Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Well, Happy New Year!

Since I already had a Year End Wrap Up Blowout, I guess there's not much to say. We went to a friend's house tonight for an early get together. They had two pieces of paper on the wall. One read, "Things to remember about 2008" and the other read, "Things to look forward to in 2009".

Let's see. What do I want to remember about this year?

Not a whole hell of a lot.

From the shitty weather (wind, rain and cold well into June, then epic snow in December!) to a failing economy to backstabbing ex-employees to playing less rock shows to struggling to make ends meet to losing Dad to the stress of the aftermath, I have a lot of things to disremember.

I guess I really am a "glass half full" dude as whenever I think back, I think of how much worse it could be for me/us. I don't like to think of things being worse, so I'll move on.

I guess it's all relative, huh?

So, what am I looking forward to in 2009?

LESS DAMN DRAMA! No more health issues (though with Judy's recent issues, both health and career, who knows?). I am looking forward to Riley's continued healing and progress. I am looking forward to our Make a Wish trip (yet to be confirmed, but once it is, I'll spill the beans). I am looking forward to Haley maturing even more and learning and growing. I am looking forward to Marci and I beginning our 16th year together (OMG) and becoming closer. I am looking forward to the business surviving the blows 2008 brought and growing it for many many more years.

I think most of all, I am looking forward to hope, potential, change and growth.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go celebrate the New Year with some water and a hug.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

It's over!

We had a white Christmas. Snow, and lots of it. Sure, it's a pain, but there is something cool about having snow fall on Christmas day.

The kids started things off, opening their gifts at a record pace. It seemed they'd barely have one open and then want another one to open. Kind of funny, kind of annoying.

I'm trying to teach those kids patience, but I think I'm failing miserably.

After they made a huge mess of our living room, we took a break for some breakfast, then went back to the gifts for Marci and I and Ted and Judy.

As I mentioned previously, 3 of my gifts for Marci are still on their way. Due to the inclement weather and idiotic blogger, stuff just didn't make it here on time. So I told her she's getting an Extend-o-mas, which is like Hanukkah, only not.

I did Marci and everyone else the favor of putting my wants on an Amazon.com gift list. What a cool way to get what you want. I made a point to not look at my list after sending it out and ended up being surprised at the stuff I ended up getting. In no particular order, I received:
  • a Guitar Hero 3 X-Plorer guitar (unfortunately I don't need that and will be returning it. Marci got it because it was an incredible deal)
  • 101 Bass Tips by Gary Willis (this book by a bassist for bassists is seen as kind of a "must have" for bassists. I've looked through it and it is cool, though it isn't the Holy Grail I thought it would've been)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (I asked for this based on recommendation by Amazon.com that I would like it)
  • A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons (I read The Terror by Simmons and loved it. Though this book and the one that follows are nothing like The Terror, I thought I'd give them a try)
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons (see above)
  • Burnout Paradise for Xbox 360 (I'm a sucker for driving games and, though I wouldn't buy it, I wouldn't mind having it given to me. Me and Rye played for a bit tonight [he steered, I hit the gas] and it was a lot of fun)
  • Rush Snakes & Arrows Live Bluray (those who know me know I LOVE Rush. I didn't see them this past tour, but was able to hold out for this disc. I popped it in for a few minutes tonight and it will be awesome to watch once the in-laws vacate my viewing area)
  • 4gb flash drive keychain (I wanted this to help out at work. I got tired of asking Rich to borrow his CDs and tools. I figured I'd be able to keep my own set of tools with me at all times instead)
  • BlackBerry windshield mount (I recently got a GPS puck for my BB. Trouble is, it's near impossible to drive and view my BB screen at the same time. I wanted to be able to mount my BB in my line of sight, and now I can. Thanks, Santa!)
  • Blue Old Navy shirt (I will be so hot in this)
  • Red Polo scarf (Mom gave this to me. It's nice, but short. Can't do the Oprah knot on it very well)
  • Tiny digital picture keychain viewer (Marci got it for me as a stocking stuffer. It's tiny and will hold who knows how many pictures. I hate a bulky keychain so I think I may hook it somewhere in my car or desk to keep my loved ones close at hand)
  • Coffee mug decorated by Haley and Riley (I love this. It beats what they made for Papa: a flower pot that holds pens. Though their reasoning was sound: he likes to garden. They figured he could use it to hold a plant if pens were out of the question)
I think that's my haul. All in all, I'm happy with my take. I know the kids loved what they got. Marci? Well, though she got and will get stuff, she kind of got the shaft on things. I got her some Croc-ish shoes and they were the wrong size. Ted and Judy got her some shoes and they were the wrong color. They also got her a mount for her GPS and it was the wrong one. My mom gave her a pair of gaucho pants and, not only were they ugly, they were the wrong size.

Needless to say, she's probably had better Christmases.

Overall, it was nice to just be at home, play Mousetrap with the kids, and enjoy giving and getting. And to forget about the outside world for a day. Tomorrow? Back to the stores for Marci, I'm sure.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Xmas foul-ups

I'm chalking it up to the insane weather, not my procrastination.

You see, I ordered gifts last week. Thursday, if you must know. And Friday.

Ok, so I cut it close.

Anyway, I payed for expedited shipping and the stuff got out the door on time. Trouble is, 12" of snow got in the way. So, of the three items I ordered, one will be here next Monday (oversight on my part; I thought it said it'd be here by Xmas Eve. And it did say that, if I ordered it 2 day. Oops), one is supposed to be here today, and the other, well, who knows? I contacted my inside man at UPS and he said the one that's arriving today isn' t on his truck. I'm hoping it's coming with one of the holiday helpers and should be here any moment.

That's the other problem. I ordered everything to ship to work. Trouble is, though it's clear now, how long do I stay to wait for a package that may show up after 5?

At this rate, Marci will get maybe 3 items with 3 yet to arrive. SUPER! We agreed to scale it back a little this year, but this is kind of silly.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 in Review

Do I have it in me? Am I not lazy enough to make this epic post? Can I even remember back to January?

Who knows?

I'm not one for a "holiday" letter, but after this past year, it might be a good idea to look back over the past 12 months and evaluate.

It all started in January, of course. I lucked myself into a new HDTV courtesy of Dad. Once that was put in, well, there was no looking back. With the new TV came new HD from Comcast. Then I discovered the beauty of On Demand. I started working out and kept with it for many months. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I worked out more this year than I have in my entire life.

Sadly, the results are less than exceptional.

In February I neglected to get Marci a Valentine's Day gift, so I wrote a poem instead. I continued with working out and got all geeked out about Indy IV.

March rolled around and the workouts continued. Incredible! I had a couple of Lund Bros. gigs, including what might possibly have been our Worst Show Ever at the Swiss in Tacoma. Interestingly enough, these were our first gigs for 2008 (we ended up having fewer shows this year than any of the past 2 years I've played with the Lunds). I also started up playing with the Scheme again and that was great. Why? Because we rehearse in Bellevue! Go Eastside! I also started getting the itch for another bass. The seed was planted and, evidently, the economy wasn't in the crapper yet. These days, a new bass is the furthest thing from my mind.

I turned 36 in April. Haley turned 6. I will forever be 30 years older than her. Kind of cool. I remember (without checking the blog archive) that my birthday was approximately 80 degrees. 9 days later, for Haley's birthday, we had snow, IIRC. I also received Rock Band for my birthday and that made for some great distractions for the next few months.

May rolled around and that meant Marci's birthday, a Rush concert, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. One of those was a lot of fun, one I didn't attend, and one was a big disappointment. Guess which was which? For Marci's b-day, I took her to Cirque de Soleil and had some sushi afterwards (again, what recession?). I skipped Rush as I'd seen them the last time they were here. And I saw Indy twice. Once at a midnight show, when it was a bit nostalgia trip; a second time with my bros, which was great, but made me realize how crappy the movie actually was.

Speaking of my bros (my blood bros, that is), Dung was in town from Ireland for 2 weeks in May and it was superb to hang with him. It was like having a bonus friend around. We got to spend a lot of quality time together, and with Mom and Dad as well. It was good times.

June was a busy month. It was still cold (the whole first half of 2008 seemed cold and grouchy). I recorded some songs with the Lunds. Had a show at the High Dive. Bought a couple CDs from two of my favorite musicians/bands (Aimee Mann & Weezer). Then we went on a road trip to California. We also found out that Riley had/has Chiari Malformation. We learned that surgery would be the best option and started the research to change his life.

I spent the first 2 weeks of July in California. It was right about then where my workouts started being less and less. I don't remember if I started them up again when I got back (sans Marci and kids). What I do remember was starting my Mad Men obsession. What a great show! I watched all of Season 1 On Demand. Marci and the kids got back later that month (with Ted in tow) and we proceeded through our summer until...

August! It was the dog days of summer. Or something like that. Riley turned 4; we had our annual swim party for him at the local watering hole. I traded my trusty Sterling for a new pretty red Lakland bass. So pretty! Marci took the kids camping at Mt. St. Helens and I stayed back again. We also set a date for Riley's surgery and started planning for that.

September is when the shit hit the fan. First off, I made an unscheduled trip to Texas to check on Dad. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 07 and spent most of his time trying to get it treated alternatively. His health took a downturn while he was in Texas so I headed there in early September. Shortly after bringing Mom and Dad back, things just fell apart. Dad died on 9/10/08. It was fast and swift and not completely unexpected. It was also numbing, heart wrenching, and completely a kick in the gut. So many things changed for us that month. My kids lost a grandparent for the first time. Hell, I suffered the biggest loss in my entire life. Until Dad died, I hadn't lost anyone close to me before other than my grandmother. Mom was now alone and we (including the Ireland Changs) were all there to console and comfort and just be with her. We cremated Dad a week later and proceeded to put our lives back together. I seemed to have a better (easier) time doing so than some other family members, but everyone does it differently, right?

