New Thing #365: Writing A Book

Well, here we are. A year of New Things.

First of all, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has clicked even once to read what I've written here.

I enjoy doing this, but I enjoy it even more knowing that people are reading and hopefully enjoying it too. (And thanks for all of the positive feedback. That just plain ol' makes my day.)

As I've alluded to before, I'm really proud that I've kept this up for the whole year - I've never before done something every day for a full year.

And I'm hoping to keep up that writing momentum..

Because I have a big project in store for 2014...

I love to write.

You probably knew that.

I've always dreamed of writing a book.

But that's all it's ever been - a dream.

So this year, I'm going to try to make that dream a reality.

I'm not going to resurrect the sports blog…yet. (I do enjoy writing about sports, so I'm not saying it's out forever…but I am going to turn those creative energies elsewhere.)

I'm not going to write here every day for a year. (But may become a place to update you on my progress. I'll keep you informed about that through social media…so make sure you're following along. Especially twitter: @jsucich.)

I won't be doing 365 Facebook status updates in 365 days (my personal challenge 2 of the 3 years prior to 365 New Things In 2013).

I am going to take all of that time I've spent on those writing ventures and dedicate it to a book.

I don't know how it will go - but I'm going to at least give it a go. It would be a huge regret if I never tried it. If there's one thing I wish I had done more of in 2013, it's writing. (And yoga, and take an IQ Test, and visit the Bunker Hill Monument, and curling. I really wanted to try curling.)

I appreciate every bit of support you all have given me - if you're reading this, I know you're someone who will continue to support me in future endeavors.

I'm really excited about this, and I'll figure out a way to keep you updated.

And hopefully one year from now we'll be celebrating the success of 2014's New Thing.

New Thing #364: More New Things For The New Year

SunriseWriting about Trying New Things every day for a year is an accomplishment of which I'm quite proud. But that's not the only New Thing I've kept up this year.

There are other New Things that after I tried them, I've kept on doing and I feel like I'm better for it.

I did one of those things this morning, as you can see in the picture at left, before the sun was fully up, and as I did on that walk, I'd like to reflect a little bit on this year and the year ahead.

Way back in early January of 2013, I took a winter walk.

It used to be that once the temperature reached a certain low I'd be done with outdoor activity until the springtime. It's not like I'm running in the middle of the winter these days, but I've been trying to exercise all year long (I'm still weighing myself every day), and that means going for walks even if it's cold outside.

Monday morning I was particularly brave, because there was an icy glaze on the streets (I didn't fall!) and it was garbage day, and walking as early as I did I ran the risk of running into scavenging animals going through garbage pails. (I didn't!)

I'm actually doing two New Things on Monday, later in the day…or, rather, I'm going to two New Places where I haven't been before: Skybox, a new sports bar in Natick, and the Yard House in Lincoln - I'll be catching up with friends and watching bowl games.

But I've been thinking, as the days of 2013 have dwindled away, of all the New Things I wanted to do but haven't done. (You may have noticed there's no Music Monday today - I almost went with my brother to a recording session on Friday to write about for today, but I didn't, so I figured it was a good time to reflect instead.)

Two of the biggest missed New Thing opportunities involved getting on stage - In 2014 I need to try stand-up and/or try storytelling. Those are two things I wanted to make priorities this year but they just haven't worked with my schedule. (I did satisfy my performing bug by auctioneering for the second time in my life back in April.)

Another New Thing that has been at the top of my list that I didn't try all year was yoga. I was kind of excited to document that, but it just never happened. I will try it in 2014.

Netflix has opened the door to New Things for the new year - Archer is another show I had wanted to start watching, and I saw that's on there. That might be a binge-watch in the week before I go back to school.

There are new restaurants my wife and I have wanted to try that because of 3 children and all we just haven't had the chance to do, but trips to Framingham Beer Works and The Local in Wayland are on our agenda. Also, there's a SmashBurger that just opened up nearby - I'll be trying that out with our without her.

I always end up in a reflective mood this time of year. Either today, tomorrow, or Wednesday I may tweet out some of my favorite New Things of 2013. If you're interested in that, make sure you follow me there @jsucich.

Otherwise, you may be wondering why I'm writing so reflectively today with one more day to go.

Well, New Thing #365 is going to be a big dea, and it will definitely carry over into 2014.

And I'll be writing about that tomorrow.

New Thing #363: Netflix

NetflixEarlier this year my wife and I watched (or, as we later figured out as we saw familiar episodes for a second time, mostly re-watched) Arrested Development. We DVRed all of the episodes that were run over the summer on IFC in advance of the Netflix release of the fourth season of the show.

