Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the subject of "Hitting the Wall"

It has been four years. I have watched my world be flipped upside down then right side up and back and forth. Over that time I believe that the people around me may have noticed, but also knew that "dependable me" would still be around.

That seems to be my nature. I am always around when people need me. Need an assistant coach for a team, I am there. Need someone to help raise money, call me. Need someone to design a new logo for a group, e-mail me. Need someone to make sure everyone gets home safely while the world drinks around me, yep, I am there. It is just my nature.

For the first time ever, on Monday, I hit the wall, and it hit back very very hard. My reaction, as always, was just to get my self up and dust myself off and start all over again. This time, when I tried to get up... it took effort.

The goalie mask you see above carries the quote "Fall down 8 times, get up 9." It belongs to former WHL goalie Dustin Tokarski. It really exemplifies what I try to do... but this time the effort seemed so much different.

So... let's take a look at the last 12 months in my life...
Had a mystery headache that flattened me for two weeks causing me to go get a CT scan.
The results of the scan found nothing. (insert joke here.)
Answered dozens of Facebook random facts and questionnaires with every conceivable fact about myself.
Discovered re connections with people that I could have never imagined and realized I have made some kind of difference in many people's lives.
Created the mother of all Facebook notes with the "300" note, acknowledging stories about each and every one of my 300 Facebook friends.
Wondered how I have 562 Facebook friends now.
Said goodbye to my parents house by going to organize its clearance.
Watched a moving van pull up to my house and leave the memories of UpDaCreek in my own house.
Saw the people I work with at my major client get fired and the new ones wonder if I could in fact do my job.
Had those same people realize that I might be the person right to run their operations for the long term.
Lost a television show that I had worked on for the last 7 years.
Got a "replacement" deal for less than half the money for segments instead of a show.
Saw a 15 year streak of Emmy Nominations come to an end.
Realized that Emmy Awards were something I had obsessed about for no particularly good reason.
Turned 46 and figured I am on the "back nine."
Started an improv group that has brought me more joy than anything I could have ever imagined, and found a new permanent home for the group just six months into its existence as the theatre's resident group.
Almost saw the theatre close its doors before we even got to do our first shows until an anonymous donor saved the day.
Created a video for my daughter's sixth grade graduation that made everyone in the gym cry.
Cried at the fact that I have such a tenuous relationship with my daughter.
Had a dream that allowed me to see amazing possibilities in my life.
Had a dream where I didn't get away from the "bad guy" for the first time and felt the pain of being shot.
Had another mystery illness that shut down my digestive system for a week forcing me to get an MRI.
Had a situation where a close friend wondered if I had become a different person than the one he knew.
No cause was found, and it went away.
Saw my ability to sleep more than 8 hours go away.
Took a cruise and felt so close to the people I met on the ship, I almost applied for a permanent job on the Cruise Staff.
Came back to reality and realized that cruise life is fantasy, and reality can really suck.
Sent my son on an incredible three week cross country road trip.
Spent most of the next three weeks talking him off the ledge as the kids on the trip were making life miserable for him.
Wrote my first song.
Heard the crowd, thinking the show was over, talk over the last verse which had the message to it.
Questioned my future for the first time in such a way that I wasn't sure how it would all turn out.
Went through a long process to try to find a way to strengthen what I already have.
Found myself waking up before sunrise on most days, whether it was planned or not.
Left the place that I had lived in for longer than any other place in my life.
Moved to a new house that is so far out of my league it is ridiculous, but am finding a way to make it work.
Discovered an untapped improv character ability to "be big."
Discovered that I still felt like a jilted school girl when I didn't get invited to a party that many of my friends were invited to.

I think you can see how I might have hit said wall.

However, as I write you, the sun is out. I am in an amazing office surrounded by the memories of the past and the possibilities of the future.

I have two families that love me... one that I have, one that I chose, and who chose me.

And the wall is something I look back on and realize that I am only human. It will reappear when I least want it to... but at least I know it is there and may be better prepared for it next time.

Merry Christmas all... hope your wall stays in your rear view mirror and the endless possibilities of life bring you blue skies ahead.

