Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Did You Do Christmas?

So my last post was a list of some of the ways we do Christmas. And I have to say, for one more year, all that stuff pretty much held true. I had plenty of egg nog. I had my favorite things to eat. I heard all my favorite songs. I ate my favorite foods. And I definitely got the gift I most wanted!

The one thing that turned out to be different? My wife wasn't so hard to buy for this year! And I'll admit, some of that was because she gave me some great ideas on her "wish list". And we even did some shopping together where she purchased some things and I put them under the tree. But I also came up with a fair number of surprises for her - all of which were greatly appreciated.

And it has been a holiday season filled with laughter. Having all three kids in the house, hanging out together, playing games, watching lots of movies - we've just had a lot of fun together. That's not to say three siblings in the house don't bicker a bit. God help me, they do. But it hasn't been too bad. And we've had a lot of fun with them.

It has also been a most relaxing time. This is a year where we've not visited nor been visited by any family. They are all in very different parts of the country this year. So our holiday has been quite, restful, peaceful. No rushing about making sure everything is clean. No preparing extra-special meals for "company". No worries about sleeping in late, going to bed early, taking afternoon naps, or any other aspect of scheduling. So that has been very nice.

All in all, a very good holiday.

And tomorrow evening, just our family and Son1's new girlfriend to ring in the new year. We've got our favorite New Year's Eve foods planned. We'll play some games. Watch a movie. And kiss when the clock strikes midnight.

Here's hoping your holiday and your new year are the best ever!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How do YOU do Christmas?

My blog friend Mrs. Chili over at The Blue Door posted a meme on Monday about the holidays. And as I read her responses, I couldn't help but reflect on traditions around the holidays. We all have so many. And so many of us have the SAME traditions. And yet, we each tweak them just a bit to fit our own personal likes and the needs of our families. Comparing and contrasting seemed like fun. So you can check our her thoughts on the holidays and then see what I had to say on the same topics...

1. Real tree or Artificial?  Believe it or not, we have one of each. The real tree is in the family room and covered with all our favorite old ornaments and kid crafts, etc. And all our colored lights. And that is the tree the presents go underneath. But some years we also put up an artificial tree in the living room with white lights and more formal ornaments. This year...just the real one.
2. Do you like decorating the tree? Parts of it. I always have to put the tree in the stand and get the lights on ahead of time. I don’t love that part. But the ornaments are all done with the whole family and that part is fun.
3. When do you put up the tree? It varies...usually around the second weekend of December. This year, I put the tree in the stand and put on the lights tonight. We'll all put on the ornaments tomorrow evening.
4. When do you take the tree down?  Usually about a week after New Year’s.
5. Do you like eggnog? Oh I do! Most of the folks in my family do not, so when we buy it, I know I’m only sharing with Son1, so that means a lot for me.
6. Ever broken a present right after opening it? I don’t think so.
7 . Hardest person to buy for? My wife. And it is my fault. I put too much pressure on myself to get the perfect gift every time.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Our daughter. She always provides us with a color-coded list with appropriate hyperlinks to web sites, reviews, etc.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? We do.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. But we have been narrowing our list of who gets them every year. What a chore to do that whole process.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Underwear. From my mom. And not when I was a kid.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It’s A Wonderful Life. I predictable.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? As soon as possible after Black Friday is over and those folks go home.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Honestly, not that I can remember.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Thing. Singular. Then I would have to pick my wife’s rouladen. We have that for our Christmas dinner every year. I love it.
16. Have you ever actually eaten fruit cake? Sure. Often as a kid. Not so often as an adult. See, I really do learn as I grow!
17. Favorite Christmas song? Again with the singular! I’m pretty sure I can’t narrow it down to one song so I won’t even try. I’ll just say that I love Christmas music. I love the traditional songs such as Oh Holy Night and White Christmas. Plus I love some of the new stuff by The Roaches, Sara McLaughlin, and others. And I’m warning you, I love to sing along...which isn’t always a pretty thing.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We’ve been at home for the holidays for a long time now.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?  Absolutely.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel on the real tree. When we use the artificial tree, a big red bow.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both. It works like this. When our kids were very young (in fact, when there was only “kid” without the “s”) we started letting them open one small give on Christmas Eve. We were trying to take the edge off cause he/they would be so excited about the whole thing we were afraid they were going to explode. So one gift the night before.....that we selected cause we wanted to make sure it was a small one....and then all the rest Christmas morning. That tradition is still continued today. And even though two of them are in their 20’s, they would get quite pouty if there was no Christmas Eve gift opening.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?  People who just like to complain about things related to the holidays. Yes, there is more traffic and stores are busy. Relax. We’ll all get home for Christmas.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Oh that’s a tough one. If you were there as we decorated the tree, you would think about half of them are my favorites. I grab one to hang up and suddenly start reminiscing about when we bought it or what I remember about it. But if I have to choose a theme or color...I would have to say I love our more crafty/country style ornaments. The colored balls are fun...but I like the wooden ornaments best.
24. Favorite Christmas dinner? That rouladen I mentioned earlier with mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, a good veggie. And a nice piece of pie for dessert.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Easy question! I’m am totally wanting to upgrade to an iPhone.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Things Happen That Surprise Me

