Sunday, October 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom...

By the time I post this, the service will be done or we'll be on our way.  And that'll be one of the last-er steps in what's been a pretty challenging year.  It was respectful.  It was moving.  And it's still one of the hardest thing's Roman and I have had to do in our entire lives.  On your birthday, we finally get to put you and dad to rest.


It's your birthday.  In my planner, that I always buy year after year, and love and use as my journal of sorts -I had "Mom- 74" written in for 10/17 like I have the last 20 or so years of planner-journaling.  As was with dad, and since your poorly timed departure a week before Mother's Day, we've been dealing with these milestones as they come.  I just thought it was time that maybe I filled you in on what's been going on with us so that the blog-o-sphere remembers my existence (read: my 2 followers), and let you know how much we miss you.  And maybe hash out some online honesty.

Facebook drives me crazy on the best days.  What with the onslaught of information that I can barely process, it being an election year (I'm with her, Ma.  I think I remember you being frassy about the other fella, and I'd like to believe deep down you were mildly progressive enough to think he's the chode he is and we'll leave it at that. )- the worst part LATELY is the "On This Day" and "Timehop" feature.  See, it's occasionally fun to see what you were posting last year, 3 years ago, etc.  (And, for a forgetful flibbertigibbet like me- keeps me from blabbering about the same food/super hero/weather/shitty driver related posts I usually blab about.) Of course, TODAY on your birthday I've got birthday well wishes, restaurant check ins (last year we had Indian food.  The year before Macaroni Grill, etc etc.  As a side note, I'd like to remind you, that we USED to do Mother's Day at the Bonfire Grill which would get my all you can eat bacon fix out of the way for a year, so bacon is SEVERELY underrepresented in my diet.  Harrumph)

Another problem, is that you were always "liking" shit.  Or commenting.  Or saying how you don't understand what I'm posting...So as long as I have that feature, I'll be bombarded with recipes that were terrible for you that you would post with a message "Mom needs"...

Like with our old 10am "wake-up" phone calls, seeing those stream of recipes you'd ask me to make for you, or October Halloween Diorama ideas for the upcoming year, it's a big painful reminder of the void that's there.  I don't wanna bitch about my weight or body-image, but I confess that getting outside to go for my daily constitutionals is still a struggle when you're not there on the other end of the line.

Enough about that.  Let's see...Housekeeping...

To your eternal chagrin, your house is empty and on the market.  It took us a very long while.  we were able to muster some fun stuff over the Summer- trips to the lake, Claire's birthday, a trip to Wisconsin for my in-law's birthday.  Most of the time, though, we were cramming in to empty your place out.  It's an interesting progression- how much I started wanting to (try) to honor your wishes, or preserve our family legacy.  In the end, it was three semi-trailer sized dumpsters and the realization that I would only be transferring the mess over to my place and never be done with it.  It's just stuff.  And there was a lot.  And we did out best.  Case in point, I spent an *entire* weekend organizing family documents and photos between your family, dad's, and miscellany.  It was exhausting.  And dirty.  And we were grateful from the help and support of our relations on both sides of the family.  And it's inspired me to start to discard a ton of crap 8th grade report card, for example.  Who needs to remember when my econ teacher said "Please contact for tutoring immediately"?  Not me!

In going through old letters and cards, I also learned some stuff.

It's not necessary to get into on a blaug.  It's not juicy, or dirty laundry.  It's basically a lot of history that's helped me get to know you as a person better.  Less a "mom", and who you were as a person,  all around.  From that, I realized that maintaining an air of transparency and a line of open-communication with my wife, my friend's, and my family is actually not a bad thing.  (What with the suffering in silence or weird stoicism that older generations seem to think we need to maintain) I used to think that hiding our problems or matting them down, sweeping them under the bed so people could always see the best side isn't necessarily the best course of action.  Not asking for help.   Not acknowledging that you might have a problem or *need* help.

But some people do.  And it's important to remain empathetic to that.  Sensitive towards the needs of people we care about.  About when we sense there's something wrong.  No need to badger, but ask.  An intervention...might have saved our backs and a few months of manual labor, sure.  However, that's in the past.  It's almost done.  And the big thing is that we always knew there was a lot of love in your heart, and how you showed it was by saving every last piece of ephemera from our lives. 

On to more important things-

Rachel and I made it through one year of happy marriage.  You, miss, were a BIG part of that year (THANKS, Timehop!), and it's weird to be entering my 1st Halloween without you.  I'm...I'm kind of stuck.  Yeah, I know "You can still have a diorama without her." Or "She'd have wanted you to"...but the wind is sort of out of my sails.  It was a year ago that you had your big Halloween fall and didn't tell me.  A little after that, you were in your brace.  Then prohibited from driving.  Then Thanksgiving.  A pretty tired Christmas.  Making sure you were able to get to your New Year's Eve game night.  And then...into sort of the last few months that took us by surprise.  Even with advance warning.  It was a terrible surprise.  Sorry.  Happier stuff.

