Tag Archives: personal story

Winter Wonderland Memories: The Blizzard Of 96

It’s the middle of winter. Unless you’re living in a tropical or semi-tropical climate, it be depressing. Outside, it’s cold, it’s barren, and the simple act of going out to get the mail requires too many layers of clothing.

It’s not my favorite time of year, to say the least. After Christmas, I’m pretty much ready for winter to be over. In a perfect world, there’s one single snowstorm from Christmas Eve until the day after Christmas. After that, we go right into summer.

Sadly, we don’t live in that world. I live in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This is an area that doesn’t see the kind of snow you’d get in places like Buffalo, Boston, or Chicago. We’ll get a few flurries and snow showers here and there, but it’s nothing that you need to shovel.

In fact, a major snowstorm is fairly rare in my area. When it does it, people get a little anxious. I have friends and relatives from up north who think it’s hilarious that we freak out over a mere six inches of snow. Having spent some time in places like Buffalo, I see why they feel that way.

However, every once in a while, my area gets hit with a storm that even people from Buffalo and Boston think is serious. They don’t happen every year. We can sometimes go several years without a storm that will dump more than ten inches. Even among those storms, there are some that were so bad that we remember them for years to come.

Well, in the spirit of winter, I’d like to share one of those memories. I imagine anyone living in my area around this time has similar memories. That’s because I’m going to talk about one of the worst blizzards my area ever got. It doesn’t have a name. We just call it the Blizzard of 96.

Admittedly, it’s not a very original name, but make no mistake. This was a storm that left a hell of an impression from New York to Washington, DC.

I remember this storm for many reasons. Most notably, I remember it as one of those rare storms that earned us an entire week off school. As kids in grade school, that was our primary way of measuring how severe a snowstorm was. In hindsight, though, that did not do justice to just how big this storm was.

Again, I live in an area that does not get storms like this regularly. We can handle a few snow showers here and there. This storm dumped over two feet on us in the span of three days. Even by Canada standards, that’s a lot of snow.

My memories of that storm still stand out, more so than most. One of the most vivid was just the night before the storm rolled in. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on the couch with my dad. We were both watching the weather forecast like it was the World Series. My dad, who had seen his share of snowstorms, just looked at me and said, “Here it comes.”

I went to bed that night with just some light flurries coming down. It was barley enough to coat the tops of my parents’ cars. I then woke up the next morning and it was a total white out.

Every inch of grass and every inch of road was completely covered.

Every tree and bush was covered.

It was a hell of a scene. As a kid, I was just excited because it meant school was definitely cancelled. It also meant my friends and I were going to have some winter fun. However, that’s where I once again underestimated this storm.

The snow was so heavy and got so deep that normal winter activities like sledding and snowball fights were impossible. We couldn’t run around in it. The snow came all the way up to our waist. We couldn’t sled in it because it was so fresh you just couldn’t get any traction. It was really unlike any storm we had ever been through.

At one point, and this is another memory that stands out, we just decided to climb into the back of my dad’s truck and sit in the snow-filled back like it was a hot tub. I don’t remember who’s idea it was. I just remember it was snowing so hard that we just couldn’t come up with another way to enjoy it.

That blizzard ultimately became the storm by which I measured every future snowstorm. In the years that followed, I lived through more major snowstorms, some of which were larger than the Blizzard of 96. However, none of those storms have left the same impression. I don’t know if I’ll ever encounter a winter storm that will have that kind of impact. Hopefully, before it ever hits this area, I’ll have long since retired to a tropical climate.

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Recounting A Special Christmas Gift (And What Made It So Special)

The holidays are a special time of year. Even in a year like this, we should appreciate that. If anything, a year like this should help us appreciate it even more. Even if we can’t have big Christmas parties or shop in crowded malls, the spirit of the season is something to cherish.

I certainly have a fondness for the holidays. I’ve made no secret of that. I think a year like this has inspired me to get more personal and share more holiday joy than usual. If it helps distract us from how awful 2020 has been, I’m happy to contribute.

To that end, I’d like to share a personal holiday memory that is near and dear to my heart. It’s also fairly recent, so I won’t rely on the kind of child-like excitement that comes with getting your first bike or video game console.

That being said, I still rank my first Super Nintendo as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, but that’s a story for another time.

This particular story happened just last year, long before we knew 2020 was going to crush our spirits. It involves a very special gift that I received from my brother. I’m not sure if he reads this site regularly, but he knows better than anyone why this gift was so special.

To set the stage, I need to explain some of my family’s holiday traditions. Ours aren’t that unique. Me, my siblings, and their significant others all gather at my parents’ house. We all bring our gifts, put them under the tree, and make opening them this big shared event. It’s simple, but it hits all the right holiday tones.

Traditionally, my family knows what to get me long before Christmas. They know me well and they know my tastes are simple. Get me some comic books, some superhero apparel, or something related to football and I’m a happy guy. I like to think I’m fairly easy to shop for.

