Happy Halloween!

I’ve never been much for dressing up in costumes for Halloween, but it’s so much fun to see the creativity that goes on each year.

My friends Marc and Fausto of Feast of Fools invited our friend Michael Lehet to join them to dress up as pandas this year, and they are having quite a lot of fun with it.  They’ve been doing some really great videos this week on the Feast of Fools website while dressed in their panda outfits and makeup.  Here’s one of all three of them doing the “Panda Dance” to the song “Jung Hwa Ban Jum.” I have no idea what it really means, but it’s hysterical to watch.

And while I’m at this, if you would be so kind as to vote for the Feast of Fools gang for the annual Podcast Awards, I’d greatly appreciate it. They are up for Best GLBT Podcast and People’s Choice (Podcast of the Year) this year. They’ve won Best GLBT Podcast for the past two years, and I really want them to win BOTH awards this year!!! I’m an occasional guest on their show (here my most recent appearance), so this award would mean a lot to me as well. Vote every day, once a day!

And if pandas and podcasts aren’t your game.. here’s something you might enjoy: My nieces, Abby (the flower) and Emily (the kitty), dressed in their first Halloween costumes. If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings for all that’s CUTE in the world, I don’t know what will!  Happy Halloween!

Reflecting on Jennifer Hudson's loss

Two years ago, I felt pain like I had never felt before. Losing a parent is the hardest thing anyone has to experience in life– aside from, I would guess, losing a child.

But to lose a parent, a sibling and a nephew all at once…

I just don’t know if I could deal with it.

Surely by now you’ve heard about the murders of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew here in Chicago. News like this is terrifying and horrible, no matter whose family it happens to. The fact that it happens to be the family of a recent Oscar winner and singer with an album currently on the charts is irrelevant. This would be news even if it was a typical family living a typical life.

The question that remains is not “How does this happen?” because the answer to that is, simply, “It just does.” Things like this, unfortunately, happen all the time, all over the world. There are crazy people out there who think nothing of taking the life of an innocent 7-year-old child, his uncle and his grandmother. It sucks, and we grieve inside when it happens, but that’s the reality of the world we live in.

The question that remains is also not “What is happening to people today?” because things like this have happened for centuries, and will continue to happen for centuries to come. Residents blame the police and the politicians, the politicians blame the schools and the families, families blame themselves and everyone else. There are fingers pointed in all directions but never any answers.

No, the question that remains is neither of these. The question that remains is, “How does one cope with such a terrible loss?”

When my father died, it was sudden. He was sick, yes, but he wasn’t dying. One day he was there. The next, he was gone. Poof. No more. Whether he died of a heart attack or at the hands of a murderer, the fact remained that he was gone, and we were left to carry on from that point forward. There were no long goodbyes or final words. It was over in an instant.

The pain we felt from that point forward was immense, but I can’t help but imagine what it must be like to experience that times three.

Add to that the emotional trauma of having to identify bodies and speak to the police about finding person who did it. It takes an incredibly strong-willed person to endure that sort of torture.

I grieve for Jennifer and her family. Because the added pain of this situation is that Jennifer Hudson is a celebrity; therefore this story will continue and be talked about for months afterward. Trials will happen and convictions will (hopefully) be handed down, and it will all be in the news.

At least when I lost my dad, my family was able to move on from the point of the funeral in relative peace and quiet, and we healed in our own private ways. The Hudson family won’t get that sort of healing time. And for that reason, I grieve for them the most.

Feelin' Good!

The past couple of weeks have been a little rough for me.  I fought off bronchitis two weeks ago and this week I feel crappy again -probably due to the changing weather and all the leaves falling off the trees.  Allergies suck, don’t they?

But it’s autumn in Chicago and it’s starting to look and feel beautiful around here.  I love the cooler temps and the bright colors on the trees.  Sadly, I know this gives way to nasty weather ahead– but that’s the price you pay when you live in Chicago, I guess!

This past weekend I visited my mom and my sister and her family came up for a visit.  We went to Jerry Smith Pumpkin Farm in western Kenosha with the twins and had a great time.  The weather was beautiful and the girls seemed to enjoy the sights and sounds… though Abby got cranky with it all pretty quickly.  They’re 8 months old already.  I can’t believe how quickly they’re growing up, and how cute they’re getting!

Afterward we went to my mom’s and the girls played with some toys while we all relaxed a bit.  Watching the girls play and seeing how much they have changed from those little tiny beings I remember seeing earlier this year just amazed me.  They’re developing such distinct personalities – Abby is a bit more fussy but extremely attentive; and Emily is more social and easygoing.  They are both able to sit up on their own and are becoming more independent as each day passes.  It’s so interesting and exciting to see.  

Sometimes I feel a little sad that I may not experience parenthood for myself.  I’m enjoying watching my nieces grow up, but even though they are rather close, I still don’t get to see them all that often.  Even though we are family, we all have our own lives, and we have to invest our time wisely.  But I do feel a part of their lives, and as they grow up, they’ll know me as “Uncle Rick,” and not just some guy who comes around every now and then.  I can’t wait for that to happen.  

Until then, I’m the guy with the camera, following them around all the time.  My sister said she feels somewhat like a celebrity because of all the clicking of the camera wherever they go.  What can I say… I like taking pictures of my family. 🙂  And the end result is worth it. 