October blew in with a bathroom remodel and a couple of rock shows. We also started gearing up for Riley's surgery. Getting nervous as well. We all started the healing process with Dad. Mom made big steps; she was busy and keeping me busy trying to take care of Dad's loose ends and stuff. Oh, yeah, on Halloween, one of my main generators at work decided to resign. It was totally addition by subtraction, but the timing was a little bad, especially just before the surgery.

November was filled with drama. After the first weekend, someone else quit on me that Monday, the day before Riley's surgery. It put me in a little panic as I was planning on taking a lot of time off to be at the hospital with Marci and Rye. But, luckily, things were able to work themselves out. We had Ted and Judy with us and they were able to keep an eye on Haley while Marci and I tended to Rye at Children's Hospital. The surgery was a complete and utter success and we were able to get Marci and Rye home in a few days.

In addition to the surgery, we had Marci with some health oddities (new allergies and things like that), as well as a stressful episode with Mom. Thanksgiving rolled around in a mellow fashion and we just took it easy. On the plus side, I got to carve a turkey for the first time in my life. Go me!

And now, it's December. As I type this up, we're up to probably 12" of snow. I can't remember the last time we ever had snow like this. We've been cooped up for the better part of 3 days. Thank the good Lord we have power still. I will take 10 feet of snow; as long as we have power, bring it on!

I'm supposed to have a Scheme gig tomorrow at the High Dive. A month ago when we booked the show, it sounded like a decent idea. Now? Not so much.

Riley continues to heal and amaze. As you know, a wish from the Make a Wish people was given to him. We're just waiting on it to become reality.

Haley was fabulous today. Her and I went out and worked on the driveway for a bit (if you call sledding "work"). She helped me clean, set the table, etc and was a good girl for the most part. It's been a tough year with her. Her behavior at home and at school (nurse visits weekly) have been quite confusing.

Marci's health seems to be under control now. She's aware of what she's newly allergic to (soy and nuts) and keeps an eye out for those things. Her parents are with us again for Xmas and we should have a good time this week.

I've been doing pretty good. Work has been horrendous. Business is way down. Snow day closures certainly aren't helping either. Cash flow is tight, but we are plugging away. It's hard for me to get down, though. As difficult as these past few months have been (and they have been tough), there are so many reasons for me to be thankful.

The people under this roof as well as the roof itself. I mean, c'mon. To be homeless, or have sick kids, or worse? I wouldn't be able to function. I'm blessed and so so so lucky to have been able to spend as much time as I did with Dad. I'm blessed to be able to try to carry on his tradition at C&A. He paved the way for me and I have a job/career because of it. My son had brain surgery and he is going to be a better, healthier kid because of it.

See? Things are good. Here's hoping they continue to go that way.

Merry Xmas to everyone, and, please be careful out there. There's a lot of snow!

Shoveling snow sucks

My neighbor went out and shoveled his driveway. It was clear and he made quick work of his flat cement driveway.

I got inspired and went out to do the same. My inlaws are coming tonight and they need to be able to get in the house via the garage.

Unfortunately, we have sledded down the driveway. Unfortunately, our driveway is, for lack of a better phrase, made of cobblestones. In other words, it's not smooth.

Anyway, under the frozen top layer of snow was more snow, followed by frozen snow compacted into ice. It was a fabulous time. Then, wouldn't you know it, it started snowing yet again.

Fabulous.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My masterpiece

I tried to make feet for my snowman. You can see them, sort of.

Who knew making a snowman would tire out my forearms so much? All that crushing of snow to make the perfect snowballs, then a bunch of rolling in the fresh powder.

Be careful out there!

View from the backyard

View from the bedroom

View from the home office

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Make a Wish

The problem with writing three blogs (this one, Riley's and Haley's) is that I don't know what I've posted where.

For example, this post is about Riley so it should go on his blog, right? But I've already posted something about it there and I wanted to post about it here. So, here goes.

Due to Riley's medical issues and such, we were lucky enough to qualify for a wish from the Make a Wish Foundation. For those that don't know, the MAWF works with kids who have or deal with serious illnesses. In most cases, the child needs to have something life threatening or degenerative.

In Rye's case, his condition, Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia, was degenerative. In other words, if we didn't have surgery for him last month, it's very possible that he'd lead a life of pain and be limited in many many ways.

Tonight, two volunteers from MAW came over and "interviewed" Riley about his things he likes. TV shows, foods, games, toys, music, places, restaurants, etc. We'd talked to Rye about it over the past few weeks. We tried not to color his ideas or lead him towards anything. When he finally got to talk to the volunteers, Lindy and Erin, he pretty much said he wanted to go to Disneyworld.

We had talked to him about that. Marci and I went there for our honeymoon ages ago and he saw the photo album. In looking through that and looking online, he saw so many of the things they offer there and he was pretty much sold.

Of course, we wouldn't be the first family to ever wish for a Disneyworld trip, and, as such, apparently the MAWF and Disney have a pretty good relationship. Things are all in the beginning stages now and nothing is concrete yet, but, according to the Lindy, it should be a slam dunk.

As we learn more, expect to hear more about it. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One thing I can't stand about winter

It's too darn cold!

I must be getting old or something. The past few days have been pretty chilly by our standards, so much so, that I've taken to wearing a scarf inside the house! I think part of it is trying to cut back on our heating bill, so we're not cranking the heat like before, but, man! I'm sick of being cold!

The past week or so, I've been getting back in touch with my inner geek (not that I was that out of touch with him to begin with). Anyway, I got a wild hair and decided to fire up the ol' Lord of the Rings trilogy, starting with LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The trouble with these movies is, at 3hrs + each, they take me a few days to get through. Even so, I find myself dozing off at points. They are a wonder to behold, though. Plus, they're keeping me from watching the latest steaming pile of crap that Netflix has delivered (though I saw it twice in the theater): Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ugh. It pains me to even type that. I'm sure I'll pop it in sometime this week, if anything, to see how good it looks in BD, then to remember how horrible the movie was.

Though, now that I think about it, I may not have much time. Tomorrow should be Lund Bros. practice. The past few weeks have been canceled, however. Chris has been sick on both Mondays and it doesn't sound like he's had much fun. Hopefully he's feeling better and we can rock out tomorrow.

Tuesday I should be home. I'm planning to work out again. Yes, you read correctly. I worked out twice (whoa!) last week and one time the week before. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy it, when I'm not doing it, that is.

Wednesday and Thursday I'll be rehearsing with the Scheme. We have our second gig next week, on Monday (ugh). It's at the High Dive, and when you're in a "new" band like this, you gotta pay your dues. We're going to look at it as a dress rehearsal, I suppose. It'll be good to play.

Anyway, that's my schedule. Work is way slow. I heard a rumor that an ex-employee is representing himself as us, so I have to try to get to the bottom of that. Ed comes back after 2.5 weeks in Boston. Hopefully he had a good time and is ready to get back to work.

I'm about to turn in and see who the heck won Survivor. I got hooked this season and tonight's finale should be good!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My new guilty pleasure

I was watching SNL the other night and when it was over, my TV clicked over to Palladia (HD music TV that shows videos, concerts and the like). There was this song on with 5 dudes playing a party. The guitars sounded like Queen, the chord changes sounded like 70's rock, the singer sounded like Rivers from =W=.

I watched this video and was smitten. So much so, I rewound to the beginning and saw it was a band called Rooney and a song called "I Should've Been After You". This song was superb and I started researching them.

A few days later, I have both their CDs and am enjoying them immensely. They have a major Weezer vibe, which to me, is great. The songs are super catchy. The vocals are lush and everything just flows nicely.

Did I mention the bassist is pretty good too?

Anyway, I'd seen the band's name before, but didn't ever hear any of their music. They're young (early 20s, I think), but musically, they're wise beyond their years.

Check 'em out here: www.rooney-band.com.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Happy December

I guess I'm in a bit of a blogging rut. I suppose I'm all blogged out after the past few months.

Most recently, it's been a lot of work, no music, and hanging with the family. With two guys quitting on me, I've been lucky enough to enlist the help of a guy I know from church. He's been really great for us, helping out on site as well as in the shop. He scratches my back, I scratch his. Now, if I could only get those kind of results with our cashflow...

Musically it's been dry. Arid, even. So much so that at church today, I watched the band play with a pang of envy! I don't even think I've taken my basses out of their cases for almost 2 weeks!

/looks over at basses. "Sorry, basses!"

That should all change tomorrow, though. I believe we are on for Lund Bros. practice, in preparation for... absolutely nothing. I have some feelers out for a CD release show, but haven't heard anything back. I have 2 other KILLER bands who have said they will play with us, but I need a venue first.

Marci got a much needed mini-break this weekend. Her and 3 of her gal pals went to Port Angeles and stayed in a home of her friend's contractor. They just yukked it up while I was at home with Haley and Riley. We kept it pretty low key. There was a lot of movie watching and goofing off with the kids. We were lucky enough to get invited to a friend's house for dinner last night, so we got our social on a little bit.

So this week should be busy yet again at work (boo/yay!). I still have yet to buy any Xmas gifts and frankly don't exactly know what I'm going to do about that. Luckily Marci is quite the superstar when it comes to this time of year. It's exhausting, but she has her stuff together, that's for sure.

Mom is off to Texas until early January. I talked to her a few days ago and she's doing pretty well. It's the first time she's been there since Dad died, so I'm sure there's a lot of emotion all around down there. I guess she's going to try to sell their house down there.

