Tag Archives: story begins

What Comes This Year?

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What Comes This Year?

I got an email yesterday out-of-the-blue from a company asking me what adventure . . . what bucket-list things . . . what was going to happen this year?

That’s actually a fortuitous question as I have a lot that may happen this year.  Some of it involves my kids.  Much of it actually does not.

As children get older they tend to have their own lives and their own things they want to do.  So as a result many of their ideas for what the year brings are different than mine, but we will still go out, do things, be adventurous on our own.

Together?  The kids all want to see the volcanic area of far northern California, so we’ll make a trip at some point to Mount Lassen.  When it’s warmer and the snow isn’t an issue, of course.

One child wants to try out for basketball.  Another is running for Fall student council.

Bucket list?  Well…I’m not ready to kick said bucket, but regardless, a couple of those items will tick off this year.

David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, is playing the Hollywood Bowl in the Spring.  I’m going.  No question.  Tickets in-hand, trip ready, all set.

Sometime in the spring as well?  I plan on hitting the recording studio to begin work on a solo record.  I’ve been working the material for a long time.  It’s really time to get it set to tape and release it.  Will it sell?  Who knows?  But I have to get it out.  Kind of killing me not to do that.

There are a million other things I’d love to do but we will see.

I want to see the site of the first nuclear explosion.  I know, that’s weird and a bit off-the-path, but still a totally strange thing I’d be able to tell people I did.

I want to go back to the Midwest and see family.  Not a bucket list thing, but we’ll do it anyway.

Yosemite.  We did it once, and it’s close by so why not?  Our first trip was a bit odd . . . for personal reasons.  We’ll do it right this time.

To be fair, this whole post was actually inspired by that company’s marketing person emailing me.  Maybe it was a robot email.  Maybe it wasn’t.  They say they have a contest and are pushing readers of sites like mine to enter . . . as part of their outdoor gear company.  If you’re interested, you can go here and explore the company’s website.

I will be up-front and tell you that I do not actually own anything from the company nor am I able to give an endorsement as I haven’t used anything from Cotopaxi.  Not saying they’re bad, either, just that they contacted me.  Regardless, an interesting email and it did inspire me to write so for that reason I thank them.

But it does beg the question . . . what does your 2016 look like?

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Human Decency

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Human Decency

I saw what might be one of the worst things I’ve seen someone in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad suburbs do this morning.

In the middle of a large amount of wind mixed with pelting rain parents like me were in line trying to drop their kids off at school.  That’s not such a big deal, many of us do this every single morning of every single weekday when the schools are in session.

But this morning I had dropped my boys at the school, turned at the light, and was making my way back through the neighborhood.  That direction takes me back past the high-school on my right and it’s adjoined to an elementary school.  My boys’ middle school went back into session after the holidays.  The elementary school was not.

Yet there are still kids, living in the neighborhood behind the elementary school, who have to get to the Middle School.  There’s a crosswalk there and a four-way stop.

So this morning a little girl, maybe 6th grade, was waiting to cross.  I’m not a friendly driver, I admit that, and I tend to get frustrated with others on the road.  No road rage, just stress and high blood pressure.

But a little girl with a pink umbrella and little pink rain boots?  What kind of cold-hearted person doesn’t stop for that?

Someone on the other side . . . the northbound lanes.  Once I had stopped, facing south, the woman in the car just to my left stopped as well.  The little girl, bright pink, was trying desperately to keep dry and cross the street.

That’s when some idiot got angry and decided to try and go northbound anyway.  When the little girl looked up and saw the car, the minivan honked…and honked…and got angry and the little girl just trying to legally cross the street.  In the rain.  In the crosswalk.  As she jumped the wind grabbed her umbrella, pulled her into the intersection and the minivan honked several more times, mouthed something with an angry look at the girl, and slammed on their brakes, honking all while the girl crossed in front of the people.

This is part and parcel with a lot of crazy things.

When you go on a date with a woman, something I tell my sons, you should pay.  If you ask that person on a date or to lunch or even just coffee, you…should…pay.  It’s human decency.

You should hold the door open.  Not just for women, girls, grandmas, etc…but everyone.  Don’t race and hold “door close” on the elevator.

