Thursday, March 31, 2011


Don't get freaky...not a post about poop or any other grotesqueries.

I'm just tired tired.

Over the last two days I've shot 387 things. Not like shot with a gun, put that phone down RIGHT now...I didn't finally reach the tipping point and find myself dazed and confused on top of the local clock tower. Well...not yet anyway. I mean 'shot' with a camera. As in 'taking pictures'.

Little of this. Little of that. Some for work. Some for fun.

All murder on my back, which wants to kick the shit out of me right now, but it can't because it hurts too much.

I'm complaining about it, but as far as the drudgery of the daily grind can go, I actually enjoy doing it. Not necessarily this QUANTITY of stuff, but I do like photographing junk, always have. Just wish I could devote the time and energy to getting better at it.

And the dough. I know if I could toss some cash at a better rig and some better lights I could very easily improve the images tenfold.

Oh well. Waddya gonna do? Whine about it in a post that most people won't care about in a blog that has Multiple Personality Disorder and shifts from bitching about epilepsy and brain tumors and Autism and therapy and terminal illnesses and the like to toys, games and boobies.

Speaking of the 'little of this' that was the fun stuff, check out some of the recent soft additions that I've added to The Toy Vault. I call them 'soft additions' because like I've always said, The Toy Vault now has a revolving door on it, sadly.

Some stuff comes in, while others go out. And nothing has a nail in it holding it to the floor until I get my career situation sorted out.

Say hello to my little friends...

Dead Space Necromorph
Couple of years back NECA put out a really cool version of Isaac, the protagonist from Dead Space, the super creepy and awesome game produced by Electronic Arts, not Capcom as some a-holes have sometimes suggested.

Until now, Isaac has never had anybody to fight. With the release of Dead Space 2, NECA released a new version of Isaac and a Necromorph. I have not picked up the Isaac yet, though I will if funds allow, but I did pick up the Necromorph.

The Necro-huh? These guys are essentially Space Zombies. In the game's storyline, when a person dies some alien...'Thingamabob'...called The Marker, re-writes your genetic code and turns you into...something horrible, putrid and most likely very smelly, if smells actually traveled in the vacuum of space.

Like any game, you have to have the 'standard attacker' that comes at you most of the time, like a typical Raccoon City Zombie Cop in Resident Evil 2 or a Covenant Grunt in HALO, and then you deal with other, more exotic attackers as you move along. This guy is Dead Space's 'standard attacker'.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Action Figures
It has been a long time, a LONG time, since I have picked up a complete series of ANY action figure line. SO long in fact, I could not tell you when, cause then I'd have to think. But I loved the game Batman: Arkham Asylum so freakin' much that despite my overall dis-satisfaction with DC Direct product in the past I bit the bullet and pre-ordered this set a while back.

It's got my usual nit-picks when it comes to DC Direct product, as far as severe posability limitations and so forth, but overall not a bad representation of the game versions of the Batman Universe. Bugs me that Harley has that Titan Formula Needle Gun. She never once uses it in the game, I'm not entirely certain she ever even HOLDS one.

Joker uses it, and if you want to pack it with Harley that's cool, but make sure it can fit into Joker's hand easily. He uses it in the game OFTEN.

See? I'm completely nuts, but that attention to detail really bothers me.

Near Completion of HALO Noble Team
I never bought ANY of the HALO figures from McFarlane before, until the game HALO: Reach came out. And what's interesting is I didn't really like the game HALO: Reach when I first played it. I almost traded my copy to Marissa's Dad. But then the game kind of grabbed hold of me, and eventually, I got to the point where I really gravitated toward Noble Team.

McFarlane has trickled out Noble Team members over the past year or so, and I picked up Jorge and Emile and Noble Six and a few random Spartans when they first came out. Hell, I even got a Warthog for them to drive around in to score chicks. Still need to shoot Noble Six. Keep forgetting.

