Saturday, June 30, 2012

Camping 101 - The First Installment

Okay, so where do I begin? I recently mentioned about how we started camping in Europe. You can read up on those stories on that page. Other Camping When we got back to the Americas…..that sounds funny….we lived in Pennsylvania, not 30 minutes from the Appalachian trial. With 16 weeks of camping instilled, infused, ingrained, imbedded and unforgettable from our memory banks, we set out to do more camping when the opportunity arose. Several of the mistakes we learned from our lengthy Europe travels were solved.
The first fix was the tent. The tent we used in Europe was a Sears special….I use the word “special” loosely. We planned for big adventures and also planned on doing some hiking. So we bought (at that time very expensive) light weight 6-man North Face tent. It was a full season geodesic type tent for $500. A lot of money for us at the time…..Just as a note, we still have that tent and it still works awesome….money well spent!
The wonderful tent in the background
and my wife looking up enjoying the trees
The second fix was getting proper sleeping bags.  Before we had heavy quilt-like bags that wasn’t very warm either.  So one by one, bought new bags that were full mummy bags for below 0 degrees temperature. Lesson learned even when they say below 0…..doesn’t necessarily mean you will be that warm…also mummy….really means mummy…..I cannot move at all with my legs lashed together! Still much better than ever before and also very light weight.
The view of the trees from our campsite
The third fix was our cooking gear. We needed durable plates and cups, so we bought stainless steel plates, bowls and cups. We also loved doing the grill thing so I traded in our army issue stove (that could burn any type of fuel) for a whisper-lite. This thing weighed only 2 ½ pounds, not counting the small fuel container and was awesome. We also found that it would be necessary to get a water filter system and collapsible water jugs for all the water we needed.

Hiking up Crabtree Falls

The fourth fix was my backback.  We planned on hiking, not car camping. Since the kids were still very young, the chances of them carrying much more than their clothes and their own sleeping bag was slim and none.  My new Kelty backpack had to handle the tent (which was still a bit heavy since it was a 6 man tent), all the cooking gear, stove and plates included, much of the food, my sleeping bag and anything else that we might need for the adventure.

So with all the "fixes" in mind, we set out to do some camping.  We went camping pretty much everywhere we went. Driving home to Oklahoma...if we didn't drive straight through...we stopped some place to camp.  We have camped at the christian youth camp, Branson Missouri on Vacation, Applichian Trail several times, Boy scouts etc.  Each trip was unique in itself and yet everyone of them typically had the same issues.  ISSUES? You might ask., being overly dictatorlike and wanting absolutely everything to be organized and in it's perfect place.  No wonder my kids have perfectionist tendencies.

Let me start off by describing the beginning of one of our camping trips.  Let's account for all the fours kids and two tents.  The great big North Face tent and a smaller one for the two older boys. It would be a car camping trip to a national park campsite.  I would get off work on a Friday and even if I tried to get out early it still meant that once I got home I needed to pack the car with all the gear and get it to fit.  That feat alone would seem to take a hour or so.  After many attempts, we got it all loaded up.....I got better at this with each trip. Then we would head out....usually would get lost on the drive there.....we didnt have GPS back in those days.....I know.....such a barbaric time when we had to actually use a paper map.

Our first visit to
Crabtree Falls in 2010.
We have gotten better at camping!

Flash forward a few hours and place us at the campsite. Just arriving slightly before dusk.  And yes, we have made it to several campgrounds after dark....just add the difficulty factor of setting up a tent and the rest of the gear in the pitch dark by flash light...from the beginning. Usually, the North Face tent would take about 40 minutes to set up....why so long, well because we ...okay I...would forget how we set it up the last time. And having  8 or 9 year old boys assist wasn't exactly expert help.  Looking back at it they were actually masters.....masters of dealing with a cannibalistic father who would eat his young if they didn't follow exact directions....even if the directions I was giving were wrong.

Okay, ground tarp....did you clear out all the sticks before we laid it down? yes, site was cleared. Then we would unroll the tent carcass and try to untangle the chopstick noodle mess of tent poles that were within the sleeves.  It that the right pole? Is that the right sleeve? Does this one go here? Does that one go there? Why in the world are you just standing there? Why aren't you helping? Actually it probably best if the kids just stood there and watch in amazment of their father...a grown man....became a babbling idiot...fight with a tarp, canvas and fiberglass sticks for fear of whatever they do or say would cause the outlash to be directed towards themselves instead of that convulted tent.

