Monday, November 21, 2011

Kindle Fire vs. iPad

I am not sure that I want either…  But there are a lot of things I now find indispensible that I, at one time, never wanted.  Being a bit of an anti-technology luddite, it takes me awhile to warm up to these things…

Kindle Fire review: Amazon’s new tablet isn’t nearly as good as the iPad. But it’s really cheap - Slate Magazine:

I found that it delivers: Amazon set out to build an underachieving tablet, and that’s exactly what it got.
Fans of the iPad will regard these flaws as losing the whole ballgame, and many will dismiss Amazon’s device as just another in a long line of failed iPad killers. But that would be shortsighted. The Fire’s got a lot of problems, but none of them outweighs its one overriding advantage: It’s super cheap. In my few days using the device, I managed to do pretty much everything that I like to do on my iPad. Still, when you take into account its reduced capabilities and inferior interface, I’d rate the Fire as something like 70 percent of an iPad. When you consider that the Fire costs only 40 percent as much as Apple’s tablet, though, that’s not a bad deal.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

A strange trip through the past year…

From 2011-11 (Nov)

I didn’t re-read everything I migrated over from the old Live Journal blog tonight, other than glancing at a few paragraphs here and there…

The last year was an uncommon year.  An unusual year.  And it is a year I hope not to have to repeat ever again.

A lot of “spam” out to the social networks today.  Looks like Facebook and Twitter quit taking the Hootsuite posts.  Maybe I should have scheduled them.  That would have been more work than it was worth, though.

Now, as I go back through the remaining nine years worth of posts, I am not going to post them at the top of the blog, I am going to back date them.  But I knew this was a lightly posted though eventful year, so I thought it would be interesting (okay, maybe a few years from now) to have the details sorted out in order like this.  Of course, since they are out of sequence now, I may never be able to find them later!

Blah.  A couple chores and then bed.  Long day tomorrow.

The main reason I wanted to jam through all of that, though, was to test out the new posting system, and I would call it a success.  Also, I was able to populate with a lot of posts from all four blogs to help get the new “Related Posts” app up, running, and functional.


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Update from California

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (November 12, 2010)

Current Location:
Fair Oaks, CA


Well, I guess checking my email every day or two was a bit optimistic this week, since it has been a week since I have been on-line.  Mom had a bit of a setback on Tuesday and ended up being rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.  Turns out that she developed Congestive Heart Failure from all of the fluids they pumped into her to get her kidneys working again.


She was back home by Wednesday afternoon, though, and is doing very well.  She is on meds to get rid of the excess fluids, is breathing better, and apparently has suffered no permanent heart damage.


But Melissa and I have been busy since then.  Tried to make it out yesterday, but by the time we were done with the drop in nurse and the physical therapist, it was getting too late to find a cafĂ©.


We're all doing well enough, though.  Just getting by one day at a time.  Mom's strength is returning, and we are getting her appointments set up for next week to start with her follow up care and to start  addressing the issues that led to her collapse last week. 


There is a lot of work to be done, and it looks like I'll be setting up camp in Sacramento for quite some time.  Today is also the first time I've had in quite some time to sit down and to follow up on some business I've been neglecting up north, but hopefully I can resolve any current loose ends right now without having to make an unexpected hell run up I-5. 


Right now, my plans are pretty vague.  Depending on some things, right now it looks like I'll probably be down here, though, except for maybe one week this month, and probably next month will look pretty much the same as this one.


Melissa is back from Europe on paid leave from the Air Force and can probably stay through the end of the year, but, right now, it is still a lot of work for one person to handle on their own.  Since I also have more experience dealing with these sorts of issues than she does, I hesitate leaving her on her own for more than a week or so at a time for the next couple months.  Not that she is not plenty capable on her own, she is, but all the help she can get makes it a better situation for everyone involved; Melissa, Mom, and Mario (Mom's husband, who is exhausted from working full time on top of looking out for Mom for the last year).


 The good news, though, is that, at this point, there appears to be no reason why Mom should not be able to get back up to nearly full speed in the next couple months, but getting here there will take a lot of work from all of us.


As for myself, I am hanging in there.  For the most part, I really couldn't have scheduled a better time for something like this to come up.  Still, it is tough being away from home.  I am using my phone a lot keeping in touch with everyone back up north, and I am starting to get to know a few people down here and getting settled into some interesting meetings here.  So I am hanging in there, except for a nasty cold that wiped me out pretty bad last Sunday and Monday.


So all is as well as can be.  And for that, I am very grateful.

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Final Update From California?

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (January 27, 2011 4:07 PM)
Current Location:
Fair Oaks, CA
Current Mood:
apathetic apathetic
Current Music:

Well, hopefully. I may be delayed a few days on the return due to personal issues, not issues with Mom, but I should be home next week, one way or the other. It will be good. It has been three months and I feel that I have done pretty much all I can here (or will have by next week) and I am more than ready to return to my life up north.

I am tired and burned out. It is not that it has been a lot of hard work, or unpleasant, or anything like that. I think it has a lot more to do with just missing home. Not really homesick, but just feeling ready to go home. My days have been pretty busy, between helping Mom, keeping up with some nasty issues involving the boys up north, and trying to get some work done on some personal writing projects while I have the time, and while things will not necessarily be any less hectic up north, probably even more so for the first couple weeks, I will, at least, be in my own home, surrounded by good friends, etc.

