Oh hi! Didn’t see you there

Been more than a year between posts. I haven’t forgotten you. I still love you.

A lot has happened in a year. A lot of good. A bit of bad. My main holdup was that my next post was going to be for what would have been Jeremy’s 29th birthday. I didn’t know what to say. Then I didn’t say anything. Then I felt like I missed it. Then I felt like I missed him. Still do. Then November happened. Then I had my second first Christmas without Jeremy. Then we couldn’t sell the house. Then I worked on cleaning out my garage. Then we sold the house. Then we filled up the damn garage again. Then someone broke the Interstate. Then, well, life and stuff.

I was thinking of what I wanted this blog to be. Then I got busy. Then, like any good engineer, I overthought it to the point of paralysis and I missed posting stuff for a whole year. And then, after all that, on the morning of May 12, 2017, I got a cup of coffee, checked to see what crazy stuff our President is doing, and logged into my blog. It’s dizzying, but just to drop a historical timestamp, he’s a couple days past firing the director of the FBI, on the heels of the FBI asking for more funding for the Russia/Trump investigation, which our President refers to in third person, and our President is deftly beating back any Nixonian comparisons by publicly threatening Comey about some “tapes” he may or may not have. I’ll have a scotch.

But the blog. Turns out, it’s just whatever I want to type about. It’s mine. Took me a year to figure that out. See? I’m smart and stuff. I put a mental block between my last post and the next one. Don’t know why. I felt like I owed my own blog an explanation. Then I worried about building my posts in chronological order so that my projects were displayed as they happened. I built some stuff, should I write my posts in order of how I constructed them and pretending I’m living my life a year ago? See? Analysis Paralysis.

Ultimately this blog about my projects and my brain droppings. This post in particular is just a rambling derp, and that’s the name for my new rock band. I will promise you this. The next post will be awesome.

– Josh

Inside Edition

Welcome to our home!

Interior Shots 11

Entering though the front door, you see the dining room to the left, music room will be on the right, the stairs are directly ahead, and right beyond my coffee mug is our living room, which overlooks the back yard. Up and to the right is our guest room. Come by and stay a while!

Interior Shots 9

This is a look into our music room. The piano is going to go on the brown wall opposite the windows and I’ll hang some guitars on either side of the piano. I’m going to probably put my scotch bar on the terracotta wall, which will lead to a debate on whether we have scotch in the music room, or whether we play music in the scotch room. It will probably depend on who you ask.

Interior Shots 8

Turn around and you’ll see our dining room with Sarah’s gorgeous chandelier. There’s a speaker in the ceiling that I’ve recently hooked up so we can have some music while we clean and move stuff in. In case you are wondering, and even if you weren’t, the first song cranked to 11 was Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. That song choice has absolutely nothing to do with mine and Sarah’s relationship status and everything to do with Jimmy Page. I mean, Robert Plant too, but Jimmy Page. It’s always my first song on new stereo equipment to see if it’s worthy. These speakers are worthy.

Interior Shots 2

The downstairs bathroom has an entry from the hallway and a separate entry from the guest room. According to the (excellent) granite store we got everything from, the veins in the countertop are petrified wood. Even if it’s not, it’s a good story.

Interior Shots 3

Guest room. The guest room overlooks the back yard and a beautiful American Beech tree. The left wall backs up to the living room and the bathroom is to the right. We’ve put acoustic insulation in the walls floor to ceiling in all the living spaces, so our guest room should be somewhat shielded from the noise in the living room and the rest of the house. But our son found out that the house echos and we’re bringing in musical instruments for him to play, hit, shake, and bang, so no real guarantees.

Interior Shots 7

Interior Shots 6

A couple shots of our grand living room: 10′ ceilings, granite hearth, and a cast fireplace mantle. We’ve put feature lighting on the wall on the right so we can highlight some art or a family portrait. Or a wall of photos. We don’t quite know how we are going to set it up. We’ll have the TV over the fireplace, which I’m not crazy about, but Sarah found some good ideas for cabinets on Pinterest so we can hide it when we aren’t using it. All of the A/V electronics rout to a panel on the right wall, so even if the bare TV has to sit there, it will at least be clean. Go through the large arc on the left to get to our breakfast area and kitchen.

