Sunday, January 18, 2009

Motivation Fuels Everything

It started out like many other goals. You talk big. You plan big. You tell everybody. Somewhere along the way, though, it fails.

I've always been baffled when I read about our country being one of the most obese lands in the world. Then again, I shouldn't, as our tendency to be selfish -- perhaps glutenous -- has ignited many problems, not just obesity.

Nevertheless in this information age, where anything is available in various venues of information-getting-hardware, it should be better. So, what better way to explore this problem than to do something about my 4o over -- lbs., that is. With a 5'9" frame, pushing 220 was not a good thing.

So, when people see me -30, the question is asked, "How did you do it?" I thought I post the modus operandi of our journey to lose and maintain weight.

It's very simple. Like you count your money, count your caloric intake. It's actually fun, once you get the hang of it, 'cause it may the only medium by which you are required to spend more than you bring in.

If you have $1,000 in the bank, naturally you don't want to spend $1,001. You'll be over drawn and have a lot of penalty fees. Of course, the counsel is to try and spend less and save some for a rainy day, something that may be obsolete in today's economy, but alas.

With calories it's the exact opposite. If you take in 2,000 calories in a day, you better be able spend them that day. If you don't, you're body naturally saves the calories -- especially the fat calories -- for its rainy day. That's were the bulge comes from. Yeah, so what?

It's that simple. If you can't spend the calories you eat, cut back or exercise more -- which ever is your best option.

Idaly and I have done both and together we're at -55, give or take a few pounds during the holidays.

Diets, pills, magic formulas don't mean squat if you can't understand the basic principle of weight maintenance.

Yes, it's that simple. Weight maintanance has eternally more to do with the motivation to do it than the "how to." Yout don't need expensive diets to be successful.

My blogging has been slow to-date, but with hopes of picking up. We've busy with many things personal, but I don't forget to post my thoughts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Presidents

I came in to work today bright and early, and this was the first picture I saw. It was on the front page of the Star-Telegram. I looked at it for a while, wondering what kind of thoughts it brought to mind in this country. And, so, in the spirit of local radio jocks, I go to "the people".
What -- if any -- thoughts does it bring you? I'd love to hear them. It also tells me how many people are visiting the blog regularly.
I'll give you mine, when I hear from the people.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Art Work

My little sister is 7 and she is in 1 grade.She came home with a calander she made in class.
It was a beauty,masterpiece!!!!I offerd to put in my room.The feeling you get when you get art
work from your little sister or brother is an amazing feeling!!!I just can not explain how much
joy you have in your heart.I love when she brings art work home!!!Sometimes she will put her
art work in her room.But I really dont care because I could still see it. I love her Art Work!!!!!!

By the girls.

Fastball Virtouso

It was a sunny summer day in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Like many, many other summer days, the heat was beginning to show it's ugly face and the slight wind beginning to pick up the abundant, loose earth. It was a few minutes before noon, and my brother and I were dressed in one of many baseball uniforms grandpa had his tailor make for us. He was a man we called, "Don Pete."

This particular baseball field had better grass than most. Green ballparks in town like Juarez were the exception, not the rule in Mexico. Most city leagues played on barren fields. Many were littered with remnants of empty beer bottles, wrappers, dirty diapers, etc. On any given day, teams had to sweep fields of all debris before engaging in a game.

Grandpa had a jimmy-rigged a contraption to paint the field, right before he suited up in blue uniform as home plate umpire. The contraption consisted of a tin coffee can with many holes at the bottom. It was screwed to a broomstick, or any stick about 3' in height. The can was filled with chalk. He would measure distances, place the bags and home plate, and we would walk those distances, shaking those cans as straight as we could. It would be akin to sprinkling a cinnamon roll with sugar, except we had to make perfectly straight lines. He had about 6 such cans and they traveled with his baseball kit in the back of that brown Ford LTD. I'm sure there were easier ways and/or gadgets to paint the field, but he wouldn't hear of it. Besides budgets being very tight, he always said painting the field was one of the best parts of a day at the ballpark.

On this occasion, my brother and I were riding a fence of a ranch that bordered this preferred field. Pitchers were warming up, and this is where our story begins.

Local sports loudmouth, Randy Galloway, says that football is about the quarterback. In that spirit, I'd like to pose an argument that baseball is about the fastball. It's not only about the fastball, but legendary pitcher, Cy Young, was given that name because of his fastball. With 511 career wins, Denton True "Cy" Young's record is one -- I think -- will never be touched in today's professional baseball. He is quoted as saying he "almost tore the boards off the grand stands once" for scouts.