The longer the assembly process would take the darker it would get and the more difficult the process would become.  It was like a race against time and the sunset.....who was going to win? Obviously not this guy! Along the way there would be a few certain shouts out at whoever would be holding the flashlight, "HOLD THAT THING STILL!". I would be obvilious to my proclamations towards a 3 or 4 year old child.  yes, I agree....what a mean dad.

Tents are completed, sleeping bags in place inside, chairs have been set up around the grill/campfire......"Did you guys go get fire wood...kindling why I was doing all of this?" How are we supposed to find wood in the dark?  Well the boys did usually.....Out scouting the grounds for fallen trees and limbs and they got older they would be much more wise and bring back giant logs that would allow their father to occupy his time figuring out how to cut, chop, whack, whittle, bust, break or bash it small enough to fit into the fire pit......again, I understand now how wise my children were...dealing with me.

We did have some fun....I think....I hope. You will have to ask the kids that one......looking back at it all I am not sure why I ever stressed over the whole was just funny.  Sometimes I feel like our life could have been an episode or two on the Dick Van Dyke show.....ok....too far back?.....How about Seinfield? Either way, it has taken me many years to understand.....patience.  A huge apology to my family for the torture I dished out and they endured.

I am better now....the fits have stopped.....mostly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Sometimes I am a bit addicted to blogging. Always looking to write something about something. Funny thing I always hated English class in school...never enjoyed writting. Last weekend, even without internet or cell connection....I had to jot down about our adventure in the woods.  My wife caught me typing on the porch of the cabin in the morning! Sorry sweetie!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crabtree Falls - Camping

