My grandmother passed away on New Year’s Day.

So, I thought I would take a moment to talk about my grandma.

When custody was finally settled in my parent’s divorce, when I was about 5 years old, my sister and father and I all went to live with my grandma. She provided us with a place to live, and an extra parental figure to help when my dad needed to work late or go to school. She provided all three of us with a better life than we could’ve had otherwise.

I honestly don’t know how long we all lived together. It could’ve been one year or six. It seems like it was a long time, since I have so many memories of her there, but it is hard for me to say.

Living with her was great. I have nothing but happy memories of her then.  She had very well defined rules, and I seem to remember respecting her and them. From my point of view, it felt like her and my father were on the same page very often with how we should be raised.

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A couple of months ago I was contacted by the genetics company 23 and Me to participate in a genetics study on bipolar.

I have been talking to my wife for almost two years about doing the 23 and Me thing anyway, just because I thought it was pretty cool and wanted to have a more defined outlook on my genetics. Being a science nerd, I just find it interesting. But also, two of my former psychiatrists have done genetics on me and both told me I have an “interesting combination”, at least as it pertains to medication.

But mostly, I just think it is fun and could be pretty eye-opening. For example, my grandmother on my father’s side has a family name of Burns. And she claims that it is an Irish name, despite having a Scottish spelling (the Irish version would be Berns). However, there is a very small Irish village where this particular surname in this spelling derives from. So, if I turn out to be Irish and not Scottish, then I will have a pretty fantastic glimpse into a very specific place in my lineage.

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“Remember why you came and while you’re alive to experience the warmth before you go”

– Incubus “The Warmth”

I struggle on most days with my responsibilities at home. Parenthood is very difficult for me and something I feel like I’m getting worse at with each passing day. There are times when I get unreasonably irritable, times when my frustration doesn’t match the occasion.

For what it is worth, no one really helps me with it. There isn’t a single person in my life trying to help me be a better parent, or even help me ease the difficulties of it. Now, that isn’t to say people don’t help out, even a lot. We get a ton of support in terms of daily babysitting or even if we have something we want or need to do. Our children are always welcome and in good hands and we have a lot of options. But what I am talking about is not that type of help. I don’t mean take the kids off my hands for some time help. I mean emotional support. I mean clearing my head kind of support. I mean relieving stress and learning to avoid it kind of support.

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“The cruelest lies are often told in silence” – Robert Louis Stevenson


I’m still angry. I still cannot really believe that what happened actually happened and how quickly it was swept under the rug. Worse yet, how it was made to be my problem, like I had been the cause of it.

There hasn’t been so much as a word spoken about it, by either of us, in months and yet I still get visibly upset when I think about it, like this morning.

I was then, and still am now; ready to completely burn the bridge. What I do gain from the relationship is easily trounced by how much side-stepping I have to do to avoid pitfalls.


I am starting a new series of essays on this blog. I’m going to be posting them on Saturday mornings, as this one was, hoping to inject some good vibes into your weekends. However, I might move them into my normal weekly slots. Stay tuned.

But here is the plan: I’m going to write one piece a week about things I am thankful for, or at least things that keep me positive. I don’t plan on doing the big obvious things, though. Anyone who knows me or has read enough of this blog understands that I am a lucky person, born into a situation that most people envy, and given enough talent and ability for it to be a real shame if I don’t do something with my life.

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When I was a child, I remember my Dad, his brother, and my sister’s godfather sitting around at parties riffing. They would crack everybody up. Parties at my house were small and infrequent, but fun. I come from a small family, just one sister, my father with just one brother, my mother was one of four but they were scattered across the country so we never saw them growing up.

My wife’s family is huge. My father in law is one of five, mother in law one of four. Three and four children families are not out of the question and it is cousins galore.

I’ve yet to figure out how I fit into this family.

With my own family I fit with my dad pretty well, and the person I can’t be around him I can definitely be around my sister.

My wife’s family just doesn’t get me. I start from the outside and work in. Her mother’s side knows I like baseball but refuse to talk to me about it, probably because they don’t want to hear my opinions on the sport. But they know nothing else about me at all. They kinda know I play guitar, but not country so it doesn’t matter. On her father’s side I don’t fish or hunt or work with my hands so I don’t really matter. They too know I play guitar, but again, it isn’t country so it isn’t anything worthwhile.

Large families can be smothering. I have no room to shine, there is no spotlight to spread around, and there is always too much going on to land a good joke. And let’s not mention the steep anxiety I feel surrounded by all these people.

Her immediate family is much of the same. They value brawn over brain and outdoors life over a bookworm. They care more for my music but not to the point where they request it honestly.

They all love me. I know it, it is undeniable. From the very first holiday I spent with her family I knew they were an honest, loving and supportive group of people. They love me in spite of me, not because of me. I long for the days of laughing at my Dad and uncle’s as they amuse the small rooms of my childhood.


A photography professor of mine always told me to respect the edge of the frame.

It wasn’t just to be mindful of where the physical limits of your image are, but to embrace the edge as a way to create dynamic movement within the image itself. Paragraphs work the same way in writing. Where one begins or ends a paragraph can create dynamic tension, can change the entire feel of the written word.


For years I’ve been trying to study the edges. I find that the most interesting work occurs there. How a resolution is made or forgotten. I’ve particularly focused my study on music. Edges are everywhere in music. How a transition is made, the conclusion of a solo piece, the end of the chorus, even down to a single lick played by a musician can have a fascinating resolve. Unfortunately, most artists never make the big finish and just let their music fade to black at the end, always disappointing.

Lately I’ve been looking at the edges of life. I have a 13 month old baby, and witnessing firsthand the initial strokes of presence and how clumsily graceful they can be. Babies are almost obsessed with finding the edges of their existence. They can’t wait to paint the corners, eager to leave the middle of the canvass for the masterwork that will become their life. But also having a child has forced me to look more deeply at the edges of my own life. I’ve been seeing the white space I’ve left unattended all these years, as well as the edges being left for the big moments or the end. My canvass is surprisingly void of vibrancy.

Most people would argue with that premise.

Most people don’t get to see my canvass.

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I wake up four to five times a night. And that is with taking a sleeping pill, Trazadone and sometimes Ambien and Klonopin.

Usually it is to take a piss or grab a drink, my Lithium gives me drymouth and makes me have to pee. Isn’t that a fun game.

But some nights I’m simply uncomfortable in bed. I go lay on the couch and that helps sometimes, but I really desperately crave a space where I am truly comfortable for eight hours a night, without interruption. My snoring doesn’t help. Numerous times my wife rolls me over so I stop.

I guess I crave comfort in everything I do. Who doesn’t? But one of the odd things about this calm that I crave is that it often comes at the expense of my family, my ambitions, and my creativity. In fact, it almost always does. I’m calmer relaxing on the couch than working on something that might get me somewhere. I go to bed early enough that I don’t have to put my daughter down to sleep. I push off all chores and responsibilities until I am too anxious to actually accomplish them. And none of that seems too abnormal, until you talk to me about my fears of leading a meaningless life, of being stuck where I am at forever.

When my daughter was first born I stopped taking my sleeping pill so I could be up with her and feed her during the night. About three months in I talked it over with my wife and went back on my sleeping pill and have been a nighttime zombie since then, leaving her to do all the work. She never complains, just like with just about everything in our lives.

I wish I was more available for my family, instead of the guy who wakes up occasionally go grab a sip of water and take a leak.