2013: The Year That Should Never Have Been

Yes, a “year in review” posting, two weeks late and over a month after my last entry. So much for my “commitment” to regular postings. Maybe I need to start getting into writing on the regular before I start getting excited about a podcast. Onto the entry:

Remember when everyone thought the world was supposed to end in 2012? According to so many, last year was never supposed to happen. Thankfully for me, they were wrong, because 2013 turned out to be a great year. My friends made sure of that. They gave me the ability to do more travelling than I ever have, including fulfilling a life goal. On top of that, I was able to attend some outstanding concerts and games along the way.

Through the year I got to go to some Monsters games. One game I was selected to participate in an on-ice event between periods, and met some great people in the Monsters promotions staff. Unfortunately, due to some confusion, I wasn’t able to go on the ice and participate, but their great staff did right and gave me a bag of autographed goodies and tickets to another game, where they did make sure I was able to be in a contest. I ended up winning that contest and won a stereo system for my troubles. The other fun part of that was I used those tickets to take Heather to her first Monsters game.

I also was lucky enough to see my favorite band in concert. Twice, in fact. Love and Theft was originally a trio several years ago, and I missed out on the chance at seeing them perform at the Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown. After the concert, a member left the group and I was sure I’d missed out on any chance to see them. Last year, the two remaining members carried on, releasing a new album and the lead single “Angel Eyes” hit #1 on the country charts. They ended up at Dusty again, and this time I refused to be denied. I ended up in the front row of the concert and had the most amazing night. The opportunity came up later in the year to see them again in Bucyrus and I had to take it. Steph joined me this time and it was another great concert. I was lucky enough to be at another amazing sold out show, Luke Bryan with Florida Georgia Line and another one of my favorite acts: Thompson Square. The show blew me away and was totally worth it.

Finally, I did a fair bit of travelling this year. I got back to Columbus with Patrice, Carrie and Stacey and got to see my first Columbus Clippers game. It was an amazing bottom of the 9th experience that included Lonnie Chisenhall launching a homer completely out of the stadium into the street. The whole weekend with my friends was tons of fun and I can’t wait to visit again.

I also got to travel to Pittsburgh again to see the Pirates, and this time I got to repay my father for all the times he took me when I was growing up. Fathers Day weekend we got to see them play against the Dodgers. For the first time, we made a big day of it. We got to see Point State Park, Mount Washington and the Riverwalk all for the first time. As luck would have it, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

That leads into what a great season it turned into for the Pirates. 20 years of losing finally put in the past. The Pirates won 93 games and laid waste to their streak of futility. There are no words to really describe what it felt like to finally see all those bad memories temporarily erased by watching a playoff game at PNC Park. Now, what to do about that “deal” I made, where I said I’d get a Pirates tattoo if they could just end the streak this season…

Finally, 2013 gave me the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for nearly my entire life. Don invited me to visit he and Molly in Naperville, IL and see the Pirates play against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Ever since I became a baseball fan in 1997, I’ve wanted to see Wrigley. This year, they made it happen. Don gave me a tour of some of the major sights of Chicago, which has always been a place I wanted to see. I got to ride the El, the Metra, walk down Sheffield and Clark streets, see the sculpture at the Daley Center, try real Chicago style pizza, walk under the Red Line and see the trains running by, like straight out of an episode of ER. I already can’t wait to go back, I still feel like there’s so much more to see or so much to see again and really take my time to look around. This trip made my year so amazing, and I still talk about it and have it fresh in my mind like it was yesterday. It wasn’t just a highlight of my year, it was a highlight of my life.

2013 was a fun year. So the best resolution for 2014 is to find a way to make it at least equally amazing.

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The Giving Of Thanks

It’s that time of year again. The time where we all tell everyone what we’re thankful for. Granted, we should be spending each day being thankful, but much like Valentine’s Day, we need a calendar to tell us how to feel. So, to honor the calendar, I will do as instructed. Besides, it sure beats venting and being annoyed as I do most days.

I am thankful for my family. I know, I know, this is the one everyone says and it’s pretty generic. But this has been a rough year for my family. My mother had a heart attack a few months ago, and the memories of sitting in that hospital ward for the better part of a week still seems very vivid to me. It’s been a year of doctors visits and medication research, but I am very thankful she has pulled through that.

On the positive side, I’ve also seen family I hadn’t seen in a long time and gotten to know newer family members as well. I’ve been very lucky in that regard. I’ve seen my cousins Christina, Ashley and Corey again, all have welcomed new babies into our family, I’ve met Cory’s wife Brittney, gotten closer to my uncle Thom and aunt Bobbi and her kids Andy and Emily over these last couple years as well. I’m very happy that I’ve had that chance as all are wonderful.

I am also thankful for the great friends I’ve been blessed with. While I often joke I don’t have a lot of friends, I am happy to say I’ve been given the absolute best friends one could ever ask for. I am guilty of not regularly letting these good friends know how much they mean to me and recognize all they do for me, so again, taking the calendar’s advice, I want to take this opportunity to do so.

