One Month At A Time

Resolutions: Update 1

Last weekend, I got started with trying to loosen the grip social media has on me.

While I didn’t manage to stay completely off Instagram or Facebook, I did cut it back a lot. I was completely off Friday, mostly off Instagram and Facebook Saturday and used it a little bit on Sunday.

I’m going to call that encouraging. The point isn’t to shun social media, just get it back in check and keep away from mindlessly scrolling through canned updates and pictures of food, which feels a little like flipping through a magazine to look at the advertisements.

I hope to cut off social media after 6 p.m. tonight and, again, mostly stay off the sites until Monday morning. I will probably post check-ins for my current month’s project, which is coming along swimmingly.

It’s not easy being last, but somebody has to do it.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be visiting with two additional CrossFit gyms, taking a class with each of them.

The trainer at Never Give Up in Charleston promised something special.

I am hopeful she meant cake.

I don’t even want to know how many burpees that would cost.

Meanwhile, with the weight loss and getting healthy portion of the mission, I’m having to step up clearing out my closet.

The extra large button up shirts are getting tossed out, one by one. I’m a little sad to see some of them go, but… I really haven’t done a real wardrobe update in a couple of years and I was swimming in them.

My usual t-shirts are just fine, though I suspect I will have to replace some of them by summer.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

This one goes back to year one and the thing I did that still haunts my dreams.

On the other hand, I also got a nice pair of boots that same day for less than $20.


Everyone seemed baffled that I’d never been to Bridge Day.

Each year, tens of thousands of people come to Fayette County to watch people defy death, leap off the edge of a perfectly good bridge and parachute to the ground.

There are also people selling corn dogs and nachos to eat while you watch, if you’re interested, but I’ve never really wanted to go.

It was a general lack of interest. I didn’t care so much about watching people jump off a bridge, and I absolutely had no intention of doing something like that myself.


Continue reading…

Wednesday Weigh In

Height: 5’7″

Current weight: 204.2 pounds.

Current goal weight: 180 pounds.

Weight medical professionals believe I should be: 144 or about three second graders.

Blood pressure: 127/79 (though medicated and I maybe dispute this. The machine said my pulse was 60. That seemed unlikely)

Caffeine: Quite a bit, actually. A coup of green tea, a sugar-free energy drink and a cup of coffee. My co-worker Jenn suggests I should maybe drink more water, which might account for my low pulse.

Cans of diet soda consumed this week: They’re on special. It’s fine.

Captain America t-shirt: Today, I am sporting a plain sweater and khakis pants, if you can believe that.

General outlook: Kinda hungry, actually.


Doing things

Every now and again, someone asks me about how I come up with ideas for “One Month at a Time.”

The usual answer is that about half of the topics are things I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much to learn about. The other half are things either an editor or someone else has come up with that sounded pretty good for one reason or another.

Good is a relative term. Often, what makes for a good idea is something that sounds awful to me like handling guns, performing in front of a large crowd or committing to some kind of exercise plan.

Generally, these are also the things I come to with little actual knowledge but some preconceived notions.

I also have a list of things that I’d like to do, but haven’t been able to work out for one reason or another.

A few of these include Islam, scuba diving, caving and working in a Chinese restaurant.

When I thought the newspaper might be ending (or at least the part of my life where I worked for a newspaper), I chose to bump up learning to fly as a topic.

That was a fairly harrowing month, actually.

There is also a list of things suggested to me that sound like terrible, possibly career-ending, ideas that I consider and reconsider from time to time.

I’m not going to post any of those.

I do take suggestions. Some of my favorite months came from topics pushed forward by readers. It’s how I found myself performing with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Kanawha Kordsmen. It’s how I got involved with Spring Hill Cemetery and a historical reenactment.

So, what do I need to make a suggestion work?

Well, contact with people who can help me do the work and move the topic forward.

Sometimes, when people write or call in, they have great ideas. One that gets brought up over and over is spending a month with the police, but… it’s never the police who bring this idea up.

Feasibility to accomplish something inside of about a month.

The police example is problematic because to actually be a police officer requires quite a bit of training. Nobody is going to turn me loose with a badge and gun and tell me to go fight some crime.

Probably, Fox has already turned that into a reality television show.

