Archive for category Jenn

A Birthday Tribute for MVM

It was difficult to post the clips for this week… that’s right, I’m throwing down with double feature. It’s been a while, and this is a special occasion within parts of the family…

First, some back story.

Circa 2000, I ragged hard on some of my coworkers that were country fans. One of the dominant songs that I had picked up on was Kenny Chesney’s She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy. “Really?” I would ask. Sometimes, I would say it in a really pronounced southern drawl, trying to sound as redneck as I could. I thought it was corny. Chesney had cut several albums by this point, but I think that’s the track that really broke him out into a wider audience and started marking him towards his current style and fan base.

Jump forward six years and there I am, at a Kenny Chesney concert with the woman who would become my first wife. It was his Road and the Radio tour (with Jake Owen & Dierks Bentley as the two opening acts)… here’s part of what I wrote at the time:

Kenny Chesney has a concert “tradition” I guess you would call it. Jenn says that there’s a letter he has on his website [back in 2006, remember, not sure if it’s changed since then] where he says, “See y’all in the parking lot, and see you at the show.” Well, credence can now be placed in that tradition… while we were at the show [in the parking lot, tailgating – we got there right after the gates opened], this John Deere gator comes cruising through… nothing unusual – there had been a couple of maintenance groups and grounds/parking crews that had come through – this one seemed a little different.
     In the passenger seat was a guy wearing a grey, sleeveless t-shirt, khaki shorts and a faded red ball cap. “Oh my god, is that…?” Jenn muttered. Twenty feet from us, no obstacles, it was Kenny in the Gator. He pulled up after about ten yards and stopped to take some pictures, the kind that could be used on his website of for concert slideshows. Amid the mass and photo op, Jenn holds up our bottle of Cruzan Rum [who was one of the sponsors of the tour] and calls out, “Hey, Kenny, want some Cruzan?” He looked, smiled, and started to laugh. That was only at 5pm… the show didn’t even start until 7pm.”

Through Jenn, I had become a fan of his Be as You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair), and some of his more upbeat/rock oriented singles, including some from the The Road and the Radio album. When his Live: Live Those Songs Again came out that fall (2006), she ordered a copy through the KC fan club, and it became a regular staple in the car.

So much so that it was spinning in the CD player the morning after she died n March 2007, and I drove to work with tears streaming down my face as the first three songs from the album played. [To clarify, I was not going in to work, but to start the paperwork process of the aftermath.] As a result, I’ve had a hard time listening to Kenny Chesney since. Even going to a concert in 2007, experiencing the music felt a bit hollow.

I tell you all of that to tell you this: her birthday would have been today, and she would have been 32. Like I mentioned, this is a double feature week. The first selection is my choice of a memorial, since there isn’t an official video for Be As You Are, here is Old Blue Chair… one of her favorites from the album.

And, with the rest of her family and friends in mind, the second one should be fairly obvious once you hear the refrain.

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General Stuff, and Other Things…

So, I’ve already mentioned that I’m stoked that Boston has won the NBA title… but there are other things going on, too…

I have signed up at GoodReads, after reading about it at Neil Gaiman’s site. I’m not sure how frequently I will be updating it… it would take me a loooooooong time to try and track through all of the books that I have read, and have in the collection to read, but I can definitely see updating for the “Have Read” section as I complete books.

The “script” writing group met last night, and things went well… we each selected a prompt idea to work with for one of our July meetings, and discussed a couple of short stories that were submitted. There is another group that I am going to be checking out late next week (which is why I use the “script” label – as we were all in a script class together).

Have I mentioned that Boston won…. title number 17?

And I have been making some steady progress towards “the 300 club”… which I plan on continuing this afternoon. I’m currently working on a script, inspired by a song that I like… more as an exercise for me, than anything else… I’m not quite sure about it being produced (rights, etc.)… not to mention the length may be a little off… on the shorter side… but it’s something that’s been rattling around (for a while, actually), so I feel it’s best to try and get it out… and I have a really big reason to, now.

Oh, and “the Boston Celtics are once again the world champions.”

On a serious turn… really… Today would be Jenn’s birthday… she would have been 28. I know her mom has really been having a bit of a rough patch for the past week…

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Lessons from ALF

[Originally started on 5/20/08]
Where I talk about “the purge” and “sharing things” – specifically stuffed animals, etc.