To hit a fastball is to understand baseball bliss. Baseball fans are unique people. True baseball fans can readily read-off player stats -- sometimes -- better than he/she can remember who their U.S. Senator is, or when their wedding anniversary might be. Baseball fans have love affairs, not only with their team and players, but also with the sport itself. You often see them writing on scorecards at ballpark. So much of baseball is discussion about future scenarios between pitcher and hitter. So much is about game is situational and statistical knowledge, which a alluded to in a previous post about explaining to a foreigner, "How do you watch baseball?"

2004 ALCS. Game 4. Mariano vs. Millar. Bottom of the ninth. Fenway Park. The unusual Mariano walk to Millar in that inning. That walk (officially scored as base on balls - BB) sparked a World Series Title for the Red Sox, one that hadn't been for 86 years. You'd had to know of Mariano's legendary closer status. You'd have to know of Millar's mediocrity. Mostly, you'd had to know Mariano Rivera is money with his cutter, a type of fastball.

How do you explain that to somebody who doesn't understand baseball?

Many years before this 2004 miracle and my adulthood, on that fence, my own miracle happened. My introduction to the euphoria surrounding the fastball. In our little world in Mexico, with our hand-tailored baseball unis, I hit my first fastball.

The pitcher warming up had "a chance," as many liked to scout kids who might make it to some form of professional baseball. He was slim and tall, yea lanky. He was cocky, and that may have been a big part of his "chance". Don Pete said "he was an arrogant son of a bitch". Above all, he could bring the heat. With ease, he could.

Few sounds bring sports bliss to the fans. The hard hit on the gridiron. The wood connecting with the baseball. The swoosh of the basketball -- notin' but net. The ice and skates.

The ball hitting the catcher's that's a sound to behold. And, on that late morning, what a sound it was.

My grandfather, aside from acting umpire and grounds crewman, always tried to offer unsolicited advice to young players, especially when he knew it would irritate them. To this player he said, "If you would keep your eye on the target, you'd be a lot more accurate."

"Thank you blue, but don't talk if you've never hit my fastball. I can't take advice from someone who has never stood in the box when I'm on the mound."

The moment served as a turning point in my manhood preparation, too. Kind of like the lion teaching the cub to hunt. Most umpires would have let it go. Comments like that are part of the friendly banter between the law and the player. Don Pete, though, turned on the comment and said to me, "Go get me my bat from the back of the car."

His body style reminded me of Babe Ruth. Years of enjoying the barley and hops expanded his gut quite a bit. That and his legs were disproportionately thin for his frame. Don Pete never lifted a weight one, and -- I'm sure -- never once did any conditioning. What Don Pete could do is hit a fastball and love the game.

He strolled near the batter's box in his umpire uni and swung a few. Catcher and pitcher were in awe. He said, "Keep warming up. I need a few minutes."

"C'mon! You're not serious, are you? What if you get hurt? Who's going to ump our game?"

"OK. I'm ready. Bring the heat kid."

Right before he took his stance, he look towards us and said, "This is how you hit a fastball. It's the sweetest thing on earth."

So, here's the arrogant son of bitch, eyeing my grandfather as he slowly took his stance. The catcher took his position, and gave a target.

"OK, you asked for it."

There are no true walls in most of these barren fields. Home runs are mostly the inability of an outfielder to retrieve the ball from backyard or street. In our case, a leaning fence did outline the field, giving it some privacy from the adjoining neighborhood.

My brother and I ran to stand behind the catcher, about 30 feet. We were naturally afraid for him. Though we had total confidence in his baseball prowess, we didn't trust the cocky son of a bitch.

He didn't take long to wind-up and deliver. From our vantage point, the ball could be coming inside, almost too close. From Don Pete's vantage point, the ball was just right. He lifted his right leg slightly and swung.

Contact made that sound we love to hear in ball yards. It was like a perfect note at the opera. The ball sailed and sailed out of sight.

Not a word was exchanged between pitcher and batter. The catcher stood up and sort bowed to my grandfather.

As if that wasn't enough to make us skip a beat, as he walked towards us, he handed the bat to me and said, "It's your turn."

"When you see the top of his knuckles, start to swing."

I couldn't speak. Witnessing him hit a fastball was shock enough. I was about to pass out. As a kid, I wasn't allowed to quit or say no with either of my grandfathers, or my father for that matter, although dad was much more diplomatic about it.

So, I did what I had done all my life before then and didn't question it. I made my way towards the batter's box, and pitcher and catcher were aghast.

"Bring the heat again. I want my grandson to feel the power."