We figured at some point we'd get Netflix and watch that fourth season, and I hoped that it would happen before the end of the calendar year so it could be a New Thing.

That, as you might imagine, was looking pretty unlikely with December coming to a close.

And then my brother gave us our Christmas gift.

Surprise! It was a six-month subscription to Netflix!

This is something I thought about for a really long time - friends had been talking up Netflix to me for a really long time.

I was never really interested in it when it was the DVD-through-the-mail business (it was, right? I'm not imagining that?), but once it started the streaming stuff I was intrigued.

I've written about this numerous times - I'm not a huge movie guy. If I'm spending a few hours on something, it's going to be sports. But I do watch a lot of TV, and I'm interested in good TV when I hear about a show that's worth watching.

So I'm not sure what kind of use I'll make of Netflix.

We're starting with Arrested Development, that's a sure thing. Saturday night we did our first Netflix watch, dialing up the first episode of the fourth season. (It took me a minute to figure out Netflix - I clicked on Arrested Development and the pilot started playing, so I had to figure out how to navigate the site.)

As we were driving back from New York, though, I was thinking of other ways I could use Netflix. These next six months (and beyond, because let's be honest - I have a feeling this will lead to us ordering a subscription - I think it's going to be great) could be a great opportunity for me to watch all of these movies that I just haven't watched in my life. I immediately searched for Mel Brooks stuff - but that's not on there.

I'll have to make a list of movies and shows I should catch up on or know about and then search to see if they're on there. I'll start with shows friends have raved about for a long time - Bob's Burgers is one that comes to mind. Then I'll work my way up to some movies.

The timing of this gift is perfect. Sure, we're watching a lot of Modern Family on DVR these days, but the NFL season is winding down and I don't generally watch a lot of winter sports. It's a good time for me to explore Netflix.

I'm excited about it…and if you know me you won't be surprised to learn that I'm also a little overwhelmed.

If you have suggestions for what I should watch, let me know.

New Thing #362: Taking The Family To See The Tree

Rock_TreeIt's easy to do nothing. It's easier to stay at home and rationalize:

"By the time we got the kids packed up and ready…"

or, "It'll be too crowded..."

or, "We can always do it next year…"

And that's how you can live in a place for your whole life and not end up doing the kinds of things that people travel across the world to do in your home city.

There's a lot in New York that falls into that category - stuff I always think I'll get around to at some point but might never do.

That's part of why I wanted to try so many New Things this year.

But visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center is not one of those things.

We've been to the Rockefeller Center tree a bunch of times.

No trip there was more memorable than January 2, 1994. I know the date because I would have much rather stayed home that Sunday watching football (it was the day Emmitt Smith pretty much single-handedly beat the Giants on the last day of the season with what was later revealed to be a separated shoulder), but my mom arranged for all of us to go into the city, visit the tree, and go out to dinner.

There was another good trip in 2002 or 2003 - we took a family picture, including my future wife. That moment is still captured in a "Christmas in New York" ornament my mom got for us (and for her…and I think my brother and sister) that Christmas.

And four years ago my wife and my mom and my sister took my two daughters to see the tree. I was not there because my brother and my dad and I were in Indianapolis to watch a Jets game. (Such a great trip.)

All of this is to say that I've never taken my family to see the tree.

So this year, as part of our Christmas visit to New York, we included a trip to the tree. And it was great. Me, my wife, our three daughters, and my parents took the subway into Manhattan, walked over to Rockefeller Center, then back up 5th Avenue to get back on the train. It wasn't the longest visit, but it was effective - we had a great time.

I liked sharing Christmastime in the city with my kids.

And the best part of it all?

We can always do it again next year.

New Thing #361: Wonder

WonderI didn't think I'd be able to squeeze another book New Thing into this year, but so I have. It's Wonder, the debut novel by R.J. Palacio.

A bunch of people have recommended it to me, since most of the book deals with fifth grade.

Some have just suggested I read it.

Others have suggested we should read it with students.

I'm here to suggest that every parent should read this book with their children when they're around 10 years old.

Here's the premise: August has an extremely rare genetic syndrome that has resulted in multiple facial deformities. He's been homeschooled for his whole life up to this point partly because of how he looks but also because of the accompanying medical issues which would have forced him to miss school.

The book is about how he adjusts to finally going to school in his fifth grade year, and how his classmates handle going to school with him.

I had a general idea of that premise, but you don't appreciate just how much goes into that premise until you read the book.