Last weekend I was with Mrs. Lilly at Wal-Mart and found a horribly beaten up package of Kat, the only member of Noble Team that I knew for sure that had been released that I had yet to find. I had previously picked up Commander Carter, and didn't know if Jun was out yet. Since I planned to open her up, I cared not about package condition, but took her to customer service and negotiated a discount anyway.

And now...Noble Team is almost complete. Just need Jun. The only member of Noble Team who, after playing the game, we don't know whether he possibly survived the Fall of Reach, we do know the other five members died. STILL don't know if he has been released yet, I'm not up on that line. I'll get around to looking eventually.

Priorities. It just isn't up there on my list.

The (Old) New Jabba the Hutt
This actually came out LAST year, as a Wal-Mart exclusive. I only recently got around to even photographing it. Had it for quite a while. I dig it. What's not to dig about everyone's favorite intergalactic fatty? Especially the most articulated one to date, with disc joints in the elbows and shoulders, VERY well hidden I might add, and some very innovative tail articulation inside a soft plastic sheath that I hope doesn't break down over time.

The pillows really help sell it, especially since they also help make up for the spaces that are created by the soft plastic sheath's stretching when you move the interior skeletal structure of the tail. It's a pretty nifty item. And the best Jabba the Hutt Hasbro has put out to date. It'll be hard to top.

I guess if the bong actually WORKED...

MiniMates Lizard
And as we all know, size doesn't always matter (yeah RIGHT), so I saved the littlest guy for last. This super awesome MiniMates figure of The Lizard is a LONG time coming...and I am thrilled to have him, finally, in the Spider-Man rogues gallery of MiniMates villains alongside classics like Vulture, Mysterio, Shocker, Tarantula, Scorpion and others we have seen added to the mix in the past year or so.

Amazing when you think about the fact that this is Series 37 and Series 1 started all the way back in 2003. That's 8 years. A long, LONG time for a villain that made his first appearance in the SIXTH issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.

OK...I think I'm done for now.

I know you'd PREFER this kind of thing...

But hey, indulge me a little, once a collector always a collector I suppose.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Mrs. Lilly

Happy Birthday! Don't you just love the digital age? When, instead of paper birthday cards, I can take my little block figure representation, change him into my old CMX shirt that I wear all the time since I have so many leftovers and make a sort of Digicard?

Nifty huh?

The numbers 27, 28 and 29 and so oddly interconnected in our relationship, the wife and I. Her birthday is the 28th of March. We were married on the 27th of December. We met on the 28th of August. Bennett had brain surgery on the 27th of August and had his last seizure on the 29th of August.

Strange indeed.


Friday, March 25, 2011

A Love Affair of Polyvinyl Chloride

For the most part, let's be honest, plastic can be Evil.

Where it comes from, what it's made of, the toll it has taken and will take on our planet...most of which nobody fully understands or appreciates, is massive.

And yet, it is everywhere.

It is everything.

It is so interwoven into the essence of our society that if you were to snap your fingers and plastic suddenly disappeared from the surface of the Earth, MASS CHAOS would follow. Our universe might actually start to tear itself apart.

OK, maybe not like Fringe. But stuff would fall apart, that's for sure.

And yet, we do love it so.

We love it so much, we give it our kids every day. And we test the SHIT out of it too, making sure the Phthalates are within specifications set down by the CPSC and that the paint has the least amount of toxic elements possible.

OOPS. I'm don't know what the HELL that stuff means do you? Or even Polyvinyl Chloride? Sometimes I forget I'm not actually WORKING these days. Polyvinyl Chloride is commonly abbreviated PVC, and it is the third most produced plastic in the world.

It is commonly used in household items, construction and toys because it is cheap and because of its ability to be easily manipulated by plasticizers, or Phthalates (esters of Phthalate Acid). In other words, it can be softened with very little loss of structure. The problem is that those Phthalates can come out of the product, either by directly chewing on the item, like a baby would on a chew toy, or just in general, by a process called 'outgassing'.

I'm not kidding.

You ever hear of something called 'new car smell'? Well, that's not a good thing. Neither is the smell of that shower curtain you just replaced in the bathroom. That's the smell of the Phthalates in the PVC outgassing...releasing chemical gasses into the air, and studies show it isn't something that is good for you.

