Monday, October 24, 2016

Don't be angry, Vincent

Teenage angst, frustration, and hormones seemed to spill out of my oldest son, this weekend, as he spouted, “I’ve been pissed off all weekend!” more than once.
My wife and I were confused. As far as we could tell he seemed to be having a pretty good weekend. On Friday he spent the majority of the evening with his girlfriend. Saturday, he spent the majority of the day with her. On Sunday, not so much but they both had things they needed to be doing.
By Sunday evening, his “anger” was spilling over to everything he was doing. He was lashing out at his brother, me, and his mom. I had had enough.
Typically, my response is that of yelling. I had previously snapped at him for how he talked to his mom and felt snapping wouldn’t be the ideal solution here. Truthfully, when is it? Still, I needed to reach him.
He was on the floor messing with our St. Bernard, Monte, when I asked him, “Hey Vincent, can you help me learn how to play a game?” For those that don’t know, I run a web site where we review and discuss games. You can find it here.
Without looking at me he said, in a very gruff way, “Sure.”
My knee-jerk reaction was to say something about his tone, but again, I wanted to avoid that.
The game we played is Warhammer 40k Conquest. An LCG published by Fantasy Flight Games. I suspected, because it was Space Marine related, Vincent would be willing to play. Vincent and I enjoyed playing the Space Marine game for Xbox 360 and I was banking on that tie to help me.  Thankfully, I was right.
So I got the game and began unwrapping it. I passed some stuff out to him and asked that he please punch out all the pieces while I did some reading. He obliged.
Vincent looks over the field of battle in a game of Warhammer 40k Conquest

So, full disclosure, we played this game completely wrong. And I mean completely. But that’s not the point. My point was to breach this “anger” gap with Vincent and try to give him something positive to focus his energy on, even if it was for an hour.
By the time our game ended (he won, legitimately) Vincent was a different person. He was now laughing and the anger that was there seemed to be leaving him.
I struggled as a teenager. I fought with depression, anxiety, and a general feeling of worthlessness on almost a daily basis. I know, on more than one occasion, I left my parents feeling frustrated because they couldn’t reach me. To be truthful, it’s amazing I made it out of my teenage years alive.
I don’t know what was pissing him off. I hope it was nothing too serious. Whatever it was, for one-hour last night, I was able to get through it.
I know Vincent thinks his parent don’t understand him. I know he feels frustrated and irritated with things even if there is no real reason for it. I also know that he will never read this post. And that’s ok.
On the off chance he does read this, I want to say this to him, “Son, I love you. Despite the frustrations I feel about you not doing your chores, or not listening to me when I tell you to do something, I love you. See, I was a teenager once, too. I know, surprise, surprise. I used to pull the same kinda crap you pull with me. I used to screw around and not do my chores, not tell the whole truth if it meant getting what I want, etc. I get it. And, although you think talking to me is a bad thing, I am always here for you. I will always listen to you. I may not agree with you, but I will listen. I will be your biggest ally, your staunchest defender, your harshest teacher, and the rock when you need it. And, above all else, I love you.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Grand Prix: Los Angeles wrap up

There is always a somewhat hungover feeling that comes at the end of a Grand Prix. All the overwhelming emotions of the many thousands of people I had been suppressing all weekend finally stop pounding on my sensory shield - I am exhausted.

We wrapped up Grand Prix: Los Angeles in true Channel Fireball style - a party with a nice meal and lots of product for us to draft. Because it comes on the tail end of the GP the party doesn't start until nine. Although I was off shift at 6 pm, I was completely worn out. Still, I went down to mingle. I played a draft, ate some food, chatted and finally called it a night.

Now, Monday morning, with most of my roommates gone (our room facilitator and all-around awesome guy Joe Sapp is the last of us still sleeping) I have a little time to reflect and recharge. 

This GP was large. Thousands of people turned out to play Magic either in the main event or on side events. I worked registration so I got to see a lot of them.
What was exceptionally pleasing was that I never once ran into a grumpy person. Customers were pleasant, happy, and not at all bothered by waiting in line.

