Blog: Our Reality Show

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  • The Last 5 Years: Our Reality Show

    Five years ago today, sitting in a small one-bedroom apartment on a drizzly fall Sunday in Manhattan, I started a blog called “Our Reality Show.” It was designed to be the story of parenting four kids, all of whom were reality shows unto themselves in some way.

    And that’s where the focus largely has stayed, with some side jaunts here and there. Looking back on the entries published since October 2009, I’ve managed to focus on parenting for the most part, whether it’s my parenting (or lack thereof) or the influence my parents and others have had on me.

    Even though my blogging has been wildly inconsistent, the whole process has been a learning experience as a writer and communicator. I’d like to think that I’m a better parent, son, and spouse as a result of the hours that have gone into thinking about things to write, and actually writing these essays.

    So in honor of the anniversary, let’s look at where our cast of characters is today:

    • Jill: Now the assistant director for the American School Counselor Association, my spouse/partner/best friend/love also is an excellent juggler, balancing her increasingly busy and fruitful career with being a loving and kind mom to her children. Marriage is not perfect, but almost 20 years after we first got together, I could not imagine going through this life without her.

    • Nicholas: Now 21 (unbelievable), he is a senior at Elon University and graduates next May. My oldest and I have had our share of bumps, no surprise given the acrimonious breakup between his mom and dad. But I could not be prouder of how he has handled himself, especially over the past year and a half. He is finding his way in terms of his career and in how he handles his relationships (the girlfriend, Katherine, helps a lot) with his siblings and the rest of his family. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

    • Kate: A high school senior (!), our 17-year-old has struggled mightily at times over the past few years as she works to cope with ADHD/bipolar disorder. Jill, Kate, and I have tried to be forthcoming about the challenges that she faces and our family deals with as a result of this unfortunate genetic roll of the dice, and you’ll see several essays on this topic. Raising a teenager under these circumstances is no cakewalk for anyone involved, but Kate has made progress thanks to the support she has received both inside and outside the family. At her core, she is a kind, sweet person with a loving, generous soul. She is wonderful with younger children, has a job, and is on the path to graduate. That will be an accomplishment she and everyone involved in her life can take great pride in.

    • Emma: The oldest twin (by a minute), I’ve long referred to Miss Em as “the normal one,” the Marilyn to our Herman, Lily, Grandpa and Eddie. But, more accurately, she should be characterized as the family’s old soul, the one who in many respects is far more mature and grounded than she has a right to be. Like any teenager, our 16-year-old has her struggles trying to manage life’s juggle of school, activities, peer relationships, and — for the past several months — boyfriend (!). But she is such a hard worker, so intrinsically motivated to do her best in almost everything, that I can’t help but sit back and say, “Wow.”

    • Ben: Without question, Ben has had the most interesting trajectory over these past five years. When I started this blog, we were splitting our time between Northern Virginia and Manhattan because he was starting to work on the Broadway revival of “Ragtime.” Since then, he’s performed in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway and on tour, a show (“Golden Age”) at the Kennedy Center, been on episodes of three Emmy-winning TV series, and now is on the “Newsies” national tour. The path he has been on, and the journey we have taken in the process, has made for much of the fodder on this blog. What I’m most pleased to say, however, is that through all of this he remains a good kid with a good head on his shoulders, and he genuinely loves what he does.

    This is our core cast, although you can also add Jeremiah, Ginno, and others with equally significant parts in our extended family. We have been blessed with a fascinating group of friends and extended family members who have added greatly to our lives.

    Throughout all this, I’ve tried to chronicle the ups, downs and in-betweens of this journey. Sometimes it’s been joyous, funny, or nostalgic. At others, it’s been questioning, sad, angry, or melancholy. I hope, however, that it has been truthful and entertaining for you as the reader.

    After all, it’s our reality. Or better yet, our reality show.

  • Our Reality Show: A Year of Telling Stories

    Six months ago, I decided to build this website as a way to showcase my skills in the hopes of landing a new job. I wanted both a visual showcase and a reason for people to visit the site regularly, hence the daily photos that I publish here and on Facebook.

    Building the website also was an opportunity to tie together several pieces of my online life. It gave me a chance to bring over the blog I’ve been writing for more than four years, and to bridge the two great loves of my professional life — writing and photography.

    I started the blog, dubbed “Our Reality Show,” in October 2009 and have written more than 100 essays and opinion pieces over the past four years. Most of the essays are centered on some aspect of family life, a constant source of amazement, bemusement, and interest (at least to me).  Many people have been extremely kind in their comments — especially on Facebook — and urged me to continue to publish. So I have, although I probably would write things down anyway.

    Since merging the blog with the daily photos, I’ve noticed a couple of evolving trends about this work.  First, I tend to write in bursts — two, three, four essays in a brief period, followed by nothing for a time. Second, I’m progressively becoming more comfortable with merging the visual and writing elements, so much so that I’d like to go back and add more photos to the earlier entries.

    In 2013, I wrote 21 essays and a number of “visual stories” — photo essays with shorter narratives. Below are summaries and links to the ones I consider the best. Perhaps you’ve read one or more of them. If so, thank you. If not, I hope you’ll consider revisiting them.

    Visual Stories

    A Funeral at Arlington: Photo coverage of a funeral with full military honors at Arlington Cemetery.

    A Chest of Small Treasures and Papers and Memories: Two essays that look back at family heirlooms, scraps of paper, and mementos kept by my parents and grandparents, from the meaningful to the trivial.

    From Prison to Performance and The Story of W-12: A look at the attempts to transform the Lorton Workhouse into a high school for performing artists.

    Ghost Signs and Union Mission: Visits to the past in communities I’ve visited, focusing on advertising painted on the walls of businesses to an abandoned mission in Norfolk, Va.

    Essays

    My Grandmother, Dad, and Elvis and Music and Loss: Merging a third passion — music — with memories and reflections.

    JFK, Dallas, and My Dad, and A Moment in Time: The story of my dad’s unexpected encounter with President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, and recalling where I was on 9/11/2001. 

    The Land of Oz, The Evolution of a Parent, and A Letter to My Oldest Son: From 1998 to the present, lessons I’ve learned about fatherhood while watching my children grow up way too fast.

    It’s Time to Wake Up; Read This, No Matter What Others Say; and No Reason Why: Entries on news events, including mental health legislation, book censorship, and the school tragedy in Connecticut.

    The Story So Far, and Welcome Back to the Future: Essays on a major career event at the end of May, and the uncertainty of the future.

    So Long, Billy and Say Our Goodbyes: Saying a fond farewell to Billy Elliot, and to a close friend several months later.

    And finally...

    The Consistency Quest: Fighting procrastination, finding motivation, and working at being better — consistently.