Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reverb writing #30 - Quilt

December 30 – Gift
Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)
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When I first saw this prompt, I thought it would be difficult to think back and come up with a memorable gift.

When I sat down to write it, I remembered a gift I got this year that I declared probably the best gift I've ever received.

The gift was from my parents. My mom found the website for it, showed it to me, and I did the rest. Well, they paid for it, too.

This calls for another picture.

"The Quilt" is made up of music shirts of mine that I've acquired over the past 25 years. Many were shirts from concerts that I attended, and most of those I went to a while ago.

The shirts are from my favorite bands, or have special memories attached to them. Like the "Hit the sack with Zak" KBPI shirt I won in a call-in contest back in "the day". Or the Kids In The Hall shirt I bought at their show in San Francisco. They're not really music, but they are awesome.

Probably the best memory is the Late Night with Conan O'Brien t-shirt. See, the first year Conan was on the air, the show did a 9th annual college band search. We submitted a tape - I'm not sure which song we sent in. "Souvenir"? Anyway, after a while we got a package in the mail saying that we had been declared finalists, but didn't win. It seemed honest and not form-letter-y, and in the package were four navy blue shirts with Late Night with Conan O'Brien embroidered on them. I wore my shirt a lot, but stopped wearing it lately because I didn't want to wear it out. Putting it on this quilt was a great way for me to preserve it and see it a lot at the same time.

I had been trying to get this quilt done for years (and believe it or not, I still have a ton of shirts to make a 2nd or 3rd one), but never had a good way to get it made. My mom found the site - campusquilts.com - and we were off. They decided to pay for it to be made for my 40th birthday and while I received it after the day, it turned out better than I ever could have hoped, and I'll forever think of them and all those great memories when I snuggle up underneath it to get warm.

Which reminds me, it's 8 degrees F outside right now, and supposed to get colder.

Gotta go grab my quilt. :)

(Detail 1 Detail 2 Detail 3 Detail 4)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reverb writing #29 - Momentary list of definitions

December 29 – Defining Moment
Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)
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My first reaction was that I've already written about a lot of these moments, but it occurs to me that there have been others:
• It took me effectively 8 months to find work after being laid off. Humbling, but it also brough out a fighter and tenacity that I wasn't sure was in me.
• I've turned 40. A milestone, but little more than a number.
• My oldest got braces on her teeth. Orthodontia. For some reason, her getting her ears pierced didn't faze me. Getting contacts? The girl's gotta see. Her growing taller didn't bother me. Her being out of elementary school and into middle school - it happens. But braces? She suddenly became a woman. Perhaps that's my inner 13-year-old talking, but getting braces…that means you're grown up. And I'm a 40-year-old dad of a girl with braces.
• My youngest turned 10. Officially out of the single digits.
• I finished my core classes for my Master's degree. I have a final paper to write that's due essentially in February. I'm panicking. I'm glad that Reverb10 will be over in 3 days, I won't have any time to work on it. I shouldn't be spending time now.

I suppose that's about it. Most other things have continued apace. ;)

Reverb writing #28 - Getting There

December 28 – Achieve
What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)
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I want to achieve financial independence again. I'm sure I'll feel relieved when I do.

I can think of one thing I can do: get a job that pays more.

New thoughts I can think: Letting go of my thinking that it somehow makes me less of a person or contributor to society that we're having to borrow from here or there to make ends meet. People struggle, people borrow, people make it through.

My most overused phrase of this year: "We'll see." But it's true. We'll see what happens. We don't know. But if we're paying attention, we'll see it when it comes. Whatever "it" is. :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reverb writing #27 - OJ

December 27 – Ordinary Joy
Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)
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I have many joyful moments when driving home from work. The satisfaction of a job well done, I'm relaxed, going home to my family. It's that kind of in-between time, and I'm driving towards the Colorado sunset, which brings a different beauty to most every single day. I play music on my drives home, and depending on what comes up it either feeds my introspective mood or amps me up or chills me out. I know that's kind of generic, but those things happen on my drives home. They're all back streets, no freeway, and pretty much a straight shot once I get on the main road.

That's some ordinary joy for you. :)

Reverb writing #26 - Meat.

December 26 – Soul Food
What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)
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In September I went with my parents and my family on a late Father's Day outing. I was traveling back in June on the 20th and so were they, so we put it off until the summer settled down. That happened in September, so we made plans for a Colorado Rockies baseball game, and I suggested dinner at Ted's Montana Grill beforehand.

We all like Ted's, and it was only a short walk from the restaurant to the ballpark, and that made sense to everyone. I typically order a bison burger, but I felt like branching out a bit on this particular day, for this particular meal.

I ordered the bison tenderloin filet. The meal arrived and I was happy to receive my 8oz of meat. However, I was not prepared for how flavorful and succulent this steak would be. I moaned enough about it that my family was curious, and although it wasn't a lot of steak, I shared it with everyone who wanted some. My kids were especially impressed by the taste. At home, we usually have burgers or shepherd's pie or the like when we have cow. We don't do steaks, and when we do, I'm not very adept at cooking them, so they leave something to be desired.