I was trembling. I tried to take some practice swings, but I'm sure I looked like a 2-year-old with an over sized bat. I was only 10 or 11. My baseball experience had been limited to snot-nosed kids at little league before that.

I stood at the batter's box and the catcher said, "Don't worry kid. He (the pitcher) only looks scary. He's very accurate with his throws. If you see it coming your way, just fall to the ground. I'll catch it."

I didn't even have a helmet.

The first pitch came, and before I could exhale, the ball was in the mitt.

"Don't be scared! Swing that bat!' he said from behind me.

From somewhere, deep in the recesses of my infant mind, I mustered enough courage to actually think I could hit this ball. So, I promised I would swing when I saw the knuckles.

Many experts say that if you can slow down a game, you can really become good at any sport. That's what happened that day. As he made his wind-up, I looked for those knuckles and started to swing.

I always pictured hitting a fastball would hurt. I just had this feeling it'd feel like a hammer hitting a nail, rattling through your innards.

In fact, I never felt any rattling. I never felt any pain. What I felt was sheer ecstasy. As I swung, with my eyes half-closed, that bat made contact that day. The ball sailed and sailed. And though not as long as his, the catcher said, "Nice job kid! I'm sure that would have been a double."

I officially hit a professional caliber fastball, a ball delivered by a man, who had been clocked in the high 90's.

Looking back, the moment had much more weight in my life than I gave it credit for those days. I'd venture into many things later in life, and much of my courage may have been inspired by my standing tall -- but scared to death -- in that batter's box, that day.

Don Pete went on to be the blue behind the plate that day. The cocky son of a bitch won the game, and after would come over to thank Don Pete and wish me good luck.

The beauty of a fastball is the ability for a man to place a ball, traveling close to 100 miles per hour, in an imaginary area about as big as a box of cereal from 60.5 feet out. And, he begins doing all that with movements resembling ballet more than baseball, and lunging his arm with such force, some literally dislocate it from the shoulder.

It's a work of art in many ways.

If you have never stood in the path of a fastball, do so. It may change your life.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My First Puppy

My girls are fascinated they can read dad's stuff online, and even more, that they could write something which is online. So, I told them they could "guest-blog" here.

One day my sister and I went to my grandmas house.Are aunt was there and she surprised us
by being there. We had not seen her in a while because she is a flight attendant at American
Airlines.She talked to my mother if we can go to her house.She said "Yes."So she drove us there.We got there and we watched "WIZARD OF OZ"Then my parents came with a puppy!!!!!
We were so surprised!!!!!We have wanted one.We named him snowball.This was all a plan. We had know idea.We now had him for 4 months.He is 8 mouths now.We will never forget his little face. My First Puppy!!!!!! :] :] :] :]!!!!!

The Girls

Friday, January 2, 2009

No-Call Waiting Equals Sixteen Years

The months of October through February are very busy for us. Aside from the standard holidays and football season, many of our family's birth dates fall in place. It seems like we start to party in October and can't stop until after Super Bowl weekend.

In the midst of all that -- our anniversary. This year was our sixteenth.

To honor that, we had a quaint dinner at our favorite Italian joint with the girls. The four of us enjoyed Italia's finest fare, in a small, quiet place with true Italian people.

The girls love to hear the story of how we met and came to be husband and wife. As we were telling them the story, again, I sort of drifted off to thoughts in a book I'm reading, Outlier's. In that book, a case is made for highly successful or highly catastrophic events, which have more to do with family, generation, culture and class (amongst other things) than specific skills. Anyway, if you've read anything by Malcolm Gladwell, you kind of get the drift of what that book offers. If you haven't read any Gladwell, do so IMMEDIATELY. Star with Blink, then Tipping Point, and finally, Outliers.

I told the girls, "You know, the only reason we're sitting here enjoying this great Italian food as a family seventeen years, one month and few days later was the persistence of your aunt Tu (her real name is Lizbeth, but my oldest named her that early in her toddler life). She forced Mami to continue to call my house, in spite of my parents (more specifically mother) not paying for call-waiting."

"Huh?" They both reacted.

I'm a firm believer that many significant acts in life -- in this case we can used adultery -- are not a random, single action brought on by magic powers, which leave one with the question, "How did I get into this mess?"

The idea or theory, which ever the case may be, was justified by the book, Outliers. In it he talks about everything from Bill Gates' success to plane crashes and how small, single decisions or situations contributed to the overall act. The problem is, especially in the Western World, nobody is willing to recognize them as measurable standards by which to guide ourselves.

Back to our anniversary...

