Tuesday, October 2, 2012

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

This is a very good site to visit!

The 6th Annual 31 for 21 Challenge. To raise awareness for National Down Syndrome Awareness Month!  My youngest daughter has both Down's Syndrome and Autism.  She is almost 29 years old, and doing great.  We've been blessed with very understanding and helping family and friends.  One of the proudest days of my life was watching her walk across the stage to receive her high school diploma.  Even though the Autism made her very shy of crowds, she found it within herself to go up there.

Time to catch up!

Things have been (kind of) busy since last post.  I now have a job that, although it's a contract position now, promises to hire me as staff after the first of the year, so I can finally get insurance benefits at a reasonable price!

I had two interviews with different companies earlier this year, and in both instances it came down to me and one other person.  I ended up coming in second in both, but on the second interview, the lady that talked to me emailed me and asked if I would be willing to work contract until they could hire me.  They definitely had the work, and didn't want to lose me.  It's a little higher pressure than most jobs I've been on, but I'm doing OK handling it.

I also had to have surgery on my left eye for a cataract.  I was trying to put it off till I had benefits, but it got bad enough that I couldn't see anything through that eye.  It wasn't as bad as I thought.  I had been up a lot the night before from nervousness, so when they gave me something to relax me, I closed my eyes and zonked completely!  The doctor said I was snoring through the whole procedure.  I've been very near-sighted my whole life, but the new lens corrects that.  I still have to use reading glasses, but everything turned out wonderfully, considering.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oh God, please let them invent a youth serum!

My wife and I did a lot of yard work Saturday, including cutting back a bunch of Red-Tip Photinia bushes in our front yard that had gotten HUGE.  We cut about a third of the height off of them, and they were still about seven feet tall!  I actually had to get out my small electric chain saw for some of the shoots, because they were too thick to cut with limb-loppers.  Plus the bushes were about six feet or more across, which made for a lot of reaching while trying to cut (while standing on a ladder!).

After all the cutting and bundling of limbs for trash pick-up, we were both dragging ass back to the house.  Needless to say, we've both been very sore for the last couple of days, especially our arms and shoulders.

I guess I've let myself go too much lately.  For some reason, neither my wife nor I have wanted to do much extra around the house for the last couple of years.  Part of it was probably me getting laid off from my staff job and having to work contract jobs (with no benefits) for the last few years.  That, and all the bad news you hear can really get you down.

Yet, this year we've done a lot of new yard planting and decorating, cut down (and cut up) six trees that had died, replaced the flooring and repainted one room in the house, and more.  Maybe (I hope) you can only handle so much time "in the dumps" before something within you rebels and tells you to get your ass in gear.

Sore or not, it always feels good to get something done and see the results.  I still wish, though, that they would invent something that would give me the stamina I had about 20 years ago!  As Dr. Smith used to say, "Oh, the pain, the pain!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Letter to a younger me