Ray and I managed to finally go on our honeymoon!  It was a glorious week in Paris.  I know you'd have loved the Lourve more than anything- we saw Hammurabi's codex, and drunk in all the wonderful art we could.  (To be honest- you'd have been pained to know we only managed to sprint through the Egyptian artifacts.  It makes the British Museum look like the Science Museum...and they weren't super friendly to people with wheelchairs or canes, so your trick of playing the "Old Lady Card" might not've flown.) Also, my BIL and SIL were FINALLY matched for adoption!  Yay!  Yay for TWINS!  Right?  They are IN trouble.

I'm pretty busy now-  We're building a garage, finally, planning and saving for our future- the possibility of new pets (Lord.  Rach has to stay away from the Second-Hand Hounds website or Grouch will have a hairy younger brother/sister)  I've had the pleasure of being asked to join the Mystery Cafe', which is steady and gratifying work.  I'm doing a show for the Twin Cities Horror Festival- another 1st.  (Think "Fringe Festival" but more skeery stuff.  Probably up your alley, and I'd have to tie you down so you didn't comb Savers for props and stuff.)  So that means I'm either performing or rehearsing on top of work- constantly.  I miss the crap out of karate, which I can start hitting soon (hopefully after the aches and pains and injuries from cleaning your place subside.  SORRY!  Both Roman AND I are OLD DOT COM and hurt ourselves.)- but I guess that brings me to the last bittersweet part...

I realize that I'd been adhering to a fairly self-censoring policy when it comes to social media.  Granted, I did way back when I started this blog...going so far as using aliases and nicknames etc.  Now that I'm about 12 years in, and since you and dad are gone- I've been stripping that veneer.  I don't want you to panic.  No no.  I'm not going to be talkymeat sort of par for the course.  I don't plan on oversharing, or being *more* crass and vulgar than usual...puns and double entendres...bad ones...are my jam.  But I plan on engaging a bit more honestly.  More-More honestly, if that makes sense.  I'll probably butt heads with some folks eventually.  I'll lose some Facebook friends.  I might draw the ire of some extended family.  But at the end of the day, I think there are some pretty common sense values we can all adhere to.  And I'd like to think that if I have any sense of justice or fairness- whatever that means- or need to protect or defend the "little guy" (remember when dad did that for me?)...or in today's sniff out the assholes that are in it for themselves.  To make sure that people of color aren't having their rights infringed...or women...or immigrants...or ancestral...or the geeeeaaaaaaayys...You used to tell folks you didn't raise us that way.  Or at least tell me you didn't. So I hope that going forward, you're going to be okay with me being more engaged.  I'm getting too fat to have my Spider-Man suit under my dress clothes.


It's been something, having you and dad together in my hutch.  (And Rocky on the front porch as our guard dog in his "Attack urn")  I think part of saying good bye,and part of the roller coaster of emotions that has been marked with sadness, avoidance, resentment, and nostalgia is going to be having a place where we can visit you on the regular.  Fort Snelling is a pretty sacred place for that.  And we'll not be leaving you guys alone.  I miss you.  5 months to you, and 7 years for dad.  I don't like having that head and heartspace feel so empty where you once stayed, but I'm keeping you close in other ways.

I love you, ma.  We miss you.  And down there...That was you.  Our anchor.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of...a very long year.

I'm finding it hard to sum up 2015 concisely, since the primary focus (which I'm naturally, quite happy about.) for approximately 2/3rds of it was:


You're hearing this guy in your head, aren't you

I proposed back in January, and from there it was a whirlwind of planning, trips to see dear friends on the West Coast, another stay in Vegas, another St. Patty's 7K, more wedding planning, seeing some theater and some great movies, more work, more podcasting, more work at the Caves, more more KARATE!  By late June, I had my black belt.

Pictured:  The self-defense portion of my test.

So that was a long time coming.  Meanwhile, there were cabin trips, road trips to visit my girl when  it was her turn to be up in the Midge at the PBP, re-acquainting with old friends, bachelor parties, MOAR trips to Vegas (for work, no less.), my first BIG GAY MARRIAGE of my best friend, work stress, Halloween madness, Thanksgiving at my in-laws, out of town trips with buddies, visits from out of town guests, a little movie about the War in the Stars, the in-laws adopting a doggie, annnnnnnnd the Holidays.

But with all that, came a lot of stress-balling.  With stress comes exhaustion- we slept through a majority of our honeymoon, I ended up with some boo-too neck and back problems along with my general aches and pains from so much kung-fu'ing.  Mom's still illin', to the point where the big C is almost on the back burner as her body heals.  There've been some terrible, terrible losses this year, seeing some dear friends depart who were just too, too young.  We've had other close friends move away, other friends who are in pain or struggling a lot, and some pretty turrible tragedies throughout the world and the nation that can break your heart.

And good Gods...the talking political heads...I'm not naming names, but the normal shit show has turned into something frightdiculous to hear and behold.