There is nothing more peaceful than camping in the great outdoors. In most cases we are able to get away from it all and leave everything behind. Become one with nature….you know…really roughing it. Okay maybe not always really rough….mostly it is just relaxing…..roughing it causes too much work.
In the past our family has done a lot of camping.  It started back in 1989 when I won the William Caudill Traveling Fellowship to go and study architecture.  I chose Europe.  First problem was I was married and had two kids. One child was 2 ½ years old and the other was just 4 months. Second problem was that there wasn’t much money to travel on. You can read about our Europe travels in our page. I am slowly loading up some of the adventures and sketches. Europe Journal
So, in order to make the money stretch we camped across Europe. 13 countries, 16 weeks….but enough about that…let’s talk about this trip.
My wife and I found a great place in western Virginia called Crabtree Falls. It is the tallest waterfalls in Virginia and has a wonderful hiking trail…or should I say climb? Running right beside the falls. There is a wonderful campground ½ mile from the bottom of the falls that a few years ago we camped next to the stream in our tent. This year we chose the cabin.
Camping Definitions:
I would say there are absolutely different levels of camping. Your comfort level or $ determines  what you do. Let’s start off with the easiest level and work up:
Motel Camping: No this is not camping. Throwing your clothes in a bag and going to a maid manufactured bedroom and bath is not really anywhere close to camping…..cannot be considered but I thought for some of you I might need to clarify.
Level One Cabin Camping: There are cabins that provide everything. Not only is there a bed, but sheets and pillows are provided. Not only is there a stove, but all the dishes and cups and often even a small refrigerator. We found a few of these in Europe but they were not out in the woods. We called them caravans. They were basically travel trailers that were fixed in place. Electric was provided and sometimes water. Bathing facilities were provided in a large structure somewhere on the camp grounds.
Level Two Cabin Camping: Same as above but they don’t provide any dishes, sheets etc. These are more likely truly a cabin with a small porch and picnic table out front.
Car Camping: We often do this these days. We bring everything for true camping but it is packed up in the car.  It doesn’t have to be placed in something that you will have to haul on your back to the camp site. We will often rent a spot at a campground and then be able to drive the car right up to the spot where we plan on pitching our tent. Things still need to be pretty well “bagged up” so you don’t have to have a gazillion things to unload.  This also depends on how many people you have with you.  When all the kids were there, we had more sleeping bags, more food, more tents etc. All the cooking is done on a Coleman grill or similar…even an open fire at times although that is hard to regulate when you have a small army to feed. (Sometimes we have sites that incorporate electric…that is cheating)
Hike Camping: Same as above but forget the car.  Park it and become a pack mule! Pack light and be wise on what you bring.  We have done this several times up on the Appalachian Trail….so much fun. We carry some water but have a filter system so if we find a stream we can purify it. Small packed up meals and a whisper-light camp stove. Everything else can be foil dinners or cold food. Our youngest son always dreamed that we would one day hike the entire trial this way.
Rambo Camping: Head out with just a knife! I had a friend in high school that always dreamed of doing this.  Each time he went out camping he was going to leave one thing behind until eventually all he had was a knife.  Years later I saw him and asked how has his wilderness adventures had gone.  He reported that he had gotten married to a wonderful lady who gave him three wonderful girls…..camping now existed in a giant Winnebago to accommodate all the hair dryers and curling irons.  My wilderness man image of him has been shattered.
This weekend my wife and I are Cabin Level Two Camping.  We really just needed a quick get-a-way and didn’t want a lot of work to accomplish. Setting up was pretty easy the first night after we arrived.  The nice part about cabin camping on the first night is after the long drive you don’t have to do much. There are many stories of me and the kids sitting up camp with the tent…in the dark…you can imagine the drama and those stories…..okay okay….I will write about those adventures too. Check back later for those stories.
The first evening at the campsite we ate dinner and fell asleep by 8PM. We cooked a steak on the grill and some peppers and onions and crashed.  12 hours later we awoke from our slumber.  Much needed rest apparently. One of the things that I find difficult to shake is the need to schedule and plan everything…..and I mean everything.  It is hard for me to let loose and just relax.  I was about crazy in the 3 ½ hour drive here just sitting. Once here, no internet connection! And probably a good thing.
In the morning...we are making pancakes
Such a peaceful morning with just the stream flowing in the background, (a favorite thing at this campsite…it drowns out the noise of any other campers). We woke up and made some coffee. Yes it was instant coffee and yes it was in a electric kettle….remember I said we were here for relaxing….not working. Still nice under the canopy of trees. Then for the best thing about camping….breakfast! It has to be the absolutely best meal there is.  Grill up some Turkey Bacon….(I still need to make sure I don’t blow my diet) and a few pancakes.  Yeah, I know….not on the diet.  I plan on working those calories off on the hike today.  While I was cooking breakfast, I went ahead and cooked up the chicken for our wraps we were going to take on the trail.  We planned to make some bacon and chicken wraps to eat on the hike…..I cooked a few pieces for MAVRICK as well.....such a spoiled doggie.

Morning showers are always something of an adventure.  How exposed you feel is dependent upon the campground facilities.  This one is pretty open. Thankfully I was the only one in there at the time. Water is never really very hot, so you don't spend a whole lot of time bathing.  After all, you are about to go back out into the wilderness….who are you trying to smell fresh for?  The bugs?
The things you hear while camping: My wife heard a little boy ask his father while walking back from the bathrooms, “What about butterflies? Can you eat butterflies?” the father responded, “I don’t know son, maybe.”
Then the hike, we walked up about ½ mile to the beginning of the Crabtree Falls Trail. MAVRICK was a bit skittish when it came to passing people. He also struggled with the huge steps.  We were all set to climbing the trail all the way but we can thank MAVRICK for giving us an easy out.  He was panting and wobbling all over the trail.  Poor guy made it about half way even with several water breaks along the way. A few pictures at various spots and then we turned back around to head home.  Last stop was the river.  MAVRICK decided he needed to cool down so he waded out in the middle of the stream and laid down in the water. What a silly doggie.  He makes us laugh.

Campfire in the evening and relaxing after the long hike...and long nap. Cooked up some steak and chicken fajitas for dinner and then sat next to the fire and enjoyed some music.  About 9:30 I think MAVRICK was getting a bit anxious....he was ready for us to get to bed! Poor tired doggie.

Coffee in the morning by the campfire with some nice discussion about how wonderful things are and how blessed my wife and I are.  We planned some new adventures together for the next few years. A huge breakfast of pancakes, turkey bacon and eggs and then we packed up the van a headed out to go home. Hitting traffic as we entered back into Hampton Roads just put an exclamation mark on why we needed to get away from it all this weekend.