I don’t want to get on a Dennis Miller style rant here, but we all have hurried, crazy, silly lives.  I have a job during the day and a job at night taking care of the kids.  I get up extra early to get lunches made and exercise a little and get ready for school.  But when things I was taught by my mother and father to do arise . . . I do them.  There’s 30 seconds to stop for that little girl in the crosswalk so she doesn’t look like a character in a Buster Keaton movie.

The upside was someone in the other lane pulled up beside the mean person who almost hit that little girl . . . and abruptly told them off through the window in the rain . . . and honked at them.

At least some people recognized…it’s not always all about themselves.

Another Year

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Another Year

I noticed just today, as I got an alert that there was a bunch of traffic on this site . . . that I haven’t written here in awhile.

Let me explain, for those who might subscribe, or want to read, or the less likely few who might wonder “why?”

There’s a pretty simple explanation.

I haven’t really needed to write.

This isn’t some epiphany, I haven’t had a resurgence of religious fervor or fallen down a well or freaked out or anything.  I’ve simply not needed to do it.

I started writing here, I’ve said before, because it was honestly helpful.  Think of it as an online journal, a way to express the really good, really bad, and in-between when I needed to get all that feeling and reality out of my head so I could move forward with my day.

Most of the things I’ve written, some of it more than four years ago, came from the darkest part of my life up to this point.  I was grieving.  I would run at 1,000 mph with the kids, cooking, cleaning, laundering . . . and then they would go to bed.

…and all was silence.

The only thing left were the voices inside my head, the worries, the memories, the grief, and the panic.  They all swirled around.  When the kids wouldn’t listen; when there were bad grades; when I had to face punishments and there was no one left to back me, just me.

8:30pm through midnight were the worst hours of my life and the times I wrote, every weekday, about what went on in my household.

But as I said, a strange thing has happened.  Maybe not strange, wonderful perhaps.  Joyous? Loving?

This coming year, 2016, will mark a year where there has been more happiness than disappointment.  Not as many screw-ups and nowhere near the panic or disappointment that were there.  Tears that are shed come mostly from laughing so hard.  When letters, cards, pictures or other things of my late wife appear they’re happy memories, not bad ones.

So 2016 comes and we have made plans, have been moving, thinking, and creating.  College beckons for one kid, graduating college is on the horizon for the following year too.  My boys are reaching out and doing more than they ever had before and doing it separately.  Student Council, Academic Clubs, guitar, reading, writing, basketball . . . all my kids are doing amazing things, things that I didn’t anticipate.

Things we hadn’t done before.

The year is a new one, and it’s a blank canvas.  It’s an empty page awaiting the first grey and silver smudge from the pencil as it hits the paper.  It’s waiting for us to tell the story . . . and it will get told.

But it doesn’t always get told for all to see.

As much as I wrote it was never everything that happened in our home, that would be impossible, impractical, and self-aggrandizing.

No . . . this last year has seen something extraordinary.  It saw us all becoming the people and family we are today.  It saw us being influenced by the past but not living within the past.

A new year holds so much promise . . . we just have to live up to that.

After the last year?  We might just be able to do it, too.

Going on an Adventure!

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Going on an Adventure!

Once in awhile you have a day that’s just filled with crap.

Seriously.

I mean . . . people tell me they’re jealous because I took a day off the other day.  “A bad day off is still better than a good day at work, right?”

That’s probably the case, I suppose, but I wasn’t looking forward to this day.

The boy up there had two dental appointments for his braces…which then turned into three.  I started dropping off his two siblings at school, picking him back up, hitting the road, and going to the orthodontist.  They took off his retainer, said they saw a spot on a molar . . . so we set an appointment for the afternoon at the dentist.

So we had time to kill.  We were too far from home to go there . . . we’d just have to turn around and go back.  So we decided to make the most of our day, just me and my son.  We got hot chocolate (okay, mine was coffee) and looked at books at a Barnes and Noble nearby.

We had lunch and ate waaaay too much.

Then we found this mall adjacent to the too-busy and crazy shopping mall.

