Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Invisible Man

I see them--usually two, but sometimes three--headed my way. Of course, they have crossed the invisible line that separates my side of the sidewalk from their side, so technically, I have the right of way.

But they don't seem to care. Or else they don't seem to notice me. It is hard to tell which without reading their minds. And, since I lost my metallic mind-reading cap with brain-wave sensing antenae years ago, I have to just presume they don't notice me.

They come closer, only a few paces away. But this time it will be different. This time I will prevail. I walk taller, eyes forward instead of glued to my toes, as I normally would be. Three steps remain, then two, then...I step out of the way.

Once again, I lose this game of chicken. I glance behind, and their conversation is uninterrupted. I look at my own arms, to make sure I haven't suddenly turned invisible, but I'm most definitely not transparent.

I don't know what it is about me. But I've had this problem since I was in Junior High. Whenever I would walk through the hallways, down the sidewalk, in the aisles at a store, invariably I'm the one who must move out of the way so that the other person or people can walk by. Sometimes it is simply a sidestep to the right or left. But never, in all my years, can I think of a time that the other party didn't initiate the move.

Perhaps I'm just overly aware of this, but it has recently frustrated me to the point to where I decided I'm going to take a stand. I'm going to fight for my right to walk along the sidewalk without being the wimp. After all, I'm thirty-three years old. I've paid my dues. It's time for everyone else--anyone else!--to step aside for once.

During my recent trip to Cedar Point, I had the perfect opportunity, too. Yet, once again, at the very last possible moment, where literally centimeters separate us from colliding, I stepped aside.

I'm too polite, I suppose. If I didn't move, we would bump shoulders, at which point I imagine the other person turning to me, shoving me, telling me to watch where I'm going, threatening to give me a nose job or something. I can't handle the pressure. Because, yes folks, I am a wimp.

I would like to understand the rules, however. Why me? A few months ago, I was walking with a friend of mine at work. We came upon another gang of walkers walking the opposite direction. They were hogging the hallway, of course, the two of us resorting to single file in order to squeeze past. So, I figured, I would follow in my friend's wake. The gang would move out of his way, and I'd be safe.

The gang did move out of his way, pressing together like an accordian. My friend didn't have to move at all. I guess he just had the right presence or something. But this is what gets me...the moment they passed by him, they spread out again. I was only three steps behind, and they moved back into my way. I held my own, though...if holding your own means twisting sideways and pressing yourself against the wall.

I swear I'm the Invisible Man again, but like before, I can see myself quite clearly, so maybe I'm only invisible if viewed from outside myself. It is the only logical conclusion I can come to.

But I won't take it anymore! I will prevail. So step aside, people of the Earth. Ryan Bruner is going to stand up for himself. He won't be chicken any longer. At least, not until I brush up on my karate...just in case.


If not officially, unofficially, summertime hit Michigan this weekend with a bam! None of this gradually warming you up to the heat. We went from temperatures in the 30s and 40s to the 80s and 90s in a matter of days! And while Michigan weather is generally unpredictable, this year has been especially so.

I, of course, had picked this weekend as the weekend to re-re-fix my patio (which I'll get to in a moment). That meant I was only able to work in periods of an hour here and there before I had to go inside and take a nap. And did I actually finish the patio? Nope. Still more work to do.

Now then...Memorial Day. For most of us, this day is a celebration. Time off work, picnics with family and friends, and for some people, the opening of the pool. One thing that seems to be missing, however, is any form of memorializing of those who gave their lives for our freedom. Yesterday, at the end of the day lounging on the couch watching Pirates of the Carribean, I realized that our Memorial Day really wasn't much of a Memorial Day. I suppose I should feel guilty about that. Yet, in all honesty, I feel blessed, because I haven't, personally, lost any loved ones serving in the armed forces.

I have one brother who served in the Air Force many moons ago, and another who graduated from West Point and served seven years, most of that as a helicopter pilot. But both are alive and well today, raising families. A bit of that is the luck of the span of generations. My dad wasn't old enough to serve in World War II, but too old by the time the Korean War came around. None of my siblings were old enough to serve in Vietnam. My brother was still at West Point during Desert Storm, and we were again at a general state of peace during his years of service after he graduated.

So, for us, Memorial Day has generally been a day of getting together with my wife's extended family, heading up north a couple of hours.

This year, however, was different. We had to skip the family gathering due to my daughter being sick, and another of my boy's on the verge. Instead, we had a day of sum-sum-summertime fun. We took the kids to the sprayscape (which is an outdoor playground with water that sprays you in a multitude of ways), headed to Wal-Mart, did some grilling, let the kids play with bubbles in the yard, and pretty much just relaxed.

Me, personally? I did make a trip to Home Depot to pick up more "stuff" for the patio. As I mentioned above, this year I was re-re-fixing the patio.

You see, I'm not a patio-building expert. Well, that's not entirely accurate. Because I know the proper way to build a patio. But, frankly, several years ago while digging up the ground to lay the foundation for the patio, I ran into two issues. First, clay. Our house has all of one inch of top soil before it is all clay, which meant I had ho desire to dig down six more inches across a space of twelve feet by twelve feet. So, I didn't. Instead, I sprayed the grass with grass killer and let it die off for a few days. Then, I covered the grass with stones.

