Help me Hustle — AGAIN!

As you may recall, last year I participated in the Hustle up the Hancock, a fundraising event for what was then called the American Lung Association of Greater Chicago, but is now named the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC). The premise of the event is to climb to the top of the John Hancock Center— all 1,632 stairs; all 95 floors.This was the first time I had ever done anything like this, and truth be told, I barely made it– but I did make it. It was an incredible feeling to accomplish that goal.

Help Me Hustle!So I am happy to tell you that on February 24, 2008, I will be participating in the 11th Annual Hustle Up the Hancock event to help raise money for lung disease research and education.

I will join thousands of others throughout the Chicago land area to raise funds for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC) as we aim to promote healthy lungs and fight lung disease. You may think that it’s crazy to climb the John Hancock Center but I am doing so because I am able. I can breathe freely, and there are many people who are not as lucky as I.

People like my mom.

My mom was diagnosed with Emphysema in 1995, and has had Asthma for most of her life. For the last 12 years, I have seen the toll that this disease has taken on her life and her well-being. While she is still able to get around and live her life, the disease is slowly robbing her of her ability to do the very things that she has enjoyed all of her life. As each year passes, it gets harder and harder for her to perform simple tasks– from walking from her car to a store, to even taking a shower.

I also suffer from Asthma symptoms, and am a prime candidate for the disease, since it runs in my family. (My grandma also had Emphysema and Asthma.)

With your support, people like my mom can be helped. Your assistance will allow RHAMC fund research and support lung disease research and programs for people with lung disease.

Please click the link below to go to my personal donation website, and make a contribution. Any amount is accepted– and every amount is appreciated.

Last year, with your support, I raised $1,165.00. I am hoping to top this by raising $1,500 this year – maybe even $2,000!  Every penny goes to the RHAMC, and every penny is well-spent.

Rick Aiello’s Personal Fundraising Site

I will be updating my progress, again, right here on the Launching Pad.  Click here to see how I did last year.

Thank you for your help… and wish me luck!

The Elusive Shut-Eye

Sleep and I have never been friends.

From as far back as I can remember, I was up late– later than most kids I knew growing up. I know that doctors have always said that 8 hours of sleep is essential to good living, but if I could average out all the hours I have slept in my lifetime to the number of days I have lived on this planet, I have probably slept about 5 hours at most per night.

I hate to blame my family for this, but they do harbor some of it. Mom always worked nights, so she wouldn’t even leave to go to work until after 10:00 PM. And Dad always watched TV until the wee hours of the morning before finally getting his necessary 5 hours or so of sleep.

As my parents grew older, they stayed up later. And since they both retired while I still lived at home; and I lived at home until I was 26 years old; the pattern got even worse.

So I, too, never got enough sleep, and became the Night Owl I am today.

So what keeps me up, now that I live on my own? Distractions. My mind begins to race and wander from this to that to the other thing. I either find myself in the kitchen, whipping up a late night snack (which I know I shouldn’t be doing, but I do it anyway); or I plant myself in front of the TV to knock off a few recorded shows from my DVR; or I sit in front of the computer and crank out a blog post at 4 in the morning. All of these things could– and probably should– be done at much earlier times in the day, but for some reason I find myself compelled to accomplish them when the rest of the world is asleep.

And when I don’t have anything to accomplish, other things get in the way. Sometimes it’s the cats being especially rambunctious. Sometimes it’s the weather– a howling wind or a violent thunderstorm can keep me awake for hours. Sometimes it’s airplanes flying overhead, since my neighborhood is direcly under a flight traffic area for O’Hare Airport. Sometimes it’s the moon. Sometimes it’s my alarm clock. And sometimes I’m just plain not tired at all.

I have sleep aids, and I use them on occasion in small doses– and they work. But when it gets to be this late, it’s TOO late to take them.

So what do you do to avoid being an insomniac, if you have ever been in this situation before? What helps you relax and shut out the world so you can get to sleep at night? And if you take sleep aids (I take Lunesta), which ones do you take, and how do they work for you?