Some car manufacturers don't even USE PVC in their car interiors anymore. At all. But that's only as of 2007. Well, shit. I don't know about you, but that's pretty recent, huh? I haven't bought a new car since 2004.

Where am I going with this? Not anywhere you might expect, of course. I always start out zigging and end up zagging. It's how I ROLL. See, I used to work in the toy industry, so I was a Plastics Pimp.

I hope to be again in the future, too. Circumstances don't permit that right now, but I do still dream the dream. The last big job I had in it was working for Palisades Toys, I've talked about that before. Since then, I tried a stab at my own thing, which totally shit the bed, but some of the peeps from THAT old Creatus Maximus forum now hang out in a private Facebook Group.

Yesterday someone in there posts a link to a blog that blows my mind. And THAT'S what I'm zagging towards. You just need to be patient.

See, back at Palisades, the action figure line we were probably best known for was the stuff we did for Jim Henson's The Muppet Show. That line, which had 9 series of action figures, 5 playsets, some smaller figurines, some large scale figures and other miscellaneous items, was probably one of the things I am most proud of in my career.

Simply put...I loved almost every aspect of working on that stuff. And I can only say that about 3 or 4 product lines that I've worked on.

I was a fan of the show, which never hurts. The characters were diverse and there was a deep history and a rich tradition. The licensor and the people who worked there were passionate about their jobs. They loved the characters and yet they were open-minded enough to allow me to earn their respect and to allow me to go in directions they were not used to going with consumer product.

And then there was the fan base, particularly from websites like Muppet Central. Without whom I never, EVER, would have been able to accomplish anything. I was a fan, but not a SUPER fan, like I was with something like Star Wars. I didn't know The Muppet Show inside and out, upside down and backwards and forwards.

They did.

They kept me honest. They supported me. They gave me ideas. They kicked my ass when I needed it. But they gave their time and effort, never asking for anything in return except to have a voice, and in the end I hope they felt they had it, because I tried to make sure they did as much as I could and as often as I could.

I know sometimes they felt that some things were not the way they should have been, and sometimes they weren't. But even though often I would say 'Anything is possible!', the truth is that much of the time it wasn't. Schedule, budget, fuck-ups overseas at the factory, limitations in plastic many factors can result in not achieving the perfection you hope for, the perfection you strive for.

The fact is, nobody was a harsher critic of the outcome of the line than yours truly, even though I took many a hit over those few years on many a forum. But man, did I lose many an hour of sleep in those days.

Funny what I lose sleep over now compared to then.

During the years we put the Muppet figure line out, we released 5 playsets. They were The Muppet Labs with Beaker, The Electric Mayhem Stage with Animal, The Swedish Kitchen with The Swedish Chef, Pigs in Space with First Mate Piggy and the Backstage Playset with Rowlf.

Two other Playsets were on the legitimate drawing board, and by that I mean they were actually in R & D stages. The Electric Mayhem Bus, technically a vehicle, and The Muppet Theatre. Both were in some form of conceptual development.

The EM Bus was getting reference gathered, and hell, we were even thinking of buying the bus itself because as luck would have it, it was being sold at the time. As it is, we were playing around with possibly cheating the scale to make it affordable to produce at that size.

The Theatre was something that was always in the back of our minds, and James Carroll, who contributed a TON to the line in a lot of different ways, had done a concept sketch that integrated that set and some of the other things we had been dreaming about adding in later if the line expanded.

Neither were made, and honestly the Backstage Playset BARELY got made.

The truth is, and this is just me guessing because I have never come right out and asked him, but I'll bet Mike Horn's decision to release that playset was probably based more on his loyalty to the work we'd put into it, his faith in his sales team that they could pull one out of a hat in the 4th quarter and his gratitude for what the fan base had been for the company than anything else.