I am ready to head back my friends!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CHKD Run/Walk Race

Well it has been about 13 weeks since I last ran a race....the Shamrock 8K Race. Shamrock 2012 My time and effort were less than desirable but finishing the race is the first half of the battle.  Right after that I decided to begin the 17 Day Diet.  Some of you have seen my progress on Facebook Eugene's Facebook Page and heard about the ups and downs.....mostly all good stuff.

Well Saturday, my wife and I ran the CHKD Run/Walk Race in downtown Norfolk. A great race and specially after I have lost 36 pounds over the last 13 weeks. My time was approximately 10:48 min/mile pace.

I was winded towards the end of the race but my legs didn't hurt at all......I just need more training and practice to keep it up. I would like to be able to get down to a 9 min/mile pace but to finish is satisfactory enough for a 46 year old man.  I would like to get down to 195 pounds......I don't remember the last time I weighed that little......a long time!

We have a 5K run on the 4th of July and a few others planned the rest of the year. Here are the long term goals so you will know that I am completely crazy.  January of 2013....Half Marathon again; January of 2014.....Full Marathon; January of 2015....I want to do the goofy race...Half Marathon on Saturday and Full Marathon on age 49!

Yes my friends, you all already knew I was a bit GOOFY! Have a great day!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day is one of the odd days when we finally do what maybe we should have been doing everyday of the year....appreciate our fathers. Actually, I think, for me anyway, Father's Day is about giving rather than receiving...on either side of the coin.

As a father myself for over 26 years, I felt it was my responsibility to GIVE to my children. Give to them the best I possibly could. Give to them the best clothes I could afford, Give to them good food to eat, Give to them a place to call home, Give to them the best opportunity to grow and prosper, Give to them all of my love, Give to them the best of my time. Today it isn't about receiving gifts from my children. To me it still is about me continuing to give to them in ways that allow to still be a responsible father. Maybe now, it is ADVISE I give. Lord knows I have had lots of experience in "how to deal with..." issues.  You know breaking down, water heater blowing up, job not all that it needs to be, raising children (I am not a grandfather yet so this doesn't apply at the moment), how to treat their mother, how to put enough pennies to gether to pay a bill....and probably many others that you can imagine.

These days, I might be able to pay for some groceries or take them out for dinner a little bit easier than I could when they were little and we struggled to gather those pennies. Those things are still precious to me as a be able to GIVE.

Was I always the best at those things, I am sure not.  I look back a realize there were many times I was a bit of a "ogre like" father. A bit over demanding, a bit too scary, a bit too loud, a bit too short of patience, a bit too busy, a bit less than I wanted to be. You know, I think that it takes a lifetime to become a good father....but only a short time to become a bad one.  It takes a whole lot of hard work to be a responsible father....but hardly any work at all to be an irresponsible one. It takes many hours to develop trust....but just a few short minutes to destroy their faith. For some men, being a father takes lots of practice.  For others, it is natural. I am not sure where I fall on the rankings.  I can tell you that I feel I had always fallen short.  I tell my wife, every time I hear that song by Cat Stevens, "The Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon," that I wish I had been better at raising the kids.....when that time was available.

Over 26 years ago I lost my father. He passed away from a heart attack before my second year of college when he was 52 years old. There are times when that is extremely painful. There are times when I wish I could see him again and just talk with him. I never got to ask him those special questions about LIFE.  About how I deal with all the struggles as a young man growing up.  Never got to share my family with him. He never got to brag on his grandkids with me. I never got to visit him at home on Father's Day. You know, right now I don't even remember anything that I ever gave him on Father's Day. Maybe it has just been too long. Today, I wish I could give to him that silly card, a phone call, a hug.

My father still GIVES to me today. He has given me many memories of our times together.  I have had the ability to share some of the ridiculous stories about my father with my family. How my father once blew a green bubble gum bubble in his face while he was driving and almost wrecked us.  How my father once went running after someone and fell and tore a hole in his suit. He was so mad! How my father bought a big station wagon and a travel trailer and the station wagon broke down the next day. He was so mad! How my father sat with my mother in the stands and watched me play football in high school. He didn't know anything about football. How he went out and mowed the lawn in the most god-awful outfit ever forcing me to run out and take over the task for fear of MY embarrassment. How my father bought me every possible tool I needed for college to help prepare me to become an architect. That was his last year with us.

