Posts Tagged ‘Life’


What I Did on Summer Vacation

September 3, 2012

I’ve been on a hiatus, obviously.

I’m still crossing my Rubicon.  I’ve just been writing other things lately.

I was informally commissioned last year to compose a Mass for my parish.  If you’re not Catholic (i.e. headed for hell) “composing a Mass” means that I set some of the weekly Mass prayers to music.  Theoretically, that music coordinates together as a suite.

I enjoy composing music—creating new melodies and playing them with ad libbed accompaniment for myself.  I’ll play in a stream of consciousness, or toy around with melodies or harmonies I’ve already written.  Adding constraints to the process—existing lyrics that must be incorporated or limits on singable ranges—somehow paradoxically makes the process easier for me.  An English writing analogy might be limiting a post to one hundred words, or writing a short story without using the letter “T.”  I’m more engaged when solving a complex problem than I am writing with no constraints at all.

Notating music, on the other hand, is a royal pain in the patooty.  I’m glad I was writing Rubicon before I started notating my Mass.  Blog posting has made me practice editing, adjusting layouts and polishing my output for public consumption.  In writing, the author strives to lead the reader to an idea through words, punctuation and paragraphs.  In music notation, the composer attempts to recreate his performance through another performer by handing him or her a sheet of paper.  Music notation, for me, has a lot more room for error than just writing words.  As an amateur hack musician, I don’t know exactly what I’ve written until I play it.  And I often don’t play what I’ve written, I play what’s in my head.

So I’ve been writing, rewriting, printing drafts and red-lining all summer long.  The project is almost complete.  My blog photographer Michelle Codarmaz-Booth created a fantastic cover for me.  When the Mass is finished, I plan to offer it for free online.  I’ve tried sending music to publishers before.  My submissions had no result, other than pummeling my frail ego. Like most industries—writing, art, engineering, etc.—music publishing is not about talent or ability. It’s about who you know and nearly limitless perseverance.

When the Mass is finished, I’m still going to be busy in musician mode. I’m playing for a cousin’s wedding in October.  I generally play weddings for our family.  I’m very opinionated about it.  But that’s another blog post.  After that I have yet another mixed media project that will limit my blogging output.

So, although I’m not producing many blog posts, I should have some nearly tangible alternatives to show you soon.


Seven Sentence Reviews: Les Misérables, 25th Anniversary Production

April 15, 2012


National Tour, Indianapolis, April 10, 2011

Previous productions I’ve seen: 9

The 25th Anniversary Production of Les Misérables is truly a revival—with reinvented sets, costumes and staging.  Galloping tempos and liberal editing (mostly verses and lines that casual Les Mis audiences won’t notice) cut the original running time by 40 minutes.

Some good changes included a hand-grab (one certainly can’t call it a shake) that leads Javert to remember Valjean, new antics for the Thenardiers, and a dynamic and versatile stage with projected backdrops inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings.

Bad changes were the relocation Gavroche’s climactic barricade scene off-stage (?!?) due to the new set, an absence of chairs and tables during Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and an awkward exit for the pivotal silver candlesticks during the finalé.

The rapid-fire tempos bothered me in two particular instances—the instrumental reprise of Bring Him Home with Stars after the barricades fell and the finalé reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing—both felt entirely too rushed.  But the heart of Les Misérables, the characters’ intimate solos, remained largely intact.

Ultimately, I’m glad Les Mis has been revived and reinvigorated for a new generation to enact and enjoy, but I’m not glad to see and hear 40 minutes less of my favorite musical.


The Last Word

March 3, 2012

I was a dejected soul when I walked into Starbucks this morning.

I had been to the gym.  It’s usually a great way to begin a Saturday.  But I had placed myself right in someone else’s way while doing a bizarre bench press on an exercise ball.  The guy is someone I’ve seen several times in the gym.  He let out a string of obscenities, not quite under his breath.  I didn’t recognize immediately that they were intended for me.

By the time I realized my error, my fellow gym rat had left.  I may have lost my only opportunity to apologize.  I know from experience how frustrating it is to be in the gym with only one other person and to find said person directly in your way.  This episode will likely be one of those nagging memories that crops up when I remind myself of all my bad qualities and lousy life decisions.

