Wandering the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 6

What does this do to people?

Since starting this series of posts I’ve had a few friends reach out and thank me for sharing this.  They’d experienced miscarriages in some form and told me “people don’t talk about it.”   I’d love to know why.     I understand that some people want to keep certain things private.  You don’t need to know all the dirty details.   But this isn’t something shameful.  This isn’t something we chose, or acted in a way to cause.  This is bad luck for so many of us, yet we keep it quiet and people prefer not to acknowledge it.

But the pain remains.

We came to learn that people really don’t know how to talk about it.  People try to be understanding.   They usually end up saying all the wrong things.  Yeah, we’re Catholic and believe in Heaven…spare us your comments about Limbo or the chances to meet the babies when we die.   While you’re at it, yes, we’ve considered that maybe a biological sibling for Giada isn’t in the cards….no need to tell us to give up.   And, for the record, I’m pretty sure God isn’t sitting there with a furrowed brow muttering ‘I planned for one kid for the Gowdens and they just keep trying!   When will they get it through their thick skulls I didn’t plan it that way!”

Your tastes change:  Right around this time the game Dante’s Inferno came out and a friend told me I HAD TO PLAY IT!!!   Read the reviews….level with unborn baby-zombies trying to eat you.  Yeah, no thanks…thematic fail for me.   I also tried to get into the Walking Dead; all my friends said how great it was.   3 eps in and I decided I had enough misery in my life…didn’t need it from my entertainment.  My tastes were changing…I was softening.  I can tell you that 6 years later, I’m still not watching Walking Dead and other shows that heap misery upon the characters and audience.

Here is a paragraph I’ve been trying to write for 2 days.  What does it do to a marriage?   It does all the horrible things you can imagine; fights, selfishness, distancing   There was no single, memorable moment to tell you about…it was simply months of trying to cope, understand and keep moving forward.  We were fortunate to have the support of our families, to have never blamed one another and never gave up on each other.   Looking back, its very easy and understandable to see how this could devastate a relationship (and ends a lot of couples.)  We’re thankful we walked away bruised, but not beaten.

Back to the story….

Pathology report came back within about a week.  Baby#3 suffered from Triploidy.   triploidyA lot of the common genetic defects involve an extra chromosome somewhere.  In Triploidy, you get 3 of EVERY chromosome.  Life span, IF the child is born is measured in single digit hours. Most end in miscarriage; I guess you could say the more merciful result.

So what did that mean to us?   Nothing!   It’s another fluke!   As our doctor said, we did nothing wrong and nothing to cause this. Were the odds comically against our favor?  Yes.   Was there any evidence anywhere to say we wouldn’t be successful with another pregnancy?  No.

Heidi and I talked, a lot.  We needed time off from this.  We agreed that after a year of miscarriages, her body, our marriage and our sanity needed a break.   It was late September, maybe early October and there would be no talk of babies till after the holidays.   Giada would get our combined attention and we’d spend some time healing.  We’d spend time as a couple, party it up and refocus on us.

Along with this came the decision that we needed a Disney do-over.  Heidi couldn’t look at the pictures without feeling the pain and loss.  The trip was tainted for her.   We settled on another trip, in January of 2010, no pregnancy, no stress, just the three of us and a magical time.

And it was.

To be concluded….Princess Giada Sophia 2010


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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 5

I’m a firm believer in balance in life.   Call it Karma, call it whatever, but I believe that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  If something good is happening to you, chances are there is an equal amount of bad that has happened, or that will happen.  It’s cumulative, so it’s not like blessings lead to tragedies…just that in the big picture, things are balanced.

That day in Celebration Hospital in Florida cemented that belief.

To recap; pregnancy #4, score is 1 kid, 2 blighted ovums and this one is going south…fast.  We’re waiting in a triage room with a bunch of strangers after a hasty, uncomfortable experience with an ultrasound tech.   And we wait…..and wait.

