Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking forward

I often run across sayings, song lyrics, and other writings that say what I want to say, only so much better than I could. The poem below by Linda Ellis is one of those things. While it greatly simplifies the truth about life here on Earth, it still has some significant meaning. I am definitely a follower of the be here now philosophy. Be here in the moment. Be here with who you are with. The next moment may not come, and the previous moment(s) are no longer accessible. We can so easily spend our time lamenting or wistfully desiring our past, but they are memories and should stay that way. We can spend all of our time wishing for better things in the future, but that future may never come. Plus I feel that it is a matter of physics and a natural law of the Universe that there is no such thing as time, there is just this moment, no past, and the future is pure possibility that depends on you right now. Getting into quantum physics with quarks and such and how little things, even thought, can affect the world around us (er, post coming soon about science fact versus science fiction)....well there is so much more to discover there....but I am off track again...I guess the point really is that we are responsible for our own happiness, responsible for charting our own course regardless of how much we feel we are the victims of circumstance and others meddling. I'm not a person that says the new year will be different (I mean, I don't believe in time so how could I be??), but rather make the changes the moment you see they need to be made. Hey, I'm the worlds biggest procrastinator and I'm saying don't put off anything to tomorrow. Seriously, how ironic is that? :-)

So, we were in church yesterday and the service was about making sure we were ready for action, ready for anything. He brought up this poem. I've seen it before, and I am sure most everyone has, but here it is again. :-)

The Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars....the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left.
(You could be at "dash midrange.")

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy's being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they
say about how you spend your dash?



On a very sad note, my brother and his wife are ending their marriage of 12 years. Really it is about 20 years of companionship as they met as teenagers, put themselves through college, moved to NC, completed their Masters degrees, and then got married. They have two children, four and a half and one and a half years old. Like every relationship, there was always some evident strain that made me really wonder, but both of them cover it all up so well when family is around. My brother just doesn't talk about anything personal anyway (another family trait from my father I am trying to break in myself). Just a personal thought in infidelity in relationships....I'm warning you so that if you feel strongly about this you may want to stop reading now....Ok, nevermind, not going to rant right now! :-)

However there is a book I'm interested in getting that was mentioned at Single Mom Seeking called Dating for Dads, The single fathers guide to dating well without parenting poorly. I've needed something like this for a long time. Dating and parenting are often diametrically opposed activities. It is so difficult to balance MY needs, my SON's needs, and my GIRLFRIEND's needs. In the past I have tended to lose myself in a relationship. That means I focus on that person and stop being who I really am. The book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus does a pretty good job (I think) of explaining why each person needs a little of their own space and time to just focus on themselves. In this day and age we spend eight or more hours at work each day, then I have to come home and be a parent, then I have to be the head of household (bills, cleaning, repairs, etc), then spend time with my Girlfriend, and then try to eke some time out for me. It can be overwhelming at times, but with a little effort and less whining, a balance can be forged. Be in the role you need to be at that moment and don't put too much off if you can at all avoid it. No one can really tell you how to do it, you have to find that balance for yourself. Suppressing one area entirely will only lead to an eventual explosion and crash. Hmmmm, 'managing pressure' seems to be the right phrase that comes to mind. Each area builds up pressure and you have to let it out before a limit is reached. So, I hope Dating for Dads has some good wisdom and ideas that I can use to help me, and the people closest to me in my life. :-)

I hope you had a great New Years Eve with friends, family, strangers, or all of the above, may your 2008 be the best year yet.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The reality behind the fantasy...And where Valentine's Day came from.

I've been hanging pictures, trying to figure out what vacuum I need to buy and where I'm going to buy it from, cleaning the kitchen, moving the bird, folding clothes, and reading some blogs this morning. I haven't even had coffee or my new coffee replacement Monster Lo-carb. I'm a bit in a manic phase right now I think. It looks like rain so I probably won't rake leaves.

I went to Oh, The Joys bloganistas blogroll and read about blogrolls from various areas...I still haven't followed everything she referred to yet, but at Chicken and Cheese I read about Google Reader. I have seen some excerpts about it lately, but I have so much information to process that I didn't pay it much attention. I'm starting to use it now (as in 10 minutes ago) to read the blogs I like to read and see if it helps me more than the firefox bookmark open in all tabs method I currently use. :-) I'll let you know. So I started adding my blogs to this. Subsequently I was compelled to read some, though my girlfriend is going to shoot me because I have a ton to do today. :-( Sorry Susan.

I haven't read them all today, and most are on the right in my blog roll here so I won't keep adding the hyperlinks. Hygiene Chronicles says that eggnog is like drinking snot and that made me bust up laughing. What made me laugh and nearly cry laughing was this article from Nashville Scene, and is the source of the title above (Suburban Turmoil is the blog on the right).

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I know mine was fantastic. :-)

Ok, off to buy a vacuum, picture cutter, and my son has some gift cards for Gamestop and Target. :-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Internet Information

I saw this article today:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/12/20/ep.cyberchondriacs/index.html

As far as the internet goes, if you want a particular answer to a question, you can find it.  It does not necessarily mean that it is right.  Correspondingly, if it shows up on 10 million websites as the answer, it may still not be correct.  Just because 10 million people believe a piece of information does not make it true.  The article also highlights our truly incredible ability to fit square pegs into round holes.  How does that correlate to this?  Well, we tend to exaggerate or morph our "symptoms" to fit what is described when they either do not fit or the slight disparity is exactly what a healthy person should feel.  Our doctors may not be perfect, our medical tests may not be perfect, and we certainly are not perfect.  The point of this entry, absolutely nothing.  Just thought I would add some random bit of data from my day.

Something that is of interest to us all...those of us that encounter the horrors of traffic on a daily basis....but it doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know....
http://www.physorg.com/news117283969.html

Some us just should not be allowed to drive ourselves about...that includes me....which is why I would love for light rail to come to our area.

~Mike

--
"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"The Claw decides who will go!"

Any parent these days should recognize those words from Toy Story. Probably every one of you have told your children how those machines are a big rip-off. Well, not for my son. He took five dollars of his money over to one recently and came back with four items. It wasn't beginners luck. He is slowly filling his room with things he got out of those machines. He is totally fascinated with any vending product though. If you can stick a few coins or a dollar into something and get something out, he wants to do it. He begs to do it.

