The Top 25 Christmas Movies Of All-Time!

What is your favorite Christmas movie?  These are mine.

Many will disagree, especially over the placement of a certain Bruce Willis movie.  I have learned to accept that Die Hard is a Christmas movie but only for one reason.  But the best of all time? Hardly!  A brand-new movie enters my all-time list.  I just watched it this morning!  Who made the cut?  The answers are below! Continue reading

The Music Shuffle: Through The Years

I haven’t done one of these in a while.  I spent the better part of tonight writing this.  I hit some tough topics on this one.  A way to purge and look back on my life and remember.  Memories, good and bad, they are what make us who we are. Continue reading

Merry Christmas From Exceptional Delaware!

Just wanted to take a few minutes this sunny yet chilly Christmas morning to give holiday greetings to my readers.  To say this year was a bit crazy would be the understatement of the year.  While I am not in the same place I was at the beginning of the year, I must say I am in a better place.  Sometimes I used this blog to vent some of my feelings about those changes in ye olde personal life.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank those who helped me along that journey.  There are so many.  And my gratitude knows no bounds for that.  I can honestly say I may not have made it through the past year without some of you.  You were my rocks keeping my two feet on the ground when I thought I was lost in a desert.

I can only hope for a better year in 2018.  But the important thing is having that hope.  I was talking to someone about that yesterday.  It is very easy to think things will never get better, to get swallowed up in that darkness.  For some, they live with that every single day.  There can never be hope unless you believe in that hope.  That isn’t just a Christmas thing, it is an every single day thing.  It is the tether to life.  There will never be anything close to perfect.  There are always going to be fires to put out and rivers to cross.  It is the way of things.  But it is how we handle it that determines who we ultimately are as a person.

While I don’t have much to physically give others this year, I do offer some kernels of wisdom.  Give all that you are.  Be what you want to be.  And never be afraid of the darkness because the light is so much stronger.  If you’re at the end of your rope, give a shout.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You might be surprised who helps you out!  And when you get your strength back and get back up again, return the favor a hundred fold.  Be the light in the darkness for someone else!  Love each other with all that you are.  That is the true message of Christmas.

Merry Christmas fair readers!  May your days be merry and bright.  Love the ones your with.  Celebrate the bonds that connect us all.

February Shuffle 2.0

Round 2 for February.  What will come up on the shuffle?  I have no clue.  But let’s start!

“Sway”, Blue October: This came out four years ago.  When you get married, you can fall into the same routines.  Couples do this all the time.  Make time for each other even if you have a billion things going on.

“If Anyone Falls”, Stevie Nicks: 1983.  For some reason, I consider this one of the “big” music years for me.  It seemed like every band that was out there had music out that year.  At least to a teenage kid.  Nicks sultry voice captured many fans between Fleetwood Mac and her solo work.  People listening to this song now probably think “Damn, they used a lot of keyboards back then.”  It was all synth back then.  Even Van Halen went through a stint.

“Messiah”, The Farm: I miss The Farm.  They had three albums out in the early 1990s and vanished into obscurity.  I remember driving back from my friends Jerry and Rich’s apartment one night when I first heard this song.  I was driving off the Blue Route in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  The sun was setting on a warm June night.  Or was it July, I don’t remember.  I always think of that sunset when I hear this song.

“Rio”, Duran Duran: Another blast from the 1983 past!  Duran Duran came out just as MTV was getting really big.  “Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it’s very nice.”  I don’t know what the hell they are talking about but the chorus just flows from the lips when you are alone in your car and you hear this on an “oldies” station.

“This Time Of Year”, Better Than Ezra: One of my faves from 1995.  I went through a period of about two months that fall when I had to be VERY patient.  It was tough.  I used the time to my advantage and attempted to learn Swedish before I moved there.  I don’t know why this song reminds me of that.  All those index cards and books trying to learn this language.  I didn’t do too bad.  When I got to Sweden no one knew what the heck I was saying.  My tone probably sounded like I was from Mars or something.  This is in a country where everyone knows English, except in the places you really need it: banks, doctor offices, girlfriend’s parents house, etc.

“Breathing Underwater”, Metric: We all have these times, when the pressures of life just mount and build up.  Before you know it you reach a point where you feel stuck and trapped in the deep vastness of it all.  If you aren’t careful, you can get stuck in this rut.  That’s when you need to reach out to those around you.  Never be afraid to ask for help.  Or a listening ear.  And never ignore someone when they ask the same of you.

“Please Don’t Go”, KC & The Sunshine Band: I am not afraid to admit this was the first record I ever bought.  Well, the 45 that is.  It was late 1979.  Truth be told, I didn’t actually buy it.  A bunch of us in our neighborhood went Christmas caroling (does anyone do that anymore?) and after, there was a party at our house with Hot Chocolate and cookies.  There was a gift exchange.  I really, really wanted to get this as my present.  I remember the days after I got it, just spending time in my bedroom playing this song over and over again.  Singing very loud.  Probably too loud for the rest of my poor family.  I always loved the ballads.  Not sure why.

