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Treadmills and Singing Don’t Mix

March 4, 2014

Seen Frozen?  Watched the Oscars?  Then you probably know the hit song, Let It Go.

In order to tell this story, I guess I have to confess up front that I’ve downloaded it.

Sure the words are skewed towards a different, um, demographic.  But it’s catchy and easy to sing in the shower.

Also to tell this story, I point you back to #1 on my New Year’s Resolutions– To run a 5K.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing a training program that helps you train to do a 5K.  Every couple of days it has a plan of how many minutes to walk and how many to run.  Some days are harder than others but I’ve been happy with the progress.

So the other night, I’m alone in the small gym in the building I live in.  It’s getting to the end of the program and I’m pushing through to finish strong.  While I’m running, I usually just hit random on a playlist I’ve created.  That night’s selections were outstanding… and it was about to get better.  4ish minutes remain in my run…

My mind shifts to a slight pain starting to develop in my shin around the same time Let It Go hits my headphones.

“The snows glows white on the mountain tonight…”

I casually hum along as I try to also keep my breathing at a good pace.  My mind is trying to focus to on the pain but I keep directing it to thoughts of Spring and running outside in the fresh air.

My humming turns to soft singing as I try to distract myself from the apparent gnome poking a knife into my shin.

If you fast forward the video to around 2:30, that’s about matches up with what’s about to happen…

The robotic voice shares some great news, “One minute remaining!”

In the gym there are mirrors on the wall that the treadmills face.  It gives a great view of the whole gym and I see that I’m still alone.

I look at myself intently in the mirror as the horns flare at the end of the line.  “You got this.  Finish strong!”

My eyes close as I do another quick assessment of the room.  My head drops as I slip into the “frozen fractals all around!”

The pace and rhythm of this part of the song block out the nail being driven into my shin.  I have no idea what’s happening around me because I am in the groove.

(The video is around 2:55 at this point)

“I’m never going back.  The past is in the past”

Almost instinctively I raise my head, eyes still closed, and belt out the next few words.

“Let it goooooo.  Let it goooooooo and I’ll rise like the break of dawn.  Let it goooo.  Let it gooooo.  That perfect….”

My eyes open.

A student… (like a damn ninja!!!!!!)… had walked into the room and stopped right inside the door.  She starring directly at me graciously holding in her giggles while awkwardly smiling.

I’m already about a 4 out of 10 on the Jeff Spain face-redness scale.  Think it got up to about an 8 as I realize how long she’s might have been standing there.

I rip the headphones out of my ears and immediately start apologizing.

Granted I don’t really have the breath to get out too much of the English language because:

1) I’m pretty darn embarrassed
2) I had wasted a lot of it trying not only to run but also hit the notes successfully.
3) I’m still running.

She is very kind and brushes off my apology.  “You’re fine!  You’re fine!”

Questions fill my brain…  Who is this student?  Who does she know?  Where’s her cell phone?  Did she have it in her hand as you saw her?  Did she record that?  How do I block a video on YouTube?  Is there a policy violation that occurred that I can use to confiscate the phone?

Yep, still running.  No pain at all in my shin.  Or at least my mind doesn’t really give a care because I’ve potentially starred in a new viral video.  The running program probably ended a few minutes ago…

Finally, I come to.  Hit the stop button on the treadmill and pause to assess the situation.

The student has started up on an elliptical with her own headphones in.  I turn to try to apologize again but, I think it’s best if I just leave.

If I hadn’t just run a few miles, I probably would have run out of the gym.  But I kept my cool and confidently (swiftly) exited the premises.

So if in your internet travels, you happen to see a grown man on a treadmill unknowingly belt out this song, let me know:-)  I’d love to see it.  Just curious how I sounded.  No other reason…

Thanks for reading…

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The Perfect Storm

March 1, 2014

At some of the past schools I’ve worked at, I’ve had the opportunity to become involved in some of the technological initiatives.  From assisting with organizing budgets, to adapting ID readers, to tracking attendance at programs… I’ve hopefully helped some of the day to day tasks  become a little bit easier for fellow colleagues.