Because from the onset? As the smaller retailers were dropping like flies and our overall sales numbers were dropping with them? Things did NOT look good for that set which was already hip-deep in massive prototype costs and tooling costs. I don't think anybody internally would have blamed Mike a bit if he had decided to cut bait, eat the costs up to that point and cancel the playset outright.

His decision to roll the dice and try for the hard six? Balls. But that's Horn. One of the reasons I respect him. I've never seen ANYBODY try harder to make something work. He doesn't give up until he has exhausted every last conceivable possibility. Period. End of sentence.

That's passion. I had it for the look and feel of the line as the Product Development Director and then as the VP. The fans had it for the product. The Jim Henson Company had it for their brand. Mike had it for his company.

Which is why I was so awestruck when I saw the work of Lance Cardinal, in his blog called Cardinal Designs, and his hand-made Muppet Theatre Playset. Because I haven't seen this level of passion in a while for something related to The Muppets, and it almost instantaneously took me back to those days.

The level of detail in his set is extraordinary. It is exceptional. And it is almost exactly how I imagined our next set would look-like, complete with fabric curtains and the interchangeable back-drops, though he took it to the next level and added lights, something I probably would not have messed around with. That adds a layer of budget and testing that I know we would have wanted to avoid, which is why we stayed away from that AND sound in all the previous sets.

But wow, seeing those pics really made me miss the old days. In a big way. But they are gone. LONG gone.

In fact, I thought about this last night at Toys'R'Us.

Last night, Jennifer, Carter and I went out to dinner. Every Thursday night now, we have a respite night. Not sure if I have mentioned that. Bennett spends the night with Jen's Mom, and we spend the evening with Carter by ourselves.

This is a good thing, and yet it isn't.

It is nice, and yet it also makes me very, very sad at the same time. I can't explain this very well, but at dinner at the restaurant I looked around at the other 'normal' families and felt like ours was 'broken' somehow. It felt...incomplete.

I wish I had adequate words to explain why, at a time when I should have been feeling happy, I had tears just on the edge of my eyes. AGAIN. I just wanted my other son to be able to be there with us. That's all. Simple as that. Our family was missing its Sal Manilla. Missing its Muppet Theatre. Only some people will get that Muppety reference.

Without Bennett there, it just isn't the same. And yet, we can't take Bennett there, because if we did, it would be CHAOS.

Later, as a treat for Carter because of how hard he is trying with his reactions to Bennett's aggression, we took him to TRU to pick something out. I took the opportunity to also look at some stuff that I might want to pick up, see if any of the TRU MiniMates sets were there, which of course they were not. They never are. Did find the Bioshock 2 Big Daddy Exclusive on Clearance and picked up one, feeling bad for Randy at NECA when I did so, knowing that it is gonna be biting him eventually and hoping that they are doing OK in this economy.

As always, I was so alarmed at the prices of the action figures. My God, it wasn't all that long ago that a Star Wars figure was under five bucks, and now they are almost EIGHT. And the DC Universe figures? Forget about it. FIFTEEN DOLLARS?!? Wow. Even the MiniMates have seen a price hike from $4.99 for a 2-pack to $5.99.

I understand all the reasons why, believe me. More than you know. It also makes me appreciate those 'good old days' even more than I already do, because they are NOT coming back. To put a figure like this...

...out today? The retail on it would have to be $20.00, and who would pay that? I can't think of anyone. That retail price is based on all the old numbers, too, of cost and quantity produced and such, plugged into a spreadsheet we used to have.

The Muppets line would be one and done if it were released today in that format, and that's a fact.

Since Palisades there has been some Muppets product that has been made, some Disney stuff I believe. I've even heard rumors of new Muppets product on the horizon possibly. I don't expect it to look anything like the Palisades stuff. Nor SHOULD it.

It can't.

Well, that's not entirely true. There is ONE way you could continue that formula, even using Sesame Street characters, in that same style with that same level of sophistication and detail, and still make money.

But I'm not gonna write about it here. Isn't there something about giving away the milk or the cow or something like that? Well, in this case it would be a Muppet Cow, Maria (if you're reading this), but you know what I mean.

