Thank you Publix, and good people

I’ve written many times of the quiet magic of Joe, PBUH. It’s led us to wonderful organizations, places and people. It’s led us to Special Olympics. And today it led us to a Publix grocery store, and to Armando and Sam.

Special Olympics at Publix
Sam and us. Note Joe on the bottom of the “Be a Fan” display to the left. Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Virginia.

I’m going to sing the praise of Publix here. Not because of prices or selection, but because for the last few weeks the grocery store chain has been hosting its annual fundraiser for Special Olympics, and doing a bang-up job of it.

Within days of the campaign starting, Joe’s mom and I were hearing from friends from Florida to Virginia that they’d seen Joe at the grocery store. Sure enough, the marketing materials feature a picture of Joe in a yellow t-shirt, arm raised in triumph. Our friends at Special Olympics Virginia (hi Katie and Holly!) suggested Joe could make a personal appearance to support the campaign, so we of course said yes.

We ended up at Publix store number 1589 on Staples Mill Road, at the Shoppes of Crossridge, in Glen Allen, Virginia. I want the whole name out there for two reasons. 1.) If you’re near there, buy something from them (I suggest Pop-Tarts) and 2.) I hope this gets back to the muckity-mucks at Publix corporate HQ.

The plan was for us to hang out for a couple of hours, saying hi to customers and raising a few extra dollars for Special Olympics. We were met at the store by Armando, who set up our visit, and he handed us off to Sam, who stayed with us for the time we were there.

This is the important part.

Somewhere in every corporation there’s an office that talks about corporate social responsibility. They make decisions about where to donate money and which nonprofits to work with. They carefully examine metrics, synergy, cost-benefit and buzzword. Then they make a section on their website and issue a press release. Buzzword, yawn.

But at some point, these calculated decisions get pushed down to real people to implement – in Publix case, they got down to Armando and Sam at store 1589. These two people were there to sell groceries and could have phoned it in, but instead made our visit absolutely terrific. They could not have been better. They are real people, and really good people.

Armando moved to Virginia from Florida last year when Publix began opening stores in the Richmond area. He’s been with the company for 13 years, is proud of his job, and said the Special Olympics campaign each year is a favorite of his. I believe him. Joe held his hand and they are now good friends.

Sam is the future. She’s in high school, an artist, and is relaxed and fun. She’s worked with disabled folks before, through Richmond’s Live Art program. She wants to be a vet. She danced with Joe and they are now good friends.

Special Olympics at Publix
Joe and Sam.

I’m not sure what my point is in writing this, other than a long-winded thank you to Armando and Sam, and to Publix for opening its doors in this way. And in a broader sense, I’m thankful for all the other people and places in stories like this – local restaurants that support high school sports, small companies that raise funds for animal shelters, grocery stores that contribute millions of dollars a year to Special Olympics.

Two items I’d like to add. First, why does the Shoppes at Crossridge spell “shops” in that ridiculous way? Urban Dictionary, the sage olde tome, defines “shoppe” as “a highly obnoxious, forced anglicization of the word ‘shops’ … popular with the QVC crowd.” Truth.

Second, a few times a year I drink a Red Bull. It’s not because I’m eXtreMe!!, it’s because Red Bull sponsors very cool events, from Formula 1 racing to the flugtag. They produce incredible action videos. They paid for a guy to skydive from 128,000 feet. All this cost me nothing to enjoy – buying a few cans of a drink are the least I can do to say “keep doing this.” In this case, marketing absolutely works.

Which brings me back to Armando, Sam and Special Olympics. Like marketing, corporate social responsibility can also work. I’m a Publix customer now. They’re good people in my book. Keep doing this Publix.

Special Olympics at Publix
Armando and Angie at Publix 1589, arms raised in a Joe pose. Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Virginia.

Special Olympics at Publix
Colonial Heights, Virginia, Publix 1594. Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Virginia.

