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Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014: a year in review

2014: a gmrstudios year in review

Happy new year! Here's a post on my blog that's not all about comic books. Since I have this blog thing, I thought a bit of year in review was in order.

This is a review of MY year with only a little bit about other people's years as these events relate to me.

And I like sushi. That's our sushi dinner from last January. Yum. Note the "Saba" (Mackarel) and the Ikura (Salmon roe/fish eggs). This is one of the things I am grateful for: I can get high-grade sushi and sashimi in Kalamazoo.

As it has been for the last six years (as of January 10th), my relationship with and then marriage to Liesel has been a focal point for why I am happy. I am luckier than I deserve to be, than I ever thought I would be. And after five years of marriage and nearly six years of being together, when Liesel calls me the "crescendo" in her life, (as she did on Facebook; see above), I have to say that this is a highlight of the year, all year.

I love this picture of Liesel (left) with our baby puppy dog Satchel, who is also one of the greatest joys of my life. Liesel also commented that I am cancer free, which may not be a highlight of the year as the surgery was last year, but it is surely an important factor for how I am blessed and continue to be blessed year around.

The love I gain from family and give to family is the center point of why life is so grand, as I suspect most people would say about their loves and loved ones. In 2014, my mother had a very close call with infected kidney stones (which will finally be removed on January 9th). Luckily, we were all together at a family gathering when she started to feel poorly and act strangely. We rushed her to the ER, and she was in dire straits for many days as her blood pressure plummeted, and given her general health condition, she was in great jeopardy. Though she has recovered, she has lost a lot of the limited ability she had, but she's still with us, and so I am very grateful for this blessing. My family is closer than ever because of these ordeals that we go through. I am blessed (this word gets used a lot in this post) to be so close with my parents and sister and to have them all still in my life.

In addition to an amazing wife, two loving pets, a great family of origin, I get to enjoy two wonderful young people, my step-children, Piper and Ivan, who continually surprise me and bring more joy to my life than any other emotions. I am also happy to be part of such a large extended family on my wife's side as I get to watch her be an auntie (which is very important to her) and spend time with her parents (as I will explain in more depth farther along).

Outside of family, which is of greatest importance, my highlights for the year were in various self-care choices and going back to school.


I have learned this term from my therapist. We spend a lot of time talking about what I need to do to stay sane, especially since I have stretched myself close to the breaking point, the limit of what I am capable of doing.

So there are some rules for living that I am very strict about following. The number one rule is bed time. No matter how busy I am, if it can wait until tomorrow, it should wait until tomorrow. I have become much better at assessing how long it will take me finish something and also working ahead enough on many things, so I do not find myself in a position to miss a bed time with a late night work session.

Bed time is inviolate because it's not only the most important "ME" time of the day but also the best time spent with my wife and pets in each day. So, I am in bed around 8 p.m. every day, though sometimes a wee bit earlier and sometimes a wee bit later. And then I read. Comic books, novels, non-fiction, various materials online. I also made a rule this year that no more than three nights a week can some of the material being read be for school. At the time of greatest anxiety and study, I could be reading for school and studying all the time. I had to put an end to it or I would not relax, I would not read for pleasure, and that would kill me. Granted, I enjoy reading for school, but I must keep it limited or it will eat my life.

Other rules include enough exercise per week. I would commit to daily exercise but that's not really the schedule. I should commit to daily or near daily physical therapy that I have to do for my IT bands. I was inspired in reading the newest essay by Moby in his latest CD release with a list of remarks that he listed "sitting too much" as one of the things that makes our lives harder. I definitely agree with this sentiment. I bought a very expensive office chair two years ago. It's a good chair. But even sitting in it too much hurts. So I try to get up and move about, and since I have a puppy, a daily walk (or nearly daily) is an excellent idea.

NOTE ON MOBY: I think Moby and I would be pals had we grown up around each other. Though I am not a zealot for veganism, we share many of the same interests and views. Just like John Scalzi and some other cool folks who I know from their online activity, I am certain we would have all hung out in high school or college had we known each other then.

