Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Out Like A Lamb

March 31, 2015
Day 335

After today, I've got just 30 more days until I turn 40, which also means I've got just 30 more days of writing this blog.

We get this day, March 31st, once each year, and it's always the day many of us think about the winter we've finally put behind us.

In like a lion, out like a lamb: that's the mantra for this last day of March each year, and it's the one day other than December 31st when we all take a look backward and forward together at the same time.  That's a pretty powerful truth right there!

When I look backward at just the past few months, I see how our washing machine broke, my car got sidelined for months due to a flat tire, my toaster broke, I got an annoying head cold that lasted for weeks, Andy's car got sidelined for a month once his inspection expired, Andy got his own annoying head cold that's lasting for weeks, and our coffee machine broke.  First world problems, all of them, sure, yet annoying nonetheless, especially in light of the horrible winter weather we've had besides.  But then March 31st arrives, and we all realize we're about to make a turn, at last!

April checks in tomorrow, Easter arrives this Sunday, the daffodils will start blooming in the next week or two, and all around us, spring will spring.

But before any of this, there's still today, a day to look around and marvel at where we've been, and where we're going next.  It's a day to sigh at the troubles of the past few months, but much more importantly, it's a day to look forward.  We look forward to all that will be, and we do so with a smile.  Warmer weather is just ahead of us now, and we hope for sunnier days in every possible way.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The time I went Back to the Future

(Click for full size)
March 30, 2015
Day 334

Some of my greatest life experiences have occurred in just the past few years.

In September of 2013, Andy and I made our second visit to California together.  I'd been to Los Angeles many years earlier to visit my sister Esther, and this time we spent some time with my sister Peggy and her husband Brian.  Brian's only a few years older than me, so a lot of our movie interests align well, and he happens to be a huge fan of visiting famous movie locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area.  

So while we were there, Brian took us to a few fun locations, and pointed several more out that I've since forgotten.  We drove past the apartment building where Daniel first met Mr. Miyagi, we saw the spot where Marty McFly parked the DeLorean before racing it down the street to send him safely back to 1985, and we even visited the famous 1985 house itself from the Back to the Future movies, the familiar ranch house on the quiet tree-lined street we all know so well.

As we started driving down the block toward the house, my heart began beating just a little faster, and I soon caught sight of the large power-line structures I knew were just beyond the McFly house.  We pulled up quickly, and trying our best not to disturb the current homeowners or any of the neighbors, we jumped out and posed for photographs.  It was such a surreal experience, standing there in front of what my mind always told me was a fictional place. 

Later this year, months after this little blog series is over, we'll all finally reach October 21, 2015, the day Marty and Doc Brown arrive in the future together.  I remember watching those scenes back when the movie was released in 1989 (when I was 13 years old), and thinking about what my own life would look like in 2015.  I had no idea what I'd have, but hoped I'd reach some level of happiness and success by then.

Well, 2015 is here now, and though my bank account and nonexistent fame tell me otherwise, I have to admit: life is even greater than I'd ever have guessed it could be.  Different from what we all hoped for in 1989, sure, but really, really great nonetheless.

Success and joy are measured quite differently from a 14-year-old's eyes to a 40-year-old's, but that's a good thing.  The future is never quite found anyway, it's always just ahead of us.  For many reading this, in fact, 2015 will already be a thing of the past, and by 2045, we'll probably still be complaining we haven't gotten our flying cars yet.  Perspective really is everything.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Time to make the doughnuts

March 29, 2015
Day 333

For years, I grew up with this guy on my television: the "time to make the doughnuts" guy from Dunkin' Donuts.  I doubt most kids today would have any idea who he is now, the same way they wouldn't recognize the "Where's the beef?" lady, and just how I wouldn't recognize the Maytag Repairman.

Even though this commercial has been gone for years, and I've only seen it referenced in 80s flashback shows once or twice since then, it's really stayed with me, and just came to mind again this morning as I woke up.

I slowly opened my eyes and made a command decision that it was well past time for me to get up and write my blog for the day.  Time to make the doughnuts.

Sadly for you, I have no delicious doughnuts (not even donuts) to treat you with, only this short entry you're reading right now.  My daily blog-writing days are quickly coming to a close, so the responsibility part of this self-made assignment is swiftly approaching its end.  I won't have to worry about getting to the computer each morning and typing out any stories about fish heads, jury duty, sex outdoors, or monastic laundry.  In just another month, the rest of my stories and reflections can wait for their own day to come out once and for all, with or without their own creamy filling.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Somebody's Getting Married

March 28, 2015
Day 332

No, not us. 

If you've ever wondered though, Andy and I do plan on getting married in the next couple of years.  We just don't know when, or how big we'll make the celebration. 

It's a huge deal getting married, of course, but after 13+ years together, most of which never gave us the option to get married legally anyway, it's always been an afterthought.  Our love matters more than anything, and we've clearly already committed our lives to each other.

So no, we aren't getting married yet, just attending the wedding reception of a friend and colleague of Andy's later today.  The reception is at a beautiful place in lower Manhattan, so we're really looking forward to it!  I bought a suit and got a haircut yesterday, Andy got a haircut on Thursday as well, and after another few hours today of more preparations, we'll finally be ready to head out the door to attend the festivities.

I'll be sure to let you know if we get engaged anytime soon, but don't hold your breath just yet. ;)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book 3 First Draft Done!

March 27, 2015
Day 331
-9.8, 122,105 (+12,086)

On Friday, January 16th (Day 261), I began adding some updates in blue font to the top of my Friday blog entry each week.  

The first number was my ever-flexing weight loss for the year.  It goes up and it goes down, but gratefully it's in an okay place at the moment.

The second number was my word count on the third book of my Heaven, Hell, and the Planet In Between series.  The large parenthetical number up there, 12,086, is how many words I wrote since last Friday.

On January 16th, that number was 52,465, which tells me I've written 69,640 words in the past 10 weeks, and that makes sense, because I'm now done!  As of yesterday afternoon, I'm now finished writing the first draft of my third and final book of this series on Heaven and Hell (incidentally, I always capitalize them on purpose).  For the record, it's 310 pages at the moment, but that number may grow or even shrink depending on how the months-long editing process goes now.

My first book is 200 pages long, and my second is 256 pages long, so by my math, my tenth book will be approximately 690 pages long.

Okay, maybe not.  I think I'll try to keep most closer to the 200-250 number!

Anyway, I just wanted to blog to say I'm done writing Book 3, and look forward to starting on all the editing work that will occupy a lot of my time the next 6 months (3-4 for this book, and then I'll begin editing this blog into book form some time this summer).  Cheers as always for tuning in!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The story of the two monks by the river

March 26, 2015
Day 330

There's an ancient story that's been told many times, over and over throughout history, about two monks who were on a long journey together from one monastery to another.

They walked side by side in silence most of the time, reflecting on the beauty of nature and the mysteries of life.  At some point in the middle of this long trip, they came across a large river they realized they needed to cross.  But as they approached the river, they saw a young, beautiful woman who needed to get across too. 

