Year End Update

I didn't realize this, but I had all of three posts in 2014.  That's unconscionable.  With only a few days left of this year, I feel I have to recap all of what transpired, but to do so would require me to dredge up memories and events that I either wish to keep buried or don't rightly believe are going to be accurate representations.  I'm listening to a new podcast now called The Serial in which one story is told over several weeks.  Each episode takes a look at, among other things, how we interpret the past.  Our memories are built upon emotion and any spin they receive will color them to the detriment of the facts.

Of course I'm speaking of my own emotions and events that happened primarily to me.  There was a lot that happened in 2014 and most of it very positive.  The upswing toward the end of the year is a welcome change to the calamity and moral destitution that marked the year prior.

So without further ado and with as much flair as I can muster, here are some high points.

As previously chronicled, Cheryl is reaching the end of her masters program.  She's been working very diligently on her thesis, lecturing, grading, reading, writing, and researching.  Yesterday was her last class for fall and now she has one semester left.  She's applied for PhD programs and will soon publish some findings in an area of sociology that has yet gone untouched.  It's a wonderful accomplishment and the family is hoping she doesn't explode before it's all done.  Her insurance won't cover Mental Detonation by Graduate Studies.

Rowan has collected a lot of hardware this year as well as two official boyfriends (not simultaneously).  She recently won All Star Cast for her UIL One Act performance, and won a spot on the UIL District Band for her oboe playing.  Her grades are still quite good, and while she lets things slip, she's always apparently able to make things up and right the ship.  She's the captain of her kickstart demo team and recently passed her belt testing.  She continues to be an amazing musician and spends most of her days either texting friends or playing one of three instruments for fun.

Gregory (or Greg as he's wont to be called) has become a bit of a chess fiend and an engineering nut.  His grades are fantastic and his mathematical and problems solving mind continues to amaze us.  While I was spending a few sick days playing Dragon Age, he was in my room building six different sized Poke-balls with accompanying Pikachus.  He's built more with my Lego than I have - something I mean to rectify for my own sanity and ego.  But for him I am really thrilled to see him doing so much with his mind and hands.  He still hasn't beat me at chess, but not for lack of trying.  He continues to enjoy scouts while he's involved, but getting him out of the house requires a bit more enthusiastic encouragement.

Both kids are still being medicated for brain chemistry issues.  Rowan is also going to therapy for anxiety.  It seems to be helping, but she does have moments when she breaks down for no reason.  As someone who was a bit of a slacker in middle school, I'm a bit awe struck by how much she has on her plate.  I don't remember being that involved and having that much to do and THEN have to come up to such a busy family.  I'm developing anxiety just thinking about it.  Both kids are complaining of lack of sleep as well, and before I read to much into that, I have to remind myself (and other parents) that they are children and children both require a lot of sleep and constantly fight you on getting that sleep.  These next few years will be exciting.

This year has also seen some increased physical activity.  Clair has run a few half marathons, in fact.  At one point she flew to Colorado to run 13 miles in Estes Park.  I used to camp there as a kid and I had to remind her that it's about seven thousand feet above us in Austin.  She did well and continues to be the healthy member of the family.

As for me, 2014 was what coaches like to call a rebuilding year.  I dated a little, I tried new things, new foods, and went on a few adventures I probably normally wouldn't have.  I made a few new friends, possibly lost a few, had my heart smashed a bit, and my liver beg for mercy.  I'm seeing someone new, have been for a few months, and it's very promising.  I hope I don't mess it up.  Didn't build or buy much Lego, but I got really good at singing karaoke.  Whether or not you think I have a good voice, I may be addicted to singing.  It's one of the things I'll miss when my voice eventually fails due to age.  I love singing, in the karaoke bar, in the car, at home.  If I could just speak to people in song, I would.  But then I'd be living in my own musical and would possible be put away for observation.

I still haven't found the muse for drawing.  I keep throwing myself into situations that would require a bit of artistry, but nothing ever comes of it.  The movie thing never amounted to more than a few sketches no matter how much I tried.  I received almost zero orders for robots.  The character designs for my friend's comic just didn't inspire me to do more of them.  I felt like I was looking for reasons to draw and it wasn't for the love of drawing.  There's also the chance I got burned a little from drawings I've done.  There's a lot that's still bruised from last year and it could be that drawing is just one of those things for which I have to be patient and let it come back on its own when its ready.

