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, June 29, 2012

Suffer With Obamacare

It is a sad day in America today, at least for those opposed to Obamacare, the derelict universal health care initiative that President Obama managed to get enacted into law.   Yesterday was the day that our Supreme Court made the ultimate decision to let Obamacare go into effect and change the lives of millions of Americans.  I feel it was a poor decision, but I am not a lawyer or politician, so what do I know about it?  I know enough to say that at least from my perspective, life for many people will get more difficult.  The minor glimmer of hope for people is that this law will enable the uninsured to finally be insured.  Thats it pretty much.  I don't see any other benefit coming out of this.  For me personally, if I now hired someone as an actual employee of my company (which I am not planning on doing), I would have to offer them health insurance or pay a penalty.  To be honest, I would pay the penalty because it will be cheaper than offering health benefits.  I have a feeling that many small companies that have employees will be making the same decision, pay the penalty instead of offer health benefits.  Larger companies that currently offer health benefits might decide to drop them in favor of the penalty.  With a cheaper penalty, its pretty much a no brainer for anyone in business.  There are a couple of problems I have with just this aspect of the law.  The first is that if enough businesses elect to pay the penalty instead of offer benefits, what will that do to the cost of insurance for those employees and the millions of others that would now be required to have health insurance.  They would have to get the insurance somewhere and with the penalty paid by businesses not being as costly as offering health benefits, how would the additional cost be covered.  Taxes! Thats how. 

With insurance now having to be affordable for everyone and accepting of everyone even with pre-existing conditions, the nightmare will commence soon.   What the government is saying essentially is that since everyone, both healthy and unhealthy is being forced to by insurance or pay a penalty, the healthy will largely shoulder the bill of the unhealthy.  In addition, every business, regardless of whether or not they elect to offer health benefits to their employees, will have to track all their purchases to the dollar and issue a 1099 to any business that they buy over $600 dollars worth of supplies/materials from.  (This will supposedly help pay for Obamacare)  For me, that means instead of simply combining all my reciepts for supplies into one pile, adding them up and getting one number, I will have to take extra steps to file my taxes.  I will now have to make a pile based on which business I buy supplies from; i.e. Home Depot, hardware stores, tool rental places, Lowes (rarely go there), lumber supply companies.  After making a pile for each separate store, I will then have to see if the receipts for each business total over $600.  For every business that exceeds this limit I will have to issue a 1099.  Once all that is done, I can then take all the piles and add them together to get my total for the year.  The extra time that I put in to do this is my penalty for owning a business and living in this country, even though I don't have any employees.  Doesn't sound particularly fair to me, but hey, what do I know.   I do have an idea that could work going in line with how the government is enacting this law.  That idea is taxing those that live unhealthy lifestyles. 

I say that anyone who is overweight should pay a tax, period.  I say that anyone who smokes or does anything detrimental to their health pay a tax, period.  That right there would pay for a good chunk of this health care initiative.  While I think it is a good idea that people with pre-existing conditions be allowed to get health insurance, it shouldn't be at the same rate that the rest of us receive it or there should be a tax on them like I indicated earlier.  If someone wants to eat fast food for their entire lives and walk around weighing 400 pounds, they should have to pay extra because they will be more likely to have health issues.  Maybe this doesn't sound fair if your overweight, but I bet it sounds fair if you aren't overweight and rarely see the doctor yet still have to have health insurance.  But then again, what do I know.  It seems to me that the only reason that all Americans will be required to have health insurance is to pay for those that are unhealthy and will now be getting health insurance and paying more visits to the doctor.  I think the government knows full well that even if many Americans get health insurance, they still might not go to the doctor so their penalty or premium will go to paying for the unhealthy.  Listen, I think that all Americans should have access to health insurance.  I think that they should be able to get health insurance even if they have pre-existing conditions.  But I don't think that everyone should be forced to get health insurance.  Yet all this ranting and raving won't do a damn thing because we now have legal socialized health care in this country.  Good luck to everyone, hopefully the doctor's office and hospitals won't get overly crowded now, and hopefully the filthy government doesn't try to dig their dirty fingers in our pockets anymore (wait, they already did). 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Closer to Walking

If you are a regular here, you have probably heard me talk about my son's desire to start walking.  It is all he really wants to do these days, that is, besides play with mulch in the garden, try to eat rocks, and scramble after our animals as fast as he can.  This past week brought a few milestones in his quest to become a true biped.  Due to his addiction to grabbing an adults fingers and pulling himself up so he can walk around, his balance and strength are on the up and up.  Perhaps the first most amazing thing he did at a little over eight and a half months of age is climb all the way up our stairs to the second floor.  He did it mainly on his own, the only help he received being my wife's hands placed on the stairs so he had something to grip as he made his way slowly to the top.  The look of perseverence on his face is truly amazing to watch, his tongue occasionally being stuck through his lips in determination and his whole focus being directed to the task at hand.  The only time his focus wavers is when he notices something cool that he hadn't seen before, such as the objects on top of some display shelves near our stairs that you can see through the spindles on your way up or down.  Other than that, he goes for the goal.  That determination and curiosity are two traits that I hope he holds on to for the rest of his life.  I would prefer curiosity to be a mainstay over determination if I had to choose between the two, but both are infinitely valuable in my mind as we make our way through life. 

Climbing the stairs was not his only big achievement this past week.  In addition to climbing the stairs, he also attempted standing on his own.  He did this by first pulling himself up using our one of our couches as an aid.  After attaining the standing position and holding himself away from the couch a few inches, he took both hands off the couch, wobbled a little bit, and then went kaboom onto his but.  His standing didn't last long, but I am sure it is the first of many attempts till he gets it down.  Just the fact that he is attempting to stand on his own shows his determination to make himself mobile, or at least a standing stationary figure.  It will probably be a little longer before he finally gets his full balance together and figures out how to walk on his own.  Regardless of how long it takes, I love watching him advance day by day towards a fully mobile baby.  Then he will be truly tiring to watch.  As it is, we can't take our eyes off of him for one second as he crawls very quickly and will go towards whatever fascinates him the most.  But such is life, I love watching him, even if it is draining due to the necessity of maintaining one's focus on an active little baby.  Perhaps the coolest thing to watch right now, in addition to the attempt at standing, is to watch our son shuffle along while holding on to something.  He will pull himself up and shimmy along till he doesn't have anything to hold onto, then he drops to the floor and moves on.  Craziness.

I am looking forward to our son being able to walk, probably just due to the fact that I will be able to hold his hand as we amble along somewhere, but I am also preparing myself for the extra attention necessary.  But I will deal with all of that when we get there and not a moment sooner.  For now, I will simply enjoy watching him learn, grow, and become more amazing every day.   I can't wait for tomorrow as we will be heading to Vermont for another weekend camping trip.  At least this time we know how his routine goes in the woods and will be prepared for it unlike last time.  Also, we will be leaving earlier so we shouldn't be interfering with his bed time or anything else related to that.  Perhaps the biggest part I can't wait for is the time away from work, a little relaxation, and the great outdoors.  We already have our next project in mind for Vermont, however this weekend all we will be doing is planning for it, chopping some wood, and relaxing.  No big projects will be started, but, the project that will commence some time in July will be an awning to keep the rain off our heads and to allow us to cook and eat under.  Trust me, it won't be anything fancy, just a frame, probably 15x15 capable of draping a tarp over.  Currently we have an enormous tarp that protects us, but it usually only lasts a few trips before ripping and needing to be replaced.  But enough about all that, on to the day at hand and all that it entails.  Going to be a long one, but it will be good. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Amazing Little Story!

The amazing little story I have for everyone today is about my son (I know, surprise surprise).  It all started about a week ago with our little one.  It was about the middle of the week when my wife and I both started to notice a decline in the amount of naps our son was taking.  He is used to taking about 2.5 hours of naps a day and last week that dwindled down to maybe an hour to an hour and a half.  I know it may not seem like much of a difference, but for those of you with children, I am sure you understand.  On top of the diminished naps, it was taking him longer and longer to go down for a nap, sometimes up to an hour of just rolling around and talking in his crib.  Well, the rolling and talking escalated to full outright screaming by the end of the week and the weekend was just a mess.  Our son had become unusually cranky, screaming, and just wasn't acting himself.  He started taking to staring off at something, oblivious to everything around him, and was becoming more melancholy.  This was a total switch for him.  Normally our son is attentive to everything that is going on, engaged with everyone in the room, and fascinated by every little movement or new object that he sees.  To see him become melancholy and stare off into the distance started to bother us.  Sunday was by far the worst.  Very few things could placate our son on Sunday except constant activity, and even that was a struggle for him.  On top of that, he started pulling on his ears and scratching his head to the point where he would draw a little blood.  Needless to say, the decline from Wendesday to Sunday bothered both my wife and I.  We knew something was wrong, but didn't know what, perhaps an ear infection, another tooth coming in; we just didn't know. 