The water there wasn't deep, but the crossing was treacherous, as the current was moving quickly, so one of the monks offered to carry this young woman across the river.  They all made it across safely, and then the woman went off in one direction, and the two monks in the other.

Three more hours passed in silence as the monks continued on their journey, when finally, the one monk stopped his brother angrily and said, "I cannot stay silent any longer.  Back there at the river, you held that beautiful woman in your arms and helped her across.  You let her wrap herself around you, and you felt her body press into yours.  What do you have to say for yourself?"

The second monk was surprised to hear this outburst, and genuinely upset to hear what had made his brother so angry.  "My dear brother," the second monk said, "Three hours have passed since I carried that woman across the river.  Have you been carrying her still, all this time?"

I think about this story quite often, and it helps me release the judgments and annoyances I experience each day.  Why did she yell at me?  Why did he cut me off?  Why did she look at me like that?  Why did he write me that nasty e-mail?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And then I remember the story of the two monks, and I realize I've been carrying short moments of time with me throughout my day, my week, and maybe even my whole life.  Instead of letting these moments pass me by naturally, I hold tightly to them, squeezing every last drop of spoiled juice from them until I'm satisfied.

"My dear brother, three hours have passed since I carried that woman across the river.  Have you been carrying her still, all this time?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lowering My Expectations

March 25, 2015
Day 329

I'm noticing this more and more lately, and I'm not saying it goes hand in hand with turning 40, but man!  As you get older, you'll see what I mean.  You just learn at some point that if you don't lower your expectations for people, you'll literally drive yourself insane.

Case in point: younger friends and family members.  If someone's 25 or under, I simply can't expect to have the same relationship with them as I would with someone older.  They care more about their phone than me (not even a joke), they have schoolwork and friends that have nothing to do with me and my life, and there are a hundred other life concerns that will always keep them from replying to my messages, or even just reaching out to say hi.

I finally get what all the "old people" in my life always seemed to be bitching and complaining about over the years.  You never write.  You never visit.  You never call.  I'm there now--already!  I see it happening, and I start to get upset about it, but then I do it: I lower my expectations.  I sigh, and I let it go.  He has his own life and she has her own friends.  I can't expect them to make this friendship or relationship any stronger than it is right now, because they just are their age and I am mine.  Though I see them as part of my world, they clearly do not see me as part of their world.  It's just the way it is.

Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and just all other people out there over 30, have you seen this happen in your own lives?  Do these words resonate with you as well?  If so, join me in letting it go.  Join me here and now in releasing all expectations for conversations that will never happen, or last 10 minutes longer than you know it will.  Young people are in a different head space, and that's simply all there is to it.  So pull up a chair, and talk to me instead.  I'm all ears.  We can have each other.  What is it you want to talk about?  Oh, wait, hang on a second...let me just text her back first.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sex Outdoors, and Other Dating Adventures

March 24, 2015
Day 328

There are some stories, and some details within stories, that I simply won't tell, at least publicly.

We've all had our share of good dates, bad dates, and crazy ones too, and I won't pretend to have had the most amazing experiences ever, but I've had a few adventures here and there.

There was the time I drove 7 hours to meet a guy in Virginia (should have taken me 6).  I ceased to be a virgin that weekend, and no, it was not a fun experience.  The guy had lied to me about his picture for starters (he was easily over 50 pounds heavier in 3D than in the 2D photo I'd seen).  He was also just a real jerk, but I'd driven all that way, and he was crushing on me so much, so I just went through with it all anyway.

Another time, I met a guy for dinner, and watched with a mix of horror and amusement as he chewed down on a stack of saucy ribs like some kind of animal.  Lucky for me though, he was an animal later on in the car too.  We fogged those windows up pretty quickly, and he climbed over from the driver's seat and sat on my lap as we made out--like animals--for the next hour.  It was actually really hot, but when I tried to plan a second date, he claimed he was just drunk that night, and didn't really like me.

I've told you already in this blog series about my time with the gorgeous nymphomaniac, and of course Igor, the Gap Guy, but I never mentioned either of the mouth-below-the-belt experiences I had underneath the Long Beach boardwalk, or inside my car parked at a different beach months later.  And threesomes?  I've had a couple, and they were...alright.  Some of it was fun, but a lot of it was just awkward.  Too many baristas in the kitchen sometimes, you know?

And perhaps my most exciting--too exciting--story was the time I had sex outdoors.  We drove up through a quiet neighborhood, and found a dark area without any street lights.  I parked and we started making out, but after 15 minutes or so, I decided we should re-park again somewhere else to be safe, in case anyone was watching.  I drove up a bit more and spotted a very dark area ahead of us, which turned out to be a neighborhood baseball field.

Well, we were in the shadows just off third base, and by this point we were well past third base, if you catch my drift.  It was July 4th weekend, and fireworks were going off above us nearby.  It was all so perfect, until I saw the other lights nearby: police car lights by my car.  Oh.  My.  God!  Let me tell you something.  You have never seen pants get pulled up so quickly, or blood stop rushing to certain body parts.  I'm a good actor when I want to be, so I was over there fairly quickly, and acting calm and cool.  "Hey officer, is there a problem?"  "Is this your car?" he asked.  I told him it was.  "You can't park here," he said, and very quickly, very calmly, my date and I were driving away.

There's actually quite a bit more to that particular story, but I will definitely not be telling it here, as I've already gone into major TMI territory!  I have to admit though, there's something really fun about spilling these kinds of beans, so give me a few drinks sometime, and maybe I'll spill some more.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Things I Didn't Say

March 23, 2015
Day 327

Here's a short compilation of things I never said to people in the moment when I had the chance.  Some were sad moments, some were happy, and others just made my blood boil...and it's probably best I didn't reply the way I wanted to.

Oh my God, you are such an asshole.

Uhh, you're welcome!


You are so fucking hot, I can't stand it.

Thanks for letting the door just slam in my face, Reverend Al!

I'm gay.

No, don't thank me or anything.  It's not like I just rearranged my life around you.

You're a bully, and you need to stop!

Would you like to hang out sometime?

I thought you were a dork, but it turns out I only got the 'd' and 'k' parts right.


I'm gay, Dad.

I really like your look; it's really cool.


I'm a huge fan!

You're wrong, Father Francis...really, really wrong.

Can I just lick that spoon after you do?

I'm sorry.

Yeah, just talk to your cell phone instead of me.  I'll just look off at nothing for a while.

Thank you so much for saying that!

Would you like to go somewhere private and talk?

Would you like to go somewhere private and make out?

Holy shit, you are such a dick!  Go away now, please!
 

I'm so proud of you.
 
Yes, I think you're really cute, but why should that affect our friendship?


You're wrong.

I was wrong.


When are you going to fucking realize that your hot looks do nothing to improve the disgusting personality you've built for yourself?!

I really am sorry, and this is going to stay with me now for a long, long time.


Why can't you just say you're sorry?

I love that you two are holding hands.  Thank you for being brave.

You're beautiful.

I love you.


I forgive you.

Please forgive me?