Interior Shots 5

We love the kitchen! All new Slate GE Profile Appliances, our wasabi colored island, and our cherry cabinets. We blew the budget on this one, but we’re really happy with how everything turned out. The dentil molding is a nod to our old house. There’s speakers in the ceiling in-line with the island, and they’re hooked up with the Dining Room speakers. Yep, more Zeppelin.

Interior Shots 4

We’ve copied the detail of the arc for a valance that goes over the sink and connects the bank of upper cabinets to the floating cabinet on the right of the sink. You can kind of see it in the picture up top, but I don’t have a straight-on shot yet. The windows behind the sink overlooks the back yard and the porch.

Interior Shots 1

So that’s pretty much it for the downstairs! These stairs lead you up to where our bedrooms, play room, project room, and messes will be.

What a project.


The Inside Story

I’m a better photographer than this.

Color Play 7

That’s my first and lasting thought as I take pictures of the interior of my house. The colors are horrible. My light browns are green. My terracotta is Santa Claus red. My dark walnut stain looks like red mahogany. My wasabi green island is mint green. Then I shoot it again and it’s grass green. Our colors are all aesthetically pleasing. These photos are not. I give up.

Next morning, I pull out my Bryan Peterson books. I check my camera settings. I drop the pictures on the laptop. Yep, they’re ungood and I need to figure out why. A little poking around with my fellow Nikonians and flipping through my photography books I come to the conclusion that interior real estate photography is the most deceptively difficult type of photography from an article I read entitled Interior Real Estate Photography Is The Most Deceptively Difficult Type of Photography. Here’s where it goes wrong.

Even on a nice cloudy day with perfectly diffuse and even lighting, I’m competing with at least 3 sources of light. I’ve got the sunlight coming in the windows, I’ve got any incandescent lighting in the room, and I’ve got all the residual light bouncing off the walls coloring the rest of the room. Then, I’ve got shadows to deal with and depth of lighting that might make the color look great on one wall and too deep on another. But the biggest problem is the shot itself. The room is the object. If I’m taking a picture of my son popping a bubble, and the shot is just a little bit green or a little bit red, it’s not even noticeable. But if the focus of the shot is the colors on the walls and on the floor, a blueshift will make you want to just give up.

Color Play 4

So, I messed with it for another whole morning. Reshot the entire house. I adjusted my white balance, I read the lighting, readjusted my shots. They looked great on camera. Got them on my Mac and they were all bleh and dull. Turns out that my camera LCD screen isn’t as calibrated as I would like it to be.

Color Play 6

Then I messed with it for another whole morning. Reshot the entire house. I adjusted my white balance, I read the lighting, readjusted my shots. They looked awful on camera, but I knew that I set the white balance “correctly” and they should look pretty great once I got them up on my Mac. They looked better, still not great. I tweaked them just a little bit and I thought the colors looked pretty spot on. I got excited. I was ready to post! I sent them to my friend Mike.

Interesting that you see green in the unedited photos, though—looks more yellow/gold to me.

Fiddle sticks.

Color Play 5

Have you viewed the same photos on your iPhone for comparison?

Of course not. So, I sent them to my iPhone. Hmm. The edited ones look more yellow/gold and the originals looked pretty decent in retrospect. Why? Because I calibrated my monitor for print with a $100 color calibrator. Calibrate your monitor, the universe gets out of sync. It’s infuriating. Then I dove into a rabbit hole of monitor calibration and got half way through an article on the problems that arise from calibrating a small gamut monitor. What’s a gamut? Back to Apple’s stock calibration.

Here’s my favorite shot:

Color Play 3

But all of that hair pulling and hand ringing and soul searching that arose from my very sub-par photos lead to the world’s greatest solution.

All you really need to do is get your 2 year old to hold a $9 grey card for the shot, then re-take the shot without him in it. Correct your photo to the grey card, then apply the fix to the “clean” photo. It takes about 15 seconds per shot and Daddy has a Big Helper!

