2014 25 Days of Thanks- Day 5

December 5, 2014

Snyder’s of Hanover Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzel Pieces

If you’re looking for a snack that is small and uber flavorful, give these things a shot.

I can only eat a handful of the little pieces before my mouth gives me the “Yep, flavor overload.  You’re done” signal.

I’ve been working on a bag for a couple months now.  Really what I should do is buy no other snacks than those things and the weight would probably just fall off.

Thanks to J and A for opening the snack doors to these little bundles of overwhelming flavor!

And thanks for reading…

 

 

2014 25 Days of Thanks- Day 4

December 5, 2014

Refrigerator Magnets

I’ve written before about the canvas that is the front of the refrigerator.

In coming into adulthood and having the opportunity to travel, I wanted to start a theme of something to “collect” that would memorialize the different places I’ve been to.

I’ve been wracking my brain for the past few minutes to remember exactly how it got started but I, admittedly, have turned into a travel collector of refrigerator magnets.

That last sentence makes me sound like I’m moving magnets aside just to get to the door.  I think there’s 8 total up there.  This doesn’t happen at every little place I go.

But, every now and again, when walking through a gift shop, I’ll start checking out the magnets to see what could be added to the collection.

Please know that it’s got to be something cool.  We’re not talking just a “New York!” magnet in the shape of the state.  Nope…

For example, I’ve got a bottle opener magnet from Wisconsin.  I just picked up a psychedelic graphic of a cow from the Ben and Jerry’s Production Plant.  I have a random Icelandic Rock Magnet that in no way, shape, or form looks like a fossilized piece of poop.  There’s a magnet of a section of the London Underground map.

It’s got to be a cool, funky, eccentric magnet to be worthy to be added to the fridge.

Thanks for reading…

2014 25 Days of Thanks- Day 3

December 4, 2014

Instagram

KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid

I am thankful tonight for Instagram for sticking to it’s main mission of sharing pics and short (short!) videos easily and smoothly.  Sure there are a few ads thrown in but they’ve got to make a buck somehow.

I feel like I’ve lost control over my Facebook news feed so it’s nice to have something I can go to easily to view or share some of the cool things that people are seeing around the world.

Feel free to follow me on Instagram- http://instagram.com/spainjeff

Thanks for reading…

 

2014 25 Days of Thanks- Day 2

December 3, 2014

The Kitchen Table

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From game nights to tough talks… from homework help to silent reflections… from late night story sharing to elbow supporting exhaustion… It’s amazing to think what a kitchen table has been through.

Now, when I say kitchen table, I’m talking about whatever multi use flat surface your family has gathered around in good and bad moments.  It could be a coffee table or a kitchen bar, whatever, my point is that there is some flat surface in your house that has held up more than dinner plates throughout your lives.

For me, it’s the table pictured above.  This thing has supported everything from birthdays (with the person always seated by the window) to high school finals prep.  Most recently, it witnessed a fairly regular tradition for Jeff Spain theater performances.

I can remember the night before many performances, sitting around this table with my Dad and/or my Mom with the script in their hands watching me fumble with my lines as I paced around the kitchen.  Even at 35, I took advantage of the good luck before a recent performance, handing off the script to my Dad, giving him a little background, and allowing his stage history to do the rest.  And even at 35, he always gives the same advice which, even at 35, I honestly fail to implement until that point.  “Jeffrey, you have to remember to slow down and speak succinctly.”  Even at 35, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope that there’s a spot in your house that’s been as literally and figuratively supportive as a table.  Maybe give it a little tap when you pass by it next time and say “Thanks”.

Thanks for reading…

2014 25 Days of Thanks- Day 1

December 2, 2014

Sharing The Joy of Wegmans

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Friends are in from out of town and I did my best to show them a Northeast good time. I took them to a few hot spots including downtown Troy and Albany, the Ben and Jerry’s plant in Vermont, and since they had already toured NYC, we checked out Boston for the day.

