Women’s March 2018

On the same day when, two years earlier I posted my awakening blog about becoming a feminist, I took part in my second Women’s March in two years. Last year I took the boys to the one in Reno while Ash went to the HUGE one in Washington. This year, Ash marshalled in Reno while I took the boys along with Ash’s mom. It was a great time.

It started with a walk from the car to the Federal Building, just like last year. I mean, exactly like last year. Here’s photographic proof:

2017
2018

Our boys made their own signs (and came up with the slogan for Granny’s sign as well):

D’s says “Donald Trump Is Not right” – and has a picture of Trump saying “I want a wall” and someone else saying “No you can’t”

We got to the courthouse in plenty of time to see some great signs, and even bump into a few friends:

Jess & Iris

This was an understatement. And when I say we bumped into friends, I don’t mean adults. My kids bumped into not one, not two, but SIX of their friends throughout the march. I think that says something about the families that my family has become close with.

Anyway, we got to hear the initial speakers just fine despite being far enough away to not see them. Along the way, I got to see some pretty great signs.

I think I saw in someone else’s picture that this sign was made and held by my friend Amanda, whose head you can see in the bottom of the frame!

One of the highlights of my day was spotting a young lady with a sign and asking to take a picture with her because of the content of our signs. She was happy to. 🙂

Yin / Yang

Then the march began. I tried to take a few photos of the crowd on either side of me (as I was basically in the middle of it all). Here is the view to the south, the view to the west, and the view to the north:

I felt there were fewer people than last year, mainly bacause last year we were packed so tightly nobody could move at all. Then reports came out that last year we were around 10k people, but this year estimates ranged from 10,000 to 15,000. I think the reason why was actually how well it was organized this year. People had a better understanding of where to start and where to go, and that also allowed them to spread out a bit more. The walkway was larger, giving more room to spread out.

At last we arrived at the main plaza, just past the fantastic whale (which really does look rather nice when the sun catches it just so). I took a picture, but my blog really hates vertical pictures. Anyway, while the main speakers spoke, Granny and L took a trip up the parking deck, so I grabbed this picture of them.

Those signs could probably be seen from space.

Later I took the littler boys up to the deck to grab my own pictures. Unfortunately by the time I did it, a fair number of people had already left, so the turnout looks much smaller than it was.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

There was scarcely any counter-protesters to be seen. I saw one sign that said “Women for Trump” with, ostensibly, some women there holding it. I also saw two “All Lives Matter” signs, one of which I sadly believe was brought by a march-supporter (pink hat) who just didn’t get it. I saw no trouble or animosity throughout the entire day.

Rather what I witnessed was strength, empowerment, camaradere, and a group of mostly women who have grown weary of marching for basic human rights (I saw several signs to the tune of “I’ve been holding this sign since the 1960s”). I met a handful of people by name just because we liked each other’s signs, or they were glad I brought kids with me, or hell just because they were standing next to me.

There is a LOT to lose in 2018 and 2020, and this was a reminder that there’s a VAST contingent of people who are going to do everything in their power to not give another inch. It was very wonderful to see.

I sorta hope there isn’t a march in 2018, but if there is, we’ll be there.

 

OOPS: Edited because I somehow forgot to add my favorite sign, with all due respect to every other sign out there.

Odds and Ends

Time for a bullet list!

  • I recently read through the fiasco that was our first house-buying experience (in a buyer’s market nonetheless) so I arrived at doing a sell/buy transaction with trepidation. Also, having heard some friends at their wit’s end with the insane market that is flooding the real estate world, I expected disaster. So following copious amounts of knocking on wood, I’m happy to announce that so far this has been smooth sailing. We received 3 offers on our house (two over asking price) within two days and accepted one. Our house inspection has been done and the appraiser has come by with no issues. As far as the house we wanted, it was more than we really wanted to spend, but we made an offer at it was accepted. (It was actually our 3rd offer, but the first to be either accepted OR denied – long story) We close on our current house on 4/29, but will rent from the new owners for 2 weeks. Then we move into the in-laws house for about 6 weeks. Finally, we close on our new house 5/6, but the old owners will rent from us until between 6/15 and 6/30. The latest we will be able to move in will be 7/1. Pictures will come when they’ve cleared their stuff out, so we don’t feel weird about posting pictures of their Furry costumes on the web.
  • No real change in my dental happenings. Waiting on the insurance company to (likely) reject the request for payment, and then we’ll schedule the appointment for my surgery. (Maybe an MRI first?) In the meantime, I’m trying to live my life.
  • Everyone's favorite amorphous mascot, Archie!
  • At the above game, we have front row 3rd base seats, L got his face on the jumbotron (smile cam), he got a baseball (not a foul ball, but an Aces employee gave him a ball actually used in the game), we got a shirt (the lady behind snagged it but gave it to him anyway), 2 free burger vouchers (since the Aces scored 10+ hits), 2 free taco vouchers (our row only out of the entire stadium), and they won 6-1. Oh, and Landen got to take a picture with everyone’s favorite amorphous mascot Archie! I’d call that a good game.
  • I’m going to play my first disc golf tournament of the year this weekend at my local course. It’s two rounds of 27 hilly, long holes. My back has been pretty bad lately, but we’re going to go to PT twice this week and see what happens on the weekend. I ended up selling my Gorilla Boy bag because it’s just too heavy for my back, opting to stick to a smaller bag. I may have to buy something in the middle so I actually have a water bottle holder. *sigh* Getting older.
  • D & L are now both at the Montessori school, which puts 3 grades together. So D is with everyone from 3 yr olds to kindergartners, L is with 1st-3rd graders. They’re both blossoming (L was doing division problems in his head, D has started spelling words). It’s good to see our tough decisions rewarded.
  • Years ago I wrote a blog called White Christmases, noting that I live in a desert, yet from 2007-2012 I experienced at least some snow in 4 out of 6 Christmases. Since then, that percentage has continued. 2013 (no snow), 2014 (a dusting), 2015 (about an inch fell the morning of). So yeah, if you want a White Christmas, move to the desert I guess. 6 out of 9 years so far.
  • 2016 has already had some of the highest highs in a while, but more it’s had some of the lowest lows in my life. Here’s hoping for a rebound.

House

The house has officially been on the market for… well, almost an hour now, and the realtor’s already gotten three requests for a showing. Y’know how people often say that the house-selling and house-buying process seemHouses to take forever? Well, something tells me that this year will be something of an exception. Real estate seems hot all over, but given the recent boom of commercial activity in the Reno area – Tesla is nearby, Amazon is practically visible from our house, Art’s Discount Zeppelins and Fishmongery is slated to take off any day now – it makes sense that this is a hotbed of activity. So the selling part shouldn’t be tough. Perhaps we can even see a bidding war? Oh, one can surely hope.

And of course the buying process will be TOTALLY simple. Nobody will want the house we fall in love with, we’ll be able to make a lowball offer that they’ll have to take, the closing documents and escrow period will last 4 days total (by law it has to take at least three, after all), and we’ll be moved in in a week, having painted all the rooms we so desire. Piece of cake.

Don’t ruin my delusion.

I’ll be back soon to post an update on my recovery, probably on DAY 90 (the theoretical “end” of my main recovery period). That’s only a few days away.

Day -6: The Poop is Officially Getting Real

Two days ago, the prospect of my surgery was akin to that of a vacation that is very very far away; no need to worry about planning just yet, I’ve got all the time in the world.

Then yesterday happened.

It started with me pre-registering at the hospital, which included getting relieving confirmation of many of the facets of my surgery (that I will be staying in the hospital two days as originally told, that I will be knocked out for all of it, that it’s a six hour procedure). Those were good things. I also got my blood tested and just about everything came out in the middle. According to Ash, everything came out EXACTLY in the middle, which I find statistically improbably. I’m so average it doesn’t even seem possible!