So come Monday morning we decided that the best thing to do was get him into the doctor to get him checked out and make sure nothing was seriously wrong with him.  Before my wife brought him to the doctor, however, she brought him to our chiropractor who was on vacation last week.  (For those of you who don't know, our whole family goes to the chiropractor at least once a week to get checked out and if necessary, get an adjustment).  We figured he would need an adjustment as he didn't get one the previous week and sure enough, his atlas bone was off.   The most amazing thing happened after he got his adjustment; he was essentially back to normal.  He entered the chiropractor's office with his melancholy demeanor and left the happy baby we were used to.  Just to make sure, my wife brought him to the doctor's to get checked out and the big news was, nothing was wrong, nothing.  No ear infection, no other problems, it seems he just needed an adjustment.  Since that adjustment Monday morning, our son has returned to his happy usual self.  He went back to taking his 2.5 hours of naps without much fussing and has been super active trying to figure out this thing we call walking.  I am just personally amazed that the adjustment made that much of a difference.  Thinking about it now, perhaps I shouldn't be so amazed as I have the same reaction he does after an adjustment; I go back to feeling better and being my normal self.  Yet I can't help but be amazed regardless. 

Our son had his first adjustment about five hours after birth and has been getting adjusted ever since.  Looking back at the past 8.5 months of his life, I can't help but think that his adjustments have had something to do with his wonderful demeanor, his sleeping through the nights, and his overall happy disposition.  Seeing what missing one week of adjustments did to our son made me realize how lucky we are that he has been getting adjusted.  To me, there is no other explanation.  Our son is and will never be vaccinated, he has taken no medications, and up until this past week has been wonderful.  It must have been tough for him to not know what was going wrong and not be able to communicate it with us.  I know personally when I need an adjustment and feel much better when I get one.  I guess our son needs his adjustments regularly to, especially since he has been bumping around more and more with his attempts at walking.  I just personally can't get over what a difference an adjustment makes, especially in our son.  When we were in the chiropractor's office, there was a gentleman there who said, "If an adjustment makes a baby stop crying like that, I should bring all my children in on a regular basis."  Well, it was the adjustment that did make the difference and I can only say that we will be continuing to get our son adjusted, not just for our sanity, but for his health, his well being, and his happiness. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tracking Children

I read an interesting article this morning that had me completely divided in terms of my reactions to the article.  From the NYTimes, the article talks about the surge of new methods for parents to track their children online, in the car, on their phone; essentially on any "smart" device that they use.  Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my opinion (which is a work in progress as always), I think it would beneficial for anyone reading this to take a quick look at the article and form your own opinion.  You can jump right to the article here!   With technology at our fingertips no matter where we go these days, it is getting into the hands of children at younger and younger ages.  As it does, the technology also gets more complex, the potential dangers increasing with it, and the possibility for abuse just a flick of the finger away.  According to the article, there are new companies and programs coming out every month with a new way of monitoring, tracking, or imposing a sort of surveillance upon our children who have access to an Internet ready device.  Some parents jump right on board, receiving copies of texts when their children send one, getting notified if certain words get used on the Internet, monitoring every website that their children visit, and so on.  Others prefer to trust their children a little more and allow them the freedom to figure out the Internet world on their own.  Personally, I can see both sides.  Yet while being able to see both sides, right now I am leaning towards the hands off approach, and here is why. 

To me, and to some parents in the article, it is all about trust.  I feel that their needs to be a certain level of trust between parents and children.  By monitoring every move a child makes on the Internet, what they are texting, and what they are typing online; parents are essentially saying that they have no trust in their child's ability to make their own decision.  Part of the problem arises, I feel, with access to the Internet being granted at too young an age.  We will never be able to fully control our children; all we can do is provide them with the guidance and tools necessary to make their own decisions and hopefully follow the right path online.  We can't just give our children access to the world wide web without teaching them about the pros and cons, the good and the evil, that can be found online.  In order to prepare a child for a life on the Internet, which it seems where more and more children are electing to live, we must start early and teach them.  Once they are ready for the Internet, I feel that we should endow them with a little trust.  Checking in with them periodically as to what they are doing online is necessary I feel, but to monitor every movement all the time is going overboard; unless that is, a given child betrays the trust at which point it may become necessary to curtail usage or increase monitoring.  To start out monitoring everything will only teach our children that they we don't trust them and that every move they make, we will see.  I just don't agree with it.   To continually monitor their every movement online is akin to hiring a P.I. to follow our children around every day, through their school, their activities, and essentially anytime they are not home.  Would any parent do that?  Probably not, but that to me is what full surveillance of our children on the Internet is like. 

I for one feel that the Internet is a great tool, expands horizons if used correctly, and brings friends and family together.  There is also a dark side, but isn't their a dark side to life off the Internet as well?  Aren't there predators everywhere, not just online?  It just seems to me that if a parent monitors every keystroke their child makes and follows every move they make on the Internet, then they should also get in their car and follow their children wherever they go.  If a child goes to school, a parent should hide in the hallway and peek through the window.  If a child is driving to a friends house, a parent should tail them in their own car and make sure their children are doing the right thing.  What parent does that?  (I am sure there are some out there, but seriously, how many can there be).  It all boils down to trust.  If we can show our children that we trust them and we provide them with the tools to make the right decisions, then they should be perfectly OK.  Once they break that trust, a whole set of different rules should come into play, but to start with, trust should be the key factor.  If we can't trust our children, then perhaps we have not done our jobs as parents.  Children will experiment, push the limits, test boundaries, but we should allow them to do that for how else will they learn about the world.  Did we not when we were younger do the same thing albeit without the added perils of the Internet?  Let kids be kids and take action when necessary.  By curtailing what they do, we are simply setting them up for a rude awakening later on.  Perhaps I am wrong, but this is what I feel on this topic right now.  Maybe I will feel different years down the road when my son is older, but I hope I don't.  I want to raise my son so I can trust him.  Such is life though; we never know how or where it will go and turn out. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kickball Win at 30

As I am sure most people reading this know by now, my 30th birthday was yesterday.  To be perfectly honest, it doesn't feel much different than Saturday when I was 29.  The big difference I have noticed when you get older is that you don't feel a change all in one day, but rather, it is a slow decline in your body's performance.  I definitely noticed it yesterday during an all day kickball championship playoff.  (For those of you who don't know, I am in a kickball league based out of New Haven).  During the season, we played one game every Sunday, working our way through the 16 teams in our league.  I noticed that every Monday I would wake up and my muscles would be sore, not that I did anything extravagant, I just happened to kick a ball, run around some bases, and occasionally catch one in the outfield.  I chalked it up to not being a runner and not really doing anything extra in the way of working out other than actually working at my job.  Well, yesterday was a different matter.  The playoffs included all 16 teams and it was a process of elimination until one team won it all.  Our first game was at 1230, which we won, and then continued on till 430 which was when the last game was supposed to start.  We won our first game; and then won the other three which left us as the champions for the season, totally undefeated.  Let me tell you, four games of intense kickball, in the sun, all day, takes its toll. 

For me, it wasn't so much my muscles that smarted during the day (and to be perfectly honest, they are doing just fine this morning), but rather my joints, my damn joints.  It was mostly my ankles that took a beating during the day and I am just glad that we didn't have one more game because I don't know if my ankles would have been able to take it.  Don't get me wrong, I stretched throughout the day, rotating my ankles and kneecaps, making sure all my muscles were limbered up, but for some reason my ankles still hurt.  Just a sign of getting older I guess.  Yet, despite the mild discomfort of my aching ankles, I didn't feel a thing after we won our last game.  There is something about going a whole season undefeated and then winning everything during a playoff tournament to take the pain away.  It was definitely exciting and the only change I would make would be to have my wife and son there with me.  Unfortunately, being an all day event, they opted to stay home.  It was probably a good idea that they did because our son was a little cranky yesterday according to my wife, but such is life, I still wish they were there with me.  The best part about winning the playoffs is that it doesn't have to end.  The winning team can opt to fly out to Las Vegas for the national kickball championships where they will receive free room and board during the games.  Talk about bringing back kickball from grade school. 