Walk with me a minute.  I want to talk to you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No Crisis Here!

March 22, 2015
Day 326

I've joked around with people several times the past few months that this blog must be some kind of mid-life crisis for me, an explosion of worry about turning 40.  The more I think about it though, the more I remember: I'm happy!

I'm not in crisis mode at all!  In fact, if anything, I'm spending so much time doing this project because my life is so good, and because I'm actually a very happy person.

Being 39 is weird though.  Someone random I encountered in an online forum recently asked me if I'm actually older, and just lying and saying I'm 39.  No, I typed with a sigh, I'm really 39, and if I did lie, I'd probably say 22.  I don't feel 39, and I don't think I'll feel 40 either.  I honestly don't think I look my age most days either (7 AM sleepy looks in the mirror are another story).  Usually though, I think I just look early 30s, and that's fine with me.

So no, there's no crisis here.  I love my life, I love my partner, I love my house, I love my job, I love my books, and I love my friends and family very, very much.  Life is GREAT!  Really!  This blog series is just my way of taking a long, hard look at everything, and I'm confident I'll really appreciate it for years to come.  I sincerely hope you're enjoying it too.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Unclehood

Andy (upper level) on the phone with his niece Lorelei (lower level)
March 21, 2015
Day 325

Andy's brother Chris, sister-in-law Meredith, and niece Lorelei are in town this weekend, and today we went with them and a bunch of other family and friends to lunch followed by some fun time at the Long Island Children's Museum.

We were quickly reminded of two major truths in our life.  One: we love being uncles, and love spending time with each and every one of our nieces and nephews.  And two: we are very happy to be childless.

All around us today, parents were running after their children, and just trying to keep an eye on their kids every second of every moment.  If a child suddenly darted off in one direction, you'd see their pets--sorry, I mean their parents--start chasing after them.  On many occasions today, I'd turn to look at something for just a few seconds, only to turn my head back around and see absolutely no one I knew was left in the area.

How do parents do this?  How do they turn off all personal needs and wants, and live so thoroughly through the lives of their children? 

It's admirable, of course it is.  It's admirable and it's amazing.  It's also incredible, wonderful, selfless, and inspiring.  But that's just not for us.  We like being uncles who can spend time with our little nieces and nephews--even the not-so-little ones--and then leave.  No school to pay for, no discipline to worry about, no other lives than our own to fully immerse ourselves in.

We love being uncles, but parenthood just isn't for us.  Unclehood is its own special joy, and we love being uncles very, very much.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Cherry Cough Drop Story


March 19, 2015
Day 324
-8.6, 110,019 (+9,802)

This short story is far from the most exciting tale I've ever told, but I think it truly encapsulates the kind of year I've had so far.  Sometimes a single moment in time can capture everything you've been going through.

It was mid-January, and pothole season had already started rubbing its sick hands with excitement.  On January 20th, I was driving home from the gym, and hit the mother of all potholes--a crater really, the type of hole I'm certain a meteor must have made--sending my car into rehab, where it laid in my driveway for the past two months.  (As if on cue, once the two months were up and the doctors were satisfied my car could be trusted out in the world again, I had it repaired finally last night, and I'm driving it again today.) 

In the middle of this all, on February 24th, I went to a doctor who treats human beings, not cars, and told him I'd been having on-and-off heartburn along with what felt like some kind of inflammation in my chest.  A truly magical moment later, he told me to take Aleve and Prilosec for two weeks, and the inflammation and chronic heartburn would go away.  I wanted to hug the man.  I wanted to jump in his arms and thank him for saving me. 

As it turns out (at least so far), I only needed three full days of that treatment, because by February 26th, I started coming down with some kind of demonic head cold from hell.  At first I was afraid (not petrified) the Aleve had triggered it, noting difficulty swallowing on the list of side effects, but once I stopped the Aleve and Prilosec pills, and went on regular cold and flu medicine, I realized I was simply suffering from a very bad case of winter.  And it lingered.  And lingered.

This past Tuesday, March 17th, I went back to the doctor for humans, told him my heartburn issue had disappeared completely, but now an annoying head cold and probable ear infection was tormenting me, and just wouldn't go away.  This time, he gave me prescriptions for much stronger medicines which have already made a tremendous difference, thank God...and thank Doctor.

On Wednesday morning of this week, I awoke feeling much better, and went to the bathroom for a quick pee and then my morning shave.  Halfway through shaving though, I was stopped in my tracks by something that definitely should not have been where it was.  There on the right sleeve of the short-sleeve shirt I'd been wearing to bed the past few nights was a cherry cough drop.  It was half sucked, and looked quite pathetic, something that clearly slipped out of my mouth in a recent medicinal haze before bed, and it just sat there pasted on my sleeve like some kind of mutant red rodent trying to eat its way through.

This single moment just completely encapsulated everything the past two months have been like for me, and that, my friends, is my cherry cough drop story.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feeling Lenty

March 19, 2015
Day 323

Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 18th this year, and it'll end at the stroke of midnight on Holy Saturday night, April 4th, so we're somewhere in the middle at this point. 

How much do I care about that?  Eh*.  I don't even celebrate Lent anymore.  I don't give anything up, fast on Fridays, or even attend church.  I'm what you'd call a lapsed Catholic, even though I haven't identified as Catholic in years (I'm sure I'll forever be counted in their numbers though).

BUT...I've learned you can take the boy out of the church, but never really take all the church out of the boy.  I still think about Lent during Lent, and I reflect on Jesus a lot on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  The season always feels charged with change, possibility, and rebirth. 

So today, and this week overall, I'm feeling very Lenty, and I'm feeling the transition from 39 to 40 really starting to kick in as well.  If Lent commemorates Jesus's 40 days and 40 nights living in the desert before he began his ministry, this Sunday I'll be starting the last 40 days before I turn 40. 

Of course, none of that has to mean anything at all, but you know me by now: I genuinely like getting caught up in all my thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes it works quite well to my benefit, and life is more positively charged overall, and other times?  Well, other times I'm bit by the moody bug, and it takes me a few days to shake it off.

So yeah, Lenty.  I'm just feeling...Lenty.  I'm feeling the transition, the change, and the seasonal change too (spring begins tomorrow).  And change is good.  It keeps us in the flow, and the flow keeps on flowing, flowing, flowing all the time, no matter the season, or circumstance, or age.



*I always want to say meh, but I fear anyone born before 1990 has to tread carefully with that one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shetland Ponies


March 18, 2015
Day 322


I first spoke to Andy after he messaged me on a website for young gay men looking to meet each other.  It was June 7th, 2001.  I wrote about our meeting on December 1st of this blog, but I left a few things out.

I was 26, and Andy was 25, so we both felt like we'd aged out of the website anyway, but I still had a profile up, and thankfully, Andy found it and wrote me.  He told me he thought I was very cute, and when I saw the attached photo of him sitting in his dining room at home, I immediately thought, man, he's really cute!  And he thinks I'm cute?  Woo-hoo!

We spoke briefly, but then he had a trip to England planned to visit his cousins and aunt, so we lost touch briefly over the summer.

