Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Inbox

JRH: Isn't the feeling of running farther than you've ever run before neat?

A lot of people look at me like I’m nuts for saying it, but I feel totally empowered when I stretch the bounds of my physical self. In the past couple of years, I’ve ridden 400 miles on a bike, done an Olympic distance triathlon and run more than 10k for the first time ever. Suffering through the pain (and let’s be clear, there is pain), the doubt and the other demons that are part of testing yourself in any endeavor, you appreciate all the more the moment that you see the finish, knowing that you’re going to make it. It’s awesome!

Chili: The security of knowing that I can open a cabinet (or the fridge or the armrest) and find what I need is comforting to me, and maintaining this order is one of the challenges of living in a family.

OMG! It drives me nuts that our house is in a constant state of fluctuation. I recognize that it is the way of things in a house in New England that has one more person than it’s designed for (a teenager, no less), two elementary school age children and copious visitors nearly every weekend, but I have to say that there are times when I would just like the mudroom to stay organized, or to not have to take every last bit of plastic out of the tupperware drawer to find the lid for the one container that I need.

Kizz: I celebrated [Chinese New Year] (a little late) last night by ordering WAY too much Chinese food and re-watching the Inauguration.

I watched it once, then listened to Obama’s speech a second time because my girls wanted to hear it. I thought it was a good speech, but not earth shaking, which was ok given the circumstances of his appointment. I think he understood that this was not the time for the rah-rah speech, but the “we’re in a hole and we have some work to do” speech. That’s certainly my assessment of our situation.

Chili: I have no book suggestions. Sorry...

Really?? You were the one person I was counting on! Damn it! Now I’m going to have to do my own homework...

Friday, January 30, 2009

The following internal dialog occurred early this morning…

Beep, beep, beep, bee… fumble, fumble, click.

“OK. It’s 5:30. Time to get up.”

Sticks head out. “Christ on a cracker it’s cold outside these covers! And it’s still dark. I could just stay here, where it’s warm. I went to the gym yesterday, after all.”

“No, you need to get up. If you don’t, you’re going to be annoyed all day that you didn’t get to the pool when you should have.”

“I think I’m ok with that. I just don’t want to get up.”

“You know you’ll feel better once you’re up. Just push the covers off.”

“Hell, no! OK. Just give me 5 minutes to psyche myself up.”

“It’s actually been 10 minutes already.”

“No way!” looks at clock “Aw, crap! How do you know that stuff?”

“I’m good that way. Now get a move on or you’re going to be fighting all the old people for space in the pool.”

“Ugh. Fine! OK. Here we go! One. Two. Two and a half…”

“Stop dicking around!”

Whimpers. “All right, all right! I’m up. See? The covers are off and I’m freezing my balls off!”

“Good, now find your clothes. Do you remember where you put them?”

“I remembered to put them at the end of the bed. Aren’t I smart? Here they are. Ohhhh, they’re cold! Why couldn’t the cat lay on these instead of my feet?”

“Oh, quit complaining and get dressed. Is all your stuff in your bag?”

“Yes, I packed it last night. I just need to grab it.”

“Well, let’s go! If you move with purpose, you’ll make it to the pool in time to get your full 8/10 mile in before you have to get back to help get the kids ready for school.”

“I’m moving, already!”

Puts shoes on. Grabs bag. Dons coat, scarf and gloves.

“It’s going to be really cold out there.”

“And your point is…?”

“My point is that I’d rather be drinking coffee right now.”

“Well, you’re up and dressed now. You may as well just go. You’ll feel good once you’ve made it there.”

“I know. You’re right.” Opens door and steps out into the early morning.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What to read next?

I’m going to finish my book soon (I listen to them in the car during my 90 minutes I’m in the car each day), and I need a replacement. I think I’m in the mood for something that fits one of the following:

a) it’s inspiring to me
b) it is riveting and engaging (I always love a good mystery or adventure novel)
c) it fits the work we’re doing with the Community School
d) it will help inform my work with foster children.

Any suggestions?

Oh, and I don't know if the picture does it justice, but yesterday's dinner of crab cakes and savory grits was really good! There was just a little bit of a kick in the crab cakes that waited a bit to make itself known, but it complemented the silky, creamy grits quite nicely, I thought. I mention it here because this meal was a complete experiment, and I had no idea how it would turn out. Sometimes, it pays to trust your creative muse!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Things Wednesday (because it’s a snow day)

1. I hate having to make up snow days that come during our school’s intercession. It’s like trading a vacation day for a work day, and it’s wholly unjust.