Then we met with the surgeon, and that’s when things started to take shape. We spent about 90 minutes in his office learning, asking, listening, viewing, and so forth. One of the major things that’s changed in orthognathic surgery in the past few years is the use of computers to take the guesswork out of it. Years ago (not really all that many) it was mainly “look in the mouth, take Xrays, guess how far things needed to move.” Now, with my CT Scans and X-rays being processed by computers smarter than the average bear, he can know within a hundreth of a mm how far to move stuff. (He pointed out that the most the human eye can really work with is 1/2 mms, but it’s nice to know that science is far more exacting than human reflexes).

WHAT THE PROCEDURE WILL ACTUALLY ENTAIL

I’m going to show a few different pictures. I got more in my possession than I’m putting on my blog (including shots which show EXACTLY where the nerves are that he’s going to go out of his way NOT to sever), but I’m going to stick with just a few. Oh, and if the severing of a major nerve got you a little squeamish, I should point out that this is probably not a blog you want to read any further on, and I recommend you go back and look at this lovely Dirty Dozen list made by Jay and I.

Planning1

This is what my mug looks like currently. You’ll see that I still have an open bite, and you’ll also see (looking at either of the outside shots) that of all my teeth, really only my back ones touch. This is the major problem, and the thing I’m trying to get fixed. What you CAN’T see is my posterior airway. Most people’s posterior airways are 10-12mms. Mine is currently 4. So yeah, that’s apparently bad, as air is supposedly good for you. So more than my teeth not touching, being able to breathe is the real reason I’m doing this. Anyway, the braces have done wonders in getting my teeth to even look like this, but I’ve got a LONG way to go.

After sedating me, putting in a catheter (which freaks me out FAR more than the actual surgery), nose tubes, throat tubes, and just about everything else, they’re going to begin by working on the top jaw. What they’re going to do is… well, I’ll let the picture show you.

Planning2

They begin by a palette expansion. When you just listen to the term and don’t think about things, that sounds almost pleasant. Like, if I were an artist, I’d probably want a palette expansion because it would free up my creativity. Here, though, it means they take a chisel (yes, he used the word chisel) and basically fracture the top of my mouth into two separate parts. If I’m not mistaken, they end up putting some metal in there to hold it there. Also, while they’re separating it vertically, they’re also pulling it out a little (which seems odd as I have an overbite as it is). As you can see on the left, after they’ve expanded the palette, they put in this splint (off-white) that will ultimately be the indicator as to where the lower jaw is supposed to go to meet it (red). Dr. M explained that even after I’m done, not all of my teeth will touch, and that means I’ll have longer ortho still to go (he estimated 6-9 more months, but I’m still thinking a year).

Finally, after having done that, the real fun begins. I know what you’re thinking: “but isn’t getting your face smashed by a chisel the real fun part?” I know, you’re all jealous. Then they work on the lower jaw.

Planning3

See in the this picture the teal looking part, and how in the 2nd picture that part seemed to be fully connected to the chin part? Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore. He will basically cleave the jaw in half width-wise, kinda like cutting apart one thick piece of bread into two. Then they move the chin part forward, and they will later attach it back to the jaw part with 3 screws (on each side). Here’s the really eye-opening part about this. He explained that the most you could/should ever move this jaw forward is 9mm. A typical procedure moves it anywhere from 5-6mm.

Do yourself a favor and get a ruler or something and look at how much 5-6mm is. When you’re talking about a face, it’s pretty significant.

Now here’s the kicker. He’s going to be moving mine forward 9mm. But that’s not all! With having moved the top forward a bit, they will have to rotate the jaw forward and upward to meet the angle of the top jaw. Between the sliding out and the rotation up, I will probably be moving my low jaw close to 12mm when all is said and done. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, because… WHY ARE YOU SHAKING STICKS AT MY MANGLED FACE?

As you can see by that final image, my teeth will more or less line up with each other, and I’ll eventually be able to chew food using all of my teeth, and not just my molars/wisdoms as I’ve done my whole life. (Note: I haven’t had wisdom teeth since February, and, come to think of it, I’m also missing some molars too). Next is a photo as to what my top will look like when I’m done. Note the large gaps that weren’t there before. I’m assuming those will be filled with highly-concentrated morphine, or so I’m hoping.

Top

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTERWARDS

Dr. M didn’t tell me a whole lot I didn’t already know, but that’s due mainly to me having researched this pretty extensively over the last 18 months. As I’ve linked here before, this handy timeline gives a pretty good idea of what a general person can expect from this procedure. I’m not going to expound too much on that. I’ll go over the specifics my surgeon’s told me about.

– I’ll be in the hospital for 2 days. This is good for a # of things. It will give Ash a chance to get my medicines, pick up last-minute stuff, and learn more while at the hospital in how to care for me. Also, as my throat/mouth/nose will all be filled with blood and other unpleasantries, they’ll have nice suction machines that will expel much of that without me having to worry about it. (I WILL have to worry about it when I get home, and from what I’ve read, it’s not happyfuntimes.)

– Any chance of nausea from the meds will almost certainly take place within the first day or so, so having people prepared to deal with that (and cut my bands if need be) is one less thing for me to stress out about.

– For the first week, the bands they have in place will be extremely rigid. I shouldn’t even TRY to talk/open my mouth. I’ve been teaching signs to the boys, I’ll have a whiteboard, and I also have the aforementioned Steven Hawking technology. But not only will I be on a syringe diet, I won’t be doing much of anything else for some time. This includes brushing my teeth. My first real brush won’t happen for a week. Just like I’m uncharacteristically hyperfocused on the catheter rather than the surgery, Ash is looking forward to my breath less than just about anything else (my one-day morning breath can be pretty killer).

– At one week, I get those bands off for a bit, get to open my mouth about 1 finger’s height, brush with a baby toothbrush, then get new bands on. The new bands will get replaced daily (during which time I can baby-toothbrush-brush and eat puree with a baby spoon), but the rest of the time it’s syringe and liquid diet. He wasn’t the first person to suggest that I’ll soon be asking Ashley to blend tons of atrocious sound drinks (lasagna puree? Yes please!)

– At six weeks or so, I’ll get the bands off, and from there the world of not only liquids begins! I also should get the splint out around then. Life in general will just be better. I’ll be able to talk more clearly (hopefully totally clearly), and I’ll be able to blow my nose by then. Before that, any blowing risks rupturing things in your sinus cavity, so yeah, there will be no blowing of the ole’ honker before then.

– Swelling starts around day three, lasts anywhere from 10 days to a month. Numbness will initially be basically everywhere below my eyes, and will slowly start to come back patchwork over the following months. Numbness can last anywhere from 3-9 months, but there’s a possibility parts of my face may stay numb forever. Ought to make shaving fun!

THE RISKS

Dr. M did much to ease our  minds with the consult. He assured me that, even though I’m his very last patient (he unofficially retired a couple of months ago, and just did his second-to-last patient yesterday), he’s not trying to beat out the clock. “I won’t be rushing off to make a tee-time. I don’t even like golf.” If he’s able to do the procedure in 5 hours, wonderful, but if it’s as long as he thinks (6 hrs) or even if he hits some complications tying and untying binding wires (7+ hours) he’s there for the long haul. Also, he is staying onboard with me specifically for all my follow-up appointments. He’s done this for 29 years, and the few people I have spoken to who had this same procedure, and with him as surgeon, had nothing but glowing things to say about him. That being said, something like this carries risks.

