2/26/2009

Better days will come... right?

Oh, I do try to hang in there. I really do. I know better days are coming. At 4:30 AM this morning I was holding my one-year-old trying to get him to go back to sleep, and it was frustrating, and I had no one to help me. I know single mothers have this experience all the time, and I know that my one-year-old has the same experience as well.

I finally got him down after rocking him back to sleep for 45 minutes or so, stepping back and forth in this dance that seems to comfort him. I watched some of an episode of the Wire to stop myself from dwelling on the situation that has lead to being a single parent, co-parenting with their mother. When I finally was brave enough to try lying down again,

All things considered, I got through the night relatively unscathed. He slept a solid six hours straight-through before beginning his routine of waking every hour or so. I slept about six hours in total last night, though not consecutively. Tonight, I'll do it all over again.

When I'm exhausted, I don't let myself go to the gym because I know I'll likely injure myself. That keeps me off of my training, and prevents me from getting the adrenaline high that makes me better about the way my life is turning out. The rhythm of my week becomes irregular and that makes me cranky and then the mood goes downhill from there.

I'm trying to constantly remember that things will get better. But then I'm reminded of how lousy things are right now. I had to kill some time this morning before dropping the kids off with their babysitter, and we went to Milano to get my daughter a waffle. A young woman came in and smiled at me and the kids. She was holding a "Becoming Pregnant" book and I had mentioned how "rewarding" it was when they don't quite sleep through the night.

"Oh, my husband will be there to help me," she said. And, ever since, I can't shake this feeling that I'm incredibly alone in the world. I know I have friends, and I know I have family, but I'm in this all by myself now. Sometimes I have strength to face it. Other times I have to use that strength to keep from getting knocked over.

I have faith that better days are coming, and that all of the parties involved in this little soap opera will find themselves in a better situation. I want to stop dwelling, but I live here in this moment and some times the moments aren't so great.

Other moments, though, like my son waking up with a smile, completely oblivious of how much he's affecting my mood, is worth it. He's such a beautiful little boy and I'm proud to be his dad. I just want to be worthy of him and wonder how to fix myself so that I can accomplish that goal.





2/25/2009

Proof the long tail works (for the community, at least)

When I started the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, one of the tenets was that nothing would be deliberately taken down. The idea was to establish a community archive of various recordings and the goal is to have them up in some form in perpetuity. As a radio journalist, I hated the idea that something I created for the airwaves was considered disposable. Why put a ton of work into something that would only last a few minutes, when there would theoretically be people interested in the content for years to come?

Well, I have an example of how this has actually come to fruition. On November 20, 2006, I posted an archive recording of WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now with Coy Barefoot. The guests were John Hunter, a teacher at Venable Elementary Schools, and filmmaker Chris Farina. They were talking about Hunter's World Peace Game.

Flash forward two and a half years and someone found the archive, heard it, and then wanted to get in touch with Hunter. Commenter Susan Palmer wanted to know more about the game. Somehow, Hunter found the comment and responded.

I find this incredibly satisfying.

This is why the Charlottesville Podcasting Network exists. I've not made much money from it, and I don't intend to. The site exists as a community resource. Little moments like this will sustain me for many years to come.

2/22/2009

The adjustment is taking place

Winter still has another month left to throw new darts at me, but I've become more adept at swerving. The dust from the continental shift is settling, but it is not time to dance. Not quite yet. The planets are still readjusting and there's no regular orbit. Still, the transition is proceeding more smoothly than one might expect.

I think I've made my way through the five steps of grief. I think I've accepted what has taken place and I'm beginning to enjoy my life again. Last night, I had a rare Saturday night out on the town with friends and not once did I feel sorry for myself, or sad that my marriage is over. There should be a merit badge.

Last night's destination was the X-Lounge, a place that previously felt absolutely alien to me when I was in a relationship. My friends and I hung out on the upper deck and watched people for most of the evening, complaining about the low quantity of alcohol in our drinks. My friends attempted to explain how a man should dance, and I was very grateful for their efforts. I don't think I did very well, but more lessons are promised.

I'm learning to move in this new way, and while I'm not entirely comfortable with it yet, I'm also not second guessing myself. I'm trying to just accept and be open to things that could come my way. And, if they don't come my way, my smile is turning into a shield that wards off negativity.