We all savored our meals, and I was happy that everyone got to taste my steak. I haven't ordered one since, and I'm not sure when I will again, but it was by far my most memorable meal of the year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reverb writing #25 - Alison

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you. (Author: Tracey Clark)
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In keeping with the title of this blog, I don't post pictures here. The focus is on the words. However, for this post, I will link to a picture of myself, taken by Kristel Poole at Sticky Rice in Richmond, VA. I've written recently about my first experience singing karaoke, and this picture was from that night, singing "Alison" by Elvis Costello.

I love this picture because it shows me doing something I like doing - performing - and shows me at my least self-conscious. I don't think I'm very photogenic at all, but this picture isn't about me, it's about letting go of worrying about what others might think and about living and experiencing this life. I recall that Kristel was taking pictures, but I don't recall her taking this picture. I think she captured the moment very well, and I think that's what good photographers do - see within their subjects and see the bigger picture of the point in time.

Funny thing is, when I look at this picture I see myself singing something by Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye, like "Let's Get It On" or something. :) I was told I sang well, and I think I recall that I did sing okay. I had a good time drinking and singing with friends, and that's all that matters.

She has a photography business, you should check out her services if you live on the east coast.

I love this picture. Thanks, Kristel.

Reverb writing #24 - Stasis

December 24 – Everything’s OK
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)
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I think the best moment that proved that things will be okay is the week I found out that my unemployment benefits would expire was the week that I interviewed for my current job. The job I'm in right now is satisfying in every single way except financially, but it's employment, and it's covering my family with medical/dental/vision insurance.

I thought it was interesting that something finally came along as I got the news about my unemployment benefits. Things seem to happen like that for me, it seems. I'm okay with that, too. :) I'm not sure that I can incorporate that into long-term plans, but I suppose it's a pointer for me to just let things go, go with the flow, etc. I need to be okay with things as they are and not try to force them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Reverb writing #23 - The Churlish Dandy

December 23 – New Name
Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?
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"Hello, I'm Sam, but you may call me the Churlish Dandy."

I had "The Churlish Dandy" as my bio on Twitter for a while and I changed it when I was looking for work to the straightforward and truthful bio that I have now. Straightforward and truthful, but not necessarily as interesting as "The Churlish Dandy." :)

churlish - adj. - rude in a mean-spirited and surly way
dandy - noun - a man unduly devoted to style, neatness, and fashion in dress and appearance.

I'm not nearly as dandyish as I'd like (and I would like), and most everyone who knows me would tell you that churlish doesn't describe me at all. I just like the combination of words, how they sound and what they mean. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reverb writing #22 - Move this

December 22 – Travel
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
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I traveled by air - to Orlando, to Richmond, back to Denver.

I traveled by car - to and from interviews, doing some consulting work, to and from work. A couple of baseball games, a couple of movies, some restaurants.

I traveled by foot - to and from my kids' school, exercising when I was out of work, around the building where I currently work.

In 2011, I see the same modes of travel. I'd like to have some boat travel in there, but I don't see that happening. I'll probably be taking another trip down south next year, where I'll ride some buses, and some roller coasters. :)

Confusion and doubt.

I knocked on the door. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah." She stood at the bathroom sink, playing with a hairpin on the counter.

"You okay?" I asked her.

"Yeah. Just…" Her voice trailed off and I could see that she had something on her mind.

"What is it, sweetie?" I wasn't quite prepared for what the discussion became.

"I'm kind of confused."

"What about?"

"I'm not sure if Santa is real or not." Her voice cracked and tears welled up in her eyes and my mind started to think of answers, different tacks to take to deflect the question, but this was head-on. It might have seemed a silly question for a 10-year-old to ask, but we had been fairly deft over the years.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Well, one of the letters he wrote us has your handwriting." Busted. "Mommy said that he could change his handwriting to write like you but…. And you guys say he's real, but one of my friends said their parents told her that he's not real."

"Would it make you sad if he wasn't real?" She nodded and the tears started flowing. I hugged her as if I were saying goodbye the last remnants of my own childhood.

I think I knew the answer to her questions when I was a few years younger than she was now. Aided and abetted by a less-than-scrupulous babysitter, I had found gifts in my parent's closet. Santa ended up giving me those same gifts. I had a long career of snooping. It was a compulsion, I'm not sure driven by what, but I needed to find what I was getting. I needed to know.

I backed off for a bit, trying to figure out what to say. "Zoe says that Gramma said she didn't get to see the letter last year after you pulled it off the printer."

"I wonder what Gramma meant by that?" I was really trying to dodge the questions, still scrambling for what to say.

"I'm just really confused," she said as the tears dripped from her eyes. I didn't want to pile on, but I didn't want to just blurt it out, not three days before Christmas.

I then recalled one Christmas when I was a teenager. I still looked for presents like a madman. I had scoured the house from top to bottom and knew what I was getting for Christmas this year, as I always did. Sometimes there were gifts that I wasn't sure who they'd end up with, but I knew what was in the house to be given. I went to bed on Christmas Eve and slept soundly. I had nothing to look forward to, aside from feigning surprise at each gift from my family.

