Monday, April 24, 2006

No Surprise

It probably comes as no surprise when I say that the last post took a lot out of me. That's why I haven't posted in over a week. Now I'll try to get y'all back up to speed.

Been fighting a sinus/ear infection that has the added benefit of giving me some TMJ problems as well. No chewing gum for me for awhile. While the kids were home over spring break, I did not go to the gym once. Feels like I slid more than just a week, even though it's only that much actual time. The good news is the first time back last week I did a full-on workout with extended cardio and upper body, and I wasn't too sore afterward. I've also been keeping up with my chiro and massage, so the muscles and spine are in good shape. And my LMP has been studying reflexology, so I get to be her guinea pig. Fine by me!

Got a visit from my buddy Hans over Easter weekend. Hans and I were the first artists at Boss Game Studios back in the early 3D days (circa 1994). Remember the first Sony Playstation (aka PSX)? The Sega Saturn? The Nintendo Virtual Boy? I don't blame you if you don't remember that last one - it was on the market for about five seconds. Hans still works as an artist in the game industry, albeit in San Diego - so whenever he comes up to Seattle to visit family, we try to meet up. We're like a couple dorky kids when we get together.

Things with Tyler have been going pretty smoothly, despite a small incident today. He's really starting to show an amazing level of maturity. In fact, he took his last month's allowance that he'd saved and opened a savings account today. Wow!

Kayleigh was invited by the owner of her dance studio to join a second class during the week - the members of which will do a second performance at this year's recital. This morning as I was dropping her off at school, she wished me luck dealing with Tyler. That made me chuckle.

Kayleigh and I went to the Pacific NW Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty on Saturday night, thanks to a fellow widda in my Gilda's group. It was a lavish, beautiful performance - although at 3 hours with 3 intermissions, a tad long for the younger set. Honestly, ballet is probably my least favorite of the classical arts. There are only so many moves and so many solos I can watch before I'm making a snowflake out of my program or counting the lights on the grid. But it's hard to beat a top-notch ballet company doing their shtick to Tchaikovsky's famous score (played by one of the best orchestras in the world). The sets were fantastic, the makeup and costumes amazing. In fact, I must mention the coolest thing for me personally as a history geek: the first half is set in a 17th century fairy tale kingdom. Long hair and van dykes, cavalier jackets and floppy boots. Totally appropriate given that the origins of the written story date back to the 17th Century French folklorist Charles Perrault. Then, after Aurora falls asleep for 100 years and we meet the prince who will save her, everyone is wearing 18th Century waistcoats and tricorn hats. Very cool - "hats off", as it were, to the costume designer.

I've been getting a lot of email correspondence from the folks putting on my 20th high school reunion. Although I plan on going to California to meet up with some old friends that weekend (and will probably go to the family picnic), I have decided I am not attending the reunion dinner. Five hours of constant reminders of Sam and having to tell the story over and over just doesn't fill me with warm fuzzies.

I just finished editing a commercial for Steve Hartley's caricature business, Muggshotz. I feel like my old editing chops are starting to thaw. Also finished a second draft of Ordinary Angels, which now has a producer and a casting director. I'm putting together a scope for a documentary on the widowing process and starting a new life. There have been several widdas who have come forward to offer interviews. I think it's a promising project. Looks like I will be directing the fall show on the Twelfth Night Productions season - I've proposed A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room. Small cast, one set, limited costume changes. The ideal show for a space like Youngstown.

Other than that, the weather in Seattle has been beautiful - sunny and mid-70s with a gentle breeze. It feels like spring - it feels like rebirth. The summer schedule is filling up and the demolition on the house is supposed to start this week. Things are looking up.

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dear Sam,

One year ago today I watched you take your last breath, a moment I will never forget. For the next several hours, you lay peacefully on the hospice bed while I waited for the couriers to come pick up your body for donation to the UW Medical School. I sat there in the family room with your brother and his wife and the three of us conversed in the most oddly calm manner - a clear combination (at least on my part) of shock, exhaustion and relief. Relief because your fight, and hence our fight, was over. After your body had been removed, I picked up the neck pillow I'd placed under your head the previous night, and was shocked to find it was still warm, after 5+ hours. I carried that pillow around the rest of the day, and kept it in bed with me for weeks. Anything that carried your scent or reminded me of you was hoarded. I obsessed over your recordings and images, tried to locate every bit of you I could find.

