Tag Archives: projects

A Time to Release . . .

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A Time to Release

Things have been a bit radio silent here for the last several weeks.  It’s time you knew why.

The picture up there is from last Monday, the 28th of March.  Just two days after the anniversary of my wife’s passing . . . two days past what would have been my 23rd wedding anniversary (we married young, and yes…they are the same day) I was in a recording studio.

Fancying myself a bit of a storyteller let me give you the long-winded explanation of why this is significant.  It comes, essentially, in two parts.

First . . . this whole thing started in the week or so following my wife, Andrea’s death.  I binge-watched in a sleepless week the entire TV series The Wire, which was good, from what I remember.  Then I did something my wife disliked…I picked up a guitar, in the living room, at 3am.  A song started to form and the anger and frustration I had got my blood going and in my sleepless state I had inspiration for music.   All the anger and emotion flooded out and I wrote a song about where I was at.

Then the writer’s block hit.  For more than a year-and-a-half I was unable to write music.  It was frustrating.  After that time, though, the dam burst and I was nearly prolific.  The result was close to a dozen or more songs that I was constantly honing and re-recording in demo form.

Fast forward a few years . . . my oldest daughter was struggling with what her career choice would be.  Deep down she wanted to do one thing but was clinging to what her mother wanted: something in the medical field.  She would have been good at it, it’s a noble thing to do . . . but I knew she didn’t want to.  So I told her to look at herself, her life, this was her time, after all.  “Find something you love, what you’re passionate about and work really hard at it and you will be happy.  Maybe not rich, but you will be fulfilled.”  (Or words to that effect)  My daughter turned that around on me a year later.  “When are you going to do that, Dad?”

I was floored.

“You need to go into the recording studio again.  You’re too good and you talk a good game . . . but don’t use us (the kids) as an excuse.  Find a way.”

So I have taken my own advice.

I joined a band . . . the Ain’t Got No Time (rock and blues) Band.  This is a group of some of the most talented people I know.  We started gigging first, a couple free fundraisers for charity.

Then I asked them if they’d record an album with me.  I even considered, at their suggestion, whether or not this could be a band album.  I almost did that . . . but a couple things stopped me:

  • Much of the material (most of it, in fact) helped me get through the struggles, the grief and confusion.  I wrote what I felt and this was a very personal project.
  • I wasn’t going to say this was “the band’s” record when I wrote all the material.  These guys all write and they write amazing stuff.  The world needs to hear a full band record, too.  That will come later.

We started rehearsals:

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And the band seriously became nearly de-facto producers of the record.

Here are the cast of characters of AGNT:

IMG_6543Kevin Mooney is the drummer.  He basically looked up, said “who do you want this to sound like,” and counted off the beat.  When we said more he gave more.  When we needed a break in the song he hit it dead-on.

IMG_6565Eric Rosander plays bass and sings backup (at least here).  He sings in an a capella   group so his vocal arrangements are strong.  He plays upright, and is one of the best bassists I’ve ever played with.

IMG_6569 (1)Matt Retz plays guitar – rhythm and lead – and sings.  He and Eric arranged backup vocals for my first single that sound like a full chorus of people behind us.  It simultaneously evokes gospel meets The Eagles and I’m so proud of it all.  Matt took some of the reigns and helped produce an amazing three songs.

IMG_0752Then there’s Robert Sabino…our keyboard player…though he’s so much more.  A resume that includes Bowie, Madonna, Simon and Garfunkel, Mick Jagger, and a who’s who of people from the 70’s-90’s and beyond.  Rob helped so much with arrangements that made the songs so much more than I ever thought they would be.  Between Rob and Matt the material didn’t just get better, it sang.

So two days in the studio, a massive amount of guitar amplification and a set of torched vocal chords by the end and I have two full songs and an acoustic instrumental that may be my proudest work so far in my life.

This was certainly something I did for me, for sure.  But without this band and these people it certainly wouldn’t be the material it is.  I love them all and they are truly magical people to be around.

So . . . that said . . . instead of working toward a full record and holding off, I’m so proud of this material I’m going to release a single in the coming weeks.  I am simply waiting on the publishing and copyright paperwork to clear.

Stay tuned for updates . . . hopefully the term “radio silence” will not be applicable is so many more ways.

