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campfire

 

A lost friendship, like a dirt smothered campfire, can always be rekindled.  If the embers still glow with the desire to burn again; all it takes is the right tinder and a few breaths of life to re-ignite what once seemed extinguished.  A small flame quickly returns to the blazing fire it once was and wraps those around it in a familiar and warm embrace.  I packed up my things, struck the ground with a swing of my foot, and kicked dirt on this fire nearly a year ago.  But it never stopped burning.  With that in mind, I say welcome back old friend, it’s been a long time; I hope you’ll pull up a chair, stay awhile, and catch up with me.

2013 was a year of change for this Wordslinger.  Change in address; twice.  Change in family.  Change in focus.  Change was, perhaps, the only true constant in a year highlighted by twists and turns, ups and downs, and very few open straightaways.  It’s also the only reasonable explanation – at least in my own mind – for my nearly year-long absence from your inbox.

The last post made to this blog was in February of 2013.  It was a sendoff; a tribute of sorts to the place we Chaneys had called home since before we could even be called “The Chaneys”.  After 8 memorable years, Jen and I said goodbye to a house we purchased as a soon-to-be-married couple and sold as a husband, wife, and parents to three beautiful children (and 2 dogs…don’t worry; Cody and Bailey are still around).  It’s a strange feeling, leaving your first home for the last time.  Even stranger when you have no new home to move into.  Selling an old house and buying a new one are the real estate equivalents of Dr. Suess’ Thing 1 and Thing 2; they go together.  They are peanut butter and jelly.  They are mac and cheese.  They’re Kimye for crying out loud!

But we Chaneys like to take the path less traveled.  We buck the trends.  We zig when others say zag.  We…oh who am I kidding; we are idiots.  Thankfully, we are idiots with incredible families; ready at a moment’s notice to lend their support, advice, and square footage.  So we moved out of a house we claimed was too small for us and promptly moved into a few spare bedrooms in my in-laws abode.  Sure, we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a laundry service that we brazenly took advantage of; but for all intents and purposes, we were homeless.  That feeling didn’t sit well with me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be able to properly express my gratitude to the in-laws for their gracious welcome, but moving back in with your parents doesn’t exactly seem like a step forward for a couple of 30-somethings and our tag-along brood.

So while we bunked with the folks, we were pounding the pavement daily looking for that perfect new place.  We were Goldilocks, in all her “too this, too that” glory, hopping from one house to the next in our quest for perfection and a bathroom with double sinks.  Choosing a house quickly turned into “The Bachelor: Home Edition”.  One beauty after another on display for our choosing, each seemingly perfect on the outside; but after a few drinks, the curtains come off and she’s exposed for the hot water heating mess that she is.  Sorry Ms. Split-Level…you will not be receiving a rose garden from us.

chris-harrison-meme-say-your-goodbyes

It took a little time, a lot of patience, and a few awkward moments involving Chris Harrison, bodyguards, and more than one unruly powder room that couldn’t take a hint, but we eventually found our open-concept soul mate and we couldn’t be happier.

But as we’ve all learned at some point in our lives, the pendulum of emotion often must balance itself with a heavy swing in the opposite direction.

As Jen and I sat at the settlement table signing up for the next chapter in our lives, my Grandmother was resting wearily in a hospice center, penning the final chapter of hers.  We lost her just a few days later.  Over the course of the last year, the hustle and bustle of life has kept me far away from this blog; but the days following my Grandmother’s passing were the closest I’ve come to returning.  Honoring the memory of one of the strongest, yet warmest people I’ve ever known with a thoughtful and passionate post was my plan; yet none of the words I tossed around in my head seemed adequate.

How could I convey the love she had for her family in words?  How could I make you feel her warmth and humor through the screen on which you’re reading this?  The task was too daunting and so I didn’t even try.  I’ve realized though, more than half a year later, that trying in the face of probable failure was the only real way to pay proper tribute to Grandmom, and so I’m doing that now.  You see, for the last couple of years no one tried harder than my Grandmother.  Despite the constant pain, numerous hospital stays, setbacks, and every other road block life could throw in her way; she continued to try.

A lesser person would have given up trying when the road ahead seemed too overwhelming to face.  They may have mentally retreated and physically surrendered; waiving their white flag and accepting defeat.  Not Grandmom.  Every day served as another opportunity to keep living.  To enjoy the company of her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  No matter her level of pain, she always managed a smile for me and my family, and seeing those bright red lipstick-lined lips curl up did more for me than I could ever do for her.  But that was Grandmom for you; always giving everything she had until you were sure there couldn’t possibly be anything left…and then surprising you yet again with her love, support, and seemingly endless strength.

