If this is your first time visiting, welcome. If you are returning again, welcome back. While this blog was originally not going to be about me or my life, it seems to be morphing to include more of myself and experiences. I will still strive to add a different perspective to the news and events around the world that impact everyone's life,however, I will focus more attention on issues that relate more tangibly to our personal lives. We all live in a world that is increasingly interconnected yet it seems a lot of people are turning inwards, shying away from human interaction. Lets step away from ourselves and see what we can do to make a difference. There are ads on this page and 65 cents of every dollar earned will be donated towards helping the homeless. If you like what you are reading, please share it with your friends.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Not Laws but Mentality

So another unarmed youth was shot and killed over this past weekend, this time by police, after a 911 call about a robbery of a backpack.  (NYTimes Article)  It gets even better (sarcasm) when you hear that the police arrested the 911 caller for claiming that the assailants had shoved a gun in his face and in part contributed to the killing of the unarmed youth.  Once again, as in the case of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the youth was black.   The police officers claimed that they felt their lives were in imminent danger when the youth, 19, reached for his waist where they felt there was probably a gun.  The officers then unloaded their guns, 8 or 10 bullets (their story has changed), and the youth died in the hospital later on.  What makes this even more troubling is that they youth they shot was running away from police when he reached for his waist.  Lives in imminent danger?  Doubtful.  The 911 caller?  He will probably be charged with involuntary manslaughter because he lied to police about the gun.  Yet the caller claims he lied in hopes that the police would get their more quickly.  This is simply another twisted case in which a youth was shot and killed because he was suspected of having a gun, which he didn't.  There seems to be this overwhelming mentality that if you have darker skin, you will be more likely to be armed and dangerous than if you had light skin.  Its not about the gun laws, its about a prejudiced mentality that our country can't seem to shake off and get rid of.   If we want to talk about equality, we must start with the perceptions and prejudices of the majority and seek to alter them dramatically.

Its always something in the United States that stokes feelings of inequality, racism, prejudice, unfairness, etc.  You can be a black man, Muslim, Jew, Hispanic, female, or any other subset and be a victim of inequality, of unfairness.  One month we hear of Christians rallying against the Muslims for fear they are all terrorists.  The next its all about young black men getting shot and killed needlessly.  After that its all about the government impinging upon the rights of Catholics.  It seems that no matter what we do, we can not escape the grip of inequality or prejudice at any level in our society.  With such diversity in the United States, such freedom to be who we are and do what we want, can we ever reach true equality amongst all citizens?  I don't know if we ever will reach that point of true equality.  The only way we can truly be equal to everyone else in our society is if everyone seeks to change their mentality about people who are different than themselves.  Don't get me wrong, this would be a monumental effort and one not likely to succeed in my mind, but one worth pursuing nonetheless.  As humans, we have a proclivity to stay within the realm of whats comfortable.   Most people are skeptical of anything that is different or of anything that challenges their notions of what "should be".  What must happen in order for prejudices and preconceived notions to be torn down is for us to start viewing each other as Americans; nothing more, nothing less.  If we live in this country, regardless of how long we have been here, there is an obvious inclination to desire freedom, a desire to live a life of our own choosing.   Yet too often we can't see each other as simply Americans.  There is always some other indicator we must attach to "American" in order to specify what we are talking about.  We have Black Americans, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, etc, etc.  It seems that many people have a problem with simply considering their fellow citizens as "Americans".   All of this plays into our mentality and how we deal with people on a regular basis.  For some, it means demonizing Black Americans and considering them to first and foremost be armed and dangerous.  If we can change our mentality, perhaps we can change how people are treated every day.

So back to the original story of the youth being shot and killed by police officers.  I must be fair and state that the two assailants did in fact rob the 911 caller of his backpack.  That being said, however, there still remains that fact that there were no guns found and that the police shot and killed one of the assailants.  Can they claim they acted because they felt their lives were in imminent danger?  Absolutely, but they wouldn't necessarily be correct in that statement.  It just sounds odd to me that someone who is running away can be a threat to someone's life.  I can understand if he rushed cops while reaching for his waist, especially considering the 911 caller's statement about a gun, but that still doesn't exclude the excessive use of force, of unloading 8 or 10 bullets into this young man's body.  Last time I checked (and I do not want to test this out myself) it usually only takes one well placed bullet to stop a person.  But all we can do now is let it unfold as it will and see how the cards fall.  Besides that, we can all start to adopt a different mentality of the people around us, one that espouses equality instead of working against it.  Until we can view everyone around us as "Americans", we will not be equal and some group or people will feel unwelcome, discriminated against, and not equal to the rest of us.  We have been working at this "equality" thing for way to long.  It is time we stepped up our efforts to be all inclusive without prejudice, and maybe one day we won't have to worry about dealing with "inequality".

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Long Day

Yesterday felt like an interminably long day.  Not that it wasn't a good day, which it was, it just seemed to go on forever and drain me of most if not all of my energy.  Yesterday was the first of my two days at home with our son on any given week.  With our son being more active now, it seems to take more energy on my part when I am watching him.  The morning is never that bad.  After breakfast and after my wife left for work, we did our normal routine, retreat to the living room floor and proceed with the rolling and the continuous attempt at crawling.  Before we even got to the floor I already saw the tiredness creeping into our son's face, his eyes becoming a little glassy and his smile diminishing, leaving him with a blank stare a good portion of the time.  There were still little bouts of energy being expelled so I knew that he didn't have too much floor time in him.  That's where we retreated however for about ten minutes before it was time for his morning nap.  He went down fairly easily and slept for almost two hours.  There was no down time for me with diapers that needed washing and some minor cleaning that needed to be done.  By the time he woke up, I had finished and before his morning snack we got a little more floor time in.  Well, after eating, we ventured out to go see his great grandparents.  They were ecstatic to see him and he was on his best behavior while there.  They both got a chance to hold him before he was ready for more floor action.  We were there for almost two hours and during that time he ate his lunch and proceeded to fall asleep during the process in my arms.  I managed to transfer him to the floor where he luckily stayed asleep for about 45 minutes. 

Well, that was the end of his naps on my watch.  When we got back home, we tried to play on the floor a little more to no avail, he was just too tired and verging on hunger again.  So I decided to try a nap for a little bit.  That didn't go over so well.  So time to feed again.  And from the time of feeding till my wife got home from work, he needed to be held and walked around.  He was simply too tired to do much of anything else.  We tried playing on the floor, but frustration at not being able to crawl cut short our time there and the only thing he seemed capable of handling was walking around the yard, exploring the plants, and of course going out front to check on the construction of a new water main down our street.  He loves to stare at the big trucks and anything that rumbles by our house.  When my wife got home, I then got ready for work.  Once I made sure that she was all set for the afternoon stint, I hopped in my van and headed off.  I wasn't at work for that long, but with work being half hour away, I didn't end up making it home till about 7.  So there was my day yesterday.  Exciting, right?  Well, it is exciting being with our son all day, it just gets tiring after a while, especially the early afternoon where he just got over tired and needed to be held.  Naps weren't going over well yesterday and in order to keep him from totally losing it, I needed to put in extra effort.   Couple that extra effort with going to work in the late afternoon and you have a serious recipe for exhaustion.   I suppose I could have done some stuff around the house when I got home, there was just no desire on my part to do so. 

Luckily most days are not as tiring as yesterday.  At least our son sleeps through the night and affords us the opportunity to get enough rest for ourselves, but the days watching him can drain us.  Its just his constant activity that ends up taking its toll on us.  Don't get me wrong, I love to watch him struggle to crawl, study new faces and new objects, and talk and laugh in his non-verbal way, but I never realized how tiring it can be.  Its not even like the day seemed to drag on, in fact it flew by (except for the last half our or so).  I couldn't believe how quickly the time went.  But I guess that is the sign of being truly busy and active.  I know some people love babies and wish they could keep them there forever.  Not me.  I love our son, but I am glad he is only a baby once in his life.  So now, as I wish to go back to sleep for another hour or two, I am preparing myself for another wonderful day with our son.  I love every minute, I will just need to make a little extra coffee during the day to keep me going.  Coffee it seems, is the lifeline of parents, a necessity for getting through the day and doing it all again the next.  Maybe I should buy stock in coffee.  It seems to keep on going up in price and with the amount that I am going through I could probably make some serious money.  So maybe not, but its a thought.  In any case, its time to wake the little man up and get him started on another day.  Can't wait, seriously!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Balancing Act

Fatherhood, above all else, is a balancing act.  Upon first becoming a father, despite the uncertainty of being a father, everything seems simple, everything seems to flow smoothly and function properly.  But perhaps that is because at first, my wife was home, taking care of our son and doing what she could do around the house.  There wasn't much to balance outside of the normal daily activities.  I went to work, came home, saw our son, did chores around the house and went to bed.  All that changes, however, and I can see how it will change even more in the future, when both parents are working to support the household.  Suddenly there is the added daycare, staying at home with our son, dealing with an influx of work, on top of all the chores at home, unfinished projects, and the necessity of spending time with my wife.  It seems that everything gets allotted a certain amount of time during the day and yet even with that allotment, things fluctuate and certain tasks get less time than others, some get more, and every day doesn't seem to have enough hours in it.  Yes, I know, wait till our son gets older, gets to school, gets involved in other activities.  I know things will get crazier, but it seems right now that this is the time when craziness is at its max.  Still largely immobile, despite rolling across the floor, our son needs attention, needs to be carried everywhere, and he is on a fairly strict schedule of his own design when it comes to eating and sleeping.  Don't get me wrong, I love every second of it, however there are times when I just wish he could walk so I could have him follow me outside.  Or even have him get to the point where he is able to entertain himself a little bit more. 