I recently watched a video of Kim Jung Gi, arguably the most skilled illustrator in the world right now, and it made me want to take all my old artwork, pencils, brushes, paints, markers, and other tools, put them all in a box, take that box into a field, cover it in gasoline, light it on fire, and then bury the ashes.  I've been drawing my whole life and not only was I not inspired by seeing his work, I was physically ill thinking of how much improvement lay before me.  I didn't feel hopeful at the challenge, I felt defeated.  It suddenly turned into a game of who could be best and it was just me against every other artist in the world and I lost.


There's a Christmas card that needs to be done and I'm running out of time.  Deadlines tend to force the creative juices to flow a little more readily.  It might be a needed jump start.

Who's ready for The Hobbit?


Liebster Awards

5.  If you had to rename your blog, what would you call it?
I'm not entirely sure.  That would imply I'm not happy with it's current name, or I'm competing to have a better name as a web address.  I actually like Life In Austin and it suits the random nature of the site.  It's about someone living in Austin, their thoughts, reactions, announcements, and interactions with the surrounding city.
Strength 9, Intelligence 8, Wisdom 6, Dexterity 11, Constitution 9, Charisma 12.
I think I would end up being a Wizard.  I like playing fighting dwarf tanks so I can just kick open doors and spring traps that the rest of my party fights off.  But I also like the idea of hanging back and throwing giant blue fireballs at things.

So, I'm not sure what to make of this.  Life In Austin was nominated by an online collaborator/friend who I know from doing writing and art and editing duties for a web comic (anyone remember ASJ41?)  Anyway, he was very cool in nominating my blog for this award, which is apparently a kind of pay-it-forward type of thing where bloggers recognize their contemporaries.  I like the idea but I'm just not sure still why he thought mine was a good fit.

This is the humility folks.

I think there's a whole process to being nominated, including recommending other blogs that you read.  Sadly I don't read as many blogs as I used to.  If hard pressed I don't think I could come up with 10.  Most of what I read any more are just feeds from random friends and strangers.  Tumblr is a child with a camera and no ADD meds, Reddit is more about snark than substance and Facebook is kind of a circlejerk, but in the nicest way possible.  (Love you guys.)

So I'll answer the questions and I'll let my nominator Dan let me know if I've done right or if I've mangled this responsibility.


Turns out I have mangled it, so I'll see if I can rectify that with an edit.

Ten Things About me:

I'll try to make this interesting.  Lists are kind of boring if you don't have some exposition.  I feel like I'm filling out a dating profile.

I. I can sing The Nations of the World from Animaniacs.  The problem is, that song came out in the early 90's so there are some countries that don't exist any more.

II. I had a drawing win a cartoon contest in the New Yorker.

III. I eat salted peanuts shell and all.  It started when I was a kid going to Air Force football games.  My dad would bring a bag of peanuts.  I would put them in my mouth to suck the salt off, but then I didn't want to shuck the wet shells so I just chewed up the whole thing.

IV. I have a scar on my chin from where I had surgery to fix a broken jaw.

V. I throw a lot of movie lines into everyday conversation.  1/3 of people don't know, 1/3 pick up on them, and 1/3 are probably annoyed I do it.

VI. I was in a commercial when I was 12.  I won a contest for a local Fox station in Denver and I got to claim my prize on air.

VII. When I finally stopped going to college in Denver, I had roughly 120 credit hours, more than enough to graduate, but I'd shifted majors too much.  Luckily most could transfer and I'm very close to finishing.  Just have to do it.

VIII. I own a lot of Lego but right now I'm sadly doing very little with it.

IX. The closest I've ever been to a celebrity is when Lou Ferrigno ignored me in an elevator.

X. I live in "The Live Music Capital of the World" and I hate large music festivals.

Now answering Dan's 10 questions.

1.  What is your blog about, and why did you start it?

My blog was originally just a way for my out of state parents to keep up with the day to day events of their oldest child and their grandkids.  I was chronicling my life and that of my family and any other thoughts I had about life, the universe, and everything.  I have used it to write reviews of toys, movies, books, TV shows.  I've used it as a political platform discussing whatever cause du jour happened to be tickling my fancy.  And I've used it to hock my freelance art.  In recent years it's use has dropped off because of Twitter or Facebook, but I will still occasionally  feel the urge to express myself in a greater number of characters than is allowable in a single text message.

2.  Did you serve in the military?  Why or why not?

I did not serve in any branch of the military.  Although 3 of my closest friends from high school immediately went either into the service or to the academies for those branches.  I didn't feel it was a good match for me, although I did have hopes of one day being a fighter pilot.  In the end, I decided that spending my college years skillfully navigating the registration and majoring process, exceeding the number of credit hours needed, and then not actually graduating.