So it was a bit disappointing to find out today that I may be delayed for a couple of days. It has left me, well, I don't know… Just taking a break, this afternoon, sitting in Starbucks, getting on line for what will probably be the last chance I have to do so for a while, and just feeling a bit numb. Starting tomorrow, I need to get serious about the final push, wrapping up a bunch of chores, before heading out next week. I should have started today, but I just couldn't find the traction. After dinner, Mom and I are hitting a meeting and then I need to check in with Jenna and the boys, but that is about all I have in me today.

I think, this week, I really started feeling like my life is on hold for the first time since all of this started back in November. I've been hearing about things going on with the boys back home and I am really feeling the need to be up there. And Mom is doing remarkable well and has been getting out and about on her own this week, so the primary purpose of my stay has pretty much wrapped up. 

And it is time to get back home. On to the job hunt. As a friend of mine put it recently, it's not looking for a job, it is getting a job. It has been two years and a long road between my last contract and my next one, or any sort of employment (not necessarily holding out for a technical writing position), and while getting back into the fray does feel a bit intimidating, I think I am ready. As for the health issues that were plaguing me for a year and a half or so, I feel better than I have felt in years. 

So I am stuck in the transition today. The plans I made fell through as far as leaving on Monday. That is still a possibility, but I will not know for sure until tomorrow. And I am getting tired of all of the "If this, then that’s…" which have been a big part of life for the last three months. I thought, short term, those were done. I guess not.

But it is what it is and it could be a hell of a lot worse. I suppose this is not much of an update when it comes to any real facts or information, but it is what it is, and it probably is a pretty true reflection of how I feel this afternoon. A bit larger than I need to be and devoid of much content. But that is just a state I am passing through.

I am really looking forward to the drive home. I am really looking forward to taking a couple of days to myself when I get home without worrying about much of anything (yeah, right). I am really looking forward to seeing some friends. And I am really looking forward to seeing my children. I suppose that as much as anything explains my mood right now. A lot of looking forward, not a lot of anything to look at right here, right now, today.

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Notes on the current family situation...

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (February 18, 2011 12:21 PM)

Written on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 6:31 AM


As some of you know, while I was in California for three months helping Mom through some tough issues, things in Beaverton with the boys did not go well.  It was a very difficult choice deciding whether to stay in California or to come home to Oregon, and after much prayer, meditation, and counsel with others I made the decision that my time was better spent in California.  There was more that I could do there to be immediately helpful to Mom than I could do in Oregon to be helpful to Jenna and the boys.


Down there, I was a live-in assistant, up here I could be nothing more than a part-time dad.  This is just one of the realities of life since last Summer when Jenna and the boys moved from the complex across the street from me to Beaverton.  So even if I had put on my superhero tights and flown home in a frenzy, swooping in to save the day, I would only have been saving two or three days a week and the rest of the time the boys and their Mom would have still been left to their own devices.


And we've done the daddy living on the couch thing before.  For about a year, from the Spring of 2009 to the Spring of 2010, I was on the couch across the street most nights, probably about 75% of the time that year.  Yes, the boys did pretty well when I was there, but it was crippling to my life and, it is obvious now, no real, long term improvements occurred.  The problems Jenna and the boys were having before I took up residence on the couch were still there when I left the couch and, by last fall, things had once again become almost as bad as they ever have been.   And I lost a year of my life.  I was not able to focus on the things I needed to focus on regarding my own health issues and rebuilding my life in the aftermath of those health issues.  Issues such as getting back to work, which is still the next thing on life's agenda for me.


So taking up residence in the Beaverton house is not the solution.  We've tried it.  It didn't work.  While it did have some benefits, and while the boys did better temporarily, no long term changes occurred.  It was a band-aid solution to deeper problems that were just put in stasis for the year.  It would be foolish to repeat the experiment.


Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 2, 2011 11:53 AM)

Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM
Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.
However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.
In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.
I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.

It has been a crazy four months. Hell, it has been pretty crazy for the past 11 months. I think I have hit a bit of a slump in the last couple weeks. My endurance has been down since I had that nasty cold a couple weeks ago and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Nothing major, though. I've just been moving at a slower pace for the last week and a half or so.   A slower pace, I fear, than life really allows right now, but it is what it is.

Not that I have been a couch potato by any means. In the last two weeks I've put around 850 miles on the car. And last week was, for me, a low mileage week. But I've just been having a hard time cramming 30 hour days into the 24 hour days we are given. I've been having to hit the pause button from time to time. I've been having to behave like a mortal. Damn it.


So I am doing things like today, taking a slow morning, watching some Daily Show clips and writing a bit. Later on I need to go check in with a charitable organization about getting my power bill paid before it is shut off.   Then I need to go visit a friend at the VA who is dying from cancer.   Vague plans have also been made involving grocery runs store and helping a friend pick up some of his things from his ex-girlfriend's place. I suspect that only one of these chores, the most important, will be accomplished today. Yesterday, tomorrow and Friday were and are set aside for Beaverton family issues. Those runs tend to fill most of my day up by the time I drive out and back.   It is not, by any means, a slow week, but it is only Wednesday morning and I already feel like this week is a wash when it comes to other, critical tasks that I need to accomplish.


But the main thing I need to accomplish in life right now is getting back to work. And in this area, my efforts have been severely lacking. I can blame family issues, internet issues, and other fires that have needed attention before commencing with a full time job search, but I do not feel that these excuses really explain my slacking in this department. Life has been busy, and my endurance has been low, and my access to the internet has been limited during my "free" time, but this is a crucial task that I need to get started on.


