Marriage Isn’t For You

D.A. Vereen:

A wonderful description of what marriage truly means.

Originally posted on Seth Adam Smith:

Kim and I

Kim and I

Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. :) I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my…

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An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment.

Urban legend says Twinkies last forever.  My wife decided to put it to the test.  Today, the package looks as good as the day we bought it last year.  Will it ever spoil?  Who knows?

An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

Last November when Hostess Brands announced that it was closing its bakeries and liquidating all of its assets, Carrie and I realized that our children had never had the opportunity to taste an American icon – the Twinkie.  On that Friday night in mid-November, I raced all over the eastside of Spartanburg attempting to find Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, Zingers, and Sweet Sixteen Donuts.  I went to three grocery stores, Wal-Mart, and about 3 other gas stations before I finished amassing my collection of tasty treats for us to share.

Hostess Collection 2012

Over the next few days, we enjoyed eating our treats together as a family.  The kids were getting to experience something that Carrie and I enjoyed when we were kids – actually me more so than Carrie.  She was more of a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll girl.  Lydia really enjoyed the Sweet Sixteen donuts and the Ding Dongs.  The girls didn’t really like the Twinkies as much as I thought they would – not enough chocolate, I guess.

Lydia Hostess Pic

As we got down to the last few items from our stash, Carrie decided it would be a good idea to set aside one package of Twinkies to see if they really do spoil after a period of time.  In doing my research on the topic, I found that the Old Hostess Brands, Inc. guaranteed the freshness of their products for 26 days.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. will guarantee that the Twinkie will stay fresh for at least 45 days.  A common urban legend claims that Twinkies have an infinite shelf-life – well not infinite, but more than a year.  Twinkies are made of mostly sugar and flour, but they do contain a lot of ingredients that you find in processed foods which help extend the shelf-life of the product.  If they contained real eggs and milk, they would spoil much quicker.  In his book Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger notes that each Twinkie contains 1/500th of a real egg in each cake.  It also contains only one real preservative – sorbic acid.

As I’ve done my research before writing this blog, I have found that Carrie is not the first one to take on this experiment.  Apparently, there is a school in Maine that has a Twinkie that is over 40 years old.  The Twinkie hasn’t crumbled, but the appearance has changed dramatically – a “ghastly ash gray.”  The folks at NPR are also a year and a half into their own experiment.  Their Twinkie looks good, but it is as hard as a rock.  Our Twinkies are still soft and still look edible if you ask me.  It’s tough to see on the photo, but the expiration date for my pack of Twinkies is December 9, 2012.

2012 Twinkie Pic

Fortunately, this isn’t the last Twinkie in circulation.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. started manufacturing Twinkies again July of this year.  I might have to go buy some so I can get my fill of polysorbate 60, sorbic acid, and sodium stearoyl lactylate.  I am a chemist, but I think I would have a hard time drawing the chemical structure for that last ingredient I listed!

Happy eating!

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

Sometimes we develop emotional attachments to people or things.  These things provide a certain level of emotional and physical comfort.  It was a sad night for me tonight.

My favorite pants are gone and now it’s time to move on.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

I had to say good-bye to an old friend today.  My friend was worn out.  My friend had been part of my life for over 5 years.  We got together once or twice a week during those five years.  My friend went with me to work, to church, to meetings, and on a couple of dates with my wife.  My friend was loyal and provided me with a certain level of comfort that no other friend really had before.

Tonight, I finally had to throw away my favorite pair of pants.  I bought them four years ago at a Jos A. Bank’s store in Concordville, PA – I think.  They were a pair of Tobacco colored Wrinkle Resistant Cotton Twill Pleated Front Pants, size 38 x 32.  They had cuffs at the bottom and a seam in them that allowed them to be folded perfectly after every wash.  No dry cleaner ever had the pleasure of touching these pants.

Wrinkle-Resistant Cotton Twill Plain Front Pants

I wore them every week at least once a week.  They weren’t very attractive pants.  Baggy, pleated pants with cuffs went out of style a long time ago, but I still wore them.  They were the anti-skinny pants/jeans.  They looked good with a nice plaid shirt or a sweater.  I probably sported a blazer and a nice tie with them once or twice.  I even wore them to work in the yard a few times.