Some have been very easy and very smooth.  A few growing pains here and there as staff get adjusted to new steps and new concepts… but for the most part, these implementations have gone well.

Recently here at RPI, we brought on some new housing software to assist with data management, application implementation, and room selection.  Basically this thing takes about 90% of our paper processes in Residence Life and puts them on a computer.

But to clearly set the tone of this blog, we need to do something first.

Let us open our “Jeff Spain Moments” history book to this little nugget at Quincy University…

_____________________

July 18, 2012- Smack dab in the middle of First Year Housing selection:

Since late June I had been telling a student who picked Room 128 that they absolutely, positively picked a room that exists on the 1st floor in between Room 126 and 130.

Student calls early July…

Student: So I looked on the floor plan and it says that 128 is a stairwell.
Me: Whoa!  Really?  A stairwell?  Nah… must be a misprint.

Student calls the following week around July 10th….

Student: Hi.  Me again.  I, um, went on an Admissions tour to see the room and well, I couldn’t find it.
Me: No, no.  I’m telling you it’s there.  Trust me!

I call the student July 18, 2012:

Me: So…. Hi….  I assigned you to a stairwell and now I need to move you.
Student: Hahahaha.  Mom!  Guess what…. (voice trails off)

_____________________

Thankfully, and with the help of a few people, that seemed to be the only gaffe.

 

The “P” in RPI stands for Polytechnic.  Most students coming here will be exposed to that “technic” part of the campus.

Uber-technical students + Jeff Spain Moments = The Perfect Storm

Honestly and thankfully, there were really only two thanks to the help of some great colleagues and friends who I worked with on this project.

Gus, My Pet Panther

To test out some of the features of the software, we created some test accounts under our own names.  The application allows students to input their personal information, answer some questions about themselves (How late do you stay up?  Do you study a lot?) and then it gives them some space to write a personal statement about themselves.

The folks testing the system were a small group of colleagues and trusted students.  Each seemed to do pretty well and during a review session, my profile personal statement popped up on-screen.  It read:

I’m a great roommate to live with.  I keep the place clean and tidy but I have to let you know about something that is a non-negotiable issue.  I have a pet panther named Gus.  Gus has been with me since childhood and is always by my side.  For the most part, Gus is a friendly cat but you can’t make too many sudden movements.  I didn’t get him de-clawed because that’s just mean to do to a panther.  Plus, the vet says Gus is “challenging to work with.”  Meh.  Oh!  One more thing.  At night, I’d really recommend sleeping as still as possible.  It’s common sense to not mess with a panther in the nighttime. 

Our testing continued to go well and we shifted into implementation and rolling it out to students.

Fast forward a few weeks where we are fully functional and students are searching through profiles to find a possible roommate.  A colleague arrives in the office one day says with a laugh that a graduated student who was a testing user is getting requests to be his roommate.  He was getting such a kick out of….

I throw my hand against my forehead as she tries to finish her sentence.

Did we….?

Is it…?

If his profile is still up there then….?

It can’t still be….?

I strolled nervously over to my computer.  Looked for my name.  And just clicked delete.

I don’t know if anyone else found out about Gus.  We never received any comments.  No reddit posts.  Nothing in the forums.  Maybe it never went public?  Part of me wants to go up to a random student and ask, “Does Gus mean anything to you?”

There’s A Bed Bug Problem?

The application has about 10 different screens/steps.  Each step is labeled at the top so that the student knows what part of the application they’re on.  Some steps are only available to certain students at certain times.

Part of our Room Selection Process allows students to retain the space that they’re currently living in for the following year.

With me so far?

When one of the steps opened, we ran into an unforeseen bug.

The step in the application was titled, “Renew Current Bed”.