2. My intercession group is roleplaying in the Old West. They’ve been exploring the frontier and what life was like post-Civil War until about 1890. They’ve learned a little about what drove people to settle the prairie and the heretofore savage and untamed frontier, and the conflicts that inevitably arose as a result of this expansion. Of course, they’re also killing zombies (it just wouldn’t be roleplaying without zombies), but I love that they decided to put their game into the “real world”.

3. The snowblower is up and running just in time to use it today. We’re expecting 8”- 12” of snow and sleet over the course of the day, and I would not relish having to shovel it all by hand. It will challenging enough just to handle the snowblower: There’s still a great deal of ice on the driveway, which makes it treacherous to walk around on.

4. I replaced the monitor on my laptop yesterday. It started flickering and losing its contrast about a month ago, and the problem just kept getting worse. It figures that it would die only months after the warranty ran out. It wasn’t a big deal, though. I could by a replacement on eBay for about $125 (including shipping), and the installation was a relative breeze. That’s one of the reasons I will continue to by from Dell®. Their stuff is built with an eye toward easy repair. I can look now forward to being able to use my laptop for a long time to come, which is good because there’s no way I can afford to buy a new one.

5. Now that I have a fully functional laptop, I can go upstairs tonight to ride my bike. My road bike is hooked up to a trainer, and I set my computer up in front of it so I can watch movies and stuff while I ride. It’s the only way to make a 45-minute stationary bike ride tolerable.

6. The house pipes are leaking from, like, everywhere, and it’s bugging the hell out of me. One of the supply pipes to the radiators needs to have a whole section replaced (that’s work I can’t do myself), but there’s stuff I need to do to prep the work for the plumber that I’m not looking forward to doing. Then there’s the sink drain that is leaking in the basement. I can do this work, but it’ll take all damn day, and I’ll be working with my hands over my head the entire time. The kitchen shutoff valves need to be replaced, too, and that’s another day of work and headaches. It’s giving me a headache thinking about all this plumbing, which is in addition to the other work that needs to be done to the house. Sigh. Home ownership can be a pain.

7. I’m meditating today on the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (from Frank Herbert's Dune novels). I first read these books when I was 12, and these words really resonated with me. They came back to me recently when I was thinking about how to talk to someone I know who is wrestling with her own inner demons. I have no idea if Herbert, himself, wrote these words, or if they are adapted from something else, but they offer good advice about how to face and overcome one’s fears:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

8. I’m making crab cakes for dinner tonight, accompanied by creamy savory grits. I make crab cakes occasionally, but I’ve never done the grits before. I’m excited to see how it comes out!

9. I owe newsy emails to several people. That’s another of the things that didn’t get done over the last two weeks. Perhaps the kids will leave me alone long enough today to get some written…

10. Speaking of kids, they’re going stir crazy. They’re just not used to being home all day. I’m going to give them a snack in a sec and send them outside to play. They need it. *I* need it.

Happy snow day!

During the time I was away…

I have been neglectful of a great many things. Excuses notwithstanding, these are important things and I am feeling ashamed that I did not honor them in the way I should have. To those concerned, I offer my humblest apologies. I hope you will accept this belated, but no less heartfelt, recognition and the fullest measure of blessing that rightfully accompanies the moment.

1. Chili’s birthday: You are a source of strength and inspiration to an ever-growing circle of people. I admire your activism and the forthright way in which you approach the world and your relationships. I am so very grateful that you made the choice to be part of my life, and it is my hope that I honor well all of the facets of our unique and special connection. May you be blessed, as I am with you, by all those who enter your world.

2. Kizz’ birthday: Kizz had a challenging year last year (anyone who has 108 things on her list of New Year’s resolutions, by definition, has a challenging year ahead of them). I am coming to know her as a remarkable person who, whatever the trials, will find ways to keep moving forward. In the spirit of the coming year’s energy, I wish for her that all her efforts will be rewarded, and that her circle of friends (myself included, for my part), will be there for her whenever and however she needs them.

3. JRH’s marathon run: To run a marathon is an awesome achievement. In such challenges, one is forced to look into oneself and come to grips with the fact that, although we are imperfect, we are capable of amazing things if we would but have the strength, bravery and determination to choose to do them. It is a test of body, mind and spirit to prepare for an endurance race, and to undergo that ordeal for the benefit of someone else makes that endeavor all the more worthy of honor. It demonstrates a kind of compassion and service that all of us should take note of, so that we may recognize its value and emulate it. I don’t know how the run itself went, Julie (I hope you kicked its ass!). However you crossed the finish, I’m certain that it was a great and generous act to even have shown up at the starting line.