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We found a fountain, synced up to the music, and my son got up and acted like the conductor.  (There’s video, but couldn’t get it to upload, sorry!)

IMG_5884We sat on benches, he on a butterfly, arms apart, acting like he was flying.  It was adorable.  I laid on a bench of leaves and said “I’m a leaf on the wind…” and told him my nerdy friends would be the only ones to get the reference.

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We took a photo of this strange, almost inappropriate dummy, with the apron’s bow strategically placed to cover the most delicate of areas, I suppose.  I posted a picture of it, said it “cracked me up” and took ownership of the pun.  It wasn’t until a day later that a Facebook friend told me they worked for the store – Sur La Table.  We jokingly called it “tushiegate” and they had the dummy tactfully re-dressed, so to speak.

My point to all this is . . . we could have, say, drank coffee, been bored, but instead we had fun.  Not often do you get a chance to be just with one of the kids an when you do don’t squander it.  We had a blast.  We ate too much, had cookies from a tiny little kiosk in the middle of the plaza, and then wandered around, bought Christmas presents, and wrapping paper.

So when it came time to go back to the orthodontist things weren’t all that bad.  In fact, we were a little sorry the day was over.

But it’s part and parcel to how we do things now.  It’s not boredom that you have to overcome it’s actually your own mind and procrastination.

Once you get up and start moving . . . the opportunities just kind of present themselves . . . like a dummy wearing nothing but an apron.

New Traditions

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New Traditions

I used to wait until the 1st or 2nd week of December, at the least, to do the decorations on my home.  This was something that started years before, when I figured we needed to recover from the event that was, every year, the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s not that I fought the commercialization of Christmas – though I hated that the stores were playing Christmas carols right after Halloween.  It wasn’t even laziness.  I inevitably had a house filled with people – my family, my wife’s family whatever.  If they weren’t in my house I was at theirs.  If my family, travel was involved.  If my wife’s family, there’s always the stress of being with family and such.

Yet things changed.

2011, after my wife passed away, Christmas was just . . . weird.  That’s right, I said weird.  I didn’t know how to get everything alone, decorate the house, none of it.  Christmas was always a huge holiday for me growing up, I loved it, and it seemed like some of that magic had been stolen away.  It had drifted somehow.  There was a part of me, though, a part of my kids too, that wouldn’t let it go without a fight.

So when I got my feet things changed.

We have an artificial tree.  I didn’t want to keep that up.  If that was the way things were then we would have it different.  The way things are, then, is that we go get a real tree.  Since my daughter had headed off to college, I went the weekend of Thanksgiving and we got that tree.

My wife had been a superb decorator.  It was far more than what I could or would have done.  Sometimes I bristled under the constraints, like limits on lights or what lights or how to put up the lights.  She also made gorgeous tree decorations and we were only allowed to use those.

But when we were without her I realized we had boxes filled with decorations that she had made, my kids had made . . . even I had made.  We’d softened that “annual style” idea to one that included many of those before my wife passed away.  Now that it was my house only . . . the themes kind of drifted.  It wasn’t a nostalgic theme, it was putting the ornaments on we wanted to put on the tree.  As a result the house and the tree are a hodgepodge.  So is my house.  That way it matches perfectly our personalities, the broken, bent, re-shaped style that we all have.  That’s our decoration, too.

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I got new lights and that same weekend every year we put them on the house.  My son, who is afraid of heights, started coming up on the roof and helping me install them.  We put reindeer on the lawn.  I put garland on the porch.

It’s an all-day event, with the tree, the house, all of it.

Certainly, you could call them new traditions.  It wasn’t intentionally shutting out the old ones.  It was merging the new with the old.  I had lost a lot . . . I wasn’t going to lose Christmas.

This year we did it again.  A huge tree – bigger than I wanted, but then I am a sucker for Christmas.  I put the lights up, added some to another tree, and worried not one lick about if it was too much.  It wasn’t.  I already have some presents, too.

We took what was an old set of traditions, ones that could have hurt terribly, and made them our own.  Re-shaping the ideas into ones that match our current lives, states of mind, and feelings.  That’s not a bad thing, it was a good thing.

They are new traditions, and we never lost the magic that Christmas brings as a result.  That’s what was – if you’ll excuse the cheesy line – so magical about it all.