He begs for everything though. We went into the grocery store the other day and he asked for everything he saw, and some stuff he didn't see but was sure it was there somewhere. It was as if his only hope for happiness in life depended on him getting SOMETHING from the store at that moment. My solid answer was no. It almost became a game, except he was getting exasperated. We got to the checkout line and he was still going strong. I reached down and gave him a big hug and said, "I love you as though you were my only begotten son!" Well, he is. The lady in front of us started cracking up laughing. My son was not the least bit amused, but it did give him pause before he started right back into it again.

And, if you are looking for a card that has just the right thing to say for an awkward situation, check out Someecards.com. You may want to make sure there is nothing on the floor you wouldn't want to roll on before you go there. Check out Life is Crap for your Christmas shopping.....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthday and other things

I recently had a birthday.  :-)
I do not normally say much about them.  This one is a particularly painful one as it is the last year there will be a three in the tens place.  However, my girlfriend managed to make it a very special day.  She treated all of us to a champagne brunch!  Then she said she would take the kids for the afternoon and I could go do what ever I wanted.  However, I had an appointment at 4pm to get a professional massage!  When I got home, she had cleaned the house up and made dinner for all of us (Her son, my son, herself, and I).  We played games, played the piano, and decorated the Christmas tree that evening.  What an awesome day!

Ever hear "What are you going to buy that with?  Your looks?"  Don't say it to my son, because he can.  We went shopping for family and friends on Saturday and the clerks gave us extra discounts everywhere we went, just because of him.  :-)  I'm not even kidding a little.

My son is taking piano lessons.  Every week he is supposed to mark how long he practices each day.  He doesn't practice very much anymore.  However, he marked his sheet for 30 minutes every day.  His teacher believed him and gave him a wind chime.  She explained this to me when I came to pick him up.  I did not contradict her.  Partially because I like wind chimes.  Partially because I didn't want to embarrass Brandon in front of her.  So mostly I just smiled, nodded, and gave Brandon evil looks on the side.  I admonished him when we got in the parking lot though.  I did not make him take the wind chime back or take down his practice sheet though.  I'm going to parental hell aren't I?

~Mike

Friday, December 07, 2007

Charleston in words and pictures

Thanksgiving day and dinner on a plantation? Yup. Susan (my girlfriend) and I supped on sumptuous turkey and fixings, history, and the beauty of the plantation itself. Middleton Place on the Ashley river in Charleston. Some interesting things about it are that it was a dowry, has a traditional English garden, the main house was burned down by Sherman's troops and the largest private library in the US went up with it, an earthquake in 1886 (I think) brought the remains of that house down, and the lawn party in the Patriot was filmed there. Just an excerpt though, there is much more to it than that.











Friday morning was spent at Patriot's Point. We walked through the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the USS Clamagore diesel sub, the USS Lafey destroyer, and Coast Guard cutter Ingham. We then went into downtown Charleston. Charleston is an eclectic mix of History. While there are modern buildings and businesses downtown, many homes and buildings from Colonial times all the way up to today are there. The streets are narrow and rickety and mixed with the older buildings gives it a European feel. While it is crowded during the week, the weekends are much less busy. There is so much history downtown that you cannot take it all in even over a couple of days. The pace is slow so take your time. You can always come back. Make sure you take in a candle light ghost tour while you are there, it is well worth it. It helps if it is not the coldest day of the year like it was with us though.

Food. Charleston is a place you can really EAT. OMG. Every palate can be satisfied, even stuffed.

Art. There are art galleries galore. Several on every block. All kinds of styles. They are really awe inspiring. Michael Downs and Cary Henri on display at Mary Martin Gallery of Fine Art are the two favorite artists of the paintings I saw down there. Michael Downs has an amazing talent for displaying light. The pictures on the website do not really do them justice though.


Susan found this one below...










There are tons more Here and Here. Picasa is a great thing....er, supposing you really wanted to see a lot of pictures of Charleston. I was kind of drawn to alleys, court yards, and doorways.

My recommendations for Charleston are:
Visit in the fall or spring. Winter is ok too, but summer is hot, humid, stormy, and buggy. Humid is not your normal moisture in the air variety of humidity. Humid is you sweat soon as you open the door and you have to push your way through the air to do anything. Alligators and snakes are most prevalent in the warmer months. I was real surprised to see an alligator this trip.

Maurice Bessinger's BBQ. Hickory smoked, mustard based sauce. The yellow color will throw you the first time you see it, but when you bite into it the color won't make a difference after that. It is kind of unique and you have to try it.

Carriage rides are easy on the legs (especially since the roads and sidewalks are anything but even), entertaining, and very informative. Carriage guides are licensed by the city to validate their historical knowledge, etc.

Ghost Tours. Historical, funny, and even a little spooky. Later in the spring it might even be a little foggy, which is really spooky.

Shem Creek has great seafood, though you can get good seafood just about anywhere around there. Stone ground grits with fish or shrimp are surprisingly delicious, at least to me.

Night life. I have not been to any clubs downtown, but there are many and they are easy to find if you are inclined.

Pubs and coffee houses. The Meeting Place on East Bay street makes great coffee and Mochas. It has a fairly artistic atmosphere, and they appear to have live folk music on the weekend evenings. There are lots of pubs for just hanging out too.

If you go to Middleton place and take a carriage tour, ask for Dave. He is a history teacher from Ohio. He is a bit disenfranchised with the teaching for tests curriculum as he wanted to teach his children "how to think." So he is a bit on the cynical side, but he is funny and makes the history really come alive.

*Disclaimer: I didn't proof this well so if you are inclined to be corrective, let me know where I went wrong. I was kind of rushing through it.

~Mike

Woolly Caterpillars....and taking charge :-)

While we were raking leaves the other day we found a giant woolly caterpillar in the drive way.  These things are so cool.  I walked over to it to pick it up and it immediately contracted into a ball.  It's long black needle-like spines made it look like it was hovering just above my palm.  What a really strange feeling too.  I held it out for Brandon to touch and to hold.  He was reluctant at first but did it anyway.  He thought it was pretty cool too.  We then released it into the bushes, hoping it would continue safely on it's life journey.