The winner: Reducing the clutter

Thanks to everyone who voted to “Help me write a post.” Here’s the winner!

I started this in April or May of 2006. It’s still very relevant today. But since some of it was outdated, I’ve rewritten it to be a little more current.

I’ve spent a lot of the last year of my life cleaning house.

I took stock of everything in my life and evaluated it. I added up all of my possessions, my commitments, my debts, my friendships, and even my relationships. And from that point on, I’ve been making some decisions about what stays, What goes, and what needs more evaluation.

This all started in about February of 2006 when I finally reached a boiling point with all of my commitments. I was still involved in two gay chorus organizations, and they were both demanding a lot of time out of my life. I had also began a podcast on my blog, which created another commitment that added to the list. Add all of that to work, other outside projects, friends, family, and keeping track of my overall health– and I had a potential volcano about to erupt.

So, not long after I came to this realization, I began to slice and dice my life into neat, bite-sized pieces. I could probably stand to trim a little more fat, but at least I’m better off now than I was then.

I cut the Windy City chorus out completely in March. I remain involved doing graphic work for them (which is enough of a commitment in and of itself), but I just couldn’t participate as a singing member any longer.

I even put CGMC on hiatus for a while last summer. I needed some time to refocus my energies on other things, and it was a big help. I rejoined them in the fall.

The podcast took a brief hiatus in April-May, and then officially ended in November. You would be amazed how much work went into that once-a-week ‘show’ that I was producing. I’m in awe of other podcasters who produce FIVE shows a WEEK. I went nuts doing ONE show a week. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Then, of course, July happened. And instantly I had to change how I thought about everything.

I was going to my mom’s more often, and dealing with things I never had to deal with before. I also had to deal with emotions I had never experienced before. So trying to keep everything in line while dealing with all of that extra baggage was really hard.

But in the end, the one thing I had to focus on and remain constant to was myself. And although with everything that went on in the last year, it was really hard, I survived. Somehow.

I have my moments (case in point: the near-closing of the blog); but I’m getting better as time goes on.

And as for my reorganization situation, well… let’s put it this way. Spring cleaning is going to be very, very fruitful. And the Brown Elephant (resale shop) will be getting a lot of things to sell… that is, if I don’t sell it myself. I could use a little extra cash, you know. 🙂

Maybe I’ll list things on the blog and see who wants my junk. (Remember, one man’s junk is another person’s treasure!) Hmm… something to consider.

Help me write a post!!

So now that I’ve determined that I’m going to keep this blog alive, I’m going to start cleaning house and reorganizing my blog-life.

And part of that reorganization involves one of the things that has been driving me nuts about maintaining my blog:

My unnerving penchant for saving unfinished blog posts.

I have 14 unfinished posts in my drafts file– from as far back as almost a year ago to as recently as a few days ago. Many of them have resurfaced as completely different posts, with completely different words; but for some unknown reason, I saved the original unfinished draft. I’m a pack-rat like that. Take a look at my apartment and you’ll see what I mean.

So, here is where you come in. You can help me finish one of these posts! I will post the title and the first few lines of each post, and you will choose the one you want me to complete. And the winner will be completed, no matter how irrelevant it may now be. The rest will be deleted forever!

Here they are… from oldest to newest:

Unfinished Post #1:
“Cool Vid: Pinball Counting Remix(es)”
As a counteract to the William Shatner schlock from yesterday, (I love the word schlock, have you noticed?) here is a great vid that takes the classic, always-hot, always-cool Sesame Street video short “Pinball Counting” and remixes it with a great dance beat and some psychadelic shots from the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”….

Unfinished Post #2: “Tim Gunn Is God” I have mentioned in previous posts how much I love Project Runway on Bravo. And I am mentioning it again. And this is especially timely, because tonight is the finale, when we find out who of the “Final Three” is in… and who is out!

But after two seasons of watching Project Runway– the only actual “Reality” TV show that I watch, and the only “Reality” TV show, in my opinion, that is TRULY real and entertaining at the same time– I have to say that the reason I keep coming back to this show and enjoy it so much is because of one man: Mr. Tim Gunn.