Many of the other rules are the normal stuff about eating right, taking vitamins, feeding my brain and body well, being happy, reducing stress, spending time with family and loved ones, etc. But one major rule, which is much like the getting to bed by around eight p.m. and reading for a period of time is time off during the week. Since most of my work is "work at home" and then adding school and home work, I could be working all the time. I strive to take most of two days off each week. One day gets eaten up with family time and errands and other things that are generally not restful, but I try to secure at least part of (often the majority of) one weekend day each week, usually Sunday for rest and recuperation. Without this attention to self care, I would surely... well "go mad" would be a bit over-stated but it was what I was tempted to write. Better to say that without this self care, I would become a grouchy, short-fused, and deeply unhappy person, and no one wants to be around him.

Also, I took time for self care in other ways with gaming, biking, special events, and a wee bit of travel. Liesel and I both decided that we need more travel in our lives, even if we only manage a quarterly trip out of town just of one night, which we did in August when we attended one day of the Northwestern Writer's Conference in Chicago at NWU's downtown campus. It was a great, though short, trip, and we had dinner with Liesel's cousin and met her new husband.

I took the time off work to spend one day at the Abbott's Magic Get Together in Colon, Michigan. It was a great day of magic and fun, though I did have to return home before seeing the evening show, but by then, I had seen enough magic. I was especially pleased to be able to see the close up show, which is what I wanted to see last year. Re-connecting with my magic past in this way was a highlight of the year.

I hit the Kal-Haven multiple times this summer with Liesel, with my friend Chris Dilley, and with Liesel's step-mom, Sue, who joined me on my first ride all the way to South Haven, which is something I wanted to do last year before having my prostate out but couldn't find the time.

I did not get enough bike time this summer, but I did log more miles than the last few years, aided in part by Liesel's biking interest in purchase of her own bike. We hit the trail and rode to Kendall and bike, which is about 18.5 miles round trip, and though she struggled, she made it just fine.

I also logged more miles on the bike because as a student I had to get to campus Monday - Thursday and on some days, this included two trips a day, some to the main campus, which is exactly one mile away, and some to the Parkview campus, which is about 3 miles away, totaling during the week of 1409.08-11 = 1:53:12 on the bike 20.4 miles 10.8 average speed 26.2 max speed. So, this is all better than 2013, especially since I was forced off the bike for a couple of months after having the prostate out, but still a bit less than I wanted to ride.

In other self care news, I found time for gaming with friends. I hosted and attended some board game sessions but mostly played Pathfinder D&D with two different groups. One of these groups was with my best friend, the Lord of Chaos, Tom Meyers, who moved to Kalamazoo this year. Such a move must rank on my list of highlights, and though I cannot secure time to game nearly as much as either of us would like, we have played more in this year than usual. Here's a picture of him meeting Natalie Merchant, which is definitely a highlight of his year.

All in all, I can report that the self care is working. I am finding enough time (though I can always complain that I am not finding enough) to spend time on the things I love outside of school and work and even family.

Another highlight is that my Ultimate Frisbee team, ____blank_______ and the Seven Dwarves won through the KUDL tournament and played in the finals. We got spanked by a very good green team, and we played without my co-captain and the definite leader of the team, but we played hard all day and won four straight games to get in the Finals. Here we are enjoying our post-game beers.

So outside of my wonderful family and my attention to self care, the three big elements of my year have been work, school, and writing.

Another highlight:
Tigers Opening Day 2014
Work is work. I am a teacher and a writer, but most of my work is in teaching. I keep one writing job alive to declare that I officially make money from writing, but mostly I teach, though the teaching includes a lot of writing. In 2014, I taught for four schools, two of which are online. One of the live schools had been online but became face-to-face (FTF) in the last couple of years. In 2015, I will be teaching for four schools again, with two online, but one of the FTF schools is different.

However, on the work note, I had an exceptional group of first year students in Fall 2014 at WMU. Not only were these wonderful young persons the best group in my history of teaching this current course on college reading, but this group was among the single best group of students I have ever had the pleasure to share an academic experience.

I work a lot, and work has been more challenging because of being a student at the same time. This fall, I taught six classes at three schools and took two classes, which was more challenging than when I taught eight classes at four schools (three schools online) and took one class.

