Monday, December 9, 2013

30 Days to say thanks...

Anyone who has spent anytime on their social media account in the last 30 days knows that we have been thrust headfirst into the holiday season.  November was all about the “Day #X and I am thankful for (fill in the blank)”.  And although I didn’t actively participate in the statuses, I did enjoy reading others’ posts because it was a reminder of everything that I had maybe overlooked , and I should also be thankful about them.  So today, to make up for lost time, I have decided to make a list of the 30 things I should have stated that I was thankful for last month:

30: First Student—yeah, as much as I complain about what my employers expect me to accomplish by myself, I am really thankful for the challenge of managing the safety department of one of the largest school bus terminals in western PA.  There are days when I want to call my bosses and tell them where they can stick their PPDT’s, but the rest of the time, I enjoy seeing the end results of what is currently 6 months of digging out of a blackhole.
Some of the Cast and Crew at the Frankstown Terminal

29: Mason—in late July, we acquired Amber’s black lab from a previous relationship. Make no bones about it, I love English Springer Spaniels, but a lab would be tied with a golden retriever as my second choice. He came to us as a relatively well trained 4 year, so there was only minimal learning curve with him adjusting to our schedule and us having to adjust to his. While the sound of his nails scratching on the floor at 4AM as he paces back and forth waiting for me to get up can drive me CRAZY on the weekend, I was very thankful on Thursday when my phone wasn’t plugged in and it died during the night. I still made it to work on time thanks to my little buddy.
This is just about as far from me as Mason ever likes to get

28: Swiftwick Socks—OK, so they are a sponsor and it might appear to be a complete suck up, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing Pursuit 7’s on a cold ride, you’ll know what I am talking about. Simply put, they are the only sock I have ever looked forward to putting on in the morning. And given the natural odor absosrbing propertiesof Merino wool , I will frequently wear them to work several days in a row before washing with no ill effects. Icky… maybe, but worth the ribbing it, at least until I build up my inventory to match the 30 pairs of underware I own to make the trip laundr-o-mat a monthly chore.

27: Gabriel Brother’s—how else do you think I can afford enough undeware to go a month between doing laundry!

26: Travel Trac Flud Trainer—this is a love/hate relationship here. I don’t know anyone that likes riding the trainer, especially me. But given the hours I work, without it, I wouldn’t be able to train until spring and the daylight hours increase, so I am thankful for it, even if I hate it.

25: Adidas Kanadia TR4’s—I haven’t done much running in the last year because I hurt my knee, but I still am thankful for these trail running shoes. In 3 years, it is the only sneaker I’ve had on my foot.  Too bad it has been replaced with the TR5 which just doesn’t seem as comfortable to me as their successor.  I can still find online a pair or two in my size so I haven’t had to make the transition just yet.
and they all look the same under the bed when it is dark... careful that you double check BEFORE you leave for work

24: EBay—see above.

23: LL Bean—Over the last 40 years, every trip to the coast of Maine has included a trip to the Gold Star Standard in customer service. Since I prefer to travel at night, my ETA to my parent’s cottage to is usually around 5 to 6AM. I know I would be welcomed with open arms at any hour, but it’s the one time that I try defer to the side of decency and try to time my arrival in Temple Heights, until the ‘rents are alive and awake. And since Bean’s is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (they don’t even have locks on the doors of the main store), I use it as my last stop and time delay before my final 2 hour push up the coast.  Since my grandfather took me there for the first time when I was just a tyke, It’s my favorite store to visit (at least the original store in Freeport, Maine) and walk around and ogle all the awesome outdoor sporting equipment. And I do mean visit. Every year, I go in with the intention of buying my big Maine “souvenir”, but inevitably seem to always talk myself out of it.  And then I kick myself all the way back to Southwestern PA, just to  start talking myself into a purchase next year.
This is the real souvenir I want from my trips to Maine... Great memories with friends and family.

22: Progresso Light soup—140-200 calories a can and on sale, they can be had for about $1.50 or less. Can’t beat if for affordable calorie conscientious meals that you can keep on hand for those days when you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have the time to do it properly.
Stocking up for the P-90 Petsko diet I will be on starting January 1st!

21: My new bed— Finally upgraded to a new overstuffed queen size pillow top mattress set. It’s amazing how well I can sleep when you have the right bed under me.

