Monday, February 6, 2017

We've Lost Our Sense of Wonder

I love trivia.

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by little-known facts about all kinds of things. Back in the 1980s, a couple of friends and I would make regular trips to a local bar to play an electronic trivia game, and we won on a regular basis. I also won numerous prizes for answering trivia questions on something called Sports Phone, which was--are you ready for this, Millennials?--a phone number you paid to call to get up-to-the-minute sports news and scores.

And don't even get me started about my lifelong obsession with Jeopardy!, a game show my wife and I watch religiously every weeknight.

There's something so incredibly satisfying about knowing the answers to obscure questions like: Who was the last switch hitter to win the American League Most Valuable Player award? Answer: Vida Blue in 1971. (Yes, Blue was actually a pitcher, but pitchers still batted in the American League in 1971, so that’s a totally legit answer.)

For me, possessing little nuggets of information like that has always been something to be proud of. I'd come across them and tuck them safely away in my memory bank, where they'd reside until I needed to pull them out so I could challenge someone else's knowledge of all things trivial.

On the other hand, when someone asked me a bar bet-type question and I didn't know the answer? It would drive me crazy until I could actually verify the answer. Sometimes it took days for me to confirm the answer via a reputable source. Sometimes it even required a trip to this place called a library to do some research. 

But today's world is different. Technology has made it so easy to find anything out in just a few seconds. When we don't know the answer to something, we go to our computer, smart phone, or tablet, type in a few words, and boom! There's our answer.

*How old is that celebrity? 

*Who was the actor who played that obscure role in that movie from the '60s?

*What was that singer's biggest hit? 

*How many home runs home runs did so and so hit off of left-handed pitching?

Nothing is a mystery anymore. Bar trivia has been ruined forever.

And we've lost our sense of wonder.

Another example from the mid-1990s: I remember when a quiz having to do with lines from '80s pop/rock songs was going around via email. Email was pretty common at the time, but the Internet had yet to become something everybody had access to. People would email this quiz around, print it out, and pore over it for hours, trying to figure out which band or artist sang the song each line of lyrics was from.

People spent time wondering about that stupid quiz! They'd fold it up, carry it around with them, and ask other people about it, because they wanted to find out the answers. And they'd work hard to do so.

But those days are over for good. Today, whether the question you're seeking an answer to is silly or serious, the answer is right at your fingertips. And if you have access to Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, an Amazon Echo, or a Google Home, you don't even have to use your fingers. You can just ask your question out loud and get an answer. Technology is such a fabulous thing!

Or is it?

Maybe I'm just getting old, but sometimes I think it would be better if people today were left to wonder about more. Exercising our brains is a good thing, and taking some time to think about why the sky is blue (molecules in the air scatter blue light more than they scatter red light) or how many toilet paper tubes it would take to fill up the Empire State Building (8.5 billion) might be good for our brain health.

For better or worse, kids these days have access to everything kids from earlier generations had to wonder about. Whether they're curious about something that occurred in American history, how a certain product is made, or where babies come from, they only have to wonder as long as it takes to plug their question into a parent's--or, more likely, their own--device. Young boys with raging hormones don't even have to hunt down Playboy magazines to see what a woman's naked body looks like anymore because anything (and I mean anything) they could ever want to see is out there in cyberspace, readily available to them. Now where's the fun in that?!

There's a song that appeared on Sesame Street a few years back called "I Wonder." It's sung by Ernie and the lyrics go something like this:

How does a bunny hop, hop, hop?
And what makes popcorn pop, pop, pop?
Why does the rain fall drop by drop
And the lightning always come before the thunder?
I wonder.

Do you ever wonder as you walk along
What makes a tiny little ant so strong?
Does every bird have a different song?
Do you wonder why?
Well, so do I.

Somebody needs to loan Ernie their iPhone. I wouldn't want him to wonder too long.

By the way, "I Wonder" was co-written by Adam Schlesigner, bassist for the band Fountains of Wayne, which you probably know from its Grammy-nominated song “Stacy’s Mom,” which was also written by Schlesinger, who also wrote the title song for the movie That Thing You Do!, and whose cousin, Jon Bernthal, played Shane in AMC's TV series The Walking Dead.

You can Google it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Update on 2017 Scholarship Contest

Just a quick update to let folks know that I've been doing a lot of thinking about the feasibility of a 2017 My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest. As you may or may not know, my wife and I started our essay contest back in 2015 as a way to help college students who have been affected by a sibling's addiction. We were thrilled to be able to award two scholarships in both 2015 ($1,700 total) and 2016 ($2,050 total).

In both of those years, my wife and I seeded the scholarship monies with $500 of our own, with the rest of the funds provided by generous donors. Unfortunately, I haven't worked full-time in more than three years now, and money is about as tight as it can be. Funding last year's contest was a challenge, but funding this year's contest is pretty much an impossibility.

As much as we'd love to do it, I think the scholarship contest is going to have to take a break this year. Sometimes you just have to be realistic, even if it hurts a little.