  • Death. Not because of this procedure itself, but because of the nature of surgery, basically. A non-factor.
  • Excessive bleeding. He was the surgeon who extracted my 8 teeth in Feb, and noticed nothing unusual then, but still, it’s something that could happen. You never really know how good a bleeder someone is until you’re in there, hackin’ away. Also of note, 3 weeks ago I was supposed to donate one unit of my own blood to myself to use in an emergency. This didn’t happen because I was ill (they wouldn’t have taken my blood even if I went in). He doesn’t imagine it will be a problem, and will go to a blood bank if he needs to. It’s at times like this that I really wish I knew which blood type I was.
  • Numbness as described above.
  • Incompleteness and relapse. No matter how perfect the surgery goes, it’s unlikely that I’ll have a 12mm windpipe after this. I may only go up to 6 or 7 (though hopefully higher). That’s not a fault, it’s just how people’s bodies differ with the procedure. Also, no matter how good he does, and no matter how good I am about maintenance going forward, it’s still likely I’ll relapse some. My teeth and jaws will want to naturally go back to the way things were for 37 years. If I take good care of everything, that should be at a minimum.
  • My facial structure will change, but probably not massively. I *could* opt for a chin implant if I really did want a chin. I was going to link a picture of me in profile, but I realized I never posted one on my blog b/c I dislike my profile so much. That being said, I’m not doing this for cosmetic reasons, so I’ll take whatever change I get and move on. I *may* end up bleaching my teeth when the braces come off. We’ll see. Okay fine, here’s my profile:
    ????????????????????????????????????
    From January 2015

    And I’ll also post a picture of how my mouth looked right after the extractions (before the braces worked their magic)_1090206

  • As I’ve said a few times, I’ve packed on quite a few pounds this year (mostly bad weight, unfortunately) because I will have some weight loss. Dr. M pegged me at 10 pounds, but I’ve read anywhere from 10-50 pounds. The 50 was for a linebacker, but I’m anticipating being in the 20-25 pound range. I’ll also not have much energy until around week 4 (when I hope to be going back to work).

That’s enough for now. I’ll post more as it gets closer, and hope to blog every day, at least for the first few weeks.

p.s. Just felt a pretty significant earthquake while editing this. Apparently within the last 30 minutes we’ve had 4 hit, and this (what was the fifth) was the first one I’ve felt, and the most shaking I’ve ever felt. Probably over a 4.0.

Disc Golf Goals – 2015

I held off writing this one because I wasn’t sure how much disc golf I would actually be playing because of my surgery. Now knowing that it’s LIKELY to happen at the end of the year, I’m going to make the assumption that I’ll have a full year ahead of me. In an idea world, I’d actually prefer the surgery in July, which would cleave my disc golf year in half, but that won’t be my call. Anyway, after last year’s abomination, I’m making some new goals. Hopefully they’ll be accessible.

It may be utter coincidence but the working out I’ve been doing seems to be positively affecting my golf. Not only am I not trashed after playing a pretty grueling round or two, my game itself seems to be doing well so far. The weather helps – when it’s in the 60s during winter you won’t hear me complain (at least as far as disc golf is concerned – as far as our part of the country really wanting a normal winter, that’s another matter). So let’s go 2015.

1) Play in the entire Sierra Series, the GCC, and maybe one tourney at a course I’ve never played. This is ambitious and even if I have the late surgery probably one I won’t fulfill. But hey, it’s my wish list.

2) Cash at either of the A tiers I’m playing (GCC and King of the Lake). The last time I played both I cashed, but those were pretty special tournaments.

3) Cash in at least 1/2 the Series tournaments I play. Another lofty goal.

4) Top 25% or better of a B Tier. With hopefully playing a little more golf this year, hopefully this one will be attainable.

5) Top 3 at the Sun Valley tournament. This one might be very difficult depending on the caliber of players who travel for the tourney. If it’s mostly Reno folk, I’d have a good shot. If Sacramento/Grass Valley pours in, I’ll have to bring my very best game.

6) Cash for the first time in the Sierra Series. I was first non-cash two years in a row and last year didn’t play enough to qualify.

7) Beat Jere Eshelman in a single PDGA round. Still hasn’t happened.

8) Keep my lifetime streak of never DNFing a tournament alive.

9) At least 3 1000-rated roundsI had zero last year, yet I think this is possible.

10) At least 1 round over 1010. The same as last year.

11) No rounds below 940. The same as last year.

12) End up with a rating over 975. I would be nice to officially be rated a pro.

13) Hit a dubs ace or a tourney ace. I already got to split an ace pot with my partner in 2015, but it was him hitting the ace, not me. I’m less concerned with sheer numbers as I am with keeping up tradition, as I’ve hit at least one for the last three years after very long droughts.

14) Play at least 3 new courses this year.

15) Continue playing dubs/tags during tournament season. I tend to play a bit in the winter, then ease up in the spring, then stop altogether around July, only to maybe play one or two times in the fall. If only for exercise purposes alone, I want to keep getting out and playing.

16) Stop talking about myself so much during the tournaments. This is probably more about myself as a person and not so much a disc golf goal, but it bothers me that I tend to be self-centered when playing, talking about stories of my heartbreak or glory, or just constantly informing my group of my status in the round. It can’t be doing my groupmates any good, and it doesn’t help me. That might mean bringing around my iPod more or just learning to enjoy the round and care less about my results.

2500 Words On Not Being the Best – Reflections of the SFIF

I still vividly remember the words that Richard Digby Day said to me as I trained at the London Academy of Theatre in 2000. He said, “Derek, you are good at very many things. My fear is that you won’t be very good at anything”. It has stuck with me, both in times when I prove him wrong (when my musical got picked to be at the Fringe festival, when I won a professional disc golf tournament), and in the dishearteningly more common instances when he was right.

I feel like most of my life I was a big fish in a small pond. My silly comedy poems would get picked for our high school writing newsletter despite them being not “high art”. I would be cast in every play and musical – never as the lead, but always as a sizeable supporting character. I was a four-year varsity athlete and even made all-county my senior year (in bowling – don’t judge). I got scholarships for singing and education. In short, I think my achievements, which seemed to take place almost solely in high school, sort of set me up for this belief that I could do everything exceptionally well when really I was just edging out my competition pool that was based solely on a close proximity to my high school. But then getting accepted to Mason Gross school of the Arts (a conservatory) meant beating odds of 27 in 700+. Clearly I had to be something great.

However, when I joined the best-of-the-best, I was mediocre. Perhaps even below average. Surely being a shorter-than-average giant is a nice laurel to flaunt, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d anticipated. I branched off with friends and created Prometheus Productions, where I was a writer,  actor, singer, director, fight choreographer, improv-artist, and musician. Another thing to hang my hat on? Well, perhaps. I was not the best writer (Kevin was), the best actor (Bryan, Paul, Dierdre…), the best singer (Dierdre, Bryan), the best director (Kevin), the best improv-er (Will, Jaime), the best musician (god, most of the group). I maybe was the best fight choreographer. If during that time you’d asked me what my best talent of that group was, I’d say improv. I felt most at home there and, next to other people who (like me) had never received a lick of improv training, I felt strong.

7 years later, having moved to Reno, I found myself again as a performer in an area that wasn’t exactly teeming with Broadway-ready talent, or so I thought. I did a couple of open-mic comedy nights and slayed, I would play an open-mic music nights and quickly became one of the favorites of the organizer. More to the point, I joined an improv troupe where I was quickly promoted to head actor and even head of the creative (despite the fact that the organizer herself TAUGHT improv). Clearly, I was right about my skills, no?

Fast forward a few years. That group had disbanded and in a very offhanded conversation with a man with whom I’d been improvising with (as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of all things) he mentioned I should contact The Utility Players about auditions since “I had chops”. I did and was greeted very professionally that they didn’t need more actors. When I mentioned I was a musician too (never hurts to list all the talents, huh?), I got myself into the group as their musician. This is not what I wanted. After all I was one of the best improvisational actors among my friends who were, undoubtedly, extremely talented people.

The mama-bear of The Utility Players, to her credit, never led me on. I was not going to be an actor (except in one-liner games, which were admittedly my strength anyway). But I wanted to prove her wrong. At rehearsals when we were all playing together I would volunteer to get up and, in my own way, I was out to prove that I could flex my NYC-based improv knowledge and prove I not only belonged, but I was better than these Reno-based yokels. I must’ve showed them, right?

No. For two reasons.

One, they’re good. I mean, they’re really really good. Reno or not (and most of them aren’t from here), they’re talented both at being funny and at mastering the actual craft of improv, which don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Two, and this was surprising, I would do shitty shitty improv. There are any number of reasons why this happened (I was used to driving a scene with players who weren’t as seasoned, I just had a big ego, I couldn’t artistically trust this group of strangers who definitely seemed like their own little clique, or, and let’s not discredit this, I wasn’t as good as I thought I was), and that’s largely irrelevant. The point is, I was not up to their level.

