Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yes, He Can!

I sat there for hours in a rocking year in my parents' livingroom. Hunched over. Fingers cramping. Neck straining. Looking from the magazine to the keyboard to the television. Ignoring the complaints of my sister to let her watch TV. Finally, the last line of code was entered and I typed "run."

The result of my efforts was a tiny ball bouncing across my parents' TV screen.

I smiled.

My family said, "That's it?!"

It was the early 1980s and I was a young teenager. Those years were the early times of home computers. I had saved all my money to buy the Commodore Vic-20 that I was typing on and entering the pages of code that would earn me my ultimate reward of the tiny, red ball (and not a round ball, mind you, but the squared equivalent common in those days) repeatedly bouncing across the TV screen (at the time, many of the low-end computers would be hooked up to your television and not a monitor).

Being interested in computers and tech back then was really appealing. Everything was new and the concept of being able to "program" a home computer was pretty cool. Sitting for hours to type in code (no hard drives back then) seemed to fit in with my obsessive drive to finish things and be rewarded. Of course, I wasn't a "programmer" I was just typing code that someone else had written and published in a computer magazine. The most I ever "coded" on my own was a simple little program that would ask you to enter a number from 1 to 10 and then display a message when you entered a number. Of course, the devious side of me would enter this code on computers in stores and instead of a positive message I'd have the computer display insults when someone entered a number. "Number 5? Nooo, you idiot! That's wrong!" Yeah, I was a geek even back then.

My parents, probably looking to get something back from their tolerating me hogging the TV all the time, kept pushing me to go into computers. But, I've always loved language and words and writing. I knew from a pretty young age I wanted to be a writer or an editor--something to do with words. When the time came that I was finally able to go to college I knew I was going to
study English and Journalism.

That decision wasn't met with the encouragement or happiness that I'd wanted from my parents but I knew that computers were just a hobby for me. It didn't appeal to me to think about sitting for hours in an office writing code, etc. That was something I did for fun and as the years went on I knew I wasn't skilled enough to keep up with programming languages. Computer languages are very rigid and that's not the way my brain works.

Every career test I ever took always listed writer/editor as one of the top jobs I'd be good at. I was pretty convinced (and very stubborn). I think it wasn't until I had graduated college, with honors, with my degree in English/Journalism, that my parents finally accepted my choice of profession. Over the years, such as the months of unemployment I just suffered through, there have been times when I thought about switching careers, but I've always known in my heart what I was meant to do.

The important thing is that I made the choice for me. No one forced me to pick a career. No one told me that because I was horrible at math I shouldn't even think about becoming an accountant or something like that. I wasn't pre-judged as to limit my future.

Recently, during an evaluation of Mikey's progress, someone said, in response to some results from the tests, that Mikey would probably never be a lawyer and that there were good vocational schools to think about for the future. Now, I kept the Jersey Boy in me tame and didn't explode at this person. What I would have said, though, would have been along the lines of...DON'T EVER TELL MY KID WHAT HE CAN OR CAN'T DO!!! Especially not when he's barely three-years-old and doing well in his autism therapy.

Apparently there are a lot of parents of autistic children who just want the easy route. They just want to know the bare minimum they have to do to make sure their child can do something, anything with their life. I want more than that for Mikey and I honestly believe he wants more, too. Mikey is a very motivated kid and very smart and he never backs down from his schooling. Don't tell him, or me, that he CAN'T do something.

This was the first time I've heard someone say Mikey couldn't do something. His therapy and everything we've done since he was diagnosed has been about what he can do and what he will be able to do. Are there challenges in his life and in his mother's and my lives...of course. But we don't give up or back down and I don't expect anyone who is in his life to back down.

Most of the parents I know from Mikey's school are dedicated to helping their children fight past autism's challenges. They don't want to change their children they just want to make them better and make life easier for them. Isn't that what all parents want from their kids regardless of if they have a disability or not?

