Goodbye, Cleo…

November 17, 2020 10:22pm
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At the height of our shared exercise regiment, Cleo and I used to go on walks together just about every night.

This was before the kids, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to be out wandering around our extended neighborhood for an hour or two, though our average trip settled in at right around 3.5 miles which we could usually knock out in a little over an hour.

Cleo would’ve been anywhere from about 9 months to 3 years old, so that puppy had all of the energy in the world! I would seriously try to get changed in secret because once she saw me lacing up my tennis shoes, she was beyond excited. 

I was in my early 30s, so I wasn’t as out of shape as I am now, yet she would still drag me all over the place! If she happened to see a rabbit or a squirrel before I had a chance to tighten up my grip on her leash … uh oh!

We walked for hundreds and hundreds of miles together over a couple of years, her just sniffing and pulling in her own little world while I listened to music and podcasts and admittedly spent a lot of time just talking to myself trying to work through whatever was going on in my life at the time.

So I didn’t really know what to expect in taking her for our last walk together last night.

Needless to say, she didn’t have nearly the energy that she used to. Most of her time is spent sleeping and she really doesn’t run anymore, yet I was surprised how she really seemed to perk up when we got outside and reverted to her nose to the ground, forever curious-self that I remember … just a lot slower.

There was no pulling on the leash and I often had to slow down to her pace like I do when I’m walking with one of the kids. But low and behold, we ended up putting in a whole mile around the neighborhood with a nice break in the middle to “chat” and take a few pictures…

It was such a nice, pure time that momentarily it made me wonder if maybe she still had a chance after all, but once we got back home instead of curling up for bed she spent the next two hours wandering around the house and eventually got herself “stuck” behind the toilet again, so I guess this would be a good time to talk about all of her symptoms next…

* * *

Earlier this spring, Cleo was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which is basically a small tumor in her adrenal gland. There was really nothing we could do – the vet had a couple of pretty invasive procedures that might’ve worked, and even the testing for them was prohibitively expensive. Ultimately we decided that we’d just try to enjoy the time we had left and make her as comfortable, as the vet mentioned that we’d start to see the signs when her time got closer, but in hindsight I never would’ve expected her to show all of the signs to the point where aside from a bit of snuggling and still responding to her name, she was barely the same dog that we’ve come to love all of these years…

  • She didn’t bark anymore. Ever.
  • She didn’t give kisses anymore.
  • She couldn’t jump up on the couch, and she hadn’t been able to jump up on our bed for a while.
  • She almost always fell coming back down, and she’d gotten some nasty bruises to show for it.
  • Sometimes she would just randomly wander around the house in circles, occasionally squeezing into small, dark places (like beside the toilet) where she couldn’t get out without help.
  • She even sometimes showed difficulty walking and would cross her paws and stumble from time to time.
  • And her incontinence had me washing towels almost as fast as we could use them to clean up her messes.
  • Plus, she’d been losing her hair for a while. Most recently, a small patch on her back that left behind this really awful looking scaly patch.

We knew that it was the right choice, but it didn’t mean that I was in any way ready to say goodbye.

This past weekend as I started putting my thoughts together for this post, I had more than a couple of breakdowns – one of which found me crying on the floor and hugging Cleo. I would’ve given anything for a nuzzle or a random kiss that she hadn’t given in weeks to comfort me, but instead she just stared off into space and eventually went back to her new routine of wandering back and forth across the house as if it was the first time she’d ever been here, yet without the energy of the dog that she had eight years ago when we all walked into this house for the first time together.

When took her to the vet one last time over the weekend, his best guess was that the tumor in her gland had likely spread into her brain, which supported her general state of confusion and all of her troubles walking, and it was only going to get worse until she basically was no longer able to function at all.

As much as I was clinging desperately to her, I knew the truth was that really she was already gone.

* * *

Taking Cleo to the vet to be put down is easily one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.

Sara and I went together while the kids were at school, and we spent about 2.5 hours between saying goodbye and going over everything with the vet one last time.

Needless to say, there were a lot of tears.

Cleo wasn’t really with it for most of it, which is probably all for the best. I think she might’ve actually fallen asleep in our arms when we were going over the billing stuff, and when it finally came time for her IV she fought them to the point that they gave her some of the sedation drug early to help calm her down.

