Father’s Day 2017

Today was a fantastic day. Sarah got us tickets to the IronPigs and I got to go home to Allentown with my family. The ‘Pigs won but that wasn’t the big story for me.

Zach's first baseball game @ironpigs! Thanks @sarahriccaboni for the great #FathersDay gift!

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It is a struggle when you start out, when you first leave the nest. When I graduated from NYU, my parents let me move back in and do my Master’s Degree while commuting from their home in Lansdale. As I stayed up late to complete papers, my dad would get home from midnight, perhaps not fully understanding my degree path or the job I held at Penn that year and asked me when I’d be working.

“Get a job!” he’d joke.

If there was one thing I learned about my dad growing up, it was that he always worked. Worked hard. But in his 60 to 80 hour work weeks, commuting from Allentown to Lansdale, he would attend every baseball game, orchestra concert, or cross country race he could. His eyes may have been struggling to stay open sometimes, but I could never tell.

I was always told that my dad worked two or, often, three jobs when I was born to make sure we had what we needed. He was a workhorse while my mom stared to stay home and raise my brother and I. The combination gave us socioeconomic upward mobility that took us from our start in Laible’s Trailer Park off of Seidersville Road to a nice house a few blocks away, with all of the opportunities I could have asked for. More important than the material, my father, and mother, focused heavily on education with little things like ensuring I could spell the vocabulary words in my early grades and driving us over an hour on Saturday mornings to the Franklin Institute on literally no sleep following an overnight shift.

Some of the opportunities he provided were a pain in the butt for him and were his own detriment! My paper route from 1999 to 2002 was often my father waking me up and walking with me and the dogs as we slept-walked around Salisbury Township delivering The Morning Call. Or all the time he spent in the car dropping me off or picking me up at sports and band practices. But all of the energy he poured into our family, counterbalanced perfectly by my mom, was all for good. I learned life lessons when we’d drive home at night from the middle school dances and, thanks to him, I knew the Ziggy Stardust album inside and out by the time I was six.

Knowing all of that, it is really humbling to be a dad for Zach. How can I partner with Sarah to give him the most potential to be a great human being? What can we do, right now, to show him how much we love him and how can we help him discover love, compassion, and care for others? Humbling is just one word but it is the only word both small and big enough to encapsulate my first Father’s Day.

#TBT to 1999 and being a bat boy for the Allentown Ambassadors!

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As we sat behind home plate today and watched the IronPigs, I looked out into the beautiful sun, and a lot of thoughts rushed to my head. I had been a bat boy for the Allentown Ambassadors, Allentown’s first attempt in 30 years to bring professional baseball back. It was at the worn-down Bicentennial Park in 1997 that my dad, on a whim based on a radio commercial we heard while driving to McDonald’s, took me to see my first pro baseball game in the Lehigh Valley. It was my dad who got us season tickets in 1998 and who encouraged me how to ask about becoming a bat boy for the team.

So, instead of framing what we were seeing as something the present, young men that have dedicated their entire lives to what we were witnessing trying to reach the next level of their profession on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I very much saw the past and the future instead. I saw my dad and Bicentennial Park. I also saw my family at a baseball game, eating ice cream and hot dogs as Spring turns into Summer. If this is what Summer is like from now on, I am hoping it will be endless.

Eating Clean Week Day 3 Recap: Spoiler – J’s Wins

It could have said anything; J's Customers, J's Fans, didn't matter. I was eating there.

If you lived in the Lehigh Valley through the 1980’s and 1990’s, you were familiar with J’s Cheesesteaks and Subs. Amoroso’s rolls, or a very close imitator, book-ending fresh cold-cuts, cut thin, with stringy lettuce, ripe tomatoes, oil, vinegar, and I get mustard on mine. The cheesesteaks may even be better.

I didn’t stand a chance.

J’s was a 5 minute car ride from my house and on the way to and from every major childhood stop: my mom’s work, me and my brother’s middle school, my dad’s work, both malls, all three grocery stores we shopped at; we literally saw it every day.  J’s, for reasons unknown to me, disappeared from my most convenient location, South Fourth Street, Allentown, PA, in or around 1999.

It’s bad enough that I’m already addicted to hoagies. I love the texture, the taste, the combination of deli meats, cheeses, mustards, oils, vinegars, and pickles. The stringier the lettuce, the better, and if the tomatoes aren’t neon red, don’t put them on my hoagie. On a random errand run to Quakertown, I took a back way home to kill time and there it stood, shining like a sign from God in the middle of Telford, PA. It was J’s and it was open.

My dad and I had already eaten so there was no way I was convincing the cheapest man ever to stop to eat a second time within two hours of eating the first time. But I did make a mental note

Like a lighthouse guiding me from Lansdale, the familiar J's logo means great hoagies and lots of fun memories.

of it’s location. A few days passed and it became an obsession. I was hyping it to my mom, telling my brother about it, and having dreams of dancing hoagies.

