Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye to My Fraternity Brother

A couple weeks ago, the weekend of Mother's Day, I had to attend the funeral of a beloved fraternity brother from the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Tim Reeves. I received an email from my other fraternity brother Kent, who informed me that Tim had passed from cancer that Tuesday and services would be held the following Saturday morning.


Best friends Tim and John H.
Tim was 46, very private about his medical issue and had kept the gravity of the situation, for the most part, secret. Needless to say the email came as a shock. I had no hesitation when I emailed Kent back that I was rearranging my schedule so that I could make it. There was no question about it. I needed to attend and support Tim's family and my fraternity brothers who were close to him.

I had met Tim when I went to Rutgers University. By the time I became a brother, he was no longer at Rutgers but still remained a brother for life coming to our events whenever he could. His best friend was my other fraternity brother, John Hammell. John and Tim attended high school together and following that, college. Their friendship and bond remained as strong and close as ever until Tim's untimely passing.


John gave one of the eulogies recounting how genuine Tim always was.He entertained us with stories of Tim's love of golf.  Tim was always so positive, uplifting, ready to crack a joke, and ready to help anyone in need. It was just such a fitting tribute. Tim was a big guy and when I first met him at a Phi Psi football tailgate, he gave me a big bear hug which I think cracked three or four vertebrae. LOL. That was Tim: he greeted you with a big smile, then the fraternity handshake, and then a big bear hug. And he always meant the hug. Such a great guy.


Kerry and I acting crazy in the late 80s!
I became good friends with his sister, Kerry who was two years younger than me. As they say, we just clicked. Although she went to West Deptford HS, we had a bunch of mutual friends in my high school too. Unfortunately as life happens, we grew apart. But I knew in my heart that I wanted to attend the funeral, not only for Tim, but also for Kerry.

Tim's Mom spoke briefly at the funeral. I was holding it together until she stated how upset she was that she would not be receiving a Mother's Day card that year from her son. I broke down into tears as did most of us by that point. For me, it brought back memories of how close I was with my deceased mother with that mother - child connection.  Tim's wife also spoke, thanking everyone for attending. The pain and sadness was so evident and overwhelming.  Tim leaves behind two incredible children, Caitlin and Collin, who were so brave at the funeral.

Tim and Kerry
Kerry gave the last eulogy. She spoke wonderfully and spoke of fun times with Tim, their constant jokes and teasing of each other as brothers and sisters do. She also showed me the side of Tim that I never knew:  the family man, the son, the brother and the father. And what you saw with Tim was what you got. So real, honest, and genuine whether it was with his family, his friends, or his fraternity brothers. Such a rarity these days.

Kerry concluded her eulogy with shots passed around of Tim's favorite Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey. There must have been at least 50 shots passed out. I stood with my fraternity brothers. At Kerry's direction, we all toasted to Tim and took the shot. Upon leaving, we also received golf tees in remembrance of his love for the sport! It was a truly fitting send off.

Brothers Tim, Dave B., and myself


I looked around at these guys, my fraternity brothers, and marveled at how we all came here for Tim and to support Tim's family. There were those brothers that couldn't attend but had wanted to. We understood that. These guys are the same guys that have met up for the last 25 years at McSorley's Old Ale House in NYC for our annual reunion in November. Tim unfortunately couldn't make it this last year.

I love these guys like family. I want you to know that I went to the funeral also for them. I wanted and needed to support their loss of their close friend. I did not know Tim as well as my brothers did but of course he was still my "brother". I was closer at the time to his little sister Kerry.

My brothers were the ones that went to school with him, pledged with him, and golfed with him. I came along after but Tim being the great guy that he was, treated me as if I were always part of that original group. That was Tim. That meant the world to me and I will never forget that.




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Don't Touch the Emergency Brake!

Chevy Chevette Interior (photo from Galleryhip.com)
I was driving my normal commute this morning and like every morning, I let my mind wander. Just looking over the pastures racing by, the Blue Mountain in the distance running parallel to the highway, a turkey vulture flying overhead, I glanced at my speedometer and then down at my emergency brake. A memory flashed into my mind and I laughed out loud.