I've been feeling a bit frustrated and down the last couple weeks, and I know that not starting the job hunt is the main reason. I feel a bit stalled in life. Until I returned from California, of course, the time just wasn't yet right for me to return to work, but now it is. It is the vital next step in getting my life put back together after the health issues that derailed me for two years. It is also, after a month of reviewing the difficult family situation, where I can help there the most. Once I get back to work I will have the ability to make longer term plans with the family and I will, hopefully, have a little bit of cash to help out here and there and to get the boys out and about more.


At this point, I am really not even looking at getting started on this project until the weekend, but at that point, it really needs to become the top priority in life. This may mean being less available to the family for awhile, at least until I get really entrenched in this project, but I need to make it happen.


Still, I cannot beat myself up about taking so long to get started on this. I knew, when I returned from California, that it would probably take two or three weeks to get started on this new phase in my life, and, at this point, halfway through my fourth week home, I suppose I am only a few days behind my original schedule. What a sin. Still, life has been so busy that it feels like I have been back a lot longer than I really have been and that I am further behind schedule than I really am.


And the "distractions" I have been dealing with since my return have been pretty major, and there have been some solid accomplishments. While I feel that the situation with the family is still pretty bad, I do feel that I have been able to put together a clear view of what is going on over there and to come up with a solid definition of what my role can be moving forward there. It is a difficult role, relying more on inaction rather than action, but after much prayer, meditation and talk with others, I feel it is the healthiest for me and for the family. I need to focus on making my home the healthiest it can be for when the boys are with me, and I can help out over there when and how I am asked, and that is just about it.


Another big change in life is that, last week, I picked up a, so far, part-time, temporary roommate. This has been a very good situation for both of us. He is a fellow that I've been working with in the recovery community and, to this point, this new arrangement has been working out very well for both of us (for me, at least, I hope he feels the same). He has been helping me get caught up on a couple chores, helping out with some expenses where he can, and just having someone around helps keep me focused on life. The latter is huge. It will probably be another week before we look at how to work the boys into this situation but, for right now, I feel this is only a temporary delay in our weekends and the benefits, for me, perhaps selfishly, out weigh the cost of this two week interruption with the boys. Essentially, when it comes down to it, I cannot afford this place completely on my own right now, and it has come time to accept that I need some more help, even if it is slight, if I want to continue living here. God provided.


So, life is moving in the right directions. My return from California marked a huge transition between phases of life for me. While transitions can be touchy areas in my life, this one has been a good one and the new shape of life that is emerging is a very good one. It is still a work in progress, of course, but life always is, at least if we are growing. And if we are not growing we are dying.


It is time for another small transition in life. I do feel like, after three and a half weeks, that I am settled back into home now. I've settled into the family situation in Beaverton and I've settled back into my roles in the local recovery community. The foundations are laid and are solid. So now it is time to move ahead into Phase IV of my plan to take over the world, so to speak. It is time to get back to work. And with the work I have done since my return, I feel like I am in a really strong place as I move forward into this next phase of my life.


Now, if I could only figure out how to squeeze another six to eight hours out of every day...


Of course, I just got a call that Jason needs to be picked up from school and Jenna is not available, so today just got a bit fuller...

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Powerlessness and Unmanageability; Fear and Faith...

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 3, 2011, 9:58 AM)

The last few days I have been feeling very overwhelmed and a little down. I've been focusing a lot on what I haven't been able to do and not on what I have been able to do and what I can do. This funk has extended across all the boundaries in my life, from recovery to family to work (which is looking for work right now). Last night, surrounded by good friends, I heard something that reminded me of some basic principals that I have been neglecting the last few days, and afterwards, I felt much better.

I had to sit down and take a look at some fundamentals. Have I been doing the next right thing as it comes along? Yes, I have. This is not always what I plan, since when I make plans, God laughs, but I have been doing the next right thing as life is presented to me. I've been able to help my family a bit, I've been able to help some people in recovery a bit, I've been getting a few basics taken care of in my life. I have been clean and sober. I have been sane. All of these are good things and I should take none of them lightly or for granted, I should be thankful for them. To paraphrase the Sheen, I've been winning.

Have I been caught up in self-will, or have I been trying to follow God's plan for me to the best of my ability, thinking of what I could do for others, of what I "could pack into the stream of life?" Here, too, I feel I pass the test well. While I have taken some time over the past week or so to take care of my own health and sanity, a couple naps, a couple long walks, and a couple hours in the hills taking pictures and decompressing, my life over this period has been all about helping others, primarily my family and others in the recovery community. While right now the work with my family is very frustrating, my work within the recovery community has been very rewarding. Sometimes I worry that I put these people too far ahead of myself, and that is a danger, but this work is also very selfish in some ways, it is the core of the recovery program that makes everything in my life possible. Without it, I can easily get lost in much darker territory than the little funk I've been wandering through the last few days.

Most of this funk, I can see, has come about from forgetting a couple key principals of my life, primarily that I am powerless and that life is unmanageable for any human power, including my own. Instead of surrendering, doing the next right thing, and letting God lead me, I've been bucking the reigns a bit and this has created the feelings of frustration that have been creeping up on me recently.

Yesterday, I had plans that I could not follow through on because they were not the next right thing to do, picking my kid up from school and helping out in Beaverton were the plans God made for me. Yesterday, I was frustrated because my family does not follow or, apparently, value my advice or parenting experience with my children, nor do they seem to value or follow the advice of the many years worth of counselors, therapists, and doctors who have been involved. But all of that is beyond my control. I can not change them or control them, I only have power over my own actions and my reactions in those situations. I have to, as they say, "let go and let God..."