Late in the day I realized there was an opportunity to share in a cultural phenomenon… A center of northeastern excellence… A modern marvel of culinary preparedness and assistance.

I realized I could take them to Wegmans.

And so today, I have exposed four more people on this great planet of ours to the Joy of Wegmans.

Thanks for reading and thanks to the Holtmeyer family for a great weekend…

25 Days of Thanks- Preview #2

November 23, 2014

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Another preview. Lots of things always happen at the kitchen table.

25 Days of Thanks- Preview

November 6, 2014

Since 2008, I’ve sporadically dedicated December to writing a post a day about the things I’m thankful for.  This year will be no different.

Currently putting together a list and thought, since I haven’t posted in a while, I’d give a small preview of what’s to come…

– Balls 1, Cancer 0

– “Guess who’s non-plussed now?”

– Wednesday morning pictures like this one:

jeff spain likes hotdogs

– Two adventurers, on a path, taking on the challenge together

– An RA from the building I live in- “It’s been 11 days since the fire alarm went off.”

– “You have a roommate?”

– Whatever happened to the Ariana Grande post?

More to come in a few weeks.  All gets started on December 1st.

As always, thanks for reading…

King of Spain?

May 19, 2014

Every now and again, having the last name of a country comes up in conversation.

“Are you from Spain?”

“Are you Spanish?”

Tonight, I posted some information in the RPI Class of 2018 Facebook page.  It was general information about our new housing application and how they could ask me anything about the process or living on campus.

This is a response from a student:

facebookpost

My honest response was:

HA!  No relation.  And it’s a-ok to call me Jeff.

 

But here’s what I really wanted to respond with:

Actually, funny story.  Once I was the King of Spain and I had an unspeakable Queen Lisa who we don’t mention.  Some thought I was a former conehead but now I work at RPI Res Life, Res Life.  One night, when the palace was asleep, out of my royal chambers and into the garden I crept.  I waited until the agreed upon time at which point, my peasant friend, who looked just like me, arrived and we made a switch.

 

If you don’t get the joke, let me take you back in time…

The year is 1997 and Jeffrey has just stepped onto to the campus of Canisius College.  Armed with some crazy hair, baggy shorts, and enough epi-pens to jump-start a Ferrari (my mom was nervous), I strolled into the first meeting of the year for the theater club on campus.  At the front of the room stood a few upperclass students who spoke about the shows they were thinking about doing and how the club operated.

Immediately, I was hooked.  I was being invited out to parties, included at the lunch/dinner table, and even given a nickname (Viva).  I thought it was pretty cool to be some little freshman hanging out with these giants of Canisius.

These giants also put on an annual variety show titled “Studio X”.  It was an opportunity to showcase the singing, performing, and comedic talents of all students on campus.  Each show had a host and at the end of my freshman year, they passed the duties onto me.

First time out walking out, this was the song they played…

For the next couple years, with Kim as a great co-host, we made people laugh, kept the show moving along, and hopefully entertained a few students.

But that song… it stuck.  A little a capella.  A catchy drumbeat.  Talking about driving Zambonis.  It has a little of everything.

It also has the ability to bring a smile to my face no matter what’s happening.  Some great memories from Canisius attached to that song and I’m sure some great memories to come as I share it with more people.

And now I’ve shared it with you:-)

Thanks for reading…

Wait for it to sink in…

April 27, 2014

I had to.  

It was the perfect setup.

I could hear the giggles start from the audience and I capitalized on it.

———-

This past Friday, I was asked to give a Survivor’s Reflection at the RPI Relay for Life.

In writing the speech, I originally included a joke that was probably a little too much.  I knew that families would bring young children and that the wrong words in front of one of the Vice Presidents, could lead to disaster.

I’ll share the joke at the end.  It’s really not too extreme because of what you already know about me.  But I just thought the words used could be a little too spicy for young ears.