Play Room 2 (1)Play Room 1 (1)

Play Room 2Play Room 1

So now my Big Helper is going to help me shoot the downstairs. Again.

Nothing’s easy. But a lot of it is fun.


Our New Home!

New House Exterior

We’ve closed and we’re starting to move in! We are excited and just thrilled with the house. It’s has that brand new house smell (polyurethane) and while it is our dream home, it has not been without its drama, right off the bat.

As we closed, the builder said that he was not happy with the final coat of poly on the hardwoods. The flooring contractor is going to need to come and sand and then re-apply the top coat on the bottom floor. Bummer. We proceeded with the closing, as we didn’t want to have one last coat of polyurethane be anything that held up the closing.

New House Exterior 5

Plus, after closing we would vastly simplify our relationship with our lender, which I could not wait for. I needed a giant stack of cash for the house, and I would like to pay him monthly for the privilege. This is the relationship I needed and longed for.

I mean, I realize that getting a mortgage a couple years ago was a bit too easy, but the pendulum has swung. Hard. It’s not that we couldn’t get the loan, but the scrutiny is unreal. I haven’t had anybody watch my funds like that since…. ever. Even when I bought my last house. Even when Sarah and I planned our wedding and honeymoon 10 years ago before either of us had a real job. Even when I was doing computer repair for beer money at Tech and fishing quarters out of the couch. Not even close. We had to justify accounts that weren’t ours. I had to sign an affidavit stating that I am not and have never gone by Josh M. Carter, who has a warrant out for his arrest for skipping out on a house note and stealing chickens or whatever. I had to sign another affidavit that my in-laws credit card was in fact theirs, and not ours. I can’t tell you how many times I had to call the lender in the middle of the night to re-affirm that I pay my credit card bill off every month. And then I’d have to prove that the money that was automatically drafted out of my account to go to “American Express” ended up going to a company called “American Express” to pay my “American Express” credit card bill. Oh man, seriously? Sold something on Craigslist of eBay didja? Where did that money come from? eBay? A coat of Polyurethane wasn’t stopping this train. This needed to end.

So we closed! Poly be dammed.

New House Exterior 1

And the last coat of polyurethane did look good. It did! But what didn’t look too hot was the stain that they sanded all the way through, the paint drippings from touch-up paint that they trapped between coats of polyurethane, and the touch-up pen that they used to hide the paint drips and spots and long edges of boards. Not happy.

New House Exterior 2

After discussing the options with the builder and his real estate agent, we really had no good options other than sand down and re-do. So that’s what we did, and we didn’t let anybody else other than the flooring crew in the house. They took the finish all the way off and got down to the bare oak, then built it back up. It cost us a week and 2 weekends. But it’s right now, and it’s gorgeous. They did a better job on this floor than any other floor that I’ve seen. They probably didn’t want to have to do it again. Me either.

New House Exterior 3

So now it’s done and we’ve started cleaning. Top to bottom, scrubbing walls, vacuuming floors, getting construction dust out of lights and ceiling fans and nooks and crannies. It’s slow work because my level of cleaning is borderline obsessive. The bathrooms take me hours and hours. I scrape up small bits of grout, paint, and goo. I’ve got rags and buckets and razor blades and putty knives and screw drivers and 3M pads and the soft kind of 3M pads and Frogtape. I also drink a lot of beer and push my little iPhone speaker as loud is it will go. Playlist is pretty predictable – Zeppelin I, Zeppelin II, Zeppelin III….

New House Exterior 4

But check out those pictures! That’s the outside of our new home! We’ve got about the same size back yard as we have now, but the front yard is dramatically bigger. In the picture above with the back of the house, you can see the Middle School practice field at the pine trees across the street. You will see that we have no pine trees in our yard or sweet gums. We ripped them all out to lay down grass and put in maples, dogwoods, cherry blossom trees, and even a ginkgo. We left our nice magnolias, beech, dogwoods, and oaks, so hopefully they’ll get big soon with all the light that now reaches them. I’ve made a small project out of upkeep on the plants that I’ll share with you too.

New House Exterior (1)

In the meantime, you’ll notice that I haven’t posted any internal pictures yet. There’s a reason. And a story. Of course there is.


