Category Archives: Personal

Summer of New Journeys

What an amazing Summer I have experienced. It is difficult to know where to begin, but to say WOW!!

I met an incredible woman last Winter and this was just the first of many wonderful New Journeys. A lifetime past, but now a lifetime together has given a bright light in my life. Jennifer and I were married on 11 July 2011 and have made the start of our life together with a huge move to Hanoi, Vietnam. I cannot express the excitement that is ever present in each day, hour, and minute as we explore our new lives together here in Hanoi.

Panoramic Image of My Neighborhood in Hanoi, Vietnam

Panoramic of My Neighborhood

Hanoi and the people of Vietnam are incredible. I am so enjoying meeting and learning from every person I come in contact with each day. All have been so helpful to me. This is especially true since my skills in the Vietnamese language are nil. I have learned a few words and am able to greet others, give some basic directions, and a a couple of weather terms. Ah, yes it is a joy to try and learn these few words, and one day I will be able to converse in some basic manner.

I have great respect for all people here on our incredible planet, and feel it is important to respect the culture, society, to try and learn the language, and embrace all that is Vietnam. Thus, I am trying new words, walking up to people asking questions, and being what my Twitter profile states, “…all around good guy with an inquisitive mind”.

Each day this journey has new paths that are unveiled. Choosing a path, has nothing to do with worrying about whether the path chosen is correct, but that one makes a choice and learns. Each path brings about new people, thoughts, sights, sounds, and so many different things that I cannot list in this post. A path is about exploring and I am doing so every chance that comes about. Even the most simple path of acclimating my body to the heat and humidity of Hanoi can be daunting, but to get my running game back on track I must chose that path and learn. The same goes for anything we do in life … a bit of reinventing … never think that one knows all that is on any particular item as all in life is ever-changing, ever-growing, and truly a journey along the many paths of life.

This Summer of New Journeys has been a grand experience with my marriage to Jennifer, the move to Hanoi, and sharing ones life with all in the world. This short post is the beginning of what I hope will be many posts about the many experiences in Hanoi, the wonderful people of Vietnam, and all that exists in this grand world of ours.

Keep checking back for new posts as this is going to be a joyous ride. Also, keep up with me on the various social networking sites as I write, tweet, post about life, share photos of all that I see through the camera lens, and meet new friends around the world.

Cyclist

Early Morning Cyclist

Gardner taking care of the roundabout

Gardner

Vietnamese woman walking on streets of Ciputra, Hanoi, Vietnam

Walker

 

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Chillaxin – First Race in the Books

Where does one begin when writing about their first running race experience? All race reports seem to be from the same breath with listings of finish times, course terrain, weather, and swag bags. I will let you taste a small report of that which is the norm, but have other thoughts about the race, and in a later blog post thoughts and conversations with the people I met on the course.

Boomtown Days Half Marathon 2010

Saturday, June 11, 2010 I ran my first race at the Boomtown Days Celebration. The race was a half marathon which totals 13.1 miles of glorious running. I know. You are thinking about that word glorious. Well, running is glorious, fun, thrilling, and can be so enjoyable when one properly prepares. Before I go further let me get to the little devil of my results from my first marathon, and first race to ever participate.

Boomtown Run Finishers Medal

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Finishers Medal

I completed the half marathon (13.1 miles) in 2 hours 17 minutes 16 seconds placing 145th out of 850 runners that checked in Saturday morning. My time put me 12th in the male 45-49 age group. Those numbers have made me so happy. For my first race and training to tackle a half marathon a 2:17 run is very good. Just sheer joy. While some may not see the joy in this time let me say that completing any endurance race is a a trial of fortitude, will, and training. For me, once weighing 358lbs, this 1/2 marathon is a grand success (See previous blog post: Grunt… Groan… Pant… ).

