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

Firefly Was Great Today But What Is Up With The Cell Phone Thefts?

I got an unexpected message from an old friend today at 7am this morning- “Do you want to meet for lunch at Firefly”?  I told my friend I wasn’t going this year.  He said he could get me comp passes for my son and I.  He was driving the tour bus for one of the singers appearing at Firefly.  Lewis Capaldi.  I heard the name before but couldn’t place him.  I went to Youtube and found some great stuff.

My son and I went to the will call and after some confusion we got our passes.  The first musical act we saw was Capaldi.  Absolutely amazing singer.  One of those voices that just sings out of the soul!  My son got very dehydrated after the first hour so I brought him to the medical station.  After half an hour or so in there, I made sure he was feeling okay and we left.  Since I knew it was going to be scorching hot the rest of the day, he agreed to go back home.  He insisted I go back to Firefly.  I asked if him if was certain a few times and he said yes.

I went back and saw Capaldi again but during an acoustic set with just him and his pianist.  I was right up front for that.  I swung over to The Lawn to catch Lord Huron.  They rocked the house!  Because they overlapped with MGMT, I missed the first part of their set but they played their staple songs at the end so it was all good.  After that, my 47 year-old body was exhausted so I left.  Had I known I was going today, I would have slept in this morning.  Oh well!

A woman died in one of the Firefly campgrounds today.  Very sad.  No cause of death has been released.  That wasn’t the only bad news to come out of the festival.  I saw many Facebook posts about cell phone thefts.  Thieves were just reaching into people’s pockets stealing their cell phones.  A couple of well-known Delawareans’ kids had their cell phones stolen.  When I was waiting at the will call, I was speaking with a young woman who said her cell was stolen last night along with all her money.  She was waiting on her father from New Jersey to come pick her up.  What is wrong with people?  Not that stealing from anyone is cool but stealing from kids is just plain evil!

This was my first time back to Firefly since the opening year in 2012.  That time I saw tons of bands in one day from 12 noon until 11pm.  There wasn’t any lapse between bands I wanted to see that year.  I did write about Firefly extensively in 2015 when I chronicled the adventures of Burger Girl!  That was fun!  Right BG?

I’m about to eat my WaWa dinner.  I refused to pay $10.00 for a hot dog and I haven’t eaten since before noon so I’m starving!  I’m going to watch Westworld and go to bed.  Good night Delaware.  And Happy Father’s Day!

June 2018 Shuffle

There is plenty of stuff I could write about education today.  But I don’t want to.  I’m in one of those “need to purge” moods.  I haven’t done one of these in almost a year.  Right now, I’m sitting in my kitchen typing away.  Aside from the music playing, it is quiet.  As always, these tend to be personal but every once in a while I may sneak in an Easter egg here or there.  This time is no exception. Continue reading

I Hope You’re Happy When The Night Is Over

Today was a perfect day.  Not because it was perfect but because I wanted it to be.  So much of what we are is how we think, our mindset.  To cap off this beautiful day I’m sitting in a lawn chair outside of my townhouse.  There is a slight breeze with a bit of chill to it but it is still warm enough.  The crickets are chirping and the leaves are blowing.  It is May in Dover, finally.

I came into 2018 with the best of intentions.  It was a new beginning in so many ways.  Life has a funny way of reminding you the battles aren’t over.  Some of those skirmishes are tougher than others.  This year’s were tougher than others for some reason.  Those who know me best know how close this one hit.  I could let it knock me down and shatter me.  That would be very easy to do.  But that’s just not who I am.  Everything happens for a reason and it is hard to explain that sometimes.  When the blood is on the field it is hard to show someone a better tomorrow.

Tonight, I am at peace.  It is a beautiful night.  A pizza is on the way which I have relished for some time now.  An episode of The Americans is waiting for me on the DVR.  I cherish the memories I had today with my son.  We had some really good father-son chats.  Both of us had more smiles on our faces today than I’ve seen in a long time.  Tomorrow is a new day.  It might not be as perfect as today, but that’s okay.

I see some of my friends and the struggles they are going through.  I wish I could take their pain and anxiety away.  Their battles are just as real as my own.  I pray they have days like today.  They deserve it.  I want them to be happy.

I heard a new song by the band called Blue October the other day.  Their singer always sings from his soul.  I’ve read a bit about this singer over the years and I know he has gone through many wars.

Just some random thoughts coalescing into a blog post here.  A thought purge.

There will be days when you’re falling down
There will be days when you’re inside out
There will be days when you fall apart
Someone else will break you heart
They’re never gonna hold you back
I’m always gonna have your back
So try to remember that
I hope you’re happy
I hope you’re good
I hope you get what you wish for
And you’re well understood

After I listened to that song, I put my music on a random shuffle.  A new song by a band called Lord Huron came on.  They are an indie band.  The singer reminds me of Jackson Browne.  “When The Night Is Over”.

I feel the weather change
I hear the river say your name
I watch the birds fly by
I see an emerald in the sky

These posts never get a lot of hits.  I’ve been slowing down on here.  I was actually talking to someone about that today, about how you can only write about the same things over and over again.  Legislators, administrators, and charters, oh my!  Things have been quiet as well.  No earth shattering news like there has been in years past.  I’ve been spending a lot of time helping parents with their own special education issues for their kids.  Sidebar conversations.  I still want to be an advocate for parents at IEP meetings and when they have issues going on with schools.  So helping out parents has been very helpful in that regard.  It forces me to learn more.  You can never know everything.  The reality is this: things are chaotic out there.  Things that make me shake my head in disbelief.  Things that should be absolute no-brainers.  It is picking up at an alarming pace.

