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Life, Loss, Hockey and Baseball — not necessarily in that order.

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

Daylight

First off, I want to thank those of you that read my blog yesterday and reached out to make sure I was okay.  I’m fine.  I’m still here.  No self-harm conducted (none intended), unless you count torturing myself by watching the Cubs trot a couple pitchers out last night that really don’t belong in a game where you might clinch the NL Central Championship.

I suppose this is the big problem with just opening up the spigot and letting my words and ideas pour out onto the page.  For those of you that really know me, I do tend to be occasionally dramatic.  I did feel pretty low yesterday, but not that low.  My poem was more to make a point about how sometimes, in the words of Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till its gone.”  Part of my lingering guilt with Micah has always been that maybe I was too silent.  I didn’t intrude and talk to him enough, even when he didn’t seem to want to talk.  Maybe I missed his call for help…

In a time and place now where many at least give lip service to the idea that they want people to reach out and talk about mental illness, talk about their issues with someone, not feel alone, I think we (I?) still face many moments where we’re not sure who to really reach out to.  And, if you pick the wrong person (people), you too might find–silence.

From the time I was in junior high, I have always been one of those people that others seek out to tell their problems, talk about their lives, seek encouragement from.  The way some girls would come and talk to me about their relationship woes, you would have thought I had some kind of PhD in psychology and human relationships.  In some manner, this has continued up until today.  Granted, now, with over 40 years of life experience behind me, my advice might be a little more grounded and practical than it was at 14.  Being “that friend” has never really bothered me.  I have always been someone who cares about his friends and others around him.  If I can help a friend having a tough time, I’m right there.

We live in a very self-centered world.  An awful lot of people around us are only motivated by what is best for them and those closest to them.  Other people’s problems are just that–OTHER people’s problems.  Now, I’m not bashing taking care of your family first, but there has to be more to life than only caring about those that live within your own four walls.  Where is the sense of community?  Where is the sense of humanity?  No, not everyone needs to donate their paycheck to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, or Mexico City, or Houston, or Miami (or any of the other dozens upon dozens of places that need humanitarian aid).  But you can at least care about what is happening to other people.  You don’t need to offer to sponsor someone’s health insurance in a poor section of town, but you can at least support some kind of plan that doesn’t make basic health care needs so expensive that many go without until it’s too late.  You might be a proud Christian, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny other people the right to practice their own religious (or non-religious) beliefs.

Despite knowing all of this, I still get down when I think about the one-way street that friendships can sometimes become.  I suppose all I can do is try not to do to others what annoys me so much–try not to only ask for support from others, but not ever be prepared or willing to return that support.

…and, of course, keep writing.  This morning, I woke up and found a little daybreak from the darkness…

David

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Darkness

It has been a while since I’ve written anything for my blog.  I’ve been so incredibly busy and/or tired (usually as a result), that I have not really had time to sit down and write out what’s on my mind.

I had hinted in a few past blog entries that I started the ball rolling on a potential big change in my life.  Unfortunately, this morning was when I found out that the big change is not going to happen.  I managed to get closer to the change than I thought might be possible, but in the end, I was not the right fit for the new opportunity.  They were looking for someone with a little different skill set than I possess, as I kind of thought might be the case after my interview, and today I received the confirmation of that instinct.

This should not really bother me.  I understood going in that this might be somewhat of a longshot, and that as exciting as the opportunity was, and as much as I would have liked to be a part of this new direction, the odds were not in my favor.  Still, it burns to hear that you aren’t what someone is looking for.  I imagine the feeling is the same or worse for people that experience that message in their personal relationships.

So, I’m back to square one.  No big change on the horizon any longer.  There are decisions that I may need to make in the future, but for now, it’s all status quo.

Kneeling.  Locking arms.  Not kneeling.  Freedom of Speech.  Freedom to protest.  “Disrespecting” physical symbols.  Hypocrisy.  Something as simple as a silent protest of the way an entire group of people are treated has turned into a deep morass of ugliness.  On one side, you have the President, tweeting insults to professional athletes, demanding that private business owners fire those athletes.  You have people picking up the most recent meme off their favorite media site and blindly running with it.  Kneeling became “disrespect for the flag.”  Kneeling became “disrespect for the National Anthem.”  Kneeling became “disrespect for the Office of President.”  Kneeling became “disrespect for the military.”

Disrespect for the flag.  Hmmm.  Player chooses not to stand for the National Anthem as a silent protest for racial injustice.  (If you are responding by claiming there is no such thing, you are willfully blind and ignorant.  You may want to just close this window and unfollow my blog.)  Those who experience no racial injustice (or worse, perpetrate it on others) cry out that these are millionaires who don’t suffer at all and are being selfish.  Those that believe it’s not okay to protest in any way that makes them uncomfortable or forces them to think about someone besides themselves jump on any excuse to attack the protesters.

Selfish?  Isn’t it the opposite of selfishness to stand up for others?  Just because your chosen figurehead leaders are all about building, maintaining and keeping wealth for themselves (and the wealthiest around them) does not mean that everyone that has money really feels or acts that way.  Players in the NFL have venue and ability to deliver their messages to a national audience–something that the families of black children gunned down by police officers, who were then later acquitted by “the system” of murder charges despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, something that black and latino/latina parents who worry that their children will be pulled over by a police officer targeting them because of their skin color–something these and many others being spoken for do not have the voice themselves that can be heard.

How does the flag enter into this discussion in the first place, except as a diversionary tactic shared by the President because he knows his diehard base will jump all over any such accusation as being “unpatriotic”?  The flag is an elegant static symbol of our country.  It’s more than that though.  The flag is a symbol of what this country stands for, best encapsulated in the United States Constitution and its associated amendments–chief of which, in the Bill of Rights, is the right to free speech and assembly–the inherent right to peaceful protest.

What does our valiant military fight for?  They do not fight to protect a colorful piece of cloth–they fight to protect the ideals symbolized by that cloth.  As many members, current and former, of our military have stated over the past few days, they fight to defend our right to hold exactly these kinds of protests–they fight to defend our right to free speech.  I have not yet read about a single NFL, NBA, MLB or other major league athlete that spoke out against the military or gave any indication whatsoever that his or her protest was against those protecting our country and everything it stands for.  Yet, the President says that’s what the protesters are doing, so those who avidly follow him actively parrot that.

