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During the final hours of 2015 I was thinking about how the more I got back to what is real in my life, the more life felt like an epic dream. In 2016 the dream continued. Nothing has ever been more rewarding than focusing on what’s real, wiping away all the fuzz, slowing down, thinking positively, appreciating the small moments, living quietly and in appreciation, striving for mindfulness, trying to make actions more deliberate, and trying to see more clearly whenever possible. Marrying a bright, thoughtful ray of starlight only added to the luxury of being alive.
Our friends grew in number this year, adding several new people and families to the small but quality list of people who are there to share a laugh or help you up when you’re down. Our friends Hans and Jessie we met back in the spring time and went on to become family. Over the course of the year we met nearly weekly to cook dinner and play Catan until the wee hours of the morning. We celebrated birthdays and became Godparents to their youngest, Evyn. I think they have been one of the largest contributors to the past year.
We went to Taiwan and celebrated our marriage in a traditional reception with all my wife’s friends and family who poured in from all corners of the country to welcome me and smile and sing the praises of my wife. We celebrated our 1-year anniversary about the same time.
We had a great summer planting a little garden again. We went tubing down the James and celebrated my wife’s birthday with the most excellent dinner at Acacia. We went to the Lebanese, Greek, and Italian Food Festivals, Broad Appetit, and MakersFest at the Science Museum. I finally saw Aesop Rock, one of my favorite artists, for the first time and had the great pleasure of seeing Sharon Jones for the 3rd time before passing away a month ago. She was a woman who really affected her listeners and audience. I have no idea how some people do this but she made you feel like you knew her personally. She was accessible to her fans and there was an emotional connection between her and us. She went from corrections officer to the almighty Queen of Soul, not recording or releasing an album until much later in life but sky rocketing to the top of the genre with much love and support from her band The Dapp Kings. She battled cancer headfirst and was very open about her experience and attitude towards life all along the way. She talked to us all as an audience during her concert this summer about how she had been beaten down but was never going to let herself stay down. “I have cancer”, she’d say. “But I told Cancer – you don’t have me!” Later I read about how after she returned to the stage how it was never the same for her. Her shows were full of such soul, and impromptu acts of music. She would dance every soul and funk dance I’ve ever heard of. “Now I’mma do the wop” she’d say going dance after dance through song after song. She went through her same routines with her new and freshly short cut hair and things seemed nearly the same, but she said it took so much more energy now. It was great to see her in-person, before and especially after her battle. It hit me like a ton of bricks with NPR emailed me the headline “Sharon Jones dies of cancer.” Cancer killed her body, but it never touched her soul.
My wife had a surgery this summer that let her be relieved of pain. As tough as she actually is, it had really grown intolerable and I felt bad for her to have to live with such discomfort. Her surgery gave us a cancer scare but in the end it gave me the opportunity to take extra care of her, allowed our friends to come over and show how much they care, and it introduced us to a very good surgeon with whom we really enjoyed working but hope we don’t have to see ever again. Things slowed down for a while during her recovery but she was on her feet faster than one might expect.
We were blessed that my wife found gainful employment this year also. First was working with my sister part-time and later she came upon a part-time job working for the state of Virginia that could actually offer her full-time hours until the end of the year. She returned to work quickly after her surgery and even started interviewing for other full-time permanent positions since the one she had was contractual and time-limited. Her boss at the state ended up becoming a friend and part of the family as well. We’ve been to her house several times and she has been to ours. We’ve met her husband, had cookouts, traded gifts and food, and tried to help each other out wherever possible. We’re all quite lucky for all of this really.
This Fall we had loads of fun with Halloween. We decorated the whole house and dressed up together for the first time. We went to Howl-O-Scream at King’s Dominion, Sleepy Hollow Hayride/Woods, and the Ashland Berry Farm for our annual scare-fest with our friends. We also caught Halloween on Hanover Avenue for the second time though this year my wife officially trick-or-treated for the first time. In November we had our first weekend away with just the two of us spending 3 days and 2 nights in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. We went to Natural Bridge and stayed at the historic Natural Bridge Hotel. We went to Lexington to have a nice walk and visited Al and Ernestine Hockaday’s separate boutiques. We saw VMI and left the next day to check in at the Peaks of Otter Lodge before heading down to Blacksburg. We walked around VA Tech for the first time and went to one of my favorite restaurants that I wish would open a location somewhere near Richmond. Peaks of Otter was a beautiful, wonderful stay. I’m sure we’ll probably repeat this weekend again over the winter of spring.
Thanksgiving was a special time because we had our friend Jessie and her children with us this year for what will be a series of endearing memories for years to come. They spent the night with us on Wednesday night, we had hotpot for dinner and watched Home Alone before going to bed and heading up to Ashland for Thanksgiving Day. We came back that night stuffed and tired but they stayed and visited for a while nonetheless. I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas with the kids while Jessie and my wife talked at the table for a while.
This December we went back to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens which was the first time with our family. I think everyone it enjoyed it and it was good to do something like that with my parents who don’t usually get out for things like that. We’re going back in another week with our friends in what I’m sure will be a really fun time. We’ve decorated our new Christmas tree and put up lights wherever we can fit them. We’ve watched Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Love Actually, and The Holiday and I’m sure we’ll get to our other favorite Christmas movies in due time before we leave for Key West with my parents later this month. Christmas and New Years in the Keys should be another great time and something to remember forever. I haven’t been to Key West in a long time and my wife and I can’t wait to go together.
There’s so many more good times and memories from this year but there’s no need to go into extreme detail. My cousin moved to Florida this year and my sister was diagnosed with, and later beat, lymphoma. I learned enough Mandarin language from my wife to say I’m officially starting to learn some Chinese. It’s mostly random things with about half the phonetic alphabet and numbers 1-10, but it’s a fun start.
We had a great year for music. De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest release their first albums in many, many years. Blackalicious had a great release after a long hiatus. Atmosphere, Common, DJ Shadow, Wax Tailor, Norah Jones and had a good year bringing new music to our ears as well. Roots Manuva’s new album transcended the definition of art it was so creative.  I listened to a lot of Morcheeba, Ozomatli, A Tribe Called Quest, and Redman especially. I made a mix and had an obsession with the vocalists from Thievery Corporation as well as Nickodemus. I also went through a major Pork Records phase, both collecting old releases and listening to them each evening. I made a contact to someone representing the label on Discogs who ended up sending me a free Tetris album after a couple communications.
My wife took a picture with Santa for the second time and many other totally really awesome things happened. My wife at Christmas time is one of my favorite things this year. We had some medical bills and all sort of things this year that enhance our ability to communicate and work as a team as well as loads of other small challenges that are good to conquer and from which to move on. Our friends have been blessed with expecting their first or second children this year and all of them are healthy and well.
Open your arms to life.
Ponder the clouds.
Feel the sea.
See the people.
Hear the notes.
Relish the food.
Smell the memories.
Find your place and balance
– and live.