I'm pretty sure my parents woke my sister and I that year, and we walked out to see the presents that Santa had left for us. The spot where all my gifts would normally have been was empty - my gifts were piled inside a papasan chair. You know, the ones that are about 4 feet wide, shaped like a bowl that sits on a stand, with a large pad inside. My eyes must have been as wide as they could go - I had searched the house from top to bottom! There was no way that my parents could have hidden something of that size! My mind raced to figure out where they might have hidden it, but I couldn't conceive of how they could have gotten it here overnight while I slept.

I had no choice but to believe. Santa must have brought the chair. And with it, he brought my sense of wonder back to me. I realized the joy in being surprised and finding what you don't expect, and by extension, returning the joy of giving back to my parents and everyone else. I realized that people work hard to find and bestow appropriate gifts, and when you ruin the surprise for yourself, you're also ruining it for them.

I looked at my daughter and told her what I believed. "Sweetie…when I was a kid, there was a while when I didn't believe in Santa. But now that I'm a dad and have kids, I know that there's a Santa." She smiled, a final tear suspended off the end of her nose. We hugged again, and I got up to leave her to finish getting ready for bed.

As I walked out the door, I turned back one last time. "Sweetie?"

"Yeah Dad?"

"Ho ho ho."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reverb writing #21 - The future looks after the past

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)
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I would tell current self to slow down, that this life is a marathon, not a sprint. Stop looking at every opportunity as the next best thing, thinking that you have to do X by Y date. Slow down, enjoy yourself, be safe & smart. Meet some people, help anyone you can, but pace yourself. Have fun with your family, get out and see your local surroundings. Cherish the time you have with your parents. Find more people to hug. Listen! Take the time and listen. Oh, and stop procrastinating and write your fucking paper. Now! Get going!

I would tell my 10-years-younger self to focus on something, and not just look at every new opportunity as the next best thing. (ARE YOU NOTICING A PATTERN, CURRENT SELF?) Take more videotape of your kids. Stop procrastinating. Do things with a purpose and intent, don't just meander. You've meandered a lot, and there's value in meandering, but if you focus now, you'll be better positioned to enjoy yourself in 10 years. But don't listen to me, I'm just an old man. What do I know?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reverb writing #20 - Abandon.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance - What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)
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This one's kind of tough, because I feel like I've been putting myself out there more lately. Taking chances, meeting people, trying to live life a little more fully. I suppose it also goes back to prompt 18, about not committing totally to being a writer or a musician. I can't really, I have a family to support.

I think once I'm done with my degree I'll be able to work on other creative endeavours with more regularity. I've been in the masters program almost constantly since fall 2007, usually only one class at a time, but when you've got a family and are working full time, that's plenty. But anytime during a quarter that I've been in school, if I've been doing something other than studying or classwork, I've felt kind of guilty. The nice thing is that I've gotten all A's and 1 B, so the hard work has paid off that way, but there's another side of me that's been neglected.

It'll be nice to indulge my creative side with abandon.

I just need to hold me to it.

Reverb writing #19 - Scar tissue.

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)
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I suppose the healing would go back to prompt 17, and how I healed from mostly self-inflicted wounds of self-doubt and low self worth in the wake of being out of work for 7 months. Many people in the past two years have written about how being out of work saps your spirit and makes you wonder if you really have anything to offer the workplace and the world.

The healing started at the job where I'm working now. In my masters classes, I've learned about the importance of showing thanks to employees and co-workers. It might seem small, but when one class asked "When was the last time you were thanked or appreciated at work?" I realized that I couldn't really name anytime in the previous two or three years. Someone I was working with at the time then sent me an e-mail to say thanks for participating in a meeting, and I realized how infrequently I heard those words.

I hear those words all the time now, and they've helped heal me. I feel appreciated and I have a newfound sense of self worth and self esteem, which is a welcome change from those 7 months adrift.

Reverb writing #18 - Write.

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)
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I like to think that I really tried giving writing a go in 2010. I was given the chance to post a blog on the Marketing Collaborative site, and I did apply for a few writing/PR/web content creation-type jobs, but nothing solid ever came of those. I also started this blog and kept it going-ish. :) I'm proud of myself for getting out and trying, though. I went to a informative meeting at Linhart PR and was very intrigued, but also realized that at that level I would be in way over my head, which is good to know. I went for it and learned that it wasn't quite the right time.

What do I want to try next year? I think I'd like to try finishing that book that's been rattling around in my head. I see scenes and have some bits sketched out. The initial story idea came from a couple of chapters I had written for my creative writing class back in college. I have a better handle on where I'd like the story to go now, and some basic ideas. Once I'm done with my masters I'd like to give it a real go.

Reverb writing #17 - Worth.

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)
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The best thing that I learned about myself this past year is that I can help.

I was laid off in November of '09 and I thought I would get another job fairly quickly. I had a couple of interviews in the first few months, and then a long stretch of nothing much at all. I kept doing all the right things - applying for jobs, following up with phone calls, being persistent but not annoying. I had some pretty low lows, but I countered with starting to exercise some, trying to go walking for a half hour at least a couple times per week.

Well, a few months turned into half a year, and in late June I found out that my unemployment benefits would be expiring. This coincided with spending the last of our savings (we had finally built up a decent-sized emergency fund) and wondering where we might be able to scrape some more money for the mortgage, etc.