So I sulked to the counter at Starbucks to order my latte and oatmeal.  I started jotting notes for a blog post to publicly flog myself in hopes that it might exorcise this new demon memory before it leaves a scar on my mind.

Then the strangest thing happened.

My oatmeal was sitting on the counter, sans the fruit I had requested.  My latte was still in production.  Then a guy—a cute, young guy I had noticed glancing up at me from his computer as I walked in—appeared at the counter.  He scooped up the oatmeal and quickly returned to his seat.

I was dumbstruck.  I’ve been to Starbucks enough to know that the oatmeal is an easy thing to make.  It was highly implausible that the stud had ordered an oatmeal and coffee, sat down, spread his study materials on the table, opened up files on his computer, and waited through the three people in front of me before his oatmeal was ready.  No.  He clearly had seen the unclaimed food on the counter, made tracks with his hot-looking gray and orange shoes, and commandeered my breakfast.

I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed the grand theft that had just taken place.  One bearded gentleman in line was eyeing me.  I couldn’t tell if his expression said, “That thief stole your oatmeal! What are you going to do about it?” or, “I can’t believe I still pay more for coffee than gasoline.”

I stood there, maybe a minute.  I thought perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps there really was an oatmeal for everyone.  Perhaps I was too quick to judge the fine young man with the just-large-enough-to-be-adorable nose.

But it wasn’t to be.  The current batch of oatmeals had all been distributed.

I’m an introvert.  I don’t like scenes.  I don’t like to be embarrassed.

So I found an empty table and sat down.

I wasn’t about to ask Starbucks to rectify the situation by making another oatmeal.  It was not their problem to remedy.

I thought this was punishment from God for my snafu at the gym.  I thought I deserved what I got.

I sat where the attractive kleptomaniac could see me.  I had to turn if I were to see him.  He didn’t seem to have any qualms.  I presume he ate my oatmeal with a steady hand and smug satisfaction that he had gotten away with it.  I’m sure he thought the oatmeal would not be missed.  He thought everyone would assume there had been a mistake and that Starbucks would happily dole out a second bowl without a second thought.

I was distracted for a while by the oddness of the morning and the scalding temperature of my latte.  But eventually, roused by indignation and caffeine, I felt a need for vigilante justice.  Even if I wasn’t going to demand satisfaction from the villain, I wanted him to know that his transgression had not gone unnoticed, that he was not so slick a criminal as he thought, that he was imposing on the wallets and gullets of others.  I wanted the karmic ledger sheet to return to equilibrium.

I mulled the possibilities while sipping steamy foam.  I hoped that the other tables would clear out before I did anything.  But the java drinkers just kept milling around.  I considered leaving and leaving well enough alone.

But if I did nothing, I wouldn’t have let myself write it in a post.

So I assembled my trash and grabbed my unopened book from the table.  I walked calmly toward the oatmeal absconder, and leaned down in mid-step.

I said, “You’re welcome.”

I straightened up, tossed my cup into the trash, and walked to the door.

I didn’t look back.  I didn’t care to see his reaction.  But I imagined that he was watching me as I left.

I dared anyone to cross me as I strode out of Starbucks this morning.

I suppose, after the door closed behind me, a woman at the next table leaned to the dashing young man at his Apple MacBook and said, “why did that weird guy say to you, ‘you’re an uncle’?”


What’s New Yourself? An Introvert’s Perspective

February 4, 2012

Matt Chong, an enthusiastic extrovert over at The Pinstriped Suitwrote a recent post that was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page.  Mr. Chong, like most enthusiastic extroverts, believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone else were enthusiastic extroverts.  The main point of his post is that we should have a ready answer for the question “What’s new?”  He suggests that if one mumbles, “not much,” in response, then one’s life needs shaken up in some fashion.

Lest Mr. Chong believe that many lead lives of quiet desperation, I would submit that introverts may see the conversation differently.  At least one introvert does.

If we’re in daily contact, I assume what’s new? is the same as how’s it going? and what’s up?  If I’ve asked someone what’s new?, I don’t rightly care about the answer—and I assume they don’t rightly care about mine.  We’re oiling the gears of human interaction; I don’t need to know about someone’s personal growth (in whatever form) while at the urinals.