And the author does a nice job of helping to convey just how much goes into that premise by telling the story from a bunch of different perspectives, though August's is the main point of view for the majority of the book.

It's a wonderful (no pun intended) story.

It's very frank, addressing the realities a real-life kid like August must live through. And it highlights the best in human behavior…as well as the worst.

I think, if we want our children to treat others with kindness, parents should read this book with their children to spur conversations about how they would act if they were in certain characters' shoes.

I know the book made me think about those scenarios. I also know that some of the characters in the book exhibited some extraordinary behavior, and I don't know how realistic that is. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been that empathetic as a fifth grader.

I wish I was more like the character Summer, who quickly became one of my favorite book characters ever because of what she did in the book.

I like to think that if this book is widely read, more young people might want to be more like Summer.

Now that would be wonderful.

New Thing #360: Re-Enacting An Old Picture

OriginalThis is kind of in the spirit of a Throwback Thursday…but that wouldn't be a New Thing, since we did that already. But Thursday seems like the appropriate day on which to do this.

I feel like, before it became a mini-fad in the past couple of months, I had the idea that it might be fun to re-create a picture from years ago, with my brother and sister and I as subjects then and now.

But I could be wrong - it could be that I saw someone do it somewhere (it was very popular on Facebook for a short time) and liked the idea so it filed away in the back of my mind.

Anyway, I wanted to try it out, and my brother and sister were game…so we did.

Above you see the original image. Here's what we came up with for our re-take:


My brother had the immediate idea to go into my mom's cupboard and find the original bowl. We're guessing the original picture is from 1984. He also had the idea to ask my dad to lend us a couple of v-neck t-shirts, which lent a hint of authenticity to the experience.

My wife took the picture and did a great job directing us into the proper positions, and I appreciate my brother and sister being willing to help out for today's New Thing.

And some of you may be surprised to see me clean-shaven. There was a beard trimming mishap on Christmas Eve that resulted in the whole thing having to go. I'm thinking of growing it back before school resumes.

Here's the two images side-by-side, 29 years linked by one pea green-colored mixing bowl:


New Thing #359: A New Kind Of Scotch

Highland_ParkI guess this is as good a New Thing to post about on Christmas Day as any. One of the first gifts I was given this holiday season was a new kind of scotch that I've never had before.

I should probably know more about scotch and the differences between scotch and whiskey than I do.

But, as is usually my M.O., once I find something I like I kind of settle in.

And for a long time Johnnie Walker was the type of scotch I drank when I was in the mood for it.

But, as this is the year for trying New Things, I gave Highland Park a try on Christmas Eve.

See, I'm not a huge scotch drinker.

But once the holidays hit, I love sitting back at night with a glass of scotch.

I'll have one sometimes during other parts of the year - but my scotch drinking is pretty well confined to the weeks between Thanksgiving break and the end of the winter break in January.

Growing up I remember it as a big company gift - my dad would always end up with a bottle or two of scotch at the holidays from another company. (And it was always the drink we left Santa on Christmas Eve. Hmmm….) And I remember, too, that sometimes his siblings would gift a nice bottle of something to each other. Maybe my grandfather too.

So this year, when my brother was asking about a gift I said, "At the risk of sounding like an old man, you can get me a nice bottle of scotch." He's not the one who gave me this bottle, though, so maybe I'm sending off a 'Give me a bottle of scotch' vibe these days.

This one looked impressive to me - you can see in that picture above how it was packaged, with that black case. It had a corked top, too - that's kind of classy.

And I liked it.

I can't quite put my finger on the difference between scotch and whiskey - scotch goes down a little more smoothly for me. (At some point I'll look it up and read up on the difference.)

But I do know it's a fun little indulgence for me during these relaxing holiday times.

As you read this, in fact, chances are good that I'll be kicking back with my dad and brother and enjoying a glass before our Christmas Day dinner.

And if alcoholic beverages don't do it for you as a Christmas Day New Thing, on Christmas Eve I had an apple and pecan tort that my father-in-law made. (Of course a former judge would make a tort! Right?!) I'm pretty sure I've never had that before. It was a little sweet - at least the pecan part was. But the apple part sure was good. I think I'd really like an apple tort.

Merry Christmas.

New Thing #358: Drawing The Brooklyn Bridge In Pencil

Pencil_SetOver the summer I bought a 'graphite sketch set'. I bought it at the same time I bought the colored pencils which I used to draw my Fenway Park picture, and the sketchbook in which I drew it.

I was looking for something to take my mind off work, and I thought art might be that something.