“The Gambler”, Kenny Rogers: The song is better than the movie.  Another song from the same era as the last song.  I loved living in Roanoke, VA.  It was only four years, but all of us in the neighborhood were like family.  At least the way I remember it.  Everyone eventually left.  But it was a great time in my life.  Innocence…

“You Will Leave A Mark”, A Silent Film: The beginning of this song is crazy!  A slow piano bit and then it just opens up and kicks ass all over the place.  This came out in 2010.  A time of reflection and what I call the slow learn.  I used to spend way too much money on an old comic book hobby.  This was the last gasp of that bad hobby.  Not that I don’t read them from time to time, but this was the beginning of the end of a habit gone wrong.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but it took me a long time to realize why I engaged in this activity.  I realize those answers now and I made peace with it a long time ago.

“Angel Dust”, New Order: Speaking of synth music, New Order was the king of it back in the day!  I didn’t get into them until 1986 when Brotherhood came out, but I still remember hearing this song and just being amazed at what a band could really do with a synthesizer.  Go on Youtube and listen to “alternative music” from the old days.

“Time Of Our Lives”, Paul Van Dyk: During the early summer of 2004, I spent a lot of time inside my house.  Jacob was only a few months old.  HBO always has awesome songs when they do a trailer of all their shows and movies.  I heard this and spent the next few days trying to figure out who sang this.  It took forever!  Deb and Jacob left California about six days before I did.  I stayed back and finished packing, made sure our cars got towed, and stuck around that last day for the movers (which came a day late).  I rented a car during the last few days.  One day I had some time to myself so I just drove around the Imperial Valley.  I played this song a lot.  When I dropped the car off at the airport, I remember the check-out guy asking if I enjoyed my stay.  I said “Yes I did!”  It was an almost four year stay.  I got married and had a child when I lived there.  Of course I enjoyed my stay!

“Flight of the Snowbirds”, David Foster: I’ve spoken on past shuffles about how I fell into a depression in the Fall of 1990.  As hard as it was, digging out of it was an interesting time.  That moment when you realize it is over and life can begin again is one I will always remember.  It was snowing out and I put this instrumental song on.  It just seemed perfect for that moment.  It was a new beginning.

“I Grieve”, Peter Gabriel: The first time I heard this song was when “City of Angels” came out in 1998.  That movie haunted me, but in a good way.  I often wonder if angels are on Earth like they were in that movie.  Watching over us.  Coaxing us in moments when we need them the most but don’t realize it.  A gentle push here or an awakening moment there.  I still remember when the little girl died in the movie.  An angel asked her what she liked the most here and she said “Pajamas”.

“People Are People”, Depeche Mode: This was one of those songs that got a lot of airplay back in the 80s.  It was just kind of there.  Years later I actually listened to the lyrics and they were brilliant!  Things like racism and discrimination have always bothered me.  We all live on the same planet.  We all bleed the same blood.  When this song came out, the Uncanny X-Men was the best selling comic in the country.  If you’ve seen the movies, you know the X-Men are mutants.  People feared and hated them.  They were bullied and even killed.  It was the comic equivalent of what this country did to black people for centuries.  Laugh if you want, but I think that comic instilled my hatred of people hating other people.  “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man help me understand.”

“Tom Sawyer”, Rush: If you listened to rock music in 1981, this song catapulted Rush to the top of the charts.  There are some songs you switch when you hear them on the radio or on a shuffle.  This song is not one of them.  I listen to it from beginning to end, start to finish.  The world is love!

“The Same Moon”, Phil Collins: Never released as a single, I have always felt this song was one of Phil’s best.  It holds a very special meaning for me.  Once upon a time someone told me something about the moon.  It was one of the sweetest and most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me in my life.  They say words are just words and actions mean more.  But for this memory, the words were the action.

“Time Ago”, Black Lab: When you chase a dream you need to be very careful you aren’t just wanting what you once had.  Tricky words and hard to explain.  Sometimes, and it really sucks, you can’t get something back that you once had.  You can drown in that loss or rise above it and move on.

“Universal Daddy”, Alphaville: The first time I went to Kryptons, the coolest nightclub in Westchester County in the mid to late 1980s, I heard this song.  I was with my friend Pete.  I wasn’t much of a dancer, but when this song came on I got my groove and went out on the dance floor.  I danced the rest of the night (except when my friend Vicki the waitress kept hooking me up with drinks, thank God I didn’t have my driver’s license yet).  By the end of the night I was a sweaty mess.  But it was fun!

“The Trick Is To Keep Breathing”, Garbage: I actually had a Facebook conversation with someone about this song just last week.  Life is funny like that!   This song, along with the whole album it came from, Version 2.0, reminds me of a trip I took to visit friends in Sweden in 1999.  I left two years earlier and truth be told I broke up with my Swedish girlfriend and moved back to America.  Going back there felt very strange.  She was engaged and about to get married.  I was still bitter about that but I was the one that made the choice to move back.  Looking back now, going back was the right thing to do.  It helped me to realize I made a choice that was best for all involved.

