Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weighing In

I know I'm late to the game and I've purposely not commented much on this issue, but after reading a letter by the Bishops of New York State (you can read it if you like here), I thought I would simply weigh in my thoughts on the matter.  Mind you, I'm not saying the Bishops are wrong.  I think from the Catholic perspective and as members of the religous community, what they said makes complete sense.  However, I think in some respects they're confusing symptoms with the cause.

Let's begin with the issue at hand, the recent legalization of "gay marriage" in New York State.  To begin, I learned in college that it is not the role of the government to legislate morality.  Essentially, it cannot.  Some will argue (as was quoted by our parish priest) that laws must be rooted in morality or we become a society of rules only.  I don't beleive that.  Murder isn't illegal because it's immoral (though I believe that it is), it's illegal because no one has the right to deprive me of my life.  My stance on gay marriage, at least as it concerns legality, is that this is an issue about legal rights, not about whether two people of the same sex getting married is moral.  I can't tell you for sure if I think gay marriage is immoral or not.  Truthfully, I can't bring myself to judge two people who love each other and wish to commit themselves to each other for the rest of their lives.  I live by the standards of love your neighbor as yourself and judge not let you be judged.  So I'm going to leave that one with God.

I do know that the church teaches any sex outside marriage is immoral and that marriage in the Church can only be between a man and a woman.  I happen to believe that as well.  I won't go into too much detail on the issue of sex outside of marriage but the Bishop's statement linked above does go into how marriage is being weakened by things like children out of wedlock, cohabitation, high divorce rate, etc.  Again, I think this are symptoms of a much larger problem.  We, as Catholics/Christians and as Americans seem to value marriage less these days.  Perhaps it's because making that long term committment is hard.  Ellen and I have had our share of struggles in our marriage.  But I think part of the reason we're still together is our deep faith in God and commitment to each other and our kids.  That's not to say that there aren't marriages that are bad for a couple and they shouldn't dissolve that union.  But perhaps that couple should have taken more time, did more reflection, and thought more deeply about whether they SHOULD have gotten married.  But that's a whole other conversation.

In reading the Bishop's comments I took away that I should have been against this law.  But I don't buy into the concept that giving any couple the legal rights associated with what the State calls "marriage" somehow weakens what Catholics call "marriage".  Marriage in the sense meant by Christians has already become weaakened by so many other things.  If the Bishops, Catholics, and the clergy really want to strengthen marriage, let's go after the real causes of the decline of marriage.  The divorce rate has been over 50% for a while now.  This law is not going to affect that statistic.  If you're going to complain about something, go and fix the real problem instead of pointing fingers and saying "see, THAT is going to ruin marriage as we know it".  I hate to tell you, marriage as we know it has been on the rocks for a LONG time now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let's go racing!

Last night I raced in the Fat Tire Tuesday series.  It's a mountain bike race through a YMCA camp.  Combination of single track and open fields.  I like the course because it's got some technical parts but also lots of flat areas to recover after getting your ass kicked climbing hills.  As a beginner I ran three laps, which worked out to just under 7.5 miles.  Not a bad time, about 54 minutes.  My time last year was 51 minutes but the course was a little different so it's hard to gage whether I did better or not. 

One thing is for sure, that course kicked my ass.  The back part of the course was a climb up a hill with a bunch of switchbacks.  The hill was pretty sandy so you're trying to climb, turn 180 degrees, and try not to spin your tire on the turn and wipe out.  There was another climb near the end of the course that was similar but with no switchbacks.  Still, trying to climb AND turn in a sandy track is a bitch.

I did pretty good the first two laps, but by the third I was really wiped out and started running into things.  The other thing that made the course a little difficult was trying to get out of the way of faster riders.  The courteous thing to do is move over if someone faster is coming up behind you.  However, there's not always a good spot to move over if your in a tight single track with trees all around.  The problem is that once you lose some of your momentum and your tired, you start getting squirrly.  For example, I tried slowing down to go around one side of a tree to let the rider behind me go around the other side.  And slammed into the trunk of the tree with my left shoulder.  On the final climb, I had to slow down a little bit and lost so much momentum I fell over like 3 times just trying to get going to climb the hill.  Again, sandy terrain didn't help.  However, I did finish the race!

Probably the best part of the race was having a cheering section.  Ellen and the boys came along.  Ellen's neice was there as well since her husband was racing also.  So when I'd come through the area where they were hanging out, the would cheer and ring cowbells (that's what people do in cycling races).  Nothing gets you pumping like having people rooting you on!  I was dead tired after that but it was a good time.  There's three more races but I don't know if I'll try all three.  Perhaps one or two more.  I havent' been riding as much this year as last year (damn weather!) so I may need to train better.  However, there's a 15 mile charity road ride coming that I may do.  I need to get more detail.  The coolest thing about racing last night was there was a guy that did the course (at least 3 laps) on a UNICYCLE!  No shit this guy had a mountain bike tire on the thing and ran through all the hills and everything else on it.  THAT is a totally different kind of crazy but something I can respet.  Here's some pics of the race:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wrapping up another year

The school year is quickly coming to an end.  Christopher is finishing up finals this week and Nicholas has finals next week.  We met with Christopher's counselor yesterday to start prepping for the fall.  Our final scout meeting of the year was also last night where we had a campfire and retired flags.  It's been an up and down school year.  Glad it's pretty much over but the summer is just starting to ramp up.  We now have to get Christopher ready for boy scout camp.  He's a counselor in training this year and will be up in the Adirondak park for three weeks.  Nicholas will be up there for one week with his troop so Ellen and I will get a week with no kids (yeah!).  But there's much to do between now and then.