I don’t know how long, but the next moments stretched on for days.

“Mr and Mrs. Gowden?”  the doctor boomed.  He was a tall dude with a deep voice and African accent. “I have reviewed your ultrasound.  Your baby has expired…” and then he quoted Scripture…something about returning to dust.  Neither of us can remember it exactly and many online searches have come up empty…close but no direct quote.   We’re stunned….trying to process this.  We discuss options, the hospital is willing to send us home and let nature take its course.  We’re on vacation…leaving for home in 2 days, we don’t need nature taking its course on the plane.  (Seriously…explain THAT to the TSA!!!!)   Their OB is busy, come back tomorrow.  ‘NO!” Heidi demands….channelling Ralph Kramden.  ‘Get it out!”

Out of nowhere, a nurse grabs our hands…and the hands of anyone else around and starts a prayer circle.  We’re religious….but this wasn’t our thing.  We wanted to make plans for a procedure that would get Heidi back on her feet and test the baby to see if there was a cause for this.  We wanted to call our families.  We wanted this to set in and let our emotions catch up. Instead Nurse Prayercircle is droning on.  As awful as this is, God/Karma/whatever is giving us an absolutely bizarre experience to soften the blow.

Finally they agree to bring in a doc that day who will do the D&E.   I remember they asked if we wanted the remains.   Gallows humor at this point…because, heck, you need to laugh or you’ll go crazy.   I recall thinking “Are they going to give us a little box?   A tube?  Baggie with the biohazard label on it?  Does it go in carry on or checked luggage?  Probably checked because it’ll be more than 3 oz of liquid.”

Heidi was taken for surgery and G and I had something to eat and waited.   Soon enough and nurse came to us, told us everything had gone well and we’d be able to see Heidi in a few.   2 hours later we were on our way back to Port Orleans: French Quarter; no longer pregnant, pathology ordered and hopefully some answers in our future.

We’d been given some temporary ‘balance’ by way of the Hospital staff’s behavior.  We can look back now and shake our heads…and it gives us something less painful to remember than the calls to our families, the hurt in their voices, the empty feeling in our lives.   Disney was about to step up in a major way to cement some positive memories.

Our taxi driver told us that Disney would take care of the cost of the taxi.   We went to the front desk, gave them the short version of what happened and they said they’d take care of things.   We went back to the room and went to bed.   The plan was for me to take G the next day and meet up with some friends.  Heidi would stay back in the room and rest, possibly meeting us all for dinner.  We knew the routine and this was G’s trip…let her enjoy it.

At Magic Kingdom and my phone rang.  DSCF0108Heidi called to tell me that Agata (wish I had her last name) the manager called to check on her, sent room service, free wi-fi (it wasn’t free in 2009) and told her to call if she needed anything. DSCF0109 Then all of a sudden a couple of people showed up with a gift basket for us and toys for G.

Disney outdid themselves over the next 48 hours.  They made sure Heidi was taken care of, but also Giada and me.  Knowing Heidi was in good hands was HUGE for me and Giada was thrilled with dolls and coloring books.

For all the terrible news we’d had on this trip…the stress Heidi had felt knowing something was wrong, the worry about something happening on our trip.  The sadness of finally getting the news and having miscarriage #3, which happened to be 364 days after our first…Disney did what it could.   For all the awful memories, we do have some good ones and I guess it all did balance out.

Some would say 3 strikes and your out.  Not us.   To be continued…..


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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 4

In the first 6 months of Giada’s second year of life, we’d suffered 2 miscarriages.  This took a lot of attention from her and we were feeling pretty bad.  She was our first kid, and completely and totally awesome in every way.  She deserved better than to be put on the back burner while we healed physically and emotionally.