And that was where the next issue came. Money. At the time, I didn't want to spent a ton of money, so I cut corners. I mean, did I really need several inches of stones plus a couple more inches of sand? Nah! I could make it with just an inch of stones. That'll do it. Plus, I framed the patio in weather-resistant boards. But, given Michigan winters, those boards were pushed up until they were about fives inches over the patio blocks. I pounded them back down, but they would just pop up again the next spring.

So, a few years ago, I bit the bullet and pulled off all of the patio blocks and applied a fresh layer of base to even things out. (I didn't deal with the boards, however.) But, as of this year, half of the patio was tilting to the side, and the boards were doing absolutely nothing but tripping us as we stepped on or off the patio. So, this year, I had to pull off the patio blocks again, and this time replace the boards entirely, building up the ground around the patio.

I've now invested more money than I would have had I done it right the first place...but whatever. Like I said, I'm not a patio-building expert.

So, today it is back to the grindstone, as it were. I hope everyone else had a day full of sum-sum-summertime fun!

Friday, May 26, 2006

May's Story (eh-hem, Song) of the Month

This has been a busy month...partially due to the news that I mentioned last week that I'm not ready to make known publicly...and partially just due to life in general. Between writing, church, bible study, work, family, a trip to Cedar Point, and the like, I haven't had time to work on May's short story.

So, as I did in March, I've put up a song instead.

I had spent 7 1/2 years as the choir director at my church. Somewhere around year five and a half, I got this crazy idea that I could write a choir program myself. Music, lyrics, narration...the whole enchalada, as they say. So, I started working. A year and a half later, I finished it, and began rehearsals with the band and choir (separately). In the spring of 2002, the choir performed the program I wrote, entitled, "Victory in Jesus".

Anyhow, the Song of the Month for May is one of the songs from that program. Clouds. Granted, this isn't an audio recording of the performance. Instead, it is just the music score played out on piano. Still, I think the music is enjoyable.

So, take a listen to Clouds over from my website. Don't worry, it won't hurt a bit. Just three minutes sixteen seconds. You can handle that, can't you?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New look...

Okay...my new blog look is in place. Let me know what you think of it...because I plan to migrate my website to this scheme as well. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

America's Rollercoast

Do you know what the world's greatest amusement park is, eight years running?

If you guessed Walt Disney World, you'd be wrong. It is none other than Cedar Point. If you've never been, you're missing out. A terrific selection of thrill rides, including what has to be the greatest roller coaster in the world, the Millenium Force.

And what does this have to do with anything? Well, I'll tell you. I took my two oldest boys to CP, alone, and we had a blast. I challenged them to try some new rides, including one that was a bit beyond them (the Gemini). They did it and were proud of themselves, but admitted afterwards that they didn't want to ride it again. My oldest boy had his eyes closed all the up the hill, and for about half of the remainder of the ride. But I noticed he had a smile on his face as we got out, so I think he secretly enjoyed it. I also got them to ride a roller coaster that "goes upside down", which they both insisted they would not do. They did, and it quickly become one of their favorites.

Let me back up a bit. Because I'm not sure everyone is aware that while I am generally a rather "beige" person, who likes peace and calm and rarely ruffles any feathers (or at least, rarely tries to) about anything. I'm not a risk-taker at all. I mean, I won't even sit in my car in the parking lot without making sure I'm buckled up. But when it comes to roller coasters and amusement parks in general, I'm a wild one. The bigger the better. When CP installed the Top-Thrill Dragster, at a whopping 420 ft and 120 mph, I was there! I get crazy, and have a great time doing it. I suppose it is my version of getting drunk (since I don't drink). It brings out a very different Ryan from the one people otherwise know and see.

Having said that, you and I know that I can't have myself some boys who won't follow in my footsteps and ride the big ones along with me. Of course, I'm not pushing them too hard. I don't want to scare them away. So, I'm gradually giving them a taste of the adrenaline rush so that within a few years, they'll be my willing riding partners.

But there were two downsides to CP. First, the fact that they are trying to kill everyone. No, seriously. And I'm not talking about rides. In fact, CP has one of the most pristine safety records in the country. I'm talking, instead, about food! What is it about that place where if it isn't deep-fried, or laden with saturated fat, it isn't sold? I think I managed to undo everything I've been trying to accomplish in lowering my LDL levels in one day. Deep-fried corn dogs, deep-fried chicken fingers, french fries, and cheese sticks. You know how they always say, "Anyone with heart conditions, may be pregnant, bad back, etc. , may not ride this ride?" Well, I think after eating there, no one is allowed to ride the coasters because everyone will have a heart condition!

The second downside was that this day trip to CP turned out to be expensive. I was wise and utilized my AAA discount on the tickets, although since both of my boys are now over 48 inches, they are considered "adults", so I had to pay adult-ticket prices. But then there is the $9 parking fee, and the price of food where both lunch and dinner pushed me over $20 for just three of us. And that is with me being skimpy and just asking for cups of water! On top of that, there is the cost of gas to get there and back, plus a couple of snacks. I even spent a whopping $2.49 for a new sport band to hold my glasses on during the rides...which I left out in the car.

In the end, however, I think it was worth it. If I have a heart attack due to the food, or we are evicted from our house because I can't make the next payment...it was worth spending quality time with my boys sharing something that I love with them.