The drug to actually stop her heart was this bright pink, pepto bismol-looking stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the vet injecting. I just helped Sara to hold her and kept my eyes shut until I heard her say that she’d checked for a heartbeat and confirmed that she had passed.

Thankfully, the staff was all super supportive during the whole ordeal. We had a private room just for us with its own entrance, so we didn’t have to pass by other people when we were finally ready to leave.

There were a couple unexpected moments of comedy … or at least I had forgotten that thing where dead animals tend to empty their bowels when they expire, so that amused us that she got in one last chance to pee all over us on her way to the afterlife!

I also found it a little bizarre how unlike they do with people in the movies, I couldn’t close her eyes after she’d died and eventually resorted to pulling the towel she was wrapped in over her head once we’d said our goodbyes and taken the footprints that Sara wanted to take for the kids to do crafts with later.

To their credit, the kids so far have taken it pretty well. We’ve really tried to do our best over the last couple of days, and even the last months as her sickness had gotten worse, to prepare them that Cleo wasn’t going to get better and how eventually she was going to die. We told them that she’d be going to live with Sara’s Grandma Shorty in heaven because she loved animals so much, although I’m not sure that they entirely get the permanence because so far we’ve had a couple of times where they’ve asked when she’s coming back.

But the breakdowns have been limited to the adults and as a parent, I’m grateful for that.

* * *

It’s the day after we put Cleo down and the crying has (mostly) stopped.

Instead, the house just feels … empty.

Life goes on – we take the kids to school, I try to get some work done, etc, etc…

…but something is missing.

I keep waiting for Cleo’s head to pop up out of the sheets on the bed while I’m at our bathroom sink.

Or I catch myself not wanting to leave food unattended so that she doesn’t steal it.

We put the door guard over her doggy door because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the panel altogether, and yet now every time I walk by that guard reminds me that she’s not here to use it anymore.

The same for her gate between the playroom and the kitchen.

There are so many little reminders around this house of our furry family member who has passed on, and I’m constantly fighting between remembering the good times and staving off tears.

It’s amazing how much food my kids really waste when there isn’t a dog to clean up after them.

God, I miss that little brat so much.

* * *

To round out this post on a somewhat happy note, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Cleo moments from over the years…

  1. By and far, our long walks at night as described earlier were absolutely my favorite times!
  2. It sounds funny, but just seeing her sleeping in the corner of my office on her big, fluffy cloud of a comforter always made me smile and love working from home.
  3. We didn’t go very often once we had kids, but taking Cleo to the dog beach where she could actually wade into the water was always a treat. (she wouldn’t swim in our pool because it was too hard to get out)
  4. It was after a very special episode of Puppy Dog Pals that the boys officially dubbed Cleo with the name Superdog, which soon became interchangeable with all of the other fun pet names we called her around the house.
  5. Considering how she wasn’t exactly a fan of strangers coming in our house, it was particularly comforting to watch her snuggling with each of our newborn kids as we brought them home. She guarded those kids like they were her own…
  6. It was obnoxious at times, but there was something special about her snuggling up in the bed when we went to sleep … it was nice if you got her back and not her feet, anyways! I kind of likened it to pack animals huddling up at night to stay warm, and we were her pack.
  7. Although she managed to “forget” most of the other commands we tried to teach her, Cleo used to love jumping for treats. I tried teaching the kids how to have her do it, but at the time they’d always end up overhanding it across the house instead of giving her a gentle lob that she actually had a chance of catching!
  8. Before the kids were born and our house was much, much cleaner, we would also play hide and seek for treats where she would get told to stay and then we’d walk around the house randomly throwing dog treats around for her to seek out once she’d been given the all clear. She was surprisingly good at it, too – I could scatter treats across several rooms of the house and she would systematically track them down one by one, chewing away as she scarfed them down as fast as she could find them!
  9. And of course, it wasn’t a holiday in our house until Cleo got her toy to tear apart … stuffed toys, particularly with squeakers, didn’t stand a chance with her. They were a mess to clean up and never lasted very long – one year for Christmas we got her one of these big, stuffed chairs shaped like a giraffe or something meant for kids to sit in, and she tore into that thing like a lion feasting on a gazelle!
  10. Two words – Cleo. Kisses. They were the most enthusiastic and full of energy kisses you’d ever had, to the point where it sometimes got hard to breathe with her tongue essentially probing the inside of your nose! That dog made no secret who she adored and no face was safe when she got into her affectionate mode… 😀

* * *

Cleo “Superdog” Sevener
(2011 – 2020)

Today we had to say goodbye to Cleo, known by the kids as Superdog. Before her Cushing’s began to take over, this dog had more energy than a lot of people could handle. She loved to bark and chase things, and she was like a kid on Christmas morning tearing into her latest stuffed toy … which lasted about 30 seconds at best around her!