Thoughts on the Race Course (Course Map & Elevation Graphics)

While I have no other race to compare the Boomtown Half Marathon to I will say this course seemed to be one long uphill run. The course started at 1008ft above sea level, reaches 1070ft at the highest point, and the lowest point is 883ft above sea level. As one can see from the below elevation graphic there were many ups and downs, but a couple a quick downs with a long uphill between miles 4.5 and 7.

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Elevation Graphic

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Elevation (click graphic for full view)

Throughout the race I heard individuals commenting about the many long hills. I must admit that I also felt those hills, but tried to get up on the ball of the foot, shorten my stride and keep the pace I had without burning the legs up. Seemed to work well for me, or at least I thought. Upon viewing my lap data I see that all those ups and downs took their toll quickly around mile five slowly my average pace by about 30 seconds to one minute. Not a lot of time, but adds up quickly.

Boomtown 1/2 Marathon Course Map

Course Map (click graphic to see full view)

Lap data showing average running pace at each mile

Average Lap Data for each mile (click graphic to see full view)

Another aspect of the 1/2 marathon was the humidity. Southwest Missouri is well known for its humidity. The last several weeks we have seen temperatures in the low to mid 90’s Fahrenheit and humidity between 70 and 90%. Sure adds to that hot feeling when out running an asphalt race course. I know, a ton of numbers, but as I examine and learn to better interpret it will all help my running. This is especially true since keeping my pace has been one item of difficulty. So much to learn both mentally and physically, but so much fun.

Ending Thoughts ~ It is about being healthy, training smart, and having fun

Many who follow me on Twitter know that I am a happy person. Many may be tired of my “Enjoy all that is” or “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” statements, but that is me. Not much gets me down, and while I am competitive it is competition with myself and no one else. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. This run was just one more in my journey to being and doing all I can to be healthy, fit and happy.

Time for a few random thoughts I had during the race:

  • I am a long way from the start. How did all those people get in front of me.
  • My Garmin keeps beeping and asking if I want to connect to the footpod.
  • No, I don’t want to connect to that unknown footpod.
  • Said outloud: Hi, my name is Michael. How are you doing? Person I spoke to gave me a stern glare. Silent thought to self: Just saying hi not hitting on you. Happy day.  🙂
  • Feeling great! Having fun. Whoa!! What is that in the road. That was a shoe and is someone running with one shoe now?
  • Styrofoam cups suck!! They crack every time I pinch to try and drink. Next time just drink.
  • Okay, drinking from the styrofoam cup without pinching not good. More air than water. Burp!!
  • My Garmin is beeping again. Message reads: Connect to Footpod? No, I told you before not to connect. Someone must be following me.
  • Man my shoes feel great! Yes they do! Could running shoes feel any better? No!
  • Said to self so as to not get the death stare: WOot!!! Hi!! Who are you!!?
  • Okay Garmin you have been told twice to stop it. Now stop!
  • Hill!!
  • Hill!!
  • Hill!!!

I felt great through the entire 1/2 marathon. Yes, some tired moments, silly thoughts, but smiles all the way. Okay, maybe not smiles, but after seeing some photos I had a grin a mile wide. You may ask why the grin. That grin was due to the fact that I had trained well for this run. All the training was from my wonderful coach Jeff Kline of PRSFit. Wonderful person and so helpful. Coach Jeff’s training is all about “being healthy, training smart, and having fun”. I so agree. This is how I live each and every day.

Just approaching the finish line

Almost finished (click graphic for full view)

Slowing down after the Finish Line

Slowing down after crossing the finish line (click graphic for full view)

Eating a Banana

Time for a Banana, but not a flattering photo (click graphic for full view)

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Crossing the Line. Hornist Behind Bars.

Before continuing one moment reading this blog post I would like for you to read David H. Thomas’ post at The Buzzing Reed. David, who I met online via Twitter, is Principal Clarinetist of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio. You will enjoy his thoughts and writing. My post will have more meaning after reading his post My Practice, My Life. Breathing Clarinet Air.