Brandon has a take charge attitude.  He has no problem walking into sometime and just telling people what they ought to be doing.  Regardless of whether he knows himself.  :-)  I play on a men's ancient,er, over 30, indoor soccer league twice a week.  You can always hear Brandon in the background either playing with other kids, or trying to tell us what to do.  The guys on the sidelines think it is hilarious and they really encourage him.  :-)  He definitely doesn't need the encouragement!

~Mike

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

leaves and caffeine

Ok, it is not an indian summer day today....but it was yesterday.  :-)  Maybe the rest of the country has had their leaves change and fall already, but this area is just now hitting it's peak.  Better late than never right?  On the way into work this morning the leaves were literally raining from the sky.  Had it been warm enough for the sunroof, I would have gotten leafed on.  Seriously.  It did happen in the fall of 2001 though...towards the end of October, so right on time as far as I am concerned.  It has been nice to finally see the autumn colors.  I have missed them.  I wrote this about the leaves in 2001:

It was a warm Indian summer day,
As I traveled along my lonely way,
The many splendorous autumn leaves,
Were spilling from their parent trees.

Earlier and Earlier sinks the afternoon sun,
Shadows lengthen one by one,
And the Eternal Ethereal Bell,
Of the changing seasons knells.

As I watched this, I began to think,
What have I done this day, this week,
For surely I can not go back again,
For surely one day, this all will end.


Coffee and Caffeine
I am on a quest to find a coffee replacement.  The problem with coffee is that I need to add creamer and sugar to make it taste good.  When I cut creamer and sugar, coffee gets cut too.  So I am trying some different things.  This week while driving to SC, I tried the Sobe No Fear Sugar Free.  Surprisingly I liked it.  Let me qualify that though...it was loads better than coffee without creamer and sugar.  The energy boost was sufficient I suppose.  I am the kind of person that could drink a few of these things and probably fall asleep inside of a minute or two if sleep is what I wanted.  I was driving so I was fine.  When I am tired and not on chemicals, I am usually asleep inside of 30 seconds.  I could be talking to you and just conk out in the middle of MY sentence.  I'll never hear yours.  Six years in nuclear submarines gave me that particular trait I think.  Now, Sobe No Fear Sugar Free appears fairly plentiful throughout Charleston and along the Interstate, but not so much so in 7-11 or the local grocery stores.  What they had was the full blown sugar.  140 calories per serving while the sugar free has 10, and there are two servings per can.  What the local grocer does carry is Monster Energy lo-carb (I guess lo is the cool way to say low for marketers, but do we really need to abbreviate a three letter word?).  It tastes very much the same as the Sobe No Fear, not quite good and seems to avoid outright disgust, and still better than coffee without creamer or sugar.  Palatable might be the best way to describe it, as I am hoping it will never become something I crave.  So for now I have a coffee replacement.

Some items to keep in mind when looking at energy drinks and any nutritional supplements.  The FDA guidelines and limits that apply to many foods do not apply to these things.  There are a lot of chemicals in them and you probably want to go find out what they are what warnings are out there for them.  The energy drinks can contain a lot more caffeine than soda, so if you need to limit your caffeine intake, stay away from these things. 

~Mike

Monday, November 26, 2007

Life is....

http://www.lifeiscrap.com/index.php?act=viewDoc&docId=15


Well, you need to see these t-shirts for the rest of that....I bought one in Charleston, SC this past weekend.  Kayak about to be run over by a ship.  :-)
More from the trip and pictures too shortly.  I've been totally swamped lately, will catch up shortly.

~Mike

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Improv Everywhere....Opportunities are all around us....

http://www.improveverywhere.com/missions/

If you haven't seen these, they are a must.  Apparently the group has been at it for quite some time.  I first ran across this a year or two ago.  The missions are both funny and ingenious.  I am surprised they don't get outright arrested in some of them.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  I hope it is a safe one for everyone.  As a nation we are so fortunate to have the kind of free speech that allows people to do what they do in the link above.  We should be very thankful for the men and women serve us and protect the freedoms we have come to know as rights, both at home and abroad.

~Mike

--
"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I get to brag about my son a little!!!

WOOHOO!
Report Cards came home today. Brandon has 3 B+'s, a B, a B-, O's, S+'s, and S's all over!

And there is more....

He got a "Caught doing Good" award from his primary teacher today for doing some serious help with another student on long division.

And there is more....

I've created a couple of charts, at the suggestion of my girlfriend, for Brandon and we started working on them yesterday. Essentially there is a chart for a list of things B must do in the morning, one for the afternoon, and a chores list. He gets a point for each check mark. I developed a scale and his allowance is based on how well or bad he does on each list through the week.

The first thing he has to do each day is get me up. That is right. At the suggestion of his teacher, he is now responsible for waking me up in the morning, instead of the other way around. I have a backup mind you, but he is very excited about this. The list for the morning is very simple. It essentially walks him through what he needs to do each day to get ready for school. The list in the afternoon is pretty simple as well, and is just the list of things he needs to do step by step through the evening up until bedtime. The chores list is a simple chart that details what chores are to be done in the afternoon of each day. Each chore is simple and the total should take no more than 10-15mins. The whole thing is designed to ensure that he is successful with each list every day. It gives him a huge feeling of responsibility and accomplishment though. It also ensures that he knows what is coming every day.

And there is still MORE.....

Brandon practices on the piano every day. He had his third lesson tonight and his teacher gave him many accolades. She also put a "Great Job" sticker in his notebook. If he gets five of those, he gets a big reward.

So, Brandon has had a terrific day, a terrific start to school, and I am extremely proud of him!

:-D

~Mike

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Karaoke, soccer, and parental perspectives:

Um. Our Meetin group in Va Beach had a Battle of the Sexes event last night. Meetin is a social club of sorts. It works by the members hosting events and other interested members sign up for the ones they are interested in. You go as a group so things are always a lot of fun and there are always an assortment of interesting people to talk to. The host of the event organizes the details and ensures that everyone gets greeted and introduced. There is always something happening, somewhere. In Va Beach, we have a Battle of the Sexes competition ongoing. About once a month we hold an event that men and women can participate in and compete for the B.O.T.S. trophy. Last night was Karaoke. I don't know the official present count, but there were over 35 people signed up. There were official judges that scored the participants based on Singing talent, performance talent, and outright goofiness. My girlfriend, Susan, is the organizer for all the BOTS events and she always does an amazing job. Last night was the best though. The meetin group has a dizzying array of talent, courage, and excessive ability to have fun anywhere doing outrageous things. We took pictures and they are on the way. As far as I know, no one got recordings or video, so no charges can be pressed against people like me whose singing could be considered a public nuisance. :-) The whole night was a blast.

**** warning, the following are just anecdotes and mostly reminders for me, things I felt I needed to write down...beware....none of it is to be confused with anything that might resemble advice, parenting or relationship knowledge, or especially reality (I am in my own cave here, my own reality, making everything up as I go) ****

*****
Seriously, you have been warned, warped zone ahead
*****


A couple of things struck me last night as I was listening to some of the truly talented singers. The first one was a song called "A Fathers Love" by George Strait. The song talks a about forgiveness and allowing some slack in the rules at times. I am so bad at this. I hold myself to standards that are too high and get frustrated or depressed at not meeting them. It should not be surprising that my son gets frustrated and depressed with standards I have set for him. It is something I struggle with, allowing him to make mistakes and recover from them rather than just punishing him, and too often the punishment is too severe and too long. I struggle with finding ways to make him responsible and successful. In many ways I am just out of ideas. Fortunately I am getting some good support from his counselor, school, and my girlfriend. Implementing the advice is sometimes daunting in the face of everything else. Even when I am just trying to remind Brandon of something, however gently I put it, it comes across to him as criticism and failure. It is very hard for me to sit back and wait for him to come to me, pretty much impossible really, but I am trying. My best friend and I, another Mike and we've known each other since high school, used to talk about how we would not become our parents. These days we often interrupt each other and say something like, "Is this Mike or his dad on the other end of the phone?" A conversation with my dad back in the spring when Brandon was in the hospital went something like:
ME: "Hey Dad, I just saw Brandon and he seems to be doing well. He is pretty subdued but was really excited to see me."

Dad: "Well, it is probably a good thing, now you need to do this, this, this, this.."

ME (Interrupting): "Dad, I know what I need to do. I was just trying to tell you what was happening and give you the visitation schedule."

Dad: "I'm GIVING you my OPINION."

Me: "I didn't ask for your opinion."

Dad: {click} Hangs up.

Somehow I need to break the nurture cycle and let Brandon chart his own course and not try to direct his life for him, but still keep him out of trouble and still be there to give him the love and support he needs. It seems like every time I finally get the parenting skills down for the maturity level he is at, I have to learn a whole new set. Maybe there is a Male Teenager Simulation I can start practicing on to get ready for the next move ahead of time? However, Brandon is pretty sharp and he often figures out that he is being "handled" or "manipulated" and knows how to break a mold.


----------

****Cynicism Warning****

Another song that struck me, and I was surprised it was also by George Strait, was "Cross my heart." Piercing. But not in the way you may be thinking right now. If it is even possible, I know less about love than I do about parenting. The chorus goes "I cross my heart, And promise to, Give all Ive got to give, To make all your dreams come true, In all the world, You'll never find, A love as true as mine." The song is about someone pouring themselves totally into someone else. What is wrong with that? That is the way it is supposed to be right? I used to think that way, but I have had a few people totally take advantage of it. At first I am sure it seemed great, but after a while I suppose it got rather daunting for them, smothering probably. Life and love is much more complicated than the few lines from a song, or a half hour Situational Comedy/Drama. In life you don't meet someone, fall in love, and live happily ever after in just two hours like they do in the movies. Sometimes we get so blind that we can actually destroy what we love by trying to be too much of the above ideal. We all need time and space to be ourselves. The opposite end of the spectrum is selfishness, where we spend too much time and energy on ourselves. In the day to day rush of this world (or at least mine) how do you ever strike a balance between it all? I guess if I had the answers, or even some decent suggestions, I'd have written a book on it and everyone would have bought it and there would be Utopia on Earth right now.

In Church we are going through a series called Emotional IQ. Hmmm, I would say my E. IQ is in the single digit range. I grew up with an ideal/fantasy family in my head since I didn't have one at home (who did really right?). The bad thing about fantasies, different from dreams mind you, is that the reality is never as good so we spend our time and energy trying to make reality better when it is probably more than good enough. Fantasies often tend to be one sided and they are often about control, neither of which has nutritional value for a growing relationship. Eventually the relationship starves and dies and you move on to the next person/victim to act out your fantasy. Advertising thrives on our fantasies, and tries to tell us how some product will make them come true, or how looking like someone will improve our chances of fulfilling our fantasies. Buddha was right on when he said that all of our problems come from lust/envy for the things of this world that we do not have. We get so caught up in NEEDING this, or desiring that person that we destroy ourselves trying to get it instead of living in peace with the abundance we already have. Counselors I have seen would say that we pick our current relationships based on problems we are trying to resolve with past relationships. If you define insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results....draw your own conclusions here. As for me, I mention the word insane in my title blurb and profile for a reason....

Some bits and crumbs from the service this morning....again, the series is on Emotional I.Q. You cannot command emotion. You feel what you feel. Subverting or walling your feelings off is dangerous, but so is letting them run completely rampant. It is important that we raise our IQ by understanding the whys behind the emotion so that we can effectively deal with the situation that aroused them. Counselors will tell you that anger is usually an emotion that is triggered by another emotion that you may have missed the cue on. We get angry because some other emotion was ignored or trampled on. One way of combating anger is an "I feel" statement. I so need to practice this more. For example, instead of yelling at someone that may indeed need a good yelling at, an alternative may be to say "I get pretty upset when you (do/ignore) . It would help me if you would . " You can even try asking them what their point of view or problem with a task is to better understand them as well. So will we all be singing campfire songs and holding hands by the end of the week? No. But maybe I won't have an overwhelming desire to fire up Rainbow Six and pretend the terrorists are people I have to interact with (or think for) daily. Fortunately there are a few people that think for me too when I've had enough and I can let them handle the puppet process while I cool off. The reality is that I work with a great group of people, most of which are buried under their own work. I am not always a welcome sight or sound because as the information assurance person, I am either asking them for information they don't have time to give me, or telling them that all their work needs to be redone because they didn't take some security measure or something. Sometimes I even have to tell them all their data is gone and they'll be getting a squeaky clean system and a lecture on safe surfing habits. Maybe this is what it is like being a policeman, we are all glad they are there to help and protect us, but we're also afraid to see them because maybe we did something in a moment of weakness that we shouldn't have. :-)

C.S. Lewis wrote about the bible's interpretation of lust and adultery that if you look on ham and eggs with hunger, you have committed breakfast in your heart. Today the pastor talked about thinking angry thoughts and being guilty of murder. Matthew 5:21-22. Now, this is not to be taken literally, but it is an illustration for how and why we need to find ways to understand our emotions and their triggers.

