Alexis’ mom passed away a few weeks ago. Much sooner than any of us should have to leave. Her name was Elizabeth, but family called her Lisa. It’s been hard to witness the emotional and physically toll Lisa’s passing took and continues to take on Alexis. Mostly it’s had me feeling helpless. Especially leading up to it. Understandably, there are certain weights that just can’t be lifted from the shoulders of the ones we love, no matter what we do or say.
Alexis had a complicated relationship with her mom, but even still, one that was rooted in love, and had countless moments that shone bright all the same. Unfortunately, I can’t say I knew her as well as I would have liked to myself. Over the years though, I did get to know her secondhand through stories Alexis would tell me about her childhood. Her Mom’s obsession with the movie Titanic. Her abundant and quirky sense of humor. How every time she used a strangers driveway to make a 3-point turn and headlights briefly flooded a house she’d say, “Don’t put the coffee pot on, we’re not staying!”
The days we spent sorting through and organizing her belongings after she was gone, grew my sense of knowing her even more. I learn she was a beautiful writer. She wrote a lot of poetry. She was a singer in a few bands as a teenager. She had many struggles. She held on to the smallest things from her children, which spoke volumes for how much she loved them. I also learned she was crazy about lighthouses! Just when we thought we’d collected and packed up all the lighthouses, of all shapes and sizes, without fail a few more would pop up somewhere. Over the course of a few days, we’d always laugh discovering a new lighthouse. A welcomed lighter moment in heavy days.
One of my favorite memories with Lisa was when we all went miniature golfing together. It was Alexis, myself, Her sister Elizabeth, our niece Scarlett, Grandma Nancy, and of course Lisa. Somehow I wound up with the tiny pencil and score card. After each hole, without fail, Lisa would check in to make sure I marked her score at least a stroke or two better than Grandma’s, regardless of what anyone shot. All the while, Grandma Nancy was asking me to do the same for her. Back and forth, and back and forth. Adjusting scores from four holes ago if need be! It was only my second time ever meeting them, so I was eager to please and in turn sweating bullets cooking the books. In the end, I think to keep all parties happy I declared Scarlett the winner, who couldn’t have been more than 5 years old at the time. It was a fun memory, and I think a testament to her fun loving spirit and humor.
It’s been a hard few months and weeks, and I’m left saddened this happened but thankful to have been able to stand tall by my wife’s side when she needed me most. In the end, I’m incredibly inspired by Alexis’ strength under such crushing weight of grief and responsibility. She’s navigating uncharted waters in her life, and doing so with as much grace as anyone one of us could ever hope for when it comes our own time to do so ourselves. Goodbye Lisa, we love you and will miss you.
My Dad flew across the country to grab a beer with me on St. Patrick’s Day. One of the many perks of him being retired now. It was a quicker trip than he’d usually make to California, but we made the most of it. We ate the tacos, hopped the bars, talked the talk, explored the neighborhoods, poured the saké, watched the movies, clinked the glasses, and got a good look at the Pacific. Think I’ve also logged enough hours listening to my father go on about the never ending, infinite complexities of College Basketball March Madness, that at this point I might actually be able to pass as one of the talking heads on ESPN.
One of the brighter burning highlights came to be when just a day or two before my Dad got here, I learned that Flogging Molly was one of his favorite bands. As luck would have it, they were playing St. Patrick’s Day at the Palladium in Hollywood. I knew if we went it’d mean staying out way too late and drinking way too much, but damn it, life needs some living. So I got us some good seats, and after seeing the pit below and feeling the relief on our backs, I might consider it to be one of the greatest purchases I’ve ever made. One of the opening bands was from Ukraine, and given current events, the people were BEYOND fired up. It was a fun show, and most importantly, Dad got to cross off seeing Flogging Molly on St. Patrick’s day.
My Dad and I talk pretty often, but I’m not exactly sure the last time just the two of us spent this much uninterrupted time together. Maybe our cross country drive when I made the move to California 15 years ago. This little adventure has been a reminder that I should strive to make this happen more often. We had a great time, and I’ve got the photos to prove it. My favorite of which is Dad using chopsticks for only his second time ever for his “raymen” noodles.
Today’s our wedding anniversary. We celebrated by getting out of town and exploring Laguna Beach this past weekend. Four years married now, and Ten years since the first time we kissed. A decade gone by and I’m still crazy for her and driven crazy by her. She’s still my favorite person, and I still get caught up in her beauty just the same as the first time I ever saw her. I can also say with great pride, that I still know how to crack her up on a dance floor, largely with the same set of moves all these years later.
Might not have seemed it at the time, but getting married was the easy part. Staying married, well that’s where it gets tricky. Marriage might just be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hard to know if that’s because I’ve had an easy life, or because marriage is just plain hard work. Maybe it’s both. But in any case, it’s been my experience that the hard things we choose to do willingly, are always the most rewarding in the end.
