Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Quest : scientific interlude

I'd teased a tale of scientific exploration; a tale of a 50$ microscope from Toys 'R Us, a petri dish, a dropper, and me trying to go blind and grow hair on my palms.

Well, my last post, "negative" kinda summed up how that went. We'd read a bit about other couples who in their attempts to conceive had opted to do their own at-home semen analysis. Sure, it ain't completely scientific, but the fact of the matter is that if they're there, you'll see em with as little as 100x magnification.

Now, I never got bad grades in my science classes, but I can tell you that I've never done well with microscopes. I mean, I know how they are supposed to work, and I know how to use the knobs, but I've always had trouble focusing. Really its because of the things teachers don't really tell you (or at least mine didn't). Exactly how far do you jam your eye against the eyepiece? Should the circle encompass your entire sight, or just a bit of it? What the hell are all those other dots? and Where the hell did that hair come from and why can't I seem to get rid of it?

So naturally I'm spending the entire time thinking of Bob, my co-worker, a long-time Science teacher who just-so-happens to continually complain about how students just don't know how to use a microscope. I love Bob, I really do...but not a time I'm wanting to think of him.

Sparing you the details, I spent the majority of that Sunday rubbing my eyes, moving slides, making slides, and relentlessly searching for something that just wasn't there. It was simultaneously awkward, comical, and tragic. (Hmmm...maybe that'd be a good tagline for this blog )

Thinking that maybe I really was just that bad with a microscope, I cashed in the legit analysis I had leftover from the original vasectomy. Turns out, I do just fine with a microscope. Damn proud of that, I am.

Meanwhile, a friend and co-worker was finding out that he would be a father soon. For a far longer period of time than myself, he has had to cope with the prospect of not having a child of his own, so naturally I am overjoyed for him and his spouse. Not that we are the closest, but of what I know and have seen, I think they'll be great parents.

I know I love being a parent, and clearly I love the idea of doing it again. Yet there is a duality to my happiness for others; it's just hard to separate my "baby happiness" from thoughts of Joel. That feeling of, despite all evidence to the contrary, being a failed parent. It's even more interesting when the new baby in question is due around Joel's 1st birthday.

So the world keeps spinning, and new life keeps being created, and thank goodness for it.

I just hope theres some goodness in there the next time I look in the microscope.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


6 weeks out from my vasectomy reversal, I cashed in one of my left over semen-analysis from my vasectomy.

When they called me to say it was negative (no sperm), my first feeling (and I say feeling instead of thought, because I wouldn't truly think this, but nonetheless it is how I felt) was, " I can't bring him back."

I know that isn't what we are trying to do. I was the one to first say that we should never allow it to be looked at that way. I will raise my third child to know that she or he is a very special someone that fate brought to us. (aww, isn't my defiant optimism cute?) But I guess somewhere deep inside there is that hope that a piece of him would enter this world through his younger brother or sister. Letting my heart place its focus there allowed it to quit screaming for someone to tell me my baby isn't dead.

We are just shy of four months of this shaded reality we now live in. As so many others have accurately depicted it: this shadow-world, where you live the same life as before, but it is all washed in black, stained and just a little out of focus (Thank you Pearl Jam, you can bet that song takes on new meaning these days) Every day I shuffle to work and interact with classrooms full of reminders of what my son will never be. Every day I muffle my screaming heart as I look at kids whose parents look at them like 18 year prison sentences; they're beaten and neglected; taught at the dawn of puberty to flaunt their perceived-to-be only valuable asset; and my pain rages at these parents, ungrateful for the gift they've received.

Getting past that, there are still a dozen little reminders, every day, that make that lump rise in my throat. Thankfully most work days go by fast enough that I can't stop to feel bad, but it is still a daily struggle, and I imagine it will continue to be for quite some time.

For my wife and I both, we've got through life by trying to laugh through the tough times. As you can imagine, we now try to laugh perhaps more than ever before. We try to bring as much light to this shadow-world as we can. Maybe we're just trying to distract ourselves, or maybe we're just trying to find whatever foothold we can to get up, out and back into the sun.

I don't think the shadows could ever go away, and I don't know that I'd want them to; but if we can help spread a little more light, and help others shoulder the pain and confusion, that might be nice. Not to make something special out of ourselves, but to just let people know that this is where we live, and there are a lot of us, living here silently among the world, looking for peace.

So yes, I'm the father of a dead baby, and I still whine and cry about it, and my loss has absolutely turned my world upside down: revealing truths, severing ties -- admittedly making me a bit more of a loon than I was before. If that should warrant my being some sort of a spectacle to be whispered about, then so be it, because I doubt I'm thinking/feeling/doing much different than anyone else.

Coming soon: The Quest - hope is not lost

Monday, September 21, 2009


Every 10-12 days is a bad record for blog updating, isn't it? Well, it isn't for lack of trying, and it certainly isn't due to a lack of subject matter. Maybe its just because of my own requirement of over-exposition that I can't get a blog banged out in a timely manner? Too much inner dialogue just doesn't play out well in this kind of situation...