But I promise, if Jennifer ever wins the lottery I will definitely show you that it CAN happen. ;)


OH...and by the way...those Muppet figures were ALL made back in the early part of the 2000's, before the new, more stringent guidelines. If ANY of you have young kids NOT let them chew on that shit...seriously.

This stuff is age-graded for a reason.

OK, NOW I'm done.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beauty is Dying

By now you've heard the news that Elizabeth Taylor died at the age of 79.

You knew it was coming at some point down the road, you just weren't sure when. The two-time Academy Award winning actress and activist died of heart failure. But that isn't the main point of this post. The main point is, and not to make light of the fact that she passed, is this...

Holy Crap, she was SMOKIN' hot in her prime. As were SO many women from that time period and that 'era', which I am a huge, huge fan of.

Why are the young female stars of today in the public eye so far, far removed from this?

What is the compulsion that leads SO many women, young and not so young, to the knife? And even the men?

I don't know if plastic surgery existed in those days, I really don't, but it seems to me, and I can only look at pictures since I don't have access to Dr. Emmett Brown, that women from the 30's through the middle of the 60's looked very natural.

They were curvy, rounded, their skin was not overly tanned and best of all...they all kind of looked a little different than one another. But all goes back to that whole 'natural' thing.

Makes me wonder...and I'm almost embarrassed to do this, here in a post where I am almost speaking primarily about boobs, about the way Hollywood Starlets and Pin-Ups now look compared to how they used to look. But it does make me wonder if there is a parallel between that line of thought and society as a whole, the Natural versus the Un-Natural and it's affect on All of Us.

In other words...the rise of Autism rates, chemical additives, suspicious additives in foods and vaccinations, the decline of the overall health of our society, and on and on and on...all the things that are going on to our minds and bodies in our Chemical World.

Things are definitely Changing. Have been for quite a while.

Not all Change is Good.

Perhaps some of what we are seeing in how our 'idols' appear is actually a reflection of what we, as a people, are becoming...on the inside?

If I start thinking too much about that, my head will explode.

Let's get back to the titties before that happens, shall we?

There are exceptions to be sure, but you probably are BARELY aware of these women, even though I like them. Luke Milton knows who they are by name, since he and I seem to share a psychic bond when it comes to this kind of appreciation of all things regarding Ze Wimmens, but most people? Probably not.

On the other hand, if I mention the name Megan Fox, everybody probably knows who that is. But to me? Megan is really not much of a fox. Natalie Wood in her prime? Smokes her in every category.

But that's just one man's opinion.

I won't bore you with more comparison's. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Remember how I said my friend and former partner in crime Kim, who was my better half at the place I used to work, Palisades Toys, sends me funny pictures to help keep my mood elevated? One day I got this one, and it has stuck with me ever since. It strikes me not just as funny, but very, very poignant. And sad.

See what I mean?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back in the Swing of Things

Many thanks to those who left such nice comments about my Mom in the last blog I wrote. They were much appreciated. So were the private messages some of you chose to send instead.

I had hoped that the nature of such a 'confessional' would immediately mean that I would feel like a huge weight had been lifted from me and that I would be bouncing around like I had springs on my feet.

Didn't happen.

Though I will admit that I do feel better now that the word is out. I hate secrets. Always have. Always will. It's hard for me to NOT talk about what is going on inside my head, for real, when it affects so many aspects of the daily grind.

Yesterday I had two meetings at Bennett's school and a guy came to the house to examine the roof of our house as part of an estimate that is in the works to figure out just how much of a problem we are looking at (and it's a BIG problem) regarding our home. I can talk about all that shit later.

Suffice it to say, that when Jen came home later that afternoon and she wanted to know why I seemed like I was in a bad mood, I just didn't really feel like talking about it. You ever get that way? When you get to the point where you just don't WANT to talk about shit anymore?

And can you imagine YOURS TRULY being there, Oh He Who Hath Diarrhea Of Ze Mouth?

So instead...let's look at some pics and a video of my kids, because I haven't shared any in a LONG time. Haven't taken any in a long time.

