26 February 2017


This is PRECISELY how it went down in class yesterday.
In a few posts here in the Den, I've pointed out that if I could have made a living that would have supported my family, I would have been a full-time university student. Seriously, I would never have left. I loved going to school at the university level (high school, not so much). However, after seeing my share of guys in their mid- to late-30s dragging themselves to class, living in married student housing with children in middle school, I knew the full-time student gig was not for me.

So off to the big, bad work world it was for me and there I've been ever since. Over the years, I've thought about going back to school. I'd had no advanced degree in mind. I just wanted to go back to school for the opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new. I've done some executive education related to my job and even spent some time back on campus (Cornell was pretty cool) but that's been the extent of it. I've tried to keep my writing skills up to snuff through my rantings writings in the Den and I've enjoyed that but I've wondered what more could I do to improve my writing and see where this could take me.

Yesterday, I took that first step to finding the answers to those questions. Having heard some good things about the Gotham Writers Workshop, I reviewed their curriculum and decided to give it a go. I took my first class in more than 27 years when I sat down in a one-day course called Personal Essay Writing. I squeezed (my body is not the slender temple it was the last time I was in a classroom setting) into the all-in-one desk / chair / torture device, took at my pen and a pad of paper (keeping it old school), and steeled myself for a day of learning. What a day it was!

Show, don't tell

As we wrote six different times throughout the day, I was in heaven! I wanted to read everywhere one of my samples just to get the perspective of the other students as well as our instructor. I didn't because I had to recognize that it wasn't all about me. I found myself taking copious notes throughout the day and getting excited about what's next in terms of my writing and the stories I can tell. It was fascinating to hear what the other students had written. I was amazed at the skill shown as well as the fearlessness. Their stories were moving, funny, and insightful.

The day ended all too soon but that spark I felt is now growing. I'm wanting to set aside time throughout the week now to work on a prompt or two. I'm looking at other classes and opportunities to become a better writer. I'm more and more convinced of the power of stories. My new favorite hashtag comes from Gotham Writers, #storieseverywhere. Stories reveal what is common to us. They reveal our good and our bad. They reveal our humanity.

Stories are everywhere. I'm looking forward to telling a few more of mine. When will you tell yours?

16 February 2017

The 27 Club

So who here has heard of The 27 Club? Anyone? Anyone?

If you haven't, either click on the the link above or let me just tell you that the long and short of it is that unless you're hankering to be dead, you don't want in on this one.

Prominent members of the club include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Are you sensing a theme yet? All dead at the age of 27 and sadly not by natural causes. Like I said, not the club you want to join.

That said, since we now live in a world that makes the Upside Down World of "Stranger Things" look like the most logical thing ever, there is another less lethal version of The 27 Club and my first-born daughter joined that august group today. We have another birthday here in the Den and Our Lady of Awesome has turned 27.

I still marvel that I am the father of three well-adjusted children (all credit to their amazing mother) and that my oldest has turned 27. I have to admit though that it's good fun to see her at this stage in her life. Watching her parent her two children along with Awesome is something to behold. There are moments where my natural instinct is to help in that parenting, which usually means laughing inappropriately at something my grandson has done, but I manage to suppress and let them parent. It's a delight to behold.

I am amazed at her strength, her even-keeled nature, and how she still manages to not suffer a single fool gladly. I appreciate how she is such an incredible reflection of the goodness of her mother.

I am delighted that we get to spend this long weekend with her. We'll all be together tomorrow night - the whole lot of us - celebrating her birthday one day late. We are really looking forward to that.

As we celebrate her from afar tonight, I am reminded what an honor it is to be her dad. Being a dad to her, CAL, and The RM is the greatest title I could ever have.

Happy birthday, Princess!

09 February 2017


Not a snow ninja. It's my wife.
(This is not a well-deserved homage to Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the stance she took during the recent confirmation hearings for yet another controversial member of President Trump's cabinet, so read on without anger, if that's what you were expecting)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mother Nature tossed a fast one called Winter Storm Niko at the residents of New England today. Starting at about 6:00 this morning, it started to snow and it didn't stop at all in this part of Martha Stewart's fiefdom until 3:00 this afternoon. While not quite as much snow as we got four years ago to the day in a similar Nor'easter, the 14 inches or so that fell on our 'hood was more than enough.

As the snow continued to pile up through the day, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I plotted our shoveling strategy. I normally don't like to wait until a storm is over to shovel. I typically divide it into thirds - hit it as it starts, then again about midway through and then a third time to clean up the wreckage. Why take such an approach? Because in my mind, it A) lessens the workload in the end and B) snowstorm-related OCD. It's more likely the latter. Today, though, there were two things working against the usual plan. One was the pace at which the snow was falling and two, my back is still not 100% recovered from the unfortunate stair incident that we don't like to discuss. So we decided to tackle it once the snowfall had subsided.

As my last conference call of the day ended, I dashed upstairs to throw on some snow gear. By dashed I mean approached both the ascent and descent on the stairs as if I were a frail 90 year old woman addled with advanced osteoporosis. Ever since my fall, that is the exact way I approach our stairs (or any set of stairs for that matter). Don't be jealous. It was at that point that I discovered my wife had already shoveled through about 1/3 of our driveway and was working furiously on what remained.

I wish that this surprised me but you see, this is how my wife rolls. As I got outside, shovel in hand, she looked up (at least I think she was looking at me since it was hard to tell what she was looking at  in her snow ninja outfit) from her snow-laden shovel and the following conversation went down:

SNOW NINJA: "What are you doing?"
ME: "I'm gonna shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "No, you're not. I don't need you aggravating your back. You're not even fully healed yet."
ME: "Yes, I am. I'm going to shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "No, you're not. Go get a broom and sweep off the front porch. I can do this.
ME: No, I'm going to shovel."
SNOW NINJA: "You're going to hurt yourself."
ME: I mumble something unintelligible so she can't hear it in her one good ear. Because I am a grown man. I then start shoveling.

About ten minutes in, I had my first delightful back spasm. She of course saw me flinch and wince and just looked at me. I was still determined to keep shoveling. I slipped a couple of times without falling and each time, even though her back was to me, she would tell me, 'I told you that you'd fall. You're only going to hurt yourself more.' Seriously, how does she this? I now know why our children were convinced she had eyes in the back of her head. My contributions at this point were borderline pathetic and that's when our neighbors came over, shovels in hand, to help finish the job. We, scratch that, I am clearly the 'old man' neighbor now.

They were there to help me, not the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML. She holds her own in any given situation. She puts her mind to something and she gets it done. She is persistent in a way that can take you by surprise. She certainly persisted with me today. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for her persistence with our children as she carried so much of that responsibility. They are who they are because of her. Our daughters are women who are not afraid to be persistent in their own right because of the example of their mother. I'm grateful for her persistence with me. I get that I am her biggest project (see my insistence to do something that would clearly hurt me earlier today as proof there is work yet to be done).

Persist away, SML, persist away. I'm a better man because of it.