Sunday, May 31, 2015

365 Project - Day 151 - "Closed (The End)"

May 31, 2015 - "Closed (The End)"

It's 3:30 in the morning... and I can't sleep.

Too much on my mind once again.

Today's the day... the "final day". We'll be at my brother's shop later this morning loading up the final piece of equipment that needs to be moved out of the building: the computerized mat cutter, which we have to deliver to the buyer. Then that's it. The shop will be completely empty... we will turn over the keys to the landlord... and my brother's dream will come to an end.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. We were supposed to be helping Peter celebrate his one year anniversary as a business. There should be a room full of people... lots of "congratulations"... maybe some cake. Yes... definitely some cake.

But instead it's "this". An empty storefront with no hint of what once was or what happened there. The only remnants of the dream are some business cards... photos... a few mementos... and memories.

Yesterday I was alone in the shop for a good twenty minutes or so. I sat in the back room... the work room... perched on top of a filing cabinet with my back against the wall. The lights were out. It was dark and quiet. Too quiet. It's NEVER that quiet there. No sounds of people talking as they walk past the front door. No music playing. No loud karate yells from the dojo next door. Nothing. Just "quiet". Just me alone with my thoughts... talking to the air... talking to my brother. I completely broke down in tears.

It just doesn't make sense to me! Why was it Peter, out of the four of us brothers? Why him? What the hell did he do?

I know, I know... "these things just happen". I'm so sick of hearing that "these things just happen" or "that's just the way it is". I'm sick of hearing that "it was just his time" or "we're not meant to know the reasons why" or even that "God had a reason".

What reason?

Can he explain it to me, please?

The truth is that there isn't a reason. Not a justifiable one, anyway. No reason why it had to be him. Not now. Not yet. It just wasn't supposed to be this way.

And now I'm left with one recurring thought: I have to do everything in my power to "prove" my life worthy. That there's some reason why it's "me" that is sitting here typing this... instead of Peter. That there's some purpose... something that I'm meant to do in life... something I still have to achieve before people are saying "God had a reason" in reference to me. That must be it... it's got to be it... because I can't for the life of me think of a single other reason why it had to be Peter... and not me.

Peter... I know you're up there, Bro. I know you're looking down at all of us... probably saying "What the fuck are you crying for!?! I'm fine!". Please stay with us, Bro. We need you! Help to guide us through this mess of a journey that we call life.

I love you!

*   *   *

Saturday, May 30, 2015

365 Project - Day 150 - "Early Morning (Can't Sleep)"

May 30, 2015 - "Early Morning (Can't Sleep)"

I can't sleep...

Which explains why I'm standing in my driveway at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday taking photos of plants in the front yard garden.

Too much on my mind... and it's racing at 100mph.

I could really go for two eggs over-medium with a side of well-done potatoes and some toast with butter.

Diner food. Yeah... that's it. I want "diner food".

Or maybe I just want to "be" in a diner right now... alone... with a cup of coffee and my thoughts - the way it used to be... way back when.

The clatter of plates being stacked by a busboy... the rustling of newspapers by a patron at the counter... the sound of coffee cups being stirred, while "Against the Wind" plays softly on the table side jukebox.

That's what I want.

The anonymity of being alone in some diner somewhere... very early in the morning. Just me and my thoughts... and maybe a side of very-crisp bacon.

But instead I'm standing in the driveway at five-freakin'-thirty on a Saturday... done taking pictures, now looking up at the sky instead... wondering if you're up there looking back at me.

And there it is...

Now I'm crying.

*   *   *

Friday, May 29, 2015

365 Project - Day 149 - "Boiling Point"

May 29, 2015 - "Boiling Point"

OK. That's it. I've reached my boiling point.

Monday will mark two months since I lost my brother. Two months on an emotional rollercoaster. Two months of constant breakdowns and tears. Two months of releasing emotions... feelings... frustrations... thoughts... While holding back other emotions... feelings... frustrations... thoughts. Two months of "letting things go" without comment.

And now I've reached my boiling point. I've had enough. I'm ready to explode on the next person who pisses me off. It's coming... I can feel it!

I'm freakin' struggling to make it through each day. It's getting harder and harder... not easier and easier. And as difficult as it is for me having lost my brother, I know that it's a million times more difficult for his three daughters... and a billion times more difficult for his wife. I will go out of my way to do anything for them right now. That is what "family" is about. If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself!

If one more person suggests that I'm wrong for focussing on what I've been focussing on, I will explode on them.

If one more person suggests that I'm wallowing in grief, I will explode on them.

If one more person suggests that I'm not being a good friend/relative/person/whatever to them or that I've been ignoring them, I will explode on them.