4. Bessie’s new job: I’ve written about this before, but I want to make mention of Bessie again because she is modeling exactly the kind of purpose-driven life I wish for everyone. A couple of years ago, Bessie decided that it was time to realize her dream of “right livelihood”. She sucked it up, took on the debt (monetary, karmic and other) so she could go to school to get licensed as a hairdresser, she stayed the course through some very trying and difficult times and got the piece of paper and the training she needed to pursue her dream. She put herself out there, nervous about her skills, but not willing to settle for a job that would not make her happy in the long haul. She worked long hours, put up with less for her and her daughter, sweated bills for a long time, but is now about to finally start a new and exciting job--as a hairdresser. She’s not home free just yet; she’s still got a second job and her client base will take a good while to build up, but she understands that these things are just another part of the path to walk, and they will not last forever. I’m very proud of her, and I’m honored that she is part of our chosen family.

5. The National Day of Service: As it happened, I was really sick on that day so I would have found it difficult to get out and do something, but the truth is that I didn’t have any plans to participate in this event. I didn’t learn about it until the last minute, but I wouldn’t accept that as an excuse from anyone else, so I won’t offer it as one now. Service is number one on the list of Shen Kung principles, and one I very much value, and I feel like I failed to take advantage of an important opportunity here. The President asked people to make “an ongoing commitment to our communities”, and I am determined to do just that. I don’t have a specific thing in place yet, but I’ll include it as part of this year’s goals. Does anyone have any ideas?

6. The Adventuring Campaign: The players are at death’s door, and the story is reaching epic, cliffhanger-like tension. Will they live or die? What about the friends they’ve been searching so long for? Will evil overcome them? They’re being incredibly patient with me as I work out the details of this very complex, complicated part of the adventure so it can be written well, and with a minimum of tedious involvement on their part. I have made some progress on this, but it has been slow and I’ve not been able to devote as much time to this as I’d hoped during the last couple of weeks. I must continue to beg your patience, Heroes. I’ll post things as soon as I have them. I hope the wait will be worth it.

7. The Community School: I took time away from this work to prepare for my speaking gig in Charlotte back in November, but I’ve not picked up the yoke again and it needs to be done. We’re so close to being able to move to the next stage of development, but it cannot happen until I finish the couple of projects I’ve started. I simply need to commit the time, energy and attention to this work. It’s on me, and there’s no avoiding that fact.

8. (this last one is mine alone) Training and Diet: I have not completely abandoned my endurance training, but it has proven to be a real challenge to do anything but hold my own, and I’m slowly losing the fight to keep my weight where it was at the end of the summer. The winter is about halfway over, and I am goddamned determined to regain some ground by the time the season’s change. I do NOT want to be giggling when I run my triathlons this year. Kizz posted a picture on her blog [HERE], and I am using it as a sort of mantra to remind me of where I want to be. No, of course I won’t look like that really! I have a lot more hair.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gung hay fat choy!

Yesterday was Chinese New Year. We celebrate Chinese New Year at Wayfarer House as an honor to the traditions of Shaolin which Wifeness and I have studied for several years, and as another way celebrate the blessings and importance of family. It’s also a great excuse to have a feast!

Our celebration employs some of the same traditions you might see in a larger, more elaborate event, but, in true Wayfarer House fashion, we’ve adapted them (we hope without losing any of the symbolism) to give them a certain “unique local flavor”.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated as the symbol of spring's impending arrival, but it is also a time of family reunion. Family members traditionally gather at each other's homes for visits and shared meals, and there is often a feast on New Year's Eve. The last several years, both halves of Wayfarer House have come together, and the feast begins with copious amounts of Chinese food. All the foods we love are there, and there are never a lot of leftovers.

After the food has been cleared away and fortune cookies have been read (including the obligatory interpretation which includes adding the phrase “in bed” to each one [who came up with that, anyway?]), we adjourn to the living room for a lion dance. In Chinese mythology, the lion is regarded as a guardian creature. A lion dance is often performed at New Year’s as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune.

Wayfarer House has its own lion. He is a southern lion, and most closely resembles a Zhao Yun** lion (which has a green tail with white beard and fur and an iron horn), although his face is red, which symbolizes loyalty, righteousness and bravery. Even though our lion came to us by complete whimsy, there’s a certain symbolism in his identity that really fits our home.