Well, I didn't draw Fenway until the fall, and I didn't get around to using the pencils until now. So that didn't quite work out.

But I knew for a long time what I was going to try to draw with the pencil set - the Brooklyn Bridge…and that's part of why I took the pictures of the bridge I did back in October.

I used this picture - the one I felt was most centered and best captured the essence of the Brooklyn Bridge:


(I hope I set this so that if you click these images you'll be able to see the larger images.)

I'm no artist, so I didn't quite know what to do with the pencils, so I followed the instructions on the back of the box. It said to darken with the '6B' pencil, and then use the corner of the eraser to erase certain parts. So I essentially colored a big rectangle, then erased out the archways, and I tried to capture the somewhat overcast skies with the eraser too. Here's what I ended up with:


I think I did OK. I think, if you didn't know what I was drawing, you'd probably be able to identify the Brooklyn Bridge. And I think I did OK with perspective, like the swooping ropes and stuff. (It's been a while since I read the book. I forget what you call those things. Tressles?)

Drawing the bridge turned into a family activity - I had barely started before my 7-year-old and then my 5-year-old were doing their own Brooklyn Bridge drawings, based on mine. I like looking at the developmental spread of the 3 final products:



I'm also pretty proud of how theirs turned out.

New Thing #357: Lucius

LuciusLast week my brother posted about a few new shows he was playing early in the New Year. Not long after that I was switching through the radio stations in the rare break we take these days (with my kids in the car) from the all-Christmas music station.

There was a song on 92.5 - the independent radio station here - called Turn It Around.

And when the artist - Lucius - came on the screen, I thought it looked familiar.

So I got in touch with my brother and found out that it was, indeed, the band that he would be playing with in just a couple of weeks.

A couple of notes about Lucius to start, since they're really this week's Music Monday New Thing.

Turn It Around is a pretty catchy song, and I listened to a few of their other songs online. There was a set they did for the NPR Tiny Desk concert, and a couple of other individual songs performed live.

They sound like a pretty fitting band to play with my brother - they seem like they would complement each other well.

Meanwhile, I think it's another great step for my brother. It's one of two shows he's doing in the first weeks of January associated with WFUV, and I think it adds a nice little symmetry to my year. (OK. I suppose it does so for his year too.)

Remember back in January he turned me on to The Lone Bellow, who then started to get significant radio play and national exposure on TV, and then he opened up for them in a show in Rhode Island this summer.

There was his set for JetBlue, which now that I'm thinking about it might not have happened this year, but featured other bands like Iconapop, who became a big radio presence this year…and 2013 did feature a bunch of people who were happy to tell me that they saw my brother on the TV on their JetBlue flight.

So it's fitting that as we're set for 2014 Matt's developing another relationship that could be high-profile.

And hopefully, soon enough, it will lead to radio play for him.

Here's the info for the show with Lucius…and check out his website if you're interested in what else he'll have going on in the New Year.

New Thing #356: Seeing Black and White In Color

ColorizedI grew up watching a lot of I Love Lucy. I feel like it was on Fox 5 on weekday mornings, and of course it was on Nick at Nite.

But I don't know if my brother and sister and I would have watched it if it wasn't my mom's favorite show.

She loved I Love Lucy - she's seen all of the episodes hundreds of times…which means we've seen them tens of times.

But until Friday night, I'd only seen them in black and white.

I'd almost forgotten CBS was airing colorized versions of a couple of episodes. My mom had told me it was going to be on, and I thought I'd check it out.

But I forgot - it was the night that began my winter break, and my wife and I watched an episode of Modern Family (we're about halfway through the first season, and I think it's excellent, in case you were wondering), and then I was flipping through the channels and caught the last half-hour or so.

We missed the Christmas special, but we saw most of 'Lucy's Italian Movie' - which you might know as the "grape-stomping" episode.

I'll say this about the show - it holds up well. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments - both in scripted jokes as well as Lucille Ball's slapstick.

But I don't know if I appreciated seeing it in color. Sure, there was Ball's famed red hair, and it was interesting to see the title screen in pink, which I suppose is how it was meant to be seen, but I have a weird thing about black and white.

It doesn't matter that I knew Lucille Ball had red hair. It doesn't matter that I knew the sets of the shows back then and the people themselves were made up of multiple colors - to me those shows are always in black and white. When I imagine them, I imagine them in my mind's eye in black and white.