Tim Gunn is GOD. …

Unfinished Post #3: “Maybe Now He’ll Shut Up” I hate to keep bringing him up, but “TomKat” had a baby today. They named it Suri. Apparently it’s a Hebrew name meaning “princess”. Or if you are Persian it means “red rose”.

In any case, the baby is out. …

Unfinished Post #4: “Where’s My Voice?”
Occasionally I will read back to previous posts on my blog, just to see what I was thinking back a month, six months, or even a year ago. As I approach the end of my second year of blogging, I’m starting to wonder something.

What happened to my voice? …

Unfinished Post #5: “Reducing The Clutter”
The last few months of my life have involved a lot of cleaning house.

I took stock of everything in my life and evaluated it. I added up all of my posessions, my commitments, my debts, my friendships, and even my relationships. And from that point on, I’ve been making some decisions.

What stays. What goes. And what needs more evaluation. …

Unfinished Post #6: “Happy Morning” OK, I will freely admit that I ‘borrowed’ this from Scott. He had it on his blog on Wednesday. But when I saw it, not only did I think it was fucking BRILLIANT (and not just because it’s so damn shiny-happy), it completely personifies how I feel every morning when the sun streams in my bedroom window and I fail miserably to shut it out with pillows, blankets, cats, or anything else I can get my hands on. …

Unfinished Post #7: “Summer Lovin’?” Ahhh summertime.

The days are long, the nights are short, and everyone’s on the prowl, looking for love.

Maybe not in the right places, though.

Every summer, I think that maybe this is the season for me. Maybe I’ll meet “Mr. Right”. Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe far away, or maybe real nearby….

…Sorry, I broke into a showtune just there. …

Unfinished Post #8: “Bush-Shit” I just have to wonder. Does George W. Bush even care that he’s completely messing up the United States of America? Does he care that he will go down in history as possibly the most despised president of all time? Does he even care if anyone likes him at all? And how, exactly, does he sleep at night? …

Unfinished Post #9: “Post #565” (This is essentially the same post as “Bush-Shit” but with formatting and further exposition. I just never got around to finishing either one. And I apparently never put the title into the formatted version.)

Unfinished Post #10: “The Pirate Queen- Review” So yesterday I said that I was excited to see The Pirate Queen because I knew nothing about the show going into it, and that I would see it with an open mind.

Having now seen it, I wish I had done a little research first. … (Note: I ended up podcasting my review instead of writing it, as this post got to be extremely long-winded. Not that this has ever stopped me before, mind you…)

Unfinished Post #11: “The Elusive Shut-Eye” Sleep and I have never been friends.

From as far back as I can remember, I was up late. Later than most kids.

Oh sure, doctors have always said that 8 hours of sleep is essential to good living. But in my lifetime, I could probably average out to about 5 at most per every night I have slept.

Unfinished Post #12: “I’m Still Here.. And Other Updates”

What a week.

I never intended to avoid the blog this week, but this being “Hell Week” and all for the chorus, I just needed one less thing to worry about. But the show is over now, and life can return to some semblance of normality. …

Unfinished Post #13: “Party On, Rick!”
(Note: Essentially a re-write of #12) This has been some week!

First, I want to thank those of you who wondered of my whereabouts last week while I was MIA. It wasn’t because I was incapacitated or anything…. I just had a chorus show to do, and the late nights were such that I didn’t feel like blogging anything when I got home. The fact that you noticed I was gone meant a lot. Thanks. 🙂

Unfinished Post #14: “A Visit From The Rocket Men?”
There’s been a lot of buzz around Chicago lately about a possible UFO sighting over one of the terminals of O’Hare Airport, reported on New Year’s Day by the Chicago Tribune.

Apparently, in November, a large number of people working at O’Hare Airport witnessed a gray disc-like object hovering over one of the terminals. …

So those are the nominees. Vote for your choice in the comments, and later this week, I will finish that damn post, come hell or high water. I can’t promise it’ll make a lick of sense, but at least my drafts folder will, finally, be clean!

One thing at a time, right? 🙂

What's on your DVR?