I personally think it would be a blast to make it out to Las Vegas with my team and see what we could do against the other winning teams.  Yet, that all depends on if our whole team can make it out there and on a personal level, if I could afford the plane ticket.  I guess we will just have to wait and see on that one.  So looking back at yesterday, it was a pretty damn good birthday.  The way I look at it is, if I live till I am 90, I have only lived one third of my life and it seems like such an adventure so far.  I have accomplished a lot, taken a wrong turn every so often, but somehow have ended up where I am today.  I am lucky to have many great friends and acquaintances.  Most importantly, I am lucky to have found my wife and now am lucky to have my son around.  My family is amazingly supportive and looking around at my life, I wouldn't change a thing.  I wouldn't change dropping out of college, I wouldn't change starting my business, I just wouldn't change anything.  Everything I have done so far has led me to where I am today.  I know the next 30 years will probably be crazy, but I will push through and see where life takes me.  As Robert Frost once said in his poem "The Road Not Taken":
      "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
 I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Sounds kind of like my life!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Damn Heat

Yesterday was a scorcher in Connecticut with temperatures reaching 97 degrees and oppressive humidity hanging like a blanket in the air.  With all factors combined, it felt like it was over a hundred degrees yesterday outdoors.  Now I know that I could have it worse working outside.  I could be working on a roof with no shelter from the sun and reflecting rays.  I could be a lineman wearing long pants, long sleeves, and heavy rubber gloves working with electricity.  Or I could even be a fireman decked out in protective gear carrying a backpack running into a fire.  No, I am none of these, just a painting contractor working outside.  Yet, despite the fact that I am "only" a painting contractor, I still was working outside yesterday in the sun.  Let me be the first to say that I am not a big fan at all about working when its dreadfully hot and humid out.  Everything seems more sluggish when its extremely hot out.  People tend to be a little more on edge and not willing to talk as much.  The heat has a weird effect on people, drawing them in to themselves to try and focus on remaining cool, causing emotions to run higher, and in general dragging people to the brink of insanity.  Heat and humidity have a tendency to bring out the laziness in people.  Less work gets done and it seems every conversation is predicated on when the heat and humidity will end.  Yet even those conversations about heat tend to drag a little more; the energy to form words depleted and brain cognition slowed to crawl. 

I don't know which was worst yesterday, the humidity in the morning or the heat and humidity of the afternoon.  If your attuned to the changing weather during the day, you can distinctly notice the changes in humidity from hour to hour; that is at least until you step in the sun and nothing matters much.  Yesterday morning was dreadfully humid where I was working.  The morning for me was spent in the shade painting, but even in the shade, nothing was refreshing.  The humidity yesterday morning was so heavy you could almost taste it in the air.  It felt like you had to work extra hard just to walk because the air would not part and let you through.  Every movement caused new beads of sweat to form, creating a glimmering sheen even baby oil couldn't replicate.  The humidity dropped a little about mid-morning, allowing a little more movement while painting, but still restricting my full blown effort.  But as it was still morning, I pushed harder because I knew it wouldn't be horribly long before I was enveloped by the sun and all its heat.  There is one benefit to working in the shade on a building; that benefit, meager as it may be, is that watching the shade diminish forces me to push a little harder to get as much as possible done before all the shade disappears.   I watched the line between the shade and sun approach slowly yesterday, inching its way towards my work area as I struggled to work harder.  Even if you couldn't see the sun approaching, you could feel it as the temperature slowly rose and rose and rose. 

Working in the sun, compounded by excessive heat and humidity is not fun for me.  I prefer cold weather any day over hot and humid weather.  Perhaps it feels worse now because just a week ago we had beautiful 70 degree weather with no humidity.  Now that is my ideal summer day, not yesterday.  I am just thankful that the heat and humidity in Connecticut comes in spurts and usually doesn't stick around for more than a week.  (I hope I am not jinxing things by saying that)  Those days when the heat kicks in though, I tend to drink upwards of a gallon and a half of water.  It seems that every hour or so I down another 20 ounces like it is nothing.  One can never have enough water while working in the sun, or for that matter, short breaks into the shade to cool down somewhat.  If you are in touch with your body, you feel when your temperature rises a little too much.  Your head starts to feel a little funny and then you know its time to sit and cool off.  I never take the heat lightly as I had an acquaintance a few years ago suffer from heat stroke, go into a coma, and is still now dealing with the ramifications.  His speech is slurred and everything is a little more difficult for him.  Needless to say, by 3 pm yesterday, I had enough of working in the sun and went to an inside job for a few hours in the afternoon.  Thank God the heat should be greatly diminished today and by early next week we will be back into the 70's.  Oh well, off to sweat a little more today. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Week, Another Day Off

As I usually do on Thursdays, which happens to be the day after I stay home to watch our son, I will be writing about him again.  Yesterday was our son's first introduction to excessive heat and humidity, the part of summer that does not particularly appeal to me.  All in all, I think he handled the heat and humidity really well.  Then again, we spent most of the day inside except for a brief foray into our backyard in the morning.  The only way we got outside was by walking.  Our son is not walking solo yet, but he is getting closer and closer and it seems to be the only way he really wants to get around.  Don't get me wrong, he still crawls really fast at times, but in general, if he wants to get somewhere, he will crawl over to an adult and reach out his hands to grab an adult hand for support.  Once he has a finger clenched in each of his little hands, he pulls himself up to standing and starts walking away.  Yesterday, after climbing a few stairs, he turned around and reached for my hands to pull himself up with.  From the stairs we both walked through the living room, through the kitchen, out the back door, and half way across the back yard before taking a break.  After taking that break to pull at some grass and little clover flowers, he got back up and walked back towards the house till we reached the sidewalk at which point he let go, sat down, and proceeded to play with rocks.  Our son absolutely loves the outdoors and wants to explore every nook and cranny of our back yard, inch by little inch. 

When we had gotten back to the sidewalk yesterday morning, he played with rocks for quite some time.  If it was up to him, I am sure he would probably go for the little tiny rocks which are harder for me to see in his hand and consequently, harder for me to see him try and taste them.  Instead, I grabbed some rocks that were a little larger, yet still capable of being picked up by his little hands.  With five rocks in front of him, he went to town.  At first he would try and stack the rocks with no success.  They just weren't flat enough for stacking.  Yet that didn't stop him from persistently trying to stack them and pile them up.  Periodically throughout the stacking and piling, he would grab one of said rocks and bring it swiftly to his mouth, trying to taste and chew it.  I was successful for the most part at keeping the rocks out of his mouth although a few did get a good lick by him.  After the rocks it was on to the mulch and flowers.  With the mulch he is quite funny.  He will crawl over to the edge of the garden and return to his sitting position at which point he will grab a small handful of mulch, move it over the sidewalk, and begin a little pile.  After two or three handfuls have been moved, he likes to drag his fingers through the pile, spreading it out, and then start making a pile again.  It is positively the cutest thing to watch.  He also loves the variety of flowers we have for him to play with.  We are trying to get him to be gentle with the flowers, yet it hasn't quite sunk in yet.  He will tenderly touch a flower and as he runs his hand over it, will grab it and pull, usually ending up with a handful of bright petals in his hand which, as you guessed, gets dropped in a pile on the ground.  Luckily he is much more fascinated in mulch than he is in the flowers.  That pretty much concluded our time spent outdoors. 

The only sign I got that our son did not fully appreciate the heat and humidity was when I put him down for a nap in his crib.  It wasn't overly hot in his room, but the temperature was at about 84 degrees.  Every time he went down for a nap he decided to stay awake for an hour, rolling around, talking, and occasionally moaning before he finally fell asleep.  He didn't scream his head off or otherwise complain, but he simply stayed awake for a long time before napping.  Perhaps it was because of the warmth in his room or the fact that he just needed to rest by himself before napping, I don't really know.  The bottom line is that he did take his naps.  Going to bed took the longest by far.  It took him over two hours of laying in his crib before he finally fell asleep.  We didn't even know he was awake until we went up there about an hour after he went down for the night to put our air conditioner in our bedroom window.  As we were about to walk by his room, he looked right over and started talking.  Needless to say, we quickly made our retreat down stairs.  We went to check on him another time and saw him crawl across his crib, grab the headboard, and stand up.  He didn't talk much the whole time he was up there, he just moved around, kicked his feet, and stared at the ceiling I guess.  Oh well, he fell asleep eventually and made it through the night.  I wonder how he will survive today with the heat and humidity.  If he got through yesterday, I am sure that he can make it through today somehow.  That remains to be seen and at this point of writing, 5:04 AM, I am starting to sweat and not looking forward to being outside all day in the sun myself.  Guess I will be flooding my body with water today. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Growing Older

Why is it that when we are younger, time seems to take forever to pass yet when we age, time seems to speed up and fly by?  I don't know if there is one concrete answer to this question, but to me, I think that a lot has to do with our lives and the obligations and responsibilities we have.  When we are younger, meaning mostly under the age of 18 (that seems to be the turning point for many people), our responsibilities are negligible.  The younger we are, the less we are obligated to do and the less worries we have on our minds.  With each passing year, though, there seems to be more and more that we "have" to do, "have" to worry about, and "have" to be responsible for.  It seems that as our responsibilities and obligations pile up, there is less and less time to pursue our own agenda, whatever it may be.  When we don't have to worry about anything and aren't running around like chickens with our heads cut off, time seems to pass more slowly, or at least there is a sense that we have more time.  Time itself never changes, only we change in our relation to time.  I think that time seems to speed up for than just one reason.  When we are younger, our sense of time is different.  We tend to think of time as an ethereal entity that controls the passing days and the changing seasons.   There will always be tomorrow when we are younger.  After all, by the age of ten we have only gone through a little more than a tenth of our life, a drop in the bucket at that age.  A funny thing happens though as the years get added on; we begin to realize that there will be an end point to the time we experience on this earth and that approaching point makes time seem to speed along more quickly.