It's mostly sporting events from the 1950's or earlier where this happens - I know what Yankee Stadium looks like in living color, but if it's from video before the '60s, I can only see it in black and white. I know what colors the uniforms were and the skin color is, and the bats and the grass and the walls...but I just can't place the proper colors to black and white film.

I wonder if that happens to everyone or if it's just me.

And that's just my generation. I wonder about people who lived through black and white as the only option and how they reconcile their colors.

I don't know if it's a big deal or not…and I don't know if anyone else thinks about this. But that's what I think about when I hear or see something about colorized black and white television shows.

And whenever they're on I'll try to check them out to satisfy my curiosity.

But even after I see them in color, they'll always live on in my mind as black and white images.

New Thing #355: Ornamentation

Jets_OrnamentIt's not the idea that's new today - we decorate for Christmas every year in this house. And it's not so much the decorations themselves, though some, like the Jets ornament you see at left (a gift from a friend who knew I didn't have a Jets ornament) are in fact new.

It's more the way that every year at this time, even the same old thing can feel like a New Thing.

I told you earlier this month about how decorating the outside of the house with a New Thing helped spice that up.

Inside the house, in addition to the Jets football ornament, there's that Mets ornament hanging next to it, in which there's a picture of me and my nephew at his first Mets game from two summers ago. This is its first year on the tree.

That's part of what's special about all of these little knick-knacks hanging all around the house this time of year - remembering certain events or certain people or certain situations in which you were given these knick-knacks.

But the other special thing, I'm trying to find the words for it.

I love my in-home decorating. This is my favorite thing:


It's the moulding (I'm not sure exactly what to call it) over the entranceway between our dining room and living room, where we have our tree. To the right is a series of "Our Family" ornaments. Each year we get a new one (I've learned to get them early in the season so we don't miss out…and this sometimes means I'm buying a Christmas ornament in late October or early November, which I have a big problem with, but I need this ornament each year), and pictures of our family throughout the year stretch down that ledge.

To the left, above, and to the right of the overhang is where I tape up the Christmas cards we get. Usually the cards fill both sides of the wall.

I don't know why I love this so much. Probably because of a couple of things: 1) It's a tangible reminder, right where we sit so often as a family, of all of our family and friends, and 2) I really love getting Christmas cards. I love how the collection starts with one or two shortly after Thanksgiving, and grows and grows, and by the time it's today, the Saturday after our last day of school, and we're on vacation, the walls are covered with cards and it's like it's Christmas already.

It makes me happy. Every year.

And it's one of the oldest traditions in the books, I'd bet.

But every year it feels like a brand New Thing.

New Thing #354: Work Party At A New Location

Summer_ShackA couple of things happened Thursday evening. Actually a whole lot of things happened on Thursday, the day before the last day before our winter vacation…but I'll just focus on Thursday evening.

After a hectic, hectic day, the annual winter concert was held.

Then, for the first time, the holiday party was held following the winter concert.

It kept me up (and out) way past my bedtime, but I really enjoyed it.

The party was held at a restaurant not far from school.

It's a place we've been to often, but this was different because there were trays of appetizers all for us. (Sliders, baked macaroni and cheese [I think], pita chips and spinach and artichoke dip, chocolate covered strawberries.)

What wasn't different was that we were in a public section, with some tables reserved, but the whole section wasn't closed off - it was still public. That was a little weird.

The food was great, though, and the company was good. I work with some pretty great people.

And it means that on Friday after dismissal my vacation begins. (That's historically been when we have our party.) I am A-OK with that.

I could have skipped this party, I suppose, and had an early-ish Thursday night and then an earlier-than-usual dismissal on Friday…but I wanted to be with my co-workers. I'm glad I did it.

The only problem is, after a late Thursday night, having enough coffee Friday morning to get me to dismissal on Friday.

I'll bite that bullet.

The two weeks off will be my reward.

New Thing #353: Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin_Choco_CookiesThere's no real name for the cookies my wife made for dessert on Wednesday night. (With the help of my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, I should probably add.)

She told me 'pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies' would work.

But, based on how desperate I was for a New Thing as the clock winds down on my work days before the final push of New Things before the end of 2013, I think I might have a different name for these so-called pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies:

I think I'll call them "Miracle Cookies".

OK, OK. Miracle might be a bit of an exaggeration.

But I really was afraid I would have to force a New Thing, and with just 12 New Things left in the year, I didn't want to waste one.

Then my wife brought out dessert and there were these cookies.

When she told me what they were I wasn't thrilled - I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff.