Mikey loves jigsaw puzzles. He sits there and does them over and over. Maybe he'll grow up to be the NY Times Crossword Puzzle creator someday. Or maybe he'll surprise me and say he wants to be a computer programmer. Whatever it is that he decides to do with his life I'll support.

Never tell your kids they can't do something. As far as I'm concerned, CAN'T means Copout And Never Try.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SPORTS/POLITICS: If We Give Steroids To The Needy Will Congress Finally Be Interested?

For a good part of the day today the fiasco that is the Roger Clemens steroid story unfolded in front of a House committee. What a joke!!! Why is this even in front of Congress? What possible good is this doing? And on top of it the freakin' Republicans showed that they can't be honest and non-partisan about anything at all.

I swear I was sitting here thinking maybe we should give steroids to autistic children like Mikey, or to breast cancer victims, or to the poor and uninsured so that Congress would finally be interested in taking some serious action regarding some serious problems in this country.

I'm so tired of the government we've had for the past eight years. I'm tired of nothing good happening in this country. We keep hearing the Clinton and Obama camps saying that the U.S. people are ready for a change. Yes, we are! But it has to be the right change. It has to be a turn back to making this country free again and addressing the real problems we face.

If I could address the entire voting population of this country I'd tell them to stop voting against your best interest, stop voting in fear, stop taking religion or anything else that skews your reality into consideration when you vote and please think of what is truly good for the country when you vote in November. Why are things like peace, health care, prosperity for all, etc. considered to be so dangerous to some people?

Demand that your representatives in the government actually represent you!!! Make them write and vote for bills that are helpful and not just about what their special interests want. Demand that they stop wasting time on something like steroids in baseball and start spending time on stopping war; feeding the poor; curing things like breast cancer, autism, etc.

I'm writing out of frustration today. But I won't be voting that way in November. I hope you'll do the same.

P.S.--Don't forget to vote in my blog poll...see the sidebar.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

BLOGGING: To Blog Or Not To Blog...

That is my question. I've been having some thoughts recently about discontinuing Daddy Dan Blog. I figured I'd write about it and see if anyone has any suggestions or opinions.

I've never found enough time to properly update this blog. My original goal was to post daily but I haven't been able to achieve that. There are various reasons that have kept me from achieving that goal and I'm always impressed and amazed at people who are daily bloggers--where do they find the time?

Last year was a difficult year and it didn't lend itself to be as prolific as I'd love to be. Health problems for my wife and kidney stones for me, losing my job, Mikey's diagnosis and therapy were all more important to me than making time at any costs to write on here.

Because I'm still unemployed and doing a job-search I still don't feel like my mind is completely clear enough to post on a regular basis.

I always feel like if I can't do something right then why do it...okay, maybe not to that extreme but I love to be able to throw myself into something 100% (and no, I won't say 110% because when people do that it drives me peeve, you can't give more than 100%...THAT'S THE POINT!).

I always envisioned a back and forth between me and the readers of Daddy Dan Blog. So far that hasn't happened. I know there are a few readers out there but I haven't heard from them. I've tried a few things to encourage comments or emails or suggestions but I guess you guys are all shy.

If I felt that some sort of communication would develop between you, the reader, and me, the blogger, then maybe I'd feel this was worth more time and effort on my part. Otherwise, it's just a public diary.

It's not that I don't have things to write about every day. Heck, I could pick up the newspaper or listen to the news and have 50 things to write about on a daily basis. Plus, my personal life always offers some fun stuff. It's definitely not for lack of content.

I think the problem is a generational issue. See, I feel that the younger generation has this concept that anything they write about is completely interesting and should be read by everyone. I don't feel that my generation believes that. We grew up in an environment where only the truly talented or interesting got the attention and accolades. There seems to be an issue of entitlement with the younger generation.