If we’re not in daily contact, what’s new? trips an odd switch in my brain.  I infer that my answer should be newsworthy: births, deaths, marriages; a new job, house, or car; upcoming vacations or major weather systems.  If I have no news on any of these fronts, my mind goes completely blank.  My running shoes may be new, but they aren’t equal to the magnitude of the question.

Mr. Chong suggests that my answer to what’s new? should be drawn from my current passions in life.  I disagree—that’s not what was asked.  If I’ve been passionate about something for a year, it’s not truly new and is excluded from the category.  Thus, all the stray thoughts on the white-board of my mind are wiped clean by what’s new? and I’m left with nothing to offer.

Sadly, I lost a friend due to this quirky neuro-misfire.  We used to work together.  We talked every day.  She moved to Michigan for another job.  We kept in contact by phone for a while.  But her standard question to me was what’s new?—not just once at the beginning of the conversation, but any time there was a lull.  These were highly stressful phone calls for me—I was continually emptying the junk-drawer of my mind, sorting through the mundane daily nonsense to find something that would qualify as “new.”  My friend’s need to know what’s new was a millstone.  I dragged my feet when returning her calls.  Eventually, she stopped calling.

It is also possible that I shortchange the answer to what’s new? because I dislike the person asking.  I don’t share my thoughts with people I don’t like.  (I realize this is a bizarre concept for extroverts.)  I cannot abide the loquacious, the disingenuous, or the incompetent.  I refuse to reveal any intimate part of myself—and certainly nothing I’m passionate about—to them.

I may be writing a book, composing a new Mass setting, creating a Shutterfly travelogue, remodeling my kitchen, or just fighting interpersonal communication wars in blog posts, but one is unlikely to find out about any of these things by asking me, “What’s new?”

Many thanks to Matt Chong for his post.  It certainly gave me a lot to talk about.


2011: My Personal Highlights

January 30, 2012

A belated Happy New Year, everyone!

2011 was a year of firsts for me.  I attended my first pro football game (an easy thing to do during the Colts’ Manning drought).  Someone seriously offered me a partnership in a consulting firm (I turned it down).   I ordered my first drink from a swim-up bar (I did not drown).

My Most Memorable Moment in 2011

My cousin Maria, her beau Dimitri, and I were among the guests at the Bahamian wedding for Maria’s sister Joyce.  The night before Maria and Dimitri were to leave, she wanted a picture of the giant chess set near one of the resort’s bars.  The knee-high pieces were set up on a concrete chess board with benches around them.  The area wasn’t directly lit, but the building sconces and the most brilliant starlight I’ve ever seen made everything visible.

Dimitri and I, who’ve not spent much time together, decided to play chess.  We began at 10:00 PM.  We were both slow and methodical players—much to Maria’s dismay.

Other resort guests strolled by in the moonlight.   Maria complained to all of them how disgusted she was.

“They’ve been playing for over an hour!  Only one game!”  She wandered off multiple times to visit her sisters at their villas.

Joyce, the bride, made for the most surreal memory.  She was preparing to leave the next day as well.  She passed by us several times traveling back and forth to the main office.  The first walks were casual, later ones were more purposeful.  Finally, she eschewed the paths all together and was running through the grass.  She flitted past, laughing musically, her shear Tinkerbell dress backlit theatrically.

After I chased Dimitri’s king around the board, putting him in check on nearly every move, he defeated me at 1:00 in the morning.  Maria asked if we’d bonded during our game.  Dimitri and I looked bemusedly at each other said, “Sure.”

“What did you talk about?”



It was a great night.

The Best Book I Read in 2011

To all the Les Misérables book fans out there, I apologize.  My favorite book is generally one that I don’t want to end.  I was definitely ready for Les Misérables to come to an end.

I spotted Becoming Shakespeare by Jack Lynch on a bookshelf in Stratford, Ontario in 2007.  I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t sure if I could stomach a whole nonfiction book about Shakespeare plays.  I was tempted into buying it last year at a used book store.

