Wednesday, July 17, 2013


My favorite month!

July and I have had our moments. I remember back in my KinderCare days (which means I was probably 4 or so), I had a book with facts about popular shows / movies. I used to love Knight Rider so when I saw David Hasselhoff and I had the same July birthday, I thought that was pretty awesome. In high school, I learned that my favorite teacher, Mr. Gray, also had the birthday of July 17th. More on that a little later. In any case, I loved birthdays.

The first time I remember not being happy on my birthday was during Camp Buckner at West Point. I was far from home spending a humid summer in New York. I was miserable. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and running around in the woods. (Strangely, I now do something very similar for fun.) Later in life, I had people forget my birthdays. When you've been dating someone for a while, that feels less than good.  That happened two different times over the years during two different relationships. No joy there. Worse yet, I could never recall my dad ever calling to say happy birthday. As a kiddo, I didn't think about that much. As an young adult, it made me a little mad.

My final straw occurred on my 30th birthday. I had always thought I would be married by 27 and have children by 30.  I was turning 30, and neither of those things had occurred. Instead, I was in a very negative relationship, in a brand new job as an IT project manager (ugh), out of shape, and trying to figure out where things had gone so wrong. I felt the black hole pulling me in, and it was a terrible feeling. Logically I realized that it was ridiculous for a number to have such real impact on my emotions, but it was more than the number. The issue was my life the way it was at that moment. The number just made me focus on my reality.  A month after our birthday, Mr. Gray passed away.

Later I would joke and say I had my mid-life crisis 10 years early.  At the time it felt like anything but a joke.I knew I could not continue in this direction so I decided to begin celebrating my birthday again.

Not only would I celebrate my birthday on my birthday, but I would begin my celebration on July 1st. To heck with that darkness trying to pull me down, I was going to fight back. Everyday between July 1st and the 17th, I would have a birthday celebration. That celebration could consist of a stop at the coffee shop, a new jacket, a bike ride with a friend, or anything a little different really. The point was to focus on the joy and goodness of one thing for that day. I also began my tradition of the red sock run one year later to celebrate and remember Mr. Gray.

The first time I came across Mr. Gray, he scared the hell out of me. Mrs. Wuthrich sent me up to his classroom to look for Nathan who she had sent up that way earlier to get something.  I was in 8th grade and sent up to talk to a teacher I didn't know in front of a bunch of high school students. I asked him if he knew where Nathan was, and he said something ridiculous. All the older kids laughed.  I took his algebra 1 class that next year, and somewhere during that time he decided I was pretty smart. Over the next four years, Mr. Gray became the dad I never had. The summer after my sophomore year, I spent every morning beginning at 7am with him, Jonathan (his nephew) and Angie (a woman studying for her PhD) doing math problems under the big pecan tree in his huge garden for about 3 hours. Afterwards, we would pick black-eyes peas, watermelons, cucumbers, garlic, or whatever was ready to be harvested. One day during a math lesson, I asked him when his birthday was, and he said, "July 17th!" I didn't believe him so he showed me his driver's license.  Lo and behold (as he would always say), it was July 17th!  From that day forward, he often referred to me as his twin.

Mr. Gray was retired Army; field artillery to be exact. Every day he wore red socks, "field artillery red" as he called it. So the first birthday after his passing, I ran my first red sock run and have continued the tradition ever since.

This year I took some pictures of my daily birthday celebrations at the request of a friend so I thought I'd go ahead and post them on the blog.  Without further ado....

July 1
Blueberry Bagel at Panera

July 2
While cleaning my garage, I found
$40 someone had left behind 
July 3
Free Iced Latte at Panera!
July 4
Freedom 50K Ride with Carolyn

July 5
Sold my old bike on craigslist in
less than 4 hours and made
$100 more than I thought I would

July 6
Diet Cherry Lime Dr. Pepper

July 7
$85 running jacket for
32 bucks!