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the subject of UpDaCreek

Greetings to you, fine internet people... it's been a while.

I am coming to you live from the garage of an empty house. It was the house I lived in longer than any other, yet now, it lies without a chair, without a table, with nothing but the internet modem which is the last thing that dwells in the dwelling.

It is a surreal sight to look around and see where I changed the diapers of our first child, then our second. It is so strange to see the place where I sat in disbelief when we had to take our daughter to the hospital for the first time. It is unnatural to look into the kitchen and not see my lovely wife welcoming me home. I look at the sliding door and there is no dog waiting to be let inside. Home is now a memory.

Last night, I spent the night in an almost as empty house just a few minutes away from here, but a world away in terms of what will be. From a nice size rambler to the house that most people can only dream about, but somehow it has become ours.

The last time I had emotions like these were when I visited my parent's house for the last time. They lived in South Carolina in a house they called UpDaCreek, as it sat by an ocean fed creek.

Driving away from my new house for the first time this morning, I realized that we are on the banks of an ocean fed creek as well. Ours is on top of a hill and you have to go down a trail to get to it, but none the less, it is there. So, I called my wife and asked if she realized this as well. She didn't put two and two together either.

We had always said we wanted to live like my parents did, in a house of dreams, by the water, and now in a way we have. So we have dubbed the new house UpDaCreek West, and we will refer to it as a tribute to my wonderful parents who dreamed of this for us those many years ago.

Finally, their dream came true, and so did ours... and we think that somehow, some way, the connection of the Atlantic to the Pacific and the creeks that run by, make it all the more right.

Hey Mom and Dad, we made it!

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the subject of 5 in the morning

Okay... it's technically 5:37 in the morning. I have been up for almost an hour now.

The song on the iTunes from Gary Go asks "whatever happened to me?" I don't think there could be a more appropriate song for this moment.

Over the last two months, my life has undergone a drastic change. I have seen the highs and the lows, the best and the worst... and I realize that I have not shared any of it like I used to. So let's get to that shall we?

This week alone, my wife and I have sold and bought a house. We never thought we would want or need to move, but as kids grow up, they seem to need space. Maybe, I should be more accurate. We needed more space. I love my kids, but they always seem to be right on top of us, leaving me and Gale with very little room to breathe. So now, we will have some breathing room as well as a new opportunity.

I have always wanted to entertain friends in my house, and our new house will allow us to do that in spades. It is a dream house that we could have never dreamed of, but as the stars aligned, interest rates low, job doing well, and housing prices where they are... we could.

Then, there is improv. Oh my God, how improv has changed my life. I have spent so many entries on this blog telling you about improv, but I had no idea what it would truly mean to me. The freedom it has given me to expand my horizons is limitless. That's what happens when you make up life as it goes along.

My improv group, {breakout}, will be moving into our own theatre in December. I went into this theatre with the idea of just doing some shows and the timing could not have been any better. They wanted to have a regular group to bring in younger audiences... and there we were. It is a magical place, or that was the feeling I had after our first rehearsal there. It seems so right, and I look forward to the hours I will be spending there.

The place that taught me all the improv skills is still a place I call home as well. Jet City Improv is looking to me to help them raise money as a member of their board. It is a tough thing to do with the limited experience I have, but ideas seemed to be what they needed. Let's hope those ideas can turn into dollars. I think they will eventually.

How about family? Life could have changed pretty dramatically there too. If there are peaks and valleys in any marriage, I have seen them both in the past two months. From the desperation of feeling totally detached to the high of new possibilities, this thing called love has been a crazy little thing. I am very blessed that I was raised to see things through, and keep promises, and that is what I continue to do every day. Happily, I have a good partner in that.

My kids... well, my relationship with my daughter is recovering. I am sure there are people who feel that they have no attachment to their kids. Not like the woman in "Private Practice" who won't look at her baby. I am talking very little in common and constant fighting. Such as it is with my girl. However, it seems like the freeze is beginning to thaw from both sides, and somewhere through the ice, we will swim in a relationship again. That's nice.