If one more person suggests that I "need to get over it already", I will explode on them.

If anyone out there can't accept that - so be it. Unfriend me... Unfollow me... Block me... Remove me from your contacts... Be pissed at me... Refuse to talk to me anymore... I'm OK with that.

I'm done.

*   *   *

Thursday, May 28, 2015

365 Project - Day 148 - "Sea Shells"

May 28, 2015 - "Sea Shells"

I recently received a package from one of my best friends. It included several shark-related items... and two bags of sea shells she picked for me... including these beauties from Tybee Island in Georgia.

It was a very pleasant surprise!

Thank you, Brooke!

*    *    *

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

365 Project - Day 147 - "Very Much Needed Coffee"

May 27, 2015 - "Very Much Needed Coffee"

Life is finally catching up with me. I'm absolutely exhausted. My body is crashing. I'm having a hard time staying awake.

It's time for some very-much-needed coffee. Maybe two cups. Maybe three. Maybe a whole pot. We'll see!

*   *   *

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

365 Project - Day 146 - "Escape to the Arts"

May 26, 2015 - "Escape to the Arts"

Today we donated three boxes of mat boards and scraps from my brother's picture framing shop to the "Escape to the Arts" program here in Danbury, CT.

These were the mats that did not sell during our liquidation sale for the shop... and the last thing we wanted (or Peter would have wanted) to do was to toss them in the dumpster. So now they've found a new home at a wonderful organization which provides art classes to area children.

I used to be a volunteer at "Escape to the Arts" in the mid-90s... when it was just an independent organization operating out of an empty used car dealership on Main Street. In the last 20-plus-years the car dealership has been long since torn down and replaced by a Walgreens... while "Escape to the Arts" has grown, and is now part of the Regional YMCA.

Some of these mat boards will surround the work of a young artist... Others will become blank canvases for paintings or drawings... And I'm sure that each time one is used my brother will be smiling.

*   *   *

Monday, May 25, 2015

365 Project - Day 145 - "Memorial Day"

May 25, 2015 - "Memorial Day"

This flag has been displayed outside our house every single day since September 11, 2001. It is now well-worn and faded... ready to be formally retired.

On this Memorial Day it hangs in thanks and recognition to all who have served their country... and in memory of those who have passed, including my step-father - Sgt. John H. Waterhouse Sr. - US Army - WWII.

"Thank You!"

*   *   *

Sunday, May 24, 2015

365 Project - Day 144 - "Red and Blue and Blue and Red"

May 24, 2015 - "Red and Blue and Blue and Red"

My brother Peter had this thing about "Red and Blue". It was his favorite color combination, because when the right shade of Red is placed next to the right shade of Blue, it plays a little trick with your eyes - creating the illusion of movement.

When he and I used to work together he would constantly bug me about the whole "Red and Blue" thing. He'd hold up a piece of Red mat board next to a piece of Blue mat board and shove them in my face and say "Can't you see it moving!?!"...


And so it was no surprise that when he finally opened his own picture framing shop, "Red and Blue" was the theme. The designs for his shop's logo and sign were "Red and Blue". The stickers he'd put on the back of each frame job he did were "Red and Blue". The main table in the gallery, where he'd work with the customers, he painted himself - "Red and Blue". The tape measure he used for decades had a Blue star on a Red background taped to it's side. The legs of his drafting table were painted Blue - while the handle of some of his tools were Red. He even somehow managed to find a cordless phone that was "Red and Blue".

Then there were the panels that hung on the walls to display the countless frame corner samples that he had. He made them by wrapping sheets of plywood with fabric and, you guessed it - they were all either "Red" or "Blue".

The sign is down... and now resides at my brother Kenny's house to be hung on his deck. The boxes of stickers for the backs of the frame jobs now rest in a box beside me. The main table from the gallery now sits in my dining room, mere inches from where I sit as I type this. The tape measure has found it's home beside me on my computer table. His drafting table has returned to his home... as have his tools and other "Red and Blue" items, including the phone. And those panels are down now... and have been removed from the shop to be recycled. They are the subject of today's photo. Just a small piece of my brother's love for "Red and Blue".

Look at it closely... "Can't you see it moving!?!"

*   *   *

Saturday, May 23, 2015

365 Project - 143 - "The Very Tough Day"

May 23, 2015 - "The Very Tough Day"

Today is the day... The day when 99.99% of the "moving out" of my brother's picture framing business will be done.

I've got a "To Do List" that is two pages long... but that is nothing. That has nothing to do with what will make today so tough to get through...