But tonight I had to throw them in the trash.  They were starting to tear around the back pockets.  My boxer shorts were apparently starting to show.  The cuffs were frayed and torn in some places.  There were holes in the legs along the seams at the bottom.  One of the pockets had a hole in it.  These weren’t a pair of pants that I could donate.  They wouldn’t have made it past the clothes sorter at Goodwill.  They would have ended up in a recycle pile or in the trash.  I had to bite the bullet and throw them out once and for all.  I didn’t need someone else to do my dirty work for me.

I’ve tried through the years to acquire another pair that fit the way these pants did.  I have a closet full of various Jos. A. Bank pants that I’ve either purchased at the store here in Spartanburg or online.  You know – the Buy 1, Get 2 Free deals.  I’ve tried other brands too.

Banana Republic – too tight.

Polo – needed to be dry-cleaned; too fancy for an old-fashioned washing machine and dryer.

Chaps – to wrinkly and didn’t fold well after washing.

Izod – wrong shade.

LL Bean – too scratchy.

It’s been a struggle to say the least.  I wear the same size pants today as I did four years ago, and yet I haven’t been able to find a pair of pants that wore like these.

I think all men and women understand where I’m coming from.  We all have that favorite pair of pants or jeans.  We all have that favorite shirt or baseball hat that we just can’t seem to get rid of.  My wife still wears my very old Wofford College t-shirts to sleep in.  I think they’re close to 17 years old.  But they’re her favorite.

Some items hold a special place in our memory.  I still have my first Montreal Canadiens hockey team hat that my granddad gave me when I was a teenager.  I wore that hat to work almost everyday during the summers.  It has faded from its original red to a kind of orange color now. The logo is frayed and the plastic clasp could break at any moment.  It’s dirty and smells horrible, but it still fits me like it did when I was a teenager.  I can’t wash it.  It would probably fall apart.  It’s hard to let go of things like that.

Life is full of interesting twists and turns.  We all enjoy living comfortably.  We all want stability in our home life and our work life.  We all want to feel like what we do is fulfilling on a number of levels – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally.  There are times though when the status quo becomes boring and unfulfilling.  It’s during those times when making a change might be the best way to go.

Sometimes you just have to throw out that old pair of pants and start wearing another pair.

Doing that takes a certain level of courage and resolve.  It also takes support and understanding from friends and loved ones.  Finally, it takes finding the right situation or fit.

As I stood over the trash compactor and threw away my pants tonight, I thought to myself that I could wash them and wear them a few more times.  But as I looked at them again, I realized that it was time to make that change.  They didn’t fit anymore.  It was time to move on.

RIP my favorite pants.  It was a fun ride while it lasted.

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

How do you handle stressful situations?  With so much going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I thought I would share my current method of escape.  Some people exercise.  Some people read.  I’m eating ice cream – and lots of it!

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream.

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”    ― Theodore Roosevelt

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed.  I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.

On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.

On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.

As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being.  Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine.  There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.

Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one.  I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses.  Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.

I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today.  I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall.  And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law.  All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself.  That’s for sure.

On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family.  It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister.  Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.

So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about.  And that’s one of my problems.

I can’t stop thinking!

My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.

On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice - “productive paranoia.”  When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo.  I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge.  I’m always planning for that next step.  I don’t like surprises.  I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people.  According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.

419oM1kcjBL.jpg

On the home front, I think about other things.  With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other.  Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week.  I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….

Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations.  I also try to learn from them.  Is it their faith that helps them get through it?  Is it their friends or their family that help them?  Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?

For me, I stop and eat ice cream!

I know.  It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream.  Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream.  Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.

Gigi-Reviews: Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter Ice Cream    Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cake | Haight | FunCheapSFMayfield Dairy Select Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

It’s my way to escape.  It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great.  It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.

When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do.  Others read books or write blogs.  Others like to cry.  Others listen to music.  Others call their friends to vent.  Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.

Right now, I eat ice cream.  And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.

Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone.  It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline.  I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…).  But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.

It should disappear, right?

Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired.  How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her.  There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind.  Abraham Lincoln.  Moses.  Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines).  All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.

So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place.  If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible.  If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.

For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream.  I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle.  Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.

The Ice Cream Informant: REVIEW: Mayfield Snickerdoodle

 

Sounds awesome to me.  How about you?