By the time we reach 30 or 40 years of age, a good chunk of our life has passed us by and for many people, this can be depressing.  For me, I try and look at it as a positive.  As I am about to turn 30 this coming Sunday, I view my life as just about a third over.  That means I still have two thirds of my life left to live.  Granted, our most active and productive years seem to be when we are younger, but that doesn't mean that it is all down hill from here.  It simply means I can do less than I used to (although being in better shape than I was a decade ago, I'd like to think I can do more).  Growing older, time seems to tighten its grip on us, forcing us to look around and see the world for what it is.  Parents grow older and pass away, children grow up and move out.  Time for the middle aged person is a whirlwind of emotions, feelings, and considerations.  I found myself that it wasn't until recently that the whole cycle of life started to reveal itself in a more tangible way.  For me, it was a combination of factors that started the revelation.  It was grandparents getting older and having health problems, parents getting older, older friends losing their parents, having a son, and seeing friends have children.  Seeing all these things occur began the realization that while there is a lot of life to live, it doesn't last forever.  I think that for some people, this can be a depressing thought.  To see the progression of life and to realize that we will all be six feet under one day is not the brightest thought, but it is one that we must come to terms with. 

Perhaps that is another reason that time seems to speed up as we get older, the recognition of time itself and what it inevitably holds for us makes us realize how precious time is and how little of it we actually have in the overall scheme of things.  That coupled with the sense of our deteriorating bodies and increasing obligations just seems to speed time right along.  Yet with all of these depressing thoughts, there is a remedy to attempt to slow down time.  That is to never stop living.  If we stop and think too long about what time holds for us and where we will end up, then of course time will seem to fly by more quickly.  Our responsibilities and obligations will never go away, they just alter periodically depending on our station in life, but we do have control over how we deal with them, our attitude towards them and life, and how we live.  The only way to change our perspective on time is through action.  If we simply think too much, nothing will happen and we will regret something along the way.  However, if we live each moment for what it is, grasp every opportunity that presents itself, then at least life will have seemed worth living.  This isn't to say that we must constantly be on the move for relaxation does wonders to help an overactive mind, but to stop moving and never start up again just hastens death to our door a little quicker.  So to sum this all up, as I turn thirty in a few days, I see how time seems to be more fleeting and fickle, yet I also see the opportunities that life has and refuse to sit on the sidelines and let it pass me by.  I will live as I have never lived before (at least I'd like to think I will), and make the next third of my life the best that it can be. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Deal With Religion

What is the ultimate goal of any religion?  Now you may be thinking, "Come on Alex, how are you going to tackle a question like that in a three paragraph blog post?"  Well, the answer to the latter question, posed mostly to myself I guess, is that to me the answer is pretty simple and as such I feel that while three paragraphs is probably not adequate enough to delve deep into it, it will suffice to get the ball rolling.  So back to the main question of what the ultimate goal of religion is.   What I feel is the ultimate goal of any religion is to bring a sense of peace into the lives of its practitioners.  For those religions that have a God or gods, the purpose is also to bring any person closer to their God.  Even if a religion has no set God, the purpose is to bring a person closer to universal truth.  There are different avenues depending on the religion you claim as your own, but all religions have that as a main purpose.  Some may twist the purpose to become more esoteric in nature, more convoluted and confusing for some, yet the answer remains the same for all.  Even through the different avenues presented for attaining unity with God, the universe, or truth, there is one pervasive theme that can not be ignored, and that is purification.  Whether through prayer, abstinance, fasting, or any other means, purification is a necessary part of all religions, a path by which we can rid our bodies, minds, and souls of impurities and allow us to come closer to the ultimate truth, or God if you will. 

Now some may question my own devotion as a Catholic by my saying that all religions are essentially the same when it all gets boiled down, but am I losing my devotion or am I simply accepting different religions and their own unique paths?  Personally, my devotion to the Catholic faith has not waivered, yet despite my devotion, I have not let it suffice to only know the Catholic religion.  My curiosity about the world, the religions that abound throughout the world, and what it all means has led me to learn about other religions and their paths to enlightenment, the afterlife, or truth.  I feel that the Catholic religion is right for me, yet for others it is not.  I do not find fault with anyone who does not claim to be a Christian or Catholic mainly because I understand that everyone has different needs and one religion does not hold the answers for everyone in my mind.  I know, that last statement was vaguely hipocritical if you look at what every religion says, mainly that theirs is the one true path.  Yet if everyone is searching for that inner peace, the unity with God or the universe, then why can't there be more than one path, more than one religion that is correct.  If everyone is striving for that intangible peace, that sense of calm, and we can all achieve it througth different means, then I am all for it.  To me, the problem arises when a religion claims superiority to other religions (which many do) and as a result leads to conflict between various religions.  We see evidence of this throughout the world on a daily basis, wars fought in the name of God, Allah, the divine other, whatever.  If only people could come to accept that everyone is on a similar journey, than perhaps there would be more tolerance and acceptance of other's religious paths and what they entail. 

There is the argument for non-believers that they don't need a formal religion to feel peace and calm and as such, religion is a bogus entity that gives people a false sense of reality or is merely there to suck people's wallets dry.  If there is intolerance on their part, perhaps it is because they do not truly understand what religion is for.  Perhaps they do not need a formal religion to attain peace in their lives.  I accept that some people feel that way, I just happen not to, but that doesn't mean I will discriminate against them or view them differently because of their views.  For many people, religion is one of those taboo subjects to talk about, especially if the views of any two people differ in any way.  I feel that religion has attained such a stature because people don't want to consider other's religions as acceptable or equal in any way to theirs.  Even by my explaining religion in such a simple way; that it is a means to peace, unity with God, a path to the afterlife, I will anger some readers because I am oversimplifying things.  Yet am I?  I feel that in order to come to a place of understanding and acceptance, we must first simplify the goal of all religions and use that as a basis to move forward.  Only by doing so can we truly become enlightened and see that what works for us may not work for someone else, and you know what, that is perfectly OK.  I am not meaning to preach here.  Rather, I am hoping that by explaining what I feel ties people together, especially through religion, its simplicity, than perhaps we can become more accepting of those around us, especially those with different beliefs and views.  In any case, thats what I have for today, and let me just finish by saying that I hope we can all come to a greater understanding of others beliefs and views, and through that understanding accept them and help them on their journey.   

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happiness, A State of Mind

The human mind is a wonderful, and sometimes vicious, part of who we are.  When it comes to happiness, our mind can either be a friend or foe, depending on what we allow it to become.  I have seen friends dig too deep into the actions of others, ruminate excessively about their everyday lives and what they mean, and create a world for themselves in which it is almost impossible to be happy.  Yet I also have friends who view life as one great opportunity where anything is possible and their lives consequentially are filled with happiness.  So how do we attain happiness?  That could be one of the trickiest questions posed by anyone at anytime and depending on who you talk to, the answer could be vastly different from person to person.  To me, happiness is solely a state of mind that is not contingent upon anything physical or tactile.  Some people claim that happiness can be achieved through money and objects.  For most people reading this, this route to happiness is ill-conceived and fraught with despair.  How much would a person need to be happy?  There is no real answer that we can arrive at for everyone wants or "needs" a different amount to be happy.  I personally don't subscribe to this route to happiness.  I think I did when I was younger, but luckily I shed that idea and now look at happiness as something that we can create based upon how we look at the world. 

It is easy for us to look outside ourselves and see nothing but despair and negativity in the world.  The global economy seems to be faltering again, politicians are lying as usual, and people simply seem more vicious as a whole.  Yet can we claim that happiness is achievable by looking at the state of things outside of ourselves?  Perhaps, but only if we are involved in every facet of what is going on around us.  Simply because the economy is in the crapper doesn't mean that everyone is in the crapper and consequently depressed and anxious.   So where do we look for happiness?  To me, happiness resides in everyone (I know, a blanket statement that sounds vaguely hippyish) and can only be truly achieved by changing our state of mind and how we let outside influences affect us.  Everyone has a different point at which the outside world affects them.  For some, simply the news of stocks falling can be enough to send them into depression, yet that essentially suggests that happiness is dependent on money.  What we need to do is create filters for ourselves through which we can view the world, including our own lives, and find the positive aspects to create a sense of happiness.  The filters we need are ones that do not let our mind spin out of control when we hear bad news.  If we can teach ourselves to look at all the good in our lives, then happiness will be that much closer.  I know I make it sound so simple, "oh, just look at the world differently and you will be happy,"  but when you boil down what happiness is about, it really is that simple.  OK, maybe not so simple for some, but the idea itself is simple, the actions one takes to get there perhaps not so much.