Back when I was five years old, I was riding with my Dad in our Chevy Chevette. I mentioned that car before, it's the one my big brother Adam crashed up whilst in college. LOL sorry Adam. :)

Being that it was the 70's, I was riding up front (with my seat belt on) and not in the back in a child seat. Luckily, Dad and Mom were big on wearing the seat belt in the front but not in the back seat those days. We were speeding along one of the local highways, I think it was actually Route 130 in South Jersey. It's crazy how some memories are so vivid.

I was looking around the car and focused on the long black handle in the middle of the front seats. This, I would later come to learn, was the emergency brake. I thought to myself, just ever so briefly, "What does this do?  Hmmm."

In a split second, my childhood instinct and naivete' took over. I grabbed the lever, pressed the button, and pulled it up fast and hard before Dad even noticed. Dad screamed "What the!!" as the car swerved all over the lane before coming to a screeching grinding halt in the middle of the road. Thank God traffic was able to avoid us.

"What were you thinking!? Why did you pull the emergency brake!?" he exclaimed.
"I don't know," I whimpered on the verge of tears. "Because it was there?"

Dad pulled the Chevette over to the side of the road visibly exasperated. After a minute he calmed down and explained to me why a passenger in a car never pulls up the emergency brake while the car is moving. I said OK, I'm sorry, and we eventually continued on our way.

BUT ... I looked over at that emergency brake and I was sooo tempted to pull the brake up again as soon as the car started!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Outgrowing People Around You is OK

I picked up this picture on Facebook the other day and just really connected with its message.  I had recently moved on from some people in my community. It felt good to move on and this message really solidified what I had felt. Outgrowing people around you is not only OK, but it's normal and healthy. You can't stay friends with everybody,for if you do, you don't grow, you end up stagnating.

For years, I had tried to remain "Switzerland" and be FRIENDS with everyone. You know the basic history of Switzerland, remain peaceful and neutral. As history has shown us, sometimes it just isn't possible. You still get "overrun" and sometimes invaded. Or like Switzerland in WWII, you maintain armed neutrality and yet still are forced to make economic concessions to Germany. OK, that's enough history lesson for now. :-) 

I tried to remain neutral. I wanted battling friends to figure things out for themselves but it didn't work out that way. I ended up hurting people I didn't mean to and for that, I am sorry. But I realized something along with way: nothing says in life you have to remain friends with everyone. You can move on, be fluid. Some people you get closer to, others become acquaintances. And there is nothing wrong with that!

Now I have a lot of contacts on my social media accounts. I have so many contacts it sometimes takes me awhile to remember how I know some of them. Friends of friends of friends. LOL. This is not a bad thing for me because I use my accounts to network for my blog. I know I am not friends with all of these people. I am acquaintances and or contacts with most of them. Friends with many of them. Good friends with a some of them. Dear friends with a good good handful and then best friends with just a few. 

Unfortunately, I also have been burnt by having too many contacts online. Some of the people I thought were good friends turned out to be less than that. You outgrow them and move on. It's not such a bad thing. The friendship has run its course. Others, you realize, can only be privy to certain aspects of your life and you segue them off social media. It is not meant as a slight and you still may get along so well with them in social situations, BUT be forewarned, it still can be an awkward situation for a while. Often times, you will reconnect with those people and "friend" them again anyway.

I sometimes get friend-requested by people in my immediate community. I tend now not to accept these friendships as I've realized that my close knit community can be sometimes a little too close for comfort. It's nothing personal but as you can imagine, people do often take it that way. 

Now this idea of "outgrowing friends" not only happens on social media but also ...  shockingly ... in real life! You have friends that you grew up with, friends in college, and friends in your twenties that you thought you'd be friends with your entire life! But time marches on and you find you have less in common with them that you used to. It's a tough thing to realize and come to grips with.

Often feelings are hurt, even if you don't mean for them to be. It takes maturity and wisdom to recognize that it's time to move on. And more often than not, no one really is in the wrong. It just is the right thing to do. I'd say it gets easier as you get older, but it really doesn't. Awkward social situations are by their very nature, awkward.

Lastly, I want to just say that social media is truly a great thing in connecting the world and reconnecting with dear old friends but too many people get hung up on the word "friend" and the concept of an online "friendship." I wish that term would just go away. It is sooo misleading. Acquaintance is kind of cold. I like the word contact. Perhaps ally, or just associate. Maybe the Australians have it good by just calling each other "mate."  I personally like chum as long as we are not talking fish chum. If so, then I guess you really weren't my friend anyway. :-)


Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting in Shape: the Attitude Change!