Becoming Shakespeare is not a how-to book for aspiring writers.  The back cover text sums up both the book and its delightful tone:

This is a book about William Shakespeare’s afterlife, but there’s nothing mystical about it.  It’s a book about sex comedies with no sex, about tragedies where everyone lives happily ever after, about a Shakespeare festival where not a line of Shakespeare was spoken.  It’s a book about a king’s teenage mistress and a prudish doctor afraid of blood. … It’s about a classic of children’s literature written by a murderess. … It’s about a regicide, a whore and a forger all contributing toward the production of a genius.  It’s a book about a provincial bumpkin who became the great portraitist of the universal human condition.  … [I]t’s a book about one of the greatest paradoxes in all of world literature … how Shakespeare became Shakespeare.

The Most Important Thing I Did in 2011

I suppose if I’m going to be honest in this blog, I’ll have to fess up.  My brother nearly kicked the bucket this year.  He had a huge blood clot that swelled up his leg.  He had multiple surgeries, stints and fistulae.  It wasn’t pretty.  My parents made the trip to Michigan many times to be at the hospital and help with my nieces.

I stayed in Indy.  And stayed quiet.

There were a few rumblings that I needed to show some support.  So I sent a card.  It wasn’t completely impersonal.  It was a card left over from my grandparents’ collection in the desk I inherited.  But it didn’t mollify the family.  My parents were still calling and emailing—telling me that my brother’s in-laws were all wondering why I hadn’t called yet.

So why hadn’t I called?

The very thought made me nauseous.  My brother and I try to be polite to each other, but when push comes to shove, there’s no relationship for us to fall back on.  In the time we spent together as children and adults, my brother has left me with one overall impression of what brotherhood means to him: he doesn’t want one.

I’ve only ever been a thorn in my brother’s side.  During this year’s episode, my parents said he was lying in the hospital in a lot of pain.  A call from me would be the last thing to alleviate pain in his life—that was my opinion, at least.

After enough family prodding and counseling from Cecilia and Keith, I called.  My brother acted happy to hear from me.  On Keith’s sage advice, I let my brother do most of the talking.

So I guess things are marginally patched up now—physically for my brother, emotionally for the rest of us.  People in Michigan are still talking to me.  I’m not banned from seeing my nieces and the nieces themselves have not acted differently toward me.

But at some point in the future, despite the way our family neatly sweeps things under the rug, we’ll probably be forced to admit that my brother and I are only one step up the ladder from being estranged siblings.

My Most Uproarious Laughter in 2011

My friends Keith and Matt have been irritated with me because they do not appear in annals of Rubicon as important pillars of my life.  That’s by design.  Most of our conversations are virtually unrepeatable—either for their complete tastelessness or my unwillingness to provide background enough to capture the moment correctly.  The same has happened this year.  I would waste half an hour of my readers’ lives explaining why I fell apart with laughter when Keith said: “Land o’ Goshes!  Keith’s dead!”  But it’s simply not in the scope of this blog.

On the other hand, most of us have been exposed to the universal condition that married couples have difficulty communicating with each other.  My dad is regularly castigated for not remembering the words my mom speaks in his presence.  But there is another side of the coin, I discovered.

While taking down an address one night, I asked whether Utah was abbreviated UT.

“Yes, it is,” my dad said.  “I don’t know why the post office makes us abbreviate the four letter states—Utah … Iowa … Ohio.  Seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult to throw on an extra two letters.”

My mom looked up from her newspaper, “Ohio.”

“I already said that,” Dad retorted.


“Didn’t you hear me?”

My mom was irked to be caught in the trap she habitually sets.  But she was undaunted.  She drew herself up immediately and said, “No.  I didn’t suspend all thought while you were speaking.”

I imagined my dad giving the same response to my mom and couldn’t contain my mirth for a good little while.

My Most Memorable View in 2011

Flying over the Atlantic on the way to Exuma from Nassau, the sun was setting behind the propeller plane.  We flew around the towering clouds.  They hovered over the calm ocean, as if supported by a glass mezzanine.  The deep blue water reflected the white, orange and purple outlines.  A mysterious bright light shone up at me in the water; it flashed occasionally from behind the clouds.  After a few moments, realized it was the near-perfect reflection of the moon.

The Best Music I Heard in 2011

Do You Hear the People Sing was a concert of Boubil-Schönberg musicals premiered by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on October 7th and 8th.  I understand this will become a traveling feature for other orchestras.  Expenses were not spared in gathering singers.  Lea Salonga (the original Kim in Miss Saigon) and Terrence Mann (the original Broadway Javert) lead an elite cast.