I am trying to reject negativity in all of its forms. What good does it do? The other day I was at the gym on the treadmill before work, and Dr. Phil was all I had to watch. My iPod had temporarily died, and so I watched Dr. Phil explain anger to Tyler Perry. The misspelled words
on the closed captioning told me what I already knew. When you're a person prone to anger, you get used to that. When you visualize yourself in a negative way, you are that person.

I'm not that person. I'm not bitter at the moment. I'm not angry. In fact, I'm incredibly happy. I can't say why yet, but I think it will all work out. There will be a new harmony as the mother of my Charlottesville kids and I learn how to work towards the shared goal of raising happy and well-adjusted children.

I am open for whatever comes my way. Life does not have to be a baffling puzzle. Life is this beautiful string on which we dance for a limited time only. May as well be as magnificent as possible, don't you think?

2/17/2009

A welcome message from the Universe

I believe that everything happens for a reason, but there's a trickster who prevents us from ever knowing why. I also believe that we are given markers from time to time to let us know we're on the right path. Is there a right decision? What is the best way to get from here to there?

I don't know.

But, I do know, fortune cookies are usually spot on. Here is today's:

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see what you take your eyes off the goal..."

Great advice. But what is my goal?

Treadmill versus the road

Everyone tells me that running on the road is not the same as running on a treadmill. And they are right. I am trying to transition to hitting the pavement, but there are many factors that keep me going to the gym to hit the Star Trac. I don't want to have to choose at this point, and I can't afford to have the question distract me from the key reason I'm exercising - to get my head straight.

When I first started at the gym over two months ago, I was terrified. Sweating in public? Ick. Who wants to see that? Of course, I've realized the answer is and should be "no-one." When I realized it wasn't a scary place, I was able to turn my daily visits into my daily medication while I tried to avoid the pitfalls of self-destruction.

But, as I've been upping my miles people have been saying I've got to hit the road soon if I have any hope of completing the ten-miler. People have been very kind by suggesting trails, suggesting routes, and so on. They say that running on a treadmill is too boring and doesn't provide real-world conditions by which to train.

And, they're right. But, they're also wrong, given that my main goal is to give myself an hour of exercise every day. I don't run every day. I lift weights three days a week, and take one day off a week for total rest. I'll be the first to admit I don't know what I'm doing, but I've set modest goals for myself and don't want to get discouraged.

I've been discouraged from running this week because of these questions, but also because I've been worried about my right calf. It seems to never fully recover and so I've been trying to stretch it out more. I need to get to Ragged Mountain Running Shop to get some customized inserts, but that will cost money, and my resources are currently devoted to getting myself out of a deep financial sinkhole.

But, today I went in and hit the treadmill and blanked out all the questions and just ran. I took my brother-in-law's advice and began switching up the pace and incline on a more frequent basis to emulate the unpredictability of the road. I listened to BBC Radio 4's News Quiz for the first half hour and switched to music for the second half. When I do this, I always speed up and I can always feel the adrenaline pumping. I think about all the pain in my personal life and I feel like the anger and the sadness and the bitterness gets transformed into something life-affirming.

Whether that happens on a treadmill or the road doesn't really matter. What matters is that I can heal.





2/15/2009

Salvation through work

I've not been able to work very much in the last few months. I've been distracted by the roller coaster ride I've been on. One day I will be able to figure out a way to process that, but today, I finally had all of the elements in place to begin that journey.

Sudden bouts of sadness shut me down cold. Even though I might not feel sad, I suddenly become incredibly indecisive. I can't get my mind off of the recent past and the wormhole of previous negative experiences threatens to spaghettify me back to a time of crisis.

Today, however, I went to work. For the first time in ages, I put two computers together and began to work on a parallel track on two separate projects. I broke mental logjams that were preventing me from moving forward, in part because I scheduled today as time to work.

I'm not one for schedules. There are too many of them. I like to try to keep things in my head more, and it tends to work. The various schedules I have on Google calendar are all jumbled together. I have my personal calendar. My waiting and catering calendar. My work calendars. Calendars for when I see my kids. It all jumbles together slowing down my ability to get any of itdone.

The roller coaster has also been a jumble of confusing thoughts and terrible emotional pitfalls. For the past two months, I've kept to the straight path by exercising. That's been incredible, and it will continue. I have lost over thirty pounds since November. I look completely different.

