Sticky with filth

Fourteen-year-old boys are disgusting.
Yeah, it’s a blanket statement – and no, I don’t really remember fully my time as a 14-year-old – but it is one that I stand by. On visual evidence alone.
I have been witness to a 14-year-old.
“Ohhh, your breath,” my wife told him in the car yesterday. “Did you brush?”
“Yes.”
“With toothpaste?” I asked.
“Well, no.”
I cannot fathom putting a non-toothpasted brush in my mouth at the crack of noon; he seems to think this is normal.
I have to share a bathroom with the boy, so I know things. Ugly, disgusting things. Things that would make most people shudder.
He leaves turds in the toilet bowl; what’s worse, there’s no toilet paper.
“Do you use toilet paper?” I asked casually.
“Yes.”
“Uh, where does it go?”
He became so paranoid about stopping up my wife’s toilet – it’s nearest to his lair and he's a big believer in "the mitt" approach to wiping – that he was putting his wad into the trash can.
“Let’s just chalk this one up to bad judgment,” I said. “Just stop. Like, now.”
A few months back, I noticed that the liquid body soap and shampoo were not being depleted fast enough (for two people). I bought some bar soap and put a brand-new shampoo and soap in the shower. I used the bar soap and put it back in my travel case; neither new bottle was touched for a week.
I told his mother.
“Are you using soap?” she said, half-pleading.
“Well, no,” he said sheepishly.
He honestly believes that 40 minutes in scalding hot water – he’s drained the water heater more than once – will kill off anything that’s living on him. You just learn not to get so close.
Deodorant? Don’t get me started. He doesn’t use it, but when he does, he forgets which side is his in the medicine cabinet and uses mine (which immediately becomes his).
My wife hoped that once he discovered girls that his hygiene would improve. He's discovered girls - and we seem to be losing ground. He’s such a good-looking kid that I think the girls cut him some very wide slack. Too bad. Teenage girls usually are pretty cruel.
So we suffer – believe me, not in silence – while he stinks up the place. In more ways than one.
Yeah, he’s discovered a trick from the French; just keep putting on more cheap cologne to cover the ripeness that is him.

Everybody farts

The kids ratted me out to the wife.
“You know, Thom farts around the house all the time,” my son said.
“Yeah, all the time,” my daughter said. “He’ll be cooking dinner and just lets one go.”
Everyone farts. The average is 10 times a day (if you’re pooting more than 22 times a day, says noted fart researcher Dr. Michael D. Levitt, you need to start watching what you eat, how fast you eat it and how much air you’re gulping down when you eat or drink).
The average man fart, Leavitt says, is made up of about 110 milliliters of gas (like half a cup); the average woman fart is a bit more dainty, with some 80 milliliters of gas (like a third of a cup).
But take that times 10 and, well, I’m producing something like 38 ounces of fart gas a day.
I do not fart in front of my wife. I never have.
“And you won’t?” she asked.
Never (unless there's the casual accident from time to time).
“Why not?”
“It’s something I didn’t do when we were dating, and I won’t do it now when we’re married.”
I can do a lot of things in front of my wife; I just can’t fart.
I save them up.
“I hear you sometimes in the morning, walking down the hallway, pffff, pllffft, pfffit,” she said, laughing.
Yes, you can save farts up. I had a college roommate who used to come back from studying with his girlfriend(s) and just let loose. Loud farts that had to pack more than the average 110 milliliters of gas.
“Sorry, sorry,” he’d say. “Sorry, I’m ohh, sorry about that one.”
Everyone farts. And men – in our disgusting togetherness – don’t mind farting in like company.
My wife can’t seem to understand that men can be standing at a public urinal and just cut one. Sometimes, you’ll even get a compliment (Nice one, what’da eat, beans?”)
“You fart in front of other guys?” she says. “Like, a lot?”
“Yeah. Seems like a pretty normal function of life.”
And no, I don’t go around farting in the house all day long.
But when my wife isn’t around, I do let a few loose.
I think the ability to poot a few times in front of the kids goes to show how comfortable I have become around them; I’m sure – if you asked them – they might wish I wasn’t so at ease.