July 8
Dartfish running gait
analysis at PT. Very neat.
July 9
In New Jersey for work. Birthday
dinner with my friend
Dave (far right). Thanks Dave!
July 10
Mom bought me a beautiful
sunflower. Thanks Mom!
July 11
Breakfast with the ladies. Blueberry
pancakes! (No powdered sugar,
sugar-free syrup ;-)
July 12
$20 at a time, Mom and I gave away
the extra $100 I got for the bicycle.
July 13
Peanut Paradise Smoothie sans sugar

July 14
Wright Museum and Bike Tour.
Very cool :-)
July 15
Birthday beer and free dinner
July 16

July 17th
 Red Sock Run and Bike

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


This post could be about physics, but it isn't. It's about a bicycle, sort of. 
Old School Dyno Compe
Back when I was a lot shorter, I used to love bicycles. I would ride my bike all over a little Texas town for hours on end. I read BMX magazines. I would sit around and draw different frame designs. My mom once told me that a bike made out of titanium would fly. She was an enabler of the best kind.

I made a calendar and charted out when I would have enough money for the bike. My mom would give me an $1 for every A I made on my report card and pay me for helping out at the office. I plotted and saved and eventually bought a chrome Dyno Compe freestyle bike. When it came time to assemble it, I did fine until it came to the rotor. I had never actually seen a rotor in action so mom drove me to a bike shop in the big ol' town of Wichita Falls, Texas. We got it figured out. For a kid who loved bicycles, it was awesome.

Usually once a year I think about getting a new bike. I bought my current bike in 2007, and it's been good to me. That titanium bike has always been there stuck in the back of my brain, though. Those things cost $4000 brand new so there was no way that was ever going to happen. I could be richer than a king, and I doubt I would spend that much money on a bicycle. Two weeks ago, however, I looked around and found a used titanium Litespeed Tuscany on sale within a 2 hour driving distance. It also happened to be just my size. The wheels began to turn... :-)

I contacted the seller, and a meeting was set. I began thinking about what I would do to fix it up and researching online, and I had a plan as to what I needed to look at once I was there to make sure it was a good purchase.  I showed up at his house, went to ring the doorbell, and jumped a mile high as he unexpectedly rounded the corner of the garage. It was at this point all logic left my poor brain. Pure rational thought was gone anyway because I was way too excited about this bike. The bike went out of my brain when I saw the guy selling the bike. Let's call him B. I think it was his smile that put me over the edge. 

My mom had insisted on going with me since there have been more than few cases of people pretending to sell things on craigslist and doing terrible things. While Mom isn't scary, she does know how to shoot a gun, and I happen to own one. None of that was necessary because it turned out that B is a police officer. He also lives alone and had a road ID that matched mine, as he pointed out. I was smiling. He was smiling. Mom thought the entire thing was pretty funny, and it was. So anyway, I wound up with a good story and a new (to me) bike. Luckily when I got home and had a good look at it, the bike was in perfect shape.

So over the past few weeks I've been learning a lot about bicycles. I've been figuring out to remove decals from titanium (acetone works great), ordering new decals and installing them, replacing tires, figuring out I know almost nothing about derailleurs, cleaning gears and a chain, putting on new handlebar tape, bike fitting and adjusting blah blah blah. I have plenty of knowledgeable internet folks to thank for the tips. Between message boards and YouTube videos, I've learned a lot.

    Litespeed Logo before...                                                                    Litespeed Logo after...

(waiting on a different water bottle holder to arrive, though)
Is it blue?
Is it green?
It's been a fun project, and used or not, I am beyond happy with my new bike. The other great thing about this project is that it has made it completely clear just how much my mom has always been there for me. When I needed to learn how to put together a rotor, she was there. When I needed backup while going to pick up a bike, she was there. That titanium bike in the corner of my mind was there partly due to her influence. A lot of who I am was greatly influenced by what she said and did while I was growing and learning. My mom is caring and always there when I need some help. Thanks for being awesome, Mom!