Well, that was a prophetic little poster wasn’t it (as you’ll see once you pour through the various pics I’ve displayed below). I’m going to write a post in a few days that looks ahead to 2015 but before closing the book on 2014, I figured I’d tell the tale using some of the cool pics I captured this year. It’s like a virtual coffee table book. Please use a coaster. 😉
1. Rest In Peace – Nana Nell
Just after the holidays last year, my mother’s family gathered together to celebrate my Nana Nell’s 90th birthday. Born and bred in England, she had been in this country ever since she took the long ship ride over with other war brides – as her husband (my Grandpa Ron – an Air Force serviceman) continued on in his World War II tour of duty.
Here in the New World, she created an amazing family over the next six decades.
In February, we said goodbye – in a humbling and moving memorial at one of the oldest churches in America – set in Plymouth and frequented by the Pilgrims and their descendants. Seems like a fitting way to say goodbye to our own beloved immigrant.
I was so happy that my children got the chance to meet 3 out of 4 of their great grandparents. My Nana Nell was the last and the one whom they remember the most – as they were able to grow up a little while getting to know her and her “cool English accent”. (Aria’s words).
That’s her in the yellow below. That’s me with no hair in the forefront. The more things change…
2. His Name in Lights
So this year we made sure no game would ever measure up to his first. For Colin’s 11th birthday, a whole group of family and friends descended on Fenway so Colin could take in a Sox game in person. After a pre-game meal, he mingled with Wally and was handed a treasure trove of Red Sox regalia. Then after settling into his seat, he was surprised by seeing his name in lights. Birthday greetings were projected to the park on the Big Screen. The look on his face says it all.
3. Daddy-Daughter Dance
For the third year in a row, I took to the stage alongside several other doting Dads to awkwardly dance our hearts out to a cleverly choreographed routine during Aria’s Spring dance recital with the Sally McDermott dance company. This year, we were the fabulous T-Birds – dancing through a medley of Grease tunes.
There was a point during the routine where I looked down from the stage. The 600+ audience members vanished. In that moment, all I saw were all those daughters who had been beckoned to a seat in the front row, where they could look up and laugh at their Dads strutting their stuff; their faces plastered with great beaming smiles several sizes so large.
That’s the reason I do this. My rule of thumb is simple. I’ll do anything to gift my kids a memory to treasure; so silliness trumps common sense most days – certainly when and where it matters most.
4. Selfie By Proxy
a. THE PIC ABOVE WAS THE FIRST SELFIE-BY-PROXY; TAKEN AT BREW CITY IN WORCESTER
I get accused of posting too many Selfies to Facebook. Here’s the thing about me. I like life. I like smiling and laughing. These are a few of my favorite things (and yes – I totally just sang that.) I know I’m a 42 year-old dude who’s supposed to be watching the MacNeil-Lehrer report and checking on my nonexistent stock options BUT I came to a conclusion somewhere along this road. This is my life. I’m living it right down the middle. Just a good ol’ boy. Never meaning no harm. (And yes – I totally just sang that TOO!!!) I pay taxes. I raise my kids. I work hard.
And I take silly selfies and post them. No harm, no foul.
Deal with it.
Still, I’ve got a little bit of a self-conscious streak so one night I brazenly declared I was all done with Selfies. The critics had won.*
*But I had a loophole up my sleeve (I ought to get that fixed). I’d do it myself but I’m too wrapped up in the McNeil-Lehrer report.
Selfie by Proxy was born. The rules were simple. My phone. A selfie featuring me – BUT – in order to qualify, I draft someone else to take the pic. They hold my phone outward and costar in my Selfie. You would think I would get a lot of eye rolls when I explain the concept, trying to coerce some poor person into my foolish little gambit but you’d amazed what waitresses will put up with when they want a tip.
This is totally continuing into 2015.
b. This one was taken at Guys Night Out at British Beer Company in Framingham.
c. This was taken at the start of my summer vaca – Abington Ale House.
d. Post Brady’s Mission 5K in October – Indian Ranch, Webster.
e. Another Ale House pic – this time with my longtime friend Salad Girl… errr, Kristen.
f. Couldn’t get the pints to take the pic so Justin would do just fine. At Boston Beerworks near Fenway.
g. Tricked a coworker into doing it. He HATES social media. Now he’s immortalized in it. Mua-hah-hah-hah.
h. Back stage dance Dad selfie by “princess” proxy.
i. Mea Culpa Selfie by Proxy – or – post play? You be the judge.
