I’m not fighting cancer unless I get a free tote bag*

I’m sorry, I just won’t do it. I mean, don’t have cancer, and if I ever do get it I’ll need all the money I have to fight it then. So if you’re gonna sell me on the idea of sharing my own security blanket, my own disposable income, with some scientist to save the day for someone that’s not me, I better get a damn tote bag out of it!!!

Oh, there IS a free tote bag in it for me? Oh, well then, here, I’m happy to help. Who do I make a check out to?

*End Sarcasm Here

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

It’s not exactly like that, but when I received a letter in the mail today, the envelope had three things on it: 1) A seashell, 2) the words “Imagine a world without cancer!” in blue above the address, and 3) the words “FREE TOTE BAG DETAILS INSIDE!” in red in the right corner. Despite it’s placement, I read the red text first because, ya know, it’s red. And in caps. Plus, ‘FREE’ … so …

Apparently the concept of a cancer-less world has proven to be not enough for would-be donation givers. The truly stupid part was that I opened the standard-sized envelope fully expecting a collapsed tote bag in there like it were Marry Poppins’ purse. Would I even have opened it if the free tote were not an option? Not sure, since it was the offer contrasting with the cause that got my attention.

“Do people really need a free tote in order to fight cancer?” That was my thought as I opened it. And when no such tote was there, I turned here to, I don’t know, vent? We wear bracelets, run in 5k’s, buy T-shirts, and create hashtags to show we care about things that are so basic on the spectrum of caring that it’s hard not to feel self-righteous when we participate. From “I gave blood today” buttons to “Fuck Cancer” t-shirts, we advertise our generosity. It’s not all to promote ourselves and it’s not necessarily disingenuous, but it does seem like we do a lot more when there is a way to show it off.

I get it, too. If I stand alone against cancer, there’s no way we can win. But if I buy a  bracelet then that makes me part of a group of hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands. Then I feel a lot better about contributing to a cause that we can win. And there’s even basic truth to it: the more people we have fighting cancer, the better our chances are of winning. More people, more money, more minds, and more tote bags.

It shouldn’t matter why we decide to help, but that we decide to help. In my mind, the cause should be cause enough, and to many it definitely is. But to energize the masses, it takes symbols of community. Like an N-Y on your hat, a yellow ribbon on the back window of your car, or a rainbow flag on your porch, showing support beyond your monetary or voluntary donations does have an impact.

So, yes, send me my free tote bag and make sure it tells people that I helped; that they can help, too. And that when they do, they can get a tote bag that inspires someone else. Not everyone is equally affected by cancer, but everyone needs a bag to put shit into now and then.


Fit at 30: A guide to fitness from a guy who’s not that fit

I’m 30. For another week, I’m 30. Then I’m 31. I have an email in to a local professor to confirm that 32 comes next, but I have yet to get a reply. If this trend continues, in nine years I’ll be exactly nine years older.


That’s my new hashtag; tried it a little while ago and was rewarded with a “Favorite” from my favorite professor back at Ithaca College, Brian Sweany. I’m pretty sure he was only there for two years before returning to Texas, but I’m glad those two years came when I was around. He’s favorited or retweeted a handful of my tweets over the past few years, but, whatevs.

“Hit the gym this morning. Turns out I’m 30. #AgeHappens”

Brian was, I believe, in his early 30s when he was at the front of my classroom in Park, and I assume he’s aged at the same rate that I have. He’s got kids, a career in journalism, a life, and I don’t know much more about him than that. But the fact he’s been 30 longer than I have tells me he gets it.

I’ve never been and never will be one to freak out when February 18 comes around again and my cake requires two breaths to put out the inferno of candles. I embrace growing older as long as I don’t have to grow up. While some men are excited to come home to “Dinner’s ready!” from their wives, my favorite Welcome Home Moment so far is:

“Hey, baby, I loaded all of your Nerf guns for you.” She’s the best.

True story. No kids yet (myself notwithstanding) but I’m pumped about that idea and being childish with them. I figure I take my age and their age, split the difference, and we’ll have a blast building forts and blaming the cat for knocking over a vase.

But today, age happened. I recently bought my father-in-law’s workout bench, which he brought over this past weekend. After spending some time online searching for the best exercises, best time of day to lift and best time to eat (before or after), I got back to getting fit.

I should preface with my fitness background: 6-feet tall, 182 pounds (personal high), three-sport athlete in high school (football, boxing and lacrosse), athletic but not a student-athlete in college, spurts of regular exercise after graduation, turned to running and can comfortably run 5 miles right now. Completing my first and only half-marathon in an hour and 45 minutes stands as my proudest athletic feat. I’m not in bad shape, I just don’t work at it, like a lot of the over-30s out there.

So, with my boombox set up in the basement tuned to ESPN Radio, I got started … again. I outlined a list of stretches (even more crucial now) and then hit the bench. The weight won’t impress anyone for 3 sets of traditional bench press and some inclined press, then some legs (extensions and curls), some triceps and I’m sure some other muscles. I don’t know a lot about what I’m doing but I’m glad I’m doing it. I carry amateur status at best.

I want to be in shape, but the most healthy aspect of mine right now is perspective. When I was 16, 17, 18, I wondered why I wasn’t 30 pounds heavier and jacked despite a pretty consistent workout regimen. I resented it for the longest time that my body refused to put on weight beyond 160 pounds. I hated thinking that I would be a great athlete if I could just be bigger. Now I’m 30, and I get it. I didn’t have to be 200 pounds back then and I certainly don’t need that now. I’m not just comfortable, I’m happy knowing what my body is and what it can be.

So I hit the gym. And it turns out I am definitely 30. I’m sore, and the weights don’t weigh that much but for some reason are heavier than I remember. But this is what I want and how I want to be. Instead of having dreams of athletic glory, I have goals of being healthy; of carrying 1 to 3 kids until they don’t want to be carried anymore because they’re all grown up at age 5 and they don’t need me anymore. Apparently, #AgeHappens to them, too.

If you’ve got any tips for at-home exercise, drop me a line. I’m still considering CrossFit and a future post may or may not exist to that end. For now, I’ll be on the Bayer Smoothy diet.