BLOGGERS NOTE: Below are some things I have done to be healthier and get into shape. I am by no means an expert so always consult with a doctor before starting a workout regiment.

After some soul searching these last couple months, I finally got fed up with my weight and shape. For the last couple years, I had been losing weight, gaining it back, losing weight and gaining it back. Every season I would "plan" an event so I could work towards dropping a quick 10 pounds and feel good about myself. And the week after the event, I quickly began to gain it back.

I needed a mental attitude change, something not superficial like an upcoming reunion but more meaningful and long term. I did some hard thinking about my life and health and decided that I needed to just be healthier overall. My stamina was zapped and energy levels were at an all time low. I also noticed I wasn't waking up as easily as I thought I should. I was always tired and drained.

I began to develop some goals where I wasn't going nuts on working out (at first), just 15-30 minutes to get my heart pumping and blood flowing. I figured I would slowly start increasing the work out time to a steady 30 minutes but then found I was pushing myself to 45 and then 60 minutes or more.

And then there was the diet. Everyone who knows me, knows I like my drink! :)  I especially LOVE my wine and my craft beers. What to do, what to do!? Well, instead of the 2-3 drinks each evening I was enjoying, I dropped it to one for a couple weeks and now once every couple days.

I also gave up most chemical sweeteners. I will allow myself sugar for my coffee but that's about it. I gave up white bread and white rice. I now go for multigrain breads or brown rice. Pasta has been more difficult. I have moved onto whole grain or wheat varieties. I try and keep my pasta intake to once a week.

Salads and fruits are a must. Besides just being healthy, they help fill you up with minimal calories. It was difficult to incorporate them back into each meal but I have succeeded in having items always available for snacks or preparing a salad the night before for lunch.

I have stopped drinking sodas but still like the occasional diet ginger ale or Diet Coke. Water has become a staple again. Those little liquid flavor enhancers like Mio are really great too in adding flavor. I try and drink alot of water each day. Here is a link to a really good article on WebMD on the benefits of drinking water: http://www.webmd.com/diet/6-reasons-to-drink-water .

As an adult, I have never been a big sweet eater so luckily I have never had stashes of hidden cookies or candy around the house.

Beside weight loss, I have also benefited from better skin. I don't know if it's just eating healthier or sweating everything out of me but my skin is alot clearer and I'm having less breakouts. I also have noticed I have a better color. I don't seem to pasty, washed out. I just feel I look healthier overall.

I have much more energy. It's true! I am not as sluggish as I once was and have the energy to go home after work and accomplish things instead of watching another Seinfeld rerun which I have seen probably 5 times already. I'm also getting up easier in the morning. I don't find myself having to begrudgingly drag myself out of bed.

One last health benefit which sealed the 'workout' deal for me is that my neuralgia, a complication from shingles, has greatly improved. Unfortunately every year or two since college, I suffer from a shingles outbreak. Shingles is the dormant chickenpox virus which is reactivated due to stress or illness as an adult. It's no big deal and mostly annoying. I eventually wanted to write a blog about it but haven't gotten around to it yet. If I keep my stress levels in check and stay healthy, the shingles outbreaks, for the most part, are kept at bay.

I had an episode of shingles several years ago on my left thigh. It was probably the worst episode in a good long while. As a result, I have neuralgia in that spot which radiates from my left thigh down my leg.

The neuralgia affects the damaged nerves just under the skin. It can either be a burning sensation or severe "pins and needles." It can literally feel like my leg is on fire. I sometimes wake up in the middle of night from the pain. 

Since I have lost the weight and gotten back into shape, the episodes of pain from the neuralgia have greatly subsided. It is still there, but now much more manageable. I surmise that it has to do with less weight on my middle which press down on the nerve endings. Once the weight started to come off, the neualgia flare ups were not as severe and much less frequent.

There you have it friends. I am feeling better than I ever have. Working out reduces my stress levels and has given me more energy. Since I started getting into shape back in February, I have lost almost 20 pounds in a healthy combination of dieting and exercise. If you wanna lost weight and keep it off, I have come to realize (even though experts always have said it) it has to be a combo of the two.

I'm on my way to being in the best shape ever at age 45.