October 23, 2017: Reflections on Thirteen Years of Marriage

Thirteen years ago, I woke to brilliant sunshine after a week straight of rain, with a banging headache, in a hotel room at the O’Callahan on West Street, in Annapolis, MD. My addiction to alcohol would not take full root for several more years, but the previous night had been full of revelry with friends and family. We’d been celebrating in preparation of this day, the day that I would commit my life to the most amazing and beautiful woman I’d ever met. Yes, Mrs. TKD and I were getting married!

We had fretted about the weather for the entire week as it poured rain on Maryland. The forecast had predicted more rain on Saturday but here I was, awake with sun streaming in the window and clear skies as far as I could see. The air crisp and clear, we would have the perfect weather for our October wedding day after all.

The day became a bit of a blur once things got rolling, but at six in the morning I had a lot on my mind and couldn’t go back to sleep. Around seven, I met Mom for breakfast. I took a walk around ten and ate oysters at the Market House in Annapolis, shucked by a kind old black man named Lester Jones.

Lester had known my father and after he died always asked me how Mom was doing. When I shared the plan of the day with Lester his broad smiled showed through his slat and pepper beard and he told me that Dad would be proud. He told me that Dad would be with me that day. And I knew that he was with me in spirit. I carry my dad’s spirit with me everywhere I go, even now.

I’ve been reading a book called Waiting: A nonbeliever’s Higher Power, and one of the central tenets of the book is that we live in the here and now and that the very act of being present with other human beings — the act of communicating and participating in fellowship with other human beings — is in and of itself spiritual. I believe that this sense of community that we find in the rooms is perhaps even more powerful in our recovery than understanding any Higher Power in which we may believe.

I know for me this has been the case. The recognition that we are not alone that comes from spending time with others who seem to understand us vitalizes our lives. Talking about our pains and joys, actively listening to others, and offering our thoughtful suggestions are indeed connections between our spirit and the spirits of others fostered by a common language of struggle and triumph. When I came to understand that I was not alone in the rooms, my world expanded many fold.

Lester’s reminder that my father was with me was no accident. Indeed, I’d gone to get oysters from Lester specifically to spend time with my father’s memory. It was a small way to bring him into the day. I knew, if only subconsciously, that Lester and I would talk about dad and that by talking about him, we would bring his spirit to the day.

I did not know Lester Jones well, but I know a bit about his life. I knew that he’d been born south of Annapolis in a house on Muddy Creek Road in Edgewater, MD. I knew that he’d worked on the water as a younger man. I knew that he’d been married and divorced and that his current woman drove him a bit nutty but that he loved her. I knew that he was in his late fifties (at the time) but looked much older and weathered.

His had not been an easy life but he was a gentleman who had kind words and a smile. I didn’t know his entire life story, but I knew enough to know that his life was very different from my own, and yet, I considered him a friend — someone who was important enough in my family’s story to visit and to share the memory of my father with on my wedding day. I’ll never know if Lester considered me anything more than a customer, but I suspect he did. Lester made connections with people. He never forgot to ask about Mom when I visited his stand.

Today, as I celebrate thirteen years of marriage, I’m thinking about the connection between my spirit and Mrs. TKD’s spirit. I fell in love with her spirit first. It was here spirit that told me the stories of hiking Machu Picchu, of travels in Europe, of wanting to be a cartographer at National Geographic. It was here spirit that showed up on dates in pink and white cow printed sandals, and wore sparkly flip flops on that warm April day in 2003 when I met her. And it is her spirit that lifts me up when I am down. He spirit gave here the strength to never give up on me even in my darkest hours.

Our spirits are forever entwined and changed by the other. They will never be one, but they are close and I hope will never be separated.