To a younger me, from your older self,

First of all, don’t be tempted to “go with the flow” throughout your life.  I know it’s easy to spend your life reacting to things that happen to you, but you’ll be much happier if you act instead.  Don’t try to pre-think what you will be doing later – what you end up doing with your life will be more surprising than you could ever imagine.  Use your gut feelings – you’ll find that they can be fairly reliable.
You will meet a girl in junior college in art class who is very sexy and outgoing and will come on to you.  DON’T GET INVOLVED WITH HER!  She will give you lots of great sex, but she will rip your heart out and put you through the worst time of your life, for the same reason that she became involved with you – she has very little self control.  Go with the girls that are smart, and take chances with girls.  I know that one of the hardest things in life is to use your courage, but you will be unimaginably happier if you do.  The worst thing in life is to miss out on love you could have given or had.  Using your courage will give you some of the best times of your life.
Ignore what most other people think.  Listen for good advice, but ignore it when anyone tells you to do something or be a certain way because everyone else is like that.  You will find that the people that other people look up to are the mavericks who don’t go along with the crowd.  It’s hard to do at first, but very rewarding afterward.
You have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), so getting bad grades is not completely your fault, but you can still get through it.  This is why you have trouble paying attention in school.  It’s also the cause of your knee constantly jumping.  Unfortunately, ADHD won’t get much known about it until you are older, so you’ll have to make allowances yourself.  Caffeine helps, as do other stimulants.  Ever notice that you calm down and focus with stimulants?  That’s why.  Tell Mother and Joe, though.  It might help them understand you.
Try getting good grades in school anyway.  It is probably the easiest thing you will ever be asked to do, and it will save you a LOT of grief at home.  You will find that what they teach can be extremely interesting, if you want it to be.  You will find this out in college later.  An English/Literature teacher in college will give you some of the best knowledge you will ever receive – “Classic books didn’t become classics because they’re boring”.  Keep in mind that things will get better (and more interesting) in college.
Although you love art, you probably won’t be able to do it as a profession.  Keep it that way.  You’ll be happier doing art your own way at your own pace.  Concentrate on computers and electronics, especially computers and programming (some of the most important people in the future will be computer geeks), or psychology/sociology.  You will take a personality test one day that compares your answers with those of successful people in many fields.  Your’s will come closest to college professor and minister.  Think about it.
One of the hardest things to get through is your step-father Joe.  Telling yourself that “it will make you tougher” might be true, but it’s also crap, because it will also give you some emotional baggage you don’t need.  Be up front with him about sports – you simply are interested in other things, and sports won’t “make you a better man”, mostly because you are a borderline asthmatic (that’s partly why you have such trouble with allergies and sometimes get coughs that won’t go away).  Weights, exercise, and your bicycle will help a lot more than anything else.  Playing in a team sport is worthless.
The same is true about getting through the bullies at school.  The best advice I might give you would be to take karate, but I’m not sure even that would help, but it will definitely give you more self-confidence.  The sad truth is that you’re a late bloomer and a physical and emotional introvert.  The only thing that I can say is that it gets better by the time you’re a senior in high school.  There won’t be any bullies in college either.  What happens in high school, other than, to a small extent, grades, will matter NOTHING later in life, so don’t think twice about it.  Believe it or not, what other people think about you at that time of your life is one of the least things you should have to worry about.  You won’t even come into contact with any of them later on.
Remember – don’t sweat the small stuff, and the older you get, the more you will realize just how much of life IS the small stuff.  Figure out what the most important thing in your life is, the one thing that matters more than anything else.  Once you do that, everything else either fades into the background, or falls into place behind it.    J

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring is here and the warm weather chores begin!

We spent the last week or so ripping out the carpet from the spare bedroom/computer room/library.  For some unknown reason, the original owners, who we bought the house from, put white berber carpet in the entire house.  It has been a job keeping it clean looking, so we have gradually been replacing it with laminate, parquet flooring, and peel-and-stick tile in the different rooms, and this was the last.  We've also been painting the walls as we go from the original - you guessed it - white as we went.

During this last room renovation, we were also doing a lot of landscaping, including cutting down 3 dead trees, spreading about 20 bags of cedar mulch, trimming a lot of bushes, and burning branches.  Because of how small our town is, we can still burn leaves and other yard waste, but we try to keep it to a minimum, although the smell can be wonderful sometimes.  

We're definitely beginning to feel our age, though.  The first few times of real effort after the winter leave us with more aches each year.  Oh well, better to have worked and ached than not to have worked at all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Body Oddities

Everyone has some little oddity about them.  it is just one of the things which makes us all unique.  I have a couple myself.

For the first, my legs grew so that my feet stick out, at about a 90 degree angle from each other.  I used to work with a girl who took ballet who said (kiddingly) that she hated me because she had to learn to stand that way for a ballet stance.  It also make for an unusual wear pattern on the bottom of my shoes, especially on the heels.  I can actually turn my feet outwards to the point where they point slightly backwards.  It looks pretty weird when I'm doing it.