I had a bowl of oatmeal (two packets of Quaker Weight Control, 320 calories, 14 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar) on Wednesday morning and read some of the new ESPN book. I assembled some patio furniture when my mom offered to take me to lunch. This was my opening: I suggested J’s.

I had seen they have a Facebook page and, being my father’s son, I printed 2 copies of the 7 inch sub, small fry, and small drink for $4.99 coupon. We were headed for Telford.

I had a calorie deficit going into Wednesday but I didn’t want to binge. I needed to make a smart choice on the sandwich to offset eating the fried food. I knew going in that I was going to eat the fries. They were a small and the serving size while a great value was small enough that it didn’t make a dent in my healthy eating on a day where I was planning to cheat. The fries were very similar to Oreida Fries, which for one serving are 130 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 21 grams of carbs. Oreida’s facts list the serving as 11 fries; J’s gives you about 18. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s two servings for 260 calories plus will throw in 140 more calories for whatever they’re frying it in, making it an even 400. Using Wawa’s nutritional information, I calculated what my hoagie would be since the products and ingredients used are very similar: 440 calories, 25 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, but 2850 grams of sodium, 450 more than the daily recommended value from the processed meats, cheese, and bread. The fries also had a tremendous amount of salt; in addition to the processed salts, they were salted after coming out of the frier. I wouldn’t hesitate to estimate there was at least 2000 mg of salt on the fries. To drink, I had water.

The meal was moderately high in calories even when choosing the healthiest sandwich on the board and only drinking water at 700 calories. But the taste. And the memories.

It is no hyperoble that when I say it tasted just like I remembered, if not even better. I savored every last bite. The juice from the pickles, the way the cheese interacted with the turkey, the salt from the fries. They had a crane game. An old, early 90’s cop shoot-’em-up, not unlike the N.A.R.C. machine that sat at the entrance to the que at South Fourth street. Even the restaurant smelled like the one on South Fourth Street! This was a dream come true. I just wish my brother Bill could have been up from Florida to share this with us.

I get excited over the little things. Here is a photo:

Two beautiful J's hoagies with fries. An Italian and my turkey hoagie, with Mom across the table.

Before I wax any further, the rest of the day was a success, minus the increasingly frustrating salt encounters. After lunch, I was at 1020 calories,  41 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fiber. Through the rest of the day, I had two plain Chobani’s topped with fresh blueberries, determined on Day 2 that two Chobani’s topped with blueberries “equaled about 220 calories, 36 grams of protein, a gram or two of fiber from the blueberries, and the added benefit of flavor and cutting about 80 calories per Chobani from the prepacked Chobani blueberry flavor thanks to erasing the sugar heavy blueberry mix they use.” And I also had my three protein shakes: one before my workout, one after, and one before bed. As established on Day 1, the three shakes total 550 calories and 120 grams of protein. 1020+220+550=1790 calories, with 177 grams of protein. For dinner, I had a natural peanut butter sandwich on Arnold’s Multi-Grain bread that was established on Day 1, which comes out to 620 calories with a little bit more than 30 grams of protein per sandwich, with about 10 grams of fiber. For the day, I was at 2410 calories, about 210 grams of protein, 26 grams of fiber, and super low levels of simple sugars.

Rules from day 1 that I followed:

  • Avoid simple sugars
  • Eat 4-5 times daily
  • Maintain a 1/1 ratio of  grams of protein consumed to body weight lbs
  • Maintain high fiber levels
  • Drink, drink, drink water
  • Avoid any beverage with calories
  • Maintain 2000-2500 calorie diet

Rules from Day 1 I did not follow:

  • Avoid fried foods

Day 3 was a successful day even though I made a choice in eating the fries that was against my self-appointed rules. I maintained high fiber consumptions, I drank over four gallons of water, I avoided any beverage with calories, was in my 2000-2500 calorie range, I avoided simple sugars, I ate five times, and I consumed a gram of protein per pound of my body weight, which was 201 lbs at the start of the day. Wednesday was not a lifting day, so I spent 90 minutes on the elliptical on fat burn mode, burning just under 1,100 calories at a nice pace.

General observations:

  • Finding new ways to eat protein is very challenging; there is really only so much Greek yogurt and shakes I can consume. I may inject some cottage cheese into my diet, which includes slow burning cassein protein.
  • Finding ways to keep eating is challenging. When I eat right, or come close to eating really well, I am much fuller faster. The proteins and the fibers fill me up and I have to force myself to consume more protein.
  • It’s only Day 3, but I’m feeling better. My moods are better, my sleep is getting better, and my muscles aren’t as sore from exercise the next day.
  • I’ve made nice gains in my leg lifts and chest lifts.
  • I feel better when I’m at the gym. The positive decision to eat well for one me propels me to have confidence to work as hard as I can at the gym.

To see my previous two days, click the links below: