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Wonderful article on teens in foster care…

Advocates: Teens in foster care need a place to belong

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Quintin was featured in HEARTLINES, the national newsletter for The Adoption Exchange.

Read the article here:  Heartlines Fall 2011

 

As I write this while sitting up in bed at my hospital table used for working mostly late into the night, Logan snuggles next to me. This is a familiar sight, and the warmth of her fur next to me is even more comfortable. When I pet her, I faintly hear that familiar purr that has always been a comfort, much like listening to the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore. It’s been familiar for the past seventeen years.

In June 1994, I decided it was time to get a pet. Since I traveled a good deal between Dayton and New York City, a dog would not have been practical. So, June 19th, I went to the home of a Centerville marching band family and selected the most energetic little male cat. In honor of my beloved mentor, Joshua Logan, I named the kitten “Mister Logan.”

For the first two months, while I waited to see if he would survive better than my indoor/outdoor plants, I took him to the veterinarian who convinced me I should probably just call the kitten, “Logan.” Mister Logan, as it turned out, was a girl. He asked for her birth date, and all I could remember was that she was born mid-April. “Pick a date,” he encouraged. So, I selected April 13th – Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

Several months later I rushed through the door of the vet’s office, carrying Logan wrapped in a towel. Something had fallen on her that morning; she was crying loudly, and dragging her backside. “There’s nothing we can do for her, Mr. Haas.”   The tears began flowing down my cheek. When I asked if we should put her to sleep, the vet assistants, trying their best to stifle chuckles, assured me there was no need to put her down.

“Logan is fine. She’s in heat.”

I thanked the ladies, and then tucked Logan under my arm, walking out of the building with all the dignity I could muster.

Logan has always been popular with my students, and their families. When Benjamin Gross played the piano as a young 6 year old, Logan would lay across his lap, or stand to hug him. For some reason, Benjamin was Logan’s favorite.  When anyone sits in the living room, their laps are generally filled, for Logan has always hated to see an empty lap. When I work in my study, Logan loves to lay on the side of the L-shaped desk to keep me company, and when writing in my bedroom/sitting room, Logan is always by my side.

This morning, it is different. Logan, after seventeen years, and one day short of six months, is slipping away. She is comfortable, but her breathing has become a little more shallow. I lifted Flyer, who has been blind nearly a year, onto the bed to say, “good bye.” Flyer sniffed at Logan without a hissed rebuttal, and laid down on the bed by Logan. Navi and Chief sniffed Logan and seem to comprehend something is different this morning. Even the extra-playful Navi is subdued this morning, curled at the foot of the bed keeping watch.

August 2010, I was a mess as we prepared to put down Flyer who was suffering with pancreatitis, and assured by the vet she would not survive. Fortunately, Flyer did survive. The outpouring of affection for this dog was incredible. This morning it seems to be the same for Logan. Many have experienced her personality and antics for years, thus making her quite the popular cat.

At Stubbs Park and The Fraze Pavilion, Logan was a familiar presence during concerts, basking in the attention, and gobbling up any food offered her. On airplane travels to and from NYC, Logan always rested comfortably in my backpack stored under the seat in front of me. While Mother sat on my back patio drinking her morning coffee, she solved the mystery of Logan’s escapes from the townhouse: Logan opened the sliding screen-door, and closed it herself! While walking through a festival with Logan on my shoulder – a typical perch in her younger years – I heard a lady let out a light scream. I turned to see Logan eating her elephant ear which she was holding up as she walked through the crowd.

I had to purchase voice mail when it first came out because Logan knew how to press the correct buttons on my answering machine, thus erasing new messages. A year later, I had to remove numbers from the novelty of speed dialing on my new phone because Logan would press the speaker button and then hit a speed dial button to carry on a conversation with whomever answered. Several students got to witness Logan’s phone conversations, especially the Nienaber family.

The fond, memorable stories of Logan are countless. For seventeen years, I have been blessed with an incredible, fuzzy-faced companion, who will always hold a special place in my heart. Through the course of this blog’s post, she has continued to snuggled closer. I am sure she knows she is loved, and that she has been loved dearly for many years, and by many folks.