20: Asparagus—after years of thinking I hated it, I was forced to try it at the American Cycling Association’s award banquet because of the 90/10 diet I was on. I was shocked just how much I loved it. It made me rethink my eating habits and now I discovered that foods I once deemed inedible are now actually quite tasty. Mussels, brussel sprouts, and hummus are a few foods I am thankful that I have introduced to my diet after waving them off a long time ago as unpalatable.

19: Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association—yeah, might seem like another shameless plug, but I sure do appreciate all of the racing opportunities it provides me, right in my back yard. Sure beats driving 4 hours into metropolitan DC or Baltimore every weekend. Thanks JR and Gina for doing what you do for us. I love ABRA.

18: Pittsburgh Penguins—yes I love hockey and the Pens are my favorite team. But I am thankful to get to watch them, especially when it comes to riding the trainer. I use their games to 1) take my mind off the drudgery of logging miles and 2) use the game for random training efforts. Some games I just get out of the saddle during commercials and raise the tempo. Others I do 30 second sprints for every penguin goal and 60 seconds of one leg drills for when the opposition scores. I am thankful to have them to break the monotony of just “spinning my wheels”

17: Jeff Holloway—I first met Jeff a few years ago when I came to work for First Student. He was one of three trainers at one of my terminals. At first things were just a little shaky and I didn’t know how to read him.  I was the new guy and approached the safety department from a different background than the previous safety managers and I don’t think he really knew how to take me.  But we worked together and over the following 4+ years, I have come to depend on him as my go to trainer. In June, I was transferred out of his terminal but I still call on him when I am in need and he always comes through. This year, I even talked him into buying a new road bike and talked him into racing. The few trips that Amber wasn’t able to make it to, he was along for the ride and kept me company.

16: Dean Cochran, Lynn Kizina, and Teresa Cole—Dean is a safety manager in Dry Tavern, Lynn and T are both my bosses, but the three of them have been instrumental in me keeping my sanity the last 6 months. Whenever I start feeling the pressure or the desire to pack it in and look for greener pastures, somehow they sense it and either randomly show up to assist or call me and offer words of encouragement. Their ability to get me grounded when I am ready to fly off the handle is unprecedented and appreciated.
Me, Teresa Cole, and Lynn Kizina in Savannah Georgia. This is not what I meant by keeping me sane though!

15: Local Bike Shops—one of the things I like to do when I have time off is go and visit random bike shops. While there is nothing quite like visiting “YOUR” shop, I really enjoy visiting other shops across the country. And for the most part, it’s the same experience everywhere I go… the bike brands may be different, the store size and layout may differ, and the names and ages of the staff may not be the same, but seemingly all bike shops are cut from the same cloth. I think it is because, in order to be successful, they recognize the importance of customer relations and customer support. Without those two things, they won’t be in the bike business for very long. I only wish that I lived closer to Morgantown so that I could visit Pathfider of WV (my local bike shop of choice) more often.

14: On Demand—I set my alarm to get up between 445 and 500AM most days during the week. As a result, as soon as I get Mack to go to bed (usually 830ish) I usually make a quick sweep of the apartment and make a beeline to #21. Most of the good TV programs come on after I am out for the night or while I am busy getting her ready for bed, so it’s so nice to be able to watch the programs I want without having to remember to record the programs.  Currently I love watching Gold Rush, Alaska State Troopers, Mountain Men, and of course Big Bang Theory.

13: Joe Cook and Bob Faddis—one might expect to find these names on my dad’s list of things he is thankful for, since they are two of his good friends.  But the truth is, they both had a big influence on me growing up.  It’s always a pleasure to get to spend time with them and I look forward to Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s, when I know they will both be under the same roof at the same time.

12: Hot Baths—yeah, yeah, yeah… say what you want, but there is nothing better than a soak in a hot bath after a hard effort. For a brief time, I had a hot tub and at my first opportunity, I will likely own another one.  Until then though, I am thankful for having an apartment with a large enough bathroom to sport a bathtub.

11: Time Trials—I’ve only ever done a few time trials, but I think I am going to take a serious look at participating in more next season.  My body style lends itself to doing well in them and I think if I actually focus on them, it might pay big dividends for me.  This year I had 2 wins in 2 attempts despite not being in the best shape.
Coming home in third place in the Eastern Ohio TT two man team when I was unexpectedly asked to help this girl because her teammate had a mechanical in the individual event.

