Tag Archives: Little Guy

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

So Little Guy needed some new shoes

Like any three-year old, Little Guy seems to either outgrow or wear out shoes within a matter of weeks.  It’s getting to Christmastime, one of those times where the kids get a little spiffier, so he needed some “dress” shoes.  When we were at the mall shopping, we stopped at that essential store for parents with toddlers: Payless.  Lovely Wife was looking around and pulled down a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  “What about these,” she asked, “they would work, wouldn’t they?”  I got a big grin on my face and nodded my affirmation.  She had Little Guy try them on, and of course he fell in love.  They were right up there with his sneakers that have Spiderman on them and light up.  It was here that I informed Lovely Wife that cowboy boots were one of the coolest things for a little boy to own.

I think she already knew this however, because there was already a little boy in the house who owned a pair of cowboy boots.  One that is 35 years old.

tiag1

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But it’s not just the boots.  Somewhere deep inside of me, I yearn to be a cowboy.  I know, it sounds silly, but hear me out.

Apparently this has been going on for a while.  I was at my mom and dad’s house a while back, and mom had packed up a box of stuff from when I was a tot.  Curious, I flipped open the flaps of the cardboard box, and there was a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  I didn’t remember those, but I did remember the ones that I owned when I was about 7 or 8.  Gray at the feet with black shafts.  Man, did I love those boots.  I would put them on, along with my jeans and a flannel shirt and my black felt hat that had been misshapen and recreased about a thousand times.  I didn’t have a horse (real or otherwise) but I didn’t need one.  I remember owning two cap guns.  One looked like a typical clip style that you might use if you were a G-man on the trail of John Dillinger.  The other looked like a Colt Peacemaker.  You can guess which one got more use from me.  Back in the days of the early 80s, it looked real, too.  It wasn’t cast in crazy colored plastic.  It was metal.  It did have a plastic grip, but it was meant to look like ivory.  It certainly didn’t have a bright red tip at the end.

Wild Bill Hickok

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Maybe it was in my blood (pretty sure now that’s not the case).  Maybe it’s because I grew up in South Dakota.  After all, at one time or another Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and the James brothers all passed through our great state.  Whatever it was, I wanted to be out there.

Of course as an adult reality has sunk in.   Not just the fact that the days of the Wild West were long over even before I was born.  As far as I can remember I’ve only fired two real guns in my life: my father-in-law’s shotgun (at some clay pigeons–which I was pretty good at hitting) and my brother-in-law’s brother’s AR-15 (which I shot several times at an empty bottle of Crown Royal without a successful hit.)  I have a Mustang, but she has wheels rather than hooves.  I couldn’t even be a modern-day cowboy.  Although I have ridden a horse before, just the thought of being in the saddle all day makes my ass sore.  The closest I have gotten to the cowboy experience is repeated watchings of my favorite movie: Tombstone.

Lovely Wife has helped me indulge my little fantasy since we’ve been married, though.  A few years ago for my birthday she bought me a baseball cap embroidered with “National Day of the American Cowboy July 26, 2008”.  Of course July 26 happens to be my birthday.  The real gift was still to come–later that week she escorted me to RCC Western Store where I got to pick out my own adult sized cowboy boots.  I have several belt buckles.  Never mind that some of them have things like the Batman logo on them.  This summer I purchased a cowboy hat from Cabelas.  A real fur felt job.  I’ll never be a cowboy, but I can put these items on, and strum my guitar while I sing Country music tunes.

I am sure not everyone understands.  Toby Keith does, at least according to his song.  I think Little Guy does too.

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Filed under Christmas, cowboy boots, cowboys, guitar, music, personal

Little Guy’s Greatest Hits.

English: Uploaded from : http://upload.wikimed...

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OK, this one just happened today, but it is too good not to share.  We were getting ready to go to our daycare Christmas party.  Little Guy (now 3) and I were in the car waiting for Baby Girl and Lovely Wife.  Little Guy piped up with a question: “Daddy, what do you want for Christmas?”

I thought for a bit.  “Um, Peace on Earth.”

He pondered this for a while before replying, “Oh.  How ’bout a juice box?”

For all of those celebrating the season, I wish you a Merry Christmas.  For all others I truly do wish for Peace on Earth.  Juice boxes for everyone wouldn’t be so bad either.

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What’s in a Name: Inked Edition

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Window of St. Augustine...

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Earlier this year I waxed somewhat poetically about the names that were given to me by my parents.  Names (not just my own) still are somewhat fascinating to me.  I thought of this the other day when talking to my son.  Before he was born, my wife and I were leaning heavily towards calling him “Gus”.  My grandfather’s nickname was Gus, and it was one that not only we both liked, but would most likely be unique among his peers.   The only issue was that we could not agree on what Gus should be short for.  I wanted Augustine, after St. Augustine, the great theologian, philosopher, and church father.  Lovely Wife leaned toward Gustav because, well, she liked it.  When he was born we settled on a different name, but then it was suggested that we use Gus for a middle name.  The debate was renewed.  Finally, after several minutes of back and forth, Lovely Wife said, “What about just Gus?” So Gus it is.

Well, interestingly enough, often times now Little Guy will seem to ignore you if you use his first name, but pays immediate attention if you call him Gus.  Maybe it was meant to be in the end.  It will be up to him what he goes by as he gets older, but for myself, it turns out that I find myself calling him Gus about half the time.

That got me thinking about my own name.  In the Catholic tradition it is commonplace to give your child at least one saint’s name.  Alas, to this point there is still no St. Ryan.  My middle name is David, and while there are a few St. Davids, none are particularly well-known (King David of the old testament is not a Saint.)  This got me curious about St. Stephen (Stephen being the name given to me at birth).  I knew his story well–he is often known as St. Stephen the Martyr, as he is recorded to be the first martyr as seen in Acts 7:58.  I looked on the list of saints on catholic.org, and learned that St. Stephen’s feast day was December 26.  Most people would think “Oh yeah, good King Wenceslaus looked about, on the feast of Stephen…”, but my first thought was that December 26 was my parents anniversary.  Not only had they adopted a son originally named Stephen, but had also nearly named me Stephen themselves.  One of those odd syncronicities that I have run into quite a bit.  Curious, I looked up who feast day fell on my birthday, and found out that it was Sts. Joachim and Anne.  If you are unfamiliar with them, they are the traditional/legendary parents of Our Lady.  Interestingly enough, from my point of view at least, St. Anne is the patron saint of mothers.

Finally, today, I wanted to share with you my tattoo that I got a few weeks ago.  I wanted something that would be unique to myself, while honoring both my names and families.  With the help of Erin at The Electric Crayon, this is what I was able to come up with:

It is located on my right shoulder.  A couple of quick explanations.  I put it on my arm in tribute to the passage from the Song of Solomon “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave” (8:6).  While the narrator is talking about romantic love, I none the less connected it to love of my family as well.  The author is talking about the “tattoos” of the time, and their permanence, so to set oneself as a seal upon another’s heart was to make them permanently theirs, just as I belong permanently to my families.
Secondly is the letters themselves.  The big initials are the initials of my name, the ones seen everyday, by which I am known.  Inside those are inscribed the initials of the names given to me by my birthmother.  They are somewhat hidden, known to few, but still indelibly part of who I am.

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Filed under adoption, names, personal, Tattoos

A Slight Diversion.

I had to share this quick thought.  Tonight before the kiddos went to bed, we all laid on our bed: Lovely Wife, Baby Girl, Little Guy, and me all cuddled up together, with Wonder Pup at our feet, reading stories.  Have you ever had one of those moments that you wish would never end?  Those few minutes were the happiest I have been in quite awhile.  I now have a new “Happy Place” when I am stressing.  What is your extra-special-go-to moment?

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Autism, family, life lessons

What a weekend

This week I am going to eschew my normal philosophical musing type posts.  I am doing this for a couple of different reasons.  The first is that now since I have established a blogging style, it is time to sprinkle in a few other things.  Secondly I wanted to talk about a few things that are important to me.  Last, I don’t want people to start thinking that my entire life revolves around depression and anxiety (be prepared to still hear mention of those).  I do experience and observe other things in life.  If you do like the other format, fear not!  I have plenty of topics still in the hopper.

This weekend we went to visit my bio-family.  What a great time.  Just a quick synopsis of how my relationships shake out:  After I was born and placed for adoption, my parents did end up getting married.  After getting married they had two more sons.  After getting divorced, Mom married her current and second husband, and they had a son and a daughter.  I am roughly 2 years older than Brother 1 (I couldn’t come up with nicknames that were clever or that weren’t completely dorky, so this is what you get) 3 years older that Brother 2, 9 1/2 years older than Brother 3, and 19 years older (kinda weird to think about, but so cool) than Little Sister.

After several failed attempts I still hadn’t met B3, and mom had mentioned how she would like to see Little Guy and Baby Girl.  It almost didn’t work again, as B3’s completely adorable little one (10 months) was going through diapers like a hot  knife through butter, and he had a lot of homework to do.  In the end Mom convinced him to come, as we could all go do something and take the baby with us, so he could have the house all to himself.  I am so glad that it worked out.

Within minutes of getting there on Friday and settling down, LG climbed up on Mom’s lap with a book.  If we hadn’t done anything else for the whole weekend, that sight was pure gold.   Soon, B3 arrived with his fiance and little one.  his fiance came in first and almost asked my what I was doing there before she realized who I was (B2 and I look so much alike).  When B3 came in we shared a big brotherly bear hug (loving the alliteration there).  The kiddos had a great time with their cousins.  In particular, Little Guy had a ball with B2’s daughter who is about the same age as he is.

Mostly, though, I had a great time.  We all got to talk about things serious, silly, philosophical, and fun.  LW commented on how strange it felt that everything was so comfortable.  I was a little worried that B3 and I wouldn’t have as much common ground with me as the others because on the surface we seem the most different, but that is not at all how it turned out.  By the time we left, BG who is normally quite shy had warmed up to Mom. 

We talked about the next times that we would be getting together.  I left feeling recharged.  I am so tired today, though!  It was definitely an eventful and satisfying weekend.

MONDAY FUN: YouTube Music Favorites

Joe Bonamassa

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Changing Perspective?

Whenever you are troubled, struggling, or uninspired by something, have you ever had somebody tell you this: “You just need to change your perspective”?  It seems to me that little piece of advice can be simultaneously insightful and frustrating.

I start to think about all that is wrong with the world.  All those struggling in Japan with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.  Rebels fighting for freedom in north Africa and the middle east.  Poverty and preventable disease around the world that I will never know.  When I think about what I have to be happy about, there is so much.  My home and my livelihood is safe.  I enjoy liberties that others can only imagine.  When I feel broke I look at our two cars in the garage, our cell phones, our televisions, our computer.  We have food safe to eat, water safe to drink, and access to good health care. 

But depression is a selfish disease.  It tricks you into not giving a damn about any of that.  Instead you focus on yourself.  What happens if I get water in my basement from all the melting snow that is headed our way?  Why does our government insist on stepping on our toes?  Why do we always seem to have problems with my car?  Can’t we spend less money?  Why can’t I find anything in the fridge that I want to eat for lunch?  Is this new health care bill going to actually make things better, or worse?

Depression says, “Go out tonight.  Look at the stars.  They are the same no matter how you look at them.  Lay down.  Stand on your head.  Take a drive to the country.  Go to Mom and Dad’s house.  Still look the same, don’t they?  ‘Change your perspective.’ What a bunch of bunk.”  He can be pretty persuasive, that depression.  What a jerk.

Then I remember the time that I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Australia.  Sitting out on a cool night in the outback looking up at the stars.  There it was.  Not the largest or most impressive constellation in the sky.  However, being from the Northern Hemisphere, I had never seen it before.  The Southern Cross.  I stared in awe, humbled by the experience and the beauty of its simplicity.  For some reason that I will never understand, it made me feel both insignificant and important at the same time.  I could understand why songs had been written about it.

So on those days that depression is tricking me into believing that I can’t change my perspective, I will just trick him back.  I will change what I am looking at altogether.  Maybe I will take in that new view for a day.  Or a week.  Or the rest of my life.  What will you have to say then, depression?

THURSDAY FUN: Epic Cardinal Photo Quest Update

No, there are no pictures to show off yet.  But this morning was so fun!  The other day I bought a feeder and some cardinal blend to see what I could do to attract my friends.  Yesterday I walked by the window on several occasions.  No sightings.  This morning, Little Guy was eating breakfast at the kitchen table and glanced out onto our deck.

“Daddy, a bird!”

“What’s he look like?” I said.  I was in the other room.

“He’s a bird.”  I would have to go about this from another angle.

“What color is he?”

“He’s red. He’s really really red!”

I went to the window and saw him, sitting nonchalantly on our deck.  Of course the camera was in the man cave.  I dashed downstairs to grab it, but by the time I got back–well I think you know.  But it was certainly the closest sighting I have seen.  Getting closer.  Stay tuned.

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An old fashioned blog tool

Part of the reason that I decided to blog about my journey through depression is that it would serve as a way of expressing the creative side of my personality.  The only problem is that it seems like the good ideas come at the most inopportune times.  I can’t tell you how many times a twist of phrase, or an idea for a photo, or a song melody has popped into my head in the middle of the work day, or while I’m lying in bed or even sitting in the “oval office”.

I needed to get out of the house yesterday, so I made my way to the local Barnes and Noble.  There I found the perfect tool:  a pocket-sized journal.

Remember Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?  Indy and his dad were looking for the Holy Grail.  When I watch that movie, I can’t help but think that although the Grail served as a good McGuffin, it wasn’t the most interesting treasure of the movie.  Sure, it would be a find of enormous historical and religious significance.  But if you did find it, who would really believe you?  No, the coolest (albeit fictional) artifact of the movie was Henry Jones Sr’s Grail Diary.  Here was a journal of history, legend, faith, art, and adventure. 

So when I saw the little pocket-sized journal at B&N, I couldn’t resist.  It was manufactured by ecosystem out of recycled materials.  While I can’t say that I am a true environmentalist, I do try my best to at least honor the idea of conservationism.  Ecosystem also puts a serial number in the back of their journals, which serves a cool double purpose: you can enter it in on their website to learn the origin of your humble tome, and also register it for lost and found. 

I hope to be able to use mine for drawings, musings, blog ideas, and notes on photos that I have taken.  Hopefully it will help my creativity as much as I think it will.

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MONDAY FUN: The World According to Little Guy

We generally have the radio on in the car while we are driving.  I tend to listen to either country or the local blues/oldies station, while Lovely Wife favors the local Christian music station.  The other day I was driving the kids to meet Lovely Wife somewhere.  The radio was off and both of the kiddos were pretty cranky.  I asked them if they wanted to listen to some tunes, to which Little Guy emphatically answered “Yeah!”.  So I turned on the radio.  He listened for a few seconds before saying, “No, Daddy!  I want the Jesus one!”

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