The love she always showed for her family is something I’ll always strive to replicate and a trait I hope to pass on to my children and grandchildren down the road.  But her strength and will to fight, attributes I never realized she had until a terrible disease brought them out of her, are qualities I will never forget and something I’ll use myself whenever life seems just a little too hard.  There she goes again; giving, even after she’s gone.

Losing a family member is as tough an experience as one can face.  Anyone who’s ever lost someone can vouch for that.  Moving past it is a process that differs from one person to the next and can take a great deal of time.  For me and my family, the sadness of losing Grandmom was immense; but the loss of one member of our family was eased slightly by the addition of two more.  For as the late summer heat gave way to the early autumn breezes, Jen and I welcomed not one, but two sister-in-laws to the clan.

Over the Labor Day weekend, my baby brother-in-law (sarcasm alert! For those who don’t know him) said “I Do” to his new bride and a mere six weeks later, my other BIL followed suit.  In a matter of a month and a half, two coerced beautiful brides begrudgingly happily pledged their tolerance love to two clowns men that I am well paid proud to call my brothers.  (Hmm…something strange going on with my thesaurus I guess…)  Anyway, the never-ending conga line of matrimonial festivities began in July with a joint bachelor party; the details of which I am not at liberty to discuss due to some smoky backroom contract stipulations, and culminated in the second of two weddings in mid-October.  It was a 3-month smorgasbord of food, alcohol, partying, after-partying, crashing, rallying, wobbling, dougie-ing…and, uh, did I miss anything?  Oh right, I forgot love and companionship and yadda, yadda, yadda.  All joking aside, it was an honor to stand up next to my brothers on their wedding days.  I’ve watched these guys grow up from immature teenagers to slightly-more-mature-but-still-very-questionable adults, and the fact that they both found women capable of spending prolonged periods of time with them is the stuff of fairy tales.

So 2013 was a year of upheaval and a year of love and loss.  It was a year of moments and memories, the likes of which any writer worth his salt would weave into a tapestry of emotions without breaking a sweat.  So where have I been for the past year?

Well, I can assure you that the words haven’t simply dried up.  After all, we’re nearly 1,500 words into this post and I’m still going strong (though there’s a better than 50/50 chance you tuned out 1,000 words ago).  I mentioned in the opening that this was a year of change, including a change of focus.  My writing focus shifted during the second half of 2013, as I was given the opportunity to combine the two things I do best; writing and talking sports.

So as the official “Fantasy Sports Expert” for my favorite Baltimore sports website, The Sports Column (there you go fellas, I just sent 7 new readers your way…your welcome), I spent the better part of the past 5 months sharing my bullshit expertise with fantasy football geeks like me.  It was a dream come true.  I even tried my hand at multi-media, becoming a weekly guest on a Saturday morning sports talk radio station.  My “friends” always told me I had a face for radio…I guess they were right.  I devoted a lot of time and energy to my “job” as a sports writer (I use the term “job” loosely because I had far too much fun to consider it work…oh, and I wasn’t getting paid either), and so my recreational writing took a back seat.

I imagine that sort of thing happens to a lot of people who claim the title of “writer” as their profession.  While it remains merely a fervent hobby of mine, I’d argue that it’s even more difficult to juggle multiple writing paths when your day job involves procurement instead of prose.  So I dove head first into the role of sports columnist and left my other projects alone to tread water, all the while keeping one eye on them in case they began to flounder.

What I realized along the way was that choosing between writing paths was like choosing between Disney Junior programming.  Sure, Henry Hugglemonster is new and exciting; but does that mean I just drop Handy Manny and Doc McStuffins like a bad habit?  Yeeaahh…I have got to get out more.  The point is, devoting some time to all my ventures feels infinitely more rewarding than giving all of my time to just one.

So I’m back.  Back to sharing personal stories and humorous nonsense.  Back to regaling you with tales of Izzy, Jake, and their desperate-to-be-like-them sidekick Matt.  Back to where I discovered my passion for writing and where I hope you will continue to visit when you need a 5-minute escape from the duties of the day.  There’s a vision for this blog that I can’t quite make out just yet, as the fog of my absence still lingers on the surface.  As I settle back into a routine, I’m confident that the haze will slowly dissipate and the future that I believe exists for this site and my writing will become clear.  But I wasn’t about to sit around and wait for that to happen; I missed this and I missed all seven of you and so it was time to return.  Where do we go from here?  Well, there are many more blank pages yearning to be filled with words that have yet to be written.  Am I the wordslinger to do it?  Who knows, but it ought to be fun finding out.

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