That entitlement idea extends through many areas of life...but especially in the workplace. If I could move off my main topic for a moment, and probably insult a bunch of people (sorry), just a comment about the aforementioned people:

My generation, and the ones before us, believed that if you worked hard and paid your dues you were rewarded by your employer at some point and in some way. But, it's my experience, that that is no longer the expectation among the younger workers. They expect to graduate and be making twice the salary they should be, they expect raises and promotions right away, etc. I'm not trying to sound like an "old man" because I'm not one. But I've witnessed every one of those things I wrote and, I grant you, I'm generalizing and I hate to do that, but, I'm not the only one who has seen this and believes it.

I think that part of the issue is the way those people were treated as children by their parents and community. I know this sounds silly but I think parenting nowadays is geared toward making kids feel entitled. Take, for instance, sports. There are now participation trophies. You show get a trophy. A reward for just going to the game. I played sports my whole life. Never got a trophy just for showing up. When I played on a bad team we didn't get anything for playing badly. We watched the champions get their trophies and we used that as motivation to work harder. I played on one baseball team that won our division three years in a row but lost to the same team in the championship all three years. We got trophies for winning our division but we wanted the big trophy. We didn't sit there and say, well, at least we won something.

But, I don't want to digress too much. I guess I just feel that, without feedback, I wonder if my content is worth posting.

When I apply for jobs I usually list Daddy Dan Blog as a sample of my writing. As is the case nowadays, I think a lot of employers research job candidates via Google or other resources on the Web. My blog represents part of my writing style but it also represents a lot of my life.

I've wondered if I've been doing myself more harm than good by listing my blog on my job applications/cover letters. While I believe I haven't written anything too crazy or controversial I assume that anything a person writes can be held against them in some way.

So, I think about whether or not it's worth trying to write honestly on this blog if someone could use it to deny me a job or some other thing of importance--and if I can't write honestly, again, is it worth it? This isn't a blog of fiction.

So, I ask you, the reader, for your opinion. Do you like what you read on this blog? Do you want to see it continue? Is there something you want me to write about or change about the blog? I welcome your comments and thank you for reading.

I've set up a poll on the blog for you to express your opinion about the future of Daddy Dan Blog. Thank you for your participation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

LIFE: The Potential of a New Year

Happy Belated New Year to all! 2008 is finally, finally here. Whew!

As those of you who have read my blog during 2007 will know, last year (heck, the last two years really) was one of the most challenging times of my life. I'm ready...sooooo ready...for some good things to happen this year. I guess that's why the potential of a new year is so inspiring to us all.

My first focus for this new year is the same thing that I've been focused on since July. To find a job. I've been staying positive about this and I am hopeful that something will develop very soon (he said as he kept his fingers crossed). I have such energy and enthusiasm to get started in a new position. I want to be able to fully use my skills and experience and creativity for something worthwhile. I truly believe that humans want to work and like to work and that it is something we need as part of our healthy and happy lifestyle.  I'm ready...let's get started!

Of course, the most important thing this year is for Mikey to continue to do well with his autism therapy and to develop new skills and language. I'm so proud of the kid and he is my constant source of smiles. I've had people tell me that when I talk about Mikey they see this visible transformation in my face and I get this smile that is probably the most genuine thing in my life. Whenever I need some inspiration to pick me up I just watch him sitting and playing with his alphabet toys and listen to him saying the letters...gets me every time.

As with every year, there will be some important decisions in 2008. Personally, in addition to my career and Mikey's development, there are some family decisions to be made that need to be well thought out and made with an open mind and a dedicated heart. On a community level, we get to pick a new president this year. I always get excited at election time but this year, perhaps, is the most important election in many, many years. I'll comment more on Election 2008 next time.

If the end of year holidays are said to be a depressing time of the year for some then the New Year and all its potential has to be considered inspiring and joyous. You get a brand new 365 days to enjoy life and make your mark and experience all the wonders of the world. How can you feel anything but encouraged?!

I've been rereading a few of my favorite books about the Kennedy brothers and was reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes:

"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I
dream of things that never were, and ask why not."--Robert F. Kennedy

That's the way I feel about life in this New Year. Why can't I get a wonderful new job that is rewarding for both me and the employer? Why can't Mikey make incredible advances and begin to speak fluently? Why can't we make the positive changes it takes to make the world a more peaceful, happy, and healthy place for all living beings?