So I became their full-time musician. There was a lengthy period of time where I struggled to come to grips with that. It seemed like a demotion particularly because I don’t consider piano playing to be even in my top 5 talents. Composition perhaps. But playing? I’m not great. It’s a hobby of mine, and not one of my primary hobbies. However, very limited playing acumen can be hidden with enough knowledge of the improv craft itself. So my years of improv background were still useful. It’s been a weird road, but I’m okay saying that I’m the musician. Not “just” the musician, but I am the musician for this group.

And with that – and here I hope I’m not overreaching my influence – The Utility Players were strengthened as a unit with me at the keys.

Now what in the hell does this entire backstory have to do with the San Francisco Improv Festival? After several years of failed audition tapes, The Players were finally selected to be a part of the festival, a tremendous achievement as only 27 groups were invited, most of whom were local to the area. There would be classes taught in and amongst the myriad performances scattered through a few weeks of improvisational bliss. Even though I was unable to attend most of the pre-show stuff due to family obligations, I did manage to take in a few things.

The 4-hour class sampler had people from all walks attending – those who’d never done improv to those who were performing later that night. The skills which were drilled ranged from exceptionally useful to maybe-not-for-me-personally to I’m-pretty-sure-this-is-only-applicable-to-the-woman-teaching-it. Due to an awesome anonymous donor, I (along with the entire troupe) was able to check it out and learn from it. I gotta be honest, it felt good to be up and in the thick of things once again – I hesitate to say ‘performing’ because that wasn’t the purpose. This time I felt like I belonged.

But where I was hit with the largest metaphorical ton of bricks was during our show itself. We were splitting the bill with a group that was purporting to do a 35-minute improv musical. I’d been assured that the other musicians our troupe had seen were pretty lousy. Not that I needed to be the best, but as an untrained musician specializing in another artform that I’d also never really received proper training, it’s nice to know I wasn’t against a musician with a BFA from a music conservatory. I’m a perfectionist, inasmuch as any person who refuses to just concentrate on one skill for more than 5 minutes at a time can be a perfectionist.

When the lights went down for our show, so too did our piano. For a few fleeting moments, I was on stage as the musician with my ONLY tool, the piano, no longer making any noise. It did prompt a funny moment where I was supposed to play the ESPN Sportscenter music, and when the cue came, I just shouted it out. I’m pretty sure that’s what they do on ESPN.

Our set was very free, very easy, and solid. I’m not sure what my expectations were – I mean, there’s a part of me that wanted there to be a TV executive in the audience who was just coming for a few laughs but spent her entire intermission scribbling out contracts for all of us. What did transpire was 35 minutes of successful improv that earned the laughter of a discerning audience who had seen more than their fair share of improv over the years (hell, over the prior week).

It was topsy-turvy. A Day in the Dream Life is a game I warned that has been missing as often as it was hitting, but it was our clear best of the night (and it allowed me to play my token Asian music). Mediocre Olympics, a game that had been killing, was the weakest of the lot. But as much as this was about us and putting our best foot forward, it was more about the audience enjoying themselves. And they did. Even without our A+ material (I’d have put the show in a solid B, B+ range) we proved without pause that we belonged with the others at the improv festival.

Then, as I watched our “sister-group” do their musical, a few things occurred to me. The Utility Players are not a niche group, we perform all different types of short form improv. It’s not like we concentrate solely on 2-person scene games or anything like that. The group that followed us was a group that does entire long-form musicals based on a suggestion from the audience. Having already been informed that some of the other musicians at the festival couldn’t hold a candle to me (who, in all truth, can’t hold a candle to most true musicians) are lousy, I cringed at the thought of watching 35 minutes of actors bumbling through misrhymed lyrics as a musician attempted vainly to play the outtakes from Frozen.

In this I was very, very wrong.

Their musician started with this jaunty riff right out of a Randy Newman score that featured the whole cast performing a song about kissing. With harmony. And multiple people singing the same words at the same time. And appropriate incidental background singing. And a cohesive story. Following this was a short scene, a new song, one that I daresay WOULD come second in a musical, setting up the protagonist of the story. The third song was completely different, a touching number of exposition that created the subplot between two secondary characters.

There was a time with Prometheus Productions that we had wanted to do an “improv play”, a full play with characters and subplots where there was a “director” offstage who crafted the story around what the actors on stage were doing. We ended up shelving the idea as too difficult. And here, 15 years later, in San Francisco, was a group doing this with song. It was an eye-opener.

And my point here isn’t that they were “better” than us. They were a nuanced group who had a specialty that they practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And consequently nailed. If you were keeping track of laughs garnered, we’d have won handily, but that wasn’t what the evening was about. It was about bringing a variety of improv to the audience. If anything, short-form (Whose Line is It Anyway type stuff) seems to be a dying art, with troupes wanting to tackle the more complex longform. So getting paired with something of an opposite of us was nice. I guess we weren’t totally opposite or else the other group would have just read eulogies for 35 minutes.

Immediately I had to make the assumption that my director, in telling me that the other musicians were nothing to write home about, was off her rocker (it turns out she hadn’t seen him in particular). He was phenomenal. I mean, during that second half, I went from feeling like I’d performed a great improv set to realizing I had my moments but I was just the biggest kid at the kids table at Thanksgiving. Hell, he seemed like he was the kind of guy who graduated with a degree from a conservatory in music. Also, not to take a thing away from our exceptionally talented group, but their singers GOT it. They knew when to give over to another person to sing, then knew when it was time to take the reins, and they knew when it was time duet.

In all, I relate the entire experience to sports. It would be like being a top-tier baseball team who had the opportunity to play another team from another country in an exhibition game. And all they did was pitching, not hitting or fielding. It’s impossible to play a game like that and see who would win, but damn, I felt like we couldn’t touch their pitches. Our team is major leaguers, no doubt, but there’s always new things to learn.

Now, there’s a crossroads that happens at times like this. I can buckle down like I did my freshman year of acting when I was on the verge of being asked to leave the class for artistic progress difficulties, or I could fold like I did with my acting after 9/11 when no agents were banging on my door to hire me. And here’s what the purpose is for the SFIF from an artist’s perspective: I left inspired. Inspired to make our group better. Inspired to play better and more diversely. Inspired to create new games, or touch up the ones we have that aren’t hitting on all cylinders. Inspired to make sure that our upcoming 3-month run at The Sands turns into many 3, 6, 9, 12, 24 month contracts at bigger and better venues. Touring companies. TV execs with handwritten contracts on cocktail napkins because they couldn’t wait to get home and draft one properly.

“And I stood there like a businessman waiting for a train. And I got ready for the future to arrive.” -J. Darnielle

As something of a post-script, I did some research on that other pianist, and he did indeed earn a degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. This isn’t discouraging. Sure, next to me, he shined, but he didn’t leave me in the dust. We share the intellectual concepts and the impulses of improvisational music. He just has me on technical skill. Looks like I got some work to do. Playing piano and watching a group do a musical and, in fact, the idea that we want to expand our musical presence is having one “unfortunate” side-effect: as much as I am okay not being an actor, it’s tough to not want to sing in the musical games, as that was one of my two strengths as an actor (the other being one-liner games like World’s Worst). Looks like I also got some work to do.

As something of a post-post-script, don’t miss out on The Utility Players Season 8: Live at the Sands, every Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and you’re gonna laugh.

Gender Roles

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My son “Smacky” is at a strange place in his four-year-old life. In many ways, he is like your typically developing boy – loves trucks, trains, wrestling and, somewhat unfortunately, video games (I am simultaneously proud and ashamed of how good he’s become on the Wii). But in other ways, he isn’t. He loves getting his finger and toenails painted. His favorite colors are pink and purple. He loves doing his mom’s hair, at which he’s becoming pretty good using those deft-fingered hair-ties. In short, he likes a whole lot of “girl” things.

And he is constantly processing things about gender. At the skate park the other day, he asked my wife a few times, “Why does she speak like a boy if she has girl hair?” “That’s a boy with long hair,” she replied. Silence. He recently asked that we stop buzzing his hair because he wanted to grow it out. Not sure if it’s because his younger brother “Peanut” has longer hair or because he wants to see how it feels to have long hair, which he innately believes to be “girl hair”.