We had just finished Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house. This was a unique Thanksgiving. First things first: the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10. My mother's relatives actually came over, which was record-breaking in itself, as the party gene is from dad's side. In honor of that, I didn't follow tradition, which was to go to the movies with my cousins after dinner and the Cowboys game. Lastly, and though I did not know it, this would be my last Thanksgiving in El Paso for many years.

So, I was lounging around, enjoying my greatest metabolic years, when the phone rang. It was a girl name Monica, who was trying to invite me dancing. I slowly declined, but the conversation with her jumped around for a while, tying up the vintage land line, with out vintage red rotary phone. During that time, the crucial call was trying to get through.

My wife had ended a long relationship with a guy many thought would be her groom after HS. She had already moved out of El Paso, and was back in town for Thanksgiving. Her sister and other friends had agreed on dancing -- also -- that evening, and wanted to bring along a seasoned party man for a good time. After names were remembered, I made the top 3 list of party goers, eventually chosen for the night's debauchery. When asked about this occasion today, Tu, my lovely sister-in-law says, "All I wanted was for my sister to have a good time. Instead, I got two nieces."

They kept calling. I kept talking.

Most people who know my wife know that, 1.) She was not one to call any boys out of her own will and on a whim, 2.) When she was finally convinced to call me "for a good time," she certainly was about to do it more than once. Shame on me for not having call-waiting.

But, her sister persisted. And, it paid off on what was probably the last try. She says (now) that when she dialed the last time, and it was finally ringing, "I got all nervous and screamed for Idaly (my now-wife) to come to the phone."

I remember two things about that moment. The first was that I regretted not going to the movies. For some reason it made me melancholic to miss out that year with my cousins, but I didn't know why. The second was that when the phone rang, again, mom, who usually ran to catch every call, delegated me to get it, which upset me. I had just adjusted myself perfectly on the sofa, and was enjoying some pie.

That phone call would be one of the most important events in my life.

I answered the phone, and for some reason immediately recognized her. I mean, I've known my wife since the 5th grade, but we were never friends or even social acquaintances through school. She, in fact, will admit hating my guts due to my reputation as a jock and probable below-average-IQ student.

The phone conversation was faulty. She was still weary of inviting an unreputtable party jock. I was unsure of her status with Mr. Right -- her former boyfriend. Moreover, she was inviting me dancing with her party, which consisted of Persistent Sister, Louisiana Cousin, and College Friend-Girl from Mexico D.F., who was a chain smoker. Remember, I just declined such an invitation moments earlier.

Nervously I agreed to go and she picked me up in her dad's Lincoln.

The rest, as I proudly say, is history. The evening was very memorable and we truly enjoyed a connection, which as lasted more than seventeen years, sixteen in matrimony.

At first glance, most people discard all this as just one of those things that happen. A phone call. No call waiting. Missing the movies after it being tradition for years and years. My mother's family coming over, thereby her uninterested in phone calls and delegating me to said phone calls in her lieu (she had the pesky habit of telling many girls I was not home). My wife freshly ending a relationship and looking for a night on the town. Her sister persisting I was just the medicine for post-long-term-boyfriend blues. I could go on, but you get the picture.

To me, that phone call is not "just" one of those things. Though -- seemingly -- these wild ideas are tied to destiny, it's not quite that -- to me. Destiny implies a future you cannot deviate from, regardless of what opportunities or signals you may have access to. My ideas involve picking up on those opportunities or signals at the right time, thereby altering your life (possibly) forever.

The reason I felt melancholic about missing movies with my cousins was simple: I would -- in fact -- never do it again. After meeting with and starting a formal relationship with Idaly, I would be living in Arlington for Thanksgiving, 1992.

My mom's family NEVER came over for any holidays, certainly not for Thanksgiving. We always paid visits to them on other holidays. Their presence made me feel I should fight the urge to go with my other cousins, and I stayed home. Why this year?

I could have accepted the first invitation to go dancing. Mom's family is very low key and festivities -- by then, the time of the call -- were winding down. I didn't. It just didn't feel like that was the thing to do.

My sister-in-law could have quit calling one phone call before she did. She would have gotten a busy signal and the call would have never happened. I would have eaten an additional slice of pecan pie, undisturbed, and my life and my wife's would have been completely and utterly different.

You could say this is all a bunch of hogwash, senseless, petty theories that don't hold any water. I am known to be a thinker of sorts, and many of my theories are regarded as "interesting," but of no practical use.

Say what you want.

When I look at my girls everyday, many memory flashes come to mind. One is always getting up to get that phone call.

One phone call. Two nieces, or daughters in my case.

Don't miss the opportunities. Recognize and acknowledge signals.

Carpe Diem, friends. Carpe Diem.

You may be utterly shocked.