We’ll always remember Cleo for her voracious kisses, and her adoring snuggles, and how protective she was of her family – particularly of the boys.

Enjoy your next adventure wherever the afterlife takes you, Superdog – there’s no doubt that you stole our hearts even more than you stole our food…


January 18, 2019 10:17am
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And so here we are, some seventeen years since my very first blog post went up back in 2002…

A million words … wow!

This is a number that I’ve been chasing for years – typically whenever I’d hit another groove and get back into blogging every day, I’d think to myself, “This is going to be the big year!”

And then it wasn’t. 😛

2012 was apparently a very good year for blogging when I averaged 1.4 posts per day and 156,606 words total!

Surprisingly, despite occasionally being a bit long winded, my average post length is only 284 words, which just shows that those little posts that you knock out in 15 minutes can really add up over time. 😉

One stat that I found particularly interesting was my most popular tags by word count…

  1. rants – 153,136 (293 posts)
  2. geek stuff – 90,574 (258 posts)
  3. summary posts – 79,726 (130 posts)
  4. creative-type stuff – 79,380 (195 posts)
  5. politics – 75,683 (184 posts)
  6. movies – 71,840 (187 posts)
  7. diet & exercise – 65,736 (161 posts)
  8. dreams – 49,736 (86 posts)
  9. video games – 48,056 (198 posts)
  10. technology – 41,673 (141 posts)

Note: All of these stats come from the WP Word Count plugin by Link Software – the pro version is less than twenty bucks for unlimited sites … I’ve been using it for years and I love it!

One more of interest – looking at the blogging platforms that helped me to write those ONE MILLION words…

  • Fusion PHP (2002) – 9,747 (<1%)
  • LiveJournal (2003 – 2011) – 462,133 (46%)
  • WordPress (2011 – CURRENT) – 528,670 (53%)

It’s just amazing to me to look back over everything that I’ve blogged about over the years – mind you, I don’t really make any money or anything from this site, but it’s immensely valuable to me because it really serves as a journal where I’ve publicly shared so many of the most important moments from my life…

…and of course, plenty of nonsensical, rambling or otherwise just plain weird moments and thoughts and ideas, too!

So what’s next???

The short answer is – I have no idea!

No more than I could’ve predicted any of what got me to this point, anyways. One of my favorite things about my blog is that by not locking in to a particular theme or topic, it frees me to write about anything and everything! One day I might feel inspired to write about video games or a movie that I just saw, and others I might be feeling a bit more nostalgic or want to share vacation photos or even, dare I say, share some thoughts about politics!


One thing I will say is that with my first one million behind me, I hope that this inspires me to write more … you know, so that maybe I can get to two million before I’m ready to retire! 😉

Blogging is something that I really enjoy because it’s personal, and yet it’s a way to share a little bit of me in a medium that I’m very comfortable with considering just how much of an antisocial, introverted hermit that I am. 😛

Over the next million words, I’m looking forward to sharing even more milestones, and ranting about things that bug me, and bragging about my kids, and everything else that has made the last million words so enjoyable. :mrgreen:

Only 998,905 words to go…

The Sevener Twins Have Arrived!

September 16, 2016 1:18pm
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Apparently I haven’t blogged here in a while, so what better way to return than by sharing the announcement of not one, but two new additions to the Sevener family?! 😉

…I’m sure there will be plenty of posts about the anxiety and dual dirty diapers in the near future, so stay tuned for that!

* * * * *

Today has been a special day as we are very thankful to be welcoming not one, but TWO new baby boys into our family…

David Owen Sevener (formerly known as Baby A)
Born on Thursday, September 15th, 2016 at 12:10pm
4 lbs 3 oz – 18 inches long


Matthew Edward Sevener (formerly known as Baby B)
Born on Thursday, September 15th, 2016 at 12:11pm
2 lbs 1 oz – 13.5 inches long

Both babies are resting in the NICU with the same phenomenal staff that helped welcome Christopher into the world here only 2.5 years earlier, and though we’ve still got some challenges ahead of ourselves before they can journey home, overall today was a grand success.