So, then, here are some pictures from our weekend together.  Hopefully as Autumn settles in I’ll start to feel better… until then, I have some nice memories to keep me smiling.

Abby meets a calf

Emily meets a big bull!

Well, hello there!

Busy girls

Does this hat make me look cute?

Hi, Emily!

Picture Post: Labor Day Weekend

Gettin' Smiley

Labor Day weekend usually, for me, involves taking a trip somewhere — be it Saugatuck or up north in Wisconsin, or just about anywhere else.  It rarely involves staying home.

Well that’s just what I did this year… and a lot of my friends did the same.  We tried planning a trip somewhere, but in the end we all decided to have a “Staycation.”

And that was definitely the best choice.

On Friday I joined a few of my friends in lovely Hammond, Indiana to see Sarah Silverman live at the new “Venue” at the Horseshoe Casino.  She was funny, and I enjoyed her set a lot.  After that we headed back to Chicago for a few drinks.  The next day was day one at Hollywood Beach.  I hadn’t made it to the beach once this summer, and I was determined to do so before the summer got away from me completely.  I’m so glad I did.  The weather was perfect, the boys were plentiful, and my friends were there and we had a simply wonderful time.

The plan for most of my friends was to make it a three-day beach weekend, but I had other plans.  On Saturday night, after I got back from the beach, I grabbed my things and headed up to my mom’s in Kenosha.  I spent the night up there, and the next day my sister and her family came up and we spent the day with my adorable nieces.  They’re almost 7 months old now and growing cuter and funnier and more lovable by the second.  Abby recently cut her first teeth, and Emily is not very far behind.  Being their Uncle has already been so wonderful and rewarding.  I love those two little angels.

I headed back to Chicago on Sunday night and on Monday it was “Back to the Beach” again.  And while I was mingling with friends, laughing, enjoying the sunshine and the warm air, my friend Jeremy and I decided that this was one of the best Labor Days we ever had.  Gorgeous weather, gorgeous boys, and right in our own backyard.  We didn’t have to drive or spend a lot of money.  Can’t get much better than that.

The weekend capped off a really great summer for me.  I feel happier, calmer, and better than I have in many years.  After the pain of 2006 and the readjustment of 2007, 2008 has shaped up to be a pretty great year.

*Yawn* … Good morning!

So, I’m back from my hibernation, and it was a lovely rest.

And things look different.  Again.

You’ll see that I have once again changed the look of The Launching Pad.  You’ll also notice that the name of The Launching Pad has changed.  I’m all about change.

Summer is drawing to a close, and I’ve been getting the itch to blog again.  So I took a look at things and decided it was time to do some house-cleaning… again.  If you’ve visited here before, you’ll notice that the sidebars are gone. There’s nothing but posts and comments, folks.  It’s clean and neat and to the point – just the way it should be.  I took the inspiration from the Tumblelog movement that is occurring – I figured why re-invent the wheel– just re-tool it a little bit.

Of course, if you REALLY want all that sidebar goodness, just hover over “Navigation” at the top and, like magic, they will appear.  So that’s where you’ll find my blogroll (which is being heavily trimmed, by the way), feed info, and other stuff that used to be on the main page.

I’ve also deactivated the PostReach comments – those little icon thingies at the end of every post that allowed readers to make wordless comments.  I decided that if you want to comment, you can write a line or two telling me what you think.  Plus they just didn’t match the feng shui of the new look. 🙂

**UPDATE** I’ve also just converted my comment system to Disqus, at the recommendation of a fellow blogger.  Disqus allows a lot of really great features including comment threading and video comments.  Fun fun fun!!!  So you have no excuses– commenting is fun again! 🙂

So I’m back – and what’s been up?  Well, in all honesty, I’ve been spending more time with my friends and family, and just trying to spend LESS time in front of a computer monitor.  I spend 8+ hours, five days a week, in front of a computer.  I needed a break from that on my own time.

That’s not to say I haven’t been spending time in front of my computer.. I’ve just been doing different things.  My latest obsession is SingSnap.  In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically online karaoke.  My friend Teddy clued me into it a few months ago, and in just those short few months, I’ve become something of a rising star there.  I’m not saying I’m ready for a record contract or anything, and I’m much too old for American Idol… but it’s been rather fun, and it’s been a better waste of time than looking at porn or cruising the gay meat markets.

Other than that, I’ve gone camping a couple of times, and spent a lot of time with my friends.  And, of course, I’ve spent more time with my family and my adorable nieces, Abby and Emily.  I can hardly believe they’re already 6 months old… and getting cuter by the minute.

So I’m back, I’m refreshed, and I’m looking forward to a new direction for my blog.  Posts will be shorter.  Photos will happen more often.  And I’m just going to have fun with it.  And like before, if I have nothing to say, I won’t be posting.  I decided that I really like being a part of this world, and I didn’t want to leave it… I just wanted to make it what I want it to be.  Having all of you is just the cherry on top of the sundae.

Here’s a few pictures to get things started… See you soon!

Market Days Madness under the Rainbow Pylons!
Market Days Madness under the Rainbow Pylons!
Camping in Saugatuck - with new and old friends!
Camping in Saugatuck - with new and old friends!
Beth with Emily and Abby at Grandmas house
Beth with Emily and Abby at Grandma's house