Don't inject insecurity into your relationships. If you love someone, don't do something to purposefully hurt them. If you have to do something that makes them uncomfortable, take some time and do the things that can help ease that discomfort. We all have our insecurities and we probably don't like them, but there they are anyway. If you have some major insecurities you may want to work through that with a counselor, an objective third party that has some training to help you understand why and help you develop coping skills for it. Somethings we just cannot help and it is important for our partners to recognize the emotion, the trigger, and do what they reasonably can to help.

Going back to the "Cross my heart" song....if you pour yourself into someone, make sure they are pouring back...and give them the chance to. I don't mean setup tests to see if they will, but rather to let them give back to you. You can sometimes get so caught up in trying to be everything for someone else that you forget to have them help you out too. We all need to be needed, so let them know you need them. Do not be afraid to ask for help, even if it may inconvenience your partner...cause if you need help, you need it and it can help them to feel good by giving something in return for all you do. If they want to sacrifice something for you and the relationship, you may want to let them. I haven't always done this and it always comes back to hurt me.

The last thing the service made me think about today was that we are attractive to someone because of who we are. Being ourselves helps to keep us loved by the people that love us, and keeps us loving the people we love. Trying to become something different just doesn't work.

***************************
So, Brandon has been seeing new doctors, is on new medications, and new treatments. He has been doing phenomenally well. Probably the biggest factor is that I am getting better at being a father, and getting better at handling myself (ie more emotionally intelligent, etc).

We bought a piano a few weeks ago and Brandon started piano lessons. I've been teaching myself and rabidly reading and playing through Brandon's books. Nothing better for an ADHD parent that has extreme difficulty staying on task that to give him ANOTHER hobby in the home that he can switch to, play a few songs, then move on to the next unplanned activity while ignoring all that needs to be done...hmmm....and here I am blogging when I need to be doing....tons of stuff.

Have a great week everyone!

~Mike

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's happening?????

Well, lots really. Some recap stuff from the past several weeks, pictures to help tell the story.....

Well, I know I promised pictures of the sand sculpting contest, so here are a few, slideshow on the way:
Brandon on the beach on a cold Sunday morning:


Not the most elaborate castle I have seen there, but still amazing detail.


Lots of "statements" with the sculpting this year:










The pictures do not really do the sculptures justice. It amazes me how much can be done with sand.

For the squeamish I highly recommend you skip the next picture.

Brandon was bitten by a spider, just under his eye a few weeks ago. It also happened to get a bacterial infection. MRSA? No one would really say, but considering he was already nine days into a ten day stint of Amoxicillin, it could have been. He had to go on cephlex to help with it.





We had two emergency room visits, two family doctor visits, and a visit with a plastic surgeon over this. He also managed to have a sub-cutaneous hemorrhage just after the last picture, which made it even worse.

Brandon is playing soccer again...so in the middle of the game Brandon is yelling instructions to me about when to take pictures of him. "Get this one dad", "Get me just as I am kicking it", etc.


A spider we found in the garage:



Susan sponsored a team for the Race for the cure two weeks ago. Due to my world record procrastination, Brandon and I were photographers for the event. All of us had a great time.








And Susan carried her son the last mile....no kidding...


Susan and I went to a costume party this past Saturday.
See if you can guess who I went as...
I can't believe I'm going to show you this.....


Oh, and there is more....

Hint: "I would say I'm sorry if I thought that it would change your mind"


Tuesday this week was the start of piano lessons. Brandon's mom may actually pay for half, yet to be seen though. Brandon was very excited. Heck, I'm excited. I've always wanted to learn. I've been looking at electronic pianos for a long time, and two weeks ago I got one for a half to a third of retail. At Sam's club no less. We were in there to get one of Brandon's prescriptions for his spider/bacteria experience and I decided I would just "look". 15 minutes later I was wondering how it was going to fit in the car. :-) Hey, it was that good of a deal.

Ok, so Sam Hain, All Hallows Eve, Halloween.
Brandon lost his mask at his lockin with the YMCA, so we had to make a quick stop to get another this afternoon. We also needed candy. Brandon had carved his pumpkin on Monday so that was already set.

All that being done, Brandon announces that he wants to go get candy with his friends, the neighbors. Now that hung me up. My mind is doing the parental unfounded fear thing. He is ten. Should I let him go with his friends? What happens if they get in trouble? What if he gets hit by a car, and on cue, sirens blare in the distance (not kidding, they really did right at that moment). My heart rate jumps. What if.....a thousand horrible things. Meekly I speak, "Yes, you can go." He jumps for joy, does cartwheels, etc, until I start spelling out rules. Have to be back by 6:30 (it is 6:15 at this moment and not even dark), Have to stay on this street, have to ...., have to...., have to.....

Poor kid. Seriously, I was freaking out.

He goes across the street. I walk inside and close the door. I can do this...he can do this....

I walk back out, across the street, and tell him a few more things....come back and close the door.

I do this exact same thing six times in all. Yes, six times. By the sixth time, his friends are tired of seeing me. Brandon says, "I KNOW dad!!!!" He knows, but will he use that knowledge?

So I say to him, "Under no circumstances are you to have ANY fun. Do you understand me? Having fun would mean you are breaking some rule, and I won't have it." He cracks up laughing. :-) And yes, I did say it to him. He knows dad is destined for a padded room with nice people to hold him down.