Though I am proud of the work I do, I most proud of my 365 T-shirts Blog and in returning to school for real at WMU with a major in computer science. The classes were difficult and I had to make peace with the fact that I probably would not get a 4.0 grade average. I think I am capable of getting all As, but several factors affected the result (as I did not get As). The greatest factor here is that I just did not have time to devote to the studies to do what is necessary to earn As. Also, my grades were in large part based on tests, and I do not perform well on tests. Also, one class, Pre-Calculus is really structured for students who have recently had the material in high school. Not only did NEVER have the material in high school, but even if I did, I graduated from high school over 30 years ago! Still, I really enjoyed being back to school, and I did well enough, especially in my computer science class, which is what matters.

The other great highlight is the completion of my T-shirts Blog -- 365 T-shirts Blog -- with, truly, 365 entries from March 2013 to March 2014. Though in my estimation, some entries are unfinished, they are posted, and I do intend to return to them and finish them off.

School really sucked up my available time to regularly blog let alone write fiction. I had hoped to blog here more frequently and to return to the T-shirts blog both for the unfinished entries and as yet unwritten entries (yes, there are more T-shirts as yet not featured). But school happened. Even before starting the Fall semester with two courses at WMU, I had a very challenging and very fast paced Algebra course at KVCC not to mention the C# programming class in the winter semester, when, somehow, I managed to finish the T-shirts blog while writing programs for that course. So, as you can see, I am still months behind in just my weekly comics lists let alone other posts, such as book reviews. And yet, I continue undaunted and with much less self-flagellation than in which I used to indulge. Here are some collections of some of the photos from the T-shirts project. As you my realize, I am proud.

I am a bit of a time and date fetishist. I am a bit of a calendar freak. Here's my main wall calendar as it changes over from 2014 (left) to the new 2015 calendar (right): same company; different subject matter.

In my office, I have five calendars (not counting the one on the computer): this main wall calendar (vintage pulp science fiction), two page-a-day calendars (a French phrase of the day and a Detroit Tigers fact of the day), a desk/engagement calendar (this year's is Salvador Dali), and because I got used to having a calendar in the bathroom in my parents' house, a Star Trek Ships of the Line calendar that opens horizontally.

With so many calendars, you would think I am prompt at setting them up each year, but this is the first year I can remember having all the calendars in place as early as January 2nd. In fact, it's often almost the end of January before I get the calendars and get them set up.

After years of not completing a year in review card, I completed a 2013 year in review card. I didn't manage to send any until October of 2014, and I actually still have the last batch to send. But hey, at least I did it. And I am better organized to get the 2014 card sent this month (in January of 2015).

If you are a dear friend, and are reading this, and I don't have your address, then send it to me. Here's what you're missing.

Some new year cheer via Stephen King:

Even though apparently that's a picture from the actual July 4th party, but hey...

A friend sent me this, which explains: OVERLOOK PARTY REVEALED.

And for fans of  The Shining, this looks to be essential reading: THE OVERLOOK HOTEL.


I have always defined my life in many ways through popular culture. I do not devote nearly as much time to television and movies as I once did. Because I live with Liesel, I manage to see more movies than I would if left to my own devices, which is a bit strange for a former video store owner and movie lover who used to watch over a dozen movies each week and structured summer vacations around seeing every movie at the theatre, my movie consumption has dropped dramatically. As for television, I struggle to keep up. I watch Young and the Restless as I can view it easily as I work. I also keep up on Survivor, which has a special place in my heart, like the Harry Potter novels, for keeping me sane in the year 2000 when my mother fell into a coma because of her bacterial meningitis. Liesel and I watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones together, and I try to get through Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  and the new Fox show Gotham as best I can, which currently is behind schedule.

All of this comes to me and I feed this through the COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS. We are all connected.

Below, I have pasted my year in books and my year in posts to THIS IS MY JAM, and excellent service for music lovers.



I tried to paste the actual display from THIS IS MY JAM but did so with only limited success. I am trying one more time but if you do not see the display accurately (and you will know if you don't) then use the link, which should stay active.

gmrstudios’s Year in Jam


gmrstudios’s Year in Jam


Your best-loved jam of 2014!11 people loved it.
200TH JAM 
You hit this milestone on26 Aug 2014.
30 Nov – 5 Dec 2014

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