I have purchased a house. A townhouse, actually, but a residence nonetheless. MC & I have purchased this together, and started moving at the beginning of May. We have since cleared her from her place, had four rooms painted and (as I am writing this) had some Ikea bookcases delivered (that just need to be assembled and placed).

Our garage now has a lot of “stuff” in it, and is currently more storage than “a place to keep a car”. And there is still a bit more stuff to come. At least, initially. I have been in the “old” house for almost nine years. Add into my stuff everything that I acquired with Jenn, and that is a LOT of stuff to go through. And my sister-in-law is moving into the house behind me (moving into the “old” house), so I have gotten to the point of just “get stuff out” without really going through it all.

But here is where the post finds its name. I have a LOT of stuff, which I both do not and can not keep all of. And it is the “sharing” of stuff that is the hard part. As silly/weird as it may sound, there is an existing emotional tie to a lot of things in the house. It’s something as simple as “it was Jenn’s”, to the more elaborate issue of remembering the back story of the item, when it was given, why it was given and any similar significant story associated with it.

Which is where ALF comes in, all the way from Melmac. For those that do not recall, there was a 1980’s series (called ALF), about a fuzzy alien crashes on Earth, and secretly lives with a family in the suburbs. In spun off a comic series, Saturday morning cartoon, and various other merchandising – including a line of stuffed ALF dolls.

Jenn had wanted one when she was a kid. She never got one while the show was on, but her grandmother remembered. One day, she found a doll that someone had discarded, and saved it. She took ALF home, cleaned it up, and gave it to Jenn. And Jenn was happy. And Jenn loved ALF.

Some time later, we were hit with Hurricane Floyd. Check the history reports, and see how much of Eastern NC was flooded. We were not (directly) affected, other than loss of power. No flood damage. But there were several around us that did. And one of those families, somewhat connected to Jenn’s family (a student of her mom’s, I think), was one of those families. They had a child that had lost all of his stuffed animals, and other toys. One night, they were brought over for a chance to take a shower (there were several members from this students extended family now staying ina small house) and clean up, and my future mother-in-law was putting together some food and other items for them to take back with them.

And Jenn heard about the boy. And she offered to let him pick from her small collection of animals, to let him start over. And he chose ALF. And he clung to ALF. And Jenn, despite the history of the doll, and the slight pain that she felt giving it up, was fine with it, and happy to let ALF go.

And that is the lesson I am trying to put into play, now. Some of the “stuff” is easy to let go of – the dishes, the furniture, the things that haven’t been used in years. But letting go of some things, even with the emotional attachments and recall, and letting it bring joy to someone else… that is the valley I am going through now. I still have a lot to go through, but thanks to a lesson from ALF, the journey is a little bit easier.

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General Tso’s Chicken

OK, so there really is going to be no discussion of Chinese food beyond this point. I started thinking about “General Update”, but is sounded to easy, and the rest of the title chirped up and begged to be typed… so it is.

I have (mostly) gotten over the writing lull that I was in. It’s amazing what can happen when one actually sits, and commits to working for a specific duration! My sister-in-law had a “girl’s only” “unbirthday party” (for her birthday, but long past the date) last Friday night, which MC was invited to. They made pottery for about an hour and a half at a downtown art gallery, and generally had a good time. While they were “claying” around, I had my laptop and sat at a little bistro/tea shop/bookshop. I managed to push out about five “new” pages for my script.

In the grand scheme, this brings me just over the 30 page mark. For those keeping score, that is about half of what I need to complete by the end of the semester. For those really keeping score, you should know that I would really rather have the entire script near finished… or at least well beyond the base 65 pages that is required.

Of course, the beauty in all of the scripting issues – I have now been exposed to the form, and am (basically) more comfortable in terms of exploring some of my other ideas that I have been thinking about.

Of course, there are other issues at play, as well. Namely, papers. I have two papers due at the end of the semester – a short five-pager for my script class, and a 15-pager for my film class.

I have started drawing my lines in the sand… more to the point, I have retreated to my treehouse, and started closing the door to those that do not know the password. With all of my Easter commitments completed, I am tryingto focus on my academics – I would like to continue in Grad School. That is something that any grade less than a “B” would greatly hinder.

I have been taking a lot of “campus/professional development” courses as well, which has dipped into some of my regular time (at work) that I would be trying to work on my other projects.

