Monthly Archives: November 2012

Baby Can I Hold You

“Baby Can I Hold You” by Tracy Chapman

This was the very first “real” song I learned on the guitar. This song was released in 1988, while I was a junior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.  For my Christmas present that year, my middle brother had traded in an old classical guitar that had sat around our house our entire childhood, for the Yamaha acoustic guitar (and probably lots of extra cash) that I still play. The guitar he bought me is nothing fancy, not a world class instrument by any means, but a piece of wood and metal and strings that I have fallen in love with over the years.  I will be indebted to him forever for the foresight in buying me an instrument that although will never be used in a professional environment (thankfully!), really changed my life in an indescribable way.

I remember sitting in my dorm room trying to figure out the chords to this song, at the time barely knowing how to hold the guitar in the correct position and the tips of my uncalloused fingers burning from trying to hold down chords. Of course, 1988 was long before we were able to go onto the internet and search for the chords to a song, which are now readily available. So I listened to the cassette tape (yes, cassette tape, I’m that old!) and picked and strummed and picked and strummed until I figured out what I thought were the correct chords. Honestly I still don’t know if they are the correct chords and I figure at this point, it doesn’t really matter.

Look, I’ll never be a professional musician, I accepted that long ago. But I do believe that learning an instrument and being musically inclined is a “hobby” that is more important and can provide a more profound, lifelong impact than many others, including sports. Both of my kids are currently involved in music programs and I hope they will continue.

So… if you’ve ever considered picking up a guitar, banjo, mandolin, flute, clarinet, saxophone…

Well, what’s stopping you?

So, here’s my version of “Baby Can I Hold You”. Okay, it’s tough to compete with the amazing voice of Tracy Chapman… whatever…



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Deafening silence

Engulfs the house

Like a choking cloud of noxious gas

Seeping into every crevice

Of my emotions

The only interruptions

A ticking clock on the wall

Keeping time like a heartbeat

Slow, deliberate time

And fingers hitting a keyboard

The occasional passing car

Or the old house groaning

At the breath of a cold winter day

Otherwise silence

Deafening silence

It conjures up every thought

Every worry

Every memory

Every regret

Where did all the sounds go?

The sounds of laughter and joy

Of celebration and play

Of family and friends

Of food and drink

Of Thanksgiving

Gone overnight

Swept away

As if by the whisk of a broom

Into the dustpan of life’s memories

Now, nothing but silence

Deafening silence

Does your home seem deafeningly quiet after a long holiday weekend spent with family and friends or are you happy for the reprieve?


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Thicker than Pea Soup

It’s foggy today.

I’m working at home and looking out the window I can still, at almost 11:00 am, barely see across my property. The schools were delayed two hours to allow the daylight to show its face so it would be easier for the buses to get to get the kids safely to the classrooms. I drove my kids in and visibility was probably about 30-50 yards.  We get lots of foggy days here, especially this time of year when Mother Nature seems to be frantically trying to figure out if it should be sunny and warm or cloudy and cold, raining or snowing, wet or dry, changing her mind sometimes every few hours.

But this morning she chose it to be foggy.

Thick fog…

Thicker than pea soup…

Does anyone really say that anymore? “Man, the fog this morning was so thick… it was thicker than pea soup!”

More importantly, does anyone really even eat pea soup? I mean, seriously, is there anything more disgusting than pea soup? Maybe the expression should be “that’s more disgusting than pea soup!”

“Hey, I have an idea, let’s take a bunch of split peas, whatever a split pea is… cook them up to oblivion, then mash them up into a puree with some water and salt and pepper and try to pass it off as soup. We can throw in a few cubes of ham and maybe some onions and things so that people won’t think they are eating the most disgusting food that anyone could ever possibly think of.”

Look, if you’re going to try to win me over with your split pea soup recipes in the comments, it’s a moot point, my mind is made up already. I mean, I love most veggies, beans, legumes, cooked, fresh, raw, in soup, in stir fry, whatever. Not a fan of Brussels sprouts or the many varieties of squash or mushrooms. Other than that I’m mostly opened minded. I like soup too, chicken broth based especially. There nothing that says “hey buddy, it’s okay to wrap up in your little blankie with your pajamas and bunny socks on and stare at the TV” than a bowl of chicken soup.

But split pea soup?

I learned early on in my life, probably about 1-2 years old, that my mother was going to sit in front of me with little jars of mashed up food and try to shove it into my mouth. Sometimes there were even flying spoons and airplane noises involved. But it didn’t take long to figure out that the pears and the applesauce were the bomb! But a spoonful of mashed up green mush… my jaw would be “locked up tighter than a drum, tighter than Pandora’s box.”