Closing Time!

We closed on our new house!

I haven’t been in it yet.

On the day of closing, we got a message from the builder that he and the flooring company were not happy with the last minute floor repairs that had to be done or the last coat of polyurethane. They were both in the house at closing sanding and buffing. That means that we would need to stay off the floors until it’s all cured and done.


But now we own the garage, so I spent some time cleaning it and moving some boxes. And, you know, the important stuff.


First thing’s first. Hope the neighbors like Zeppelin.

The garage is cleanish. I washed the construction dust off the walls, mopped the floors, and then swept it all out, but nothing is really clean in Georgia in April. I’ll bring the leaf blower in as soon as the floors are dry.

My goal is to get my current garage cleaned out so I have some woodworking space to make some closets and cabinets, and Sarah’s goal is to get Charlie’s room all set up. But the very first thing we are going to do when we get in the house is do a new-house scrub of every room and get it move-in ready. Then I will take pictures of every room so in a year or so, I can look back with fondness and longing for the time that the house was clean.

More to come. Maybe even tomorrow.


The Blog Recalibration Project

Well, a lot has happened.

Following our disaster, Sarah basically took over building the house. She kept things going while I floated between absolutely useless and marginally functional. Once I dipped my toe back into the fold, I dove into my job. I really do like my job at The Coca-Cola Company, it is always interesting and incredibly fast paced, so I let it take over as a fantastic distraction. I had project requirements that changed, key employees that found different opportunities, processes that evolved, and I really just let the work take over. I was needed at the office, and I needed it. Plus, I really like the people I work with. So I kept tabs on what was happening with the house, but it really became The Sarah Show. At this point, it’s more hers than mine, and I’m happy with that. I don’t quite think that she is.

In normal circumstances, I would have kept everybody up to date on the progress. I was excited to quip about granite shopping, or learning the word baluster. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But, this blog is for me, it’s for you. I’ve seen a lot of hobby-based blogs that have turned into an unfortunate chronolog of a dramatic family tragedy. In fact, if you scroll down, you’ll see that you’re reading one. So here’s what I am going to do:

I brought this blog online many moons ago to talk about my projects. Clearly, it took a turn. I’m going to go back to talking about my projects. I am going to give an update on the house very very soon. I am going to talk about Jeremy. I am going to throw in my experiences of going through loss, going through this year of firsts without Jeremy. He’s still my brother, but his voice has tragically been relegated to the ones that knew him best. I will have posts about him. I will have posts that don’t mention him. I will be open and transparent because dammit I write the best when I do. I will also probably write about the infuriating process I am going through right now where I have two servers, nearly identical, one for test, one for my production code; one successfully sends emails and one absolutely does not. This blog will be about me, and while I will focus on my projects, I am not trying to silo anything.

We will close on our new house tomorrow, Good Friday. I will be soooooooooo damn happy to be done dealing with Realtors, closing attorneys, builders, builder Realtors, and lenders. The builder has done an incredible job, and I am ready for the house to be our project. It’s going to be an emotional closing, for reasons I’ll talk about later. We’ll still have our current house, so I’ll be talking about getting that house ready to sell and going through the selling process too. Pictures of the new house are forthcoming. Pictures of the old house will be available once I move my boxes and piles and clutter to their new home. I don’t know the Vegas odds of that happening before the summer. I wouldn’t put money on April.

However, if you are invested in the timeline because you would like to buy my current house, lets work a deal. Fantastic schools. And I’m only moving down the hill about 1000 feet, so it comes with the world’s best neighbors. Case in point: can your current neighbors loan you a cement mixer when you’re in a pinch? No? Looks like you need to move.


Thank you for all the kind words

A friend of mine from High School sent me a post on Facebook from a woman named Sheryl ending shloshim after her husband suddenly and unexpectedly died. Shiva is a 7 day period of mourning in Judiasm. Shloshim is the mourning period 30 days after death, which overlaps shiva. After shloshim, all mourning restrictions are lifted for a Jewish spouse. So after her shloshim concluded, Sheryl got on Facebook and shared her thoughts.

