a day.

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This is the only photo I took during the day today. (And Mrs. Crappy won’t be happy to see this one.)

It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities. On the surface, this was an amazing day, mostly because Mrs. Crappy had a rare Sunday off and I was able to spend the entire day with her: outdoor yoga, outdoor lunch, pool time and a party on the Mon Wharf with friends, cold beer and a few of our favorite food trucks.

But life is rarely that simple, right?

I know I’m not the only person who got really angry yesterday as I took in everything that happened in Virginia (I’m confident that I’m not betraying any standards of journalism ethics when I say I find white supremacists of any variety abhorrent). And although Mrs. Crappy and I had a terrific night by a backyard campfire last night, I woke up under the same dark clouds I allowed to build the day before.

And when I let those clouds to gather, they tend to hang around. I can’t say my shitty mood this morning was responsible for everything that happened today, but I think it’s probably tough to separate all of these things from the negative energy I was oozing this morning:

  • Charlie knocking over a giant cup of cold brew coffee — full of sticky half and half — on the living room floor.
  • Noticing a mouse that seemed to be in distress lying in our driveway.
  • Noticing that the mouse had died in the same spot by the time we returned.
  • Sort of losing my wallet as we tried to depart for the pool.
  • Mrs. Crappy getting stung on the toe by a bee as we walked back to our umbrella after our first dip in the pool.

Was any of this a direct consequence of my shitty mood this morning? No. But:

Ashley, one of my two favorite yoga teachers, has been touching on the four yamas in the last month; they’re at the start of Patanjali’s eight limbs of the broader Yoga, and they serve as a guide for ethical conduct for those following the yogic path. The fourth yama is Brahmacharya, literally, behavior that leads to Brahman, or the highest divinity. Patanjali’s definition of Brahmacharya is pretty narrow and pretty specific to his time: Celibacy.

Yes, that’s since been reinterpreted. Ashley has talked about tailoring our actions towards the divine — definitely a goal worth pursuing. But an interpretation that is perhaps more accessible is this: The right use of energy.

And wow, that goes a long way towards explaining how today unfolded. I am a news guy; I was that way before I chose this as a profession. I’ll never be able to step away completely from what I see, read and cover — it’s part of who I am, and it always will be. And this weekend was tough. I’m a veteran and I think I’m pretty patriotic … and seeing this garbage happen in my country is deeply offensive, to the point where it feels like a physical wound.

But here’s the thing: it feels that way because I let it feel that way. When something like this happens — and, I’m afraid, it’s going to happen a lot in the next couple years — I’m always going to feel the way I felt this weekend, at least initially. After that impulse, though, I can control my reaction … and I didn’t do that today.

Not at first, anyway. When Kelly got stung, she shouted — and that sort of snapped me out of all of the other crap that had been cluttering my brain all day. We got her some ice (thanks to the kids at the Avonworth pool for their help) and pretty quickly she felt better enough to take a nap in the warm, late afternoon sun.

I knew later that my mental clouds had passed, when I realized that I had to walk back to my car to grab my regular glasses that I forgot to bring to the wharf party. If I’m in a bad mood, that’s the kind of dumb little thing that can spoil a day for me; this afternoon, it did not. I recognized that I was in a cool space, among friends, and the walk back to the parking garage was insignificant.

I need to find that more, because that’s the right use of energy.

I’m now at home. I’ve had a stunning bottle of beer.

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I’ve hung out a bit with my cat.

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And, thankfully, I didn’t let at shitty start to the day — and all of the weirdness that followed — get in the way of a great Sunday.

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old bike. old guy.

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My giant purple butt.

When I finished up with my Army-sponsored field trip of Bavaria and was getting ready to return to Athens, I got myself a present: a new mountain bike for riding between my apartment at West State and Shaffer and OU’s campus.