Michael holding horn in front of his face

Behind the bars looking for freedom

Thank you for coming back. I do hope you enjoyed David’s posts, as I know I did. Please check out his other blog posts, videos, and audio files as his thoughts and openness on playing and the “behind the scenes” world of practice are rare. Musicians do not often share their thoughts on practice and preparation. This world is somewhat intimate as we bare all working on the music for performances.

David has found something that I feel is quite elusive for many musicians. What he has found is something I gave up on some 10 years ago. This elusive item is not something a musician needs to perform, but I feel it is something we need as a person, as a musician, and as a being in this world. I know what is running through your mind, “What is so elusive for musicians and is it really important”. Yes!! It is elusive and important not only for musicians, but for all of us.

David wrote two thoughts that struck me. Let me address the first one where David states:

I began to sheepishly admit to myself: as much as I enjoy performing, I actually enjoy practicing and playing music for myself even more! Who needs an audience! I find myself by losing myself practicing a deeply challenging Jeanjean etude, or a musically rich Bach unaccompanied cello suite. Performing almost ruins the spontaneous beauty of it all, with the accompanying high standards one must meet to be approved; and with the perfectionist expectations most listeners have nowadays from hearing so many artificially perfected recordings

Musicians spend countless hours practicing and preparing for performances. The expectations are extremely high in the professional music world. Perfection. No missed notes, beautiful phrases, gorgeous interactions as musicians exchange musical thoughts. Perfection. The expectations are so high and we musicians become so entwined with doing what we do. We perform because it is what we do. Just like you get up each morning, grab a quick shower and something to eat while driving to work, and then work. You do what you do. I, too, fell into this so many years ago and gave up trying to cross that line from doing to being.

The other thought of David’s, which I have eluded to above is beautifully stated:

I had performed because it was what I was supposed to do. I am a clarinetist after all. It’s what I do. Please don’t misunderstand. I have never hated performing, only misunderstood the larger picture of why I do what I do.

The above statement hit me like a hammer. We musicians do what we do and that is perform, but there is so much more and I see how this applies to my past, present, and future musical world. Eyes wide open I now see. I also feel you are wondering what this is all about. Is this not some reiteration of what David so eloquently wrote?

This applies to my own world with this brief bit of my past. In December of 1998 I awakened one morning and did not wish to go to rehearsal. After 10 years with the Air Force Band program I wanted to stay in bed, sleep, and not do anything. Being in the Air Force Bands is quite prestigious and I did not want to go rehearse on the instrument that I had spent my life studying. After 10 years of traveling the world and being honored to perform for so many leaders of our world, and most importantly, performing for the people of the world. What an honor.

I was tired. I just wanted to stay home as I was the hornist behind bars unable to cross that line. Unable to cross that line into being all that is. Music and the musician world is so much more than practicing perfection. We have lost so much in reaching for this goal. I lost. I gave up on the climb to that mountain top that David mentions by letting the stress of perfectionist practice and performance, hundreds of performances each year, and the hours of travel grab hold and throw me down the mountainside.

I had given up on climbing the mountain and placed my horn in its case. I left the mountain growing smaller, and smaller in my rearview mirror. So much has happened in the years since that day. After reading David’s thoughts I am now looking for that mountain that I left so many years ago. Yes, I have played since that time as a professional but still with the thought of it being what I do. Each year I would accept fewer students and performances. Now, I have turned around. Want to face that climb and I am looking for that mountain. Ready to fight and cross that line. Being a musician and being a person in this wonderful world is so much more than doing what we do. We must live every moment. Remove the perfectionist thoughts and enjoy.

David stated:

Follow me if you like. See you at the top.

I am looking for my mountain from so long ago. With arms wide open to embrace that which I let toss me aside. Ready to enjoy all that is. I hope that you too will open your mind. Do not do what you are suppose to do, but love what you do. I am going to breath horn air, and I hope that you breath that which is yours, and enjoy all that is around you. Happy day to everyone.