I won't drink pumpkin coffee. (My wife loves it.) I might eat a pumpkin donut, but there's a long list of preferences before you get to pumpkin. (My wife loves them. Not my preferences. Pumpkin donuts.) I'm not the greatest fan of pumpkin pie. I've never had pumpkin cookies before.

So I took a small cookie and tried it.

They were delicious.

I think the chocolate chip taste does a good job for me of neutralizing the pumpkin taste.

My wife says she got the recipe from someone she works with. (My 2-and-a-half-year-old weighed in and said, "Mama, I want cookie." Then she wildly flailed her arms to show me how, as she said, "I mix!")

I hope my wife's co-worker doesn't mind if I now share that recipe with you. Mix the following:

-One box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix

-One can of pumpkin (that just sounds awful to me. Who wants a can of pumpkin?)

-One bag of mini chocolate chips

After mixing separate the batter out as cookies. (This might seem obvious to you, but I'm not a cookie maker. I thought they just come in little pre-made circles.) Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy.

New Thing #352: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

MittyYou may be aware that on Christmas Day there's a version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty coming out, starring Ben Stiller. Or perhaps you've seen the one that starred Danny Kaye.

Or perhaps you've read the original short story.

I never saw the movie nor had I read the story - to be honest, a week ago I don't even know if I could have told you whether it was a story or a movie or a legend or what.

But because of the new movie, there was a writeup on the story and the movies in "The Riff" section of The New York Times Magazine last weekend, and that inspired me to finally read the story.

I had certainly heard of Walter Mitty before I read the story, but I don't know in what context. I don't know if I knew of him as a character or as the title of a story...

I certainly had no idea that Walter Mitty is this daydreaming character that originates from a short story that is only about two magazine pages long.

In case you're like me and you were in the dark, the story, by James Thurber, debuted in the March 18, 1939 issue of The New Yorker - and it is a GREAT short story. (And, considering it was written almost 75 years ago, it holds up incredibly well.)

I guess this is what I think of when I think of the term "short story". (You may remember when I was a little bit thrown by the genre in terms of George Saunders' newest book back in March.) It's a good stand-alone story. Sure, it could continue if you wanted it to, but it makes its point in a few short pages. It's well-crafted. It's what I remember O. Henry stories being like…though I admit it's been a while since I've read anything by O. Henry.

I've never been a big daydreamer. I've had daydreams, but none to the extent of Walter Mitty (or David Fear, the guy who wrote about the story in The New York Times Magazine). I used to imagine certain cartoon characters would visit me at elementary school, but I don't think those were exactly daydreams. I think it harkens back to the fact that I was a weird kid.

But I know people who daydream. I remember one time at work more than a decade ago when a co-worker was kind of staring off and I interrupted the staring to ask a question and I could tell that I snapped her back from some far-off place. I think I apologized, but she didn't mind. "I was just having a daydream," she told me. It was the first time, I think, I had heard the term used as a noun rather than a verb. Usually people say "I was daydreaming", but she said it the way I might tell someone about the dream I had when I was sleeping. Her dreams came during the day. It was a small moment, but it stuck with me. It really turned on its head the way I thought about certain things…and the way I saw that other people experienced the world, to be honest.

It's not unlike the way Thurber's character will stick with me. Before I got a page into the story I was in awe of the writing.

I'm a little embarrassed I've gone this long without having read this story.

But the bottom line is I'm really glad I did.

Here's the link I found to the archived story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

New Thing #351: Snow Parking Rules In Effect...In My Driveway

DrivewayThis New Thing has its roots way back in New Thing #40 back in February. And really, it reflects the fact that after 8-plus years as a homeowner, I'm kind of figuring things out.

I mean, I try…but I have no clue what I'm doing most of the time.

Every so often, though, I learn from something I did or did not do, and the next go-around I do better.

This is one of those times.

Every time it snows it's not the shoveling I mind so much as it is the digging out the cars.

We don't park in our garage - it's basically storage. That's another story for another day.

So, for eight years, when I dug out from a storm the cars would be parked side by side and I'd shovel a path between them and then shovel out the foot of the driveway.

Before the blizzard earlier this year, in the spirit of trying New Things, I wondered if it would be beneficial for me to park the cars one in front of the other. I'm not sure if it was, but I kind of liked it better, mainly because I only had to dig out one side of the cars.

I did the same thing on Sunday. It wasn't the largest snowfall we've had - it was only about 6 or 8 inches I think. But Sunday's snow presented other problems - the top layer was ice, and it was a heavy snow to shovel. The plow residue at the driveway's entrance was really difficult to move. But once I had the sides and fronts of the cars shoveled out, I moved the front car to the open side of the driveway, and I was able to get to work digging them out of the snow.