3.  Are you an athlete?  What’s your favorite sport?

I am not an athlete.  I played soccer from about 9 till I broke my jaw as a junior in high school.  I also progressed very far into tae kwon do and ended up one belt shy of black.  I've dabbled at other sports and like playing basketball the most.  I would however say I'm a fairly naturally athletic person, in that I have a good sense of balance, coordination, and can pick up new sports pretty quickly.  I played roller hockey for a while and love ice skating.  The older I get the more it's just about staying active so my sport of choice now is running.

4.  Name three authors that other people should spend more time reading.

I've always felt that books are the most private and introspective media a person enjoys.  You can't really share a book while you read it, like you would a TV show, or music, or a movie.  Reading is a solitary event that can span several weeks (or months if you're an avid but slow reader like I am.)  So it's hard to say who anyone should read because the experiences are truly solitary.

That said, I suppose I'd be remiss in not telling people that you should read Clive Barker.  Not horror Cliver Barker, but fantasy Clive Barker.  Imajica is one of the most unique books I've ever read and deserves at least a chance by everyone.

If I had to rename it, maybe Life As A Robot.

6.  When you read comics, do you pay more attention to the writing or the art?
Both, but to be fair, I got into comics because of the art.  I'm an artist, not a writer, at heart.  I love the 90's style of Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio and Larry Stroman and Joe Quesada.  I pay attention to it because I try to pick up tricks on how to improve my art.

Writing to me is a bit of a grey area.  I like to read and I like writing, but I'm not very skilled at recognizing the structure of stories.  I don't see when there are plot holes.  I'm bad at figuring out mysteries.  Most times when watching cop or law shows, I have to wait for musical cues for important events to know what's going on.

7.  Marvel has had a string of hit movies, but DC has fallen behind.  Besides Superman, Batman, and/or Wonder Woman, what DC superhero would you like to see in a movie?
I'm not as big of a comic geek as most of the people I know online.  So my choice of The Flash will probably seem pretty pedestrian.

8.  The game Dungeons and Dragons uses a set statistical block to describe Player-Character abilities on a scale of 3-18:
 -- Strength
 -- Intelligence
 -- Wisdom
 -- Dexterity
 -- Constitution
 -- Charisma
Using the attributes above, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 3-18, with 3 being incredibly feeble and 18 being amongst the best in the world.  If you were a D&D Character, would you be a Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, or Cleric?
Super in depth question for what will likely be a really small, sad answer.  Assuming the scale was applying to humans and not magically empowered humans.

9.  The secret of your success is…?
It wouldn't be a secret if I told you.

10.  If you’re still in school, then what do you want to be when you grow up?  If you’re grown and working, what are you doing now?  How does that compare to what you thought you’d be doing back when you were a kid?

I'm not doing what I thought I'd be doing when I was young.  I'm not a fighter pilot, or world class soccer player, or even a comic book artist.  I work in IT during the day and I putz around with art and Lego at night.  Even in college I thought I might have a promising musical theater career, but when I started hearing about how awful it was for my friends who moved to NY, I stopped going to school and got a job with the city.

Stay in school, kids.

Now Nominating 10 "blogs."

I don't actually follow many blogs.  I subscribe to some YouTube channels and kind of follow some Tumblr feeds, Facebook pages, and webcomics.  I don't know how I'll be able to sort this out.

Polished Pear - Amanda is a friend of mine and this is her editing and coaching site.  She writes on her own as well.  More than the basic editing skills, she works with authors to help find their voice and bring out not only their ideas but an obvious sense of passion that made them want to write in the first place.

Validation - A webcomic about a transgender girl and her everyday life.  I started following because I was impressed with the idea.  I know a couple of transgender folks and it's good to see some representation.

Hobotopia - Adam Koford is a wonderfully talented cartoonist.  While we haven't technically worked together, we did collaborate on a large project a few years ago.

Playing Doctor Podcast - I've been an online friend with one of the hosts at Playing Doctor for a long time.  I've been a guest on their podcast a few times and will be again no doubt.  They take an in depth and thoughtful (and at times irreverent) look at each episode of Doctor Who.

Monster By Mail - Len Peralta probably doesn't need any additional accolades.  He's such a prolific artist that it's only a matter of time before he just explodes into a cloud of confetti and dollar bills.  Although his big thing now is Geek A Week, he's also done comics with some fairly big names in online nerd-dom.

James Hance - Another artist that likely doesn't need a blogging credit, but I just love his style of art.