It hasn't even been a year since Peter officially opened his business. It was a dream that took decades to achieve... and he finally did it and did an amazing job at it too. It's so incredibly hard to have to dismantle and pack up someone else's dream. It's hard to let go.

Hopefully today will go as planned. Perhaps it won't be nearly as difficult as when we finally turn over the keys to the landlord next weekend... I don't know. All I do know is that today will be a very tough day.

*   *   *

Friday, May 22, 2015

365 Project - Day 142 - "Morning Light"

May 22, 2015 - "Morning Light"

I slept until 7:30 this morning. That's very late for me these days. I woke up to sunshine... lots and lots of sunshine... peeking through the mini-blinds and shining on my face.

I have a lot to do today... and even more to do tomorrow... but something tells me that it's going to be a good weekend. A tough one, I'm sure... but a good one nonetheless!

*   *   *

Thursday, May 21, 2015

365 Project - Day 141 - "Two Cars"

May 21, 2015 - "Two Cars"

For the past two decades we have been a "one car family".

Things have changed...

Our daughter is almost 17... just got her license... just registered her car... and, as of last night, we have two cars parking in our driveway for the very first time.

It feels strange.

Very, VERY strange.

*   *   *

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

365 Project - Day 140 - "The God-Father Of Soul"

May 20, 2015 - "The God-Father of Soul"

Prized relics of James Brown. These items were proudly displayed in the glass cases at my brother Peter's frame shop. They were a gift to him from a very dear friend of his and of our entire family... who last night decided not to take them back, but rather to gift them to me... knowing that I am also a James Brown fan.

Thank you so much Clem! I will cherish these always!

Lots of Love,

 - Vin

*   *   *

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

365 Project - Day 139 - "Coffee and Xanax"

May 19, 2015 - "Coffee and Xanax"

People keep asking me how it is that I'm managing to get through all of this... How it is that I'm managing to keep going...

Well... here's part of the secret: Lots of coffee... and a bit of Xanax.

The coffee actually does nothing for me anymore. Caffeine doesn't seem to have that much of an effect on me. It's just a comfort thing. One... two... three... even four travel-mug-fills of coffee a day and I feel soothed.

The Xanax, on the other hand, keeps me from completely losing my shit. I have very bad anxiety issues - and have been taking Xanax (not every day - only as needed) for quite a while now.

But it isn't Xanax alone... I've also been on anti-depressants for years - and although there have been many ups and downs, my doctor and I seem to have finally found a "cocktail" that has been working wonders.

I know that meds are not for everyone. For some people they work... for others they do nothing but cause more anxiety and depression. Some people shouldn't be on meds... many people I know probably should.

Not all disabilities are physical. Not all disabilities are visible. Emotional disabilities are just as "real" and "valid" as something like Parkinson's Disease, which I also happen to have.

My point is... if you think you need help, get it. Meds may or may not be the answer... Therapy and counseling may or may not be the answer... but "not seeking help" is NEVER the answer. One thing I've learned, especially in the last month and-a-half, is that life is far too precious to let it slip by... and if you're suffering and not seeking help, you ARE "letting it slip by".

*   *   *

Monday, May 18, 2015

365 Project - Day 138 - "He Is With Me"

May 18, 2015 - "He Is With Me"

I know that my brother is with me right now. I know he is always with all of us... but right now... right at this moment... I can actually feel him here with me. His light is bright and comforting.

I have so many questions I wish he could answer for me... so much I need to know.

I have so much that I want to say... so much that I need to say.

My heart hurts.

I love you.

*   *   *

Sunday, May 17, 2015

365 Project - Day 137 - "The Very Unexpected Gift"

May 17, 2015 - "The Very Unexpected Gift"

This is one of my brother Peter's Movado watches.

This one is very special. Why? Because this one was a wedding present from a truly beautiful bride to an amazingly handsome groom over two decades ago. This was my sister-in-law Angel's gift to my brother Peter when they were married.

Yesterday morning she gifted it to me... in the car... just moments before we were about to head into Peter's shop to truly begin the process of closing things down. I just about lost it, emotionally. Every time I have looked at it since I have broken down in tears. I'm crying right now just writing this.

Thank you, Angel. This gift means more to me than you could ever possibly know. YOU mean more to me than you could ever possibly know! Forget this "in-law" stuff... you ARE my sister... always have been... always will be... and I love you more than words could ever express!

Lots and Lots of Love,

 - Vin

*   *   *

Saturday, May 16, 2015

365 Project - Day 136 - "Good News (For A Change)"

May 16, 2015 - "Good News (For A Change)"

Yesterday my all-time-favorite band - Iron Maiden - made the announcement that, after undergoing treatment for cancer, singer/frontman Bruce Dickinson has been declared to be cancer-free.

