Monday, December 29, 2008

not so productive Monday....or was it?

I was a little frustrated this morning. I went to my morning appointment, and after an assessment, decided to reschedule on account of still not feeling so great. On Sunday night, I was so excited not to feel like total garbage, that I went to get some tacos, rice & beans...perhaps slightly overzealous on my part.

By 10 this morning, I was already in danger of wasting my day...something I don't like to do. I decided to go home and try to get some sleep in hopes it would make me feel better - and it did.

Mom and Dad are still in town for Christmas and are coming up to spend time with me tomorrow...Dad's actually going to assist young Handygraham with installing a dishwasher, and perhaps a garbage disposal as well, depending on time and the Handygraham's wallet. That being said, some things needed to be done in preparation.

It was of dire importance that I fix my record player so we could listen to some killer vinyl while we delve into the wonderful word of sub-sink plumbing. After taking it apart and almost breaking it to find where that "blasted hum" was coming from, I managed to figure out that it was actually coming from a loose connection on the cartridge (needle). Well, at least I had fun taking it apart...putting it back together is still lame though. I can't tell you how excited I am to listen to Crosby, Stills & Nash, Steely Dan, and Yes on vinyl again.

I'll be needing to run electricity to both the dishwasher & the garbage disposal. I daresay I was slightly jealous of the astoundingly immaculate organization I found in the electric box at my morning appointment - It was so beautifully-ordered, it was almost poetic. Mine is a bit more intimidating and perhaps slightly less orderly, as you'll see from the picture, and for the record, this is not my work.

In the interest of efficiency & long-term planning, I decided I'd trace out every circuit in the whole house. So, I turned on every light, radio, TV, etc. in the house and went for it. After about an hour or so of running up and down the stairs writing down what turned off at every breaker switch, I'm happy to say that I've got it allllll figured out.

I decided I'd better eat earlier tonight, so I headed off to Burger King - I know, but it just sounded sooo good. I met with my friend Jamie Wilson there who was very much responsible for me winning Nashville's #1 Handyman award. Jamie manages a website called

Now, I've been spending a lot of time in East Nashville lately, and East Nashville has a very well-defined, quirky and fun community - something I covet. "The South Nashville Community needs their own sort of definition," I've been telling myself. "Why doesn't somebody make that happen?" Well, I'm going to.
BTW - if you live south of the Zoo, you live South OF Nashville...not in South Nashville. Check out the map - it doesn't lie. Get your own name. 8)

Seeing as Jamie's already proven her metal in spades with regards to this area of expertise, she was the first to come to mind for recruitment...especially since she lives in the "South Nashville Community" as well. So, tonight we started a group called "South Nashville Progressive" and it's gonna be AWESOME!!! If you live or work in the map, come join us on facebook! Maybe I'll run for mayor next election, or something.

Hmmm...I guess the day wasn't a wash after all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sick for Christmas...

A few blogs back I mentioned that I'd like to hear more of "the unadulterated thoughts of my heart." One of the best ways to hear/view these is to be in a place of helplessness...being sick is a REALLY good testing ground for this sort of analysis.

I don't get sick very often...never really have...I ususally attribute that to the fact that I'm constantly on the move. When I do get sick, however, I REALLY get sick...sort of like payback for not letting the little germies in earlier. Like any rational human being, I take getting sick as a personal attack on my health.

For contrast sake (and maybe just a little bit of bragging rights) let me offer this. Earlier this year, I broke my first bone that wasn't on my hand or foot...guess I was getting a bit too big for my breeches. I cracked/broke my rib playing flag football. The bragging rights come from staying in the game with my busted rib & catching the game-winning touchdown...c''d have mentioned it too. 8) You know what though, I don't regret any second of that or the next 2 months of recovery...I'd totally do it again. Why? No pain, no gain.

So what's the contrast?

During that football game, I went toe-to-toe with my limitations & lost. With being sick this week, no such fight took place. The cowardly germs snuck in like a thief in the night when none of us were paying attention. I didn't even get to roll the dice or anything. I can't tell you how angry that makes me...I mean c'mon out & fight me like men you little freaking pansies...AAAAAHHHH!!!!! Sorry.