Anniversary #8 … Memories

October 10, 2015 11:04am
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Yesterday was my eighth wedding anniversary.

At one point during the day, Facebook prompted me with the question of “What is my favorite marriage memory?” to go along with sharing a gallery of photos of Sara and I together, and I didn’t end up posting anything because at the time I honestly just couldn’t narrow it down to simply one.

That said, we talked about it a bit when we went out to dinner together later on that night and both of us shared some of our favorites because after eight years of marriage, who can seriously pick just one lone memory to elect as their all-time favorite?!

So here are some of mine, and although no doubt there have been plenty of other noteworthy occasions along the way, here’s what I came up with at this particular juncture in our grand adventure through time and space together… 😉


October 2006 – We celebrated our six-month dating anniversary together with a long weekend over at Disney where we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge for the very first time. We almost didn’t have any reason to leave the room because seeing the animals right outside our window was so cool.

In this picture you can see us enjoying a nice breakfast out on our balcony, which was amusing in its own right because Sara didn’t realize that room service automatically added a sizable gratuity when she added one herself, quite possibly making it one of the most well-tipped room service meals of all time!


October 2007 – We eloped! Exactly one year prior to the date that we’d chosen for our actual wedding ceremony, Sara and I snuck over to St. Augustine in the middle of the week for a mini-vacation that started with us very unceremoniously getting hitched at the courthouse … mostly for insurance purposes before she was to start nursing school that fall. We spent the next two days exploring the area and even climbed to the top of the local lighthouse, which now has a very special message from us in their guestbook if they happen to still have the one containing 2007 around!


October 2007 – Right around the same time, we moved into our first joint rental together – a three bedroom house where we would live for the next 3.5 years through nursing school, our real wedding, and the publishing of my first book.

Here you can see my beloved bride sizing up her new garden tub!


June 2009 – This year we traveled up to Minnesota to attend Tim and Amy’s wedding, but of course, a trip to Minneapolis just wouldn’t be complete without also paying a visit to The Mall of America! We literally spent an entire day wandering around something like five floors of this place, and playing mini-golf, and nearly losing my lunch on the rollercoasters that Sara forced me to go on. It was fun … most of it!


August 2010 – A year that will live down in vacation infamy, featuring Scott & Sara’s 2010 Awesome Summer Road Trip that put us traveling across the country for nearly a month, visiting all sorts of sights and enjoying a well-deserved rest before beginning to start trying for children in the upcoming future.

This particular photo is from our visit to Niagara Falls, which we actually ended up extending a day after not seeing nearly as much as we would’ve liked and admittedly having a pretty kick-ass hotel room to further enjoy the falls from to boot!


October 2010 – The anniversary where my wife actually somehow managed to surprise me with a trip to Disneyland!!! Truth be told, I even found it in her browser history at one point and she was a good enough to bluff her way out of it – that’s how good my wife is. We were there for a full week and visited both theme parks multiple times, on top of getting to watch the brand new World of Color from this great view that was quite possibly the highlight of the entire trip…


September 2012 – Our latest cruise was some three years ago, the same itinerary that we went on through the Western Caribbean for our honeymoon/2nd anniversary, though without all of the excursions and nothing but day after day of laying around the ship from port to port. I was so relaxed, in fact, that here on our very first day at sea Sara had actually persuaded me to get up and watch the sunrise with her … a feat that only five years of marriage, along with a pitifully small quantity of tequila, could dare to pull off!


August 2013 – And lastly, although he’s certainly produced plenty of adorable shots in the 18 months since his birth, I think this particular photo showing Christopher at nearly his earliest of all will always be my all-time favorite. It was roughly 10 days later when the doctor’s office confirmed from her hormone levels that Sara was officially pregnant … we were over at Disney to celebrate my birthday, and boy, was it one of the strangest, both exciting and nerve-racking weekends I think I’ve ever spent. Certainly a memory for the books, to say the very least!






It was only maybe an hour of our day, but it was one of those Disney moments that I never would’ve imagined was so cool until I got to watch my own kid meeting Mickey and his friends for his very first time!