———-

Stick to the script Jeffrey.  You added in a few beats.  You added in some movement.  You only have three minutes.  

Stick to the script.

———-

(The start of the speech)

“Yea… We’re going to need move this one to the top of the list”

Those were the words that started my cancer journey. In some reflections on a personal blog, I compared it to a roller coaster but now that things have started to settle… now that life is returning to a new, KEYWORD new, normal… it’s been more of a journey.

This journey started just last year on April 8th where tests showed that I had developed testicular cancer. A few days later, well, the most appropriate way to say this is that, through surgery, I became a little lighter on one side.

———-

Let me interrupt for just a second.

Safe.  Didn’t drop any inappropriate words.  Kept it clean for the…

Was that a giggle?  And another.  Ok.  They got the joke.  Wasn’t enough though.  That joke was supposed to be funnier!

———-

(Speech continues)

Wait for it to sink in…

———-

Cue moment of fear as you go off script!

I had to.

It was the perfect setup.

———-

(Speech continues)

 

The journey took it’s time at getting me connected with the American Cancer Society. I actually was here, last year. My head spinning from recent results, decisions that needed to be made, and thoughts about the effect this was having on family and friends.  I almost broke down back there (POINT BEHIND THE BLEACHERS) as I saw everyone gathered in the unity of supporting people affected by cancer. I vowed at that point that I would be back here this year to be part of this environment and energy of the students, faculty, staff, and friends of Rensselaer to walk with you at this amazing event.

Having decided treatment options and learned that I have a very treatable form of cancer, my journey took me to the American Cancer Society Hope Club over in Latham. I walked in there with a mission. I was going to start getting involved, start volunteering, and start sharing with other people who have testicular cancer that they’re not alone. I met with the volunteer coordinator and her response to my mission stopped me in my tracks. She said,

You fix you first.

I thought, “What? Who are you telling me to fix me? I’m fixed. I’m ready. Use me. Sure… me fix me.”

But it was exactly what I needed to hear. She knew that ahead of me lied chemotherapy, further tests, and my body and mind trying to understand exactly what was happening.

Through support groups at Hope Club, I learned more about how people were coping with the disease at all levels of treatment and response. It was a place where I could ask some hard-hitting questions and, as you heard a second ago, get a very honest and supportive response. The men and women in these groups shared their own journey and gave me an idea what lied ahead including not using google to diagnose any pains and that chemo brain was the reason I couldn’t remember what I had for breakfast.

My journey has now brought me back here to this Relay for Life. I’m deeply touched, profoundly lucky, and unbelievably blessed to be standing here today amongst the smiling faces of family, friends, faculty, staff, and students. I joked earlier that I’m a little lighter on one side but in a big way, it’s because through your efforts, the load of this journey is a little lighter for all those affected by this disease. You are working to pick us all up whether we are cancer survivors, whether we are friends and supporters of people with cancer, or whether we are those who have seen the worst of this disease can cause.

You are lifting us all up and I am honored to stand up here and say “Thank You” for everything you’ve done. My thanks to all those who planned this event. My thanks to all those who supported this event. And my thanks to all of you who will be here tonight. Here’s to a great 2014 RPI Relay for Life. Thanks.

———-

The rest of the speech, thankfully, went very smoothly.

All survivors in attendance receive a special t-shirt, a pin, and a survivor sash.

In honor of all the work they did, I gave my sash to my parents.  Couldn’t have done it without them.

The joke that I wanted to include was something like this…

———-

As some of you may know I have a severe allergy to peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios… really all nuts.  I just didn’t think the one down there would be something my body would want to be allergic to.

———-

There were kids in the audience.  Right in the front and center.  The VP for Student Life had just given his remarks.  The General Counsel for RPI was also in attendance.  Little kids plus members of the administration did not add up to jokes about my, um, nuts.

All in all, it was a great experience and I’m honored that the students from RPI Relay would ask me to share my story.