To our credit, we got the players through the line quickly and efficiently. I was especially proud of the registration team this weekend. From the top down, they were all excellent - hats off to Niko, our team lead. Niko is a Belgian judge who speaks some various number of languages. No really, I am pretty sure I heard at least three different languages from him. Niko took command of this team and made everyone feel incredibly important. I hope to work with him again. 

My hat is off to Channel Fireball and the entire staff at this event, too. I can't count how many people came up to the registration table just to pay compliments to how well the event was organized.

This was the fifth GP that I have worked. All five have been affiliated with Channel Fireball - the previous four were part of the Channel Fireball/Cascade Games era. While I am sure there are excellent organizers out there, these two, in my opinion, are tops. And as if to make my point, they were again this weekend.

Being able to accept credit cards on site, having a buzzer system set up to page players when their On Demand Event was ready to start (an event that starts as soon as 8 people have signed up), and being willing to listen to player feedback and respond accordingly helped to make this event excellent.

That isn't to say nothing bad happened, don't get me wrong - I know of one player that had his backpack full of cards stolen. Which seems to be the norm these days.

Things outside of CFB's control include the ridiculous cost of food at the LA Convention center. A hot dog was $6.50, a fruit cup was $8.00 (not your typical Del Monte-esque fruit cup rather a larger more enjoyable one without all the sticky syrup) and a bottle of water was $4.00. I mean, I know California is in a drought, but damn!

Parking at the event center wasn't cheap either - $15/day.

I get these centers have high overhead, but it seems silly to me to price gouge the hell out of convention goers. These prices were higher than those I have seen at sporting events! Just insane! But enough negativity.

Grand Prix:LA was a lot of fun. I was able to meet some new people, say hello to others I've met before, and establish new connections. Plus, I was able to talk about Magic to a whole lot of people that like Magic. How can you go wrong? And the cosplayers! Wow!

Stitcher Geralf was looking for a new creation at GPLA.

I love going to Grand Prix. I wish I could work them more. But, for now, my two a year will have to suffice. Next up, applying for GP: Denver.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Is it loaded - the summer of '94

“Is it loaded?” I asked, glancing across my ’84 Oldsmobile at my best friend, Jeremy Coll-Goss.
“Yep,” he said.
“Completely full?” I asked, to make sure.
“Yep,” he said again a wolfish grin crossing his face.
I respond with a smile and open the driver’s side door to my carriage. Jeremy gets in the other side carefully not wanting to discharge the weapon in his hands.
It’s summer in Alaska, fast approaching July 4, and Jeremy and I are enjoying our time together. High school is done for me and, with jobs and him having another year to finish, we don’t know how much more time we will get to hang out.
He takes a moment to position the tank on the floorboard, making sure not to twist the hose. He positions the barrel of the gun to hang out the window as he slowly closes the door.
“Dude, that has got to be the biggest Super Soaker I have ever seen,” I say with a chuckle.
“I know, right?” says Jeremy in a very typical response for him.
We pull out of the driveway of his parent’s North Pole, Alaska home and head towards the main thoroughfare. Jeremy’s eyes are darting across the candy-cane decorated streets looking for a victim.
We pass Pizza Hutt and turn down St. Nicholas Dr. headed towards the iconic Santa Clause House. That’s when we see her.
I look at Jeremy, his sunglasses are on, hair blowing in the wind, “You ready?”
“I am.” He says.
We approach the girl walking towards us. I slow the car down just enough for Jeremy to take aim. Then, with a pull of the lever he fires both barrels of the Super Soaker.
We could hear her scream as the ice cold water splashed all over her. Laughing, we drive off.
June of 1993 was often filled with weekends like this for Jeremy and I. Typically he would get off work late and I would go and pick him up. Together we would drive all over Fairbanks and North Pole looking for any sort of mischief we could get into. This day we happen to be heading to Chena Lakes for reasons I can’t recall.
I don’t remember if we soaked anyone else as we drove to the lake or if we just waited until we got there to fully empty the weapon – more than likely on me when I turned my back to him.
Looking back, it wasn’t the nicest thing in the world to do but, at 18-years-old, we didn’t care.
Besides, this was our last summer before transitioning to adulthood, well, it was for me. Like I said, Jeremy had another year to finish.
When it became apparent neither of us would be able to attend graduation (because of a choice I made I did not pass my Economics class and had to take it through the summer) we kinda made a pact to each other to have a blast that summer. And we did.
I often think about the things we did that summer. If ever there is a time I get a bit nostalgic, it’s about that summer.
When fourth of July approached, Jeremy and I bought a bunch of fireworks and headed out to a dumpster site on Chena Hot Springs Road. Joining us were my younger brother Dom (who was often with us), Scott Livingston, and Travis Watson (two of our closer friends).
I distinctly remember when we lit off a pack of Saturn Missiles the box tipped over and began firing directly at us. Scott jumped in the car while the rest of us ducked behind it practically falling over ourselves with laughter.
We finished that night drinking a lot of whiskey and Jeremy’s favorite drink at the time, Fuzzy Navels.
Pretty sure we were playing cards (possibly Rummy but I don’t remember) later that night. I seem to remember laughing so hard I spit orange soda all over the guys and then fell off my bench into a bag of beer bottles. Nothing broke, thankfully. 
That fall our other best friend, Harold McGrogan moved back to Alaska from Ohio. Harold, who was a bit wilder than we were, quickly found his groove with our group.
Much like the song, Blood on Blood by Bon Jovi, the three of us were like brothers. So much of my life has been filled with memories of one or two of these guys and I doing something stupid, somewhere. Or staying up late trying to figure out life’s mysteries, helping each other through rough times, celebrating happiness together, crying together.
It’s been a long time since the three of us were together and I miss those two fiercely.