That didn’t stop my brother from going the extra mile this year. As it just so happened, his was one of the last gifts I’d opened. At that point, I was already a happy guy, swimming in new comics and clothes. This last gift, however, caught me by surprise in a very personal way.

I still remember holding the seemingly innocuous box. It didn’t look like anything elaborate. For all I knew, it was another comic or Blu-Ray movie. I just casually opened it. That’s when I saw it.

It was a framed picture.

Specifically, it was a picture of my grandmother, who had passed away just a few years ago.

Seeing her again, even in a picture, hit me in a way I didn’t respect. Even though she had been gone for years at that point, seeing her again reminded me of how much I missed her. It was somewhat jarring, but in a good way.

I just remember taking the picture out, holding it up, and looking at it for a good long while. I might have disrupted the overall jolly spirit of the room, but I think they understood why.

My brother, along with the rest of my family, knew how close I was to my grandmother. They also knew how hard it was for her during her final years. I visited her regularly and I watched as her health declined. It wasn’t easy, to say the least.

It helped that this particular picture that my brother framed was taken shortly before she fell ill. She was still smiling, as lively as any woman in her 90s could be at that point. Seeing that look on her face, even if it was just in a picture, was enough to make my heart skip a beat.

I almost broke down, but I managed to keep it together. It helped that my older sister came over and hugged me. She knew how much my grandmother meant to me, as well. It was a powerful moment, but one that made both that gift and that Christmas extra special.

That picture my brother gave me still has a prominent place on my shelf. As I write this, it’s right behind me. It still brings me comfort to this day, seeing my grandmother in that picture. For that, I’ll always be grateful to her and to my brother for giving me such a special gift.

Bro, if you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making that Christmas special and for going the extra mile in giving me that gift. You’re the best!

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Why We Should End The Taboo About Giving Gift Cards

The holidays are here and we should not let the general awfulness of 2020 prevent us from celebrating. I just want to put that out there because I feel like it needs to be said. I understand we can’t celebrate the holidays like we have in previous years due to a once-in-a-century pandemic, but we should still celebrate.

If nothing else, we should celebrate having made it through this year. Regardless of your religious affiliation or traditions, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

I love Christmas and the holidays. I fully intend to celebrate in my own festive way with friends and family. I already have my Christmas tree up and I’ve had it up since the first week of November. However, this year may require certain adjustments from my usual holiday activities, but I’m willing to do that for the spirit of the season.

As I and many others do so, I think this is a good time to re-evaluate certain holiday taboos. I’m not referring to any of those associated with religion. There’s a time and a place to talk about that exceedingly touchy issue. This is not one of them.

This particular taboo has to do with gift-giving, which happens to be the holiday tradition I take most seriously. Ask any member of my family, from my parents to my siblings to even my former roommates, and they’ll say the same thing. I go the extra mile when it comes to Christmas presents.

I’ll spend more money than I should.

I’ll buy more gifts than I should.

I’ll put in extra time, thought, and effort.

I’ll often pester people in asking them what they want, making a point to tell me before Thanksgiving.

Getting Christmas gifts for my loved ones is a big deal to me. I take pride in my ability to go the extra mile and make my family feel extra loved during the holidays. It brings me a special kind of joy.

As a result of that approach to holiday gift giving, I tend to avoid the kinds of low-effort gifts that send the wrong message. That usually means I try not to get gift cards or cash for someone. To me, that’s just too impersonal. It implies I didn’t make the effort to show how much I love and care for the person I’m giving this gift to.

I’m not alone in that feeling. Gifting gift cards does have a bit of a taboo to it, even as more and more people shop online. If you were to give your lover a gift card for your anniversary, chances are they’ll be somewhat disappointed. It almost seems like a cop-out, as though you don’t trust yourself to get a meaningful gift for someone.

I understand that sentiment to some extent, but I also think that taboo is waning somewhat. After a year like 2020, when millions of people were stuck in lockdowns for weeks on end, I think it’s waning even faster. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing and we should use this holiday season as an opportunity.

For many people, including myself, it’s just not going to be possible to travel for the holiday. The big holiday gatherings that so many of us treasure just can’t be done safely during a global pandemic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exchange gifts. We just have to be smart about it and gift cards could help.

These days, gift cards are a lot more useful than the traditional gift certificates of the past. I’m old enough to remember how limited they were. Before the days of Amazon, getting a gift certificate usually meant getting something for a specific store. You could only use it at that store and it usually had an expiration date.

In some instances, it worked out. If you knew someone went to a place like Best Buy or Wal-Mart all the time, a gift certificate could certainly be useful. It was still considered very impersonal. It wasn’t the kind of gift you gave someone for Christmas. It was usually a birthday gift and even then, it was often a gift of last resort.

