Anniversary III

And I thought I could convince you that I wouldn’t write another blog.

Three years of marriage together. Three blogs. Three different states.

At this rate, by our 50th anniversary, we’ll have lived in all 50 states. Only 47 more to cross off the list (I know how much you love lists)!

You’re gone more often now and while it makes me yearn for all of those days that we worked in the same office and saw each other all the time, I truly appreciate our relationship even more. Strength in a relationship isn’t built on routine. Routine can only serve to deteriorate it. Strength in a relationship is built upon the challenges you’ll face and learning how to conquer them. I was worried and nervous and upset that you’d be traveling so much and wouldn’t be around as often (and you’ve been gone even more than you said you would be. Grrrrr…) We figured out how to cope with this new change and it’s only made us closer and stronger.

Success will always be yours because you are a special woman. I have never met someone so focused, so sure, and so amazing when they put their mind to something. You don’t just create goals as esoteric, unattainable entities. You create goals so you can reach them, conquer them, and make even grander goals. And you will always succeed. (Of course, it helps having an awesome guy like me supporting you, but hey, I’m not here to toot my own horn) (Toot fucking toot though).

I yearn for those activities that most would categorize as mundane though. Watching terrible reality TV with you is an absolute joy for me because it means that you’re home with me and you’re all mine for those few moments (Bravo TV: you make my wife happy so, therefore, I am a fan of you). Those times in a person’s life that most people gloss over, I’ve learned to appreciate and savor. Getting dinner together, going for an unexpected drive to Lake George, or brushing your hair. Any time that I get to spend with you is a treasure to me.

Each fleeting glance is something I’ll hold on to forever. Each touch of your hand is something that I’ll want to feel forever. Each moment of silence is filled with all of the inaudible love I have for you. Each year that passes is another year that I get to grow older with you. And I look forward to all of the moments we have to share as the years go on. Time may take its toll on us but time will never wear down the love I have for you.

I love you with all of my heart and I still am dumbfounded when I realize how lucky I am to have you. We are the perfect example of what a relationship should be (in my vain and completely unbiased opinion).

I love waking up early to make you breakfast (because it means you’re home).

I love hearing you laugh (because it means I made a terrible joke that no one will laugh at).

I love all of you, every day, forever.

You’re everything to me and I will work everyday to be everything to you.

Happy Anniversary baby. You’re my favorite. Forever and always.

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Anniversary II

It’s BEEN two years but it most certainly doesn’t FEEL as though it’s been two years.

“How do you feel about moving to Michigan?”

And then we did.

I would do absolutely anything for my beautiful wife. This past year found us moving halfway across the country to a state that neither of us had ever been to with no preconceived notion of what it would be like. But, we held each other’s hand and took that leap into the unknown. I knew how serious my wife was about following her dreams since she’d be leaving behind her family and I was absolutely willing to do anything I could to help her achieve that dream. So we packed up the U-Haul, the dog, and ourselves and we settled down in the Mitten.

There is no one else in this world with whom I would have rather had this experience.

I have an indescribable amount of pride in my wife for the challenges she’s faced and conquered so far. She inspires me to be a better person in everything I do (and sometimes that inspiration comes in the form of lists of things to do for the day). We rely on one another to keep our sanity in this crazy world and we confide in one another about everything that happens to us throughout every day.

I love how you laugh at all of my jokes (good and crappy ones alike).

I love how you don’t care how many tattoos I have/get.

I love that you are so driven in everything you do.

I love that you need to make a list for everything (yes, even the lists you make for me).

I love watching terrible TV with you and pretending I don’t like it but I’m just as caught up in the story lines as you.

I love being able to kiss you goodnight every night.

I love that you wake me up (before you go, go?) when you go to work to say goodbye to me.

I love that I don’t have to be self-conscious around you (this is mainly about being gassy…true love ladies and gents).

I love how you look at me sometimes and don’t say anything but just start smiling (I know what you’re thinking).

I love that I DO know what you’re thinking most times.

I love that you’re my family.

And Ashly, I love that you are truly my best friend because I am better for that fact.

I will always be here for you.