My wife and I have been having a series of serious talks over the past week. Nothing serious about "us"...just exploring some topics that we both care deeply about. Some of it relates to our processing of grief, some to our spirituality, some to our beliefs about the relationship between pleasure and happiness. As we've gone through these discussions this week, we've both had some "ah ha" moments where we learned new things, came upon a new idea, or gained new perspective from the other.

But we did finish our last conversation late last night with still some questions remaining unanswered and some feelings still lingering without resolution.

Then we went to church this morning. It was a day where our minister had swapped pulpits with another minister in the state - he was at their church and she was at ours. And with a visiting minister, we walked in without any idea what the sermon would be about - no title on the web page, no summary in the monthly newsletter.

As she talked, we were both struck repeatedly by how the things she said related to our conversations. Over and over. We couldn't wait till we got out to the car to just look at each other and go "oh my god!" Several things said summarized some of our thoughts perfectly. Some of what she said expanded our ideas. And some of it gave us new ideas and thoughts that just helped pull it all together.

Coincidence? Synchronicity? Fate? Dumb luck?

I have no idea what really makes things like that happen. But when it does, I can feel myself reacting to the surprise and the pure joy of being in the moment with that kind of experience.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Interesting doing this whole "new things" effort for the year. I'm already about 10% along the way and the attempt to embrace/try/experience 54 new things during the year certainly has had a different impact already than what I had anticipated. I expected sitting down, thinking about things I would like to try, and giving them a shot. And I've done a bit of that and have no doubt I'll continue to try new things based on that approach.

What I did not expect was the awareness of trying things all the time. As I'm paying more attention to what I do each day, I'm aware that I do a lot of little new things all the time. Some are pretty insignificant. But others really do have a bit more impact. And I was never aware of all these things coming into my life.

Some people believe that the more you focus on something and think about something, the more you attract that thing to yourself. Is that it? Am I actually trying even more new things than normal just because it is in my thoughts more now? Or have I always done this but just never paid enough attention?

Either way, it is definitely interesting to be more aware and to enjoy each of those experiences.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Every Day

Definition of LIBERAL
a : one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or waysb capitalized : a member or supporter of a liberal political partyc : an advocate or adherent of liberalism especially in individual rights
The above comes from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. And I'm thinking this is me. In fact, I know I'm liberal, but I'm beginning to think I'm very liberal. Conversations I have with friends and family leave me thinking that I'm not just a little off center....but more that I'm so far away from the center that I don't even see it any more!

Open-minded? Absolutely. Not strict in the observance of established ways. Totally. In many cases, I view "established ways" as code for "resistant to change". In a recent conversation with an old college friend, he was bemoaning the fact that his students (he is a college professor) just did not write very well. Sure, they used complex sentences, decent grammar, well thought out reasoning. But on occasion, they just seemed too casual. In fact, hold on to your hats here, a few of them had even used some text speak in a homework assignment. I know. Horrors. These surely are the end times!

He was surprised when I basically said...."so what?" If they are writing well reasoned papers with complex writing strategies, what's the harm in including some of the casual words that are part of our every day communication? Should school work be devoid of what is real in our lives? Perhaps that kind of thinking is why many kids think of school as irrelevant or "old fashioned" or many of the other complaints kids have about the institution. I'm a teacher. I'm all for standards. But standards can change with the times. 

My friend felt differently.

And yes, I support the liberal party. In truth, my real problem with politics is that the liberal party is just way too conservative! I voted for Obama. And I hear pundits talk about how he has to move to the center to get re-elected. Move to the center? He was smack dab in the center to begin with! How about moving toward some actual, liberal thinking??? For example, it was back in 1972 that the ERA passed both houses of Congress. But has it been ratified yet? Nope. For some strange reason, our country is still threatened by the idea of women being equal! And don't get me started on the rights of gay and lesbian folks to get married. But does the so-called "liberal" party stick up for those kinds of issues? No way.

And in a recent chat with a good friend, I was expressing my dismay that a gentleman in our state was recently sentenced to death for a crime. Yes, the crime he committed was awful. But I simply don't support the idea of killing someone. I mean, that was his crime. He killed someone. And if we view killing as so terrible, then why do we want to do it even more? Plus I know all the political arguments - it costs more to execute a prisoner than the have him spend life in prison. States with the death penalty traditionally have higher rates of capital crimes than those that don' clearly it isn't a deterrent. And the US is pretty much the only developed nation that still chooses to kill its citizens when they just don't like what they do.