We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time.  There are some ticking time-bombs I’ll write about soon enough.

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

DE Atty. General Matt Denn Files Brief For Special Education Supreme Court Case… What About My Kid Matt?

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, along with the AGs from Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for the upcoming special education case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  The Endrew F. v Douglas County School District is a case which can change the face of special education.  But what about my kid right here in Delaware Matt Denn?  The one who was kicked out of a special education program at a Delaware private school last Friday with no due process, no advance notification to the parents about the true purpose of the meeting, and no chance for my son’s voice to be heard?

For the most part, I like Matt Denn.  I think he can be an excellent advocate for students with disabilities.  But sadly, what he wants and what we have in Delaware are two very different things.  I wish Denn could help my own son the way he is helping this child in Colorado.  I understand the implications of this case and what it can do for special education if they rule in favor of the student.  That would be a very good thing.  But there are far too many students here in Delaware that are now suffering with special education.  My own son Jacob included.  If Delaware’s special education is supposed to be so great, why isn’t it Matt?  We both know the answer to that.  But why should my kid have to go through all venues of education in this state and still not have schools understand his needs?  Charter, district, private school, private school homeschool-coop program.  None have worked Matt.  None.  They may be great at other things, but they have all failed my son.  As one father to another father, I’m asking you to do something here, in Delaware.  In your state.  Not later, not down the road, but now.  I don’t know if I can get my son back on track.  There has been so much damage done to him.  By adults who think power is more important than what is right.  Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your own child’s spirit break time and time again.  I truly hope you don’t.  But I’m just one of many parents who has to pick up the pieces of a child’s shattered life again and again while the system fails him time and time again.  It doesn’t matter what kind of school it is.  I don’t care about all this fancy legal stuff.  I just want consistency and best practices with my son, with all the special needs kids in this state.  We are destroying lives here Matt.  What are you going to do about that?

Talk is on thing but actions speak louder than words.  How many more Jacobs do we have to have in this state Matt?  How many more tears have to be shed before something is done?  How many families have to deal with turmoil you can’t even begin to imagine Matt?  How many more children have to be psychologically beaten down before you do something?

cropped-jacobandme.jpg

 

Delaware Files Amicus Brief Supporting a Colorado Student’s Claim on Behalf of Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, joined by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed a formal brief Monday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the appeal of a Colorado public school student with disabilities who claims that his school district has not complied with federal law in meeting his educational needs. The brief filed by Delaware urges the United States Supreme Court to adopt a higher national standard for the services that U.S. schools must provide, and articulates that the standard reflected in Delaware state law, rather than the lower standard used in Colorado and many other states, is the proper standard to measure the provision of such services.

The brief was written by Delaware State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein and Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Davis and Laura Makransky. The brief states that the three Attorneys General “implore this Court to find that the highest level of educational benefit for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts of appeal is the correct level for all of the nation’s children with disabilities in order to ensure that the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]’s ideals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are fulfilled.”

Although Attorney General Denn has joined other briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court since taking office in January of 2015, this is the first United States Supreme Court brief that his office has authored since he took office. “We chose this issue to seek to be heard with the United States Supreme Court,” Denn said, “because it is fundamentally important to the future of every child with a disability in our nation’s public schools. We also sought to be heard because how the Supreme Court phrases its opinion could also have a direct impact on students with disabilities in Delaware public schools.”

 

 

 

A Note To Readers

I want to apologize to my readers.  For the past two and a half years, I have given a near daily stream of education news in Delaware.  The past few days, if you read my article about what has been going on with my son or follow me on Facebook, have demanded I take a backseat to my usual education news.  It won’t be permanent.  I had a post already set to go which I put out on Saturday about DOE ESSA surveys.  On top of a very hectic work weekend, I’ve been dealing with the fallout of facing yet another education institution that would rather discriminate than accommodate.  But it has hit my son very hard.  He is not okay with this.  He is my first priority, always.  So if you send me tips and I am unable to reply, please understand it is not intentional and I will catch up with it all.  Thank you all, and thank you for all the messages wishing my son and my family well.  Your support means more than you will ever know.  Family first, always!

The Supermoon

Before a secret is told, one can often feel the weight of it in the atmosphere.

-Susan Griffin

On January 26th, 1948, a full moon shone brightly in the Winter sky.  The next time the full moon will be that close to the earth will be on Monday morning at 6:22am.  The next time you can see a Supermoon that close to Terra Firma will be 2034.  Tonight, it is just Waxing Gibbous.  It is at 97.4% of a full moon.  And it is cold out.  There is a frost in the air and the stars are shining bright.  Winter is coming.

They are saying it is going to be a mild winter this year.  Another La Niña.  So this means I could probably lay on the beach for New Years.

It’s the middle of the night.  Sleep comes and goes tonight.  I’m feeling restless, more than I have in a long time.  Afraid to close my eyes and afraid to stay awake.  Work comes in three and a half hours.  It will be a long day.

