Sunday, November 9, 2008

Look Mom! I'm on TV

One of the coolest things that me and my dad do together is go see the Washington Wizards basketball games up in D.C. It’s something that we’ve been doing for years and years and years. I first remember going to a game when I was about 6 or 7 years old. As a little kid it was always an adventure for me. We’d make the 2 ½ hour drive up to the old arena, enjoy an action packed game, and then sometimes we’d even stay the night at my grandparent’s apartment that was just outside of D.C. When I was really young we would maybe go to one game during the year, and usually we would go to the games not to see the Wizards, but rather we’d be there to see the OTHER team that was playing. I remember seeing Michael Jordan and the Bulls once and another time the Shaquille O’Neal led Magic. I remember being truly amazed by how talented and big the players were. Since we would go to games so rarely, my Dad and I would always stay after the games had ended (thinking about it now I suppose we did it more so to avoid being stuck in the terrible traffic that follows all sporting events) and try and snag an autograph as the players left the stadium on the way to their cars. We were lucky enough to score an occasional signature, even if we were asking ourselves, "Who was that guy again?"after the player had signed a scrap piece of paper. :) After waiting for autographs in the freezing cold we would head to the car and my Dad would make the long drive back down to Richmond while I would sleep the whole way dreaming of the day when I too would make it to the NBA!

This past Friday my dad and I again went up to Washington D.C. We go a lot more often these days, and now we cheer for the home team! :) It has been a great way for us to just hang out and spend some time together. This particular game I finally was able to realize one of my biggest dreams…I got to be on the scoreboard. Now we’re not talking about being on the screen for a few seconds. We’re talking me, on the HD Jumbo-Tron, my face, like 15 feet by 15 feet for atleast a few minutes. It was freaking sweet! I was chosen to participate in one of the prize-give-away contests that they do every home game. The contest was simple enough, there were three balls on the screen and inside one of the balls was a Wizards player. The balls were mixed around and scrambled up and after being switched around I had to choose which ball had the player inside. If I was correct our entire section would have T-Shirts thrown to us! If I was wrong the section next to us would get shirts thrown to them. So the pressure was on: choose right, be the Hero; choose wrong, be Boo-ed out of the stadium. Fortunately for me, I chose right. And the entire stadium erupted in cheers and applauded their approval (except the section nest to us I guess! They probably cursed my name. Haha) And so with my victory came a shower of T-Shirts! It’s funny how getting a cheap T-Shirt can make grown men dived over their neighbor and/or wrestle with each other; you’d think that they were giving away 100 dollar bills instead of a 5 dollar shirt. I of course, as the conquering hero, was assured a T-Shirt and I didn’t have to fight to get one.

As I sat down I saw this little kid in front of me with his Dad. The kid was maybe only 9 or 10 and had been too short to grab a T-Shirt for himself. We was looking at me and I could see that he had really wanted to grab one, and now that he had come up empty-handed he was sort of disappointed. I sat down and looked at my T-Shirt that I had won! I thought to myself, "This kid wants and needs this shirt more than I do. And besides, it was cool enough for me to just be on the big screen " So I tossed the kid my shirt and went back to watching the game. The kid’s face lit up like a Christmas tree and his Dad looked at me and whispered a thank you to me while he high-fived and hugged his kid as they celebrated their "spoils".

Material things aren’t everything. I realize this a lot more as I’m growing up. It’s the journey and the experiences gained along the way that are of real worth. Getting there really is half the fun! And I’m glad that I could make that little kids day…and be on the Big Screen.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who do I look Like?

When I saw my cousin Melanie's Celebrity Collage, I was so jealous that I wanted to make my very own. So I picked a photo of myself and saw my results. The first time I did a collage, my top look-alikes were Tom Cruise followed closely by KEITH RICHARDS!!! ahhhh! So I quickly decided that I needed to try a new picture of myself :) and so here's my second attempt at a Celebrity Look-alike Collage of myself. ;)

MyHeritage: Celebrity Collage - Roots - Genealogy sites

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's in a Beard?

Being a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan I was so excited for the Major League Baseball Playoffs to begin. The Cubs had successfully navigated there way through the regular season winning their division title on route to the best record in the entire National League. This year was going to be our year! The year that the Cubs brought home a World Series Title after making there devoted fans wait 100 years exactly! Having the best record in the National League meant that the Cubs would face the lowly Los Angeles Dodgers who had snuck their way into the playoffs by default after barely finishing over 500 and still being the "best" team in their division. Winning their first round series against the Dodgers should have been a breeze for the Cubs! In fact I remember seeing a poll of 7 baseball analysts in and every single one of them had the Cubs winning the series!