They also announced that they will be heading into the studio to put the finishing touches on their new album which they fully expect to be released later this year.

Both of these announcements are absolutely wonderful news!

So tonight - after another long day has ended and I begin to wind down for the night - I'll be cracking open one or two of these Trooper beers to celebrate!


*   *   *

Friday, May 15, 2015

365 Project - Day 135 - "The Watch Obsession"

May 15, 2015 - "The Watch Obsession"

I'm exhausted today. I didn't leave Peter's frame shop until after 10PM or 11PM last night... got home sometime an hour later... and ended up staying up until just past 1AM. There's just too much on my mind... too much to do... to much to think about... too much to worry about... too much to, well... you get the idea.

So today it's just a very hastily assembled photo of something meaningful. I don't have the energy for much else.

Why the watches? Because Peter was absolutely obsessed with watches. Some in the family - especially his wife Angel - would probably call it "an addiction". I have no idea how many he had... 30... 40... 50... maybe even more. Watches were just "his thing".

Every time I'd see him he would be wearing a different watch. He told me once that it bugged him to wear the same one two days in a row. He was constantly buying new ones... constantly fussing with them... changing watch bands... changing batteries... looking at and dreaming about new ones. During down-time at work he'd sit there behind the counter just tinkering with his watches. While cleaning up things at his frame shop I found several watches with their boxes tucked away in a drawer. I also found watch repair kits and lots of watch batteries.

His 50th birthday would have been this coming September... What did he want for his birthday? No party... no vacation... no family gathering... no fuss - just a new watch. Something special.

Most of his watches were quite inexpensive. According to him only a few were what one would consider to be "valuable". He didn't really care about how cheap a watch was... he just saw something he liked, and bought it. He wore them proudly.

Well, his obsession with watches rubbed off on me many years ago. It became yet another thing I did to try to be just like my brother. The watches in today's photo are just a portion of what I have. My collection is nowhere near what Peter had... and I think the most expensive one was still less than $150.00.

The funny thing about it is that I don't even tend to wear watches anymore. I would slap one on for special occasions and for times when I knew I would be seeing Peter - but that was about it. Some of the watches in my "collection" haven't even been worn a single time. The one in the wooden box shown in the photo has never even been removed from the box. It probably never will be, either.

Another watch-related thing from Peter that rubbed off on me was the intense love for Movado watches, with their signature black dials. The first time I saw his I fell in love... and it became a dream of mine to be able to purchase one for myself. I always put it off though. Money wasn't the issue... many times I had the money to spend on one, but would choose to spend it on something else instead: another camera I didn't even need... a weekend trip to NYC with some really expensive food and drink involved... a 1980 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster which I still own but have never even ridden (I don't even have a license!) and which currently rests in my brother Kenny's shed. The whole Movado thing just kept getting pushed aside for things that seemed more important at the time.

All of that has changed now though. This past month I have found myself really, REALLY wanting to buy myself a Movado of my own. One with the iconic black dial and silver dot at the 12-mark. Perhaps one with a stainless steel band... or some sort of metal band, rather than a leather one. I don't know. I actually have a printed photo of one hanging beside the mirror in my bathroom so that I see it every morning and night when I brush my teeth. My 40th birthday is next year... and I fully intend to have purchased myself a Movado by then as a birthday present "To Me/From Me".

So... does anyone out there want to buy a 1980 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster that needs a bit of work? I'll make you a really freakin' good deal!

(I'm serious!)

*   *   *

Thursday, May 14, 2015

365 Project - Day 134 - "Awake Too Early"

May 14, 2015 - "Awake Too Early"

Awake. At least I think I am. It's way too early.

I must have crawled out of bed around 4:00AM or so. I just couldn't sleep. Too much on my mind. Thoughts of my my brother Peter... Thoughts of the family he has left behind... Thoughts of what needs to be done in the coming days... weeks... All mixed with far too many worries.

I just can't sleep.

So here I am... it's a little past 5AM now... sipping coffee... staring at the glow of my computer screen while everyone else sleeps.

Today is going to be another long, tough day. I'll be at Peter's shop tonight preparing things for the upcoming "Liquidation Sale". I think it's going to be a late night too.

I just can't "stop". I can't seem to slow down my brain... which I've been describing as being very much "scrambled" these days. I know I'm exhausted... yet I cannot sleep. I know that everything will work out OK... yet I can't stop worrying... can't stop my mind from racing.

