Tag Archives: kids

See you on the other side

This is my first election night not spent in a newsroom in more than a decade.

Four or five hours into this great America tragedy, and I miss the comfort of the newsroom.

The way you felt in control of things, even though it was only an illusion. Being tied into the campaigns so tightly made you feel like you really understood them.

The hot pizza at 5 p.m. and cold at 10 p.m. And bottle of Scotch for midnight. The sense of purpose and feeling like everyone was listening, watching, reading your every word.

Election nights are intoxicating.

Continue reading See you on the other side

The Back Story

WanderlustIt all started with an insatiable wanderlust.

And a girl who wanted to go along for the ride.

We have traveled to dozens of countries together. We’ve lived in seven cities in five states. We’ve moved 26 times in our 20 years together.

And it’s time to come home for a while.

Every adventurer has a home base. And for us, that home base has always been Salem, Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s the perfect place, sandwiched between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, full of rivers and lakes and trails. A perfect place for an adventurer to keep his or her legs fit and eyes ever looking towards the next vista.

Continue reading The Back Story

Teenage Politics

Politics

On Thursday, around our dinner table, I couldn’t help but think that my kids are becoming really great liberals.

If liberals means they espouse a political ideology founded upon ideas of liberty and equality.

We discussed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the State of the Union address, the economic impact of falling oil prices and, of course, school testing, a topic they are all too familiar with and opinionated about.

As I listened to each of them make a case for or an argument against some aspect of our discussion, it dawned on me that they have become what I had hoped they would.

Independent thinkers.

Thoughtful question askers.

Skeptical analysts.

I was fast becoming a Young Republican at their age, bent on making my worldview, the one I had fashioned as a second generation immigrant, work for me.

Continue reading Teenage Politics

Things not to text your parents when you travel

China Daily

This is not a post I ever imagined writing.

I took my first solo trip when I was 13, flying from Washington D.C. to San Francisco unaccompanied and absolutely sick to my stomach through the entire flight.

I used two barf bags, which I held in my lap because the passengers next to me were both deaf and sleeping. A kind but ultimately doomed flight attendant disposed of these for me when she realized my predicament.

To top it off, upon our descent into San Francisco, our plane hit a downdraught and lost nearly 5,000 feel of altitude in a single moment. We dropped so fast the flight attendant actually hit the roof of the plane about a dozen seats in front of me.

Continue reading Things not to text your parents when you travel

The Boy in the Mirror: Raising Yourself

He came bounding out of the school wearing an old Easter outfit I recognized from a few years ago.

He’s not the paragon of fashion, and I’m okay with that as long as he is.

It was a dark mint shirt with a striped tie where one stripe matched a shade of the shirt. Khaki cargo trousers and a belt rounded out the ensemble.

“How was your presentation?” I asked, sort of feebly.

Continue reading The Boy in the Mirror: Raising Yourself

Losing a teacher –

I got a text message from my friend Ted around lunch time today. It said that a teacher at Independence Junior High had passed away.

It didn’t really register right away. Then he typed the name in: Maureen Oleskiewicz.

I wrote back that I thought she might be one of Carson’s teachers. Ted told me she had choked on something at a Cub’s game on the weekend and that she had been hospitalized since then.

I texted my wife, who immediately called me back, breathless from her run. She had been informed earlier that morning that Oleskiewicz was on life-support, and that they were bringing counselors into the school to talk to the children. She died Tuesday morning.

Palos Heights is a small area, 4.6 square miles to be exact. Oleskiewicz not only grew up in the town, she attended all the schools my kids went to, graduating a year ahead of my friend Ted.

She was Carson’s language arts teacher, and though she and Carson did not have the greatest relationship, she was beloved by many in the school and in the community. My daughter Gabrielle, who attends a different school, told us that her teacher cried today in class.

My oldest son, who is in high school, said that news of Oleskiewicz’s death reverberated through his school too. Like I said, Palos Heights is a small place.

I lost friends in school. I remember the strange days walking around campus talking in hushed tones and wondering if I should go talk to the grief counselors the school brought in.

But I never lost a teacher.

When I got home, Carson had already gone to a memorial service for Oleskiewicz, which started at Incarnation Catholic Church and ended with the students placing candles at the school.

When he came home, he was sad and kept repeating that she was only 28. Carson is 11, and death can be a difficult thing to process even when you’re nearing 40.

I’m not a grief counselor, so I just hugged him and asked him how he was doing.

“I’m sad, I just saw her on Friday,” he told me.

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day. Which makes this that much tougher.

I’m grateful for all the teachers in my life and especially for those who spend their time with my children every day.