But I haven't felt different. In fact, I've been concerned that I've not been able to work properly. Projects have taken way too long to finish. I've lost the speed that I used to have. I've not been exercising my ability to be sharp and nimble as I produce audio.

Today, though, I finished a project that was long overdue. I can't wait to write about it.

I also fixed the Charlottesville Podcasting Network today. I had neglected to renew the domain, and it took about 12 hours to get resolved fully. I didn't find out about until noon, when I got home from the gym. I went into a tailspin of sorts, because I wasn't pleased that the site was down on the day when we post WNRN's Sunday Morning Wake-Up Call.

(LISTEN: John Halliday and Krista Ferrell on the Big-Read)

Now I'm tweaking the theme a little, and listening to some old recordings from the past. A friend of mine has put an alarming number of songs on YouTube, but I don't dare link.

So, I think I'll be okay if I can just get my work ethic back. But, I'm also cutting myself some slack.







2/12/2009

I was fine

I did okay. I went out. I ignored the fear. Had fun. Bitched about life. Bitched about things in my life. Watched the US beat Mexico 2-0 and cheered in public at each goal. Have a new appreciation for the coolness of West Main Street. In general, life is good.

Kill the fear. That's my 2009 mantra.

2/11/2009

Damn you, social phobia!

I'm a social phobic, which generally means I hate going anywhere for the first time. As I sit here typing this, there are two events I'd like to attend. And, unfortunately there's this massive fear sitting inside of me that might prevent me from going to either one.

And it sucks. Especially now that I'm a single guy.

Social phobia has always been an obstacle to me making friends and it's always been a barrier in my relationships. I've been this way since I was a kid. I get so scared that people will automatically laugh at me or not want me to be around. I worry that my clothes aren't right. That I'll say the wrong thing. Will I run into someone I really don't want to see?

It's totally and utterly in my head and the product of my imagination, but that doesn't stop it from being a terrible burden for me. This fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and a fallacy that's absolutely hard to shake.

I cope by sticking to a routine. I've coped by taking jobs that have deliberate roles. I'm comfortable waiting tables. I'm comfortable going up to strangers when I'm a reporter. But, other than that? What role do I play to total strangers?

I went to the gym initially to smash through this fear, but it's going to take me doing more things that I don't ordinarily do in order to really get through it. As soon as I finish this e-mail, what will I do? Will I go to one of these events? Will I chicken out and go home and fail to make any new connections?

Even as I hit "publish post" I really don't know.

2/07/2009

Updates on a blissful Saturday

The snow is melting slowly. My dog Billy darts towards every single patch in the hopes of chewing a quick drink on our walks. But by the end of the day, all of the solid water should be gone. The beauty of a few days ago becomes the sustenance for the spring.

I'm typing while watching a football match, resting my right leg before tomorrow's scheduled big run. I'm hoping to do at least 7 miles on the road, something I've not yet done. My left ankle is also resting. Thanks to twitter, I've learned that I need to go and get some custom shoes or inserts made so that my new habit doesn't end prematurely thanks to crippling lower leg pain.

The mental pain I've been in seems to be fading, but I don't know if it will pass as quickly as today's snow. For the most part, each day is easier than the one before. However, phantom twinges of sadness crop up. I'm much better now about riding out the times of darkness, but it's still a fairly difficult time.

I will go and get my kids in a couple of hours, and we'll play downtown for a while. I'm really sad that the downtown mall is all torn up, because I could really use a shot of the bustling tranquility that comes on a warm Spring-like day. I'd love to sit outside on the patio while we eat pizza. Instead, we'll play at the Discovery Museum again, and then head back home to where I'm staying.

This will be the first night I've had my one-year-old son overnight. It will be a big step, but I'm ready for it. I hope my roommate isn't too bothered when he cries when he realizes his mother isn't here.

My daughter has been staying here three nights a week, and enjoying her second home. I am enjoying not being in the house I bought last year because I no longer feel welcome there. Stepping through the door fills me with sadness, regret, anger and the whole gamut of negative emotions.

I want to step through other doors that lead to a place where I can fully embrace the positive energy that exists all around us. I want to enter the gym every day and push myself harder as I continue my journey. I want to be the person I want to be, and let go of the person I was in the past. I want to embrace everything that comes my way, and feel it, and taste it, and be it.