Thanks for reading…

You fix you

April 13, 2014

“You fix you”

These words hit me square in the face.  Who is this person to tell me to fix myself?  What do they know?

A year ago today (April 12) I became a little lighter on one side. The cancer roller coaster had begun and I had a prime seat.

What wasn’t really written about in the original blog post was an interaction between myself and a volunteer coordinator at the American Cancer Society.

I remember soon after the chemo effects had simmered down, that I wanted to get out and share my story to anyone who would listen.  I wanted to get involved and say to folks, “You don’t have to be scared alone.  You don’t have to be anxious alone.  You don’t have to go through this alone.”

I am one of the lucky ones who has great family, friends, colleagues, and students who were nothing but supportive.  But I know not everyone is so lucky.

That bothers me.  No one should be scared alone.  No one should be anxious alone.  No one should have to go through this alone.

One day, sometime last year in the summertime, I met with a volunteer coordinator at the local American Cancer Society.  I had the Spain charm primed to 11 and was ready to be sent wherever was needed.  She chatted with me for a few minutes about my cancer journey and then said to me…

“You fix you first.  Then we’ll see about getting you involved.”

“Say what?  Ma’am I am a-ok.  You don’t know me.  It’s go time.  Point in a direction.  Any direction.  Fix me?  Yea.  Ok.” was exactly what I said in my head as a response.

Out of my mouth came, “Ahhh.  Sure.  Ok.  Gotcha.”

It’s now been a year and how right she was.  Time was needed to put my physical life back together and my mental life back together.  It worked.

In my New Year’s blog post, I spoke about how my mom is encouraging me to live life with gusto.  That gusto, combined with some random resolutions has really made 2014 interesting so far.  A quick update on the resolutions:

1) Run a 5K- Thanks to Couch to 5K, well on the way.  Almost done with the program.  Probably would have been easier if I didn’t eat everything in sight post cancer fixing process, but the weight is progressively getting better.
2) To end a raucous speech with my hand gesturing towards the sky- Spoiler alert!  This will be accomplished April 25th at RPI’s Relay for Life.  My tiny request for support.
3) Get back on the darn stage- Working on it.  I semi-accomplished this by being asked to be the RPI Basketball Public Address Announcer but it wasn’t technically the stage.  It will happen though.
4) Travel-  Saving the coin.  Keeping an eye out for good deals.  Probably going the solo traveller route.
5) Learn how to pick out Men’s Shoes- Ahhhhh… nope.
6) Finish one of the six-ish scripts that I started- Semi-accomplished.  During some recent work with RPI Orientation, we came up with an idea to have students create small videos that would get them thinking about college.  Some in the room thought that we should create one as an example.  So I drew up scripts for two possible videos:

School Supply Take 1.pdf

School Supply Take 2.pdf

I’ve still got time to finish one of the big ones.  I’m making progress!

7) Road trip to a random place in the Northeast- My original idea was to put a map on a spinning dart board and drive to wherever my dart landed.  Do you know how hard it is to find a spinning dart board?  I probably could have built something but being the techie that I am, I turned to the Internet.  So that you don’t think I’m cheating, here are the screenshots from when I did it:

 

Thanks Random Point Generator!

Thanks Random Point Generator!

mappoint

Looks like I’m headed to Long Island!  There will be a pics and blog post after I get there this summer.

8) Learn to play guitar- Thanks to some friends in town from Quincy and some other resources, I’m on my way to rocking out on a guitar:-)

_______________________________________

 

The cancer journey continues for me in a positive way.  But for many, it is a challenging and troublesome road.  I feel lucky and blessed to have you readers take the time to just read briefly about my journey and all those who’ve called, texted, emailed, or voiced out loud words of support and encouragement.  This year may have been physically lighter on one side but it is not because of the removal of this tiny piece of my body, it is lighter because many of you have reached out to help lighten the load.  The laughs, the stories, the high fives, the love, the hugs, the notes, the smiles… all the efforts to check in do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks…