Category Archives: life lessons

Reading the Signs

There is an interstate beltway that goes around the city in which I live.  One particular off-ramp always amuses me.  Getting off onto one of the main North-South drags, this particular ramp has two right hand turn lanes, and of course a traffic light.  The amusing part is the turning lane that is the farthest right.  If a driver is turning right, clearly displayed in his or her field of vision is a sign that says “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED”.  When I am at this particular intersection, I am typically in the other lane, so I like to play a guessing game in my head whether or not the person at the front of the other line is going to turn right on red.  About half the time I guess that they will, and more often than not, I am right.

I don’t think, however, that they consciously see the sign and disregard it.  In our busy lives it seems easy to see signs right in front of us, maybe even recognize what they say, but somehow they don’t register.  Last year Lovely Wife went on a trip for work leaving me home with the kiddos.    I noticed that Little Guy, who was right around 2 at the time, seemed to be scratching his head quite a bit.  Finally one evening, I called Lovely Wife and told her that I thought he had lice.  I looked at his hair and saw little specks.  Not knowing what nits looked like, Lovely Wife convinced me that it was OK (I am not blaming her, by the way).  The next day it seemed to be worse.  This time when I looked there I saw not only the “specks” but definite bugs as well.  After a lot of shampooing, spraying, and vacuuming, we also decided to give him a haircut.  Between his newly shorn head and my folically challenged one, we really did look like a real life version of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me.

Sometimes the sings aren’t as obvious, or don’t have immediate meaning.  After meeting my birth mother, it seems amazing to me (and to her, I think) that we have lived our lives travelling along on parallel lines.  Perhaps maybe they even crossed in the past in ways we didn’t even know.  My brother and I were for a short time on the same college campus, for example.  I wonder now if we ever crossed paths and never realized it.  Being a man of great (if perhaps unconventional) faith, I can only ascribe the events leading up to finding her identity to Divine Providence.   Until that time, my beliefs were somewhat deist in nature.  I believed in God, but didn’t think he was active in my everyday life.  Now I saw the signs sprinkled throughout my life.  When I still hadn’t decided whether I was going to contact her or not, the signs changed from being a tap on the shoulder to a slap in the face with a 2×4.

And yet I am still learning to recognize signs in my life.  Yesterday Lovely Wife helped me really come to the realization that I need to do what is in my heart, what I am meant to do.  Her case was bolstered by me recently reading Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldridge.   Eldridge believes that most men don’t follow what is in their heart, and as a result are bored or disheartened.  I highly recommend it for all men, whether you are a believer or not.

Last night I finally accepted that I am a writer and a teacher.  With my Master’s degree, I can qualify to be an adjunct professor at one of the several local institutions of higher learning.  That will allow me to do my part to help pay the bills, and it will also allow me  to follow my true heart.  As of today, I can refer to myself as a writer.


Filed under faith, life lessons, writing

Two Girls Revisited

Earlier this month, I wrote about my two wonderful nieces who happen to have Autism Spectrum Disorders.  As I have noted, April is Autism Awareness Month.  April also happens to mark both of their birthdays.  These incredible young ladies are on my mind quite a bit, and I wanted to share something that I think it is not only important for parents and family of kids with autism, but for all parents in general.

When my older niece was diagnosed with autism, my sister and brother-in-law were able to enter her into an early childhood preschool program to help her develop social skills.  There were still struggles, but as the time to send her to kindergarten drew closer, it became evident that she would be able to enter a “normal” elementary school.  Going to mainstream school seems to have helped her flourish.  Maybe it was the extra interaction with kids, maybe it was the structure, maybe she was just ready.  In any case, like I have stated before she now looks and acts pretty much like a typical tween.

My younger niece would follow the same footsteps.  She attended the early childhood program preschool.  Although she wasn’t as advanced as her older sister when it came time for kindergarten, program administrators along with my sister and husband agreed that she would be able to attend an elementary school in a normal classroom setting.  The one difference is that she has always had an individual aide assigned to her. 