Sheryl had an observation about words. People are afraid to use them around you when you lose somebody. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know how strong or fragile you will be. She made a point about being appreciative when someone was savvy enough to ask her “How are you doing today?” instead of just “How are you doing?” The distinction, to her, was that the former recognized that you are barely holding it together and that every day is a struggle, and the latter is tone deaf because the idea of being ‘okay’ is impossibly foreign.

But I have a different take. I have friends that I haven’t talked to in years or even more than a decade reach out to me. I have had people I did not know write me because my words resonated with them. I have had friends and co-workers ask me, tactfully and not, what happened, or if I am okay. I have had plenty of people ask me “How are you doing?”. More often than not though, I get into a conversation with a friend, or a relative, and they start out by saying they are sorry. It’s usually one sentence. Then they are lost. Even friends who have themselves experienced profound loss. It’s just terrible. And believe me, I get it. And I thank you.

So whatever you have said to me, and however you have said it, thank you. People that talk to me have an overwhelming sense of importance to talk to me, given the subject, so their brain tricks them into thinking that they’ll have a lot to say. But they don’t. You won’t. You’ll get stuck after you say “I heard… I’m sorry.” That is because there are no words. Many people recognize that there are no words and they say so. But at the core of what everybody is saying, or at least is trying to say, is that it is so emotional, so awful, that all you want to do is communicate the emotion. Communicate the feeling. We don’t have words that communicate the type and magnitude of what we are trying to communicate. It’s hard to just say “I’m sorry.” or “It just sucks.” But I know what you want to say. And that’s enough for me.


A Eulogy for my brother Jeremy

It has been a month since Jeremy left us. It is still very painful.

On the morning of December 28, I led a service for my brother Jeremy with my family. We gathered at my grandparent’s Pond House, which was my great-grandmother Miss Lillian’s house. My grandfather’s father built a circular stone fire pit out back behind the house. It is large enough to sit the whole Carter family.

I sat next to Jeremy’s ashes and delivered this eulogy. I wrote it in the early hours the night before the ceremony in a log book that I bought in Plains. I did not know what I wanted to say, but I decided beforehand that I would write it in one take and let these words just tumble out.

I left the book out in the Plains Inn for family members to write whatever they wanted to say. Some have asked that I circulate the book. I will keep their words private, but for my eulogy, I want to share it with Jeremy and with you. I miss him.

Today we are celebrating Jeremy’s life. He was a son, a brother, a loving uncle. He was 28. There is no way around it–he left us way too soon, and I am just profoundly, desperately, and crushingly sad.

He was a good brother and he let me in. I helped him get into school so he could finish up. I helped him form a plan for success. I trusted him with Charlie and he loved being an uncle, probably more than anything.

He had been frustrated with school and career choices and his future for so long, and in the past year he was excited about his path forward. He had hope. He had a plan. It is this part of his future that I will mourn almost as much as I will mourn for him. I am going to miss him terribly. I already do.

28 years. That’s too young. But Jeremy did give us 28 years. I had 28 years to be his brother and I am thankful for that. I am thankful that I was able to grow up with him, and he me.

We took sibling rivalry seriously. We fought all the time growing up, mostly because we became each others’ favorite pastime. I was usually better at video games than he was and he was usually better at sports than me. He was always faster, so every game he made up for us naturally had to incorporate some sort of race. And when he won, he took gloating to an obnoxious level. He would smile the biggest smile. He would cock his head back and to the left and wear this big, toothy, ear-to-ear grin. He was very proud of himself.

One of the most random, ridiculous, and funny stories about Jeremy involved beating me in video games in a major way. One day when we were pretty little, we were playing in our driveway racing matchbox  cars or melting army men and Jeremy found an anthill where the driveway met our rock garden. Amongst the trail of ants going to and from the anthill, Jeremy found one carrying a diamond. Not a diamond shaped object, an actual diamond. I immediately tried to claim it, since I was playing outside too and was older, but he wouldn’t have it. He snatched it from the ant and ran inside calling for dad. “Dad! Dad! I found an ant carrying a diamond.” Dad was skeptical. Jeremy, if you actually found a diamond, if this is a real diamond, I’ll buy you a Sega Genesis. A week later, we–no, he had a Sega Genesis. At 5 or 6 years old, it was better than winning the lottery. Not only did we play hours and hours of Sonic The Hedgehog or Toejam and Earl, but if I started to beat him, he would often “pull rank” and turn off the Sega just as I was about to win. That would often start a fight that he was more likely to win. Win at any cost. Jeremy was nothing if not committed.