My arm is doing better.  I had a case of hairspray fall on my left elbow a month ago.  It hurt like hell when it happened, but only for a few minutes.  But then a week later this… thing… started sticking out of my elbow.  Like a Dr. Scholl’s pad golf ball.  I’ve been to doctors a few times for this.  I even had my first MRI.  Not an experience I care to repeat.  Last week I learned I had a slight tear in a tendon.  So I’ve been on light duty at work for a month and will be for another few weeks.  I work a tough job, but for scheduling purposes, there are reasons why I work that job.  It isn’t for the weak, that’s for sure.  But I feel the weight of age creeping up on me sometimes.  An odd ache here, a desire to take a nap in the middle of a day off.  And I’m not even fifty.

I haven’t been writing here as much as I could.  I have plenty to say, and plenty or articles ready to pop.  I’ve never had more research in my life.  But right now, America and Delaware seem to be dealing with President Trump in one of two ways: it is the end of democracy as we know it or it is the best post-coital bliss ever.  I don’t want to throw stuff out there that will get bypassed for yet another article about Trump.  I’m also at that point in education where I have to start calling people and organizations out.  Ones that, when I began this journey, I thought were on the side of kids.  But they aren’t.  The picture starts to get blurry and the colors start to merge.  I wish I could say there are those that I thought were the “bad guys” but then I discovered they aren’t.  But I can’t say that.  Yes, Jack Markell will sail off into the sunset.  Secretary Godowsky will go with him.  But what Jack made for Delaware is still in play.

I have this sense of foreboding tonight.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I do.  Things are going to change.  I know this but I want to wish it away.  Taking things for granted is never a good idea.  I want things to be simple again.  But they won’t be.  The last time things were simple for me was in 1975.

The summer after Kindergarten, my mom had to have an operation of some sort.  I couldn’t tell you what it was for, but it was enough for my parents to send me and my brothers to a family friend’s house for a couple of days.  We went to see Peter Pan, the classic cartoon version.  Afterwards, we went to our friend’s church.  I don’t remember how it got to that point, but I remember the minister asking me if I had anything to say.  So I told the whole church about Peter Pan.  I went on and on and on.  Everyone in the church was laughing and smiling.  I didn’t understand at the time that they weren’t laughing at how great Peter Pan was, but the fact that a five year-old boy was talking about this in God’s House of Worship.  Of course, I felt like the king of the world and the audience loved me.  I was the star of the show.

That was the last time things were truly simple for me.  Genuine, unadulterated bliss.  When you are that young, the world revolves around you.  You are the center of the universe.

I won’t be falling back to sleep tonight.  I would be getting up in an hour and a half anyways, so what’s the point.  I’ve already started my first cup of coffee.  To me, there isn’t anything better than that first sip.  Hopefully that, and a couple more, will do the trick for the day ahead of me.

Now I’m thinking of an earlier time, before Peter Pan.  My family and I were in church.  My Dad, Mom, my three brothers, and myself.  All I remember was that I was crying because my Mom went up to get Communion.  My Dad was holding me in his arms.  But I felt lost and scared.  I couldn’t have been older than two or three.  My father pulled out a little toy giraffe, no bigger than my hand.  For some reason, that giraffe gave me comfort.  It eased my troubled toddler little mind.  But I see it differently now.  I see a father holding a crying baby who wanted his mommy.  And in that moment, he found a connection.  Instead of getting upset, he gave me something he hoped would give me comfort and a feeling of safety.  It worked.  I remember holding that giraffe in my tiny hand and looking up at my dad.  In his eyes I saw a feeling of calm, of peace.

I haven’t thought, or written, about that moment in a long time.  The last time I wrote about it was in 1988.  I was in a creative writing class for the first half of my Senior year of high school.  Our final project was to write an autobiography based on something important in our life.  I wrote about my walk with God.  And I couldn’t very well talk about God without writing about all the people in my life.  This project became bigger and bigger the more I wrote.  It was about my life, from birth until that very snowy January over seventeen years later.  I believe it was about 24 pages, typed.  I got an A on it.  We had to read it in class.  I remember a few of my classmates crying when I read it.  I remember asking them later why they cried.  They said they had no idea or close I was with God.  I wasn’t a Bible-thumping evangelist running around my high school reading scripture every chance I got.  But in my thoughts, I pondered and wrestled with questions of faith back then.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.  At least that’s what they say.  It is now 3:15am.  My alarm will be going off at 4:30am.  I’m leaving it on in case weariness overcomes me and I succumb to somnus.

I was  a wreck last Christmas.  I never got the tree fully set up.  My son was transitioning to his fifth school since Kindergarten.  In six years.  It took its toll on me.  On my family.  I wonder sometimes if I will ever find a reason or answers to why my son had to go through so much at such an early age.  I watch him sometimes, struggling with his disability.  Those times when he asks God why he has to suffer through painful and repetitive tics.  Why his mind sometimes feels muddled.  Other times he refuses to believe in God because how could any God do that to a human being.  I see the host of people who have come in and out of his life.  Too much “goodbye” and not enough “hello”.  I struggle with my own thoughts on this.  When do I let go a little?  When does my fighting interfere with his ability to self-advocate?  He is fast becoming a teenager.  That transition period between boy and man.  When do I see the disability?  When do I see the boy-turning-into-a-man chrysalis?  Tourette Syndrome is not all he is.  He has it.  It affects him.  But it isn’t his whole being.  It is not his whole life.  It is just baggage he has to carry with him on his own walk through life.  One day, he will have to find peace with it.  I pray that day comes soon, but all things come in time.