It's kind of weird to not have anyone here now, except for Knight. Dad's gone. Mom's in Texas. Dung is in Ireland and, though Knight is only in Seattle, he and Shannon keep so busy that we're lucky to see them a few times a month. Though, ironically, with Dad gone now, they've been out here a lot more than before.

It must be how Marci feels, with her family all in California and her up here all by herself. I don't know how I would do in that circumstance. It'd be weird, that's fo' sho'.

That's all for now. Time for me to go to bed. I am getting too old to be staying up past midnight every night.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Odds and ends

I went on a Facebook binge the other night. I didn't plan to, it just happened.

I was playing with Picasa 2, which is Google's photo organization software. Turns out it's now Picasa 3, so once that was downloaded, I started going through old pictures. I figured it was time to upload some more to Facebook, so I did. Anyway, if you're interested in them, they're on my FB site.

The past few days have gone fast. We had Thankgiving here yesterday. Marci basically spent all day making green beans, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, stuffing, chutney and turkey. What sucks is that I have zero talent in the kitchen, which means she has to do it all. It's a good thing she knows what she's doing.

Sadly, carving the bird came to me and, well, I already mentioned my talent level in the kitchen. Luckily, I made pretty good work of it and we, plus Knight, Shannon and Mom, all had a darn tasty Turkey Day.

Today was Black Friday and, thought it was gray out, it never looked black. Yuk yuk yuk!

We went and saw Dad at the funeral home. Mom had a plaque made with his name, birth and death dates, and we took it there to put in with his ashes.

Evidently, to open where Dad's resting, costs money. Like $795 moneys or something. I couldn't believe it. It took all of about 5 minutes for a maintenance guy to climb up a ladder, turn a screwdriver and remove a glass panel. Then he went up and down adjusting the plaque and pictures. All told, it took maybe 10 minutes total. I guess today's adjustment was free, but if we want to add or move something in the future, we'll be ponying up. Who knew?

Anyway, we had dinner at a friend's house tonight and that was good. Nice to have some after-dinner talk sans kids for a change. They have a boy and girl and our boy and girl love to play with them, so that was nice.

Speaking of talking, what we talked about was Riley's acceptance into the Make a Wish program! Based on his recent surgery and changes in his life, the people from MaW decided that he would qualify for a wish! What he's going to wish for, we're not sure. He's mentioned wanting a monkey or something, but they're going to have a couple of interviewers come over and help him determine what he'd want the most.

How cool is that??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Missing my old man

Sometimes I forget that Dad is gone. Then I remember and it makes me realize how much I miss him.

We've been cleaning the house today. I just sat down to check email and saw his monkey picture on my computer desktop and realized, "Oh yeah. Dad's gone."

It's a bummer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ugh

Can I just say, "ugh"?

After losing two employees, doing payroll for them was not a lot of fun. I am done, thankfully, and I hope that's that.

Not only that, the bright sun is beating down on the desk across from me and is *perfectly* reflecting right into my eyes.

More complaining? Sure! I'm hungry and am don't want to go out to lunch again. And I took apart my cell phone to clean it today and may have messed it up a little.

What else? I get to play music tonight. Not a complaint, but going to T-town is never too exciting. At least it's not pouring rain.

On the flip side, a bunch of people from church came over yesterday and helped us make our yard less embarrassing. They donated their time and muscles, tools and gasoline, to clear a bunch of leaves and debris. The yard looks a lot nicer and we love them for the help.

So that's good.

I'm just ready for this "economy" to turn around. I'm ready for business to pick up. I'm ready to have some good things happen.

That is all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Songbook IV


After 3 plus years, after dozens of shows, a new Lund Bros. record is finally available. It's entitled Songbook IV and it's at all the cool online stores (www.cdbaby.com or www.notlame.com), or at a Lund Bros. show near you.

Not only do we have this CD for you, but it's also a Double CD! Just like our previous CD Tangents, this one features 2 discs. One full of Chris' songs and the other full of Sean's songs. Trust me, it's just easier this way.

I'm pretty excited because I'm finally on record with the Lunds. After being their longest tenured bassist, I have some proof. All I asked was that they spell my name right on the CD jacket. I'm happy to say they complied.

So now I just need to get a show booked, but the timing couldn't be worse. With holidays fast approaching, I'm thinking that any CD release party needs to be after the first of the new year. I'll keep y'all posted.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So far so good

Hanging out at the hospital with Marci and Riley. Had a great day today. I got here about 1:30 or so and what do I see? Riley cruising down the halls with Marci and a friend. He's been Mr. Peppy today, pretty much back to normal.

He had a swallow study done this afternoon where we were able to see an X-ray view of him eating and swallowing. It was pretty neat to see, but unfortunately he's still aspirating (liquids and food going into his airway instead of all the way down his throat). At this point, we're not sure what we'll do, but the specialists were saying he may need a tube in his nose to throat for liquid intake. Great.

Haley has been a super trooper this whole time. I feel bad sticking her with Nana and Papa only, but she's been handling it well and she may earn a big-time treat when we all get home.

Marci has been a super duper trooper this whole time. She's been at Rye's side non-stop. She's had one shower in 4 days. She's probably slept less than 10 hours the past 2 nights. And through it all, she's been strong, inquisitive, patient and compassionate. I know I couldn't do it.

Work has been pretty good. It's been busy, but we've been doing some house cleaning and organizing. Through it all, Ed and Rich have been studs and I am grateful for that. It's nice to be able to trust my co-workers again.

I have a lot to be thankful for these days. The relief I felt yesterday after surgery was palpable. I had no idea how stressed I was until after the surgery. And now to see Rye pretty much back to normal mentally (and seemingly almost physically) is pretty incredible. I mean, this kid had BRAIN SURGERY just over 48 hours ago and it just seems like he's got a cold or something.

People are always saying how resilient kids are and I guess it's really true.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Riley's Surgery

Crossposted from Riley's blog:

Marci and Rye are still at the hospital, hopefully resting well. I just got home with Haley and she is hopefully asleep too.

Man. What a day! Whew!

Marci, Rye and I started the day at 5. Well, Marci and I did. Rye woke himself up around 5:30 and we were out the door by 5:50 or so. It was miserable out. Rainy, windy and darn cold. We made the drive to Children's and got down to business.

After checking in, we waited in the surgery waiting area for a few minutes. Talk about depressing. The room is fairly large and there were, at 6:30 in the morning, no less than 10 families waiting there. Waiting for what? Surgery. For their kids. How lousy is that?

We got called back and taken into a pre-surgery room. Riley was his hyper and goofy self. I asked if he was scared at all and he said no. All this time, I've avoided using the word "scared", not wanting to color his perception of the surgery. I asked him why he wasn't scared. He said because he already knew everything. I guess if you know it all, there's nothing to be afraid of!

A bunch of nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors and surgeons came by to visit. They asked us questions (does he wear contact lenses or glasses? !!), they asked if we had any questions. They gave Rye a drug (Versed?) which was supposed to calm him down. Someone brought in a pink Nintendo DS labeled ROCKET SLIME and let Rye play with it. The combination of the two had him on one mellow cloud. He became a floppy little dude and when it was time for him to go, Dr. Jim the anesthesiologist took him without a fight. And that was it. He was gone. Marci and I held each other for a few moments and shared a few tears. After 2 years of searching, our little boy was finally off to get some answers.

Marci and I went to get a bite to eat. A couple of our friends, Felicia and Rich, were planning to join us at the hospital for moral support. I tell you, I could've used them at breakfast time. They could've brought some edible food! But I digress.

After a lousy meal, Felicia showed up. Her and Marci and I chatted a bit and hung out. Rich was nowhere to be found. Finally, an hour later, he showed up. Thanks to the power of his iPhone maps, he ended up at Children's Hospital's admin offices in downtown Seattle. Oops. Once we were all rounded up, we headed to the family hang-out area to relax, talk and update.

We did receive pages throughout the morning with updates to Riley's condition. Basically this old school black clip on pager would wail loudly, indicating that we needed to call the ICU desk, which would then patch us through to the OR. They told us that they had Riley pinned down, that they started the micro surgery, things like that. We got a call later saying that some woman wanted to talk to us about the video we'd shot yesterday and the video being shot currently of the surgery.

We met her downstairs and she just kept talking and talking. She was the head or some VIP of the Chiari Syringomyelia Foundation (CSF), the group that was going to use Rye's video for education and information for people researching Chiari. I thought she was going to talk about consent, etc, but she was there kind of pushing her cause. She gave us good info, but it was a little too sales-pitchy for me, so I tuned her out. Finally, Rich and I headed out and went to chat.

I was also updating Facebook, this blog, as well as my thread at Gaming Trend all this time. I had my trusty little Blackberry with me and was plugging away with updates. I kind of know how a smoker feels now. The hospital is a cell dead zone and in order to post or email, I had to go outside. So every 45 minutes or so, I hoofed it outside to do just that. If I did smoke, I guess I'd be multitasking out there.

We got a page around 11 or so saying that Riley's microsurgery (the actual work on the brain) had begun. About an hour later, we got a page indicating that Dr. E wanted to speak to us. We hoofed it over to the ICU area and waited. My imagination started goofing off again and I started to expect Dr. E to come around the corner with a defeated look on his face and bad news for us. Before I completely freaked out, he came and told us surgery was done and it went as perfect as it could have.

Sweet relief!

He said Rye hardly lost any blood (a thimble-full), that the extent of his Chiari was "impressive" and that he was able to do exactly what he needed to do. He showed us a few snips of video that was shot from the microscope's vantage point. It was pretty fascinating. The hole in Rye's head looked to be about as big around as a Yoplait yogurt cup. We got to see his brain (looked like crabmeat), as well as his cerebral tonsils "shrink" as Dr. E moved them back away from the spinal cord. Incredible stuff.