“Sealed up tighter than a brand new pickle jar at a Thanksgiving Feast.”

By the way, that reminds me, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I may not always realize it but I have a ton to be thankful for… an amazing wife and kids and family, loyal friends, a beautiful old home, a job, four really cool goats and a few cats, a little bit of writing talent, my health, my family’s health, and of course all you great blogging pals. Did I mention an amazing wife and kids?

I’m thankful for the Jackson Browne CD that is playing in the background right now and in terms of entertainers, the one artist in the world that has had a more profound impact on my life than any other.

Sometimes I have to push through the fog to figure that all out and sometimes that fog can be “as thick as pea soup.”

But not today…

Today that is as clear as day!

Hope you all have a fabulous Holiday filled with turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and stuffing and whatever else you eat on Thanksgiving… even if that includes pea soup!


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A Reluctant Extrovert

Are you an Extrovert or an Introvert?

I decided today that I am a Reluctant Extrovert.

Let me back up a bit. I’m far from an Extrovert and would in fact classify myself as an Introvert. Not in a totally dysfunctional, can’t go out of the house or speak to anyone kind of way, but…

I was kind of shy as a kid. I’ve grown out of that like lots of people do. Not that I’m the life of the party, I’m certainly not the guy that keeps a conversation going in a group full of people, when that uncomfortable silence fills the room. I don’t like making small talk and like a lot of husbands, many conversations between my wife and I are one-sided, or let’s say maybe 75/25. I don’t particularly like being in charge, although I’ve certainly been down that road and am glad to be done with it. I helped run a small family retail business for years. I liked the job, but I hated the personnel part of it.

On the other hand I’ve always been this person that people seem to like and gravitate to. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here, like I’ve perhaps, occasionally, maybe, sometimes done here in my blog.  Seriously, I’m not… but it’s just one of those things I possess, I guess… that ability to be likeable…

… and totally handsome.

(sorry, that just slipped out, I’m just kidding… sheesh!)

I’ve also discovered I like to be…. ummm…. uhhhh… hmmmm…. how do I say this without sounding like a pompous ass?

I kind of like to be the center of attention. I don’t mean in a “Donald Trump, Birther Movement” kind of way, more of a “dude, you were overlooked again for People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive” kind of way.

(sorry, that just slipped out again… I’m just kidding, sheesh!)

But seriously, I like to put myself out there a little bit. I’ve discovered I kind of like standing in front of a (smallish) group of people and speaking. I like when people listen to and like my songs and I enjoy singing around a campfire. I like when people think of me as someone who is accomplished or capable. I like being in the public eye and have even done a little bit of modeling before (no, we will not be providing pictures). I’m frankly a little narcissistic that way and it’s perhaps all part of my (somewhat jokingly) ongoing quest to be famous!

I have to balance that with my other need to be a quirky, long-bearded, homesteader, recluse. It’s kind of a weird tight-rope, balancing act of extroversion and introversion.

Alright, alright… twist my arm… maybe just one picture… from a test shoot…  just because it’s cool.

… and totally handsome!

I think I’m going use this for my album cover!

“Steve, your need to be the center of attention is showing.”

(yeah… whatever… I know… sheesh!)

Anyhow, all this, and just the simple fact of having kids, means I (and my wife) get asked to do a lot of stuff… volunteer for this, help with that, lead this group, be on this committee.

“Hey, that’s cool, my plate’s not too full, sure I can help.”

My wife and I also have this problem of saying “NO”.

Now I’ve put myself into a sales job. Not just any sales job, a self-employed, completely independent, 100% commission, it’s all you dude, sales job. What, you ask? A shy, introverted guy goes into a sales job? Yes, I am calling and e-mailing and walking in on customers that sometimes are busy or don’t want to see me.  Not a big deal really, most people are very nice and pleasant, at least in my industry. But it doesn’t come easy for me, I’ve still had to step out of my comfort zone a bit and psych myself up to make things happen. But sitting in front of a customer giving a presentation… love it! And, I’ll tell you what, when you land that fish… god damn it feels good!

So here I am… a shy, introverted guy who has become a Reluctant Extrovert.

Some people would say “that’s good Steve, pushing yourself.”

They’re right, it is probably a good thing and it sets a good example for my kids, but there’s a level of stress that’s always present that an outwardly extroverted person may not feel.

The batteries get drained and need to be recharged.

This is something I haven’t really figured out yet, how to recharge. I don’t mean have a drink or take a nap or a day off from work or even an extended vacation. I mean completely recharge mentally or spiritually or whatever terminology you want to use to describe it.