So I fixed the bug.

Excited that I had fixed it, I drew up a quick email to send to students.  It read:

________________________

From: Jeff Spain
Subject: Renew Current Bed Bug Fix

Dear Student,
We recently discovered that many of you encountered an issue when you tried to renew your space…

________________________

Translated to what was going through my brain at the time:

________________________

From: Jeff Spain, Dean of Awesomeness because huzzah, I just fixed a major glitch in the system!
Subject: You’re probably not going to read this subject anyway because, who really reads the subject line?

Dear Student,
Fixed!  I fixed it!  Whoo hoo!  I heard y’all were having some problems with the app and I fixed it!  Bring me the finest food in all the land!  I have to tell you this as quickly as possible!

_________________________

So to 700 students the email was sent out with information about how the issue was fixed and they were free to log back in and confirm their housing.

Looking back on my emails, it took all of 7 minutes for me to receive the following:

_________________________

From: Student
Subject: Bed Bugs?

I didn’t know we had a problem with bed bugs?  When did this happen?

_________________________

That’ll teach me to not respect the Subject line.  I can’t even blame them.  Sure the text of the email made no reference to Bed Bugs but, when the first thing you see in an email is in reference to creepy crawly little creatures that harass you in your sleep, I can’t blame them for their first reaction being, “Whaaaaa?”

I never sent out a correction email.  Knowing my luck that night, I would have just made the problem worse.

 

So, now, reflecting back on the process, it went fairly well.  Sure a few bumps… wait… shouldn’t use that word.  Sure a few hiccups, but all in all, I think it was a success.  We’ll do some student feedback sessions.  Pray that the first year application process goes without me assigning someone to a bathroom.  But with some great colleagues and friends, we’ll keep trucking on with this exciting, unpredictable system.

Thanks for reading…

Yoga, Beards, and Scented Oils

February 5, 2014

The best time for me to workout is in the morning.  Sure I’ll play basketball or run with someone after work but for me, the best opportunity to workout is in the morning.

With working at a college, there’s always easy access to a gym with workout classes.  In perusing the schedule for the Winter 2014 semester, the only thing offered in the morning is Yoga.

So, I jumped in on it.  Family, friends, stories on tv, etc. all rave about the benefits of Yoga.  It centers you.  It calms your muscles.  It awakens your mind.

First class was this past Tuesday and, well, it was an interesting experience.

Just one?

I’ve never taken a Yoga class before.  All I knew was that I was going to be doing some stretches, pointing towards the ceiling a lot, and something about a downward dog.

So I get there a few minutes early.  Gentle tribal music is playing in the background.  The teacher greets me and I see a few people have already arrived.

Thankfully someone arrives right after me so I can nonchalantly follow along at how this all works.

I see her take off her shoes.  Oh, ok, shoes off.  Check.

She joins in with the group in the front row.  I take a spot towards what I think is the back center so that I’m not in anyone’s way but have a good view of the teacher.  I continue to watch the woman who came in before me.

She’s unrolling her mat.  Ok.  Let me just…WHAP!  Heads whip around…

Awkwardly loudly say, “OH!  Sorry.  New guy here.  My bad.”

Tribal music takes back over the room thankfully drowning out the screaming red from my face.  Have to roll it out on the floor next time.  Not start at the height of my head…

She sits cross-legged in the middle of her mat.  Ok, that’s easy for me.

More people start to file in and take up a few more spots in front.  Then, before I realize it, I’m no longer in the back center.

I’m in the exact center.  Awesome.

She begins class by introducing herself and talking a little about the class.  Then asks, “So is anyone new to Yoga?”

I throw up my hand.  Not going to lie about it.

She says, “Just one?”

Hand slowly lowers as again, all eyes are now on the guy in the center of the room.  This should be fun…

So you can stick your tongue out if you want to

Yoga is a whole other language.  Spider.  Warrior.  Words tossed around that I don’t think can be spelled using the English alphabet.