Gotta change that. Gonna change that.

Just showing a few snippets from some sets of photos, the bulk of which I'll load up to the Facebook photo albums. The video at the end is from a trip on St. Patrick's Day afternoon/evening that we took to a local elementary school playground to hang out for a while. The place was deserted, which was nice since we essentially had the place to ourselves.

Can't STAND the color scheme of this playground though. I know I should not bitch, because the place itself rocks, but the color choices are AWFUL. Too many bad warms, no cool colors at all...I dunno, the colors just make me feel very weird. I hate them. The other thing is that I can't stand the choice for the ground cover.

Small tiny rocks.

Makes no sense.

They get inside shoes. They REALLY wear down shoe soles. AND, not only do they get inside shoes, but they get inside the grooves of shoe bottoms, so they are gonna put a lot of extra wear and tear on the school floors, thereby costing the school system (and ME, the taxpayer) more money long term.

Why choose the rocks as the solution? Why not use the recycled material that looks like mulch? It's softer on the feet and it's also NON-lethal when thrown.

I dunno...would have made more sense to me...but what do I know? I said, I suppose I should not is a cool playground and it does have two Special Needs swings, so I suppose I should REALLY not bitch.

Now, if I seem to you to sound like I'm high or something, a bit too mellow, let me assure you I am not. I was just very tired. VERY tired. Poor sleep the night before. And I was just relaxed when I was shooting this. But wow, I sound like I just smoked a massive bong or something.

Don't I WISH... :) Nah, those days are long since gone.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Gotta Bad Feeling About This...

I'd been having an e-mail exchange with a friend of mine which, for some reason, on one of these last few evenings when I could not sleep, prompted me to go back and re-read some of the blog entries I had made over the past couple of months.

In the words of everybody's favorite overly-pussified robot C-3P0, 'What a desolate place this is.'

I mean...WOW, a lot of the stuff I have been writing about lately has just been DREARY, hasn't it? I'm not suggesting that I have ever been Mr. Happy Fun-Time on a regular basis, but I don't think I have ever been this...GREY...for so long a stretch.

I used to pepper in some funsies much more regularly. A post or two about some toys, maybe some movies, some lists, some this, some that. You know the kind of posts I mean...the ones nobody ever comments on.

THOSE kinds.

The ones with the little block figure guys that I think are awesome and most people are like...How did this freaky guy EVER get laid enough times to be able to even HAVE a disabled kid?

And of course I did that thing where I was Mr. Super-Thankful, some football talk but as the holidays approached it seemed like things were getting more stressful and then a slightly weirder shift in tone occurred. It appeared as if I was back on 'The Road', living out that post-apocalyptic journey again.

Not just seeing the glass as half-empty, but seeing the half-empty glass as containing the foulest smelling, most awful-tasting shit you can possibly imagine.

Or, if you want to go ahead and continue with the Star Wars references, cause that's always fun, let's go with the Death Star's famous sequence when, during the awesome rescue of the Princess, our heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, along with his his trusty Wookiee first mate Chewbacca and the Princess in tow, decide, at Princess Leia's 'suggestion', to escape the Cell Block's main artery by jumping down a garbage chute into a Trash Compactor.

What a wonderful idea...if you can get the door open once you are inside.

They can't, and the mayhem begins, first with Luke getting attacked by an alien rodent, and then the Empire literally attempts to 'crush' the Rebellion with one swift stroke by squeezing our heroes into Lemlas Bread (OOPS...wrong trilogy) as the walls start moving closer together.

The Trash Compactor sequence did mark the first re-usage of the phrase 'I gotta bad feeling about this.', when Han Solo says it as the walls start closing in. Luke muttered something similar to it earlier as they approached the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon.

He said 'I have a very bad feeling about this.', and that phrase, or some derivation of it, has been used in every Star Wars film ever since.

The Trash Compactor also happens to symbolize, quite nicely, EXACTLY how I feel, emotionally, pretty much every day, during this tumultuous period of my life.

Like the walls are closing in on me.