I just want it all to be over... but I know that that day is far, far away. For me it will never be over. It will never end. Life as I have known it has completely changed... it has been completely turned upside-down. Things will never be the same.

I just want my brother back. I want to be able to talk to him... to hug him... to see his smile, even if only one last time.

I'd give almost anything for that.

*   *   *

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

365 Project - Day 133 - "A Boy's Mementos"

May 13, 2015 - "A Boy's Mementos"

Last night was tough. I spent a good chunk of time alone at my brother Peter's frame shop... just me and my thoughts and a bit of music by "The Temptations" playing in the background. It's very hard to be there... especially alone. Once again, I broke down.

Soon after my sister-in-law and two of my nieces arrived and joined in the process of preparing things for the liquidation sale we'll be having. Not long after that my brother Kenny arrived with his daughter and her friend. It was very tough for him, because it was his first time in the shop since Peter passed away... and the shop is where it all happened.

Eventually my wife Holly and my son Brandon arrived to help out and to pick me up when I was ready to leave. My sister-in-law told Brandon that he could take whatever frame samples he wanted from the walls to keep as a memento (this was something he had expressed to her earlier). He immediately went for the samples shown in today's photo. I knew those were the ones he would take... as the last time we visited Peter at the shop he was showing Brandon those frames, and Brandon thought they were so cool... he started sketching their designs in his sketchbook. They're an instant reminder of Uncle Peter... and now they will hang on his bedroom wall. A constant reminder of a truly amazing man.

Little-by-little everyone left the shop... until only Holly, Brandon and I remained. I closed everything up... turned off the lights... headed for the door... and completely lost it again.

I know that people say "it will get better" and "it will get easier". Maybe so. The only thing I know for sure is that I will NEVER truly get over this.

I will never get over this.

*   *   *

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

365 Project - Day 132 - "Abstract (Air Conditioner)"

May 12, 2015 - "Abstract (Air Conditioner)"

It has been hot. Really freakin' hot.

I don't know what the actual temperature has been outside... but inside our house the thermostat and thermometers have been reading in the 80˚-85˚ range... and that's with windows open and lots of fans on.

So last night we headed to our storage unit to pull out the big AC unit for our living room... got home... put it in the window and cranked that baby up.

Things are much, much better now!

Unfortunately we still need to buy two more air conditioners: one for our bedroom and one for our son's bedroom. The ones we had took their final breaths last year. Our daughter still has a good one in her room though... so she's the lucky one lately.

Usually we don't see this kind of weather here until later in May or sometimes even early June. It appears we have skipped Spring and gone right into Summer!

*   *   *

Monday, May 11, 2015

365 Project - Day 131 - "Abstract (Water Bottle)"

May 11, 2015 - "Abstract (Water Bottle)"

I'm absolutely exhausted today... and I'm having trouble staying awake.

It's time for some coffee and some abstract photography while Iron Maiden's "Powerslave" album blasts on my computer.

Then I think it'll be time for a nap!

*   *   *

Sunday, May 10, 2015

365 Project - Day 130 - "Mother's Day Lilacs"

May 10, 2015 - "Mother's Day Lilacs"

A bouquet of very beautiful and very fragrant Lilacs... a gift from my wonderful sister-in-law Angel, freshly cut from the tree in her backyard which seems to bloom just before Mother's Day every year.

To all of the moms out there: "Happy Mother's Day!"

*   *   *

Saturday, May 9, 2015

365 Project - Day 129 - "Closing Up Shop"

May 09, 2015 - "Closing Up Shop"

I spent the bulk of today at my brother's picture framing shop, trying to figure out his costs for a lot of the items he had there... and trying to straighten up and organize the place to make it a bit easier to decide what gets kept... what gets sold and what gets moved out to be dealt with at a later time.

It's tough being there. It's very tough... very emotional. That is where he was... alone... when it happened. You walk in there and it sort of just hits you. The quiet. The stillness. The darkness - until you're able to make it to the back room to turn on the lights. The emotions of it all. It just hits you like a ton of bricks and knocks the wind out of you for a moment.

Knowing that I would be there for at least four hours or more, I brought some portable speakers and my iPod so I could listen to some music while getting stuff done... and so it wouldn't be so eerily quite there. I decided to put on an album that Peter and I used to listen to at least a few times a week while we worked together: "Funky Good Time: The Anthology" by James Brown and The J.B.'s. The sound instantly filled the space... and then there was this intense presence there - leaving my wife and I both in a state of "Whoa!".

I started to walk toward the back... I got as far as the computer desk, where there's a window-like opening that opens up to the back room - the work room. I looked back there and somehow I just "knew" that he was there... and I lost it. I completely broke down and cried, while James Brown's voice,  Maceo Parker's sax and Fred Wesley's trombone surrounded me.