Now, in an era where you can buy pretty much anything online, the time is right to flip the script. If you know someone has an Amazon account that they frequently use, then why should a $50 Amazon gift card be taboo? Why should it be a gift of last resort that requires an excuse?

Love them or hate them, you can buy a lot from Amazon with a $50 gift card. You could buy a movie you don’t have, both digital or Blu-ray. You could buy a video game, although not the latest releases. You could buy multiple books and be certain they’re books you want to read and haven’t read already.

From a practical standpoint, that gift card is very useful and there’s a near-certain chance it’ll get used. You can’t always say that about a traditional gift. I’ve gotten people gifts that I was certain they’d use frequently, but they never made it out of the box. That’s the chance you take with any gift exchange.

It’s still a great feeling when you get someone that perfect gift. I can attest to the joy that comes with that accomplishment. I also don’t deny that the perfect gift is not always possible. I’ve got plenty of relatives and family members who are hard to shop for and often tell me they really don’t need anything from me.

However, I know that even those hard-to-shop-for relatives would get use out of an Amazon gift card. That may not make it the perfect gift, but it would still be incredibly useful and sometimes that’s the most you can hope for.

In a year like this, when traveling and shopping have been incredibly restricted by the pandemic, I think a simple Amazon gift card should be acceptable. Even if you don’t like giving or receiving gift cards, this is the year when we should all be willing to make an exception.

That doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. You can still make giving someone a gift card feel festive.

One year, I got an $50 Amazon gift card for a relative. However, I didn’t just stick it in an envelope or bag. I actually put it in a standard 14 by 9.5 box and wrapped it in shiny wrapping paper. To hide the contents, I even put some washers inside to make it heavier. The relative loved it and I know they used that gift card.

You could either do that or find some other festive way to present it. You don’t have to be overly elaborate with wrapping paper or packaging. You just have to show a little extra effort, which will go a long way towards making a gift card feeling less impersonal.

In the future, long after this pandemic has passed, we may get to a point where that kind of gift-giving is no longer taboo. It may even be the norm, if only to ensure that your loved ones get something useful on the holidays.

There will always be a place for more personal gift-giving. I don’t doubt that. However, I think certain practices and taboos need tweaking. We already live in a new era where shopping from home has never been easier. Let’s use that as a way to supplement our holiday spirits moving forward. After a year like 2020, we’ll need it.

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Holiday Memories: A Cherished Thanksgiving Memory

As you get older, you come to treasure certain memories more than most. It’s a natural thing. If you’ve conducted yourself a certain way, it can be a beautiful thing. It’s not always a pleasant process, especially as you encounter major life challenges and inevitable hardships. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

The holidays are a time during which we form many such memories. I certainly have. Some of my most cherished memories occurred over the holidays. Some were on Christmas and some were on Thanksgiving. This year, with so many friends and family still isolated due to the pandemic, I find myself contemplating those memories more than usual.

I doubt I’m alone. There’s just no getting around it. For Thanksgiving, especially, we just can’t do things the way we normally do in 2020. That’s just the reality of a deadly pandemic. We can’t travel, get together, or casually share used forks. It’s sad and frustrating, but that’s just the way things have to be for this year.

For me and my family, that’s especially difficult. That’s because every year, my parents make it a point to make their house, the same one I grew up in, the epicenter of all things Thanksgiving. Every year, family from all over traveled to our part of the country to get together, have a giant meal, and just enjoy each other’s company.

These gatherings were often the biggest family gatherings of the year. It wasn’t unusual for there to be at least 20 people crammed into that house. It was big and rowdy, but we all loved it. I certainly did. We had so much fun, sharing in the joys of food, family, and football. I’m really going to miss that this year.

Rather than dwell on that, though, I’d like to share a quick personal story that I hope will get others through this pandemic-hit holiday. It just happens to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories of all time and one that perfectly defines what makes my family so awesome.

This particular memory unfolded when I was fairly young. I was still in elementary school at the time and much of my extended family wasn’t that much older. Once again, my parents made their house the central focus of Thanksgiving festivities and we attracted quite a crowd. I remember aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends joining in, some of which I hadn’t seen in years.

In addition to the usual gathering and feasting, the weather this year was just perfect. It was unusually warm for late November. A number of cousins and friends wore shorts and a T-shirt. It was just that nice out. As a result, we hung around outside a lot more than usual. It’s here where this Thanksgiving memory really takes hold.

Shortly after we ate, a bunch of cousins and extended family gathered in the backyard and started throwing around a football, as many are inclined to do on Thanksgiving. It started as a simple game of catch between a few cousins. It then evolved into a full-fledged game, complete with route running, elaborate plays, and touchdown dances.

We didn’t plan it.

We didn’t keep score.

We didn’t even set clear rules and time limits.