As a younger person I could just shut myself off for a little while. As an adult that doesn’t seem to be as realistic. The rest of the world doesn’t shut off, my wife and my kids lives don’t shut off, everything around me just keeps rolling along like a toy train that goes round and round it’s tracks through a diorama of mountains and trees and buildings. I can’t just flip the switch and turn the train off.

I just need to find the station that allows you to get on and off the train once in a while.

So, answer the question above, are you an Extrovert or an Introvert? And what do you do to recharge your batteries?


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No More Twinkies

This is a sad and tragic milestone in our history.

I’m sure you have all heard about the imminent demise of the baked goods company Hostess, maker of the most iconic and delicious treat ever to grace this very earth… the Twinkie. I’m sure you are all also having sleepless nights, lying awake, plagued with concern that my goats will no longer be able to get a Twinkie every time you leave a comment on my blog.

Now as much as I’d like to jump on the bandwagon and blame yet another ridiculously outdated, greedy, asinine and out of touch Labor Union for destroying one more company on the ever shrinking list of U.S. manufacturers…

… I won’t … because frankly I feel I may be partially to blame here.

You see, I have not been writing much and thus, you my fabulous fans and readers have not been leaving comments on my blog and thus, my goats have not been getting nearly the volume of Twinkies that they used to get when I was writing four to five posts a week.  Now granted, my goats are likely much healthier but I think that this decrease in the volume of Twinkies they are consuming may be the root cause of why the Hostess company had to file for bankruptcy in the first place.

I don’t know…  it’s just a theory but I’m feeling a little guilty about it.

Now apparently the Hostess company is going to sell off the rights to some of the brand names that they manufacture, so perhaps Twinkies will resurface in some other incarnation of snack food. But it won’t be the same, it’s a Hostess Twinkie and that’s all it will ever be.


In any case, apparently this will be the last post of mine in which my goats will receive a Twinkie for every comment you leave.

So make it good…

Because they are not going to take this news lightly.

And if you have any thoughts about what I can give my goats now, every time you leave a comment, I’d welcome the suggestions.



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Of Anniversaries and Birthdays and Mid-Life Crises

Today my wife and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Kim and I met at Colby College in Waterville, Maine in 1986. We got married in North Reading, Massachusetts, her home town in 1992. Our reception was at the Hawthorne Hotel in Historic Salem, Massachusetts. We moved to Michigan in July of 1993 and bought the home that is the theme of this blog in December of 1995. Two children, several jobs and lots of pets later, here we are celebrating 20 years as husband and wife.

Ours is not a perfect marriage, none are. But it’s pretty close. We’re very similar people and we like each other. Yes, I specifically used that word… “like”. We like each other, we’re friends, we get along, we know when it’s okay to talk to each other and we know when it’s best to leave the other to themselves. That old adage that opposites attract should be thrown out the window. Opposites don’t attract… well, perhaps they attract, but do they last?  People that are the same, that have the same interests and personality traits have relationships that last. Sure, we are in love too. But “love” is one of those vague words that has so many levels of meaning. It’s a word for young people testing the waters of newly discovered relationships. It’s a word for romantic’s spending a week in Paris or watching a sunrise on the beach or picking daisy’s in a field. It’s a word that’s important in our lives, but when it comes to a successful marriage words like friendship, commitment and loyalty should trump the word love any day. When you’re raising kids and trying to pay a mortgage and thinking about college years… you better be friends… you better be committed and loyal… and you DAMN WELL better LIKE each other!  So, to my wife, if you are reading this… I may love you… but I really LIKE you. Thanks for being my best friend.

Today is also my oldest brother’s 50th birthday!  This is quite the milestone day! I have two older brothers, both of whom I look up to tremendously and who have been friends and mentors to me. Unfortunately they both live far away and I don’t get to see them that often. But they are important in my life and I wish the oldest the happiest of 50th birthdays today.

I have to admit, as I sit here and type this morning, all these large numbers, 50’s and 20’s make me feel old and throw me deeper into my so-called mid-life crisis, which I have written about periodically and that I suspect I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life. Mine is not the traditional mid-life crisis of fast sports cars and yachts and trips to the Caribbean. It’s more of a “can I check the fuck out and become a quirky, long-bearded homesteader who raises bees and writes poetry and doesn’t have to deal with the daily shit storm of life?” But that’s not very responsible and fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I am a mostly responsible guy and understand that’s not a suitable option at this stage of my life.

Plus, I’m not sure my wife would “like” me anymore!


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