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It Worked for Awhile . . .

Sam

It Worked for Awhile

Memories.

My son up there, Sam, has memories in everything.  They absorb the items and the breadth of everything around him like the pores of a sponge.

So it is that I contend, again, with a broken bed.

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This was the bed, a couple months ago.  Sure . . . it elicited many a “now you know why I told you not to jump on the bed(s)!”  Still . . . the bed was broken.  I had every intention on that next day to make a trip to the dreaded monument to Swedish engineering (he said in distinct sarcasm) Ikea.  Instead, I spent hours recessing screws, cutting boards and trying my hardest o fix the twin bed of my son’s.

My son saw this bed as a transport, his own time machine where he could lie in bed and think about his days as a toddler or elementary school child.  He used it to remember the days he loved going to the park and when he was across the hall from his Dad.

He used it to remember his Mom.

So it was I took an entire day to build the braces, using deck screws and other pieces, to rebuild his bed.

Then last night his older sister sat on the bed.  It’s here I saw the serious design flaw.  It just wasn’t made to handle more than a toddler’s weight, an engineering spec I hadn’t read nor realized since the beds had always been pre-assembled.

So it was that this very son, in the heights of his being bummed out by the loss of his personal time machine, he went with me to Ikea.

He helped pick the bed.  He sat in the restaurant with me because we were ten minutes early.

This wouldn’t normally be a big deal except I spent the entire evening tossing and turning.  I have cookies I want to make.  I have a cake to finish and frost.  I have cinnamon rolls to make for morning.  I have to wait for the arrival of the fat guy in the red suit and do my yearly ritual . . . watching The Apartment while I await the visitor from the North.

But it’s Christmas.  It’s a day of new beginnings.  It’s a day of love, delight, giving and not anger.  I looked at my son up there and looked at him and realized how patient and happy he was for having such a tight connection to this object.

“We are getting beds for Christmas!” He was smiling as we went through the labyrinthian store.  We had to use every ounce of self-restraint to not buy that set of coffee cups, no matter how cute, or the panda bears or the new cutting board.

Like Laurel and Hardy we got to the aisle with the boxes.  My 11-year-old, build like a wrestler and strong as a gnat couldn’t manage to hold the little cart.  As one box got closer, filled with iron and styrofoam and weighing about as much as an Acme anvil the corner would hit the cart and my son would exclaim “ouch!”  The cart would roll backward, the box fall and the eyes from the early shoppers would peek around the corner like a Pixar cartoon.

Somehow we managed to get the first box on the cart.  Then came number two, which I somehow managed to see was box number 1 . . . weighing about double the first.  By now Sam had wedged his foot behind the wheel of one side and held onto the other side.  By the third box we had a light piece we could put onto the cart and walk away.

On the drive home NPR’s Here and Now was playing the host’s interview with a DJ from his hometown.  They were playing songs from his childhood for Christmas . . . and Sam was bobbing his head to Chuck Berry singing Run, Run, Rudolph!  

The beds still need building, the rolls rising, the cookies cutting, the dinner creating . . . but I don’t mind.  Busy is better than bored and we’ll get it done.

And we’ll have new beds for Christmas.

A Particular Set of Skills

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A Particular Set of Skills

I have amassed a particular set of skills . . . skills I have attained over a long period of time that make me a nightmare for someone like you.

Okay, I’m no Liam Neeson, nor are my hands categorized as deadly weapons.  I have, though, amassed a myriad of skills that I thought I would never have.  Sure, I cook.  I cooked before I ever met my wife, though.  There were days, bored in my college apartment that I would go into the kitchen and make a bunch of oatmeal-butterscotch cookies.  Why?  Because I wanted them.  When it was a band mate’s birthday I baked them a chocolate cake.  I do mean a homemade, from scratch, cocoa powder with brown sugar and homemade frosting kind of cake.

There are some skills, though I didn’t inherit and had to learn.

Laundry was the first.  I tried before, lord knows.  Every time I tried to do a load of laundry, though – hell even when I just was moving it from washer to dryer – I ruined something.  There were expensive dress pants of my wife’s that became shorts for my daughter . . . they shrank that much.  After Andrea (my late wife) passed away it didn’t get better at first.  In fact, I gave some shirts and other things to my little niece because my oldest daughter’s sweaters ended up in the dryer.  Wool doesn’t handle that well.