We all just came together as friends and family to play a football game in the backyard. It felt so natural and organic. It was a perfect manifestation of everything we loved about Thanksgiving get-togethers.

If that weren’t memorable enough, some clouds rolled in near sunset and it started raining suddenly. However, not one person in the backyard ran inside. If anything, it just made everyone more excited to play. The game kept going. We kept running around, tackling each other, and just had an all-around great time.

Being a kid with a belly full of Thanksgiving dinner, I honestly didn’t want it to end. I wanted to just hang out back there and play football until the sun went down. Even as some friends and family had to leave, we kept going for as long as we could. When it finally ended, I knew on some levels that this had been a special Thanksgiving.

Time has only proven that sentiment right. To date, it’s one of my most cherished Thanksgiving memories. I’ll likely cherish it even more as I endure a Thanksgiving without that big family gathering I’ve come to love and appreciate. I know many in my family feel the same way.

Thanksgiving this year may be disappointing in its scope, but I would encourage them and everyone who shares that feeling to think back to those memories. More importantly, use them as inspiration, as well as motivation, to make Thanksgiving in 2021 even more special.

I hope this little story has boosted your holiday spirits. I also hope everyone finds a way to enjoy Thanksgiving this year, however tempered it might be. The holidays are here. Let’s not allow a pandemic to dampen our spirits.

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A Personal Story (And Perspective) On Daylight Savings Day

It’s that time of year again, at least if you’re in these countries. Daylight Savings day is upon us. It’s not a holiday, nor a means for major celebration. It just means that this weekend, we can all look forward to an extra hour of sleep.

Honestly, after the year we’ve all endured, an extra hour of sleep is literally the least we can hope for. I’ll gladly take it.

Now, I don’t have an opinion on daylight savings, why it’s observed, or whether we should continue observing it. That sort of contention is just not worth my time or anyone else’s. Instead, I’d like to take a moment in these last few days before we fall back to share another personal story.

It involves high school, but I promise it’s not nearly as awkward or angst-ridden as some of the others I’ve shared. This story is more an observation than a personal account and one I think is more relevant. Say what you will about teenagers and young people in this current environment. They do have issues and they’re worth highlighting.

To appreciate this story, I need to offer a little context. While I was in high school, the last week of October was uniquely difficult. It wasn’t just because the weather was getting colder, mid-terms had just wrapped up, and the holidays were still too far off to warrant excitement. Much of the difficulty, in this case, had to do with sleep.

It wasn’t so much about getting enough of it, which is a challenge in its own right, as it was about waking up. I lived in a school district where high school classes started at 7:20 a.m. If you weren’t in your first period class by that time, you were late and you could get in trouble. That might not have been an issue if you lived nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.

My family lived on the boundaries of the school district. That meant I had to take the bus to school, which wasn’t too big a deal. However, in order to get to school on time, the bus had to pick me and my classmates at 6:30 a.m. to make it on time.

Now, I know some people are already rolling their eyes. We had to be at the bus stop by 6:30 in the morning. Why is that such a big deal? There are people with jobs that require they wake up even earlier.

To those people, I have a simple message.

First off, we don’t get paid to go to high school. We’re forced to, by law. Second, we were teenagers. We’re not exactly used to night shifts at the salt mines. We’re still going through puberty, trying to transition into adulthood, and dealing with plenty of awkward feelings along the way. Have some goddamn sympathy.

With that in mind, take a moment to appreciate what it’s like the week before we fall back with daylight savings. You wake up at 6:00 a.m. and it’s still nearly pitch black outside. You can still see stars in the sky. You can barely see any hint of the sun.

If you’re a functional adult who is used to early mornings, it’s no big deal. If you’re a teenager who’s several steps away from being that functional, the world is basically asking us why the hell we aren’t still sleeping. Our collective response is the same. We have no choice. This is what we have to do, by law, to get to school on time.

Make no mistake. Waking up this early and standing outside when it’s still dark out is jarring to a teenager’s mind and body. The last week of October was just the most pronounced. During the first weeks of school, you could at least depend on the sun coming up, which helped wake you up. By this time, however, you had no such benefit. It was still dark out and it stayed dark until you got to school.

This is where my story comes into play. It’s not just one particular incident on one particular day, either. For the entirety of my high school career, this sort of thing played out every year on the last week of October. If I were to catch up with my old classmates, they’d probably share the same sentiment.

It went like this.

We wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school. It’s pitch black out.

We take a shower, eat some breakfast, and gather our things. It’s still pitch black out.

We go out to the bus stop at about 6:25 a.m. It’s still pitch black out.

The bus arrives, we get on, and we settle in for the ride. It’s still pitch black out.

For the entire trip, we’re all only half-awake. Nobody talks. Nobody socializes. We just sit there, try to keep our eyes open, and get whatever sliver of rest we can before we arrive. Most of the time, the sun is just barely starting to rise when we get to school.