My parents kept the Sega Genesis diamond. None of their friends ever reported that they lost a diamond. They asked. It’s the most bizarre and funny diamond story I’ve ever heard. They mounted the diamond in a gold ring for Jeremy to present to a girlfriend some day. The one. I hate that he never got to do that. I hate it.

It is awful that we are gathered this way for this reason, but I am glad that we are all together for him. I am glad that we are in Plains. He liked it here. He liked fishing. He still holds the record for catching the largest brim I’ve ever seen or heard of. He kept the mounted fish in his room, but he was most proud that Papa keeps a board with the fish’s outline in his woodshop. (I have it now.) He cherished the chances he got to go out hunting with Dad and Papa here in Plains. In fact, I think that hunting in Plains was the only thing that would get Jeremy out of bed at 5:00 AM. Ever. But he loved Plains and he loved these family vacations because he loved his family. He loved refreshing his jokes that had gone stale with Jamie and me. He loved staying up until about sunrise talking with his cousins. He had a special bond with James and Sally through Georgia State, with Margaret through being almost exactly the same age, with Casey through a near identical taste and appreciation for the offbeat. He loved hearing stories and going around the room and catching up on Stephen’s and John’s film projects. He loved seeing me the next morning to get me up to speed. “You’ve got to get Stephen to tell you the story about him skateboarding through Israel.” He loved his family.

Above all, he loved being an uncle. He really did. In writing this, I scrolled all the way up in my text messages to the ones I sent him when Charlie was born. The day before, he texted me “GIVE ME UNCLE STATUS!!” Then he asked me if I was nervous. And excited. Then we texted back and forth and finally at 7:57 PM on May 2, 2013, I sent him a picture of his newborn nephew. He wrote “OMG IM SO HAPPY! AND TEARING UP!!!” and I Sent him more pictures of Charlie and he responded with “I have to change by background already?!?!” I told him that he might as well get used to it. He responded “:-) I love you bro”.

I love you too Jeremy.

As Merry a Christmas as possible

We are still devastated, but the newness has worn off. All of the adrenaline is gone, the shock is over. Disbelief • Devastation • Despair • Depression. Follow the Bouncing Ball. Merry Christmas.

Our family always spends Christmas in Peachtree City, then travels somewhere for a family reunion. This year, we were going to Plains, which is about a 2 hour drive from Peachtree City. For efficiency, my wife and I had an idea that we would pack everything for Christmas and for the trip down to Plains. I was lying in bed thinking about shirts. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at the shirts though. Might as well have asked me to build a rocket to the moon. I couldn’t concentrate on a single outfit. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at it. Plus I had almost no interest in going and no energy to do it even if I wanted to.

And my wife and I caught a cold.

…hey! Trouble concentrating, no energy, lost interest in fun things, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, irritability, GI issues without further detail… This one has a name too! Here enters the depression phase.

But at least with a name, I feel like I can handle it. Plus, I have a 2 year old that still needs a Christmas. That got me out of bed. I went downstairs and told Sarah that we needed to recalibrate. I could get us to Peachtree City, but I could not get us to Plains. I used every. last. bit of my energy to be happy around Charlie and keep him excited. I had Charlie help me wrap presents for Grannie Annie and Papa Jeff, grandma and grandpa, and then we loaded his presents and our clothes in the car. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. As I was going up the stairs with a basket of clothes, Charlie presented me with one of his cardboard Christmas blocks with a gold bow on top of it. “Here’s a present to make you feel happy, daddy.” Sweetest boy in the world. He broke my heart into a million little pieces. I needed a minute.