In September, I got another message from him, and by then I'd temporarily forgotten who he was.  My memory has always been horrible, especially in the online dating world where you talk to many guys knowing you'll never meet most of them...at least that's what my experience had always been.  Andy called me out on it in a fun way, saying he was hurt I didn't remember him, and though I knew he was being playful, I did still feel bad! 

Then he sent me a picture from his recent trip to England, a photo of him crouching in front of a few very small horses he told me were called Shetland Ponies.  I recognized his face then from the other photo, but there was just something extra special about this new image.  In the first photo I'd seen, Andy was sitting in a dark dining room with a large plant behind him, hardly any sunlight outside to be found, and he just looked...a bit uncomfortable.  He was obviously posing in that picture, and though he always looks cute, he didn't show me his personality.  So when I saw the "Shetland Ponies" photo, something very different happened. 

I saw sunlight, I saw nature, I saw beautiful animals unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and right there in the middle of it all, I saw this really beautiful guy.  I saw his face, I saw his pose, I saw his camera, I saw his clothes and even his shoes, and I was just smitten. 

Andy and I kept speaking then fairly frequently for the next two and a half months, and whenever we did, I'd call up that photo on my screen.  I'm sure I even made it my desktop background at one point!  I'd double click "ShetlandPonies.jpg", and look again at this cute guy who seemed so sweet and genuine every time we spoke.

I knew I really wanted to meet this cute guy, and see how well we got along in person, so finally, after a long time talking online and by phone, we met on December 1st, 2001. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sean Patrick on Saint Patrick's

March 17, 2015
Day 321

I've been going back and forth in my head on what to write today.  Do I talk about my father's youth in Ireland or my own two trips to visit the ould sod?  Maybe I should mention how I attended the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Dublin back in 1981, but I've never been to the one right near me in Manhattan.

Maybe, I thought, I should tell them about my favorite Irish foods: corned beef, Irish sausages, and Crunchy bars, or my least favorite Irish cuisines: salmon, Guinness, and black pudding...yuck! 

Then I got to thinking about the time when I was 13 and spent six weeks living in Inchicore, just outside Dublin.  I brought the glass bottles of milk in from the front stoop when they were delivered each morning, I walked to the local shop and said hello to every person I met, and I happily spent a day at the Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park with my cousin Bridie.  My cousins John, Bridie, Hugo, and Jerry are all still over there in the area, as are their children, and I hope to go visit them again soon!  In the afternoons, I'd watch a show we didn't have over in the states called Neighbours, starring an up-and-coming Kylie Minogue, who'd yet to hit it big.  That was also 1988, Dublin's 1,000-year anniversary, so my parents took my sister Marilyn and me to see a great viking exhibit that detailed the long history of the city and the region.

I toyed with the idea of just talking about being a redhead named Sean Patrick Brennan, how Irish my life has been in so many ways, and how much I appreciate and celebrate my heritage.

Or maybe, I thought, I'd simply reflect on the long lineage of Irish writers whose footsteps I know I walk in, whose writings have paved the way in style and background to my own.

I kept trying to figure out what to tell you about today, but I couldn't decide on any one idea, so I resolved to just mention them all.  St. Patrick's Day has always been very special for me, just as my Irish heritage has always been as well.  It's part of who I am, how I think, how I feel, and even why I write.  I'm very proud to be the son of an Irishman from Inchicore, and I'm very proud to say I'm Irish, every day of the year.

Monday, March 16, 2015

More Prize Patrol Stories


March 16, 2015
Day 320

The more I look back on my short time working at Publishers Clearing House, the more grateful I am for the unique experiences I had there.  Traveling around the country in the Prize Patrol van surprising people with money?  Man, that was so much fun!

I got to see places I might never have seen otherwise too, like Flint, Michigan, Duluth, Minnesota, and of course Fargo, North Dakota.

The prize checks we delivered on those trips to Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota were only between $1,000 and $10,000 each, but you better believe we gave each and every winner the FULL Publishers Clearing House surprise treatment!

Everyone got the big check, the flowers, the balloons, and the champagne, and to each one of them, I always had the real check ready to hand off, so they could go straight to the bank and cash it right away.

One winner from the Flint, Michigan area (pictured above left) wasn't home when we knocked on his door, but we heard from his neighbor that he owned a karaoke bar in Flint.  After a few minutes, we had the address and set off to surprise him.  Go around to the back door, we were told, because the place won't be open yet.  He'll be in the back taking care of business matters.

Picture the scene.  My coworker Jack is holding the big check, facing himself, and I've got a bunch of balloons in one hand and a video camera rolling in the other.  We knock on the heavy metal door and wait, but no one comes.  His wife pulls up, and we let her in on the surprise, but don't tell her yet how much.  She waits with us as we knock again, and then our winner finally answers the door. 

We make the presentation, the man and his wife celebrate, and then they invited us in for a drink on the house.  Well, we couldn't accept the liquor, as we still had to drive to our next award winner, but we happily accepted a soft drink and got to spend some time with them in the bar by ourselves. 

Another winner on the same trip (pictured above right) knew we were coming!  We always notify the local media a few days in advance, so they can meet us at the florist's shop nearest the winner (where we pick up the roses and fill up our balloons).  On this occasion, the local newspaper published a story about how someone in the relatively small town had one a prize.  When we got to her front door to surprise her, the woman came right out and told us she had a good feeling it would be her.  She was such a sweet woman too, and we were so happy to make her day!

All of the winners were tremendously grateful and tremendously generous with their time and spirit.  It truly was a wonderful experience having this job for the time I did, and it's certainly something I'll never, ever forget!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The time my mom died...and sent me a message back

March 15, 2015
Day 319

It started in Vermont.  We always went up at the end of August to the house we rent on Lake Pauline, but this time a few of us drove up for Columbus Day weekend.

I remember watching the leaves fall off the trees and into the lake, noting how some had already sunk beneath the water.  I stood there and just mused on the mystery of life, how everything has its season, and then it's gone, or at least gone from one reality to another.

We drove back home that Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, my mom was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack, and she told the guys in the ambulance to just take her to the beach instead of the hospital.  I've since learned people who know they're near death begin talking about the journey they're about to undertake, but always within human terms.  They might reference a train ride or airplane trip, but never anything so melodramatic as a chariot coming down from Heaven.

Andy and I were at our friend John's place when I got the call she was in the hospital, but it was late in the day and she was still just getting checked out, so we decided to stay put.  We went in the next day to visit with her, on Wednesday after work, and though I couldn't have put it into words at the time, there was definitely something very different about her.  I told her at least twice how it was good the doctors caught this when they did, to put in the stents and save her, but after the second time, she had a very curious response.

"You keep saying that," she said, as she looked off at nothing in particular with a smile.  She was basically disagreeing with me in a very casual, non-confrontational manner, telling me that things weren't as peachy as they seemed, and she knew it.