And what about a son who is so close to being you it is uncanny. My son is a mini-me. He does the same things I did growing up, makes the same mistakes, pulls the same tricks. He, however, has something inside him, that I never saw in me at his age - heart. He puts a lot into things even though he gets knocked down (that, I understand.) He is an amazing soccer goalie, with a competitive spirit. When it comes to friends, it's hard to see how it's going. He say he's picked on a lot. I know I was at his age. He has a strength that I did not, so I think he will be just fine. He is a loving son, and we are lucky that he is around.

Work? Wow... I could not have thought that things could change so much in a year. Yesterday, I left my office of the past three years, after five years of having an outside office, and moved back home. I sit here in the home office typing this and it seems surreal. And today, I discuss the future with my major clients, and I do so with confidence of a job well done. If you had asked me two months ago about my confidence in the future, I would have told you it could go either way. Today, it seems pretty good!

So what gets me up at 5 in the morning? That is the 64,000 dollar question. I can't sleep anymore. It started this past summer. The guy who loved to sleep in till 10 AM and hated mornings finds himself up before the sun on most days. I try to figure out a way to get back to sleep, but many mornings, I just give up. Like right now, I feel like going to bed, but it seems more right to talk to you.

The Gary Go playlist plays in the background. One of the songs on that collection is called "I am wonderful." It's not a song about egos, it's a tale of feeling good about yourself. Well, today, I, am wonderful. Tomorrow may hold other things, but I will take today.

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On the subject of new beginnings.

Hey there... sorry to have been gone for so long. It's a busy time for me. Football season is in full swing, with basketball hot on its heels. However, what is most exciting is what I will share with you now.

Yesterday, my improv group {breakout} announced a creative partnership with a local theatre called The Phoenix Theatre. We will produce original shows for them throughout the next year, and hopefully beyond.

I will share some personal thoughts on the blog, as I promise to get back to writing. I have spent so much time launching this project that I have neglected some things... like the old blog. However, with this new beginning, I will begin to blog again. If you keep reading, you will even find a new old entry as I found one just sitting there, waiting to be finished!

I have missed you all!

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On the subject of "Connections and Definitions"

(I began this entry and realized I had not finished it... so I am sharing it with you now. It was written just after the premiere of my improv group's first original show in September.)

The world has been very right of late. That is nothing short of amazing considering how very wrong it could have been.

In one week, my life was going to be defined in one way or another, and the pressure was getting to be incredible. Around me, life was going on and I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. You, my internet friends, are probably wondering what I am talking about. After all, I have been absent from the blogosphere, but with good reason.

This summer was one of transition. In work, I was now working for a totally new set of clients, all of whom I had to educate in who I am and what I can do. At the same time, I was really exploring the world of improv. I had started a group and, with the help of some talented people, was looking towards creating an original show. Nothing that was familiar when I started the summer would remain at the end, or at least it seemed that way.

Following the magical cruise, life took a turn towards responsibility. Work took a very serious tone with huge expectations. Family life had new challenges with our attempt to buy a new house while selling place we have called home for 12 years.My daughter... starting middle school. My son, becoming a young man. My wife, stressed over everything. And me, well, at least I had improv.

As September began, the pressure was mounting. Expectations were high at my work to create a great atmosphere for the team I was working for. The team, which had not won a game in more than a year, needed an emotional boost, while dealing with the economic reality of life as we know it. Simply put, they needed more for less, and looked to me to do it.

In a parallel universe was my improv show. We had been rehearsing this show for months and had never made it through an entire run through. I was nervous that maybe I had set the expectations too high for something that was supposed to be fun.

All the while, I felt a real need for everything to work, never doubting it would, but always doubting whether others would say it did.

On Saturday, the 5th... the first game with the new bosses came and went, and the expectations of the presentation were exceeded. Relief... no doubt. However, that was all about work for a client. The next six days would be about pleasing just one client... the toughest one I had ever come across. Me.