“Some Nights”, Fun: This song reminds me of Campus Community School.  Not the bad memories, but the good ones.  When I was teaching the 8th and 9th graders.  Mrs. Eldridge and her Brainstormers or whatever she called them.  Talking to the kids.  Trying to understand this new generation.  Once in a while I see one of those students and some remember me, some don’t.  Most of them graduated last year.  At the time, I gave serious thought about going into teaching.  But then things went bad for my son and I lost that desire.  And after all I learned about what teachers go through the past few years, no way in hell would I get into teaching in this environment!  But some nights I did want to.

“Here Comes The Feeling”, Asia: 1982 and 1983 belonged to Asia in my house.  All of us Ohlandt brothers loved this band.  I think at one point we each owned their albums separately.  No sharing allowed!  Funny how that worked out.  Nowadays we could just download it from each other’s iPod and save a ton of money.

“Elevation (Influx Remix)”, U2: Have you ever created a situation where a song fits an action?  I did that with this song.  When I lived out in California, I would take long drives.  I remember one Sunday afternoon when I just drove towards a mountain.  I wanted to drive up that mountain.  So I did.  When you see Hollywood movies of people driving along the coast and the windy roads, forget about it!  Mount San Jacinto is an interesting place.  When you drive up it, there are tons of rock formations.  But when you get to the top, pine trees take over the landscape.  There are a few lookout spots for drivers where you can see for miles and miles.  At the top of the mountain is a town called Idyllwild.  It is an artsy type town that is over 5,400 feet above sea level.  If you go past the town, there is a lake where folks go camping.  I found all this in a day.

idyllwild

“Hear Me”, Imagine Dragons: We all want to be heard.  I always think it is very sad when someone can’t get their feelings out.  It is humiliating.  With that comes a level of decency with how someone gets those feelings out.  But all too often when someone feels they aren’t being heard, those feelings become confusing and feel out of control.  We are only human.  What was once someone not being heard morphs into something bigger and the problems get bigger and bigger.

“You Learn”, Alanis Morissette: A few months after I moved to Sweden, I was on a bus going to my girlfriend’s parents house.  She had gone back a couple days earlier.  I spent a lot of that time writing a letter to my parents.  I remember writing about this song to them in the letter.  At the time, I didn’t picture one day leaving the country.  It was hard to express that to my parents who were across an ocean.

“The One I Love”, David Gray: Once upon a time I heard this song and thought of Deb and I getting old together.  Flash forward eleven years later.  Deb and I were at John Carney’s Inaugural Ball.  We were on the dance floor and there was this older couple dancing together.  I remember saying “That’s us in twenty years.”

“All We Ever Knew”, The Head & The Heart: I wonder every day what happens next.  I just don’t know.  A million thoughts swirl through my mind.  A million different paths and roads I could take.  It is consuming.  I miss the days when I could just sit back and enjoy life.  But it is a time of responsibility and courage.  Of making decisions that seem like the right thing one day and a horrible one the next.  Why isn’t this enough?  There are things I cannot control.  Things where I don’t even factor into the decision-making process.  That is the hardest part.  Coming to terms with this and having to accept it.

February Shuffle 1.0

Continuing the tradition from last month, this non-education series of articles is all about the music!

“Kick”, INXS: Heh heh heh.  About all I can say about this!

“Nothing Lasts Forever”, Echo & The Bunnymen: I actually didn’t find this song until 2006 when I picked up a greatest hits compilation of the band.  The title says it all.  At least in its current form.  Life is like energy, it doesn’t disappear, it just evolves.

“The Drugs Don’t Work”, The Verve: Drug addicts have a tough time of it.  I would like to think each and every one had a moment in their lives when they could have taken a different turn and stopped the rough road they went down.  Nothing good comes of it.  It tears apart families and destroys lives.  Sometimes it kills people.  It is an epidemic no matter how you slice it.  One addict is one too many.

“How Do You Love?”, Collective Soul: There are people in this world who do not get love from the time they enter the world.  It leaves horrible scars.  They don’t get that basic foundation that most people get.  They were deprived of that nurturing comfort that forms who they are.  They grow up.  It is incredibly sad what happens to these people.  Is it their fault for the decisions they make when they are older?  Hard to tell.  The problem is they believe they are always the victim and it is always someone else’s fault.  Things like accountability go out the window and they are in a constant state of self-defense.  They don’t even realize this.  If you offend them in any way, you are the enemy.  They will justify any event or situation to fit their needs, which tends to be fleeting in the grand scheme of things.  When they do something wrong, they believe it is not their fault.  They are hard-wired at a very early age to never really trust anyone.   They will lie based on fear.  The truly sad part?  Many of these people don’t get the help they need and there is no medicine that can cure this.  They can be the hardest people in the world to give love to because the odds are very high you won’t get it back in return.  But be assured, they are loved.  Even when those who love them think they can’t give anymore to give and the well has run dry, they are there.  Sometimes that is the truest love of all.  It isn’t romantic or glamorous or sexy, but it is very real.  When they want to cast you aside, as they have done so many others, based on a perceived threat that is not ground in reality, they will smear your reputation and leave you feeling hopeless.  I’ve heard some say this kind of person can never be fixed.  That can be a very bitter pill to swallow.  With God’s love, I think anything is possible.  But they are also His lost sheep.