Another element I have been dealing with is fear. Quite a bit of it, in fact. Fear over my finances, fear about the welfare of my children, fear over my own personal security at home and the ability to keep it safe and sane (essentially, security, safety, and sanity here being defined as keeping the lights on, food in the fridge, and the rent paid). I need to combat that fear with faith, and action. Of course, it is the action part that has been kicking me in the ass. I've been trying to get some things done in this department, and I have done what I could, for the most part, as I could. But I fear that it is not enough or that it is too little too late. I fear that if I ask for help it will be denied, or that the cost of the help will be intolerable, so I run the risk of procrastination. I may have some difficult choices to make today, and I fear choices… Choices are dangerous things for me that must be handled with much caution (and only with prayer, meditation, and council with others).

So, while I feel I have been doing the best I can in the action department, I have been lacking a bit of faith here, and this has been taking its toll on me. And this, really, lies at the root of everything I've been going through for the past week or so. I've been lacking faith in myself, in others, and in God. I've been letting fear seep in, tainting my days, and I've been letting it distract me from faith. I've been lowering the white flag, and seeing life as a battle to be won, not as a path to be followed. I've been trying to navigate that path according to my own will instead of following it to its inevitable destinations.

When I grab the map and start charting my own course, I lead myself and others into trouble. Things can get pretty bad, pretty quick. For the most part, I have not done this recently, but I've been fighting the urge to grab the map and to take charge. If I truly have surrendered my will and my life to a power greater than myself, then I need to have faith, and take comfort, in the assurance that God is leading me to exactly where he needs me right now. I may not like that place, it may not be the most comfortable place, it might not be where I want to be right now, but it will be where I need to be right now. His will, not mine…

Time to start today.

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On Parenting: The Perils of Friendly Negotiations


Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 15, 2011 2:07 PM)

The following was written after reading an article on, “Experiencing Teen Drama Overload? Blame Biology” by Patti Neighmond.


Really excellent article.  I think the section on girls has some good information about being a mother, regardless if they have a son or a daughter (still, thank God I have boys), and I really liked the section about boys.  I already see these some of these patterns emerging in my eleven year old, though he is a lot more sensitive than a lot of boys his age. 

One of the real keys I've found as a parent, so far, and the first few paragraphs of the article reminded me of this, is how important it is to remember that we must be parents first, friends second.  This does not mean that we cannot be friends, or friendly, but that if we focus too much on being friends, it becomes really difficult to be the parent.  It can be confusing, difficult, and painful for both the parent and for the child when we have to suddenly stop being a friend and switch over into the parent role, making and enforcing rules or imposing discipline.  If this foundation within the family is laid wrong, if the priorities are misaligned and healthy family roles are not established, then suddenly, when we have to act as a parent, not as a friend, it feels like a betrayal, to both parent and child, and complicates difficult situations immensely.   

However, I find, when this foundation has been laid properly, we are actually able to be better friends with our kids.  When we are friends before parents, when we do, inevitably, have to take on the parent role and these feelings of betrayal come into play, our set family roles are shattered and trust is destroyed.  But when our roles in the family are built on healthy models, we can go back and forth between the roles of parent and friend much easier, and the trust is always there. 

Also, when we are parents first and friends second, there is a level of respect between the parent and child that actually helps reduce the number of conflicts that arise between the two.  When a friend tells a friend to, say, go clean his room, it seems silly and unimportant.  Then we get frustrated when the child does not take our instructions seriously, and the child gets frustrated when we enforce our demands.  We think, "Why do we have to tell him to do this three or four times and finally have to threaten discipline to get the kid to do anything?"  Meanwhile, the kid is thinking, "What's the big deal and why is Mom or Dad suddenly making a big deal out of it?" 

One thing I think about a lot regarding this issue is that relationships between friends are essentially based on negotiation, as in, "let's play the game I want to play first, then we can play the game you want to play," while in parent-child relationships, negotiation must play a lesser role, and when it comes to the child's health and safety, there is often no room for any negotiation at all.  I notice that parents whose balance between friend and parent is out of whack often get very frustrated because too much of what they ask or tell their child to do ends up being some great negotiation, spanning the distance between the kid saying, "I'll do it later," through to, "I'll do it only if you…" - the big, "what's in it for me" deal.  Bickering, arguing, and fighting often ensues.  These stresses then go on to actually undermine the friendship between a parent and child.  This is another way that, by trying to be a friend first and a parent second, we actually make it harder to be a friend to our children.

Of course, all of these things are going to happen from time to time between parents and children even if our balance is properly maintained.  The issues discussed in the article and the excerpt are always going to pop up- it is all part of growing up, both as a child and as a parent.  In the end, though, because of the challenges we face moving into the tween and teen years, I do believe that it is vitally important to have our family roles properly in place for when these issues arise.  Every little thing we can do to smooth out these challenging years for our kids works towards keeping the tough times from becoming disastrous times.

August 17, 2010

Revised: March 15, 2011

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What is a home...


Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 18, 8:12 PM)

Home… A home is not stuff in a place.
It is not Internet access or Cable TV.
It is not furniture.
It is not a pool or a fireplace.
It is not movies.
It is not washers and dryers.
It is trust and faith and love.
It is purity of self; mind and body.
It is security, safety and
It is love.
Home is love.

Home is where we ask, “Are you OK?” before we ask, “Where were you?”
Home is where we feel bad for others before we feel bad for ourselves.
Home is where we run to, not where we run from.
Home is where the boys cry because they will miss their Nana, not because they do not want to be in their own house.