But after the Cubs dropped the first two games in their best of 5 series, I could see that they needed a little bit of Brad Zentgraf intervention. Therefore, I did the only thing I could do to help the team. I declared that I would NOT shave until the Cubs won against the Dodgers! "Playoff-Beards" are actually quite common among pro athletes, especially when it comes to baseball and hockey players. And I set out to show my support for my team in the only way I could think of! Unfortunately for me, the Cubs didn’t get the memo about my added support and went on to lose Game 3 effectively eliminating them from the playoffs and dashing every Cubs’ fan’s hopes of seeing a World Series Title brought back to Wrigley.

I then came to a cross-roads of sorts. While I had just the previous day claimed to never shave until the Cubs won a World Series, I was now faced with the terrible realization that this event would not happen for ATLEAST one full year! And even though I would have to eventually renege on my original purpose in not shaving, I didn’t want to let a perfectly good "Playoff-Beard" go to waste! And so I did the next most logical thing…coming in a close second place in popularity to the "Playoff-Beard" is another phenomenon that sweeps the nation on most every college campus this time of year, and that is the "Mid-Term-Beard".

It’s been almost two weeks now and my Mid-terms have come to a close. And with the end of my Mid-Terms comes the end of my "Mid-Term Beard" and all of the gloriousness that goes with it! I’ll be sad to see it go, but it’s for the best. It does look pretty gross! Haha Today I got my first Mid-Term score back in my Biomechanics Class…98%. I guess you can’t mess with results?! I hope my "Finals-Beard" will be as successful! :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DJ B-rizzle

So I don’t know how many people know this about me, but my current calling in the church is the Secretary in the Stake Young Men’s Presidency. It really is a great calling and I really enjoy it a lot…most of the time anyways J When I was called to this position about 8 or 9 months ago, my old seminary teacher, who I had had a great relationship with, was the President. So working with the youth, planning dances, and organizing youth conference together with him and the other counselors never felt like work it was always just good times. About two months ago, the Stake Young Men’s Presidency was dissolved and a new president was called. But lucky for me I was retained as the Secretary!

One of my responsibilities is that of Youth Dance DJ!!! Naturally, after discovering that I would have DJ responsibilities my first order of business was to pick out a DJ persona. I’ve settled on DJ B-Rad, but any and all suggestions are welcome (haha). The whole DJ thing is a pretty cool gig, and I enjoy it for the most part. It took some getting use to, and I had to start from scratch and compile a whole new library of dance music (my second order of business). The Vanilla Ice, Men in Black song, and 80’s music was getting a little too much airtime for my liking! But now the music selection has pretty much caught up with the new millennium, with a few classic exceptions. And the youth have really show there approval of my "apparently natural" DJ-ing skillz (I say natural but it is more than likely a lucky coincidence that the youth don’t hate me because…well heck I’ve never done this thing before!).

I’ve never really had any complaints from kids or adults about how I do my DJ-ing thing…Until this past Saturday. Good grief…

The funny thing about working with the youth, and I’m sure any other adult who has been in my position can relate, is that the youth can/and most often do change their opinions on everything. One minute you can be their hero and then next they hate you with a passion. I had several snot-faced brats (excuse my heated-ness, but I hate when people are rude and inconsiderate and annoying) most all of which were from the other visiting stakes (our dances are most often Tri-Stake extravaganzas) came up to me and say, "Why don’t you play any good music! We can’t dance to this!" I wanted to say, "Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize that your dance move repertoire included on the ability to jump up and down like a complete baffoon and follow the directions told to you in line dances like the Cha-Cha-Slide!" (Can that even be considered dancing?). Anyways…I normally don’t let that kind of stuff get under my skin and this time was no exception so a few minutes later all was forgotten and everyone, including myself, was back to having an enjoyable evening.

But than an adult leader from who-knows-where, I’d never seen him before, had to come and push my buttons! The dance had been going on for almost 2 hours and I had settled into my normal DJ-flow (2 or 3 fast songs for every slow dance)…that’s just how I roll. Ya feel me? Well, a slow dance was playing, and Bro. Bust-Your-Bubble felt the need to approach me and say, "Ahhh (big sigh), well look at that. This is the first time that I’ve seen the youth happy tonight. These youth come to dance with and meet new people, and they can’t do that with all the fast music." I was immediately on the defensive and said, "Look pal, I’ve been consistent, 2 or 3 fast song for every slow song. And I think it’s going pretty well so you can just settle down." To which he responded, "Well, this is you show and I’m not about to tell you how to run it but couldn’t you play 3 slow songs for every fast song?" This guy was like 50-something and I just wanted to slap him around a bit for the dumb things that he was saying; I especially got angry when he felt the need to come back 5 minutes later and tell me the exact same thing.