Slowly, though, I managed to get through the ridiculousness of my mistakes and I tend to run the washing machine every other day.  Repetition, I suppose, was the key.  So was stopping the stupid mistakes and reading labels in the clothes.

Then there’s Christmas.

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That present under the tree is my son’s.  He asked for a box, found the paper and tape and took tremendous joy in knowing that he had the first present under the tree.  He’s 11, by the way, and wrapping isn’t something he’s done much.

I, however, used to have that very kind of terrible wrapping job.  I didn’t really choose to improve because my wife was so amazing at decoration that I couldn’t really find a need to do it.  She was pretty amazing in her ideas so I left wrapping to her . . . except for my presents to her.

But over the last few years, after watching the people at Nordstrom’s and on TV wrapping I learned.  A lot.

So this evening, as I wrapped my first present my middle daughter watched me break out the paper and wrap.
“Wow, you’re really good at this,” was her surprised response.
“I’ve been doing it awhile.”
“No, like really good,” she informs me.

It’s here I wrinkle the paper, curse under my breath and start over.

“Well, I would have kept it that way,” she informs me, trying to be nice.

She was a bit disappointed that this was a present for a friend and not one of theirs.  I relegated their wrapping to later in the week.  I still have presents to buy.

But the Christmas wrapping . . . that gave me an indication of the things I never thought I’d learn, let alone have to accomplish.  Wrapping presents, choosing paper, matching decorations and all were things that I’d never attempted.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, I’d never had to venture into those brambles along the path.

Turns out . . . it’s not that awful painful.  It’s just been gaining experience . . . new experience.

It’s a particular set of skills . . . skills, it turns out, that were anything but a nightmare to learn.

A Technological Decision

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A Technological Decision

I had a person ask me today what limits I put on my kids’ use of their phone.

Imagine the horror in their faces when I told that same person that only my daughters – ages 19 and 15 at this writing – are the only kids with cell phones.  The other person was so taken aback that they literally could not continue the conversation.

I don’t state this as a techno-shaming moment nor do I try to make myself look better.  There just didn’t seem to be a need for my sons – twins at age 11 as of this writing – to have cell phones.  They go to school near the house, they know how to get home safely, and I have a home phone should the house catch on fire or someone try to break in or if one of them cuts off a digit or falls down the stairs and needs an ambulance.

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It isn’t as though the three kids and I haven’t had this discussion.  My middle child – coincidentally in the middle in that picture – has had an Instagram account for a little while.  The caveat was that I am one of her followers and that I have access to the data, use and other apps on her phone.  I don’t log on – or haven’t in a long while – but she always knows that if there’s cause for alarm I’ll know it.

Still . . . when she turned 15 I thought she was old enough to handle a social media account.  I offered to let her have a Facebook page . . . and she just didn’t want it.  Apparently, Facebook is for old people like me.  She lives and communicates via text and Instagram with her friends, some of whom have had to move out of state.  I am fortunate in that my kids haven’t given me cause for alarm.

The boys see nearly every child in their class with iPhones around them.  Neither boy has a phone but neither has it bothered them much.  My son told me yesterday how several kids in their PE class had their phones confiscated . . . because they’d been texting, calling, and using Facebook during class.
“Almost everybody has a phone,” said my son.  I was prepared for the argument and headed it off:
“You don’t need a phone yet.”
My son just looked at me a bit confused.
“I wasn’t asking for a phone . . . I was just telling you these kids had their phones taken.  What do I need a phone for?”

It was here I realized that they couldn’t miss what they never had.  Sure, I’ve let them play games on my phone.  When I mention that they do that he simply informs me that he has a Gameboy and it’s got the ability to play games in 3D.  The phone doesn’t.  I ask what happens if they need to get hold of me and he tells me the school has phones and the house has a phone.

We worry that we’re immersing our kids in too much technology.  I worry when my kids would prefer to play their video games and the Wii and watch television all day.  It’s not, though, because of the technological rot.  It’s because I want them to get up and move around more.

Overall, though, I came to a technological realization that I needn’t have worried about the tech so much.  My kids didn’t crave it nor did they miss it.

Maybe that makes them a rarity.

I prefer to think it’s because, as I’ve said before, kids are far smarter than we give them credit.