“The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)”, John Williams: How many of you have hummed this piece in your head when you know trouble is coming into a room?

“Waiting In Vain”, Bob Marley: Nothing soothes the soul like a little Bob Marley!  I remember days after school hanging out at Scott’s Reservoir, a man-made body of water between New York and Connecticut.  On one end of “the res” as we called it was a rope swing.  On the other end were cliffs you could jump off.  Down from the rope swing was the end of the res and it was there I camped out at times.  You had a limited time each year to enjoy the swimming adventures at the res.  Usually between Mid-May to the beginning of July.  After that they drained the res for a while.  My parents didn’t want me going there, but that didn’t stop this rebellious teenager.  A lot of good times with friends at the res.  I met a lot of people there as well.

“Bliss”, Tori Amos: What do you do when you finish a book in your life?  You start a new one.  But sometimes that beginning is very slow and boring.  This was the place I was in back in 1998.  Little did I know what was lurking around the corner!

“Upside Down”, Jack Johnson: Like Marley, Jack’s music is awesome for the soul!  I always think of the Curious George movie when I hear this song.  My son Jacob loved watching the video to this song.  His favorite part was when Jack Johnson slips on a banana peel and falls into the water.  I can still hear the laughter through the years!

“Into The Night”, Julee Cruise: Back in 1990 I was in a nasty depression.  The years and some bad stuff took their toll on me.  The absolute worst thing you can do while in this state is watch a show like “Twin Peaks”.  But of course I did it anyway.  David Lynch’s mega-opus into the bizarre and surreal town in Washington captured audiences as they wondered who killed Laura Palmer.  They solved the murder but the show fizzled after that as the central hook was gone.  But it is coming back this Spring for… who knows!

“Rain King”, Counting Crows: This is a Summer of ’94 song!  I just graduated college.  Between the New York Rangers finally winning the Stanley Cup again and O.J. Bronco chases, it was a crazy summer.  But for me, it was very quiet.  Just the way I wanted it!

“The Rose”, Bette Midler: This is one of those songs that holds several different meanings for me, going all the way back to 1980 when it first came out.  Each time, each era, I feel as though it holds more importance, more weight.  Love means so many different things to so many people.  It can be the greatest comfort in the world or it can bring immense pain and sadness.  It all depends on where you are at.

“Bleecker St.”, Simon & Garfunkel: When I hear songs like this that came out from the years before I was born I am envious.  I always wondered what I would have been like in the 1960s.  Judging by this blog and the content I tend to put up on here, I think I know the answer to that question!

“Tears In Heaven”, Eric Clapton: Nothing hurts more then losing a child.  I remember when Eric Clapton’s son fell out of a window and died.  I was working at a deli and it came on the radio.  I felt so bad for Clapton and his family.  This song perfectly summarizes his anguish.

“Going Back”, The Outfield: In the summer of 1992, I got to back home to New York for a few months.  I was working on a magazine about comic books and I stayed with my aunt and uncle near where I grew up.  That was a great summer!  I lost touch with my friends Steve and Neil a long time ago and haven’t been able to find them.  The highlight of the summer was going to San Diego for the first time.  Watching the sun set over the Pacific at Mission Beach as I sat in a bar with my friend Steve.  There are many reading this who may have seen the sun rise at the beach, but if you have never seen it set over the Pacific, make sure you put that on your bucket list!

“New Dress”, Depeche Mode: You think political angst is just an American thing?  To the British in the 1980s it was everything.  But the media focused on celebrities.  Thus this song.  But the message is about Princess Diana’s new dress.  It is actually a get out and vote song when you really listen to it!

“Sleeping Satellite”, Tasmin Archer: Another summer song, this one belonging to 1993.  Another summer at my aunt and uncle’s place in New York.  This summer wasn’t as much fun because I was a co-editor on a book about comic book artists.  There were many late nights getting all the pieces together for this mammoth undertaking.  I did get to San Diego again that summer.  But this was one of those songs that I played over and over again that summer.

“Noah’s Dove”, 10,000 Maniacs: Probably in my top ten songs of all time.  The first time I heard it was driving into a small town in West Virginia.  During Spring Break my senior year of college, I spent that week helping out people in that small town.  It was refreshing and a nice change of pace.  I have always felt giving and volunteer service is good for the soul.  But this song… it’s like “The Rose”, holding different meanings over the years.  At times I felt like Noah’s Dove.  Sometimes it is someone else.

“Ring The Bells”, James: Man, this shuffle sure is picking out a lot of songs from the nineties!  When bad stuff happens, we feel alone a lot.  Like no one can help us.  And sometimes we feel God isn’t there either.  Be assured He is.  He may not be there the way you want Him to be, but he is definitely there!

“The Dolphin’s Cry”, Live: Beginnings are usually awesome.  Full of promise and hope.  New feelings and excitement.