Do I want him to grow up quicker?  To be honest, a small part of me does, but only a small part.  I still cherish every moment I have with him and for the most part desire only for him to develop at his own pace.  I wouldn't trade in the times I have with him now for any other time, yet there is still a small part of me that wishes he were a little more self reliant.  For now, it shall remain a balancing act (not that it will ever change drastically, just the elements that need balancing change), one in which I struggle to find the perfect mix where everything I need to tackle in a day gets the appropriate amount of time devoted to it.  But there in lies the issue; how does one determine what the appropriate time is to devote to any one activity or task?  There isn't an appropriate time for anything it seems and that's what makes fatherhood a true balancing act.  My number one priorities are my wife and son and as such I try to ensure that they get as much of my attention and time as possible.  When I come home in the evenings from work and my son is still awake, he gets my full attention as he goes to bed between 6 and 630.  Even if there are pressing phone calls that need to be made or business stuff that needs attending to, he trumps everything.  Unfortunately he can't trump the fact that I actually need to go to work in order to make money, but that is just another part of the balancing act.  By the end of the day, when I am exhausted and tired, there are times I just can't muster up the energy to get things done for my business.  Some days are better than others obviously, but there are many days when I just collapse after dinner, desiring only to relax with my wife, and then go to sleep.

There is nothing I would trade for fatherhood, I just sometimes wish the balancing act were a little bit easier.  Yet I know that taking it one day at a time is the best way to muddle through it, for that is what I do most of the time.  I may look like I have it together some of the time, but in reality, if you looked at my life as a big picture, you would see a man fumbling through.  Perhaps it by taking life one step at a time that I can appear to have it together, perhaps that is what maintains my sanity.  Personally, I don't really care if I look like I have it all together, all figured out; I just do what I do regardless.  There are times when I dare to look at the big picture, look at everything I need to get done, all the areas I need to devote my time to, and get a little freaked out.  I find I can't look at the big picture too often or it becomes detrimental to my well being.  For a long time now, I have lived by a few sayings.  The first one, my favorite is "Carpe Diem" or seize the day.  I try and take every day and live it to its fullest, giving my time where I can and not fretting about areas that don't get enough of it.  The second saying is "Everything works out for the best".  I know this isn't necessarily a popular saying, but I live by it, letting go of frustrations and just trusting that everything will turn out the way it should in the end.  I find if I worry too much about how things are going, how things are progressing, or what the future may hold because of my actions in the present, I get caught in the whirlwind and can't find it within myself to live in the moment.  So my balancing act is just that; a tenuous walk on the tightrope of life, perpetually getting buffeted by the winds of change, the tugs and weights of everything around me, and the only visible way to move forward is one step at a time.  We shall see where this tightrope takes me. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mission: Haiti

I am fairly certain that almost everyone reading this knows about the devastation that took place in Haiti a few years ago due to an earthquake.  Well, life is still pretty much in shambles down there with no real economy, rebuilding occurring at a slow pace, and people merely scraping by.  A gentleman who used to attend our Church is seeking to make a difference however.   This man, Sean Forrest, has always been involved with the youth, organizing retreats across the country, headlining a Christian band, and seeking to help out anyone he can.  Over the past year he traveled to Haiti, saw the devastation, and was moved to start a monumental project of building a school amongst other things to help out a small local community down there.  Well, our Church has jumped into this project head first and is seeking to help out in any way possible from donations to actual trips to help in the building process.  The first such trip to help in the building process will be happening in June.  When I saw this, I thought this would be a great opportunity to put my skills to work.  So now I need to figure out how to get there.  I am sure it will all fall into place, but its not going to be the easiest thing to do.  I have a wife and son to help support and take care of and as we all know, money is tight right now.  How am I going to do this?  I don't know yet.

So why would I want to go down to Haiti to help build stuff.  Simply put, as bad as some of us might have it here in the United States, nothing compares to how bad they have it down there right now.  Anything that I can do to help will hopefully make a difference.  We don't have the extra money to make a donation to help with much and I feel my skills at working with my hands, building things, would be much more valuable put to use down there than any amount of money I can donate.   The good thing is that I am getting busier with work which means that I should be bringing in a little more money.   Obviously none of that means I will be able to make it down there.  Despite the cost of the plane ticket, I still need to factor in the amount of money that will need to be saved up in order to make sure bills are paid at home while I am down there helping build.   I hope this whole trip does work out and I am able to make it down there, it just might take a little bit of creativity to make it work.  The other downside of this trip is that it occurs during my busy season of work, where my customers are clamoring to get their work done.   I have a feeling however, that most of them would support the fact that I would be gone for a week or two to donate my services to people in need.  Even if they aren't, it really isn't their choice and as long as I explain to them early enough that I will be gone for a certain period of time, everything should work out.

In any case, we are still a few months away from the trip which leaves plenty of time to figure things out and hopefully make it work financially.  As I write this, I do find it a little ironic how I am talking about making sure we have enough money to sustain us while I am gone yet the people I would be going to help have practically nothing.  But such is the crazy lives we live.  Damn money.   Sometimes I wish we didn't need money to survive, to pay stupid bills and buy food and what not.  There is no getting rid of it however.  You can be sure that as long as we live in the United States, there will always be some company or some government agency seeking to thrust their hand deeper into your pocket to take as much money from you as possible.  The simple life is gone.  Now in order to go help others, we need to save up money just to do that.  But enough, I just need to keep my sights focused on getting to Haiti to help them out and hopefully everything will work out.  Maybe I should just start an online campaign to raise money to get me down there and help support my family while I am gone.  I don't know how I would feel about that though.  Raising money to help me while I go help others in more dire need.  Hmmm.  What to do?  I guess my first objective is to figure out how much all of this will cost and go from there.  In any case, that's my current mission outside of being a husband, father, and half of the support of our family.  Crazy, crazy, crazy, but that's my life and I love it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tribute to Ramiro Rocuant

I have known Ramiro Rocuant, or Uncle Mito as I call him, for the majority of my life, or at least since I can remember.  Having been married to my late Aunt Dina, and living fairly close to my parents in the same town, we used to see each other quite often.   When I was younger and my mother was still working, it was his house that my grandmother, Baba, used to watch me at.  From my perspective as a child, and even years later as a teenager and up until now, Uncle Mito was one of the most welcoming, laid back people I have known.  He welcomes everyone, family or not, with an enormous smile and a hug.  But he doesn't just stop there.  He takes the time to listen to what people have to say, to engage them in conversation and see how they have been.  One of my more recent memories (meaning about 5-6 years ago) was when my wife and I went down to Florida to visit and he welcomed her as if she were already a part of our family, no ifs, ands, or buts.  That is perhaps the part of Uncle Mito that makes him stand out from many other people, his welcoming disposition, his smile, and his overall dedication to family.  A good part of that I am sure comes from the fact that he was born in Chile, a family oriented country compared to the United States, and he never let that influence leave him. 

If you knew my Uncle Mito and Aunt Dina, you would understand how they worked so well together.  My Aunt Dina, while also welcoming and embracing, also had a commanding presence about her.  She had a certain way of doing things, strong opinions about the way certain events should pan out, and always needed to have a say in what was going on.  Yet this never phased my Uncle.  His laid back demeanor, I am sure, helped both of them weather many storms and get through all the trials of marriage.  To put it simply, they balanced each other out and because of that, their relationship endured.   It was my Uncle Mito's patience that got him through many an ordeal.  It was probably what helped him when he used to give me rides to school in the morning on his way to work.  He did this for a while and I still remember days when he would patiently wait for me outside my parents house as I was running late.  Being young, I didn't comprehend the whole "being on time" issue as I do now and I often let it pass me by as irrelevant even though it had a big impact on those who took care of me.  Having gone to a Catholic grammar school, we had to wear slacks, a button down shirt, and a tie every day.  On occasion, we would have "dress down days" where we could essentially wear whatever we wanted to as long as it was in good taste.  There were times when I would completely forget about the dress down day, get driven to school by my Uncle, only to find out that every other student was dressed down.  It was my Uncle Mito who helped me get over the fact that it was OK not to be dressed down and to get my but into the building. 

