Saturday, May 29, 2004

Okay, time for a little parental bragging. As is true of many autistic kids, my boys are obsessed with water. My Youngest Son also is obsessed with fish. He has watched the fish at the local aquarium for many hours in the past few weeks, and last week at the beach he was imitating other children as they let themselves be washed ashore by the surf.

Yesterday, I noticed YS putting himself underwater in the backyard swimming pool and holding his breath for as long as he could. Our pool is about 2.5 feet deep, so he can float in it for a while. He's very nearly neutrally buoyant, something I envy. Anyway, he was doing some floating today. Then he started pushing himself off the side and bottom of the pool. Then he started using his hands and feet to propel himself in the water. Not much, but I saw a rudimentary stroke or two. Sua sponte swimming lessons! Very, very cool, and a proud moment for yours truly.

In other news, Older Son got up the courage last night and this morning to use a regular swing at the park instead of a handicapped one. He used to go on regular swings routinely, until he fell off of one and went splat into a gigantic mud puddle a couple of years ago.

We're planning to hit the beach tomorrow. It'll probably be in Mississippi; our last drive to the Alabama coast with the boys was a complete fiasco. Mississippi is much closer, so I won't be pissed or depressed if things don't go well.

Friday, May 28, 2004

As some of you know, I've had a crummy week. Yesterday, however, was so singularly bad that I could only laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I took yesterday off to go fetch my O.S. in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is about a 3.5-hour drive from home on a good day. I woke my Y.S. at about 7:15, processed him (meds, diaper, clothes, etc.), and put him in the car at 7:35. I realized I didn't have any money, so I went to the nearest ATM. Y.S. started tantruming on the way back, as we passed Toys R Us, Chuck-E-Cheese, WalMart, and Target. I realized that I had left the gate open, so I drove us back home, which got Y.S. even angrier. Finally, we got to Interstate 12 and headed towards Baton Rouge.

About 10 miles from Baton Rouge, traffic came to a complete stop. The bridge into B.R. was closed by an accident. Now, my boys are on a medication schedule, and I didn't bring Y.S.'s meds in the car because I already had built in 1.5 hours or so of delays and assumed we would be back in time. However, it seemed like this delay would be 3-4 hours, which would mean turning around and going home, and not bringing O.S. home at all.

I went into panic mode, pulled onto the shoulder, and drove a few yards. A cop popped out from behind a car and directed me to stop. There was no escape, as traffic was totally stopped. So I got ticketed. As he wrote the ticket, I thought about my strategy for getting it dismissed. It may work, I don't know. I then got back into the traffic lane. It took us 1.5 hours to go 1.5 miles. Suddenly, the bridge into Baton Rouge reopened and we were able to move along. But my mood wasn't the greatest.

I picked up my sister in B.R., and we headed north. She wanted to gossip about various family members, but I was not in the mood. I brightened up when we arrived at the St. Mary's school. Y.S. was strangely curious about O.S.'s dormitory, and he wandered around while O.S.'s trainer showed me what she had packed. I collected the boys and went back to the van. I let my sister drive back to B.R. while I played in the back with the boys. We had fun. Rush hour in B.R. was a bitch, which darkened my mood somewhat. B.R. is way worse than New Orleans during rush hour, so I try to time things to avoid it.

Anyhow, we got home about 2 hours after I had intended. We medicated the boys and let them splash around in the pool I put up Wednesday night. They fell asleep around 8:30. Oh well, they'll sleep in and we can breathe easy in the morning. Nope, O.S. was up at 3:10 a.m., wanting to watch Thomas and Blue. He let us sleep while he turned on the t.v. and watched informercials. Y.S. came in at 5:00 a.m., wanting to drink Coke and go play in the pool again.