Seriously.  Between the Pyramid grain silos, Xenophobia/Racism, and playground antics...I'm shutting down, kids.

So...I'm not gonna talk about that stuff, aka my bullshit resolutions that I never follow, or my silly plans for the upcoming year...all that I'm gonna try to keep loose so I don't feel disappointed.  Yes, there'll be races and karate and a full honeymoon overseas, and helping mom, and projects and visits to Camp Awesome and the Finch Nest in 'Sconnie and new friends in the neighborhood and all that.

But if you're a regular reader of this here blog, or a new reader, or just someone who doesn't mind seeing another regular Joe's take on naivety/wishful thinking...take heart:

I have a big wish for the people in my sphere.  Worldwide or nationwide, really.  But I'd be just as happy if this happened on a smaller scale and rippled outward.  2016 is an election year, and since I tend to be an anticipater of vertain events, I don't think that it's too far-fetched to believe this year is also going to be a pretty rough/less unifying one along with more and more hurtful division.  (Yes.  The present GOP and NRA are big fucking problems.)

Within the last few weeks, I've heard some people on social media as well as here at work say they don't like talking to their neighbors or avoid it outright.  So my wish is for kindness.  I wish for thoughtfulness.  I wish for people to reach out to people.  Engage.  The cashier.  The stranger.  The neighbor.  The family.  Without pause or question.  Make yourself available to the world.  Don't turn your back on others, which is like turning your back on life.  Don't worry.  Be amazed at people being shocked by being forward and bold and generous with it.

Allow yourself to find new opportunities and not lament what you don't have- because you probably have more than you think.  Which is probably impossible.  Because I'd be asking for people to log off Facebook and turn off the TV.  But I think that's an optimistic wish.  And after a pretty hectic year, I think people can get back in touch with being kind again.

Bring it, 2016.  I'm in martial spirits, chauffeuring my mom for New Year's, have gigs and travel plans, and a supportive and loving spouse.  Let's just get that blood pressure and cholesterol down and we're solid.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Today, social media has been choc-a-bloc full of stories about people's 1st experience seeing Star Wars.  I feel like I've told *everyone* who will listen to my experiences with the universe Lucas spun out (and his wife loomed into a cohesive story, natch.).  3.  I was nearly 4 when we went to the old Brookdale Cinema (which became a Kohl's) and, if my folks recollection is to be believed, sat through it.  Twice.*

From there, we gobbled up everything Star Wars.  The accompanying picture-book and reel-to-reels from the Hennepin County Library with the images of Luke's best friend who didn't make it in the theatrical cut- and who eventually became the nick-namesake of my big brother.  We had the over sized comic book, sheets, posters, glasses from Burger King, and naturally...lots and lots of action figures.

The chasm between the films seem massive, and as soon as we could we were saving proof-of-purchases from the boxes so we could send away for "Bossk", and the mystery figure who would become Boba Fett. (My god, the rumor that his jetpack could FIRE A MISSLE?  Only to hear urban legends of choking hazards and stripping our fingers trying to get it out.)  When the "Empire" magazine came out, we were treated to behind the scenes images from the new movie.  Wintry landscapes?  Luke uses his lightsaber?  And our first word of the rumor...that you'd SEE Darth Vader with his MASK OFF...and the playground rumor mill was that it was SO GROSS that people were THROWING UP!!!

We waited in line for what felt like FOREVER outside of this theater in B.C.

And our minds were blown.  From there, we started making playsets since the number of toys were getting to be prohibitive for my mom to keep up with...

Look, the point is- like EVERYONE the Star Wars films have been ingrained in my DNA.  In our guts.  It's why we have imagination- running around with flashlight/lightsabers...turning the 'Bago into the Falcon.  It's where I first saw loss and the possibility of return, how irredeemable people can turn into your best friend, how bad guys are so much more complicated.

Even as a big kid.  How *hasn't* being in karate, or kendo, or fencing, or anything been influenced by what we saw as kids.  How it was important to be a *good* guy.  How it's a bad idea to get stuck in a garbage chute with a dianoga?  To have faith in something you can't see.  I'm not entirely unsurprised our folks pulled us out of church not too long afterwards.  (There were some extenuating circumstances, but it's fun to think it's because The Force was strong in our family.)

So I've been going to midnight showings of Star Wars since about 1980 or so.  And the last time was in 2005 (where I blogged about it) with a group of like minded geeks who all cheered as soon as "A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away..." came on screen.  And tonight, I'll be going early early with one of the members of that group.  And am hoping the nostalgia will make me feel a fraction of my age.

May the Force be with all 4 of my readers.  And enjoy your first screenings.  I'm betting I'mma go back and see it again.

*During Father's Day, many years ago, I was having lunch at my brother's house where he was hosting with his wife and we all (Mom, Ro, his weef, and I) matriculated into the TV room since there was a showing of "Star Wars" on channel 9.  Dad meandered in while we were all zombie-ing out, and he muttered: "God dammit.  I should have NEVER taken you boys to see that movie..."