Around that same time, a former boss called and told me that there was a position open that he thought I might be a good fit for. There was another job that I interviewed for around that time as well, one that would pay considerably more, but one that I didn't have a great feeling about. The company and culture didn't seem like a good fit for me. I didn't have to agonize too much, as that second job let me know that I wasn't in the running anymore, so I accepted the first job.

The hiring managers and staff at the place I now work let me know that they knew they were getting a deal with my skills, experience and education (I'm almost finished with my master's degree), and they would be happy to have me for as long as I could stay. The pay isn't quite where I need it to be for my family, but it's a steady paycheck and we're covered with health insurance.

However, more than just a steady paycheck, I found that I was able to come into this position and really get things done. I don't know the two people who were doing this job before me, but I'm told that the service levels weren't at the level that I deliver. I am constantly praised and thanked for the work I do here, and that has helped to erase the self-doubt and low esteem I had built up over my 7 months out of work. I now know that I have a lot to offer when given the chance.

I don't know where I'll end up going from here, but I do know that I will be forever grateful to the people here for teaching me that I can help, and that I'm valued and appreciated in the workplace.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb writing #16 - Framblings

December 16 – Friendship - How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)
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People that I know from other online communities know that I struggle with my lack of close friends that are close - in other words, trusted friends in my vicinity. It's something I've lamented for years, and am taking some steps to mitigate. I'm trying to get out more here locally, and I've flown to Richmond to meet a bunch of great people that I met on Twitter.

I've said it before, but while I value my online friends just as much as people I know locally (or have a chance to see on a regular basis), I like having the tactile experience of having friends, especially good friends.

This situation is the result of my junior high/high school years. I was friends with a great bunch of guys and girls, starting from 7th grade. most of us met in 8th grade and solidified our friendships in 9th grade so by the time we got to high school (our jr high was 7-9), we were a pretty tight crew. We stayed fairly tight in college as most of them stayed in Colorado, but I went to San Diego for college, returning frequently though. Every time we got back together, it was like we hadn't been apart, having some drinks, laughing at each other, talking about life - what friends do.

Fast forward to the early 00's when I moved back to Colorado. I still had a few of my high school friends here, but a couple moved out of state within a couple of years and others lived a ways away. I kind of felt adrift, because I didn't find people that I clicked with at the places where I worked, or if I did, we lived too far away from each other to get together regularly outside of work. Add in families and careers and other activities, and it comes down to that we didn't have the free time to just be with each other and just…be.

One of my high school friends returned to the state a couple of years back, but I've seen him only once or twice a year at most since then. My wife saw that I had my hopes up that we would get together more often, and I tried taking her caution to heart, but I guess I've still been disappointed.

This year, I had my 40th birthday party and I invited people who have really meant a lot to me over the years, who have shaped my life and who I am today. I invited all of those old high school friends from the core group of about 6, and not one showed. I had other friends there from high school but they are people I've either gotten to know better in the last few years or were girls I hadn't seen in a long time. There were other people I invited that couldn't make it, I don't want it to sound like I was hugely disappointed that they didn't show up.

What was interesting was that I invited two people from one of my online communities whom I've come to know and admire and learn a lot from over the past 7 or so years. Both of them showed up.

Now, my wife is kind of wary of the people I meet online. I suppose I could understand that at some point, but these people are now some of my best friends in the world. But after these two people came and spent a couple of days with my family, she was moved to observe that *they* showed up, but people who actually did shape who I am in my formative years, not one was there.

My perspective on friends has changed over the years, and I know that some of my friends that I've met online are now my best friends. I still wish to be present with them in person more often, but I highly value their love and friendship, remote as it might be. And we get to talk online, and on the phone, something I don't much do with my old friends, even to this day.

I'm still looking for close (proximity) friends, but I know that I do have close (relationship) friends who I'm lucky and honored to know and call my friends.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb writing #15 - Forgot to remember

December 15 – 5 Minutes - Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)
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I would want to remember my kids in band practice, playing music. My youngest learning an instrument. I would want to remember the time I spent listening to music and dancing with my kids.

I would want to remember my 40th birthday party and all of my friends from my life who were there. They've all had such a huge influence on me, and I wanted them to know how much they've impacted me. It's important that people in my life now know that they have touched me.

I want to remember the support my wife has given me through this rough year, what with me being out of work. She's been very sustaining and knew when to push a little and when to lay back and just let me ride out whatever feelings I was having. She's been an amazing listener and confidant.

I want to remember all the things my parents have done for me and my family this year. It's largely because of them that we're still living in our house and getting our bills paid.

I want to remember my trip to Richmond and the fun I had in only about 48 hours, singing karaoke, drinking with friends, watching the USA in the World Cup, hanging out playing ukelele, staying up until 3 am listening to music.

I want to remember how much I enjoyed the World Cup, the first one that I actually paid attention for.

I want to remember the many people this year who gave me the chance to excel and show that I have worth and can be good at what I do.

Time's up.

Reverb writing #14 - Treasure

December 14 – Appreciate - What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)
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I have come to appreciate my parents more. I have great parents, and I've known that for a long time. I have those parents that seemed strict when I was young, but they weren't. I just didn't know any better.

We've been friends for a long time, but in the past year or so, I've started asking them questions about their lives. I'm curious, because as at my age, being laid off and out of work for so long was humbling, and I began to wonder how they've dealt with adversity.