I first wrote and posted this in December of 2004.  I reposted it in October of 2009.  I think it is worth posting again now...  Not a poem, just a doodle.

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When a slump is not a slump but just a break...

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 19, 2011 11:34 AM)

Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM
Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.
However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.
In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.
I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.

So I have definitely been feeling like I've been in a bit of a slump this week. I've been stressed about this and that and I've been worried that I am falling behind on my plans in life. Of course, this is mostly just my own fears, but I have to be careful that I am not making excuses to go "hermit" again.

Today the sun is out, though, and I am feeling the call to get outside. After being stuck at my desk in my little office nook in my bedroom for the better part of the last week, it is time to get outside. Also, after a week of battling the slow internet at my place and my slow computer, I finally got those issues resolved a bit yesterday and was able to knock down a big, overdue project so I am feeling pretty accomplished this morning.

Overall, life is looking all right at this point. Today is looking really good. And, over all, I have little to complain about. This is why the feeling that I've been in a slump bothers me a little.

I think it has mostly been due to the fact that life has just been very crazy for the last six months or so. It has been full of major life changes, long periods out of town, major family health issues, and, I believe, that last week everything just caught up with me and I needed a bit of a break. But now I have had one and it is time to get back into the swing of things in life.

God willing, there are more changes on the horizon. A return to the workforce. Steady employment and pay... these are the next steps on the agenda. I need to get in and to take care of a medication issue first, one involving the health issues that took me out of the workforce two plus years ago, but that does not mean that it is not time to start getting my resume out there again. It is not an excuse to put off starting this process.

The work I accomplished this week, chained to my desk, was actually the first steps towards eventual employment. I spent a lot of time revamping my personal web life. Getting some things organized. I still have some work to accomplish here, I still need to update my portfolio and find a good corner of the web to hang that shingle, but that is actually work I look forward to.

Just sitting down and spending many hours this last week working on some of these things was actually a great start, getting me back in the habit of working at home. It was an important step in gearing up for what needs to be my full time job for a while, finding employment.

But there are other fears I need to conquer here, primarily the two years I have not been working. For most of that time, I would have qualified for Social Security Disability, but I was more focused on getting myself and my family healthy than on bureaucratic acrobatics. Being on SSDI might have helped me to explain the gap in my resume to potential future employers, but maybe it won't make a difference at all.

A year ago I prematurely started looking for work and I had some solid leads and interviews for a couple technical writing positions. At that point, due to the job market, no one even blinked at me being out of work since late 2008. But a year later? I am not so sure. Looking for work in the manufacturing sector doesn't hurt this explanation, that there was just no work to be found. But, in my case, that explanation has very little to do with the real reasons why I was out of work for so long, coping with and getting treatment for some severe health issues on my end and working with my family on some pretty heavy issues on the other end.

While in California, I started future tripping on the job hunt. I need to get back towards the faith I found then when dealing with these fears. I realized a couple months ago that my job hunt is in God's hands, not mine. I am responsible for making the effort and God is responsible for the result. I need to set aside my fears that hiring managers will not take my resume seriously, that the gap in my employment will derail any attempts to return to my field of expertise, that I will end up working in a job I hate, or that I will be forced to take some menial job "below" me somewhere just to pay my bills.

But, really, all of these fears are beyond my control. I am willing to take just about anything for work, whatever I can find. Of course, I hope to return to the field I left in 2008, but if I cannot, then I am fine with that (relatively). I just want to work. And I will not know anything about my current options until I start getting some resumes out there, until I start following up on some of the leads that I've been finding. The fear I am struggling with regarding what sort of job I will be able to get is going nowhere until I actually start looking for work.

And since the result of this effort is in God's hands, not mine, I can use faith to battle these fears as well. Sure, my brain goes straight to some hiring manager looking at my resume and laughing, but so what? I need to put myself out there to get anything. I look at it this way, I will end up in whatever job God sees fit to provide for me. If it is the next step ahead in the career I took a break from in 2008, then that is great. If it is stocking shelves in a warehouse, than I have to accept that too. I think of Moses and the Pharaoh, with the Pharaoh's heart being hardened by God against setting free the Israelites. When I've applied for the job I am meant to have, God will soften the hiring manager's heart and I will get the job, no matter what it is, whether I will like it or not. It will be what God intends for me at this point in my life.

But God can't do much if I am not getting my resume out there. So it is time to do my part.

This long digression is meant to provide some background on my worries about the possible, recent slump I've been going through. I've been concerned that I haven't started on the job hunt in any real way over the last couple of weeks, but this is not entirely true. Most of my time this week was spent leveling the ground for this project. Getting the site prepared. Next, it is time to start on the foundations, cleaning up my resume and getting my profiles on the job hunting sites freshened up. After that, only then is it time to start submitting resumes and really focusing on the search. It is a process, and I have started it.

So, my fears that I have been procrastinating and letting fear shut me down are really just that, only fears. This fear has made me feel a little uneasy the last couple weeks, but that was also due to some legitimate fatigue and a need to slow life down a bit. But it is good that I do have these fears, they help to keep me from making my fears a reality.

I just need to be honest with myself about what I am and am not doing with my time, and I need to understand what my capabilities are at the moment. I need to keep moving ahead, in a sane and sober fashion, and I need to make sure that my foundations are solid as I continue rebuilding my life.

Time to get out in the sun, that is enough of this for now.

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Who's counting anyway?