I spent three hours of Christmas morning literally writhing on the floor in pain, which is sort of customary when I get bugs like this...I guess my body's really succeptible to these kinds of aches. I just can't seem to get comforatble, so I obviously can't sleep either. Honestly, I'd take the worst of my cracked rib over the least of that achey rubbish. I think that's what makes me so angry about these bugs being so cowardly.

My sister & nephew spent the night vomiting. I refused. If I'm going to ralph, I'm going to ralph on my own time...and I did. I waited till I was good and ready and showed that bug that it can't run my life. I locked the door to the bathroom so that my brief moment of weakness wouldn't inspire weakness for anybody else.

I think being sick made me a little more emotional than usual. I'm not a cryer. I don't actually remember the last time I cried. I teared-up (not cried, mind you) 3 times on Christmas though.
Time #1: During the Muppets Christmas Carol. Something about the classic Dickens tale really got me this time...particularly the part where Scrooge turns his life around and realizes the value of friends.
Time #2: During my 3 hours of writhing. I was so angry that I couldn't do anything about my situation - these would have been tears of frustration.
Time #3: When I'd finally gotten home, I had the pleasure of receiving an email about Copper. I was over-joyed to hear that he's doing REALLY well in his new home setting. That was great news to hear at the end of a rough day.

Well, that ought to make for some fun psycho-analysis, which I'm too worn out to do right now. Ideas anybody?!?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Miller Time, Baby!!! My true calling?!?

When I was youngling (not to be confused with Yuengling), I had a slew of nicknames. Quite literally so many that it was almost weird for my parents to actually call me fact, that still feels a bit awkward. I'll save digging into that for another blog, and maybe a trip to counseling. One of the names I'm most proud of, however, is: "Miller Time - The Original Party Guy," which was actually one of my first pre-speech.

Now you may think it odd giving one's son a nickname born out of a marketing campaign for a beer company (and there may be sides of this story I don't know) but it may actually be the most appropriate nickname of all of them. The story I was told is that I was dubbed "Miller Time" because I was always smiling, laughing, and maybe just a little bit crazy when two or more were gathered. Let's do a quick case study:

Take a look at some of these pictures. Ok, you're probably thinking "nice work showing off the cute pictures of you as a kid, 'Rico Suave.'" Don't get me wrong...I'm devilishly cute in ALL my little kid pictures. However, I'd like you to look a little more closely at the smiles in these pictures. If you've read some of my other blogs, you may have gathered that I place HUGE amount of value on sincerity. The smiles in these pictures are smiles of joy/elation/jubilation/etc. Now, you can fake happy, but you can't fake joy. Do you see my point?

I'm especially glad and maybe a bit relieved to say that smile's been on my face a lot lately - more than it's been in years. There are a lot of variables that play into that: holidays, parties, umm - Christmas parties, visits home... But once again, I'm going to attribute it mostly to spending so much time in the good company of good friends.

All that to say that "The Original Party Guy" is BACK! A few weeks back, we were having a tacky Christmas sweater party at my buddies' house. This is the third party of theirs I've been to in 2 months that eventually turned into a dance party (which has been attributed to my doing by more than one person now). I was DJing this one until our good friends the police showed up...oops. 8) It was just a little too late to be cranking everything up to "11" I guess. The best part about it was that it was just good clean fun. Nobody was "hooking up." Nobody was driving home drunk. No fights or animosity. It was just a bunch of people hanging out and enjoying each others' presence. So, my face wasn't the only one with the sloppy grin on it. Good times indeed.

Last night I joined a group of people and we helped Hooten Annie Parsons move to her new place of residence. I'm pretty sure I set a new record for how much can be fit in the back of an S10 pick up truck. We celebrated with the staple moving meal (pizza and beer) and hung out just a little too late for a Monday night...and you know what? It was GREAT!

It's times like this when I realize that no matter how much stuff sucks, there are reasons to be joyful...and if you can't think of any, I might suggest starting here: Perhaps it's time to reconnect with old friends, enjoy present friends and maybe even discover new friends.

Ahhh Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A perfect Saturday

As you may have gathered, I had a FANTASTIC Saturday.

The day had finally come. I'd found a home for Copper, my stray of the month, and they were coming to pick him up at 8 am. If you've read "the copper-topper," then you know that only a small part of me was looking forward to this moment, while rest of me was worried about seeing him go. It was short and sweet like pulling off a Band-aid, and before I knew it, he was gone. I went back to my Saturday morning cartoons (my normal Saturday morning activity) and prepared to move on. I proceeded to put my shoes on for the first time in a month without being pestered somebody "wookin' pa nub."