And that was my day off. Work isn't so bad sometimes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

From "The Late Show with David Letterman:"

Top Ten Things Never Before Said on "The Sopranos"

10. "You don't have any money? That's cool"
(Dominic Chianese)

9. "Screw this home cooking -- I'm going to the Olive Garden"
(Aida Turturro)

8. "In addition to disposing of bodies, you'll need to know how to use Powerpoint and Excel"
(Steven Van Zandt)

7. "Wasn't that the guy from Springsteen's E Street Band?"
(Robert Iler)

6. "I just hooked up an illegal cable box. Now I'm getting free HBO"
(Jamie-Lynn Discala)

5. "Tony, I'm gonna need to leave early today for Rosh Hashanah"
(Tony Sirico)

4. "I want a bigger part -- what are you gonna do, kill my character?"
(Drea de Matteo)

3. "Hey Paulie, how about you and me going up to Massachusetts and getting married?"
(Michael Imperioli)

2. "I can't go to prison -- Martha Stewart will eat me alive!"
(Edie Falco)

1. "I just whacked myself"
(James Gandolfini)

Friday, May 21, 2004

President Bush is Louisiana today, to deliver a speech at LSU and to raise money.  I got to thinking about the upcoming election the other day, and I don't know if I can vote for either Bush or Kerry.  In my opinion, Bush does not deserve reelection.  He took the country into a war on flawed intelligence, then underestimated the aftermath.  His reckless fiscal policies have contributed to massive deficits.  His administration is arrogant and secretive, and everything with this White House is ideological, not practical.  Finally, I'm opposed to amending the Constitution in the way Bush seeks to do.

Bush has done a few good things.  His response to 9/11 was nearly perfect.  He raised morale in the aftermath of that event and justifiably went to war in Afghanistan.  And his reckless fiscal policies put more money in MY pocket.

On the other hand, John Kerry is the quintessential Eastern establishement liberal, a type I just can't listen to for more than five minutes at a time.  Morever, I fear that he suffers from the Vietnam syndrome in foreign and defense policy.  Iraq showed that the US should not plunge headlong into military adventures without a parachute, so to speak.  However,  the US is the US, and should not be hesitant about using force and supporting bad regimes when it is appropriate.  I agree with Samuel Huntington that in order to protect our liberal, open society, we must be willing to behave cynically abroad.  I don't know whether Kerry shares my views.  And Kerry is boring, too.

I take some comfort in Craig the Philospher Lawyer's theory that individual votes don't matter.  Maybe I'll vote for the Natural Law Party this year.  That would be in keeping with my Eastern outlook.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Today's Daily Zen:

Your notion that thoughts arise
Leads to a notion that you
Must prevent them
From arising.
These conflicting ideas
Are both wrong.
Look well at the source
Beyond mental activity.

- Daito (1282-1334)

What do you think this means? My meditation manual discusses the notion that thoughts just come and go, and that much of what we view as realities are nothing more than mere thoughts. But what is the source of our thoughts and why would anybody want to stop them from being generated? Do thoughts arise from reality, via perception and consciousness? Is that dangerous?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Sorry, Dave, but I couldn't resist the urge to bring up this week's Sopranos episode. It was either brilliant or terrible, depending on your point of view. Tony's 21-minute dream sequence was one of the most surreal things I've ever seen on television. However, the way it was done reminded me of my own more vivid dreams -- totally disjointed, fast-moving, seemingly illogical scenes dredged up from my subconscious to try to tell me something. There was a ton of symbolism, some of which is common to dreamers (DW, for instance, has the same thing with teeth falling out that Tony had in his dream), and some of which was unique to the Soprano situation. What I got out of it is that Tony is deeply insecure about his position as a mob boss (particularly now that he's in deep shit with Johnny Sack); that he is insecure as a father; that he is somewhat disillusioned about his career choice; and that he knows he's got two specific issues that must be resolved quickly but that he is unprepared to deal with emotionally. All this internal angst and insecurity after an episode in which Tony was a complete jerk to everybody.

My first reaction was "what the hell was that?" However, after thinking through a little, I think I liked it. I'll have to take another look at it.

I decided to follow everybody else and redecorate. I also decided not to use the Haloscan comments, which evidently lost everybody's previous contributions to my little corner of the Internet. Sorry about that. I just like this format better.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

I took my Youngest Son to the Aquarium of the Americas this morning. He knew exactly where we were going once I turned into the Canal Place parking garage, so he gladly got out of the car without the plastic doo-dads he's been obsessed with lately. We spent about two hours in the place, running from tank to tank. He shouted with glee the whole time, so loudly that one girl covered her ears and ran to her father. He didn't seem to care; I certainly didn't. YS is definitely my son -- he loved the sharks, big and small, and he pent more time at their exhibits than anyplace else. He has no idea that they are ultra-efficient killers; I suppose he just thought they looked nice as they swam. He climbed into (and up) the concave window on the big shark tank and watched the killer pelagics swim up only inches away. He tried to touch some large Brazilian fish in the Amazon exhibit that swam to the surface, and he loved watching the penguins eat. Later on, we went to PetsMart to look at dogs. Ironically, in light of his fondness for sharks, he was very much afraid of the small dogs on display at the store.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. I had a brilliant idea a few minutes ago, inspired by a car accident on Interstate 12.