Now then, I would prepare my will, due to my pending heart-disease related death...but I have no money left, so there's little point!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Control Factor

I've been e-mailing back and forth with a lady who is struggling with her daughter's diabetes. Her daughter is 700 miles away, and the staff there will only follow the medical orders of the doctor. The doctor, however, won't do what the mother wants to do, and so everything is a mess, having to train the staff remotely on how to manage the daughter's diabetes even though the daughter generally knows how to do it herself, but they can't allow that.

This frustrates me. It frustrates me because we are in such a litigious society that people who know what they are doing and can take care of themselves aren't allowed to.

I remember back in my school days with diabetes that when I first started out, my mom and I would go the day before classes would begin and talk to all the teachers about my diabetes. We would meet with the school nurse. I would get special privilege to access the teacher's lounge fridge in case I had a low, where I had a stock of juice on hand.

But over time, I just stopped doing any of this. My close friends knew of my diabetes, but frankly, it was more work to involve the school teachers. They would try to take control of something I could handle just fine on my own. I wouldn't be surprised if a great many of my middle school and high school teachers never knew I was diabetic at all, since I never told them. I'd treat my own lows, test my own BGL, without school involvement. And, frankly, this is how it should be.

Today, things appear to be much different. Despite the vast improvement of tools at the fingertips of diabetic kids these days, such as pumps and 5-second glucose meters, there seems to be a fear to allow kids to have any control over their own lives. I've heard of cases where a student who is on an insulin pump isn't allowed to give their own boluses at meals during school hours, even though they manage it themselves outside of school. Frankly, its ridiculous.

I was not the slightest bit rebellious throughout my teen years...but if that's how the school system had expected things back then, I would have rebelled. Big time.

Parents of children with diabetes have a major task assigned to them. Probably the most important thing they can possibly do towards helping their child deal with diabetes. That is teaching their child to manage their own diabetes, without the aid of anyone else. Sure, there should be those who know how to handle the emergencies that might come up. But, in general, it is the parent's job to get their child to the point where the parent doesn't have to worry about their child's diabetes at all. (Of course, like any parent, they will worry...but that's another matter!)

My parents were like that. Every step along the way was a step towards making sure I understood how to treat myself. My mother constantly made sure I was aware of my lows, counting exchanges, etc. But there was a point where that "making sure" was from the sidelines. I was the one playing the game, and she simply became the coach, coaching when I needed it.

I think if a parent tries to stay in control of their child's diabetes too long, there comes a point where the child can become complacent, and expect others...including their endos...to do it for them. These children grow into adults who don't know how to manage their own diabetes.

We need to empower our children. My oldest son has rather significant food allergies (although, thankfully, he has outgrown most of them). Over time, we have been teaching him what to look for. Now, at age eight, he can quickly recognize when a food label indicates he cannot have that food. We double check, and at this point, 99% of the time he is correct. When we see that reach 100%, we know it is something we just don't have to worry about.

But control, in the case of diabetes, is always a huge issue. Everyone is fighting for control. The doctors, the schools, the parents, even the individual with diabetes. What is lost in all of this is that diabetes isn't something to be controlled. It is something that individual will have to live with for the rest of their lives. It is a balancing act, sometimes leaning to the right, sometimes to the left, sometimes almost falling, other times standing tall. My diabetes is just that. My diabetes. So keep your controlling hands off of it, please! Thank you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Da Vinci Encoder

You probably haven't heard of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, have you? It's this obscure little title that hasn't had a lot of fanfare. Pretty much the same-old, same-old...for a New York Times bestseller. You know. So, I figured I'd bring it to your attention since there's this movie coming out based on the book. In case you haven't heard.

I'm trying to finish reading through it myself at the moment, but since I'm a slow reader, even a book like Brown's, which is an otherwise fast read, I haven't quite made it to the finish line.

I'll admit, I find the hoopla around this book intriguing. Not because the ideas he presents with regards to the alternate view of Jesus new...but because the ideas aren't new at all, and yet everyone seems influenced by an otherwise work of fiction.

I won't even attempt to get into all of the flaws in Brown's presentation. There are numerous other books that do that. No, I'm quite firm in my belief in the four Gospels as we know them.

Instead, I wanted to look at something rather intriguing. That is, the connection that Brown draws from Da Vinci's depiction of The Last Supper, and his supposition that the person to Jesus' right is, in fact, Mary Magdalene and not Jesus' brother, John.

If you take the time to look at the restored version of this painting/fresco/whatever you want to call it, it is pretty convincing. Not that it really matters. So what if Leonardo was misguided in his depiction and managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the Catholic church in the day (something that seems otherwise unlikely)? But what if he did? No big deal. It isn't like Da Vinci is considered an expert on Biblical theology who was inspired by God.

So, it does seem that Da Vinci may have, in fact, drawn a Mary in there instead of John. He may have included a "disembodied hand" instead of the hand of Peter holding a knife. Okay, you might convince me of that.

That is, until I saw this site, which explains the style of the Renaissance era that had a tendency to draw young men as rather feminine. John would have been around age 30, after all. Then you look through some of the other examples from the era of depictions of men...and John in general...and you start to see that Leonardo really wasn't doing anything all that different in making John look like a woman. And when you finally come to another piece done by Leonardo himself...that of John the Baptist...you start to see that John, brother of Jesus, very likely would have been drawn in a way that looked like a woman.