I didn't go in again to visit her on Thursday, because I still believed she'd be fine, and then some time after midnight on Thursday night, the telephone rang in our house.  This couldn't be good.  It was just my sister Peggy and I living at the house at that point, and Peggy picked up the phone.  In bed, I listened carefully to the conversation from her end.  She hung up and then told me we had to go to the hospital.  "Your mother has stopped breathing," was all the doctor said, so we had to get there right away.  What does that mean?!  We didn't stop to really think about it.  We just made some very quick phone calls to other people, asking them to call others, and then we each set off for the hospital.

I drove to my sister Laurie's house first, where my brother-in-law Kevin thankfully offered to drive the rest of the way.  I sat in the passenger seat, and my sister Laurie went into panic-attack mode across the back seat.  I tried to stay calm and to calm her, saying that maybe they just had to notify us all of any problems along the way, but I was really just as lost and scared as she was.

By the time we reached the hospital and got to the floor she was on, I began running ahead of the others.  Far ahead of me, I saw my sister-in-law Tricia and my brother Billy already there.  I ran and ran, and as I got there, I saw them both in tears.

"She's gone," Tricia whispered, and I immediately collapsed onto the floor in tears.  One after the other, everyone else began arriving, each of us collapsing in our own ways onto the floor, on a wall, or into the arms of a loved one.  I prayed to my mom to send me a message or show herself, just as my dad had appeared to me after he died, but I couldn't even think clearly in the moment.

In the hour that followed, some of my siblings made phone calls to other family members from the hospital, and one of the nurses on duty approached me like an angel.  She was a former classmate of mine from elementary school and high school who I hadn't seen in 11 years.  (We're still connected now on Facebook, and today is her birthday.  Happy Birthday, Susana, and thank you for being there that night!)

Soon before we left, someone gave us a small bag of my mother's belongings, and I held onto it for safe keeping.  I remember sitting in a wheel chair out in the hallway (there were so many of us there by this point, and not enough seats in the small waiting room).  As I sat there trying to clear my head, I looked down slowly at the bag in my hands, and saw handwriting--my mother's handwriting!  She'd scribbled something out by her bedside.  I turned and looked at it carefully, and just saw the words, "I love you," written out in script.   

My God, I thought, she knew, and she wrote us a goodbye of some sort.  I opened the bag right away and looked at where I'd seen the words, but there was only a small picture of a heart there, a printed diagram on a booklet describing the stent procedure.  My mother's message from the other side was already gone, but the receiving of it was all that mattered.

I thanked her for the message, as I continue to thank her for it to this day.  One more I love you wasn't necessary, of course, but I really appreciated it all the same.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rainy Saturday

March 14, 2015
Day 318

It's one of those rainy Saturdays when there isn't much light to be found anywhere, and you can't imagine doing much more than laundry and maybe cuddling up with a good book

Well, the laundry must get done, so that's started already, but I don't foresee much book cuddling in my near future.  Today, we have not one but two parties to attend, one after the other, so despite the soggy rain, sunshine indoors will reign!

First up is my brother's annual Saint Patrick's celebration.  Think shamrocks and other fun decorations around an inviting living room scene, and a kitchen nearby filled with foods of all kinds.  Fresh corned beef and cabbage, of course, but I tend to gravitate first to the never-ending plate of homemade Reuben sandwiches my brother makes.  Yum!

After leaving his house out in Lake Ronkonkoma (Suffolk County, Long Island), we drive back toward home in Nassau County and down to the beach!  A friend of ours has a nice condo in a building right on the boardwalk, so he's got a beautiful view of the ocean from his balcony.  Charlie can't host huge parties, but there's always a nice, small bunch of us who get together for one of his delicious home-cooked meals.  Usually a post-holiday party, this year he's calling it a post-post-holiday party, since we never managed to do this any sooner.

So yes, a rainy day ahead, but lots of light and joy to be found indoors from place to place, and I'm very much looking forward to all of it!  I might even try to find myself a small piece of pi.

Friday, March 13, 2015

I just don't get it...

March 13, 2015
Day 317
-9.4, 100,217 (+7,241)

I just don't get it... Why do people share the most unbelievable stories on social media without first checking to see if they're true?

I just don't get it... Why do people make Bitstrips' characters that look nothing like themselves?  You have no hair, you weigh 300 pounds, and you're 47 years old.  Why does your cartoon self look like a 17-year-old skater dude who never eats?  I just don't get it!

I just don't get it... Why do people watch just one news channel for all their information, and more importantly, why do they trust said news channel so implicitly?

I just don't get it... Why don't people see the red squiggly lines under their misspelled words, and do something about them before posting?

I just don't get it... Why don't people let me in on the highway?  The piece of road I need to briefly be on will only be mine for two seconds anyway.  If I'm trying to get in nicely, and I've got the room, why would you ever speed up to make sure I don't get in?  I just don't get it!

I just don't get it...
How did anyone ever thing "a'ight" or "Ima" was okay?

I just don't get it... Why are we so likely to turn away from awful tragedies around the world?  We're like the characters of the movie Clue after several more people are killed.  We look in at a Syrian Civil War in one room, no emotion on our face, then we look in at Isis members murdering innocent people in another room, our faces still registering nothing, and then we turn to yet another room where a plane filled with people is still just missing out there somewhere, over a year later.  I just don't get it!

I just don't get it... Why do people profess to love Jesus but then show so much judgment toward all the people they didn't see at church that week?

I just don't get it... Why do people claim they "just don't like to read," when all day long, they're reading words on their phones, tablets, and computers?

I just don't get it... Why don't people walk faster on NYC sidewalks when it's pouring rain?  Why don't my local towns do something about all those potholes?  Why doesn't my mouse let me copy and paste more than one item at a time?  Why are bank buildings still so big?  Why does a woman's shirt button up on the opposite side from a man's?  Why does love hurt so much?  Why does a damaged cuticle hurt so much?  Why?  Why?  Why???!!!

I just... don't... get it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Your Perception of You

March 12, 2015 
Day 316

Have you ever looked in the mirror at home and wondered, What do other people really think of me?  What do they make of me, who I am, how I talk, how I smile, what I'm doing with my life?

Maybe you don't consciously do it too much, but we all do it from time to time.  We stare at ourselves in the mirror--really stare at ourselves--and try our best to see ourselves 100% objectively.  Maybe we like the results, and maybe we don't.  It all depends on how we're feeling that morning (and whether or not we've even washed our faces yet).

We all have two major self-worth components built into the fabric of our beings: one is the part of ourselves hardwired to self-preservation and self-love (in every good way), and the other is a mess of self-doubt tangled up inside us like an old pile of wires.  The self-love part sustains most of us almost all of the time.  We brush our hair and otherwise "clean up" for the world each day.  We walk out the door without expecting anyone to insult our looks or critique the way we walk--we just don't even think about it.  But the self-doubt part is always there too, often buried deep, yet so easily accessible in our darkest moments, and it's always ready to remind us how tangled up we are inside.