I tried to pick out just one photo from each year of our story together. It was a challenge to say the least. Been so many bright spots along the way. Plenty of ties for first place. A lot of these photos didn’t even exist on Six Foot Giraffe to begin with, and that just felt like a bit of a crime to me. So here they are, not just safe and sound in my heart and mind anymore, but here too, for when the years start to get too far away from us. Happy Four to us.
Joey, my one and only brother turned 40. It was almost a month ago but I’d regret if I never took a moment to share that here. Seems like I was just writing about him turning 30 not too far back. Doesn’t feel like yesterday but it also doesn’t feel like 10 years gone.
He’s 5 years older than me, and that use to feel like a big difference but I know in a blink of an eye I’ll be seeing 40 myself. The cool thing about having an older sibling is that you’ve known them literally your whole life. He was there the day I was born, and for 18 years following, I saw him just about everyday. 18 years of horsing around, exploring, fighting, lying to our parents, and getting in plenty of trouble. All the things that brothers do.
Hopefully there are still plenty more years ahead of us than behind, but I’m not sure I can say the same about new memories together. We live 2,700 miles apart, and have for 14 years now. To say the least, we don’t see each other everyday anymore. A fact made painfully clear looking for photos of us together. Anything from the past 15 years is far and few between. But maybe with a little effort from both sides, that can change some. There’s still time.
Happy 40 Joey. Can’t be all that bad, after all, you did get to keep your hair. Although speaking from experience, I wouldn’t get too attached to it.
My Grandfather passed away a little over two weeks ago. My Dad’s father and the only Grandfather I’d ever known. His name was James Patrick Smith. He was just shy of 89 Years old. A long life that above all else, defined him as a devoted husband, and a father loved by his five children. He was as hard working as they come. Legend has it, he hadn’t taken a day off work for 40 Years. A child of the Great Depression who cleaned his plate even if what was on it wasn’t always his favorite. Though, it’d be hard to know if he didn’t like something, since he never complained about a thing. He loved long walks, opera, football, and literally anything that concerned chocolate. He had a booming deep voice, and his laugh could fill every room of the house, and he laughed often. He always wore a wrist watch. I think he always understood the weight of time, which led him to always have a camera in hand or video recorder resting on his shoulder at any family gathering, which he and my grandmother always made a priority.
He filled many roles for many people, but to me he was someone I affectionately called Gramp. I had the good fortune of being born while my parents were still young, and my grandparents still only in the first half of their 50s. Still full of life and vigor. I’ll forever be grateful for that. An experience many of my cousins didn’t have. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother and I even kept my grandparents a little younger, for a little longer. We’d spend entire weekends there with them. Together we’d play games, watch movies, indulge in all kinds of sweets, explore our town and soak up anything they told us like sponges. We were just about spoiled rotten. We loved it, and we loved them.
I remember a particular fascination I had with my Grandfather’s hat. So much so that when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell them with unwavering certainty, a door-to-door hat salesman. It was a simple bucket hat he’d wear on his commute from the suburbs to downtown Chicago by train each day for work. When I was there on weekdays, I couldn’t wait for him to walk through the door to get my hands on that hat. As the story goes, I’d sometimes get a little impatient, and just use my imagination and put the dog bowl on my head instead. Regardless of how much dog food was already in it. When he’d finally come charging through the door, he’d always make this boisterously triumphant trumpet sound announcing his arrival. I’d run to meet him and in one swift motion he’d move his hat from his head to mine. Looking back on it, it’s clear I was just like any child wanting to wear the costume of a super hero they idolized. It must have made him feel fantastic.
As I got older, it was clear I didn’t fit the exact mold of some of the things he valued, whether that be having an interest in sports, being an ace student, or being involved with the church. Hell, I don’t even like chocolate that much. But none of that mattered and I know he was proud of me all the same, and know because he’s expressed that. Particularly, he was proud I chose to turn my passion into my career, and pursued my own kind of happiness.
In the end, I believe he was ready to go. His mind was still razor sharp, but his body had long been in decline. But beyond all else, I think he just wanted to be with my Grandmother again. Ever since she passed on, he’d often say with a chuckle something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I’m still doing here!” Particularly whenever I’d call him on his birthday. I can’t think of a more potent explanation of what love is than the sight of my invincible Grandfather crumbling to a thousand pieces as he stood over my Grandmother’s casket. And all this time since, he’s just been stuck at the station, waiting for his train to take him back home to her. Just as he always used to. He was a devout Catholic, and there was no doubt in his mind what he believed to be next for him, and it brings me a great sense of peace, knowing he was at peace himself.
Goodbye Gramp. I love you very much and I’ll never forget you.
