Category: personal

Riverdancing for Fun and Profit

Back when Denisa and I were dating, we went to see a Broadway show. I’m pretty sure it was Kiss Me Kate, but it’s been a while, so I might have that wrong. In any case, on the way into New York, she told me all about how her ex-boyfriend in London had taken her to Riverdance back in the day. How awesome it was. How much she loved it. And somehow, that stuck with me. I don’t think she meant anything by it other than to mention another cool show she’d been to, but in my head, I wasn’t sure if any of the shows I was taking her to were ever going to live up to Riverdance. Denisa’s big time into dancing, even though I (as a non-dancer) am fairly disappointing in that regard.

It didn’t help that it came up in passing in the intervening years. She’d see a dance number on Broadway or television and talk about that one time she went to Riverdance. She’d hear a song and it would remind her of Riverdance. And each time, it was reminded me that her ex-boyfriend had one upped me before I even had a chance to get in the game.

So this year, when I saw the Riverdance anniversary tour was coming to Bangor, I saw my chance. I bought the tickets and surprised her with them for her birthday. Months later, we finally went to the show last night.

It was our first time trekking out to Bangor just to see a show. We went to dinner first at The Fiddlehead, which was fantastic food and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a good restaurant in Bangor. Not cheap, but not overly expensive, either.

The show was at the Cross Center, which wasn’t necessarily designed with dance performances in mind. I had bought tickets close to the front, thinking they would be the best, but the angle was bad from the floor, so you couldn’t see the dancing as well. We ended up moving a bit further away at intermission so that Denisa had a better view of the footwork.

I’m not a huge dance aficionado by any stretch, but there were some very enjoyable numbers in there. I was surprised by how much it focused on music as well as dance. They had a fiddle player and a soprano sax who were both very good, and a drummer who was excellent. The dances focused on traditional Irish for the first half, and then added in some more modern elements and other cultures in the second half. There was an extended “dance off” number where Irish immigrants competed with American to see who could tap dance the best. Kind of like Gangs of New York, Riverdance style. That was the highpoint of the evening, I’d say. Really impressive tap dancing. I have no idea how those toes and heels can go so fast.

There was a Russian routine that was also lots of fun. High leaps and twirls and acrobatics mixed into the dancing.

All in all, it was a very successful experiment. I think Denisa and I would like to go to quite a few more shows out and about. We’d tried to go to a touring Broadway number in the winter, but a snow storm got in the way. Still, I see more of this in our future. Lots of fun, and great to get out for the evening.

Maybe now I can stop mentally comparing every show I go to with Denisa to Riverdance . . .

Stress Coping Techniques

Here’s the situation: you’re in a meeting or middle of a slew of work. You can’t step away from your desk or the meeting. You have to keep going, even though you’re super stressed. What do you do to try and control it?

My personal approach dates back to the single semester I took martial arts at BYU. At the end of each class, the teacher would have us kneel and meditate, focusing on our breathing. He’d tell us to inhale slowly and imagine that we were inhaling everything good around us. Then we’d exhale slowly and picture ourselves breathing out anything bad that was inside us.

I’ve used this ever since as my go-to panic button to help myself when things are going south and I can’t go for a walk or take a few minutes to play a video game or read a book. (Sometimes even when I can. In the middle of a flight when I feel like I’m just going to lose it, for example.)

Prayer works too, but I find to calm down and lower my heart rate and suppress that icky butterfly feeling in my stomach, that breathing technique works the best.

However, as I’ve been slogging my way through meetings and emails and work this week, trying to catch up with everything I missed (and prep for another trip next week, a second the week after that, and a third the week after that), I’ve found myself using it a bit more than I’d like. And I wondered if, perhaps, there might be better approaches out there. Not that mine doesn’t work, but you never know unless you ask.

Any suggestions?

Back in the Saddle

I’m back at work today. Back at life, it really feels like. There’s so much I just put on hold over the past bit, and I need to get on top of so many things. Often when I’m in this sort of a situation, it helps me to make a list of the things I need to be focusing on. Today I figured I’d do that as part of this post, so you can share in the fun.

THINGS I NEED TO DO

  • MEMORY THIEF 2 Second Draft–This is the biggest item on my list, and the one I need to focus most on. I finished the first draft, but after reading it through, there were a lot of changes I wanted to make. I’m well into them, but I need to really plow through them and get them incorporated. Some of them are going to be pretty extensive, so it’s stressing me out. But the changes I’ve already made have felt solid, so this should be a good thing.
  • Weight–I’ve gained 7.4 pounds in the last month. That’s a lot of pounds. I justified it to myself as I downed sugar galore, and I’m honestly okay with the fact that I stress-ate my way through the last week, but there comes a time when enough is enough. A time to remind myself that I’m avoiding sugar and overeating so that I feel better on the whole. That starts today.
  • Getting caught up at work–There are tons of emails to write, meetings to reschedule, etc. Little things that pile up, so you can feel like you’re drowning in them when you return. I’ve been working on this all morning and will keep at it until it’s done.
  • Trip planning–I’ve got two coming up. One to Virginia to get some furniture and drive it up to Maine. That should be fairly straightforward, but I need to iron out the little details. The second is larger, first to Chicago for ALA, and then on to Utah again for the original trip we’d planned for this summer. That’s one that I need to figure out a bit better. Having just gone and having things change so much, I need to work out what we want to do while we’re there. It’s still a month away, so I’ll let that percolate some.
  • Getting back into chores–Now is the exact sort of time that goals like the chore chart could easily slip into oblivion. Which is why now’s the most important time to stick with them.
  • House renovations–We’re having a ladder and railing put in at the house sometime soon. A second bathroom will be coming in the fall. It will be very good to have the space completely finished.