Sometimes, You Just Need to Stop and Count Your Blessings

The past week and a half have been difficult. Even though the horror of Las Vegas didn’t directly impact me, it certainly made me pause, and certainly made the media go into it’s usual frenzy. Closer to home, I had my weekend plans go sideways, not once but twice — first we couldn’t go camping, then even the short hike I planned got scrapped. Monday of this week started with its own insanity. As I dropped off Mr. Grey at school, I looked at my calendar on my iPhone and discovered that didn’t have the free morning I thought I had, but rather had back to back meetings starting in 45 minutes. The first one was at a customer’s site. I was un-showered and unshaven. It was a mad dash, but I made it, clean and shaven. That afternoon, we discovered that my son had brought home lice, a discovery which would send me to the drug store, and result in him staying home for a few days. While these problems aren’t insurmountable, it’s felt a bit like I can’t get a break lately. In times like these I’ve learned to remind myself of the things for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for my health. Two years ago, I was convinced that my health was failing, that the downward spiral had started, and that it was irrevocable. I had pain in my right side, under my rib cage, that the doctors couldn’t diagnose. I was convinced that it was the beginning of a failing liver. Of course, I wasn’t honest with the doctors and told them that I was a “social drinker” even though I was really a blackout drunk. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Probably because they weren’t looking for the right things. I was convinced that I would be dead before my 55th birthday, which was a little over twelve years away.

I am grateful for the support of my family and friends — especially Mrs. TKD. I asked here the other night why she still loves me. Given that I was such a nightmare for so long and given that I can still be a gigantic asshole from time to time, it seems like a legitimate question. She smiled at me and joked, “it’s a habit.” Last night after a particularly difficult night with the boy, after we turned out the lights and before she started to drift off I thanked her for continuing to practice here habit of loving me.

I am grateful for the gift of music. While I don’t consider myself a musician, I do love music. When I was still drinking one of the health consequences I suffered was a temporary loss of hearing in my left ear. One day I woke up and couldn’t hear a thing out of it. It felt like it had closed up, like they do when you have a horrid head cold in the winter, but only on the left side. This loos of hearing would come and go and sometimes I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for days at a time. Sometimes it was only a few minutes. I went for hearing screening and it was confirmed that I do have some midrange frequency hearing loss, but that I wasn’t deaf in that ear. The doctors never identified this as being related to alcohol use, but again, I told them I was a “social drinker” so they had no reason to look there. I believe, however, that this was related to my alcohol abuse because since I quit drinking, I’ve never experienced this problem again. I remember distinctly being terrified that I might lose all my hearing and never be a able to listen to music again.

While the past week or so has been trying, I’m not facing the end of the world. Most of my problems are high class problems, most are first world problems — well, except for lice, lice is most definitely a third world problem. And most of my problems, even lice, are easily managed even if they may seem disastrous in the moment.

Lasagna as Service Work

I have some very fond memories of working Turkey, Ham, and Oyster Dinners as a young man. For those who didn’t grow up in the back of beyond, these were events that happened on a Saturday or Sunday to benefit the local fire hall. They were usually run by the Ladies Auxiliary groups of the local fire departments, and were a staple of country community. Very often, the men of the local company (and their children) chipped in by working in the kitchen, bussing tables, and doing the dishes. The cost to the public was $5 a plate and you were welcome to eat all you wanted. Tables were arranged and the meals were served family style. You ate with who ever happened to be at the table, whether they were family or not. I learned the value of a hard day’s work at these events, and I’m sure my dad enjoyed seeing me work rather than riding my skateboard.

I also learned that it felt damn good to pitch in and make a difference. Over the years, I had many opportunities to pitch in and help.

So, when I first started attending 12 Step meetings and I heard a lot about “service work” and how helpful it is for our recovery it came as no surprise. I heard people talk about taking a position in home groups, such as making the coffee or being the designated greater. And for a while, I was the coffee guy one day a week at my 6:00 AM meeting. I enjoyed it, it gave me a sense of purpose and ensured that I was there to talk with people before the meeting.

Over time, that meeting didn’t fit my life anymore, and that was okay. I haven’t found another meeting that I feel is my “home group” in the past year and so I’ve questioned whether I’m doing service work anymore.

Last summer, I had the privilege of meeting another blogger, Liv of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen while I was on a business trip to California. Over dinner, I confessed that I felt like I wasn’t doing service work anymore. Liv said, “Oh but you are, you write your blog. It helps people.” And I started to think about what it means to perform service work.

I’ve come to believe that service work can and should expand beyond the home group. For many in early recovery the service work opportunities in a home group may be the first service work that they have done in their lives. For some, it may be the first that they’ve been trusted with in a long time. It’s important to do the service work because it helps us to establish the habit. It also teaches us that we can be trustworthy and reliable in a safe place.

If the coffee doesn’t get made because the guy who was supposed to do it didn’t show, someone else will pick up the slack. That’s not to excuse skirting responsibilities, but it is to say that the small steps that we take in early recovery towards serving our fellow humans are just that, baby steps.

But, if you believe as I do, that the point of recovery is to live a rich and full life, there comes a time when you may find that you need to perform service work outside your home group. And I believe that should be encouraged.

Service work can come in many forms. It can be coaching your child’s sports program. It can be volunteering at a soup kitchen. It can be writing a blog. Anything that you do for other people with no expectation of a reward is service work. And all of it is fulfilling and life giving. Indeed, if you believe that anything that enhances life can be spiritual and that “Spiritual power comes from whatever gives us peace, hope or strength and enhances our humanity,”1 then service work is by definition, spiritual.

Recently, I had the opportunity to help a friend in recovery who’s wife is having chemotherapy for breast cancer. I’d heard that she’d gotten the diagnosis and had been meaning to call, but hadn’t because life got in the way as it does when we have something to do which scares us. So one afternoon, while I was driving home, I gave him a call.

We talked for a few minutes and I asked him if I could do anything to help him. He said, no, were good. I interjected, “how about if I make you some lasagna’s this weekend?”

Now, my man knows that I cook, a lot. And he’d be a fool to turn down that offer, so he didn’t. He asked if I could do some veggie and some meat. Sure, no problem. Because, it isn’t a problem. We had a plan.

And I had some service work.

I spent the following Saturday afternoon making three lasagnas. Two for my buddy, and one for my family. We all benefitted. I felt amazing that day and when I delivered the food, I could tell how much my friend appreciated the help.

Later that evening, I got a text telling me his wife loved both lasagnas and asking for the recipe.

Now, I’m far from perfect, so it’s taken me three weeks to make good on getting him the recipe. See, I don’t really cook by recipe so I had to take some time to write it down, and that’s hard for me for some reason. But I finally wrote it down this afternoon, and sent it over to him.

Since he liked it so much, I thought I’d pass it on to all of you. Enjoy.

Veggie Lasagna

Sauce & Filling

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 head broccoli, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 16 oz jar pasta sauce (or make your own)

Ricotta Filling

2 15 oz tubs part skim ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated romano
1/2 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder

Other Ingredients

1 box no boil lasagna
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
6-8 slices provolone (optional)


  1. Heat Olive Oil over medium/medium high heat. Sauté veggies and spices until done. I try to release as much water as possible so that when I mix in the sauce, things don’t get runny.
  2. Mix in the sauce, reserving 1/2 cup for the bottom of the oven pan and top of the lasagna. I try to make this somewhat thick because when the veggies further cook, they will release water and you will end up with a liquid mess if the sauce mixture isn’t tight. Heat the sauce and veggie mixture thoroughly.
  3. Mix ricotta, eggs, cheeses and spices together in a bowl.
  4. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with reserved pasta sauce.
  5. Place three sheets of no-boil lasagna on the bottom of the pan. It’s okay if they overlap. It’s also okay if they don’t cover the entire width of the pan, they will expand.
  6. Add a layer of veggie/sauce mixture to cover the lasagna noodles.
  7. Add a layer of ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella.
  8. Add a second layer of noodles, and repeat steps 6 & 7.
  9. Do that again, so that you have three layers of goodness.
  10. Cover final layer with lasagna noodles.
  11. Cover noodles with remaining 1/4 cup reserved sauce.
  12. Cover sauce with mozzarella and/or provolone.
  13. Cover lasagna with foil.
  14. Bake for 40 minutes at 375F.
  15. Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes to brown cheese (optional)
  16. Let rest for 15 minutes before attempting to slice.
  17. Serve to your hungry family and watch them smile as a hush falls over the room.

Meat Variation(s)

To make a meat variation of this, substitute 1 lb of ground beef or bison in place of the veggies.

Make an extra meaty version with 1 lb of ground meat and 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage. Remove sausage from casing (or buy it loose) and break it up as it cooks with the other ground meat.

  1. Cleveland, Martha; G., Arlys. The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery (Kindle Locations 502-503). AA Agnostica. Kindle Edition. ↩︎