“Daysleeper”, R.E.M.: In the fall of 1998, I got a new job at a mortgage company.  I wanted to do really well at this new job.  A few months into it, I got a call from someone.  This person let me know they got engaged.  Being that I used to date this person, hell, moved across the Atlantic Ocean to be with this person, it crushed me when I heard it.  Cut to my taking a break at work, smoking a cigarette outside.  This woman I had seen before came out.  She could tell I was upset.  I told her what happened.  We talked for a while about it and she helped me to not let this news ruin my day.  These are the moments where friendships are born.

“Song2”, Blur: If you were into the Grunge movement in the nineties, this song was almost an anthem.  Body-surfing, the grunge dancing, the loud music.  Yeah, it was a movement!

“Brother”, Needtobreathe: If you see your brother is down, go to him.  Doesn’t have to be your biological brother.  We are all brothers and sisters on this planet, no matter what color we are.  Some people may not seem like they want help.  Give it a shot.  You could actually save a life!

“What Does It Take?”, Honeymoon Suite: If one song could perfectly encapsulate what my life is like now, this would be it.

Time for bed.  I’ll post this in the morning.

 

Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

pech_de_bugarach_27072014_02

It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

January Shuffle 2.0

I did this a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed it so much I thought I would do it again.  So here we go! Continue reading

The Search Is Over

Sometimes you find something you forgot you were looking for.

This was the case today.  My wife, son and I went down to Rehoboth Beach.  Our destinations: Funland and some of the arcades.  Just a loose, carefree trip with no hassles and no issues.  As many who read this blog already know, I have a son with disabilities.  Multiple disabilities.  His main disability is Tourette Syndrome, but with that comes a host of comorbidities.  Those include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sometimes they all collide at once and it results in an untenable situation.

This happened today.  When we got there, we got some Grotto’s Pizza and walked down to Funland.  My wife and son went on the pirate ship dragon ride and then we did the bumper cars.  After, my wife wanted to chill on the beach for a bit so I brought my son to the arcade.  You know those grappling hook games that usually cost a dollar?  The ones where you have to position the hook over something, the hook drops down, and if you are very lucky it will grab the prize you wanted and you get it.  I gave my son some money and watched him do his thing.  Yes, I know these games are a big scam, and I tell him every time we go.  He knows it before and after, but when he is playing it this seems to escape his memory.  In a sense, it is like gambling.

I watched him getting frustrated after the third or fourth attempt and I told him he may want to give up.  I got “the look” and was told to go away.  Sometimes you have to learn lessons and this was obviously one of those times.  It’s happened before with a simple shrug and then he gets over it.  Keep in mind, there are tons of people in there and sounds coming from all the different machines.  After he had been on two amusement park rides with thousands of people all around us.  The overwhelming smell of different foods and the sea salt smell coming up from the ocean, the sounds of people laughing, talking, crying, the sights of flashing lights in the arcade, bumper cars coming at him, the slight ugh feeling from the pirate ride, and severe frustration building up from the rigged grappling hook games.  I advised him he didn’t have too much money left and he might want to save it for something else.  This is when his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder kicked in.  He had to beat this game of rigged chance no matter what.  It was all-consuming to him.  After he blew his money he became very upset.

I told him I would talk to the manager about the hook did grab three things on three different games only to release the object of his choice and drop it in stunning defeat.  The manager said that is just how the games are set up but people do win prizes at times.  I knew this.  But I had to make sure my son knew it.  He was allowed to spend x amount of money and that was it.  He blew it in ten minutes.  Like I said, these things happened before, but today was just the perfect storm of whatever was bubbling up inside him heading up to the surface at lightning speed.  I called my wife and asked her to come up from the beach.  She came up and we tried to console my son.  We could have given him a million dollars right then and there and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Words were said, and we were all upset.  People were looking at us.  This happens with children with disabilities.  For us, this is normal.  For those watching who don’t have children with special needs it is like watching the worst dysfunctional family ever.  I’ve grown immune to this over the years and I don’t let it bother me.  They haven’t walked in our shoes, so they just don’t know.

I decided to get something to drink.  If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is this: when both my wife and I try to help him, it seems to him like two against one.  One of us had to walk away.  That was me.  I came back and I took over.  My wife went back to the beach and my son and I sat there for about ten minutes.  Not speaking to each other because I knew he needed his space.  We got away from the crowds to a quieter area.  All of a sudden, he got up and just wanted to walk.  Sometimes the best way to get out of a storm is to walk away from it.  We checked out some of the shops on Main Street.  Tons of stores all around.  He was looking at phone cases in one store.  One of them had a buy one get one free sale.  He called my wife who was able to find her serenity watching the waves come in from the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped by Snyder’s Candy Store.  He actually had a lot of fun in there.  They had Pez dispenser collections with sets of four Presidents in them going all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  There were action figures and candy-flavored crickets and all sorts of funny distractions for him in there.  The store was empty aside from us and the three workers.  My son found a little canister of “thinking putty” and asked if he could get it.  We have given him putty to use when he gets stressed out at times and it usually does the trick for him.  I said okay but he was still looking around.  I was looking at some of the different candies the store was selling.