The National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, is another symbol–in poetry and music–of our country and national heritage.  How does kneeling during these bars of music disrespect that music?  I won’t get into the history of the song itself, written by an angry white supremacist…

Disrespect for the Office of the President.  It is as though many seem to think that the President gets a free pass on anything he says or tweets because, well, he’s the President.  He tweets that North Korea “soon won’t exist.”  He tweets that the Klan members, white nationalists and Nazis protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia are “good people.”  He tweets about the removal of Confederate statues is destroying “our culture.”

Stop.  Let’s think about that.  People are so utterly concerned with disrespect for the Stars and Stripes, the official Flag of the United States of America, but celebrate the Flag of the Conferedate States of America–the symbol of a foreign government that attempted to overthrow the United States of America (in part to maintain the institution of black slavery, by the way), somehow does not disrespect the Flag of the United States.

These are NFL players under contract.  They cannot protest at work.  Stop again.  How many of those speaking up against the NFL players (and now coaches and owners as well) cried out over the clerk in Kentucky fired because she refused to do her job and issue marriage licenses to gay couples?  Oh wait–that’s different, they all say.  That was based on her religious beliefs.  So, she should have been able to protest by refusing to do her job and denying other residents of Kentucky marriage licenses, but NFL players should not be allowed to silently protest in a manner that denies no one their rights.

Back to the Office of the President for a moment.  When you see anyone complaining that he is The President, and whether we like it or not, we need to respect him and his office, look back through their Facebook or Twitter feeds to the Obama years.  I’m sure those same people showed due respect for President Obama and his Presidency.  Yes, they’ll have lots of excuses–but it amounts to the same thing.

These are dark times in our world.  We have disgusting growth in hate crimes and racial incidents since this President took office.  We have far too many people that can still look you in the eye and with all seriousness claim, “We don’t have a racism problem here.”  You mention Black Lives Matter and the knee-jerk reaction is, “Terrorists!”  You talk about the well-documented issues in certain areas with police brutality against minority Americans, and their response is, “What about black-on-black crime?”  You have a President that pardons a sheriff that was convicted of violating a court order (given repeatedly) to stop arresting people just because of the color of their skin–even though the criminal case had no actually even finalized yet.  To some, that pardon was past due–he was rounding up all those illegal aliens (who, according to those same people, have no rights).  Congress is battling to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (or as its know, Obamacare), not because they have a better plan to offer, but because it smells of the black man who was in the White House.  The three attempts to get rid of the ACA?  Each one was universally panned by every responsible patient-advocate group in the country.  Each one would have kicked millions of Americans off health insurance–either directly or indirectly by making their premiums so high as to be unaffordable.  Each one would have given states the ability to decide which services should be excluded from mandatory coverage–including mental health care and treatment, coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage for various types of cancer treatment, coverage for various women’s services.

I have days where I cannot read my Facebook feed.  Sometimes it’s because of pictures of Micah, reminders of my late son that are too unbearable to read or view.  However, more often recently, its reading the blind anger of people that do not respect the rights, thoughts or beliefs of others.  Sure, that goes, to a degree, on both sides of the political fence, but far more often it’s one side talking about banning forms of protest, complaining about protests being in the wrong venue or at the wrong time, perceived insults to our country because patriotism can only by on one side.

Maybe my real problem is that, imagined or real, I often feel isolated from those around me to begin with.  This leads to not really caring if people unfriend me on Facebook or Twitter because they disagree with my posts.  After all, far too many of my Facebook friends seem to be passers-by, just watching my posts and moving on.  Not that I ever truly want to find out, but were I ever in crisis, I wonder how many of my friends would actually be there, and how many would just disappear all together.

It has been twenty months since Micah died.  In one day–really, in one hour–I lost one of the most precious souls I will ever know.  I lost my son and everything that he was.  For a few weeks, a couple months, I experienced an incredible outpouring of support and emotion from those around me.  After a few months, the attrition began.  Then I stopped being a go-to person for youth hockey, and the attrition accelerated.  In my darkest moments, I honestly wonder how many people would notice if I simply deactivated my Facebook page and disappeared into obscurity all together.  Some would feel relief–not having to read posts like this one any longer.  A few might genuinely wonder where I went.  Most would go about their daily business…

Treating well
Those that do for you.
Reaching out
To those that listen.

Consuming
Of what others can offer.
Using
The most useful in your sphere.

Considering
Offers only if your calendar is empty.
Tolerating
Those that may offer in the future.

Silence
When they call.
Silence
When they reach out for help.

Silence
When filling your calendar.
Silence
When their participation is not a benefit.

Silence
When friendship is inconvenient.
Silence
When they are gone.

Darkness.

 

David
Yes, I am feeling down and dark.  No, I am not leaving.

Life Imbalance

This morning, it started with a picture.

Engaged in my normal “wakeup” routine of checking overnight email (mainly ads), news stories and my Facebook feed, I stumbled across this morning’s Facebook memory from six years ago: an incredibly happy Micah, showing off his first place trophy from a Labor Day Weekend hockey tournament.  That smile.  That unbridled happiness.  Never to be experienced again.

What do you do when you miss your son more than words can begin to describe, but seeing happy pictures of him turn you into a slobbering, tear-stained mess?

You cry.  You hurt.  You battle to keep any semblance of composure to get your work done.  You try to put the picture and your feelings of guilt and loss to the side, and focus on something mundane like fleshing out a dry legal argument, like writing a brief.  You close your office door so no one else can see the mess you have become (and, partially, so you can just shut out the outside world and get your draft finished).

The hurt doesn’t just stop.  You try to smile, make a joke, lighten your own mood–but no moments of levity last.  You continue to try and put a brave face on, to show strength over weakness.  You head home and make dinner, and try to smile at your loved ones–but you know that, if they shared your morning Micah moment, they too would be miserable.