I'm searching for the ways to fulfill all the potential and promise of this year. I hope you'll do the same. Good luck to all of us. Have a great year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

LIFE: Searching for a New Hero

Look! Up in the sky! It's a superhero! Superman was always my favorite comic book hero. Who could resist his ability to fly at supersonic speeds, or his super-human strength, or his vow to stand for "truth, justice, and the American Way?"

But real heroes don't fly and don't have super-human strength, and are often flawed and unsure of what they stand for. But they are heroic in their own way and in a way that is totally human. There aren't enough of them in this world today--even though the term hero is thrown around far too often.

One of the TV shows that my son, Mikey, watches sometimes is called "Higglytown Heroes." It's a cute show but it drives me nuts the way it uses the term hero. My wife and I joke about it all the time. I mean, the pizza delivery guy is a hero, a grocery store worker is a hero, all because they can help solve the challenge of that particular show. Now, I know it's a children's show and they aren't taking themselves very seriously, but it just makes me realize how few heroes we have and how difficult it is to see who they are.

When I was in college I used to say that the student who stood up to and blocked the tanks in China during the Tiananmen Square protests was my hero. He was risking his life for something he believed in. Did I know him personally? No. Did I know if he was really student? No. Could he have been a bad guy or unworthy of hero status? Sure. I didn't know anything else about him other than the fact that he was willing to stand in front of a death-machine that could end his life in a second all because he believed in freedom. That was a hero to me.

It's dangerous to go looking for heroes. Most athletes have proven themselves over and over as unworthy of the term (although the 1980 U.S. olympic hockey team came really close for me). Most politicians are far from heroes (but I have a soft spot for JFK, RFK, and FDR). And don't even get me started on most religious "leaders."

You could say that most of us are heroes just for waking up every day and facing our various challenges on a daily basis. Gotta pay that mortgage. Take care of those children. Face an illness. Help a loved one. It can be difficult to be a human on a day-to-day basis. Especially when you have great challenges in your life. But I'm not sure yet if it's heroic.

Why am I writing about heroes today? Honestly, not really sure. I'm just feeling like I need a hero. Like we need a hero. I feel so cheated that my parents' generation and their parents' generation seemed to have more heroic types in their lives. I wrote an editorial for one of my college newspapers back in 1988 about how disappointed and jealous I was that my parents and grandparents had politicians like FDR and JFK and my generation had to choose from George H.W. Bush and Dukakis. Now, it's a thousand times worse and I'm feeling even more jaded.

But it's not just political leaders that are lacking. Where are the Martin Luther King, Jr.'s and the great social leaders? Where is a leader for our times who can come forth and bring us all together to achieve great things? Where is that person who can step forth and utter words like "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" and actually have people moved to action?

Why are our TV screens filled with images of the worst among us. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, etc...I DON'T CARE!!! The TV news is filled with bad news and loud-mouth jerks who are poisoning our society. Why should you listen to Bill O'Reilly or Glen Beck? They are not worth your time and will not inspire any positive change for our society. And why should we look to the TV for any kind of inspiration or positivity anyway?

Nobody reads anymore. And I just don't mean blogs or magazines or newspapers. How about reading a book people?!? At least if you read fiction you might find some heroes there. But I prefer non-fiction and I prefer to read to gain knowledge so that maybe I can learn enough to see even more ideas of heroism.

Perhaps I'm ranting too much about this. Or perhaps there's not enough said or thought in this regard. All I know is that the world is in tragic shape right now and I don't see too many heroes on the horizon.

I've written about how Mikey is my personal hero for always being happy and facing his challenges every day. In my own tiny part of this world I am awed and honored to know someone as heroic as him. That got me thinking that maybe heroism is a collective and we have to combine millions of Mikeys all over the world to find our hero. If this is the case, I hope you have found YOUR Mikey and I'd love to hear about him.

Clicky Web Analytics