Isms

If Reader’s Digest wasn’t so uptight (wholesome Family Values), I’d be able to make some cash.
My 10-year-old daughter says the darndest things.
We call them isms. Little gems she just lets loose from time to time.
Once, where her mother was traveling for business, she was in the truck with me on the way to school hoping to stay up late (“Mom will never know,” she kept saying).
We have a playful banter when it is just she and I. She kept pleading; I kept rebuffing her.
“You know what you get when you mess with the bull?” I asked.
“The balls?”
I nearly swerved off the road – yet kept my composure and turned and said:
“No, the horns.”
“Oh, well that makes better sense.”
She was laying on the couch with my wife a few days later – I was in my comfy chair – when she asked my wife if she had her tonsils.
“Yes, I have my tonsils,” my wife said.
“Thom, do you have your tonsils?” she asked.
“Yes, I have my tonsils.”
“Mom, what about your independix?”
“I lost my independix the moment I pushed your brother out of my womb,” my wife deadpanned.
I snorted and started to choke, I laughed so hard.
It was lost on the 10-year-old.
“I still don’t know what’s so funny,” she said.
She spent Christmas day with her biological father and after a week, she had had it over there. She called crying and said she wanted to come home. As much as it pained us to leave her there, it was dad’s turn to have her “Even if she pouts in her room all day” father-of-the-year said.
My wife had one last conversation to calm her down.
“She is your daughter more and more every day,” my wife said.
“What did I do now?”
“I told her that she was mad at her dad, but that she’d get over it eventually.”
“How long is eventually?” she said.
Good point.

My Christmas presents were tougher

Kids today are sissies.
And we’re all helping to create them.
It’s a day after Christmas, where my own kids have not ventured out of the house since they got home from their dad’s. And this after my daughter got her mountain bike (she headed for the bathroom instead, where she took a hot bath for an hour-and-a-half).
My son disappeared nearly before all the wrapping paper had been shoved into a plastic bag.
He got two DVDs and a new game for the GameCube. He was gone for hours.
I was one of the lucky kids. I’m fourth of five children, and as I’ve said before, once my parents got to me, running with scissors wasn’t all that bad.
When I was 10, I got my first BB gun (a Daisy, but not the Red Rider). This after my dad had two years before given me my first pocket knife (I’ve been packing a blade of some sort ever since).
The toys of today tend to be more digitally remastered. When a video game console – the Xbox 360 – comes out as the “must-have” gift of the season (where entrepreneurial souls were selling them for 10 times the sticker price, you know you’ve got a problem.
Toys of my youth carried names like Tonka and Schwinn, Daisy and Testors (model rocket engines).
Even our indoor toys were better, more dangerous.
I had the old Mattel Creepy Crawler set. This hot plate was thing of dangerous beauty. It plugged into an outlet and got really hot – so hot my brother and I were constantly burning our fingers (fast-forward to today’s Creepy Crawler makers, where a 250-watt bulb tries to do the same thing –pfffff).
I was under the age of 14 when I not only I got wood-burning kit, but a leather-stamping kit (yeah, I made a wallet, but I also crafted my own pair of knee-high moccasins, in the style of Kit Carson).
I remember fondly the Christmas where I got my first Zebco fishing rod and reel – and moved past those cane poles with a set amount of black thread line. I could now cast out farther than about four feet.
We’re producing indoor kids who lack the imagination to get past the blips and beeps of video games and actually make the tallest limb in the tree in the backyard the mast of a pirate ship.
I’m sure, once my daughter gets past the Jesse McCartney CD and the “Bring it On Again” DVD, we’ll get out for a ride (we’re both sporting Giant mountain bikes). I’m sure it’ll be a little difficult getting her out onto dirt that first time.
But once she does, there (hopefully) no turning back.

Twas the night...