You even contemplate skipping your chance to hang out with your movie-going Film Club friends.  In the end, you decide that maybe a nice, funny-yet-thought-provoking film and time just hanging out with your Film Club friends might be what you need.

It works–in the short-run.  Movie is incredibly funny and gets your brain chasing themes and higher concepts.  The after-movie discussion is as enjoyable and spirited as always (and the movie’s director and co-writer is animated, happy-go-lucky, and clearly just a fan himself, enjoying a chance to talk to the Film Club).  The after-after-movie discussion is even more entertaining, as half a dozen core Film Club folks just stand in the parking lot, talking about all things film for an additional hour plus.

And then the crowd breaks up.  Everyone needs to go home and sleep, be ready for their Wednesday mornings at work.  You feel the joy and happiness slowly fade, the further you get away from the theater.  Fatigue sets in.

Home.  Quiet.  Everyone is asleep.  You write a short blog entry, talking about your life, imbalanced.  You close your eyes and say Good Night.  You hope for a better, less imbalanced, happier overall tomorrow.

Good Night.

David

Letting It Go – with Idina Menzel

No, sorry, Idina herself is not participating in tonight’s blog post.  I would welcome Idina to participate if she wanted to, but I don’t really have that kind of connection.

It’s been a very busy start to the holiday weekend (for my non-American readers, this is Labor Day Weekend, all government offices (including my own) and services are shut down tomorrow, Monday, as a result).  I think, at some level, I subconsciously did my best to fill up the weekend with distractions.

I put myself out there to actually scorekeep youth hockey games this weekend.  Total number of games I was scheduled to scorekeep: four.  I’m not bitter, just a little surprised and mostly done with youth hockey scorekeeping.  I know the ref scheduler for the nearest rink will likely schedule me for games if I ask, so maybe I’ll work a few tournament games here and there, and I’m going to scorekeep a handful of league games for some of Micah’s old teammates…but I think that’s it for this season.  And, after this season, I’m probably going to hang up the USA Hockey scoresheet and pen all together.

Saturday afternoon provided one of the highlights of the weekend: learning how to sew.  Yes, you read that right — I want to learn how to properly use a sewing machine and start expressing my creativity by creating costumes for cosplay and the like.  From my first afternoon lesson (Thanks Mel!!), I think it might take a few lessons before I’m actually starting to make something particularly special, but I’ve started my way down the path to becoming a bit of a tailor.

After finally getting Avi on her USY trip bus to Disneyland at just after midnight, I came home for a nap–and then headed to Peoria (55 miles away, other side of the Phoenix metro area from me) for our annual state roller hockey in-person Board meeting.  End result, three-and-a-half hours later, is that I walked away as the league administrator AND the Board Treasurer.  I have a lot of work to do over the next week or two to get things set up.  More details on this in a future post…

I did a little light grocery shopping on my way home from the Peoria meeting, and then headed off to a quiet dinner with my wife.  After dinner, it was off to the Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix for an evening with Idina Menzel.

If you don’t know who Idina Menzel is, Google her name.  Most noteworthy to the general public, she was the speaking and singing voice of Elsa in the Disney animated musical, FROZEN (hence the LET IT GO reference).  She originated the role of Elphaba (the green-skinned earlier incarnation of the Wicked Witch) in WICKED.  She also originated the role of Maureen in the Broadway production of RENT, and then reprised her role in the 2005 film version of the show.  For GLEE fans, she played Shelby, Rachel’s birth mother, throughout a couple seasons of the FOX show.

I knew what kind of evening this was going to be when her second song performed was SEASONS OF LOVE from RENT.  I lost it.  Cynthia lost it.  Between SEASONS OF LOVE and an a Capella rendition of NO DAY BUT TODAY, and DEFYING GRAVITY and an a Capella performance of FOR GOOD from WICKED, we were both wrecks for the evening.  Micah was a huge fan of both musicals (as heretical as it may be, even more so than HAMILTON).  When Cynthia found Micah that fateful night, music from RENT was playing on his laptop.

Idina is an incredible performer.  She has a very unique vocal style that makes everything she sings “pop.”  She performed showtunes, original pieces and even a little classic Simon and Garfunkle (BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS).  Not only was Idina fabulous, but her backup musicians were more than up to the task, especially her backup singers / strings section / percussion players — yes, this was the same three women on stage covering vocals, strings (one violin, one cello) and percussion.

I don’t think Cynthia or I will ever forget this night.  Idina Menzel’s music touched us in ways that music normally wouldn’t touch us.  I could feel Micah there with me tonight.  I could almost see his face in the busy backdrop behind Idina as she performed.  Cynthia and I might have held the tickets and sat in the audience, but this was really Micah’s show.  This was Micah’s music, Micah’s performer, and a reminder that certain things will always be about Micah.

525,600 minutes,
525,600 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?  How about love?
How about love?  Measure in love:

Seasons of love
Seasons of love.

 

I love you Micah,

Dad

Sharing Distractions

Simply put, some days are better than others.  Today has not been one of those better days.  Despite a number of potential distractions that could be pulling me away from missing my son, Micah is front and center in all my thoughts today.  I’m going to see if I can write a little, share my distractions with you, and move forward with the rest of my day.

Tablet Flip

I realized a few weeks ago that I was using my iPad less and less with each passing day.  Of course, I realized this as I pondered the idea of upgrading to the new iPad Pro 10.5 — typical for me.  The more I stared at the price and pondered, the more I realized that it really made no sense to spend nearly $900 on a new tablet that I would predominantly use for light web surfing, social media following, keeping up on the news and the occasional peek at my finances, budget and a little light writing.  The tablet gets used on trips — and as a bedtime reading device.  It used to get a lot of use for hockey scorekeeping, but that’s really not much of a factor any longer.  I use my laptop for music and sound effects for the Knights Junior A team as well as any college games I might scorekeep.