5. We Ought to Do This More Often
My sister Jenna moved to Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago.
I’ve been there (*GULP*) twice – and both times coming within the last 6 years. Suffice it to say, I’m looking to repent for my sins. This past Summer, I took a few days and headed down for a visit which was just awesome. We visited my nephew’s college digs over at Penn State. We survived a Class 5 Sharknado (or whatever particular brand of Armageddon decided to drop down and curb stomp our pretty pleasant late afternoon BBQ) – one that plunged us into almost 24 hours of darkness. We also hit the local college town for some mid-afternoon bonding over craft brews. I told my Mom that before we left the establishment, she was kissing the bison that presided over the hall. She scoffed.
NOOOO – The Internet won!!! 😉
6. Old School
Although we have lived a mere 65 minutes from my alma mater (UMASS Amherst) over this past decade, I had never been back to the old stomping grounds – despite the fact that I absolutely treasure that school and the great, surrounding Pioneer Valley area. It’s such a beautiful stretch of land dotted by so many interesting, quirky little college towns. Some real culture, hidden treasures and good eats are found less than a quarter-tank-of-gas away.
So during my vacation with the kids, we plotted a little day trip and spent the time following in my footsteps. That’s Aria pointing to the window of my very first dorm room – and then Colin looking out upon my former kingdom – the Quad that stretched beyond Thatcher dorm. Did I mention I once streaked that area. Story for another day (or for today if you click the link).
This is but a tiny slice of that mammoth real estate – and on that great Summer Day – we managed to find our way all over the campus, finally ending up in town for several slices of the legendary Antonio’s Pizza.
A great day…
7. Rest in Peace – Abby the Labby
In early August – just as The Lost World was ramping up production putting me squarely in my happy place, I got the call I had been dreading for two years running. Abby, my beloved yellow labrador retriever, was going to have to be put to sleep.
Abby was the first dog I’ve ever owned. Never having had a dog before her, I never had to say goodbye to one. Now I’ve been there twice (with her “sister” Chatham passing on a few years ago.) No – it doesn’t get any easier. But I am glad to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
8. Fine – I’ll Make My Own Damned Pie
Year after year – I beg, bother and plead for someone to make me an apple pie. This year I took matters in my own hands. And then I ate the whole FREAKIN’ thing. So yeah, I’m not doing that again. 😉
9. What Once was Lost…
I’ve had the great privilege of seeing something I wrote open before a packed house for 3 years running now. 2012 was the world-premiere of The Monkeybar Mafia. 2013 saw the introduction to The Lost World. And then in 2014, we staged it again… and better than ever.
I’ve loved each production but this year’s Lost World was something special. Maybe it’s because we had such a tumultuous beginning, with last-minute cast changes seemingly making us reshuffle the deck every few weeks. Heck, early on I ended up having to join the cast – putting my co-director Gina squarely in charge. We’ll call that Win/Win. I got to be in something I wrote (totally surreal and completely awesome as far as life-experiences go) and she got to YELL at me a lot (and there’s nothing I could do or say – because I was just the dumb actor/writer. I couldn’t even write her out of existence… unlike myself).
Anyway, the group that finally made its way to the stage on Opening Night bonded in a way that I haven’t experienced in a show before. I’ve felt good chemistry in past performances BUT not to this level; with 16 teens and adults just becoming such fast friends. Once again, I got to act alongside my good luck charm Scott – who was in my very first play as an adult (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and has made every show I’ve been in with him such a total joy. I was also thrilled to see my friend Julie take her first step back to the stage after a long absence and absolutely crush it in one of my favorite roles in the play. I had been after her to audition for a play since writing Monkeybar and this year, the stars finally aligned.
We all came together and put on a show that honestly, I’m having a hard time figuring out how I could top. If this is as good as it gets, I’m glad I got it this good.
10. Oh yeah, this happened… AGAIN!!!
Aria Leigh. The girl who broke her arm twice 6 weeks apart back in kindergarten. This year, she decided to take down the opposite arm when she chose to do her own stunts during a weekend away with cousins in Maine. She fell out of a golf cart they were racing around in and suffered a buckle fracture.
I’ve lived 42 years and have barely stubbed a toe. She hasn’t even hit the 10 spot and has already had Tommy John surgery. (OK – maybe that’s an exaggeration). From here on out, it’s bubble wrap couture during Back-to-School Shopping.