It’s one of the happiest memories from my childhood.
We are a Christmas morning family. We opened out Christmas presents at an ungodly early hour (except for that disastrous time we tried to open presents after midnight mass). And us kids set the hour.
My brother and I had moved down to the basement, and on Christmas Eve, we’d wait at the top of the stairs until my parents went to sleep (we had the door closed). We’d huddle at the top of the stairs and draw pictures on plain pieces of typing paper. For hours, listening as my parents set about putting out the final surprise gifts and filling the stockings (five red and green hockey socks).
Once the house was quiet for at least 10 minutes, we made our move.
Christmas Eve was the only night my mother let the tree lights stay on all night. I guess she figured we were going to peek, she might as well light the way.
We always looked at the tree, but left it for later.
What we wanted were the stockings.
The hockey socks always bulged with goodies. Braches peppermint nougats; new toothbrushes; new Hot Wheels and gum (Blackjack, how I miss it).
We’d unhook the socks and pilfer through the bundle of goodies (and put them all back where they belonged).
We’d take a glance at the tree, scope out what presents were new – and went back to bed.
And slept, only for a couple of hours, before we’d wake up my parents to reheat mom’s cinnamon rolls – and open gifts.
Have a very Merry Christmas, one and all.

Ohhhh, Tannenbaum

For the past nine years, I have gone into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree.
The first four went off with a hitch: go into the woods, cut and drive back to town and decorate; it’s the last five trips that have been disastrous (but in a good way).
Because the last five years, I’ve brought my wife and kids to the woods. The last four, we’ve joined another family for even more fun. Throw in wild cards like that, and there’s bound to be troubles (and I say this with much love).
This tradition has survived battling dogs, bickering siblings, a snowstorm, a hangover (not mine), one unfortunate pants-wetting episode (my best friend’s then-3-year-old, not me), a snowball fight that escalated into tears (again, not me), one lost saw, gloves that vanished, arguments over hats, a knee surgery and hobbled rehabilitation (and threats to take it easy), more tears, the inevitable, “I have to go pee,” when you’re a dozen miles past the nearest rest stop, some cursing (OK, a lot of cursing) and the annual vow never again to venture forth into the wilds of Lassen National Forest or the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for a $10 tree, when they sell perfectly good ones in parking and vacant lots all over town.
“Stop being such a Scrooge,” my wife gently scolded (this after trudging a total of 50 yards into the woods last year when my daughter declared that she was cold _ and tired). “If nothing went wrong, it wouldn’t be a tradition, there’d be no memories, it would be just a trip.”
This year, everything went pretty well. We got to the woods with no problems, no arguments _ and surprisingly, no bloodshed or tears. My buddy brought a flask filled with Christmas cheer (the expensive kind). We had pizza and beers (sodas for the kids) afterward. We spent about $90 on the excursion.
Then the damn thing died. I mean, this Douglas fir gave up its needles in two weeks.
“It that going make it until New Year’s Day?” my wife asked.
“I doubt it’ll last the weekend,” I said.
“But I really want a tree decorated when my family comes for our party.”
This is why we were at the tree lot last night, buying a white fir for 40 bucks.
Granted, it’s a beautiful tree. We took the decorations off the old one, vacuumed (like six times) and I drug this new white fir into the house.
Under the cover of darkness.
Yep, I spent nearly $150 on a Christmas tree (which has already been terrorized by our cats).
Ahhh, for the memories (I just keep telling myself).

Wash your hands

I’m feeling a bit like Howard Hughes these days (albeit, without the urge to wiz into milk bottles).
Everyone around me is sick, or getting there. Some nasty shit, too.
It is the season of giving, but I don’t want your hacking cough, fever and need to boof into the toilet.
Wash your hands.
It’s gotten to the point where I’m paranoid, sure. I carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer in my cargo pants. I try to avoid touching door handles. I never, ever, touch my hands to my mouth or eyes _ it I haven’t washed them in the last 15 minutes.
Every day, I get to my desk and take alcohol swabs and clean my telephone and mouse. I put little bottles of hand sanitizer next to all the shared design computers (never trust that the guy or gal next to you washed their hands).
I wash my hands – frequently _ with hot water and soap; I open the bathroom door with the paper towel I used to dry my hands (shades of Howard, I know, but it’s a men’s bathroom door for chrissakes _ there’s one guy here who NEVER, EVER washes his hands, no matter what he does in there, gross).
So far, I have avoided most everything the kids and the wife bring home. But it’s getting tough. Each and every time, it seems, that kids come home from their dad’s, they are percolating with something. The boy stayed with us this week and got so sick (103-degree temperature) he went to see my doctor. My daughter called from her dad’s all stuffy; I’m sure we’ll get her back sick.
We have Airborne, which I’ve been drinking religiously. But I also drink a lot of fluids in general (it gives the organs something to do, rather than hang around and pick up some virus or infection).
So far, so good. But hey, you can’t be too careful. Here’s some tips from the Mayo Clinic:

Proper hand washing with soap and water:
Follow these instructions for washing with soap and water:
* Wet your hands with warm, running water and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Lather well.
*Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 15 seconds.
*Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
*Rinse well.
*Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.
*Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

Proper use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers — which don't require water — are an excellent alternative to hand washing, particularly when soap and water aren't available. They're actually more effective than soap and water in killing bacteria and viruses that cause disease. Commercially prepared hand sanitizers contain ingredients that help prevent skin dryness. Using these products can result in less skin dryness and irritation than hand washing.
Not all hand sanitizers are created equal, though. Some "waterless" hand sanitizers don't contain alcohol. Use only the alcohol-based products.
To use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
*Apply about 1/2 tsp of the product to the palm of your hand.
*Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of your hands, until they're dry.
Duh.

Sneaky at Christmas

In the days of my youth, I would have faked an illness to have a day at home by this date.
I was one of those kids who liked to pass off illnesses with unspecific symptoms. My mom was a forehead feeler, so I would get my scalp as close as I dared to get a little glow. Faking diarrhea and nausea were always good, non-specific symptoms as well. She was never going to watch to prove I had the squirts.
I did this each and every December from the time I was 8 until I was 14. To snoop for Christmas presents, of course.
And while my parents had to know what I was doing, never did they call my bluff (I guess when you’re the fourth of five children _ and a pain in the ass to boot _ anything goes, as far as parenting decisions (that’s why I was allowed to carry a pocket knife at 8 and had a BB gun by the time I was 10).
With my parents out of the way by 9 a.m. _ and nothing on television, remember these were the days before cable and satellite, where you got NBC, ABC, CBS and Public Television _ I was on the prowl.
First, I’d check all the old standby locations where mom and dad liked to hide presents. Their walk-in closet. The closet where they stored the vacuum, the divider by the front door.
Then I’d go to work on the presents already wrapped and under the tree.
Somewhere along the line, I pilfered one of my dad’s old man’s manicure kits. Little leatherette case that held tiny scissors, tweezers, nail file, nail clippers and a cuticle pushy-down thing.
Scotch-brand Transparent Tape is no match for a kit like that.
However, one year, mom bought the cheap stuff. It had stick. I botched one present’s colorful wrapping completely up (it was a real Wilson football).
Terrified, I devised a brilliant plan (in the eyes of a 10-year-old, it was foolproof). I got out our cat, Leo, held her claws out _ and scratched the wrapping paper to shreds on the corner I messed up.
Then I called my mom at work.
“Mom, Leo’s been messing with the Christmas tree,” I said.
“Uh-huh, what did she do?”
“Well, she clawed some presents.”
“Whose presents?”
“Well, one of mine.”
“Uh-huh. Did you see what it was?”
“Yes, but I didn’t want to.”
“Uh-huh. Well, just leave it be. And Thom _ leave all the presents alone.”Curiosity didn’t kill this cat _ but it was the last time I used a feline to cover up my crimes.

Adventures in suburbia

When it rains, it pours.
It's raining here and while sturdy outdoor types still get out and recreate, sometimes you just hafta go to the mall.
Or Costco. On a Sunday. With everyone else in Northern California.
I dislike crowds. A lot.
Add a bunch of people with wet carts trying to pass through those too-narrow aisles without saying excuse me. I had one guy who was so eager to increase the consumer price index that he kept smacking the back of my shoes with his cart.
“Why don’t you slide on ahead of me,” I said with my best death-ray glare.
Costco smelled liked burned fish flesh. Two little old ladies were giving out samples of broiled salmon and some tuna dish.
“I can’t go over there,” my wife said (I think she actually threw up in her mouth a little). “But check and see if they have any of those quiches that we like.
No quiches, but I ran into two other outdoor-types to commiserate with.
“Wife decided it would be good to get out the house, right?” one asked.
“You know it.”
“Sucks, doesn’t it?”
“You know it.”
From the “Warehouse of Terror,” my wife and I went to Target. I like Target. Lots less people with asses the size of compact vehicles blocking the aisles.
My wife was feeling a bit ill by now – something is percolating in my house – so she was ready to go home. She loves shopping. I knew she was seriously ill.
“I’m in a groove,” I said. “Let’s not ruin the mood.
“Let’s go to the mall.”
Old Navy. Macy’s. We stopped to get her an Orange Julius, to ease her stomach.
I went to the bathroom.
In a stall was a dad and his 3-year-old son.
“Hey, hold your own pee-pee,” dad coaxed.
“Hold your pee-pee.” (sounds of wee on the tile).
“Hold your pee-pee!” (more wee hitting the tile).
“Oh, damn, son, you really need to hold your own pee-pee.”
“Flush it daddy, flush it,” the boy urged.
“Son, it’s automatic, let’s go, I have to wash my hands.”
At least he washed.
When we had had all we could take, we took the slow walk to the exit. A commotion near Macy’s made us stop.
A shopper had tackled a punk who tried to boost a beanie from Old Navy. Three security guards had him subdued on the floor.
He screamed.
We all rubber-necked.
And in those fleeting minutes, crass consumerism took a hit.