Even walking me through the high points would be time consuming for everyone involved –and the suspicion would be that the police would shield me from actual danger, like going on patrol and dealing with the evil-doing public.

So, that probably wouldn’t work.

Also, cost.

A column like “One Month at a Time” is a labor of love for me. This is the best gig I’ve ever come up with, but like all other writing I’ve done, it’s not particularly lucrative.

I put a lot of time in. Some of it, I get paid for. Some of it, I do not.

I have expenses. Some of these I can turn in. Others, I can’t for one reason or another.

I operate on a shoestring budget. So, a willingness to invite me along as a guest instead of a paying customer helps.

Every once in a while, we’ll have to pick up the check for something, but it’s best to keep my costs low for long-term viability.

Generally, I think this works out. I try to be upfront that I’m going to write whatever needs to be written, whatever I notice, whatever happens to me, whatever I learn, but the exposure for whoever is probably good.

Anyway, if you’ve got an idea for a month or want to invite me along to do something, send me an email:

Monday morning updates

On Mondays, I’m going to try to update on what’s happening with my ongoing “One Month” projects –these are things that I’ve picked up and continued, even after the month is done.

People often ask whether I’ve kept up with anything past the usual, one-month engagement.

So far, I’ve remained a member of the Kanawha Kordsmen.

I still go (mostly) to Monday night rehearsals at the Columbia Gas Transmission building, still perform with the group and still have a long way to go before I feel really happy about the way I sing.

By the way, every Monday night is guest night. If you feel like giving it a shot, stop on by at 7:15. It’s a pretty good time.

I’m also considering doing one of the Valentine’s Day quartets, but that’s pretty in-your-face –and like I said, I have a long way to go before I feel really happy about the way I sing.

If we could just increase the quartets to about eight people, including four other basses, I’d be good, I think.

I’m still doing Read Aloud, which was the one thing I picked up in 2018.

I still have my two second grade classes and I’ve recently added a Pre-K/Kindergarten class, which had a bit of a false start this morning. They had some kind of safety drill, which threw off my schedule.

Never following a fire alarm seemed like one of those rules in show business I didn’t want to break. On my way out, as the alarm sounded and I watched a teacher console a terrified, little girl who thought it was the end.

I don’t know. I may have screwed up there. “If you give a Mouse a Cookie” might have helped soothe some nerves, but I’m still new at this.

In December, I did a repeat on my performance with the Charleston Ballet. That was a good time, particularly since I wasn’t pretending to be Jane Goodall.

If I can work it in again, I’d love to be part of the 2019 production, but there may be scheduling issues. I have entered into negotiations for a project that may not allow me to participate.

According to my bank account, I am still taking self defense classes. I just haven’t been attending regularly for the last six months.

I’m a work in progress, I guess.

Resolutions for 2019

Every year, almost, I make a list of things I want to do or try or things I want to give up and then I kind of fail at around half of them (or much more).

This is pretty normal. Most resolutions by most people fall by the wayside.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking about lists and what I want to do and what I want to change. From my newspaper pal Becca Carballo, I heard about S.M.A.R.T. resolutions (which I would have heard about earlier, if I’d followed through with another resolution to read the New York Times every day).

The acronym stands for:

Specific (concrete goals)

Measurable (Find a way to document your progress)

Achievable (within the realm of possibility for you)

Relevant (Make the goal for the right reasons)

Time-Bound (Achievable in the time allowed)

This seemed like a good place to start.

Meanwhile, my former cubicle-mate Carlee Lammers posted this really interesting way of setting goals incrementally, to build habits instead of setting yourself up to fail with big, sweeping statements about doing this or that.

So, I have sort of adapted the two concepts into something I’m going to try.

The things I most want to change or improve in my life are my health and how I spend my time outside of work. I lean more and more toward being sedentary, spend way too much time on my phone or in front of a television, and not enough time interacting with the real, physical world.

I often talk about doing things and going places, but tend to just skip them in favor of something easier and cheaper.

It’s learned behavior; a habit that can be corrected.

What I’ve come up with is 12 months of changes that I hope will make me modestly happier with myself by the end of the year –nothing too crazy.

Here’s the schedule:

January –Turn off social media on the weekends (6 p.m. Friday night).

February –Meet four different friends for four different lunches.