Happy Anniversary.

I love you.

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Mediocrity

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.
– Heller

Remember when you wanted to become an astronaut? To be among the stars, walk on the moon and float about weightless on a space shuttle. Despite the distance between you and the stars, you knew one day that you could grasp them in the palm of your hand. Remember when you wanted to become a rock star? Travel the globe, play music for thousands of people. You would be dressed in the best designer clothing, attend the most extravagant parties and go home with the Grammy for Album of the Year. Remember when you wanted to be a princess? Live in a far away land with a beautiful prince having servants to dote upon you and fulfill your every need. Your cares would disappear knowing that a living fantasy is something that could last forever.

Remember when you realized it was all bullshit?

You couldn’t become an astronaut when even pre-calculus was too much of a burden in high school. The closest you could get to the stars was buying a telescope and hoping for a clear night. You could practice and strum on that guitar every day if you felt like it but no amount of practice could replace serendipity. Rock stars are a dime-a-dozen and you could never be at the right place at the right time at all times. You could buy all the ball gowns in the world and still never be one step closer to royalty. There would be a greater chance that your bloodline traces back to immigrant dock workers before it would be traced back to Queen Elizabeth.

So, you decided to scale back the dream a bit. Call it a compact version of your greatest imagination. Go to college and declare a new major and feel confident that your path has been altered so you can steel yourself for life’s new adventure.

That adventure never materializes and it’s time to fall back on an old stand by. Something you know you can do JUST well enough and get paid JUST enough to make a living. All the while, you start to forget what that dream was when you were a kid. Maybe it’s your fault for thinking too far beyond your own capabilities. Maybe it’s the older generation’s fault for telling you that you can do anything. Maybe the satisfaction of pinning the blame whilst also receiving an apology is a false assumption. You give your best effort to roll with the punches and lace up those boot straps to make something of yourself. But how many times can you honestly get back up after reality has its way with you?

And then you scare yourself with this notion: what are you supposed to tell your own kids?

Aim for the stars? Here’s a guitar? Isn’t this crown beautiful?

You don’t want to be a liar but there’s really no way to perfectly gift wrap mediocrity.

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Anniversary

I can already see my wife’s reaction to the fact that I’ve written this blog.

An eye roll and an “Oh, God…”

And that is why I am in love with this woman and why this first year of marriage has felt like only a few days.

In 2008, a hot blonde girl started working in my building. A hot blonde girl with a boyfriend (ugh) and what appeared to be an attitude problem. My immediate response to this was to try and be my overly charismatic self, which, if you know me, comes off as cocky and annoying. Let’s just say it took a little while for any sort of friendship to develop between us. Eventually, this hot blonde and I would sit around and have conversations about this and that: Disney movies, football, eating, bitching about co-workers, etc… She really became my closest friend at work and her and I would confide in each other about life and all that jazz. She’d sit there and listen to my (mostly failed and unfortunately comedic) exploits with the opposite sex. I would sit there while she discussed things like home ownership, saving money and other topics of that ilk (which should’ve been a clue that she dug me a little bit because I had no experience with any of that). We’d discuss family troubles and workplace annoyances and out of our conversations we grew a really strong bond. It got to the point where people would insinuate that there was something between us even though we both vehemently denied those rumors. She had a boyfriend (ugh) and I was no home wrecker. Not to mention, I was a terrible judge of whether or not a person of the opposite sex took any interest in me. Knowing what I know now, there were innumerable hints that something was up and I was just too thickheaded to notice. She would hang out with me in the on-air studio well after the workday had ended. She would ask if I wanted her to bring me coffee or food. And we would just sit there and talk. I would quiz her on the names and positions of football players and she was impressively accurate with her answers! One winter she had to answer phones early in the morning for school closings due to snowfall. I came into work because I had access to a four wheel drive vehicle and she asked me to drive her home. Little memories like that are what kickstarted some interesting emotions within me. Lo and behold, after a while, I started to feel something for this hot blonde girl but I had absolutely no idea how I could convey that. I remember, one time, that I had texted her about a draw bridge being up and causing a traffic jam. She lived nowhere NEAR that draw bridge, I just wanted a reason to text her. Apparently, it was the same for this hot blonde girl as she decided to text back and forth with me during the NFL Draft, of all things. I was falling for her. There was no question about it except for the biggest question, “How do I get her to start dating me?”