What’s crazy is that he has the acumen and presence of mind, even at his young age, to know that some of this behavior isn’t socially accepted by everyone. So he continues to try to hide it. If left to his own devices, he will usually pick out a pink or purple plate/bowl, but when he’s in a group of people, or if those ones are dirty, he’ll take a green one apathetically and say, with little emotion, “I’ll take green, it’s my favorite color.” He’s told me in the past that boys can’t like pink and purple. I asked why and he tells me that they’re “girl colors.” I try to reaffirm that anyone can like any color they want – hell, my favorite color is orange. I’m probably not the best person to ask that question. I digress. Smacky has requested that my wife paint his fingernails and toenails, only to immediately say “But we can take this off before I go to school, right?” And why is that?

He’s getting insulted at school. And unlike the very heart-warming and charming story that a blogger famously wrote about, it’s not adults who are making it tough for him, at least none that I have heard of. Despite the school having some conservative teachers, they all support him no matter what he chooses (the owner has spoken a bit about it at times with us). That is a large part of the reason we love his daycare. But as for the teasing, it comes from kids themselves. My guess is it’s probably mostly his best friend “Marcus” – apart, the two of them are great kids. However, once they get together, their bad behavior is amplified all the way up to 11. From what I’ve seen of Marcus, he’s a boy’s boy so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the teasing comes from him. However, Smacky has told me that it’s some of the girls in his class too that call him a ‘girl’. It clearly bothers him.

Friday is a theme-day at daycare: Teddy Bear Picnic. They’re encouraging everyone to dress up in “tutus and tails” and bring their favorite teddy bear. It was immediately clear that Smacky wanted to wear a dress, and my wife even started talking about using some gift certificate money we had to buy him one. But Smacky retracted immediately solely because of what everyone at school would think. He’s subsequently put aside the dress-conundrum and concentrated on the teddy bear one. (He doesn’t have teddy bears, he has monkeys – go figure. After searching around the house, he finally did find a teddy bear, a purple Care Bear. He grabbed it and put it aside but continued to look for a different one. Maybe he genuinely didn’t like that Care Bear, but my guess he opted against it because it was purple and certainly ‘girly’.)

Finally, after a few days of processing this (and of course the remote-control truck he has had his eye on that we just purchased and have to wait for delivery), he comes in to say goodbye today and tells me that he figured out what he was going to wear to the party on Friday.

“My dinosaur suit. With a tail.”

It does have a tail. I’m pretty impressed with how brilliant the kid is. (I later found out that I had had the gist of the theme day a little off – they supplied the girls with tutus and made paper dragon “tails” to give anyone who wanted one – mostly the boys.) But the point remains that he was choosing to wear a dinosaur suit more than the tutu because what he really wanted was something he wasn’t “supposed” to do.

It crushes me as a parent, and as a father, it’s downright weird. In Reno vs. the suburbs of NY where I grew up, there’s definitely more of a sense of needing to be a “man’s man”. While I’ve never had that pressure in my life (other than having parents who I am certain were relieved that I was straight), I can see how it could be overwhelming in a place where they have stuffed dead animals in their sporting goods stores and in their airport. When I moved here, I was shocked at how there is still some pretty strong homophobia in these parts. (I will say that Reno has a tremendous underground movement of tolerance that is growing exponentially, and that’s fantastic to see.)

Despite growing up in white-bread middle class suburbia, I also found a niche early on in the theatre – our school had only two black kids, and I was friends with one and used to carpool the other one home. Very few kids were out as gay at that point, but those that were were my performing peers and friends. If there’s anyone who would be sympathetic to what Smacky’s going through, it’s me. And as far as someone born and raised in the Reno area, Smacky is fortunate in so many ways to have his mother. He’d be hard pressed to find more supportive parents.

Since he was two, my wife and I noticed these effeminate tendencies were extremely strong and they seemed to be more than him just following in his older (female) cousin’s footsteps. It seemed like, whenever he was outside of the World of Sodor (Thomas the Train), he was happiest in the World of Girl. His parents support him 100%, no matter what he chooses. And who’s to say what that will be? He’s four. Right now he’s enamored with a live-action show about mermaids. But he’s also gone through spells where he watches the Spiderman cartoon from the 60’s and goes around “pewing” (shooting) everything until it’s dead. If it’s just him trying out different things (for the record: he REALLY wants to go fishing) that’s fine. If one day he sits us down to have a coming-out-of-the-closet talk, that’s fine as well. We support whole-heartedly. I just wish everyone else would get on board and, further, to stop spreading the toxic beliefs of gender stereotypes ad nauseum to their kids. Or, worse yet, to other people’s kids.

Or next time maybe we can get him a dinosaur tutu for his suit.

White Christmases

When I moved to NV, Ash told me to even bring a shovel because they never get snow and it never sticks. Well, apparently that was before global warming (which we know started up in early November 2007), because it’s snowed pretty regularly (with the exception of last year where it only snowed on October 5 for an inch or two and that was it). Anyway, since coming here, I’ve been involved with a White Christmas of some sort every year but two. Here’s how it breaks down:

2007 – We had a little patch of snow in our lawn. Ash’s folks’ house (where we celebrated Christmas) had only a tiny patch where there was the remnants of a shovel-job. Pretty technical in its assertion as being a “white” Christmas.

2008 – We had a decent snowfall on Christmas itself – Ash’s folks’ backyard probably got 5″ on Christmas itself. A TRUE white Christmas.

2009 – We had a big snowfall on 12/7 that year, but I’m not sure that any remained by Christmas.

2010 – We had our own tiny patch in the shade. Ash’s folks had none. VERY technically a white Christmas.

2011 – No snow at all for basically the entire winter.

2012 – I thought this would be another technical white Christmas, as our both our front and back yards had a few patches here and there with snow and ice. But then in the evening it started snowing and we got a good two inches when all was said and done.

So there you have it – in Reno, a desert, I’ve had White Christmases of some sort in 4 of my 6 years. I think statistically that is more than I ever had in NJ.

15 years in under 600 words

I started writing a letter to a very old friend who I had lost contact with shortly after high school. I wanted to catch her up to where I am at and how I got there, so I decided to catch her up on 15 years of my life, with the superfluous caveat that I would only allow myself 40 words per year. It was pretty tough, but somewhat rewarding. Interesting to see what sticks out in my memory (my first draft omitted that I graduated from college.) Here’s the result:

1998: spent much of year dressing poorly, being anti-social, and wishing I majored in writing – was put on wrong campus but became good friends with a few non-actors – dated a girl that went nuts – co-founded a multi-medium entertainment company Prometheus Productions

1999: finally started establishing friendship network and enjoying school a bit – wrote my first ever play that later debuted with Prometheus and won award – romantic scene barren – parents divorced after 33 years

2000: made resolution to date girl I’d liked for 2 years – got surprising amount of acting work –2nd play I wrote for Prometheus got award – spent semester in London, hated it (but Edinburgh was awesome) – on 12/28, started dating that girl

2001: dated girl entire year – graduated college and took road trips – Prometheus performed last shows – was introduced to disc golf – my acting showcase (to attract agents) interrupted by 9/11, lost interest in acting after that – got new job at office-type company

2002: worked way up company ladder, soon helmed broker department – moved out of folks’ house for first time – broke up with girl for several reasons – had first liquor at 23 years old, started to make up for lost time – started website

2003: got jealous that old girlfriend moved on, got back together with her – it didn’t last – by end of year, moved in with her (as friends) – worked fine for a few months but seeds were sown for problems

2004: social implosion as friends and exes started hooking up, dishonesty and bullshittery abounded – became pretty reclusive – moved in with longtime friend where stupidity commenced and pretended to live a college-esque existence – increased disc golf activity

2005: made NYC debut as a playwright with two shows – social life rebuilt painfully slowly – started playing disc golf professionally, made $0 – quit longtime office job over increased loathing of it, worked freelance theatre lighting by year’s end