Special Olympics at Publix
Glen Allen, Virginia, Publix 1566 (I think!). Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Virginia.


Dread Pirate Joe

Jaaaaaaa! Hallows’ Eve 2017. A bag full ‘o booty and a DVD of Cool Runnings!

Halloween 2017

Halloween 2017

And some ghosts of Halloweens past …

Halloween 2016
2016. Pooh says, “I can’t wait for my new teeth to come in all straight like!”

Prince Charming
2015. Prince says, “My dad used up all his jokes two years ago.”

Halloween 2014
2014. The evil Dr. Hans Deuschtuff, says, “Get me some chianti and a fork. STAT!”

Halloween 2013
2013. Triceratops has a horn section like Chicago. Old Chicago, 25 or 6 to 4, not Hard Habit to Break. ’80s Chicago needs to be buried in sediment for a few million years, then not be dug up.

2012. Chicken make lousy house pet.

2011. Amish leprechaun who does John Denver covers

2010. Tiger, years before meeting fellow cats Pete and Daniel. Pride.

Look what I can do!
2009. Skunk

Relaxin' Bee
2008. Bee says, “Honey, where are my glasses? I can’t see without my glasses.”

Halloween 2017
I snorted Doug Penhall’s ashes.

Life isn’t fair

Thank goodness life isn’t fair, because we’d all be fat and broke. But for a few hours, once a year or so, the fair is terrific. Everything in moderation, amiright?

The best part of the 2017 Virginia State Fair, as far as this family is concerned, is the fish ride. Joe riding solo … half scared, half giggling, half confused. Get through these pesky photos and you’ll be rewarded with 20 seconds of Joe riding a fish.

Virginia State Fair 2017

Virginia State Fair 2017
Waiting to board the roller coaster. Momma said it was scary AF.

Virginia State Fair 2017
Topping out on the Ferris wheel. Momma said it was scary AF.

Virginia State Fair 2017
What’s a fair without a sippy-cup of sweet tea and a bucket of fries?

Virginia State Fair 2017

New York Trip 2017

Joe and I dusted off our adventure gear and road tripped to visit Grandma and Grandpa a few weeks ago. We had a great time, and Grandpa is go-go-go these days so we went to be exhausted each night. My parents are terrific!

I didn’t take many photos, but here are a few.

Just two buddies, sitting on the porch swapping stories.

Uncle Tony is a great guy, too. Thanks for the new box!

Grandpa took us to museums, wineries, flea markets, junk sales, a dam – we saw it all. Thanks Dad!

Missing from the photos is my lovely Mom. She’s not big on photos, but she’s still as sweet and funny to me now as she was when I was Joe’s age. I love you!

Movin’ right along

One of our things, Joe and I, is running together. Our first time out he was about three months old, our last time out was today. That’s roughly nine years, and at over 100 miles a year, nearly 1,000 miles. We love it.

I’ve been drafting this post in my head since last year, because I thought it was going to be a sad goodbye to running together. Joe was outgrowing the stroller, and does a nine year old who can walk really need to be pushed?

That would have stunk, because we’ve had some great times on the road. We’ve run in the heat, like today, both of us red and exhausted by the end. We’ve run in the winter, stopping often to put his mittens back on. My favorite so far, and our longest, was a cold 15 miles we did together on the Capital Trail in late 2011.

Our first organized run was the Airborne & Special Operations Museum’s second annual 5k on June 6, 2009 – four days short of Joe’s first birthday. We’ve done a dozen or more 5ks since, and even won a few that had a stroller division.

We used the same running stroller for the first nine years. We got it off Craigslist, and it may be the best $40 I ever spent, sincerely.

But even Joe has to grow, and he’s too big for the old ride.

Last year I started looking at larger running strollers. Since we’re into special needs territory, they become pretty expensive. So I was torn. On one hand, we love running, and it’s hard to put a price on the time we spend together. On the other hand, I’m Mike Tremblay’s son so anything expensive is stupid. Joe is nine, and maybe he should get off his ass and maybe push me for awhile.