Which brings me back to Brown's book, which seems to ignore such interpretations.

And then, of course, there is "the disembodied hand." I'll admit, from his description in the book, you'd think there is this hand just floating in space. But as soon as I looked at the picture, I didn't see what the big deal was. It quite clearly belonged to Peter, and he held it in a way that did not in any way appear awkward to me. You could argue the symbolism there, and I'm sure that was Leonardo's intent...but it is certainly in no way disembodied.

Which means, as far as I'm concerned, Brown's book does a grand job of "encoding" symbols into Da Vinci's work that likely aren't there. Of course, even if they were there, so what? He was an artist from the 16th century...not an eye witness from the first century. I've seen artwork of Unicorns as well. Draw your own conclusions.

Anyhow, there is little point in this post other than to point out it is interesting how much work can be put into seeing something, and convincing others they see it as well. Ultimately, however, Brown's work is fiction, and should be read as such. Now, of course, if you want to debate the religious implications of the claims the book makes, I'm game...but at this point, I won't bother. As thrillers go, The Da Vinci Code is just that. A thriller. I wouldn't put much stock in the claims, though. The claims are, excuse the pun, quite holey.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What's a Little Blood Between Strangers?

I'm going to tell you why you should get off your rear end and schedule an appointment at the nearest Red Cross Blood Drive...and I'm also going to tell you why I won't be doing the same.

For whatever reason, I had lived most of my life under the impression that diabetics could not give blood. I'm not sure where I heard this. So, for years, every time there was a blood drive I was felt partially thankful and partially guilty at the same time. Thankful, because the fact is the idea of giving blood probably scares everyone just a tad. I'll admit, even as a diabetic, the idea of that needle going in and taking away part of my life can be scary.

But at the same time, I felt guilty. There is a huge need for blood, and I couldn't give. The guilt was short-lived, however, since I couldn't give. Right?

Wrong. Turns out, diabetics can give. So, the next blood drive at my church, and I rolled up my sleeve and gave. Contrary to claims made, giving blood does hurt. Or, at least, it hurt me. But it wasn't really the needle that was the problem.

Imagine what it would feel like to have your life force sucked out of you from the inside out, pulling at your insides from every inch of your body, kind of like the scene from that movie The Dark Crystal. That's sort of what it felt like. It wasn't painful, per se, but this weird sensation that you are somehow being made less. Hard to part in words, and at best, it could be called uncomfortable. But I figured fifteen minutes of discomfort would mean so much for those who could use the blood.

After I was done, I was pleased with myself, and I recovered very quickly. So, several months later, I decided to give again at the blood drive at work. I showed up and gave. This time, it wasn't as uncomfortable, though I still had that same sensation. Still, no big deal.

That is, until I went to sit down for my "free" juice and cookies. My breathing started turning labored and I felt all sweaty and cold and hot at the same time. Everything started moving in slow motion. In many ways, it felt like low blood sugar...yet different.

The workers laid me down on my back and gave me a paper bag to breathe into. They gave me several containers of juice and water, and I felt sick to my stomach.

It took me three hours to get up enough strength to return to my desk. Turns out, I was dehydrated before I gave blood, hence my bad reaction. But it was enough to make me scared to go back. I, frankly, never want to experience that again.

Okay. Now that I've managed to scare you away from the process, let me say that there is nothing to be afraid of, in general. I had a bad experience, but that isn't the typical case. And right now, blood donations are horribly low. Giving blood one time can help up to four different people. They are in particular need of O- and O+ blood types. So, go give blood. And to help you along, you can go to this website for more information: http://www.redcross.org/donate/give.

Mothers...I Salute You!

Over the weekend, thanks to the Mother's Day gift I gave my wife, my hair started turning white. No, I'm not kidding. I don't think wives realize just the amount of pressure we husbands are under at this very important holiday.

Granted, the white in my hair, as it turns out, is primer...since I spent most of the weekend inside an eight foot by foot bathroom painting. After living in this house for 8 years, we finally got around to painting the guest bathroom from stark white to a lovely Ralph Lauren color called "hopsack". Imagine those potato sacks that you hop around in for sack races, and that's the color. My wife preferred to call it something more appealing, like "cappuccino".

This means I have one room left in the house to paint, and we will have tackled every room in the house. That would be the kitchen, which sorely needs it, but will be a taping nightmare.

Mother's Day was interesting this year. Usually, we head off as a family to one of the zoos within a few hours of our home. Last year, we went to this beautiful zoo in Grand Rapids. This year, however, my wife wasn't in the zoo mood. Even if she had been, we've had nothing but rain and gloom for a solid week now, with no end in sight.

What she wanted (besides the bathroom painted) was a good nap. Kids must be silent. And then Jet's Pizza. I don't know if there are Jet's Pizza places around where you live, but it is a strictly carry-out/delivery place much like Little Caesars...except that their pizza is orders of magnitude better. So, that's what she got.

Oh yeah...that at a new Dustbuster and a sweeper. Not exactly the typical "thank you for being a mother to my children" type gift, but she asked for a new sweeper, since our old one is pretty useless now. No, seriously. She asked for it. She told me, "You know what I want for Mother's Day? A new sweeper!" The Dustbuster I threw in because our old one had lost the little piece inside that keeps the junk inside when you hang it up, which meant everything you vacuumed up ended up all over the counter top.