And I’m sure it’s one of those things that’s going to be completely different another year or two from now when he’s actually awake for the entire experience and can’t sleep the night before we leave and all of that, but I’ve got to say that in ranking moments as a Dad thus far in my newfound parenting career, today was pretty cool! 😉

Chronicling the Arrival of Christopher Thus Far…

March 28, 2014 11:13pm
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Wait – what happened just this last week again?! 😯

So … the last mention of babydom on this blog was approximately Saturday when Sara had her baby shower, and prior to that I wrote about the multiple trips to the hospital that we endured last week.

Well, a lot has changed since then!

Mind you, my head is still whipping around at a mile a minute, but as I have a few minutes this morning before diving into painting the nursery that I’ve put off long enough, I wanted to take just a moment in time to formally document the absolute craziness that got us from then to now! I’m sure I’m going to miss a few details here and there because I don’t have my resident nurse handy to correct every last detail, but something tells me this probably won’t be the last blog post I write about the whole experience, anyways… 😉

Oh Crap! … Monday Night Around 1:15am (technically Tuesday – 3/25)
I was just getting ready to call it quits with whatever I was writing at the time when Sara came in after presumably sleeping for a few hours and asked the question that would change my sleepy-time hours completely – “Do you think this smells like pee???”

Spoiler – it didn’t, and so after leaving a message for the doctor and scrambling to re-pack the overnight bag that we’d already packed twice the week before, we were en route to someplace that I could probably drive to in my sleep at this point! She was already starting to have contractions in the car – real contractions, not those bogus Toni Braxton ones, and by the time we made it to the hospital she was feeling them pretty good.

Mine, on the other hand, were mostly painless.

Lingering … 2:00am – 4:00am
This time was mostly spent in shock and concern and confusion as we waited for the nurses to do their thing and figure out where we actually were at that point in time. Eventually they confirmed that one way or another, she definitely was delivering the baby that day because her water had broken – a concern because she was only 34 weeks, 2 days – but at that time it was the kind of worry that remained unsaid, though everyone was probably thinking the same thing.

Through this all, Sara’s pain was slowly getting worse, which sucked because there wasn’t much I could do to help and I had left the tennis balls I had bought specifically to give her back rubs, just like the childbirth class said! back home on the counter. So basically Cleo got three free tennis balls out of the deal and I got a sore hand trying to rub my wife’s back harder than the mighty Thor! 🙄

Nap Time? … 4:00am – ???
I tried to take one, but it didn’t really work because:

  1. The chair I was in was super uncomfortable.
  2. The person I was trying to sleep next too was apparently also super uncomfortable.

So I “slept” just long enough to get a crick in my neck, then woke up and tried to console the wife as much as I could … at least until the magical epidural finally came along and promptly whisked all of her pain right out the door!

Seriously, that thing was like night and day for her, and aside from when she was pushing, I hardly heard another peep out of her until after she delivered. I thoroughly recommend epidurals for anyone, anywhere … in fact, if it didn’t involve shoving a needle into one’s spine, I’d probably be wearing one right now…

TIME TO HAVE THE BABY!!! … 11:15am

Literally when I went to sleep again after she got her magical happy-time juice, she was 0 cm dilated and I was thinking that it was going to be a while.

The next thing I knew, I heard someone say, “Hey, you might want to wake up – she’s going to have the baby pretty soon…” and if there’s anything that will whip a guy out of bed like it’s on fire, that would be it!

After taking a few minutes to comb my hair and splash water on my face and stare in awe into the mirror with the expression that led to that tweet above, I came out of the bathroom and watched as they slowly started to wheel stuff into the room that’s commonly associated with the delivering of babies, and more and more people started to gather … seriously, there were so many nurses in that room by the time we were ready to go … it was actually kind of comforting, considering all that was about to go down.

If anything, there certainly won’t be any argument when the bills come for all of this that we got our money’s worth as far as nurses and doctors are concerned!

As you might imagine, at this point times are a bit fuzzy because in the next 55 minutes, my son was born.  😯 The whole thing was pretty crazy/insane/wild/whatever adjective you want to use to describe it! Pictures were taken by my fascinated, also nurse sister-in-law, although I can’t really share any of them because they’re mostly pictures of my wife’s bloody vagina and you don’t need to see that…

In hindsight, I’m honestly just pretty proud of myself for not fainting through the whole thing – I guess despite how graphic the whole thing was, that new Daddy haze made it ok … which is funny because in looking back over those same photos later, well, let’s just say that my stomach is back to normal and they’re not exactly my favorite to look at anymore! 😛

But the baby came out – surprisingly effortlessly … granted, Sara might disagree, but we really weren’t at it that long. I held one leg and her primary nurse held the other while several other random people in the room told her to push. When I first saw just the top of his head, I really wasn’t sure what I was looking at with his hair and all, and my usual consult was a little busy for me to be asking her questions!