There has been plenty going on in the 10 days since the last update, and I'll get to them soon, but first, a collection of the thoughts I started, but didn't finish

should I be hiding?

Partook (is that a word?) in an interesting discussion at work today about that old issue of 'what do you let people see online?' I know for myself, one of the initial joys of the internet was the anonymity of it all; just a voice with no face being able to freely say whatever you like. Myspace and Facebook changed that a bit, but now at least we have 'lists' to be able to separate who sees your dirty undies and who only looks at your church robe. And hey, thats the way it oughta be.

trust me, I know from experience.

All of our relationships are on different tiers; different levels of security clearance. You can joke about strangling a hooker before work with some people, while others might put in a call to the police if they hear something like that. Some people don't mind reading your more emo status updates, while others just get a little wierded out that you sit around dressed like that guy from The Cure.

But in thinking about this, and in my recent reintegration into the world at large by way of work and grad classes, I've noticed just how disassembled my life really is, at least socially. Now the core is strong: my wife and my son; no issue there. And I still have my extended network of close friends. I say extended because they are all long-distance relationships at this point, but still strong and supportive relationships. With these people, it is full disclosure (well, not my son, but you know what I mean). But do new relationships start at a low level of disclosure? hrmmm

Katrina, Katrina

I was thinking recently of a woman I used to "care for" in a group home setting. For those that knew me back then, well, you remember the stories. For those that weren't around, well, when I actually get some sun, you can still see all of the fingernail scratch scars. In fact, I have a very noticeable one in our wedding photos. I saw some rough times in that house, and that is putting it mildly.

I've been thinking about those days a lot lately, and I don't know why. (or at least I didn't at the time, I do now -- future blog) For what reason did I go through that mental trauma? The physically and emotionally draining days of trying to reason with insanity and fight through obsessions that were not my own; the biting, the kicking, the clawing, the blood and the fecal matter and the urine. Why? I've seen Katrina since I left that place; nothing has changed, at least not for the better from what I've been told. She doesn't seem to remember me, although she never seems to remember many of her long-term caregivers once they are gone. So I guess my time didn't necessarily make a huge impact on her life, so how does it all fit into where I'm at right now?

Little did I know at the time I thought about these things that the answers were right around the corner, in a form I know I will never forget.

Coming Soon:
He's not breating!


The Quest, part 7: fun with science!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sound of Silence

Forgive me if this comes off as a bit rushed, but if I don't knock it out today, the relevance will be lost for a whole year and, well, I needs a blog entry to stay fresh. How else will I get my "5 - 12 hits per day" up to being competitive with my wife's thousands per week. I'm not even going to bother linking to it since you probably already came from there...and the fact that if you're smart enough to realize that her blog is worth reading (which it is and I'm not just saying that so she won't cut my balls off... we've put too much money into my balls for her to do that) you'll check out my sidebar and find the link yourself.

So I have this little story that I tell in my class to commemorate September 11th. Despite the subject matter, I enjoy telling it and it even grabs the attention of my "bad" kids. So, I thought I would try and share it here.

Now I don't have a "where were you when..." story. Truth is, I was in bed trying to decide if I wanted to go to my speech class that morning. I told my mom, "that stuff happens all the time" when she said a plane crashed into the first tower. I figured it was just a commuter plane. She had me up out of bed in time to see the second plane live as it happened. But we all had some form of that experience.

My story happens about 6 weeks later in mid-November of 2001. I was on a Model U.N. trip up to Montreal, Quebec, Canada (in case you were thinking of the other Montreal) and we stopped for 3 days in New York City; my first time to New York.

New York had been the backdrop for everything I ever thought was cool, so being there was mind-blowing for me and I followed our little group through the city only halfway paying attention to what we were doing or where we were going; I was too busy takingeverything in. Not just the sights, but the overwhelming sounds. The constant hum of bustling people talking away as they rush down city streets; street vendors calling out,

"hot dogs!" "You lookin' for a good time
"We've got the lowest.." "Need a watch?"
"Live nudes!" "check out my improv group!"

Not to mention the cabs honking and rushing and screeching to a halt; folks whistling for cabs and the cabbies cursing one another in seven different languages. The construction and the machinery, the music pouring form stores and Times Square advertisements; crosswalks and policemen...

The city was alive with sound and while I'd heard about it before, it was nothing I'd ever experienced. So there I was, lost in amazement, and following along toward the back of my group. I know I was talking with someone during all of this, but I honestly can't remember who; I'm sure it varied. But I remember as we rode the subway to our next destination, I noticed our car getting more and more roomy, which seemed especially odd in the afternoon.

When we stepped off onto the platform, it was nearly empty and there was a noticeable lack of chatter. As we climbed the stairs into the sunlight, everyone in our group fell silent and something felt off.

We turned right coming out of the subway, heading out to the next street, and I remember seeing a cab drive by, slowly, without making a sound.

As we approached the intersection, I observed the usual throngs of people making their way down the opposing sidewalk, along with the cabs and the bicycle messengers, but without all the sound. Standing there amongst the office buildings, the taxis and the business men, New York was silent.