Is It Tomorrow?

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Is It Tomorrow?

It was a very long week, though fulfilling for me.  I was at a journalism conference and spent a lot of time both learning and teaching, both things I feel privileged to do.  It’s not often something can be so fulfilling and yet so exhausting at the same time.

Still . . . during the entire process I had the ability to call my kids each day.  The time varied, but the wonderful slow pace of their summer made it so the only times I had to worry about were the times when they were eating dinner.   Even so, I occasionally forgot the two-hour time difference and interrupted their meal anyway.

Today I booked the kids’ flight home, though it wasn’t without a lot of wrangling.  Not on their grandparents’ part . . . theirs.

“I’m booking your flight home,” I told them on the phone.
“Is it tomorrow,” I heard from one child?
“Tomorrow?  Well…at least you’re not like your sister who whined she didn’t want to go every day until you got on the plane.”

This drew an inordinate amount of much-warranted sarcasm from the peanut gallery, including her sister, grandparents, and brothers.

“No, it’s not tomorrow,” was my response.  There are a myriad of reasons why.  It’s not that I wouldn’t want them home, I certainly would!  But coming home requires them to be home . . . not outside riding bikes, in the park, helping their grandparents, none of that.  It means they’re sitting in the house, watched by their sister (whose complaint was that she wanted to see her friends.  I informed her, rather impolitely, that she wouldn’t see her friends because she’d be watching her brothers).

The reality is, I’ve been working and wandering other cities for two weeks.  That doesn’t lend itself to being a single parent, either.  So given that . . . they’ve been in far better shape than if I’d left them in hotel rooms for a full day or left to their own devices.

And it’s been good for me to stretch my feet and spread my wings a little.  I met with old friends, met new people and moved around in circles I don’t normally know.

I went to dinner – yes, alone, I actually enjoy that – and bought dessert for a beautiful woman in the corner of a jazz club just to be mysterious.  No.  I’ve never done that, I’m not really smooth, I’m not a “player” and there was a reason for it: hopefully this woman will forever wonder who the man was bought her food and then left, quietly, anonymously from the place.  The mystery will likely always be better than the reality.  I kind of like that!

But in the end . . . I got home from the conference and immediately pulled up the airline sites.  I do miss the kids and I miss my family . . . and it will be great to see them again.

No, it’s not tomorrow.  But it will definitely be soon!

First Came One Year…

my-family.jpgOur Story Begins: Year One

As we lead up to the third anniversary of my wife’s passing – and that was the spark that ignited my writing here on this blog – I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you what led to this anniversary’s video. (I will post that on Wed., the actual anniversary)

Roughly nine months after Andrea’s passing I wanted to do something to mark the occasion – something that showed the kids, our friends, relatives, even myself, that we had made it.  One year seemed like a milestone.  It was a milestone.

The background you’ll likely need here if you haven’t read Our Story Begins before: on March 26th, 2011, my wife Andrea Manoucheri passed away.  She contracted a strain of pneumonia, which none of us thought was a big deal.  Antibiotics take care of that nowadays, it’s not the 19th century anymore, right?  But what started with a slight cough led to Andrea’s death after less than a week.  She died on the morning of our 18th wedding anniversary.  She and I were only 40-years-old.  We’d been married, on March 26th, at the tender young age of 22.

Fast-forward to 2011 . . . and I was suddenly alone and parenting four kids – two girls and twin boys.  Life was crazy.  In the span of a few short weeks I had lost my wife and was forced to leave my home because we couldn’t pay the mortgage.  (Andrea was the one with the larger salary in our household.  We were a dual-income family)  Within a short time from there . . . I had to change jobs.  I couldn’t afford the Catholic high school so my oldest began her junior year at another school.  Totally out of the blue.

The song for this video was one I’d written for my wife when she was still my girlfriend.  I re-wrote it to reflect the current environment and re-recorded it.  Sadly, it’s a better reflection of the song I’d written for the woman I loved than the original, which I was never totally happy with.  At the time I couldn’t do more than a single take on the vocals so they’re a bit shaky and raw, but I liked it that way.  The whole recording went that way.

Regardless, after a year, we paid tribute to the woman we all loved . . . and those who helped us survive.  We also seemed to leave a spark of hope in the melancholy tone of the video.  It was purposely low-tech and hand-made . . . it matched the patchwork feel our family had that first year.