Then some more baby started to emerge, and suddenly before I realized what was happening, he was out and slimy and kind of pale, and they held him while I poorly cut the cord (seriously, it took me two tries because I was afraid of cutting the doctor and ended up cutting the cord only halfway through!), and then they cleaned him off a little and wrapped him up, and then this happened…


Up to the NICU … 12:10pm
Unfortunately baby didn’t get to stay in the room long because they wanted to get him up to the NICU and on some oxygen, so in a haze I left Sara behind with her bevvy of medical personnel and walked with Christopher and his own team over to his temporary home where I was introduced to more doctors and more nurses who at that moment in time I had nothing but admiration for as they got my new baby boy hooked up to all of the terrible and terribly important tubes and monitors that are required of a baby who decides to bounce into the world six weeks early.

I’m not gonna lie – that part was really hard, but it didn’t even have to be said that it was for the best…


By the time he was situated and I was ready to temporarily say goodbye, Sara was just about ready to move into her regular room, so I went and helped with that, then together we returned to the NICU and spent some more time before I headed out to get supplies so that I could actually spend the night that evening. After taking some time alone to process the fact that I’d just become a father while also giving our poor pooch Cleo a quick stroll around the block, I was back in time to read our little boy his very first bedtime story (The Pokey Little Puppy), then we quickly took care of the birth announcement and posting a few more pictures of our own before finally collapsing victoriously after collectively bringing a new human being into this world! 😉

:mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:   :mrgreen:

So where are we now…
That was three days ago and today Sara got discharged to come home. Baby Christopher, on the other hand, is another story because at this point he’s still got a ways to go on his oxygen as his little lungs work to finish developing. We’re trying to just take it a day at a time because we’re still at that point where a time frame isn’t even something that his doctors are ready to spell out just yet. Again, he was born six weeks early and that’s traditionally not ideal, so right now we just need to give him a chance to grow and get stronger while the doctors and nurses do their thing.

For what it’s worth, pretty much everyone at the hospital from the maternity nurses through everyone watching over him in the NICU have been OUTSTANDING, so at least that makes it a little easier to sleep at night when I have to go back home and leave him at the hospital. I doubt it’ll be as easy for Sara, but we’ll get through it one way or another… 😉


In Memory, a Lego Knight’s Legacy…

January 13, 2014 11:48am
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One of the things that I wanted to do while we were up here for my Grandpa’s funeral was go through my exceedingly large collection of childhood Legos and see if I could pick out a few of the ones that I used to play with at his house. Probably one of my fondest early memories of my Grandpa was when he would play Defender of the Crown on the Amiga, and before I was old enough to actually learn how to play myself, I would sit on the floor in the bedroom and act out the scenes with my medieval Legos as he fought to conquer England there in the game.

It’s funny because only this weekend I learned that the game was very much a family thing because not only are my cousins also super nostalgic for playing that game with our Grandpa, but we all always played as the noble swordsman, Geoffrey Longsword, too! 🙂

I’m getting ready to get on the plane back home here in a few minutes, and as much as the iOS port kinda sucks, I think I might play a little bit on my way back home anyways…


Bye, Grandpa…

January 11, 2014 2:52am
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Today was my Grandpa’s funeral.

It’s kind of weird to look back and think that only six months ago we were all gathered here to celebrate his 90th birthday, and everybody remarked at what great health he was in and that for all we knew, he might have lived another 10 years without blinking an eye. I guess that makes me feel all the more glad that we made the trip up last summer to see him one last time…

After I heard about his death last Friday and before I actually got here, I found myself admittedly feeling a little jealous of the other people who had gotten to know my Grandpa better than I did. When you live within a 45 minute’s drive at best, you tend to see people more often for Christmas and birthdays and even just on random whims, whereas since I moved to Florida, I’ve probably been back home maybe half a dozen times at best over the last 10 years.

For what it’s worth, though, I do think that we stopped to see Grandpa every single time.

But then I spent a lot of time talking with my family and especially my cousins today, and also with my Dad over the last couple of days, and when I got home tonight I went through about half a dozen photo albums, too, and I knew my Grandpa even if it might not always feel that way when living so far away. Sometimes the details don’t always stand out to you right away when certain people have been such a constant in your life – I may not have gotten to see him as much, but he was always there.