I find myself dropping my filters every now and then, getting caught up in the vicious cycles that fluctuate around, and losing my own sense of happiness.  What I need to do when that happens is to step back, out of myself if you will, and consider what I have and what it means to me.  Would I like more money?  Absolutely, but it is not a variable that is necessary for me to be happy.  To me, my life is good, and for the most part, I am happy.  When I boil everything down, it doesn't take much to make me happy.  I have a wonderful family and great friends.  As long as I have those two integral pieces, it is hard for me to get depressed about anything else.  Does the fact that I have a job make happiness easier to hold on to?  Yes, but I feel that even if I didn't have a job, I would somehow create a sense of happiness for myself out of what I have.  It took me a long time to get to where I am today.  For quite a while I bought what society was feeding me, that I needed to be surrounded by money and objects to be happy.  Well, that's not the case as I found out.  I have plenty of "objects" if you will, but they do not inherently make me happy.  I only hope that more people could see the truth about being happy and that it doesn't take worldly things to get them there.  All people need to do is to be thankful for what they have, love the ones around them, and happiness will come.  Its all about our minds and what we allow ourselves to think and feel.  We have control over our minds if only we can tap into it.  Today, seriously just be happy.  It may take some effort for people to reach that point, but it is worth it when you get there and you look around and life is good.  That is perhaps my favorite line and one that is not used often enough, "Life is Good."

Friday, June 15, 2012

If Only...

If only every summer day was like yesterday in CT, I would be a much happier man.  Don't get me wrong, I will still be happy regardless, my happiness would simply be more pervasive if every day was relatively cool with low humidity.  There were a few times yesterday where I had to stop what I was doing, close my eyes, and absorb the world around me.  I just love when the temperature is in the mid 60's, a breeze briefly blows through, and I get a chill.  The chill, while not invasive and long lasting, brings a brief burst of energy and lets me know that yes, I am alive.  You can always tell when there is a gust of wind on its way in the late spring.  At first you catch a glimpse of the tree tops flitting back and forth, almost as if a child is reaching for the top branches.   Migrating downwards, the breeze soon catches the whole tree in its grip and pushes it to and fro like an army of miniature squirrels racing for the ground.  Finally done with the trees, the breeze swirls through every obstacle at ground level, re-arranging pollen swirls and dust piles as it slowly dies out.  What could be better than working outside on a day like that?  Well, obviously not working outside on a day like that and just relaxing would be optimal, but for now, I will have to take my little micro breaks to enjoy it all.  Yet its not only when I am outside working that I get pulled by nature and the world around me, I also get it while driving.

Going from one job to another yesterday morning, early before 8, there was a pretty steady breeze blowing.  I know its probably not the best time to get caught up in looking at the world around you, but sometimes I can't help it when I am driving on a beautiful morning.  As I was traveling down the road, I couldn't help but notice the long shadows of anticipation that were being cast by a fresh rising sun.  The shadows danced sprightly on the ground, reaching in front of my van, then pulling back at the last minute.  Tunnels of light opened up periodically, shaking spasmodically with no given agenda or purpose.  It was almost like I was alone on the road, witnessing nature in its early morning frivolity, begging me to pull over and go lay under a tree.  But I didn't, I kept on driving, watching the trees and shadows drift by, oblivious to my travels.  Every so often I would get nudged by the wind, the van lurching left or right, yet I traveled on.  I always consider pulling over and just taking it all in for a few minutes, yet most of the time, I simply travel on, remembering the sights and sounds around me, cataloguing them for future use like now.  Perhaps what stays with me most is the smell of the early morning, the fragrance of fresh dew perched precariously on every blade of grass and the last spring pollen swirling around on the ground, puffing up every now and then with a passing car or gust of wind.  Its tantalizing to me, the smells, the sights, the sounds; and it keeps me going strong. 

I have mentioned before that I don't always listen to music during the day at work.  Just the other day I had a customer come up to me and suggest I bring music with me.  I told her my iPhone had all the music I could want, I just didn't feel like listening to it then and there.  Its funny, when you have all the music in the world at your fingertips, sometimes you don't want any of it.  Sometimes the birds chirping is just enough of a melody to provide background music for work.   Most of the time, my thoughts and the work itself are enough to keep me occupied.  There is a meditative quality to repetitive work that I utterly enjoy.  Its a transformative process by which I take whatever I am working on and make it look better.  My thoughts wander as my hands keep working, contemplating, ruminating, and sometimes, just resting.  I am now looking forward to another beautiful day with low humidity and fantastic sun.  I hope everyone reading this can get outside for at least a few minutes, close your eyes, and let your thoughts drift away, leaving you open to the world around you.  Don't think, just absorb.  For now, I am signing off and heading out into the world.  May everyone have a wonderful weekend. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Consistently Growing

Yesterday, as almost every Wednesday for the past 5 months, I spent at home with my son.  Yes, I work only four days a week, but those four days are much longer to compensate for the loss of one day.  Despite my occasional desire to work a Saturday, I find it very hard to do so when my wife and son are at home.  But it is what it is, I have no regrets, so that is really all that matters.  Anyway, back to my son and my day off with him.  Let me start by saying that he is not walking yet, luckily, although he is getting much better at balancing and can even balance while kneeling now.  He is a fairly quick learner and tries his hardest at everything, including trying to stand up.  Its funny to watch him now as he crawls.  Almost every time he moves forward, he tries to extend his legs and walk his feet forward with his hands still on the floor.  Normally he gets one, maybe two steps in before going back to crawling.  He is working his leg muscles into shape and seems to be happiest now when he is being supported while upright on his feet.  On that upright note, he is becoming much more adept at walking his feet forward while holding either my wife's or my hands.  We even noticed yesterday that he seems to have much more balance in that position while moving his feet quickly forward, almost running, but we can't quite call it that yet as he is still holding on.  Its amazing to watch his excitement at figuring things out and seeing him learn about the world.  

In terms of learning about the world, I have found that he doesn't care too much for most of his toys.  Yesterday we were up in his room after a nap and I decided to put his small basket of toys on the ground to play with.  He quickly crawled over and proceeded to take all the toys out one by one, inspecting each as he moved it from the basket to the floor.  Some of them he spent a little more time with such as the ones that made noise or rattled and less time with the ones that did nothing, like the stuffed animals.  Once he had all the toys out of the basket, he became fascinated with the basket and spent more time inspecting that than he did all his toys.  Either his toys aren't interesting enough or he would much rather play with regular objects around the house.  The only toys that he seems to enjoy and spend more time with than anything else are his soft blocks which he is trying to learn how to stack and his mini clear beach ball with a smaller ball inside.  Most of the time when we are playing in the living room, he is engrossed with his blocks or ball for a while.  Once he gets bored with them, he makes his way to one of two places; the stairs or the kitchen.  The stairs are pretty obvious as he knows how to climb them and wants to see how far he can get.  The kitchen, I believe, has become his favorite place as it has our pots and pans which he loves to drag out of our cabinets and play with on the floor.  He spends much more time with our pots and pans than he does with any of his toys.   Sometimes he will play with the pots and pans inside the cabinet while at other times they get spread all over the kitchen floor.  I don't know, maybe we should just get him a complete cooking set for his birthday that we can use as well.  

All in all, we truly consider ourselves blessed to have such a well tempered child (thus far) that is happy the majority of the time, sleeps through the night without incident, and is dealing quite well with his incoming teeth (7 so far).  He has figured out how to tell us he needs his diaper changed by scratching his diaper (usually means there is poop inside) and is constantly working on his different consonants and vowels in addition to working out the full range of his voice.  Every morning now when I go to get him out of bed I find him kneeling by the rails, holding on, and talking.  As soon as he sees me, he gets all excited, breaks out a huge smile, and occasionally stands up to help me get him.  What else can I say, I love him so much.  The one thing I can't wait for is when I don't have to worry about him trying to put anything and everything into his mouth.  While its nice that he is mobile now, he can't be left alone obviously unless I am absolutely certain there is nothing that can endanger him.  On that note, I don't think it is entirely possible for a parent to completely baby proof a house.  I feel that there is always at least one object that goes unnoticed by parents that a baby will find and try to eat or perhaps just explore with his mouth.  Even the corner of our carpets aren't left untouched.  He loves to play with the little threads and attempt to put them in his mouth until we stop him that is.  Oh well, that is my report for now.  Until tomorrow when I will talk about something else (duh!), have a great day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Recognizing the Good

 Sometimes life seems to move along so quickly that we forget to look at the larger picture.  We have a tendency to look at our own lives and be critical of what is going on.  Often times, we fail to see the positive in our lives, dwelling on the negative instead, and get sucked into a whirlwind of doubts and misgivings.  I got stuck in that whirlwind for the past few weeks due to a number of occurrences (one being the issue with the customer I discussed yesterday).  Yet at the same time, while allowing myself to get caught up in myself, life was presenting other views that in retrospect, painted a picture that showed how lucky I was.  From my point of view, I have seen many people get sucked into a whirlwind of their own making, turning and churning till they can't see much of what is occurring outside of their own lives.   There just seems to be this perpetuation of doubt and despair in some people, never allowing the sun to break through the clouds so to speak, and it can be incredibly debilitating for some.   Luckily, I don't think I have ever let myself get to the point where there is no glimmer of hope or brightness, but that is me.  I have seen friends caught in a depressing spiral for so long that it seems like they may never get out of it.  So how does one proceed to climb out of the this web that they spin for themselves, or in fact how do I do the same?  While the answer may be seemingly quite simple, it is much harder to take action and make it work for one's self. 

