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At my last job I spent a lot of time in Texas. And while there I developed a taste for smoked meats, in particular Texas Barbeque, of which I indulged most every night.

When I came home from those trips I got heavy into grilling food for my wife and I and I began to have some success. I used a few cook books, did some experimenting, and read a lot on the internet about techniques and cook times and the like.

Last summer my father in law caught wind of my desire to start smoking meats and told me he had a smoker lying around in his garage. I had been experimenting with smoking in my kettle grill but it was difficult to maintain the fire and temperature over long burns. So he let me borrow his vertical smoker with a water pan. The very first thing I cooked was a pork butt, Boston cut, and it cooked for 11 hours before I brought it inside and finished it for over an hour in the oven.

It was amazing. I mean really amazing. I just followed a recipe I found online, was able to maintain the fire pretty well with only one flare up over the 11 hours, and it turned out perfect. I paired it with some Stubbs Original BBQ sauce and served it on honey white rolls from the bakery down the street from my house. I love a good pulled pork sandwich. It is on the short list for my favorite foods. I have eaten pulled pork at some of the big name places, like Woodyard BBQ in Kansas City and Texas Pit BBQ near Dallas, and while mine wasn’t on par with those guys, it is better than the pulled pork sandwiches served just down the street from me at the Noble Pig in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Ever since that first go around I have taken to smoking whenever I can.

I got a Weber Smokey Mountain vertical smoker for Christmas from my parents this year and while I’ve only cooked on it once, it was a rousing success. Although smoking 15 pounds of roast beef on a 14.5” smoker was an unnecessary challenge (seeing as well over half wasn’t eaten in that sitting).

One of the things I look forward to the most this summer is smoking everything I can find. And with the nice weather we have been having lately it has gotten my juices flowing for a nice brisket or even some almonds or something.

I have to confess that a lot of my passion for it stems from my sister’s boyfriend, who is an avid smoker and has taught me a lot about the process. Many a day this summer will be spent with meat on, beers in hand, and good music on the radio while the sun beats down upon us, I am sure. Summertime is a smoker’s paradise.

Bipolar Thoughts

Nicer weather is here now, hopefully to stay. It makes me think about spring time and summer which are usually full of fun and laughs and good times, but also full of anxiety.

I have a set of obsessions. Obsessions and compulsions are not uncommon with Bipolar Disorder. I don’t seem to have any compulsions, but I do have a list of 5 or 6 obsessions that are the center of my therapy sessions, my personal work on my mood, and my daily struggles. I won’t get into all of my obsessions today, but I will talk about one.

For a long time my doctor thought I suffered from a reverse form of Seasonal Affective Disorder; one where I suffered depression every summer and sailed through every winter. However, this isn’t the case. I do suffer more from depression and anxiety starting in the spring but it isn’t directly due to the change in seasons. It is due to one of my biggest obsessions.

Body Image. Body Image is a huge obsession of mine. I constantly worry about the way that I look and how others perceive me based on how I look. I’m overweight, by more than 50 pounds, and I feel fine. In fact, I feel like I’m the weight my body wants me to be. But thoughts of going out in public not covered by a sweater or hoodie, having to bare my chest to go swimming or hang out on the beach. These things can bring me to tears. The anxiety that a beach can bring me is almost unparalleled. I will try my hardest to remain out of the water.

Sometimes it is undeniable and you just have to go for it. When that happens all of my thoughts turn to who is avoiding looking at my body and who is staring at it. The slightest wince can entice my brain into thinking that you are judging me, that you think I’m disgusting, that you find me offensive.

I struggle most around my wife’s family and at our city pool. At our city pool there are plenty of good bodies in a small area. I’ve even once heard a teenager say “ew” when I took off my shirt in front of her, and then she proceeded to find another area to sun bathe. My wife’s family is just so skinny, or in shape, or whatever, that by no fault of their own, I feel bad around them. I almost don’t want to subject them to my fat ass in the summer and feel bad that sometimes I have to.

I have twice made attempts to lose weight. One time about five years ago I lost 35 pounds and felt great and thought I looked great. I didn’t mind going to the beach or pool that summer and probably had the best summer of my life. And just a few months ago I tried to get started on a weight loss plan, lost almost 15 pounds then I hurt my back at the gym and the holidays came and I’ve gained it all back, probably, I won’t get on a scale to find out.

It sounds easy to say, just lose the weight. But the truth is, I like my lifestyle, like eating and drinking like I do and 50 pounds is a big number; a seemingly insurmountable number, even.

So every spring and summer, when I am just in a t-shirt, I am at my most uncomfortable. I am struggling to get out of the situation. And I am praying it doesn’t ever head to a pool.

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This is my 50th posting on this blog and I want to thank everyone of you that has read any of them.

It has been a fun journey so far, and my sincere hope is that I entertained you at least a little. If I managed to teach you something, show you something, help you with something, or inspire you to do something then I am truly grateful.

I hope that my readership continues to grow and that I continue to produce work worth reading.

I have hit a point where I don’t want to dredge my past too much for fear of boring some of you, but I don’t want this to be a blog only about my contemporary life either. I like the blend I have achieved so far but realize I need to mix it up more to keep you guys, as well as myself, entertained.

This is the point I thought I would reach much quicker than I did. And I am happy to have hit it. It will force me to be more creative and dig deeper for my postings. My goal is or more inspired writing, let’s see how it goes.

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My sister is enough older than me that when we were kids it really mattered.

She is about three and a half years older than me. And that means that she has memories of our parents together, but I don’t. She remembers our old house fairly well, while I barely do. She remembers our old neighborhood, school and friends with fondness, while I struggle to remember any of it.

She was also old enough to develop a motherly instinct around me once my mother was out of the picture or even during the separation when we needed our parents to be more like parents for us, hard to do given the circumstance. I remember a particular scene when my parents were fighting loudly in the house and my sister and I were in my Dad’s car. She was holding me, protecting me, in the backseat.

I’ve always felt that she has been this way regarding me. Throughout my entire life she has been supportive like a parent, proud like a parent.

We didn’t start to have the relationship where these traits showed themselves until I was in high school. I tortured my sister, literally, as a child; throwing things at her, destroying her bedroom door with a Transformer doll, hitting her in the face with a square clock, punching her for no reason. So it took some time for me to calm down and for her to forgive me. But by the time she was driving my best friend and I to high school every morning, we were cool.

And since then our relationship has grown without interruption.

My sister is not enough older than me that it matters at all today.

In many ways she is my best friend. I can be my whole self around her. I bet she is the only person who read this blog who was not surprised by a single posting in it, well her and my wife. I can tell her when I’m doing great. When I’m doing too great. And when I’m not doing too great. She is the least judgmental person I know and has a lot of life experience to draw all kinds of advice from.

Unfortunately her biggest asset, her big heart, is also her downfall. She gets deeply wounded very easily. A careless throwaway statement may send her brooding and she might not tell you until she cools down about it (not necessarily a bad thing), which can catch you off-guard. I have learned that in spite of this, it is best to get everything out in the open. She deals best with a situation where she knows the truth even if it hurts her.

She is the only sibling I’ve got, and for a long time I felt like she was the only person in my corner. She doesn’t like to sit back watching life take nasty jabs at me, but she has always been willing to sponge away the blood and get me back into shape to go back out there.