Togetherness

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Togetherness

My daughter and I had always had a hot and cold relationship.  Love was the constant.  Even though she was tied to her mother’s hip, it seems, she never lacked in confidence in her Daddy.

When the teenager up there (at a ZZ Top concert, by the way, she was thoroughly surprised just how much she enjoyed herself) was a little girl she and her mother were thick as thieves.  That is…until she got hurt, had a cut, or was sick.  When that happened, she came crying (literally) to her Daddy.

This might have been from when she was an infant.  Her birth was rough, with an emergency c-section and her mother out cold for more than a day.  I actually took the baby home with me and her mother was still in the hospital.  The baby contracted RSV, while her mother recovered from a post-op infection.  So I would wake up, give her an albuterol treatment, feed her, change her, go to bed, and repeat every few hours.

So when she was hurt as a little toddler or little kid she came to her daddy.

Then immediately went back to her Mom when she felt better, hugged her, and told her mom thank-you.  Sometimes she’d even stick her tongue out when I jokingly said “hey!”

Still . . . I worried a lot about this little girl when her mother passed.  So the fact she talks with me nearly every night, kisses me good-night, and is closer to her dad then ever . . . that’s a kind of paradigm shift, one that would have been hard fought before.

But only recently have I seen her worry about me.  A lot.  When I started working out harder she wanted to make sure I did it right, not because I’m obsessed with my weight but because I need to get healthier, lose some of that bad weight in the stomach that can cause heart problems.

So every other night she’s met me in the front of the house and worked out with me.  She’s taken exercises from PE classes, asked her teachers, and put a nice little regimen of core exercises together.  She does them too, for sure, but she makes sure her old man does it and isn’t injured.

It would be easy, I suppose, to be embarrassed or indignant that your daughter is telling you what to do.  I don’t look at it that way.  My daughter is looking at me and thinking that if I am wanting to be healthy she can, too.  We do it to the degree we need…and move on.  We aren’t starving ourselves and we’re not trying to be body builders.

The small eye-rolling moments still happen.  When I goof off during warm up.  When I say “No…not 21 Pilots…we work out to Led Zeppelin” but she tolerates those because she likes doing it with me.  Or she’s worried.  Or both.  Either way, I take the win.

So when I look at this teenager in the room with me now I realize that things are a lot different than they used to be, but that’s not a bad thing.

Different is good when it gets you even closer to kids who just a few years before . . . would never have admitted they wanted to be that close to their dad.

It Makes Everything Better

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It Makes Everything Better

A few days back I was walking through a park near where I work on my way to the local courthouse for a story.  In the middle of the park is a series of benches, all worn, the paint coming off, initials carved in the paint.  They are sleeping places where homeless often take over, or the local kids getting completely stoned from their weed of choice.  It’s not an intolerable place, I don’t want to paint it like that.  It’s just a park in the middle of the city . . . a place where all the people you’d meet in the middle of a city might gather, I suppose.

On the edge of the park is an apartment complex and a number of kids live there.  So I imagine what I saw on my walk was from one  of them.

On one of the benches, in-between the rubbed-off paint and behind the scrawl of words carved in the seat was a teddy-bear with a heart between its hands reading, simply, “hugs.”

I bring this up because in a moment when I was rushing to get somewhere, after a stressful panic of working on what I needed to know for a court hearing and juggling several stories I stopped and snapped that picture.  I captioned it “hugs make everything better”.

I bring this long story to a point because I didn’t know how true that was.

Friday the 13th was just a bad day.  Not because of some triskaidekaphobia.  This was just a bad day.

Bad, sure, because of a series of attacks in Paris.  I have friends who are or were there.  I found out they were safe and then faced watching it unfold on national news like everyone else.  Bad because, that day, after a massive investigation the response was not quite what I’d hoped from our story.  We got a response, but you always hope for more.

Then I found out sometime in the middle of the news from Paris unfolding, that someone I knew in my youth had passed away.  It’s amazing the memories that flood when that happens, no matter who you are.