I don’t know what it was, but for whatever reason this guy really got my goat and really had gotten under my skin. But I guess patience with others is a virtue, and a virtue that apparently I needed to work on that night.

An interesting aspect of my calling, not related to DJ-ing youth dances, is all the meetings I get to sit in on and participate in. I often find myself sitting in a room with the other leaders, people who are two or even three-times my age, and then other meetings I’m in we are there meeting with the youth who are several years younger than me. I’ve noted on several occasions the disconnect between the age-gaps. I don’t consider myself a kid anymore, but I’m sure as heck not an old fart of a leader either. I’m somewhere in between. And I hear the grips of the youth about how the leaders won’t allow this and that and then I see the logistic problems that the youth never even consider. It is all just one big mess that makes me laugh sometimes. But I suppose my unique point of view is just one of the reasons why I am where I am. And I’m sure the same can be said for all of us. We each have special talents and abilities that enable us to succeed and/or contribute in the places that we find ourselves. And apparently DJ-ing skillz are a part of my resume' haha!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Blur

Well this summer has been just a one big blur! I almost don’t know where to begin, but allow me to try and explain…

In May, exactly one day after taking my last final, I hopped a plane back to Italy! I was so excited to go back and see the country that I grew to love over the 2 years that I lived there. I spent 13 wonderfully, jam-packed days touring old mission cities, members and investigator, ex-companions, and of course I couldn’t pass up seeing some of the sites and just being a relaxed "tourist". For me going back to Italy was a chance to unwind and reminisce about everything that had happened to me in the last year since returning from my mission. My mom was (as you can imagine) a bit uneasy about me traveling around all by myself. Before leaving she would ask me: How are you going to do this? Who are you going to stay with here? and What are you going to do for food? etc… I can’t say that I blame her for worrying so; I mean she is my Mom and that’s what mothers are suppose to do, but I wasn’t worried one bit because I was going to be back "home".

My trip that I had planned out for myself included visiting the cities of Alessandria, Vercelli (both cities in which I served that are near Torino where they had the Winter Olympics in 2006), Genova (a beautiful city that lies on the Mediterranean coast, where I always wanted to serve but never did), Verona (this historic city is the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), Mantova (a small quaint city just south of Verona; the only thing that made me stop in Mantova was the fact that my Greeny was finishing his mission there and I wanted to pay him a visit. We ate a pizza together and laughed about the good old days), Trieste (another city in which I served that is North of Venice and adjacent to the country of Slovania), I stopped in Venice as well, and finished my trip in Florence, where one of my ex-companions lives. WOW! That was a mouth-full and it was just my itinerary. Honestly I loved my trip and everything about it, but after coming back I needed a vacation to recuperate from my "vacation".
As you can see I did a lot of traveling from place to place during my trip, and I was able to pass the time by just kicking off my shoes and curling up with a good book while I rode the trains here and there. I brought along Elder Groberg’s Memoirs, The other Side of Heaven. It was an amazing book (if you haven’t read it I encourage you to pick it up). It was a pretty cool way to spend my travel days, looking out the window at the rolling hills of the Italian countryside and remembering all the things that I had done, then being able to read about Elder Groberg’s mission adventures and seeing some of the similarities in what he thought about his mission and what I had felt about mine.

During this trip I was finally able to make to Venice! Believe it or not, during my 2 years in Italy, I actually never did make it to Venice! I did see Venice from the train station once as a missionary, but unfortunately, I never got the chance to experience it for myself. Ironically when my family came to pick me up from my mission they had just been in Venice the day before! "Oh, Venice is so amazing!" they said. "You know what we’re talking about. You saw it right?" But…alas I hadn’t. So nothing was going to stop me this time. It really was out of this world. Nothing else can compare to it. I’ll let the picture speak for themselves.