It's kind of odd that it's taken me so long to look to their experiences to help me figure out my own life. Being out of work for half the year, I wondered what situations they had been in that was similar. I also gave them the opportunity to practice their generosity, as our family finances came up short from time to time.

I listen to them more closely than I ever have, I think. And I'm excited to learn more from them and about them.

I think I show my gratitude by telling them how much they mean to me more. I think I'm more vocally thankful, and I try to let them know that they mean a lot to me.

Wisdom in the basement

My oldest child and I were having a discussion the other night about how she feels she's seen (or, rather, not seen) by my wife and I. I thought it was a great conversation because she was able to speak honestly about how she's been feeling lately.

We were talking at one point about how my wife and I still talk to her as if she were much younger and still needed to be reminded of everything. She was choosing her words carefully, and there was one statement that stood out for me, and I want to remember that.

"When I was 3, I was little, and small, and 3. But now I'm big, and tall, and 12."

I told her that was one of the smartest, wisest things I'd heard her say. I really met her on that night, in the way that I arrived at where she was, instead of looking at her from where I usually did, as a daughter or a kid or a child. That statement of hers was like the buddha touching the earth, in that it was a statement of "this is who I am right now, not who I was, nor who I will be." And I was able to hear and see that that was what she was saying, and not the simplistic statement it might seem to be.

I met my daughter the other night. Not as a kid, or a child, but as a person. And it was wonderful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb writing #13 - Journey of a thousand miles…

December 13 – Action - When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)
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I was going to start this with some b.s. about getting a job that pays more with room for me to grow in the company, but that's the stock answer.

What's my next step towards being more creative in my everyday life? Towards working with music? That's a good question. There are companies out there that do work in or close to the music industry, and I'm not just talking about record labels or radio stations. The site Beatport is located in Colorado, and I think that would be a really cool place to work, being around music and serving music to people who are also passionate about it.

I was talking to a recruiter the other day and was asked what my ideal job would be, and "music" came up, as it has every time I've asked myself that question or been asked that question since I was in high school. Why I'm not working in music in some way is a mystery to me. I suppose I have some stock answers - I'm not writing about music, because I'd rather be involved in the making of it. That I have a family to provide for, and radio isn't stable, or the record companies are located on the coasts, that music doesn't pay. But that's not really what it's about, it's not what I learned, and it's not what I want to teach my kids.

Ultimately, I want to work someplace where creative things are happening. I can be just as happy and fulfilled helping someone creative realize their ideas & goals as I can doing those things myself. Because being around creative people gives me the ideas and courage to be creative myself, whether it's writing or music.

What's my next step? Taking a step. That step. Any step towards that goal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reverb writing #12 - 1 + 1 = 1

December 12 – Body Integration - This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)
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There actually have been a couple of times. I'm not sure about the first half of the year when I was unemployed - that part is kind of a blur. The second half is more clear. One time would be singing karaoke for the first time. I was in that moment. Actually, I don't think there was an I, there was the song.

Another would be getting back to work, especially the first couple of weeks that the school was open. Working hard, having a lot to do, doing it well…when you're in that zone, you don't really feel any separation of mind and body.

There have also been a couple of times when meditating this year that it has felt like I'm aware of everything around me, but not thinking of me as separate from the world. It's very tough to describe, it's akin to talking about music, trying to describe a beat or how a synth sounds. So we use words like "alive" and "present" and "aware" and "integrated."

Reverb writing #11 - Elimination Round

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

I like how this list goes to 11. ;)

1. Stuff. I don't need any more. I can eliminate stuff by continuing to go through what I have and donating or selling the things I don't use on a regular basis.
2. Overspending. I can eliminate this by taking a moment before I buy something, and doing the research to see if I can find what I'm buying for less elsewhere.
3. More nights at home. I need to get out and be in the world. I suppose that I would eliminate them by creating reasons to get out and meet people.
4. Depressed feelings. I'm not going to say I'm depressed - I'm not. I have depressed feelings now and again, and I'm usually okay with them and I try to enjoy them because I'm really a pretty happy guy most of the time. However, being out of work for 6 months this past year, I had some pretty low points. Nothing that lasted too long, but I was just mired in thoughts of not being able to provide for my family, and I was actually surprised by how deep the funks were. I suppose I could eliminate them by putting myself in a position to provide better for myself and my family.
5. I don't need to play less music. I need to play more. (Is it cheating to express things I'd like to do in the negative in order to have it fit on the list? :)
6. Internet. I spend a lot of time on the Internet. To wit, I still have a tab open with Gwen Bell's "Digital Sabbatical" post open, a couple of weeks after I first opened it with the intent of reading it and taking it to heart. How to eliminate Internet? Read the post & do it.
7. More e-mail. I suppose this goes along with Internet, but I need to take advantage of the "unsubscribe" links on a bunch of the e-mails I get. Right now one inbox is at 2383 unread, the other is 1156. When exactly do I think I'll have the time to read them? Eliminate by selecting & deleting.

I'll finish the list later if I think of more.

How will eliminating these things change my life? Probably by increasing my happiness and letting me spend more time with my family and friends.