Mi vida loca

At work on Friday, I was at my desk untangling a Carolina rig (it’s used for bass fishing) and a co-worker walked up to ask a question. He smiled and shook his head.
“You’re the only guy I know who can do that at work and get away with it,” he said. “Tie up a bass rig and get paid for it.”
It’s true; my weekdays look a lot like the weekend. I spent Friday morning with bass pro Greg Gutierrez on Lake Shasta fishing for bass. I’m working on a story about bass rigs that are working on the lake right now. Gutierrez, who will fish his second Bassmaster Classic in February (think Super Bowl, only with fish) has forgotten more about bass fishing than I will ever know.
Last week, I was out on the same lake, knocking the snot out of the rainbow trout.
And I get paid for this.
But it does come with some complications (you can all give me the finger now).
My weekends end up looking like workdays. It’s like I’ve forgotten that these are my days, days to go out and play on my own. Instead, I become lethargic, sleep too long and shuffle around the house completing projects.
Balance is what I need.
I’ve got an 18-foot P&H kayak that needs attention. A Giant Warp full-suspension mountain bike that wants a little love. Fly rods and spin-cast rods, snowshoes and hiking boots. And millions of acres in which to use them.
On the weekends, I become a slug.
It was one of the glaring weaknesses I noticed after a retrospect on my life after my mom died. You take stock, figure where you can do better – then go out and be better.
I am an outdoors guy; inside sucks.
The sooner I realize that, the sooner I can return to being that guy – seven days a week.

Mother puss bucket

My mother detested my use of colorful language. She was forever chastising me, “You have such a wonderful vocabulary, why do you have to use words like that?”
“It’s not that I have to use the words,” I told her, “But sometimes shit means shit. Ass is ass. Fuck just might be the right word for the job.”
It is interesting to note that most everyone learns how to cuss from their parents.
I was having this very conversation with my daughter’s daycare provider. She had a 3-year-old that she decided she could no longer continue to watch.
“He sings this really bad song that the rest of the kids started singing,” she said. “And he’s a real potty-mouth.”
She found out that mom taught junior the song – and dad’s got the guttermouth.
My mother was fond of “Jesus Christ” (as in, “Jesus Christ, you kids are being too loud.”) Dad, having spent some time in the military, could string together some really colorful language. But his go-to word was definitely “Goddammit” (as in, “Goddammit, you kids are driving me nuts.”)
There is an art to swearing, no doubt about that. Amateurs will frequently drop the F-bomb all over the place (“Fuck, you should have fucking seen this fucking guy drive. What the fuck was he fucking thinking?”).
However, used at the right time, by the right person, fuck is all-powerful. Back when I was 12, my mom was putting up the artificial Christmas tree. My 10-year-old sister and I were there to help (dad was out drinking, something he did for 10 years, before he quit, cold-turkey). Mom was pissed, but determined to make merry memories.
This tree’s plastic limbs were all color-coded to the slots in its mop-handle trunk. You had to separate out all the colors, then build the tree. In the process of finishing the crown, she lost her balance, tumbled into the tree, which crumpled to the floor.
“FUCK!” she screamed.
Sis and I stared at each-other, dumbfounded. Mom, being mom, recovered gracefully.
“Hey, how about we make some hot chocolate?”
It takes a real wordsmith to capture the flavor of the moment with swears.
Back when I was just testing this out for real – senior year in high school – a carload of us came up on a semi that was clogging up the turn lane. We pulled along side and I said, “Move that goddamn piece of shit over.”
The trucker leaned out and said, “What did you say?”
“Move that goddamn piece of shit over.”
He looked as us, smiled and said, “That’s what I thought you said.”
I evolved, moved to college where I let loose with such lines as, “If you weren’t such a backward-ass country fuck, you’d understand what I’m saying,” and “Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick” (yeah, I stole it from the band The Dead Milkmen, so sue me).
As I move into my 40s, I’d have to say my go-to swear is “son of a bitch.” It covers a whole range of sins, and you can change its meaning just on delivery alone (say it slow, low and deliberate – “Son.....of.....a....BITCH” and people pick up on that fact that you’re seriously pissed).
The problem is, I have kids now – someone else’s kids that I am raising in my image – so I have to watch my mouth. A lot.
Still, I find myself using these gems:
“Goddammit, you kids are too loud!”
“Jesus Christ! You didn’t just track mud across the goddamn kitchen floor, did you?”
Thanks, mom and dad.