When it comes to miscarriage, women tend to share the experience when someone ‘joins the club’ so to speak.  We’d tell people and so often they’d tell us “Yeah, I/my sister/someone close had one, two, three, etc”   But…guy don’t talk about it.  And kids?  They definitely don’t talk about it.  We don’t know to what degree G processed it, but we’d told her she was going to be a big sister and there was a baby in Mommy’s belly….and then she wasn’t, and there wasn’t.

We chose to make things special for G for her 3rd birthday; a trip to Disney World.  Keep in mind, for a 3 year old girl…Disney is all real!  That’s really Ariel!   Cinderella just gave her a kiss!  Holy crap that’s MICKEY MOUSE!!!!!

And then, we got pregnant for the 4th time!   We joke that Heidi called the doc while peeing on the stick, within moments of conception.  It was that early.   We were happy…as happy as we could have been at this point, and went on with our Disney plans.   Heidi went for hCG level testing and the numbers were good…not spectacular, but good…good enough not to be too concerned (though she knew something was wrong.)  We had also gone through the usual battery of genetic testing to see if there was there anything funky hiding in our genes.  Nothing…genetically, we were normal.  (Heidi will argue that’s the only normal thing about me…)  We were paranoid, or is maternal intuition that strong?

Time came for the ultrasound and there it was…a heartbeat!   We had a baby in there!!   This was definitely NOT a blighted ovum!!  Wooohooo!!!!

Except it was tracking a week behind.   It was exactly one week behind, but Heidi knew her conception math wasn’t off by a week.  Still, there was a heartbeat and we’d be back for more ultrasounds.   Note: Our doc was awesome.  He’d give us ultrasounds just to make us feel better.  Sadly, they rarely did, because the baby was tracking, consistently, 1 week behind.  Heart-rate and size were fine, for one week earlier.

Then Heidi started spotting.  She knew something was really, really wrong and we were 2 weeks away from our trip.  She took it easy, ultrasounds were consistent, and there was no explanation for the bleeding.  We went on with the trip (the doc said it was ok) and decided to make the most of things!

Akershus in EPCOT; princesses are coming by the table and Heidi excused herself.  Several minutes later she returned “I’m bleeding…bad, we have to leave.”   Please, dear God, no…not here, not now, not this.

We called her doc who advised us to get to a hospital.  Disney got us a cab and sent us to Celebration Hospital.

That’s when things got weird.   This was during the Swine Flu scare and we were moved into a common triage room.   Giada was out cold in her stroller (Thank you Disney for exhausting her….having a sleeping child was the saving grace of this day), Heidi was in a chair next to someone vomiting their who knows what into a bucket.   Someone came to take us for an ultrasound; the tech was ALL BUSINESS.  I tried to look and see what was going on, and she kept moving the screen or adjusting the wand so I couldn’t see a heartbeat.   I saw the baby…head, 2 arms, 2 legs…looked just like G’s ultrasounds at this point.   ‘Ok, a doctor will take a look at these and be with you in a bit.”  she said while hurriedly packing up her equipment.  ‘Wait, ” Heidi said “can I just see the heartbeat?”   ‘No ma’am, you came through the ER, not for a regular checkup, we can’t allow that.”

Now, for the second time we were completely alone in a hospital full of people.  I didn’t see a heartbeat…but that’s not to say there wasn’t one.  We knew something was up.   We had that sick, worried feeling while waiting for a doctor in a room full of strangers.

To be continued…..

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 3

Miscarriage one behind us, it was time to try for Gowden Child #2 again.  Come early January, sure enough…there was a positive pregnancy test.  Celebration all around…but a little muted this time.  We felt optimistic and things were good….till they weren’t.

Heidi was accepted into the EAGeR study.  It was the study of aspirin on the effects birth rates.  They were checking to see if a baby aspirin could help with conception.   Apparently, it didn’t hurt.