The other is that my jaw and other head bones are a bit thicker than normal.  I guess my parents were right when they said I was hard-headed.  I was putting up a swing set once with my son-in-law (for our grandkids), and we were standing up the A-frames with the 4x6 cross member.  My A-frame must have come back a little too far, because the end of the 4x6 dropped down (about 2 feet) on to the top of my noggin.  My son-in-law freaked a little, asking if I was alright, but I just shook my head a little and was perfectly fine.  I didn't even have a bump later.

It's also hard for dentists to pull my back teeth because of my upper and lower jaw thickness.  Every time I've had it done, they have to drill into the center of the tooth, break it apart, then pull the pieces out.  The sounds coming through the bone can be pretty freaky while they do it.  The dentist said (also kiddingly) that I would probably never have to worry about someone breaking my jaw in a fight. 

I also have a couple of bone "bumps" on the inside of my lower jaw.  The dentist said that if I ever have dentures, they will probably have to cut the bumps off first.  It gives me willies just thinking about it. 

Even as a child, I had to have almost all of my baby teeth pulled by a dentist, because they wouldn't come out normally.  I don't know if this condition extends to the other bones in my body, although I've never had a broken bone.  I guess I should be thankful that my oddities aren’t disabling.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Staying the Course

My wife and I are coming up on our 30th wedding anniversary next month.  The last few years have been the happiest of our marriage, but it wasn't always that way.

We went through some extremely rocky periods, and quite a few periods where we just tried to stay out of each other's way to avoid arguing.  You can get into a spiral of anger and recriminations, saving up in your own little piggy bank of hate.  I won't go into the details, because it wouldn't serve any purpose at this point, except to say that we were probably both equally at fault.

Part of the problem was also that we are both such different people.  She is an outgoing, political and social conservative, evangelical Christian from a large household (she's one of 6 sisters), growing up very poor.  I'm an introverted, political and social progressive, non-Christian Unitarian, from  a small household (1 sister and me), growing up lower middle income.  Like positive and negative, the lightening could sometimes fly between us.

I think part of the change was that we both just got tired of being angry all the time, because it not only makes you feel bad mentally, it also affects you physically, like an illness.  We discovered that you can get into a spiral of love, also.  Doing small things for each other, remembering things that are important to each other, understanding each other, and showing your love whenever you can leads to more and more of the same.

We've also discovered that taking care of each other can be very fulfilling.  We both tend to be very independent and prefer doing things for ourselves.  But a while back I had to have surgery for a ruptured disc in my lower back.  I was bed-bound, not able to stand or sit for more than a few minutes because of the pain, for three weeks or so.  A year or so back, my wife had to have both knees replaced because of a congenital defect that left her walking bone-on-bone, without cartilage in her knee, by the age of 50.  She took care of me when I needed it, and I took care of her, both of us learning that we should accept the care of the other because it can make your partner feel very useful and giving.

We have also had periods recently where I was out of work for months at a time, getting only contract jobs without benefits.  My wife is in charge of the money, which we both agreed was for the best, and she not only kept the bills paid, but kept our credit rating from taking a hit.  We also found that it was possible for us to be together all the time for long stretches without eventually being at each other's throats.

So, we are planing to take 4 days down at the Canton, Texas Trade Days, away from the kids, grand kids, relatives, neighbors, and dog.  I'm as bad as she is at loving to shop for bargains, though we're usually interested in different things - I'm a computer and tool geek, she's more of a home and yard person.  We never got to take a honeymoon after we were married, so maybe we can make up for lost time.

For all you couples still going through the rough periods, please know that it can be worth it.  People's personalities usually don't change a lot, but they can certainly change the way they feel about things.  All it take is a little effort.  Nothing huge, just doing little things - many times for no special reason.

Like I said, you can get into a spiral either way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Country Life

A while back, I heard an unusual story from my wife when I got home after work.  You should know first that we live a bit out in the country.  The town we live in had less than 1000 people in it when we moved in 10 years ago.  It, and the towns on either side of ours, are all small enough that they have a single zip code and post office between them.

Anyway, my wife was out front mowing the yard, when a donkey came trotting down the road in front of our house. A few of the older houses in town have horses, chickens, and donkeys that were grandfathered in when the rules changed, and there are several ranches around the town. We know there is a donkey somewhere near us, because we can sometimes hear it braying at night.