What madness has struck upon me during this waxing gibbous that I am poring all these memories and feelings onto the screen?  I don’t know.  But it feels right.  Sometimes writing is my way of purging things.  Or coming to terms.  Reconnecting with the world.  I can throw numbers and statistics and secrets on the screen all day long.  But none of it means anything if I don’t have that reconnection.  I can’t be tethered to education all the time.  How I see education is not how most see it.  I dive into the cesspools most don’t even know exist.  Waters that don’t look that deep, but they will suck you in and drown you for all its worth.  But it is worth plenty.  I have no regrets.  This is my way of walking away from it.  At least for this moment.  To see life beyond the lies.  Because there is so much that human beings never learn in the classroom.  The painful and hard lessons they learn in real life.

schoolgaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.  He has this uncanny knack for dealing with the most abstract of thoughts in the simplest of ways.  So that anyone can understand it.  The above picture comes from his Sandman comic-book series.  It ran 75 issues, from 1988 until 1996.  I didn’t catch on to this series until 1991.  By then it was well-known.  Each issue became a gold-mine when it came out.  By the time the 74th issue came out, I was preparing to move to another country.  Young love and a huge sense of wanderlust brought me to Sweden in 1996.  I was there for two months when I walked into a newsstand one evening.  I was killing time before going over to a friend’s house.  I sold about 90% of my comic-book collection before moving and I didn’t really have much intention of picking up the habit again.  But there it was, staring at me.  Sandman #75.  The last issue.

William Shakespeare appeared in an earlier issue of Sandman.  Gaiman crafted a reimagining of the Bard’s inspiration for A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream in the story.  Morpheus, also known as the Sandman or Dream, granted William Shakespeare the inspiration for all his plays in exchange for a boon.  Shakespeare wrote two plays for Morpheus.  The play highlighted in the earlier issue was A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.  But the last issue was based on The Tempest.  Ironically, this took place prior to the pivotal moment in the series six issues earlier, but it served as the perfect moment for Dream to sleep.

I’m halfway done with my second cup of coffee.  For the first time in well over eight years, I read the last issue of Sandman again.  I am left wondering: do I inspire or am I inspired?  Do I write for you or do you read for me?  Do I amuse or am I your muse?  Weighty thoughts, heavier on my shoulders by little sleep and not having the ability to dream.

I leave for work in an hour.  This has been a distraction.  Away from my fears, my worries.  A distraction from a truth wrapped up in a secret.  We all do this.  We refuse to face a reality so we hide from it.  We try to cover it up.  But it’s always there, staring down at us like a Supermoon.

secrets

 

 

Intermission

If you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately.  I’ve been on an intermission of sorts.  Life stuff.  And fun stuff (for me at least).  I’ve been catching up on some reading and listening to a lot of music.  Things I used to do a lot before I started blogging.  I just need to wind down at times.  I’ve pretty much been on the go for over two years with education and I really don’t want to burn out.  So I’m taking some time off.  I’ll still try to get some stuff up everyday, but nothing to in-depth.  Unless something big comes my way.  Then I will get that up fast!

My wife and I cleaned out our garage today.  My car was filled with stuff we donated to Good Will.  I had to clean out my gutters when I saw weeds growing out of them in a couple of areas.  While I was doing that, a wicked wind blew green leaves all over the place.  I thought I might lose some trees on the edge of our property, but walnuts are very sturdy.

TV winds down for me in the summer.  Only a few shows I’m watching now: Game of Thrones, Preacher and Outcast.  The season finale of The Americans is on tonight.  I will definitely be watching that!  Like those who watch it, I think it is one of the best shows on TV now.  Having lived through the 1980s it is very spot-on with the rendition of the early part of that decade.  They even had a bunch of characters watching “The Day After” in one episode this season.  Kids today don’t live with nuclear threats like I did when I was a kid/teenager.  That movie scared the crap out of millions of Americans.  It came out in 1983 on a Sunday night.  I’ve watched it a few times since.

I was listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earlier today.  The Summer trio are my favorite.  Highs and lows, with a crashing crescendo at the end!  Then I vegged out to some Imagine Dragons and later a band you’ve most likely forgotten about or never heard of called Gene Loves Jezebel.

I’m just blabbing here, about nothing specific.  My son has been watching Arrow and telling me all about it.  I’m a huge Flash fan, but I’ve been stuck on the first season of Arrow for a couple of years.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge comic book fan.  In terms of shows and movies, Marvel gets the movies right and DC does really well with the tv shows.  I still haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet.  It is on my soon-to-do list.  Along with a million other things.

I’m kind of at a transition point.  My son is exactly where he needs to be with education.  His battles are a thing of the past for the most part so much my anger is fading.  That doesn’t mean I don’t care about education overall, I just don’t have that immediate connection to it I used to have.  I’ll still do the research and the digging and the listening.  But I am really trying to leave emotion out of it.  If anything, I’ve gotten more sarcastic with my writing.  I’ve been involved with this mess in Delaware so long and so intensely, nothing really shocks me much anymore.  But we are entering unchartered territory with Jack leaving next year and the upcoming elections.  At the time of this writing, Hillary is the Democrat nominee and Donald is the Republican.  I really can’t stand them both.  I was really rooting for Bernie, but his age concerned me a lot.  I don’t like the fact that both the frontrunners are two people who I’ve heard about for over twenty years and neither of them ever impressed me.  It’s kind of depressing actually.  I will fully admit it is very hard for me to not want to blast certain people involved in education.  I see them doing some of the same things over and over.  But it’s the everyday people I’m sometimes hard on, and I’m starting to feel bad about that.  My intention isn’t to hurt anyone.  I’ve always figured if you are going to attend meetings about education you are most likely a public person.  Even if they are “secret” or non-public meetings.  I know I upset a couple of people two weeks ago and I feel bad about that.  I’m going to try to be nicer to people on here.   I know, I’ve said that before and then two weeks later I was cussing out some folks.  When I have posts like that, I’m not going to publish them right away.  Sometimes the best thing to do is sleep on it and not go by the moment.

Alright, enough out of me.  For those reading this, I’m sure this was not the kind of post you wanted to read.  Everyone always loves the scoop (or the supposed scoop).  But even bloggers need a time out once in a while!

A Year And A Half Of Blogging

It has been a year and a half since I started this blog.  18 months today.  Over 2,000 posts.  Only three days where I didn’t write something: 6/16/14, 7/14/14, and 8/31/14.  There has been an article on here every day since 9/1/14.  Without fail.  Some days I’ve put tons of stuff up.  This should tell you something: how jacked up Delaware is with education.  The very fact that I could find over 1,000 things to write about proves this.  Some of the articles have common themes: Special Education, Opt-Out, Delaware DOE, Charter Schools and Governor Markell are the most obvious ones.  Today, I’m just going to free write, say what is on my mind.  No theme, no clear topic.  Just writing.

I never thought I would get involved in pending legislation, but I’ve learned it is very important to know what is coming.  Not just for yourself, but for your kids.  If I’ve learned nothing in the past 18 months, it is that every single voice does matter.  Don’t be afraid to use it.  You never know when it will make a difference.

I still remember that first night when I picked the name.  That nervous anticipation.  Picking my “header image”, which graced the front of this blog most days and nights until very recently when someone wrote to Warner Brothers about my use of their image.  Its not like I profited over it.  Just someone being bitter and resentful I’m sure.  Whoever you are, let me just say this: you suck!

The one question I am asked constantly is how I have the time to do this.  The easy answer: I don’t.  I’ve spent far too many late nights and early mornings on this blog.  It is exhausting.  And for a while there, I was going to every meeting under the sun.  I’m spent.  Tired.  Exhausted.  I’ve said this before, announcing I was going to slow down, only to come back roaring and writing more than ever.  But like any long distance runner, you eventually hit that wall.  Where your body just gives.  I’m pretty sure I’m at that point.  But I am resilient and bounce back fast, so any pause will be short-lived I’m sure.  Or the DOE or Markell will do something to tick us off and that gets the blood boiling again.

There are days where I feel like nothing I do makes a damn bit of difference.  Special education in Delaware is still a mess.  Jack is still messing things up.  The DOE will do as they please as long as Jack is protecting them.  Charters still have big issues.  I never dreamed there could be so many issues with education that would warrant daily articles.  It really is crazy.  I’m just tired of being mad all the time.  I’m tired of seeing the same people do the same things over and over again and nothing seems to stop them.  And I see others blindly following them, ignorant of what is right in front of them.  I’m sick of charter parents arguing the whole choice argument over and over like it is their kids God-given right to attend “great” schools and screw the other kids.  Is it right to be mad at them?  I don’t know.  I can explain it until the sun sets in the east, but until you have a child that has experienced the painful art of not being included somewhere or not given services they are legally entitled to, it is probably hard to imagine.  But then I see something like House Bill 50 passing the General Assembly, or schools like Family Foundations Academy or Delaware Met and their stories being made public when most of the mainstream media aren’t touching on a quarter of the issues going on in these schools.  Someone has to tell the tales.

I don’t write much about my son on here any more.  Its not because I don’t want to, but I feel his stories are his to tell.  I could write stuff every single day about him.  But he knows I blog, and he knows what I blog about.  I’m cool with that.  Some days he wants to hear about stuff, but most days he just wants to be a kid.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

I got a hair cut the other day.  For men getting older, do you ever just watch as your hair falls and you notice as the years go by how much is grey or white?  I saw that today.  Usually it is brown with bits of grey here and there.  On Friday, it was a lot more.  It makes you think.  Not about how long you’ve live, but how fast it goes.  You blink, and time is gone.  If this is my “time capsule”, so be it.  There are much worse things I could be doing!

Smiley The Terrible

One friend.  Just one.  Sometimes that’s all we need.  Just one, in a lifetime of people that pass through.

In 1981, I moved from Roanoke, VA to South Salem, NY.  Entering 6th grade, I was scared and nervous.  I was an okay student, but I had some minor disabilities in the form of attention deficit with a touch of hyperactivity.  When we moved that May, our new house wasn’t finished yet, but we sold the prior house so we had to rent a home for about three months.  For a month and a half, I went to an elementary school in Chappaqua, NY.  For about three weeks in July, we moved in with my Aunt and Uncle in Brookfield, CT, on the shores of Candlewood Lake.  Finally, in the beginning of August we moved to our new home in a small residential neighborhood in the bottom southwest corner of NY state.  If you walked through the woods about 1/2 a mile, you would be in Connecticut.