And unfortunately for me, right internal DVD player is broken. It is skipping, so instead of getting to the 'We're all right! You did GREAT!'...I'm still hung up on the 'Curse my metal body I WASN'T FAST ENOUGH!!!' isn't called 'A New Hope' for nuthin'.

I have seen the movie before, and I know that there IS a way out, and eventually Artoo is gonna turn that knob (Mmmm...knobs...). Meanwhile, for the time being at least, I'm still scrambling around in a bunch of smelly blocks of shit, trying to sneak glances at Carrie Fisher's nipples (Mmmm...nipples...) and stay out of the water so that one-eyed turd-eater doesn't grab my frightened ass.

But there is that little voice in my head that wonders...will the disc ever stop skipping? How do you kick that voice in the mufuggin' teeth?

I wish I knew.

(ASIDE: Speaking of teeth, my dental work has started...I have a plastic crown in my mouth. Feels weird. More on that in another post. Something VERY weird about the missing molar.)

Anyway...I need to at least TRY to start turning this ship around ('Yeah...I think you're right...'), and soon, and since it's a pretty big-ass ship and it turns pretty damn slowly, I gotta start right now, and it starts with, unfortunately for you, just a little more dreariness.

Don't just stand there...try and BRACE it with something!

But that's how life works. It's called 'putting all your cards on the table', if you will. Or 'cleaning our your closet', or whatever the frak you wanna call it.

But I have some more purging I gotta do. And you gotta bear witness. That's your job if you read this thing. It's what you signed on for. Lucky you, huh?

I'd say that my latest downward spiral started before the holidays, before my Dungeon Epiphany I explained in the blog just before the last one about the Epilepsy Newsletter. It started with Bennett's behavioral issues getting more intense and the passing of Jennifer's grandfather, and as we headed into the holidays I was already feeling very, very bleak.

I was ripe for that breakdown in the basement.

It wasn't until January, however, until I started to have the most trouble coping. I found myself, by mid-month, almost back to where I was in the summer of the previous year...back to losing myself in the world of the X-Box, in full avoidance mode, and definitely loaded up with a full plate of depression, a plate which I am now in serious need of clearing off again.

That's how it works with me, or how it HAS worked with me, most of my adult life. Almost like junk in a room that doesn't get cleared out enough.

Accumulation. Restriction. Isolation. Frustration. Realization. Conviction. Clean-up. Renewal. Forward Momentum. Healing. Repeat Cycle.

Hey it's like Shampoo. But for bald psychologically deficient middle-aged dudes.

What I have to learn is how to not let the cycle repeat. Then the game can be officially declared won. If that is even possible.

I'd like to believe that it is.

It usually takes years for the cycle to repeat though, which is why it has never been as much of an issue before. But I also have never had as many things go wrong around me as they have so often in the past couple of years. Prior to now, there has always been much more breathing room between crisis events.

Of late, it's only months or weeks. Not enough time for me to keep the rooms cleaned up inside my hairless melon. Carter's kidney issue had me on edge, as did a LOT of things, and it was not surprising at all that my Mom had been hesitating for quite some time to call me to discuss something that she needed to talk to me about.

See, here in these pages I talk a lot about being a parent and how hard it is to watch your child suffer.

So you can imagine how difficult it might be if you were my Mother to read these pages day in and day out. You GOTTA read 'em, cause you want to stay connected, stay informed, you want to know what is going on in your son's life.

And at the same time, to read some of what your son writes about...well, I now know, as a parent myself even though it is not EASY to project that far ahead into the future with my boys, it would be difficult if I were in her shoes, to read a blog written by one of them and see their words like this laid bare, to experience their suffering. Especially in such an open way, which for my generation is probably easier to wrap my head around than it is for hers.

While not as shocking or hard to take as the Mom's watching the segments from Electronic Arts new release of Dead Space 2 (one of THE greatest ad campaigns EVER for a video game, I highly recommend you Google it!), it still can't be easy.