The manufactured on date stamp on my old Dell, the original frankenPC. One day older than The Big One!                 From 2011-06 (Jun)

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (March 27, 2011 11:36 AM)

Working on my old, 11 year old Dell (it is almost exactly the same age as my 6th grader), and an old Quit Counter popped up from a failed attempt at quitting smoking several years ago.  It congratulated me on hitting a milestone of not smoking 68,500 cigarettes since I "quit." 

Other statistics it is offering me:

Aaron - Free and Healing for Four Years, Eight Months, Eight Days, 12 Hours and 23 Minutes, while extending my life expectancy 237 Days and 20 Hours, by avoiding the use of 68501 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $11,401.17.

These days it is that last statistic that really gets to me.  I cannot afford this vice anymore.  Quitting, again, is in my relatively near future.

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Too early, too late...

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (April 15, 2011 - 10:27 AM)
Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM
Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.
However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.
In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.
I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.
It is early but it is not too early. I was up a little too late last night, though, sucked into a book, so I am not feeling bouncy and ready for the day quite yet. That is fine. I have a little time. I've already got my Picture of the Day ready to go, and the new logo I designed yesterday, pushing the limits of the lousy drawing tools I have available, is ready to go, but there is no internet this morning. So instead of working on those tasks, I have a few minutes to kill with some writing.

I strongly suspect that my lack of enthusiasm for the day comes not from the sleep I did or didn't get last night. Surely it has to do with the tasks ahead of me today.

The little one trashed his class room on Monday. Later that evening, he didn't get a toy he wanted, threw a big fit, and hit his mom. It wasn't that his mom and grandmother wasn't going to buy the toy he wanted, they were, even after his behavior at school, but they just couldn't find it. Then he threw another big fit at school on Wednesday and trashed his classroom even worse. I got a call from Jenna after he was picked up from school telling me that he was, essentially, expelled.

Tuesday we had an appointment with the boys' psychiatrist, though he is no longer the little one's. When he heard about Jason's fits on Monday, he told Jenna that she needed to start calling the crisis line when this happens, and that she needed to call the little one's new mental health provider to get his psych appointment moved up. He even called them to tell them that it was critical that they do this.

Jenna was surprised. She is so used to this behavior… Her only real comment was, "That fit wasn't even that bad."

After the events on Wednesday, the new provider moved the appointment up from mid-May to today. This is probably good, but I still do not expect much. The boy's problems do not include a lack of qualified mental health care providers. But they do include some very troubling issues at his mom's house, issues that seem far from being resolved at this point. When he is staying with me, his behavior is very different.

Today, we have this appointment. I am sure new drugs will be discussed, new scapegoats will be identified, more excuses will be made for why change is impossible and why everything is due to a misdiagnosis or two and other people's problems… I will sit and listen. I will try to clarify and correct where I can. I will try to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. I will pray.

Then I am taking the big one out for lunch as a reward for doing under an hour of home schooling on the computer most weekdays over the last two weeks. Then I'll be bringing the boys out here for the weekend. I won't be working on my portfolio. I won't be looking for work. I will be worrying and I will be up through most of the dark hours for the next two nights… I will pray.

It is a struggle, but I've come to accept that all I can do is provide a healthy environment for the boys on the weekends and I can pray. I can try not to add to the problem the time or two a week I am in Beaverton, but those trips are becoming rarer. I cannot afford the gas to get out there any more than the twice a week required to bring the boys out here on Fridays and to return them on Sundays. When I get back to work, it will be the same, though. I will only be available, most likely, on the weekends, so I suppose we all need to start getting used to that pattern now.

My instinct is to get the boys out of there, especially since they are not in school now. But I cannot afford to feed them full time. And I need to get back to work, so I have the resources to be doing a bit more. When I get back to work, though, if the boys are not in school they shouldn't be with me unless I can afford to put them in some private school or day care all day. Running feral at their mom's for too much of their lives has led them to this place. Letting them run feral here wouldn't help anything at all.

So my options are limited. Weekends and prayer. Working on repairing my own life so I am in a better place to receive the boys if things get even worse in Beaverton. Making sure that, even in such a limited way, that I am part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

And I can pray. I can hang onto my faith that, somehow, all of this fits into God's plan for us. I can use that faith to conquer the fear. I can redouble my efforts towards repairing my life. I can find succor in the thought that I am responsible for the effort while God is responsible for the result. And I can pray.

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Home alone: 2011 is not 1983

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (April 23, 2011 -12:57 PM)

Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM

Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.

However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.

In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.

I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.

How Old Is Old Enough To Leave Them Home Alone?  (by Sarah Maizes on January 26, 2011)
”I left my kids alone for all of seven minutes, and I can’t help but feel like a criminal. Why is that?

Like the author of this article, our children are eight and eleven, and this is an issue that their mother and I deal with as well.  Are they old enough to be left alone?  In what situations and for how long?  Of course, with the unique issues my children are dealing with, it is a little more complicated, but we still struggle with the basics.

In the early 80s, I was a latch key kid from about the third grade through the middle of the fifth grade.  There would be many days where I would be alone until past bed time, responsible for cooking my own dinner and putting myself to bed.  At the time, it seemed pretty normal.  Especially being alone for a few hours, which was the most typical, until Mom came home from work.

These days, however, this does not seem as normal, at least in our neighborhood.  Plus, there are more after school programs available for single parents to fill the gap between school letting out and returning home from work, which were virtually non-existent in the early 1980s.  So, it would seem that leaving my eight year old and eleven year old alone for a twenty minute store run or for an hour and a half while I run to a meeting should not feel like a big deal to me, but it does.