One might think that I just don't appreciate my wife after a Mother's Day like that...giving cleaning products and all. But I do. In so many more ways than even my wife could comprehend. (Especially coming off the "Single Dad" weekend I blogged about last week!)

Anyone who dedicates their life to the raising of children as my wife has done deserves far more than one day a year to be celebrated. There is no job more important than motherhood. So, to all you who are mothers...I salute you! But most of all, I salute my wife! I love you, honey!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What Kind of News Is It?

As of yesterday, I have news. It's not exactly good news, nor is it bad news. More like exciting news. Thing is, it isn't the kind of news I want to announce publicly. So, you'll all just have to live in agony, quite possibly ruining not only your entire day, but quite possibly the entire next several weeks, waiting to find out about this news. Because, I'm not going to tell you what it is.

Still, it was news that made it difficult for me to sleep last night. News that made my mind swirl around with thoughts, ideas, possibilities, and perils. (Not actually perils, but the sentence didn't seem complete to end it at "possibilities".)

I know, I know. I'm torturing you, aren't I? Well, that's too bad. Unless you are in inner circle of friendships and relationships, I guess you'll just have to consider me a sadist.

Thing is, I'm excited enough by the news that I couldn't just not mention it here, you know? There's like this little bubble inside just growing and growing, and I'll just burst if I don't say something. Saying something lets out just a bit of the pressure...enough to carry on.

And you know what? The thing you're thinking the news could be? Well, you're wrong. It isn't that at all. Good guess, though.

So, you may go about your business now. It'll be hard, I know. But somehow, you'll manage, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...

Several months ago, I was pining for the good old days of television, wishing there were shows on television like the ones I grew up watching. Then, walking the aisles of Target one day, I realized that those good old days of television exist today in the form of DVDs. So, I immediately plunked out the cash for the first season of one of my favorite series of the 80's: MacGyver.

I've spent several boy's nights with my kids watching these shows. I'm a little amazed at how campy some of the early episodes were, but all in all, it is quite refreshing. And I'm now looking forward to picking out more old television series DVDs to share with my kids.

I just found out today, thanks to this article on msnbc.com, that another favorite of mine is now available. The Facts of Life. To this day, if a rerun appears on TV Land, I can't help but tune in. There is something about Natalie and Jo and Tootie and Blaire. They were an unlikely bunch of friends that ultimately lasted through I don't know how many seasons, and several made-for-TV reunion movies. I almost felt like they are a part of my family, that any one of them could walk through my doors and sit down and chat about old times with me.

There are few other shows like that. Sure, I had plenty of TV shows I have fond memories of. From Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, to Knight Rider, Street Hawk, The Cosby Show, Silver Spoons, Family Ties, and Little House on the Prairie. A lot more, as well. (Hmm. I didn't realize how much of a TV addict I must have been growing up.)

But none of those made me feel like I wished I were there, with the girls of Eastland. They were characters I could relate to. Characters I could be friends with. Now, I suppose, looking back, it does seem rather odd to think about me, a boy, liking a show about a bunch of girls. But I suppose it shows how good of job they did at making the audience connect with the characters.

I have a gift card for Best Buy. I've been trying to decide what, exactly, to spend it on. But I think I know, now. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have the Facts of Life! The Facts of Life!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My (Temporary) Life As a Single Dad (Day 2)

I mentioned in my last entry the first day of my two-day adventure as a single dad, while my wife was off shopping with a friend over the weekend. If you haven't, I would recommend reading yesterday's entry first so that you remember what "the list" is, and just what it was I set out to prove to my wife.

Day two started out smoothly. In fact, the schedule on day two wasn't unlike any other Sunday morning. Get up, make sure the kids eat and are dressed for church. This time I remembered to pack a diaper bag for my daughter. Also, bring food for after church since I had an ensemble rehearsal going on while my two oldest boys had a pizza party to attend with their fellow Jesus Jammers choir members.

Bikes were still hanging off the back of my car, so we were to church on time...
9:25 am. Granted, my wife might have been a little disappointed in my choice of dress for my daughter, but she wasn't there to protest. Also, I was absolutely starving, since in order to make it out the door in time, I skipped breakfast. It wasn't that I wanted to miss breakfast, but there was a minor emergency in locating a belt for my son, and I spent my allotted breakfast-eating time slot scouring the house for the missing belt. (I'm proud to say, we found it, and so my son didn't have to worry about losing his pants.)

Skipping breakfast, however, proved to be a huge mistake. But
11:00 my head was pounding. And, rather than actually go out into my car and grab some Tylenol like any sane person, I thought it might go away on its own if I ate something. Bagels all around in Sunday School. Unfortunately, it didn't help. (Although, the Cinnamon Crunch bagel from Panera Bread was incredibly good!)

After church, my rehearsal went well. That is, unless you count the yogurt that spilled all over the seats because my daughter couldn't very well eat over the plastic baggy I laid out for her. No, she had to set it next to me, knock it over, which then threw her into hysterics because she was still eating it, and I had to take her out of the room and get her to calm down. Plus the fact that my son decided to clear out all the paper products they had stored in that room and set up an elaborate dinner table complete with smashed up birthday candles for the main course which, of course, ended up all over the carpet...not to mention the stack of hymnals he and another little girl were using to stand on.

