Monday, March 30, 2009

Water For Elephants and Lonesome Dove

I finished reading Water For Elephants on Saturday and I have to say I really liked it.  Uncle Al was Evil, August was crazy and it just worked so well.  I won't say much about the book other than that because I don't wish to reveal any twists to someone who hasn't read it yet.

When I was younger I did not enjoy books written in the first person.  I found them to be narcissistic simply because I could not separate writer from narrator.  But I had a new awaking to the style about ten years ago while reading a lot of nonfiction and it has opened me up to a vast amount of great works. 

I'm working on the BBC top 100 now.  I checked the list a few weeks ago and had discovered that I had read 22 so far.  I read "Animal Farm" a couple of weeks ago and am now reading "The Kite Runner."  I refuse to read Dickens because I have seen so many of his works on stage and screen that I feel I will be wasting my reading hours.  I'll need to get past 50 so I feel like I have accomplished something.  However, I was disappointed that the BBC did not recognize my favorite novel of all time, "Lonesome Dove."

I read this book when I was 19 years old and it started to open my eyes.  Gus and Call were two sides of the same coin, but when it comes down to it I had to identify with Gus.  Call created and emotional prison for himself and had a life without love our family.  Gus was a free wheeler who had married three times and never stopped loving Claire, his first love.  His attitude of, "It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living."  Is a great motto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Curve Ball

The interview was different than we thought. Unlike interviews in years past, this one was not for a special education class but for a speech/debate course. The topic was Pro 100% mainstreaming of special education. The problem is that Tina and I are against it. Amanda has been placed in mainstream classes and they simply did not work out. Even when she was seven years old and placed in a kindergarten class it was too advanced for her.

Tina and I are very aware that our child does not fall in the spectrum of normal. Instead of denying this fact and trying to force the world and her to blindly include her, we take care of her the way she needs it. We know she doesn't do normal things, at best she mimics a lot of behaviors but we don't delude the fact that she can't do a lot of things that other 11 year old girls can do. But we also know she is a sweet girl who when loved is as gentle a soul as you will ever know and having her in your life can make you a better person.

So, we didn't do the interview but the girls weren't upset with it. They were still having trouble with the topic. As education majors I think they should have picked a subject they didn't care so deeply about, make the argument and get the grade. After all, it's just college.

Someone wants to know what I think

I am to be interviewed after work today by a an education major. She is required to interview the parent of a special needs parent for one of her classes. Tina has done this interview for several students the past few years and asked if I would do it this time to provide a fresh perspective.

My job as a father and husband in the area of Amanda's education is to be both the unstoppable force and immovable object. A difference of opinion with school administration is an area where Tina is an awesome corner man. She tells me what she wants done and I do it. After years of dealing with distributors and contractors I find administrators and teachers to be a PG version remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tina shouldn't have to bare the weight of conflicts though. In my vows I promised to protect her, and really the greatest threat to her health and happiness is an unyielding administrator. So, that is what I gladly do.

I have dubbed an ARD meeting, "A Reason to Die." The room has Tina and I in it along with about eight adminstrators, teachers, and therapists. The meeting starts with the principal reading the rules that the meeting will be civil and not personal. Then it is turned over the to head of special education at the school who starts with, "Let's talk about your mentally retarded daughter." Yep, just love that woman.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the interview. Tina hasn't told me what the questions will be. She said she wants to see me handle it like she had to the first time. I feel fortunate that the young woman who is conducting the interview is actually one of Amanda's two frequent sitters. So I know she will not try to rile me up or break me down. She is a dear friend of both Amanda and Tina, and I think she thinks I'm ok too.
So for my three readers I know of, thats about it from TXK.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Travelers Are Home

We just got back in town last night after five days in Willis, TX to see Tina's parents. Amanda finds the place to be fascinating. Normal people succumb to boredom in about 45 minutes. One of the only things Willis has going for it is cheap liquor, of which I took advantage of out of necessity. Since I stopped drinking beer at the beginning of this year I find liquor to be a good substitute.

On the upside, Amanda had a nice time just hanging out with her grandparents. They went to an open mike gospel night where her grandfather sang a solo and then in his group. Also, the MC of the night had the entire congregation sing Happy Birthday to Amanda. She loved it.