2006: released comedy music CD – toured as disc golf pro for 5 weeks, finally cashed – moved for fourth time – met no-expectations pen pal on dating site OkCupid – freelance work dried up, got job in old industry but better company

2007: fell in love with supposed no-expectations girl after several visits – first full-length musical debuted in NYC at Fringe Festival to emphatic end-of-spectrum reviews, convinced boss at relatively new job to let me move to Nevada and keep job – headed west

2008: bought 2nd car – found out girlfriend was pregnant five days later, we got new larger apartment together – wedding plans discussed – tried to play as much disc golf as possible – finished my first novel – last year I got sleep

2009: son Landen born in January, had a “weddingish” ceremony for friends/family in May, had legal proceedings in August – after a two-month nightmare, bought our first house – spent year adapting to budgeting and selflessness with varied success

2010: Just existed happily for much of it – started small home projects – apparently played much disc golf, video games, and online poker – started reading much more frequently – company announced it could shut down close soon – panic ensued

2011: became an uncle for the first time – wife enrolled in school to get her degree – got promotion to A.V.P. at company which was now stable – welcomed second child Duncan – finished 2nd at tournament, highest finish as a pro

2012: started short story writing project with friend – entire family traveled east to visit good friends who lost their toddler – otherwise lived life contentedly as father, husband, homeowner, professional athlete, artist, and frequent sweet potato fry chef

I’m a Prognosticator

On a chat board for disc golf, I just stumbled on this post I had made on April 28, 2005:

“Fats is deliberating “pulling a Mullet” and just up and moving in about a year to some part of the country and completely restarting his life.  Any suggestion of areas?  (Do NOT include your own city/state, because if Fats follows through with actually leaving, he is likely going to want to know nobody in the area – an actual restart)”

I have no recollection of ever posting that, nor did I know I had ever thought about moving anywhere. I guess it made sense; I knew I was quitting my job around that time, but to move across country where I didn’t know anyone? That would have been nuts.

Well, it turns out my guess was exactly right, even down to “pulling a Mitch” – moving for a girl. I just was wrong about the timeframe. I left on Halloween of 2007. Though it was a spur-of-the-moment idea. I think from the time I spoke with my boss to the time I left in my car was less than 6 weeks if memory serves me.

Who knew I knew? I didn’t.

Picture Blast, Pt. 1

I’m just gonna throw up a bunch of random “Earth” pictures I’ve taken over the last few weeks (or, in one case, years).  They’re not the usual cute baby pictures, but I think you’ll enjoy them nonetheless.  The first four are from our trip to Michigan last month.  They’re also with the fancy new camera, so I was trying some nifty stuff there.  Click to make them bigger.

Lake Michigan at sunset

This little guy did not like staying still for me

A different sunset on Lake Michigan

Artsy and/or fartsy

The next two photos were from the balloon races today – this is an annual event that’s one of the largest in the world.  And, while I don’t consider myself a patriotic person, I was very happy to have snapped the last photo as I was walking with Landen around the disc golf course today.  That it happened on 9/11 isn’t the reason why, either.  I’m fine with patriotism, as long as it’s not manufactured.

Uhhh, I think you’re in my fairway

More in the next day or two.

March Resolutions

Like most things in my life, once one thing starts up, I usually embark on a dozen.  I’ll go through long stretches where I have time (and desire) to play 1000 games of All Star Baseball 2005 (yes, I still play that game), and then other times when I don’t have time to breath.  I think I’ll soon be transitioning from the former to the latter.

First off, we expecting #2, affectionately named Peanut.  Now, this seems like a huge deal, and don’t get me wrong, it is, but having done it all before, both Ash and I find that there’s not much to DO about it right now.  I mean, he or she is just kinda gestating for a while, and Ashley is getting less and less comfortable, but our lifestyles only need minor tweaks right now.

So on top of that, I’m finally getting sick of not having a career in writing.  So I’ve signed up for an online class in writing and getting your work published, and what’s more I have a short meeting set up with an agent who describes on his website that he’s looking for humor writing, both in fiction and non-fiction.  What will I show him?  My finally revised novel!  Yes, the one I started in 1996.  It’s undergone many rewrites in the past, but 6 months ago I began some pretty serious cleaving of the words.  I trimmed it from 95k+ words to 82k+, almost 700 of which were adverbs.  I also took out 1,400 commas.  That tells you how unnecessarily convoluted the writing was.  Now it’s necessarily convoluted.  Either way, I’m excited about this prospect.

With the new one on the way, we also have about three dozen house projects (ranging from buying a light bulb for the fridge to completely overhauling the guest bedroom and setting up Landen with a new room).  The outside needs work and we’ve neglected it enough.

Add to the top of that that I’m planning on playing two of the biggest disc golf events of the year this year (Worlds, which is the biggest, and an NT, which is in the top 10), and I need to get better and more in shape to do so, and you’ve got a recipe for a busy time.

All in all, though, I gotta say I’m pretty excited about the prospects this year.  I won’t be as diligent in updating as Susan’s new blog, but I’ll do what I can.  Who knows, maybe some day I’ll get over to the other blog and put some new Landen pics up there.  He’s a cutie.

My new favorite mascot

So we went to the Reno Aces game last night; they’re the AAA affiliate of the Diamondbacks.  Their mascot is this enigmatic tumor/cancerous drop named Archie.  He’s fun, as all mascots are, but he did something last night that totally won me over.

When an inning is over and the teams are switching places, the Aces’ staff does little competitions and fun give-aways to keep the crowd into the game.  One of these is a gigantic clear-ball race between two of the sponsors.  They lined up and as they started counting down the READY – SET – GO, the one dude just took off on READY.  He had a huge lead.  The announcers kinda laughed and said “Was that a false start?  We’re gonna have to punish that guy” etc.  All the sudden, Archie breaks out of the door and comes CHARGING full speed onto the field.  And he shoulder tackled that ball with all his weight.  After rolling around a bit, the dude inside was all “what the hell just happened”… and the other ball won by a little bit.

Archie, you have won my support.

Life goes on

After what has to be the worst week of health I’ve experienced as a family in my life, we’re hopefully finally turning the bend on the health spectrum.  Here’s the rundown of what went down.

Friday April 23 – At midday, Landen starts getting violently ill.  We take him home early from daycare.  He is not well and we put him down early.

Saturday April 24 – Ash has her sub-license test early in the morning and I have a small disc golf tourney.  We leave Landen with Granny.  He is tired and not happy, but not throwing up.  By the time I get him, he is very pooped, though still not sick.  Another early night.

Sunday April 25 – In the middle of the night, I wake up, having caught a version of the stomach bug.  In addition, I wake up to pretty severe left shoulder pain.  By morning, Ash takes me to the ER to get it checked out.  The doctor says it’s Impingement Syndrome and schedules me for an ortho visit.  I’m in a sling for the next 5 days, not supposed to do anything for a week.  Also, I’m on a few medications, which I’m supposed to take with food, but I am not eating because of the stomach bug.  Meanwhile, Ash leaves her folks Sunday dinner early with a pretty bad case of the same stomach bug Landen has.  Landen vomits again on Sunday, which I have to take care of since Ash is out for the count herself.

Monday April 26 – Landen is still fevered, so he is home from daycare.  Ash isn’t doing well at all, so I’m left in control of a cranky baby with an arm where I’m not supposed to lift anything.  They told me not to type so I’m not at work, and I’m trying to watch Landen and Ash.  Not being able to sleep on my left side (how I normally sleep), I sleep very poorly and we’re all extremely tired.  Ash’s mother and sister both get the stomach bug.

Tuesday April 27 – Landen is feeling better – not great – but good enough for daycare.  Ash and I take a day off because we need to legitimately recover.  At this time, my tongue starts to swell up, which happens nearly every time I am sick over the last 5 years.  By nighttime, it is making it very hard to swallow and eat (and take pills.)  Ash is back to normal at this time.