After talking with Dr. E privately, we did it again for the cameras. It'll be interesting to see just how photogenic we are after stressing for 5 hours and having gotten up at 5 in the morning. I hope to have a DVD soon so we can put some up for everyone to see.

From there ,we had some lunch. Riley was still out and had to have a follow-up CT scan to check for any blood clots. After that, he'd be put in the ICU where he'd come up from the anesthesia. So it was back to the cafeteria for more fun and games.

About a half hour into eating, we got a page saying Rye was up. Marci hoofed it to his room, a little nervous because she'd promised him that she'd be there when he woke. When we got there (pretty much the exact farthest point in the hospital from the cafeteria), he was moaning and sobbing for Marci. It was pretty sad and emotional. I saw him in his bed, shirtless, then I saw his scars on the back of his head. He had a half-reverse mohawk from the base of his neck, up the back of his head. He had two 2" long vertical scars and, in all, looked pretty gnarly.

I held it together pretty well until I started telling him how proud I was of him and that there were so many people offering their thoughts, prayers and well-wishes. It's amazing how one little dude can have so many people (strangers, even!) pulling for him.

Marci held Rye for a while. He was tied up with cords and tubes and a catheter (!) and it was a chore, but she did it. He eventually calmed down and faded in and out. I was so excited to see him and really marveling in the fact that over the past 6 hours or so, someone performed brain surgery on him, yet here he was, even better than he was then. Incredible!

Over the rest of the day and night, we had Rich and Felicia there, then Haley, Ted and Judy showed up later. Haley got a little weird when she saw Rye's scars, but she was cool with him later, as long as his scars were hidden. She gave him a card she wrote at school and I just about lost it when I read that Haley wrote "Riley, I miss you" to him. Rye got to talk a little and I'm happy to report that the same little dude is there under all the wires and hoarse voice. Poor guy didn't eat anything all day, and only had a little apple juice in the early evening.

So for the next few nights and days, Riley and Marci will be staying at the hospital. He should be getting out of the ICU and into standard recovery by tomorrow (pending tonight's stay), and, with any luck, will be home by Saturday (my estimation, crossing fingers!).

Later tonight, Knight and Shannon stopped by. We were able to take Shannon in, but poor Knight not only couldn't come in, but had to wear a germ mask as he's been getting over a case of the flu. Shannon came bearing gifts. She brought a DS! Not sure if she knew or if it was coincidental, but we asked if Riley wanted a gift and he lit up as much as he could. She gave it to him, unwrapped, and he gave a nice little smile. You could tell he was super happy about it even though he couldn't really show it.

Overall, it was a scary, exhausting, funny, relieving day. I am beyond relieved that my little dude made it through surgery with flying colors. I'm so happy about the potential he has to improve. And I cannot wait to have a root beer with him. That's the promise I made him way back when, that when he got all better, he and I were gonna have root beers to celebrate. That'll be a good day.

Running Blog at Riley's Blog

If you're interested, there's a blow by blow of my day at Riley's blog. http://rileychiari.blogspot.com

And, he's off!

We just sent Rye off to surgery. Note to self: get Riley a Nintendo DS soon. That thin worked better than any anesthetic could. More later. No reception in hospit and it's freakin cold out here!

Monday, November 03, 2008

What a day

I got into work today and a guy who was on a 1.5 week vacation came up to me with a letter. This just 2 days after another guy came up to me with a letter. That guy quit. And guess what? So did this guy.

Super!

After Friday, I wasn't feeling too bad. This guy that quit had been with us for 17 years and, frankly, it was time for him to go. He was supposed to sell for us, but wasn't doing much of that. Not much of a team player also, so, he kind of did us a favor by stepping down. I figured the other two guys would be happy about the increased workload and was all ready to talk about it this morning when I got blindsided.

Though blindsided may be to strong a word. I thought Guy #2 might have something up his sleeve. I just didn't trust the guy but he was a strong producer for me. When he told me he wanted to take 1.5 weeks off, I figured he might be shopping around.

After he gave me the letter, before opening it, I asked if he was walking too. He confirmed it, then I read his letter. I was a little stunned, to say the least. Not so much that he was walking but because of the lousy timing of the whole thing. Both these guys knew that Riley was having surgery this week. But instead of doing something decent and giving me two weeks notice, both guys wanted their resignations effective immediately.

Now if there were no surgery happening, I'd have been better with it. The trouble now isn't a question of doing the work. We can do the work. It's a manpower issue. With me in and out, I have essentially 2 people in the office. That makes things tricky. But, we can make it happen. I'm sure of it. It'll be a little rough at first, but once Rye gets home and I can spend more time away from home, we'll be in good shape.

So, after that debacle, I had to go to Children's Hospital with Marci and Riley (and Judy?!?) to meet with the doctors and get Rye a CT scan. Long story short is that Riley has a nice thick skull, all the better for screws to bite into to hold him still. And the doctor told us what he plans on doing. Unfortunately it involves Riley and his skull and a little part of his brain.

After that, I had to go back to work and do some damage control for the remaining troops. I realized in all the drama, I never told the guys that I had no plans to shut down and that we'd be soldiering on. So I did, and that seemed to make them feel a little better.

At home tonight, Mom came over for a Riley's special dinner. When I got home, Marci pulled me aside and said Mom was crying. I guess she was having a sad day for some reason. Haley was sobbing too so I grabbed her and then we had a little sob fest; I was a little emotional as well, thanks to the day's events, as well as Riley's thing and even a little missing of Dad in there. I kind of felt like I needed a good cry. Even though I didn't get one, it was nice to let my guard down a little.

I'm feeling like I kinda need to hold it together for everyone. Marci has a big task ahead of her. Though Riley is our son, she is his advocate and will be his voice at the hospital. She's had a lot of stress lately and her body is starting to feel the effects of it. Anything I can do to help her is good, and it starts with holding it together.

But it's tough.

*pity party alert*

After the last 2 months I've had, well, I hope you understand.

*pity party over*

So, it's on like Donkey Kong tomorrow. I'll be posting here and at Riley's blog off and on. If you're the praying type, say a prayer for us. If you'd rather be voting, well, vote wisely. Me? I'll be hanging out at Children's Hospital, keeping an eye on my family.

This is fantastic

Someone else just quit on me.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More heavy stuff

According to Riley's countdown timer, we have 1 day and 12 hours left until his surgery. In other words, the day after tomorrow. Here's something I wrote at Gaming Trend, a website I frequent. When Dad died, I wrote there a lot and they were great for me. Some of what follows is redundant, but not everything I write here goes there and vice versa.
My son Riley is 4. In the past 4 years, he's grown from a needy little mama's boy into a, well, needy little mama's boy (in a good way). He and I have had epic battles, as evidenced by a thread on this very site. Over the past year or so, though, he has matured quite a bit. The epic battles are, thankfully, a thing of the past and he and I get along quite well now.

Back then, we didn't think anything of his behavior, other than, WTF? He wouldn't sleep well at night, he talked funny, he made a mess at meals, and he seemed to march to the beat of his own drummer. The thing was, we just figured he was what he was and would grow up to be fine.

Certain things he did were weird, however. As his teeth grew in, he drooled, of course. After his teeth all came in, he continued to drool. No big deal, right? He'd grow out of it, right? Not really. We had him checked out and the doctors concluded that his tonsils were too big and limiting his swallowing abilities, so the tonsils were removed. That seemed to help things along; he was swallowing better, but still having issues. Further studies indicated he was having issues with liquids. He'd silently aspirate (the liquid would get caught in his throat {think frog in throat}) and after time, he'd possibly get an infection. The doctors recommended us mixing anything he'd drink with something called Simply Thick, a gel-like substance that would thicken his drinks. As a result, anywhere we go we have to carry around a sippy cup of drink mixed with ST. It's a pain, but it's what we do.

Rye also had trouble with things like going down stairs. Coming up was no problem. To go down, he could walk, but it'd be both feet on each step at a time. At age 4 now, it's the same. He can go one foot at a time, but it's awkward and slow. He has trouble with fine motor motions, things like scissors or writing utensils or eating are usable/doable, but not as adeptly as a 4yo should.

With all these issues, the doctors kept telling us he'd grow out of it. That after time, he'd be "normal" and we'd be fine. Well, my wife kept on it and going to different specialists and therapists. After one appointment, we were recommended to get Riley an MRI. The ENTs and swallowing specialists were getting us nowhere and with all the medical issues (aspirating, numerous sinus/ear infections, etc) and life issues (inability to simply drink from a water fountain, difficulty eating neatly, etc), we wanted to find out just was was affecting Riley.

In early June, we had an MRI done. A few days later, the pediatrician called and told us Riley had something called Chiari Malformation. We found out on a road trip down to California and I wrote about it in more detail here. Anyway, what Chiari means, in a nutshell, is that Riley's brain is too big for his head. The neurosurgeon we've consulted with said it's like having a size 10 foot in a size 9 shoe.

Some symptoms of Chiari include loss of fine motor skills (check), difficulty swallowing (check), frequent gagging and choking (check), among other things. Riley's brain is blocking the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid from the brain to the body. As a result, he's had syrinxes (cysts) form around his spine, which may or may not be pressing on certain areas that are causing his symptoms. You mess with the spine, you're going to affect other parts of your body.

In meeting with the neurosurgeon, he said that though the Chiari wasn't life threatening, it could potentially impact us dramatically. He said that Rye would be in a wheelchair if we didn't do something about it. Riley has 5 syrinxes along his spine and they will not dissipate unless we're able to improve the flow of his CSF. The doctor said Riley's case of CM was pretty severe, so, after deliberation, we decided to proceed with the surgery.