I live in an apartment complex, and I've never had an issue with leaving the kids while I run up to the office to deal with an issue or run to the mailbox.  These little ventures could take from five to fifteen minutes.  Or just going out for a smoke or two, the boys might be alone in the apartment for up to twenty minutes.  But I was right there, they knew where I was, and they could walk out and get me in case of an emergency.

A couple years ago when their mother lived in the complex across the street, she'd come over for dinner sometimes and then I'd drive her home (she is disabled and the walk, especially around bedtime, was a bit much for her).  These runs would take less time than a walk to the mailbox, but I would still feel that we were doing something risky and not right.  Until we got used to it.  Meanwhile, the boys barely noticed I was gone.  So after these little jaunts were shown to be successful, I started leaving them for a few minutes if I needed to run across the street to pick up something forgotten at their mother's or even run down the block to the store for a few for a gallon of milk or whatever.  These trips still didn't take any longer than a run to the mail box, but I was not where they could come get me if I was needed, so there was a fundamental difference.  They were really on their own until I returned.  This was a big deal to me.  They, on the other hand, wouldn't have noticed I was even gone if I hadn't told them first.

Today, their mother and I are in slightly different places on this issue.  Also today, the boys have some issues that do differentiate what I'd do with them versus what I'd do with "normal" children.   With "normal" children, I think I'd be at the point where I'd feel comfortable leaving the kids alone, with the 11 year old nominally in charge, for up to two or three hours between meals and definitely being home before bedtime.  With my kids, I might feel comfortable leaving them alone for around an hour, maybe.  And probably just the 11 year old.  They have some issues.  Their mom will leave them alone for up to about two hours.  One issue we deal with is the idea that, if the older one is too sick to be in school right now, then he is probably too sick to be a qualified babysitter, but that issue is fading a bit now that we are working on getting his education back on track.  But that is a different story, and one unique to our family.
But even looking at what I would feel comfortable with if I had "normal" kids, there is a big difference between today and what my mother was doing back in 1983.  What has changed?  Societal standards are very different today, and we've have a lot more experience with single parents and latch key kids than we did back in 1983.  This is probably responsible for a lot of this, and I know in some neighborhoods the standards are probably very different than my neighborhood.  However, for me, it really comes down to personal experience.  
My experiences as a latch key kid back in the 1980s are really what guides my thoughts on this issue.  I think it was just too much too early back then.  I think it made me grow up too fast.  I remember, when I was a kid, seeing old sitcoms and what not with kids who were kids and realizing that I was not like that.  I never really had that period of idyllic childhood innocence that I saw on TV.  We were exposed to the grown-up world early.  We were watching R rated movies from about the second or third grade on.  We were sexualized early.  We were left alone.  Being a kid, not a parent, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I am not sure why this was, but I suspect that it was largely just a different approach to parenting back then than we have now, one that came out of the society of the late 1960s and 1970s when our parents came of age. 
And we did grow up fast and early.  We were more independent and we were not naive about sex, drugs and the world at large when we encountered it.  But at what cost?  We also struggled with trusting loved ones, with building healthy relationships later in life, with understanding our roles in society when we lost our independence in school and, later on, at work.  With my kids I've been trying to find a balance, where they can learn about the world, about responsibility, and about independence at a slower rate, leaving them plenty of time to just be kids while preparing them for the world they are encountering when they encounter it.  Due to the unique circumstances of their lives, this hasn't always been successful, but I've been doing the best I can with my parenting time.   
Sometimes I look at my kids and just can't relate.  Especially with the 11 year old.  His life, his world view and experience, is just so different from mine at his age.  At 11, I was a small adult.  At 11, he is still a little kid.  True, he is growing up slower than he should, again due to the unique circumstances of his life, and he is a little too far behind where his peers are at his age, but, overall, I think it is a much more healthy place for him to be than where I was at 11.  Of course, not all of that was due to how often and for how long I was left alone, but I do feel that it is an indicator of how parenting approaches have changed since then, our views of what is and is not age appropriate for kids.
By the time I was nine or ten, I could cook myself a healthy meal and put myself to bed with no one else at home.  My son, at 11, would melt down and freak if he had to do these things.  Somehow, I think one is a bit more healthy that the other.  So maybe we should be a little more comfortable with giving our kids a bit more independence these days, leaving them alone to fend for themselves, developing their own coping skills a bit more and learning that they can handle things on their own without constantly relying on Mom or Dad to solve all their problems, but, I think, they still should know that we are there for them if they need us, for a few more years, at least.

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Starting School in May... Positive changes in damaged lives

Originally posted on Live Journal: Suburban Eschatology Part Two (2011-05-16, 6:11 AM)

Note:  November 20, 2011, 6:55 PM

Been working on tweaking and changing some of the tools I use to post, and the new method makes it very easy to migrate posts from one blog to another.  Eventually, I would like to move everything over here from the old LJ blog, but that is not a huge priority right now.

However, working on the system for doing that, I did want to move a few over tonight.  I posted a couple on their original publication date and posted a few for tonight.

In the future, I will probably just sneak most of them in behind the current posts on their original date.

I will also be working on a couple years worth of posts that were pulled down off of Rubble when it was repurposed and never put up anywhere else, the new SE2 or the old.

Up early. Little sleep. Big day… The big one returns to school today for the first time since Winter Break and moved in full time with me yesterday for an indefinite period. The little one, who moved in full time a month ago, starts his second week at his new school today. Life has been full of motion the last month, and it has all been good, for the most part. Jason has been doing a lot better since moving out here and Jack has been doing better for a couple months now, though there have been definite ups and downs. Hopefully we can work on getting these ups and downs stabilized.