My friend was horrified. He could I want this terrible person to live??? At some point, I don't even know how to explain myself in the face of that.

And what about those individual rights? Well, the current uproar about TSA and the full body scanners (sometimes referred to as the "porno scanners") and the National Opt-Out Day that may or may not happen tomorrow is the perfect example. No way would I want to be scanned by one of those things. And not because I don't want someone seeing me naked. Go ahead and look, I don't care. But every reputable scientist who has spoken out on the issue says the radiation levels are dangerous. That's good enough for me. And yes, I do care of they see my wife and/or kids naked. And like the guy we've all come to know....I just don't really want those folks touching my junk. Or my wife's private parts. Or my kids. Millions of people fly all over the world every day without going through those screeners or getting groped. And the incidents of disaster are extremely rare. And there is no proof...none at all...that these types of scanners and fondling would have prevented any of the few that have taken place.

They say we NEED these things to protect us from shoe bombers and underwear bombers. But wait a minute. We stopped both those guys. Without any of this nonsense. So why do we suddenly need it now?

And why is it necessary that we give up our basic rights of privacy just so the guys who see terrorists around every corner can scan us and feel us and probe our luggage and make us strip off our shoes and belts and dump everything in our pockets? Is it really necessary? Has anyone ever tried to take down a jumbo jet with a car key? And if not, why do they need to see mine?

Yeah, I'm a liberal. I wear it proudly. But I fear my liberalism is creating a pretty large gap between me and most everyone I know. And sometimes that makes me sad.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What would you do?

Today I pulled out a large box that was part of what ended up in our house after my mom passed away. And yes, I know, she passed away many months ago, so your first question can rightfully be...why are you just now going through those boxes? Well, lots of reasons.

There are so many boxes and so many things that the task is overwhelming. I don't mind admitting that I'm intimidated by the task that lies before me. There is so much to go through and I have no idea what to do with all that I uncover. The work we did in sorting and packing her house was just the beginning.

The other major reason for a is hard emotionally. After her death, we worked hard to pack up the things in her house and move them here. That alone was a task that was so difficult due to the distance involved and the emotions tangled up in the process.

So here I am, 21 months later, pulling out a large Rubbermaid container and starting through it. I knew this was a container that held photos. In fact, as I worked my way through it, it had more than 20 photo albums inside along with a fairly large pile of photos that were just tossed in the box. Twenty albums....hundreds of photos. Some of them are labeled...many are not. Some are people I know...some are not. Some are not people in my family, but seem to be friends of my parents. Others are family members that I don't know and, without any labels, I probably will never identify. And then, for some reason, there are multiple copies of some photos...the same photo showing up in different photo albums. No logic in that at all.

I labeled books as best as I could. But there are still hundreds of photos that leave me at a loss. What to do? What do you do with photos that you just can't identify? If they seem like acquaintances of my parents....easy choice. I can toss those. No one will ever want to see those again. But what about all the rest? All the photos they have of our kids...those are photos that we also have. Do I need multiple copies of each? And what about really old photos of family? Some are very old and probably would be meaningful if I had any idea who they were. But I don't. They are just old photos with old people.

I'm only one box in...with so many more to go. And I'm already at a loss.

Monday, November 01, 2010

New Things

So I've made my first choice for my "new things" effort. An attempt to motivate and keep myself inspired and focused on positive messages.

It also resulted in the creation of one more blog...but I promised not to keep making up blogs. Google needs the server space for other people. But I did want to keep a record of what I've done, so you'll see one more link in the right column under The Rest of Me. I'm calling it Messages for Me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Troubled By Halloween - Part 2

So just in case you didn't get enough of my ramblings in my post yesterday, let's revisit my troubles with Halloween. This time, I want to go to the other end of the spectrum. We talked enough about the events that trouble me due to their violence, their intensity, and their overt attempts at scaring people into going to church.

Now we go way over to the most family friendly of the Halloween activities....the Trunk or Treat. Again, this is an event most often sponsored by a church group, but in some cases, other community organizations have promoted such an activity. The focus of the activity, depending on who you listen to, is to "provide a safe family environment for trick or treaters" or to be an "excellent outreach event" for a church.

There is nothing scary about a Trunk or Treat. In fact, many of them even have costume guidelines to make sure that all the kids come dressed as a super hero or a fairy but not Dracula or a ghost. And that seems to be one key part of make a Halloween event that is not frightening.

I've got no problem with that. Little kids often need to avoid things that may seem frightening.