Normally, when a dancing lion enters a village or township, it is supposed to pay its respects first at the local temple, then to the ancestors at the ancestral hall, and finally through the streets to bring happiness to all the people. At Wayfarer House, the lion comes out to traditional dance music and pays its respects to the adults, then goes to look for the lettuce that has been tied above the door along with several red envelopes. The lion approaches the lettuce with cat-like curiosity, eventually eating it, spitting out the leaves but not the envelopes. The lion then dances around, visiting the children in turn, bringing good luck and fortune to them in the form of one of the envelopes (which contain a small amount of money). It’s a pale imitation of a real lion dance, but it’s fun and the kids really like seeing Wifeness dance around with our little lion. The money’s a hit, too.

This coming year is the Year of the Ox. The ox is characterized in Chinese mythology as being tolerant, stable and perservering. Oxen are resolute and fearless when deciding to accomplish a task, and they will work hard and without complaint because they know that they will succeed through sustained effort. This year, then, is symbolized as being a good one for recognizing that prosperity comes from hard work. Any efforts that are approached systematically and with patience will see success. Oxen are not known for being truly imaginative, and this year is not expected to be one where risky, adventurous and exciting endeavors will see good results. That doesn’t mean that one can’t think outside the box or pursue one’s ambitions, but the sense of the year is that any undertakings this year will undoubtedly require rolling up sleeves and getting dirty through good, honest labor. Strong codes and ethics will be important to getting through the year in good form. So, also, will it be prudent to avoid working too much, too hard, or getting stressed, angry or emotional about things.

I am still in the process of putting together my list of goals for this year, but I’m definitely feeling mindful of what the year will hold. There are several things I know I need to do that will need the kind of focused, dedicated work that seems to be a hallmark of this year’s energy. Perhaps this is the year these things get done.

** A Zhao Yun lion is called the Heroic Lion because it is said that Zhao Yun rode through Cao Cao’s million man army to rescue Liu Bei’s infant at the battle of Changban, then fought his way back out again. Chinese history is nothing if not replete with romantic imagery.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Addendum to 1-10-09 #4

A couple of posts ago I said that Caleb and Maeve gave us something wonderful for our anniversary. I wanted to get a picture of it to share with you.

Wonderfully thoughtful! It will go in a place of honor by the front door soon. Today, though, there are other, more pressing things to deal with (i.e. starting the snowblower, groceries and a kidbirthday to help with). Life goes on.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Long story short...

Diarrhea, grading, vomit, 6 brands of virus, moving snow, Avenue Q, narratives, intercession prep, recovery sleep, computer illness, home repair, fallout from narratives and this:

Sorry I’ve been away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In a Holding Pattern

Caleb and Maeve are at a memorial service for someone they know, and we are watching the kids for a bit. This is perfectly fine, but it means that most of the things on my list will have to wait. That's the theme today, it seems. Through no one's fault, this weekend will be a lesson in "good things come to those who wait". Observe:

1. The kitchen faucet needs to be fixed. Actually, the valve for the hot water needs to be replaced. None of the local stores carry the part, so it must be ordered. The manufacturer has a toll free line, but they're closed on the weekend. The dripping will continue.

2. We're all going to the YMCA after Caleb gets back. This is a good thing because I won't get a run in otherwise, but it pushes other things back, like my run to the grocery store, a shower (which I may just take at the Y), laundry and grading.

3. There's snow coming tomorrow--some 6"-10". There was some discussion about Karla going down to a woodworking show in Springfield, but it's not practical to go if there's a storm. I don't know if she'll be able to go later or not, so this may be an example of "good things come to those who go early", which is not the same as "good things come to those who wait", but I'm including it here anyway.

4. It's really cold outside. We got a wonderful gift from Caleb and Maeve for our anniversary, and I really want to put it up, but I'd like to wait until it's warmer. My hands don't work so well in the really cold. Hopefully, we'll get some relief in a couple of days.

5. The cold is also preventing me from properly clearing off the remnants of the last snow storm because all the stuff on the driveway has compacted and frozen such that I can neither shovel nor push it away. It's annoying and a little unsafe, but there's not anything to do about it until we get a day above freezing to soften it a little bit.

6. I took the briefest of looks at the distances, routes and logistics for a bike trip to Nova Scotia (which is in the works for some time this year). It's a bit longer than I thought (700 miles vs. the 600 miles I thought), and the cost of the trip may work out to a lot more than my initial estimate. I'd hate to put this trip off, but if it can't work logistically or financially then it's not worth pushing.