I had my moment... went through quite a few tissues... and went to work.

We closed things up for the day - and headed over to Colony Grill for a very-much-needed pint (or three) of Guinness and some pizza. My sister-in-law Angel and Peter's three daughters met us there - as did my mother, my aunt and my cousin. It felt so incredibly good to be in a place that has meant so much to our family for decades (my first ever taste of pizza was from Colony - almost 40 years ago!).

We took a bit of a break during dinner to run next door to the nursing home to visit my dad for a few minutes... which was a very pleasant surprise for him and was a nice visit. Then went back to Colony for more Guinness.

After that we sort of kidnapped my two older nieces to go to the mall to do a bit of Mother's Day shopping... and to try to embarrass them a little in public, because that's what uncles are for.

It was a tough day... and yet it was a wonderful day at the same time. I can't really explain that... it's just the way it was... and I know that the next few weekends will be even tougher - and hopefully have some wonderful moments to them as well.

(I love you Bro!)

*   *   *

Friday, May 8, 2015

365 Project - Day 128 - "Prayer Cards"

May 08, 2015 - "Prayer Cards"

I collect a lot of things... but this is something I do not like having to collect.

I've been to too many funerals... I've received too many memorial prayer cards. What you see here is not even half of what I have.

I have enough. I do not want any more. I hope that it is a very long time before I have to add another one to this "collection".

*   *   *

Thursday, May 7, 2015

TBT: "Picture Framing"

Today I came across a bunch of diagrams I drew up for frame jobs during my days as a picture framer.

Over the years I've worked in three different frame shops in three different Connecticut towns.

The best years were spent at Barney's Place in Greenwich. It was a high-end frame shop and art supply store - which also had a separate art gallery that would put on shows every month or so, usually with artwork selling from "just a few thousand" to the "well into six-figures" range.

Part of what made those years so great was the quality of the artwork we were working with and the framing that we were doing. We were the frame shop that got "the big stuff" - and by "big stuff" I mean "really freakin' expensive". One day I would be framing a finger painting by someone's kindergartener and the next day I'd be framing an original painting by Jackson Pollock.

During my time at Barney's Place I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of amazing, rare and valuable artwork. Oil paintings by Monet... Signed photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe... Preliminary sketches for "The Scream" by Edvard Munch and for the painting "Whistler's Mother" by James McNeill Whistler... Original works by Keith Haring, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Alfred Stieglitz, Joan MirĂ³, Salvador Dali, N.C. and Andrew Wyeth, Jean-Michel Basquiat and countless others. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to work with such amazing pieces!

And the framing we were doing was very high-end... very intricate... very detail-oriented, archival-quality framing. On some jobs just the frame alone would cost the customer $1,000.00 or more. It was incredible.

The only thing I didn't like about being a framer was the "working with the customers" part. I hated having to do that. I hated their indecisiveness... and their wanting things to be "as cheap as possible" - or wanting something framed to "match the couch". I loathed being called to the selling desk. I much preferred doing the actual framing.

But the best part of my time spent at Barney's Place was that I was working alongside my brother Peter - who was the manager of the framing department. During those years we became closer than ever - and I count those days among the happiest of my life. We got to spend a LOT of time together, and truly became best friends.

Standing at my workbench... working beside my brother... having conversations... listening to James Brown blasting on the stereo (which we chipped in together to buy for the shop)... semi-dancing while framing - THAT was my "Happy Place".

I miss it. I truly, truly miss it.

*   *   *

365 Project - Day 127 - "High School"

May 07, 2015 - "High School"

Feeling a bit nostalgic today... as I just came across a bunch of relics from high school, including my old high school jacket. It was a birthday gift from my Grandfather (my mother's father) when I was a sophomore.

University High School in Orlando, Florida was a phenomenal school. It was brand-new... and my first day as a high school student was the first day that the school was "in business", so-to-speak. It was an absolutely beautiful campus and the entire school was "state of the art". There were things there that were virtually unheard of in high schools at the time - including a full television studio (TV Production was one of the electives offered), science rooms filled with microscopes and lab stations... and the simple fact that just about every classroom had at least one computer.

The whole school was centered around a beautiful courtyard with a clocktower as it's focal-point. It was there that we'd gather and meet up with friends. It was wonderful!

Our art department was the best! The art rooms were amazing and we had access to supplies that most art students in other schools only dreamt of. Our school participated in a lot of art exhibits and juried competitions - and 9 out of 10 times it was a UHS student who took home "Best in Show".