If anything changes--like if by some chance I win the lottery in the next few weeks (note: that probably won't happen since I don't buy lottery tickets)--I will update you. But for now it looks like we'll set our sights on getting the contest back on track in 2018.

Thanks for understanding.

Peace. And remember...

#SiblingsMatter

Friday, December 30, 2016

That's Just Life

If you know me, you know I'm a huge music fan. Because of that, there are a lot of music-related things hanging on the walls of my house.

One of those things is a handwritten lyric sheet from one of my favorite folk/roots/pop singer-songwriters, Josh Rouse. It's something I got for backing his Happiness Waltz album on the PledgeMusic crowdfunding site back in 2013. For my donation, I got to choose any Josh Rouse song and have him write out the lyrics for me.

The song I chose was "Life," which was written by Josh Rouse and Daniel Tashian and appears on Josh's 2005 album Nashville. I love this song and the lyrics are words that resonate with me every time I hear them:

Life

Life is good, sometimes it's bad
It has its ups, it has its downs
Just sing a song and feel all right
Cause that's just life

If you're lost, don't be sad
There are good times to be had
Just sing a song and let love shine
Cause that's just life
That's just life
That's just life, so darling don't cry

And when your hour, it is near
And your friends they all are here
To share their love and to be kind
That's just life

Oh and when you're gone, you won't be back
I'll remember those special times we had
I'll sing this song and feel all right
Cause that's just life
That's just life
That's just life, so darling don't cry

The sheet with those lyrics written on it is hanging on the wall in my dining room, and I walk by it every single day. Lately my own life has been more than a little topsy-turvy, full of its own ups and downs. So I frequently stop to read these Josh Rouse lyrics and try to remember...

That's just life.




Friday, December 16, 2016

Another Honor for My Blog

You never know what you'll come across while you're poking around the interwebs. I just came across another list of blogs. This one is "The 20 Best Recovery Blogs of 2016," published by the After Party Magazine site. It was posted in September and I had no idea I was on it. Top 20, yo!

Here's what they wrote about my blog:

"Another parent of an addict, this time a dad, My Life as 3D follows the regular musings of a father of a boy who began his recovery as an adolescent but has continued to struggle with depression, anxiety and many of the issues we face in sobriety (not to mention in adolescence). After psych wards, suicide attempts and every bit of toxic drama in between, My Life as 3D has morphed into a seven-year journey of been-there-done-that, becoming a solid resource for any parent whose child has gotten sober and gone on medication, but still struggles."

Once again I am humbled, honored, and grateful for the recognition.

Peace.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016

The other day I saw a post on Twitter that linked to the website of a treatment center in the U.K. The post was referencing Ocean Recovery's list of the "80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016." Ocean Recovery is a "personalistic holistic treatment programme relating to stress and dependency disorders," and they compile this list of recovery blogs "because these blogs provide our clients with a powerful way of learning about addiction and life in recovery."


Since I know a lot of fellow recovery bloggers, I was curious to see whose blogs had made Ocean Recovery's list, so I slowly scrolled through it. Little did I know that I would find my blog--this blog--on the list. What a pleasant surprise!

I had no idea my blog was going to be included, but I was humbled and grateful that it was. Writing about addiction isn't always easy, and getting some recognition for doing it is always nice. I was also happy to see so many friends' blogs on the list, along with another blog I've contributed to over the years (Heroes in Recovery).

Ocean Recovery says that these recovery blogs "serve a similar purpose to attending AA or NA meetings"--I would add Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings as well--and that "many of these people publish their blogs simply as a way to help others who face similar problems with addiction." They certainly got that right, because that's exactly why I started my blog back in 2008.

If you get a chance, go check out the entire "80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016" list on the Ocean Recovery site. The blogs are listed alphabetically, which means you'll find mine at #43. And all 80 of the blogs are great resources for anyone who's been affected by the disease of addiction, either first-hand or as the result of a loved one's struggle.

Thanks for the recognition, Ocean Recovery. And kudos to all my friends who were honored for their blogs, too. By telling our stories, we are helping break the stigma.

P.S. I didn't know until the other day that Ocean Recovery did a list of the Top Recovery Blogs last year, too, and I was on that list! In 2015 they listed 34 blogs alphabetically, and mine was #21. Who knew?


Monday, December 5, 2016

Help Support Detroit Youth Volume on December 10th

The first time I wrote about Detroit Youth Volume was last December 20th, when I made them the day's featured organization in the Causes and Effect blog I took the reins of for one month. Causes and Effect is a blog that features a different organization or cause each day. The person authoring the blog chooses the groups to write about and donates at least $10 to them.

On that day last December, I woke up and saw a story about Detroit Youth Volume (DYV) on the Detroit News website. The article explained that DYV teaches disadvantaged kids from the city of Detroit how to play violin using the Suzuki Method, while at the same time breaking down stereotypes. It also talked about an album the group was recording with some of Detroit's finest hip-hop talent; an album that would feature hip-hop beats mixed with standards like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I was completely sold on DYV and made two donations that day: one to the organization itself and one to their Kickstarter campaign to fund their CD.