Stephanie, you have always been one of my very best friends. You listen to my complaining, which is pretty constant, and always try to help me laugh despite my bad moods. Even though we have gone through periods where we were not “allowed” to be friends, you have always been understanding and remained a loyal friend. Coming out to Lima and going to the MAC Championship game in Detroit with you and Mike was an amazing experience. I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity had it not been for you and I am still greatly appreciative for that.

Heather, I am so happy I met you at Kent. I’m very thankful I’ve gotten to know you better over the last few years. Whenever we get a chance to hang out, I always have so much fun. I’ve always felt comfortable talking to you and trust you, which is very rare for me. You’ve been a loyal friend even when you’ve had no reason to be. It would have been very easy to avoid the drama that used to surround my life, but instead you remained my friend and continue to be a wonderful person to me. I am very thankful we have kept in touch since graduation and I consider you one of the best friends that’s ever been part of my life.

Don, I’m very thankful we’ve reconnected since our days in Telepro. I wouldn’t be the Monsters fan I am today had I not started going to games with you and having such a blast. You’re like a brother to me; I know I can talk to you about anything whenever we’re hanging out. Regardless of how odd I can be, you’re either entertained or understanding, but never judgmental. Coming to Chicago and getting a tour around the city, meeting Molly and seeing Wrigley Field was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and I cannot wait to come back and visit again.

Patrice, I’m thankful we’ve kept in touch and I was able to come visit you, Carrie and Stacey this summer. I had a blast seeing my first Clippers game and chatting with you all. I’m looking forward to visiting again and seeing you all soon. It was a lot of fun and relaxing at the same time.

The oddest thing about writing this kind of an entry is that it’s actually one of the toughest I’ve ever written. Poets and authors find magic ways to use the right words for almost anything, but I just can’t find the words to accurately thank the people in my life or tell them just how much they really mean to me. All I can really do is try to be as good to them as they are to me.

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25 Years A Weather Nerd

Sunday’s events in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio brought out one of the nerdiest sides of myself. Anyone following me on Twitter was treated to a large number of weather-related tweets, as they usually are whenever a bad weather outbreak takes place. This year, I have blown up social media while watching notable events in Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois. As much as I love sports, music, technology and entertainment, weather has always been my first love.

When I was four years old, I picked some of my dad’s books about meteorology off the shelf and started reading through them. In hindsight, that alone should have indicated what a nerd I’d become. The fact that I was picking out textbooks only makes it more obvious. The pictures alone fascinated me. Tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, all of them drew my attention and immediately made these books my favorites. I’d read any book I could find on the subject, and dad even had a contact at the local National Weather Service who gave us copies of their educational movies. I can’t imagine how worn out that old VHS must be after it’s been played so many times. The power and beauty of nature has fascinated me ever since. I still spend days reading on random weather phenomena and read forums of meteorologists discussing potential upcoming storms. 

That’s what makes days like Sunday so difficult. The five year old nerd in me still looks at radars, chaser video and photos and finds wonder in them. The images of the tornadoes that went through Washington and New Minden had me hypnotized. Watching Soldier Field be evacuated due to the storm that went through Washington closing in was absolutely unreal. However, the adult in me looked at the photos of the aftermath. Seeing whole neighborhoods flattened is an absolutely nauseating sight after being so fascinated by what caused it. The same feelings went through me in May, when tornadoes destroyed Moore, Oklahoma, and when the 2+ mile wide beast took the lives of Tim Samaras, Carl Young and Paul Samaras. I want to see the tornadoes, but the destruction left behind is so hard to stomach.

For so long in my life, I have wanted to go on a storm chase. I would love to see their beauty up close and personal, but as I grow up and see what these storms leave behind, I find myself having different motivations for this desire. My new desire would be to report a tornado before it can hit a town. The possibility of warning people and helping them get to safety, potentially saving their lives, would be an amazing accomplishment. For now, if all I can do is flood social media with talk of the storms and inform friends and family about potential hazards, then that will have to do. It felt good that friends contacted me on Sunday as the storms approached Ohio so they could get information on what was coming. To me, that makes the last 25 years of studying all worth it.

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My Number Is…(Things You May Not Know)

Lately it seems the big Facebook fad has been the “My Number Is…” posts, followed by a number of facts that you may or may not know about the poster. Since I’ve had family and close friends all joining in on this, I figured I’d give it a whirl even though I don’t have a specific number to aim for. Especially since…

#1: I love writing and find it extremely therapeutic. In fact, I wish I could be a writer in some capacity. I’ve always had a mild interest in writing, keeping blogs and handwritten journals since I was in middle school. I especially hit my stride shortly after high school, keeping one or two personal blogs on old sites. I discovered that putting my feelings into words really helped my emotional states. I also felt like words had a strong power to convey the deepest thoughts a person could have, and evoke those feelings in others. I’m often upset that I allow many of my blogs to die off, but this is due to…

#2: I have extremely low confidence in many aspects of myself. I’ve been told I have a talent for writing and singing, (although ironically I couldn’t write a song to save my life). In spite of this, I often downplay and disbelieve these claims. I love to sing, yet I’ve never even tried karaoke and usually think my voice sounds terrible. I love to write, yet I consider my writing boring and feel I have nothing interesting to say. 