In the end he spent a half hour with his friends handing out candy. when they didn't make any moves to go get candy, he came home to ask if I would walk with him, and I felt a prayer had been answered. So we walked the 'hood, he collected his bounty, and I actually let him have a little fun. He even remembered all the rules, and was very polite at every house he went to.

Here is a picture of his pumpkin:


And the boy that carved it:

Monday, October 22, 2007

A jumble of things....

Well, the school year is in full swing, but Brandon is off to a great start.  Almost two months in and I am wearing down though.  I've been the full time parent for six years now.  It is pretty much the same every year.  After a couple of months, my son and I get pretty tired of each other.  Even though this year I pretty much had the whole summer to myself and crammed in everything I could, I am starting to wear down again.  I am working hard to keep from getting where I was in the spring though.  I have changed my work schedule this year to be home when Brandon gets out of school.  Now he can play with the neighborhood kids in the afternoons and evenings.  He does his homework, gets a snack, and goes out to play for a couple of hours.  I get some time to get things done around the house, make dinner, etc.  Brandon and I are also playing various sports.  He does soccer, and I am doing volleyball, kickball, and softball.  I also have three babysitters to call on, though I don't do it enough!  I also have an amazing girlfriend that lets me vent and offers up a lot of encouragement and support.  I just do not really get a lot of pure adult time where I do not have to be responsible for anyone and can really just let loose.  My job is extremely demanding during the eight hours I am there each day.  Getting to and from work is  pretty mentally demanding as well.  To get anywhere around here you need to cross a bridge or a tunnel, or a bunch of them.  Traffic is just tremendously tedious.  At home I'm trying to stay one step ahead of a ten year old boy that pushes every button and limit far beyond the acceptable.  Plus, I never really know what report from either school or day care awaits me.  Most of the time the conversations with those institutions start with "Mr. Dad, can you come into the office so we can talk about Brandon."  Any energy, spirit, or hope totally drains out of me at those words, and I hear them a lot.  I have had to take my son to several different doctors, emergency rooms, etc in the last two weeks.  He was bitten by a spider, had a bacterial infection, multiple emergency room and family doctor visits for the bite, normal counseling appointments, plastic surgeon for the spider bite (family doctor was being overly cautious), and a new psychiatrist (praise God).  My medical insurance at work has changed and I am in the process of just getting my own insurance.  It is actually cheaper than the NEW High Deductible Health Plan.  You see, a single parent of a special needs child is the worst case scenario for this new insurance.  GRRRRRRRR.  There is the constant threat of vomiting when my son takes his evening and morning meds as he shoves the offending pill down his throat, halfway to his stomach.  I don't know why, because when he throws them up, I rinse them off and hand them back.  Ok, not really....well, once, but it was the anti-biotic and he needed the full regimen of that.  Hey, I had to pick through the vomit to get it....

Enough griping though....on to other things....

Two Saturdays ago was the Pub Crawl that benefited Parkinson's disease.  I got a babysitter and had a plan.  I don't drink often...if ever.  Many of my friends don't know that I drink.  It isn't that it is a secret, I just don't do it often.  You see, I am a single parent and I normally have my son with me.  I don't take him where there are a lot of adults drinking, and I don't drink around him otherwise.  We had a great time and it was for a great cause.  I also found some great new German pubs that I did not know about before.  :-) 

Two Sundays ago we (my son, my girlfriend, and I) went to Church, did a few hours of rock climbing, had a social at California Pizza Kitchen, and then played a couple of hours of volleyball with my league.  OMG, Who knew Volleyball could be so much work?????  Twenty some years of playing basketball has been a huge disadvantage to me.  Volleyball is nothing like basketball and I'm unlearning a lot of things.  I really like the exercise and I am learning to like the game.

Last Wednesday we had an awesome kickball game.  We won a game!!!!!  And not by forfeit!  Susan, my girlfriend was the MVP of the game.  She has several outstanding plays and kicks.  For once everything just came together.

My son has been playing soccer with the YMCA.  He loves it and is learning to love running.  This past Saturday he nearly kicked a goal in from half field!  In the air no less!

This past Saturday was also the Wine Festival.  Unfortunately, I only got to some sweet reds and whites, but they were good.  I love Chianti, Cabernet, and most of the other reds.  Susan and I had two groups to meet up with, and I forgot about the third (which I hope they forgive me for).  Susan and I ended the night with buffalo chicken sandwiches and friends at Hooters. 

So in all, I have made an effort the past two weeks to get out and get some Mike time...and give Brandon a break from mean ol' Dad.  It has been a difficult two weeks with work and doctors so I really needed the breaks.

Halloween parties coming up this week.  :-)

Have a great week everyone!!!!

PS: Transformers is a kick ass movie. If you haven't seen it, you should! There is one scene where they talk about masturbation so if you have children that will ask, you should know...



~Mike
--
"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So my son proves me wrong....on occasion...

I keep telling Brandon that the claw machines you see everywhere are a rip off. They are, but not as much for him. "The claw decides who will go," the LGMs say. Well, it is probably Brandon operating the claw. He has a knack for it. He spent $5 the other night and pulled out three stuffed toys. He even gave one to a little girl that was passing by....

~Mike

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I feel pretty honored right now...

Monty is playing a picture game and I have become a part of it! For a Different Kind of Girl recently wrote about her one year anniversary as a blogger and wrote a lot about what the blogging community has given back to her. I started blogging sometime in 2005. Sort of like Hygiene Chronicles and probably a lot of others, it was an experiment that I never really expected to go beyond a couple of posts. It is a bit addicting though. :-) I really started blogging a lot in the first part of 2007. I was hurting in a way that I did not think I would recover from and I was looking for help. I found it reading all of YOUR blogs. I found COURAGE and HONESTY and a willingness to be TRUTHFUL. I found people SEARCHING and I found some ANSWERS. I found STRENGTH and I found WEAKNESS, and I found PEOPLE willing to share their STRENGTH with those who were WEAK. I found ENCOURAGEMENT. In part I know it is the semi-anonymous nature of the Internet, but I found people will to lay aside inhibitions and EXPRESS themselves. While I would love to return the favor to Monty for her including me in her game, there is a person that has been on my mind and in my prayers for several months now. I chose courage as the word to describe her and search on. Funny thing is that the first two pictures had to do with jumping off a cliff.