Jeremy lives in Denver now. Harold is in Iowa. Of course, I am in Wyoming. Life has put a lot of distance between the three of us. Doesn’t matter, though, I still call them brother.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Accepting and loving who I am - step 1

"He who knows himself is enlightened." Lao Tzu

After 41 years of being alive, I am not sure I truly know myself. So, in the spirit of the sharing, I did last week, let's see if I can get to know myself a little better. We are going to start with what I like about myself. 

Here are four things:

1. Curious - I like that I am curious. I don't like being told something is the way it is without knowing why. If you can't tell me why I am going to try and find out. Now, admittedly, sometimes I forget to go and find out. I rationalize it as that something just wasn't important enough to me to go figure out. Other times I am so interested I will drop everything and work on figuring out the why. I attribute being curious with always wanting to learn. I always want to learn. 

2. I can sing - I love to sing. And, thankfully, I can do it well enough. Singing is an excellent way to vent frustrations, emotions, or anything else built up inside me that I need to release. So far no one has thrown a shoe at me after listening to my caterwauling - yet. 

3. Nerd - I love the fact that I am a nerd. I really do. I like that I enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, comic books, games, etc. I want to attend cons dressed to the nines in steampunk gear. I like reading and talking about "nerd stuff." It really is a large part of me. 
As seen here, I typically am
wearing some sort of "nerd shirt"
under my work clothes. 

4. Romantic - I am a hopeless romantic. I truly am. I see the romance in the typical long walk on the beach. I still hold the door open for my wife. I still make her coffee in the morning (sometimes I forget). When it's snowy out, I make sure to have a pathway shoveled to her car so she doesn't have to walk in the snow. Yeah... I am hopeless. :-)

So these are just minor things but it's a start. It's a start in the journey to better understand myself and, hopefully, love me for me. 

Feel free to share something about you in the comments. I appreciate it when you do. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Saturday morning soundtrack