8.
9.
10.
11.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reverb writing #10 - Zip it

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)
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wisdom |ˈwizdəm|
noun
the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
• the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of such experience, knowledge, and good judgment : some questioned the wisdom of building the dam so close to an active volcano.
• the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period : oriental wisdom.
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Well, that's somewhere to start, I suppose. One of my favorite sayings is "Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment."

I guess that maybe some of my wisest decisions this year came from keeping my mouth shut. The wisdom to know when not to say something, or not say anything, is a skill it's taken me 40 years to develop. It's not that I'm cowed, or embarrassed, or afraid. I just feel like I have a better handle on when it's useful or helpful to say what I'm thinking, and when it's not useful.

Which isn't to say that I don't speak my mind. I'm not a fan of office politics, and I'm a huge fan of telling the truth as I see it, which I suppose would be my opinion. Everyone has their own version of the truth, and perhaps it's that knowledge that leads me to not saying anything in certain situations. People sometimes feel challenged or insulted by opinions, or "truth."

Many times when speaking lately, I'll pause because I'm trying to make sure that the words I say are skillful and helpful. I know the value of choosing the proper words for the situation, taking into account what the other person is telling me or showing me about how they are feeling. I suppose I've also learned that - to read and listen to the other person and not just shoot from the hip.

In some ways, it's a less me-centric worldview that brings this about. If it's not all about me, then I'm able to view people as they are and the situation as it is.

I think it's wise to wrap this up now. I think I've said enough. Let me know in the comments if you'd like me to clarify or expand on anything.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reverb writing #9 - Four Oh

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)
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Well, I don't know that the party I'll mention "rocked my socks off," but I will say that my 40th birthday party this year made me really happy. I had two great friends fly in from out of town for it and that was a great surprise. Well, not quite so surprising, as they are good friends. I suppose what's surprising is something that my wife pointed out, that my "best" friends from old school days, none of them had the time/inclination to make it.

The people that were there were some of the people who have influenced me most in my life, women and men who had been my best friends in adolescence and were people who I still love to be around. Some I hadn't seen in years, some I hadn't really been in contact with since our time in high school. One friend in particular I met in person for the very first time the day before, although we had spoken on the phone before. He was the person I knew he would be, and I'm glad we got to spend time together before the party. You know how parties are, you never get to spend too much time talking to one person.

I loved having everyone there, and it was a way for me to say thank you to them for being my good friends for so long. We had wonderful barbecue prepared for us, and I made sure there were vegetarian options there for the non-meat eaters. We drank wine, a little whiskey, talked and talked and talked through the afternoon and into the evening. I don't recall any music, really. I was too busy talking to my friends.

Which was exactly how I wanted to spend my 40th birthday.

Reverb writing #8 - Distinct

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)
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This is a difficult one for me, and I suspect I'm not the only one. I feel like we're trained to look for the beauty in other things and for so much of our early lives that "different" is "bad". I guess I was lucky in that I had parents that let me be who I was, but there's still that pressure to fit in when you're young. I've let go of that notion as I've gotten older.

One thing that makes me different is that playing music comes easy to me. Making up little tunes on the guitar or piano has never really been a problem. I don't remember them because I don't return to them and practice them, but I've known plenty of people who say they could never do that.

I think what lights people up is when I help them. I like encouraging people to be the best person they can be, and people naturally respond to that.

This one's short. I guess I'm having trouble seeing what stands out about me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reverb writing #7 - Us

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)
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I'm a member of a few communities online. I don't always feel a part of my community offline, which is to say the town where I live. I defend it when nobody asks me to, and I'm unapologetic about where I live (it's not popular to live in the suburbs, you know).

Where I discovered community this year was at my work. I work at a school, and it's amazing the sense of community, camaraderie and fellowship that I get working here. School spirit has a  lot to do with it, probably. People are proud to be here, which makes me proud to be here as well. It helps that I've been well received and people seem to be happy to see me. It's easy doing the work that I do to be seen the hero, but it's even better to be seen as a friendly face. There have been days that I've walked in the building and felt that, yeah, this is where I belong.

The community I'd like to connect more deeply with in 2011 is the Denver/Boulder community. I have met a lot of people through twitter, and everyone's been incredible. I'd like to cement those relationships more during 2011 by just being out and with them more. It's tough sometimes, with my job, family and colitis, but I want to make it out more and be with the good people I've met.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reverb writing #6 - Soup

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
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The last thing I made before this prompt was soup. Butternut squash soup.

I like to think I'm a pretty creative person and that I make things on a regular basis, but the things I make the most of are meals.

This is perfectly fine with me. I love to cook. I've worked a few foodservice jobs in my day. I was the evening cook at College Billiards on El Cajon boulevard for a while. I worked in the snack bar at Tilden Park Golf Course for almost a year.

Cooking is a creative endeavour for sure. Recipes are guidelines for me, not a script to be strictly adhered to. I love "freestylin'" in the kitchen. This has come in handy with the diet I'm on for my colitis - it's pretty strict, but I'm able to mix things up in the recipes to keep things fresh.