So I like to stop and think about this sometimes: what do my friends, family, coworkers, and other people in my life really think of me?  Do I come across like someone who's got his shit together, or do they see the tangled cords of self-doubt looming just beneath my surface?  Do they judge me for my weight or my age, wonder why I dress myself the way I do, comb my hair the way I do, or why I do this, that, or the other thing I'm always doing?  Or do they feel like I'm doing well for myself?  Do they love my writing?  Do they hate my writing?  Do they not even realize I write?  Do they like the way I speak?  Do they think I'm funny, or too sad, or too lazy, messy, or even scatterbrained?

I go through all these kinds of thoughts and more, and I just can't figure it out.  I just can't seem to see what the world sees when they see me.  And maybe...maybe that's just how it's supposed to be.  I have just the two eyes, no more hidden underneath my hairline or below the collar of my shirt.  I can't possibly ever hope to see through any other human being's eyes but my own.  So why do I wonder so much what other people think of me?  Why do any of us put ourselves through this kind of exercise so often?

At the end of the day, we've all just got to reconcile our own self-doubt with our own self-worth.  Both forces will always be at work, whether we ever understand them or not.  And the one that wins out in the end?  Well, that'll be the one we listen to most often, so listen wisely.  Think wisely too.  Some self-doubt keeps us in check, but self-worth is a force worth believing in.  Believe in yourself, and trust that your eyes are working very well when they see your beautiful face smiling back at you from the mirror!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

This New Gay World

Andy (right) and me marching in the NYC Pride Parade in 2014
March 11, 2015
Day 315

No, heterosexual friends, we're not taking over your world, we promise!  But stick with me here, because this is very important to me.

In the fall of 1997, I made the first of several trips to a gay bookstore in New York's Chelsea neighborhood called A Different Light.  That bookstore was all I knew of the so-called gay community.  I'd take a train into Manhattan, then a subway downtown, and I'd take a deep breath as I made my final walk to the bookstore. 

I'd always have a backpack with me, so any purchases could be quickly hidden away, and at 22 years old, I genuinely thought this was what the entirety of my gay life would ever be.  I'd recently been thrown out of the religious life, had finished college as well, but it would still be another year and a half before I was able to get my own computer. 

As I walked the aisles of A Different Light, I'd occasionally be brave enough to check guys out, but since 99% of them were older than me, I spent more energy worrying I was being checked out (and looking back at photos of myself from that time, I'm sure I was).  On one occasion, I attended a book reading by author J. D. McClatchy, who was introduced by fellow author Edmund White.  I didn't know at the time that these two figures were so important in the world of gay literature, but I knew I felt extremely safe and happy in the building that evening.

1997 was the year, wasn't it?  I really feel it was one of those amazingly important years in the history of civilization, looking back on it now.  We had Ellen coming out on her TV show and in real life, we had the release of the movie In & Out that summer, we lost Princess Diana on August 31st, and right afterward, Mother Teresa on September 5th.  It was even the year Titanic came out in theaters, on December 19th.  What is the common theme in all of those events?  Each and every one of them shifted us from a world in which the powerful mainstream ran things to a world in which the minorities started taking prominence. 

The internet too had gained steam that year, and in the year that followed, more and more people were finding each other online.  They were seeing that the world was not such a lonely place after all, that you could literally find anyone to talk to about any rare or off-color topic that interested you.  Most importantly, more and more sad, lonely gay and lesbian kids were finding each other now once and for all.  (Incidentally, ahead of its time, the magazine XY began in 1996.)

Everything was changing, improving, and progressing...or so we thought.  On October 7th, 1998, we all woke to the news that a University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard had been attacked because he was gay.  He was left for dead hanging on a fence post in Laramie, Wyoming.  A few days later, on October 12th, Matthew died.  It was a stark reminder to all of us that the world had not yet changed...but perhaps more than ever before, it was now time for a revolution. 

I was 23 when Matt, just 7 weeks shy of his own 22nd birthday, lost his life.  I finally got online with my own computer the following May, and my own gay dating life finally began after I turned 24.  Already though by 1999, there was a clear sense that things were finally changing, that there was a new hope, a different light shining on the planet.  Civil unions began in Vermont in 2000, and now 15 years later, we may finally have a country-wide law to celebrate soon. 

This new gay world is still so new!  I really hope those growing up right now in their teens and twenties understand just how new this all is, and how many of us are still so incredibly grateful for this amazing new world!  Even as I write these words, I can't keep back the tears of joy from streaming down my face.  We have, as a civilization, come so far now in just these past 18 years, but we're not there yet.  Beyond the fight continuing here in the United States, the challenges still wait all around the world.  And even then, there will always be the battle of hearts, the fight to help people see this new world with new eyes. 

A different light is shining down upon the planet, and it's challenging each and every one of us to see now with all new eyes capable of feeling and doing so much more to seek full equality in every which way for all the citizens of this one, amazing new world!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

You're not a Christian if you're racist

Circa 1950s London
March 10, 2015
Day 314

When I was a kid in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I occasionally gave into the racist beliefs of friends and family members. 

But then I grew up.

Today, I'm genuinely shocked and horrified every time I hear someone in my family or one of my friends say something overtly, unapologetically racist.  It literally stops me in my tracks every time, and the one or two times I heard it in my house, I warned the people they would have to leave if I ever heard it again.  I simply won't allow that in my own home.  That doesn't mean I'm perfect, or never make any judgments because of skin color, but I do try very hard to keep that kind of diseased thinking out of my head whenever possible.

What I find most startling is that most of the racist comments I've heard are by people who proudly profess to be Christian, who go to Church on Sunday and generally live by the religious upbringing they experienced.  They don't seem to get that you can't be a Christian if you think yourself even a hair better than any other human being because your skin is colored peachier than theirs.  It's not just ignorant and offensive, it's idiotic too.  It makes no sense.  Why would God create all of us human beings so differently if we weren't meant to appreciate the differences and learn from one another?  Jesus would be sick to his stomach hearing a racist slur come out of the mouth of one of his disciples.

I grew up in this world just like you did, and I'm no more perfect than anyone else.  My long list of sins of all kinds is well known to me and to God, and I'm still trying my best to get better all the time, but what baffles me about racism is, most practitioners of it are downright evil in their refusal to see anything wrong with it.  They laugh when they make racist comments, and their supporters laugh too.  It's evil!  And it's certainly not in any way Christian.

I hate being one of the only ones to stand up to people when they do this, so if you're someone who hates it like I do, I hope you'll join me in standing up against your loved ones when they do this.  They need to be reminded you are not cool with it, and in fact are extremely unhappy about it each and every time.  No one's perfect, and we've all got struggles and sins of all kinds, but the first step is surely to see the wrong, admit the wrong, and then take measures to correct the wrong.  Can't we at least start there?  Please?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Updates from the Road to 40

My sister Esther and me
March 9, 2015
Day 313

Just a few random thoughts today...

Today is my sister Esther's birthday.  She died almost two years ago, but March 9th will forever remind me of her and the beautiful life she lived.

My right ear is still not fully cooperating with the rest of the team, so I'm now on Day 12 of this looming head cold from Hell, but each day is better than the one before, and I think I'm almost out of the woods.