The past few months have consisted of us keeping a close eye on Rye. We've had to keep him from doing anything tumbling-related. We've had to make sure he's not bonking his head on anything. That hasn't been too hard, but it got hard when he'd complain that he could'nt do anything (Haley would go to gymnastics and Rye could only watch). We keep telling ourselves that this is a bump in the road and that in 6 months, he'll be healed up and working on the skills he should have if he didn't have CM.

Nevertheless, the thought of my little dude having brain surgery is a little unnerving. Obviously there are risks. Death, paralysis, other unmentionables. But we're looking at the big picture. His quality of life will improve. He'll be able to just "be". Luckily, he's pretty clueless about the situation; he's lived it his whole life, after all. He knows of surgery, he knows he's going to the hospital. He knows he has issues, but he's had such a great attitude about it all.

Haley's a little stressed as well, we think. First with her grandfather's death, then school starting and now her brother's surgery, well, she's kind of a mess at times. It's so hard to be patient with her when she's being bratty, but it's just something I need to work on.

Marci, my wife, has been driving herself to the point of her back almost going out. She's been spraying Lysol all over the house (we have to keep Riley from getting sick, otherwise they'll postpone the surgery), taking him to all his appointments, etc. She's keeping it together, but it's been tough.

The in-laws are coming in today for a few weeks to help while Marci and I are at the hospital. They'll keep an eye on Haley and just be here for moral support. Riley will be in the hospital for about a week. He'll be in the ICU for 2 days or so, then a few days more in recovery. After that, it's back home where our duty is to keep him as still as possible. We're gonna inundate him with TV, movies and, of course, video games!

Through it all, I've been doing ok. No meltdowns or anything, though this weekend, I've been a little short of patience. It has been a tough week, in my defense. My work is slow; this economy, cliche as it may seem, is really affecting it (sales). On Friday, one of my employees resigned. Not a total surprise, but still a shock. As some of you know, my dad died in September and though the shock and grief of that have passed, it's still on my mind a lot and quite a bummer. Add in that the in-laws will be here and that my m-i-l wants to horn in on our pre-surgery appointment (WTF) on Monday, and, well, there's a little stress.

Things could be worse, I suppose, but still, one never wants to take a kid to surgery. I'm confident everything will be fine, but man, brain surgery? That in and of itself is enough to freak anyone out.

Anyway, if you can, keep us in your thoughts. You guys were a great help when Dad passed away, in terms of helping me get through it. I don't think this will be as dramatic, but it's no less stressful and any support or humor or both you can lend me will be appreciated.
It's funny. When Ted and Judy arrived tonight, the kids went nuts. They were super excited to see their grandparents. It wasn't until a little later that I saw Rye and Ted goofing around and I started to get a little misty-eyed. It was so great to see Rye with his grandpa, but so sad at the same time.

Also, I cut all of Riley's hair off tonight, just before T&J arrived. Shaved him down with a #2 all around. Luckily he's a handsome little dude, so the high n tight doesn't look bad on him. On me, I look like a black q-tip. It's lame. But it was almost emotional for me to shave his head. Made Tuesday that much more concrete for me. I took some pictures, but they're on Marci's computer. I'll have to upload them later.

I also busted out the video camera for the first time since Rye's birthday. Shot maybe 20 minutes of video today, just goofing around, things like that. I know that this surgery isn't going to affect his personality or who he is, but, until I see that little dude back to normal in a few weeks, I'm not going to take it for granted.

One last thing: I'm not one to complain (usually), but what's with the drama the past 2 months? First Dad, then this horrible economy, which is really affecting work, then Riley's surgery and someone resigning from work on Friday? Can a brother get a break sometime? Add in Marci's recent mystery allergies and her back going out, plus Haley's daily drama about something and it's a wonder I haven't ran for the hills yet. Thank goodness for good ganja.

Just kidding. I wouldn't know how to smoke it if you gave me a joint and a lighter.

That's it for now. I gotta finish up before the in-laws head downstairs to their temporary home for the next few weeks. I'll probably be posting here and at Riley's Blog as well, so forgive me for duplicates. In the meantime, hug your kids and keep Riley in your thoughts.

After the haircut

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last Saturday at the Skylark

A few weeks ago my friend Emilio asked me to play bass with him. Initially I said no. I've done it twice before and, well, it's just not my cup of tea. He writes catchy songs, but they need some polishing. I did, however, bum rush my way onto the bill. I checked the Skylark's website and saw Jessie (who books the place) only had Emilio's band and no one else. I asked if my other band, the Scheme, could hit it, and she said yes. I then hit up Scott's (from Doll Test) band, Paul Lynde Fan Club, and they said yes.

Presto! Instant show!

But Emilio kept asking. I figured I'd help out a bro and said I'd do the show. We had a rehearsal with his drummer Chris, and that was that.

I got to the Skylark and PLFC was just sound checking. They're a little three piece band, guitar, bass and drums, and all have varied histories. Scott on guitar, Lisa on bass and Jim on drums have all played with each other not only in PLFC, but also in other bands. Somehow, someway, they're all connected with Rusty Willoughby and Flop, but if you're interested, that's what Wikipedia's for (I think!).

Lund Bros. first played with PLFC two years ago tomorrow (!) according to our Myspace page. At that show, Rusty took a liking to us and we all started to hit it off. Back at that show, I remember that they were spacey and weird. Jim, the drummer, did the lead vocals and it was kind of trippy. We played with them again down the road and their music had evolved quite a bit and was getting much cooler.

This time around, I unfortunately didn't get to see all of PLFC's set as an old friend came to see me and he and I ended up chatting the whole time. What I did notice about the set was that they were SUPER loud! And they had a song called Cookie Monster. But, as always, they were engaging and entertaining, what little I heard/saw.

After PLFC came Emilio's band, Static Radio. I set up my gear and went to chat with my friends Rich and Aaron. Strangely enough, my friend Rich is married to an Erin. And both Rich and Erin and Aaron have daughters named Eliana (or Ellie for short), and I work with two guys named Rich and Aaron. But they don't have any daughters named Eliana (or Ellie, for that matter). It's kind of weird.

I saw Emilio take the stage. I finished up my chat, then took the stage too. I plugged in and figured we'd be ready to go.

I was wrong.

E tuned his guitar. He adjusted his volume, first clean, then distorted. Then clean. Then tuned. Then distorted volume. He tuned some more. I swear to God he must have fiddled with his knobs for about 3 to 4 minutes. Thankfully Charlie, the sound guy, had some sense about the situation and kept the house music on. Leaving us hanging with silence while E primadonnaed about would've been quite uncomfortable.

The whole time, I tried to maintain a professional attitude about it. After all, I took the gig with E to kind of showcase myself, to let others know that, yeah, I can do two bands in one night, why not? The Unsmashable crew was there and, though they know I rock with the Lunds, I wanted them to see I was more than a one trick pony.

So yeah, it was a ego trip. Guilty as charged.

Anyway, pretty soon, my pro attitude turned into a bad attitude. After E was finally done noodling around, what did he do? He said he had to piss, so off he went!

I couldn't believe it. At this point in the night, we should've been on his second song, but we hadn't even started note one yet. It was quite lame.

Finally, after draining the main vein, E was ready and we did some faux rock/pop and tried to manufacture some feel. Or, at least I did. I'm pretty sure I mailed it in on the performance. I could feel my rep draining away as we played. E puts on a decent show. People eat up what he does, for the most part, but as a member of his band, I just wasn't feeling it. His music is far too simple for me (does that sound arrogant?). It's catchy, sure, but he would benefit SO MUCH from a co-writer or some songwriting classes (this from the guy who doesn't write music!).

I did some backing vocals and tried to rock. Chris is a different drummer live than in rehearsal. It's weird. He's a total pansy in practice, but on stage, before I put in my earplugs, he was banging the heck out of those drums. He did pretty well. E was a sweaty wreck. I did ok. I could've gone home afterward and not even needed a shower. I got sweatier today getting my blood pressure checked at the doctor's office (his office was HOT!).

After the SR set, I felt a little bad. All the Unsmashable crew was off for jello shots at a Halloween party and weren't even going to see the Scheme go. And I felt bad for mailing in a performance. Not very pro of me, I suppose, but if there's anything I can't stand, it's faking enthusiasm and passion for something I feel nothing for.

Onto the Scheme!


I first wrote about this band in July of 2007. We fired up rehearsals on a regular basis in March and now we're finally playing out. Leading up to this show, me, David and Gregg met 3 times in 7 days to iron things out. The rehearsals were pretty good and we were feeling fairly confident.

The first thing that was not right, I suppose, was Gregg left his bass drum pedal at the rehearsal space. He had just told us he'd had that pedal since he was 13 or so and it was his baby. Luckily he got a replacement and we were able to play.

So we started and things went pretty well for the first two songs, You Let Me Go and Holly Wouldn't. Those are pretty easy crowd pleasers and we played them well. Lots of singing for me and it was fun. Though, I had a bit of a cold and after singing a little for Static Radio, I was starting to feel it.

The third song we did, Nothing Left in Common, is a barn burner and is hard even in practice. It's a song that has me considering playing with a pick, and if I'm considering playing with a pick (which I suck at and simply cannot do), you know it's fast. David started it a click below supersonic and off we went. I could barely keep up, but I made it through.

After that came 2:18, one of the newer songs Gregg and I had learned. I had a couple flubs on that, both in timing and vocals. For whatever reason, there's a part in that song that I can sing just fine by myself, but with the band going and David singing, all bets are off. I think I butchered it pretty well, but the show must go on, right?