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Grunt … Groan … Pant …

Grunt … groan … ugh … pant, pant, pant … shifting a bit … more panting and groaning and finally a deep, deep breath in and I was finally able to lean over far enough to reach down to put my sneakers on. This was May 14, 2006 and I was soon in my doctor’s office as I called and wanted to visit with him about my health.

Later that afternoon I was in my doctor’s office and went through the normal pre-visit stuff. I was weighed, had my temperature and blood pressure taken, and then the game was on. My doctor told me that as of that morning my weight was 328lbs, but my blood pressure and temperature were normal. Hmm … normal is subjective but I was happy with it.

So, the game was afoot. I was sent to a nutritionist, but first went to receive a full blood workup, and found even in the giant water tub my body weight was still 358lbs. Jokingly I said to the nurse, “Are we not lighter in water since we seem to float?” I don’t think that she thought it was funny. But then she told me that my body fat percentage was 28. I am sure that I had the deer-in-headlights look when hearing that 28% of my body was a big tub of goo, and that is why I had so much trouble trying to lace up my sneakers. Oh, but I would have been good for those Jell-O commercials as everyone could definitely “watch it wiggle, see if jiggle”.

Photo of me at nearly 328lbs

Photo of me at nearly 328lbs

On May 15, 2006 I was sitting on the edge of the bed about to put my sneakers on for the day. This time is for something other than just to put the sneakers on and go about my day. I still grunted, groaned, panted, and sucked in as my as I could to reach down and lace up those sneakers. This day I was going to go for a run. I must admit that going for a run is nothing big for most people, and I did not run much that day. Not even sure what I did was called running.

As I sit here writing this bit I am still saddened and amazed at how I had let myself go physically and mentally. Just a time in ones life when not all was going well. But today is a different story and life is something to be enjoyed, and to do so one must grab every moment. Over these three-plus years I have come a long way. As of this morning I weighed in at 181lbs and my body fat percentage is 16.9. Such a grand improvement over the last three years. Outside of what I weigh or my body fat percentage is I am fit and enjoy exercise, uhm, I mean life.

As one reads this the thought comes as to what did I change. Well, I changed everything. No, I did not go on a diet and this is important as diets do not work. One must make a committed lifestyle change. Yes, change everything to be a better person and to be healthy both physically and mentally. If one does not it will take no time and life will be as it was before.

Thinking about this as I write where today. I went for a short 5k (3.1 miles) run early this morning, and clocked that 5k at 29 minutes and 29 seconds giving me just under 10 minute miles. Later today I will put in some time cycling, but be indoors on the CycleOps trainer.

Standing and ready to race

Just before the 2007 Colorfest Biathlon - 225lbs

My first big race was the Union County Colorfest Biathlon in Anna, Illinois. This biathlon begins with a 5k run that has a lot of hills. Once you complete the 5k hop on your bike and head out for a beautiful 17k (29.2 mile) cycling race. My first time out I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) as I had two flats on the cycling leg and only had one extra tube. Still it was a great experience. I have not been back to that biathlon, but it is a fun day.

So what does the future hold? The future is mine and I love each and every day that I lace up my running shoes, or get on my bike. The exhilaration and adrenalin rush is so grand. I would not miss a day or those feelings. While I have only participated in a few 5k and 10k runs, and the Colorfest Biathlon I want to do more. So what does the future hold for this 45 year old? There are marathons, triathlons, and so much more. That is where I am heading. Not because they are there, but because I can. I can do whatever I wish and that is all we need to know … that we can. So get up, get out and enjoy the world. Life is good.

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Chinese Tea Eggs – Yum!