But this isn't really about the costume. I'm convinced, this is about sanitizing an event that seems a bit too non-Christian while segregating the church folks from the rest of their community. I mean, I know some people in the US live in neighborhoods that are just not safe. No one would go out and walk around at night. I get that. But I wonder if those are the places where Trunk or Treats are really taking place? Or does this mostly happen in nice middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods where the kids could safely trick or treat on well-lit sidewalks and among welcoming homes?

I also have no problem with a church or any other organization wanting to host their own activities as a form of building their own community. Certainly many groups have fall festivals, apple picking, trips to corn mazes, etc. Those are all excellent group activities.

But what happens when it becomes a way to exclude participation in their home neighborhood?

Many Trunk or Treaters aren't doing this as an extra fun event for their kids...they are doing as the ONLY event for their kids. They gather in a parking lot, pass out candy just to the kids who are members of their group, and then go home and keep the lights out on Halloween night....turning away all the other children in their community.

Is that really the kind of neighborhood we want? One where, in the guise of making Halloween safe, some of our most concerned parents actually turn away from their neighbors? If we want our sidewalks and neighborhoods to be safe on Halloween, shouldn't those concerned parents be the most visible presence walking about on that evening? Isn't that how we build a community and participating, by being active, by actually showing up? I'm just not sure how we help encourage a safe Halloween if people keep their kids home on that night and become unwelcoming to other kids.

We are fortunate to live in a large neighborhood with plenty of sidewalks, lots of street lights, and homes that will have their porch lights on. Some folks will just pass out the candy while others will enjoy decorating with jack-o-lanterns, a scarecrow or two, the occasional scary sound effects tape, and even one neighbor who annually erects an entire graveyard in his front yard, complete with friends who dress up and rise from the coffins to greet kids. And yes, they are very kid-friendly with lookouts to alert them so the scary-fun stuff happens with older kids (and the adults who enjoy dropping by!) while the non-scary-fun stuff happens with younger kids.

Our sidewalks will be crowded. People will drive in from surrounding areas where walking is quite as safe. Our porch light will be on. And we have plenty of 3 Musketeers, Pixie Stix, M&M's and Kit Kat bars for everyone. So feel free to drop by. We love seeing everyone in their well as those teenagers who drop by at the end of the night looking just a bit embarrassed by still hoping for a Reese's and enjoying a holiday that they don't want to ever outgrow.

We'll keep the light on for you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Troubled By Halloween - Part 1

Let me set the record straight right up front. I love Halloween. I had fun as a kid, dressing in my costume and racing through the neighborhood gathering up the goodies. I had fun as a teenager going to Halloween parties. And I've had the most fun on Halloween as I walked through our neighborhood with our kids...holding their hand in the dark and then just holding the flashlight when they were too old to want to hold hands. I've prompted them to ring the bell and say "trick or treat". And of course, I prompted them to say "thank you" once the loot had been delivered. I've even participated in some Samhain rituals in pagan celebration of the season. So as you can see, I've got no intrinsic problem with the holiday.

But I am troubled by how it has been co-opted by groups for their own purposes. In the 90's we were treated to Hell Houses - church sponsored horror shows designed the scare the crap out of people with their interpretation of all the evils in the world such as abortion and drinking. Talk about taking the fun out of a haunted house...these folks knew just how to suck all the joy out of a holiday and turn it into a sledgehammer-to-the-head approach to winning people over to their view of Christianity.

Eventually, Hell Houses became a bit too gruesome and controversial so a newer, milder version of Hell Houses hit the scene. These new guided tours are known as Judgement House, a different dramatic presentation about the "truth of people's choices". In fact, Judgement House (the two "e's" are their idea, not mine) has been around since the early 80's, but seemed to really grow in popularity in the early part of this decade as Hell Houses faded from popularity.

Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against religious groups sharing their beliefs and values. But the Hell House movement was extreme. However, it was not the most extreme horror show on this little tour.

Oh no, that honor goes to the Tribulation Trail. Located in the woods of southern Georgia, the Tribulation Trail is a 90-minute walk through the woods sponsored by the Mount Vernon Baptist Church. It bills itself as a "walk through drama portraying the end of times". What it really is, as reported by one participant, is an "intensely violent rendition of standard end-times scenarios". Six of the twelve scenes involve executions including a teenager watching his young sister beaten to death. Participants are "guided" from scene to scene by men and teenage boys carrying automatic rifles. Yet, the official website for the Tribulation Trail says it is fine for kids 10 years of age and older. And perhaps the most frightening thing of all...25,000 people a year buy tickets and take the walk and this year it is sold out.

So someone explain this to me. When so many religious groups are wanting to avoid Halloween because it isn't safe or "kid friendly"...costumes are too scary...there is too much "evil" associated with is it that religious groups are also bringing us some of the most revolting moments of Halloween horror? Can these types of events really convert people? Or is it merely a faith-promoting tool for the believers?