I remember the vacations, I remember the special Christmas gifts, I remember growing up in his office...probably why I ended up starting my own business. I remember his laugh.  I remember his snoring on the living room sofa so loud I couldn't hear the television. I remember his dark rim glasses, his powder blue polyester suits, his combed back hair over his bald head. I don't remember any bad times.  I don't remember any sad times.

Time on this earth goes quickly. A lot quicker than we can ever imagine.  We think we have all the time in the world but before you know it the sand is gone out of our hour glass and we are left wondering where it went to.  I wish I had more time with my father.  I wish I had more time with my small children. Take time my friends, to share with your loved ones.....time and memories are the only things that last....make them special.  Happy Father's Day Dad...I Love You.

My Father's Story
Really Dad?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Vacation - Really Dad?!

I was reminded the other day about one of our family trips we took when the kids were little. I promised to write more about some of the experiences so they would forever be ingrained in our memory and not forgotten.  Some of the recounts may be slightly eschewed due to failure of memory and the names have been changed to protect the innocent.....are you kidding? There are no innocent victims here except our poor children who had to suffer through the events of their childhood with a diabolical father like me. Sometimes I have been known to over do things just a bit.

We had decided to finally take a real vacation with the family in the summer of 1999.  We never could really afford much but knew that we really needed to do something special with the kids.  The company I had been working with at the time was providing some signage and graphics for a new theme park in Orlando called "Islands of Adventure".  It looked to be an exciting place and we thought it would be a great vacation.  Problem was, we had never gone to Disney World either so we really wanted to see the other parks as well.  Which one to choose from?.....we couldn't so we (maybe it was actually just me) chose to do them all. Oh yeah, another problem....I only had a week of vacation so it was going to be within our short vacation window. Next problem, we couldn't.....ok...I couldn't just stop at IOA and Disney....the other parks had to be added in as well.....same short vacation window!

Money was limited with four kids but we wanted to make sure that we made the most of the trip.  We chose to go see 5 Parks (I chose to go see 5 parks); Islands of Adventure, Disney World, Epcot, Universal Studios and.....I cannot even remember the other one. Wow, old age is starting to hit. Oh well. Problem was we were going to hit 5 parks in 6 short days.....Yes, I said that correctly. With vacation time limited we were not able to get more than a week of time away and of course wanted to make the most of each day.

I cannot remember which park we went and saw first and in what order but I am sure the kids had their favorites and probably can add their most traumatic event during this trip. This was one of those well planned events.....the kind that makes you think I must have been related to the Griswold's. I had planned and mapped and figured out the best strategy for obtaining the most on our tight budget.  There were calendars and diagrams and maps with directions and main events for each park, locations for each, top rated rides, worst rated rides and everything else you could image like it was a secret mission being planned by the CIA! I am surprised I didn't have a giant wall covered with all the images and diagrams. (Now there is an idea)

The first order of business was finding a place where we were going to stay.  The fancy hotels were out of the question.  The camping experience was often done by our family but sleeping in a few tents for over a week would be difficult.  There are many camping stories of our family outings too. So we were lucky to find a nearby campground....and no not one of the fancy resort ones either....couldn't afford those either.  This campground had a small cabin that we could rent affordably and was perfect as it had a small air conditioner inside to knock off the Florida muggy heat. I am making it sounds a bit too luxurious because it was a very very small cabin and we packed 6 people inside. It worked is all I can say.

With that solved, it was also decided that we would drive down and not fly....who could afford all those plane tickets.  Anyway we were going to have some camping stuff....sleeping bags, pillows and cooking stuff.....yes cooking gear! The food was going to be an issue.  I knew that eating out with four kids would break the bank so we planned to prepare much of the food as possible. So I would begin the day by waking up around 5:30AM ....Revelry was played over the loud speaker...not really....and start cooking on an electric grill out on the front porch of the cabin.....very small porch! We had bought all the breakfast fixings including bacon, eggs, french toast and/or pancakes depending on the day.  Typically camp food that we had always done...except on an electric grill.....I was wise enough to know that we were not going to be able to quickly cook on a campfire.....not sure the campground even allowed open fires?