I like eggs, and eggs seem to like me. So, in an effort to find new recipes for my egg enjoyment I ran across Chinese Tea Eggs. Oh my you need to try this out.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

6 medium to large eggs
2 tea bags of earl grey tea
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 pieces star anise
1 pinch of pepper

  1. Put eggs in a medium-sized pot with enough water to cover the eggs.
  2. Bring water to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove eggs from heat and allow them to cool.
  4. Take the back of a knife or spoon and crack eggs evenly all around.
  5. Return eggs to the pot and add the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Bring liquid to boil again, then simmer on very low heat for 1 to 4 hours (longer = more color/flavor), add water if level gets too low.
  7. Remove from heat, cool, peel shells and enjoy.

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Awake @ 4:00 am

It’s 4:00 am and I am awake with a song running through my head as if I have been here before. This road I have traveled before, but only for a short while. The winding, twisting and turning road filled with faces, places and seasons of past, present, and future. I wonder what it is that brings all of us to this place in our lives.

Darkness stretches outside so clear as if daylight has reached out and grabbed me. Grabbed me like a friend from the past which I have not seen since days gone by or days yet to come. Friends, words, and thoughts paint turquoise pictures of grand days that were never known. Observations made of childhood days that feel like dreams of future things clouded by the darkness that is outside at 4:00 am.

These sporadic thoughts fill my mind as the ticking of the clock that doesn’t exist hammers in the background. Metronomic moments from practice rooms are the clock of a musicians world. A world that is often abandoned for other forms of life’s pleasure, but more that of practicality that is removed from life’s love.

Nonexistent clocks hammering life’s heartbeat to words streaming from the radio which cannot be understood. Back to the past the words were clear, but the future brought indistinguishable thought. These thoughts, often like informercials selling products disguised as grandiose get-rich-quick lifesavers, fill the heart with joy only to be discarded. Those thoughts teeter on the curb with raindrops tipping the equilibrium pushing one way and then another.

Rainwater gushing along the curb from earlier days tempting thoughts to leap in and run away. But that equilibrium is tempted to stay by the raindrops turned to tears. Street cleaner trucks driving slowly along the trail turning gauzed streets into clean days. The tears that were once raindrops removed with all other discarded items by the brushes and water of the street cleaner. It is the brushes cleaning, caring, and making anew that which was once the past.

We often see darkness as all that is around this oh-so-cool place we call Earth. Is this because we wear sunglasses to veil the light which is shining, or like blinders that horses used to wear? A gentle tug would remove the veil and allow us to see the good.

We smile as the morning comes after smelling the chocolate corona of coffee wafting through the air. It helps bring light to the darkness we had with our eyes closed. Is not this the problem of much around the world? Eyes closed not willing to see? Tug those sunglasses off the face of the world, and squint for a moment to see the beauty that is really awaiting our hearts.

It’s 4:00 am and I am awake with a song running through my head as if I have been here before. Have you?

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Independence Day: Morning Thoughts

Sitting on the front porch and having a cup of coffee this morning by the dawn’s early light. It is a wonderful morning with a slight breeze, a light rain shower, and the sounds of birds chirping. I know that it is Independence Day, but it is so nice to sit and not hear the sounds of fireworks exploding. Quite. Peaceful.

This light rain shower has begun to wash away the fog of Independence Day wars. All that is left is the debris of young children’s celebrations strewn in yards and streets. Faded red sticks from rockets that have lost their red glare. There are no more bombs bursting in the air. The air that was once fouled by oily fumes is clean. Only a light odor of ozone delivered by the rain from above.

This brings memories of those who perilously fought, and those still fighting throughout the world. If only all around the world we realized that each one of us are brothers and sisters. We may speak different languages, dress differently, and have beliefs that differ but we are still people of Earth. All living, breathing, and hoping for a safe world. We should not put out beliefs on another for that may put us asunder.

Sitting on the front porch by the dawn’s early light. Thinking not only of my countries independence, but the independence that all children of Earth should be enjoying. Quite. Peaceful.

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