Coastal erosion is a serious issue along the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States, particularly in Louisiana. The southeastern portion of the state was created by the silt left over from Mississippi River flooding and now that the river doesn't flood anymore, there's no more silt. Also, global warming appears to be causing some encroachment of salt water. There may be other factors at play, I don't know.

A few years ago, the State came up with the idea of building dykes using old Christmas trees, placed in wire pens. This has helped the problem somewhat, but more needs to be done. On the way home tonight, DW pointed out a car in the ditch. I joked about just pushing the car into the woods instead of wasting time and money pulling it out, and then my inner environmentalist had another idea. Why not use junked cars instead of Christmas trees to slow coastal erosion? Imagine how much more effective a wall of old Suburbans would be than a bunch of Christmas trees! Marine life would flock to the structure, and the resulting reef would be an environmental boon. Why, tourists might even flock to Port Fourchon to view this wonder of the Gulf.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I've been thinking a lot lately about spirituality -- what it is and how it is attained. Last week I discussed the topic with a couple of people, and some of the comments in response to one of Ann's postings discussed the topic.

I think of spirituality as a connection of the individual's mind and soul with an external, perhaps universal force that lifts and motivates the individual to live, love, and exercise compassion. I personally need to feel that kind of connection to something larger than, and outside of, myself. I've come to believe that there is not just one way to achieve individual spirituality and that the spirit speaks to different people in different ways. Lately, of course, I've been attracted to Buddhist thinking and meditation practices. Some folks -- including skeptics -- cannot separate the concept of individual spirituality from the institutional church and its dogmas and doctrines.

What do y'all think? Is there an innate human need for spirituality? How is it achieved? Can spirituality be disconnected from religious dogma?

Monday, May 10, 2004

I returned my Oldest Son to his school today after his first visit home since being placed at the school at the end of February. I stopped off at Pie Capital of Louisiana on the way home, but, alas, it is closed on Mondays. I went to the gas station and got a moon pie. Not quite what I had in mind, but it did the trick for this redneck.

O.S. loved his long weekend at home, but I think he was ready to go back. We took him to all of his favorite places, bought him 3 or 4 SpongeBob notebooks, and bought him gobs and oodles of french fries and pizza. Yesterday he kept pestering me to go in the car and wasn't satisfied with anyplace I took him. I thought he wanted to go to the park next to the local train depot, but I didn't dare do that solo with Younger Son in tow. So I took him there this morning, but he just wanted to look at the Amtrak Crescent City Limited and go to the potty. I suspect he was trying to tell me yesterday that he wanted to return to his school. Maybe, I really don't know.

DW and I weren't sure what to expect on the ride back. I insisted on taking it on myself and leaving DW back here so I would be the only one who saw O.S. tantruming and crying. I feared I was in for 4-5 hours of hell, counting potty breaks. Anyhow, this morning I let O.S. ride the bus to his old school, then got in the van and raced over to meet him there. I think Y.S. must have seen me there because I could hear him screaming up a storm before the buses were unloaded. A para brought O.S. over to where I was trying to hide. O.S. wanted nothing to do with that para or with his old teacher, both of whom were near and dear to him. I put him in the van and drove to the train depot park, just in time for the rain to start. And what a rain it was! Good thing we drove out of it and to a whole other part of the state. O.S. was happy as a clam all the way to Alexandria, something that stunned me. O.S. has an uncanny sense for landmarks and geography, so I have no doubt he knew exactly where we were going. He did great until we made that last right turn onto Louisiana Hwy. 1, which leads to the school. He cried for that last 5 minute stretch, something that has torn a little piece out of my heart every time we've gone to see him up there.