Just as I can understand how difficult it must be for her to have this insight into my life and some of the pain I feel, I also can understand how it would be VERY hard for her to come to terms with making a decision to inform me about something she recently discovered that she knew could only add to my burden, not make it lighter.

It's a hell of a responsibility, one I hope to never be in.

How do you tell your son who has been struggling so hard for the past two years with his own life that you have a terminal illness?

Eventually you have to just pick up the phone...and do it.

It took some time, but not that long, for her to work up to it. She did preface it by wanting me to know what I just laid out for you...that she had been hesitant to tell me this because of the fact that things have been so hard for me of late. But on the other hand, she also knew me, and knew that this was something that I would want to know.

She's absolutely right. I do want to know.

Shut down all the garbage mashers on the Detention Level!

Not that I am happy to get a phone call like that...not at all. But I am much better off knowing the score than not knowing, especially since my Mom had been dealing with what had previously been a mysterious medical ailment for some time, over a year, which we had all thought was a leaking heart valve that we had been told, ultimately, by her physician, was not a huge deal overall.

To know now that she has something in addition to that, and that this Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is the cause of her symptoms and NOT her heart, is somehow more...meaningful, and I can't explain why.

I guess because the past two years have taught me to detest complete and total medical mysteries. Not that IPF is not a mystery...because as many of you who have dealt with IS and are familiar with the word Idiopathic know, that word ITSELF means there is no known cause...but what I mean is that the mystery as to what was causing her symptoms was solved. Some answer to that question was at least achieved.

I like ANSWERS. I like to KNOW what a diagnosis actually is. I have never felt satisfied with my son's diagnosis. Still do not.

For a long time, Mom had asked me not to talk about this here, and it was seriously weighing me down. But I respected her request and her reasons and honored them both. Eventually, she lifted the ban because she saw that it had me a little locked up as far as in how often I was posting (and she does like to read this, after all).

I am concerned about what people would or would not say in the comments section, and how it might affect her, and I'm only asking that if you decide to comment my Mother is the type of person that would not want pity, so please choose your words carefully.

She is also very much alive, full of vigor and exuberance and I will personally send her to your house to kick your ass if you piss me off, thank you very much.

But even after the ban was lifted, I wasn't even sure how to bring all of this up.

How DO you bring something like that up?

'Um...hey, hi everybody, um, yeah, my Mom called...yeah, we talked about Fringe, the playoffs, and oh yeah, she's got a terminal illness.'

Now...don't be all Mom GAVE me this sense of humor, she probably chuckled at that. She chuckles at dick jokes too. See that's one of the things that makes her special. And that's partially what makes it much easier for me to write about this than I actually thought it was GOING to be.

And because for the most part...she's OK with it.

And don't misunderstand what that means.

Is she thrilled this has happened? That'd be a no. Would she rather not have this condition? Um...DUH. But I don't think that was ever going to be an issue for her. She's really one tough Mother. So to speak. I think for her, though, the key issue is going to be, and always will be...the people she cares about. How will THEY handle it? How will I? Can you blame her?

But it was something my mother wrote to me recently that resonated with me, and even though I did not ask her for permission I am going to share it here because it does sum up her thought process and showcases the positive person she always has been and always will be.

'This is what I am talking about: 'In some people the disease gets worse quickly (over months to a few years), but other people have very little worsening of the disease over time'. I'm betting on being one of the "other people"!'

It's that kind of attitude that has saved me from total annihilation, whether you realize it or not, Mom.

Time and again. It's that life lesson that allows me to get up each day and keep trying, to continually look for solutions to our problems, to keep holding on even though my arms are so...freaking...tired.

I've said it before and I'll say it a thousand times...anything good that I am I got from you. And although I've been struggling for a while, and even though it seems like it's one thing after another, if I can somehow manage to rustle up one/tenth of your strength, then I'll get through all of this...somehow.

And then a small rounded smooth head will turn and whirr, and a robotic arm will rotate. I'll hear a clack, a couple of clangs, a chirp and some beeps, and through the tiny little transmitter a voice will cry...

'We're all right! You did GREAT!'


A Beautiful Blank Page

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