As Providence would have it, right as I was about to start feeling the void, it was time for me to hustle out the door to meet my Saturday morning running club. Running club is comprised of some of my newest friends, who are quickly becoming some of my favorite people in Nashville. We usually go run a few miles, then spend the rest of the morning having a nice family breakfast.

It was a nice run...good pace, sunny and not too cold. I spent much of breakfast listening to Steely Dan (a treat anytime, but it's perfect Saturday music) and discussing it with Paul, who is about 4 years my junior, a fine musician himself, and comes from central PA like me. To round things out nicely, my friend Melissa played us an excerpt from a Rachmaninoff piece on the piano. There are few things as beautiful as hearing something like that in person. I was slightly disappointed when she was too embarrassed/modest to go on, but was quite thankful for what I'd heard.

After running club, I went home and made a playlist on pandora using "through the fire & flames" by dragon force so that I would be able to clean my house with super-human capacity. It worked. My afternoon task was to prepare my house for a Christmas Movie Marathon that evening.

The movie marathon was comprised of many friends who I simply love being around. They helped me put up my tree, decorate it, and decorate my house as well. People were doing last-minute present wrapping on the floor, making presents in the kitchen, baking cookies in my oven, playing carols on my piano, and surrounding me with smiles. It was nothing special - we just watched movies and ordered some pizza - but it was special.

To put the cherry on top, we all jumped in cars and headed out to Opryland Hotel to see the Christmas's an annual Nashville tradition. I don't think I've missed a year since I moved here almost 10 years ago. I won't even try to describe it...just check it out if you haven't already.

It was certainly an action-packed Saturday, but the best part was spending it around good friends. That sounds so cliché, I know, but it really is so true.

To add "awesome" to "already awesome," my day was filled with so many proactive, healthy, energizing people/activities that I didn't even have a chance to dwell on missing Copper. Now he's in a happy new home playing with his new puppy brother, and I can enjoy the peace of having that weigh pleasantly on my conscience.

Anyway, be on the lookout for a blog coming soon on the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends and keeping it like that.

Just a little more than 3 days till Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

ok...ladies, I guess.

You know, I'm sitting here right now, and honestly, I've got ladies on the brain. I'm reluctant to even touch this subject for SO many reasons. I was at least hoping to make it a month into this blogging thing before I even mentioned ladies, but I can't seem to redirect my thoughts this evening. I promise not to make this a habit.

A few years back, in my dark cubicle, I was told something very scary by a good friend of mine. She said, "Graham, girls ALWAYS know what they're doing." My initial reaction was, "well that simply doesn't compute at all within the 'sugar, spice & everything nice' parameters." Now, however, I do believe her. Growing up, I thought it was only the cruel gents who manipulated the ladies, and clearly it seems two can play at this game. (I'm kind of glad ladies can fight back, but sad they should have reason to)

I'm not sure I have a point here other than to say that I think I'm scared of ladies. For so long I believed they could do no wrong, and now I don't. There is a little piece of my heart that still holds on to the idea of a lady I don't have to fear because she's not playing me like a's but a glimpse of Heaven I keep in a place only God can get to.

Ladies, please don't hear me're not the enemy. We are not as we were meant to be - men and women alike. I've studied the female species for a long time and have heard enough "what I want in a man" lists to concoct a guy most women could swoon over. The thing matter how I conduct myself on the outside, I'm not that guy...not at all...and I never will be. Sadly, like all men with such knowledge, I still (foolishly) try to be that guy at times, I guess when I'm feeling insecure about myself. I've often wondered who I'd be if I hadn't ever been told anything of what women "want to hear," or had never had the expectations of others voiced to me. I bet I'd screw a lot more stuff up than I do now, but at least I'd be genuine. I also bet I'd like that Graham a lot better than the one I know.

I was talking to my friend Andy the other day about my fear of breaking up/hurting somebody, and I blurted this out in frustration: "I don't want to have the right words for that situation." I smiled immediately after saying this. It's one of the most beautiful things I've said in years!!! Why? Because my heart actually said it before my brain could edit it. This came from the sincere/childlike/innocent part of my heart that I've been afraid didn't even exist anymore. Quite literally, I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to speak directly and sincerely from the heart. It seems my brain has put a filter on everything my heart wants to say so as to protect me from vulnerability - the cost of which FAR outweighs the benefits...I assure you.