“Hey, did you leave?”

I absolutely knew that this hot blonde girl had left the venue we were at for a work event but, again, I just wanted to text her. I finally decided to man up (with a little liquid courage) and meet up with her so I could find out if there was something there between us. Several months later in July 2010, I asked this hot blonde girl to marry me in the corniest way possible and she happily said, “Yes!” (after saying something along the lines of: “If you’re fucking with me, I’m going to kill you!”) Less than a year later, we were holding hands in a gazebo saying, “I do”.

I never knew being in a relationship could be as good as it has been with this hot blonde girl I call my wife. We work so perfectly together that sometimes it’s scary. Any preconceived notions of what a long-term relationship is supposed to be are thrown out the window when you connect with your soulmate. My happiness is indescribable and often overwhelming (in a good way). I’ve found someone who makes me a better person and for that, I am forever grateful. I’ve found someone who makes the notion of growing old together an exciting prospect.

If I know my wife, she’s reading this holding back tears and all the while exclaiming, “Uggggghh!” (because she outwardly says she can’t stand sappiness but I know the huge heart that she really has inside of her).

Ashly Breanne (Emerson) Keating. I love you with all my heart and I couldn’t be happier to be your husband.

Happy First Anniversary!

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Beard

I’ve come to a stark conclusion: my identity is way too wrapped up in my facial hair.

After shaving my beard for the first time in 11 years, not even the thought that the action was done for a charitable cause was enough to buffer the shock that followed. I don’t even know who I’m looking at in the mirror anymore. Who ever thought that this barber shop antic would result in one of the most drastic out-of-body experiences of my life? The stubble can’t grow in any faster! It’s not as if I was hiding any sort of embarrassing scar or horrific deformity; I grew my beard because I didn’t have a neck or jawline (because I was a fatty, people!). That is the unvarnished truth of the matter. The fact that my beard became more me than the actual me was beyond my control but I certainly didn’t mind reveling in it’s glory.

Here is the pie chart version of how I feel about my no-beardedness: 10% of me is engulfed with the superficiality of the situation. Despite my recent weight loss, I still think I lack a jawline or neck and not having the beard is only amplifying the obvious. Surely, people will call me crazy and deny the validity of my irrational fears, but I sees what I sees! The other 90%? That is all purely emotional. I am my beard and my beard is me. I don’t know when/how it happened but like I said before, I’m quite OK with it. I feel that more than just my face is exposed. My beard was almost a hairy wall between me and the rest of the world. On Sunday night, my face became Berlin, a Shick Quattro became a sledgehammer and I heard, in the distance, shouts of “Ich bin ein Berliner! Ich hasse Bärte!” (Google it).

I understand how childish and perhaps even psychotic this might all sound but look at history! Some of the greatest men wore their beards with great pride. Did any of them succumb to the siren’s call of the razor? I daresay, NAY! It’s been pointed out to me that I look as though I can’t be who I’ve been sans beard. The rapper? Not with THAT baby face. The hardcore/metal lover? HA! I’m denied even listening to nu-metal without SOME stubble on my chin. Even my wife struggles to have a conversation with me because certain words and phrases don’t look right coming out of a mouth that isn’t bordered with hair. The only plus has been the ability to sneak up on people in plain sight. I literally walked across a room staring down a co-worker, who was staring right back at me, and she didn’t react until I was two feet away. That has certainly been enjoyable. Other than that? Oof!

BDay +2 has yielded a decent enough 5 o’clock shadow but the beard needs to return faster. I plan on looking into a mirror and chanting some sort of beard-growing mantra; it has to exist. I’ve certainly learned something about myself that I feel I always knew but to what extent, I was clueless.

I NEED my beard.

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Tuesdays

Calvin and Hobbes

“Man, am I having a fucking Tuesday…” – Me. On Tuesdays.