Within days of moving in, I met the Eds.  Two boys, my age and in the same grade, both named Ed.  All three of us had a love of comic books, so the first day we met, we were trading comics left and right.  Both of them played soccer, but I wasn’t interested in the game having done horrible a year prior.

I had a very difficult time making friends at my new school.  I had a southern accent, and it quickly became apparent I was a little different.  As well, I stupidly asked a question in 6th grade math when talking about rocks.  “Are rocks alive?” branded me for a few months as the village idiot.  And a month into school, when we could run for town positions, I decided to run for town clerk.  I had to give a speech at an assembly, and after uttering the words “My name is Kevin Ohlandt, and I’m running for town clerk”, most of the school was heard repeating these words when I would walk by.  My reaction was fierce!  I started talking back to those who taunted and teased me, and threats of “kicking my ass” soon followed.  It became a vicious cycle of taunt & tease, react, threats, and then me backing down and often crying or running away from the situation.

The two Eds though, they never joined the crowd.  After school, I would often hang out with them, usually exploring the vast amount of woods behind our houses.  Sometimes a bunch of neighborhood kids would play football or baseball, or in the summer, very large games of Flashlight Tag at night.  We would ride our bikes, go to new houses being built, or throw rocks on a frozen pond in the winter.  Eddie and I would walk to the bus stop almost every day.

As sixth grade led to junior high school, things got progressively worse for me.  Instead of battling one school, it was now four rolled into one.  More enemies.  Fights happened, usually with my “ass getting kicked”, but I still reacted without thinking.  Before too long, I was the one starting things.  But through it all, every day, I would sit at lunch eating with the two Eds and some other kids.  After school, more of the same.

During 7th and 8th grade, with my obnoxious big mouth and instigating tactics, I was often told to sit at the front of the bus.  Usually one of the Eds would sit with me.  He was called Eddie by most.  Eddie was the tallest of the three of us.  He was a gentle soul, always smiling.  He could be quiet and reserved at times, but for the most part we would talk and joke around.  I nicknamed him Smiley the Terrible.  I can’t for the life of me remember the context of the nickname, but terrible is the last adjective I would ever use to think of Eddie.

In 9th grade, still in Junior High School in our district, Eddie would share stories he wrote.  For a 14-15 year old, he wrote some very intelligent, well thought-out stories.  It was better than a lot of the stuff I had to read at school!  His imagination knew no bounds, even getting into some physics stuff before our time.

Things started to change when we entered high school.  Our interests changed.  The two Eds were heavily involved in soccer or other sports, and our four years of shared CCD classes ended after we were all confirmed.  I was still into comic books, even working at a comic book store over the border in Connecticut on Saturdays.  As friends tend to do at different points in our lives, we drifted apart.  I was very involved in youth groups and church activities, but that was in Connecticut.  We still talked, all three of us, but the conversations were more about what was going on or what girls we liked.

When I was in 11th grade, in 1987, I participated in a large church retreat called Emmaus.  For first-time participants, we were called candidates.  Emmaus was essentially an unconditional love fest retreat from Friday evening to Sunday evening.  Prior attendees, both teenagers and adults, would work the retreat.  As part of Emmaus, parents were encouraged to reach out to their teenager’s friends to write letters  to the candidates.  I received letters from the two Eds.  Eddie wrote the following:

Many people used to ask me why I was your friend.  “Why not?” was my usual response.  Perhaps they understood, perhaps they didn’t.

Eddie went on to write about some other things, but he concluded with this:

I’m glad you are my friend just because you are.

I received many letters from friends and family that weekend, but this was one of the ones that touched me the most.  No matter what, even if I embarrassed him with my actions, Eddie was committed to being my friend.  I had other friends, but it’s rare to have a friend that goes back years as a kid with disabilities.

Towards the end of our Senior year, Eddie and I talked a bit more.  Perhaps it was nostalgia creeping in as we prepared to embark on the next chapter of our sheltered lives, or maybe we found common ground.  Whatever it was, it culminated at a party at my house a month after graduation.  My parents were away, and my two older brothers and I had a huge party.  The two Eds came, and I remember the three of us talking in my backyard.  We made a toast to the past and to the future.  To my recollection, it was the last time all three of us were together.

After a year of trying to “find myself”, I moved to Pennsylvania with my parents and attended community college.  The first few years there were very rough for me.  Transition and I have never been good friends.  In the Fall of 1992 I would transfer to Cabrini College in Radnor, PA as a junior.  The summer before, I had the coolest job ever.  I was an editor for a magazine called Comics Values Monthly.  The owner of the comic book store I worked for back in 1985 started this magazine a year later after he closed the shop.  I continued to work for him throughout high school.  In 1991, his magazine was really taking off, and I offered to help.  Once a month, I would go up to Connecticut and New York during weekends and submit freelance work I did for the magazine throughout the month.  I went over to Eddie’s house one night during the summer, and we chatted a bit.  He was attending Washington College in Chestertown, MD.