I know that language will come to me over time.

What I think will really take some time are the Yoga jokes.

I’m glad she’s getting the class laughing a little.  I think that’s good to relieve stress.

But when I’ve got my arm under my other arm while my leg is off to the side and my feet are gripping onto the mat for dear life, I’m in no mood for jokes.  I’m just trying not to pass out from not being able to breathe.

I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be laughing right along with everyone else but first I have to learn to not knock over the person next to me and start a human domino machine.

Yoga and Beards do not mix

I’ve started growing some facial hair.  My mom’s response- “Oh Jeffrey.  I like it.  I really like the new vibe.  It’s very mobster!”  Mobster.  She said it very positively which means she likes it, so I’ll take it:-)

Growing facial hair is a new experience with new sensations.

I can feel every muscle movement in my face.  The littlest smirk.  The raise of an eyebrow.  The start of a frown.  Everything is sensitive on my face.  Borderline ticklish.

When you have a hair on your face, many of us instinctively swipe at it.  My mind has not mastered the fact that now there is hair all over my face and it’s not going anywhere.  To those of you who see me take random swipes at my cheeks… I’m really not crazy.

Yoga is all about clearing the mind and focusing on the body (Says the guy who’s only taken one class).

But what’s happening is that, as mentioned before, I’m trying not to suffocate myself.  Don’t fall into the person next to you. Spine straight!  Shoulders back.  Don’t forget to breathe.  Ahhh.  Ok.  Got it.  Feels pretty go… Wait!  I’m two poses behind.  How the hell did your leg get there?

And now you throw in involuntary swipes to the face.  Which does wonders for balance.

I’m just going to put a little oil on you

At the beginning of class she mentioned that she likes to put scented oil on her students when class is winding down.  I usually pass on these experiences due to sensitive skin.

So she gets to the end of class and everyone is laying flat on their backs.  She asks everyone to close their eyes.

I close them for a brief second then open right back up to see what the heck is about to happen.

She starts on one side of the room and I see she’s got the scented oils prepped.  After a few people I see that she places a little in her hands then touches the shoulders followed by some sort of something on the forehead.

Nope.  Forehead.  No way.

She walks around the room and then gets to me.

As I’m about to say something softly to her, I think, “Aw what the hell…”

I pick up the scent in my nose and close my eyes.  She does the wavy thing on my forehead and before I know it, I am in relaxiation central, population… this guy.

Wow.  Just knocked me out.  I didn’t open my eyes.

I was amazed at how I went from, “Oh dear God she’s getting closer.  What are you going to say?  Blame the allergies?  Sensitive skin?  New guy?” to “I am a leaf on the wind.  Watch how I soar…”

……….

All joking aside, the class was great.  The teacher was really good.  I, for the most part, kept up with the movements.  Sure it was awkward a few times but I did walk out of there feeling really good.  Definitely headed back.

Thanks for reading…

2014

December 31, 2013

It would be very easy for me to throw every bad word in the book at 2013.  It’d be easy to hurl insults, give it a few finger gestures, or come up with a clever comic to really show my disdain.

But how could I do that to a year I’ll never forget?

For the most part, it was a pretty good year.  Moved home closer to family.  Had an amazing sendoff by students, staff, faculty, and friends out in Quincy.  I started a good job with good responsibility.

But sure there have tough times with the passings of family, friends, and colleagues.  We’ve all seen the struggles of people around us getting just one year older.  Some struggles have been surprises, while others were unfortunately anticipated.

Births, weddings, new love, old love, funny incidents, and touching moments filled in the gaps.

The big battle was fought and continues to lean in my healthy favor.

I checked a few things off my bucket list including crashing a wedding.  The two women who got married also noted a few weeks ago that the crashing was extra special because it was two women who got married (Congrats Amanda and Eva!)

To me, I think 2013 can be summed up in one word… educational.