I'm not sure if this strategy saves me any time or if it's definitively better than the other way I used to shovel. But I like the idea of clearing out that whole side of the driveway, and how it looks when I reach the end of the driveway.

And on cold, wet mornings in the midst of some heavy-duty shoveling, feeling like it's a better way is just as good as having a better way.

New Thing #350: Modern Vampires Of The City

Vampire_WeekendVampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City, which came out in May, had a good deal of buzz when it was released. And now it's getting a lot of end-of-year buzz as one of the best albums of 2013.

I was resistant to it for a while because, though I knew it was probably a New Thing in music I should try this year, well, I thought the band's name sounded scary.

I've thought that since I first heard about Vampire Weekend.

What's scarier than a weekend full of vampires?

Anyway, the music was not what I was expecting from a band called Vampire Weekend..and I did like the album.

This is another one of those bands that I don't really know what to call their genre.

They're kind of a combination of a number of musical styles.

And I can't really tell if that makes them very original or completely unoriginal.

Each of their songs reminded me of different music I've listened to, one of which was Arcade Fire, another was The Lumineers, but others I couldn't quite put my finger on.

It took me about 3 or 4 listens to really start loving the album. Right away I loved Unbelievers, the second track on the album. I defy you to not like that song.

The first song on the album, Obvious Bicycle, is kind of like what some would probably describe as an anthem - I like that one a lot too.

Then I think the rest of the first half of the album is good, but the second half of the album hasn't quite appealed to me as much yet.

I have a feeling I'll get there, because I don't mind listening to the album a few more times.

After all, I'm not scared of it anymore.

Here's Vampire Weekend performing Unbelievers on SNL - although I have to say I like the recorded version slightly better than the live one:

New Thing #349: Some Unexpected Sights

On_LawnA couple of unusual things happened this weekend, both within 24 hours. One wasn't completely unexpected.

On Thursday a neighbor had written on Facebook about a flock of turkeys that was hanging out in her yard.

My wife and she exchanged comments and she said the turkeys were heading towards our yard.

It wasn't until Saturday afternoon that we saw them.


I know I've written before about turkeys, so I won't go into this sighting too much.

But there were a bunch - our neighbor reported seeing 24 the other day, and I'd guess there were about 20 crossing the street coming at our front lawn Saturday.

They came before the snow started falling Saturday afternoon, bringing to mind that question I always wonder when it snows: Do animals just hang out in the snow? Where do these turkeys go.

I hope the answer is not, "They roost in the shed in my backyard."

The other sight is much more of a New Thing.

I've seen shooting stars before in my lifetime.

But it has to be twenty years or so since I have.

Friday night, though, as my wife and I were driving to her company party at about 5:20pm, we both spotted a shooting star.

It's quite a sight. (Unfortunately, I was driving and it was all too quick for me to get out my phone and take a picture or video.)

My wife happened to be on Twitter on her phone and saw people tweeting about it - someone mentioned it was lucky.

A shooting star on a Friday the 13th.

That's a New Thing for sure.

New Thing #348: Getting Things Done With A Phone Call

BrushWhat you're looking at there is my bucket of brush. I mentioned a few weeks ago that there are certain dedicated weeks in Framingham for leaf pickup, and this week was the week designated for brush pickup.

There were a lot of sticks laying around and I had done a lot of yard work this summer where some of the stuff I cleared had nowhere to go.

So I gathered it up, put it in the barrel labeled 'Brush', like the directions say (I'm a rule-follower), and left it with my trash and recycling on my trash day.

Problem is, trash day was Monday.

And the brush was still sitting there on Friday.

So I made a phone call.

Now, you have to understand: I hate to use the phone.

The joke at my house growing up was that I didn't even like calling to order a pizza. (It wasn't a joke. I've maybe done it ten times in my life.)

I can't explain exactly why I hate using the phone. I think the best reason I can give is that I am deathly afraid I am interrupting someone from something important on the other end. (If you are more than six months pregnant, I will never call you until after the baby is born. I am convinced the phone ringing will cause you to go into labor.)

Once I am comfortable enough with you, I'm fine with the phone. I won't hesitate to call my mom and dad. I wore out my wife's phone when we were dating. I'll call my brother and sister, though I'm slightly more wary of interrupting their social/family lives.

That's why I love texting so much, though. It's not terribly intrusive. Sure, I might text you during dinner time, or while you're in labor. But it's not like you have to get back to me immediately - you can take your time responding. I am much more patient, weirdly, expecting text responses than I ever was waiting for someone to e-mail me back.