A year later, I still think about you every day. I still remember the way you smelled, the way I could get you to laugh at just about anything, the way your head felt cradled in the crook of my neck and chest when you came looking for a hug. I miss the comfort of going to sleep with you beside me, and waking up next to you in the morning. I miss talking shop about kids, acting, theater, film and publishing. I miss debating the merits of a particular novel or play, or a certain childrearing technique. I miss traveling with you, whether it be a road trip or a long vacation to a foreign country. Lord, how I miss your awesome cooking!

Though I believe you are still out there, watching out for the kids and me, I miss having your corporeal energy, your physical presence in my life. Will I ever stop missing you? Perhaps in the years to come, the craving will be less acute. But I don't anticipate living a single day and not thinking about you, about us, for at least a few minutes. We shared a formative portion of our lives, and I'm profoundly honored and proud to have been your partner, friend, confidant and lover for the 20 years we were together.

You know how the last year has been for us. You know my dad followed your exit at the end of May. You know the city flooded our bedrooms with raw sewage and the subs cleaning the furnace burned down the house. Any one of those events would have been much more tolerable with you at my side, but to face all of them in concert without you was more than I thought I could bear.

But I did.

You see, losing you brought out an inner strength I thought came from you. But it turns out it was within me all the time. Losing you made me strong enough to face these other disasters, to protect our children and soldier on with them. If there's anything positive I can take away from the loss of my high school sweetheart, it's the realization that I am stronger and more capable than I ever thought possible.

All this being said, here we are a year later... and I am extremely positive looking forward. The immediate pain I felt from having you ripped away from me and from the kids has dulled with time, and will continue to do so. I have dated, but have found I don't need to tie my identity to a relationship - so now I'm concentrating on the kids and the business. I continue to work with the theater group you were instrumental in introducing me to. I continue making strides toward a return to film, which you so ardently supported before your passing (and for which I will be eternally grateful). I found I hadn't lost my camera chops - so theory still serves me, even though I was technologically not up-to-speed. Some of my creativity has come back. I'm returning to a semblance of balance.

Really what I mean by all of this is... thank you. Thank you for being in my life for 20 wonderful years. Thank you for giving me two amazing children. Thank you for making me realize my strength and identity are not tied to outside influences. And most of all, thank you for continuing to inspire me (and others) in continuously new and creative ways.

I will always love you, Samantha Kate.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Year Approaches

I haven't posted all week due to a few reasons:

1) I was getting actual work done (evident in my 2nd draft of Ordinary Angels).
2) I was being sick.
3) The last week before spring break entails a lot of school-related activities.
4) I was also indulging in my favorite form of crack - some tactical strategy games, namely Star Wars: Empire at War (which has all the cool stuff about Star Wars without any of the lameness), and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (which is based on a tactical miniatures game I used to play back in the day - which was a Wednesday, if you believe Dane Cook).

I'd feel a lot worse about #4 if #1 and #2 weren't the case. :)

I wanted to give a big shout out to GAMA, the Game Manufacturers Association, who held a silent auction at this year's GTS show, and presented us with a generous check. Thanks Anthony, and all the wonderful folks who made the auction happen. I keep marveling at the generosity of our industry. It really helps, guys. Thank you.

And to the generous folks in the Puget Sound area who donated to the Seattle's Bravest firefighter charity - thank you. We were presented with another check that really helps take the sting out of the out-of-pocket expenses we have absorbed (and will have to absorb until we get a final insurance settlement). Dave came out to the house with a big envelope full of your cards and notes. You are all wonderful.

There's been a huge buildup in my mind regarding this coming Wednesday, which will mark 1 year since Sam died. Since our family was transformed. Since the kids lost their mom. Since my life as I knew it ended. I don't know how I will observe/handle/cope with the day. I guess we'll find out. Don't be surprised to see another open letter to Sam. It's kind of my shtick, I guess.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Sam. There's still some longing, some looking back with a tear and a sigh. But that looking back is from a completely foreign perspective now. I look at those old photos and it's like observing someone else's life... like, "oh yeah, I knew that guy... married, couple kids, videogame designer..." It just doesn't seem like me anymore - probably because I feel fundamentally different at the core. And while I might sometimes wistfully remember what it was like being him with her, that is a dynamic that no longer exists. That combination, that equation is no longer valid. It has gone out into the universe as something good and loving and unique, and will never be seen again.