And in other news: I have made a dent in my attic, working with my sister-in-law to go through some of Jenn’s things – most of which were things that had originally come from their parent’s house when THEY were trying to clean up their house years ago. There were a few things that I kept from some of the boxes, but most of it I gave back to them. Steph (SiL) was actually able to get some of HER things back, that had been attributed to the wrong daughter, or that Jenn had ended up with.

And, of course, that begets some of the whole “sick double therapy”. It feels good to be getting things out of the house – letting “things” go that have been sitting there for years, untouched and nearly forgotten (thought of only as “those boxes in the attic”, not for the stuff inside them). But it is also saddening to be letting go. It’s money spent, memories made, and snapshots of a former time. It’s the signs of a life that has been lived. It’s a way for memories to be remembered.

I know I am talking a bit about Jenn’s stuff, but I go through it with my own stuff, too. That’s part of why I end up with so much crap, that I have to actively focus on a project, and weigh things out – have I used it/worn it/thought about it/looked for it anytime in the last X time frame? Do I anticipate using it/wearing it/needing it in the forseeable future? What is the relative cost associated with it – could it be easily replaced?

Ah, well. I need to get back to work… I have three other script sections to work through (read/critique) for class tonight. And I have to talk to someone about some stuff at lunch, from which I will be going to a “campus training session” this afternoon. Packed schedules are fun.

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Generally, anniversaries are supposed to be happy events. Days of celebration, or marking the clearing another hurdle on the way towards retirement. Today, though, is another type of anniversary for me.

One year ago, today, I was a married man. Right now, as I write this. One year ago.

One year ago tonight, by ten o’clock, I was a widow. One year ago…

And I am conflicted… between being happy about where I am now, and the outlook of things, now, and a regret over the loss.

But that’s going to happen… at any time… Maybe it’s my “brooding” Scorpio nature…. maybe it’s just “me”… But I still think about friends that I had years ago – some I haven’t seen in as much as twenty years – and have the “what if…” thoughts…

So, today is an anniversary, of sorts. Not really a “happy” one, but an anniversary nonetheless…
Woo. Woo hoo.

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2007 – Year in Review, pt. 1

There are two segments for this post… a recap of my 2007 resolutions, and a personal look back at where I was, going into 2007, and where I am now that 2008 is here.

Here’s the recap for my 2007 Year’s Resolutions:

1) Get my weight down to between 160-175 lbs. Nope. Still sitting around 200lbs, but I do have a membership to the campus Rec Center, and have done some working out.

2) Read between 26-30 new books during the year (meaning – reading a book for the first time). Close – I completed 18, and almost finished 2 more.

3) Finish “Book 1” – the current project started in November’s NaNoWriMo. Nope, nowhere close. Haven’t actually even looked at it.

4) Write 8-10 short stories/articles. Again, not quite. I started some story work, and have done some prompts under “Fictional Echoes”, but have not actually developed anything more substantial than a few scenes.

5) Complete 1st draft of a script idea I’ve been working with (working title: Four Corners). Nope, but I have done some thought crafting – reworking the original idea I had for it. I will also be taking a script writing class in Spring 2008, so I plan on trying to work on a lot of it then.

6) Compete in a 1/2 marathon (there’s one that I’m looking at that’s scheduled for the fall in Virginia Beach…). Nowhere close, but I did start training, with the intention of participating in a biathlon and a 5k.

7) Learn three (3) songs on bass guitar (to be able to play through completely)… (By default, one of them is going to be “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles, as I have already started on it… the other two are still undeclared at the moment). Still on the burner. I would still like to, but I would rather work on and refine my writing, than trying to start learning something relatively new. I would like to eventually get paid for writing, but I don’t think I am at the point where music can pay my bills.

8) Clean my office (and keep it clean)… trust me… it is a bigger deal than one may think… I had it almost there, and it blew up again.

9) Clean & Organize my attic space… a big undertaking, considering the attic has become one of the “catch-all” storage spaces… Still a “catch-all”, and now I am more in the mindset of purging, instead of just organizing.

10) Clean & Organize our guestroom (our other “catch-all” storage space… which has made the room impossible to use for anything else… like, guests!) Again, still a “catch-all”, and also shifting more towards a a purge mentality.

As for the personal reflections, all I can say is that it has been a very wild year…

* At this time a year ago, I was married, and still waiting out my probationary period with my job so I can start doing other things. This year, I am widowed, firmly entrenched in the job, and getting ready to start graduate school.