Flashback to 1997.  At the time, I was living in Sweden.  That winter, I was in a candy store and they had these chocolate candies called chocolate rum balls.  It was a ball of chocolate with rum mixed in with chocolate sprinkles around it.  During the next five months I lived outside of Stockholm, I would frequently visit this store and get bags of these chocolate rum balls.  When I moved back to America, I couldn’t find them anywhere.  When I went back to visit some friends in Sweden in 1999, I brought a whole bunch back with me.  Ever since then, if I happened to be in a candy store, I would sometimes ask “Do you have chocolate rum balls?”  “Sorry, we don’t.”  After years, I just kind of gave up.

At Snyder’s Candy Store, I asked the cashier if he had these.  I think he thought I meant actual liquid rum was inside of them and he said they didn’t have them.  As I was paying for my son’s thinking putty, on the top shelf of the chocolates right next to the cash register they were there.  I yelled out “Oh my God, they have them!”  My son jumped back at his Dad’s weird moment of excitement.  I bought a quarter pound of them which gave me about fifteen of them.

ChocolateRumBalls

My wife called and she was getting something to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant so my son and I walked back to meet her.  We were all fine again.  A happy family.  He had his thinking putty, my wife had this dish she raves about every time we go to Rehoboth, and I had my chocolate rum balls I was looking for the past seventeen years.  Of course, the moment when only a 12 year old could give when telling my wife what I was eating with his silly grin didn’t escape me.  I offered some to him, but I think he thought his dad was a very odd man at this point and said no.  I savored every single one of those chocolate rum balls.  The taste brought back the memories of a 27 year old young man in a foreign country who missed home and knew he would be heading back at some point in the future.  I knew the language enough to get by and I had friends there, but it never felt like home.  In the winter, it could get very lonely with only a few hours of sunlight.  In the summer, I would frequently wake up at 2am in the morning as the sun came blazing in the window.  The circumstances that led me to Sweden were long and varied, but those circumstances were changing.  It was hard to leave, but it would have been harder to stay.

But I always missed those damn chocolate rum balls that were as elusive as a shooting star on a cloudy night.  I wasn’t meant to stay away from circumstances which led me to where I am now.  If it meant not eating chocolate rum balls for seventeen years, that was what had to be.  Life had an unexpected journey waiting in the wings and I had no clue about any of it.

Today, my long search ended.  I was able to taste memories long since forgotten.  Today was a day of senses for my entire family.  Sometimes they got to us, and other times they provided us comfort and strength.  Life isn’t perfect.  It never was and it never will be.  There will always be hurdles.  I accept that.  I have learned, and continue to learn, when my son needs my wife or I and when he just needs to work it out himself.  Sometimes I stumble with this reality.  Sometimes my patience is stretched to its limit and I lose my cool.  We all do this.  We all have our inner coping mechanisms that allow us to ride out any storms life throws at us.  Sometimes it is thinking putty.  And sometimes it is chocolate rum balls.

As we drove back from the beach, I found myself lost in thought.  Just staring at the setting sun and seeing the beautiful farms of Delaware all around me.  My son was asleep in the back seat and my wife had headphones on listening to music.  It was quiet.  Serene.  I wouldn’t trade today for anything.  Spending quality time with my wife and son, for all the angst in the beginning, was worth it.  Sometimes, when they don’t know it, I just look at them both and feel nothing but love.  These two people who God sent into my life.  The woman I love so much and the son I am meant to teach, guide, and love as long as I am able to.  God threw an extra piece in with his disabilities.  I don’t write much about the daily situations that manifest as a result of those disabilities.  But they happen.  It is as much a part of my life as anything else.  I could complain about how tough it is, but that doesn’t help my son.  I can try to mitigate situations the best I can, for him and others.  Which always leads me back to here.

He is why I fight.  Him, and every child like him.  The adults can bicker and make their silly rules, but I can clearly see that what matters most is the kids.  The ones who don’t always have someone looking out for their best interests.  The ones who don’t know half the crazy battles us adults play on their behalf.  The ones who are shut out of those conversations.  The ones who don’t get to decide where the money goes.  But these decisions affect their lives and play into their education.  Every subject I write about on here, I question if the things I find are good for kids.  Sadly, the answer is no most of the time.  This causes me to get in tug-of-war fights all the time.  Even my allies question what I do sometimes.  Some people think I’m crazy doing what I do.  Let them.  It’s not about them and it never was.

Today was just another walk on my journey through life.  It was a special day, with highs and lows, just like any other day.  Little victories to be won and moments to deal with.  But I have to think I was being told something today.  That at the moments when giving up seems like the best thing, and all you want to do is ask why, that I have to get past that and ask God to help my son instead of me.  He answered my prayers.  And I got a little extra something in the bargain!

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

-The Foo Fighters

 

What Matters If We Have Hate In Our Hearts?

When I was running for the Capital School Board, one of the questions my two other candidates and I received at a debate was “Do black lives matter.”  It threw me off.  I prepared myself for a lot of questions beforehand.  That one threw me for a loop.  My two opponents, who happened to be African-American, almost seemed offended at the question.  One of them said “Of course black lives matter.  All lives matter.”