We packed for Peachtree City and left that night. Christmas Eve. We got to my in-laws, put Charlie to bed, and wrapped presents until about 2:30 AM, which may shock you if you don’t know my sleep schedule that intimately. In fact, that’s just about 30 minutes past my normal bed time. I know. I know. I’m working on it. But I’m not used to being interrupted. I dozed off around 3:00 and woke up around 4:30 to a supercell sitting on top of the house. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed right over the house. Charlie jumped out of bed screaming and literally leaped into my arms. He snuggled on my chest and went to sleep, and I really enjoyed the cuddle. But I was tired, so I put him down after the storm passed, which was around 6. (I’ll find out later that the Peachtree City airport 2 miles away recorded 8 inches of rain that night, which has no bearing on the story other than being incredible.) 6:20 I smell the awful, distinct smell of dog poop. Then as I am stirring back awake, I hear one of the the most rage-inducing sounds in the world–dog pee hitting carpet. I shot my arm out at the lamp, turned it on, and scanned the room. The dog had pooped in front of the bed, stepped in it, tracked it all over the room, then scratched the door and somehow got some on the wall. Jury was out if he walked on the throw pillows, but they got washed for good measure. I made no attempt to be quiet. Sarah, of course, shot awake amongst the commotion, saved the dog, and helped me get the carpet shampooer. I bathed the dog, then shampooed the carpet until 7:00 AM. I stood in the cul-de-sac yelling “Free Dog!” for a minute or two. First 10 meals, already paid. Time to sleep.

We pushed Christmas morning until about 10:30. Santa came and gave Charlie all the Duplo he asked Santa for. He got Duplo, trains, musical instruments, and books. He was very excited and very happy. My parents spent Christmas morning in Plains, and they drove up after lunch. In the evening of the 25th, we had Christmas at my parents house.

You know when you get a new job and you have no idea what you are doing? “When you’re designing this system for Qatar, remember it’s TEMPEST compliant.” On it. “I need you to work on the change order turning this project from general area to class 1, div 2.” You got it. “When the agency gets here, I’m going to need pixel maps and hex codes for all the assets we need for the  promotion.” Have it for you in an hour. Fake it ’till you make it. That was Christmas at my house. We put on smiles for Charlie at immense effort. We ate caramel cake and talked about it for an uncomfortably unnatural length of time. We had a light display that dad picked up for $20 that we watched, silently. We talked about trees. We talked about the weather. Thank god for the weather. It was so bizarre that we talked about it for a couple of hours. Or just 20 minutes. Time was largely irrelevant, except that there was a lot of it left until Christmas would finally end. We talked about Charlie’s presents, and mom said something about “Play Sand”. I heard “Play Stan”, and knew that was wrong, but thought it would be fun to look at my iPhone and see how many songs would come up if I searched my music for Stan. I start calling them out. Achilles Last Stand, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Get Up Stand Up, I Saw Her Standing There. It was pretty fun. Got to Emimem’s Stan, past Stankonia, then landed on Mr. Saxobeat (by Alexandrea Stan). Jamie looked her up and “WOW I forgot how hot she is.” But then I landed on Dirty Laundry, by Don Henley, on his I Can’t Stand Still album. Dad said yeah, the game was getting old, so I played it. Not thinking. We were all listening to the same lyrics we’ve heard a thousand times and let the line “It’s interesting when people die. Give us Dirty Laundry.” wash over us. Nobody reacted, but the game was over when the song was. Don isn’t wrong. But we’re not ready.

Charlie got up from his nap and Sarah brought him over. Charlie was front and center of everybody’s attention, of course. He got a slide, a ride-on toy with “some assembly required”, some more Duplo, maybe a train set. I forgot. The rest of us did Christmas for tradition’s sake. I handed out the gifts and just quietly placed all of Jeremy’s gifts to the side. It was weird. I just felt like he was just in Europe or something, and he’ll come back later. Then, after we were done, Mom asked if that pile was Jeremy’s. It was. We went through it. Jamie got Jeremy’s hoodie. I really don’t remember what happened to the rest. We all just wanted it over as soon as possible. It was the first Christmas without Jeremy, obviously. But we planned on him. Next year will be our second first Christmas without Jeremy. It’s just miserable.