People tell me that I'm smiling a lot more. At times I've been absolutely giddy because things have been going okay, with the exception of my broken marriage. I've rekindled some good
friendships. I've been taking time for myself. I've spent a lot of time with the children. My dog is with me every day. I bought a car this week. My parents are incredibly supportive. I'm back at my Tavern.

Should I be writing about this so publicly? How can I not? I'm a relatively open person, and I've found writing here to be incredibly healthy for me. I am hoping to continue to use this public journal as a way to stay positive, for I certainly don't want to shout the negatives anymore. I want to replace them with lessons for others, perhaps.

Life is grand. Despite everything, there is so much beauty and joy and that's what we have to hold on to.


2/03/2009

The early days of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network



I began experimenting with the Charlottesville Podcasting Network four years ago this week. At the time, I was looking for an interesting project to work on here in Charlottesville. I wanted something else to keep me here, because I had a very important reason to stay.

At the time, a third of my income came from was producing stories for WVTF Public Radio on a regular basis. I wanted the radio stories I produced to have the chance to be online. I felt I was putting much time into them to have them merely go out two or three times over the airwaves. The second third came from managing the bar at Court Square Tavern, and the other third came from miscellaneous freelance work I could find.

One of those freelance sources was working with Katherine McNamara of the journal Archipelago had mentioned something to me about wanting to create something called Charlottesville Public Broadband. I had worked with her on a project on the DNA sting, a project that I don't believe got completed.

Sometime in January 2005. Katherine had come over to talk about ways to distribute multimedia content. I had done some recording work for her, and some editing work, and we both felt that we needed some way to solve our distribution problem. Somehow during that meeting, I found out about podcasting. I clicked on a podcast feed, saw the gobbledygook of something called RSS, and felt I was in way over my head.

But, I tried to think my way through what I didn't understand. After thinking about podcasts for a while, I realized what podcasts could mean. This was before iTunes had added support for podcasts, and before "podcast" was a word of the year. The programs at the time were very rudimentary, and the interface was clunky. I didn't even have an iPod.

But, I somehow thought that people would be interested in this, and that I should get on board quickly. I set up a very very basic website using my rudimentary knowledge of HTML, and announced that the Charlottesville Podcasting Network would soon be distributing several channels of programming. Somewhere there's a CD-ROM that has a back-up of that very first page.

I hope I never find it.

Since moving to Charlottesville, I had wanted to create a group of fellow audio producers. I thought that this new distribution possibility might allow for a new outlet to be created. One day, I had lunch at Bodo's on Preston Avenue with Luke Church of 3WV and WVTF Public Radio. I wanted to pick his brain about the potential for producing things for online.

By happenstance, Waldo Jaquith was there. I'd never met him before, but knew who he was. I had first come across his name when his name made the assignment board at WVTF when he was running for City Council.

I told Waldo what I wanted to do. He was pretty skeptical about anyone wanting to hear the content, but he told me that I should be using Wordpress. After the meeting, I went home, purchased a server, purchased the domain name, and installed Wordpress. I had no idea what I was doing, but Wordpress quickly began to make sense to me.

I began experimenting with different audio files that I thought I could use. Content included radio essays from Janis Jaquith. I did a much longer version of a story I did for WVTF on the possibility of a new nuclear reactor at Lake Anna. I even did some experimental podcasts which good taste prevents me from posting publicly.

And here I am now, four years later. This thing I created has led to so much personal gain for me. I've made a lot of friends, helped boost awareness of what podcasting is all about, and I've managed to put together a network that distributes
some interesting things.

And, of course, I have a place to produce stories and podcasts on subjects I care about. Today, for instance, I was able to finally post my edited version of the Piedmont Council of the Arts' Creative Conversation from January 13, 209. This is a 45-minute condensed version of what was a longer conversation. For the first time in a while, I've actually edited something, filling in gaps with narration. I hope that the audio will be useful to the community.

That's why I do what I do. I'm fueled with a passion to create great radio, a passion to bring people information. I'm typing this post while finishing up a podcast for my day job at Charlottesville Tomorrow. And coming up, I've got some great news for the future of programming at CPN.

Over the next few months, I'll be reposting some of the highlights here as a way of examining what worked, what didn't. I'd like to spotlight some of the work done by Deepak Singh and others. Working on the site has been among the most meaningful professional experiences of my life, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to do this work.