Another bonus to this trip over years past is Amanda now travels well. Up until about a year ago being in the car with her for more than 30 minutes would fall under the heading of cruel and unusual punishment. I remember once, about seven years ago, Amanda cried from my driveway to her grandparents driveway. That is a total of 270 miles. She did stop crying when we stopped to eat in Marshall. As soon as we were back in the car she fired it right back up. Amanda wasn't much for the concept of time. She wanted to be there right then and right now and she just didn't care who she was killing.

Another time we were coming back from Little Rock, AR after a trip to Arkansas Children's Hospital. We had a 1999 GMC Yukon and Amanda was screaming like a torture victim. I was steadily going faster until I had the big SUV going just over 90 mph. Normally Tina would say something, but she was wanting home as much as me. And then we were passed by a Suburban. Tina just popped off and said, "He must have twins." Still the funniest thing I have ever heard under those circumstances.

But this time, as the last time, Amanda traveled perfectly. She sat in the front seat with Tina on the drive down until we got to Nacogdoches where we ate lunch. Afterwards she got in the back with Tina while I drove the rest of the way. On the drive home she rode in the front with me until Lufkin and then stayed up front with Tina. An upside to driving a Lincoln MKZ is it is smooth enough to read in the backseat while going down US 59. I read a lot of Water For Elephants while Tina and Amanda talked about "girl stuff." Leg shaving is the new thing for Amanda.

Anyway, the drive is done, we are home and tonight is bowling night (see earlier posts).

Monday, March 16, 2009

10 pounds a year

Amanda is 11 years old now. When she was born she weighed 2 lbs 12 ozs. and was the smallest person I had ever met. She is now 112 pounds and a solid one at that.

She had a great low key birthday. Everywhere she went in town she saw people who know and love her. She is as happy a child as you can ever know and she just wants to be friends with whomever she meets.

Happy Birthday Little One.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

She didn't need me but she thought she did

Right after I posted yesterday I left the office to make a delivery of a small fitting to a local customer. I was there about ten minutes when Tina gave me a call from the pediatrician's office and said that Amanda was going to need blood work. The little girl has had a very sour stomach for the past four days and we needed to get her checked out. She went with Tina and not both of us because she said she is growing up and she wouldn't need a shot.

I made the five mile drive quickly and walked into the clinic and saw my two lovely ladies about to the board the elevator. Amanda saw me and said, "They trick me." It was pretty cute the way she was more put out with the matter than scared.

She and I went back in the lab, I sat beside her and she was braver than she has ever been for blood work. You have to believe me when I say this child has had more than her share of blood work in her almost eleven years.

Afterward we went home for lunch and then I went onto the office for the rest of the day. He stomach is getting better but because she has had such a difficult winter with infections and antibiotics she has developed another problem. Let's just say I had to deal with a true Tasmanian Devil this morning. So it was back to the doctor for some meds for that particular problem and because it is cold and raining today I was requested to help. So we went through that. All part of being the dad, or at least this dad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Acceptance of Optic Nerve Hypoplasia

There are five stages of grief. When a child is born it is suppose to be the enbodiment of dreams of a union, but when the child has multiple disabilities, similar to loosing a loved one, there is a grieving process for the child that never was was.

The five stages are:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

I've been through this journey with Amanda and the most important one to me is acceptance.

I remember perfectly when it happened. When I knew that this dear sweet little person was just the way she was and her journey was going to be different from what my wife and I had envisioned from the day we decided to have a child regardless of any effort.

We had been working in the yard, her and I, cutting sod from the backyard where some construction was going to take place and moving it to the front where there is a bare spot under an oak tree. It was a spring day and she was wearing a red windbreaker and pull up blue jeans. We had cut a few pieces from the back and I was making sod buster jokes with her. Watching westerns growing up gunfighters always hated sod busters. She had a shovel and was trying to help. She weighed about 50 pounds and and the shovel was pretty uncooperative to her efforts. She didn't say much back in those days so I told her when you are digging something you have to cuss it. That is when she surprised me and I heard a little voice just say, "shit." OK, so she knew more that I thought.

That is when I taught her to say, "dag nabbit." It came out like, "da nabbit" and we had a good time with that for months to come.