Well, it seems I've got a new mission. I want to hear more of the unadulterated thoughts of my heart. So, watch out gang, it's time for some shooting from the hip.

Thanks for tolerating some girl thoughts. I know I'm not spot is a learning process after all. Something different tomorrow, I promise...Freestyle Friday?!?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

they're more like guidelines really

I came to the conclusion this morning that I'm a natural rule-breaker, but not the "Mommy-told-me-not-to" type that you're probably picturing when I say that. I think it's more complex. Let's see if I can even figure it out.

So what sparked this revelation? This morning, I knowingly broke grocery shopping rule #1: Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry. I actually love breaking this rule...LOVE IT. Going to the grocery store hungry is like going to a restaurant where you can literally order almost ANYthing you might be craving. I want pizza - I get pizza. I want seafood - I get seafood. I want yogurt & get the point. Granted, you have to put a little more effort into preparation, but it's cheaper in the long run, or if you count the cost of time, I guess it's a wash.

Sidebar: While I was at Kroger this morning, at 8am mind you, I decided I might as well grab lunch while I replenished the cereal/milk stash (not to be confused w/ a "milk stache"), so I bought some red leaf lettuce & salad dressing. All of a sudden, I found myself desperately craving a salad for breakfast. If I weren't trying to be kind to my stomach with some sort of regular eating, I would totally have gone for it. Another day, perhaps. When I worked at the record company, I remember getting cravings for hot dogs at like 9 in the morning at least once a week...weird.

Anyway, back to the rules. I guess we'll think of it as "the rules don't apply to me" rather than "rule-breaking." Rule-breakers are merely reacting to the rules, and are therefore bound by them. Those to whom the rules don't apply are marching to their own drum/conscience so to speak - a more out-of-the-box approach.

For example, I consistenly drive 5 mph over the speed limit. I used to drive a lot faster not because I wanted to break the rules (ok, maybe a few times), but because I knew I was in control of my vehicle. Famous last words, right? Seriously though, one of the reasons I've slowed down is that I've realized that my reaction time is not what it was when I was in high school. Call me crazy, but I think I may have been a better driver then.

Other examples: I don't mind using clichés if I really mean them. I don't mind a low-voltage electric shock every once in a while. There are some Britney Spears songs I really do like. Why not go to the store in pajama pants?

Now I'm asking myself: What gives me the right? I guess nothing really. I think it's very important, however, to proceed w/ wisdom, discernment, and moderation. We know what's right and wrong deep in our hearts. I know full well I shouldn't speed if it endangers somebody's life. I know I shouldn't try and see how many Rock Star drinks I can put down in an hour. On the other hand, it seems silly to deprive myself of a song that I enjoy just because I know that musically it sucks. I mean, what would we do without B movies?

Well, I could go into the safeguards that go into healthy rule-breaking, but I think I'll just stop here for the night. 8)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

the copper-topper

About a month ago, I woke up and got ready to go about my business as usual. I had places to go, people to see, and things to do. I went out to my truck to load a few things into the front seat that I'd be needing that day, and when I turned back around, there was happy little red dog who had been sleeping by the fence behind my truck. He sauntered over to me with a look that said something to the effect of, "Oh, you're up. So, what's a guy gotta do to get some food around this place anyway?"

Something tells me there's a conspiracy in the dog world. I have a feeling that Copper (umm, yeah not only did I take him in, but I named him as well...yeah, I know.) As I was saying...I have a feeling that Copper talked to the dogs in my neighborhood who all told him to look for the house with the little white pick-up truck because the dude who lives there's a total sucker.

Of course after a short internal debate (which I lost) I became a foster puppy parent again (yes, again). As you may have gathered, after a month of searching, I don't think I'll be finding Copper's original home, so I'm on to finding him a new home. I'm happy to say that I've got a handful of candidates who would provide a good home for him, but I'm presented w/ a new predicament...letting go.

As history has taught me not to name something you don't intend to keep, I fought the battle long and hard. I called him ridiculous things like widow-maker, death-dealer, junkyard, etc. in hopes of keeping our friendship casual. But, those of you who've trained dogs before know that if they don't have consistency (including their name) you can't teach them anything, so I dubbed him Copper for his color, but also because he was sleeping on a pile of old wire when I found him.