I guess that's all. Does your weekend have a theme?

Friday, January 9, 2009

In which I write two paragraphs and two sentences, but not in that order.

I wasn’t expecting yesterday to kick me in my butt the way it did, but there you go.

I got home from school, which wasn’t especially taxing (school, I mean—the drive home was stupid because everyone was trying not to slide off into the ditch or signs or each other). Supper was already on the table, so all I had to do was clean up (which would have been easier if the dishwasher had actually held all the dishes, but then Wifeness came home and did the ones that didn’t fit in, and that was really nice). Once the kids went to bed, I pushed myself to go upstairs and lift weights for 30 minutes (which might have been longer except that I intended to go to the pool the next morning, and it’s a lot harder to swim far when your arms hurt because you’ve lifted a lot the evening before). I even knew I was going to stay home today because I had grades and recommendations to do (which I knew I would not get done at school because everyone would be coming up to me to ask what their grades were and where their recommendations were, and that’s really counterproductive), but that didn’t lessen the fact that, when I finally laid down, I felt very, very tired.

I’m chalking it up to the chai.

I got up this morning right on time and went to the pool. I swam well and quickly, and got back to the house just as Wifeness was getting into the shower. My wife has stuff on her mind. I can tell this because she says certain things that I have come to recognize as indicators of her mental state. For instance, she tells me X, and then tells X to me again, and then asks me just a little while later if she’s told me X yet. Also, she talks a lot about planning and scheduling and she reminds me that we need to do more of it. Also, she thinks she’s said a thing to a child when, in fact, she didn’t quite say that. I know this because I was listening. Also, she talks about taking time to rest and do nothing a lot. I don’t really know what’s on her mind because we don’t spend a lot of time together in the evenings. It’s not as easy to spend time together in the evenings when one of us is sleeping on the couch and the other is in the bedroom with the teenager. It’s also not as easy to spend time together in the evenings when we are both tired and just need to go to bed. I’ve committed to go upstairs and engage in world conquest with Caleb (we play Axis and Allies once a week), but perhaps we can make some arrangement that allows for Wifeness and I to have some time tomorrow to just chill and connect. Perhaps Karla would be willing to do something creative with the girls?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The right drink for the job...

It was a raw, wet, sleety day at Wayfarer House today. I soaked through the first raincoat shoveling and snowblowing the driveway. I soaked through the second one walking to the gym and the coop afterward. By the time I got back indoors for good, some 4 hours later, I was chilled right to the core. I curled up under blankets for a short nap, but didn’t wake up feeling any warmer, so I decided to take a shower. There’s nothing like a nice, hot, steamy shower to take the frost off one’s bones. Even after this, though, I still felt like I was all stiff and icy inside.

I hate being cold like that, and now I’m starting to get annoyed. I need to warm up, dammit! I make some tea, in the hopes that hot water on the inside will do what hot water on the outside could not. As many of you know, I’m much more at home with coffee, but the bean is dangerous when I’m fighting a chill. Coffee weakens my immune system a little, and would make things worse if I have a chill--especially when half the house is sick already. I’ve gone 3 years without getting sick, and I’m not about to blow it now! I decide on green tea because green tea has caffeine and, while it’s not the comfort variety of the stimulant I like best, it often does a good job of putting some buzz into my system.

Not so this time.

Now I’m starting to think something’s seriously wrong, and I might be getting sick after all. And I am STILL FUCKING COLD! I’m also starting to think about what else I might try.

While I was at the coop, I took a minute to sit indoors. There happened to be a natural foods magazine at the table I occupied, and one of the articles in it talked about essential winter foods and herbs. I didn’t read it real closely, but I recalleded the idea that cayenne pepper was good to have around because it generated internal heat. So, I went online to find a recipe for some drink that used cayenne pepper. It should be noted that I could very well have asked my wife about this (she knows her stuff in this area), but she’s been fighting a headache all day and I didn’t want to put this seemingly petty thing on her plate. A headache is more than enough to deal with when you’re sick already.

I did a search for warm drinks that include cayenne pepper, and I see a whole assortment of herbal remedies, most of which are entirely unappetizing and require other ingredients I know we don’t have. Then I see it. Chai. Of course! Chai has cayenne pepper in it, and cinnamon and ginseng and lots of other warm and cozy things, too! And we have chai! Three different kinds of it, in fact. I pick one and boil the water. I add some milk and honey (because who the hell drinks chai without milk and honey)? It’s not my favorite drink, but this time it really hits the spot. Ahhh!