I’ve never done much actual mountain biking, but my 26-year-old purple Giant Butte (known at my local bike shop at the Giant Purple Butt) continues to be reliable. It’s mostly for recreation these days, but I appreciate the fact that the creaky old guy and his creaky old bike still have many miles left.

Both of us creaky oldsters are riding on Sunday, but not strictly for pleasure. We’re participating in the 16-mile portion of the Tour De Cure Pittsburgh, a ride to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. The ride takes place outside of Butler, on the hilly roads between the Big Butler Fairgrounds and Lake Arthur Country Club.

You guys know already that I have type 2 diabetes; that’s not really why I’m A) riding or B) asking you for a donation. I’m riding because this year is different. None of us has any idea what health insurance policy will look like by the end of this year, but there’s an excellent chance that me and my fellow diabetics could be facing the restoration of coverage limits, of premiums that jump because of our preexisting condition … or maybe being denied coverage altogether. And the potential scope of the problem — 30 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic — is horrifying.

What’s the solution? A better option than waiting on the 2018 midterm elections is to find better treatment options right now. To better educate people about the disease, its causes and how the risk can be mitigated right now. To find a cure … right now.

I don’t want to leave these problems in the hands of people to whom they are abstract policy bullet points. So I’m asking you to donate — right now. Click here to get to my donor page; you’ll need just a couple minutes and a couple bucks to help solve this problem for ourselves.

And me and my creaky, old Giant Purple Butt will be honored to ride on Sunday on your behalf. Thanks.

take the ride.

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You guys will recall that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two summers ago.

You may also recall that I wasn’t especially happy about it.

Since then, it’s been kind of a struggle. I did really well early on, but recently I’ve been a bit lazy, especially about running … even though it was a big reason why my A1C dropped a bunch from my initial test to my second one.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered a new motivation for getting back to the things I was doing well in the first year after my diagnosis. And that motivation is coming from Congress.

Yes. Really. Let me explain.

I am fortunate. I have pretty good health insurance. The deductibles are higher than I would like, but overall, the coverage has been excellent, particularly for someone with a chronic condition like mine. Prescription coverage in particular has been helpful. I pick up a mess of pills, insulin, needles and other fun stuff every month; if not for my insurance, I would have quickly gone broke trying to keep up.

This isn’t the case for everyone. My coverage is a luxury, and those who have a more bare bones insurance policy might struggle to keep up. And depending on what happens in Washington this summer, that problem might become even bigger. If health insurance “reform” is adopted in its current form, 22 million people who are currently covered would lose their insurance. And if any of those folks are paying for the same Lantus, the same Metformin, the same Farxiga and the same testing supplies I’m paying for, they’re going to be in trouble.

Potentially, it gets worse. The House version of the bill would end requirements that those with preexisting conditions must be covered without penalty. That means an insurance company could, for example, double or triple my premiums because I have diabetes; it also means they could just flat out drop me.

And that’s just me. The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are nearly 30 million people — adults and kids — in this country who have diabetes. Another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic. If a good share of those people see their premiums skyrocket — or if they lose their coverage altogether — we’ll have a full-blown crisis on our hands.

Obviously, there is a political discussion to be had here, but I’m more concerned with what I can do now, outside of whatever happens with the various health-care bills in Washington. And what I can do now is raise a little money. I can contribute to efforts that will educate people about what diabetes is and how it can be prevented. I can help ensure that treatment methods are effective and efficient.

And I can help fund research that eventually will find a cure.

On July 23, I’m going on a bike ride with Tour de Cure Pittsburgh, on a course just a bit north of Butler. I’m taking the short ride, the 15-miler, mostly because I used to live there and I know exactly how hilly that part of Butler County is:

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Check out the elevation graph. Ouch.
Not a super long ride. But trust me, I’ll earn whatever money you decide to throw my way.

See how I snuck that pitch in there? Heh.

I need your help. I have to raise $200 to be able to participate in the ride. I think I can do that without much trouble, but I’d really like to double that total. And do it before July 23, which is not quite a month away. And if you have a few dollars to spare — and a minute or so as well — you can help me reach that goal by visiting here.

Remember — this isn’t for me. I’m doing OK. This is to make sure that the millions of people who have diabetes have the access to treatments they need. It’s to help others understand what they can do to avoid getting it in the first place. And, at some point soon, it will be to develop a way to fix it once and for all.

Again, please click here to donate. And thank you. <3

Hoops ain’t happening.

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It would start sometime around now.

This week would normally be when the first posts about my annual college hoops contest — this year would have been the Twelfth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) — would start showing up on the blog.

For several years now, that last part — the BTYBB part — has become pretty important to the annual shindig. The support of Chris Dilla, the owner of Bocktown, has make the AUCNFFC pools a lot more fun for me … and, I’m sure, for you guys too.

Bocktown closed earlier this year. I’m still bummed about it. And that, combined with an insanely busy schedule this spring, means I’m going to skip doing the pool this year.

My intention is to bring this back after a one-year break … but no promises, boys and girls. We’ll see how things are going next March.

The other thing I need to take care of: the winners of the past two AUCNFFCs. To last year’s winner, AJ: I’ll give you a $50 gift certificate to the bar/restaurant of your choice. Or I will buy $50 worth of wings and beer and Mrs. Crappy and I will show up for dinner at your place. You pick.

And as you may recall, Kewyson, our 2015 winner, graciously donated his $50 winnings to be shared communally by whatever AUCNFFC participants could make a date of our choosing. I’m going to make good on that promise on Thursday, March 23. If you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, come to Piper’s Pub that evening and I’ll buy the beers until my $50 tab runs out.

I hope to see you there. And I hope to see you back here for TwAUCNFFC (Brought To You By Something Else) next spring.

another lifetime ago.

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I thought I had already said goodbye to Derrick.

When I found out last week that he had died, I realized I was wrong. And this was harder than I thought it would be.

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I hadn’t seen Derrick since … my wedding, maybe, almost 17 years ago? I have a more definite memory of my last contact with him, although I don’t recall the date. It was a message on AOL, and he asked about a mutual friend; immediately after I answered, he was gone. After a couple more attempts to get him to respond — and a few more passing weeks — I understood that I wouldn’t hear from him again.

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I was mostly OK with that. That Derrick wasn’t the Derrick I worked with at The Post, or the one who had been one of my best friends when I returned to Athens. I was largely insulated from that Derrick, although I know that wasn’t the case for everyone.

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And in that respect, I’m lucky: the memories I have of the real Derrick — the one I knew in Athens, the one in these pics — I get to keep for the rest of my life. I remember meeting him, in R.J.’s office, not long after I returned to school following my Army-sponsored field trip to Germany; I think we were both a bit dubious of each other, but it was quickly clear to me that Derrick, who was editor of The Post that year, was the real deal: smart, talented and driven. I figured out something else a little later on: Derrick’s prickly exterior wasn’t as prickly as it appeared to be. If you were willing to weather a bit of abuse — and maybe give a little back — you were in.

derrick me tight

And I was. For the three years I was in Athens following my return from the Army, Derrick was one of the best friends I had. And like everyone else, I learned a lot from him too, even though I was the old guy coming back to Athens and The Post when I finished with the Army. He was so smart about journalism and about running a staff of kids who were just figuring out how to make a newspaper work. He could be intimidating — even to me, a little bit — but without fail, he’d stop and help anyone on staff figure out a writing question, a difficult source, a bit of political juggling. He wanted to be better, and he wanted that for everyone who worked for him.

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We are the sum of our experiences and the people we share them with. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had that time with Derrick. I owe him. For all the time at The Post. For all the pitchers of Lowenbrau Dark at The Union. In the pink house. Above Campus Sundry. All over Court Street. For Ren and Stimpy:

For Ween:

And for that goddamned awful song he insisted we play at every single staff party so we could pogo around someone’s living room (and if anyone remembers what song that was, let me know?).

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This is the Derrick I knew. This is the Derrick I’ll remember when we attend his memorial service in Mentor-On-The-Lake this afternoon.

This time it’s for real. Goodbye, my friend.

yogaversary.

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Two years ago Sunday, I walked down the hill in Grandview Park on Mount Washington, accompanied by some pretty significant misgivings, for my first yoga class. In spite of my nerves, that morning was close to perfect: sunny and warm, but not at all uncomfortable.

Two years later — on Sunday morning — I walked down same hill under a stack of gray, drizzling clouds, and headed for the bandstand, which would shelter us from the rain that was starting to strengthen. And feeling none of the apprehension I had in 2014.

***

I’ve written before about what I felt before that first class, and how it translated to a mental block I had constructed for myself over the last year. I wrapped up the workshop weekend feeling confident that I was going to work through that block — the one about doing shoulder stand — but at that point, I hadn’t done it yet.

Here’s what happened since: I did it. With a lot of help.

One of my teachers, Holly, definitely read the part of the wrap-up post where I said I needed to have a stronger core; in the very next class I had with her, she hammered us with core work — and then stood over my mat while explaining that that’s probably what I should expect when I wrote about needed more core work. I’m almost positive that I could hear her smirking while she spoke … but I don’t know for sure because I had too much sweat dripping in my eyes.

Starting the Saturday after Chrissy Carter was in town, my other teacher, Ashley, started a three-week series of classes built to prep her Saturday Morning Yoga Party students for … wait for it … shoulder stand.

The coincidence is incredible, right?

This involved a more core work, plus extra time opening shoulders so we’d have a strong platform to build from. On the second Saturday, Ashley hauled out the chairs — backless versions of the basic metal folding chairs we all know — for prep work for the Week Three climax. Part of this was using the chairs to help us into halasana, a pretty common jumping-off point for shoulder stand.

chrissy chairAnd that’s when it changed. Ashley was sitting right next to me, ready to help swing my legs all the way over my head; as I started, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this” … as I tucked my legs into my chest and then straightened them out to the seat of the chair behind my head.

I could have done shoulder stand right then, but I was so surprised at myself and the strength I didn’t know I had that I sort of forgot what I was doing.

But I didn’t forget the following Saturday.  when Ashley brought out the chairs again, I did what Chrissy demonstrated in her workshop. I even felt like I could have held it for a while.

The fear was gone, replaced by the strength I needed to really do the pose for the first time. Another thing had vanished, as well: the voice in my head that tries to convince me that I can’t do the thing I’m trying to do. There were two best parts about this process of the last month: the first is being able to set aside that voice — even if only for a little while — and doing what I wanted to do.

The other best part? If you guessed it was getting shoulder stand, you’re incorrect. The other best part is that my two teachers took it upon themselves to help me get there. I’ve mentioned this before: this is my yoga family. For some reason, the universe took me up to Mount Washington for that first outdoor class two years ago. It also took me up that long flight of stairs to BYS the following August. That’s where I was supposed to be; these are the people — all the teachers and all the people I practice with — I am supposed to accompany as we all walk this path together.

This is home.

***

After we wrapped up Sunday’s class under the bandstand, I told Ashley and Kristi that I wanted a picture with the two of them, to commemorate my second anniversary.

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As is often the case with these people, I got more; I wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary. As the director at BYS, Kristi was one of the first to offer outdoor classes in Pittsburgh, now a pretty common thing here through the summer. Ashley walked into her first class at BYS ten years ago this week. And Ashley’s mom, Dee, started with an outdoor class a few years before I did.

So I got a photo with four yogis, and four anniversaries. And I got a final bit of wisdom from Kristi:

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Always take the jumping pic. Always. See?

Happy anniversary, yoga family. And thank you, so much.