On October 16th, 1992, a friend was driving me to a party.  A wicked storm came in, thunder and lightning all over the place.  As we were driving, I felt something.  I knew something happened.  My heart felt a sudden emptiness, a vacancy.  I didn’t know what it was, and it scared the hell out of me.  All I knew was that someone, somewhere, that I was once close to died.  I knew it in my conscious mind and I was sad.  By the time we got to the party, I put it out of my mind and had the kind of fun you can only have in college!

The next day, I felt a need to go home.  I was at Cabrini for a month and a half, and it was a whirlwind of studies, partying, working on the school newspaper, and working for the magazine.  I needed a break.  My parents had gone away that weekend, so I had the house to myself.  Early that Sunday morning, I received a phone call.  It was the other Ed’s mother.  I will never forget the words.  “I hate to tell you this, Eddie died Friday night.”

Eddie became involved in theater at Washington College.  While working on lighting for an upcoming play, he was electrocuted.  He died instantly.  The horrible loss I felt that Friday evening, over 100 miles away from Chestertown, MD, was Eddie passing away.  I found out later it was the exact same time of his death.

The next few days were a blur.  The following Wednesday was Eddie’s funeral.  I was unable to attend the wake the night before.  In Pennsylvania, it was raining non-stop.  I left very early, at 5:30am in the morning.  As I drove along the Delaware River on the New Jersey side, I put a tape on of U2’s Unforgettable Fire.  The title track of the album was playing and I felt Eddie’s loss more than I had at any other moment.  After the song finished, I put on a tape by a singer called Michael W. Smith.  He is a Christian singer who had some moderate mainstream success in the early 1990s.  He had just come out with a new album, and one of the songs was called “Friends”.  Another singer released this song years prior, and the first time I heard it was on my Emmaus weekend back in 1987.  As the song played driving up to Eddie’s funeral, I thought of his letter and the words he wrote.

Packing up the dreams God planted, in the fertile soil of you.  Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted, means a chapter in your life is through.  But we’ll keep you close as always.  It won’t even seem you’ve gone.  Cause our hearts, in big and small ways, will keep the love that keeps us strong.  And friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them.  And a friend will not say never, and the welcome will not end.  Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.”

While the words gave me comfort, I was also angry.  How could God strike someone down in the prime of his youth.  22 years old.  He had a whole lifetime ahead of him.  I regretted losing touch with him over the years.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but he inspired me to write.  He got me to take a journalism class in high school, and his many stories spurred my own creativity.  But somewhere along the way, the focus shifted between us.  When I was in high school, I was very involved in theater, whether it was bit parts in plays, or helping to be stage manager during our high school’s variety shows.  This extended into community college for many years as well.  Even after college, I still got parts at my old community college.  But this evolved into writing.  Eddie went from writing to theater.  He was one of those guys who really didn’t have a hateful bone in his body.

As I was writing this, I decided to Google Eddie and Washington College.  I knew he had been electrocuted while working on lighting.  But I didn’t realize he was working on a particular chandelier in the auditorium as part of his drama thesis.  Something about this gnawed at me.  Being the packrat I am, I tend to keep everything.  When I pulled out Eddie’s old Emmaus letter, I remembered he wrote me a letter when he was at Washington College.  There was something about a light in the letter.  I pulled it out of the dusty bin, and read it…

There’s a neat light in the theater that I was shown my freshman year here, it’s kinda like a night light, but it isn’t.  It’s really peaceful though and if you ever get a chance to get down here, I’ll show you it.

I wish I would have taken him up on his offer.  It’s been 23 years since Eddie died.  Whenever I used to go up to our old town, I would always make it a point to visit him at his grave.  In the year after he passed, sometimes I would spend hours there, talking to him, or just thinking, or praying.  I haven’t been up in that area in a long, long time.  The last time I was there, I was married and had my son for quite a while.  Gone were the days of my youth.  This was before I knew of my son’s disabilities and the battles ahead.  Before a blog even entered my mind.  I was just a dad, struggling with myself during those transition years.

A couple years after I moved to Delaware, I played hookie from work one day.  I went for a long drive, not sure where I was going.  I just went where my car took me.  I found myself in Maryland, in a place called Chestertown.  I drove past an old college, but I didn’t make the connection.  This was where Eddie breathed his last.  Even after I left this town and the beautiful river that went into the Chesapeake Bay, I didn’t know.  It wasn’t until years later when Facebook took off and I reconnected with old friends, that I found out.  Someone said Washington College when talking about Eddie, and my answer about why I found myself at Washington College was answered.  I suppose my subconscious knew.

I think about Eddie from time to time.  If I hear mention of Chestertown or Washington College, his smiling face appears in my mind.  Recently, a friend of mine was telling me about how her daughter goes to Washington College, and I started thinking about Eddie again.  I wanted to write about him, and honor my friend.  My friend who was there for me when so many others weren’t.  When peers were saying why and he didn’t care.  Everyone needs a friend like that.  Everyone needs that one person they can turn to, no matter how bad it is, and just knowing they care makes all the difference.