A secret gem was hiding in the concert.  I’ve long considered the song Please to contain the most beguiling melody in Miss Saigon.  But it functions as a conversation that masks its beauty.  Ms. Salonga told us that this melody was actually intended as its own ballad.  That song, Too Much for One Heart,  was cut from the show, but has been given new life in concerts like this one.

Too Much for One Heart wasn’t actually my best musical moment.  I’ve seen Les Misérables nine times on stage.  I’ve read the book.  I’ve been to Paris.  All of these memories were scrolling through my mind as the orchestra played.

Naturally, one of the selections was Bring Him Home.  I know every note of Les Mis by rote.  But I hadn’t been fully attentive and in the moment with Bring Him Home in years.  Peter Lockyer sang the simple beginning.  The second line ended as it always did, “… you have always been there.”

I was bowled over anew.  Suddenly, I realized that Les Misérables has been with me for more than half my life.  It has been a cornerstone of my philosophy and a touchstone of what I think music is and should be.

Quite unexpectedly, I cried.

The Worst Music I heard in 2011

Perennially, some music makes me gag.

My cousin Genevieve gave me the first season of Glee on DVD to watch.  I have been actively avoiding Glee ever since it came out.  I prefer not to be addicted to TV shows at a particular time slot.  I have lived far too much of my life planning around the TV schedule; I refuse to do it any more.

I watched the entire first season at Genevieve’s behest.  I’ll admit that the show found a lot of talented people.  I’ll admit that Lea Michele can give me goosebumps.  I’ll admit that I would rate Matthew Morrison a solid 8 out of 10 for looks; I’m bewildered that he skyrockets to a 9.9 whenever he sings.

The high points of Glee are like miniature islands of paradise with Taj Mahal gazebos.  But the low points of Glee are like a crocodile infested sewage runoff surrounding the idyllic archipelago.

If I must pick one worst moment from the first season (and bottom-dwellers abound), I’ll select Bust Your Windows.  Apparently this travesty of lyrics and dearth of melody made it into the Glee Live show.  What sad commentary on the state of music appreciation in this country.

My New Friends in 2011

Since I’m belated, I can report that I’m already down by two friends for 2012.  Which is typical for me, I suppose.

But a happy thing happened near the end of 2011.  I was at Gregg’s (a gay bar) and, much to my astonishment, I saw Rob, someone I know through work.  When we were working together I suspected Rob was gay.  But Rob told me he had a daughter, so I assumed (like I normally do) that my first instinct was wrong.  When I saw Rob again at Gregg’s, he was there with his boyfriend.  My gaydar works!

The Most Craigo Moment of 2011

Cass, Michelle, Wes (Michelle’s heretofore unnamed husband) and I attended an Idina Menzel concert at the symphony in March.  An animated discussion followed the concert as we waited in parking garage traffic.  At one point, Michelle and Wes were trying to come up with a band name.  “Alien Ant Farm,” Wes said with satisfaction.

“Ah.” I chimed politely.

Wes laughed.  “I like when Craig says, ‘ah,’ as if he’s learned something, but you know he doesn’t care about it at all.”

Cass agreed, “He immediately clicks the ‘spam’ button and chucks it.”

I tried to defend myself.  “It’s not that I don’t want to know.  It’s just that there’s no category in the outline to file it under.”

Michelle seemed to think this statement encapsulated how my mind works.

For the record, I can name no current or past members of Alien Ant Farm or any of their songs.  You’ll have to look them up yourself.

Those were my highlights.  Hopefully 2012 lives up to all the hype.


Christmas Eve Traditions

December 24, 2011

It’s 6:00 PM Christmas Eve and I’m writing.  This is a strange combination for me.

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was always with my mom’s family.  My grandmother hosted.  We didn’t have elaborate or formal meals.  We had barbecue or ham sandwiches, potato chips and cookies.  But most importantly, we had peanut butter fudge.  Every Christmas Eve, I can eat or drink any number of wonderful things; I still have a craving for peanut butter fudge.

After my mom’s parents passed away, only five of us were left to get together.  For a few years, I directed an ad hoc Christmas Eve choir at our church for the 7:30 Mass.  My mom’s family joined the choir, so we were all still together.  We had dinner after Mass and a couple of us went back to church to sing with the regular choir at midnight.