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My Sorrow, My Sparrow

It makes perch upon my shoulder and digs its needles through my skin.

Sinks beneath my being silently to let it in.

Beacons to the shadows growing strong with dim light.

Scarcity of nutrient, cloaking darkness over sight.

Its gaze can see in front of me, its eyes aside my own.

It knows the past behind us. Hollow as its bones.

It walks along my stanzas unknown to ever rest.

It plays me like an instrument with reeds that know me best.

It’s silent on my arm except when pecking at my soul.

Its claws are born to ridicule and turn a body cold.

My sparrow soars through wind and flesh and digs between the seems.

It lays its eggs at night to haunt tomorrow from my dreams.

It’s light as half a drop of rain but perches like a rock.

Its pupils soak in glory stole from time, it bleeds my clock.

It holds the present captive weighed in stone and built from ice

And stands upon my body never interested in flight.

My sparrow’s healthy as a sunrise with its warmth to glow and spread

But it’s dark as night in color wound eternal is its thread.

It feeds and breathes and grows its grip and sinks its toes persistent

It leads from its tumultuous heart unknown to be repentant.

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My True Joy, My Blue Jay

It rests upon my shoulder and holds tightly to my skin. 

Sets deep into my being quietly to let it in. 

It casts away the shadows growing stronger from the light. 

Abundance of enjoyment, taking darkness from my sight. 

It flies through sun and glory and offers it to be my own. 

It’s weight beyond existence light as feathers to the bone. 

It sings along to stanzas unknown to take a breath. 

It plays me like an instrument with reeds that know me best. 

It’s welcome on my arm with songs that illuminate my soul. 

Its feet are warm and radiant that turn me from the cold. 

My blue jay soars through summer breeze and nests along the stream. 

Its eggs in morning slumber rest at night to feed my dreams. 

It’s light as half a drop of rain with veins as strong as rock. 

Its pupils show me past events hung sweetly on the clock. 

Its back as soft as cotton holding colors blue as ice

and stands upon my body while it’s resting from its flight. 

My blue jay holds a miracle that’s bound to glow and spread

with loving mercy drenched in color strung across our thread. 

It feeds and breathes and grows its grip and sinks its kiss persistent.

It leads from its abundant heart displaying life’s incentive.

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