It's Saturday morning and I have just finished playing Hearthstone for the day. My house is in a state of disarray and I need to get some cooking done for a get together we have scheduled later.
Wanting some music, I decide to go ahead and connect my Mac Mini to my Samsung AirT
rack via Bluetooth and open up my Itunes library.  As I walk to my computer I pass my stereo receiver and record player.
Stopping I change my mind and decide to put on a record instead. I slip a record out of the dust jacket and place it on the turntable.
I walk over to the sink and begin washing dishes. I am about half way through when I hear my youngest son come up the stairs - Aydin was downstairs grabbing the vacuum cleaner for me.
I turn to see him dancing and singing to the music - we were listening to Dropkick Murphy's Live at Landsdowne.
I smile at him and am struck with a bit of nostalgia as I turn back to my dishes.
Growing up, our typical Saturday morning was to help my parents with the household chores. Typically, Dad would be doing the cleaning while Mom balanced the checkbook. Always, Dad would have records playing.
My Dad's stereo equipment consisted of a record player, dual cassette deck, and 8-track player, and a reel-to-reel players. His record collection numbered into the high hundreds or, possibly, low thousands. Needless to say, our Saturday morning soundtrack was plentiful.
There is no doubt my father played a huge part in my musical education. In fact, the only person who has played an almost equal part is my older brother, Benjamin.
I miss those days when Hotel California would be the song I would wake up to. When the Stylistics or the Chi-Lites gave me a bit of groove as I swept the floors.
Now, all those years later, the Dropkick Murphys are powering Aydin through his morning chores.
My Dad has since broken up his collection. Although he retained a large part of it, several pieces are spread between my siblings and me.
Although we play music via the AirTrack all the time, I don't often power up the record player. I think that needs to change. I think it's time my boys got a chance to listen to their grandfather's collection. Well, at least the bit I have.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Some facts about me

Let's be honest! Ok, so, I am going to put myself out there a bit and tell you several facts about me that you may or may not know. This is a little scary as it forces me to be honest with myself. So here goes.

1. I enjoy food but am horribly picky
The list of things I don't like tends to surprise people. I do not like most cheeses, I abhor pasta, and the thought of sour cream makes me cringe. I can not stand most cheese sauces, either.

2. I smoked for almost 20 years
Quitting was, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done for myself. Nasty habit. Pretty sure most of you knew I smoked, though.

3. I used to be something of a cutter
That's hard to admit, but I have written it here before. I used to think cutting myself was a good way to deal with depression. I have not done it for more than 20 years but, sometimes I still have the urge.

4. I struggle with depression and anxiety
Yeah, I figure most of you know that. Some days are better than others but I get by. Being creative, or learning new things helps a lot.

5. I love musicals and have performed in a few
It is not uncommon for me to sing songs from Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, or Guys and Dolls when I am alone. I love the song My Wild Irish Rose from The Music Man, and would love to be part of a Barber Shop quartet to perform it.

6. I do not understand hatred
Don't get me wrong, there are things I don't like but, I don't get hatred so intense it leads to killing. Perhaps the 'Like to Teach the World to Sing' song hit me at the perfect time. I truly do want people to live in peace. I would love to find a way to work towards it.

7. Although I can't stand bullies, I think they, too, deserve another chance
I don't think people are naturally evil. I think we are brought up that way. I think even a bully can be taught to love people.

8. I doubt my own intelligence and often times refrain from joining a conversation for fear of sounding like an idiot
There are people I converse with that I think are far more intelligent than I. As a result, I tend to lean towards silence instead of jumping in even if I know what I am talking about. Self-confidence issue, for sure.

9. I taught myself to play the guitar and am learning to play the mandolin
Yeah, not a big deal, but I did it. I am not any good at it, but I try. Same goes for the mandolin. I have learned a few songs and am having fun with it.

10. I worry about being a good example for my boys
I know I get angry and fly off the handle sometimes. I worry my kids see that and will act that way, too. I am actively trying to reign myself in when I find my frustration levels getting high. I want my boys to treat people with respect, no matter who they are. I try to do this every day. I hope they see it. I, further, want them to be kind to their fellow man. Again, something I try to do every day.  I also want them to have respect for women. Again, something I strive to show, every day.

11. I am immensely proud of my boys
I know they have their struggles. I know sometimes we don't agree on much but, I am so very proud of the young men they are becoming.

12. I am not sure where I would be today if I hadn't met my wife
I used to say I was going to grow up and live in the mountains alone. I was convinced I was too broken to be with anyone until she came along.

13. I am a nerd (geek) through and through
From Star Trek to Star Wars and everything in between, I love it. I love games, fantasy, cosplay and more. I tend to hide it from people, especially in a professional setting, but it really is who I am.

14. I have recurring nightmares and night terrors
Currently, the nightmare (although it's not so scary anymore) is of me dying before I turn 45. I am not sure what it means, but there you have it. As for night terrors, well, these are pretty intense. I haven't had one for about a year but man, do they linger. 

There you go. That's me. I am not perfect, but I am me. And that's all that matters.
Got some fact about you you want to share? Type it in the comments.