The other thing that is constantly on my tech mind is the Android versus iOS battle.  I have owned and used iPhones on at least four occasions.  I have owned two iPads.  At the same time, I have had countless Android phones, and at least three Android tablets that I I recall off-hand.  I get pulled into iOS because, in moments of weakness, I get excited about minor design flourishes.  When I’m in a chart-reading mood, I appreciate the killer benchmarks of Apples’s A9x, A10x, etc. silicon.  In the end though, its real, daily use that signals the end of my iOS flights of fancy.  Sure, it’s great that my iPad Air or iPad Mini or iPad Pro has the fastest chip — but it’s completely unnecessary for the uses listed above.  What I do appreciate is utility, lower cost, customizability, widgets…all the things that Android, in all its various recent forms, give me in spades.

Enter the new LG G Pad X2 8.0 Plus.  $240 plus tax.  Available from T-Mobile for $10/mo over 24 months with zero percent interest, using my unlimited tablet data plan (with actual HD streaming video enabled) for $20/mo.  Small (8″ screen, similar to iPad Mini), light (it feels lighter than my Samsung S8+ phone), small but decent battery (2900mAh), high quality display (1920×1080), expandable memory (32gb built-in plus a microSD slot), it hits a lot of sweet spots.  Is it a 4K tablet?  No–but I’m not sure why I’d need one.  Does Android have a ton of great tablet-specific apps?  No, but at just 8″, most phone apps look fine on it.  What it can do?  It can run Google Play Music for scorekeeping purposes.  It can run a number of easy to set up soundboard apps for playing sound effects.  It can fit much more comfortably in my hand at bedtime or on the couch–or wherever.  It’s a perfect size for airline tray tables that seem to be shrinking by the hour.

Even better — the new G Pad X2 8.0 comes with a magnetic docking station.  This isn’t just any docking station, but a relatively small magnetic box with a solid kickstand, a full-size USB port, decent stereo speakers and an additional 4400mAh battery.  On the plane, it provides a solid kickstand and expansion of the battery to 7300mAh overall (guessing we’re talking easily 12+ hours even with consistent use).  From my first night with the tablet, the only glitch I saw was the “screensaver” feature (kind of like an “always on” while the tablet is plugged in or on the docking station) did not kick in.

First impressions:

  • Screen is plenty bright (had it at 55 percent, and it looked bright) and easy to read — and I have it set at the smallest font settings.
  • Scrolling isn’t instantaneous (guessing this is running on a 600-series Snapdragon octa-core chip, specific series is not identified in the specs), but it’s not particularly annoying.  Running 5-6 apps at once does not seem to slow anything down.
  • No fingerprint reader, so you need to use a password, “knock-code”, PIN or facial recognition if you want to secure the tablet.
  • Shocked that, with the rest of the world — including LG’s higher-end phones — going to USB-C for power, this tablet still uses a Micro USB port.  Not a huge deal — easy enough to find microUSB cables, I just fear accidentally trying to plug in the cord upside down in the dark and breaking it.  (Something to be said for either USB-C or Apple’s Lightning port’s reversibility.)
  • Battery life is OK.  Considering the battery is smaller than my phone (although it does have to drive a lower resolution screen and power a less powerful processor), I don’t expect excessive battery life.  I turned the phone on with about 85 percent battery out of the box around 5:30pm last night, and used it pretty constantly, including lots of WiFi data use, until around 10pm.  Battery was down to 21 percent when I started recharging at 10:30.  So, 64 percent of the battery used in five hours — I imagine with heavy use, a fully-charged battery would last maybe seven to eight hours.

I’ll post a more thorough review after I’ve had a couple weeks to play with the tablet.  For now, $240 seems a more-than-fair price, and I’m already really enjoying tinkering with my widgets, apps, and all the other things I get to mess with in Android.

Your Chicago Cubs

70-60.  Two-and-a-half game lead over the second-place Brewers, five game lead over the third-place Cardinals.  Last night, the Cubs sixth starter, Mike Montgomery, pitched his second consecutive dazzling outing.  Seven-plus innings, one run allowed–on a solo home run in the top of the eighth–and that was it.  This follows up a six-inning, no runs allowed outing.  Perhaps that little under-the-radar trade last year is really starting to pay dividends (okay, Montgomery DID get the final out in the tenth inning of Game Seven of the World Series).  I don’t know if Montgomery’s solid pitching right now will equate to him getting a chance to be the fourth starter for the playoffs, as that would require the Cubs to admit that John Lackey might be better off at home than on the mound (his own words from a few weeks ago), and to take their recent trade acquisition, Jose Quintana, and put him in the bullpen (or, like Lackey, leave him off the postseason roster).  Maybe it will be a matchups kind of deal.  If the Cubs play the Dodgers, who are much better off against RHPs, maybe they go with Lester (L), Arrieta (R, but he’s Arrieta), Quintana (L) and Montgomery (L), and use Hendricks as a long-man.  If they play the Diamondbacks, who hit LHP a bit better, maybe it’s Hendricks instead of Quintana.  Most likely, this is all a pipe-dream, and Montgomery’s greatest reward for the way he’s pitching will be walking into 2018 Spring Training as the fourth starter, behind already-signed Lester, Hendricks and Quintana.

Meanwhile, the Cubs offense continues to be hit-and-miss.  As much as I like Joe Maddon’s ability to shuttle guys in and out of the lineup, it can’t be helping with Ian Happ or Kyle Schwarber’s development to have them only play three, maybe four days a week.  This isn’t even scratching the surface of the Cubs top defensive outfielder, Albert Almora, Jr.  The Cubs are only playing him against lefty starters — which is logical, since he’s tattooing lefties this season.  However, it doesn’t really help him develop his eye or his stroke against righties.  John Jay is a good short-term fix, but the more Joe starts him, the lower his average dips.  The Blue Jays just released Nori Aoki, a noted Cubs-killer.  Wonder if the Cubs might take a flyer on him, at least as a utility outfielder and bat off the bench, needed if Jay is going to continue to start five days a week.

Hopefully the Cubs will get their star catcher, Willson Contreras, back in the next two weeks, and maybe recall rookie catcher Victor Caratini on Friday when rosters expand.  Rene Rivera, picked up off waivers from the Mets, to be the veteran backup catcher to intended veteran backup catcher-now-starter Alex Avila, has not really impressed me in his brief stint.  He doesn’t look very good at the plate, and while he seems okay framing pitches, he doesn’t handle balls in the dirt very well, leading to wild pitches that we’re used to seeing Contreras (or Avila, or Caratini) stop.