Andy and I decided on a place for my 40th birthday party in May, so now we have to start spreading word.  For those who may see this who are not invited, please accept my apologies in advance.  It's just that with all the dollars per person we're putting up, we have to cut off the number somewhere.  Thank you for understanding!

The week before I got sick, I'd written somewhere north of 10,000 words of my third book, but hadn't lost any weight.  Then I got sick, lost 5 pounds, but wrote very little.  Health is very good for writing, and un-health is very good for weight loss.

I think winter has finally left us now, the worst of it anyway.  We have so much snow left now to melt, but with temperatures climbing into the 40s and 50s each day this week, I believe we've finally turned the corner, and turned our backs on a very dismal winter!

I was extra grouchy yesterday at a dinner with friends, all because my head cold was making me feel extra grumpy.  I apologize.

My car's been sitting in the driveway still since January 20th, and now that Andy's car is due for an inspection, we're at a critical stage.  We need to get my car's tire replaced and back on the road so we can bring Andy's car in for an overnight inspection. 

I'm starting...starting...to accept the fact that I've reached middle age.  I promise you, my younger friends, that fact alone is harder to accept than any number along the way.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kitty Care

March 8, 2015
Day 312

For the past few days, Andy and I have been sharing our living quarters with another life form.  No strange occurrence really, as we have friends and family stay here all the time, except in this case, the extraneous life form is a furry little spitfire cat named Ruby.

She's on loan to us from the Museum of Heath and Arturo in Queens, so while they went off to vacation in Mexico, she went off to Malverne.

We've watched Ruby before, so she's used to us, and we're used to her, and of course we love her too, with only two small concessions.  She's an indoor cat, so we have to be very careful when opening our front door.  We also decided right from the start that she wouldn't come into our bedroom, so I have to be very careful with that door, especially if I get up to pee in the middle of the night! 

But beyond doors, the only major change to deal with is the fact that she's here at all.  We genuinely love having her around, and she's certainly become a fun new topic of conversation, but she is a presence to get used to.  Gratefully, she's a very good cat who adds a lot of life, love, and laughter into our already happy home. 

Ruby will leave us again some time late this week or next weekend when her real dads pick her up again, but in the mean time, we're very happy to share our home with her.  She's fun to watch and fun to play with, and she's very sweet and grateful to you when you show her some loving attention. 

There's no additional laundry for me to do, nothing else Andy has to pick up at Costco, and she goes through such a small amount of dishware as well, so she's a very easy guest to keep happy.  No, she doesn't know how to use the toilet or make herself a snack, but I've learned over the years that some house guests need more paw holding than the rest.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book 3 Sneak Peek


March 7, 2015
Day 311

March 7th is the day Book 1 of my Heaven, Hell, and the Planet In Between series begins, so I thought today would be a good day to share a new excerpt from Book 3 with you. 

I've got about 230 pages written so far, with the last 10 chapters still in plotting stage, so it'll be the largest of the three books, but I truly believe I've got something special here, not just with Book 3 but with the whole series.  For those who stick with me past Book 1, you're in for a ton of surprises and adventures!

So without further adieu, I present an exclusive excerpt from Book 3: The Knowing 

“He comes back here sometimes, you know,” God said, and Mary sat up straight at the words.  “What?”  She looked at Mary with a soft, sad smile, then away again.  “He thinks I don’t know, believe it or not.  He thinks I wouldn’t know that he came back to Heaven.”  Mary was in shock.  “God, what do you mean he comes back?  How does he come back?  I didn’t even know he could come back.”  God didn’t say anything at first, just looked away still for another long moment, and then she said, “The door was never locked behind him, he knew that, and I sense he likes knowing he could come in here anytime.  He’s like any runaway child, I suppose, giddy that he can still break into his old bedroom, even if he despises his parents.  Happy to put one over on me.”  God thought on the words a few seconds, and then let out a brief, painful laugh.  “And that’s why I created the system I did for him, for them, the plan for salvation for every last one of them that still stands today.”  She looked at Mary now and said, “If Lucifer comes back, evil itself will end.”

Mary was transfixed on God as she spoke, and even when she didn’t speak.  She was hanging on every word her creator said, and every breath her creator shared.  When a long silence followed, Mary went over and knelt before God, holding her hands in hers.  “Please, Lord,” she prayed, “What would you like us to do next?  We want to help you, to serve you, any way you need us to and more.”

God looked at Mary and smiled.  “I need you to keep doing what you’ve been doing, Mary, and no more.  You’ve been wonderful.”  Mary smiled and said, “Thank you,” and she was about to say more when God said, “But I need a few of the angels to go to Hell.  It’s time we settled things once and for all.”

 
If you haven't caught up yet, here are the links to my first two books on Amazon:

Book 1   Book 2


Thank you very much as always for the support, and know I think of so many of my readers when I write!

Friday, March 6, 2015

My TV is a Dick!

March 6, 2015
Day 310
-8.4, 92,976 (+2,927)

According to my Google search, this isn't news, but perhaps some new regulation recently kicked in, or someone finally got the memo, but all of a sudden lately, characters on some of my favorite TV shows have been using the word "dick" a lot....as in all the time.

Have you noticed it too?

Out of nowhere it seems, just in the past two or three weeks, I've heard characters call each other "dick" or say, "Don't be such a dick," or "That guy is such a dick!"  It's honestly become a constant, and I'm baffled as to why.  Did they not realize they could say it, and once one person figured it out, the rest followed suit?  Or maybe one TV show tested the waters, and when they weren't fined, everyone else started using it too?  I have no idea.  It's just there are now so many dicks on my TV!

I don't know how I feel about this.  Maybe this is middle age speaking, because even though I don't mind it, I do admit it feels jarring, like TV, and the world at large, have just taken a giant step forward, whether the rest of the world likes it or not.  Did my parents feel the same way when bitch and ass were first allowed?  They probably did.

I suppose this was just inevitable.  Give the world some ass and they'll start asking for the dick.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winter's Last Stand

View out my second-floor window at home this morning.
March 5, 2015
Day 309

My God!  What a wild freaking winter this has been!  I guess we've had worse as far as snow totals for Long Island, and certainly worse ice storms in recent years, but overall, Winter 2014-2015 will definitely go down in the history books.

Today I'm working from home--with 8 inches of snow predicted still and a nagging illness persisting, there was no other choice.  I just had no desire to drive in this weather, and because I'm still carpooling with Andy, I told him as much too, so he's working from home today as well.

THE GOOD NEWS though is that today is March 5th, and we've got a spring-ahead time change this Sunday morning, coupled with temperatures each day through next week in the mid 40s.  Winter won't be technically over, but I suspect there's a very good chance this is its last stand!

In the mean time, I'm going to snuggle up under the covers, have some coffee and tea, and maybe even some hot chocolate, and just relax as much as possible (in between checking my work e-mail).  And when no one's looking, I may even get down on my knees and pray with all sincerity, hope, and conviction that this winter just go away already--and take my head cold along with it!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Yours, Mine, and Ours Family

March 4, 2015
Day 308

I'm still sick, but I'll spare you the details.  Instead, I want to tell you today about my yours, mine, and ours family.