When we got back to the school, there was some confusion over where O.S. should go. I took him from the clinic to his classroom, then to the school office. Three women surrounded O.S., and he dropped to the ground. I heard him say "BAY-AITCH!" loudly, and I couldn't help but laugh. The school people weren't as amused as I was, so I quickly chided O.S. We went back to his classroom, and his dorm trainer took him to find a toy. I could hear him screaming as I left. Of course, he was fine when I called an hour later.

I suspect that O.S.'s ideal world would consist of DW and I moving to his school. I think he wanted to be back there but didn't want to be separated from me. I really have no way of knowing, other than by observing his behavior and his moods in the car.

The structure at O.S.'s school seems to have done him a world of good in the 8-9 weeks he's been up there. He was very well behaved and took direction much better than I've ever seen. His speech is much improved over what it was a few months ago. A part of me -- a fairly large part -- wanted this setup to fail miserably so we could bring O.S. back home. However, a larger part of me wants to see my boys in a situation where they can develop to their fullest potentials. I hurt when O.S. cries about going back, but I rejoice in knowing that he is improving.

Y.S. was a holy terror the whole time O.S. was home. Jealousy, jealousy, jealousy!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I thought about Dave today when I stopped off in the town of Lecompte, known in these parts as the Pie Capital of Louisiana. I stopped off at the renowned Lea's Lunch Room with my Oldest Son and picked up a couple of pies on the way home from his school in Alexandria, LA. I'm going to eat a piece in a minute. Mmmmm, floor pie!

I was actually anxiety-ridden all day long about bringing OS home for the weekend. Is it too soon? How will Younger Son react? Am I up for running around non-stop like I used to do on weekends? Will my sister quit talking in the car? Also, I think there was a bit of an aftereffect from the last time I went up without DW along. I had a few heavy-breathing episodes, but fortunately nobody else seemed to notice. I don't understand it -- my overall anxiety level has gone down since I went on a mental-health regimen, but I have more anxiety attacks. Fortunately, they're easy to manage and get over.

I stroked OS's head as he fell asleep a few minutes ago. Putting the boys to sleep has always been a high point of my days, at least when they're actually going to sleep and not just making a play for attention. Anyway, it was a very nice moment tonight.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Well, I called it right about the disabilities legislation I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Today the MR/DD systems-change bill died in committee. I still have mixed feelings the issue -- my oldest son appears to be adjusting well to his residential school, but that school is an exception. And I'd like to have the resources to bring him home.

I was pissed off yesterday because I got a note from an advocacy group urging support of a scaled-back version of the systems-change legislation; the new bill would have merely created a one-year pilot program to allow 100 currently institutionalized kids to move back into the community. I immediately shot back with a nasty little stinkbomb that basically said that it's time to shit or get off the pot -- the pro-community activists need to get serious about dealing with a Legislature that doesn't take them seriously. Our state is in pretty flagrant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the MR/DD legal advocates need to take that into court. Maybe they will now.

The nun who runs my oldest son's school is extremely passionate about keeping her school operating. The pro-community activists don't come close to matching her passion.

I just wrote a thank-you note to the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. He and four of his players paid a visit to my oldest son's residential school this morning. I knew that the "Saints Caravan" was in that general area this week, but I didn't know it planned to stop by the school. I need to remember tomorrow to ask my son's trainer whether he got any autographed photos. My oldest son loves to catch balls, run at people, and be tackled, so who knows? Go Saints Go!

Monday, May 03, 2004

I haven't commented on my favorite television show in a while, so here goes. Last night's Sopranos was one for the ages. Good gosh, it was funny. The overarching theme seemed to be lies and excuses, with many bad events being blamed on "Unidentified Black Males," which was the title of the episode. Tony S. repeats the lie about black guys killing Joey Peeps. Even Meadow repeats the lie that black drug dealers killed her ex-boyfriend, Jackie Jr., whose sister accurately portrayed her brother's assailant as "some fat fuck in see-through socks." The kicker is when Tony S. reveals to Melfi his long-secret lie about something he has always blamed on a couple of unidentified black guys. The truth is far more interesting.

I had a poignant moment regarding my Younger Son in the park yesterday. Fortunately, it came after a sort of high-point moment, so the net effect wasn't too negative.

I took YS to PetSmart so he could look at the SPCA dogs and pet them if he dared. The SPCA ladies know him by name now, and they know that he is MR, so they encourage him to play with the animals. To my surprise, YS assertively petted (word?) one of the dogs, and he tried to pull the ears of a massive German Shepherd. YS adores dogs, so the realization that he could pet them without being hurt made him a little giddy.