For Christmas this year, I bought myself a new toy. I’ve meant to show it off to you all, but it’s taken me this long to remember to post about it… so here it is.

Yes, this is my new TV. (Don’t mind the fact that there are Christmas decorations still in the picture. I did say it’s taken me a while to post this. So deal. ;-))

It looks like one of those newfangled flat screens right? Well, I should probably just let you believe that, but it’s really not. It’s got a flat screen, alright, but it’s a slim-fit CRT tube TV that just LOOKS like a flat screen. It IS an HDTV, though, which is SO. FUCKING. COOL.

But I didn’t just want to blather on about my new TV… I also have a question for you.

What TV shows do you have programmed on your TiVo?

Now before I go on, I should mention that I don’t really HAVE a TiVo. I have a Digital Video Recorder that’s part of my cable service, which is just LIKE a TiVo, but it really isn’t a TiVo. That being said…

What TV shows can you NOT live without?

Well here are some of my favorites:

Grey’s Anatomy. I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW. I think the cast is superb, and the writing is even better. Yeah ok it’s not realistic medical drama, but it’s damn good HUMAN drama. And it has the best damn actress on TV right now… Sandra Oh. She is amazing. AMAZING. I’ve watched it since the very first episode and I was immediately hooked. Of course, this show has another show to thank for that…

Desperate Housewives. Yes, some are saying that the second season isn’t as good as the first, but I beg to differ. It’s getting better as it goes on. The thing I like about it is not just the campy humor or the crazy situations the ladies of Wisteria Lane get themselves into– it’s the story that they tell and the suspense behind it all. Plus it has some damn HOT men and a lot of great gay scenes (Am I the only one developing a crush on Bree’s son? He’s adorable.)

And over on Bravo, another favorite resides. Yes, I still watch Queer Eye, but that’s not the show I’m talking about. I am absolutely ADDICTED to…

Project Runway. I am not a huge fan of reality TV, but this show is THE BEST. And it is the best because it’s not just catty one-liners and catfights. It’s real drama and fast-paced. These people have real talent and have to make it work, or, as the show’s hostess Heidi Klum says, they’re out. Auf Wiedersehen. Bye bye. I love it. I look forward to Wednesdays just to watch it. And it sucks that it’s all over in mid-February. (I’m rooting for Chloe, Nick and Andreas to go to the Final Three at Fashion Week– what say you?)

Every day, my DVR records this next show… and sometimes I watch it, and sometimes I don’t… but no week is complete without at least one helping of…

Oprah. If you miss one of her rants (like I did when she went off on that Frey guy the other day thanks to W actually holding a press conference) or one of her raves (like when Tom Cruise danced on her couch, which just plain scared me), chances are you’ll miss out on some good watercooler discussions. Oprah is the queen mama of TV talk shows, and I love her for it. Yeah she gets a little preachy sometimes but when she hits hard, she hits HARD. Gotta respect her for that.

Another weekly favorite of mine…

Saturday Night Live. Sometimes it’s hilarious. Sometimes it sucks. But most of the time it’s worth watching, just to see what they pull out of their sleeves. I still love SNL. The current cast is really good in my opinion, and the new talent that they’ve added this year is very promising. That’s what’s so great about SNL… it’s always changing.

And finally, the show that is my guiltiest pleasure…

Little House On The Priaire. I’m still drawn to the adventures of Laura, Mary, Ma, Pa, Carrie and the rest of the brood in Walnut Grove. It’s being shown on TV Land and Hallmark Channel now, and with such frequency that it fills up my DVR too fast. So I had to cut back. I think I’ve seen just about every episode by now, so my viewing habits of the show have waned a bit… but I still love the show. My new favorite is Eight is Enough, which is being shown on a local station currently. I guess I just love those 70s family shows. What can I say?

So now it’s your turn. OK you don’t have to post pictures of screen shots like I did (I’m just showing off my Photoshop skills with that one), but what’s on your DVR? Or if you don’t have a DVR, what shows can’t you miss? Share. Discuss. Dish. I’ll pour you a cup of coffee.