So when I got home, late from all the events of the day, I faced three kids and a barrage of stories of how bad their days were.  Terrible, it seems.
“I had to run the mile today.”
“Some kid pushed me into the bushes.”
“We went over all these issues about gender studies and you need to know this about this and about this . . . ”

And I blew.

I’d had a rough day.  I was in dress clothes still, cutting vegetables, putting dinner together, and I was the conduit for yet more bad news.  I just could not take any more nor face any more issues.  The week was almost over, the day was over and I’d had it.  My brain could not digest any more emotional turmoil.

“I know you have all had a bad day.  I’m home late…that should show you that my day wasn’t really great, right?  Could I just make dinner and change into some jeans before you pummel me?”

I did change.  As I came out of my room my daughter walked up with a smile and kissed my cheek.

At the bottom of the stairs waiting for me was one of my sons.  I was waiting to be stressed out.  He hugged me.  His brother met me and joined in.
“Hugs make everything better,” he told me.  I put my arms around both necks and smiled.

They do indeed.

Forgotten Memories

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Forgotten Memories

Ever found something you didn’t even remember you’d lost? That was what happened to me the other day.  It wasn’t a watch or piece of jewelry or a favorite shirt or lucky penny or anything like that.

It was a camera card.

You know, those SD cards that you put in your camera?  In the old days you had film, negatives, prints, those all took up space and you might forget them but they were hard to ignore.  These . . . well, these were easy to lose and ignore they are the size of a postage stamp.

I found this card strictly by accident, I was looking for something completely different in my office.  I didn’t even know it was there, but having seen it on the top of a shelf I put it into my computer and there it was.

A series of photos, apparently taken by myself and my children, a combination of both for sure, that had tiny little twin boys and a pre-teen middle girl and my oldest…graduating 8th grade.

It’s interesting to see the differences in the kids.

The boys, certainly, have the happy ignorance of youth.  The girls have that giddy smile of transition that you get when you’re not old enough to care about the homecoming dance or who’s dating whom or whether you look good enough in that outfit.  (Okay, the oldest did, but the drama didn’t come until much later)

The hollowness of grief isn’t visible here, either.  That’s not to say that they bear some major burden or massive weight on their shoulders, that’s not true.  They don’t look that way today.  No…what they show here is the lack of instant and quick maturity and age that they developed in a matter of weeks or months after they lost their mother.  The smiles are carefree and sincere and without hesitation.

A couple things are evident to me from this.  The carefree smiles are back.  It took . . . whew . . . more than a few years to get here.  It took stability and knowing things are okay and that I’ve not completely screwed up to do it.  My daughter still asks when I get paid and if we’re okay financially, though, which is a throwback to when we were struggling.  That’s when their mother was alive, not after she passed away.

The other noticeable thing that saddened me a bit was what was missing from the photos.  Even if the kids had taken them two people are nonexistent: me and their mother.  I kind of understand why I’m not there, I was probably taking some of the pictures.  Their mother, though, hated her photo being taken.  I like to believe that if she’d known finding this card with her on it would have given me and her kids some pleasurable smiles she’d have allowed the pictures, though.

This has been the case with so many of the memories we find buried in boxes or on shelves…the real moments, the ones where kids are covered in frosting or taking a bath in the sink or running in the cold air . . . those are missing her.  It’s a sad reality that we don’t have her in there . . . the ones we do have are the sort of portraiture and staged photos.  Yet the ones we love – even from those sessions – are the outtakes where we all are smiling, laughing or being silly.

Still . . . it’s nice to see those smiles and realize just how far we’ve come.  Maybe that’s why fate put that card just where I could find it in the first place.

 

30 Reasons

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30 Reasons

Today my wife, Andrea, would have been 45 years old.  For me and my kids it also marks 4 1/2 years, 5 birthdays since she passed.  I wouldn’t say every year has gotten easier, that doesn’t feel quite right.  Perhaps it just means . . . each has been different.

October 30th is always a bittersweet day, particularly for me.  For most people this is the day before Halloween, nothing more.  Unfortunately, for me, it has a couple more realities.

October 30th reminds me of my late wife, who you see up there.  She passed away in 2011, on March 26th.  But now it’s a day I celebrate with those closest to me, immediate family, so to speak. They could be related by blood or they could be family because we love them.