Last night's soup was the Winter Squash soup recipe from the Williams-Sonoma New England cookbook. It called for 2 onions, I only used one. It called for a 2.5-3 lb. squash, the one I bought was 4, I think. I followed most of the rest fairly closely. Oh, except I used celery salt instead of celery. Everyone really liked it. We traditionally have that soup on Christmas Eve, but we recently decided that delicious dinner too good to have only one night a year, so we've added it to our meal rotation. (My wife plans out the dinners for the month on a calendar. It's not hard & fast, but it saves the angst around the "what are we having for dinner?" question.)

I'd love to own a pub & grill someday, and work there in the kitchen, and maybe behind the bar occasionally. I think a lot of people have that dream. I have the bar, kitchen & common areas all drawn up, though, with what would go in each section of the bar, how it would be decorated…I suppose it's how I entertain myself instead of going to the movies. :)

So when this question came in last night (btw, I'm very glad that the prompts are coming in earlier, thanks #reverb2010 folks!), I was trying to think of something fabulous I had made recently, a song, or some other project that I could brag about.

I made soup. And it was good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reverb writing #5 - Relinquish

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)
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This year I let go of five things that cause a lot of consternation and confusion. So it's easy to see why I would have let go of them, and I have to say it's been pretty easy to let them go, and I don't think they'll be making a big time return, although they try to sneak back every now and again. I think Twitter has been the major catalyst in me letting go of these things, actually.

Keeping with my blog title, what I've let go of are - words. Five words.

"Hate" is the first one.

"Sometimes I hate being a girl" "I hate sitting around waiting for people." "God, I so so wanna be a kid again, good times. hate getting older!" - examples from Twitter

Reading that people "hate" things constantly, I realized that I didn't want to sound like that anymore. I don't really hate anything or anyone, so why would I say it? This is bourne partly from my working in buddhist practice as well, because along with no clinging or attachment, it also teaches no aversion. Pushing things away is as problematic as holding on to them tightly. If you hate something, it can become an obsession, which is then a type of clinging. So I've let go of hate.

The next few words are related. First up: "Want"

Wanting things to be other than they really are to the point of distraction is folly. Sure, I want to have millions of dollars, but I don't. Mostly it's about wanting superficial or material things, but I think it helps to just let go of the word. Because when I go to say it now, I pause, and make sure that I'm either using the word in a manner that I'm comfortable with, or that what I'm feeling is not a desire for things to be other than they are.

"Need" is the next word.

More the context of supposedly needing something that you actually don't, especially around the holidays. "Needing" an iPod, "needing" more followers, "needing" a day off. A lot of times things we think we need we don't. We don't often need things beyond food, water, shelter and love, but we seem to make ourselves miserable by thinking we do "need" more and more things. Which brings me to the next word I let go of.

"Deserve"

I hear this word a lot, and I'm not totally comfortable with it. "You deserve to be happy." "You deserve better." "He doesn't deserve you." I don't know that anyone "deserves" anything. I'm reminded of a situation I heard about recently where an elderly person gave some possessions to a family member. Some other members of the family are vehemently opposed to the gift, and are taking punitive actions toward their elderly relative, because they feel they "deserve" the gift instead. It's a form of wanting, and it's a situation of entitlement. Again, I'm not sure that anyone deserves anything, so it's hard for me to use this word, or feel that I "deserve" anything.

Lastly: "fair". As a father, this word is something I hear from my kids. "That's not fair!" I try to teach them that situations are different, and that fair in one situation might not be fair in another. Letting go of this word helps keep me aware, again, that things happen, and there is no ultimate arbiter to say "YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED FAIRLY" or…not. Sometimes situations are not equitable, but we can't expect everything to go our way. It's not the way the world works.

So, I let a few words go. Whenever they try to come back, I stop and see what they want. I've found I tend to do just fine without them.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reverb writing #4 (I think I'll start doing titles soon…)

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
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Hm. I don't feel like I have much to say about this one other than keeping my eyes open and trying to see everything with a fresh set of eyes. "Beginner's mind" as Shunryu Suzuki might say. Or, as he did say: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."

My children are excellent reminders to see things with wonder. Sometimes it's me trying to instill wonder in their minds, but often it's me trying to see the world from a child's point of view. It seems that often we're trying so hard to be grown up and taken seriously as kids that when we become adults, we've lost some of that ability to notice that the world is an incredible place. The funny thing for me is that now, as I'm 40 years old, I'm able to see more of the world than I have ever been able to. Not by traveling, but just through new eyes. Realizing that I'm not who I was, and what I don't know, and being open to being constantly surprised.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reverb writing #3

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
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For this year I have two closely related moments where I felt most alive, both were in Richmond, and I wrote about them previously here. But I'll expand a little bit.

Some background. I started tweeting with some people from Richmond, Virginia back in Feb of '08, I think it was. The circle of people that I would have conversations with kept expanding from one person, and pretty soon I was tweeting regularly with 50 or so people from there, enough that I knew their regular routines. Mondays were dollar tacos, Tuesdays were spent at Sticky Rice for karaoke. They seemed like a fun bunch of people, and indeed the first Richmond person I had met on twitter came to Denver in January 2010 to visit his friend who was attending school at the University of Denver. We had a blast, and it was kind of like meeting myself, about 15 years ago.