Florence was equally as amazing. I think it’s probably my most favorite place in the entire world. My ex-comp, Alessio Ferrini, was there to pick me up from the train station and the few days that I spent there were non-stop party! We went to some natural hot springs near Pisa, competed in a birthday party cook-off, went to a soccer riot (I kid you not!), rode mopeds through the Florentine streets at about 50-60 m.p.h, and a lot of other "cultural activities" that missionaries cannot do! :)

So that basically sums up my Italian vacation experience. Cool, right? Enough excitement for one summer some might say, but not me. Exactly one day after coming back to the States, still suffering from jet-lag I might add, I started a 4-credit summer course in Electrical Circuits. Not nearly as fun or exciting as a trip to Europe, but to my displeasure, it was something that had to be done. So twice a week I would drive myself 40 minutes down to the local community college where I would sit in a classroom for 6 hours straight listening to jibber jabber about Ohm’s Law, RLC circuits, imaginary numbers, and phasors (no not the stuff from Star Trek, but nice try anyways…). It was, shall we say an exercise in self-discipline and patience. I ended up with an A in the class (the teacher was very forgiving in how he graded certain assignments and everyone did quite well in the course), and looking back on the whole experience I feel it’s like a lot of things in life, you just kind of suck it up and bite the bullet and then after it’s done you say to yourself, "Man, I’m glad I did that. But I’m even more glad it’s over." You know one of those experiences that takes only one time living it to learn what you needed to learn from it. :)

My circuits class lasted only 8 weeks. Not too long, but believe me the end couldn’t come quick enough for me! And so after such a grueling summer, I decided that I deserved a much needed break…two days later, I drove to Philadelphia where I would be working with my cousin Jay for the remaing 5 weeks of my summer "vacation".

Going up to Philadelphia and working a full-time job was a great experience. I can’t thank Jay and Sheena enough for opening up their home to me. Their house was transformed into a pseudo-frat house with me, Spencer, and Joseph (a friend of Jay and Sheena’s) all staying over. It really was so much fun living together. Joseph brought his Wii up from UVA, and nightly Wii challenges soon became the norm around Alhmer Manor. I think it was my first time having a real fixed job from 9-5, everday. It was interesting work and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it even though it may have been a bit repetitive at times. I tried to make sure I always did some fun activities during the month in which I lived there. I was able to go to the "Shore" (not the beach! It’s the SHORE in Jersey don’t cha know), a Phillies game, saw Batman in Imax (1.5 times due to technical dificulties at the theater), and I even ran the Rocky stairs. Now I can cross that off of my "things I need to do before I die" list. :) In all it was a great experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

So here I am, 3 days before school starts up again, wondering where my summer break went. I was discussing this phenomenon (losing an entire summer…bam, like that) with my dad, to see if he could shed some light on the situation. His response, profound and at the same time a slap in the face: "Welcome to the real-world. Where summer vacation doesn’t really exist!" Well, I guess I’m growing up, and that this "Man-Child" just experienced a real "Man’s Summer", full of work sprinkled with some childish fun (that, by the way, he had to pay for himself :o lol). Growing up is a beast sometimes, but everyones got to do it sometime I suppose. Good thing I don’t plan on doing that any time soon! Haha.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Beginning...

So I suppose the beginnings of this Blog occurred while I was on my mission in Italy. Every week I had the opportunity to write to my family and tell them about the wonderful and exciting things that I was doing in my new "home". I grew to enjoy filling my emails and letters with intricate details and neat facts of the comings and going of my daily regime. And it never ceased to amaze me how by the time I was about ready to click the send button or put on the last stamp on the envelope, a detailed and interesting full-length story (sometimes a thriller other times a comedy or even an occasional tragedy) had somehow snuck its way onto my page. My letters and emails soon grew in popularity and before I knew it, my humble following of "faithful family member-readers" had become a hoard of eager readers that ranged from family members to friends and even some people that I had never even met before in my life, who all tuned in to see where their "fear-less friend/hero" had turned up this week and what sort of mess he had gotten himself into this time.

It was quite the interesting experience for me, as I would sit down at my screen each week and try not to disappoint my new "fans" with the mundane and boring. And even though my life wasn't always full of nail-biting drama or lotto-winning-moments, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed searching for the positives, the "silver-linings", and the small miracles that would fill my emails with "good news"...or at least interesting reading material. (Because nobody likes to read bad news or uninteresting garbage).

So I suppose that having to write for an audience taught me to look at things in a new light and with positive outlook. Always trying to see the glass half-full instead of half empty. And that was a wonderful lesson to learn in such an unexpected way.

Upon returning from my missionary service in Italy, I was casually chatting with one of my wonderful Aunts, who had followed my missionary adventures and mishaps from the very beginning. She said, "You know I miss hearing your funny stories and lessons learned etc... You know you should really start a Blog." It may have been in jest but it really made me think how great it was to be able to look back on such a long period time (2 years) and see just what wonderful things I had done and learned. And so here is for my Aunt and anyone else who may or may not be interested in the daily adventures and mishaps of a silly college boy trying to find his way on the wonderful "stage" we live on called LIFE! Enjoy...