Sometimes I wonder about how I find the things I do with this blog.  How I find the strength to keep going, to put something up on here every day.  The little things, like looking for an answer to a question, never finding it, but the seeking opens up a door to something else.  I’ve written before about how another person in my life gave me inspiration when I first started this journey.  We have no idea how much the departed can impact us, how they push us in certain directions if we are open to it.  If we listen.  Sometimes, when I write, I go back and read it months later and wonder where I got those words.  I like to think Eddie, and others gone before and since, are guiding me under the watchful eye of God, who I have never given enough credit for the wonderful things in my life: my wife, my son, my friends, my family.  The sunset that stretches across the sky at night on my way home from work.  The moments of absolute stillness when you feel like you are one with the world.  The nights when you are alone with nothing but the stars and you get lost in the vastness of it all.  That’s all God.  Something I need to remember.

It was so long ago, when my friend was in my life.  But he is still here, in my heart and even in my words.  He reminds me that God is still a part of my life, even when I don’t think He is there.  Part of the reason I stand up for children with disabilities is because long ago, Eddie stood up for me.  Eddie may be gone from this world, but he still burns brightly in my mind.  A light that he found, an unforgettable fire.

Flashback: September, 1986.  The three of us go to a movie in New Canaan, CT.  It’s a movie about a group of friends who have a moment in their lives when they have to make a journey to find a dead body.  But like most things in life, it doesn’t go the way they planned.

I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Jesus, does anyone?

I cry every time I see the end of Stand By Me now.  Every single time.  I think of Eddie, and what he meant to me, and still does.  Thank you Stephen King, for writing those words in your original short story called “The Body”, adapted into Stand By Me.  Just seventeen words to encapsulate a time when one person made a difference.

Happy Birthday To The Inspiration Behind Exceptional Delaware

Before Markell and Herdman started plotting together, before Common Core was a gleam in Arne Duncan’s eye, before the words Race To The Top meant gouging schools in America with corporate education reform, a baby was born.  Eleven years ago today to be precise.  Out in Southern California, he entered this crazy world.  It was a beautiful day, very warm and in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky.

After some complications, my son was born.  My wife had some complications as well, so I went with the nurse to the incubator.  Before my son was placed in there, I reached out my hand to his and he squeezed my finger.  Not even 10 minutes old, and I bonded with him forever at that moment.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Here we are, eleven years later.  He came into this world on a warm and sunny day, and he turned eleven waking up to snow.  There have been many challenges along the way, and there will be more.  But there are also those moments of joy that you can never put into words.  Things only a parent can truly know.

His journey through life is his own, I’m just a guide for a certain amount of time.  He has other guides, like his mom, and others.  His story has become my story, and everything I do on here, every word I write, it is to help him, and others like him.  The battles I fight, the secrets uncovered, it is all to expose and to change.  If I, along with others, ever do win these battles, the biggest challenge will be what comes next.  Nature abhors a vacuum, so something must take it’s place.  I pray that worthy voices will very carefully replace the abomination education has become.  For my son, and the students in all of our schools.

I have to believe something better is on the way.  I have hope.  It can’t be this bleak all the time.  In the meantime, I will continue to write, for my inspiration and my moments of joy, happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, curiosity and insight.  Happy Birthday bud!  I love you!

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The Last Post of 2014 Will Be A Huge Part of 2015

New Years Eve.  The transition from one year to the next.  Like I said a week ago, this blog will be changing gears soon, and it will be going against the grain.  Some things need to be talked about, and there needs to be an honest conversation about it.  It exists, and it is seldom talked about anymore with all the other talk in Delaware about priority schools and corporate education reform.  I understand teachers are pissed off, and I am to.  I can’t stand what has happened to education in the past ten years.  But one thing gets me angrier than anything, and that’s this:

jacobsbrain

This is an MRI scan from a boy with special needs.  He got hit in the head two days before Christmas on the last day of school.  This was his 8th physical assault this year.  That is 8 too many.  He got a concussion from the blow, and it’s considered moderate to severe.  He has had headaches and nightmares ever since.  He will be spending the month of January at home when the rest of his peers will be in school.  He will have homebound instruction with a tutor.

This child has an IEP, and he was approved for a one-on-one aide, but a permanent one has not been hired yet.  His IEP team was told on day one that he can say inappropriate things at times based on his disability, but it was his parents hope the social skills training in his IEP accommodations would help.  It would have helped this boy if that social skills training was given and not used as a punishment when he said something inappropriate to someone in his group.  Because of that, his social skills accommodation was taken away, and his parents weren’t even aware of this until weeks later.  He lost this accommodation for well over a month and much of the bullying and physical assaults against him took place during this time.

His school wants to say much of what is going on with him is behavior and not his neurobiological disability.  This has caused his parents to become very upset with the school on many occasions.  The boys parents feel they are not treated like peers, but as “guests” in this public school district.  The school has no problem in making my son take responsibility for his actions, but when it comes time for the school to do the same, things get very quiet.

There is so much more I can and may say about this boy.  His father understands the plight of teachers.  He understands the impact the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell, and all these bizarre shadow organizations have had on education.  He is against the current teacher effectiveness program.  He hates the priority school initiative.  But this father has to look out for the safety of his son, and when his son has to get an MRI because the doctor is worried about the results of an impact test from the concussion, this boy’s father has to start tackling the biggest problem in Delaware schools.  The problem that has been present for years in ALL Delaware schools.  The problem that all too often gets swept under the rug.  This boy has Tourette Syndrome, and he is my son.