That doesn’t look too terrible, I suppose. The biggest stress is the book revision. If I just tuck my head down and really focus on that, I should be good. Right?

Right.

On Dying and Funerals

A month ago or so, I watched Guardians of the Galaxy with my kids. The movie opens pretty bleakly, with the main character shown as a young boy in a hospital. His mother is dying of cancer. She sits in a hospital room, bald and frail and surrounded by grieving family. Her son is brought to her, and they have a tearful scene where she asks him to take her outstretched hand. He refuses, and she pleads again.

And then dies, all at once. The heart rate monitor goes monotone, and she’s gone. Here’s the scene. See for yourself:

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Hollywood would show idealized versions of death scenes, but this past weekend was my first real encounter with what an actual death vigil is like. Perhaps it’s different for others. Perhaps there are occasions where Hollywood gets it right.

But it didn’t this time.

Death is incredibly hard and difficult. It involves sleepless nights. Uncertainty. Despair. You go from wanting the person to stay with you and have as much time as possible to being convinced they’re going to pass at any moment. But they don’t. Hours and days go by, and you realize there was so much further to go.

Part of me really wishes this were talked about more. Perhaps it would have prepared me for what was coming. I certainly scoured the internet once I was in the middle of it all. Trying to figure out what to expect and how it would all play out. I get why it isn’t discussed. Death can be frightening enough without people going around saying just how miserable of a process it can be. Even in this post, I’m shying away from really discussing it. Putting it down in written form would be a way of reliving it, and I have no desire to do that again. Even though I know I most likely will at some point in my life.

Actually, the thing it reminded me most of was a birth. How nature is suddenly in complete control, and you wish you could have some sort of an influence over any of it, but you’re just kind of helpless, waiting for things to take their course.

Of course, it’s not over once death has arrived. This trip has been so tough in so many different ways. We arrived Thursday in time for us to say goodbye, and then we were here at the house with our kids Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning as Laurie passed away. Then there was planning for the viewing and the funeral, and of course the actual events themselves.

I understand why they’re important, but those two meetings just about did me in. I can’t imagine how difficult they were for my father. I’m a person who doesn’t even like going to the barber’s, because I don’t like making small talk with people. The viewing Tuesday night was three and a half hours of standing in a line, shaking hands with people and thanking them for coming and for their support. Then there was another hour before the funeral. If death was like birth, the funeral is definitely like a wedding, only so much sadder.

I’m not trying to complain about any of this. Just trying to wrap my head around everything that’s been happening the last few days. The viewing and the funeral were both lovely. The talks were poignant and inspiring. The burial service touching. But it’s all been so. hard. I was asked to give the family prayer right before the funeral, and I just about lost it during that. But you can’t just break down into a sobbing wreck. At least I can’t.

And of course my children are with us through this all. Tomas and DC are both old enough to know what’s happening. MC still doesn’t really understand why Grandma isn’t coming back, though she’s now worried that she’ll die the next time she gets sick. And she can see everyone else being so sad, and it definitely rubs off on her.

I had hoped there would be a feeling of completion after the funeral. That I’d be able to move on. I’d been able to do that with most of the other funerals I’ve been through. They were times I could visit with loved ones, reminisce on times gone by. But I found out there’s a big difference between attending a viewing as family and attending one as one of the people who were close enough to the departed to mean that you’re standing in the line greeting people.

Some holes are just too deep to be filled so quickly, and some wounds can’t help but leave a scar.

This last week will leave a permanent mark on me and my family. I told Denisa last night that I probably have a fair bit more gray in my beard after yesterday. I hope and pray that I don’t have to go through anything like that again any time soon.

Thank you to everyone who came and all who have offered support, whether in person or on social media. It does help. It’s been so nice to see everyone again. I just wish it were under better circumstances.

And I suppose that’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

Heading to DC

I’m off to Washington DC on Sunday. Heading down as the Maine Library Association’s representative for National Library Legislative Day. What does that mean? It means on Monday I’ll be learning all about the different issues the American Library Association is pushing this year, and then on Tuesday, I’ll be meeting with Maine’s senators and representatives to go over those issues. Senator Collins, Senator King, Representative Poliquin, and Representative Pingree. (Sometimes the actual senators/representatives can’t make the meeting, and we talk with their staff instead. I’ll keep you posted.)

It won’t just be me. (That would be . . . quite intimidating for me. Yikes.) I’m with a group of librarians from Maine who are all much better spoken than I am. (As a side note, do you ever step back and wonder why in the world anyone listens to your opinion? I mean, when did I get to the point that I’m flying down to DC to meet with politicians? For the love of all that’s good in this world. where are the adults? You know. The people in charge. Life was much simpler when I could just be a kid and assume big stuff was getting done, and stay focused on what was really important: video games, television, and books. Come to think of it, I still stay pretty focused on that holy trinity . . .)

For a guy who dislikes planes, I’m going to be on an awful lot of them over the next two months. I’ve got two trips to DC, a trip to Utah, and a trip to Chicago followed by Utah, all between now and the beginning of July. Meanwhile, I need to get my draft of MEMORY THIEF 2 finished as soon as I can. I’m almost through with reading the first draft, and I see so many things that need to be fixed. It’s a little daunting.

Good thing I can just worry about little things like meeting with senators over the next few days.

Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted on the details.

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