The rest are kind of the same things everyone else reads or watches.  Mostly random stuff on Tumblr and the typical following of anything Felicia Day or Wil Wheaton puts online.   I know I've left some people off here, Jeremy, Sunday/Mike, Nate, Loston, Shane.  And I've left off my favorite sites like XKCD and Hyperbole and a Half, but I think everyone likes those and I honestly don't have many blogs that read.

For the above sites, I'll ask some questions.

1. What do you find most rewarding when you are doing what you love?
2. What material (book, music, film, etc) has inspired you the most in recent years?
3. Creativity isn't always a lightening bolt, sometimes it's dedication and perseverance.  When the muse doesn't inspire, describe how you get yourself up, how you motivate yourself to be creative.
4. What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome recently, and were you able to turn it into an advantage?
5. How are you pursuing your passion now?  Is it a hobby?  Is it professionally?  If you could change it, would you?
6. What would you tell yourself if you could go back 5 or 10 years that might make you think about your creative endeavors differently?  Would you actually want that?
7. A lot of changes in past years have made it easier to be published as a writer or distributed as an artist.  How as being online affected your ability to produce or connect with the people you want?
8. How much of your own life do you put in your work, and is that something you do consciously or only recognize later?
9. If you aren't already doing your dream job or able to spend 100% of your time on your passions, describe what an ideal work day for you would be like.  If you are doing what you love, would you improve anything?
10. Admit something about how you work that you wish you could improve, something perhaps that you know is just a simple force of will task.



I realize I haven't written in a while.  I seem to only come here to alleviate guilt, promote a project, complain about life, or perch on a soap box.  Truth be told, my day-to-day isn't as exciting as you might think.  In fact, I bet if we compared lives, mine would be just as banal and intriguing as yours.

So it should come as no surprise that there is yet another movement to write about.  Long ago it was breast feeding, then it was the horrors of homophobia, then bullying in schools, now it's how horrible it must be to be a vagina carrying human.

And again, it's hard to talk about this without seeming like a typical privileged white guy.  I can side with all these issues because I have no issue of my own.  I'm not treated unfairly in the workplace.  I don't get profiled by police.  I get paid pretty well for what I do.  I can get married if I want.  No one questions me if I'm taking photos of landmarks.  I can walk around without a shirt if I choose.  If my dick stops working, my insurance will cover treatment.

If I walk home late at night, I don't have to worry about my genitals being a target.

If I dress up as a comic book character and go to a comic book convention, I don't have to worry about being the object of sexual ridicule or "pedestalism."

I can't even apologize for my sex without getting backlash from those who find it egregious that I would assume they need a spokesperson.  It's apparently not up to me to speak for the masses and say, "I'm sorry guys suck."

Well, sorry, but I disagree.  If I'm not sorry about how women are treated (or anyone who's suffered from abuse or an attack) than who will be?  If I'm apathetic and wait for something to change, who will change it?  If I don't stop and say, "No, dude, that's not right.  You shouldn't be going to comic con just to see the girls in cosplay," then who will?


Part of this, I suppose, is selfish motivation.  It's hard enough dating being a divorced father of two who lives with his ex and her wife without also being considered a threat to those I wish to court.  I wouldn't want anyone to feel that, to paraphrase Louis CK, a successful date means you weren't attacked.  Guys, this isn't the Serengeti for fuck's sake.  We have frontal lobes and continually espouse the virtues of free will.  Why are we still allowing baser instincts to control us and turning a blind eye when the object of our affections live in constant threat of violence?

I can understand petty theft.  I can understand greed and desperation.  I can't understand this.  And it's not because I'm jumping on a bandwagon or because I want to feel superior, but it just completely escapes me.  Outside total and utter psychosis, why would you willingly choose to do this to another human being?  Especially the types of human beings you are otherwise spending a lot of time, effort, and money trying to get to like you in return?

So what's next?  What do we do?  I'm not sure.  Talk to your sons early.  Treat everyone the same no matter what's between their legs.  Try not to give in to your base instincts as often.  Use some common sense and courtesy.  Stop objectifying women in art and advertising.  You folks who are my comic book art friends, let's put some real clothes on people, huh?  Next time someone makes a patently lascivious remark, call them out on it.  Say it's not okay.

I don't like writing this.  I don't like feeling like I owe someone an apology for something I didn't do.  I don't like feeling as though the act of apologizing is somehow going to make others resentful and defensive.  But you know what?  Fuck 'em.  I'd rather my daughter and my friends and my future partners not feel as though I'm a threat in anything other than a defeat at Scrabble.  And if that ruffles some feathers, than those feathers need to be torn off.