Something you have to know about my wife.  She knows her cycle.  Open her calendar and there’s little dots every couple of weeks.  ‘Hon, what are there little periods for…OOOOOHHHHH!!!!”   So, she KNEW when she was due and when to test.   She also called our doc.  He ordered the hCG bloodwork and the first couple of results came back. Low…but not terrible.  And not quite doubling every 24 hours like they’re supposed to.  Heidi remained a pin cushion for a few more days and it became obvious, her numbers were not tracking the way they should and something was wrong.

Onto another ultrasound….and another empty sac.  WTF!??!?!?!!?   REALLY??????

This one was quick.  It’s funny, we went out for our friend’s (who was still pregnant) husband’s 40th birthday that weekend and drank like fish.  Like…some serious liver damage because we were angry and sad and just didn’t care.  Heidi felt strange because technically she was still pregnant and you’re not supposed to drink…especially the way we were, but come Monday, the pregnancy would be over and it’s not like she was going to do any more damage!!!

This is called Wandering the Wilds for a reason.  We found ourselves in so many situations we just weren’t prepared for.  A positive pregnancy test for most couples trying to have a family is a joyous celebration.  For us, now “that’s great…lets get another hour of sleep and hopefully this one will work out.”   When do you tell people?  We’ve kinda’ cried wolf twice…and we know it’s a bummer when we have to tell you things ended badly.  Oh, and in the absence of information and explanations, you kinda’ create your own.   “Maybe we shouldn’t put the laptops on our laps anymore?”  “Maybe we should take this (or that) vitamin.”  Then there’s the joke that she flunked out of the EAGeR study!

Let me pause here for some mad props to my Heidi.  The D&E was on Monday and on Tuesday, Giada was taken the hospital with respiratory infection.  I was at work all day (our choice…I could have taken the time,) and that left Heidi to hang out at the hospital for 4 days and carry the burden of the situation…48 hours after another dreadful experience.   Her strength has never ceased to amaze me.

That’s something I want to close with.  Life goes on, regardless of how you feel here.  Had we experienced the loss of living, breathing child (God forbid), would we have had the discussion about me going to work while G was in the hospital?  Would she have been alone at all in the hospital or would the family have swarmed in, making sure her needs were being met?  Mind you, we weren’t forgotten; our families have always been supportive.   But there’s just something different about this.

To be continued……

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 2

We had our first daughter with no problems.  Second month of trying, slipped one past the goalie and 9 months later, there’s little Giada.  “This is easy!”  we thought.  We wanted at least one more kid and planned on waiting till G was a bit older, 2 years old or so.   Right before her second birthday we started trying again, and sure enough, the second month, SCORE!   Come April of 2009 she’d be a big sister!   Heidi called her friend, G’s Godmother and told her the great news.   She thought ‘Hey, I’m a few days late, come to think of it…” and soon they were cheering on the phone ‘We’re gonna be pregnant together AGAIN!!!!” (their first daughter and G are 2 months apart.)

We got this pregnancy thing figured out.

We headed in for the first ultrasound, planned on seeing a little  circle with a piece of rice inside, and tiny flashing thing…the heartbeat.

Here’s the first time you feel completely alone in a hospital full of people.  The techs aren’t really qualified (on paper) to tell you anything. They’re there to take measurements and leave the explanation to your doctor.  We kinda’ knew what to look for…I think any second time parent knows, and we didn’t see a baby.  We saw an empty sac.  ‘This is a blighted ovum!” Heidi whispered to me…panic setting in for both of us.  The Tech had gone into all business mode and was doing things as fast as she could.  “You’ll have to talk to your doctor” was all she’d say to us.   Then she packed up, told Heidi to get dressed and vanished.

Fear, confusion, sadness festered in that room.   We had a worst-case idea of what was going on, but no direction, no guidance…no idea what came next.  Our awesome doc told us that it was early, there’s no clear reason to panic, and to get some hCG level testing done.  If the numbers are doubling, Heidi’s conception math was off.  If not, we’ll take things from there.

They didn’t double.   We had a sac with no baby.   Heidi and her friend weren’t going to be pregnant together.  G wasn’t going to be a big sister yet.