The day also reminds me, annually, that I screwed up, a lot, on more birthdays for my wife than I succeeded.  There were some, like the weekend overnight in a B&B in Napa.  There was the earlier part of our relationship and marriage where you are so happy you give them a card and it’s amazing. However, I didn’t make the time I should have. That hurts.

But we don’t dwell on the bad. We dwell on the good.  We call it, as I posted last year, Celebration Day, which is, of course, a Led Zeppelin reference.  (Ever the musician)  But we have tons of reasons, most are amazing, some are shallow, all are wonderful.  They are the reasons we celebrate.

  1. My wife was a force of nature.  My brother used to have a reference “a bottle of fire.” That was Andrea, a woman who grabbed you by the hand and barreled off the cliffs of insanity, damn the consequences, enjoy the ride!  For the most part, I really did enjoy the ride.
  2. That Smile – Some people smile and they have great teeth or great personality. My wife smiled and her whole face smiled with her. It lit up a room and my heart.  Friends tell me I’m a sucker to this day for a great smile – a whole of your heart smile – and they’re right.
  3. We didn’t celebrate enough before – this is one of those selfish ones. I didn’t celebrate enough when she was around.  I want her family and friends to know how amazing we still think she was.
  4. We aren’t sad – This is hard for some people to grasp. OF COURSE we miss Andrea.  She was a wife and mom and friend and amazing.  But we can remember her, honor her, love her, and still find life, happiness, adventure . . . and even love again. We still love her.  Yet she is the one who is gone, she had it easier in some ways.  She doesn’t have to miss us.
  5. We Miss Her – Again, selfish, but of course we miss her!
  6. The kids should find this a happy day – How do you hit this day without the kids feeling like it’s yet another reminder she’s gone? You embrace the day. Talk about her. Love her, embrace the goofy things she did and talk about what made her wonderful.
  7. It’s a fun day – You carve pumpkins, have cake and ice cream, and laugh. What’s wrong with that?
  8. It’s a reminder – Not just a reminder of who she was but who we should be. We should make time, and though I am often late from work, even if I’m late on this day we will celebrate.
  9. The Goofiness – While the kids remember parents as parents, they get to hear the silly things.  They hear about dancing around in the living room and singing off-key and Halloween nights drinking beer and driving around in a golf cart with Andrea’s uncle.
  10. Warmth – We grieve at different times already. We grieve when the day she died comes, which is so hard for me because it’s also the day I married her. We smell something or see something or hear a song and we get emotional thinking why is this happening now?  Rather than do that why not embrace this as a day to be happy?
  11. We celebrate that we had her – We could be sad she’s gone, but how amazing is it that we had her at all?  Most people don’t lose a parent or a spouse like this, I get that.  But how often do you celebrate without the stress?  How often do you look at your wife’s birthday as a celebration you get to have her?  Instead you’re probably stressing about getting everything right.  Which one sounds better to you?
  12. Why Not? I mean . . . I won’t be able to do those birthdays over and I don’t ever think of it that way.  Still . . . why not do it to show your kids what’s supposed to happen?  Why not make it an enjoyable day?
  13. Memories – We all have different memories of people and events.  This way I get to hear different perspectives from my kids of what their memories are of their mother. Same with family and friends.
  14. Cake and Ice Cream. I mean . . . who doesn’t want a night that ends in cake and ice cream?
  15. It makes you feel good – let’s be honest . . . the cliche’s and tropes are right.  It’s so much fun to give to someone and have them have fond memories of Andrea and of the day because you gave them something?  That’s pretty damn amazing.
  16. You connect with family and friends – I love my kids to the ends of the earth.  Yet this day I get to FaceTime my daughter in college and the kids stay home and we do things. That’s important.  My family, Andrea’s family…we all have this day to remember her by.
  17. You Confuse People – This sounds weird, I know, but it’s fantastic to confuse the hell out of people who think you’ll hit this day and just . . . fall apart.  I don’t.  Okay, maybe a little sometimes.  Mostly, I hit this day and smile because I know we’re doing it right.  I remember her.  It confounds people that you aren’t in a puddle in the corner.  I mean, in the beginning you laughed to keep from crying.  Now you cry because you’re laughing about some ridiculous story.  It’s pretty great.
  18. You Prioritize –  Even today I have a colleague who yells at me if I’m late getting out the door for a kid’s event or a holiday or anything.  But this day, even if I have to work late, reinforces that I’ve put the kids and family and close friends as a priority.  That’s just a good message to send.