I turned to my right, and I realized where this deafening silence originated from as I found myself standing at one end of a city block of makeshift memorials. I understand now that there was still dust in the air, even six weeks later, and maybe that explains it, but I know I've since breathed air so thick; it was as if the silence itself held weight, and I suppose it did.

A wall of blue stretched almost as far as I could see, blocking any direct view of Ground Zero. But on that blue lay flowers, posters, notes and pleas: "If you find my husband...", "If you find my daughter...", " child..." A small, dusty and damaged bicycle set leaning against a lamp-post, the story of a young boy who delivered food from his parents' restaurant attached to it...

We looked at those memorials for what seemed like hours, but above all what I remember is the silence. The power of that event to, still six weeks later, bring silence to the city that never sleeps.

May all those who died that day find peace in the Universe. May all of us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hello, true believer!

Allright, so I've been trying to churn out a new post for little while now, and honestly just haven't had the time. Started a few, finished nothing ("ACK!" is a product of this rushed blogging exercise, and I'm not really sure the one you're reading is "finished" either). Honestly I'd been digging for something to write, but not really coming up with anything that felt right for the ole blog. I mean, as much as I like to joke about the afterglow of scrotal surgeries, there is a certain focus I'm hoping to keep...I don't know exactly what to call it, but there's a focus dammit.

So, today I had to call-in to work: I brought home some sniffles, Jules got them and, well, sleep didn't happen. Now that he is up and running around, it's just a runny nose and hopefully won't get any worse. But after I awoke from the three hours of sleep he did let me get (this being after I still had to go to work to drop off lesson plans because the network had crashed) I found a lot of talk about the health care debate waiting for me. I suppose half the world setting their facebook status to:

No one should die because they can not afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

will do that (myself included). With the things that have happened in our lives as of late, the wife and I have certainly given some thought to all of this health care brew-ha (I've only heard broo-ha, never seen it written...or is it broo-ha-ha?) . Jess has even been invited to officially give her input on some health care reforms, at least for the local medical giant.

For myself, I honestly don't get the debate. Well, I get the debate on how to make reforms work, but I just don't get the arguments objecting to reform. I've been trying though, I honestly have. As I get the opportunity, I try to read or watch anyone I can who might give a reasonable argument against healthcare reform; I just haven't seen it.

I either see folks that simply ignore pro-reform information and strategies that have been presented (ie: where the money will come from) or the people that just spin it (ie: death panels). The only honest argument I've seen against it was basically someone saying, " I don't want to pay for these other people." I don't get that either, but at least I can respect someone just flat out saying it instead of spinning it around and trying to scare everyone else.

Others -- and this is the real debate, in my opinion-- focus on the statement that it is unfair to tax one portion of the population more than another. Essentially, the idea is that tax money from the rich would go to help cover what those of us below the $250,000 mark can't do for ourselves. Well that's just un-American! We live in a free market and if I'm able to make more money, then I deserve to keep it because I earned it! This isn't what the founding fathers had in mind.

Well, Daddy Warbucks, you're probably right. Yet somewhere along the way, our Supreme Court decided that it was unfair for our schools to be "separate but equal" because it was a distortion of reality. Now we have government funds( tax dollars, believe it or not) that are spread out to the schools standing in impoverished communities, to make sure that all American children are afforded a fair shot in regards to education. If we deem education an inalienable right, and a burden that all members of our country should shoulder, why not the right to be healthy enough to go get that education?

I'm not saying the government should have paid for my vasectomy reversal; that was completely elective. But I do think, "What if the the haggling of insurance companies weren't involved?" Would I and my family be where we are today if our health care system had been different? Maybe, maybe not.

Perhaps the Perinatal Specialist, when he decided to cancel the ongoing scans that would have caught Joel's worsening condition and perhaps given us a fighting chance, was concerned that our insurance would deem weekly tests unnecessary and/or too costly. Maybe he was concerned more with my paying the 20% co-pays than the insurance paying out. I don't suppose we will ever know, but in this climate, I find it hard to believe that no thought was given to the business end of things.

Admittedly, I have decent insurance. It certainly isn't great, and it actually gets worse every year, thanks to rising costs, but still, it isn't the worst out there; a lot of people are worse off than my family. Still, we aren't in great shape. Losing Joel brought on many burdens; thankfully we had family to help us out (among that family we now happily include friends and my incredible co-workers that went above and beyond for us; they rock beyond words). Despite our own troubles and concerns, we try to help people when the opportunity arises; perhaps even more-so now.

The argument is that helping isn't something the government can force us to do. I think we've already agreed as a nation that sometimes it is (I was going to use FEMA as an example, but then I started snickering...). We live in a 'free market' and so our money should be ours to do with as we please. In the free market, money equals power; nothing new being said there.

I don't hear a debate about money; I hear a debate about power, and what people with power do with it; and I see our President being called a socialist by people that maybe just don't know what a socialist is...

I wouldn't call him a socialist, I don't know him that well, but I know what looking at this debate makes me think of; and do I know the President learned the same lesson from the same place that I did:

With great power, must also come great responsibility.

Thanks Stan, you're still "the man".