I have nothing but fond memories of my Uncle Mito.  He has now moved back to his native Chile and re-married.  Despite his sons still residing in the United States, most of his family still remains in Chile and I don't blame him at all for wanting to get back down there to spend time with them.  I know that no matter what happens, he will remain a dedicated individual, a loving husband, and wonderful father to his four sons.  If our finances ever allow us to make a trip of that nature, I would love to go visit him and see where my mother grew up, and meet his extended family down there.  Life is not so simple as my grandmother would say, but looking at Uncle Mito, you see that all you need to do is take life one day at a time and everything will work out.  And add in to that mix a little bit of golf which he absolutely loves, and you have a recipe for a good life.  So to many more happy years with his new wife, I pay tribute to my Uncle Mito, a dear member of our family who I could never forget!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Simple Life

I've come to realize that the life of a baby is really quite simple.  Not that this is a sudden realization, for I have known it for a while, but it seems that reflecting upon it now, it must be nice to have everything taken care of for you.  An infant's needs are minimal;, food, clean diaper, sleep, and entertainment.  That's it.  If only life could continue to be that simple as we grew up, but alas, it is not.  Anyway, enough about me lamenting for a moment my hectic life as compared to that of my son and on to my son and his life.  This week seemed to bring about a slight change in his features.  His head seems to be growing a bit more and his facial features are slowly becoming more defined.  Every week he changes a little bit more, slowly changing from a handsome baby to a handsome little boy.  I know, don't rush things, and trust me, I'm not, but it just seems like this past week the changes in his face have been more noticeable than in weeks past.  While his face is slowly changing, so is his repertoire of sounds.  He has taken to singing quite beautifully, or talking as we like to put it, a lot more than he used to.  There are some consonants slowly slipping into his vocabulary, making his sounds morph more into an infantile Gregorian chant than anything else.  The only part that throws off the chanting is his occasional high pitched squeal that he throws into the mix.  It seems that most of the time, he is the most vocal when rolling around on his belly, searching for the proper method to propel himself forward on hands and knees. 

There was a funny instance over the past weekend in regards to our son's talking.  We went to 730 mass last Sunday as we usually do at our church.  It is an early mass with not many children or for that matter babies in attendance.  Most of the people who sit around us are usually happily distracted with our son and his incessant smiling.  He normally does really well through mass, having his morning snack through part of it.  Well, by the end this past weekend we could tell he was getting a little tired and when the priest got up to give the weekly announcements, our son decided to give him a little competition and try to hurry him along.  He started singing at the top of his lungs, his ahhhhh's and ohhhh's echoing through the Church.  He wasn't fussy, or screaming, he was just talking/singing really loudly.  He got so loud that the priest, who had a microphone to assist him, had to talk louder just to be heard over our son.  Everyone around us couldn't stop laughing.  I myself had trouble stifling my laughs.  The best part was, he didn't stop until the priest stopped and the last song started at which point he was content with listening to everyone sing.  The way he is going right now, he will be talking up a storm as soon as the words start coming.   A part of me can't wait to hear his questions, to hear him start figuring out the world vocally, but I am still content with where he is right now, testing his vocal range, exploring the different sounds he can make, and enjoying every second of his simple life. 

It is interesting that when you get in tune with your own son (or children for anyone else), you can tell sometimes what he is going to be doing in a few minutes.  You gain the ability to judge how he will react to different stimuli, how he will handle certain excursions, or what his temperament will be like depending on how much sleep he got.  Yet despite this, there will always be those days where the trump card gets thrown in and everything goes out of whack.  It seems the past few days have been a little different than usual.  With his incessant rolling around and moving, he has been getting overly tired more quickly, yet likes to stick with his normal 2.5 hours of napping.  There will be days when he gets more, but on average, he likes his 2.5 hours and that's it.  It seems he is getting to the point where he just wants to eat more because he is expending more energy, and doesn't want to sleep because there is too much going on around him.  To be fair, we don't over stimulate him by any means.  We can tell when he is getting tired and try to calm him down, resort to activities that don't require rolling all over the floor, yet it doesn't always work.  He can be such a fidget sometimes that it makes it hard to hold him.  He squirms all around until you put him back on the floor or in his high chair.  But that's our son, active little guy, and nothing is going to change that until he starts crawling and soon after I am sure, walking.  For now, we will just let him figure it out, roll around to his heart's content, and vocalize every sound he wants to.  This week was wonderful and I can't wait to see what next week brings with our growing son. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Stand Your Ground"

Today I veer away from talking about my son, away from family and friends, to a troubling event that occurred in Florida within the past month.  If you haven't heard about the occurrence, it all relates to a law that a number of states have, essentially called the "Stand Your Ground" law which states that if a person is confronted by a perpetrator, they do not need to make an effort to flee or get help, but rather, can stand their ground and use deadly force if necessary to defend themselves.  This law usually applies regardless of where an even takes place, whether it be in a home, shopping center, car, or simply walking down the street.  As this law allows a person to defend themselves with whatever means necessary (gun, knife, bat), they are essentially allowed to kill another person and get away with it, as long as they felt that their life was threatened and if they didn't kill the other person, they surely would have gotten killed.  The problem with this is, that in most cases, there is no one to speak otherwise of the incident, especially if the person "attacking" was killed.  This complicates issues, especially with arresting someone who claims they acted in "self defense".  In my mind, this law drags us back to the era of draconian laws, i.e. an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (not that our current justice system hasn't already done that in part).  It gives too much weight to a person's judgement as to what exactly is "self defense" and what constitutes a persons life being "endangered" by another.  People have widely different definitions of these two terms and to allow anyone to act as they will is to allow more death to occur than is necessary and also to place justice in the hands of every day citizens.  Okay, so enough about the law and my feelings on it and on to the incident that took place. 

The event took place in the town of Sanford, FL, just north of Orlando.  A 17 year old boy, who happened to be black, went to the corner store to buy iced tea and skittles.  On his way back, he noticed he was being followed by someone.  He was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone at the time and expressed a little unease about the situation.  Soon afterwards, the man following him confronted the teenager and ended up shooting him once in the chest because he said he was attacked and feared for his life.  The man following the teenager was a volunteer with the neighborhood watch who carried a gun in his car with him.  The teenage boy was unarmed except for his cell phone, iced tea, and skittles, and by the accounts from his girlfriend who was on the phone with him right before the incident occurred, he did not or would not have attacked this other man.  Yet this man is claiming self defense, he "stood his ground", and according to the law should not be arrested.  I would disagree and say that this man should be arrested and tried for murder.  There is no reason for him to have killed this teenage boy, to have stripped him of his life, all because he was "attacked".  How can we verify what he said, how are we supposed to know if his life was "in danger"?  Unfortunately, there are no eye witnesses and the legal proceedings could get nasty with this current law that Florida has in place.  This is a heinous law that needs to be eradicated from every state that has it in place.  How many more innocent lives need to be lost before we can figure out that these laws do no good?  (Article 1, Article 2)

I am not saying that we need to restrict gun laws.  The right to bear arms is guaranteed us by the constitution and as such, we should not get rid of it.  This is a matter of how we react to others, what constitutes a "threat" against our life, and what we should or should not be able to do about it.  To place in the hands of every citizen the ability to make a decision of whether they can kill another person or not is to lead us all down a road towards anarchy.  We have police for a reason, to protect the citizens of every town and city in this country.  What would be the need for them if every person was able to take justice into their own hands and kill someone else just because they felt their life was in danger?  What we need to do is take a step back, re-assess just how effective this law is (which by the looks of it isn't that effective), and change the laws we have in place to protect the innocent, to protect those who can not speak for themselves.  The killing of the teenage boy in Florida was senseless and arbitrary, and accomplished nothing.  A family is now in mourning all because there was an over zealous neighborhood watch volunteer with a gun and a law to support his unwarranted killing.  Let us just hope something is done before another situation arises where another innocent life is lost, all because someone else felt that their "life was in danger".