I understand their purpose. I'm just very confused by their tactics. Confused and appalled. I'm very clear that these activities do not represent my values. And I'm clear that I don't believe this is what Halloween is all about...whether you believe in the spirituality of Samhain, Day of the Dead, or just want a good Snickers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Old Dog Tries Some New Tricks

Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about transitions. Go ahead...check it out. I'll wait.

Welcome back! So that was four years ago. Today I turn 54. And I find myself working through a whole new set of transitions.

Not about being old. I've got no real problem with turning 54. Well, no problem other than the places that hurt that didn't use to hurt.

No, the real transitions this time are more about trying to find myself...or maybe explore a new the aftermath of so many changes in my life.

During these past 4 years, both my mom and my wife's mom passed away. We also had two other deaths in the family that were very hard on everyone. But not every transition was about death. We've also sent Son2 off to college. After struggling for 20 years raising this kid with asperger's syndrome, anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is off on his own. We are still more involved than any parent of a more typical college kid, but still, he has moved out of the house and is being successful.

So good changes. Bad changes. Lots of changes.

Time for me to regroup. To look for new ways to focus on positive things. To get back to an exploration of spirituality. To try new things. To let go of trying to be the uber parent. To let go of sadness.

Lucky you. You get to come along for the ride. And one of the best ways for me to be spontaneous is to have a plan. Yeah, I know...but that's how I am. So you'll see a link to a second blog over there on the side. I'm taking a shot at one of those memes that so many others have tried. And maybe going down that road will help me find an adventure or two.

Suggestions for new adventures are always welcome. Just keep in mind that I hate heights.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Identity In 2010

I first put my toe in the shallow end of the Internet pool way back on October 21, 1994. That's when I set up an account on AOL and began exploring the Internet. And I remember that moment of panic when the prompt came up to create a Screen Name. A what?? I didn't know I would need a screen name. But the HELP section explained it to me. And it gave some precautions. So I felt I should choose something that didn't tell people exactly who I was.

After that, for years, we were all told to be somewhat anonymous online. Women shouldn't use a screen name that indicated they were female cause they would just be targeted for sex. Kids shouldn't reveal they were young or they would be targeted for sex. Somehow, middle aged white guys weren't being targeted for sex. Some of us were just a tad insulted. But we moved on...being anonymous online. Hiding behind screen names. I had a screen name for AOL...and so did my wife. I had a screen name for CompuServe (remember that one!?!). Of course, it was a different screen name than the AOL screen name cause the same one wasn't available on both services. But heck, being a whole bunch of anonymous people had advantages. Every time I wanted to hang out in certain user created chat rooms...well, we don't need to explore that part of my online history.

Point being, for years we were all a big secret.

And then things began to change. Integrity came with transparency. Being the real me made it possible to blog and do other things online as a professional. And as those professional uses of social media began to overlap with personal uses, there was more confusion between various aliases in some places with real names (or in my case, still clinging to the idea that some secrecy was the way to go), an initial and a name.

Then came facebook. Everyone suddenly felt the need to use their real names. Otherwise, how could those old college friends find you? Besides, facebook feels like a safe place...just people sharing photos of their kids, talking about the routine pieces of their lives, and touching base with old and new friends.

Now...what's a boy to do? My professional blog and professional twitter account identify me the same way. My name. My facebook account has my real name. But blogger...the place I've actually connected and talked with many people...I'm still a nickname. Sure, many of the folks who have talked with me via e-mail over the years know my real name now. But there is an odd disconnect between here and everywhere else. All my family and friends know me on facebook. Only two people that I actually know in real life know about my blog. But I don't write anything here that would offend them or upset them. And even if I did, I write what I really think. It isn't a big secret.

So at what point does pseudo-privacy and anonymity fade away and we all become clickable as the person that we really are?

What do YOU think? How do YOU handle it? Are YOU...really you?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Powerful Message

Please go check out Mrs. Chili's Letter to the Universe today. She speaks profoundly on behalf of so many who need support. And she links to some other sites that speak just as powerfully.

You rock Mrs. Chili!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

In our last episode...

Son2 continues to be in college.

Yeah, that fact alone is a bit surprising to us. I mean, we thought he could do it. On the other hand, we would not have been shocked if it had all come to an end by now.

There have been more major outings to islands. However, he continues to make friends and actively participate in social activities. The day came and went for Early Academic Reports. That's the time when the Learning Specialist would call the parents to let them know their kid was struggling (i.e. had some grade below a C). We got no call...just an e-mail saying he was doing fine. And at the end of their first four weeks this past Monday, he moved up a level.

