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 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. 


Monday, November 26, 2007

Life is....

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.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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

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.


"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!!!

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!



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!