This is how I answered.  It isn’t verbatim, but this is the essence of what I said.  I agreed with my opponents that all lives matter.  But we need to understand where those words are coming from.  I explained how there has been an inequity and disproportionality in respect to how African-Americans have been treated in this country for centuries.  I said we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  We have a school to prison pipeline in many places in America.  Too many African-Americans don’t have the same opportunities white people do.  I concluded with the statement that the Capital Board would be remiss not to understand where those words are coming from.  I meant every single word of it.

Afterwards, a gentleman in the audience clapped.  He happened to be African-American.  I thought it was a bizarre question for a school board debate, but it was important to him.  I later found out he asked that question in an attempt to trip me up.  Why?  Would the wrong answer have given him the impression I would have been a bad school board candidate?  Did the answers my opponents gave matter?  Given what happened yesterday, I can no longer support the idea of black lives matter if it brings more death.

We are at a crossroads today.  The situation got very serious in Dallas when snipers decided to shoot eleven police officers, four of which have died at this time.  The police officers were assigned to a protest where people were speaking out against the police shootings of two black men on Wednesday, one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota.  I can’t process death well.  Especially deaths that don’t have to happen.  I don’t know enough about law enforcement procedures to say if what they did was within their authority.  I can’t even figure out my own state, Delaware, and events that have happened here.  Some believe that our cops have the authority to do whatever they want based on court rulings and attorney general opinions.  Some say the cops were justified with their actions.

This is what I do know.  I am seeing a lot of crazy talk on Facebook.  I’m seeing people talking about how they have their guns ready when “they” come for them.  I’m seeing a lot of sadness too.  From all sides of diversity.  The hopeful side of me wants to believe this is a wake-up moment for all of us.  The fearful side says this is just the beginning.  I want to believe we can find peace out of all this.  I really do.  But that is going to take a monumental shift in thinking.  It takes both sides to listen.

I was in McDonalds a couple months ago.  I had just gotten off work and I was starving.  I just wanted a quick bite to eat and go home.  I work long days at my job and it is very physically demanding.  As I sat there, peacefully eating a cheeseburger, I see two African-American teenagers laughing at me.  I asked if everything was alright.  They said I had food around my mouth.  I thanked them for letting me know.  They kept standing there, laughing at me, talking about the food around my mouth.  Meanwhile, an adult, who I presumed was their mother or caregiver watched them do this.  She didn’t say a single word.  I asked them to stop.  They kept laughing.  Finally, and with a bit more assertiveness in my voice, I asked them to show some respect.  Only at this point did the adult intervene by saying “Come on boys,” and she gave me a nasty look.  The boys walked out with their mother.  This wasn’t the first time this kind of situation has happened to me, and something similar happened another time since.  I can say I have never treated a human being like that before.  It made me angry.  Not because they were black.  But the fact that they felt they could treat another human being like that and think it was okay.  That an adult, someone who should be teaching these young men the difference between kindness and cruelty, stood there and did nothing.  I could let situations like these harden my soul.  I could let it change my thoughts and apply the actions of a few to an entire group of people.  I could make false labels about black people based on this.  But I choose not to.  I understand, at the end of the day, that for some reason they don’t trust me.  They don’t know who I am and by taking the offensive they are actually being defensive to whatever happened to them to make them think that was okay.  Discrimination and racism goes both ways.  We may not be allowed to talk about that, but I am talking about it.  It’s real, and it happens.  We all know it.

This is my plea to African-Americans like the two teenagers and their mother in McDonalds that day: stop blaming white people.  Stop thinking it is okay to taunt us, to intimidate us, to bully us.  Stop thinking we aren’t worthy of the same respect you want for yourselves.  Stop telling us there is no way we could possibly understand unless we’ve lived it.  Stop saying that’s just how we are when one on one you talk to me just fine but when you are around your friends it is something completely different.  You are whatever you choose to be.  It isn’t the situation that makes you who you are.  It’s how you deal with the situation.  And to the adults who are too wrapped in years of hatred over their own circumstances, you need to turn those bad memories into something positive.  Don’t let what hardened your soul mold the life of your children.  Teach your children right from wrong.  Let them know that whatever happened to you was horrible, but they have the power to embrace the future and practice forgiveness.

This is my plea to white people with obvious race issues: Stop thinking it is okay to refer to black people as animals when something bad happens.  Stop looking down on them as if they are from another planet.  Stop with the twitchy fingers if you are a cop and don’t fully understand a situation.  Stop  using black people for your own political ambition or warped sense of greed.  Stop thinking every time a killing happens it will be the advent of martial law in our country and President Obama will finally take away all our rights.  I’m pretty sure if this was Obama’s plan, he wouldn’t wait until his eighth and final year to get that going or he is paving the way for Hillary to do it.  Stop putting up pray for Dallas pictures on Facebook unless you are prepared to put up a “Pray for…” every single time someone dies in this world.  I will pray for Dallas along with every other city and town in America until this stops.