But other than that...it went well. Afterwards, I went to pick up my boys from their pizza party. My youngest son had to use the potty, so I let him go while I waited with my daughter in the hall. It was taking him a long time, so I popped my head in. He was standing, pants down to his ankles, wiping his bottom with paper towels.

"What are you doing?"

"I have to wipe!"

"Why aren't you using toilet paper?"


I step inside and notice that he had not used the stall, like he has done since he was first potty trained. No, he had decided to poop into the urinal. I'm not even sure how that worked, logistically. But there it was. And not only so, but when he flushed, the water didn't shut off and was now running down across the floor. I whacked the handle a few times, which stopped the water from flowing. I directed my son into the stall, but now he broke into hysteria because the floor was wet. I cleaned up the toilet, got my son to finish his business, and got out of there.

My head, at this point, had a wooden stake shoved all the way through the top of my head down into my spine. I told the kids that I needed to take some Tylenol...and if that didn't work, we would have to delay bike riding yet again.

Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the park, and I took two more Tylenol for good measure. My headache was just beginning to ease up. Oh, yeah, and I had also forgotten to change my clothes for bike riding, so there I was stripping in the front seat of my car, trying to wiggle into my jeans with the steering wheel in my way without flashing anyone in the process.

We took one trek around the park for a total of fifteen minutes before my headache was worse than before. So, I racked up the bikes and bike trailer and headed home. Next came the most beloved moment of the entire day. Nap time! And this wasn't just any nap. This was probably the most refreshing nap I had ever taken in my life! After nap, I managed to mow the lawn while the kids played outside. Made dinner, did a bit of cleaning up, and even spent some quality time building and then destroying block buildings with my daughter. She loved that. For thirty minutes, she got to be in charge, telling me where to put what block, and then subsequently knocking it all down so we could do it all over again. Finally, bath time.

When my wife walked in the door at
8:00, all was well. I had done it. Not only had I survived the weekend, but I had managed to keep my kids alive as well. Dressed, fed, and entertained. I didn't miss any appointments. I even put curlers in my daughter's hair!

So, then...the question is, did I prove my point to my wife? Did I show her that spending all that time alone with the kids really shouldn't be a problem? Why, when I come home, is she not dressed up, make-up on, dinner ready, and looking forward to an evening in bed...together?

Well, had my wife come in and wanted me in any romantic way at that moment, I'm afraid I would have had to decline. I was exhausted...again. She always hates it when I come home from work and I don't just sit down and let her vent about the day. But what did I do? We sat down and I vented about my weekend.

So I'll admit, the outcome wasn't as I had planned. I had, essentially, proven that my wife has it hard. And, honestly, I was looking forward to heading back to work the next day...where I could relax. I'm so incredibly thankful for my wife. A weekend like this, now and again, helps remind me why it is I keep her around! Why it is I need her. Because as chaotic as things were...had I actually been a single dad, I wouldn't have had "the list".

I read a few weeks ago that if you were to pay a stay-at-home mom what they were actually worth, they would earn around $130,000 a year. I can believe it!

Monday, May 08, 2006

My (Temporary) Life As a Single Dad (Day 1)

My wife made her second annual pilgrimage to Frankenmuth for two days with a good friend of hers. They left early Saturday morning, and came back Sunday night. I'm so glad that my wife has this time, actually. She certainly deserves some time alone like that...away from the kids.

And me? Well, I got a chance to prove to my wife once and for all that being a stay-at-home parent isn't all that difficult. I would, in one weekend, prove that she has no right to complain about the kids at the end of the day, or just want a break, or anything. No problemo. Right?

All I had to do was keep the house in reasonable order while making sure I made it to each of the scheduled appointments with my children suitably dressed.

How'd I do? Well, you be the judge. But let me start out by saying the key to any successful single dad is "the list". This is, of course, a detailed schedule of events plus items not to forget carefully prepared the day ahead of time by his wife. And, as a highly successful single dad as myself, I dutifully made sure my wife made me "the list". There is a benefit to having "the list". If, for any reason, any important item or event was left off "the list", then I can immediately blame my failure on my wife.

Oh, yeah. And the second thing? Make sure you actually consult "the list" from time to time. But I'll get to that in a moment.

Saturday morning, I had to assist my boys in getting their bedroom and the playroom in order. While I directed them, I also had to fulfill a promise to my four-year-old to play a bit of Roller Coaster Tycoon with him. (Yes, this was a promise, actually.) And while I did this, my two-year-old daughter played with the trains in the playroom.

Well, that's where she was at first. Because as the intensity of the game proceeded, and my boy and I had to figure out how to reduce the number of lateral G-forces on a particular turn, I was suddenly struck with the thought that perhaps my daughter wasn't where I thought she was. I sent my oldest boy in search if her, and he came back to announce she had dumped the Spinach planter all over the living room. Sure enough. Dirt was everywhere. The carpet, the chair, the window sill.

But it's still okay. I got it cleaned back up, and it was just a reminder: keep an eye on the younglings!

My four-year-old had a birthday party to attend at 3:00. Which meant I had to drop the other two boys off at a friends house at 2:30. Which mean I had to have everyone dressed and ready to go by 2:00. All was well. I had the gift, the card, the cookies my son could eat. Oh, and I had the bikes hanging off the back of my car ready for bike riding afterwards.