2014 needs a new word… a new direction… a new action.

I wish I knew what the word was but a lot can happen in a year.  I do know that 2013 was filled with moments that happened to me.  I need 2014 to be filled with moments where I happen to it.

That may make no sense to you.  I understand.  It may take a year to explain.  Well, wait… hey, look what we got here!  A whole new year to explain!

I’ve sat back a lot this year and things have just happened.  Good and bad.  Nothing I regret!  Nothing I regret for you either!

But 2014 needs to be a year of action.  2014 will be a year of saying, “F–k it.  You beat cancer (again, please note the little c.  Explanation for the little c can be found here).  There’s no excuse.”

My mom’s motto is “Live life with gusto!”  And maybe at the end of 2014 “gusto” will be the word.

She’s right though in that “gusto” needs to be the direction.

A friend asked me and another person at the table the other day about resolutions.  And I do have a few.  Some of these I told her.  Others I’ve thought of since…

1) Run a 5K- Her response almost immediately was, “Why?”.  I replied, “Because I’ve got to start somewhere…” I’ve got the shoes.  I’ve got the energy.  Just need the direction.
2) To end a raucous speech not with my fist going down to emphasize a point.  But instead with my finger going up.  Kinda like when you make the sign of an airplane taking off.  Use one finger and start off on the runway, then go straight up in the air.  I saw it in a movie recently and thought, “That’d be cool to do”
3) Get back on the darn stage- I did a show in Quincy last year and had a blast.  Time to do one here.
4) Travel- The travel bug bit me a few years ago on that backpacking trip through Europe.  Time to put more stamps in the passport.
5) Learn how to pick out shoes- I’m semi-intimated by guy shoes.  My brother has good shoes.  My sister has good shoes.  Friends have good shoes.  Mine feel kinda, “Meh…”
6) Finish one of the six-ish scripts that I’ve started
7) Road Trip- I’d like to take a map of the northeast.  Put it on a spinning hanging thing.  Give it a good twirl.  Throw a dart at it and go have a beer in that town.  Unless it ends up on top of a mountain which means that #8 might need to be “Learn how to mountain climb”.  And then have a beer on top of the mountain.
8) Learn to play the guitar- More on that here.

That’s a good start.

So goodbye 2013.  Thanks for the memories.

Hello 2014.  What fun will you bring?

Thanks for reading…

The Crane

December 28, 2013

“Oh look.  The crane is moving”

The year was 1994.  I was a sitting in a school bus at this intersection:

https://maps.google.com/?ll=42.722046,-73.675479&spn=0.002327,0.005654&t=m&z=19

Joe R. said it with little conviction.  Little effort.  Little excitement.

What he didn’t know was that I had been waiting to see the thing move since 1984.

My head had been buried in a math book scrambling to do homework on the way to high school.  I had been sitting on that side of the bus when Joe and a few other folks were catching up on the weekend’s events.  To be honest, most days when we passed through this intersection, I was either part of the conversation or staring blankly out the window.  Sometimes it crossed my mind to look.  Other times, I never thought twice about it.

The 10 years waiting wasn’t a life stopping waiting.  It’s a crane.  It’s on a track.  It’s nothing too special.  You can see it more closely here:

https://maps.google.com/?ll=42.721757,-73.675395&spn=0.002319,0.005654&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=42.721677,-73.675371&panoid=8JgO37xNV426FRk9j2xA8A&cbp=12,282.29,,0,2.35

At the top of a cliff in the river, this crane sits waiting to clear out debris so that water can flow freely over the dam.

As I grew older, I’d pass by there often on my way to work and occasionally remember to glance over to see if it was moving.

Nothing.

The story would come up occasionally with Joe or with other friends in the car.  There’d be a few laughs and I’d join in right along with them but still, I couldn’t help but glance every time we drove by.

Since moving back to Troy and living just a few blocks from this crane, I continue to check it out.