At last! I’m finally warm! It only took 4 hours, 40 gallons and two six ounce cups of water and two teabags to get there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

10 Things Tuesday: A Curious Incident of Introspection

Let me state first that this post is not intended as humor. It is serious introspection, and should be read with that intent. Thank you for keeping that in mind.

I’m reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Haddon, 2003), and it’s got me thinking about human behavior and how we all, to some degree, possess behaviors that someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, like Christopher (the protagonist), might exhibit, albeit to a lesser or more manageable degree. When we notice that someone avoids eye contact or is easily preoccupied with drawing house designs or takes a sarcastic comment literally, we call it an idiosyncrasy or a quirk. Such traits mark us as unique, especially once we’re adults and, as long as they don’t get in the way of our ability to interact socially, no one makes a big deal of them. We may even joke about them. People with Asperger’s Syndrome, like Christopher, often appear as compulsive or antisocial because their behaviors are so severe (and because they are accompanied by many other behaviors that, when all manifest together, mean that person has a very difficult time interacting with others).

We often don’t know how to talk to such people and, when they react in ways we don’t understand or accept as normal we often get frustrated and scared and, when someone makes us feel that way, we lose our ability to treat them as people. We objectify themand separate ourselves from them. We may even laugh or insult or demean them. I find it strange that we would do that, especially when it seems like most of us do many of the same things they do.

This thought led me to do a 10 Things post about the kinds of behavioral eccentricities I exhibit. I tried to think about things that would help me to understand how Christopher, a 15-year old boy with Asperger’s, might see the world. I don’t know if it does those with Asperger’s Syndrome an injustice to compare my own idiosyncrasies to their symptoms--and please don’t chew me out for doing so; it’s not my intention to minimize the condition. It’s just that I want to explore (out loud, if you will) a connection that I hope will help me to understand someone else’s experience.

1. In the book, Christopher does not like to be touched. When someone tries to touch or grab him, he screams or hits. I enjoy physical contact, but I have noticed that, when it is unexpected, my first instinct is not to embrace it, but to repel it, even if it’s from someone I know and love. That instinct is quickly overridden by learned response (something Christopher would have a very difficult time with), but I have wondered why I am that way for a very long time.

2. Christopher likes creating time schedules because it makes him scared when he doesn’t know what is going to happen when. I operate perfectly well without writing down a schedule, but I’ve noticed that there is rarely a time when I do not have a clear idea in my head about what I want to do and when. In fact, one of the great frustrations I experience in life is when that plan gets disrupted, especially if it is because of other people’s stuff. I do not have to abide by a time clock the way Christopher does, but I very much like to abide by an order of events. My nap, for example, doesn’t need to happen at 1pm, but it definitely has to happen after lunch.

3. Christopher dislikes the colors yellow and brown, and will not eat foods of either color. It is not explained in the book why this is the case, only that it is so. I have problems eating foods of a particular shade of green, in particular avocados, kiwi and limes. I can eat foods that contain them (I love guacamole!), but I don’t like to see foods prepared with them. This is different that the severe aversions I have to watermelon and root beer. Either of these foods will make me instantly ill to smell or taste. I can tell you exactly where these aversions come from (and they are the only ones I have), but they are deeply rooted.

4. Christopher likes the color red, and is superstitious about when he sees lots of red things because it means he’s going to have a good day. I have no superstitions related to color, but I do have colors I derive a certain amount of positive energy from. There’s a purplish wine color that I’m sure I see as a completely different from the rest of the world, that gives me great comfort to wear, especially in winter.

5. Christopher gets overwhelmed by busy places like train stations because there is so much sensory information that he can’t absorb it all comfortably. I get overwhelmed by dance parties for much the same reason. There is music to pay attention to, conversations occurring all over the place and dancing, which I have to focus on to do at all passably. I like to do all those things, but not at the same time because I can’t absorb them individually.

6. When Christopher gets overwhelmed, he likes to retreat to small, tight places like closets. I want my world to be physically small like that, as well, when I’m feeling besieged by life. I often feel that way when the house reaches a state of organizational chaos that I can’t keep up with.