Our Story Begins: Fly On My Sweet Angel:

Two Steps Forward, One Back

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Our Story Begins: Two Steps Forward, One Back

I know the common phrase is “one step forward, two steps back,” but I looked at where things were this week and realized that the regular cliche just doesn’t quite fit.

As we approach the date when my wife passed away I can certainly see the effect it’s had on the kids.  I For something like the fourth night in a row one of my sons has ended up in my bed, scared, saying he’s had a nightmare.  It’s clear that something’s weighing on their minds, but they’re just not sure what that is.  I don’t confront it, don’t plant the seed in their minds by blurting out “are you missing your Mom, is that why you’re not sleeping?”  That would just, in my opinion, push them further down the whirlpool.

These kinds of anniversaries are hard, I knew that before I ever suffered loss.  One of my dearest friends lost her sister and that date never was easy on her.  The first couple years I knew her she would take the day off – much like I am, again, this year.  But as time went on, the ability to let others in, comfort – not pity – her and enjoy what is, for everyone else, an atypical day started to creep into her life.

This is the situation into which we’re moving now.  Like my friend, losing someone dear will always weigh on you.  There’s always a slowing of your movement as you approach the day that they died.  I see that even now and it’s why we started so early on our annual video this year.  I wanted it finished and completed.

Still, I’ve noticed something remarkable.  I postulated in the past that you don’t stop loving or missing the person who has passed away.  Instead, you learn to live with living without them.  I cannot pretend to say this is scientific or realistic in its hypothesis, it just is the way I feel.  The closer we get to March 26th the slower we move.  But unlike years past we continue to move forward, that’s the nature of the title up there.  The last two anniversaries I grabbed the kids and we just left, leaving behind all the memories and the people who approached us because it just dredged it all up again and muddied the waters.  Until this year.

My son is in a speech presentation this year and when months ago I mentioned that we might consider going away on the anniversary again he was crestfallen.  He’d worked so hard to get into the “oral presentation” club and to have his chance to give his speech taken away was too much.  It’s here I realized that, much like I’ve always said, he wants to continue to live his daily life.  He is the best example of how none of us are defined by the fact that he lost his mother and I lost my wife.  Sure, it affected us.  It most certainly changed us.  The day, though, approaches what it is for everyone else – just a day.

That’s not to say that March 26th won’t hold a spot for us for all time, it will.  That day, for me, will always make my heart skip a beat.  It’s the day, after all, that I got married and the day that the marriage ended – the day she died.  Young marriage, after all, made for a young widower, I suppose you could say.

So loss is just that . . . loss.  But it’s not and ending, not to us; not to our story.  So as we approach the 26th, we certainly feel the pull from the past, yanking us a step back for each single day that passes.  But for each step back we’ve been dragged we’ve taken two forward.  My son will give his speech and his Dad will be there to watch him . . . along with his older sister, home for break from college.  It’s a difficult day because we all loved her so deeply, but in the end (without trying to sound too cheesy) that’s the one thing that moves us forward, too.  Love.  That person has gone away, but the love remains.  That doesn’t mean we don’t move forward because my kids see the love I have for them; the love their grandparents have; their aunts and uncles, too.  We’re surrounded by the very thing that tries to pull us back into the past.

We see it physically and feel it emotionally, too: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.

Pictures in a Book

Our Story Begins:
Pictures in a Book

Like a lot of Sundays in our home the day was filled with chores.  The vacuuming and the dishes; the laundry and the beds; sinks and toilets; the dusting was the biggest chore.  I handed a lot of that off to one of my twin sons, Sam, while Noah, his brother, folded and put away the laundry that had piled up in the wash room.

Like so many other things, I’d held off cleaning my room for a very long time.  Dust bunnies gathered under my bed.  The armoire in the corner of the room was filled with dust, too.  No wonder I had so many allergies.

I found the leather-bound book in a back part of the cabinet.  I’d actually forgotten I’d even put it there.  My son walked into the room as I was wiping the dust off the leather and the brass binding on the back.

“What’s that,” my son asked.  It was the last of the chores, at least for me, and I looked at him and said “come on downstairs, I’ll show you.”