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Innocence in the World

"To have children or not?"  That is not the ultimate question, but it seems these days more and more people are questioning why they should have children.  I had the same question about a year and a half ago, "Why would I want to bring a child into this world?"  Everybody has different reasons for questioning why they would want to have a child or why they should have a child.  One of my main reasons for questioning was due mostly to the state of the world.  Why would I want to bring a child into this world full of evil, full of wars, famine, and what appeared to me a deteriorating social structure?  My other reason was money.  How could we afford a child when we were barely getting by as it was?  Well, in the end those questions didn't really matter because everything gets figured out, you have a child, and life goes on.  Over the past weekend, during a morning meeting with some gentlemen from my church, my former question was brought up by me.  Afterwards, an older gentleman came up to me and told me that the same concern that I had about bringing a child into this "evil" world was one that he had before, his father once had, and a number of people that he knew had.  The world has always had its wars, its issues, and it seems that the very same question that I had is older than I ever envisioned it to be.  However enduring the question is, it never seems to hold that much sway in the long run as children are born and the question gets put on the back burner for another generation to consider.  So what about the question though, does it still hold sway in me?  In a sense, yes, but not in terms of having a child as I now have a five month old, but more in terms of how the world will affect him. 

There in lies a big issue.  How do you raise a child in the type of world we live in where no one seems to care that much about anyone else around them and we seem to be regressing as a society into selfishness?   I have come to see it more as teaching our son how to live in the world rather than letting the world dictate to him how to live.  There seems to be a balancing act involved, a certain degree of sheltering when our son is younger followed by a slow, gradual process of acclimating him to the world, its vagaries, its temptations, but more importantly, its wonders.  I have come to look at the situation completely differently now that I have a child versus when I didn't.  Looking at the situation now, every new life that comes into this world is a new possibility for change, a new "light" against the veil of evil if you will, and has the potential to turn things around.  Its not about letting the evils of the world change our son (they might or they might not) but more about giving him the tools he needs to move past those evils, those temptations, and effect a positive change on those around him.  When you look at an infant, your perspective changes, you no longer see darkness, but rather bountiful innocence, a yearning for all things positive and uplifting, and a radical shift from evil.  To me, it is this innocence that changes everything, my perspective on him and the world, and in turn myself and the burden that I must now carry of showing him how to perpetuate his "light" and innocence when he gets to the world.  Perhaps not everyone who has a child takes that burden so seriously, but I feel it is one that needs to be.  For how else can we raise children if don't take the time to consider how we raise them. 

Its not so much about raising children properly, for that is part of it, and to be quite honest, everybody has their different methods, their own unique approach, and as we are all unique individuals, no one approach is perfect or better than any other.   A new child is just full of so much love, all they need at first is to have that love reciprocated, returned to them unconditionally.  That innocence, that light they have, is because they have not experienced any act that takes love away, that deprives them of that necessary connection to others.  The love between a parent and child is dimensions away from that of the love between a husband and a wife.  There are no words that can do justice to the feelings that a parent has for a child.  That question I had about why I would want to bring a child into this evil world has been spun around and re-framed now.  Now, the issue is how do I ensure that my child remains a "light" in this world, a shield against the darkness.  I know that despite my best efforts I will not be able to shelter him (not that I would necessarily want to) or keep away from the evil and darkness in the world, but if I give him everything I have, love him unconditionally, and give him the tools to stand up for himself, to be that "light", then that is all I can do.   Parents are human, and as such are prone to making mistakes.  I know I will not be a perfect parent, nor will my wife be, but as long as we keep it simple, actually be parents, and show our son how to live a good life, than maybe he will follow suit and grow up to be man who can make a difference, a man who can chip away a little at the evils in this world, a man who can in turn be an example to others as to how to live a "good" life.  In time we shall see, but for now, we will keep the love flowing and the innocence going. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our Son's First Cold

Yes, it is true, our son came down with his first cold over the past week and went to the doctor's on Friday to have it checked out.  He had a runny nose for about a week with a dry cough in the morning presumably from the nasal drip that accumulated over the previous night.  There really was no complaining, no fever, and he was still his normal, happy self; with the addition of a constantly runny nose filled with boulder sized boogers.  The only thing that changed, that ultimately made us bring him to the doctors office, was his cough moving into his chest, or so I thought.  It was Friday morning and his cough just didn't seem as dry as it had for the past few days.  Needless to say, being first time parents with a first infant cold in the house, we were a little concerned.  We didn't reach the point of rushing him to the hospital or freaking out, because we just aren't those sort of parents, but we did want to get him checked out after he finished his day at daycare.  Come to find out, his cough wasn't emanating from his chest, in fact, he was perfectly fine except for his runny nose.  The ultimate verdict as issued by the doctor?  It was a cold, simple as that, most likely caused by his upper teeth starting to come in.   Nothing was prescribed, the only advice being to keep feeding him that breast milk.  She did say to watch for more cramping of the stomach as a sign of the cough moving into his chest, but she thought it was unlikely.  Further, she also said if we did notice his temperature going up, to call her only if it got over 101 degrees Fahrenheit.  She even said we didn't need to give him a fever reducer unless we really wanted to.

I guess what amazes me the most about our son is that he hasn't really complained about his runny nose, his occasional coughing and sneezing from his congestion, and most of all, his teeth coming in.  Granted, there are some days where he is a little more melancholy than usual, but it doesn't seem like he gets to the point anymore where he is a total fuss-bucket.  I only hope that every cold and illness he gets is like this first one, because it would make our lives so much easier as parents.  I know, I know, before I get it from all the seasoned parents out there, things will probably be worse at some point than they are right now, but a parent can hope for the best, can't he?  Beyond my amazement at him and his tolerance for pain and discomfort, I am also equally amazed at our pediatrician and her natural approach to children.  Just the fact that she told us we didn't have to give him a fever reducer (if he got a fever) and to only call her if his temperature gets over a certain point is incredibly welcomed by us.  After all, a fever is a response to an illness, an attempt by the body to kill off germs or bacteria.  We are truly grateful to have found a doctor that doesn't want to intrude to much into the well being of our son and simply prescribe him medications to make him feel better.   Beyond that, our son's cold still persists, his nose continues to run, and until his top teeth are in, I have a feeling that his nose will be like a slowly leaking faucet. 

I guess what struck me most about our son on Friday, especially with the thought that his cough might be moving into his chest, was the amount of concern I had for him.  Deep down I knew he would be fine, I knew that it was probably nothing, but what if his runny nose was morphing into something worse?  It is those eternal questions, those "what ifs" that will get me all along the way.  But I guess that is just part of being a parent, having that concern for your child's welfare, wishing there was a way to get rid of his discomfort while having no tangible way of actually doing it.  There is a desire to take away any pain he might have and just ensure that life is good for him.  But isn't dealing with pain part of growing up?  I know, he is just five months old and shouldn't have to deal with that much pain, but its a fact of life.  As long as we don't treat his issues like they are a big deal, he will probably see them the same and simply deal with them and move past them quickly.   Beyond the cold he has now, I am sure there will be times, probably broken bones, concussions, or lacerations, which will affect me even more and truly test me as a parent, but that is the future.  I can handle his cold right now.  I am simply glad that he still remains his normal, happy self.  He is still getting more and more vocal every day, testing his voice out, and I know that the cold is merely a temporary discomfort that he has decided isn't worth complaining about.  So to a happy baby, rolling and making himself, our son the trooper, may your cold vanish quickly and your teeth arrive without pain!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tribute to Rita Green

Some people might say that we are born with a given set of interests, areas that we are more likely to be interested in than others, while others will say that we develop those interests based upon how we are raised and what influences us when we are younger.   I agree to a certain extent with both thoughts on the matter.  I think we are born with a certain propensity to explore certain areas over others, however, unless those areas are fostered within us through our learning and development, they might not gain the traction that we would like or desire.  Myself, I have always loved reading, and beyond that, the English language.  While I always loved reading, writing was not always my forte.  I still remember going through sentence structure and grammar in my early years of school.  I also remember having absolutely no interest in any of it.  It was boring, repetitive, and in my mind at that early age, completely useless.  Whatever my thoughts on the subject were, it wasn't completely useless as it laid the basis for writing later on.  I was never great with grammar and sentence structure, and to this day, sometimes find myself confusing myself with my writing, but I struggled through it.  Needless to say, writing wasn't a joy of mine early on, especially looking back at the way it was introduced; structured, rigid,  and with no flexibility.  But despite my lack of enthusiasm early on, it was in part my love of reading that kept me coming back to writing later.  I was a superfluous reader when I was younger, even going so far as to read the thousand page biography of Orville and Wilbur Wright when I was in seventh grade.  Why I decided to do that is still beyond me, but my best guess at this point is because it had to do with airplanes to a certain extent and that fascinated me. 