Anyway, my wife wasn't very concerned at first, as the donkey seemed to be minding his own business on the other side of the road, and in the neighbor's yards, looking in windows and sniffing around the yards. Then it saw my wife and, for some reason, either took an instant dislike to her or instantly fell in love with her, because it started running toward her, braying and kicking the whole way.

My wife was terrified, and tried to keep the running lawnmower between her and the donkey, which seemed to hold it at bay, until she could manuver herself to get inside the house.  It seemed to lose interest after she was inside, and wandered away, so she didn't think she needed to call anyone.  Then she saw it coming back, and decided it might be a good idea to call the police.  Without thinking, she dialed 911, and then panicked because she didn't think it was a real emergency, and hung up.  Bad idea.

She couldn't reach the police for our town, but she finally reached the police for the neighboring town.  They apologized, and said it was out of their jurisdiction, and that the police for our small town were only on duty on certain days, yesterday not being one of those days (again - really small town).  She thanked them and said she would try to find someone else, but as soon as she hung up, the 911 operator was calling her back to find out what was going on.  My wife apologized profusely, and told the operator everything that had happened.  There was a pause on the other end, then the operator said "Did you say donkey?".  "Yes" my wife said, "As in hee-haw. Believe me, this is not a call I would ever have dreamed I would have to make".  The operator understood, and said she would need to send a sheriff's deputy out anyway, since there is always the possibility of someone making up a story to cover a domestic disturbance (although I don't think anyone would have ever made up a story like that).

The deputy arrived a short time later, smiled and said "So, I hear you're having a donkey problem?".  My wife told him the story, and he was very nice about it.  He said that he knew someone near us that kept a donkey, and that he would drive around to try and find it, as it had moved on by that time.  He even came in to say hello to our daughter, who loves anything about policemen and police cars.  He also told my wife that donkeys could be very territorial, and that might be the reason for the attack.  Apparently some horse and sheep ranchers even keep donkeys with their animals to protect them.

God, I love living in the country.  :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Emergency Triage for a Bird

I was picking up a few things at Mall Wart the other day and when I got back to my truck, I noticed a bird (I'm pretty sure it was a grackle, which is kind of like the avian version of a squirrel or rat - they tend to flock around the parking lots looking for scraps) that was stuck with it's foot in the crack between the hood and fender of the car next to mine.

I could see blood on the area beneath it, so I knew it was in trouble.  I went over, and saw that it had broken it's leg from thrashing around trying to get loose.  I tried to grab it's leg to pull it free, but it kept trying to peck me when I did.  An older man at a car nearby saw what was happening and came over, and fortunately he was wearing gloves.  He held the bird still while I worked the leg free from the crack.

We realized the leg was pretty much useless, as it was pretty much just hanging by skin, so I took out a pen knife I had to amputate what was left of it.  A few younger guys had seen what was happening and had gathered around, and all of them gave a collective wince/groan as I cut it loose.  I know it was wrong, but I couldn't help mentally calling them all wimps as they did.

The man holding it let it go and it flew off.  The younger guys wondered if it could survive like that, but the older man pointed out that it lighted on a sign with no problem, and that there was another bird with one leg sitting on another sign close by.

I went back to the truck and felt like I had done something at least a little worthwhile, until later when I remembered the blood on the person's car, and realized I should have at least tried cleaning it off, especially since the car was white.  There's no telling what they thought when they came back.  It looked like two tiny people had a duel to the death on the hood of their car.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hellooooooooooooooo Out There!

This my first time on BlogSpot, so bare (or is it bear) with me.

I previously wrote a bit on LiveJournal, but people seem to be vacating it, so I'll try this one.

My name is Damien (more than a bit Irish), happily married for 30 years to a wonderful woman, have 2 children (girls), and 4 grandchildren (2 of each - I guess my daughter finally figured out where they were coming from...).  Most of the rest of the basics you can probably get from the profile.

More later.