Organizing a choir in four rehearsals during December, if you haven’t tried it, is a highly stressful activity to add to the holidays.  So I handed the reigns to someone else.  It was suggested that, since I “didn’t have anything to do,” I could host Christmas Eve dinner between Masses.  That’s what I did the last two years.  I liked hosting dinner.  It created crazy chaos in my life, but if things fell completely apart in the kitchen, I always had frozen pizza to fall back on.

This year, someone else in both the 7:30 and midnight choirs asked to host dinner tonight; she recently remodeled her kitchen.  I’ve found myself with most of the evening free.

So it’s a little strange.  But fortuitous.  I’ve had a cold the last couple of days.  My house is only half decorated because the clients at work have gone completely mental.  I have one tree up in the family room and a bare artificial evergreen standing in my living room.  (Another hint to mothers out there: if your unmarried son puts up two Christmas trees, he’s probably gay.)

I’ve kept up some traditions.  I did get all my presents purchased and wrapped.  I practiced music to play at church and at gatherings tomorrow.  I sent cards.  (Christmas cards are about the only personal correspondence that ever comes through the mail any more.  I love them.)  I even put up my front door garland in the midst of editing this.

And today I dragged my tired, sick self into the kitchen.  After a thorough disinfection, I read off the instructions from a jar of marshmallow fluff, boiled sugar and butter, threw in peanut butter chips and poured the molten goodness over chocolate chips in a pan.

I may not have a voice to sing my Christmas carols.  My house may be half-decked with evergreen and holly until New Year’s.  I may not be able to stay awake all through midnight Mass.  But come hell or high reindeer, I’m going to have peanut butter fudge on Christmas Eve.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.



November 13, 2011

Several engineers at my office stood looking out the windows.  Someone said there was a bald eagle in a tree across the street.  The shape had a white top and a dark bottom—one could well imagine the regal brow and streamlined body.  But we weren’t one-hundred percent sure.  I took the first pot shot, suggesting the white shape was only a plastic bag.

I went to lunch at a familiar deli.  As I rounded the corner from the drink station, I was shocked.  There was Jamie.

I never meant to be infatuated with Jamie.  It just happened.  I don’t suppose anyone ever intends to fall into unrequited love.  It’s one of the stupid things humans do.  I’ve been on both sides—either an object of love I could not requite, or an unacknowledged suitor.  It happens with more frequency than I care to admit.

Jamie was particularly troublesome.  We worked together.  We started to become friends.  I justified my too-strong attachment in my usual ways—I don’t make many friends; we’ve got a lot in common; he reminds me a lot of myself.  A few months later he left our office to start a new career on the other side of town—he didn’t seem to want to be friends any more; we ceased to have much in common.  Somehow I couldn’t remember who I was apart from my attachment.

So I went a little crazy.  I read books aloud to stop my mind from shredding itself.  It went to see a shrink.  I started a blog.  I went to Paris.

And there he sat in my deli having lunch two years later.  Well, maybe.  He wasn’t looking at me.  It was a man of his shape and size.  Something of his posture and demeanor suggested my former associate.  My passing glance took in a wife and child who resembled the pictures I remembered.

My body thought I’d been attacked.  My legs flashed with a fiery pain; my stomach clinched; I stopped breathing.  I moved swiftly to get out of his field of vision.

I sat in another section of the restaurant, inhaled my food, and left.  I couldn’t risk any kind of contact with Jamie—I was too embarrassed by all the feelings that never should have existed.

That afternoon, someone in the office with binoculars said that our eagle was indeed just a plastic bag caught on a bird’s nest.

It didn’t matter if it was an eagle or a bag.  Just thinking of an eagle had inspired us with a sense of wonder and awe.

It didn’t matter whether it was Jamie or not in the restaurant.  Or whether our friendship was all in my mind.  The heart can react just as strongly to what it believes as what it knows.

Jamie doesn’t factor into my life any more.  To be honest with myself, he never really did in the first place.  He was like a plastic bag on a tree branch, the feigned outline of an eagle—an emotional decoy that fooled a foolish heart.

I’d like to say I won’t fall into the same trap again.  But I can’t make any guarantees.  In the meantime, I’ve been able to reconnect with the things that define me—and to look forward with hope again.