Loosely Formed Plans for Jeremy

Jeremy Christmas Tree

When you lose a loved one, everything in you world has a macabre patina that is not welcome, not necessarily comfortable, but exhausting and persistent enough that it wears you down into accepting it. Wearing it, you are able to have a surprisingly normal day–once you’ve redefined normal.

I got a haircut today. I’ve been meaning to for weeks and actually had one scheduled for the 20th. I canceled. But today I went and sat down with my normal stylist and told her to move as quickly as she could. She did. I only broke down once, but I had the foresight to stuff my pockets with tissues. Success.

I spent this morning cleaning Jeremy’s guitar. I cut off the old strings and took it apart to shine up the brass. I polished the body, got all the stickiness and grime off of it. I had Charlie help. I told him it was Uncle Jeremy’s guitar and he could play it any time he wanted, once I put strings on, of course. I showed him the parts of the guitar, I showed him the tools I was using. I showed him the parts of the bridge I was taking apart, and how it went back together. Jeremy had push-button strap locks on his leather guitar strap and I showed Charlie how to use it. For the next 45 minutes, Charlie put the strap on the guitar and took it back off. His strap needed some TLC. I was fine.

I walked into Kroger to get leather cleaner, medicine, and some Coca-Cola Cherry Zero. Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year. Sure it is. I was fine. Then a clerk that sounded a little nervous and a little jaded came on the microphone to present a monotone reading sans punctuation. “dear loyal customers Christmas is the perfect time to gather the family around the dinner table a pork loin makes a great meal for the holidays they are on sale now for $1.99 a pound at the meat counter.” I smiled. I got the leather cleaner, to clean my deceased brother’s guitar strap. Damn, I wish they had saddle soap, but these wipes should work just fine. Time to get my Coke Zero. Ooh. 4 for $12! Then I glanced at the snacks and found my self staring at Jack Links Sweet and Spicy beef jerky. Jeremy would rip through his stocking on Christmas looking for his beef jerky. I nearly vomited right there in the isle. I abandoned my cart and ran for the bathroom and almost threw up between sobs trying to get it together long enough to break down in private. Luckily I had completely forgotten to eat anything today, so nothing to worry about there. Guy in the next stall probably just wanted 5 minutes of peace to himself. Sorry.


Well, I promised you plans. Gatherings are not set in stone, but we are starting to form vague plans. We are honoring Jeremy’s wishes to be cremated. We hope to have him home right after Christmas. That was another conversation that we had that you can’t imagine you would joke about, but our reality is so twisted and bizarre and unreal, why not. All the urns in the funeral home were awful. Jeremy would have hated them. There are some with flowers all over it, some with hearts, some with balloons. There was one that had an LED light strip on it that rotated on a stand. Dad asked if there were any with a skull on it, or something Avenged Sevenfold themed. Jamie thought that we ought to get one with flowers and hearts on it so Jeremy would rise out of the ashes and break it. Dad picked a tasteful Cherry box. The comedy vanished. Laugh to keep from crying and all that.

Our family always has a huge family reunion for New Years and this year we just so happen to be going to Plains. After the cousins gather, we will have a small memorial for Jeremy with the family at my grandparents’ house or somewhere else special to Jeremy in Plains. Maybe my grandparents’ pond house. This gathering will just be with the family.

We are planning to have another service, likely at my parents house, sometime after the holidays. Mom and Jamie are coordinating with some of his closest friends that live across the country and we’re more or less going to work around their schedule to make sure they can attend. One of Jeremy’s best friends is in the Coast Guard. That’s as far as we’ve gotten on the second gathering. We’ll give everybody enough notice.

During one of many midnight conversations with my mom, Jeremy made my mom promise to play Avenged Sevenfold and not choir music at his funeral. So, we’ll do that too.

My parents have received many flowers and lots of food. Thank you all for the love and support you have shown so far. For all those asking how to help remember him, in lieu of flowers please donate to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. My grandmother’s organization supports the caregivers that often invisibly work around the clock in homes, hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to bring compassion, companionship, and help to those in need. You can donate to the RCI here: http://www.rosalynncarter.org/support/