7. Christopher makes his decisions in a stolidly logical manner. He won’t act unless it makes sense to him, according to the set of objective rules that orders his universe. I find that I have two decision making modes. The first is impulsive, when I rely on intuition and instinct (hopefully borne of practice) because there isn’t time to think, or because thinking clouds things up. This is often the mode I use for creative endeavor, but it’s also what’s called upon in “emergency mode”. This is a kind of mode Christopher does not truly possess. The other is rational, and is based on the rules that order my universe, which are more esoteric than Christopher’s. I know, for example, that if I see a word in a book that I don’t know, if I don’t look it up I will see it again and again until I do look it up, and then I won’t see it again for a long time. So, I look words up immediately.

8. Christopher does not pick up on the subtleties of interpersonal communication. People have to tell him things straight out. I’ve noticed that, for all that I am very good at reading people by listening to them and watching them, I pay far more attention to the particulars of their speech (tone, accent, word usage) than I do anything else. It’s one of the most frustrating things about dealing with indirect communicators. I can tell that someone is annoyed when they’re talking to me, but not if they don’t say anything.

9. Christopher will not lie. He is not compelled to tell the entire truth, but he will not say something that he knows is false. He says that it’s too hard on his brain. I’ve lied in my life, but I dislike doing it for the same reason. It’s just too hard to remember what you’ve lied about. This is different than bluffing. Bluffing is not lying. It’s taking a position and defending it.

10. Christopher comes across as completely lacking in empathy. I think I do, as well, but it’s not because I am. I believe it has more to do with how people see my rather extreme emotional detachment. It’s late, and this thought is a complicated one to explain, but it comes down to the thought that I don’t readily identify with other people’s emotions. That someone is sad doesn’t make me feel sad. That someone is happy doesn’t make me feel happy. One of the reasons I thought this was a healthy exercise was that it would take me away from the instinctive emotional response I thought I’d feel, so I could look at myself in a detached way. I’m easier to see that way, I guess.

Monday, January 5, 2009

To one student, in particular...

I am a compassionate guy, really. For all that I may appear to be an unfeeling, uncaring hardass, I’m really quite the opposite, and I’ll move heaven and earth to help you if you ask (and often even when you don’t ask).

Here’s the thing, though. If you ask me for help, show some respect for the fact that I’m doing what you asked. It’s not playing fair if you give me attitude when I remind you--at your request--that you need to meet with me about your work (which, it should be noted, you need to complete in order to earn credit in my class).

I’m all about the recognition of responsibility, and the pursuit of Rule #4 of the universe:


Please note that what this rule actually says, and that I said the word “pursuit” above. I do not expect you to be invincible. I do, however, expect that you will do what you can, to the degree you can, and to treat that as an important part of your job in the world. I will encourage you to see all that you are capable of because I’m good at knowing what you’re best is. That’s one of my gifts as an educator. I understand that doing your best is hard work, and that sometimes you don’t achieve perfection. To me, the demonstration of effort is the important thing. If I don’t see that, I will not believe that you’re doing your job.

If you need help in doing your best, say so. I’ll work hard to figure out when you need it, but ultimately I’m not responsible for determining whether you do or not. That’s on you. I am not your parent, and will not impose dicta. YOU must choose to come to ME.

If my teaching is to be of any benefit to you, you have to treat growth as serious work. This does not mean that you should eschew fun or leisure. Both are important components of Stress and Recovery, the principle that athletes use to achieve excellence in their sports (and that I try to use in my own endeavors). It does not mean that you need to do things as I would do them. You are the best judge of how you operate and, although it is also important work to stretch what you know about yourself, you are certainly able to make considered decisions about what you are capable of simply by looking into yourself, beyond your fears, your desires and the unknown, and trusting the truth of what you see, imperfect as it will undoubtedly seem.

Everyone is entitled to check out for a while, and to disengage from things. I said for "a while". You know when you're ready to get back to it, and when you are, be responsible enough to get actually get up off your ass. If you’re truly not up to the tasks presented or required of you, fine, but if you’re being depended on to fulfill a role, you have an obligation to those relying on you to communicate what’s going on. It’s also not fair to leave people wondering what the hell is going on and, if they ask, it’s really inconsiderate simply to hide your head in the sand and ignore them. When you do that to me, I won’t desert you, but I damn sure won’t defend your behavior to anyone.

I hope this clears things up. It’s important you understand where I’m coming from, and why I called you on your behavior like I did.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Poor Sweet Baby!