We opted for a quick D&E procedure and were home later that day.  Think about any time you’ve suffered a loss of a family member.  The family kinda’ converges around you, there’s meat trays and bagel baskets.  You’re not alone in any way.   That’s not the case for miscarriage.  Sure, our families were supportive and made sure there was nothing we needed.  But we found ourselves going about our usual Friday night routine.   G was at my folks, we were free to do whatever we wanted.  Wings?  Beers?  Target?  How about a movie?  Yeah, let’s see Tropic Thunder, something funny and get our minds off things.

We didn’t laugh.  I try not to blame the film.  We went to visit a friend at work.  What do you say?  “Hey, how’s your day?  We had a miscarriage and D&E…like you do.”  It was a lonely feeling.

Our doc was good, he told us that we didn’t do anything wrong.  We didn’t cause this, it wasn’t or fault.   That helped us move forward and start thinking about trying this all again.  We did it once, quite successfully, why shouldn’t we be successful again?  This miscarriage thing…bad roll of the dice.  We’ll do better next time.

To be continued.

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Wandering in the Wilds of Miscarriage: Part 1

Every year my lovely wife and I give a presentation at our local medical college.  Her OB is a teacher there and the dude knows pregnancy inside and out.   We, after one happy, healthy little girl, began the difficult task of finding our way through life after miscarriages (yes, plural).   When all was said and done, our doc asked if we’d like to share our story to his students so they could see the human side of miscarriage.  They’ll all be fluent in the clinical part; what to explain, what to offer, what the potential causes may have been.  Knowing what to say to a parent who just lost a pregnancy is something completely different.

A couple who are experience a miscarriage are  experiencing the loss of a child.   Is it the same as the loss of a child at age 1, 10, 40?  Is it the same as a late term stillbirth?  I don’t know.  I know there was a positive pregnancy test and a baby book for each of ours.  I know we’d discussed names and made wishful plans with friends (“Ooooh!   Your baby to be, and ours will be almost the same age!   That’ll be so cool for them!!!”)   In an instant all that is taken away.

I’m going to take a few posts and share with you what we share with the class.  I’m not posting this for sorry, pity or likes; I’m posting this to be shared with those who may go through this as well, to be learned from…what to say and what not to say….and most importantly, to give some direction where we had so little.


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Happy New Year! No Resolutions!

Take 30 seconds and check out this pretty funny, but really NSFW (language) clip from the film Office Space.

This scene has been rattling around in my brain for a few weeks.  At a time when I should be making resolutions for the new year,  am I focusing on the right things, the right way?

Do I want to lose weight?  Sure.   Do I want to spend more time with family and friends?  Of course.  Do I want to learn some new skills?  Absolutely!   Do I need a million dollars to do those?   Does a new year make it easier?  Is there really any good reason why I didn’t do them last year?

If my goal was to sit around all day, what would that look like?   Wake up, “I should go to work….but that means I can’t sit around all day.”  I skip work.   “I should go work out, got that Trifecta coming up!   Er…no, this chair reclines.”  I make these choices as they come…will this next decision help me or hinder me with my goal?

I already have my goals.  Spartan Trifecta, get my app built and published and do more boardgaming.  Do I need to resolve to accomplish them?  No!   I need only to make them a priority over the gazillion things I let distract myself.

In a way, all I’m doing is giving myself permission to enjoy the benefits of the life I’ve worked for;  College, 20 years with the same company,   my beautiful wife and 2 equally beautiful daughters and our dream home.   I can game with them, go for runs with them and test my app on them.  I don’t need ANYTHING special…I just need to get off my duff and accomplish the things I want.  It’s that simple.

So, ditch the mental clutter and write down a couple of goals for 2016.  Maybe put them on post it notes through your home, workspace, etc where you’ll see them and be reminded of them.  Don’t resolve to do anything but make choices that get you closer to them.  Focus on the right things….the real goals and day to day, hour to hour, make good decisions.