I only met Oleskiewicz once, during parent-teacher conferences. She was pretty honest about Carson’s lack of diligence in language arts, which is a hard little pill to swallow for someone like me.

If I could have, I would have told her thanks for being hard on the kid. He needs it, and if you know him well, you know that’s how you love him.

I think she understood that.

The High School Years –

I remember sitting in the hospital in Honolulu when he was born. I was 24, he was late. Our families were planning on going home the next day. The doctor decided to induce Cheryl to encourage Cole to join us on the outside. Cole tends to do things on his own good sense of timing and order. Should’ve realized that then.

It was a meaningful moment for me, to say nothing of what it meant to Cheryl. I held him and looked into his grey eyes and saw the rest of my life.

Yesterday he started high school. He’s 14, which means, well, I’ll let you do the math.

I remember my first day of high school. There is an uncertainty inherent in the unknowns associated with entering a new era, but there is the realization of the impending finality of the primary school years. The end is near, and you can feel that at the beginning of it all.

A doctor measured Cole’s height this week during a physical for school. He’s been taller than me for a few months now, but I refused to let him measure himself against me. As a dad, you can’t give up that easy. Some days you let them know they can win and other days you keep them trying so they learn they have to.

But it’s hard to argue with a doctor’s note.

There’s an element of pride in all of this. Cole was a big reason for moving to Chicago. He has been in need of some stability so he can focus on his college and career ambitions. My journalistic nomadism has not given him that so far.

Yesterday he told me about how he is taking four honors classes this semester. He’s taking German for his language, but it’s not because I took German in high school. He’s taking German because he’s interested in design, and Germany has some of the best design schools in the world.

He is not me. My experience will not be his. I’m so grateful for this.

After hearing of his course load and interest in German, I felt like I needed to say something. Dad’s often make this mistake. Approval does not often need words. Sometimes the unspoken approval of our fathers counts for much more.

I told Cole, who had a girlfriend in Alaska, that he should consider really throwing himself into his studies instead of losing focus on those other rights of passage that tend to define high school.

He looked at me with that look that he gives me when he wonders why I’m just repeating, out-loud, the thoughts already going through his mind.

“I know, dad, I’m going to be too busy for a girlfriend,” he said, in that low voice that still throws me sometimes when I hear the wisdom in it.

It has been this way long before we had schools in brick buildings with mandated testing straight out of an Orwell novel.

Fathers watch their children grow into something more than themselves. It’s one of the wonders of this existence, the magnification of life. It’s the molecular level of empire building.

Watching my son turn into something bigger than both of us are individually is frightening and thrilling. I feel my youth like yesterday, and I’m still looking for a  bigger canvas on which to leave my mark, though I realize the error of this thought process keenly with each passing month. But watching him looking farther down the road than I did and dreaming bigger is so satisfying, in a way I’m reasonably sure you can only feel after spending  14 years growing something that you love beyond words.

I never felt it at the city league soccer games he played or the cross country races he ran. Though I certainly felt pride in my son.

But I feel it keenly today as he walks into a world I never knew. A brighter, stronger and hungrier version of me.

And and I think that everything is as it should be.

Comfortably Disappointing your Children and Other Lessons

Life has a penchent for providing serious disappointment. We are optimistic beings from birth, losing it gradually to the process of life. 

Today I came home to find my middle child balled up on the couch wearing his University of Montana Grizzly helmet and holding a picture frame full of photos of he and his best friend from Missoula. 

I didn’t need to ask him what was wrong, I already knew. 

We recently decided to put our first home, the Missoula house, up for sale. I think the kids secretly held out hope that we might go back to that paradise that is northwest Montana. 

Transition is tough. Just when you think you’ve settled into whatever you’re currently doing, old feelings come back to haunt you. We’ve seen this with the kids several times over our last year-and-a-half in Alaska. 

When I was laid off from the newspaper, we argued about whether or not to tell the kids about it. But having me around the house more often than not didn’t seem that easy to hide. 

We decided to manage the disappointment, hoping that it would provide some kind of strength conditioning for the kids. Remember, they don’t come with a manual. 

They came through the layoff and a move of thousands of a miles to a land like Narnia frozen in perpetual winter. They’ve been disappointed. They’ve been rewarded. They know what to expect in a world that is often full of both. 

So tonight I didn’t try to fix my little guy. I let him spend a few minutes mourning the knowledge that we wouldn’t be going back to Missoula or living in that house again. 

He’s become a resilient little guy over his 10 years. And I love that about him. 

He took the helmet off and put away his picture frame and came to the dinner table with a smile and told me all about his day. 

I don’t worry about him facing those tough times that will inevitably come his way in the future. He’s got a few calluses built up.