankees and Steelers fan. He has four kids, Diane’s four grandchildren. What are you going to tell them, death? Speechless, aren’t you?

You know what you do to us, death? You make us stronger. You bring us together. You keep memories alive, not people.

But, you know what you really are? Do you?

You, death, are a coward.

Mike


Testing a Theory

Ok, so how does that old saying go? A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s give it a shot and find out. The beauty of wordpress is that it counts as I type. Don’t worry. I will do the math. The words that are counted will be below the picture. The question is, can a simple picture like this, really be worth that many words? Let’s try and figure this out together. Shall we?  

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Believe it or not, that’s the best ‘family’ portrait we have. And it was taken today (Sunday). Do you know how hard it is to have a photo taken, particularly when two of the four are kids? Yeah, well, it’s hard. So hard, in fact, that this photo is the best of four taken today.

The photographer is my sister-in-law, Stephanie, who, along with her friend, Amber, was visiting us this weekend from Florida. We don’t see Steph enough. It’s hard when siblings are separated by that much distance. Stephanie and her brother live in Florida. Renee and her parents are up north. We always try to convince Steph to move back. Until it happens, which is probably doubtful, then my wife and her sister are doing pretty well dealing with emails and phone calls to go along with the two or three times a year they get to visit in person. She’s fun to have around. Who knows. Perhaps some day, she and her husband will end up ‘coming home.’

From left to right, that’s one-third of Erin, yours truly, Aidan and my wife, Renee. The picture was taken at a place called Napatree Point in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. It is, perhaps, my favorite beach. In. The. World. It’s in the middle of a summer tourist haven, yet it still has an incredible amount of remote charm to it.

As you can see behind us, the beach is curving to the left, almost in a crescent shape. Well, if you walk all the way out to the point, you’ll come across some forts that were built to protect the area during, I think, World War II. I’ve been out there a few times, but not in a long, long time. It’s pretty cool, however.

Lots of memories on that beach, including the night the woman in the picture agreed to be my wife. I will never forget that night. It was perfect.

Today was also perfect, just in a different way. It was Erin’s first trip to the beach. She liked it. Even if you can’t tell because she, apparently, wasn’t interested in the camera. The girl likes everything though. She, apparently, only does two things — rolling around and smiling. She is getting closer and closer to making that crawl thing go. It’s amazing to watch the progress in just about seven months. The smiling is so incredible. Everyone gets a smile. Give one to her, she gives one to you.

She is just a happy kid. And that makes us happy. From what you can see of her, you might notice a red spot on her upper lip. It’s a hemangioma, which, they tell us, is completely normal. It looks like a birthmark on the outside of her lip, and the inside is puffier. We hardly notice it. It doesn’t seem to be  bothering her at all. The doctors say that it could continue growing until her first birthday, then it should recede natually — and slowly, to the point that it should be all but invisible by the time she’s in first or second grade.

I look at myself and go, wow…getting a little gray on the sides and, obviously, a little thin on the top. Hate that my hair is blowing around, but it was windy, what can you do? I do think I look a bit thinner in general, a result of my Forty by Forty goal. What you can’t see in the picture are my jeans. How do I know I might be losing a little weight? Well, in this picture, I’m wearing ‘natural fit’ jeans and no longer ‘relaxed fit.’ Every little step helps. So if it’s my jeans, that’s fine with me. Really.

Aidan loves to chew his coat, which, of course,  he’s doing here. It drives Renee and I nuts, but, short of putting a dab of tabasco sauce on there, we can’t seem to get him to stop. Oh well. He was having a ball at the beach. He loves to explore. So, after finding a smooth rock to bring back for my mother-in-law, he was then ready to push sand around with the bulldozer he brought.

He also had a ton of fun tossing rocks into the bay, which is on the opposite side of the ocean. The dunes and beach separate ocean side from bay side. We were surprised to see parts of the bay frozen, but it did provide a perfect rock throwing opportunity. He tried to skim some rocks and keep them on the ice, but that changed when he heard the ‘plop’ of a big rock going through the ice. So that’s how we spent the next 10 minutes or so, picking out bigger rocks that he could ‘plop’ into the water.

He had a ball down there today. Just like he always does. Pretty much any time he’s outside is a good time. He doesn’t consider it a good time when having his picture taken. It’s just not, as you can tell, one of his favorite things in the world to do.

Renee looks fabulous in this picture. Or, for that matter, any picture. She started out carrying Erin on her back, but I took over shortly before this picture was taken. I was impressed. I wish Renee and Stephanie were closer — in a geographical sense. They, I think, have now spent more of their lives living away from each other than being together. They have always been committed to making the distance thing work for them, but on these types of visits, it clearly isn’t the best option. 

As you can see, Renee gets pure joy from our wonderful kids. (And, well, ok, maybe just a little bit from me, too!) She’s a fabulous mom, a fabulous teacher, a fabulous wife. She’s just, well, awesome. We make a great team — and make no mistake — she’s the captain. I couldn’t do it without her. She does soooo much. And I know I don’t tell her enough, but I do appreciate all she does for us — and, well, for me.  I couldn’t do it without her. No question about that. She’s the best there is, and I couldn’t be happier that she said yes on that beach a long time ago.

And that concludes my little test. Can a simple picture really be worth a thousand words. Now you know.

What else? I got nothin’.