* At this time a year ago, I was married to a wonderful woman (Jenn), and looking forward to a happy future. This year, I am dating another wonderful woman (Mary Catherine), looking forward to a happy future, with an edge of trying to do more things “in the moment” instead of solely planning on the future.

* At this time a year ago, I was driving an Explorer as my primary vehicle. This year, it’s a Mini.
* At this time a year ago, I was lazily interested in cleaning house. This year, it’s bordering on being a solid spot on my agenda.

* At this time a year ago, I was interested in writing. This year, I am actually starting out with more of a desire – of wanting to sit, ponder, and log hours staring at a computer screen – to practice and home the craft.

* At this time a year ago, I was just starting to “get out” (work in restaurants for a couple of years, and you’ll know what I mean). This year, I have already done quite a bit more “getting out” in 2007, and am planning on maintaining the trend in 2008 – I already have a big trip to Vegas planned in February.

* At this time a year ago, I was happy. And despite all of the waves, all of the peaks and valleys and the emotional dessert I’ve had to go through, I am still in a position to be happy. Rather “zen”, I know, but that’s just where I am at.

It’s fine to reflect on and enjoy the past, and wonderful to ponder the joys of the future, but it’s this moment that we have to live in, and what we do with the collection of moments that will define us.

With that said, there are some things “from the past” that deserve some other thoughts… like books and movies… But those are subjects for other posts…

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Hitting the Books…

Well… it is now official. The journey that “officially” started back in March 2007 has now officially come to a close, transitioning to a new adventure.

Jenn and I had been talking about graduate school. She had taken the GRE last fall, looking into going for a Master’s in Public Health, while I’ve been kicking around (for years) about going back for a Master’s in English. After Jenn passed away, I finally decided to bite the bullet, and signed up to take the GRE at the end of April. (For those playing the home game, and keeping score – I met Mary Catherine a couple of days before taking the GRE…)

After getting the scores back (an 1150, again, for those playing the home game), I processed my application, but I dragged my feet on the Letters of Reference, and Statement of Purpose. Frankly, I knew what I really wanted to say in the “SoP” (I work for the university, and I can take up to three classes on their dime), but I didn’t really think that would go over to well with anyone granting admissions, and it took me some time to really figure out how I wanted to present myself. Of course, there was also the slight identity crisis of “What DO I want to study and focus on?” which is always a major concern when starting to specialize…

I missed the chance to get everything processed and admitted for the Fall (which was part of my original plan), but I was able to defer my application to the Spring semester (thus also avoiding the flushing of my application fee).

Again, I sat in my chair at my desk, pondering and planning – but not actually getting anything done – until just before Thanksgiving. I had attempted contacting several possible academic references, but with no response (quite disappointing, actually). The other side of the problem – my pool of potential academic references that I actually know how to get in touch with is quite small, or easily years out of date.

I did get acceptances, though, from a few of my former instructors that would be willing to prepare letters for me, and I pondered some more, and prepared information for each of them (as they requested) to help with drafting and preparing their letters, getting them the information shortly after the Thanksgiving break.

The end result, is that all of my paperwork came together this week, and I was notified by email from the department that I have been accepted into the Master’s in English program. The paperwork has not been processed by the university’s Graduate School to make everything official (read: I can’t register for classes yet), but I am in the program, starting in the Spring 2008 Semester…

Holy crap… I just realized it has now been almost five years since I was last in college (yeah, I know…) But the real kicker that I really just realized – the last English classes I took were almost ten years ago (I spent the last year and a half of my “English BA” taking Theatre classes to complete my minor.

Well… to change a phrase around a bit… write on!

(For the record… the first class I’m looking at taking, is going to be a script writing class… One of those nifty items in the curriculum that was added after I completed my BA in English… But a BA in English is a whole other song….)… Right…. write!

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What a Difference…

The old saying is “What a difference a day makes…” Well, here I am thinking something simliar – “What a difference a year makes”. Here I was a year ago, trying (poorly) to entrench myself into a NaNo project, while getting ready for a trip to New York… and the nagging thought through most of today has been that this is the first time since 1998 (before we ever met) that I haven’t had Jenn… and to be honest, it hurts.

Now, let me be perfectly clear: I am in a wonderful relationship now. I am very happy that I the “post-March” events have led down this path, and I’m looking forward to the new future. However, and I’m sure anyone who has lost a spouse before can relate here, I’m sure there is always going to be a “what if…?” type of feeling. Like the feeling one might have about an old friend that has not been heard from in years, wondering what they may be up to – I’ll have that for the rest of my life. There are always going to be moments of wishing March 2007 had never happened. Catch-22… such is life, sometimes.