We didn't get there until 3:15. Not bad. We were there until 5:15, and during that time, I realized that I had failed to consult "the list". I forgot the diaper bag. But, that's okay. My daughter is in Pull-Ups, and there were no accidents. So, God was on my side.

By the time I picked up my older boys and arrived home, I was exhausted, so the bike-riding had to be delayed until the following day. I was so worn out, in fact, that when, later that night, I received a "Severe Weather Alert" that there could be frost...I just couldn't bring myself to go throw a blanket over the garden plants. Again, God was on my side, and our yard was spared any frost.

I managed to teach my son how to play Battleship, got everyone ready for bed, and even had a chance to play some Roller Coaster Tycoon with my boys again that evening.

All in all, a somewhat uneventful day. Of course, we never finished cleaning up the playroom, nor did I get my lawn mowed, nor did we go bike riding.

But I was still surviving. Barely. I just don't understand why I was so tired. Because it just couldn't be the kids. I'm sure of it.

I'll tell you about Day 2 tomorrow.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count...

When I was in the first grade, I was a dweeb, I suppose. I think I was the only one in the entire class who had not seen Star Wars. And, when recess time came around, and every one of the boys took on their assigned roles as Luke, Darth, Han, Storm Trooper, or any other cool character, I was assigned the role of Obi-Wan. Every time. You know why? It was so they could kill me off.

One day, I even decided that for once, Obi-Wan wouldn't die.

"You can't do that," they boy who played Darth said to me. "Obi-Wan always dies."

Yeah. I know. And for the rest of recess, I would just wander around and occasionally say, "Use the Force, Luke!"

Ironically enough, I saw Empire Strikes Back before I ever saw A New Hope. Back in those days, VCRs just weren't an option, so if you missed it at the movie theatre, you were out of luck until it came to television.

But, like every little boy (and, I suppose, little girl...though, in my experience, the girls just never connected in the same geeky way that the boys did) I became obsessed with Star Wars. When Return of the Jedi came out, it was the topic of conversation for months. Videos became the norm, and was determined to set the world record in the number times anyone had seen the trilogy. I stopped counting once I reached thirty viewings of each.

Then came the Special Editions, then the new trilogy.

And now, how do I feel about it all? Well, for one, I feel angry. Angry that George Lucas has taken what was a pure joy to watch as a child and turned it into a monetary empire. Because it is clear he is doing things now purely for profit, and nothing more.

Take the re-release of the original trilogy. He spent all that effort to edit them and release them into the theatres, then he releases them to video, and video alone. So, what does any die-hard Star Wars fan do? He buys them, frustrated that they aren't available on DVD. (Fortunately, I still had my original versions on video and decided against the purchase of the Special Editions.)

Then comes the new trilogy. Released straight to DVD. Doesn't make for a very pretty display on the shelves to have the videos next to the DVDs.

And finally, Lucas decides it's time to release the Special Edition to DVD. This is the very first time, mind you, that the original trilogy in any form was available on DVD. It took, quite literally, years. So, what does any die-hard Star Wars fan do? (I mean after he dresses up like a Storm Trooper and heads to the Star Wars convention.) Yep, he re-buys the very Special Edition version of the original trilogy that he bought just a few years earlier, probably only having watched them a couple times. Cha-ching!

And now, according to this article, Lucas is doing it yet again! For a limited time, you will be able to buy the original trilogy in its original theatrical form, sans newly done special effects, on DVD.

So, let's count here. VHS versions of the original trilogy (and quite possibly Betamax versions...though, I never owned a Betamax player). VHS versions of the Special Edition trilogy. DVD versions of the Special Edition trilogy. Then DVD versions of the original trilogy.

That's a lot of love going on for something that is "only a movie".

The thing is, I'm almost tempted by the latest limited time offer. Because, frankly, I wasn't too fond of some of the changes he made. Like the musical number in Jabba's palace. What in the world was that? The original version was far better. Wouldn't you agree? (Or, perhaps, you don't even remember the original version?) Or the scene added back into A New Hope with Jabba and Han Solo. Yes, I know it was in the book. But I'm afraid the scene just looks cheesy. There was good reason it had been cut.

Oh well. What's a guy like me supposed to do? George will do what George will do, and nothing anyone says, apparently, will stop him. (Just look at what he did with the new trilogy, after all! I mean, honestly...does he have any idea how people actually communicate in the real world?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The "Write" Disease

I've said it here before that, for me, diabetes is just no big deal. It is a part of my life, sure, but it doesn't stand out as anything major. There are so many other important things to focus on in life, no point in spending any more time worrying about diabetes than I have to.

Sure, I take care of myself. I pump. I test. I watch what I eat. I see my endocronologist every 3-6 months. I deal with the lows and highs as they come. But mostly, I try to love my wife, give time to my kids, work, write, worship, and try to have a little fun now and then.

So, I was thinking recently about my writing. I don't think I've written a single short story or had a character in any idea for a novel with the disease. And then I got to wondering why that is? I started trying to figure out how I might include a character with diabetes.

And here's what I decided.

If I were to include diabetes in a story, then diabetes would need to play a role in the story. I mean, it is like in Hollywood. If you have a kid or an adult with diabetes, you can be assured that at some point during the course of the plot, that kid or adult will either experience a life-threatening low BGL, or a life-threatening high BGL. Perhaps they will be locked in the trunk of a car for hours without their insulin. Or they'll be in some hijacked airplane where the hijackers won't allow a diabetic to treat his high or low.