Level? Yeah, every kid starts on Level 1. Based on a variety of achievements - good grades, passing room inspection, participating in social activities, etc, etc....they can move up to Level 2 after the first month. Level 2 means no more required daily study hall. Later curfew. Permission to join clubs for extracurricular activities, and things like that. If you don't move up at the end of the first four weeks, you get another opportunity every three weeks after that. Eventually, each kid tries to go all the way to Level 3 which gives them additional freedoms such as having a car on campus, etc.

So yep, Son2 is moving up, passing, participating. We are excited. We are proud. And we still hold our breath that each day will be one more day of success.

BTW...if you think the only thing I will ever write about again is Son2, you are wrong. Yet, you would be surprised just how much his energy still dominates our lives even when he lives on the other side of the state!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Island Hopping

In 14 days of college, Son2 has become a person we do not know. When he lived with us, he was chatty with us but totally quiet around others. He had no friends. He didn't go out with others. And he was a slug. He liked to swim, but pretty much any other activity that required any physical effort was met with massive moaning and complaining. It took an act of god to get him to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail.

Until today. Today he and a few of his new friends (yep, he has new friends...we are still in shock!) left the campus, traveled to the ferry, took the ferry across Long Island Sound to Block Island, rented bikes, and biked all the way around the island. They got some lunch and took the ferry back home.

Our kid did this. Not just other people's kids. OUR kid. It is entirely possible the pod version of him has taken control (sorry for a reference to a movie that might be too old for some of you!).

So what is this like? WEIRD! We are proud of the fact that he is working so hard to make friends. We are excited that he is being successful. But heck, we can't skip over the fact that we are a little concerned. We aren't calling and checking in on him all the time. And we don't have paid spies following him around campus. But it is hard not to worry about a kid who is so enthusiastically embracing the world when he has so little real world experience under his belt.

But he did it. At least he called when he was on the island and we know he did most of it. And we assume he made it back to campus cause we've had no frantic calls from a stranded boy on an island. So we just look at each other, shake our heads, and wonder where this kid came from.

As Daughter says - "that is NOT my brother!"

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Where to begin?

It has only been 11 days since Son2 moved to college but it feels like a lifetime! Try to imagine a group of kids - all with some special need and all with some social skills deficit - living and learning together. Sounds like a good plan. But then imagine that same group of kids - with somewhat limited abilities to set boundaries, lots of inability to inhibit impulses, and the first opportunity many of them have ever had not to be the "weird" kid in the resource room - and you start to see the big picture.

It would be fascinating as a clinical study.

It can be a bit scary and challenging as the parent!!

In just 11 days, he has made friends and then decided they weren't such great friends. And then made more friends. And he has watched - and reported in detail - all the making and changing of friends going on around him. Boyfriend/girlfriend pairs have formed...and dissolved. And formed again. Every social interaction is on hyper speed. Limitations on the abilities to inhibit and discriminate seem to open the floodgates for social happenings.

And yes, one girl who had not really talked to Son2 at all for the first few days finally spoke up. Her first words - "wanna have sex with me?" He politely declined.

Classes are going well. He seems to enjoy it for the most part. But make no is college being done at an incredibly intense level.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Fear

As I sit here this morning sipping my coffee and looking at the clock, I'm just one week away from taking Son2 to college. Next Sunday morning, he moves into his dorm. And I'm filled with excitement for him. But I'm also filled with anxiety and fear.

For those of you who have read along, you know enough about Son2 to have some understanding of all this.

The excitement is obvious, for sure. Any parent is excited to see their kid head off to college. Meeting new people, learning new things, taking a big independent step out into the world.

But there have been so many times in his life when we felt that college would never be a realistic option for Son2. The anticipation of him going to college has always been tempered by the reality that he might never go. The complexities of his disabilities just can't be ignored. This was something we knew might never happen.

But now it is. And we are grateful for the opportunity he has. Something for which he worked hard and struggled. And we are excited to see him take this step.

But oh, the anxiety! What will it be like for him? Can he make friends? Will he be able to be successful? Will he have a complete breakdown without the support network he has relied on for his entire life?

I have no doubt he can do the academics. He can read and write well. He can memorize names and dates and places. He can do algebra. He can formulate a good thesis and write a pretty good paper. He is no straight-A kid, but he can do the work.

But will he? Will he be able to make himself? Can he learn to organize his time? His materials? Can he handle the social demands of living in a dorm and attending college? Can he overcome the executive functioning disabilities that are such a part of Asperger's?

Yes, this is a program specifically designed to assist kids with learning disabilities. He'll have lots of help - if he learns to use those resources. And he wants it so badly. But will he take advantage? Can he?

And he feels the anxiety, as well. He just told me this week that the stereotype of the 40-year-old man living in the basement with his mom was, as he put it, "not entirely uncomfortable" for him.