No social media on the weekends.

March –Read one big book (something longer than 200 pages and more complex than your average pop fiction novel)

Two lunches with two different friends.

No social media on the weekends.

April –Clean out closets, cupboards and bins at my house, toss old clothes and stuff I don’t use. Reduce clutter.

Read one big book.

Two lunches with two different friends.

No social media on the weekends.

May –Run at least one 5K race.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Read one big book.

Two lunches with two different friends.

June –Spend one weekend without internet, television or video games.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K race.

July— Attend the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky (I have already purchased tickets, but having tickets has not stopped me from skipping in the past).

One weekend without television, internet or video games.

No social media Thursday night through Monday morning.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K race.

August –Participate in the Spartan Race at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

One weekend no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

September –Attend either the Dublin Flea Market in Pulaski, Virginia or the Hillsville Flea Market in Virginia (both are huge markets I enjoyed as a kid)

One weekend no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

October –Clean up yard, prune and get ready for winter.

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

November –Holiday with family (I’ve gotten out of the habit, but hope to do this every year).

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.

December –Take a vacation that is free and clear of any work obligations.

De-clutter house for winter.

Two weekends no television, internet or video games.

No social media after 6 p.m. weekdays or on the weekend.

Two lunches with two friends.

Read one big book.

Run a 5K.



TBT: How this all got started

Ideas sometimes come from weird places.

For example, just before the office Christmas party, where I planned to eat my weight in ham, turkey and cheese, I got an email from a publicist for something called “Veganuary.” The email read:

“The worldwide Veganuary campaign is back, and they want everyone to try great food, feel fantastic, reduce animal suffering, and tread lighter on the earth.

“People in 115 countries pledged to try veganism this past January. The final tally: 71 percent of participants felt an improvement in their health in just one month, 65 percent learned something new about animal agriculture, and a whopping 51 percent said they’re staying vegan permanently. Best of all, organizers say, Veganuary 2015 saved the lives of 1,596,180 animals.”

After snickering about another hippie marketing campaign, I took a second to think about it — what did I know about vegans or veganism?

Not much, really.


Continue reading…

Wednesday weigh in

This is the first official weigh-in for 2019 for me.

Height: 5’7″

Current weight: 207 pounds.

Current goal weight: 180 pounds.

Weight medical professionals believe I should be: 144 or the approximate weight of 6 large Muppets (minus their helpers).

Blood pressure: ???

Caffeine: None as of yet.

Cans of diet soda consumed this week: a gazillion.

Captain America t-shirt: of course, but not in this picture.

General outlook: Vaguely optimistic.


Welcome 2019

Blogs have a funny life at the Gazette-Mail.

Over the years, I’ve had probably four or five. None of them amounted too much, probably because they tend to get shunted toward the back of the page. You have to kind of want to read a particular blog. You have to hunt it down and unless you have a built in following of dozens, hundreds or gazillions, writing a blog can feel a little like whistling in the wind.

This blog, for example, was started as a companion piece to my Sunday column, “One Month at a Time.”

As with other blogs, I didn’t get a lot of mileage out of it, but in all honesty, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do with it. Just writing the column takes a lot of time and keeping up with my month-to-month activities tends to absorb my attention.

There didn’t feel like there was a lot left –or that maybe I should save up the material that I might blog and just use it in the column, which was far more satisfying than blogging ever was.

Just the same, I missed blogging and there seemed like so much stuff I wasn’t writing about, that I could write about.

For all I know, I may have mentioned this in a previous blog about blogging, not blogging… whatever. I’m starting this one up again.

As part of my grand plan for 2019 (2018 did not have a grand plan and 2017’s grand plan fizzled), I’m exploring fitness and getting healthy. This is a year-long project, though not all of this will make it into the newspaper.

Not every month I have lined up revolves around some kind of double-dare physical challenge. (Spoiler alert)

For example, in March, I’m scheduled to spend a month baking pies and other sundry sweets, which sounds only slightly more healthy than working in a distillery (keep in mind, I’m a large guy and I like pie more than I like whiskey –well, marginally).

But regardless of what I’m doing, I’m still hoping to stick to dropping weight and getting into decent shape.

So, that’s part of what I’ll be covering here –my frustrating attempts to get fit.