To me, its all about taking your life, stepping back, and looking for everything that is working or going well.  Instead of focusing on whats dragging you down, focus on what is there that can pick you up and carry you forward.  Over the past few weeks, as I mentioned above, while getting caught in a whirlwind of my own making, I was presented with situations that put into perspective my life and how lucky I actually am.   And as much as I hate to say this, what made me look at the bright side was comparing my life to others around me.  I have seen a number of friends and acquaintances over the past week alone and in looking at them and how they live, I feel truly lucky.   The comparison I made was not to how well off they are or anything similarly related, but rather to their lives personal lives and the issues they deal with.  Going further, I looked at their countenance, how happy they are or aren't, and how my life stacks up.  So why did I compare my life with others around me when I have spoken before about not making comparisons.  Well, simply put, I needed a boost and by making that comparison, I managed to feel better about my life and everything that is going on.  By looking at others, I was able to realize how well off I am in regards to family, home, and in general, my life.  Trust me when I say, I don't like to make comparisons that often.  I don't think it is overly healthy most of the time, but then again, if it allows me to pick myself up a bit, then I think it is totally worth it. 

I will not go into detail about what I found in my friends and acquaintances lives, but let it suffice to say that some are dealing with some pretty major issues that I hope I never have to deal with.  A small number of my friends like to perpetually complain about their predicament, their lives and their issues, and their significant others.  Some are even on the verge of breaking up.  So when I see all of this and I look at my life, I am pretty damn lucky.  Whatever I have to complain about is small and inconsequential.  Overall, my life is good.  Do I have an excessive amount of money saved up?  No, but to me it isn't about that.  Do I have a beautiful wife and healthy and happy son?  Yes, and life is more about that than anything else.  If I can look forward to coming home at the end of the day, then there really isn't anything worthwhile for me to complain about.  Sometimes the stresses of life can take over, but it is this view of everything that is good that picks me up.  Today I get to spend with my son, making everything worthwhile.  Sometimes, it seems, comparisons are necessary.  So let us not get to bogged down with life, let ourselves get caught in that whirlwind that can take almost anyone by surprise, and look instead to what we have to be grateful for.  Life goes by to quick to spend it despairing about things and perpetually complaining.  If we can only find the good, then perhaps we can enjoy life while we are here and not waste it away on frivolous things.  Just some thoughts, but maybe it will help someone else. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All About Flexibility

Today I am not talking about physical flexibility as some might intuit by the title of my post but rather mental and situational flexibility.  Don't get me wrong, physical flexibility is important in our lives, but perhaps equally if not more important is the kind of flexibility we need to draw upon in our every day lives when dealing with others.  Some people are supremely flexible, being able to adapt to a rapidly changing situation while others find it much harder to change course, adapt, and move forward in a beneficial and meaningful way.  To me, flexibility is an absolute necessity when it comes to every day life.   I am sure that 99% of us have been in a situation that necessitates us reviewing the present course of action, the obstacles in our way, and the most productive and beneficial way of moving past that obstacle.  Often times it involves differing from out planned course of action.  This could be anything as simple as planning a picnic in the park, getting everything ready and in the car only to have it start raining.   Or it could be more complex in a work setting where while working with someone else, ideas don't particularly mesh and another alternative must be agreed upon in order to proceed.  In order to be flexible in any situation, we must be able to put aside our own thoughts, ideas, and plans and try to look at the situation with a new set of eyes, ones not our own yet able to present a new alternative for progression.  Personally, I like to think that I am flexible most of the time.  Yet while flexible most of the time, I will also be the first to admit that in certain situations I am obstinate and find it very hard to deviate from a present course. 

So why am I talking about this today?  Simply put, I am presently dealing with a situation at work in which there is no flexibility on my customers part.  I have tried to work with him in finding an alternative solution, yet he is firmly set in his course and will not deviate whatsoever.  It has gotten to the point where the job might not be finished by me simply because no solution can be agreed upon.  It isn't about the actual work that I am doing, but rather compensation or payment for the work that I am doing.  To summarize the situation, it is an exterior job that has been delayed because of the almost weekly rain that we have been having.  The customer paid a fifth of the job up front to get the job started.  After a month (damn rain) and having almost finished a fifth of the project, I asked for the second fifth.  The only reason I asked early is because he has his bank send me the check which takes about a week to arrive.  His position is that until a fifth of the project is done, he will not have a check sent.  Well, personally, I need money to pay the bills and told him that was the only reason I was asking for the check a little early.  There was no understanding on his part so I stopped working there.  In my eight years in business, I have never run into a customer who is so inflexible when it comes to payment.  Every other customer I have has been understanding and paid when requested.  Maybe it is me, but I don't think I am being unreasonable.  Its not like I am asking for the complete balance of the job, simply some more money to keep me going.   To say that I am slightly annoyed would be putting it mildly, yet what is one to do.  The rain has been persistent every week, reducing the time I am able to work outside to only a few days a week.  It is hard to get an exterior done when there is rain every week.  But alas, I digress, I was talking about flexibility and how I wish this customer was just a little more flexible when it comes to payment. 

To be fair, I understand that he is wary of paying me and then having me not do anymore work (as he indicated he had issues before with contractors). Yet he also told me he is completely satisfied with the work being done and said he sees the progression.  Still, I didn't think I was over reaching.  Somehow, it makes me wonder if I am not being flexible enough, not going the extra mile to satisfy a customer.  Oh well, not much I can do except move forward from here, either walking off my first job ever, or going back and finishing.  I did tell him that once I get paid from some other jobs, I will be back, however now he is questioning if he even wants me to finish.  I don't personally get it.  Life goes on and the only thing I can do is try my best to be as flexible as possible moving forward.  I know there are times when I find it incredibly difficult to be flexible, but usually I come around and am able to work through any issues.  So I guess I am ranting a raving a little bit, frustrated and stressed, and should probably just end this now so I don't keep on babbling too  long.  All I have to do is look forward to tomorrow and my day off with our son who turned eight months yesterday.  Just thinking about him now puts a smile on my face and reduces my stress and frustration a little bit.  (I wonder if I will say the same thing when he is a teenager).  Till tomorrow, my goal is to make it through the day, nothing more, nothing less. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Childhood Molestation

Reading the title, you might think, "what the hell is this guy talking about childhood molestation for?"  Rest assured, its not about me or anyone I know, but rather about the issue in general and the explosion over the last few years about how wide spread and devastating it can be.  Just over this past weekend, there was another revealing story in the NY Times Magazine that dealt with childhood molestation once again, this time in an elite NY City private school.  Whether it is in schools, churches, synagogues, camps, or in the homes of children themselves, the number of cases just keeps going up.  To be honest with you, it is quite frightening to read about all these stories and then think about my son who is 8 months old and what the future could hold for him.  I can only hope and pray that he will never be the victim of someone else's insecurity and predation.  On the plus side, with all the stories getting exposed over the past decade of childhood molestation taking place seemingly everywhere, perhaps it will start to decline.  The statistics regarding childhood molestation are not comforting despite any trends in society.  1 in 6 children have been or will be molested at some point.  1 in 6?  Those odds aren't that good as it means that more children will be molested than will die during childbirth, than will get struck by lightning, or than will get hit by a car while walking across the street.  Personally, I would rather have any of the latter happen to myself than to have been a victim of childhood molestation (which luckily I wasn't).  That number, 1 in 6, also means that whoever is reading this probably knows someone who has been a victim. 

So why has childhood molestation been such an issue?  Going further, why are these stories coming to light decades after the abuse happened?   To tackle the first question, we must look at who the majority of perpetrators are; men.  One theory that I heard within the past month made a lot of sense to me and while not the only theory out there, seems to be one that can explain most of the cases.  To start with, we must look first at the culture that men have been living in for a long time and to a certain extent, still do.  That culture is one that values stoicism, non-emotion, and non-sharing of personal information.  If you look back, men were once held as the bread-winners for the family, the ones who went to work, made the money, came home and did it all over again the next day.  In that culture, a man was supposed to be strong despite the circumstances and "have his s*#t together".  How many men actually had it together, had life figured out, and were able to fully live?  Speaking from personal experience, probably not many.  I have never had my life completely together and probably never will.  Yet the changing difference in the culture now and the culture even a decade ago is that men were not expected to share anything with others at all.  Men were supposed to keep their emotions to themselves and deal with everything on their own.  Even today, that culture is slow to change.  There still seems to be this pervasive feeling that men can't share with other men, or women.  Keeping emotions bottled up inside is never good.  When those emotions and feelings are bottle up inside for a long time, they become toxic and begin to prey upon one's psyche and their mental state.  For some, those toxic emotions are released in the form of molestation, especially upon children who are vulnerable and capable of being twisted and persuaded to do what the perpetrator wants.  Does this explanation suit every instance of childhood molestation?  There is a good chance that it doesn't yet I feel it is the basis for many a case.  And just because it explains the possible causes that lead to childhood molestation doesn't mean it excuses the behavior that as it turns out, many men have engaged in. 