The Father

Hey everyone.  I'm reaching out to let you know that a friend and local Austin filmmaker Stephen Beyleu is working on a new sci-fi film.  He's currently running a kickstarter campaign to fund a special effects shoot that will be shown to investors to help fund the film as a whole.  It's a small step toward a larger goal.  I've helped with some storyboards and artwork and if you back the project at certain levels you'll receive some of that artwork as a thank you.

You can see more here.

Here's Stephen talking about the project.

These campaigns are difficult to drive so even if you don't contribute, please pass it along to any sci-fi or indie movie fans you know.  The more backing it receives, the higher quality of film he can produce.  I've read the script and the story is pretty amazing.  I'd like to be able to see it come to life.

Thank you!


Exit, stage left.

I know I should write something here, but to be honest I don't know what.  Looking back over a large chunk of time and trying to give it a plus or minus sign is unfair to the experiences you've amassed, as though we're eulogizing.  To make a list, or assign a label, only seems to be a use to us to mark time.  It's comfort food for the brain to have things sorted and named.

Usually I have the journal to look back on and see what happened in a year and get a feel for how things fell into place.  Given how there's usually no great emotional involvement (it's mostly recaps of weeks or months at a time and about singular accomplishments) it's difficult to glean any positive or negative state.  There's also the problem of how little was written in the first part of the year.  In six months there were just a handful of entries.  It would appear as though things were going well all around or that life was just too crazy to put much down for posterity.

All that said, I'd like to erase most of 2013.  I'd almost like to erase everything from 2008 until last Friday.  I know that's not possible, and it's unfair to the rest of the universe to think that way.  I know empirically that there were times in the past year that were fun, joyous, climactic, challenging, and remarkable.  I don't regret the things that I did.  I don't fault any actions taken against me.  I have sympathy for those people who have suffered greatly, love and admiration for those that had joy brought into their lives, and gratitude for the breadth of kindness that was supremely evident not just to me, but anyone who needed it.  Loss, pain, sickness, and unwanted change seemed to be a prevalent theme in the past year.

As always, there was balance.  The good with the bad, the yin with the yang.  For all the actions, there wasn't always and equal and opposite reaction.  But in the end, the net result was one of equilibrium.  Such is the way of the universe.

I am not going to make any resolutions in 2014 save one; that I will not set any expectations.  If there has been anything I've taken away from the past year, it's that you are only in control of your own actions and your own mind.  Expecting something from anyone or anything else only creates disappointment and life is entirely too short to be wishing something would happen.  Life is too wonderful and precious to have your vision clouded by false hope or crippling regret.

A friend recently told me that, among other things, taking chances, making your feelings known, expressing yourself, and finding ways to make yourself happy are things you should own.  One should feel no shame or regret in letting the world know how you're feeling or what you want.  Above all else, you have to love yourself, otherwise there would be very little in the world that you could truly appreciate.  This sentiment reminds me of inmates finding religion.  When all else is removed from a life, all that's left is faith, self, and love.

As someone who prides themselves on being a Pleaser, this is going to be drastic change.  I've always been more concerned about the happiness of others above my own.  It's only recently that I've begun speaking out when something doesn't feel right or DOES feel right.  It's going to take some fine tuning because I don't know how to do it.  I'm still too tied into how it might affect other people.  I have a feeling I might lose friends, but if I understand this right, that loss won't bother me.

I realize this has been a very introspective entry.  There is no doubt that the past year was full of events that shaped a great many of my friends and family.  I'm not so solipsistic to completely ignore the accomplishments and defeats of others.  Even in my close circle of friends and family, life changed drastically this past year.  It was indeed a challenge for most and I hope they received the recognition or support they were due or was needed.  I'm also very grateful to the new friends I've made and I hope they are lasting friendships and ones that grow deeper and stronger over time.

And to you, dear reader, I wish the best for you in the new year.  We're in an age that is seeing sweeping social change.  There's a great sense of a more intertwined social consciousness and I hope we're all able to take advantage of that.  There's a lot of good in this world.  For myself and all of you, I hope we can find it.


On the Subject of Thanks

A friend gave us a challenge:  Write about something for which you are thankful that is not your friends, family, significant other, or how good the turkey is.  Challenge accepted.

For the past few months I've come to rely on a few things.  These things have been there for me without question or reservation and have ensured that I get through each day if not with a smile than a least not with a crippling desire to curl up into a ball and disappear.

Netflix - I'm so thankful you exist.  Not only are you a great service that's readily available to people with good download speed, but you have shows that are comfort food to me in dark and sad times.  I'm also thankful I can binge watch newer shows and remain at least somewhat caught up with the rest of the world.