I know it’s not the most harrowing story about high school, but it does stand out and it wouldn’t be at all possible without daylight savings. It’s because of that time shift that it’s still so dark out in the morning on that final week leading up to it. An adult may see that as a trivial detail, but from the perspective of tired teenage minds, I assure you it isn’t.

I try to forget a lot of things from that time in my life. I’ll never forget those early morning bus rides on the last week of October. They always had this strange, ominous feel to them. Setting aside the ambience, the impact it had on me and the rest of my classmates was distinct.

Being out at that bus stop when it was still so dark and riding to school before the sun came up just put everyone in a drowsy, lethargic mood. Riding to school in that environment wasn’t just quiet. It was dead silent at time.

Nobody said a word.

Nobody talked, socialized, or screwed around.

It was just too dark and we were all too tired. You think packing a bunch of teenagers in a bus is bound to create something rowdy and decadent? Well, when it’s that dark out and that early in the morning, you don’t have to worry. When you’re still tired, you’re not going to have the energy.

Now, that did change to an extent the following week. Once we set the clocks back, there’s usually daylight outside when we go to the bus stop. That does make a difference. In fact, it makes a big difference. There’s even some science behind it.

I was still a miserable high school student, but at least it easier to stay awake when the sun was out. I also noticed that once we had some sunlight, people talked and socialized more on the bus. It was just less depressing overall. Being less tired will have that effect.

In hindsight, I’m amazed that we all functioned as well as we did in those conditions. The science is also catching up to the sentiment. More and more people are uncovering the negative effects of having high school start so early. Teenagers may be immature and dumb at times, but they’re still human. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re not going to function well.

A lack of sleep has all sorts of negative impacts. Add the rigors of adolescence to the mix and you’re just going to make both much worse. It’s something I find myself contemplating every year in the days leading up to daylight savings.

We have a lot of problems in this world and teenagers have a lot to deal with. Nobody can do much of anything if they’re too tired or sleep deprived.

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Lasik Eye Surgery: The Best Money I Ever Spent

We all waste our money on incredibly stupid things. I don’t care how frugal you are. At some point in you’re life, you’re going to buy something that will ultimately be a waste of time, money, effort, and patience.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re only human. Hell, you could argue that wasteful spending contributes significantly to the overall economy.

Then, there are those select items or services that are worth every penny you spent and then some. They’re a lot less common and understated, but that’s exactly what makes them so valuable.

It’s easy to waste money on something stupid. Browsing Amazon or EBay for any length of time will accomplish that. Buying something that feels completely worth it, even years after the fact, is much harder.

Sometimes, it’s an investment. People who bought stock in Amazon or Google in the early 2000s can attest to that.

Sometimes, it’s personal, like a ring or a piece of artwork. The dollar value, in that case, isn’t as great as the sentimental value.

Sometimes, you buy something that you don’t think is too valuable at the time, but it only grows over time, like your first comic book, video game, or romance novel.

I could list some of my most cherished purchases and tell the story behind them. However, I’d like to highlight just one that, by pretty much every measure, was the best money I ever spent. It wasn’t an investment. It wasn’t cheap, either.

It was elective Lasik Eye Surgery. To date, this is still the greatest thing I ever spent my hard-earned money on.

Now, the story behind this requires a little context. For the first 25 years of my life, I endured some seriously terrible eyesight issues. I found out early on that I had Astigmatism. It gave me blurred vision and terrible headaches. It was not pleasant in the slightest. As a result, I started wearing glasses when I was in third grade.

I never liked it. I didn’t like how my glasses made my look, but I needed them. I couldn’t see squat without them. It only got worse over time, so much so that I could barely see my alarm clock in the morning, even though it was just a few feet away from me. For a while, I wore contacts. However, they were expensive, uncomfortable, and a pain in the ass to maintain.

Naturally, I was open to alternatives. I’d been looking into Lasik Eye Surgery for a while, but I was told I wasn’t a candidate while I was a teenager. I was still growing and my eyes were still getting worse. In addition, the technology at the time was still emerging and still extremely expensive.

It was also not something that insurance covered. If I wanted to ever do this, I’d have to pay for it out of pocket. For someone who left college with plenty of student loan debt, it seemed like a distant dream.

I endured glasses and terrible vision for most of my 20s. Even after I paid down my student loan debt, I continued life with glasses and contacts. My eyesight continued to be an ever-present pain in the ass.

Then, as it just so happened, I had a roommate who had Lasik surgery done. She also had eyesight issues similar to mine. She was the one who referred me to the doctor who ultimately did the surgery.

At the time, I’d saved up approximately $7,500. Some of that was emergency money, but most of it was mine to spend. This surgery would cost me around $6,500 total. Again, insurance wasn’t going to pay for this. I had to foot the entire bill. While I was conflicted for a time, I ultimately decided to take the plunge.