Recently, while giving a coworker a ride home, we passed through this intersection and I told him the story.  “So my buddy Joe says, ‘Oh look.  The crane is moving.’  No enthusiasm.  Just blurts it right out as if he’s saying the sun is shining.  To this day, I’m still a little irked that he’s seen it and I haven’t”

My coworker’s response… “Yea, I’ve seen it working a few times now.”

In my head, the breaks squealed, he flung forwards by the force of the stop, and I put the car in park stating, “We’re not moving until you give me dates and times that this happened.”

By this point, I’ve now been waiting to see the thing move for 29 years.  And this guy, who has maybe lived in Troy for a few years says, again, with little effort, little excitement, and little conviction, “I’ve seen it working a few times now.”

In reality, I continued driving and made a sarcastic remark about the length of time.  He laughed and even said, “Well Jeff, if I ever see it moving again, I’ll give you a call.”

Fast forward to Christmas Day of this year…

I had spent the night at my parents house and after opening gifts and having some breakfast, I told my Mom and Dad that I was going to head home a little early to prep for the Christmas festivities happening at my apartment.  I remember hesitating at the door because I felt like there was still some work needed to be done at their house.  But they both said it was a-ok to go.

I drove as I normally do with the radio piping out some Christmas tunes and me navigating the potholes and sewer covers of Pawling Ave.

I saw a local bus pull out in front of me and remember thinking, “Great.  Now it’s going to take me even longer to get home.”  Honestly the difference in time between me riding behind this bus and me getting every green light is probably seconds.  But, it crossed my mind.

We pull up to the light at this intersection and my car ends up behind the bus which pushes me into the middle of that bridge there.  I remember bouncing around to some song on the radio and flailing to the left due to some awkward “dance” move.

The world went silent…

The crane was in the middle of the track digging it’s claw into the icy river pulling out icy branches.

I was in awe.  I was frozen.  The world was silent.

By now the bus had pulled through the intersection and a beige jeep cherokee had pulled up behind me.

The jeep never honked.  I still wonder if this was because he/she was amazed by the sight too.

My silence and frozenness did not pay off for them though as I was so excited, I breezed through the light right as is was going from yellow to red.

I wonder if they even cared.

….

It may have been an odd interest.  I don’t feel any differently today than I did before Christmas but it’s a little story about the random things in life you wait for.  Hopefully your 29 years of waiting is more like 29 seconds.

So here’s to the next 29 years of random things.  What oh what will they bring.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 25

December 25, 2013

Thankful- My House’s Front Porch

photo 1This darn front porch has seen a lot covering all sorts of emotional moments both big and small.

From family pictures… to school dances… to sleepovers (yes, a few have slept on that front porch)… to epic wiffle ball games… this thing has been through a lot.

To enter into whatever we might call home, you have to enter through the front door.  I’m sure your front stoop could tell some stories.

Mine continues to do so.

As many know, I’ve moved back closer to home.  Trips are made to my parent’s house weekly for errands, snow shoveling, dinner, roof shoveling, Riley time, leaf raking, etc.

And I recently just realized that something has been happening each time I leave the house for the over 30 years we’ve lived there.  I’ll walk out the door, say, “See ya later”, close the screen door, then get into my car.

Then, like clockwork, my Mom, sometimes my Dad, and almost always the dog will stand in the doorway waving goodbye.

Again, this continues to happen today even though I live right down the street.

And it doesn’t matter how much time I spend in the driveway waiting for my car to warm up or for me to plug my iPhone in.  95% of the time, there my mom will be with the dog, waving goodbye.

It’s a small thing that I appreciate each and every time.

I know that the small things add up and are the priceless memories we take with us long into the future.

Fast forward a few years after we’ve sold the house and I imagine this will be the conversation:

(Turning onto Brookside Ave)

Me: Hey kids, did you know that this bridge up here used to be all metal and we could hear cars going over it at all hours of the night!