My Mom turned 60 years old today, but really I should be saying 60 years young! She looks great for her age and believe me, she knows it. She’ll never miss the chance to tell you one of her many stories about her customers at the bank who are left in total disbelief after they learn her age. Just last month when we were in Florida together someone thought I was her husband! Surely I’ll never hear the end of that one.
All kidding aside though, the fact is my Mom is just as beautiful today as I’ve always known her to be. Inside and out. Maybe even more so now that I’m grown and able to understand just how selfless a person she’s always been for us.
Happy sixty Mom, we love you. Don’t worry, it’s just a number, you don’t look a day over 30!
Kim and Will got married and it was about as Kim and Will as it could’ve been. Every color of the rainbow, dungeons and dragons lore, all accounted for. They did it their way, and that made it perfect.
So thankful to share their day with them, and for all our days past, and all the ones still ahead.
You forget just how much family you really have until you get them all in the same room. We did just that for my Grandfather’s 86th birthday. All his grandchildren, some of us scattered across the country, came together for him. Can only hope all those years down the road the story goes the same way when it’s my turn.
My Mom’s side of the family got together for us at my Cousin Michelle and Mario’s house too. It was a great time. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and saw lot’s of faces. Some I hardly recognize anymore.
Going back is always a nostalgic flood. A reminder of where I come from. Things get so busy, you almost start to forget. But we always go back. Thankful for a small place in a big world that will always have us. You know what they say, home is where the Italian beef sandwiches are.
Crazy to think it’s been eight months already since I married my best friend. We’ve been holding off on sharing the whole thing until we had all our photos and footage back from our photographer, and till we could organize it all in one big post online. Something we can look back on the rest of our lives. No matter what social platforms rise and fall through the years, or how blurred our memories might get the more we collect, this will always be safe here. For the rest of our days, and the days there after. This took way, way longer than we wanted it to, for a couple reasons, but my God, it’s finally done! The wait has nearly driven my parents to the brink of insanity. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, right?
A wedding is only a day, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes leading up to it. It’s a long windy road made of equal parts, fun, love, and absolute chaos. Guess the best place to kick this off is where we started ourselves. For us, after our engagement, it was venues. We looked at a few, all within an hour of Los Angeles. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. We planned to see a couple more in Palm Springs, but the last one got us. A little place called Quail Ranch. A family owned and worked avocado ranch, hidden on a hilltop in Simi Valley. How Californian of us. We knew this was our one before we even finished walking the grounds. Spoiler alert, there were no quails.
Though we got married in September, we held off on our honeymoon until December. We did lounge about Palm Springs for a few days and nights right after the wedding, but we wouldn’t call that our honeymoon. More of a quick getaway.
We decided on Belize. It was tropical, english speaking, and the travel was nothing too brutal. Especially since we were already coming from New Orleans instead of Los Angeles. Above all else though, it’s a place that just suited our personalities well I think. It was a home run.
Made a little edit of our week there. Unfortunately, we have no pictures or footage from the more adventurous parts of the trip. Fortunately, those parts are usually the most memorable on their own. Guess that’ll happen when you treat a new camera like a newborn baby. It was a great end to a great year with my love by my side.
We did it. We’re married! Don’t want to say too much right now, going to save the whole story for when we get all our pictures back from our photographer and do it right. Just wanted to share this one.
To think I’d ever be able to share such an image in this place, with the exact person I always wanted to end up with, just blows my mind. Don’t think many people really understand how far back it all goes but here’s a glimpse. Really, I am the luckiest person I know.
That’s it for now, more to come.
One day my friend Drew told me he wanted to move into a new place with his girlfriend Kelsie. They really hadn’t been dating very long at all, and the new place was a pricey two year lease. There was never a thing not to like about Kelsie, but I still owed it to one of my best friends to warn him he might be rushing into something here. He agreed he was rushing in, but rushing into the right thing, so why wait. I remember thinking it to be pretty bold.
Turns out, they just signed a lifetime lease, and tied the knot. They married near Palm Springs on April Fools, because well, it’s Drew and Kelsie we’re talking about here. It was a beautiful Saturday.
I asked the girl I’ve been crazy about (and driven crazy by) since the day I met her, to marry me. How we got from there to here is a long story. One that I’ll save for another time. But today, I want to tell you about the best day of my life.
My Dad, manning the grill, next to the pool, under the Florida sun. Following his dream of getting his family the hell out of the Chicago winters.
Here’s to him, and my Mom, for showing me what it means to take a chance and follow a dream, and for always encouraging me to follow my own.
My Aunt Janet. She’s been so involved and supportive in just about everything I’ve done in my life, every step of the way. Seen me fail, succeed, short and tall. She is a person in my life that truly cares for me. Could never thank her enough for all that she’s done. Over the years, she’s taken me to see and do so many things that I otherwise may never have experienced. I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her.
Happy Birthday Aunt Janet.