The next three weeks are going to be huge.  After the Cubs finish their series against Pittsburgh and polish off the homestand with four against Atlanta, they begin a three week stretch where they play the Brewers and Cardinals seven times each.  Good time to get a nice hot streak going against teams they should beat, like Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

Houston

I can’t possibly finish my rambling without saying something about Hurricane Harvey and the havoc it has wreaked on Houston and Texas’s Gulf Coast.  Help.  Donate.  Put politics aside and do something if you can.  I have family and friends in the Houston area.  They are safe, but they are certainly not doing “well.”

And…

Did it help me to waltz off into these distractions?  A little.  It’s really hard to trick your own mind into not thinking about one thing in particular.  My brain only took a brief break to try and find the squirrel, before deciding that it was a trick–and it needed to again remind me of Micah.  Sigh.

Another day in virtual isolation, another day of spending too much time thinking about Micah.  I suppose I can’t really think about Micah too much.  He is my son.  He was a large part of my life for almost 16 years (more than 16 if you include Cynthia’s pregnancy).

I have had a lot of valuable things in my life.  Almost all of them could be lost, destroyed, given away, stolen…and my life could go on as it was.  Losing my son…there is no replacement.  There is no thing I can buy–not a house, not a fancy computer or tablet or phone, not a cool car–that can replace my son, that can replace the look in his eyes when he saw me, that can replace the smile, the laugh, the tenor crooning.  Nothing can, nothing will.

David

It’s quiet…too quiet.

Isolation.

As hard as I try, and perhaps I try too hard, I find that my deepest moments of depression correspond with isolation.  Sometimes the isolation comes first, sometimes its self-imposed during, sometimes its after the low hits, and sometimes it encompasses the whole time.

We all need our quiet time, moments to be with our own thoughts.  I just happen to find that I need less of those moments and more time around other people.  Not just any people, people that I like, that I’m comfortable being “me” around.

There were plenty of triggers last week to push me in the downward direction, a few to nudge me upwards, but the general direction has been a slow southbound stroll.  Isolation was a big part of the end of my week at work.  It was quiet–too quiet, around my office for much of the week.  There were a couple too many texts, emails and other communications that went unanswered.  There were reminders of a crowd that I am no longer part of…

A friend of many years emailed me yesterday.  I’ll leave our political disagreements out of this blog, but there was one comment that really struck me: See you at the rink!  It made me think–there were so many “friendships” (not necessarily including this one) that were the hockey equivalent of work relationships.  You see each other at a common place — in this case, a local hockey rink instead of the workplace — and are friendly, talk to each other, “pal around.”  But nothing ever seems to really happen away from that common place, no BBQs, no evenings out with the families or just the adults.  Now, take the rink away from this equation, and what are you left with?

I have found a new group of friends to build relationships with over the past few months.  I got to spend time with several of them last night at my new second home: the Alamo Drafthouse.  Alamo hosted the Rickmobile, of Rick and Morty fame, and ended the evening with two screenings of one of my all-time favorite movies, BACK TO THE FUTURE.  I arrived pretty early, as I had received warnings of the extremely crowded parking lot.  I guess that’s what happens when three thousand-plus people turn out to show off their best Rick and Morty cosplay outfits and purchase the latest limited-edition Rick and Morty merchandise.  I spent an hour or so helping with line control before meeting friends for a pre-show bite.  After dinner, I ventured into the Drafthouse and spent time talking up several movie-going friends, before it was movietime.  Apparently several of my film-loving cohorts stuck around until the wee hours of the morning after the film, but I was pretty wiped out after a long day (and uneasy Friday night sleep), and headed home (though not before a surprising hug was delivered in the parking lot that made my night).

Today was another quiet day.  Grocery shopping (while listening to the Bears-Titans preseason game), watching the rest of the Bears game while alternately flipping to watch the Cubs blow a 3-0 lead and lose their second-of-three to the NL-worst Philadelphia Phillies.  (This was a weekend when the Cubs should have been able to put a little extra distance between themselves and the Brewers and Cardinals–but instead, they matched the Cardinals 1-2 weekend and lost a game to the Brewers, who beat the NL-best Dodgers 2-of-3.)  The rest of my day was preparing a yummy ribeye roast dinner and spending four-plus hours with my roller hockey partner-in-crime, Nick.

Nick and I didn’t necessarily solve all the roller hockey world’s ills, but we definitely got a good head start on what promises to be an exciting IHAAZ roller hockey season to come.  We found some things we needed, made a list of things we still need to find, and brainstormed some really cool ideas for the upcoming season.  Nick and I have been friends since Micah discovered the joys of playing roller hockey five and a half years ago.  Nick was Micah’s coach for both state and travel roller hockey for the relatively brief tenure of Micah’s roller hockey career.

The weekend now draws to a close.  Much as it started, I sit here quietly, composing this blog entry, and thinking.  Thinking about the week ahead, and the projects I have in front of me at work.  Thinking about what I might be doing during the holiday weekend to come.  Thinking about a couple projects I need to get done at home to prepare for other exciting possibilities later in September.  Thinking about Micah.