But enough about me and reading and writing.  It was in high school that my true interest in English and writing was really fostered.  I owe my continued interest in it to one of the best English teachers I have ever had, Rita Green, at St. Joseph's High School.  She had a unique ability to draw students in, challenge them with, and bring out their best work.  Her teaching style was more akin to the one found in the movie Dead Poets Society than to most other teachers and styles I have ever seen or dealt with.  Simply being in her class, you could immediately notice her love of the English language, but perhaps more important, her love of sharing it with students and getting them to love it as well.  She never taught freshman English while I was there, perhaps in part because she wanted to deal with students who had a desire to take her class, not ones that took it out of necessity.  Perhaps there was some other reason, but the latter works for me and as such, I will stick with it.  There was also a distinct energy that she carried into the classroom, an addictive energy that made students pay attention, that drew them out of their shells, and forced them to become involved in the activities of the classroom.  One of the greatest parts of any class she taught was her ability to take the English language, the period of the books being read, and show her students the broader spectrum of what was happening in the world at that time.  She drew other disciplines into her classroom; music and art being the most heavily drawn on, and showed us how they all tied together.  There was never just English in her classroom despite that being the main focus. 

It is rare to find a teacher that impacts a student the way that Rita Green impacted me.  Through the English classes, the poetry classes (which truly started my creative writing experience), and her love of teaching, she was able to create an environment that made learning fun and gave students a glimpse of the literary world outside the walls of her classroom.   Through her love of teaching, her dedication to her students, and her drive to see everyone succeed, she gave many students an experience that they will never forget.  If I close my eyes and think back even now, I can still envision myself in her classroom.  I can still hear the classical music playing during the tests we took.  And I can still hear her voice, drawing us in, and laying bare the subtleties of the English language that only she knew so well.  The classes that I took with Rita Green stayed with me, and later on, formed the basis of my desire to write and to continue to explore the English language and all its vagaries.  If only there was a way of cloning her teaching spirit and instilling it in all teachers, more students would love to be in school and would love to learn.  To find a teacher like her is a rarity these days. They don't come around very often, and when they do, it seems like they are stifled for their creativity and love of teaching.  Let us only hope that more teachers could find a love for their subject matter, but more importantly, a love of sharing it with their students.   So to Rita Green, her love of teaching, and her ability to share it with students like myself, I pay tribute. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Super Happy Rolling Baby

So yes, the title may be a little superfluous, but hey, its our son I am talking about and I am allowed to go over the top and boast a little about how proud of a father I am and how happy he makes me.  I still just can't get over what an effect he has on me.  While I have noticed it before, I really noticed it yesterday for some reason.  Yesterday I actually brought him to work with me.  No he wasn't around any "toxic" paint fumes or deadly dust that could debilitate him and hinder his development in any way.  Yesterday wasn't a painting day for me.  I was actually laying down one of those "pergo" type laminate wood floors that click together and have the look of real wood.  Well, despite the fact that it is not real wood, its not really the point of what I am talking about here.  The house I was working at belonged to a retired woman who used to work with my wife at her high school a few years back.  They still remain in contact and when she had me look at installing her floor, she offered to watch our son for us while I did the work.  She is a wonderful woman and trustworthy, and with my wife's approval, I brought him to work along with his bag full of belongings to make it through the day, and did what I do best...work.  There were a couple of frustrating times with floor, figuring out what the best way to do it was, improvising a little here and head scratching a little there.   Throughout the day, I would have to pass by our son on the way out the door to make cuts for the floor.  If my path didn't directly take me by him, I would often take a detour so my path would have to include a glimpse of our son.  Every time I passed by him, despite what my face looked like in the room I was laying the floor in, a smile erupted on my face every time I saw him.  He is just such a wonderful five month old, happy, smiling, and content with life, that I get overjoyed every time I see him. 

He was also very "talkative" yesterday which just added to my excitement and happiness upon seeing him.  During the day at work with him, I would hear him from the other end of the house, cooing, laughing, and doing his best to try different noises.  He has the funniest laugh right now.  It is more like the start of a laugh which almost immediately drawls into a steady "ahhhhh".  It is the cutest thing and on top of that, he is already showing signs that he will have a deep voice like his daddy.  He occasionally makes the high pitched squeal, but for the most part, his voice is lower than most babies voices, non-irritating even while crying, and when he hits puberty and goes through the whole vocal cord shift, his voice will most likely drop dramatically.  Of course it is all speculation at this point, but isnt' it fun to speculate about what how a child will turn out?  I am not holding any expectations about what will happen with him, I am simply thinking about what things may be like, what he might go through.  If his voice doesn't drop and become a baritone, trust me, I won't be disappointed.  But anyway, enough about speculation and what not and back to what is happening now.  Wednesday was a wonderful day as well (as is every day with our son).   I had the whole day with him, no working, just being with him. 

I was planning on going on a hike with him fairly early in the day after he ate his morning snack.  He, however, had different plans.  Instead of only sleeping for the usual hour that he does in the morning from 7-8, he decided to sleep from 7-930.  So we didn't get going till 10 and as I forgot the pouch for him in my wife's car, we had to make a detour by her high school to grab it.  We finally got to hiking by 11.  Instead of going to one of my usual spots in Naugatuck State Forest, I decided to head up to Lake Zoar and try out some of the trails around Kettletown State Park.  I had been there once before, but forgot entirely how much steep terrain there was there.  It was a beautiful day, however, the temperature being in the low 60's and a nice cool breeze blowing, so there was no complaining on my part.  Despite his fascination with pine needles, lichen, moss, rocks, and ferns (all of which I introduced to him), he did get a little fussy near the end.  My thinking was he probably had a wet diaper and on top of that, he was pressed against my chest in the pouch, probably getting uncomfortably warm, and just wanted to cool down a little.  As soon as we got back to my Jeep and started driving, he fell right asleep.  I think the reason he napped so much on Wed.  (he had another almost 2 hour nap in the afternoon) was because he got so involved in rolling around.  In the morning before his 2.5 hour nap, he practically rolled right across our living room.  All that effort probably drained all his energy.  Overall though, while he has always had a good temperament, these past few days have been fantastic with him, his temperament being even better and happier than usual.  He is just one fantastic, happy, growing baby and any chance I get to talk about him, I will.  I will continue to smile every time I see him, even if he is crying, and will love him forever. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toxic Baby World

As I am sure most parents know, and even most non-parents know at this point, we live in a toxic world; one filled with chemicals and more chemicals that can and are detrimental to everyone's health.  Over the past thirty years, there have been an estimated 2000 new chemicals that have been introduced into our environment, some of whose effects are known and documented, some that aren't.   If you really want to be frightened, just consider that on the low end, about 80,000 chemicals go into the American industry, from manufacturing to the finished product.  Frightened enough yet?  Now lets through into the mix that more and more of these chemicals are being found to be toxic to the human body on some level, and even more toxic to pregnant women, their unborn children, and babies and toddlers that are developing.  So where does this leave us now?  Do we go through our houses searching out every product that may contain a chemical, attempting to eradicate toxins from our life, or do we simply sit by and say it is what it is and continue living the way we did?  Well, there are extremes that one can go to on either end obviously, and there are some parents out there who will research every single product to check for baby safeness or simply human safeness.  (Check out this article to see where some of these facts came from and to read a little more on paranoid parents.)  Trust me, I am not saying that being cautious is a bad thing, especially when it comes to young children, but I feel that at times some people go a little overboard. 

So where do my wife and I figure into this mix?  While not completely swaying towards the paranoid, we do tend to watch what we buy and try to ensure that any product we do bring into the home is as natural as possible.  Is everything we buy toxin free?  Not by a long shot, but to try and figure out what we can buy that is toxin free and eradicate everything from our household that could possibly contain a toxin would be too time consuming and cost prohibitive.  Most people know (or at least they will now) that a good portion of all natural products or those that contain the fewest amount of toxic chemicals are much more expensive than those containing them.  Quite frankly, if we were to try and buy every product made from non-toxic chemicals, than we would probably go flat broke.  To us, it just isn't possible to do that.  So in light of that, we are not going to drive ourselves absolutely bonkers trying to research every product in our house to see what it contains.  To be fair, we have, over the course of the past few years, slowly made the transition to keeping less toxic products in our home, both for our own safety and the safety of our son.  We do feel it is important to expose him and us to as few toxins as possible, but at the same time, we know that it is near impossible to keep him away from everything unless we put him in a plastic bubble and let him live there till he is a teenager.  Toxins, unfortunately, are in everything around us from the water, to the air, to the products we use every day.  The best thing I think we could do, and are doing, is to minimize as much as possible the products in our house that are dangerous, or at least keep the more dangerous ones away from our son.  Do we still use bleach in our white laundry?  Yes, but that is pretty much all we use it for.  Unfortunately, it does the best job at getting stains out of whites and because of that, will continue to use it on our clothes (never our son's at this point as everything goes into his mouth). 