Our band was one of the best in the state - if not THE best... and frequently won awards. In the mid-90s they marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. As far as I know the UHS band is still considered one of the best in the state today.

Our football team - on the other hand - absolutely sucked... but we had the nicest stadium of any high school in Florida in the early-90s! Games were usually packed... and, for the away games there was a couple of "Cougar Pride" buses that students could use in order to attend... so we usually had a full crowd at away games that sometimes rivaled the opponent's home crowd.

A friend of mine recently visited the campus and sent me photos. Twenty-five years have passed and it's still a beautiful place. It has grown, too. What was once a middle school across the street has now been absorbed into the high school to serve as an extension of the campus. Security is tight... and gone are the days of the gates being left open.

So much time has passed... yet so many memories remain!

Now I'm going back to cleaning. I wonder what else I will find!

*   *   *

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

365 Project - Day 126 - "Grieving and Healing"

May 06, 2015 - "Grieving and Healing"

"If we avoid the grief of today, it will only pile up. Days and days of grieving, one upon the other, awaiting our attention. Luckily, one can always find a place in the dark to begin again. And as the mountain of our mourning crumbles, the promise of a new, less burdened day will herald the dawn."

 - Molly Fumia (from "Safe Passage: Words to Help the Grieving")

*   *   *

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

365 Project - 125 - "Revelations 21"

May 05, 2015 - "Revelations 21"

I'm absolutely exhausted. My head is pounding. My mind is racing. My stomach is a wreck. My emotions are all over the place...

... And for some reason Revelations 21 is stuck in my head this morning and I can't seem to think of anything else...

"Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."

*   *   *

Monday, May 4, 2015

365 Project - Day 124 - "Abstract (Glass Beer Stein)"

May 04, 2015 - "Abstract (Glass Beer Stein)"

It's another "abstract" sort-of-day. I'm playing around with my camera and the glass beer stein that my brother gave me.

*   *   *

The Tool-Caddy

When I worked as a picture framer I was very, VERY organized. Everything had it’s place, and I knew exactly where everything was. I was very anal about keeping my workbench clean and organized… and I hated it when other people would use my tools, take things from my shelves and organizers, or leave a mess at my workbench. It was all about the details and organization. Having OCD kind of does that to you.

My brother Peter, on the other hand, was sort of the opposite. His workbench was always an absolute mess. There’d be artwork, old frames, old mats and mat board or foam core scraps leaning up against the wall. There’d be nails and screws and wire hangers all over the place. There were work order sheets in piles. There were all sorts of notes scribbled everywhere. He had a habit of writing important info right on the large sheets of backing paper he’d use to cover his workbench. Tools were scattered in so many places that he’d often end up having multiples of the same tool, just so he’d be able to find one when he needed one. 

He’d often tease me about how freakin’ organized and neat I was. I’d give him hell about how unorganized and chaotic he was. That being said, he loved it when he had to - for one reason or another - work at my workbench. He tended to use it a lot when I wasn’t there. I, on the other hand, HATED it when I had to do anything at his workbench! Actually, I think that was true for all of the other framers there too. If it was a day that Peter wasn’t in, we could never find anything on his workbench… couldn’t make sense of any of his notes… and couldn’t figure out what the heck he was working on. That’s just the way it was.

One day I showed up at work with a new addition for my workbench: A black plastic spinning pencil/tool caddy that Holly bought for me from Staples, where she worked at the time. I set it up on my workbench and filled it with pencils and pens and markers and scissors and my glass cutter and all sorts of other odds-and-ends. Peter teased me about it… but it wasn’t long before he was eyeing up my caddy. He’d bring it up so often that finally I went and bought him one.

The caddy sort of helped clean up Peter’s workbench a bit. He started putting his main tools in it - so that kind of helped make things a little easier to find. The rest of the workbench was still a mess though!

Almost twenty years passed… and Peter finally opened his own picture framing business. The first time I went there to visit him I was amazed when I walked through the door. Not only was the place beautiful, it was immaculate. Everything in the gallery/customer portion of the business seemed neat and organized. When I got into the back room, however, things were… well… more “Peter-like”. The workbench was a mess… there was artwork and old frames and old mats and mat scraps everywhere. There were work orders all over the place. There were notes on just about every surface. There were nails and screws and razor blades here and there… and yes, there were multiples of each type of tool scattered around so he’d always be able to find one when he needed it…

… but there it was… the black plastic spinning caddy I had given him… sitting on a drafting table he had set up in the back room… absolutely filled with all sorts of “stuff”. I smiled when I saw it… and I gave him a hard time about how unorganized and chaotic he was - and about how some things never change.