CapMetro - Thank you for being reliable, clean, and available in most places I need to go.  I've rarely had problems with you.  You get me to work and back home again.  You have AC when it's hot and a heater when it's cold.  My life would be a mess if it wasn't for you so thank you.

The Printed Word - In as much as I love a good TV show or movie or time spent playing games, I know I'll always end my day with a book.  Thank you for being there to distract me, teach me, entertain me, and keep me company.  Thank you for firing my synapses in a way no other media can.  I consider myself very lucky to have read as much in this life as I have and am anxiously anticipating all the reading left to do.

Karaoke - To all the KJs out there, bless you.  How else can aspiration-less musical theater majors get their fix?  I will blow out my vocal chords singing in the car and I'm thankful to you for giving me an audience in front of which I can embarrass myself.

Reddit - Thank you for being an outlet for me for the past few months.  I caught a lot of negativity for my specific situation, but through you I was able to offer advice to others and in doing so found the strength and course of action I needed to help myself as well.  You're a fickle beast of a community but I'm glad I was able to find a new way to vent and be sad or depressed without worrying about who was seeing it.

The gym at my office - Thank you for having a stationary bike and a shower.  I've lost weight this year and I feel better about myself all without having to pay an expensive monthly contract.

Now, I reserve the right to say a little about my friends and family.  There are those of you who were incredibly kind to me this year.  There are those that defended me, propped me up, bought me drinks and food, kept me entertained, and generally were just there when needed.  Of all the years I've celebrated Thanksgiving, this is the one in which I'm most thankful for all of you.  In fact, I just can't thank you enough.  I'd name you individually but I don't want people to feel left out if I forget someone.  Let's just leave it at, "You know who you are."  You know what you've done and how much you mean to me.  If you don't, I'll work harder telling you.

I'm also grateful for all the new friends I've made this year.  I'm really looking forward to having fun with you and being in your support group if the need arises.

Thank you all, and happy Thanksgiving.


Full Beard Gone

2013 is starting to wrap up and the next few weeks promise to be busy.  There are holidays, concerts, weddings, parties, movie and TV events, school functions.  There comes a point where you have to just decline invitations and not feel bad about it.  Better to be polite early than double book and have to back out later like a chump.

That said, I'm excited for all that's left of this year.  I'll be going up to Colorado to visit my family for Thanksgiving and although it'll be another whirlwind trip it should prove to be enjoyable.  I miss the cold and the mountains and the snow.  As much as I love Austin I do wish sometimes we'd get a little chillier.  There's supposed to be a freeze tonight so it's not like we don't get that bitter weather at all.  There just aren't any days where you can stay inside and drink hot chocolate and watch TV because you're either snowed in or it's just to cold to even think.  I know my dad and brother hates the cold and will think me crazy.  I'm surprised either hasn't moved.

The kids are both doing well.  Behavior issues are always a problem but for the most part they are good kids.  They are active, they get good grades, and they don't get in trouble at school.  Rowan's oboe playing is fantastic; she is really skilled musically.  Her progress in Kickstart is also amazing.  She won a first place in her forms competition and third in sparring at their city competition.  She can then move to regional and then state.  She had a disappointing performance for her state band audition, but she's bounced back and is looking forward to the band trips and competing again next year.

Gregory is still in scouts and is turning out to be a pretty awesome one at that.  Each meeting he tends to be the one who is the most focused and tries to take charge of the other kids.  He mastered his knots really quickly and at times has a rapacious desire for knowledge.  He has a science fair project coming up and he wants to recreate lightening.  He's also in Destination Imagination again where he has emerged as the dominate personality and likely team leader.  Considering what he's gone through with his ADD over the summer, I couldn't be more proud of him.  By the way, he apparently inherited my gorgeous but defective eyes.

The ladies are doing well, though Cheryl is a bit stressed as we approach the end of her first semester as a grad student.  She has a lot of papers to write and is constantly challenged by the level of work her students submit.  Still, the two of them do take the opportunities to travel and visit family and work on the house.  In fact, this week will see the end of the carpet in the main rooms.  Hardwood flooring is being put in mainly to combat the constant need to clean pet stains.  We're all concerned that the noise level will jump exponentially but with some well placed rugs that may not be much of an issue.  My room may need an actual wall put in, but that's for later.  I haven't had any reason to complain about my conditions lately and would be happy to let the status be quo for a bit.