The three kids had gathered on either side of me and I opened the book.
“Wait,” says Noah, “why does it say “Our Wedding?””
“Because that’s what it is,” I tell him. “There’s your Mom before the wedding,” I tell them, showing them a photo just of her in the church

2014-02-17 06.58.20“Wow!”

I had to agree.  My late wife, Andrea, was a lot of things.  Beautiful was certainly one of them.  Sure, by 2014 standards the dress may seem a little dated, but it didn’t matter.  Gorgeous is gorgeous, I have to say, and Andrea certainly fit into that category.

They spot me in a tuxedo, white tie, whole nine yards, and my son says “you look just like Grandpa there!”
“You mean him,” I say, pointing out my Mom and Dad on the page.  “Yeah!  See?!  I mean, you’re a little lighter skinned but you look a lot like him.  Especially there.”

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We come to pictures of the reception and they ask why it looks like I’m shoving cake down their Mom’s throat.
“That’s just a bad photo,” I tell them.  “Your Mom was the one who did that.  She spent weeks informing how much trouble I would be in if I smeared the cake on her face.”  We’d made a deal not to do it.

Hannah looked at me quizzically, asking “so did you listen to her?”
I look over my glasses at her and inform her that nobody ignores the wishes of the bride on her wedding day, not if they want to survive to be married.

What I don’t have the heart to tell them is how I reacted to that moment.  I always joked “if you can survive planning a wedding the marriage can’t be nearly as hard.”  I was right in a way.  This was terribly stressful.  Andrea and her bridesmaids were late to the church.  For about two hours we’d lost the wedding rings.  The photographer was just not that great.

So when Andrea had done exactly what we’d said we wouldn’t do I got fairly resentful.  Not enough to hate the rest of my wedding, but certainly enough to feel that twinge when I saw the photos.

But I don’t tell my kids that part.  In reality, I wish I’d just stood back and enjoyed that day for the entire thing.  Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but sitting with my kids I realized what a great day this was.

Before now looking at this book of photos probably wouldn’t have even been an option.  Noah still hasn’t faced all his grief.  The other two don’t want to talk too much about their Mom.

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But today we sit and look through these photos and I tell them every story, from my brother and I singing Andrea a song I wrote for her right down to explaining why the one picture removed was taken out because it contained a picture of Andrea’s sister with an ex-boyfriend.  We laughed at how their Mom wanted such a huge wedding party they ran out of purple bridesmaid cloth for the dresses and we had to buy another color for one of them.

My brothers look so young, one of the kids notes, but then so did I.

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Still, it was a wonderful thing to look at this book of photos and walk my kids through that day.  It made me smile not only to show them that we had a wedding day but that we had a really fun wedding day.  It also was great to see them look at their mom and hear them say out loud “she was gorgeous.”

Because after all, she really was.

All in the Procedurals

Procedurals.

That’s the TV term for television shows that, for the most part, have a singular story at the heart of each episode.  It’s not a gigantic story arc like others.

So when people come to me completely aghast that I haven’t watched, say, Breaking Bad and don’t know their Walter White-isms, they seem completely taken aback.
“It’s the greatest show since The Wire” the TV show Family Guy satirized a few years back.  Funny thing is I’ve actually had people say that.  I did watch The Wire, it was in the days after my wife passed away, the days before her funeral.  That was when I was on family leave and couldn’t really face the world.

But there are only a few things that stick that are those season-long story arcs.  Doctor Who is a fixture in our home.  I’ll watch it every Saturday and that makes it easy as it’s a weekend.  Sherlock.  Not the crappy CBS version that has Lucy Liu as Watson and is basically CSI with a British accent.  No, the Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss version that’s on PBS.  Why?  It’s insanely well written, acted, shot, edited and is only 3 episodes long.  It’s a hour and a half each, like a feature film, and isn’t on a weekday.

I have a DVR filled with old recordings I’ve never watched.  I didn’t get past season 2 of The Walking Dead.  I don’t watch 24.  My daughter poked fun of me when she came home from college because I had on a crappy episode of CSI and followed that with another crappy procedural of Hawaii 5-o.  My reaction to her was simple: I don’t have the time to put into those season-long shows.  I don’t have the attention span.  I don’t have the time and I have too many other things to do in the meantime.  I can have on a crappy procedural with bad puns and poor writing while I cook dinner, make lunches or bake cookies.  I can vacuum the floor for a 1/2 hour and still not have any problem keeping up with the plot line.  It’s usually that simple.