(Turning onto Marion Ave)

Me: Oh!  And here is where your Dad fell flat on his face in the middle of a snowstorm riding his bike and trying to use the proper bicycle hand turn signals.

(Continuing down Marion)

Me: I used to deliver the newspaper to all these houses.  Your uncle Chris had that other street and I had this one.

(Turning onto Hillside)

Me: There it is.  The house that your Dad grew up in.  We used to have a lot of fun in this street from playing 4 Square to basketball.  I broke my nose right over there by that sewer cover. 

(Pulling up in front of my house)

Me: Gosh!  Look what they’ve done with the place.  (A few more stories are shared.  My kids will be so enthralled, engaged, and riveted by my stories.  No sign of impatient-ness, boredom, or “Oh boy…not another one” will be seen in their eyes.  Right?)

(Then as I’m pulling away)

Me: Ok, wave goodbye to Grandma (or whatever my Mom wants to be called) and I’m sure Grandpa (or whatever my Dad wants to be called) is in there too sitting in his chair.  Who wants to honk the horn?
Kids: Me! Me!  But why are we doing this?
Me: Because this is what I did every time I drove away from the house just to say “Bye!” one more time.

I hope the future owners of that house are ready for a future of random car honks as we continue to honk and wave to my mom for many years to come.

Thanks for reading…

 

25 Days of Thanks- Day 24

December 25, 2013

Thankful- Passionate Singing

Whether in the car or maybe at Church, we’ve all heard those people who put their all into hitting the notes.  If you think deeper about it, there’s a level of trust that these people have when they belt out a tune at the top of their lungs.

Sure, at Church, it’s a trust in the Big Guy upstairs, but in the car or house, they trust that either no one is around to hear them sing or that the person in the vicinity will treat their effort with support.

Singing has always been welcome in the Spain family household.  Sure we’ll jab at each other if a note is off or the words just aren’t right, but there’s usually a welcome atmosphere to sign along to the song on the radio.

Unless, you’re my sister.

Amy, for many years, has been subject to the teasing that comes from being the little sister.

But here’s the thing about her singing.  While, sure, a lot of times it’s just a bit off… every now and again, I turn to her and say, “WAIT!  That’s it.  Stay right there.  Do what you just did… in the same tone.”

It happened tonight at mass.

It’s happened in the car where, while listening to WJEF (my iPod), she start belting out the words and I sit there in amazement as I wonder where the heck it’s all coming from.  I’ve even replayed the song at a lower volume just to make sure I wasn’t hearing something else.

Somewhere, deep inside her, is a good voice.  Hopefully we as a family can help draw that out of her a lot more this year.

So tonight, I’m thankful for those folks who, with no fear, belt out tunes even when everyone is listening.  Because every now and again they get it right.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 23

December 24, 2013

Thankful- The Little Pushes Forward

Every now and again, we all need that little nudge…that little tiny shoulder shove that pushes us forward.  Sometimes it’s a physical whack upside the head to snap out of it.  Other times, it’s a verbal unexpected prompt or interjection that catches you off guard but is exactly what’s needed.

My brother and sister-in-law are excellent at these.

Whether it’s during my job search, the stuff earlier this year, or some recent events, I’m appreciative and thankful for how they both can be so effective at this kind of stuff.

The added bonus from these two is that these little pushes come at very surprising times.

A few months ago I was prepping for an interview and had a theme to what I wanted to say.  I chatted over Google with my brother and sister-in-law and shared with them the theme and some responses.

“But what about this…” comes out of my sister-in-law’s mouth.

And in my head I picture myself throwing all my notes in the air and responding, “Tell me more.  Oh and you’ve got five minutes before the interview starts…”

My brother is no less different.  That story for another time.

The two of them together make an exciting force.