My darling Wifeness has been sick for more than a week. The French call it “un rhume”. The Spanish say she’s “resfriada”. She’s got a cold, and it’s persistent. She’s not sure it’s reached the point of infection, but it’s certainly not your garden variety cold bug because it’s not going away. It just keeps moving around. I feel for her. Please send her some “poor sweet baby” love. That’s what my mother used to say if you were feeling under the weather. She’d say it with that kind of “Aww!” voice that is the hallmark of mothers everywhere. Then she’d put her (freezing cold) hand down your shirt to check to see if you were feverish. I don’t know how she could ever tell if you were feverish when her hand was only 52ºF/11ºC.

This got me thinking about how, before I had my gallbladder surgery, I used to get sick every year at least twice. Usually it was at the change of seasons: Once in November when the weather turned cold, once again in April when it turned warm again. Sometimes, these events would turn infectious and I’d have to go see the doctor for some help. Always, these events kicked my arse. I am not a good sick person.

After my surgery, I was surprised to notice that I didn’t get colds when everyone else did. There were times when I felt like I might be coming down with something, but I’d back off the coffee, pump vitamin C into me and do all the other things I used to do to prepare for the onslaught of illness, but nothing would ever come. It’s been 3 years, and I’ve not had anything like a cold. I’m knocking on wood as I say this, and I don’t mean to sound overconfident. It’s just that I’m surprised by it. It makes me wonder just how long my gallbladder was causing problems before it got noticed. I’m glad it’s gone.

With Wifeness down for the count, plans for the day have changed. I’ll have to run out to the store to get supplies so we have stuff for lunches tomorrow. The kids can help me clean house. Maybe we’ll go (or I’ll send them) outside for a while. It’s a beautiful day, if you can handle the fact it’s only just at freezing. The faucet in the kitchen will have to drip for at least one more day. So, too, will the fixes to the links on this blog (I just realized that they don’t actually work). There will be leftovers for dinner tonight (which is ok because there are a LOT of them from New Year’s Eve). I was going to try to hit the gym today, but I may have to settle for riding on the trainer tonight, after everyone’s in bed.

Finally, a link to pass along. Yondalla, over at Thoughts from a Foster Family posted this link: [CLICK HERE]. I’m passing it along because it’s a great look into Reactive Attachment Disorder from the eyes of a child who is working to overcome it. I’ll work on a post about this condition for later, but I’d like to encourage everyone, whether you have any connection to foster care or not, to learn about it and connect what you discover to J’s experience. J’s mom, Lisa, has a blog as well, called Life in the Grateful House.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back to a normal Saturday evening

It’s 7:00pm. I’m sitting in the comfy stuffed chair in the living room. The Cardinals are beating the Falcons in the 4th quarter, but I’m not really watching the game.

Nieve has brushed her teeth and donned jammies--complete with leopard print fuzzy slippers. She is on the floor, engaged in some sort of internal fantasy involving Crabbe and Goyle, from the Harry Potter books. She’s not watching the game either.

I can hear Prairie Home Companion playing from the radio in the kitchen. That’s where SiSi and Wifeness are, sealing up the snow globe that SiSi started yesterday morning. She made it using directions from a book she got for Xmas.

Karla is in the bedroom doing something with gold thread. I’m hoping none of it ends up in the bed itself (although it doesn’t really matter, I guess, since I’m not sleeping in it currently).

The tree is all lit up, enjoying its last few days as the centerpiece of the house. The lights and ornaments will need to come down soon, so we can put the holiday bins back in the attic. I expect we’ll wait until sometime during the week to deal with this chore. No one, including me, feels like putting the effort out.

Once the girls go to bed, I need to go upstairs and work out. I have a weight set up in my (unheated) office in the attic, and my bike set up on its trainer. Tonight, I’ll just do the weights. I am not looking forward to this, but I’ll do it because I haven’t done anything physical since vacation started until yesterday’s 1k swim at the pool. It’s time to get back to the daily routine. I want to be ahead of the game when the weather warms up in a couple of months!

I’ve got some grading to do later tonight, and a bit of writing that needs to get out of my head. Then, I’m going to enjoy my last chance to sleep in before I have to go back to school. I’m not ready to be back in the classroom, but I’ll welcome the routine. I really do like the routine.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Poem for the New Year

Morning Renewed

A towel dries on its peg.
Radiators pant with the effort
of combating winter chill.
Percolating coffee heralds
the beginning of the New Year.

Remains of tarts and cream
Evince a feast and
bring to mind the
sedate frivolity of a village
comfortable in its collective skin

The sun pushes under the shades.
The list of chores and projects and goals
grows long, to match the understanding
that it is time to atone
for past indulgences.

Welcome to 2009, everyone!