So here is my submission for the game:

Her name is Jules from Theater of the Absurd. I feel she embodies so many of the characteristics above, but with all that she has been through, and what she did over the summer, COURAGE is what immediately comes to mind.

COURAGE



PS: Something I ran across while doing an image search on most of the characteristics listed above in one search.

The Shape of a Mother

I feel pretty honored right now...

Monty is playing a picture game and I have become a part of it! For a Different Kind of Girl recently wrote about her one year anniversary as a blogger and wrote a lot about what the blogging community has given back to her. I started blogging sometime in 2005. Sort of like Hygiene Chronicles and probably a lot of others, it was an experiment that I never really expected to go beyond a couple of posts. It is a bit addicting though. :-) I really started blogging a lot in the first part of 2007. I was hurting in a way that I did not think I would recover from and I was looking for help. I found it reading all of YOUR blogs. I found COURAGE and HONESTY and a willingness to be TRUTHFUL. I found people SEARCHING and I found some ANSWERS. I found STRENGTH and I found WEAKNESS, and I found PEOPLE willing to share their STRENGTH with those who were WEAK. I found ENCOURAGEMENT. In part I know it is the semi-anonymous nature of the Internet, but I found people will to lay aside inhibitions and EXPRESS themselves. While I would love to return the favor to Monty for her including me in her game, there is a person that has been on my mind and in my prayers for several months now. I chose courage as the word to describe her and search on. Funny thing is that the first two pictures had to do with jumping off a cliff.

So here is my submission for the game:

Her name is Jules from Theater of the Absurd.
COURAGE

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Careful what you write about....

My last post talked about how things were going great with my son. Well, not so fast. I have been punished for my optimism! Ok, not really. Last week was a not so great week and I'm still recovering. There were several events that have upset my balance. It is even more disheartening when I get a progress report for him that has 2 A's, 2 B's, and a B+, all S's, all strengths, and no areas of concern. A first to say the least. His grades are always this good, but the S's and no areas of concern are cause for global celebration. So one bad week shouldn't bring about such a shadow, but it does. Many of Brandon's issues are cyclic. I am praying this is not the start of a downward and depressive swing. I can't really take full blown temper tantrums in Target from a ten year old anymore.

He has seemed to bounce back this week though.

He gets to see his mom for a little bit Thursday!!!!

It's an acorn year. All day, all night, acorns drop onto my roof, bounce - bounce - bounce - bounce, rrrrrrrooooooolllllllll, and launch into the yard. They are about a foot deep...or sound like they should be. The squirrels will be FAT next year for sure.

:-)
~Mike

Friday, September 28, 2007

My son got caught....

Doing good!!!  Four times this week in fact.  He is also leading the school in Accelerated Reader points.  Nice to have things going well for a change.  :-)  His attitude and behavior has dramatically improved and he is doing so much better at pulling out of his anger/tantrum episodes. 

We started Soccer this week.  It has been fun to watch him run around the field.  He tries really hard to do tricks and things, always looking for oddball ways to get around obstacles.  :-)

Annual sand sculpting contest is this weekend!  Pictures will be coming soon.  They have artists come from all over to compete.  What they can do with sand is simply astounding.

Have a great weekend!

~Mike
--
"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Internet Security Tip:

I am a network security engineer. I love my job as it provides me new challenges every day and it is pretty rewarding for me. I love puzzles and I get plenty! My job has made me fairly paranoid too. This week I ran across something that you should know about. If you think that your security tools, like anti-virus, are protecting you, you could be very wrong. I found a website this week, a legitimate church site, that had been hacked. The thing was that no one knew it. It was hacked and altered but not in a way anyone would notice. All the pages had a javascript appended to them. You could not see it, but it ran every time you went to the site. It was a trojan and your anti-virus programs would not have stopped it. Why? Because there were no signatures for it. Malware authors can obfuscate most code, and often in an automated way, so that Anti-virus vendors cannot keep up. Sometimes you could get a different version of the trojan every visit to the website, as that trojan is modified on the fly. The major anti-virus vendors did not recognize the trojan, nor did they stop the follow on programs, such as a key logger. The key logger waits until you go to a bank website, then it sends your credentials back to the criminal. The criminal may then empty your account, or sell your accout for $400-$1000 US cash. Hacking is a lucrative underground business. What used to be for fun is now for profit, and the payoff is huge.

How do you stop this? Well, you are not going to like the answer. YOU are the only way to prevent this. That is right, YOU are the answer. The first thing to do is to make yourself two accounts. One account is for everyday use. This account cannot install programs, or make system changes, etc. If you run malware as this user, the malware cannot do much of anything with the system, if anything at all. The interesting thing is that neither can you. If you want to install new software or make system changes you will need to login with your other, administrator account. Once you are done, log out and log back in with the normal unprivileged account. This is a pain, but it goes a long way to making sure your system stays yours, and that your personal or financial information is not stolen.

Just because some website says you need a plugin, do not install it. Plugins are hackins. Plugins often do not update themselves or even notify you of issues. If you are browsing with admin privileges and you have plugins, then hackers that hit those plugins will get administrator level access to your system.

More later...I'm going to bed. Volleyball kicked my ass tonight.

~Mike

Three weeks of school...

have flown by. My son said the other day that his behavior has been great in school, and his teachers second that. He says it is because he doesn't want to get kicked out of the Math and Sciences Academy (MSA). The MSA is a special program that has limited space and elementary school students need to compete to get into. Last year my son expressed an interest and was accepted. His behavior/emotional issues can be extreme at times and we were told that if the pace was too fast or too stressful that he can move back to his other school. He said yesterday the reason he is trying so hard to behave in class is that he doesn't want to get kicked out. This is one of the first really big items he has really fought for.

I changed my work schedule in a big way to try and make other accommodation's for Brandon this year. My goal is to give him the very BEST environment for him to succeed this year. While we unfortunately need to be out the door at 5:45 am to be at day care by 6am, I am getting home by 3pm. This allows me to get him home to play with the other kids in the neighborhood, get dinner ready, get to practices, and just spend more time with him in the evenings. So far it has been a template for success. He has had a few blowups at home over homework and some other stuff, but none of it has been too bad. He is a great kid and he is doing better with his tantrums and stuff.