Fast forward to the summer and I was set to attend a conference in Florida in an attempt to network with some people and try to find routes into an industry I wanted to work in. My family was staying in Virginia at my wife's sister's house, so instead of flying to Florida and straight back, I found that for only $100 more I could catch a JetBlue flight direct into Richmond from Florida. So I decided to spend a couple of days in Richmond (flying in on Tuesday so that I could experience Sticky karaoke) and then go spend the rest of the week & weekend with my family. A short vacation from my unemployment, and it was needed.

Ok, enough background. I had never actually sang karaoke, but I had picked out a song - "Alison" by Elvis Costello - and rehearsed a bit, inserting the names of the people I knew in Richmond instead of "Alison." We had some drinks (duh, it's karaoke) and it finally came time for me to sing.

I wasn't all that nervous, having sang it a couple of times before, and having been in a couple of bands. I like being onstage and performing. It's not egomania, I just think it's fun. But I'm also not going to lie, when I finished singing and people said I did really well, it felt good. There was one of my twitter friends taking pictures and one picture of me turned out really cool, so I made that my profile pic on various sites for a while.

Being up there and singing, and doing it well, and having fun - it was a rush. I remember the red of the inside of the bar - the walls, the booths - the TV in the corner, the air conditioning shooting a cool blast across the middle of the bar. My friends in attendance were catcalling occasionally and it felt like I just disappeared in the moment. I was energy, not that guy or this person, I just - was.

The next night, I was sitting at the apartment of my friend Chad, the first person from Richmond that I had started following on twitter, and the person I had met in Denver. He was out of town on business but was letting me crash at his place. I didn't know quite what I wanted to do that night, if anything. I was napping on the bachelor couch, the hour was growing late, I decided to stay in.

Two friends showed up though, and we were just lazily chatting. The air conditioner blew to cool off the room a bit, but Virginia hadn't seen much rain and was withering through near-oppressive heat. As we talked, we heard a "POP" from outside, and a split second later the lights went out and the air conditioner wound down. Our eyes adjusted slowly to the dark and then the night got real. It's funny how, when all potential distractions are removed, the conversation gains heft, regardless of the topic. Stanley played music on his phone and so we talked about music, but we also talked about relationships and our lives. The night drew on, the air stayed still, we warmed up, the cloth furniture became a bit uncomfortable in the weight and warmth, but we carried on. We were propelled by the night. We sat across the room from each other, but I haven't felt that close to people in a while. I wish our host had been there, too. I wish a lot of people had been there. But in the end, it was just us three, and there wasn't anyone else in the world that night as far as I'm concerned. We were alive, we were loud, we were quiet, we were happy, we were thoughtful, mad, honest.

I've not felt that alive in a while. I've been near, for sure, but I'm trying to learn from it and be more connected to the people in my life, and not just my family, but people I come across in passing. Everybody deserves to be touched. Nobody wants to be isolated.

I want people to feel alive, that they can be whoever they want to be, when they're around me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reverb writing #2

December 2 Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)
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The obvious answer is procrastination, but I suspect the question is about more than that. I do make a lot of excuses not to do things, whether it's writing for myself or getting started on writing my paper for school.

What do I do each day that does not contribute to my writing? I suppose my answer would have to do with not living my life, or avoiding living. What I mean is that my writing is about experiences. Whether personal or fictional, the more experiences I have in the world, the more it will inform my writing and give me details.

I wonder if rewording the question would help. "What do I not do each day that could contribute to my writing?" To mesh above with the "living" train of thought, paying attention to little details could contribute more to my writing. Noticing the minutiae and taking note of them instead of glossing over what might seem like unimportant things. The sideways glance from someone from underneath their bangs. The way she self-consciously slouched as she ate her bagel, looking more like a caged rat than a person with caged potential.

I recall taking trips when I was in high school and I would have a spiral notebook and I would sit and write about the things I saw, the people, their conversations, the things they didn't say, the way they seemed to sit in the world. I haven't done that for a while, it feels like. I think doing more of that could help my writing more.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reverb writing #1

"December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)"

Wow. My initial thought was to say "struggle", because that's what 2010 felt like for me. I was laid off in November '09 and I thought I'd be able to get a job fairly quickly, within a couple of months or so. By the time March rolled around, I had been disabused of that notion.

I had some pretty serious bouts of depressed feelings, but they only lasted a day or so at a time. Really deep craters, though, the like I'm not used to. I tried everything I knew to get a job so that I could be productive and start providing for my family again. Even when I eventually got a job in July (7 months out of work), I continued to look for work that would take advantage of my skills, education and experience. This fall I was offered a position at a place I had been pursuing for almost a year…only for the offer to be below what I'm currently making, which isn't quite making ends meet. So I had to turn down what I had thought would be a dream job. (Honestly, though, it was a junior position, but still…)

However, the more I thought about this challenge, the one word that came bubbling up was "friends". I have made a lot of friends through the years online, but this year that seemed to multiply exponentially. Starting last year with a tweetup I attended last December, then Ignite Denver in March, met a ton of great people in Richmond this summer, had my best friends together for my 40th birthday in August, had dinner last month with another great person and then capped it off by attending an open house where I got to meet more great, lovely people.

2010: Friends.

One year from today…I could say friends again, but I'd like to say prosperity. Maybe I'll temper that to just say "comfort," which implies that there's no more struggle and no more stretching or borrowing, but ease.

2011: Comfort.
 
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