I suppose I will always be thinking about Micah.  His pictures, on the counter leading into my bedroom, beckoned to me all weekend.  In those quiet moments that filled my weekend, his voice was in my ear.  I need to go spend lunch with him sometime this week, tell him about what’s going on–as if he does not already know.  I need to spend time with Micah either way, and at least have him fill the silence…

David

The Little Things That Make You…

Happy

I returned home from my weekly grocery shopping trip today in time to catch the third inning of the Cubs game.  I know–it’s silly that a major league baseball team can bring me such happiness.  The Cubs grabbed a 3-0 lead on a base-clearing double by Albert Almora, Jr.  …and then it was 3-1.  …and then it was 3-2.  …and then up stepped former Cubs and Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero–and out went the lead.  He drove the ball 390 feet or so to the left-center field bleachers to tie the game at 3-3.  I watched the game until Avi and I had to leave to grab some pre-movie lunch.  Pre-movie lunch happened to be at a sports bar/restaurant, so I picked up the game there, as the Cubs brought in Justin Wilson–the man who lost his control when he moved to Chicago.  Seriously, this pitcher was the closer for the Detroit Tigers.  He only walked 16 in 50 innings.  Since joining the Cubs (including today’s game): eleven walks in six innings.  It’s gotten so bad that I begin to see shades of former Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel–who went from a top prospect hurler with a bright future to a full-time outfielder when his control left him seemingly overnight.  Anyhow…Wilson managed to give up two runs in the top of the tenth inning before finally escaping.  Bottom of the 10th, 5-3 Blue Jays…  Schwarber reaches on a wild pitch strikeout.  Zobrist singles to right, Schwarber to third.  Wild pitch to Rizzo scores Schwarber and moves Zobrist to second.  Rizzo grounds out–first out–Zobrist to third.  Baez strikes out, but reaches first without a throw on another wild pitch.  Baez steals second.  Heyward gets plunked by a 2-2 pitch, takes first.  Bases loaded, one out (really three, if you count the two wild pitch strikeouts) — and Alex Avila (the other half of that recent trade with Detroit) singles home the tying and winning runs!  Cubs win, 6-5 in ten innings!  Happiness.  🙂

Next, Avi and I checked out the new Ryan Reynolds-Samuel L. Jackson shoot-em-up, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD.  VERY funny.  Even if the plot might not be the deepest, the banter between Jackson and Reynolds alone is worth the price of admission.  No, Ryan Reynolds doesn’t come off much differently than Wade Wilson in Deadpool, and no, Samuel L. Jackson isn’t really stretching his acting talents here either.  But the movie is pure FUN (with a healthy serving of blood and guts, a high body count, and a massive donation to the studio’s swear jar) and HIGHLY recommended.  More happiness.  🙂

Happy–quickly turned to–Sad/Melancholy

As the credits rolled after the movie, I grabbed my phone to see what wonderous world events had taken place.  An email about roller hockey stuff… Video clips of the Cubs celebration at home plate… A few Facebook posts of interest…

Let me back up a little here.  Before the movie started, I noticed a Facebook post from one a hockey mom friend regarding her son.  This is not just any mom and son, but the mom of one of Micah’s closest hockey teammates.  This is the kid that called both Cynthia and I individually to ask our permission to wear Micah’s 37 in memory of his best friend and teammate.  This is the kid that gives me hugs like a family member when I see him at the rink.  This is one of the few kids that I will go to the rink specifically to see him–regardless of how painful that visit might be.  In fact, this was the kid that I went to the rink to see yesterday morning.  His name is Ozzy.  As you can imagine, he’s a very special kid.

Ozzy was a house hockey goalie when I first met him, just trying to break through from house hockey to travel.  He won a spot as a backup goalie on another team, but found that he loved playing “out” (of the net).  At the time, a lot of kids, parents and coaches scoffed at this big lumbering redhead.  But instead of giving up or going back to house hockey, Ozzy doubled his efforts.  He skated as often as he could.  He took lessons.  He learned from his coaches as well as his teammates.  Ozzy would later tell me that he learned from Micah in their random encounters.  Suddenly, Ozzy wasn’t a laughingstock any longer.  Suddenly coaches that thought he’d never amount to much of a hockey player wanted him on their teams.

Micah played two travel seasons with Ozzy as a teammate.  They became close.  That last day, in the hospital, Ozzy was there to visit Micah and say his goodbye.

Last season, Ozzy decided that he really wanted to take his game to the next level.  Instead of playing “18AA” hockey, he wanted to play on the local Junior A team, the Knights.  Again, there were the distant sounds of laughter, the voices saying that he was not good enough, not fast enough, not ready to take that jump.  Ozzy heard those voices–but once again, it motivated him to succeed where others said he couldn’t.

Last night, after the second day of the tryout camp for the Knights, Ozzy was offered a contract for the 2017-18 hockey season.

This afternoon, Ozzy’s mother posted a similar story on Facebook about Ozzy’s obstacles and his most recent success.  Before the movie started, I replied to Ozzy’s mom’s post, congratulating Ozzy on, once again, achieving his goals.

So, the movie ended, and I looked at my phone.  Waiting for me was a message from Ozzy’s mother.  I read the message — and have been barely able to control my emotions since.  I am so incredibly happy for Ozzy.  I know Micah would be–or is–also.  One of Ozzy’s goals, after getting the good news, was to somehow take Micah with him on this next leg of his journey.  He asked about continuing to wear 37 in honor of Micah.  Unfortunately, the Junior team does not handle jerseys the same way as youth hockey.  The coach pre-selected numbers for the jerseys, and 37 was not one of those selections.  Ozzy’s mother described in detail what Ozzy plans to do to carry Micah with him, even if he can’t keep the 37 on his back.  Perhaps sometime, when I get over this hump, I’ll describe what Ozzy plans to do.  Suffice it to say, it still has me in tears five hours after reading the details.

I am so happy for Ozzy.  I am so proud of everything Ozzy has accomplished, of the fine young man he continues to grow into.  Part of me is joyful, elated.  But another part of me is extremely sad–that Micah gets things like this dedicated to his memory, instead of getting to celebrate the accomplishment with his friend.

I know Micah would be incredibly happy for and proud of Ozzy.  I’m sure somewhere, he is smiling down on Ozzy right now, making plans to be there for every practice, every game, right by Ozzy’s side.  If I know my son, he’s trying to figure out how he can get Ozzy that 37 jersey to wear for opening night.  I know I am.

David

It’s All Different Now

This past week, many of the Arizona youth travel hockey programs climbed back onto the rink for the 2017-18 season.  Paperwork was handed out and collected.  Tournament plans were discussed.  Teammates started getting to know each other — or rekindled old friendships.  Everybody has their hopes and dreams of a fantastic season with a great team, great friends, a great coaching staff.  I remember.  I used to be part of that.