Here's the SHORT version:

My father was married with four small children (Esther, Richard, Maureen, and Paul) when his wife Maura died of breast cancer.  My mother was married with four small children (Laurie, Billy, Peggy, and Robby) and 9 months' pregnant with her fifth child (Darren) when her husband died by electrocution at work.  They met at a Catholic widows' group, married, and then my mom gave birth to me (Sean) and then my younger sister (Marilyn).  Got it?  If not, just go back and read again.

As far as Marilyn and I were concerned, all of these older siblings were our full-blooded and full in every other way siblings.  They were always a part of our lives from the time we were born.  Yet growing up, we quickly learned of the history, the fact that the other 11 people in our immediate family were living with many step-relationships.  It hadn't occurred to us as children to second-guess this, nor did we really understand why it was a big deal, but it always was.

In 1975 when I was born, my oldest brothers and sisters were teenagers.  Can you imagine making five kids between 8 and 14 live with four other kids between 10 and 17, and then quickly adding two more babies to the mix?  Neither parent could ever hope, nor would ever try to replace the deceased loved one in the other's family, yet these children had to get used to life with a second parent they didn't really know too well.

Naturally there was a lot of resentment and anger, and again, they were children, so the animosities and temper tantrums of youth were only further exacerbated by the whole merging of families.  My father was an alcoholic, and though his days of ass-whooping didn't carry over to my upbringing, he was no major charmer in those early days to any of his first 4 to 9 kids.  And my mom, who was clearly overwhelmed with responsibilities, was apparently seen as overly strict. 

Personally?  I can't imagine not wanting to fall back on alcohol or order if faced with raising my family!  In fact, were I in either of my parents' shoes, I don't know how I'd cope trying to raise my brothers and sisters and me.  We weren't the worst kids imaginable, but we were far from angels, and honestly, having to raise five kids and four step-kids, then two more kids (or having to raise four kids and five step-kids, then two more kids) would be so hard for any of us to do!

How are things today, now that we're all adults?  Well, my dad died in August of 1999, my mom died in October of 2004, and my oldest sister Esther died in April of 2013, but for the rest of us, it's about what you might expect, really.  Most get along well with each other and see each other often, some don't speak to each other at all, and others see each other or get along less, but with no love lost...which is kind of like life.  We're not all going to get along with each other, or at least not to the same degree as we do with other people.  Yet we all went through the same crazy years together, which makes each one of us an integral part of the overall puzzle, at least for me. 

I'm part of the "Ours" in Yours, Mine, and Ours, so I love all my siblings.  I may see some more than others and even mesh better with some more than others, but I love them all.  They're my family, and they always will be. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Functionally Blah

March 3, 2015
Day 307

Once I got to work and logged into Gmail chat this morning, Andy asked me how I was feeling.  I thought about it for a moment, and then typed back, "blah, but I think functionally blah". 

So far, so true: I've been able to keep up with the work here at my desk, and haven't collapsed yet, which I think shows great promise.  Sure, there's always the chance I'll hit a wall, or the ground, whichever comes first, but for now, I'm functional.  Blah, but functionally blah.

This winter has hit us all pretty hard, and I really thought I'd escaped getting sick, but then it reached up and grabbed me by the throat, just when I thought I was safe. 

I do hope I feel better soon.  I'm happy to be functionally blah, a step up from dysfunctionally blah, but that's still a step down from functional, which is in itself a step down from fully alert and living life.  Whatever.  I don't know how many steps I've got left, but at least I've come this far.  So I'll keep sipping my tea and taking my medicine, sucking on my cough drops and blowing my nose.  And hopefully I'll reach functional, if not fully functional, some time tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lingering

March 2, 2015
Day 306

As my recent illness is still lingering, it seemed a fitting topic.  What else...lingers?

A smell can linger long after a meal is prepared: bacon, toast, tuna, and really all types of fish.  Likewise, the smell of a friend's cologne might linger.  We can smell it on our couch cushions after they've left, or recall their presence simply by walking through the room.

A memory can linger much the same way, as if it's floating in the air, waiting for us to pass through it.  We don't always know why a memory appears to begin with, but when it lingers, we muse on it for as long as it stays with us.

A mist lingers, as does a cloud.  Long after a system runs through or a fire is put out, a cloud sticks around, stretching its arms out wide across the area.

A guest often lingers in my home.  It could be at the end of a celebration or just someone lingering over the dessert selection, but I'll notice how he or she seems to hover longer than expected.

And yes, an illness can linger too.  Whatever I'm dealing with now, a long, drawn-out flu, it would seem, is showing no signs of leaving just yet.  It's lingering like a smell, or a memory, or a cloud, or a guest: just sitting here with no clear notion of when it's going to leave. 

Notions--yes, they linger too, as do philosophies and judgments and ideas.  All this lingering, everywhere I look.  So lest I be accused of lingering myself, I'll end it right here.

Or here.

Or maybe here.

Or over there, or up there, or perhaps...

down here.

Soon though, I'm sure.

Going,

going,

g o n e . . .

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Two Months From Today

March 1, 2015
Day 305

Two months from today, I turn 40, and I'm actually looking forward to it, but today, I'd just be happy to reach tomorrow morning feeling better.

This past Friday was a Sick Day for me, and I called into work with the hope I could recover at home in bed, or at least with a great deal of rest, and feel better.  Unfortunately, it's now Sunday morning, almost midday, and I'm still feeling like crap.

Last night in bed, I was trying to think of happy things and people to help me fall asleep, and at one point I heard/thought of the phrase, "You could pray".  I sighed, then said, "I bet it's nice in Heaven not having to deal with any of this shit."  (My prayers are usually nicer than that, I promise!)
 
Skip or skim the next paragraph if you don't want to read me detailing my current medical issues!

My theory about this little illness is that I caught some kind of mini flu, nothing completely debilitating, but still extremely annoying.  What's made it worse though is what might be an allergic reaction to Aleve.  My doctor started me on a two-week course of treatment this past Tuesday (Day 300 when I saw him, Day 301 when I started), Prilosec in the morning with a glass of water, plus an Aleve with breakfast and another with dinner.  It was Thursday, Day 302 when the symptoms began.  I took the Aleve last night, but with the other medicine I was on, I was still feeling no relief from the sore throat/difficulty swallowing, which was the worst part of it.  I decided last night to stop the Aleve, at least for today, to see if that works.  So far, so good.  The sore throat/difficulty swallowing is 90% gone at the moment, though I now have some slight sinus pressure in my right ear.  I'm going to take only Pseudoephedrine today, and see how I do.  It's always worked for me in the past!

So yeah, I look at the date, March 1st, and see my birthday waving at me already.  I've made such a crazy buildup to it, I know, but it's been a cool process.  If for no other reason, it's helped me see how long a year is, and how much can fill a year in one's life.  Some buildup is good: it gets you prepared for the road ahead.  Other buildup, like this sinus pressure and icky, yucky, head cold I'm trying to shake, is not so good.  It sucks...I hate it...I'm done.  Done complaining now too.