Then I came home from work on Friday, and there was my lovely wife Lia, standing next to a smiling Joe sitting in a full-up asphalt assault vehicle big-kid running stroller, freshly serviced by Carytown Bicycles. Just one of my Father’s Day presents.

In the months I was fretting about spending money on time with my son, Lia was working on a fix. A friend at Children’s Assistive Technology Service of Virginia, a non-profit that gets kids with mobility issues adaptive equipment, said they had a dusty, broken chair in storage we could have. CATS doesn’t get requests for running strollers, so it just sat there for probably a decade or more. Turns out it’s brand new, and only needed to be cleaned up after years in storage.

Our time on the road together was just extended by a decade or more. Thank you Lia.

So many great things happen to us because of Joe. Getting a kick-ass running stroller is just another example. It makes me thankful, but it also makes me think of all the people with real needs that aren’t being met. Joe and I would be fine without our new wheels, and we could have sucked it up and bought one if we needed it. But there are people who benefit from CATS and other non-profits in huge, life changing ways.

There’s no moral to this story, and like usual I’m shocked if you read this far. I mean, really, don’t you have Netflix? If you do take anything away from this post, let it be this – look for small non-profits when you have a few extra dollars laying around. CATS and dozens of other organizations silently do great things. They don’t have money to spend on horn-tooting. They just help.

Pics or it didn’t happen …

Stroller II
The new ride. Joe’s old wheels are in the back. We’ll clean them up and pass them along.

Joe after the run 2
JUNE 2009: 361-day old Joe at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum for his first organized 5k.

JUNE 2011: Celebrating victory after the Jack & Abby 5k. We won the stroller division in the first three runnings of this event, 2010-2012.

Joe's 5k Run
JUNE 2013: At the Colonial Heights Sunshine 5k. Team Joe was an official sponsor – a bunch of our friends came out and we raised nearly $2,000 to help build a playground in town.

Stroller II
JUNE 2017: Today at Petersburg National Battlefield Park. Our first run with the new chair, at our usual spot.

One last thing (seriously, why are you still here?) – I was listening to Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good while writing this. He’s from Rochester. The song holds up. I don’t “do” jazz, but this is a solid song.


How can it be that our little boy is nine?

The past couple of years I’ve gotten a little deep thinking about Joe and what he means to me and the world. This year, however, he and I are in a groove, and when things are this good, you shouldn’t waste too much energy thinking about it. Just eat it up!

Not that I don’t have things to say, I just don’t want to bother getting all the words together. Joe is greatness, he makes me a better person, meaning of life, blah blah blah. Pretty standard stuff.

Not having time or energy to write about all the greatness you’re surrounded by, because of all the greatness, is where I always want to be. Thanks Joe.

Joe turns 9

Bigger feet, slightly

This week was the annual Little Feet Meet in Colonial Heights, a Special Olympics sponsored field day for younger kids. It was Joe’s fourth meet, and it was terrific! This year it was moved to the high school football field, and it seemed like everything was even more perfect than usual. The weather was perfect, the kids were perfect, everything was as good as it gets.

Almost every post here ends with a thank you, and as sincere as they are I wish it were more. The Little Feet Meet, for example – I don’t even know most of the people that put it together. It just happened, seamlessly, for us. I know a few names, but rather than leave anyone out … thanks to every person who was there. Organizers, volunteers, parents, athletes – you’re all tops in our book. Thank you.

A whole bunch of photos from Little Feet Meet 2017 here …
… and Little Feet 2016, Little Feet 2015 and Little Feet 2014!

Joe with Piper, his coach for the day. Thanks Piper!

Joe with Mr. McCoig, his mentor and teacher – and the guy who introduced us to Pete the Cat. Thanks Mr. McCoig!

Joe with Ms. Finch, his assistant and muse. Thanks Ms. Finch!

Since 2008