10: Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team powered by Pathfinder—anytime you put 15 random people together, you are bound to have heated exchanges… but not so with the folks on our team. Some of the best parts of the season are under the tent prior to or after the races. We get along so well and I know that we are all pulling for each other, no matter what the circumstances are.Simply put, they are some of the best people in the sport and a complete blast to be around.
Most of the members of the Best Team in all of Cycling

9: Billy Slutz—I’ve had some good friends over the years but none better than Billy. He and I were both rookies on the Dynamic Physical Therapy powered by Pathfinder Cycling Team at the same time and just kind of clicked (or should I say cliqued). Our sense of humor is very similar and can quite honestly, make even JR blush, when we let him in on what we are laughing about.
One of the many "selfies" Billy sends my way

8: JR Petsko— I have previously included ABRA on my list of things to be thankful for and everyone knows JR is ABRA. But I include JR separately because he has been very helpful to me away from the racing as well.  Some of my most memorable rides (not races) have been with JR leading the way. As much as I love the sport, my passion for it doesn’t even come close to matching his passion for the sport. Anyone who is fortunate enough to call him a friend is better off for it. Oh, he introduced me to Honeycrisp Apples as well.

 7: Mackenzie—biologically I am not her father, but in my heart she’s my first priority. I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with her because she can brighten my day just with one of her stupid little looks she gives.  I wish all people had her sunny personality. Life couldn’t be any sweeter if they did.
Mack in her Halloween Crosstume

6: Amber—if nothing else she is loyal to a fault. Other than maybe Gina, I don’t think I have seen any other spouse spectating at more ABRA events than her. And, she is the sole reason that #7 is in my life.
probably in trouble for post this picture but I can't find the one I really like from this night

5a: Grandfathers—while they have both passed on to better places, I am very thankful for the time I go to spend with them.  My grandfathers were directly responsible for my interest in my two favorite sports. Grampy Milliken (mom’s side) loved hockey, and while he loved the Bruins and I loved the Pens, we found common ground in hating the “Gahdamned Canadiens”.  Grampy Gernert (dad’s side)rode and repaired bicycles well into his 80’s and supplied me with each of my bikes while I was growing up.
I was born the night this Stanley Cup was won. Pictured here is Grammy and Grampy Milliken.

5b: Grandmothers—I know everyone THINKS their grandmothers were the best cooks ever, I am fortunate enough to KNOW  that mine, were in fact, the two best cooks ever. I miss Grammy Milliken’s Seafood Chowder and Grammy Milliken’s no peek chicken. I am very thankful for every meal I ever got to eat at their tables and for helping to instill my love of cooking as well.
Chicken noodle for a Cyclist's Soul

4: Sisters: Amy and Heidi—while I have walked down a slightly different path than they have over the last few years familywise, I still love them and enjoy getting to share the occasions that we do get to spend together. Their kids are all active in a variety of sports that have them traveling all over the East Coast and into Canada, so time together has been reduced, but we will always be close… at least I hope so.

3: Nieces and Nephews—3 of each… Abbey, Eliza and Patrick (Amy’s) and Nathan, Caleb and Madison (Heidi’s).  I love watching them grow up and become the people that they are. Abbey is the oldest and a freshman on the swim team at Shippensburg U, Eliza a Junior on the Indiana Area HS swim team, and Patrick a center on the ’99 Pens Elite hockey team. Nathan is a Freshman on the Waynesburg Central HS soccer team, Caleb is also a soccer and wrestling standout as a 6th grader at MBM, and young Maddie wil be starting school next year. I am proud of each and every single one of them and can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.

2: Brady—While he left this earth just under a year ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my best friend.  He was with me and kept me sane through some very dark periods of my life, losing my job, breakups, a divorce, financial turmoil, you name it. Without him being by my side, there is no telling where I could have ended up, but I can tell you that I would have been in a much darker place mentally without him. Miss you little buddy but I am so thankful for the time we walked side by side.

1: Mom and Dad—I can only hope that everyone has a set of parents that love and care about them the way mine do for me.  Through all the highs and lows in life, my parents have been there to either help pick me up or to remind me to stay true to my roots. Thanks for everything you have ever done for me and will do for me in the future.  Love you!

I am sure that I have missed plenty of things that I am thankful for and I know that on any given day the order of these can and do change.  If you made it this far, I also am thankful for you. You’re the reason I blog and the reason I put as much effort into it as I do. Thanks for reading and stop back soon!