Rank amateur

It’s like sleeping with your eyes open; the ability to daydream without that thousand-mile stare, or drool running down your cheek.
Walter Mitty is a rank amateur, compared to the adventures I create in my head.
Mitty, of course, was the main character in James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitt” (at just 2,100 words, the story is refreshing in its economy). Mitty is a hen-pecked milk toast of a man who escapes into daring do.
I, however, am not timid. I just have a vivid imagination. And it’s on most of the time.
Most recurring in my repertoire is the “quit my job and have them all suffer at my leaving/win the lottery/write a best-seller/win the Pulitzer Prize” scenario. The “alien abduction/fix all my sports injuries/buff me out/quit my job and have them all suffer at my leaving/win several triathlons and mountain bike races (and don’t give interviews to the paper)/win the lottery/write a best-seller/open up a cool brew pub with the profits” also is right up there.
And while I do believe that someday I will win the lottery (my daughter is a bit psychic, and she says I’m going to hit it), all the other stuff is just a dream. It may happen, but if (or when) the dreams become reality, it’s going to be through hard work.
I don’t think a lot of people today understand that. We’ve become an entitlement society. Many of us think that we’re owed something, just by showing up.
A wise man once told me, “Never get your car repaired at a place called Bob’s Radiator Repair, never spit into the wind, once in your life, own a convertible and always remember _ you make your own way in this life.”
It is easy to lose sight of that. Hard work is hard.
But I am not entitled to anything I do not create for myself.

"We're on the road now, boys..."

There's a hole in my heart; a tearing at my soul.
My mom died last month.
How's that for an introduction?
I am a writer, a journalist. I get paid to do this in real life. Writing is more of what I do, it is who I am. Writing is the sanctuary where I can think, react. That's why I've decided to blog. To share what comes out of my sanctuary - if anyone is interested - and to save my sanity.
Me? Well, I'm closing in on my 43rd birthday. I am married to a beautiful woman ("You're not going to put in a whole bunch of personal stuff about me, right?" she asks, nervously) and inherited two wonderful children in the process of getting married (four years in March). I have two dogs - Scully, our main dog, and Trinity, the auxiliary go-to action dog - and two cats (one of which loves me very much).
I am a writer/editor for a newspaper. I cover the outdoors, meaning I get paid to hunt, hike and fish (life is mostly good). I wrote a book this year (a hiking guide, best places to take your dog(s) without getting hassled).
Sounds idyllic, right?

I'm surly, much of the time.
Hey, look, it's not my life that gets me down. I think it was the way I was wired at the factory. I think too much. And thinking can be a real bummer.
This surface tension was rippled when my mom died in November. She was a rock, spoke her mind and didn't care what people thought of her. You lose something like that, it's bound to warp your already whacked sensibilities, right?
So, I'm going to blog. Hopefully, every day (writers write, it's how you get better). I'm going to open up my life (without giving up too much about my wife) and see where this takes me.

"The next thing most like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing."
Ben Franklin said that, and he was a pretty smart guy.