Family Christmases, despite me and my cousins spending a good chunk of our time playing Nintendo in the back bedroom…

Going fishing with him and my Dad…

Countless birthdays when all of our family would come to the house for hamburgers and hot dogs and cake and ice cream…

More recently, I remember getting random messages on our answering machine when they’d have heard on the news that a tornado had touched down somewhere near us or that a hurricane was brewing out in the Gulf, and he just wanted to call to make sure that we were ok.

When I first moved to Florida, he gave me a loan for some money to help me get into my first apartment, which I paid back a year later with interest, along with what I like to remember was a pretty heartfelt letter about how I couldn’t have done it without them.

It’s strange to think about the one house other than my parents’ growing up where I’ve never had to knock on the door first before coming in – that it won’t be the same soon anymore. All of those memories on the walls, and from the fancy rug on the floor, and in that back bedroom, it’s time to pack them up and take those with us now to wherever we go next…

And yet in seeing the makings of our next generation run around that living room and chatting about old times with my cousins and even now seeing my sister’s daughter calling my Dad Grandpa, somehow I guess I see a little bit of both my Grandpa and Grandma in all of that kind of stuff because if there’s one thing they both seemed to love more than anything else, it was having family around.

It didn’t matter what we were doing or what the argument discussion topic of the day was … you could tell just by watching them watch everyone else around them that they were proud parents, and proud grandparents, and proud great grandparents … they were just happy to have a house full of people that they loved, all under the same roof.

At the end of the day, nothing else mattered except for family and both of my grandparents soaked up every last drop of it that they could – everything else would work itself out in due time…

Maybe they were on to something after all. 😉







On Reminiscing…

December 6, 2013 6:01pm
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I sometimes spend a fair amount of time looking back at the past things that I’ve done in my life … maybe a little more than I actually should, I don’t know. But it intrigues me to occasionally wander back to those places that I’ve already been, whether it’s to simply bask in seemingly simpler times or even consider something that happened from a different perspective that one can only have when they look back at themselves 5 or 10 or 15 years after the fact.

I don’t necessarily wish that anything had turned out differently in the long run. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with the life that I have today and everything that surrounds me, and if we’re talking space-time continuum here, then no, I wouldn’t ever want to go back and risk changing something that could have drastic effects on where I’ve ended up today or even what might happen to me beyond now in this life into the future.

With that said, sometimes I do look back at those various times in my life and wonder what would’ve happened within that unique moment if I had done things differently … if I had moved to Florida a few years earlier or if I would’ve taken my first major writing gig a little more seriously than I did. Of course, the thing about retrospect is that it’s easy to look back on the past and talk about the things that you could’ve done differently, whether it be not putting deadlines off until the last possible minute or returning phone calls that maybe you weren’t mature enough to return at the time. When you’ve got all of this new experience that came after those random moments, it’s only then that you could ever really know that maybe there was a better way to handle certain things.

And as bittersweet as sometimes it is to look back at those times and think, “Man, I should’ve done this differently…”, at the same time I also try to look at where I am right now and know that it was those moments in the past that have helped to shape me into who I am today. I may not have taken my deadlines very seriously back in 2004, but I certainly put a heavier weight on the commitments that I make today. Just as I’ve learned things about trying not to hold onto grudges as much and not cutting people off who are important to me just out of spite and even simply the importance of taking some time every now and then to simply look around and soak it all in where I am right here and right now, because another 10-15 years from now, I’m going to be just as nostalgic about this time, too.

I guess that’s the curious thing about how nostalgia works, or at least how my nostalgia seems to work because it never seems to be limited to only that one golden time in my life when everything was perfect. It’s more like a window that just keeps growing and growing as time passes, from childhood to grade school to my college years to my late 20s and even simply looking back at what’s happened more recently. This world feels so big that not only do I want to go out and experience all sorts of new things, but I also want to remember and relive the things that I’ve done in the past, too.

That classic quote – “Don’t live in the past – instead, live for the future…” – feels like it falls a little short for me. I want to do both, and ultimately I think that as long as one can maintain a decent balance between the two, sometimes there’s still a lot that we can learn from our past that we never would’ve imagined while we were busy living it at the time.