  19. You enjoy the day, not the stuff – In the beginning I made cake from scratch and got fancy and . . . it stressed the hell out of me.  Then I realized that if I have time, it’s fun to make the cake.  If I don’t, a decent cake is good, too.  The kids started to ask for things like it’s Christmas…which I quickly put a stop to.  It’s not about that, it’s about all of us together.  So cake from Freeport Bakery . . . that’s just fine with everyone.  It’s fine with me, too.
  20. You make the day about us, not just her – It’s important to remember this . . . it’s certainly about her.  It’s not about presents or cake or treats or any of that, though.  When the kids start saying “I want (insert toy here) for Celebration Day” you remind them it’s a day about us, not about presents.  Then it’s amazing. My son asked if we could call his sister in college and was happy that this year it’s Friday, and he thinks she’ll be around.
  21. You Put Aside the Guilt – Yeah, my guilt for sure.  But the kids have it, too.  My son, who worried his temper tantrums wore his mother down.  How he thought it was his fault she was gone.  How my daughter fought her tooth and nail on everything.  None of that matters.  This isn’t a day to dwell on what went wrong.  It’s a day to remember what was right.
  22. It’s not about living in the past – We live different lives now.  Far different than the lives we were looking to live a few years back.  A daughter who isn’t in a medical field.  A son who loves movies.  A musician daughter.  None of those were expected in the scheme of things from a few years back.  Yet we will celebrate those, too.  This is as much our day now as hers.  That’s a good thing.
  23. It IS about the future  – We’ll talk about what’s next.  It’s certainly where we’re going now.  I have learned through the last few years to be very, very supportive.  I am trying my hardest to do that and this helps me more and more to do so.
  24. It IS about those close people – We use the connections we made this day to stay close to those around us.  I have a friend who is my friend now . . . who years before would have been “Andrea’s friend.”  That is pretty amazing and in a tangiential way Andrea’s the one who made it happen.  I am better for it.  Others who I might have talked with occasionally I talk with all the time.  That’s important.
  25. With my wife, AndreaThat smile – Yeah, I know, on here twice.  I’m not simply a person about looks or image, but . . . for good or ill, when she flashed that I was hopeless.  You have to admit, it’s pretty spectacular.
  26. It’s not loss, it’s leaving them behind – We continue to age.  My sons are literally feet taller than when they lost their mom.  My daughters, too.  My oldest is in college, about to be 21.  She will remain that pretty, smart, silly, intelligent woman at the age of 40.  She will never get older.  It’s like we continued on another path and she’s behind us somewhere.  Never meeting up again.  That’s hard, for sure.  Then again, we remember where we came from and that makes us happy.
  27. Remember it’s about the journey – Part of leaving the path we were on with Andrea is remembering that it’s not about the path or where we are going.  At the end of the day, we need to enjoy how we got there.  Sure, we got lost in the woods here and there but how amazing was the view when you had to climb a tree to find the path?  How close did we get trying to find our way?  That is what it’s about.
  28. It’s not about what she’d want . . . it’s building off what she started – No, we aren’t doing what we thought we would five years ago.  That’s not a problem, not for us.  Yet we know the great things she gave us before now.  My girls know they can do anything and don’t get discouraged by others because of her.  My sons know that their mother loved them and wanted them to be happy.  No matter what the plans were . . . they’re far more now.
  29. It’s okay to be sad – Sure, the kids and I will have moments where we’re sad.  How could we not be, it’s her birthday, we loved her, love her still, and we do wish she was here to celebrate.  But we don’t live in the sadness.  We live and that is part of the sadness.  It’s hard to know we’re going to keep experiencing these amazing things – a movie studio tour; homecoming; prom; 21st birthdays; all of the things life brings and know that she’s not experiencing them with us.  But this day lets us realize we know what she’d be thinking and doing and loving us all.
  30. Love.  In the end it’s love.  That’s cheesy, sad, Lennon-esque for sure . . . but it’s about love.  I . . . loved . . . her.  I still love her, it’s not that I ever will stop.  Think about the first man or woman you loved and then it ended.  Did you stop loving them, even if you had a terrible, horrible break up?  No.  You didn’t, stop kidding yourself.  But life is about continuing the journey.  You keep moving because the world carries you along on it’s crust, spinning around the sun and taking you with it.  When they are gone you can try and stop with them . . . which will do more damage to you . . . or you can live.  We can honor her and love her . . . but we all change in life.  The hard part is that she is now unchanging, where she was in 2011 forever.  We are not and we have to move forward.  That’s what’s difficult.  So we honor Andrea on the 30th to remember what we were and remind us that we can continue to keep living.