11. The Running Man… Errr… Young Man
Colin entered his second year running Cross Country for the Dudley Middle School and continued to make such enormous strides. He’s not the fastest guy on the team (something he sometimes bemoans) BUT as I’ve told him time and time again – this is a beautiful sport where you work together as a team but get to measure your own individual accomplishments – and at the end of the day – it’s the point in getting up, getting outside, starting at Point A and finishing at Point B where you find your own personal glory.
I am so proud of everything he has done. He’s run leagues ahead of where I was at his age and here in my advanced years, I find I still learn so much from him. I’ll be following behind ’til the day I die.
12. From New Years Day to 10K
I started the year making a little ambitious resolution. Why do one new thing in 2014 when I could do 8? Then I set out checking the boxes – sending my first Tweet, scarfing my first bite of sushi, donating a pint of blood, so one and so forth. One of the first new things I tossed on my To Do list was to “Run a 10K”.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I ran my skinny little chicken legs the full 6.2 miles – with a turkey perched high above my beak (that’s the AFTER pic above).
Oh, that 10K may have been the last race I ran last year BUT it prompted me to sign up for a couple of local 5Ks including this one run for the Brady’s Mission charity in October (a few weeks before the play). I look forward to where my feet take me to in 2015.
13. Go Big or Go Home
Easily my favorite comment in the wake of my tattoo reveal, came from my friend Justin:
“I’m glad to see you decided to go with a small starter tattoo.”
I wrote all about this before so I won’t go too deep into the details but simply put – I chose this tattoo as yet another “New Thing in 2014” to satisfy my resolution (this was actually the crowning piece) and as a way of tying my childhood aspirations (I always wanted to be a writer AND I LOVED The Legend of Zelda) with my adult realization of that goal. I wove this symbol into The Lost World (hence the poster above) to signify that breach between childhood and adulthood. It became emblematic of the things that make me tick. It reminds me that even though I thought I was going to live life where my one true talent was wasted (of my own accord) at some point I finally wised up. “These things aren’t going to write themselves“, I reminded myself one day. Three years later – I have the playbills and tattoo to totally back up my story.
14. Sole Papa
Technically this is related to the 10K piece above BUT it’s such a great honor I had to give it it’s own billing. So, I ended up running both the Brady’s Mission 5K and the Center of Hope Gobble Gobble 10K Road Race at the urging of my friends Sarah and Stacy; who during the year joined an all-female running group called the Sole Mamas. Thus I ended up running alongside them both times and at the conclusion of the Gobble Gobble race, Sarah lobbied for my induction as the sole Sole Papa of the group. I was in by unanimous decision (or complete indifference) and now I’m a full-fledged member looking forward to where these wonderful women and I find ourselves running to in the New Year.
15. It’s a Happy Humphries Christmas, Charlie Brown
We seem to measure our years based on the temperature taken at Christmas. No matter what happened throughout – it always feel like how you feel on that day and date sort of sums up the whole year. Maybe you had some major troubles during the course of the year but if you’ve been able to right the ship by December 25th, then what is past is ancient history and you look forward to taking those good tidings and really doing something about them in the New Year.
That’s where I find myself on this Saturday – a mere two days removed from the Big Day – my heart completely full of good cheer. Sure, my last two posts smacked of a sad wistfulness and yeah – those emotions are still at play a bit in my mind – but I’m still tipsy from a great Christmas Day spent with friends who saw I didn’t have any place to land this year and graciously opened their home for dinner, drink, dessert and all the friendly, folksy fixings that go with that. I almost didn’t go – not wanting to intrude on their tradition – but my friend Julie wouldn’t hear of it so I went and no sooner did I walk through the door, did I become family. I left there Thursday night with my head a little lighter (such good wine), my belly a little bit bulging (such a great roast and companion edible arrangements) and my heart so full. That’s the power of friendship.
Look – this is the new normal. There are going to be times where I am solo. I’m a grown man. I can handle that. I was fully prepared to walk out Christmas Day after spending the morning with the kids – enjoying their excitement at all that shiny, new goodness – and then somehow chart my path through that afternoon, knowing December 26th would be there in no time.
I would have been alone but I know I could have handled it.
BUT honestly – it would have royally SUCKED!!!
So, here’s where I take stock of my year – based on how I felt this past Christmas Day:
This one’s a keeper; one that makes me look forward to whatever 2015 will bring as I look back fondly on all that 2014 rewarded me with.
Friends are the family you get to choose. I’ve got me a good one.