I had hyped this improv show to heights that even I could not comprehend. Websites, twitter, facebook, e-mails, posters.... everything I had to be PT Barnum - barking to anyone who would listen. But there was a palpable buzz about what we were creating. I had talked about the show being different, and many aspects of it were shrouded in "secrecy." I left myself with no grey area... either it was going to be a huge success or a terrible flop.

On Tuesday night, the cast of my show met at our usual rehearsal place, but this time, the stakes had been raised. An invited audience of some of the top people in improv was in place, as well as members of another improv group that has been doing shows around town. I told the gathering very little about what they were going to see other than it was our dress rehearsal.

Moment by moment, the show came together before my eyes. The imagined world of romance and improv colliding was taking place. From the opening monologues on heartbreak to the final montage on Newts, most everything was organically coming together, just as I had thought it could. Fact is, our amazing director,Mandy, had understood my vision and gave us the tools to succeed. Sadly, she could not see the final product as she had a job assignment take her away just as the show was about to take place.

After the rehearsal, I nervously waited for notes from the audience. They came in great numbers... but they were not what I had expected. The first was about our chemistry. The audience noted that they could all tell we genuinely liked... even loved each other. They talked about the fact that the show had such a uniqueness to it that it was hard to define... but was so easy to understand.

On Friday night, we performed the premiere (and what we thought would be the only performance) of {girl meets boy}. It was a magical evening, everything we imagined it could be and some things that we could have never believed. A packed house, an appreciative crowd, glowing reviews from the audience and a feeling of accomplishment that beat any Emmy Award I had ever won. This was a piece of my heart, shared with the world, and accepted. That was the best feeling of all.

To share the experience with the people I love most, my family and my improv family. It was truly a defining moment, and one I will never forget.

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the subject of "Making Music"

Greetings to you. I know it's been a while, but it's been that nutty time of year when I rarely have the time to change my mind, let alone share it with anyone. Today, I find myself with nothing but time as I have been forced to stop and rest. My body is playing some nasty tricks on me, and so I am stuck in bed attempting to escape the pain and get the sleep I have been denied over the nights.

I was going to write about how crappy that feels, but you don't read blogs to hear me bitch, although sometimes I will do that. Just go back one entry.

In the middle all this craziness of my illness came one of the most rewarding moments of my life. To understand fully the context, let's go back a few months.

Most of you know about my love for improv, and how that love has changed me, the way I think, and my desire in life to make others happy. If you have followed this blog, you know the story of how my Improv group began, and that we are going to be doing an original show in September.

In the journey to put together this show, the idea was to create as short form show, with a long form feel. As the show developed, the format took on a new air... a world of romance, introspection and happiness. In examining this world of love in the rehearsal hall, we have discovered that when reality sets in for our scenes, trying for what's in our hearts rather than what's in the comedy books, there is a unique take to the world of love. We saw that it was not about who was right or who was wrong... it was everything in between.

At my favorite improv theatre here in town, the second musical production I had seen at the Historic University Theatre was just wrapping up. The show, called Lovetanic, was improvised musical from start to finish, as was "Lease," another amazing show from the same director. Also, I had just taken Musical Improv and loved the musical aspect.

The one thing that both "Lovetanic" and "Lease" had in common other than one word titles that start with the letter L, was an opening song that was not improvised, but rather written especially for the show.

It was always our intention to have music be a part of our show, but only in the form of an opening act. The Chai House wanted us to take a full two hours, and a two hour improv show, especially with a relatively novice group, would be potentially tedious. So I brought on a wonderful singer named Megan Jergens, whom I had befriended from my karaoke days at Hula Hula. We loved the same kind of songs... ones that spoke honestly about love and what it does to the soul.

Rob, the musical director for Lovetanic and I had also become friends over Sounders soccer. We both show our love for the Rave Green and one day in a conversation on Facebook, I asked him what he thought of the possibility of writing a song for our show. The difference was I wanted to end the show with a song, one that sent home the message of the show.. Much to my happiness, he said yes.

He asked me what I had in mind, and I told him nothing sappy, nothing extremely snappy, but something that would make the audience think and reflect on what they had seen. Little did I know that I was, in essence, asking for a broadway show stopper of sorts.