So I sit here, typing, another year older, and some of the events of the past year are still hard to absorb (for both joy and sorrow)… but I suppose only time can really help with the perspective. I can say this, for certain, though – I wouldn’t mind repeating some of the highs, but I can really do without repeating any of the year’s lows for quite some time…

Now where’s the cake?

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Projects & Progress…

We are drawing close to that time of year again… it is almost November, and NaNoWriMo is just around the corner… Last year, I tried, and failed miserably (barely breaking 5,000 words – a mere 1/10th of the quota of 50,000 to “complete” the event). But there are benefits to that effort… I have a manuscript started, and that’s the first major step… actually writing something…

This year, however, I wasn’t quite sure about participating, until I got an email from a friend of mine. His name is Chris (aka: whtedrgn), and we go waaay back. We go so far back that the only way we remember how far back we go is because of yearbook pictures (trust me, I’ve checked, and was very surprised to make that discovery…). Anyway, the point here is that he’s been in a writing slump for a while, and I obviously would be at great risk of roadrash and gravel marks from trying to make the journey myself. He suggeted that we try a collaborative effort this year (thusly making it an interesting 25,000 words each… a daunting project, but much easier to manage individually….). The theory here is also that we can split days… instead of directly writing each day, we could alternate days… or whatever the word count suggests, or the story dictates…

The other key to this plan: the fact that we go waaay back. Seriously, it’s an important piece for the puzzle. We have been bouncing story ideas and other creative projects off of each other, even collaborating on a three-book story arc idea way back in seventh grade (damn… I just realized that’s damn near 20 years ago… somewhen around 17 or 18 years, to be exact… wow.) Mind you, it was an idea, and we didn’t get to far beyond the basic plot points, but it’s something we’ve been doing off and on for years, so it is a natural idea to pursue…

Well… that’s the “project”… and here’s the “progress”… I will be writing… :o) Pending final decision on the project, there will be character development and basic storyboarding, going back and forth to get things rolling. And I haven’t been reading a lot lately, except for online articles/posts… but I’ve been journaling… a travel journal for the Mini (road trips), as well as keeping notes on “patient humor” – some of the crazy things that I’ve been getting over the phones at work ([funny] names, word butchering, and half-listening callers, just to name a few)… So my major progress (creatively) is getting the juices to flow… which is always a good thing for writing…

Then there is the “exterior” progress… I have started trying to make headway in the cleaning/purging of the house… the focus (right now) is still my stuff (and there is/has been a LOT of it), before delving into the things that were Jenn’s, but I’m starting to seriously think about it, and I want to make dents. I want to purge most of my stuff and simplify what’s around me. But often, it’s all about finding the time, which I’m trying to do (and getting nudged into, thankfully, when I’m not to “in the moment”) a little bit at a time…

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Where I Talk About the Ride…

With cycling, often times the pleasure comes from just getting out and riding – cruising past the scenery and just having the chance to explore, and have fun at whatever pace the rider chooses. Well, driving can often be the same way… at least, it should be much the same. I plan on bridging that gap very soon. I plan on motoring!

Let’s back up a bit… Jenn and I had been looking for cars. Both of us drive (drove :o( ) SUVs, mine a 2WD Explorer Sport, and hers was a 4WD Blazer. Neither vehicle is great on gas mileage, with mine being the better of the two since it’s lighter. During the course of our hunting, one of the cars we looked at was a Mini Cooper (simply because there was one on the lot at the time). We talked about it a bit, and finally decided that “once we got some things paid off” and we were seriously looking at replacing a vehicle, we would look at a Mini.

Well, I’ve periodically been looking at the main site ( over the last few months, and emailing a dealer about some of the questions that have popped up. Finally, this past weekend, My sister and I popped to Virginia Beach (the closest Mini dealer to me) for a test drive and make the decision. (Actually, I had already made the decision, but it was more to the point of committing to ordering one.)

Now, I have very limited “manual” driving (having driven almost exclusively an automatic, outside of some scattered moments with some other family cars that were manuals), but my opinion is that to really enjoy the Mini experience (to “keep it real” if you will) it would have to be a manual. So, it has been ordered… all I have to do now is log some miles in a “manual transmission” car before I go to get it sometime near the end of August…

That’s when I’ll really start motoring…

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