Beyond kid's activities, not much going on.  The weather and our schedule has not been condusive to riding but I've been gettng out all I can.  There are some mountain bike races the next couple of Tuesdays so hopefully I can get to at least one.  Ellen wants to do some hiking and mellow riding so we MAY have some time for that.  I'd also like to plan a day trip or two so we'll see how that works out.  Right now a lot of things are making me feel like life is on hold.  I'm doing a lot of waiting.  And I'm not so good at waiting.  But there's nothing else to do so you keep moving forward.

Monday, June 06, 2011

That's better

I spoke to Christopher's guidance counselor for 10th grade today.  My God what a difference.  I explained to him my concerns and some of the things that happened this year.  I hear him say "Oh my God" A LOT.  As in he was in disbelief at the lack of attention to our concerns.  He is more than happy to meet with us to brainstorm ideas for next year.  And agreed we need to meet with Christopher's teachers in the fall.  He even asked me what preferred order of classes I'd like for Christopher so his afternoon (where he struggles the most) might be easier for him.  So we put Science, Social Studies, and Math in the morning instead of after lunch.

Holy cow what a difference!  I'm a fairly intuitive person when it comes to judging others.  I've learned to trust my gut on first impressions.  And this counselor made a very good first impression on me.  Mind you, I'm still taking a wait and see approach.  Actions speak louder than words but so far I'm hearing the right things.  We're going to meet with the new counselor next week (with Christopher there) to come up with a plan TOGETHER.  which is how it should have been this year.  I don't plan on dwelling on everything from this year except as a lessons learned experience, which is what I told the new counselor.  I'm cautiously optimistic that we can put together something that works to help Christopher be successful the rest of his high school career.  He'll have this counselor until graduation so if things work out in the beginning of the next school year, I'm confident we can get Christopher to where he needs to be by graduation.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Look out, man of action on the loose

First of all, I'd like to say Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife of 22 years.  Looking forward to many more together!

Ellen gave me an unintended anniversary gift today.  Quick background, Christopher has been struggling in a couple of classes this year, the last two of the day.  He didn't turn in assignments, got poor grades, etc.  We tried to get assistance from the school guidance counselor but her solution was to tell Christopher to write all of his assignments in his agenda and see his teachers for help after school if he needed it.  They should pay me her salary to give such useless advise.  This week was a MAJOR blowout with him that had my stomach in knots for 2 days.  I even had a sit down with him yesterday to try and figure out what was going on and what were we missing.  He said nothing was going on and he "just needed to get organized."

Then Ellen sent me a link to THIS site.  A read a couple of articles and had a "holy shit" moment.  Several of the articles talked about how ADHD kids really struggle with organization and hate it and will fight you tooth and nail against it and will try and take care of everything themselves.  Basically, it was Christopher.  DAMN!  All along I was thinking the problem was him but I got it only half right.  It was him all right, but there was no problem!  His lack of organization is how his brain works.  And I'd forgotten that somehow along the way.  I also realized I'd failed him in properly advocating for him at school.  Since he was no longer getting specific services, I assumed he no longer needed help.  WRONG!

So while working out at lunch, I had the brainstorm.  I came up with a plan.  You want to talk about relief and a weight coming off of my shoulders?  I'm a person that needs to take action to solve a problem.  This was killing me since there was a "problem" and I couldn't fix it.  But now, there's something I can do.  I called the school.  I asked Christopher's current counselor (the useless one) who his counselor was going to be next year.  Then she made the mistake of trying to talk to me about what I SHOULD be doing.  BIG MISTAKE.

I let her have it.  I told her how we'd come to her for assistance and her solution wasn't a solution at all.  I told her that though the school SAYS they want to partner with parents, that the school had failed to do so.  She had the audacity to ask me if we'd seen his doctor to adjust his medication as that would be a "first step".  Which we'd done in November, BTW.  And THEN she started going on about what the teachers COULD do to help parents stay informed as to what's going on!  With one week to go in the school year she tells me this!  I then told her it would have been nice to be given this information at our meeting 4 months ago.  She was smart enough to recognize that I was frustrated with her.  You think?  I've talked to other parents (and other teachers in the district I know) and they all agree she's lousy at her job.

So I now have a call in to Christopher's 10th grade counselor.  We WILL meet before the school year ends to discuss strategies for the summer and for next year.  Then we WILL meet again at the start of the school year with all of his teachers so they understand MY expectations.  I'm through being Mr. Nice Guy and making requests of his school.  I won't even make demands.  I will simply make statements and expect my child's needs to be met.  Or I'm walking into that school and raising bloody hell.

Yes, I will be THAT parent.  They've awoken the sleeping lion in me.  They have no idea what they're in for.