What is even worse is that the damage is so sever to a child that reports of abuse and molestation usually don't get revealed for a long time.  That in and of itself makes it that much harder to combat this issue.  If we are just now finding out about cases that occurred in the 60's, 70's and 80's, how are we to help those that have been affected?  The short answer is that we can't; we can only try and change the culture through which this has happened and try to prevent future cases from occurring.  These days there is much more transparency in public and private institutions when it comes to abuse, molestation, or anything else along those lines.  Yet that doesn't prevent this from happening in the home or in a setting that is not exposed to public scrutiny.  It would seem that the main avenue for combating this is to teach our children how to properly deal with their emotions and feelings.  This means both the mother and the father taking an active role in raising their children, not just the mother.  Boys can only learn so much about emotions and feelings from their mother.  Inevitably, they look first to their fathers as a role model and an image of what it means to be a man.  If the father is not in touch with his emotions, keeps them hidden, and doesn't convey them; than his son will most likely adopt those same qualities and nothing will change.  This doesn't mean that everyone who is not in touch with his/her emotions will become a predator or child molester, but it doesn't improve the odds at all.  None of this will change over night, yet we can only hope that over the next decade or so that the culture does begin to change, child molestation cases decline, and men can begin to tap into their emotions and begin to communicate them more freely both to other men and to women.  It will not be easy, but it can be done.  Well, enough with the depressing topic for today, but it needs to be discussed and acted upon.  Till tomorrow, lets all take some time to look at ourselves and how we deal with our own emotions and feelings. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

DNA Blueprint of Fetus

In an age where it seems we must know everything before it happens, we have reached a new level of insanity in my mind; the DNA sequencing of a fetus.  That's correct, researchers have figured out how to determine the DNA blueprint of a fetus using only a blood sample from the pregnant mother and a saliva sample from the father.  The DNA blueprint can be figured out to within 98% accuracy and while one test was done at 18.5 weeks, some think it can be done within the first trimester.  What does this all mean?  One avenue of thought brings to light the possibility of figuring out if a fetus will have one of thousands of genetic anomalies or defects.  One might also be able to determine how smart or how athletic their child might be.  Yet all of this would be challenging currently.  While researchers have figured out how to map the DNA, interpreting it is a whole other matter.  Besides the fact that this type of DNA mapping is now feasible, there seems to be little one can do with it.   The article I read about this topic in the NYTimes brings to light a disturbing possibility which happens to be the first possibility that I thought of, using this information to determine whether to keep the child or abort it.  Some parents already make that decision based upon a few tests that can be done during pregnancy to determine if the fetus is at risk for some developmental problem.  With this new ability to know even more, the possibilities are quite frightening. 

When my wife was pregnant with our son, we didn't even know if our child was going to be a boy or a girl never mind anything else.  We refused all possible tests available because we knew that no matter what the tests results were, we were going to keep our child.  With the possibility now reaching the point where almost any genetic mutation or disease can be figured out early, it begs the question as to how many parents will make the decision to keep or abort the child depending on the results of the DNA mapping.  I would like to think that most wouldn't even have the DNA of their fetus mapped, yet who knows.  For now at least, the cost to map the DNA of a fetus is prohibitively expensive and would not be an option for the majority of parents.  Yet the costs are sure to come down and when they do, it will open up the door to a whole new world.  Depending on how things go, this possibility of DNA mapping could lead to selective breeding where parents determine whether to keep a child based not upon which disease or handicap a child might have, but more upon their strength, sex, intellect, predisposition, etc.  The possibility to me is frightening.  The last thing we need is a system through which parents can pick and choose which child they want to have and which they could get rid of.  I know some people reading this might think that the majority of parents wouldn't do such a thing like this and I would like to be one of the ones to think that, however, the reality of the situation is much different.  There are many instances already which point to a growing trend of selective abortion or selective breeding.  The moment we try and control how the human race will develop based upon DNA sequencing is the moment we begin to lose some of our humanity. 

Perhaps my biggest issue with this whole thing is that it is mostly pointless in my mind.  There are so many different factors that go into a child's development that to determine whether a child is worth bringing into the world based upon their DNA is ludicrous.  There have been many instances over the years where a child was born with various issues and turned out to be a world leader, a genius, or a fantastic athlete.  One can not fully determine what a child will be like until they are born and begin developing.  By opening up the possibility of cutting life short because of DNA mapping we are potentially saying that some human life isn't worth keeping while other human life is.  That is a problem to me.  One of the questions asked of my wife and I when the tests were offered for our child was if we were going to keep the child regardless of what the tests said.  Our answer was, "of course we will keep the child".  They then suggested we not get the tests done because there could be a false positive and it wouldn't be worth it.  Similarly, I don't think it would be worth it to get a fetus' DNA mapped.  But then again, we live in a world where everything must be known immediately.  There are relatively few surprises in this world anymore.  Having a child and not knowing if it will be a boy or girl is one of them.  Even that however is losing its appeal as most parents have the sex of their child determined so they can plan accordingly.  I remember taking the labor class and being the only couple out of 10 that didn't know what they were having.  That is the way of the world I suppose and there is not much we can do about it.  Oh well, on to the almighty weekend and some well deserved relaxation. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's Next, Walking?

So after 2 weeks I got my day off with my son again yesterday.  Being home with him now is so much more enjoyable for me than it was just a few months ago.  His personality has developed by leaps and bounds and his activity level has surged intensely as mobility has increased.   It seems that barely a week goes by without our son figuring out something new, either with himself or the world around him.  Yesterday was no different.  I had mentioned last week that our little man started figuring out how to climb stairs.  While still not proficient at it, he seems drawn to the stairs like a moth to a street light.  The stairs aren't all he is interested in obviously, but he seems drawn to them more than anything else besides our cat.  Our cat is the one fixture in the house that he just can't resist.  Regardless of what he is involved in, trying to stack blocks or exploring the nooks and crannies of our house, if the cat walks by, he excitedly follows.  As soon as he spots the cat, he gets all giddy and crawls as fast as his little legs and arms can take him towards the cat.  Once he gets within about a foot of the cat, he slows down and approaches slowly as if he is stalking his prey.  Usually about the time he reaches the cat, she darts away in an attempt to keep her tail and dignity intact.  After a couple attempts to reach the cat, our son's attention usually gets diverted to some other object around him.  Even our large dogs are getting a little wary of him and keep their distance when they see him approaching.  Just yesterday he approached the couch on which our younger dog, Aspen, was laying.  As he got close and grabbed the cushion to pull himself up, Aspen got up and moved to the other side of the couch.  Well, our son decided to follow on the floor and attempt to reach Aspen on the other side.  Grabbing the cushion once more, he started to pull himself up when Aspen decided enough was enough, got up and off the couch and retreated to another room.   Seeing Aspen disappear, our son merely looked for the next closest exciting object that he could get his hands on. 

Despite chasing our animals at almost 8 months old, there is a lot more that our little man has been up to.  In addition to learning how to climb stairs, it seems that anything sturdy enough is now considered by him fair game to use as assistance in pulling himself up.  Besides crawling and exploring, pulling himself up to standing is one of his new favorite things to do.  Each day its getting easier and easier for him to get to a standing position.  It is funny at times to watch him as he does not have complete balance yet.  Occasionally he will try to pull himself up at an angle only to slide back to the floor startled.  Its not just inanimate objects that he uses to pull himself up but he also utilizes my wife and I.  Where once he used to crawl up to us and flail his arms and legs as a sign he wanted to be picked up, he now simply crawls over and climbs into our lap.   One day I swear I will look up and he will be walking towards me.  Speaking of looking up and seeing something new, just yesterday our son was crawling along and the next thing I knew, he randomly figured out how to get himself into a sitting position.  Now that he has figured it out, he gets himself to a sitting position as much as possible.  Another one of his new favorite things to do is attempt to flip through books while sitting or for that matter, while laying on his belly.  He can't quite separate all the pages, even on the larger, cardboard paged books, but at least he is trying.  It seems the dexterity in his fingers is not quite where he wants it to be yet.  Mostly it is just one page or two that he flips back and forth, back and forth, looking at the pictures.  Its amazing to watch him try and figure things out, the little gears in his head turning and turning until that little light bulb goes off and he finally "gets it". 