Wednesday April 28 – Landen is finally okay, back to his smiley self.  However, my tongue is so bad that Ash makes an appointment for me to see my doctor about my sores.  She takes a quick look and says she has no idea, and schedules me for an ear-nose-throat guy.  Now I’m basically only eating yogurt, which makes taking pills fun.

Thursday April 29 – Ash is now taking on full responsibilities of just about everything, as it hurts for me to do anything.  While the shoulder is mostly better, the tongue is in agony.  The ear-nose-throat guy says it’s aphthous ulcers (do NOT google-image it) – and I have six on the underside of my tongue alone.  Unsure of the cause, he prescribes a paste to be applied to a “dry” tongue.  It will be available Friday.

Friday April 30 – My ortho says I have calcification tendonitis in my left shoulder, which might have been caused by us doing yardwork in the backyard.  I might need a cortizone shot, but as it isn’t hurting much at this point, we’re going to drug it up for a couple of weeks and see if it goes away on its own.  Meanwhile, Landen has started a pretty nasty hacking cough, which he’s had a few times in the past year – could be asthma, we’ve been told.  He is back to not feeling and/or sleeping well.

Saturday May 1 – Landen has a fever and we’re home again with him all day, trying to get him to cool down.  He sleeps most of the day.  Ash is burned out because she’s been watching over both of us for half a week now, and none of us are sleeping particularly well.  I am still only eating yogurt and soup.

Sunday May 2 – I’ve stopped taking the paste for the tongue – it is meant primarily for when it is developing, not when it’s already full-blown.  It’s simply too painful to try to apply.  Landen still not feeling 100%, though he’s more just tired than anything.  Nap schedule is all off.  In a bold act of rebellion, the stomach bug resurfaces, this time in Ash’s brother.

Today – Landen’s fever has gone so he’s in daycare, but he’s very congested.  We might need to make a pediatrician appointment if he doesn’t improve.  My shoulder is in a bit of pain from a SMALL amount of yardwork we did yesterday, but nothing too bad.  The tongue is back to about halfway there.  I’m finally eating normal food, though slowly.  Ash is still doing great, but something tells me she would like a very long nap.  Ash’s father now has the stomach bug.

Edit: Landen gets home today and throws up 4 times.  Guess he’s getting a second bout of stomach flu.  *sigh*

As for this blog, some exciting stuff coming up.  But it’s all surprises.  Stay tuned.

2009 in Review

January – Really, January was a blur.  At 12:15am on January 5th, I settled down for bed, only to have Ash’s water break.  11 hours later, our super-awesome son let out his first cries and took his first nap.  For the rest of January, not much else happened.  Actually, it very well might have, only I was severly sleep deprived and don’t remember much of my life at that point.  A rocket could have docked on my face and I doubt I’d have noticed.

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February – Aside from the actual giving birth part, this month was identical to the first in that I don’t remember it at all.  I do remember him being sick for much of it, and that was worrisome.  I was still in that “need to check on him in his sleep to make sure he’s alive” unforunate part of parenting.  Ash might still be in it.  I have more faith in my son’s ability to sleep now.  But then, it was different.  Tracy came to visit and see the little guy, and that was excellent.  She was the first family member to meet Landen.  He celebrated by pooping like normal.

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March – Perhaps no one was more excited about Landen’s birth than my mother, who has been waiting [impatiently, I may add] to be a grandmother since I can remember.  Probably since Doug hit high school, so it’s been a while.  She finally got to see him in March, and unfortunately came down with an illness early into the trip.  She didn’t really get to see him as much as everyone would have liked, but seeing her hold him was a pleasure.  I also had my first trip out east – I distinctly remembering thinking at the time that it will be nice to have a little sleep.  Yeah, that ‘nice’ phase lasted about 12 hours.  Then I missed him and Ash tremendously.  Not being able to see your little one for a week is a tough thing to do at 3 months.  I made it through, but I remember it being my hardest trip back east to date.

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Monkey-licker

April – This was the month we realized watching over a newborn is a full-time job.  We realized this because we got into pretty heavy planning mode for the Weddingish.  Trying to raise a child while planning a wedding is not fun.  Don’t do it.  This was also at the tail end of his acid-reflux sleeping, where he would be up nearly every night, and we had to hold him up after every meal for 30 minutes.  It was a stressful time in general, and I was getting more and more of my night panics, waking up, thinking Landen was smothering in the sheets.  THAT was something I never would have expected.  Also, in looking at my blogs from that time, it seems I played an AWFUL lot of games at that time.  That strikes me as the time when I really was longing for my “me-time” that I “missed out on” with Landen’s birth.  I still don’t feel that way, but I remember that being very strong at the time.  Thank God Ash was understanding of this and gave me some space.  She’s the best wife [and mom] ever.

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May – The big thing was the Weddingish, which was well-chronicled on this site already.  It went as perfectly as we could have hoped for.  I think most people need to stop with traditional weddings and have Weddingishes.  It’s really the way to go.  But this is also the first month that I recall Landen really seeming like a person.  He was interacting, awake more, and just plain fun.  Still before any stranger-anxiety crept in, he was smiling 23 of the 24 hours.  We are truly lucky.  My entire family, sans mom, came and got to see everyone, but really they came for the cute one.  He was a hit with everyone.  Whenver our formal shots come in, we’ll gladly share them with everyone.

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June – This marked us starting to get out and actually DO stuff as a couple.  While we did include Landen on some of it, I was finally able to play in some tournaments and Ash and I were able to escape and watch some minor league baseball.  With Ash working for the first time since Landen was born, we both had shortened time with Landen, so we did try to make the most of it by taking him to the pool once in a while and plenty of playing with Granny and Papa.  He was getting bigger by the minute.  Also at this time, we started our search for houses to buy.  With the economy being the way it was, it seemed like the perfect chance to take advantage.  More stress.  Joy.

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July – I had my second trip to the East coast of the year.  I will say it was moderately easier than the first.  While I was okay being away from him for longer, he got SICK (and was in the hospital the first day I was there) – nothing is worse than the feeling of being totally helpless when your kid needs you.  I also felt terrible for Ash who had to bear the brunt of his illness with no support from me.  She is awesome, I think I mentioned that.  I had my “bachelor party” while out there, (yes, after the weddingish) which was a good time with some good friends, though marred by Landen’s health worries.  More quality time outside was called for when I got back, as the weather had gotten quite nice, and not beastly hot if I remember.  Having a kid screws with your memory, that’s for sure.

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August – Another big month.  Landen seemed to really grow in August more than any other month.  Now crawling, smiling, interacting, playing, and eating like a fiend.  I did all I could to keep up with him, but I do remember taking naps in August.  Probably because the rest of the month was so busy.  Not only did we officially tie the knot in August, but the beginning of the house fiasco started then.  I think actually our offer was approved at the very end of July, but August was when we started to make conscious efforts to get ready for a move.  Then the dreaded waiting game started.  And that would last longer than we all thought.

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September – Another hard month.  With a second trip out east in two months, we made a very quick determination that I can’t go east that often for work.  It’s too much on Ash, who does try to maintain a life of her own.  Add to that Landen got sick again this month, and it was a very long month.  I had packed up much of the apartment before leaving for NY because we were supposed to move in on October 1 to our new house.  Here is also where the seeds were sown for October, which would be the worst month of the year.  But they say that it’s darkest before the sun rises, right?

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Landen’s take on October and September

October – It sucked.  After tons of problems with the house and thinking at no fewer than 3 occasions that we would not be getting this house, and living in boxes for much of it, we couldn’t get past October fast enough.  Landen’s progress literally seemed to stall since he had no room to play, most of his toys packed, and it was too cold to go outside.  He did begin standing by the end of the month, but I think that was out of necessity because boxes were in his way everywhere he went.  Good riddance, October.

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November – Finally, a month worth writing about.  On the 5th, we moved into our first house.  And by the end of the month, we had ALMOST fully moved in.  Landen had exploded in growth this month.  Beginning to use regular crawling much more than army crawling, and getting into EVERYTHING.  He is very curious and smart, that much is certain.  We got to have our first Thanksgiving as a family, though we spent it at the in-laws.  We still weren’t quite unpacked enough to clutter up our place, I guess.  It was nice to have things slow down a bit.