We already use a natural deodorant (because the ones containing aluminum can lead to Alzheimer's).  The majority of our cleaning products our phosphate and bleach free (except for the straight bleach used in our whites).  We don't have any new rugs in the house, the paint we use now is low or no V.O.C.   However, despite all our efforts to keep toxins away from our son, he will inevitably be exposed to some and we can only hope that they don't do too much damage.  The world is a toxic place these days and it doesn't look like it will get any better any time soon (although there is a trend for some products to be less toxic).  We could get paranoid about everything our son comes into contact with, but what good would it really do?  It might help keep the majority of toxins away from him, but besides that, it would probably add a good amount of stress onto my wife and I in our attempt to catalog, research, and eradicate every single possible toxin.  So in light of that, we will stick to our current course, slowly but surely going more natural.  We are doing pretty good right now, but as always, there is constantly more we could do.  To jump right in would be suicide however.  So despite how some parents might go crazy trying to protect their children (which I applaud and would never speak against), we will simply stay the course, do our best, and try not to drive ourselves crazy.  We can only protect our son so much.  What will happen when he goes to school?  Surely he will run into some toxins there.  What will happen when he ends up going over a friends house later on?  Are we going to go in and check their house for toxins?  No, so we will simply protect him as we can without being over protective.  Simple as that, no paranoia, no craziness, just living. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Conflicted Schedule

If you have been reading my blog over the past few months, I am sure that you have figured out by now that I thoroughly enjoy spending two days at home with our son during the week.   It is mostly out of necessity, but despite that fact, I never objected to taking that time in the first place.  Any time spent with our son is fantastic, even if I have to.  The facts that necessitate my staying home are on one hand, the woman who watches our son can only watch him three days a week, and on the other hand, adding two extra days of day care elsewhere would be too expensive and detrimental to our son's development.   So why talk about the conflicted schedule now?  Well, at first, staying at home two days a week didn't have that much effect.  My wife and I had saved up some money and slowly ate away at it to support the day care and the two less days of work that I fit in during the week.  As time progressed however, the reality set in that working only three days a week meant that much less money coming in to support our family, all the while spending money on three days worth of day care.  Needless to say, money got tight.  On top of that, work got slower this winter than it normally did for me which meant even less money coming in.  It got down to the point where I was working one week, not working the next, and then working again.   Our household is definitely dependant on two incomes coming in.   So what to do.  Well, work is picking up at an exceedingly rapid pace for me, which is good, but stressful.  I find the need to work longer days on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and have added in Wed afternoon.  I will probably be adding in Thursday afternoons very soon and possibly Saturdays. 

So now that we have enough money coming in, where is the conflict?  The conflict arises in that in order to truly take care of the amount of work I have, I will have to give up my two days at home with our son come mid April.  That is the time when my wife's mother comes back from her winter in Florida and can watch our son essentially the entire week.  Will it be a great help to us?  Absolutely.  I wouldn't deny her the opportunity to watch our son and even now welcome the help that she will so graciously give us.  But there is a part of me that doesn't want to give up those two days at home, despite how much I need to.  I will get some time in the morning with the little man as we wait for his grandmother to show up, but that is only a few hours, part of which he will probably nap.  Then I will be off to work, only to come home just before he goes to bed or after he is already sleeping.  Not ideal circumstances in my mind.  I relish the time I spend with our son and will have a hard time giving it up.  I know I will have the weekends with him, but I have them now and to be selfish, I want more time with him.  So that is where the conflict comes in, mostly inside me as I seek to tackle my work load, bring in enough money to help support our family, and also get in enough time with our son.  To me, family is the most important thing, to be there with our son as he grows and develops, and to show that I am around and can be present to him.  This, I am sure, will just drive me more to focus on my yoga training so I can drop this whole painting gig I have going on right now.  I am sure that I won't drop the painting entirely, I still do enjoy it, but it may be relegated to only a summer occupation whereas currently it is year round work. 

I know that by focusing on getting certified to teach yoga, I will have more time in the mornings and during the day to spend with our son, but that brings with it other issues that will need to be dealt with.  As I am sure that I will most likely set up most yoga classes in the afternoons and evenings to begin with, I will get to spend less time with my wife.  The two fold goal of becoming a yoga instructor is as follows, to ease the stress on my body by switching careers and to allow me the flexibility to watch our son during the day when my wife goes back to work in the fall as a teacher.  I will definitely get more time with our son, but the time with my wife will diminish and it will take a more concerted effort on my part to make sure that I am there enough for my wife as she needs me to be and consequently, as I want to be.  But for now, I must only focus on the present, for we never know what the future may bring.  At this point, I just need to ensure that I get to spend enough time with our son so that I don't miss too much of his development and growth.  Focusing on the family is my number one objective and would be much easier to do if I didn't need to bring in money.  But then again, I suppose that bringing in money is a way of focusing on the family, making sure that we have what we need to get by, pay the bills, and live our lives.  Its not easy these days, but somehow it always works out for the best.  I just need to remind myself to trust that everything will work out and not get stressed out about the way things happen.  Everything happens for a reason and the more and I can remind myself of that, the more I will be able to focus on living and not on the stresses that prey on my life.  Enough of that though, I get today with our son and I will cherish every minute of it before I go to work this afternoon. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grandchildren and Grandparents

Before I begin this post today, let me first say that I have nothing against my brother, in fact I love him dearly.  At times, what I am going to say may seem harsh, but it is not intended to be, I am merely looking back over our lives up until now and reflecting on how certain events beyond our control have had an impact on how we react now.  As you might have guessed by the title, this is all in reference to my brother and I and our grandparents.  Let me first set up what I have noticed over the past few years as my brother and I, and concurrently my grandparents, have grown older.  There seems to be a difference between our attitudes towards our grandparents, one that is mostly beyond our control as I have come to see it.  From my point of view (and I may be totally wrong) there is less compassion on my brother's part for our grandparents than I feel that I have.  As I mentioned, I could be totally wrong because he may have that compassion but simply feels the need to not express it or share it with them and others.  I would almost call it more of an apathy, but that may be pushing it too far.  I don't think it is equal either.  I feel that he might have more compassion for our Dad's parents than he does for our Mom's mother.  Perhaps that is because he lives with Baba (mother's side) and not with Babci and Dziadziu (dad's side).  To put it as simply as possible, without labeling it too much, there seems to be more "distance" between my brother and our grandparents. 

I have just recently come to theorize as to why this may be, although I may have known it all along without being able to distinctly put my finger on it.   Let me first say that I don't think it is because my brother lacks compassion or empathy.  As I mentioned before, however, we are seven years apart and with that discrepancy in age, there is a big difference in how we both interacted with our grandparents when we were younger.  When I was younger, Baba used to watch me at my Aunt's house for a while before my mother quit her job to stay home with me.  I was there for a good part of the day and inevitably formed a bond with her.  Even when she moved away, she used to come visit for a week every summer, and we used to go visit her in North Carolina for a week as well, the bond being kept alive to a certain extent.  With Babci and Dziadziu, I remember spending quite a bit of time with them, Dziadziu playing with me in the backyard of their Cape Cod home and going for walks with me down the abandoned railroad tracks in Chicopee.  Also, I used to go visit them, spend a few days with them, and they, at the time, would be able to drive down to my parents house to spend time with us.  By the time my brother was old enough to remember his childhood, Baba was in Florida and rarely came to visit and Babci and Dziadziu were also getting older, not able to play as easily in the backyard or go for walks.  They also weren't able to drive down to my parents house as easily.  I don't feel that there was as strong of a bond established between my brother and any of our grandparents, mostly Baba as he saw the least of her.  That lack of personal bonding time between my brother and our grandparents I feel had a distinct effect on how he reacts towards them now.  Do I believe he loves them, absolutely, and I am not questioning his degree of love at all.  There simply seems to be less compassion for their situations now, and less empathy for what they are going through. 