This is our day now.  It’s also hers.  Happy birthday, Andrea.  Happy Celebration Day to my kids and my close circle of family/friends.  Don’t be sad.

Celebrate.

A Lesson in Pacing

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A Lesson in Pacing

I had a long discussion with my daughter this evening about pacing.

She is in a film history class so she has taken to having long discussions about movies.  When we visited her sister in college, the sister’s good friend is going to school for film so they had a lot to talk about.

Tonight, though, in the wake of having watched Citizen Kane as well as a number of other films she informed me that one of her advisers dislikes the film.

“She thinks it’s too slow.”

Kane

I rolled my eyes which caused a long discussion of how I somehow, without using the words, called the adviser an idiot, classless, and probably a whole lot of other things I didn’t remember having said (because I didn’t.)

The whole thing came after I informed my kids that I got to see a Delorean on October 21st, the day Marty McFly went to the future in Back to the Future II.  

But the whole thing comes down to a discussion I’d had with an actual film director and with others in the industry. Films today are being edited, directed, and written by a post-MTV generation. The number of edits on every film is vastly different from a film cut even twenty years ago. So is the music, the pacing, and the freneticism of it.

But then . . . we also have an age when Hollywood is filled with comic book movies. I don’t dislike comic book movies, by the way, but I do leave them with a bit of exhaustion sometimes.

“So this same adviser probably hated Lawrence of Arabia because it was too slow,” I ask?  This was met with eye-rolling from her part. It was warranted, I was trying to elicit a reaction.

The thing about this entire discussion is not a generational thing nor is it cultural nor industrial.  This is just what some of these movies call for in the editing process.  The Avengers, by Marvel, would not have long, sweeping landscapes.  Yet as much as they liked that movie, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which had those long shots, sweeping landscapes and slow moments wowed them more. “This movie deserves and Oscar,” my son said as we left the theater. I agreed.

So why do I write this? When I sit with the kids and watch an old movie, which is often – that’s our kind of habit/hobby – I don’t let them spend the whole time on video games or phones.

Citizen Kane I made my daughter look at the scene that Wells dug out the floor to put the camera low to the ground and explained – it may not be modern now . . . but it literally was groundbreaking. When directors of photography told him he couldn’t do something, Wells said “why?” Then he did it anyway.

When I bring up The Third Man, they realize that an old episode of Pinky and the Brain is completely modeled after that movie . . . and succeeds in paying homage and lampooning it at the same time.

Sure, we don’t have as many epic movies. Ben Hur would be a miniseries, not a movie. Spartacus turned into a bloody spectacle of a show, alternative to the Kubrick version.

Life is quick today, so it’s obvious that media, movies and everything are reflective of that.

But then . . . we sat and watched Back to the Future this evening, on the same day the Marty went to the future, and this was not an edit frenzy. It was pretty amazing, though, and complicated, and tackled a lot of issues and made you pay attention to the story in #1 and #2.

This after they loved Shaun the Sheep, which wasn’t quick, either. It was paced out and funny and sweeping in its small model way and they loved it!

Slower isn’t necessarily worse . . . and quicker isn’t necessarily better.  My daughter walked away, smiling, because we’d come to the conclusion together that the answer to this debate was, like so many things, somewhere in-between.