Now we move to the food, which yesterday, our son wanted a lot of (along with his mother's milk).  Yesterday morning I fed him his bottle after which we sat around letting him digest for about a half hour.  Figuring that he was pretty full after drinking 6 ounces of milk, I fed him some solid food.  He had some leftover apples and carrots (about 2 ounces) and a small amount of prunes.  I started feeding him, got through both servings, and he showed no signs of being full.  Having no other prepared foods for him, I grabbed a banana which is really easy and quick to mash up.  I cut off about a third figuring I would eat the rest, mashed it up and fed it to him.  That wasn't enough so I cut off another third.  Well, two thirds of a banana on top of more solid food wasn't enough either so I gave him the rest of the banana after which he was finally satiated.  I couldn't believe that he ate that much so soon after finishing his milk.  Later in the morning, I cut up some peaches for him and tossed them in the baby brezza to cook and blend.  When he woke up from his afternoon nap, he polished off about 1.5 peaches.  Astonishing.  I would be concerned if all he was eating was cereal and carbs, but it is all pretty much fruit.  Either he is going through a growth spurt or getting chubby.  Personally, I am going to go with the growth spurt.  I can't wait to see what this next week will hold for our son as he turns 8 months old.  One thing is for certain, there is never a dull moment when he is awake and active. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Big Brother Here?

It seems that no matter what you do these days, someone is watching you.  George Orwell was on to something when he wrote his book 1984 back in the 1940's.   The correlations that you can draw between what occurs in that book to events unfolding today are uncanny.  Every year we inch closer and closer to full life disclosure, or in simpler terms, a point where everything we do will come under scrutiny.  As it is, most of us can't go half a day without something we do or say being monitored by someone or something.   Whether it be an influx of public cameras, the monitoring of the Internet, or simply nosy neighbors looking for that ethereal "something", our lives are increasingly becoming not our own.  I know this all may sound a tad bit over the top, but look around you, look at your place of work, look at your devices that keep you connected to the world;  everything is turning into a monitoring device.  Our government just a few years ago tried flying under the radar with their supposed "right" to illegally wire tap any phone line.  Security and traffic cameras are used for more than their intended purposes.  While mostly performing their necessary function, they can also be used to track the whereabouts of individuals.  Even what we write on the Internet can be called into question and used against us.  Just look at companies not hiring individuals due to their Facebook profiles or their online life.   Society, and our government, is moving closer and closer to full surveillance of our lives. 

So why am I writing about this today?  Mostly because I keep on hearing and reading stories about in which people being watched, scrutinized, and having a sense of fear imposed upon them by those in power.   I have specific details that I could disclose about what exactly is making me write this today, but for the sake of those involved, I won't.  There it is again, that fear of what might happen should I say something in a public sphere that is keeping me from going into full detail.  And you know what, it completely pisses me off.  I should be able to say what I want without fear of reprisal for myself or anyone else, yet things don't work that way.  Trust me on this, the details I am talking about are not in regard to anything horrific, nothing illegal, and nothing that could cause physical or emotional harm.   Despite all that, I still can't talk about it because someone might lose their job or their life might be made hard enough in their place of work where they would quit.  If this doesn't sound like big brother, then I don't know what does.  Even more, I am simply talking about my inability to say things, not even about what events are actually transpiring.  But enough, let it suffice to say that it is all because certain people in power want everyone to follow blindly without questioning.  Isn't that what most places of work are becoming?  Follow your leader blindly or lose your job.  Especially in this wavering economy where one day things are good, the next things are bad and no one wants to lose a job;  employees are following their employers blindly because there is a fear instilled in them about what might happen.  How far is too far?  The end always seems just within reach, the point where people will say "I have had enough" and put an end to the madness, yet the end never seems to get here.  Everything gets explained and justified away and in the end people cave in and keep on working. 

Its sometimes frightening when you step back, consider our lives and the possibility for surveillance, and then realize how little privacy we actually have left.  Just look at the incident where a college student spied on his room mate via web cam and broadcast it over the web resulting in that room mates suicide.  If a college student can use a web cam to spy on others, is it too far of a stretch to think that corporations and our government can't do the same?  In my mind, no, but I try not to think about it too much.  It seems like the only way to truly get through life un-scrutinized these days is to walk around with your head down, not talking to much, and not interacting too much.  Even then, though, someone might call you in because you are acting suspiciously.  Enough is enough.  We shouldn't have to fear living our lives or watching what we say because someone could use it against us in the future, but here we are doing that.  Companies already do everything in their power to analyze our buying trends to use for marketing and sales, but does it end there?  I would hope so.  Anyway, I need to stop writing about this mainly because I don't want to sound to apocalyptic or like a maniac fostering all these conspiracy theories.   Just take some time and consider the world around you and how it has changed over the years.  It is drastically different than even ten years ago and in another ten years will probably be unrecognizable.  But here we are, trudging along, seeking only to live our lives in peace.  So watch out for Big Brother, all those cameras, and be careful what you say on the Internet. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teenage Suicide

This morning an article caught my eye in the NYTimes about yet another suicide by a young teenage boy who had reportedly been bullied at and around school.  Maybe its just me, but it seems like there has been an influx in recent years of teenage suicides ranging anywhere from 10 years of age to 20 and beyond.   So maybe it isn't strictly confined to the "teenage" years, but regardless, it seems like barely a month goes by where you don't hear about another suicide.  In this most recent case out of New York, it was a 12 year old boy who felt that all that was left for him was to take his own life.  Once again, bullying is being cited as a possible cause of this young boy's suicide.  Outside of the fact that the boy was a little shorter in stature than the other boys around, he was simply another boy in the neighborhood.  He had friends, he wasn't gay, and he tried to keep away from the bullies.  So what ultimately drove this boy to the point of no return?  No one really knows and probably never will at this point, but I am sure that bullying will take the brunt of the blame.  Now don't get me wrong, bullying is never OK, yet I would like someone to explain to me how bullying, which has been around since high schools were invented, has all of a sudden become the catalyst for suicide?  It used to be that bullying was merely something to be endured through school.  Some kids were bullied, others weren't, yet one thing is for certain, bullying has existed for a very long time.

So is the fact that bullying has become more prevalent in schools and has become more ferocious and degrading making an impact?  Or is it because something is lacking in these children's youth that doesn't give them the ability to deal with bullying the way kids in the past used to be able to?  I don't know, but for me, bullying is merely the final straw for most of these kids.  There has to be something besides bullying that is contributing to this influx in suicides.  I remember I used to be made fun of in grammar school.  I wouldn't necessarily call it bullying, yet it could have quickly transformed itself into "bullying".  I used to be made fun of for the shape of my head with other kids calling me light bulb.  I simply ignored them and moved on with my life.  There was also the fact that I had to have braces and as part of that, my upper pallet had to be spread first, creating a large gap between my two front teeth.  My classmates used to make fun of me for it, calling me all sorts of names.  My retaliation was to stick a ruler in between my teeth whenever they said something and most times it would gross them out and make them stop.  Like I said, none of this was especially harmful, but it could have been if I had a weaker self esteem and retreated instead of standing up for myself.  It didn't stop there.  I remember in high school having upper classmen try to get a reaction out of me by making fun of my last name.  They used to draw it out making it sound harsh and diminutive.  Over and over they would screw my name up, goading me on, trying to get me to lash out.  Did I?  Not the way they wanted.  Instead of lashing out with my fists, I merely repeated everything they said to the point where they got frustrated, I laughed, and they gave up.  I can see now how it could have had an effect and if I had lashed out, could have quickly escalated, but it didn't.  So how come kids are becoming so fragile now where they can't handle anything?

I know I have talked about bullying before, yet it seems like we aren't capable of addressing the real issue here; proper parenting at home.   More and more often, parents are deciding to leave the moral and ethical upbringing of their child to teachers and schools when they should be doing the jobs themselves.  If a child has a good foundation, built at home, then suicide wouldn't even be an option.  If children knew how to cope with bullying and were comfortable enough to discuss it with their parents, then we wouldn't see kids hanging themselves from shower curtains or trees, or slicing their wrists to little bits.  When will parents and schools take the blinders off, realize that bullying is merely the last straw, and truly start addressing the issue?  There are more and more initiatives to address bullying in the school, yet school takes up only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for children.  What about the rest of the time that they are not in school and are still being bullied?  Parents need to start taking responsibility for the upbringing of their children and not rely solely on schools to do the job for them.  If a child is being bullied in one school, is it realistic to think that by switching schools they will stop being bullied?  In my mind no, but then again, my mind isn't normally in sync with what the rest of society deems reasonable or true.  In any case, suicide is a horrible end to any situation and I wouldn't want to have anyone close to me go through with it.  To counteract this surging trend, we need to get back to basics, back to real parenting, and raise kids the way they used to be raised years ago; capable of fending for themselves in the school setting.