Soccer starts for Brandon this week. He gained quite a bit of weight over the summer, nearly 20 pounds. Soccer is going to be quite interesting this year.

Home stuff....We don't spend a lot of time at home, or at least we didn't until the change in schedule this year. Correspondingly, I haven't spent much time putting up pictures, looking at buying furniture, etc. I have furniture, it just never occurred to me that I could add other accessories or even replace some of what I have with some better or more functional items. My girlfriend and I were talking several weeks about about how she would like a pub/bar/counter height table. There are such things? So I started looking, and what do you know? There are! Being a tall person this is pretty appealing to me. I love the tall chairs and stools anyway, it just never crossed my mind that I could get this at home. I now have a counter height cherry wood table! It is dark and it makes me feel at home, stable, comfortable, at ease. I love to sit at my new table. I'm there now, watching the sun come up, sunlight dancing through the leaves, leaping off the early morning dew, squirrels racing at breakneck speeds, and sipping coffee. Which leads right in to the next item. I have new dishes. :-) Jade Moon from Target. They were on sale last week. They are dark on the outside but glazed aqua blue in the middle. They go great with my table and are just awesome to look at. To put this in perspective, I'm still using the plates and things I got as wedding presents in 1990. That is a lot of perspective right there. My son says it feels like we are eating in a sushi restaurant now. Sushi being one of OUR favorite things, he is right, it does. I have also been hanging pictures. I have a number of painting and photographs that I haven't put up because I didn't think I would be here for that long. So funny how way leads on to way, or sometimes doesn't. So here I am, and some of my pictures are now up. I'm playing with some of the photographs. I sent one to Sam's to make a poster out of it. 11x14 first. It turned out well. I had a frame for it, but the frame was broken (trivia: name the group, the album, and the year for an album name that mentions broken frames...of course that is enough for a google search right there). I'm also playing with some of my photographs, changing some to brush strokes and other special effects, and then getting prints of them. There are several online photo places you can send your pictures to and pickup prints locally. My favorite is SAMS. One hour pickup for up to 8x10, reasonable prices, and good quality thus far.

We had a great night last night over at Susan's with some friends. Brats, beer, and Battle of the Sexes game. We were supposed to go camping, but the weather looked like it would turn bad and we decided to cook out instead. Still a great time. Maybe camping and scuba diving next weekend in the outer banks. We'll see!

We're doing a Battle of the Sexes Meetin event at Lasertag on October 2nd! Come on out! We start coed indoor volleyball this week too. I still have a lot to learn at volleyball, but I have a lot of fun playing.

Nothing earth-shattering here, no deep thoughts, nothing to add to the four noble truths, the golden rule, or anything else, just life on a daily basis.

~Mike

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random stuff....

Sometimes my son is so disappointed in me, and for good reason. Last year he and I were at an unfamiliar house and I went to make him some cereal. I grabbed an unmarked Tupperware type container of a white granular substance which looked like sugar to me. I've seen it stored this way before and it made sense. He started eating his cereal and promptly spit it back out. "SALT! YUCK!" :-( I felt so bad.

This weekend I made some waffles. Last week I made garlic bread. I like a lot of butter on both. Apparently the butter was cross contaminated with garlic...my son walks by me through the kitchen muttering under his breath and shaking his head, "garlic, waffles, syrup...DISGUSTING." He was right, but I ate the waffles anyway.

Several years ago, my son, his mom, and I were in a restaurant. There were fake sharks hanging from the ceiling. Being the not so great father I am, I made a remark that they feed misbehaving children to the sharks. My son pipes up "Those are not real children." I am befuddled by the statement, so I look up to see what he was talking about. Just above us, a great white shark had the South Park kids stuffed it's mouth. Brandon's mom said, "Those are bad kids." And they were both right.

Stuff from Church today:
"The Truth will set you free." Yes, it will. Something I got from the book "Emotional Unavailability" several months ago is that Honesty is not Truth. Neither is Sincerity. If you need to rationalize a decision, especially when it can deeply affect another person, are you sure they are not rational lies or manipulation? I love you, I adore you, I trust you are things that are not said or practiced enough in our society.

Something you should know about me if you are ever inclined to invite me to some sort of trivia event. I know almost nothing about pop culture. Seriously. People in the office start talking about this show, or that person and I am likely to say "What is that? Who is that?" I have no idea. I like movies, but I couldn't tell you who was in them. I may recognize them from some other movie, but that would be it. There are only a few TV shows I watch, but those are on DVD or off of itunes and I never watch them on real tv. The advertising kills me. I don't know anything about any of the people behind the music I like, I wouldn't recognize them if they showed up on my door, and I'm not likely to even know them if they introduced themselves. I may not even recognize the group name if they tacked that on. They would probably need to start singing or playing before I caught on. I remember Jack Johnson telling a story about his wife once. Apparently their toilet was stopped up, he was not home, and she was waiting on a plumber. The door bell rang and she answered the door with "Are you the plumber?" The man at the door said yes, and came in and tried to fix the toilet. The man was Jimmy Buffet and had stopped by to see Jack. I would have been the same way. My friends and my family are my superstars. They are the ones I want to hear each day. They are the ones I want to see and take pictures of. Even the fellow bloggers out there, I look forward to reading what you have to say, sharing in the triumphs and the obstacles you go through. Real people. Real lives.

The weather here has changed, and for the better. My son and I walked out this morning to get bagels and I was electrified. Autumn is coming. The air was crisp, humidity free, and slightly cold. The sky was so blue it dazzled me. My lungs gulped in the air and all I wanted to do was spend the day outside. After Church we did just that. We packed a quick lunch, some wine, snacks, and headed for the beach. Not the tourist area, but a wildlife refuge between Virginia and North Carolina. :-) It was awesome.

We went rock climbing Saturday. That is always a blast. It has to be great for Brandon because dad never says "No, you can't climb that!" Susan and I also got to go out Saturday night to a Meetin party. Even better news is that I now have three babysitters to call when I need one!

Photo montage coming, playing with some other packages....












You can see the effect the erasers had on my son's face in this one.

~Mike