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First snow at the first house in Landen’s first year

December – Ahh, the present.  Landen is seriously the best kid ever.  He’s been cranky, and the reason is simple – he’s got FOUR teeth now, and his gums are still swollen so more may pop out at any time.  However, he’s gained a whole new sense of independence.  He’ll play on his own for a half hour at a time, and then crawl over to the piano (oh yeah, Ash rescued a REAL PIANO for me for Christmas!) and tinker for a bit, then go back to his new toys.  Everyone’s been great with getting him fun and useful stuff, and he really has been playing with all of it.  Christmas was at our house, and the extended-portion of it was short and sweet.  Then we got to relax and revel in the first holiday season as a FAMILY.  It was a pretty great feeling.

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Extra Bonus:

The Best and Worst Albums of 2009.

1.  Free – Jim’s Big Ego – Technically, this album came out in 2008, but I only heard about it this year.  This is, bar none, his best album.  And it’s interesting – you can go to his website and download it FOR FREE.  He also offers plans where you can pay to get additional things, but I guess he wanted to see how it would sell.  I paid $.99 cents, partially because I have an album or two of his that are disappointing, and while I wanted to support, I didn’t want to get hosed.  This album is fantastic.  From the opening “International”, which is a great anthem, to the groovy and awkward “I [Don’t Know How To] Party”, to my favorite “Pascagoula Pawn & Gun” [which contains the best final verse of nearly any song], this is just a fantastic album.  Get it.

2.  The Fall – Norah Jones – I was at first quite disappointed by this album, mainly because the piano seems to have become a bastard instrument to Miss Jones.  She favors guitar and Wurlitzer on this album, and that immediately turned me off.  The first five songs also seemed to be the weakest on the album.  While I stand by that last sentence, the rest of the album has grown on me considerably.  It’s probably a little behind “Not Too Late” in terms of albums, it has a number of very good tracks, like “Waiting”, “December” and the closing track “Man of the Hour” which is not, as I’d thought, a cover of the Pearl Jam song.  Definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan.

T3.  Life of the World to Come – The Mountain Goats – This one would be lower on my list if it weren’t the Mountain Goats.  I suppose that means even a mediocre Mountain Goats song seems to be better than a good mainstream song.  I’ve noticed a trend with this band since they moved to the studio – every other album is great.  It’s like Star Trek movies of music.  Tallahassee was revolutionary, …Healed was hit or miss, Sunset Tree was one of his best albums to date, Get Lonely was boring, Heretic Pride was thoroughly solid, and Life… is very bland.  He is making the transition to piano, which I normally encourage, but his piano playing is very monotonous.  And while I like some of his slow songs, when he puts an album consisting almost entirely of slow songs, I can’t get into it.  There are a few good gems in it, but nothing that stands out in my mind.

T3.  Temple Bones Project – Temple Bones Project – This is my brother Doug’s band.  At first glance, it might seem like I don’t much care for this since it’s ‘tied’ with the Mountain Goats album that was a letdown, but this has the opposite situation.  I didn’t have many expectations for this, as I know their “band” is just some people screwing around with a didgeridoo and just learning how to use mixing software.  And it is just that.  But they’ve made some leaps since I first heard their original demos.  I can criticise the lack of melody, as they are primarily a percussive band, but the few tracks that feature a flute (notably “He Hides”) are quite enjoyable.  This is rated well because I see potential here, particularly if they bring someone on board who knows music theory to sculpt their musicians.

DEAD LAST – Embryonic – The Flaming Lips – I have been a Lips fan since 1993, and even enjoyed their early OKC Garage days when their music was talentless guitar chords and bad singing.  I reveled in their experiments like Zaireeka, and patted myself on the back when they broke through critically with Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi.  At War With the Mystics had some incredibly interesting things in it, and I felt they did deserve the Grammy they received.  I had high expectations for this album.  And it sucks.  It is terrible.  I actually say this is the only album I have ever purchased that I will skip every track on it when it comes up on random, with one or two exceptions.  It is droning, obnoxious, seemingly recorded poorly (bass and bass drums all seem to crunch).  I’ve read reviews where they call it “revolutionary” and “genius” and I wonder who the hell can honestly say that.  If you hear the “hit” of the album, Convinced of the Hex, you’ve heard the other 18 tracks, as they all sound the same: monotonous and dour.  DO NOT BUY THIS ALBUM.  It is crap.

Let it Snow… etc

So we’ve had our first significant snowfall of the year, dumping probably 8 or 9 inches down on our little desert town.  So we figured we’d put our nearly-one-year old boy outside, see what he thought.  You tend to expect all babies to be afraid of new experiences… water, grass, snow… our boy doesn’t actually have fear.  Of anything.   Including crawling face-first off of tall things.  So it was only marginally surprising that after a little bit of trepidation:

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he jumped right into the fray.

See, because it was a big snowfall and we don’t really have… what’s the word… plows… things got bogged down.  Ash had the day off and did all the hard labor while I still work for a NY-based company and did not get the luxury of a day off.  But Landen certainly tried to help out.  This was his reaction when Mom made him shovel.

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So for a little while (read: 1 minute) he was staying only in areas that had been shovelled, probably because the rest of that white stuff was VERY cold.  But after that long, thoughtful minute, he decided to barrel right through it all and have some fun. And I don’t mean tentative, poke at it kind of fun.  I mean full-throttle immersion fun.

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All in all, I’d call his first excursion into snow a success.  Too bad I keep getting told they don’t get snow out here.  (I personally have a theory that snow messes up desert-dweller’s memories, because since I’ve moved here, I’ve experienced at least 4 snowfalls of at least 6″, and one was easily over 1′.  One was on Christmas.  They have no memory of that.  I don’t quite get it.)  But you don’t need to take my word for it, just ask Levar Burton.  Or Landen, who’s answering it in this picture.

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Finally, I leave you with an awesome video.  Our son has the best laugh ever.

House of Pain: Tyler Perry edition

Yes, this is more painful.  Our lender backed out because the seller is making too much money.  Not because they think the house value is wrong – simply because they are upset the seller is making so much money.  (Hey bought it as a foreclosure for what was owned)

The house isn’t done for good, but we can guarantee we won’t be moving into it within the next week, at least.

Here’s what this procedure has been like.  It’s like someone came up to us and said: “Hey, I’ll give you $1000 if I can punch you in the face 10 times.”  We say okay.  And he whacks us ten times.  He then says “Oh, you can’t have the money NOW.  It’ll come in a month.”  So in a month, we ask for our money, and he says he miscounted and the $1000 will be ours if he can punch us a total of 20 times in the face.  So we let him punch us another ten times, at which point we go away for another week.  Finally, we come back and he says that because it’s taken so long, he’ll actually give us $1050 if we get punched in the face ten more times.  Once that’s done, he says just ten more and the money is ours.

That’s what it’s like.

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Don’t buy a house.  Ever.  Just don’t do it.  Not if you’re named Derek and Ashley.  Actually, if you’re named Derek and Ashley, you probably have bigger problems.  Just sayin’.

I’m not going to get into everything – it’ll just make me angry.  The nutshell: the mortgage company is now stringing everyone along – asking for just about every possible document and receipt for the repairs imaginable.  In the words of the banker we’re working with, “I’ve never seen that before.”  Oddly, this is not the first time we’ve heard this exact phrase during this nightmare.

So we’ve signed THREE different offers that said:

– the closing date will be on or before October 1

– the closing date will be on or before October 15

– the closing date will be on or before October 16

We are now told that it will likely not even be completed by Monday (October 19.)  That’s right – we are now going to be about three weeks after our original closing date, and we are not sure we are even getting it.  The seller, having (in his mind) busted his ass to get everything we’ve asked for (and, though he sucked at doing it, he more or less did accomplish what he promised), he is now getting yanked around because the mortgage company thinks he is making too big a profit on his turn-around.

If he doesn’t get it done by Monday, we will probably go to a new bank, where the interest rate is more than a half a point HIGHER.

Yeah.  I’m ready to punch some necks.