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Sith Lords, Wookies, and THE Mouse: Star Wars at Disney

As a child of the 70’s, Star Wars is pretty much in my DNA.   As a father to two young girls and an admirer of creativity, Disney is a Mecca.  I visited Disney World last week and wondered how I’d feel now that the Mouse owns the Jedi and Sith.

Upon arrival at our hotel (Port Orleans, French Quarter) we walked through the gift shop and I noticed the BB-8 rice cookies.  They held about as much shelf space as the Anna and Elsa ones, hinting that Disney is well away of its target demographics.  Trips to EPCOT that day and Magic Kingdom the next revealed plenty of Star Wars merchandise and hundreds of patrons wearing thematic t-shirts (yeah, I had 2 of my own…so I’m not capable of tossing stones here.)

To be honest, as an eternal fan of Star Wars, it was strange seeing so many soccer moms and dads in ‘Judge me by my size do you?” shirts.   There was a level of geekiness I’ve never seen in a public place like this.   Things like this have traditionally been only seen at conventions…not family vacations.

Day 3 was our trip to Hollywood Studios.   Star Wars has landed squarely, there.

Me at the entrance to the Launch Bay
Me at the entrance to the Launch Bay

We trekked (ha!) to our right as soon as we arrived and found the old animation area labeled clearly with Star Wars.   Ok, so, I was having a nerdgasm…I mean, I’m 43 and have been waiting…oh…38 years for something like this!!!

There were First Order troopers walking about.   We entered and saw replica props; lightsabers, Slave-1, the FALCON!!!   Full scale Rey’s speeder, costumes….a shrine to all that is awesome.

We walked into common area that branched off for whichever meet and greets were going on, only to see two Jawas mulling about.   One stole my daughter’s toy lightsaber and offered her a droid leg in return.  After a few minutes of play, and her saber back in hand, we got to see a Sabacc table where Han won the Falcon, the chess table where 3PO “let the Wookie win” and the Cantina bar with 3 glasses of blue milk.

Heaven for a geek.

Our first goal was the meet Darth Vader.   We waited in a short line and soon found ourselves with the surly, Sith Lord.   Look, I know it’s a tall guy in a suit, but between the cold attitude of the attendants/cast members, the James Earl Jones soundboard he was using, and the fact he was at least 7 feet tall….I was uncomfortable!   I could not wait to get out of that room…nor could my wife!   (note: she almost forgot her purse in her hurry to leave.  note 2: She’s never seen the movies!!!)

After that we hit the gift shop and checked out the rest of the park.  Star Tours has been updated to include a Jakku scene and there are a few new photo ops (speeder bike) in the area.

We went back later in the trip to meet Chewbacca.


Me and Chewbacca

Chewie was a 180 from Darth Vader.   He gave my wife a hug, put furry arms on my girls’ shoulders and grunted and growled happily.   I happen to have a killer Wookie growl in my bag o’tricks and unleashed my own howls and grunts.  He ate it up, pointing and showing open body language.  The cast members were laughing as we high-fived, fist bumped and posed.  It was so much fun!!!!

And yes, he’s also huge and could be intimidating…but, c’mon, it’s CHEWBACCA!!!!

As we walked around we saw more First Order troopers and heard that Greedo is also a roaming character.  Didn’t see him though.

Heidi, my lovely wife, determined we needed to meet Lord Vader again and redeem ourselves.  So into line we went once again.  Both of us were nervous, but this visit went much different.

Vader accused my oldest daughter of being a rebel spy, she giggled.  I got gutsy after the pics.   “Lord Vader, do you mind pretending to Force Choke me while I jump?   (turning to the photog) Get a shot of me in the air and it’ll look like he’s using the Force to lift me off the ground.  They all obliged.


Running afoul of a Sith Lord.

Running afoul of a Sith Lord.