To date, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

I won’t say the procedure was easy. In fact, it was downright uncomfortable and the drugs they gave me were a bit too strong. On top of that, I needed two procedures to fully fix my eyes. My vision was just that bad.

However, as soon as I got up from that operating table, it was like a miracle. To this day, I still remember that feeling. When I went into the operating room without my glasses, there was this large warning sign about wearing eye protection while the lasers were operating. I couldn’t see much of it. Most of the letters were blurry.

Then, as soon as I got up, those letters were clear. I could read them. I could see them, the doctor’s face, and the details of the wall. It was like magic. I can’t put into words how amazing it felt. At that moment, it sank in.

I didn’t need glasses anymore.

I could see clearly.

I felt more attractive and confident than I had at any point during my awkward teen years. It also did wonders for my confidence. I wasn’t nearly as self-conscious anymore. I could approach people without feeling like I looked goofy. I could also wear non-prescription sunglasses. That may not seem like much, but trust me. It meant a lot to me.

If I had to pay twice the price for the same result, I’d have paid it gladly. I like to think it ultimately saved money on all the new glasses, contact solution, and doctor checkups over the years. It was both liberating and empowering.

I have great vision now and don’t have to worry about losing my glasses. Not all my purchases can ever be that valuable, but this definitely was. Lasik Eye Surgery remains the greatest money I ever spent. Until I meet the love of my life, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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A Personal (And Mildly Painful) Story About A Fond Summer Memory

This has been a bittersweet summer, to say the least. This might be the first summer since college where I haven’t been able to go on a real, actual vacation. It’s disappointing and distressing. I badly want to go to the beach, hit up a beach bar, or just visit some friends or relatives out of state. I haven’t been able to do any of that this year, due to the goddamn pandemic.

However, I don’t just want to lament at how this has been a lost summer. I like to think I’ve made the most of it, despite being stuck at home for the most part. There are ways to enjoy summer without going to the beach. They aren’t always as fun or fulfilling, but they still work.

In lieu of bemoaning my lack of vacation travels this summer, I thought I’d share a brief personal story. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s not overly awful either. It’s just one of those memories that stands out more than most and for reasons that are sure to become abundantly clear. It involves the beach, sunburn, and how a simple oversight can cause plenty of discomfort.

This particular memory takes place a number of years ago around the 4th of July. That year, I decided to head up to the beach to celebrate the holiday weekend. The weather was perfect. The food was as delicious as it was unhealthy. There were no masks, social distancing, or angry fights that broke out when someone sneezed. Good times, indeed.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing trip. On my first full day there, I was set to spend most of the day out on the sand with my dad. Since it was sunny and over 90 degrees out, we both made it a point to go heavy on sunscreen. For me, that’s somewhat challenging. I burn very easily and I’ve had many vacations undermined by nasty sunburns. At this point, though, I’d gotten pretty good at protecting myself.

On this day, I thought I did everything right. I lathered up as much as I could. I even used extra for good measure. I did not want to get burned. I wanted this trip to be memorable for all the right reasons. I thought I succeeded. The fact I smelled like a coconut for hours should’ve been proof of that.

Sadly, I was wrong.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there was one part of my body that I neglected. Trust me, it’s not the part your thinking. It was the top parts of my feet.

This may sound like a trivial oversight. Trust me, it isn’t and I had to learn that the hard way. I didn’t know it at the time, though. I just went about my day of surf, sand, and relaxation. My dad and I had an awesome time. We just lofted about without a care in the world, enjoying the summer sun at the beach. It was pure nirvana.

I only started to realize my oversight shortly after we got back. I realized the top parts of my feet were stinging. I wasn’t sure why until I kicked off my flip-flops. That’s when I saw it. A distinct pattern of red sunburn had formed all over the top of my feet. At the time, I just thought it was a mild inconvenience. I didn’t get burned anywhere else, so I thought I had avoided the worst.

Again, I was wrong.

It turns out that getting sunburned on the top of your feet is one of the worst places to get it. It’s not just that it makes wearing socks and shoes a lot more painful. The simple act of taking a shower, stretching your legs, or sleeping under the covers at night became a test in pain tolerance. At least on your back and arms, you can apply ointment or creams to alleviate the pain. It’s not as easy on your feet.

I won’t say this ruined my trip. I still had fun. It just complicated it. I had to be a lot more careful when it came to putting on socks and wearing flip-flops. I had to take lukewarm showers for a while. I also couldn’t go in any hot tubs. It was a bummer, but I got through it.

Thankfully, the pain only lingered for a few days. However, once my skin started peeling, it made for some interesting challenges with laundry. I’m pretty sure I had to throw away at least three pairs of socks after that trip. It was not a pleasant experience, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.

When it comes to applying sunscreen, do not skip the tops of your feet. You do not want to get burned there.