I don't usually talk about a lot of metaphysical stuff on this blog, due to the fact that it is very personal to me (and I only post stuff I feel comfortable sharing with the world at large). But interestingly, Tyler confessed to having had a dream about Sam, where she briefly talked to him. That was good to hear - it's only about the second time he's talked about his mom appearing in a dream. According to Tyler, she said she was glad we'd found a temporary place to live, she was glad Tyler and I were getting along better (we are), and she was sorry about James Brown's accident (he's still not recovered, but is slowly gaining back some use of his hind legs - a good sign). I don't claim these "visits" are anything more nor less than what they appear to be. If they are real to the dreamer, so be it. Sam & I shared too many freaky "connection" moments for me to disregard the possibility of a persistent soul. I also had a dream about Sam last night, on the eve of a road trip up to Bellingham to help celebrate my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary. Seemed like she was just checking in and giving me a hug to keep moving forward.

Picked up my brother & sister-in-law bright and early, and trekked up to the B-ham. We surprised my grandparents at their church, and all of us went to brunch after the service. There was a time (recently) when I would have been sour and jealous at the thought of celebrating such a wonderful anniversary - from a purely selfish perspective (like that could have been Sam and me eventually, blah blah blah, bitter bitter bitter). But I'm a lot more at peace with the way things are, the way things have been, and the way things will be. And VERY happy that my grandparents are still here with us and celebrating such a great milestone! I love them dearly and I'm glad we made the trip. Photo, L: Jack & Dorothy Brown, April 1941. Photo, R (from Left): sister-in-law Michelle, grandmother Dorothy (aka Omi), little sister Sara, yours truly, grandfather Jack (aka Opa), and little brother Gavin (who is taller than me, so "little" only refers to our chronological age).

My best friend, Randy, has been working on some CAD designs for proposed alterations to the house when they get to rebuilding. There's a lot of talk of opening up the upstairs quite a bit, to allow more flow. There are also some alternate designs that include an enclosed garage (we've had a carport since day one) and a dedicated studio space above. I keep remembering what Sam said when she'd decided on that house 11 years ago (much to my astonishment): "It's perfect."

"It's too small for us," I worried. "We already have Tyler, and we want to have a second kid - this place isn't big enough." "But the lot is huge," she countered, "and we can add on..." It was totally the wrong reason to buy a house, but the fact that within 5 years we'd doubled the square footage drove her point home. Because of the home's modest beginnings as a 1924 craftbuilt 1-bedroom bungalow, there were always space issues - not enough storage, small rooms sectioned off from one another, plaster/lathe walls filled with blown newspaper insulation (most of which had settled halfway down the wall after 80 years), a full bath upstairs which was rarely used since the basement was turned into living space. Now we have the opportunity to make it a truly useful space with lots of storage and good flow. I'm really excited to see what we can do. And my adjuster says we should have approval to start work by Friday of this coming week.

Caleb and I were watching the documentary Murderball the other night, and it really inspired me to start interviewing some of my friends in the widda community, with the goal of assembling a compelling documentary piece on spouse/partner loss.

Kayleigh's having a blast with her cousin and my stepmom in Oregon. They are visiting a friend's farm and getting to feed the new lambs. It's a valuable experience to have - every kid should at least visit a farm.

That's all for now. No school for the kids this week. There's a beer with my name on it and rebel scum who need a good Imperal smiting. More later.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Emerald City + Shop Talk

Caleb & I showed up at the Emerald City Comicon this morning, and I broke in the HDV cam with some crowd and vendor shots for Brian & Co. to use in their advertising next year. Also took some footage of Steve doing caricatures. I want to assemble a mini-commercial for his website. It's really great being associated with the great guys who run the show, because I get to watch a friend's project blossom and become a success from within. The show has grown enormously in its scant four years, and Brian, George and Jim (and a small army of partners in crime) deserve all the success this show has coming. And there is more to come - mark my words.

We shmoozed from 9:30 until about 12:30 and then headed back to the homestead. Gavin took Tyler to Ice Age 2, and Caleb and I hung out with Heath Ward, whom I declare forthwith to be The Nicest Dude in Indie Film in Seattle. We talked shop, and discussed how we'd like to do the Ordinary Angels project. He's got some great ideas, and has some great motivating energy. He wants to be attached to the project, and I am looking forward to the collaboration.

Well, the clocks get set forward tonight, so I'm gonna try to put the kids to bed. TTFN.