Not any longer.

This week, I watched the posts.  I heard about practices and schedules.  And I sat silently.  What do you do when its too painful to spend time at the rink around the other hockey parents watching and rooting on their kids on the ice, but not being at the rink is an equally painful reminder of what you have lost?

I’m not completely detached from youth hockey.  I’ll have an expanded role in the state roller hockey league.  I’m still going to be very involved in the Cactus Cup Tournament over MLK, Jr. Weekend in January.  I’m probably still going to scorekeep a handful of youth hockey games, although I’ve realized that it will average out to about two games per month.  Maybe that’s the right amount though–to breathe in the rink and its atmosphere without choking on the memories.

I tried it out this morning.  I spent a little time at the rink checking out the Junior A tryouts.  I lasted about an hour, maybe a little more.  I found myself hanging out behind the net, focusing on the goalie, critiquing his performance in my head–making comparisons to what Micah might have been like, if he was taking part in this tryout camp.  I talked to a couple other parents I know that had kids that played with or against Micah.  Very brief, quiet conversations.  After all, what do you say to the guy whose son is gone and not here to compete for a spot or just for extra ice time.

About 75 minutes after I entered the rink, I left the rink.  I had reached my limit.  Watching a game is one thing…getting paid to scorekeep a game is good motivation…but watching kids skate in circles and do drills when your kid isn’t out there is tough.

All the way up until the end, I was that parent that stuck around for practices, watched my son work his drills, do his stretching, always around for support.  I think Micah liked that.  Once he got past the point of constantly looking to me for feedback (you know, around the end of his second season as a Squirt), Micah was almost always happy that I was around.  In fact, when I wandered off to deal with team manager duties or talk to a parent or two on another team, he always seemed to notice–and would ask me after practice where I went.

Now, I wish he could still notice my absence.  I wish the drills featured Micah between the pipes.  I wish…

Meanwhile, I sense other changes on the horizon…

Last year, me and one of my best friends, Pete, decided that we were going to take a few days away from our busy calendars and meet in Las Vegas to unwind, relax and decompress.  I know what you’re thinking…Vegas…debauchery…Sin City…  No.  Pete and I aren’t really like that.  I can honestly say that no strip clubs, late night bar hopping, or massive gambling losses were involved.  We hung out.  We did a moderate amount of gambling.  We spent time in a couple different casino sports books watching football and baseball games.  We had a couple nice, but not extravagant, meals.  I digress…

So, shortly before the Vegas trip last September, I got involved in the competition for the Arizona Coyotes public address announcer position, and then also for the Tucson Roadrunners PA job.  The last day of my Vegas trip was also the day of my Roadrunners interview and audition.  With the end of a relaxing four days with Pete came the beginning of a new adventure–one that I am incredibly thrilled to be continuing this coming season.  So, on that final morning, I said farewell to Peter and drove–not from Las Vegas to Gilbert, but from Las Vegas to Tucson…and then back to Gilbert.

Fast-forward to this year.  Right before I head to Vegas to meet up with Peter (and Elliot, another friend of mine, and long-time friend of Peter’s), I have a different course-altering meeting to attend to.  More details once there’s (hopefully) something to share.  For now, it’s just another source of anxiety and stress.

I have considered many facets of change in my life.  I would still like to lose enough weight to be a bit healthier and able to spend meaningful time at amusement parks (ie: being able to get into roller coaster safety harnesses comfortably–or at all).  I feel a general sense of confusion and a more specific sensation of being lost — all too often.  I wondered about the merits of taking a month-long leave from work and trying to clear my head–but if you’ve read my blog, you know that being alone is not something that really puts me at peace.  A month away from work would mean (aside from considerable financial strain) a month of spending a lot of time alone.  It’s not going to happen–at least not right now.  I have barely a full week’s worth of vacation time available to me.  My sick time is similarly in short supply.  I just have to find a few extra days to just relax and let my mind (attempt to) go blank.

So many cool things might be in my future…but patience is not a gift I typically have in large supply.  I am really excited about getting a Tesla, but painfully aware that it won’t happen until at least next fall (2018), if not later.  I excited about this other change possibility–but even that is an uphill climb and something I won’t know about for sure until likely the end of September.  I’m thrilled to be back handling Tucson Roadrunners PA announcing again–but even that involves a wait of several more weeks.  So much potential excitement…but so much waiting to find out if that excitement is real or a mirage.

And then there’s the past.  There’s my son’s face, voice, words that haunt me.  There are the constant reminders of everything I–and everyone else–have lost.  And that loss hurts–constantly.

David

When You Can Just Feel It

Life knows how to hand out frustration.  It’s never a simple, single slice at a time, but–hey–why not take the whole cake today?  Two weeks ago, the men’s bathroom at my office decided to perform a reenactment of the Great Flood.  Some piece–likely of the toilet that we had repeatedly asked the county to come and fix–finally completely went south, and for the following 40-45-50 minutes, we had a river of water coming from the men’s bathroom, through the hall, around the corners, under the walls…you get the idea.  My office just happens to be on the other side of that hallway wall.  About half or so of my office flooded.  (The good news is that I don’t keep files and such on the ground, nor any electronics or other things that I would be screwed if I lost.)

So, I went home a bit early that fateful Monday afternoon.  I had already arranged time off that Tuesday to take care of a couple appointments.  When I returned that Wednesday, everything looked like it was back to normal.  I was told that the powers-that-be (not my boss, but the people in charge of the cleanup) had declared everything safe and dry.  So, I sat at my desk and worked.  Same on Thursday of that week, same on Friday of that week — getting stuff done in my office.

Imagine my surprise when I returned to work the following Monday morning to a scene out of E.T.  Big white vinyl or plastic sheeting all over the back portion of the office, including a zippered closure between my office and the rest of my side of the building.  Fans and dehumidifiers running all over the place.  Loud.  In my office, all my furniture was compacted into the front half of the room, making it practically impossible to actually get behind my desk.