For the big one, the big news is that he actually seems to be looking forward to school now that he has transferred to the local school here where he actually knows a lot of other kids. Also, the school itself seems to have a lot more resources to help him succeed and more programs and classes that interest him. It, so far, looks like a really good fit for him. He is a smart kid and his recent test scores are high, so he should have little trouble getting back up to speed and not having to repeat the sixth grade, if he applies himself. The school staff is confident that he will not be too far behind, at least.

The real key is the part about applying himself. We sat down last night and had a family meeting on the rules and expectations here now that both boys are living here full time, and one of the big changes for Jack, I could tell, will be the fact that there will be some basic expectations regarding his behavior at school and there will be consequences at home for failing to meet those expectations. The bar here is not high, the expectations are that he does what the teachers tell him to do, that he does the work that they assign him, and that he tries his best. There will be consequences for the behaviors he was showing at his old school, such as telling his teacher that he wasn't going to take home the homework she was assigning, drawing pictures in class instead of doing the work assigned, not showing up to class prepared or bringing his books home so he could actually do his homework. I am talking about the very basics here.

Last week Jason ran into this issue. He told the teacher that it didn't matter what happened in class because it wouldn't matter once he got home. That is no longer the case. He was shocked when he had consequences at home for some fairly serious issues at school. I warned him ahead of time that this would be the case, but he was shocked to learn that these warnings were not just noise and idle words.

Still, with the little one, that day was huge. He lost his video games for the day because of his defiance and disrespect at school, but instead of melting down in a huge fit, attacking me, and trying to break everything in the apartment, we went for a little walk and then he was over it and ended up having a great afternoon. He even made two new friends that day who live here in the complex and played with them until it was time to come in and get ready for bed. Just the fact that he was able to deal with his disappointment in a way that did not ruin the whole day was huge.

I've been seeing this positive change over and over the last few weeks. Yesterday, I saw it a bunch. Instead of throwing a huge fit when something upsets him, he is starting to learn some coping skills to deal with these emotions in a more healthy way. We still have a long way to go before we are back to "normal" for his age, but the progress so far is noteworthy and, considering that it was only a month ago when he was removed from his last school for destroying his classroom in a fit that only ended when the police showed up, when he was almost put on severe anti-psychotic drugs for attacking his mother and for having a huge meltdown at his psychiatrist's office, and when he was found huddled up, shivering at his old school's playground at two in the morning by the police, dressed only in his jammies, after running away from his mom's house, the progress is huge.

So, yes. I have my hands full. But the work is very rewarding. Seeing these boys slowly coming back to life after being stuck in hell for months is wonderful. Seeing them slowly becoming happy is a joy beyond words. Of course, not every minute of every day is puppies and ice cream, but more are than aren't, which is actually kind of surprising to me considering where we were a month ago.

I am sure that the big one and I will face a number of challenges over the next few weeks as he settles in. Because of the damage in the boys' lives over the last year, and longer, they have a very hard time understanding what a healthy family is supposed to look like. The fact that we have a few basic expectations in this house, mostly summed up by our number one rule- treating others, and ourselves, with kindness, tolerance, and respect- along some basic, fundamental concepts that have been neglected in their lives like having bedtimes, maintaining basic hygiene, and having a healthy diet, and that there are consequences for not meeting these expectations, to them often feels like an entirely unfair proposition that will only lead to misery. However, because these expectations are pretty basic, mostly involving acting like a civilized human, and because they know that there will be consequences in this house for not meeting expectations, they rarely have to deal with any consequences at all, and because these basic expectations are being met, the boys are much more relaxed and happy when they are here than they have been in a long time. Hopefully, when the big one has the chance to settle into this environment, he'll really take off.

For both boys, probably the biggest challenge I have right now is that they have no faith that any grown-up is acting in their best interest. This is understandable after the year they have just had. A year ago, they were just starting to build some faith in the adults in their lives, but this has been shattered since then. To make it worse, apparently a lot of things were said to them about me that leaves me digging out of a pretty deep hole with them. Some of this, with the big one, even happened a few weeks ago and undid quite a bit of the progress we had made since my return from California, so we are starting from a point further back than we should have been.

This is very sad, because shit like this has really hurt the boys over the years. But, now that they are here, we can resolve that issue once and for all. Really, time here should cure that, along with limiting exposure to these unstable, damaging forces in their lives. Hopefully, after the boys have had some time to heal, they will be less susceptible to these forces, as well. Some solid work with their teams of therapists on these issues will help, as well, now that their mental health providers can focus on the boys, not on the chaos in the place where the boys were living.

But that is all for now… a long, vague rambling rant about a very complex situation. Just moving ahead one day at a time, doing what needs to be done, through the good times and the bad. The goal right now is to get these boys as stable as possible before their mom lands here in another couple weeks. Yes, she's heading this way. When that happens, I am sure that we'll have another huge set of challenges as we all work towards healing this family, but it is work that needs to be done. We're in a pretty good place right now, and the way I got here, at least, has been by taking these challenges one at a time as they arise and dealing with them in a sane and sensible manner. So there is no use worrying about a future that isn't even here yet when there is so much to be done in the mean time.

Ack, one final bookkeeping note… Some more tests came in and the big one does NOT have Wilson's Disease. These tests are as definitive as possible with the current technology. This is good news. But it is sad that so much damage was done because of the fear of this diagnosis.

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