So, how do I feel about Disney having Star Wars in its parks now?

At first it was weird to see the swag and merchandise there.   They paid 9 gazillion dollars for the licensing, so, I can’t blame them.  In reality, it’s not THAT much more than has been there for a few years…it’s just more people are wearing the shirts and hats.  I think that was more distracting to me than anything.

Once I saw what they’re doing in Hollywood Studios and that Star Wars has a clear home there with little creep into other parks (not a single character meet and greet or show in any of the other parks), any concerns and discomfort went away.   Star Wars is, first and foremost, a film franchise.  That belongs in Hollywood Studios, and it appears that’s where it will stay.

I entered with some concern for the ‘magic’ of Disney being overrun with the Force, and left confident that everything is right where it should be.

May the Force be with you, always.


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I’m VERY Thankful this Year

There’s an informal fallacy called the Fallacy of Relative Privation.  Simply put, when you say ” had such a hard day at work.” and someone responds “Hey, my grandfather worked 16 hour days on his hands and knees in the coal mines…your day wasn’t THAT hard.” you should stop talking to them because they’re minimizing your argument by presenting a worst case scenario.

But, I think you need to head down this path a bit to appreciate and be thankful for what you really have.  There’s always someone worse off than you, and it doesn’t hurt to reflect on your blessings (no matter how grand or meager they may seem to you) and give thanks.   So, as an exercise for me, a celebration of the holiday, and a formal declaration and thank you to those involved, here’s what I am thankful for.

My family. My lovely wife, amazing little girls, parents, sister and in laws.  Without them I would be (at best) lost and (at worst) unable to enjoy the rest of the items in this list.

Karch and Kona, my cats.  Karch has been with me for 16 years and shows no signs of slowing down.  Kona is 2 and reminds me what life with a kitten is like.  I think she also keeps Karch young.

My job.  Yeah, I love and hate it alternately on any given day….but who doesn’t feel that way about their job.  I’m fortunate enough to usually get to do things I love (tech and teaching) and do it with some pretty cool people.

My friends.  Old friends, many of whom are surrogate brothers and sisters for me, and new ones, who week to week keep me from being a hermit.  This includes the college friends who I don’t see or talk to nearly enough, and the neighbors who have made our development an amazing place to live.

My home.  We built our dream house, ’nuff said.

My goals.  Some will be achieved, and some will fuel forward progress.   No matter, I’m thankful that I can consistently set new goals for myself and work toward them.

My health.   There’s nothing but me standing in my way the Spartan Trifecta, traveling, playing with the girls or finding another adventure. Special thanks to Matt at Sandbag Fitness, the folks at Brute Force, Stephanie at SKFitlife, Rose and everyone else at Spartan Race for being inspirations.

Star Wars:  C’mon, like I have to explain this one.

There’s more, but I’ll start boring you, and this is the big stuff.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



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A Letter to Spartan Race

Dear Spartan Race,

How’s it going?   You had a pretty great year, it would appear.  More races, a killer location for your World Championships and NBC seemed to be really heavily promoting your races on tv.  Heck, even in my neck of the woods, Northeast Pennsylvania, you added a Super and managed 3 days of races.   I’m happy for you, really I am.



We’ve been companions for 4 years now.  I’ve completed 6 races, 5 of which were at Palmerton, one of your (self-proclaimed) toughest courses.   But I’ve not been exclusive, I’ve run other races.  I’ve done Warrior Dashes and 5k’s.   (side note:There’s even a 7k at a nudist resort near Palmerton that has me intrigued.  It beats a naked Spartan Race…think of the superbug that would grow on the top of the walls.  Yeah, exactly.)   My greatest accomplishment, though, was the Scranton Half Marathon this spring.   For someone who was never a runner, and picked it up just to start Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) that’s a huge milestone.

Spartan Race, they’re exploiting some of your blind spots and I hope you start paying attention.