In order to properly understand the day's mission you must read this next paragraph as fast and furious as possible to properly get the feeling of this insurmountable task. Ok, so the plan was enacted.....we would get up early begin breakfast, get the kids fed, they had already taken their showers the night before but we needed ours, pack a lunch...because we were not going to be able to afford to buy food at the park remember, load up our fanny packs with whatever the kids may need, drive to the park... without getting lost....and yes we were only 4 miles away....still trying not to get lost, find a parking spot....actually was really easy because we had planned to be there early....when the gates opened....did I say early....I meant most likely the first ones in line to buy the tickets....remember...maximize our time and money, pay something like $12 to park, then get in line to get the park tickets....we weren't always first but there were less than 30 people usually there, then stand at the gate waiting until they opened, gates would open then rush to the nearest locker.....Using all the handy dandy maps I created and research just for this day's mission so I knew decidedly where all the amenities were in this park and knew exactly where the lockers were so we could quickly drop off the lunch bag and then head to the rides, make our way WITHOUT DELAY (just short of running) to the rides that were notoriously long wait lines so we could get them first and then move on....remember we couldn't afford to wait in long lines and eat up our valuable vacation time.....besides, who can wait in a line for 50 minutes with four young children!

This was what we did everyday!

Except one day....after about 2 or 3 parks at the end of a long day our youngest son wasn't feeling so well. As a matter of fact, he got sick near the Dudley Do Right ride that that was the end of that problem, we hit just about everything we needed that day.  He would be fine in the morning....Walk it off son, you will be okay! Wrong, we got up as usual and headed for the park, paid the $12 parking and went up to the park gate....and then I heard, "Dad, I don't feel so well." What's wrong? After a little talking, I was concerned that if I buy the tickets and got in the park an he got sick again, we would be out of all that money.....Such a compassionate father...huh?  So in a few minutes he did in fact get sick again Good save dad! so we headed back to the campgrounds and spent the rest of the day there and the kids played in the pool most of the day. After about a two hour long nap. A much needed rest from the ever relentless Dad inspired Griswold Vacation.

My children are more than welcome to comment on their memories of the torture from their perspectives!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Was putting some thoughts together last night and I had remembered the movie from 1977 about John Cappelletti winning the Heisman Trophy.  A real touching story.  The wonderful thing about the Internet is I was able to look it up and read a story about it (posted below) and even watch the movie on YouTube.  Who could keep from crying when he gave his acceptance speech? I must be getting sentimental in my old age.

John Cappelletti is a name not well known outside the world of hardcore football fans. He was a star tailback at Penn State University and winner of the 1973 Heisman Trophy, for outstanding college football player of the year. He had a steady ten-year career as a running back in the NFL and was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
John may be best known for a few brief moments of his life that were unplanned but came straight from the heart. It happened on the night of December 13, 1973 at the ceremony where he accepted the Heisman Trophy. In those few moments, which resulted in tears from everyone in attendance including Vice President Gerald Ford, John would totally redefine the meaning of the words courage and inspiration by looking to someone he knew very closely - his 11-year-old brother Joey.
It was those moments that inspired a novel and a 1977 television movie called "Something For Joey," a movie so touching it's almost impossible for even the most hardened soul not to cry.

John was born on August 9, 1952 and grew up in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Adept at football from an early age, he became a star tailback at his local high school, Monsignor Bonner. During his senior season he was being courted by some of the top football programs in the nation including Penn State.

Joey Cappelletti was born in 1962 and at the age of five was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent a good portion of his life either in hospitals or doctor's offices. He fought through pain and the effects of chemotherapy, mostly headaches and nausea.

Because of his brother's illness it was a no-brainer to John which college he would attend. Penn State was one of the best football programs in college football with a feisty but successful head coach in Joe Paterno. More importantly it was close to home. If something were to happen to Joey, John could race home in no time. Often times this was the case as Joey would have to be hospitalized from weakness and the physical toll his young body was taking on.

In 1972 Joey lapsed into a coma and when he emerged some time later he was confined to a wheelchair until he could learn to walk again. The courage that Joey showed not only during this time but his entire life inspired John on the football field. That inspiration would reach a stirring zenith for both in 1973. By the time the season started Joey was back to his old self and was even playing recreational sports with his friends.