As my pledge to you, every Wednesday, I’ll do a Wednesday morning check-in, which will include my current vitals like height, weight and blood pressure.

I am really hoping that as my weight drops, my height will grow, but I’m not counting on it.

I will also explain what I’m doing and how I’m doing what I’m doing, so you can see in relative real time, my progress (or lack thereof).


Just because I’m doing this doesn’t mean you should. Technically speaking, I am under a doctor’s supervision. He told me to lose weight over a year ago and was informed back in September that I’d put myself on a diet and was doing some exercise.

If you’re like me, and need to get a bit healthier, go ahead and bite the bullet: Call your doctor, schedule an appointment and talk it out before you get some wacky notion that I’ve turned myself into a health guru.

Anyway, this blog will help serve the grand plan for 2019, which is to improve my fitness and health, but that’s not all you’ll get. You’ll also get “One Month at a Time” throwbacks on Thursday, updates on past months, continuing adventures with things I’ve picked up –and whatever else I can throw in there.

That’s my spiel. I’ll be back tomorrow (Wednesday) with all the gory details.

Until then, Happy New Year, but pace yourself. We have a long way to go.

October Films! “The Devil’s Candy”

I’ve got a bit of a backlog of movies to report on. There’s been some time to watch spooky stuff, but not much time to write about it.

“The Devil’s Candy” is a film that has come up a couple of times on Facebook. A few of my Facebook pals have spoken highly of it. So, sure, I decided to give it a try.

Released in 2015, the film stars Ethan Embry, an actor I remember from the 90s films “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “That Thing You Do,” and “Empire Records.”

He was also in “Dutch.”

I remember him as kind of a wide-eyed, sort of goofy, but generally likeable character actor, but I lost track of him somewhere around 2000, where he moved on to more serious stuff.

With the stringy blond hair, ragged beard and tattoos, Embry is barely recognizable as the approaching middle-age metal-head father and painter, Jesse Hellman, in “The Devil’s Candy,” though his character has some of the same earnestness that you see in his earlier work.

The story revolves around Jesse, his wife and daughter moving into an old house with a bad history. The previous owners died –apparently by accident, everyone in the film believes (though we know different).

It’s a nice house and “Gee, wouldn’t it be a shame to let the place go to waste just because of a couple of dead people?”

This all seems like stupid horror film logic, but then again, I’ve been through the whole home buying process. When you’re looking for some place half decent that’s in your budget, you’re willing to put up with a lot.

I’d be OK with some dead people just to have some better windows. Cultists could definitely have tried to call up C’thulhu at some point, if it would have knocked a hundred bucks a month off my mortgage.

It beats renting.

Boiled down, the thread of “Hard Candy” follows bad things are happening, a reluctant serial killer serves the devil, loiters around the family home, which used to belong to his parents.

The cops know about the serial killer, of course, but seem to figure that it was just a phase, something he did when he was a kid, but he’s fine now, except for creeping everyone out.

Then things get worse. People die. There is some teen angst and Mom isn’t a huge fan of heavy metal music for some reason, though she’s married to a guy who looks he’s a roadie for Slayer.

How does that even happen?

“The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but it is also a mess. There’s a vein of demon possession or demonic influence that may be connected to the house, to Pruitt Taylor Vince’s tortured serial killer character or even to Jesse, but then there’s the issue with the painting Embry’s character is working on.

Is it prophesy, a warning, a love letter from hell?

Who can say? Maybe all three. Maybe something else.

And what’s the deal with the art dealer (played by an uncredited F. Murray Abraham) named Belial, who shows up to maybe tempt Jesse?

Thanks to a good long time spent playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” I know the name Belial belongs to a Duke of Hell. So all the hours spent reading the “Monster Manual II” during high school weren’t wasted.

Abraham is there, he pours a couple of drinks, and splits without accomplishing a lot, except maybe saying again that the devil is involved with Jesse on a very personal level.

It has to be the name, Jesse Hellman. He’s Hell’s man, get it?

Anyway, the ending almost feels like something out of a Kirk Cameron film. I wasn’t satisfied with it and felt like it was a cop out.

As I said, “The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but not particularly smart. The acting is good, even if the story could have used some fine tuning.

You can find “The Devil’s Candy” on Netflix.