But, frankly, diabetes just isn't like that most of the time. And nevermind Hollywood usually gets it all wrong anyhow. Diabetes is something that millions of people live with every day of their lives in this country. It isn't really so dramatic. At least, not usually.

So, then, why not just have a character with diabetes and leave it at that? I suppose that's possible. Of course, what would be the point? To educate people? Then you risk your writing becoming a lecture.

Granted, I have had a few ideas, such as a story about the struggle a child feels shortly after they are first diagnosed, how they feel different, perhaps even mad at God. Feelings that I know I faced, albeit quite briefly, as well as some of my diabetic peers when I was a kid.

I guess what it comes down to is that diabetes isn't so big a deal. At least, not when you've spent most of your life living with it. It isn't something that inspires me.

But then again, I remember the days of my youth, and how I celebrated any famous person that I came to learn was diabetic. There was a certain comradery there with an otherwise perfect stranger. Like that man who raced in the Ironman Triathalon. A race that I didn't care two cents about, but my eyes were glued to the screen that year because a guy with diabetes had the courage to race. (I was also a little jealous, because he got to eat fudge throughout the competition.)

So, maybe there is a need. Perhaps there is some kid out there longing to read about the heroic efforts of an otherwise ordinary kid who happens to share his or her disease. Would your diabetic child want to read about someone like that?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Shalom...and Supernanny

What has happened to our country? Or, more specifically, to parenting in our country? Not to mention marriage.

There are a 101 philosophies in being an effective parent. So many resources at every parent's fingertips. Yet, it seems so many don't have a clue how to raise a child. Discipline is a dirty word in so many homes, where children run the household, not the adults.

It seems television has caught onto this and decided to do something about it. Enter Supernanny, where "JoJo" steps into the lives of a new family each week...and not just any family, but one in utter chaos...and restores order.

Her methods are simply, really. Almost common sensical. Yet, they are effective. At the beginning of each episode, you think there is no way this family can be fixed, but she does. Every time.

Of course, parenting isn't quite as easy as they make it appear in a one-hour episode. But I'm amazed at just how out of control these families have become. Kids throwing things, kicking their mother, biting siblings, and even breaking valuables. Kids so wild, you might swear they are possessed.

But you know what it ultimately comes down to? The parents. These children are starving for their parents attention, even their discipline.

Another show has come out recently that even takes this further. Shalom in the Home, where a Jewish Rabbi visits families and attempts to restore peace. And where does he begin? You guessed it. The parents.

It is the marriage relationship that is top priority in any home. You love and respect your spouse, and parenting will become a whole lot easier.

I've heard people say how you could never love anyone in the way you love your children. Your children are your own flesh and blood. They are bonded to you in a way no other relationship can be. Yet, I have to disagree.

Children eventually grow up. They leave the home, find spouses of their own. Through it all, the one constant in the home is--or at least should be--the marriage. My wife is top priority. And that means ahead of the kids. Likewise, I should be top priority to my wife. Ahead of the kids. Because as much as I love my kids, they will, in fact, leave me.

And it is because, in fact, my wife could leave me that only emphasizes the amount of effort we need to put into the marriage. Anything and everything that can be done to strengthen that relationship is the greatest importance. And when your children seen how in love his or her parents are, they will feel secure. They will understand what unconditional love is. They will ultimately leave your home, and cleave unto their spouse, living up to the example you set for them.

If you haven't had a chance, take a look at Supernanny and Shalom in the Home. No matter how strong your marriage is today, no matter how successfully you parent, there is always something to learn, some way to improve. Thinking you have "arrived" is a sure sign your relationship will grow stale. Don't let that happen.


Monday, May 01, 2006


Do you remember your first time? Were you kind of giddy and excited and scared and stumbling all over yourself?

Well, that's how it was. For me, at least. Because today was my first time.

No, no, no. I wasn't talking about that three-letter word that starts with s and ends in x. (Right...right, you got it. Playing the SAX.)

I'm talking about going from being a literary nobody and taking that step into the world of being published! Today, my short story Half Moon Tree, is now available in ESC! Magazine.

Granted, I'm still a literary nobody. But I'm just a bit less of a nobody. More like I'm almost somebody! And just like, uh, playing the sax, the first time won't be the last time. At least, I hope not. I plan to sharpen my virtual pencil and scribble out more stories. Stories people enjoy reading. Stories that literary magazines will actually publish.

And one day, I might just grow from being an almost somebody into an actual somebody. A name people recognize. The kind of name where, when someone asks, "Have you heard of Ryan Bruner?" they say:

"Ryan Bruner? Hmm. Isn't he that football player?"

So they would be wrong. But at least it would be familiar to them, like they've heard my name somewhere, though they don't remember where...until they walk into the bookstore, and see my name on the shelf and smack themselves in the forehead and say, "Of course! He's not a football player! He's that illustrator!"

Uh. No. But it's getting there. I'm learning this business is slow. And just when I thought it was really slow, I learn that it can be even slower.

So, for today, I'm revelling in the fact that I have this moment as my first time. Granted, it isn't quite as fulfilling as my wedding night where I, you know, first played the sax. But it is exciting nonetheless. Something I've worked hard for. Because I can finally say, "I'm Published!"