So why does all of this matter?  In the overall scheme of things, it really doesn't.  I think perhaps it is mostly an effort on my part to figure out why there is more distance between my brother and our grandparents than I have (beyond the age distance obviously).  Furthermore, the blame can't be placed on anyone or any event.  It is simply the way life turned out and the way we must deal with it now.  But by placing my finger on it, recognizing why there is less compassion and empathy on my brother's part, perhaps I can better deal with situations now as our grandparents grow older and deal with more and more health issues.  It is sometimes tough to hear the way my brother reacts towards Baba.  Can she be hard to live with?  Absolutely.  Yet there are times when he seems a little overtly harsh towards her and not understanding of what she is going through.  But then again, that is merely my perspective of things and may not be the whole truth.  Looking back, I feel that it may have even been a little more difficult for my brother to not have that tighter bond with our grandparents than I had.  I don't know what its like from his perspective, but if I tried to put myself in his shoes, I would be a little disappointed that I didn't have that bond with our grandparents.  Then again, perhaps I am over reading things, putting too much emphasis on age differences and bonds between us and grandparents, but it matters from my perspective.  Nothing can be done at this point obviously to change the past or make differences for the future.  The only benefit of theorizing on this is for me to try and better understand what my brother is going through and why he is reacting the way he does towards our grandparents.  I love my  brother and I wouldn't change a thing about our relationship (except make us closer in age).  But giving that we are where we are, I will continue to support and love him, along with my grandparents. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tribute to Aunt Karen

These days, I don't see my Aunt Karen as much as I used to.  There was a time however, before my cousins and I graduated from high school and what not, that we used to see each other a number of times a year.  This started from the time before I even remember we used to see each other, those memories now frozen in picture albums that get pulled out every so often to see what life used to be like.  Perhaps the best way now I can look at my Aunt, besides the memories of my childhood, is to look at the way her daughters, my cousins, have grown up into amazing women.  That alone is testament to her integrity as a parent and her endless love that her daughters received from her, and that, I must say, I received as well when we spent time together.  Its funny, looking back, how life often times seems so much easier when children are younger, especially when it comes to spending time with cousins and family.  While there were always stresses; when we grew up, got involved in high school, college, and beyond, eventually creating our own families, time seemed to not allow us to gather as often, to spend time together, or to simply enjoy each other's company.  I must say that I believe the whole reason our families were so close was because my dad and aunt, also cousins, were close as they grew up and shared many memories of their times together.  It was their desire to see their families remain close that allowed my cousins, myself and my brother, to spend as much time as we did together when we were younger.  Whenever we would gather, what I remember most were and are the stories of camping B.C.  or (before children) and then the stories A.C. 

The camping that my dad and my aunt did with their spouses carried over when they both had children and continued on for many years after that.  Every year our families used to gather together for a camping excursion, usually a week, somewhere within driving distance.  The farthest I think we ventured was either Virginia or Ohio, and I am not going to at this point figure out the distances and let you know which one was farther.  There was a week in Maine in which it rained pretty much the entire week, our families drenched for the entire time.  It didn't hamper the good times however, and it was just another story for us to tell the next time we went camping.   Of course we tried to plan for good weather, but that is always a crap shoot as anyone who has done camping knows.  With the experience behind my Aunt and my dad we were pretty much prepared for anything.  Except of course trouble with cars.  As we grew older, our families decided to get CB radios (before the era of cell phones) so we could communicate between cars while on the road to one of our camping destinations.  On our way to Virginia, it was a good thing we had them because at one point, about half way down, my Aunt's vehicle decided to have engine trouble.  As we pulled both cars off the side of the road, hers unable to be driven yet packed full of camping gear, we had to somehow pack our car full of their supplies along with their family and at least make it to the auto mechanics where the car was towed.  It was a sight to be seen if ever there was one.  There was luggage strapped to the roof, a green tractor for my brother strapped to our trunk, and both of our  families somehow shoved inside an '87 Chevy Caprice.  To top it off, the mechanics name was Hap Cup.  That's all I will say on that. 

Our families gathered last summer, beyond a celebration of one thing or another, for a pool party at my parents house.  We got almost all of our family there, I believe my cousin Amy's husband and one of her sons being the only ones absent.  That is perhaps one of the biggest impediments these days to all of us gathering, our new families, crazy schedules, and figuring out when we could all actually take a day or two to travel and see each other.  I only hope we can continue to do this at least once a year.  Those memories of camping with my Aunt and cousins will last a lifetime and I only hope we can one day continue the camping tradition amongst my cousins' families and ours.  Without my Aunt, my Dad, and their camping days together, their closeness of families, we probably wouldn't have gotten to know each other as well as we did.  For all the cousins that my dad has, my Aunt Karen is the one that I know best.  I know its been tough, especially recently, as her dad passed a few years ago, and her mother now struggling with her own health problems, yet she continues to be there for them, and also for her daughters.  To see her devote as much as she does to her family is to see the strength of our families carried down through the generations.  I have heard of too many families who abandon their loved ones when it gets tough, but she has dug in deeper and remained steadfast in her support of them.  So for easier times ahead, and more memories still to be made between our families, I pay tribute to my Aunt, a loving person, devoted mother, wife, and daughter, and a true inspiration for all those who meet her.  Cheers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Playing with Mirrors

So we are now only a few days away from our son being five months old.  This past week has been yet another wonderful week in the life of our son.  His awareness is increasing every day and his curiosity about everything that I once thought was incredible just seems to grow as each week passes.  One thing is for certain, he loves to be around people right now, follow their lips, their movements, and everything about them.  I had heard that infants usually get shy around 9 months old, but right now, there simply is no shyness about our son.  He still smiles at everyone and continually tries to shove everything that he can get his hands on in his mouth.  You can tell at times that he gets a little frustrated when an object is too difficult for him to grasp with his tiny hands.  He tries the slow approach first, steadily bringing his hand to an object, searching for purchase anywhere he can find it.  If that doesn't work, he tries to swipe at it, hoping that maybe he might get lucky and rapidly accelerate the object towards his mouth.  If that still doesn't bring success, he starts moaning and fidgeting a little as he desperately wants to get his lips and tongue on whatever is in his sights.  Luckily, if that object is replaced with one more readily grasped by his tiny hands, he coalesces and makes do with whatever is given to him.  He does have his favorite toys.  Right now, by far his favorites are his oval rings, able to be strung together to form a longer chain, or simply taken apart to be sucked on one at a time.  Mostly, however, he prefers the chain of them.  His other favorite as of right now is a decent size red mouse with scrunchy ears that make noise and big feet that he loves to try and shove into his mouth in entirety.  He never quite gets a whole foot in his mouth, but he sure comes close and the look on his face as he tries, forehead scrunched as his hands propel the foot farther and farther into his mouth, is priceless. 

Our son, while rolling from his back to his front and vice versa, can now do it continuously to move slowly across a room.  There is no constant rolling, over and over and over in short succession, but rather a more leisurely rolling.  He likes to take his time, explore the world after he has rolled before making his next move.  He can make it quite a distance, it just isn't done quickly.  He is an explorer for sure.  Every time he stops, either on his belly or his back, he likes to take stock of his situation, look around to see the sights and squirm back and forth.  In addition to rolling, he has also figured out how to spin himself around in a circle while on his belly either to try and reach an object or so he can get a better view of what is going on around him.  He is a little adverse to rolling as I thinks he would much rather crawl to get around than roll, but that is just my opinion based upon what I see him try to do.  When he is on his belly, he is getting closer and closer to crawling.  He can inch his way forward a little bit at a time now if he is up for it by lifting himself up on his elbows and propelling himself forward with his feet.  There was even one time the other day where he managed to lift his whole chest and belly off the ground with his arms fully extended.  I think, however, that it was an accident and he wasn't fully aware of what he did.  Also, his arm strength is not quite there yet.  It is getting really close, but he still needs at least a few more weeks before he is crawling about (once again, my opinion).  Not that we are quite ready to have him crawling around, but in a sense we are, just to see him explore and become even more involved in his surroundings.  Will it take extra care on our part to make sure he doesn't hurt himself?  Absolutely, but anything is worth it when it comes to our son. 