1973 was John's senior year at Penn State. For Joey, every Saturday - football day was Christmas Day. It was a chance to watch his big brother play ball and, if the team was in town, to see the game in person. It was always a struggle for Joey during the week. Every Monday through Thursday Joey would bravely endure everything from spinal taps to chemotherapy to different doctors and medications. Some days he could barely leave bed but every Friday he would remarkably recover and bounce back. Joey knew if he was too ill he would be unable to attend the football game and Joey had become just one of the guys amongst the Penn State football players.

After every game Joey would go to the locker room, slip by the press and go up to John's locker. If John was in the shower he knew the smiling face of his baby brother would be waiting for him. Joey would then go locker to locker greeting every player before slipping into coach Paterno's office for a quick chat. Paterno always told Joey he would recruit him when he was old enough to play college ball.

After every game day Joey would fall back and often needed immediate hospital visits to recover. Parents Anne and John Sr. often tried to dissuade Joey from attending the games but soon realized that it was the one true joy of their son's rough life. Joey's dedication was never lost on John. "No matter how sick he was he always was able to rally himself for the game. That started to be my mentality. He was doing it and so would I," John later said.

This mentality would lead John down the road towards the Heisman Trophy. His hopes were bolstered the last weekend of October, just days before Joey's 11th birthday. In the locker room before the game Joey came to visit John as he dressed. The topic of Joey's birthday came up and John asked him what he wanted as a present. After only a moment's thought Joey replied "I want you to score three touchdowns for me. No, four." John knew that three touchdowns was a feat but four was nearly impossible. Without hesitation John agreed.

Penn State took the field that afternoon against the Mountaineers of West Virginia. John's determination was palpable and he was unstoppable. Before the first half even ended John had already scored three touchdowns. At halftime Paterno informed John he was getting the rest of the day off due to the lopsided score. John nodded without saying a word. In the second half the Cappelletti family became concerned that John was not on the field. Their fears were calmed when they saw John's number 22 sitting on the bench off to the side. Joey's heart dropped as he realized John wouldn't be able to deliver on his birthday wish. Late in the third quarter one of John's teammates took Paterno aside and told him of John's birthday promise. The next time Penn State got the ball Paterno yelled "Twenty-two" and John was back on the field. On that very drive John scored his fourth touchdown of the day and pointed to Joey as he ran off the field.

After the game Joey came back to visit John and thanked him profusely. Being a typical kid who always wanted a little more, Joey asked if John could possibly repeat the feat the very next game. "Forget it! No way" John responded. John looked at his smiling teammates and the disappointed look on Joey's face and knew what he would have to do. He never told Joey he would but that would be his mission one week later.

Joey and the whole family gathered to watch the game on television. Joey laid on the couch as he wasn't feeling well the whole week and hadn't rebounded as he normally would, possibly due to knowing he couldn't see John in person. By halftime John had two more touchdowns and Joey rebounded enough to sit up with his family. By the fourth quarter John had picked up his third touchdown and, late in the game, Penn State was driving again. It was only a matter of time before John picked up touchdown number four. Sadly, fate stepped in. With the ball on the six-yard line John took the handoff from the quarterback and headed through a hole right up the middle looking as if he would score untouched. At the two-yard line John simply lost his grip on the ball and fumbled. Penn State would not get the ball back but did win the game.

The rest of the season was a magical one both for John and Penn State. John would rush for 1,522 yards and scored 17 touchdowns leading Penn State to an undefeated season. John would then lead Penn State to a win over LSU in the Orange Bowl to complete the season at 12-0.

The announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner was almost an afterthought as John was the overwhelming favorite. To no one's surprise John won in a landslide.

On December 13, the night of the award ceremony, John had notes for a speech prepared but didn't really know what he was going to say. Mark Markovich, Penn State's co-captain and John's roommate, remembers getting dressed for the ceremony and seeing an index card on John's desk. Unable to resist, Mark looked at the card that simply said 'To my coaches, my family and friends and someone special.' John came into the room and when Mark quizzed him, John simply replied, "You'll find out."