We all have doubts. We all have fears. It will be a long week of final preparations, family dinners, and packing. And we'll move him in next Sunday with our fingers crossed and our lucky rabbit's foot in the pocket. We'll leave him behind....this kid who has never spent a night at a grandparent's house without us there. He'll be there in the dorm, on his own, starting college classes the next morning.

I'll want to call him Sunday night. I'll want to call after every class. But I won't. I know he has to do this.

But how long will it be before the fear goes away?

Friday, August 20, 2010

She says it so well

For any of you who have hung in there with me since early on, you've read posts about Son2 and his struggles with asperger's syndrome, ADHD, OCD, and anxiety disorder. Not an easy cocktail of special needs. And at times, I've tried to write about our struggles to help him and the impact on the family.

Tanya says it so well, I thought I would just send you over to her today. Our stories aren't identical, but I've surely carried Son2 from the store, leaving a week's worth of groceries in the cart, while dragging Son1 along behind.

Thanks, Tanya, for putting it so nicely. Let's hear it for Plan B!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That will be 25¢, please.

Went with Son2 to the DMV this morning. Time to get that official state ID card, since he doesn't drive and have a flashy driver's license to prove he exists. And my dread was just how long it would take. The DMV, at least in CT, is not known for being speedy. People die and wither away just waiting in line at that place.

But I have to admit, they were quick today! We were in and out in less than 30 minutes - ID in hand with a pretty decent photo as a bonus.

But one thing had changed since my last visit.

The entire purpose of the DMV is forms. People filling out forms. Signing forms. Bringing forms from home that allow them to get new forms to be filled out. Forms.

And what do you need for all those forms? Something to write with. The usual pen-on-a-chain kind of thing glued to every counter top in the place.

There were no pens. No dangling chains where pens used to be. In fact, the most basic tool needed to actually accomplish your reason for going to the DMV has vanished.

In its place? Vending machines. Multiple vending machines selling cheaply made pens for 25¢. Yep, you gotta buy a pen to fill out all those forms.

I'm all about saving money, cutting budgets, reducing overhead. But seriously...shouldn't an agency that is all about forms at least have the necessary implements for dealing with those forms?

Just saying.

Monday, August 16, 2010

31 and Counting...

Yeah, I started writing again and then went away. What's up with that? VACATION!!

I have been very lucky this year to get 6 weeks off from work to enjoy time with family and to relax and have fun. Well, really just 5 weeks and 6 days, but rounding up sounds even better.

During that time, there has been very little computer work. What there has been has been fun. And more fun. And relaxing. And reading. And napping.

Let's take a quick inventory...

We've gone camping three times...or was it four? Either way, plenty of time to relax and swim and kayak.

We spent 7 nights and 8 days on St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Oh yes, just as awesome as you might imagine. Beautiful beaches. Lots of swimming and snorkeling. Fabulous food - all served in open air restaurants. Wildlife, scenery, ruins, hiking - we had it all.

Reading. I love to read. But during the school year I end up mostly reading things related to work. So far during my time off...9 books under my belt! And with almost two weeks left, I'll get another couple of books crossed off my "to read" list.

Napping. Lots of napping. A boy is never too old for nap time!

So was it all about being lazy and hedonistic pursuits? Nah. I've also done a bunch of chores around the house, helped the neighbor lady with some of her chores, helped move Son1 back home. And helped prepare Son2 for his move away to college. So I've actually found time to be productive when I wasn't reading, napping, swimming, snorkeling....well, you get the picture.

A few more days to go. I hope YOUR summer is just as awesome!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Last night at approximately 7:45 eastern time, Son2 strolled across the stage (so far away from where we were sitting that he was mostly a maroon spot on the horizon!) and collected his high school diploma. It is exciting when any kid reaches that milestone. For a kid who struggles with asperger's syndrome and a few other complicating factors, it was truly momentous. An achievement for him, for us, and for all those who have helped him along the way.

Congratulations!! We love you!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It all comes down to this...

I've written about all my kids on the blog, but I've written about Son2 far more often than the others. Having a kid with multiple special needs provides a lot of story prompts!

It also provides more anxieties than any person should have to endure. And right now we are in the middle of final exams. Not just any final exams. Oh no, my friendly reader, I'm talking the FINAL final exams! This is it. Graduate if he does well. Live in our basement and sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door if he fails.

Okay, maybe that last option is a bit extreme. But after 14 years in the public school system (we stretched high school out over five years for maximum benefit), we really have come down to one class that must be passed in order to graduate. Oh it would be nice if he did well in all his classes. Hell, I'm a teacher. Of course I want him to do well. But he could truly fail three of them and nothing would change. But one class...the chem/physics all rides on that one. And he is going into the final with a somewhat mediocre average in that class, so the final really could mean the difference.