This my plea to all Americans: stop the hating.  Stop the killing.  Stop the labeling and false accusations and the paranoia.  Take responsibility for your own life, for your own actions.  Don’t put the weight of history on your shoulders and think you have to live it.  Be someone new.  Every day is a new day.  Every day is an opportunity to be better than the one before.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m not saying it isn’t hard work.  What I am saying is this: if you don’t have love, for your neighbors, your co-workers, your classmates, your enemies, or anyone you encounter in life, but most of all yourself, you won’t ever be able to see the light in each and every heart.  Some shine bright while others are turned off.  But you can make a difference.  You can help others to turn their light on.  It may just be a smile, or a hello, or a helping hand, or saying “I care.  I understand.”  Teach your children.  Let them know that our differences are what makes us unique.  None of us are the same.  We all have one thing in common though.  We are all children of God.  In times like this, and in times of happiness, I pray.  I pray to God that we can do what He wants for us.  We can go through the Bible and pick apart this verse and that verse and apply it to every situation possible.  Many do.  But I believe the message is very simple.  Love each other.

It comes down to respect when you really think about it.  Respect for others.  For their circumstances, their situations.  Words have power.  But only as much power as we choose to give them.  But words really don’t mean anything if the tone behind it is hostile.  Which is ironic given the very nature of this blog and what I write about.  Something I have been guilty of on more occasions than I can think of.  I can sit here and say it is all out of love.  But I let my anger get the best of me.  We all do.  But I can change that, and so can you.  Before a hand-held device was smaller than our hands (they were bigger than a toddler’s head).  There were race issues, and most of them probably weren’t talked about the way they are today.  We glossed over them in the face of the Russian threat and the fear of nuclear war.  We honored Martin Luther King Jr. and made a national holiday.

Back in 1986, something called Hands Across America happened.  The goal was to create a line across America of people holding hands.  I don’t remember what is was for or if they accomplished the goal.  I would like to think it would have been impossible with the presence of rivers and high mountains and whatnot.  But the spirit was there.  We had issues back then, but not like today.  This was in the days before a gangster lifestyle was glorified in our culture.  Before the internet and social media took over our lives and gave us all transparency beyond what we could have dreamed of.  We need to somehow incorporate what we now know, what is talked about everyday with very real statistics, and stop talking about it and start acting.  We need to come together, lay down our walls of mistrust, hatred, fear, and suspicion, and work it out.  Our future, our children’s future, depends on it.

I’ve heard a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement over the past two years.  They are right.  Black Lives Matter.  White Lives Matter.  Hispanic Lives Matter.  Oriental Lives Matter.  Criminal Lives Matter.  Baby’s Lives Matter.  Children’s Lives Matter.  Muslim Lives Matter.  Christian Lives Matter.  Gay Lives Matter.  Lesbian Lives Matter.  Disabled Lives Matter.  Jewish Lives Matter.  Native American Lives Matter.  All Lives Matter.  Your life matters.  But do you want to know what doesn’t matter?  Hate doesn’t matter.  In the end, only love matters.

The Constant

100_20

This past weekend I’ve been going through pictures from the time my son was born until the present.  It brings back a lot of memories all at once.  But most of all, I remember the joy.  Every single thing he did was brand new for him when he was a baby.  Learning everything, starting with how to breathe on his own.  All those sleepless nights when he had colic in the first couple weeks were worth it.  All the diaper changes, his impeccable aim, and the messy food.  I wouldn’t trade any of it for a minute.

100_4298_0096

As parents, we see everything.  We watch our babies crawl, sit up, and then walk.  And talk.  It’s like watching evolution in fast motion.  The term “they grow up so fast” is very true.  You blink, and they look older the next day.

DSCF0023_1

And after they get out of that terrible toddler time, they start to think on their own enough and they are ready for school.  And they have no idea what to expect, but they soon learn Mommy and Daddy aren’t the only teachers.  Things they do at home aren’t necessarily the same as what is expected of them in school.  But they have fun…

Jacob John Dickensons Museum

They start to meet more and more kids, and they start picking up things.  Their minds expand, and curiosity becomes a game of “What happens if I do this?”

Fall2008e

You start to see them do things you never thought they would do, and at times you can only laugh.  It’s what makes them unique, God’s gift to the world.  None of them are the same.  They try new things and stretch their boundaries of what they are familiar with…

Speed Star 1.1452384  00

Speed Star 1.1452384 00

They learn how to be part of a team.  But sometimes they have things going against them, and they have to work even harder.  Things don’t always work, but they keep going.  It’s all they know how to do.  But it’s hard for them to keep the smiles going…

Speed Star 1.1417443  00

Speed Star 1.1417443 00

They aren’t always happy, and you can see it more and more as they get older.  The constant smiles disappear more and more, and you have to reach out harder.  But that’s okay, cause that’s why parents are here.  We are here for them during the good times…

10409739_10204022898199072_1670883320873733843_n

and the bad, when they need us the most…

cropped-jacobandme.jpg

And the sometimes, when they aren’t even watching us, we have to fight for them…

PPC#1

and you meet strange people along the way…

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

But that’s okay, life is full of surprises and twists.  It’s what makes it so complicated and unpredictable.  What is very hard for parents is to see your child and you view them differently.  You start to realize, they are getting old fast.  It isn’t going to be long now, they are going to be an adult.

1467338_10207105275856587_3856036277560342349_n

But one thing is constant, and that is a parent’s love for their child.  That doesn’t go away, ever…