Over the past year, my wife and I have grown to love Detroit Youth Volume and its dedicated director Clara Hardie. We went to a recital for the kids in the program in April, attended their performance at Jack White's Third Man Records store in Detroit's Cass Corridor in May, and had a great time at their hip-hop album release party in August.

DYV performing at Third Man Records in May.
Everything about this organization fills our hearts and souls with good feelings. So much so that my wife and I have committed to making a small donation to them every month. We also drive a DYV student and her mother (who is blind) to violin class in downtown Detroit every Monday afternoon. The joy these simple acts bring us is immeasurable.

This Saturday, December 10th, Detroit Youth Volume is having a tea party/fundraiser/performance at Holding House, an artist-run workspace in southwest Detroit. It runs from noon until 4:00pm and will  feature tea and cookies, along with a sale of ceramics, prints, student violins, and music accessories. The violin/viola performance, featuring kids between the ages of 4 and 18, will take place at 1:00pm.

Proceeds from this event will go toward matching funds for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant DYV recently received. The organization will receive $50,000 to fund their project "Jazz Violin the Detroit Way," but only if they raise their own $50,000 first. That's a tall order, but DYV has a year to raise the money and they are bound and determined to make it happen.

My wife and I will be at Holding House on Saturday to support Detroit Youth Volume. If you live in the Detroit area, we urge you to do the same. I guarantee that seeing and hearing these young Detroiters play their instruments will bring a smile to your face. This is truly one of the greatest nonprofit programs in Detroit today, and the love and dedication of all the people involved in it is so inspirational.

There are a lot of amazing things going on in the city of Detroit these days, but not all of them have to do with new sports arenas, new office buildings, or new housing projects. Some of them are much smaller in scale but have a much bigger impact on the underprivileged youth of the city. Detroit Youth Volume is one such example.

Hope to see you Saturday!


Holding House is located at 3546 Michigan Avenue in Detroit. (See the map at the very bottom of this post.)

For more information on Detroit Youth Volume, visit their website:
http://www.detroityouthvolume.org

To donate to Detroit Youth Volume, go to this link:
http://www.detroityouthvolume.org/donate.html

For more information on Saturday's fundraising event, visit the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/175516889578230/


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Late-Night/Early-Morning Gratitude

I'm not sure exactly what time it was--I'm guessing maybe 1:00 or 2:00am--when I got up to pee in the middle of the night last night. (Something us middle-aged men do a lot of. Also, should I be concerned that this is my second blog post in a row that talks about urine?)

While I was in the bathroom, I heard a loud voice coming in from the slightly open window. My first thought was that my younger son and a couple of friends he had over were being loud in the family room, but I wanted to be sure before I went downstairs to tell them to lower the volume a notch.

So I opened the window a little more and listened.

What I heard wasn't the voice of a 20-something male. Instead it was a 30-something female neighbor who lives in a house on the street behind us. She was obviously out on her deck, on her cell phone, having a frantic conversation with someone.

I didn't listen long, but I didn't have to in order to understand what was bothering this woman so much: She found out her husband is having an affair.

She told the person on the other end of the conversation that she discovered some incriminating texts on her husband's phone. And that her husband's office smelled like...well, let's just say "sex." She also wondered why her husband would "want it" from someone so unattractive, saying "I wouldn't mind so much if she was hot."

I only listened to this conversation for about 30 seconds, but that was probably too long. And I probably shouldn't be writing about it either. But I can't help it. Because hearing this conversation--which was, by the way, loud and clear despite the fact that there are hundreds of feet between my upstairs bathroom window and this woman's deck--made me feel two things.

1.) I felt incredibly bad for the woman. She just had a baby a few months ago and now her world is shattering around her. I can't imagine how that must feel. I even told my wife today that we should ask the woman over for dinner. But we don't know her, so such an invitation coming from out of the blue would likely be pretty suspicious.

2.) When I finished peeing, I couldn't help but go back to bed feeling overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful that I have an amazing wife, and that our marriage--which is almost 28 years young now--is rock solid. I can't imagine ever being with anyone else; and I'm pretty sure my wife feels the same way.

Life is a challenge, for sure. My wife and I have encountered a whole lot of difficult situations that we never expected. But we've navigated our way through them the best way we know how. As a result, our relationship has grown stronger. And I'm forever grateful for that.

Like my friend Matthew Ryan likes to say, "Teamwork makes the dream work." And marriage is the ultimate team game.

I'm keeping the neighbor behind me in my thoughts and prayers today. I hope she can find some peace in her world sooner rather than later. No one should ever have to feel what she was feeling late last night/early this morning.

"A good marriage is where both people feel like they're getting the better end of the deal." --Anne Lamott

Me with my (way) better half.