Now this was almost four years ago and we were working on toilet training so she wasn't wearing a pull up. We were now in the front yard and I was on my hands an knees and she was just watching me very intently when all of the sudden her little hand grabbed my should and she got a very serious look on her face and then pooped her pants.

Up to this point Amanda had a long track record of pooping her pants. It used to just get on my last nerve, but this day that nerve wasn't even hooked up. I just looked at her and said, "Well of course you did." Scooped her up and took her inside and cleaned her up and then went right back to work.

We sit out under that same tree on most warm days and visit. She pretends to be on one of my old Blackberries and I enjoy a cool beverage and let Tina stay inside and take care of whatever she needs to do.

I'll be writing about the other four stages in the near future, but I had to get this most important one out first.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fell back

So I have mentioned my one sort of "super power" in a recent post, the ability to wake up before my alarm. I myself was wondering how this was going go with the time change. Well my alarm is set for 5:35 and I typically wake up at 5:30 or so. This morning I woke up, looked at the ceiling where the time is projected (Thanks for the clock Sis, still love it) and I see that it is 4:30. This is 3:30 by the old time. I'm doing all sorts of math problems in my head, wondering if I'm suppose to get up now or in an hour or two hours or if it is even Monday when I fall back asleep.

And do you know it felt like I was asleep for less than one R.E.M. and the alarm was going off. I didn't know what was happening so I just kind of punched the lamp and knocked a few things off the nightstand and onto floor and handled the problem with a lot of profane mumbling. Tina was unconscious for the entire episode, she sleeps like Red Cross CPR dummy which is one more thing that makes us compatible.

Upon further examination I did discover it is Monday so that means another bowling night and the whole routine has started anew.

Friday, March 6, 2009

An animated irony

I'll be 40 years old in May and I'm OK with that. Most of my friends are older than me, my wife is 41, age is just a number. In fact, in many ways I am still very child like. A big facet of this is that I love animation.

I'm not so much a Loony Toons or Tom & Jerry kind of fan, I did grow past that years ago. But people who really know me know that I would rather sit and watch Toy Story than Child's Play. In high school I watched GI Joe, much to my girlfriend's dismay. In college Tina and I were the only two people in the theater to see The Little Mermaid.

But the irony of my enjoyment for animated films is that my daughter has a condition called Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. This condition leaves her visually impaired and mentally delayed as well as extremely sensitive to sound. Needless to say, she doesn't like the busy world of animation, particularly "Finding Nemo." And one of the big things I was looking forward to when I found out I was going to be a father was watching Disney and Pixar movies with my child.

But, when life gives you lemons you should make some lemonade and break out some vodka too. Amanda does have some movies that she likes: Cheaper By The Dozen and it's sequel are top of the list, Yours, Mine and Ours, The Sandlot I, II, and III, Madeline, and finally a little animation with Mary Poppins.

And then there is the Peanuts. The Charlie Brown Cartoons do not attempt to be three dimensional and the conversations are slow enough that she can follow by herself. We have every one on DVD and I have loaded even more onto my I-pods.

And finally there is the fact that she only watches these movies when she is ready for bed. She seldom sees the end of a movie but the 22 minute Peanuts really help her unwind.

My only problem is I have a copy of Wall-E that I borrowed from my nephew more than three months ago and I just can't seem to find the time to myself to watch it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thoughts from the stairmaster

I was on a StairMaster type device this morning, there are so many variations of them now but this one didn't utilize arms like my favorite which is the Precor AMT, and I was trying to keep my mind occupied because this machine was not as involved as the AMT. So I was listening to a couple of BusinessWeek pod casts. They were about the state of the economy in Europe and the national mortgage crisis back here in the states and both were very informative. The one about the mortgage crisis was made obsolete by the new rescue plan that just came out just yesterday, but a lot of the information about the crisis was still enlightening.

Anyway, I had less than four minutes left on the machine and I nailed it to the second with a song by Eve 6. I though that was pretty cool.

Tina and I went on to lift weights for our backs. I take my I-pod off when working out with her because we like to talk, but I don't like taking my I-pod of while working out. I loose focus.

Tina will be working out at home tomorrow so I can have the gym to myself. I actually go 4 to 6 times a week now. My back feels much better and in the last 6 weeks I've dropped about 15 pounds.