Since moving in, Copper has put a hole or two in my couch, chewed up a pair of work shoes, a hat I've had since college, countless cardboard boxes, his own water/food dishes, and he almost worked his way into some weed killer the other day. It's certainly my fault for not being able to spend more time with him...he's only acting out to get my attention. Even after all that, however, it still is nice to see him when I get home...unless he goes after my motorcycle seat...that's a deal-breaker.

Well, I'm pretty sure Copper will be in a new home by the end of this week. I know full well I can't keep him because I can't give him the attention he deserves - it's the same reason I had to give my dog Petey away earlier this year.

Alas, sometimes it really is hard to do what you know to be right.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Knitting with Ultra Magnus

Tonight, I had dinner w/ my good friend Maggie, who I also affectionately call "Ultra Magnus." For those of you who are a little less nerdy than myself, Ultra Magnus was Optimus Prime's successor in the 1987 animated classic (yes, classic) movie "Transformers: The Movie." With Maggie's unassuming, yet oh-so-intimidating 4'10" frame, I decided she deserved a more powerful-sounding name - hence, Ultra Magnus. But, I digress.

Maggie & I met in 2003 while we were working at Borders in Brentwood, TN. It was a fun gig for a while, but the majority of us found ourselves slightly bored after a little while. After all, you can only read so many books.

One day, however, one of the girls showed up with knitting needles. All of a sudden, we found ourselves hooked. I know, it's not very manly, but you have to admit it's pretty cool to start out w/ a useless ball of yarn and some needles that eventually turn into a pair of gloves, a scarf, a hat. Naturally, my "take-everything-apart-to-see-how-it-works" brain simply had to know. Besides, I couldn't be outdone by the girls. I found it quite amusing walking in one of those days with a hat I'd made. One of the girls asked me what pattern I used. I smiled at her and simply said, "Pattern? Why, whatever do you mean?" To make things more exciting, I made my knitting needles out of chop sticks with the help of a pencil sharpener & some sand paper...much cheaper than what you'd get at the store, and just as good.

It really is quite fascinating. I obsessed over it till I could master the fundamentals...sort of a habit of mine. A few of the others took things quite a bit further, and Maggie, who's one of my more artistic friends, is one of them. But don't take my word for it.

When I worked at the record company, I was part of a group who made scarves for orphans in Muldova. One day, I found some of my work on display at the front about a blow to your street cred. A few years back, I made a santa hat & matching scarf. One time, my cousin forgot his hat, so in the two-hour trip to the ski slopes, I whipped one up for him.
As you can imagine, I've taken a bit of heat over the years for this short-lived addiction. Eventually, I started telling people that I learned to knit during anger management classes while I was in the clink.

While there is a nice rhythm to knit-knit-pearl, I think I'll stick with the whrrrr of my table saw, the pop of my nail gun, and the smell of fresh-cut wood.

The Adventure Begins...

Good Peoples of the world,

My name is Graham Stoner, and you have just stumbled upon the Adventures of HandyGraham!

That's right - the adventure begins here.

In May of 2007, I left my comfy (though not really fulfilling) job at a record company to look life in the eye and say, "whatta you got fo me, sucka?!?" Life responded in kind to be sure. After all kinds of fun "finding myself" activities, I eventually ended up starting my own handyman company.

You may be thinking, "wow Graham...WAY exciting," as you roll your eyes, and I wouldn't blame you. However, handygraham has taken me into all kinds of places I'd never have found otherwise: Climbing on rooftops, hanging out of trees by climbing harnesses & makeshift safety rope systems, finding black widows where I was right about to put my hand, running my thumb over w/ a belt sander, fire...oh, the fire stories, winning Nashville's #1 handyman award in the 2008 "Nashville Scene Readers' Poll," learning new home improvement tricks, duct tape & drywall screws, etc. etc. I also have some amazing clientele who I will talk about on here as long as they're cool w/ it.

So, I'm going to begin chronicling this, if for no other reason that I can look back and be thankful for what has transpired in my life. Another reason is this...if I find myself running out of fun things to blog about, it's my reminder to take things to the next level.

Buckle in - Here we go...