So tonight I sit, the last of PBS’ Downton Abbey on the screen and I write.  In about 15 minutes I’ll immerse myself in the one overlying story arc that taps my imagination.  I’ll listen to the quick as a whip dialogue in Sherlock and allow myself the one day of the week I won’t get up at 5:30am and walk . . . tomorrow morning.  After all, Sherlock is on until 11:30pm.

But it’s not about the shows.  Maybe I was more like my mother all along and never realized it.  Maybe I just changed a lot, but the time spent on the couch watching television is time where I could be planning ahead or doing my taxes or working on something else.

It’s the procedurals that give me background noise and take no attention that make the most sense.  It’s not like I like the shows, I actually barely tolerate them.  But with an episode of Bones playing in the background it’s barely more than having the stereo blaring, which I do quite often.  More often than the television these days.

And that’s okay.  The procedurals do what they’re meant to do . . . stay in the background.  Others may sit in rapt attention, time wasting away . . . for me, they keep me from wasting precious moments, be they with the kids or keeping up with the daily rituals.

Where’s the Adventure?

I had a conversation recently about how different people handle different scenarios.  Some people are very regimented, their itinerary listed and if they deviate from the itinerary the entire day, for them, is ruined.  If the most amazing things come up, sure, they’re amazing, but it stresses them out if that’s thrown off their day.

My late father-in-law was one of these people.  If you went to see something – the case in point for me in this one being our one trip to Yosemite with my late wife’s folks – he had an itinerary.  Now, bear in mind, none of us were usually consulted on this itinerary.  None of us even knew there was an itinerary.  Yet, there it was.

I don’t say this as an insult to the man.  On the contrary, I assume that, being married to my now late-mother-in-law, this was a necessity or the day would have gone madly out of control.  He was yin, she yang (or was it the other way around in reverse?).  They balanced, even if they constantly sniped at each other through the entire thing.

DSCF0070Then you throw in my wife, Andrea, and the entire thing goes in a thousand different volatile directions.  I have to be honest, I don’t know which category to fit Andrea into as she sort of fit both.  She never wanted to go anywhere without knowing what to visit or where . . . but the itinerary was never right if it wasn’t her itinerary.  Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you have four children with you.  And her father.  Then it goes mad.  This, I’m afraid, was our sole full-family trip to Yosemite.  It lasted a day.

DSCF0060I know what you’re thinking, no, there’s no possible way you can see everything in Yosemite in a day.  You’d be right, by the way.  Still, that’s what happened. Between my children wanting to spend the time looking for one of the waterfalls (that had too little water to fall, but they didn’t know that) and my father-in-law having his own agenda and my wife having her own . . . it was mayhem.  The 2-3 day trip ended after one day.

IMG00155Thus the discussion I had.  My daughter had a similar experience not long ago with a non-relative and it’s not hard to see why it drives her crazy.

I don’t act either way, really.

“Where’s the adventure in that?!” was the line that came from the person in my discussion.  They’re right, too.

Since Andrea passed away I’ve talked a lot about making life far more adventurous for us.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I go jump out of airplanes.  (Not that I wouldn’t, but . . . well . . . maybe . . . )  What it means is that I don’t let even the little things skirt by.

I detailed a number of things we did in the last year here.  2013 wasn’t a stellar year emotionally but in terms of adventure, we grabbed it.  No, we didn’t climb Kilimanjaro or hike the Appalachian trail but we did go to Folsom lake and see the ruins of the old Mormon Island, usually submerged (not now due to drought).  We fed birds at a sanctuary, just did amazing things.  Not all of them meet the criteria of “bucket list” things, but that’s fine.

Life is full of adventurous moments, you just need to grab them when they come.  Even three years ago I sat on a couch and binge-watched TV shows with my wife.  Now I feel restless if I sit for more than an hour or two watching TV.  There’s always a chore to do or someplace to go.

I don’t discount the value of television and games and things, we have them.  This isn’t a lecture.  But it is a realization: I rode the wave of itineraries for so long I realized it’s time to throw it out.  When I see something that looks like we’d enjoy it, I do it.

Therein lies the adventure.