#3: One of my odd goals is I want to have a story about everyone I spend any decent amount of time with. I want to have a memorable moment with almost everyone I meet. It doesn’t have to be life altering or epic, but at least one funny, emotional or memorable moment. Something I can look back on and laugh or smile about. I’ve got friends who have given me hundreds of stories and some who have an entire story based around one thing they told me.

#4: While most people seem to have confidence with their friends and worry about what random people think of them, I am the opposite. I often have “confidence” in myself around strangers, in a way where I don’t care what they think of me. However, I get extremely nervous when it comes to what my friends think about my decisions. I worry either about judgement or about disappointing them. When I make significant decisions, I often hesitate to talk to friends about it because I worry about these things.

#5: I have a terrible problem with social anxiety. While I’d like to be an open, outgoing kind of person, I have a weird problem with being around people or in public areas. I get nervous being around people, even if it’s one of my best friends. I worry I have nothing interesting to offer to people and often feel judged. Often when I say I’m tired or lazy, it’s a cover for the odd fact that I simply feel anxious about doing things. I want to go to the gym, but I hate feeling like eyes are on me and judging me. I want to have close friends that I spend time with frequently, but I feel nervous about people disliking me or deciding I’m a person unworthy of their time. I tell people quite often I have a “personal space bubble” that I don’t like people getting into because of my nerves around people. In all honesty, if I let you into my space, it’s probably the biggest compliment you can receive from me. It’s a strong sign of trust, and one I have only ever felt with a small handful of people.

Those are five off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s many more things about me many don’t know. Guess if anyone wants to know more, they’ll have to throw some questions my way and maybe it will give me enough material to write another blog sooner instead of later.

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CMA Wrap Up: “Follow Your Arrow”

Wednesday night gave country music a chance to shine. The annual Country Music Association Awards gave many of today’s biggest artists a stage to entertain and be recognized for their contribution to the genre. Like most years, some stars shined brightly while others simply couldn’t get the crowd’s attention. Many have already posted the actual winners and their interpretations, however I’ll still add my two cents. Three, if you’re lucky.

First, when it comes to the performances, there were some amazing acts that certainly inspired me to check them out in concert. Carrie Underwood sang a medley of four of her top hits. Florida Georgia Line gave us a performance of their Single Of The Year winning “Cruise”, as well as their third number one “Round Here”. Jason Aldean was outstanding singing the title track off his album, “Night Train.” But, in my opinion, the star of the night was Luke Bryan. Not for his feud-inciting single “My Kind Of Night,” but for his solemn, emotional performance of his new release “Drink A Beer.” The song serves as a dedication to his brother Chris, who passed in a car accident, and sister Kelly, who died unexpectedly with no cause found. The song ended with Luke toasting a photo of his siblings which appeared on the screen behind him.

Second, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are halfway to Vince Gill’s record for consecutive years hosting the show, and their opening monologue once again showed that they should surpass that record. Their delivery and wit shine throughout the show, and as I watch them every year, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to just sit and hang out with them. They have a great on-screen chemistry and friendship.

I can’t help but take a moment out to mention Kacey Musgraves’ death glare towards Miranda Lambert when Lambert won female vocalist of the year. As someone who feels Miranda’s (and Blake’s) talents are overrated due to her famous marriage, this may be the funniest moment of the year for me. Thank you Kacey. I’ll name this post after you and your wonderful tune. And yes, you (and Carrie) were more deserving.Kacey Musgraves is not amused.

Taylor Swift became the second winner of the Pinnacle Award, an award which had previously only been given to country music legend, Garth Brooks. While Swift has become a musical phenomenon with strong record sales, chart success and tour sellouts, she is still very young and relatively new, compared to Brooks when he won the award. I am currently 29, and I was introduced to Brooks’ music through my parents. I then spent years listening to Garth myself. Garth Brooks spanned generations. Taylor Swift has not even spanned a decade. Personally, I would like to see more longevity before we present an artist like Swift with an honor almost never bestowed before.

The Pinnacle award also brought out a tired argument that is becoming too commonplace in the country music world. That is the overwhelming cry of “(Insert artist’s name here) isn’t country! They don’t deserve to be on country shows or country radio!” Sorry, folks, but the longer you hold on to that argument, the more you begin to sound like musical dinosaurs. Country music, like all music and life in general really, is always evolving. As listeners, we have a choice to either cling to the old style, or adapt and evolve with the music. No one will judge you if you want to stick to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Alan Jackson or some George Strait. There’s nothing wrong with that. When I was growing up, “Top 40” meant bubblegum pop like Britney Spears, now it has evolved into a more hip-hop sound like Nelly and T-Pain. Rock went through 70’s sounds, hair bands, grunge, punk. Country has absorbed some of rock’s guitar driven melodies, pop’s vocals and thrown a little bit of twang into them. The music has evolved. Does it really matter what it’s called? Can’t you just like what you like regardless? Stop using this tired argument as an excuse to not like something or resist change. As a new (hilariously angry) face in “country” music says: “Love who you love. Follow Your Arrow, wherever it points.”

Even if it doesn’t point towards “traditional” country.

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