Flash forward to a couple of months ago.  She is now in third grade.  The principal requested to meet with my sister.  The school had made the decision to transfer my niece to a special education classroom at a different school.  This was quite distressing for my sister.  Like many kids with autism, changes in routine can be traumatic for my niece.   It turns out that being in a smaller classroom has had an incredibly positive effect on her.  She genuinely enjoys going to school now.  She won an award for citizenship at her school.  She has even been able to go off of one of her behavioural medicines, which has had the added benefit of letting her slim down considerably.  The other day she had a swimming party for her birthday where she invited kids from her old class.  It was so great to hear the kids tell her how much they missed her.  Although I am sure that she misses them too, I can’t help but think she is happier now.

As parents, how many times to we try to fit a square peg into a round hole?  My nieces have taught me that each child is unique, valuable, and respond differently, whether they have a “disability” or not.  We worry that Baby Girl doesn’t talk as much as Little Guy did at the same age, but we neglect to remember how incredibly verbose he was for his age.  Yet, she seems to have motor skills that are far ahead of what his were at her age.  It seems that we will never stop learning from our children.

As a reminder, please visit Autism Speaks for more information on children with autism spectrum disorders.

UPDATE: Please visit this awesome site.  Autism Love Hope.  She makes awesome jewelry that you can use for gifts or to help spread awareness.

WEDNESDAY FUN: My first artistic endeavour

Earlier this month I spoke about my sudden desire to create some art, and I wanted to share my first painting:

I was actually pleasantly surprised.  While I obviously have amature level skills, I went about it without much of a plan.  The sailboat is going away from stormy waters towards calmer seas and the sunrise, an obvious metaphor for overcoming depression.  What I didn’t plan was that the side representing the future is much more blurred, and the brush strokes follow no pattern.  An added, but not purposeful metaphor.


Filed under Autism, family, life lessons

Picking out Wine by the Label

I was thinking today that while I have already talked about one of my great loves, beer, I didn’t mention that I also like to partake in his (sometimes) upscale cousin, wine.  The more I thought about it, I discovered that I have an interesting habit.  When choosing a new beer to try, I tend to compare and contrast the offerings to others that I have enjoyed in the past: brands that I like, types, recommendations from others.  When picking out a wine, perhaps because I am more of a neophyte, I tend to use a different method: I choose by looking at the label. 

Sometimes this method works out well.  I loved Cardinal Zin, Red Guitar, and Fat Bastard Chardonnay.  Most times, not so well.  This is probably best evidenced by the fact that I don’t even remember the names of the ones that I didn’t like.   When I think about it, the best wines that I have ever had didn’t come in a bottle at all.  I am fortunate in that I was able to travel extensively with my family when I was younger.  One summer when I was in college we took a trip to Italy.  One of the great pleasures of Italy is stopping off at tiny family run restaurants.  Besides the always heavenly food, many if not most places made their own wine.  It would be brought to out table in a pitcher. 

Another example that comes to mind is the wine made by our back door neighbor.  Since moving into our house, we have come to know our neighbors on all sides, but have only really made friends with our backdoor neighbors.  The summer we moved in, they had just retired.  We were playing with our dog in the backyard (no kiddos yet) and he peeked his head over the fence to chat.  After awhile he asked Lovely Wife and I if we liked wine.  When we answered affirmatively he scampered off and brought back a bottle that he had recently made.  Since then he has shared several other different kinds.  Maybe it’s the quality of ingredients, maybe it’s the fact that it is hand-crafted, or maybe it is just our friendship, but boy do those wines taste good. 

When we are young we are told to never judge a book by its cover.  How many times do we ignore this advice when we are older?  I think about the mistakes that I have made in my life when I went after the “sexy” option.  It doesn’t always have to do with appearance, either.  Three years ago I was working in for a company and in a position that I absolutely loved.  I got a call one day inviting me to apply for a job at a different company.  I did so, and was offered the job.  Although it didn’t feel right, I went with the new job because of something “sexy”: about a 21% pay jump.  With Little Guy on the way, it seemed like the right move at the time.  Boy, was I wrong.  I was miserable at work, didn’t last long, and haven’t found anything else satifying since.

So we take what we can learn from our experiences.  Over a shared interest, I have made a good friend out of my neighbor who is a man many years my senior.  Last summer he helped me rebuild our fence.  Good fences don’t make good neighbors.  Good neighbors make good fences–and good wine.

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Filed under life lessons, wine