I needed to keep YS out a little longer (DW has a stomach flu this weekend and she was napping), so I took hiim to a large public park. YS's current obsession is magic marker caps. Not the pens, just the caps. He dumped his caps at the bottom of a curvy slide, then climbed up the slide and came back down. He arranged his caps again, climbed again, then came back down. A boy approached me with a toy gun and asked about the caps. I conversed with the boy for a few minutes. He told me that he is 5 years old and that he was born in December. "Oh," I said, "his birthday is in November." Okay, this boy is one month younger than my YS. "Why does he cry like a baby? Is he some kind of baby?" asked the boy. I debated how to answer that. I didn't want to ruin a 5 year old's afternoon in the park by trying to explain that my son has severe brain disorders, so I just said, "oh, he's still a baby in a lot of ways." Fortunately, that answer satisfied the boy.

YS collected some of his caps and ran across the park to another slide, then came back, grabbed some more caps, and ran across the park again. I schlepped the remaining caps over for him. The other boy asked me if I would do him a favor and let him shoot me with his toy gun. Sure, why not. I did death throes and falls to the ground worthy of an Academy Award. I even pretended to bounce off of a tree after being shot multiple times. I saw the boy's mother and grandfather busting a gut on a park bench as I played the dramatically dying victim. For a moment, I felt what it would be like to have non-disabled, "typical" children. DW feels that frequently and deeply. She worked as a nanny for several years, and she has much younger siblings, so she knows what it's like to be around typically abled children. I really have no basis for comparison, so I guess I'm kind of lucky.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I studied and fiddled a little with the "five hindrances" to meditation practice this past week. Attachment, aversion, sleepiness, restlessness, and doubt. The first four are pretty obvious, but I had some trouble wrapping my brain around the notion that doubt can hinder effective meditation. After a Heineken and and episode of Six Feet Under put me in a properly warped state of mind last night, I think I kind of got it. My meditation workbook defines doubt as "an inability to make a commitment, or to take the risk of finding out for yourself where a certain path might lead." The workbook warns in particular against skeptical doubt, something I've always tended to see positively. Because of my preconceived idea on the subject, it took me a while to see it in a new light. Anyhow, the author explains that "because we're unable to commit or take a risk, we remove ourselves from the process of discovery. We stay at a safe distance. Instead of letting something speak to us, we obsessively analyze it; perhaps we disparage or judge it. We haven't actually experienced it fully or deeply because we haven't allowed ourselves to. That is how doubt functions in the mind: we remain immobilized at the fork in the road." According to the author, doubt is a "very jumpy state. You hop from one thing to the next, considering and wondering and judging and assessing." The cure is to let the mind settle, "even on a simple object in the moment." It's a concept labeled "sustaining attention."

I think a certain amount of skeptical doubt is good, and I like at least reading deep intellectual discussions even if I don't always feel qualified to participate in them. However, at some point, one has to take a leap of faith in some direction. Try something out and see if it works. If not, try something else. I see rather a lot of the less positive side of skeptical doubt on the Foyer, quite honestly -- good people bashing their heads against the proverbial wall because they can deconstruct and disparage all of the contradictions in the belief system about which they formerly were passionate. However, they are unable to take a leap of faith from purely rational analysis to something positive and spiritually affirming. I suppose this is to be expected to some degree, given the harsh anti-intellectual, follow-the-prophet rhetoric from the pulpit in Salt Lake City. However, a leap of faith and ignorant, blind obedience are different animals. It's taken me a while to grasp that. Thanks for the great comments, Doug. I've gone back and edited some things. Thoughts?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Well, this certainly is shaping up as a weird weekend. I feel absolutely no motivation to do anything, and this morning it was as if I could feel my noreprenephrine and seratonin levels dropping by the hour. I took Younger Son to Petsmart to play with other peoples' dogs, then to the park for a while. That actually helped with the brain chemistry thing, but I still don't feel terribly motivated.

On the brighter side, I will be heading up to Alexandria, LA, later this week to bring Older Son home for his first weekend visit since we placed him at St. Mary's in late February. I'm looking forward to playing with him, though not looking forward to the jealousy Younger Son is sure to exhibit.