Perhaps the most amazing occurrence this past week happened yesterday.  He woke up from his mid day nap screaming his head off as if he was in pain.  I had no clue what was wrong.  I checked him out, searched for anything that might be hurting him and found nothing.  My only thought was that it was more teeth coming in and he didn't know how to handle it.  So after screaming his head off for 20 minutes, the only thing that seemed to have a mild effect being walking around, I decided to head into the bathroom and have him stare at the mirror.  He quit the screaming immediately.  He had been getting fascinated with the mirror for about a week, but yesterday was the first day where he started getting involved with the mirror on our vanity.  I held him up close to it and as he was staring at himself, his hands were flailing around, searching for something to grab on to.  One of his hands found the knob on the mirror and he pulled it towards his face.  He subsequently let it go, got a little startled as the mirror receded quickly, but immediately went to go grab something again.  His hand found the knob by accident again and repeated the process.  After letting go a second time, getting a little less startled, he searched for how he had done that.  His eyes went directly for the knob that he hadn't seen before, but grabbed by accident, and purposefully went to grab it and pull it towards his face.  He continued to pull the mirror towards him and let it close about 10 more times before getting tired of it.  It was amazing to see him make the connection of cause and effect (maybe not quite that complicated yet, but it seemed like it).  After he got tired of pulling the mirror close and letting it fall away, he simply tried to play with the other boy in the mirror, himself.  He tried and tried to get his face close, grab his reflection, and twist and move about, all the while studying the movements that in fact he was making.  We stood there for about 15 minutes before my arms got tired of holding him, but I am sure we could have stayed there at least another 15.  This week was truly sensational when it came to our son and it seems each week I am amazed more and more at how he is developing.  Next week, I am sure there will be something new that he does that I will be amazed at, but for now, I will take this week, cherish it, and just let him develop at his own pace. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Simple Visit

Yesterday was one of my days off with our son and having told my grandparents that I would visit them with their great grandson, I decided to make yesterday the day.  I had to be in the area anyway for my weekly chiropractor's appointment so I figured it would be perfect since all of my grandparents live fairly close.  At my appointment, my son started getting a little fussy and with him being called the cutest guy ever, my chiropractor just had to hold him for a few minutes.  Shortly after he took our son, he asked me if he had a wet diaper or if he was just sweaty.  I looked down at his clothes and realized that I had forgotten to put his rubber monkey pants on over his cloth diaper.  Brilliant.  On top of that, I hadn't packed an extra set of clothes or extra monkey pants for that matter.  I couldn't go traipsing around visiting grandparents with him in soaking wet clothing.  I had to make a trip home and get new clothes and the all important monkey pants.  That morning I had decided I would make the trip and see my grandparents on my dad's side (Babci and Dziadziu) at their assisted living center.  My plans got altered however by my inadvertent mistake of forgetting the monkey pants.  By the time I was headed back down to visit them, it was around the time they went down to lunch and I figured that instead of rushing in and interrupting their schedule, I would go visit my other grandmother on my mother's side, Baba, who lives at my parents house.  For whatever reason, it worked out beneficially for all parties involved.

When I got to my parents house and retrieved our son from the back seat of my Jeep, it turns out my grandmother was just finishing breakfast at 11:15.   As soon as she saw that I was there with her great grandson, she was overcome with joy.  To say she was excited would be an understatement.  She started tearing up, ushered us into the house, and showered the little man with kisses.  She then proceeded to tell me how she gets up every morning and kisses a picture of him as soon as she gets out of bed.  As it turns out, she was also thinking about him the day before and wondering when she would get to see him again.  Think and you shall receive (I know, not the way the saying goes, but hey, I'm writing this so I can twist things a little).  First off when we got there, I had to get our son out of his wet clothes and diaper and completely change him over.  He was happy and active and by the time I was done, Baba was done with her breakfast and we all went into the living room where I proceeded to give our son his bottle for his third meal of the day.  As we talked while he ate, the conversation obviously revolving around him and our lives, she brought up the topic of her age and how she was amazed that she would be 92 years old in the fall.  She never thought she would make it that long and proceeded to tell me that she had another woman predict that she would make it to 98.  I had heard her say before that she was ready to die, that she didn't know why she was alive anymore, and that she just wanted God to take her.  Knowing that, I suggested that I hoped she would make it a least a few more years.  For the first time in a long time, I heard her say that she hoped she would make it longer than a few years.  There was no complaint about any of her ailments (which overall she doesn't have that many), and it was all about seeing her great grandson grow into this beautiful boy and man. 

It is amazing to me how a new life, our son, can give new life to someone in their nineties.  Does she still complain from time to time about her condition?  Yes, but to me it is no where near as bad as it was a year ago where she was waiting to die.  I saw new life in her yesterday as we watched the little man on the floor, playing with his rings, squirming around, and vomiting every so often as he had just eaten.  We ended up staying there for almost 2 hours and we only left because I could see he was getting tired and wouldn't sleep.  Baba was overly grateful that we had stopped by and couldn't stop thanking me for bringing him over so she could see him.  A simple visit was all it took to lift her spirits and give her that great grandson fix she needed and just happened to be thinking about the day before.  (By the time I backed out of the driveway, little man had fallen asleep).  For the most part my grandmother is doing well.  Every so often however, I have heard that her memory is starting to fail her.  Occasionally she will refer to my mother from the day before as "the other woman".  The only other woman in the house besides Baba is my mother.  She occasionally doesn't recognize people in pictures either.  It seems that 99% of the time she is doing really well though.  Maybe all she needs is a little more human interaction and little more time with her great grandson to keep her mind sharp and her memory fresh.  She reads about 6 books a month so she still has her mental faculties, I just hope she keeps them long enough, and I think she does as well, to see and remember her great grandson as he grows and gets older.  It won't be forever, but as she said, she hopes it is more than a few more years. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Listening to People

So a while back, probably close to six months at this point, I wrote about being attentive and listening to people.   Sometimes I still find it difficult to truly pay attention to someone when they want to talk to me.  Many times it is my own impatience that gets in the way, driving me to respond in a monosyllabic manner, grunting, uttering uh huhs, and acting distracted.  Perhaps it is because if I act interested, I know I will get drawn into a conversation that will take longer than I would like.  Sometimes I feel that I am too involved in my own drama and thoughts to really hear what they are saying or show interest in it.  I am usually aware that I am brushing people off, cutting short conversations that could end up having some substance to them, but there are times when I find myself just not caring.  I know it sounds horrible.  How can this guy who writes about being attentive, about listening to people, about being present, get so distracted and not practice what he writes about?  Well, the short answer is, I'm human and prone to not following my own advice.  I'm not going to make excuses for my actions, they just are what they are.  I will admit though, that even when I am brushing someone off, acting distracted, or trying to end a conversation more quickly than the other person would like, I personally feel like a jackass at times.  I know it is not the right thing to do, yet I just can't help myself.  Often times when this happens, my mind is elsewhere, occupied with things I have to do, places I need to go, or other things that I think are more important. 

Well, this isn't always the case.  Just yesterday as I was working, a gentleman that I know came up to me and started talking.  While it would have been really easy to just brush him off, respond as if I was totally uninterested, I didn't.  I engaged him in a conversation and as it turned out, I didn't have to do that much talking.  He simply needed someone to listen to.  Did I completely stop working?  No, but I slowed down, taking more breaks to look at him and show that I was actually listening.  And yes, I did respond to him, participating as much as possible, and he seemed truly grateful for it.  He ended up talking to me, while I was up on my ladder, for probably 15 minutes.  He told me a number of different stories and since I was actually listening to him, I remember what they were.   This was a gentleman I used to run into years ago and at that point in my life, I would try to completely avoid him because I knew if I encountered him, then I would be talking for easily 15 minutes.  But what is 15 minutes of my time when someone wants to talk.  When you think about it, it really isn't that long.  Who knows what might come of any conversation.  We never know if someone is just seeking for an open ear or an accepting person to listen to them.  We may not even need to talk most of the time, just be present, attentive, and truly listen to what they have to say.  It may be they need to get something off their chest, tell a story about something that happened in their life, or just feel connected to other people. 

As it turned out, one of the stories this gentleman shared with me was about my long time friend, Gaspar Simon who passed away a few months ago.  The story he told brought back memories, affirmed a connection that we had through Gaspar, and it was just another instance that showed how truly amazing Gaspar really was.  I had never heard the story he told me about Gaspar and it was great to add it to my memories of that man.  You never know what you may find out just by listening to other people.  It is amazing what happens when you take that time, devote yourself to that other person for a brief part of your day and just listen.  I know we all lead crazy lives.  We have things that need to get done, that we feel are more important than taking the time to listen to others, but are they really?  I find that most of the things that we need to get done are not that important in the overall scheme of things.  Even if they are, most of the time they can wait at least another 15 minutes to get done.  It won't be the end of the world if we are a little late for an appointment, or a little late getting home, or anything else for that matter.  I know that I need to devote more of myself to actually listening to people.  There are many times when my mind wanders during a conversation and I really don't hear what the other person is saying.  Or like I said earlier, I try and end the conversation before it really begins because I don't want to take the extra time to listen.  I was going to say we should all try to listen more, but I will end by saying that I am personally going to try and listen more to others and what they have to say.  Being an opinionated person and one prone to distractions, it is not always the easiest thing for me to do, but damn it I am going to try my best.