When John got up to make his acceptance speech all was well. He had thanked Paterno and his friends and then started thanking his family one at a time. When he was almost finished John, after a long pause, took a deep breath and said, "Lastly there is my brother Joseph, who is ill. He has leukemia." Tears started to freely fall down John's cheeks but his composure remained nearly intact. "They say I've shown courage on the football field, but for me it's only on the field and only in the fall. Joey lives with pain all the time. His courage is round the clock. I want him to have this trophy. It's more his then mine because he has been such an inspiration to me."

Joey, watching from the front table, turned to his father to ask what was going on. John Sr. replied, "Johnny just gave you the Heisman Trophy." When John emerged from the podium to thunderous applause amidst sobs, he went straight for the family table and gave Joey a hug.

Ed O'Neil, one of John's teammates, sat at the table with the Cappelletti family that night. Of the tearful moment he said, "I'm not sure that had I been in John Cappelletti's shoes, and that had been my little brother, that I could've said all the things that he did. You're talking about a sibling that you know will never have the chance you do in life. When it was over, I couldn't find the strength in my legs to stand up. And I was supposed to be a pretty tough guy."

Two years later and eight years after first being diagnosed, Joey Cappelletti died of leukemia with John at his bedside. He was 13.

John would go on to play in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams from 1974-1978 and the San Diego Chargers from 1980-1983. Today he is a successful businessman, happily married with four sons and living in California. He still makes personal appearances now and then and is astounded at how much the book and television movie have affected so many people's lives. "People come up to me or write me letters telling me how they never appreciated their family until they saw the movie. Having some small contribution to someone's life is lot more meaningful then scoring touchdowns."

Anne Cappelletti summed up her son's short life by saying, "Joey was an extra special person who loved everyone. When I think back on it now I realize it all had to be as it was. Somehow Joey had to leave his mark."

Wipe your tears my friends and remember what a great life we all have. Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Do I Want To Do?

Have you ever woke up in the morning and just felt like you didn't know what you wanted to do? The feeling that nothing really mattered and nobody really cared what you did either? You were tired and really needed a break but also had so much responsibility built up in your blood stream that you couldn't possibly "play hooky"? That your tasks lists are so long that it begins to dwarf the U.S. Constitution? Feel like doing something that makes a difference today but then again what really makes a difference at all? Needing to exercise because it is good for you but why is it good for you?

Ok so I guess you can tell where my mind is this morning.  I could have probably added "I want to blog but what do I really want to say?" or "Even if I write this, who is really reading it?" But then it all comes back to the reason why I write.....To gt stuff out of my head. There are days when I feel that my head is so full of discombobulation that I don't know what to do.  I have so much that needs to be done....and yes so much that I want to do but cannot find the top of the list to begin.  I suppose it should all begin with writing down some sort of list and create priorities. That in itself sounds like a lot of work.  Why is it that I feel compelled to create all this LISTS?

I have a Production List at the office telling us what needs to be done, A Marketing List that indicates how I want to reach out to new customers, A Home Repair list of the never ending chores and repairs that need completed, A Major Renovation List for the home upgrades we would like to do, A Grocery List that usually never involves me actually going to the store, A Medicine List of all the ridiculous meds I take for diabetes, A Vacation Destination List for places I want to visit, A Movie List of the movies I haven't seen yet, An Exercise List for how I want to stay fit, A Running List for races we plan on doing over the next several months, A Bucket List for all the many things I still want to do and go before I "KICK IT", A Bill List for all the people we owe....I have two of those, one for work and home! A Reading List for books I want to eventually sit down and read, A Dream Project List of ideas I want to create for the office, A Goal List for the direction of the firm, and yes...even a BLOG List for things I might find interesting to even write about.

Why is tarnation...(I love that word) do I have to have so many lists! What is the need to stay, or at least feel like, in control of everything? Because with all these lists I feel more like I am out of control, out of time, out of my head, out of money, out of ideas, out of energy, out of patience, out of .....for the love of Pete....I don't know who Pete is but for the love of him anyway!

Can you see my conundrum? I think it is possible that there might be men coming to visit me in nice white coats......My dear friends....enjoy your day...even if you don't know what to do any more than I do. Only if life could be a bit less complex?


  1. A confusing and difficult problem or question.
  2. A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.
riddle - puzzle - enigma - mystery