They out-after party you.  Bands, things for spectators to do, food, beverages…especially the grown up kind.   They give people a reason to stick around, talk about the race and solidify their plans to do it again next year. Oh, and they tend to have seating/tables/picnic areas!!!   You give a medal, a banana, maybe a protein drink and a free beer.  Good luck finding a seat.    I know, you’re not trying to be one of those party races.  It’s not about that; it’s about my close friend and I getting together from opposite sides of the state and having time to BS about the race.  It’s about my lovely wife and amazing daughters having something to do and somewhere to sit outside the blazing sun for the 3 hours I’m on the mountain.  My loved ones stopped coming, and crossing the finish line hasn’t been the same since.

Your Obstacles need to respect the rest of us.   The sport is evolving and you need to challenge your elites.  I know, I’ve read the recaps of the 2015 season…the good and the bad.   I’m telling you that your obstacles aren’t as fun as they once were.   Say all you want about mental toughness and pushing people beyond their limits.   A 1.5 mile hike up slippery, rocky terrain isn’t fun for the people who are your bread and butter: weekend warriors/desk jockeys.  We can’t run it, can barely hike it, and turn our ankles so many times we just get frustrated.   Add some modifications to obstacles that require more technique and skill as well.  The Z-Wall is a great candidate: you need good technique and a lot of your Sprinters don’t have it.  Instead of making it a burpee-fest for people who were couchpotatoes 8 weeks prior, make it a little easier for them.  Their self-pride will translate into a registration for next year.   Finally, some complain about putting a bunch of obstacles near spectators and having long stretches of nothing.   If that nothing isn’t the aforementioned terrain of Mordor, I don’t mind.    What I do mind putting high-failure obstacles at the end of a race.   Look, I want to finish strong.  I don’t want to fail the rig in front of my family…but I’m gonna, and It’s going to suck for me and I’m not going to finish with the high I would have had.  Seriously, you’ve had your way with me for the past 4 miles…let this last hill be the cab fare and breakfast before I leave.

Finally, get off the mountains.  The Citizens Bank Park race was more fun than a Warrior Dash.  I loved every minute of that race…and you had me lugging a sandbag and running up hundreds of steps.   I’d have done 10 miles of that!    I think you need to get away from ski slopes because they make it too easy to give into the vocal idiots who tell you any given race was too easy because they didn’t soil themselves.   I’m always up for a challenge, but even your WODs and suggested training don’t prepare me/you/us for the races I’ve experienced.  Ditch the ‘the mountain is the obstacle’ idea, because it’s a crutch.   I’ve seen 5 and 10ks done on trails, paintball sites, parks and  lakes.   You’ve done events in Times Square!   Be the true innovators in the sport and find ways to bring it to cities and towns and public areas.

Also, it’s going to make it easier for spectators and camera crews to see more.   I suspect you have a pretty good percentage of racers who started as spectators, right?


This post comes from a place of frustration.   In 2014 I did the Palmerton Sprint and the CB Park Sprint.  You know what I’m going to say….how am I supposed to view those medals?  In your eyes, they’re equal…red piece of the Trifecta.   In reality, they’re not even close.   In 2012 your Palmerton announcer said “we have a mini-beast here” when discussing a Sprint…your ENTRY LEVEL race.  I know each race is different and will have its own challenges, but I’m seeing a distance and suffer-creep that really bothers me.  Don’t play to ones who feel the need to lug tires the whole way or whine that the sandbags weren’t heavy enough.  Give them a tape measure to pass around so they can settle what they’re really concerned about proving to one another.

You’ve got me for at least 3 more races.  I want that trifecta in 2016 and I want my wife and daughters to be there (maybe with medals of their own) to celebrate with me.   I’m not asking for easy races…challenge me.  I’m just asking that you think about what I have to say.  I’m someone who wants you to succeed, not someone who wants to use you to prove how tough he is to his ‘brahs’.




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