Overall, we played decent. Wasn't our best performance, but people seemed to like it. Poor Gregg had some equipment failures (bass pedal blew up and something happened to his high hat too) which sucks. I hate it when something out of my control goes wrong at a show. But, overall, I was pretty pleased with how we did.

I didn't get paid for either gig, but didn't expect to. Emilio did mention if I played with him, he'd give me the $$, but I didn't ask for it, though a few sheckles might have been cool. And David has paid for the rehearsal space since day 1 and has never asked for cash, so I figured what we earned, he'd keep.

All in all, a good night. I had a few friends there. I got to play two sets in two bands, which, though fun, isn't necessarily something I'd want to do again. I started getting ear fatigue through my plugs in the Scheme's set and had a hard time hearing my vocal notes and cues.

Up next? Nothing on the horizon except...

LUND BROS CD RELEASE! Keep your eyes/ears peeled!

It all goes down in one week

And I don't mean the election.

One week from now, Riley's going to be a little uncomfortable. He'll have a few new incisions on his head and he'll probably be all drugged out. Haley will be at home with the grandparents and Marci and I will be at the hospital with Rye, keeping each other company and keeping an eye on our son. Over the next few days, he'll start healing and we'll be able to bring him home soon after.

At home, we'll keep him as mellow as possible, pumping him full of videos, shows, games and the like. The doctor has ordered us to keep him still so his head can heal. Otherwise, if he disturbs the stitches, who knows what might happen.

Of course, this is all dependent on Riley not catching a cold or anything prior to next Tuesday. So far, so good (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD IN THE HOUSE AND NEIGHBORHOOD). Though, ironically, the one time a year I get sick happens to be right now. But it's not too bad. It's a little congestion in the morning and some coughing throughout the day. I do need to keep away from Rye a little, but I think we're doing ok with it. Marci's been giving me Lysol showers and bleaching my clothes and towels (not really).

So, this, is weighing on all of us. I suppose we're stressing just a little, but it hasn't quite hit full force yet. I'm pretty sure things will be fine, but it's brain surgery on my four-year-old son. This kind of stuff isn't supposed to happen to us!

Anyway, keep us in your thoughts. Riley's a cool kid. You should meet him sometime!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slow posting month

Well, not much seems to be happening in my neck of the woods. I'm definitely noticing a slowdown at work due to the infamous economy. I have a few things I'm working on to turn it around but it'll definitely be a slow process.

Mom is doing great. She's got a little daily routine going on and is taking care of business left and right. I'm quite proud of her!

Riley's surgery is in 10 days or so. He seems to have some allergies now, or possibly a tiny cold. Hopefully that's all it is; if he does get sick or is sick at the time of the operation, they'll postpone it, which would be LAME!

In other Riley news, I gotta show Riley how to pee better. I got home today and he said he had an "asiwent" (accident) at school. Evidently his "penith" got stuck to his "bumpth" and caused him to pee all over his leg. Sadly, the teacher at his school only had shorts that we gave her at the end of summer for a change of clothes. So, he had to wear shorts for the day. Luckily he had PE (no pun intended) and got to run around to warm up a bit. Kind of funny, I suppose.

I've been playing a ton of music lately. Friday I had a gig at the Sunset. Sunday I played at church, then rehearsed with Emilio's band that night. No Lunds on Monday, but had a productive Scheme practice last night and will do it again Friday night. We gig on Saturday (twice for me) and then I have God Rock on Sunday morning. Whew!

Meanwhile, I've been sleeping kind of lousy lately. Doesn't help that I stay up too late, but last night, Rye got up at 1:00am (I'd only been asleep for 1/2 an hour). The night before, he was up at 5 or so, having wet the bed. I'd woken up 2-3 times that night anyway. Usually, I don my sexxxxy CPAP and I'm out for 7-8 hours. Past few nights, not so much. Hopefully that changes tonight.

I am going to hit the hay. Goodnight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday night at the Sunset

I contacted Mike at the Sunset a few weeks ago and he was kind enough to toss a Friday night our way. All I had to do was fill it. No problem, right? I put an email out to the usual suspects and we'd have a killer show in no time.

Or so I thought.

I sent an email to two bands I wanted to play with, the Young Sportsmen and the Doll Test. I heard back from Wesley of the YS who said they couldn't do the show. They had reasons they couldn't yet divulge, which turned out to be them hanging it up. Scott from DT said they couldn't do the show.

I emailed Kurt and Sgt Major, who said they couldn't do the show. Emailed Jim with the Tripwires and they couldn't do the show. I tried Nick with the Riffbrokers (no response), Gregg with the Small Change (couldn't do it), Erik with the I Love Myselfs (busy that night) and I think that was it.

What now?

I looked on the Seattle Powerpop page for some ideas and came across the Knast, a powerpop/indie trio from Seattle. They got back to me and were able to do it. I asked AJ from the Knast to help out and he enlisted the services of a band called Wallpaper from Auburn. Finally, a lineup!

Fast forward a few weeks and it was Friday and time for the show. Shortly after arriving, a whole bunch of Sean's friends made it out. Let's see: Cam, Pasha, Natalia, Diane, Chuck, Gary, Andi, and Chuck's brother. Later on, some more of his friends came. It was a big ol' Love In for Sean. Pretty cool.

Showtime was late as one of the Knast ran late. But they took the stage and they were pretty good. Kind of garagey, kind of loose, kind of like the Strokes, but all in all, not bad. They had the crushed velvet jacket, tight striped shirt, skinny jeans look down pat. Big lambchop sideburns and feathered-just-right hair, you know the drill. People dug them, and rightfully so.

We took the stage next. I set up stage right. Don't know why. Most times, the bassist prefers to be on the high-hat side of the drummer (stage left if the drummer is right handed). I guess it's so the drummer can see the bassist as the drummer is looking towards the high-hat. For whatever reason, I've set up on stage right for many many years. It doesn't really matter to me where I set up. Unless I'm at the Sunset, that is.

You see, about 5 feet above the corner of stage right is this light can hanging from the ceiling. It fires off the heat of 1000 suns directly onto where I stand. Every time. Any season.

In other words, it's hot as a mother up in there. Anyway, my whole point is that as much as I love playing this place, I sure hate that corner of the stage. Meanwhile, Chris got up on stage, cool as a cucumber (maybe even cold!) in his little track jacket. I don't even think he broke a sweat. Me? I was drenched by the end of the first song!

We played pretty well that night. It helps that the Sunset has great stage sound so you can always hear what you're playing/singing. We were fairly tight and the mistakes were kept to a minimum. I had a fun time and I think the people enjoyed it as well.

Wallpaper took the stage next, though none of us were even sure if they showed up. Turns out they were, they were just stealthy about it.

When I researched them, I saw they were "signed" to a label. It's a small local, but it's a label nonetheless. They had some impressive gigs on their resume, as well as a reputed following of "kids", per AJ's description.

As they took the stage, it was clear that these guys were youngsters. They were a 3 piece, with drums, guitar and guitar (and some bass). They did the ol' instrument switcheroo a few times during their set. They dressed like college kids trying to dress like college kids who weren't trying to look like they were in a band, but obviously were in a band. One kid had a haircut so bad that it seemed to be an anti-haircut, and I'm not even trying to pick on him, but if you saw him, you'd agree. But, kudos to him for having the balls to pull off that haircut.

They played some rock that was good for what it was, but it wasn't my thing. The kids dancing on the floor were all dressed in what looked to be prom dresses, but not quite. They looked like they'd fit in selling Doc Martens on Capitol Hill. I half expected Austin Powers to come on stage and say, "Oh, behave!" Their music was kind of psychedelic, kind of jangly, kind of catchy and kind of grungy. But, it did work, and the kids loved it.

So, all in all, it was a good night. We got paid, we played with new bands, and we played the Sunset on a Friday night. Thanks to those that were there, and hopefully some of you that weren't can make it another time.

Next up for me: playing bass for Static Radio and the Scheme at the Skylark.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Monday

Wow! It's almost been a week since my last update! I'm sorry to say... I'm back!

Anyway, our bathroom is fixed. Turns out that when the shower install was done, they somehow cracked the S-trap underneath the drain. Luckily that drain is directly over the garage and another part of the house. After that was fixed, all is good. I spent a few hours priming and painting the bathroom yesterday and it's looking pretty spiffy. Now we just need to get the toilet and vanity replaced and we'll be all done!

I got to have some Riley time by myself on Saturday and it was fun. We hit the mall to run some errands and play and just do things he wanted to do. He got a little Hot Wheels car from McDonalds and enjoyed crashing that into everything in the mall. He's a fun little dude.

Haley's kind of come around too. I think what Marci hit onto is to keep Haley with food in her hands. We think Haley is going through a growth spurt. Her pants are all getting too short for her. I put Marci on a clothes buying moratorium until Haley stops growing. As long as Hay eats, she's in pretty good spirits, so we'll have a chubby Haley, but a happy Haley.

Music is starting to come around again. I have a rehearsal with the Lunds tonight and a gig on Friday at the Sunset. Next Saturday, I'm playing my first gig with the Scheme at the Skylark. In addition, my old friend Emilio is also playing that gig and needed a bassist, so I told him I'd do it.

Not much else to report. Riley has his surgery in a few weeks, the in-laws come in as well. Holidays coming up, of course, and Dad's not here. We'll see how that goes. I saw a HUGE spider in Mom's house the other day. Before taking care of it (humanely!), I asked Mom if it was Dad coming back to check on us. She said no, so I got the big plastic cup and tried to get the spider in the cup.