Charlie is not doing much better with his seizures.  He has them on average every twelve days.  Several vet visits and medicine adjustments really haven't changed the frequency.  They seem less severe and his recovery time is lessened.  I just don't know if a brain can function for very long if it shorts out that often.  He and I still don't get along very well, despite how often I try to get down on his level and really just not let him run away.  He's also twitchy and doesn't really behave well with anyone.  I know he's not being a jerk to me personally, but of everyone in the house, I seem to be handling it the poorest.  Still, he's an adorable dog and when he's fully within himself he's very sweet and playful.  I hope he doesn't suffer like this for much longer.

That's about it.  I'm sadly not drawing as much as I'd like.  In fact, I've been watching a lot of TV and going out as much as I can, but the artistic and Lego stuff has kind of ground to a halt.  I haven't had a robot drawing in months.  There are a couple projects with which I'm involved but I can't seem to drum up the needed drive to sit at the table and get things done.  It's a mix of not believing I have the time to do it, feeling I'm skipping out on being a part of the family, and just not feeling any joy while doing it.  I hope that changes soon.

The cold weather is upon us and there will be many weekends with wassail and chili.  It's my favorite time of year.  I'm really glad this year is about over.  The holidays might be a little hard for me personally, but I have a lot of friends and family which should make it alright.  As if to signify it all, the full beard has been retired.  It was grown upon request and I'll likely not grow it again.


Getting It

I went on a march this weekend.  It was the annual AIDS Walk Austin; perhaps you saw an earlier post.  For those that donated, thank you very much.  The event raised some $212,000 for prevention and care of AIDS and HIV patients in central Texas.  It was a big turn out and apparently this year was the first year they were able to hold the event in a park instead of a parking lot or sidewalk.  I was glad I was able to take part.

I was by myself and listening to music so I was just able to watch people walk around me.  For the most part there were a lot of groups or at least couples participating.  It was a big mix of age and race and orientation.  I saw some of the most fantastic tattoos and outfits.  It was a pleasant day, the walk wasn't that long and the party before hand was very warm and inviting.  Even being by myself I didn't feel out of place.  Well, that much anyway.  The mac-n-cheese BLT went a long way toward making me feel better.

Despite the reason for the event, despite the need to raise money and consciousness about a disease that destroys lives, the folks at the park were full of life and happy to see each other.  It felt like a family reunion.  So many people knew each other from past walks.  You could tell that they knew each other outside of this event as well.  They would meet later.  I can't believe it's only been a week.  Call me when you're back home.  People had come in from all over the country.  I overheard a couple from New York talking about how nice the weather was here.  The main speaker was from San Francisco.  Dozens of people up from Houston.  It was friendly and it felt safe.

It felt right being there.

Last week while at a local bar participating in trivia and karaoke, I met a couple new people.  One guy sat and talked with me for a while after the trivia ended.  He was with a group but they left; he was waiting to meet up with his boyfriend later.  During trivia they were giving me a hard time because I was beating them.  They kept saying I should join their team so we'd all win bar money.  It was good playful banter.

So after a while of making small talk with this guy, I realized that I can't make small talk without telling someone the last 15 years of my life.  It's really awkward for people I'm sure, but I just seem to figure out how to talk about my family without giving an intricate blow-by-blow of at least the last decade.  And, I mean, it comes up.  You meet a new person, they aren't a pyscho, you seem to hit it off and you want to get to know them.  You ask questions like, "How old are you?"  "Do you have any kids?"  "Are you married?"  "What do you do for a living?"  Basic questions.  Most of those lead to me explaining what I was doing in 1996 and how it led to me being in this bar on a Thursday.

This guy was pretty stunned.  Most people are.  But he asked something no one has yet.  When I told him about how I knew Cheryl was gay before we got married he asked, "Why did you do that?  Why did you set yourself up to fail?"  It was my turned to be stunned.  I really didn't have a good answer.  I fumbled about a bit saying things about the timing being right, her having previous relationships with guys, us having a connection neither could explain, etc. etc.  But I couldn't shake the fact that despite how seemingly good our weird little family dynamic seems to work, someone went all the way back to the beginning to ask why I would even go down that path.

Don't get me wrong, I have no regrets.  (Well, maybe a couple, but not in regards to this.)  Even in light of the events of the past couple months, I wouldn't consider the last 15 years a failure.  There have been hardships and heartaches, but there have been moments of real happiness.  The kind of happiness that makes you focus on the moment and become hyper aware of your surroundings so you can use that memory later.  What happened recently was devastating to me, but that doesn't change what happened the four previous years.  There were times when I was so happy, so in love with life in general that I didn't think it was possible.  I thought it was a joke.  That kind of joy can be found again.  That kind of warmth and happiness is always just around the corner.  All you have to do is be open and willing to see it, even if it's small amounts.