After spending three days telling us that everything was fine–yeah, not so much.  Project E.T. decontamination had now begun, and I was homeless, in the office sense.  Fortunately, as an appellate attorney, I can do 90 percent of my job from my home office–reading, researching and writing.  And I did…

You would think that I would be thrilled to be able to work from home for a few days.  Maybe I should have been…but with my recent emotional issues again, focusing at home has been increasingly difficult.  I can edit and revise and comment on things for other attorneys.  I can correspond via email and phone calls.  I can staff and give ideas.  I can even help with a minor research issue for my supervisor.  But I have experienced serious writer’s block of my own briefs while at home.  The E.T. hardware remained in place…through Tuesday…through Wednesday…through Thursday…through Friday…  Almost every morning, I have dutifully gotten up, gotten ready, and headed to my office–and each time, after a couple brief conversations and a little organizational groundwork, back home I would go.

Last night, I went to sleep actually excited to be heading back into my office today.  They must have finished up their little extraterrestrial dissection project, right?  I was told last week that everything is dry, everything is good (where have I heard that before?) and we were just waiting for someone to come take down the hardware and restore the hallways and my office to their original, working condition.  Two weekends plus a full week–it should all be done, right?

Wrong.

I got into work this morning to discover: no change.  The people who were supposed to come finish the cleanup job were supposed to come last Friday–never came.  They were expected to come today…and, according to a reliable source at my office, claimed that they had “already come out and cleaned up” today.  Only, you see, nothing had been cleaned up.  As of 4:45pm this afternoon, still no improvement…

As you may have picked up over these many months of reading my blog, I’m a people person.  Perhaps one of the reasons that I’ve fought back so much potential for depression (not saying I’ve been successful in fighting back all of it, of course) is that I try to keep myself busy and surround myself with others–to chat, to laugh, to tutor and teach, to discuss.  My office isn’t always the best place for that…but there are usually at least a couple people around that I can talk to for a few minutes to break the monotony.

Now, put me at home for the better part of a week–no one else here, no one around to talk to, chat with, etcetera…  Add to that my current struggles with missing Micah…  I think you can see where I’m going: a spiral path downhill.

Today, I got some work accomplished, but I also just sat and felt miserable.  Part of me wanted to just drop everything and go sit at Micah’s gravesite for an hour, just talk to my son, share things with him.  Part of me wanted to sit and try to get work done.  Part of me did not know what to do, and wanted to just stare at the wall.  I did not get to the cemetery.  I did a little work, I stared at the wall.

At least two or three times over the past week, I felt the strong temptation to take a right instead of a left off the 60, and go to the cemetery instead of my office.  I feel horrible that I have only visited Micah a couple times since his funeral.  Partially I fear that going to see him will start an uncontrollable downward spiral of depression and feelings of loss.  The left-half of my brain talks me out of it by rationalizing that everything that was Micah is not really there.  Sure, his body is lying there underneath, but everything that was really Micah is around me, above me, inside me.

Coming home from a couple errands this evening, I found myself telling Avi about something I wanted the “three of us” to do…the three of us.  Perhaps I’ve just tried so hard subconsciously to not think about the size of my family…maybe it was the thought that the last time we tried inviting a dog into our family, there were four of us plus the pooch.  I don’t like there only being three of us.  We had two children.  There are four of us.  Were four of us.  Are four of us…

Over the weekend, I thought it might help to get my mind off “things” by going to a couple Cubs games.  The Cubs were in town over the weekend playing the Diamondbacks.  Friday night wouldn’t work–we were going to see Straight No Chaser and Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (who, by the way, were fantastic!!  I have a new addition to my musical favorites list after watching and listening to PMJ perform!).  I would go to Saturday night and Sunday afternoon’s games.

Of course, in the emotional “place” I’ve been inhabiting over the past couple weeks, I felt pretty alone.  I knew Cynthia and Avi really did not want to go sit and watch a three-hour plus baseball game (not to mention a pair of games).  The only people I’d really attended baseball games with this year had been my brother, my buddy David back in Chicago, and a couple other high school friends.  That’s it.  Most of the people I’m friendly with right now don’t express much interest in baseball in general, and specifically Cubs baseball.  I have a couple friends that like baseball, but one is a teacher that was out of town on a retreat (and very bogged down with back-to-school stuff anyhow), and the other has his daughter’s hockey season getting started, as well as family things to do.  I don’t really have a huge circle of “hanging out” friends…Lots of acquaintances, a few people who, in a pinch, would be there for me, but not many that call to say, “Hey, let’s go do something.”

With all the friends I appear to have, all the relationships I’ve built and fostered over the past 10 years…I spend a lot of time at home with my wife and daughter.  Nothing wrong with that, but occasionally it’s nice to do things socially with other adults.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s that I don’t drink or “party.”  Maybe I’m too straight-laced.  Maybe my interests are too weird or geeky.  Or maybe, with Micah gone, and me now no longer really part of the youth hockey world, there’s just nothing in common any longer.  Please don’t think I’m looking for pity.  I’m not trying to shame anyone into calling, or even feeling bad that they don’t.  I made this bed.  It was my own decisions that got me here.  I will eventually rebuild a circle of friends, maybe some will start conversations about doing things out and about.  I think I’ve started the process with a new group of people…but it takes time.  Exploring new interests…spending time doing other things I like…maybe that will help.

Anyhow, perhaps going to the games this weekend wasn’t the best idea.  Ever been alone in a crowd?  For a while, it’s okay, but then it just kind of starts eating away at you.  Sometimes you’re sitting near people that are friendly and conversational…but this weekend, I really wasn’t during either game.  I tried to make the best of it…at least the Cubs got a big win yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon had an additional challenge.  As I walked into the ballpark, I noticed a huge group of teenagers standing near the entry gate.  It was the marching band–from Micah’s high school.  My heart sunk.  I came to try and get away from sad, get away from melancholy and enjoy my Cubs…and here I was faced with another reminder of what I lost.  I didn’t see any kids that I knew (not sure Micah was friends with many band kids) or teachers hanging around…but for a few minutes, and then a few times throughout the game, I fought back tears and considered leaving and just going home–or maybe to the cemetery.  I didn’t leave.  I stayed…but I mourned.

David

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