While I know they will always have my back, I also know that they’ll always be pushing me to do better and be better.  I’m thankful for that looking forward into the future.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 22

December 22, 2013

Thankful- Fantasy Football

Earlier today on facebook I wrote:

________________________

Epic fantasy football showdown today for the finals in one of my leagues….

Father vs. Son
Teacher vs. Student
Has no food allergies vs. Food Allergies
Blood vs. Blood
Senior vs. Junior

That’s right folks Jeff Spain vs. Jeff Spain. One will rise. One will fall. And in the end, Jan Spain will have to clean up the mess. Hide the kids because this ain’t going to be pretty.

Game on!

________________________

And it has been epic.

There was lots of yelling.  Well… mostly yelling at the dog for dragging mud all over the house after being outside.

Food was thrown.  Well… the dog dish dropped and spilled food everywhere.

Friendly requests were denied.  Well… Amy refused to support my dwindling Diet Coke addiction.

My Dad and I have actually kept it pretty civil.  We watched the games all day in the living room.  Had some dinner.  And went into the evening game pretty much tied.  It looks like it’ll come down my Dad praying that the 49ers Defense and the 49ers Kicker do absolutely nothing special tomorrow night.

We’ve kept it civil.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.  He’s been civil and supportive this whole year through a lot of ups and downs.  And tomorrow night, no one will really win.  No one will really lose.  One of us will just pat the other on their back, say “Good Job”, and keep on being father and son is a pretty outstanding Spain family.

Thanks for reading…

 

25 Days of Thanks- Day 21

December 22, 2013

Thankful- Pixar Animated Shorts

Many of us have seen a Pixar movie.  Toy Story.  Finding Nemo.  The Incredibles.  They’re the ones that have the bouncing desk lamp during their companies title screen.  All excellent movies in their own right.

But the added little bonus for me is always the animated short that comes before it.

Pixar movies always invoke some sort of emotion in the audience.  Whether you’re rooting for toys to make it out of the neighbor’s backyard or rooting for the family to get their act together, these movies did deep into the human spirit and tug at the very strings that binds our hearts and tear ducts together.

The double whammy that did it for me was a short called Partly Cloudy followed by the movie Up.

Partly Cloudy tells the story of a stork working with the ugly duckling of the creative clouds to bring baby humans and baby animals to their parents.  This description does not do the short film justice.  If you’ve got five minutes, you can watch it quickly here:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xkvi29_partly-cloudy-hq-walt-disney-pictures-and-pixar-animation-studios_shortfilms

I empathize big time with both the stork and the dark cloud.

By the end of this short, my “Awww” factor was already at it’s limit.  Anything more was going to turn me into a slobbering mess.  Anyone who has seen the movie Up, knows what the first 10ish minutes are all about.  So, yep, this guy, in a packed movie theater, turned into a blubbering, slobbering mess.

I went to the film Up with two good friends who are husband and wife.  The husband sat in between us and put his arm around his wife.

Partly Cloudy ends.  “Awww”s all around the theater.  My heart strings are tuned perfectly and Pixar knew just how to play them with those first few minutes.

By the end of the beginning scenes of Up, the husband was consoling two slobbering messes and probably pulled a back muscle trying to keep his arms around the both of us.

I can only imagine what this looked like to the people behind us.  But that moment, I really didn’t care.  I needed it.

To this day he still jokes about it and to this day I have no problem backing up the story.

Each time one of these Animated Shorts comes on the screen I’m reminded of this moment with good friends and thankful for their support.

I’m very lucky to have these friends, Rochester friends, Quincy friends, Troy friends, city friends, new friends, old friends.  I’m thankful for the touching moments.  I’m thankful for support.

These shorts remind me that I’m blessed to have friends around.  Sometimes with a football helmet (Partly Cloudy reference).  Sometimes with a back breaking shoulder to cry on.  Sometimes with a phone call, facebook message, email, text.  But always with a smile.  Which is a small curve that can straighten a thousand things.

Thanks friends.

And thanks for reading…