For those lucky enough to still have access to a beach, I hope you heed this advice. For those stuck in place, like me, try to remember it when this crisis is finally over. Next summer, we’ll have a chance to make up for all the time we’ve lost this year. Just be careful. You don’t want to get burned in the wrong place.

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Recounting The Dumbest Health Scare I Ever Had

Everybody makes a fool of themselves at some point in their lives. It’s inevitable. Like traffic, taxes, and boredom at a doctor’s office, it’s an ever-present prospect. You’re going to do something stupid at some point. No matter how much time passes, you’re going to look back and cringe. You’ll feel so stupid at that moment that you’ll wonder how you ever managed put your pants on that day.

Some people have more moments than others. The capable people learn and grow from them. The idiots and narcissists never learn, but make endless excuses. I don’t deny I’ve had a number of those moments in my life. Some are more foolish than others. A few are things I’m not comfortable sharing. I will, however, share one that still makes me cringe and laugh with distressing regularity.

It involves a health scare that I had a while back. Don’t worry. It’s quite possibly the dumbest health scare you’ll ever hear about that doesn’t involve a hang nail or something a kid learned in sex ed. If anyone has anything stupider, I’d love to hear it.

Before I get into detail, I need to note the context of this scare. I’m not making excuses. I’m just highlighting that it didn’t come out of nowhere. This happened shortly after a close relative began undergoing cancer treatments. On top of that, heart disease ran in my family. I had a valid reason for being overly cautious about my health.

That didn’t make what happened any less stupid.

It happened one day when I was trimming my beard. I noticed a strange bump on my lower-right chin. It didn’t feel like anything I’d felt before. I tried to look closer. I couldn’t tell what it was through my facial hair. It didn’t feel like a bruise or an ingrown hair. It just felt like a regular bump.

At first, I shrug it off. Then, I start picking at it, as people tend to do with things they don’t understand. Naturally, it starts growing. At some point, it gets a little sore. I can feel it when I chew. That’s when my mind starts racing.

What if it’s a tumor?

What if it’s some malignant cyst?

What if it’s some crazy condition I don’t even know about?

I’m not going to lie. I did start anxiously browsing WebMD for information, which you should definitely not do. Browsing WebMD in hopes of determining how sick you are is like watching old cop movies to learn how to defuse a bomb. You’re only going to make it worse.

It’s because of that I seriously considered going to my doctor. I even promised myself that, if it still hurt after a week, I would make an appointment. Thankfully, it never came to that because I soon found out what it was in the dumbest way possible.

It was a goddamn pimple.

That’s it. That’s all it was. It was just a pimple that had somehow formed in my beard and got irritated, probably because I kept picking at it. I only confirmed it was a pimple when it randomly popped. Again, I was picking at it. Having had serious acne problems since I was a teenager, I knew what pimples looked like when they popped. This just happened to be a particularly large one that my beard hid.

I wish I could say it was a relief, but I just felt so stupid at the moment that I would’ve preferred something worse. I vividly remember looking at myself in my bathroom mirror with this deadpanned expression, as though I’d just tried to cut a steak with a soup spoon. I would’ve laughed if it weren’t so pathetic.

There’s a time and a place to worry about your health. A global pandemic is bound to put everyone on edge and for wholly valid reasons. However, you don’t do yourself any favors by being stupid. If anything, you’ll only find creative ways to make it worse.

I’ve had plenty of other moments in my life when I’ve felt dumb. Given current events, I thought I’d share one about my health at a time when we’re all a little extra health conscious. No matter the situation, we’re all vulnerable to doing stupid things. We just need to be a lot more careful during a pandemic.

If anyone else has a story about moments when they felt dumb, please share them in the comments. As long as we’re all stuck at home, we might as well use it as an opportunity for extra introspection.

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The Moment I Knew Puberty Began For Me

In life, there are certain moments when you know you’ve reached a certain milestone. Sometimes, it’s obvious. From the first time you drive a car to the first time you kiss someone who isn’t your mother, they stand out in your memory. It’s not always pleasant. Some moments are more awkward than others, but they mark a major change in your life.

Going through puberty is one of those things that generates more awkward moments than most. I challenge anyone to recount their transformation from kid to adult without at least one part being awkward. I’ve shared a few stories from my youth, some being a lot more awkward than others. I can laugh about them now, but they marked critical points in my life that have only become more relevant as I’ve gotten older.

For most of us, there’s no one single point when we know we’ve entered puberty. You don’t just wake up one day and know that you’re a teenager now. All those crazy mental and physical changes don’t happen all at once. If they did, few of us would survive the process with our sanity intact.

That said, there are some moments that, in hindsight, mark a particular point in your life when you realize that this transformation has become. You’ve crossed the point of no return. You’re becoming a teenager now. Eventually, you’ll become an adult. It can be daunting, but it’s a part of life.