Rob said he already had some ideas, which made me extremely happy. I told him I would send him some notes. I sat down at the keyboard and started writing ideas. I am not one for poetry. The last poem I had written was probably back in college, song parodies excluded.

For some reason, notes became lyrics and before I knew it, there were a set of lyrics staring me in the face. I sent them to Rob, saying it was just an idea of what I was looking for. I didn't hear from him for a few days, so I thought I had blown it... that he thought I was probably a little pompous - writing lyrics on my own rather than leaving it to the pro.

I could not have been more wrong. "Excellent," he called them. Turns out his e-mail had been not gettng to me as he was replying to Facebook messages on e-mail rather than on Facebook.

Last night, with Megan joining me, we met in a rehearsal hall and I heard, for the first time, the song written for the show. It was breathtaking. It was amazing. It was unlike anything I had imagined. And then I realized, the lyrics were all mine. I had collaborated in writing a song.

My happiness was the first thing to overcome the pain I had been feeling for the past weeks. The accomplished feeling was a most excellent tonic.

So when {girl meets boy} makes its debut, it will finish with an original song by my most talented friend, Rob, with lyrics from your faithful blogger, and sung by my enchanting friend, Megan.

When I returned home and played back the recording on the computer for my wife, I realized what the inspiration was. I had written a song on what love with my love was all about. No wonder it was so easy.

If you are not able to come to the show to hear it in person, I will post it following the show in September.

Well, sadly, I have gone back to feeling a little sick and have to go back to lie down again, but I wanted to share that magical moment with all of you.

Take care of yourselves, and may you find your own magical moment soon.

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On the subject of "needing therapy"

Therapist is busy... so I will blog instead.

My son is on a cross country camping trip that he signed up for and has been looking forward to for months. Now, 6 days in, he has had kids picking on him, has lost his camera, has gone through a tornado watch and is so upset he wants us to fly out to pick him up and bring him home.

Our house is on the market as we have found a dream house very close by. It is everything we need in a house. Meanwhile, we have put a large amount of money into our own house to get it sold, and so far, it's the market we thought it might be... so I don't know what will happen.
When one of the real estate agents called us and told us that he was going to visit today between 3:30 and 5 PM, my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea to go take some measurements at the new house... just in case it all works out. My daughter was at a friend's house, and said that she wanted to have a sleepover... leaving my wife and I alone for an evening for the first time in a long time.

We returned home and the agent had not arrived and had not left a message. When I called the agent, he announced he was on his way and would be there in minutes. My wife had left to pick up the daughter who no longer wanted a sleep over. We had to get the dog out of the house again, and could not leave the injured (neck) dog in the house because nothing says "buy me" like a house with a high pitched whining dog.

The wife returns home and helps me get the dogs so the wife, daughter, dogs all pack up and go to Grandma's house to allow the viewing.

At Grandma's house, her dog had left a piece of rawhide on the floor which our injured dog decided to pick up and chew and start choking on, so when I went to go try to help him he bit me, thankfully not breaking the skin. He coughed it up and them decided to chew it again and swallow it and coughed. Now, my daughter is trying to help, not hearing me in saying that she will need some protection to do that. He bites her and inflicting a puncture wound on the finger.
This was while my son was on the phone freaking out over the tornado watch which was in the area of where he was camping, which I assured him was okay, as I had lived through many tornado watches in Texas and South Carolina, and checked the local weather there to see that the chance of rain was only 30 percent.

Meanwhile, my daughter's doctor says she needs to be taken to the emergency room for xrays. The Vet bills on the dog were already in the 700 dollar range, and who knows what this will be.
And this call comes after a trip to the doctor's office myself where I am having numbness throughout my left side around my waist, and which apparently is a textbook precursor to shingles. I asked the doctor if stress could cause this and he just laughed.

Happily, he said that I seem to be having the symptoms but not the rash, so I may be out of the woods. However, when I am stressed, there is a pretty intense pain in my side. So needless to say, I am waiting for the pain to hit.

So... how are you doing?

Yours truly,
Johnny Blogger