Now we’re faced with the difficult task of wrapping up the business. There’s a lot of artwork to be returned to customers. There are refunds to be made. There are mysteries that need solving - such as artwork that has no names or work orders to go with it, leaving us clueless as to who the rightful owners are. 

Holly and I went to the shop one day just to pack up all of Peter’s personal items: The family photos and artwork from his daughters… the watches and jewelry he had there… the personal tools that he used most often, etc., etc.. There, tucked in the caddy, was a bundle that included some of the plastic photo holders that you find in wallets. I opened one up, and there I was staring back at myself. It was my school photo from my junior year of high school. It kind of surprised me to find that.

Now the plastic caddy has been emptied and sits on my desk, next to my computer. My desk is absolutely unorganized and chaotic. There are notebooks and journals. There are photos and business cards. There are stacks of mail and product manuals. There are cameras and lenses. There are gifts that people have sent me recently. There are pens and notes and all sorts of “stuff” all over the desk and the surrounding furniture. It’s a “Peter-style mess”. 

It makes me smile!

*   *   *

Sunday, May 3, 2015

365 Project - Day 123 - "The Not-So-Free Day"

May 03, 2015 - "The Not-So-Free Day"

Today is the first weekend day that we've had "free" in a very long time. Our daughter doesn't have any sort of dance class or rehearsal today... Our son doesn't have any track practice or meet today... We don't have to travel down to Stamford or Norwalk for anything today... We have nothing that we're "supposed to be doing" today.

Well, sort-of...

Because it's the first free day we've had in a long time - and the last free day we'll have for at least the next month or so - there's so much stuff that has been put off that now needs to be done. Grocery shopping and other errands to run. Cleaning and organizing to do do in the house. Lots of piles of "stuff" that need to be gone through. A porch that needs to be cleaned. A yard that needs work. Other "outside stuff" that needs doing, including figuring out what the heck to do with this stack of very dirty and somewhat broken lawn chairs.

And lots of other little things that need to be taken care of too.

So much stuff to try to do in one day... and there's no way we're going to get through all of it. In fact, we might not even get through half of it! Here it is almost 3:00PM and none of us have even eaten anything yet that I know of!

We're running on empty and completely exhausted. Right now I just want a cheeseburger, a beer and a nap.

We'll see.

*   *   *

Saturday, May 2, 2015

365 Project - Day 122 - "Abstract (Caged)"

May 02, 2015 - "Abstract (Caged)"

I'm feeling a bit "abstract" today. Not sure why.


Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark.

Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.

Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women!

*   *   *

Friday, May 1, 2015

365 Project - Day 121 - "Where Has The Time Gone? (Prom)"

May 01, 2015 - "Where Has The Time Gone? (Prom)"

It seems like yesterday. I was only 21 years old at the time. It was a Monday and I had just taken the train from Danbury to Greenwich... walked all the way up Greenwich Avenue and walked in through the door of Barney's Place - the art gallery and picture framing shop where your Uncle Peter and I worked. As soon as I walked through the door I was greeted by a very anxious Mrs. Hunt (one of the owners) and Peter... and they were trying to tell me that I needed to go back to Danbury because of the baby. I tried to explain to them that it was a false alarm - thinking that they were talking about my having to leave early the previous Friday because we thought you were coming. They kept trying to explain to me that you were "on the way" - that they had received the phone call and that your Uncle Chris was coming to pick me up. I was sort of in a state of confused shock... not 100% sure what was going on.

Uncle Chris sped down to Greenwich to pick me up and race me back to Danbury Hospital. I was so incredibly nervous!

Hours and hours and hours passed before you arrived. You were born very early Tuesday morning. I remember every moment of it - from the first sight of your head to the moment I cut your umbilical cord to the hours that I sat there holding you while we waited to go to the recovery room.

I'd like to say that you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen... but, well... you kind of looked like a squished-up Smurf covered in goo! That only lasted a few minutes though... then they cleaned you up in a little pink plastic tub and I got to see you again - and THEN you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen!

I remember wheeling mom through the maternity ward halls as she held you - so we could go up to "The Baby Button" - a doorbell like button that is pushed each time a baby is born at Danbury Hospital. It plays music throughout the entire hospital, announcing to all that a new life has been born. It was the sweetest sound I had ever heard... and I had tears in my eyes!

Tonight... almost seventeen years later... you're going to your Junior Prom, and again I have tears in my eyes. Where has the time gone?

I am so very proud of the young woman you have become. You never cease to amaze me... your talent and drive... it's incredible. You are still the most beautiful girl in the world to me... and always will be!

I love you more than you could ever possibly know!

*   *   *