10 Years in Sunny Florida

September 27, 2013 10:40pm
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As if we haven’t celebrated enough anniversaries this week, today also happens to mark the 10th anniversary of when I became a Florida resident!

Yes, it was 10 years ago today – give or take a few hours – that I pulled off onto Dale Mabry Hwy here in Tampa, my little black Sunfire loaded down with the majority of my worldly possessions, after driving 1,438 miles over a two-day span with the Northern Michigan town where I spent the first 23 years of my life in the rear-view mirror. For my first three weeks in town, I lived out of a Howard Johnson in South Tampa for $160/week … which was exactly as lavish as you would expect from a $23/night motel room!

But I didn’t care – I was in Florida. And eventually I found myself a job, and an apartment, and slowly I started to build a little life for myself down here, seemingly on the other end of the country from pretty much everyone I’d ever known…

Being so far away from family has always been hard, but generally they’ve always been pretty understanding of why I left. I’d been out of high school for 5 years, I’d gone as far as I could in the company that I worked for, my social life existed exclusively online … I just needed more than what Gaylord had to offer me, and they got that.

It’s still a little weird to think that I essentially picked the Tampa Bay area at random. I thought that I wanted to move here so that I’d be closer to the water for diving, though in hindsight I’ve yet to don a regulator since I left Michigan! Originally I was going to move to St. Petersburg, but started to look around Tampa more after a couple of apartments that I looked at didn’t live up to their promotional photos online. I was even considering Orlando at one point because I wanted to study oceanography and UCF had a program while USF didn’t.

There were other cities where I’d considered in between, before I had the guts to go all in and just go to Florida, too. Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo … even some little town in Maine at one point, simply because I had a friend who was stationed there in the Navy … good god, am I glad that that one never quite worked out! I like lobster, but not enough to tolerate that kind of cold…

The truth is that none of those places worked out for one reason or another, and even though I was bitter about each one at the time, it was kind of all the better because deep down I’d always wanted to move to Florida … those were merely intended to be stepping stones, even though in hindsight I’m sure I’d have gotten stuck in any one of them and probably would’ve never made it to where I am today.

I love living in Florida, just like I love living in Tampa. It’s a big city, but not so big that I’m afraid to walk around downtown. Right now we’re just about equal driving distances to the Gulf beaches and to Disney World, so you can’t beat that! I love having choices of places to go – something we didn’t have up north – whether we’re talking about things to do on a weekend or even just which Walmart to go grocery shopping at. Plus, we have enough places to eat that the nice place doesn’t have to mean Chili’s or Olive Garden.

Obviously I love the weather, especially going into the next couple of months where it starts getting a little cooler … but not nearly that cold.

Contrary to many of my neighbors up north, I actually like the diversity that comes from living in a bigger city – i.e. unlike my hometown, Tampa has more than one gay person and more than one black person, and not everybody speaks English, either! I love seeing palm trees everywhere, including in my own front yard. And I think it’s neat that often times we get to watch cruise ships head out to sea when we take Cleo to the dog park down by the water.

It’s funny because Sara and I have talked randomly about whether we’d ever want to move someplace else, be it closer to family either in Michigan or New York, or even to somewhere entirely different, and thankfully she’s kind of on the same page as me on this one in that Tampa is our home and we like it here just fine. 😉

I’ve lived almost 1/3 of my life now here in Florida, to the point where I can’t really picture living anywhere else. Sure, we might like to move up to a bigger house at some point, but we’d still stay here … in fact, we’ve kind of already got the neighborhood picked out once the book sales start to pick up!

When I first moved down here until I’m not really sure when they stopped, I used to have nightmares where I’d suddenly be not living in Florida anymore – I’d be back at my old job stocking shelves at the warehouse, and eventually I’d think that my rent is due soon, and then someone would have to remind me that that was over, now, and it didn’t work out and that’s why I was back home again. It had been such a struggle for me to get here that the threat of losing it was very scary because I figured that all it would take was one slip up and without anyone around to bail me out, I’d have no choice but to go back to Michigan…

Needless to say, I don’t really have those nightmares anymore, but it’s no question that moving to Florida has probably been one of the most significant events in my adult life. It’s incredibly cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true – sometimes you just have to pack up and follow your dreams and see where the road takes you. There’s a part of me that wishes I’d have had the guts to do it sooner and I couldn’t tell you how many years I stared at that map of Florida that I had taped to my door before I finally took that leap, but at least I did it and that’s really all that matters.






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