I make the phone calls I have to make. I need to set something up with a parent at school? I'll steel myself to make the call. If my wife isn't home and the kids will starve if I don't call the pizza place? I'll order the pizza. (Or I'll just throw on some pasta.)

Anyway, conveniently enough, usually when something merits a phone call at home, my wife is able to do that. I can't do things like call the electrician or the phone company or schedule the doctor's appointments because I'm at school during the day. She's home a couple of days during the week to do that. (I know it's a lame excuse and there are ways around this…but I'm going with it. It's worked for almost ten years now.)

Friday, though, I found myself home during the work day. I decided to call the town's public works department. They took down my address, and within three hours the brush was picked up.

I can't tell you how accomplished I felt.

It felt like something worth celebrating.

Too bad no one was there to order me a pizza.

New Thing #347: My Wife's Company Party

The holiday party at my work doesn't include spouses. And I'm pretty sure my wife's former office job didn't have a holiday party that I attended.

So it's been a while since we went to a company party together.

But that's exactly what we'll be doing tonight.

As I write this I'm reminded that one of my earliest interactions with my wife - before we were even dating - revolved around a company party.

It was during our time at Channel 7 - and maybe she switched weekends so that she could attend the company party? I don't remember exactly. Anyhow, we ended up working a weekend together, and I remember working up the courage to talk to her. I think she criticized what I was eating for dinner. I ate some pretty unhealthy stuff back then.

We did not spend any time together at that company party - I don't think I ranked high enough in the company to even be invited. (And I'm pretty sure that was the last one ever - I worked there for three more years and there never was another holiday party.)

But, I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it. I didn't know enough people, and that's not the type of social scene I have enjoyed for most of my life.

So you might think I'm dreading tonight - a party with a bunch of people who my wife knows and I've never met.

But I don't care. I really don't.

I've decided I'll dress nicely and be an adult. I've found I'm often no longer the youngest person in the room, which I had felt was the case for a long time. Tonight I'll just be another adult there. People will either want to talk with me because I'm their equal and they'll want to hear what I have to say, or they won't, and I'll be fine with it.

I'm just going to enjoy a night out with my wife.

If that happens to come with a little extra socializing, I'm at a stage in my life where I'm ready to handle that.

New Thing #346: My Brother Sam Is Dead

Brother_SamI'm pretty sure I've written before that one of my all-time favorite books is Johnny Tremain. Often, for a lot of people, Johnny Tremain is grouped with My Brother Sam Is Dead as 'books for middle schoolers dealing with the American Revolution'.

And, despite my love for Johnny Tremain, I've just never made the time to read My Brother Sam Is Dead.

But we're considering possibly adding an alternative to Johnny Tremain for the students to read this year, so I gave My Brother Sam Is Dead a chance.

Warning - this review will contain spoilers…spoilers slightly more revealing than the spoiler that is the book's own title.

I'll say it up front - I didn't love My Brother Sam Is Dead. It's OK historical fiction. But I don't love it as a book for middle schoolers. It has a lot of curses, and it's an awfully realistic portrait of war. Which, I suppose, you either love for students at middle school age or you don't.

I didn't. (I had a similar reaction to Avi's The Fighting Ground. I'm just not sure it needs to be that violent. Maybe because I hold Johnny Tremain as the standard, and that book is not about the violence.)

Johnny Tremain wins out for me because it takes place in Boston, and I love that setting for American Revolution fiction.

My Brother Sam Is Dead takes place in Redding, Connecticut, which apparently was home to the British raid written about in the book, but it just doesn't excite me in the same way.

And while you spend the whole book waiting for the title sentence to become a reality, it just doesn't happen in the way you'd expect. It happens in such an unimpressive fashion that it makes you frustrated…or at least it frustrated me.

My Brother Sam Is Dead does a good job of capturing life during the war. It starts shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord and continues right through to the late 1770s, and then an epilogue takes you way beyond the end of the war. Johnny Tremain ends pretty much exactly where that book begins.

And that's probably why I like it better. For me, the more exciting history is the lead-up to the war, not the war itself. I like reading about certain aspects of the Revolution, but it's basically a lot of chasing and retreating and a whole lot of down time. The lead-up to the American Revolution is where the action is.

Bonus Information: Esther Forbes, the author who wrote Johnny Tremain, also wrote a book called Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. If you're interested in colonial Boston and life around the time of the war, know that this is a great read. It may be the best non-fiction book I've ever read.