Only, when I got close to the spider, it moved and I put the edge of the cup right on the spider. Ugh. I didn't sever it, but it was stunned or dead. Now, it's sleepin' with the fishes.

I hate spiders. Can't stand 'em!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bummer

We met with a Bathfitters guy this summer. They install a shower/tub over your existing one. It's not as expensive as a whole makeover of the bathroom, but it's still expensive, relatively speaking.

At the time, we weren't ready to do it, so we told the guy no thanks.

A few weeks ago, it became more and more apparent that our shower floor was slowly turning black and brown with mold. It wasn't for lack of cleaning or trying, but after 25+ years of use and scrubbing, the fiberglass floor was giving up the ghost. We called the Bathfitters guy to come remeasure, and then told him to go ahead with the job.

Last Friday, Duke came from PlumbFit (contracted by Bathfitters) to demo the lower half of our shower.



Unfortunately, it was either Friday and Monday, or end of the month. We chose now and have "suffered" with using the downstairs shower in the laundry room.

Yesterday, Zack came from Bathfitters and did the install. A buddy joined him later and they were here for about 7 hours or so. Between the start and finish, we thought we lost our cat. With Dad passing, then a dead bird found on Sunday, and now a potentially missing cat, we figured Haley would be a basket case.

Thankfully, we found the stupid cat later. In Haley's closet. Luckily, the cat didn't show her displeasure with us in the closet. But, I digress.

After Zack and co. finished, they told us we had to wait 24 hours for the caulk to dry, etc. So we waited.



Tonight, Marci took a shower. I pulled into the garage about 5:30 and smelled soap. As I came around her car, I saw water running down the wall in the garage. It was just above the utility sink, just under where the shower would be. Upon further inspection, it was clear there was a bulge from above that wasn't there before. It would appear that one of the workers put something lower than it should've been, which then proceeded to leak all over the wall and floor.

I called Bathfitters and it was a little too late. The salesperson answered, but the office people were all gone. The good news is, according to Greg, the salesperson, they'll take care of it. The bad news is that we have no brand new shower to use for the next few days, at least.

I just finished working out, and instead of taking a shower in our nice new shower, I get to take one in a nice, coffin-sized shower. No big deal, I suppose. It could be worse, right?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This and that

Not much new to report. I worked out tonight for the first time in probably 2-3 months. Felt it too. I was so good for the first part of the year. Then we went on vacation and summer hit and I really slacked off.

We went and bought a blood pressure device and apparently my readings are a little high. The doctor said it's not terribly serious, but for my age, it could come down just a tiny bit. Exercise and eating habits are what needs changing the most, so exercise begins again.

I have a show booked for the Lunds for 10/17. I expect to see you all there. It's a Friday and it's at the Sunset. Trouble is, I can't seem to get any other bands to play it. Luckily it's not because they don't want to, it's that a bunch of band members are going out of town or playing other shows. I've asked the about 5 bands and they've all said no. So I have 2 feelers out to bands we've never played with and am anxiously awaiting their responses.

It's also been a long time since I rock and rolled. I played with the Lunds last Monday. Scheme practice was canceled last Thursday. Sean called of LB practice last night. I should have Scheme practice this Thursday. LB is off next Monday. Sheesh. I just want to play bass!

Haley has been hit and miss since Sunday's post. She's been good and she's been horrible. It's been frustrating and I'm trying so hard to be patient with her. It's tough.

She has been rockin' the Rock Band mic, though. That's been fun to do. In fact, both Haley and Rye love to play Rock Band with me. Heck, even Marci did when the family was over. I'll have to get my little family to join in one of these days.

What else, what else?

I guess that's it for now. Still obsessed with this little BlackBerry thing. It's got a steep learning curve, but dang, it's cool. iPhone what???

Off to bed now. Goodnight.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Smartphone

I was the lucky recipient of a BlackBerry Pearl 8120 smartphone today. My friend Julie's husband Rick had one for about 6 months and... he hated it. Evidently it was too much phone for him.

Coincidentally, my Palm bit the dust last week. I bought a battery for it and screwed up the install. Also coincidentally, that Palm was given to me by Julie.

Today Jules came in to help out a bit at work and gave me this BlackBerry. She didn't want anything in return, and, since I've been wanting to upgrade phones for some time but couldn't until April, I graciously accepted it.

Since then, I've been learning how to use this thing. It's got a steep learning curve, but I can already see how I'll be using it.

It's no iPhone, but for FREE, I'm not going to complain. Plus, the iPhone didn't float my boat when I messed with it last week. This BB? It's all me!

Thanks Julie!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I am going to blow a gasket

Here is a conversation I have with Haley on a daily basis.

Haley: "I'm tired."
Gwon: "Go to bed."
H: "I can't."
G: "Why not?"
H: "I don't want to."

Right now, it's 9:00pm. We put her to bed at 7:15. She was up at 8 and didn't rest. She is fall down exhausted right now and is refusing to go to sleep. I have taken away her radio and her night light; she was complaining that her room was too loud and too bright. Now she's complaining that it's too dark and that she can't sleep without music.

She is beside herself. She's sobbing and exhausted. She had a GREAT day today. Much better than yesterday where she was in trouble for being rude and mean. Today, she listened, played well and was the good ol' Haley we all know and love.

I understand she's only 6. I understand she's tired. But we've told her EVERY DAY that being tired, hungry or otherwise is no excuse for being rude and demanding.

I'm afraid that we're going to give her a complex as she gets older that she can't say anything to us or be herself around us. We have no idea where she gets this kind of behavior from. Marci and I have fought in front of the kids, but this lack of respect or ability to mind her parents is infuriating.

It's not so much that she's "bad", per se, but it's more the fact that she doesn't get that Marci and I are the parents and she is the child. Every day she is demanding us to do something for her. We tell her that it's not ok to talk like that and she gets that, but there is a disconnect somewhere. It's like she doesn't think before she speaks or does something.

I get so frustrated because I went through this with Riley. I fought and fought with him and, one day, something clicked with him and now he and I are all good. Haley and I are good half the time; the other half, it's fighting and me saying stuff that I hate myself for saying.

She's locked in her room now, sobbing for us and unable to sleep. Now it's probably out of anger and sadness, more than insomnia. Before, it was her not closing her eyes because she "couldn't". It's stuff like that that drives me crazy.

I just have to remind myself that she's only 6 and I have 30 years on her. I should be able to control my temper and be patient with her, but damn it can be tough.

Knock on wood, she seems to be quieting down. I was just about to go extend an olive branch, but if she's asleep finally, I'll leave her be until later.

Marci met with Haley's school counselor about grief/transitions, and the counselor gave us a bunch of things to read about it. One thing the material mentioned was a possible regression in behavior. Maybe this is that? Who knows.

Hopefully the next time I blog about Haley it's regarding something fun, like the fact that she loves to sing when Riley and I play Rock Band. Who knew?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Making progress

Since Dad died, we've been spending a lot of time with Mom. As the days have passed, we're still going up to the house, but not as much. It helps that my brother and his family are staying with her, but they leave for Ireland on Sunday morning.

Mom has been pretty dang incredible. She's been by herself for parts of the days recently and she's been fine with it. Night time has been different, though. She's had Yumei stay up there with her when Dung and the family are unable to.

Tonight Dung, Ruby and the kids went to Ruby's mom's house for some facetime, leaving Mom alone at home. Dung and I arranged for me to go up there to keep her company until I had to go to band at about 8:45 or so. A little later, Mom called to tell me Dung said he probably wouldn't be able to get back by then. She then said she'd just keep the lights and TV on and she'd be ok. I told her I'd come up to keep her company til I had to go, but she said it wasn't necessary.

My mom is growing up! Sniff!

So we ended up having dinner and, though Mom was ok with hanging out solo, Marci went up to get a break from the kids and to use a massage chair (and to hang out with Mom too!).

It'll be good for the girls to hang out a bit. It's been very busy most of the times we've been over and for me or Marci or the kids to get some "alone" time with Mom is good.

We'll see what happens next week when Dung and family are gone. We'll probably go over more as it'll be less hectic, but we'll miss them terribly too. Once they go, it'll really be back to "real life", as it were.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tonight at the Triple Door

Marci and I just got back from seeing an old friend (not really) play the Triple Door in Seattle.

Juliana Hatfield released a record last month and is touring around the country in support of it. She came to Seattle today and played the Triple Door. First surprise was that she was playing solo electric guitar and nothing else. Evidently the rest of her band had trouble or something. Second was that you can eat dinner at the Triple Door while the show is going on.

That's new.

Anyway, I've seen Jules twice. Both times were at the Croc and both times featured a band and rocked fairly hard. This time, it was Jules, her SG, a Fender Tweed amp, a capo and a bottle of water. She walked on stage right on time, 7:30, said, "Good evening," and started with Somebody Is Waiting For Me, a little ballad off of her record Beautiful Creature.

She continued on with several songs off her new record, a CCR cover, as well as a few older tunes. She looked great in grey skinny jeans, a black/blue skinny leather (?) jacket, and long, dark brown hair hanging about her shoulders.

A few songs in, she mentioned how warm she was, and took off her jacket, revealing a sleeveless blouse. She cracked some jokes about adjusting bra straps, and then talked about how her mom got her a "bra whisperer" fitting, so, for the first time in her life, she'd have a properly fitting bra. It was quite cute.

The rest of the night went on with Marci and I eating dinner. Jules played on, of course, and seeing her with just a guitar was very powerful. I had a smile on my face the whole time, and it wasn't only because of Marci's low cut shirt.

Jules has been in my top 1 or 2 favorite musical artists since I was in college. I think this was the best she's been because she just got to go up and sing. It wasn't without mistakes, but the ones she made were completely cute and not showstoppers.