I know I am not following the journalism rule for numbers on this post, but I'm a bit tired today after a rough evening with a special needs child who was in total emotional meltdown for a few hours last night over something as dramatic as getting her pants hemmed. Unfortunately, her meltdowns also involve a steam cleaner, bath and laundry as well as air fresheners and control of one's own gag reflex. She is better now but Tina and I could use about 3 days on a beach with a steady flow of drinks. That was something else I was thinking about on the StairMaster, but I digress. With that I will end this ramble.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Old Things but not antiques

There are a few items in my life that I have used quite frequently for more than twenty years. The first is my blue towel. The towel is a large solid blue beach towel with my name embroidered on one end. I received it as a high school graduation gift from my girlfriend's parents. This towel has had so many functions that they must be noted. Of course it was a towel which I used quite regularly while taking scuba as a PE my sophomore year, it was the one curtain in my apartment my junior and senior year of school, it was a curtain over a glass door in my first after college apartment, it was the towel used to dry my English Bulldog for five years, it has dried many cars, and for the past several years it is the towel that is brought out for Amanda when she has an upset stomach. While this towel is now faded and not as thick as it once was it has yet to fray and has many more years of service still to come. Everyone should have such a towel.

My second old thing is also another high school graduation present, it's an American Heritage Dictionary and Thesarus hardback desk set. I received this from my aunt and uncle who at the time lived in Dallas. I use the dictionary several times a week at my home office. No matter how many times I crack them open I am still a very poor speller.

And finally there is my other book of note. As I just stated, I have a thesarus but my freshman year at SFA I felt I needed another one for my backpack so I bought a paperback copy of The Synonym Finder. I keep it on my desk at work along with another dictionary I pilferred from somewhere in the building. It is starting to yellow a bit but I believe all the words are still up to date.

I also have pair of elephant hide ropers that I received as a Christmas gift when I was 17 but it has been years since I have worn them and they are on the top back shelf of my closet. I prefer my Ecco, Borne, and Merril shoes these days. Oh and I have to have my Shox.

Anyway, that is my collection of old things that I use.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This could be the day

The last cold day of winter, and by cold I mean, can't sit outside in the evening without a jacket on. I've been in the south most of my life and I do enjoy warmer tempatures, which is why I probably own so many jackets, coats and pullovers. I just don't like being cold.

Tomorrow it is suppose to be in the 70's and that means that after work I can sit on my bench in the yard and visit with Amanda while Tina cooks dinner. Neighbors will be walking by in shorts with pale legs throwing a glare all evening and saying hello. Amanda will be pretending to e-mail from an old Blackberry and I will just breath in air that isn't blowing from a central air unit.

Within a month this air will be thick with pollen and all evening clothes will have a natural tie- dye look, but that is fine with me too because Tina is the one who does the laundry. I've proven myself incompetent in that area in spite of my desire to help. What can I say, it took me about a dozen years to master the Tina approved way of folding t-shirts and towels. She is a bit weird, she likes it done the same way every time which isn't really my style.

Yep, last day of frosted roofs in the morning, I think I will wear my black leather jacket today.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I must have turned around again...

Because it is another Monday.
I know that the week is divided into seven equal days, but it is my belief that Mondays happen more often.
What Monday means is the end of a typically uneventful weekend. Just two days of family time and household projects. Occasionally we go out to dinner or Tina and I sneak out for a few hours, but nothing that will create an offer for the movie rights.
But Monday sends Amanda back to school, Tina starts on the list for the week that keeps our family so efficient and comfortable, and I go back to work. But the real kicker about Monday is that it is bowling night for Amanda with the Challenger League. We have dinner at a favorite sub shop and then meet up with Amanda’s group where she bowls two games.
It seems that this event happens every three days or so instead just once a week. It is a lot of fun, a bit stressful, and very joyful. The Challengers have a great time and most of the parents don’t have to do much but watch their children of all ages enjoy themselves with their peers.
It is a far stretch from my old Mondays that more often than not found me on a couple or more airplanes headed somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Two airplanes was ok, but when a third was added to the mix it was just one too many to make for a good week. I would be gone three or four nights and then have to repeat the journey home and recover over the weekend so I could do it again the next week. When I travelled alone it was real work, but when I could take Tina along with me it was always an adventure. Happiness is good company, and on Mondays I have plenty of that.

Happy Monday