I don’t know when it happened and I’m not entirely sure why it happened but Tuesdays have become enemy mine. The day reeks of letdown and is sure to provide stress and distraught. It’s almost as if all of the negative energy of the world (past, present, future, multi-verse) is focused and pinpointed to detonate on that dreaded day after Monday. I can recount several abysmal moments in my life and how they “coincidentally” occurred on a Tuesday. The very idea behind the day disgusts me and there is absolutely no viable purpose for it to exist. It merely serves as a stopgap between the start of the work week and the middle of the work week; like a fart left in the hallway between two rooms. Break down the work week and you’ll find this to be true. Monday is the glum day. Yes, we know, no one likes Mondays and the repetition of people’s gripes about it are almost worse than the day itself. However, we have time to prepare for Monday. Time to adjust our mindsets and come to terms with the fact that another work week has started. Wednesday is Hump Day. Who doesn’t love a good hump every now and then? If you’re inner monologue has replied to that query with, “Well, I don’t like a hump!” you should close out this blog, step away from your computer and go eat a Nilla wafer you douche. Wednesday provides a moment of respite on the mountaintop that is the week. I find that I am at my clearest and most lucid on this day since I can look behind and see Monday and Tuesday wallowing in dust. Oppositely, Thursday and Friday begin to take on a new sheen; a golden beckoning call to come home and relax. Thursday. Just say the word. It rolls off of your tongue effortlessly in a parallel to how the day most often exists. Who ever has a stress on a Thursday? It’s almost ludicrous to suggest that anxiety can afflict someone on the day before the day before the weekend. I find Thursday to be the futon to the hammock that is Friday. It’s not somewhere you’re completely comfortable because that futon most likely belongs to your shady friend who owned it during college but it does provide that necessary relaxation. And then? The pièce de résistance! Friday (Friday, gotta get down on Friday!)…Ahem, excuse me while I put a gun to Rebecca Black’s temple. While that sunny, monosyllabic, paramecium betrayed the very idea behind music, she did have a point. What is better after a week at work than the almighty Friday? To compare how I feel on a Friday to how I feel on a Tuesday would require an analogy that is so far beyond the grasp of my mind, I believe it only resides on another plane of existence. This is the day I have been working and toiling towards. The end. Fin. No more bullshit, no more grief, no more tedium and no more soul crushing repetition. It’s no coincidence to me that the name “Friday” and the words “free day” are so similar.

But, of course, we are not here to relish in the wonder and enchantment of that splendid fifth and final day. We are here because of Tuesday. Even now it haunts me. This blog is the culmination of 5 hours of starting and stopping due to the distractions and devastations that Tuesday brings forth. I know what you’re saying to yourself right now: “Joe, at this rate, it’s in your head. There’s no way that a single day a week can be that terrible.” Ah ha! That is where you’re wrong and exactly where Tuesday would like you to be; in a state of denial! Tuesday is here for no reason. Tuesday is the pimple on your wedding day. Tuesday is the rip in the back of your pants on the day you have to demonstrate a math problem at the chalk board. Tuesday is the stubbed toe. I don’t have the research to back it up, but I would bet a sixpence that EVERY major war in the history of ever began on a Tuesday. Logical reasoning: Monday you’d be too tired to war and Wednesday you’d be too rational to war. Tuesday it is!

When you feel a little off the next time at work and you’re irritable. You have this taste of hate in your mouth and every word out of every person’s mouth sounds like that episode of South Park where Stan grows up. Look to the calendar and see your bane.

It will be Tuesday. And your grief will be complete.

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Motivation

Or rather, lack thereof. For anything.

Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate those moments where you’re absolutely devoid of motivation for anything. It feels as though you’re wearing concrete shoes to work and the clock holds a viscous fluid disallowing its hands to move the slightest inch. It feels as though a blinking cursor on a screen is mimicking a slow “Ha. Ha. Ha.” as you struggle to find a word, any word, to get started. It feels as though every “ding” you hear from Outlook isn’t indicating that you’ve just received an email, but resembles nails on a chalkboard in your pre-calculus class. It feels as though you’d rather lay down on a crowded highway then spend another second in your office chair because at least you’d be laying down. It feels as though you can literally see the precious seconds of your life float away on the wind to forever be lost up through the atmosphere and out into space where some alien civilization will harvest it and sell it to humans hundreds of years in the future. It feels as though staring into an empty void in the parking lot, shutting down your other senses, is the only true freedom you’ll have today, albeit for 5 or so seconds. It feels as though despite your travel between one social media outlet to the other and then back again, indicating a need to stay connected with people, you cringe the moment someone knocks on your door because now, it’s socially mandated that you’re required to participate in a Q and A session (of which you lack the stamina to maintain). It feels as though every cup of coffee becomes that Christmas you didn’t get a puppy as you’re constantly let down by its ineffectiveness at recharging the so-called batteries. It feels as though Ed Sullivan could walk right up to you with a Publisher’s Clearing House check and you’d ignore him. It feels as though just writing this, you get an idea of how ironically unmotivated I feel today.

Luckily, I can bitch and moan through this vehicle. Did it help? Meh.

It feels as though…

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Dream

It was 1992. I was home from school with my foot wrapped and dozens of stitches in it. As I sat in the living room, I looked at the area where the sliding glass door had resided. The sliding glass door that, for a split second, became my enemy and sent me to the hospital. I was bummed and bored. My dad walked in the door and handed me a plastic bag filled with books. Comic books. The first comic books I ever owned.

X-Men #1

I was instantly hooked. Chris Claremont and Jim Lee had captured my imagination and I read issues 1-5 until their covers were torn up and well after my stitches were finally removed. Having no interest in writing (a fact that is rife with irony considering how much I write now), I picked up a pencil, took a stack of construction paper and tried to draw Logan up there. The results were horrendous but I didn’t care. I drew Magento. I drew Gambit. I immersed myself in these books until I knew them front to back. I started buying (asking my parents to buy) more comics and continued to try and draw them.

I found kindred spirits in a couple of the guys in elementary and middle school who also dug comics as much as I. One of my continuous co-horts in this realm was Matt. He had a knack for gab and writing and coming up with interesting ideas. I had the pencil skills, albeit they were still terrible. We formed DD, Deadly Disasters. Our own comic book “company”. We “recruited” other dudes in our circle of friends to be writers and artists and contribute to this endeavor of ours. “Radio” shows were conducted on cassette wherein all of our ideas for comic book domination were expounded upon.

As we grew older, the fervor died off, but I always held onto the thought that if I practiced hard enough I could achieve my dream of illustrating comic books. I even shared this dream with my long-term girlfriend at the time. Her response? Out and out ridicule about my “dream” and a rather harsh tongue lashing about being immature and needing to grow up. That certainly didn’t help my motivation. I was determined, however. I took a few beginner’s art classes and did rather well in them but I never seemed to find the time I needed to practice. The fire in me turned into barely a spark.

I would love to say that this build up leads to a happy ending wherein I eschewed the “norm” and followed my lifelong childhood dream. It doesn’t. I still think about this. At least once a day. I always say to myself, “You can still do this. You can still find a way to make this all come true”. It honestly is more delusional than anything else anymore, but I’m never going to let go. I’ll keep that spark and hopefully, I can find a way to light that flame again.

Don’t ever put off your dream.

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Religion

When it comes to bullshit. Big-time, major league bullshit. You have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you.

He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

This quote is from the first George Carlin stand-up I had ever watched, You Are All Diseased, and it serves as one of the first true instances where I questioned the indoctrination I was put through in my youth.

It still serves as a comedic inspiration for my rationalization that all of the things I had been told just might not be as true as I thought them to be. In all honesty, even as a kid in Catholic school, I always found myself skeptical about the stories concerning our faith. The suspension of belief was a difficult thing even for someone who was as precocious as I was with a vivid imagination. I mean, I used to pretend to be an X-Man. Surely I could believe that there was a bearded deity above me watching everything I do and whom I could talk to and ask favors from. However, this notion was shaky to me.