She played for a good part of 90 minutes, and then, that was that. With a wave, she was gone.

I took some pictures, but they turned out crappy, for the most part. Here's my favorite one.



Juliana Hatfield is a great musician. Check her out and enjoy her music.

Friday, September 19, 2008

This and that

I hate that Dad is gone. I hate it when I'm doing something, focused on it, then stop. And then remember that Dad is gone.

Not crying anymore, so I guess that's good. Just reminiscing now.

Haley had a rough morning. The week finally caught up to her. It's kind of unfair to expect a 6 year old to start school (after expecting to start 2 weeks prior), deal with a death in the family, go to a funeral of said loved one, and see her parents cry, all in the span of a few days. She was exhausted and spent by tonight. We put her in bed without brushing her teeth.

I'm feeling a little guilty getting on with my life. I had band practice last night. Tonight I'm going to watch some TV. My brother, on the other hand, is at Mom's right now. She's pretty much told us to get on with our own things, but we still need to get her settled. Today's the first day I haven't seen her since Dad passed. We'll go see her tomorrow.

I think I'm most bothered by the fact that Dad should've lived 20 to 25 more years, if not for the cancer. I know it's neither here or there at this point, but, motherjumper, I feel cheated by that. It's a damn shame, is what it is. I just hope the other parents in the family can take the initiative to get themselves healthy, if not for themselves, but for the grandkids.

I miss you, Dad. Why'd you have to be so stubborn???

Nice thoughts from an old friend

One of Knight's oldest and closest friends got back in touch with us via Facebook. Then he heard about Dad and sent flowers, as well as a little letter he wrote. It brings back memories going on 20 years old, and the funny thing is, I wouldn't have remembered any of them if it wasn't for Manny.

Chang Family:

When I first heard about the passing of your dad, I was really sad. My sadness came from reading Gwon’s Website on the events leading to your dad’s passing as well as being able to, somewhat, relate to how you all must be feeling right now. Although I didn’t get to know your dad very well, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for his accomplishments, his ambition, and the lifestyle he was able to create for all of you while we were growing up. It was always a treat visiting your house. Here are a few of the many memories I can recall:

• Watching TV or playing video games on the largest TV I’d ever seen in my life!
• Playing cool video games from China on a Chinese video game system with Dung and Knight (dodge ball)
• Rich & Dung, bodily functions, and a lighter.
• Movie nights at your house on the awesome Big Screen TV.
• Playing b-ball in your back yard and slam dunking (without the foot-stool…I wish)
• Hanging out at C&A on weekends after buying TAPES at Tower Records
• Listening to rap music in Knights awesome civic lx (the only LX I had ever seen with a sunroof).
• Your dogs Moo Moo and Casey
• Gwon being able to pick me up in his Subaru from Sherwin’s house when I was snowed in and could not drive my Capri home (I also hit a deer that night but don’t worry, my car got the worst of that collision while the deer just ran away)
• Hanging out at your other house right down the street from the main house and schooling you all in ping pong (I never did get to play your dad. I heard he was the champ at Boeing)
• Hanging out in the Den with lots of friends and lots of laughs!
• And these memories can go on and on and on!

A lot of my fondest middle school/high school memories with you all, I feel, were made possible by the environment your dad created at your household. It was always easy to go to Knight’s house. The door was always open (I mean it. I never really remember ringing the doorbell to enter your house) and the experiences were always memorable.

You guys may not know this, but about 2-3yrs ago your dad called me. He called to ask me, because of my medical background, if I would be interested in joining him in a Vitamin/Supplement company he was involved in. At the time, I was involved in other business projects so I was not interested (I think I was shocked that a man that I had so much respect for and who already had so much success would be calling me).But the thing that stuck with me, to this day, was what he said at the end of our conversation. He told me to keep doing what I was doing because it would help me to provide for and create a great future for myself and my family. Those words were so inspiring to me, especially, at that time in my life. It totally makes sense to me that he gave all of you the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” (awesome book by the way).

Being a parent myself, I can only hope to create for my kids what your dad was able to create for you all while growing up. It was definitely fun to be a part of. I’m truly sorry that he passed away. His words to me and his way of life inspire me to this day. My thoughts are with you all.

Love,

Manny


Manny, thanks for this. You brought a smile to my face, and, most likely, to Dad's too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The funeral

Well, after staying up until 1AM writing last night, I'm sorry to say that I didn't use anything I wrote. I read out loud to myself and it just didn't sound right. I felt like I was writing a blog. Reading it to myself in my head, it sounded better, but, of course, unless people at the funeral could read minds, I'd be out of luck. I didn't finish, but at 1, I packed it in and figured whatever happened in the morning would happen, good or bad.

Morning rolled around and we were all ok. Ate some breakfast and got dressed. Marci picked up a little double-breasted suit for Riley, complete with shirt and clip-on tie. Quite sophisticated, if you ask me. All he was missing was a cane and top hat.

I put on my suit for the first time this year and, luckily, it still fit. The pants are a little tight in the waist, and, to tell the truth, I think they've shrunk a little on the hanger the past 11 months.

We ran a little late, but got there in time for the important stuff. A few of my friends arrived, as well as former employees of C&A. Extended family and in-laws were there. Lots of M&D's friends came by and I was surprised at how emotional everyone was. I guess I'm used to the family's tears this week, but I wasn't prepared to see other people cry.

We started off with a slide show. We spent the past few days scouring photos of Dad from when he was a baby all the way up to June 08. Working on it didn't affect me, but when they started the slides, I did get a bit misty eyed. Worst is when Mom loses it. She didn't, but she did weep a little.

After the slides, I got up to speak. Quick trick: when you're eulogizing your deceased father, bring a Dixie cup of water to the podium. It worked wonders.

Anyway, I decided to not use what I wrote last night. Though the theme and certain parts were the same, I took it out of my pocket and kept it closed on the podium. I just thought reading it would sound stilted and unnatural. I wanted my speech to sound like I was just talking to someone about Dad.

I'll have to check the tape, but I don't remember how I started off. It felt rambling, but, before long, I felt like I hit my stride, talking about Dad's night in the ER and how strong Mom was, to how proud I am of my brothers, to how incredible the family has been from top to bottom. I did lose it a few times and have to pause to regain my composure. I was able to make eye contact with many people and not turn into a sniveling mess.

Overall, I feel really good about what I was able to say and how I said it. I'll try to transcribe it later for anyone that's interested.

Knight followed me and read from his cheat sheets. I guess he was up to 3am writing his. He reminisced a lot about Dad and his traits. About how Dad loved cars, basketball, antiques, as well as some of his qualities. Knight had to pause a few times as well, but was able to get his message across quite nicely. Though whether or not Dad actually made my bros and I sell bamboo pencils to the neighbors to teach us how to sell is debatable. Neither Dung or I remember that...

Speaking of Dung, he really impressed me. Either his job with Microsoft requires speaking in front of others and he's used to it, or I'm not giving him enough credit (though I remember him doing some sort of reading, perhaps at church, and thinking how robotic and monotone he sounded).

Anyway, Dung's speech was great. He gave some great specific examples of Dad and his generosity. He told stories about Dad giving each one of us a book called The Magic of Thinking Big (of which only one of us read. Guess who?).

Again, I'll have to watch the tape to give a better snapshot of what each of us said. I just know that there were a lot of wet eyes in the chapel, including ours.

edited to add: Marci! I can't believe I forgot to mention that Marci spoke at Dad's funeral. Marci is afraid of public speaking like I am afraid of spiders. She got up and gave a very touching eulogy for him and spoke from her heart. I was so proud of her! I got a little choked up and loved what she had to say.

A few more people spoke, then it was time to greet the attendees of Dad's funeral. I got to see a bunch of old friends of his, most of whom I recognize, but don't know the names of. I saw some of my own friends and it was just great to see them.

People finally filed out of the chapel and we were able to spend a few last moments with Dad before closing his casket forever. The kids came in (the ones who were comfortable enough to, at least) and said a final goodbye to their Tai Yeh. I had a little message for Dad and gave it to him in Chinese. We took some pictures, then closed the lid.

Now it was time to take Dad to the crematorium. I was bestowed with the honor of holding Dad's portrait and leading the procession. My brothers, uncles and cousins acted as pallbearers, and the remaining family members followed behind the casket.

In the crematorium, we gathered around the furnace (is that what it's called?) and waited as Joe, the funeral director, and co-worker prepared Dad for his final journey. They raised the casket into place, had us place our pallbearers' gloves on top, and then pushed Dad into the furnace. They sealed it up, then asked Mom to step forward. Knight, Dung and I surrounded and held her. Joe told her to simply push the green button when she was ready. Mom steadied herself, the reached up and pressed it with her thumb. A great humming sound emanated from the furnace, and then Mom collapsed against Dad's portrait, with my brothers and I supporting her.

We all cried then, from the four of us, to the rest of the family in the crematorium. It was finally over and Dad was gone from our world. Mom and my bros wept as we walked out of the crematorium. I wept as well, but then tried to pull it together for Mom. I told her that we would all help her and take care of her. That Dad wouldn't want to see us crying, and we needed to stop. That though Dad was lost, he led a quality life right up until the end and didn't suffer endlessly from medicines or hospital visits.

All in all, as sad and horrible as this has been for us. we have found strength, love, compassion and honor in each other. One thing I have learned from this entire experience is that my family is SOLID. My family is SOLID. We cannot, and will not be denied. My father left us with this, and it is something I will always cherish.

I miss Dad terribly already. Though I'm not crying all the time, or even really emotional, it's the quiet times when I think about him that it gets to me. This will take some time to pass.