Fourteen years coming down to one test.

When he started school all those many years ago, I had a head full of thick, dark brown hair. The kind any woman would want to run her fingers through. Well, not any woman, really. But my wife liked it okay. Now...fourteen years later...some thin spots, some gray hairs, some receding in the hairline area. And I'm wondering if this one test can push me from thinner and grayer to wispy and white?!?! The stress is just unbelievable.

We should have grades very soon. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Lesson In Loss

A few folks have looked at the Wordle I posted when I returned from my long absence and said they would love to hear more about some of those words. And I’ll certainly share on several of them. For my own benefit, I’ll probably spend more time on the happier words than the sad words. But I’m gonna start with the sad ones – especially since they contributed to my long absence from blogging.

Some of those words in there – funeral, mother-in-law, estate, and cancer – all relate to the loss of several family members over the past 30 months.

Our first loss was our niece who died in a tragic accident in December 2007.

We really had not recovered from that loss when my mom passed away in February 2008. I never wrote so much about her death, but I did share some of what we dealt with after the fact both here and here.

Just two months after my mom’s death, my favorite aunt passed away. One more emotional blow when we were still struggling with our recent losses.

Throughout all of this time, my mother-in-law battled leukemia. After a long struggle, she finally passed away this past October.

All of these required our family to pack up and travel all around the country for funerals. We all became too good at putting on our “funeral clothes” doing the meet-and-greet at viewings and meals hosted by friends and churches, and serving as pall bearers to loved ones. These are skills at which no one should have to become very adept.

Aside from those skills, we learned other things. We learned to enjoy our family more. We learned to seize the day – go out, have fun, travel – not just worry about saving money for the future. The future is just too uncertain.

During that time of grieving, regrouping, learning…I stopped writing. It just mental energy to write that I just didn’t have at the time. I know, if you’ve read my writing, you think not a whole lot of mental energy could be going into that! But it was more creative energy than I could muster.

Instead, I spent time with family. I read a lot. We talked about our future and what we really wanted. We regrouped. We traveled. We ate out more. We started to have fun and embrace life in ways we never had before. Not that we did “new” stuff…we just did “more” stuff. A lot more.

That’s not to say we don’t still grieve. Some of it still feels too recent to let go. But losing people you love can really open your eyes to those you love that are still with you. Making the most of the time together is a critical thing to do.

We’ve worked hard to learn that lesson.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The First of the Season

The first camping trip of the season is always one of the best. Oh sure, it takes a lot of work setting up the camper, stocking it with food and supplies, just getting everything in order for the season.

But there is also the relaxing, the sitting in the sun, the swimming, the paddle boat, the kayaks, the delicious meals on the grill and the fun of just hanging out with the family away from the phones and the homework and the chores and the errands.

Hope your weekend was just as awesome.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Timing is everything

Some folks would swear that the beginning of the school year is the busiest time of the year. It is not.

Some folks believe the holiday season is the busiest. They are wrong.

The end of the school year is the most ludicrous time on the calendar.

As you know, we have three kids. Going to two different schools. That means two different schedules for finals, end-of-year projects, band concerts, staying late to prep for finals, and registering for a summer class (Son1 at his college). Then there is the scrambling to find summer jobs (Son1 who always waits too late!), trying to find time to open our camper and get ready for camping season (first day at the camper will be tomorrow), planning our summer vacation, planning for Son2's graduation, preparing for Son2 to attend college orientation and move into his dorm later this summer, etc, etc.

In addition, since I work at a school, that means a third calendar to follow! A different crush to get things done at the last minute. Different types of projects to wrap up for the year. Different graduation. Different final days for teachers.

It wears on you. Last night, my wife woke me up about 11PM. Why? Cause I had fallen asleep in the chair about 9PM and she just let me sleep till time for bed.

But just 15 more work days for me. YEA!

Of course, I'll be right back at work when summer school begins.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Did I Miss Anything?

Yep, I'm afraid I did. At least here. Sixteen months ago I wrote my last blog post. Didn't know it would be the last one when I did it. But, well, life gets busy, ya know? And I just drifted away from writing.

But I did miss it. And I missed connecting with friends online. Now that's not to say I didn't connect. So many folks sent e-mails all through those 16 months. They were kind enough to check on keep in touch...and to encourage me to write again.

And so I am. But it would just be crazy to try to write a post that catches you up on the past 16 months. And I'm pretty darn sure not one single person is still checking in here no one will really notice. But, on the off chance that I pop up like some long-lost friend on someone's RSS feed, here is the past 16 months on one Wordle...

Yep, that's it. Some things that just were not fun for our family. And some things that were lots of fun.

And as we move forward and I share new things, no doubt you'll pick up on some tidbits from some of those past moments. I know...pretty exciting, huh?