I feared the word “atheism”. How could I not think that there was something out there after this life? How could I not believe that through faith and prayer I could get to hang out in heaven with family members who had passed away? The idea of death was already something that caused sleepless nights in me as a child. I would wake up in a panic and cry to my parents about my fear of dying. Why in the world would a child have that sort of anxiety when he had been raised to believe that death wasn’t the end? I guess I always knew that I didn’t believe in those facts but I had lacked the intelligence to form a rational opinion on it.

It was a gradual process of question, self-doubt, fear and acquiescence. Faith without organization. Spiritual belief without afterlife. Consciousness beyond death. Agnosticism. I tried all of these combinations and many more to find where I fit. To find a place where my mind didn’t reject the ideology. I was still just as scared as an adult as I was when I was a kid about coming to a conclusion. I started to become angry with myself. Why couldn’t I just believe that there’s a god and he’s up there waiting for me? Why couldn’t I believe that we get another chance at another life in a paradise?

I would make passing comments to family to gauge their reactions on a decision I had already concretely made in myself but had not outwardly vocalized. I didn’t come from a family that encouraged spiritual experimentation. You were born a Catholic and you lived a Catholic and that was it. But that wasn’t enough for me anymore.

I’m not here to make arguments to convince YOU about why I made these decisions about faith. This is not a debate about which organized religion has the correct ideology (of course, in my mind, none of them contain that facet). My doubts were too strong to settle into a spirituality that I know didn’t fit me. I made this choice for me. And I’ve made the choice to try and live my life to the fullest extent that I can while I’m alive. I know this is the only chance I’ll get.

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Grumpy

“Check out (insert band name here)’s BRAND NEW song from their forthcoming album: (insert new album name here)! It’s their first release in (blah blah blah) years!!”

Ugh.

These words send chills down my spine and leave an acidic taste in my mouth. Why, oh why did (insert band name here) release a new song let alone an entirely new album? And what’s worse, this new song is actually generating a BUZZ with fans of (insert band name here). Don’t these fucking people realize that this piece of music is absolutely horrid in comparison to past releases? NOTHING will compare to (insert first and best album name here) and any attempt to recreate the emotion that was displayed on that release will ultimately end in utter failure. I’ve liked (insert band name here) for so long and I see this “fast cash-in” as an affront to everything I loved about them. There’s no need for (insert band name here) to release ANY new music. If they want to play shows, just play (insert first and best album name here) in its entirety and all will be well. I’ll, of course, listen to (insert new album name here) but I know I’m not going to enjoy it at all.

Writing the above paragraph makes me realize how childish I am when it comes to music. I guess the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, right?  I’m not looking for rehabilitation though. I’m simply a grumpy guy who’s getting older and knows what music he wants to listen to.

Here’s another scenario: “Did you hear that (insert name of band member here) started a new side project?” “Oh, does it sound like (band member’s original band)?” “Psshhh, not at all it sounds like (insert name of band who is the complete polar opposite of the original band). They’re fucking awesome!” “…….”

Listen, I make music too. I can understand how creating the same genre of music over and over again can become mind-numbing and just plain boring. But, I also don’t feel the need to follow an artist to his/her other project and claim to love it. I became a fan of a specific artist because of the music he/she was originally making. If I wanted to listen to a band in a completely different genre, I’m pretty sure I could find another band who has been making that type of music longer and better than the thrown together side project of an artist looking to spread his/her wings. This is especially grating when you see write-ups about this new group: “Hear the singer of (insert band name here) in his new group. A complete departure from (insert band name here)!” So…if it’s a complete departure, why even name drop the original band?! Because, the artist knows that the fan will follow him/her wherever he/she goes so its best to continue banking off the success of (insert original band name here).

Like I said, I know this is childish and immature. I don’t care. I don’t need rehashing and new records from bands I started listening to 10 years ago. I especially don’t need to follow these artists to new projects because of the emotional aspect I have with that artists’ original products that made me a fan in the first place. This is why I bought the records of bands I love. Whenever I see that they’re participating in any of the aforementioned scenarios, I can just hit play on the music they made they still resonates with me. I’ll always give these bands a chance on their new records, despite what I’ve said. But that practice always leaves me disappointed. And I just head right back to my record collection again.

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