Those people at the march had it despite the losses they may have had.  My family has it despite dealing with the day to day tragedies.  To me there's no setting yourself up for failure, there's taking a chance.  Sometimes those chances pay off.

Carry on.


Snail's Pace

Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Just a quick update for things going on at the S.S. Minnow. (That's what we've named the house on Facebook so we can invite people to things. It's technically listed as a karaoke bar.)

Scooter #1 is running okay. The colder it gets the worse it runs so I'm getting a little stressed about when it gets really cold. Scooter #2 still isn't starting. I have a few more things left to try but I might just call a mobile mechanic for help. It's not that I don't like working on it, it's just that I'm not a mechanic, I don't have ALL the right tools and I'm always worried I'd do more harm than good. We'll see how it goes.

The kids are progressive along standard parameters. Rowan is exerting her pre-teen sensibilities, which means she's getting into trouble a lot lately for having no empathy for her fellow human beings in general and specifically when in regards to her little brother. Still, she's getting straight A's and is one of the top students in her Kickstart class and is still doing very well with her oboe.

Gregory is still a Webelo and just earned his Bobcat badge. He and I went to Webelo Woods last weekend to learn about all the Boy Scout troops. It's a little like a Job Expo where there might be activities or swag to give away but you're basically just getting info and being pitched to by all the local troops. Still, we had fun.

What I like about G's level of commitment to scouts is that it fits my level of wanting to be there. After a little while he just goes, "Hey, I'm done. Let's go home." And I ask if he's sure, and remind him there are activities later. But he declines, saying he's had enough. I don't push, mainly because I'm right there with him. Plus, I don't want to be that parent that keeps their kid in an activity (baseball, football, band, theater, etc) that they may not like. He's still just 9 and has a lot of life to check out.

The ladies are doing well. No major illnesses or injuries. School is going well, though a lot of work and stress involved. Everyone's jobs are okay, so nothing really to report.

We've got some activities coming up over the next few months and I'm excited for them. The first is Halloween. I'll be dressing up and going out, maybe to a couple parties. The kids will be trick-or-treating. I believe soon we may even have a pumpkin carving party again. We've already broken the seal on the chili and the wassail for this year, but I'm looking forward to sharing that with friends.

I'm planning on taking a trip to CO to see the family for Thanksgiving. That should be pretty cool. It's been a year since I've taken the kids up there. (Sadly, the reason for the last trip is no longer relevant and that didn't hit me till just a few days ago.) It might be snowing, but likely not. It'd be neat if the kids could see snow.

After that we have some choices to make about big trips next year. Rowan has band trips, but also a school trip to NY and DC. We've been weighing the costs of just sending her vs. the whole family going and it might actually be a better deal if we all went but not with the school. If we saved enough than we'll be going to DC next summer.

Finally, I'll be walking in an AIDS/HIV walk this Sunday. If you haven't, please consider donating. The money goes toward supporting the care of AIDS/HIV patients in Central Texas.


I'm still trying to write more (that book about my "interesting" life) and do more Lego projects. I haven't had a robot drawing in a while but I'm trying to find some muse to get me behind the desk again. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Carry on.



I can add "cleaned a carburetor" to lists of things I've done.

The scooter repair is coming along slowly.  For those that don't know, the ladies bought two scooters a few years ago.  They rode them a little but haven't since we moved last year.  We agreed that I could assume ownership of one of them if I got it titled and licensed and running.

So I started by trying to get it to run first.  I'm trying to schedule motorcycle safety classes as well so I can get a class M license, but the next few weeks are really full.  I've been driving the other scooter for now because it works.  The kids are able to take the bus to and from school which means no one has to drive them.  That coupled with the scooter also means I don't need to borrow a car or bum a ride to the bus stop.

Both scooters need work, but each new problem is another crash course in maintenance and restoration.  I'm just glad one is running for now so I don't feel stressed trying to get the other running.  However, the other one is a little more stable at higher speeds, which means if I really wanted to, I could take it to work.  I probably wouldn't push it on the highway, but I could take some bigger streets into town and then if I wanted to go out after I could without needing a lift or going back up north to get a car.

So it's offering a lot of freedom.  It's a little hard sometimes to realize I'm 40 and don't own my own car, but that's the way life has taken me.  I don't want for much and I'm pretty happy.  I realized yesterday as I was listening to some techno, drinking coffee and pulling apart the guts of a scooter that life could be worse.