In that spirit, I’d like to share a particular moment that still stands out to me after all these years. It’s a moment in which I realized that I wasn’t a kid anymore. Puberty has begun and there’s no going back. At that moment, it was just a strange realization that I discounted. However, over time, it became a turning point.

It happened while I was in the fifth grade. It was late spring. We had just come back from Spring Break. The weather had finally gotten nice enough to enjoy recess without heavy jackets. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was just glad I could stop dressing in layers.

On this particular day, though, it was very humid. Coming back from recess, everyone was a lot sweatier than usual. Being kids, we didn’t care. We were just glad to get outside and away from book reports. I don’t remember much else about what happened that day, but I can vividly recall what happened the moment we returned to class.

As soon as we sat down at our tests and my teacher got to the front of the room, she made an impromptu announcement that will forever echo in my memory.

“You all, stink.”

I swear I’m not paraphrasing. That’s exactly what my teacher told us. She was an credibly blunt, straightforward woman. She didn’t mince words and this was one instance in which they couldn’t be sugarcoated.

She took a good five minutes of class time to give an impromptu lecture on how much we smell. She wasn’t polite about it. She just said in every possible way that we really smell and we need to start using deodorant. Past teachers have told us we smelled before, but never like this. It was the first time in which I became mindful of body odor.

I was really taken aback by this, as were plenty of classmates. Keep in mind, we’re all just 5th graders. We still see ourselves as kids and not teenagers. Some were more mature than others, but we were still kids at heart. I certainly felt that way. After this, however, that changed.

When I left class that day, it started to sink in. I was going through puberty. At that point, I knew what it was. I’d taken a health class. My parents also told me about it, too. I just didn’t think it would happen for another couple years. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw a kid. Now, I took note of some very real changes.

Body odor was just one. At the same time, I started noticing acne and body hair. It was very subtle. It didn’t happen all at once, but after that day, I became much more aware of it. By the time I got to middle school, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was a teenager at that point. That fateful day in the 5th grade was just the first time I realized it.

I’ve come to appreciate that moment more and more over the years. I still had many difficulties, as most kids do when they become teenagers. Some were more manageable than others. I probably could’ve handled it better, in hindsight. However, it’s still remarkable to think that it all began with that one fateful day.

Do you have a day like that? Is there one particular moment in which you realized puberty had begun for you? If so, please share it in the comments.

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Cutting My Own Hair: My Experience (And Mishaps)

These are strange, difficult, and incredibly frustrating times. The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined many big things in our world, from major sporting events to movie releases. Between that and the egregious death toll, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the big effects of this pandemic. However, sometimes it’s the little things can be just as impactful.

Just recently, I experienced one of those little impacts. For the first time in my life, I gave myself a haircut. I want to say I’m proud of it. I wish I could say it turned out just fine. Unfortunately, I don’t have the energy to be that dishonest with the fine people who read this blog.

It’s true, though. I did cut my own hair this past weekend. I’d genuinely hoped I wouldn’t have to, but my timing with respect to haircuts couldn’t have been worse. I typically get my hair cut every two months. It’s nothing fancy. I just get an overall trim that insures my hair looks neat, classy, and well-kept. It’s rarely that much of a hassle.

Then, the mass shut-down came and every barber shop within a 100 mile radius was closed. At that point, I was well past due for a haircut and it showed. My hair started looking less and less kept. I learned back in college that if I don’t cut my hair regularly, I end up looking like an extra in a grunge band from 1993. If I let my beard grow, I’d look like a mountain man with dandruff.

I really resisted the inclination to cut my hair on my own. Finally, after waking up one morning and seeing my hair in the mirror, I decided it was time. I didn’t have much to go on, so I just bought a cheap pair of clippers from Walmart, put a paper towel over my sink, and went through with it.

I wish I could say it was simple. I’d hoped it would be simple. It wasn’t. In fact, it took longer to cut my own hair than it would have if I’d gone to a barber shop. That’s because cheap clippers and messy, oily hair don’t exactly complement one another. I had to keep buzzing over the same areas on my head multiple times because the clippers always seemed to miss something. It got so tedious my arms got tired.

Eventually, I cut my hair to a point where it’s at least somewhat presentable. I wish I could describe it. I’ll just say it’s somewhere between a crew cut and a buzz cut, but with some messy spots in the middle. Just getting it even was way harder than it should’ve been. It’s still not even, but at least it’s manageable.

I won’t say it looks ugly, but it’s not exactly flattering, nor is it professional. If I walked into a job interview with this haircut, I’d probably get docked a few points. It was enough to make me hope I don’t have to cut my hair again. It also gave me much more appreciation for the barbers and stylists of this world.

Seriously, we miss you. My hair misses you. I hope this quarantine ends soon so you can get back to making us all look good.

For those of you in my position who badly need a haircut, do yourself a favor. Either find someone else who can cut it or use videos like this one to make sure you still look presentable.

 

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