It’s been a great life for Logan, and for me. We have had wonderful times together – times that have turned into beautiful memories.

As one friend wrote on my Facebook page, “They are not just pets, they are family.”

And very shortly, the Jolliffe-Haas family will bid farewell to one whom I’ve jokingly referred to as “my first child.”

Good bye, little Pal… my beloved little Fuzzy Face.

Know you are loved…

This is a “listen” for all of us…

Derek Clark shared with Family By Design his triumphant life through 13 years of foster care and being declared mentally challenged to living the life of his dreams.  Derek now inspires and motivates foster youth, foster/adoptive parents, foster/adoption professionals, youth groups and business leaders all over the US.

Listen to Derek’s interview by clicking on this link: Interview with Derek Clark

Without going into detail, I can honestly say, “I am glad last week is behind me.”

I truly value my younger brother, Destin, all the more, as a shining example of what our nation’s education needs in the leadership arena. Had it not been for my brother’s guidance, and encouraging coaching, I could have been hopelessly frustrated dealing with less than prompt communication, and condescending administrators who inferred I did not know “my shit.” Oh, well… at least those with whom I will be closely working were far more satisfactory and enthusiastic in their approach.

Of course, I am baffled that my older son’s high school counselor can be utterly ineffective, and a piss poor example of educational counseling at its finest! Thank heavens for counselor-friends who came to our aide these past six months.

Destin is a gem in every sense of the word. I am so delighted his school corporation, his community, other Hoosier administrators, and state officials recognize his knowledge, talent, and leadership skills. Destin is gifted, and understands his duty of sharing these gifts where they are needed. His photo seems to appear frequently in newspapers for his fine work, and the letters from parents, students, teachers and other administrators I have been fortunate to read are thrilling. The respect, affection and adoration is impressive. While others know him as teacher, principal, superintendent, chairperson, board member, son, husband, daddy, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, Mr. Haas, Moose, Moosie, Coach, friend, pal, cut-up, class clown, the only senior to take 30+ college days without visiting one college, student… I feel as though I have one of the most honored connections to this towering figure… he’s my brother.

My students were also a blessing this week! I could lay aside the exasperation of dealing with individuals, and corporations, while studying up on IDEA and other federal education guidelines, and simply immerse my self in the music of my students. And then, this was often followed by fun times with my sons at dinner, and doing other things together.

Friday afternoon, my students seemed to relax me even more. And of course, it was the official start of the weekend.

Quintin and I drove to ACTION Adoption Services. En route, I finally had a chance to call Mother and spend some time with her on the phone. Upon arriving at ACTION, Quintin sat in the front hallway entertaining other adopted children with his guitar, while I taught a class of prospective adoptive parents. The topic was “Cultural Diversity.” It does seem to be an appropriate class for me, and a fun topic I am beginning to enjoy, more and more. Last night’s class was particularly fun, and the thoughts shared by the class was quite exhilarating. Interestingly, we had an African American couple of mixed races, and a woman from Cambodia. This certainly made the class’s sharing all the more meaningful as we were all reaching within to share our thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and hopes about bringing other races, ethnicities and cultures closer together.

Even more exciting is when I see my sons with other adopted children from ACTION families – Now, this is true cultural diversity!

Today, I am taking Quintin, who is becoming more affectionately known as “Kitten” by all, to a guitar audition at church for one of the bands. I am excited for Quintin to begin his first actual step into music.

This week was exasperating, yet so refreshing in a number of ways. I learned that I can continue to be resilient, and that I still have much capacity to learn new things – even topics (educational law) that are not as thrilling to my interests of history and music. I think we all benefit from remembering the story of David & Goliath when confronted with issues that may appear overwhelming, and even unobtainable. Attitude. It all stems from “attitude.”

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a kid brother who is “Kick Ass” in every possible way!

Photos:

  • My brother, Destin, and his beautiful wife, Stacia
  • Quintin & Jose with friends from ACTION Adoption Services

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?

December 31st is always a day for reflection, and this day seems particularly meaningful… several additions to our family… several farewells… wonderful students and their families… several students moving on to college while many former students moved to New York City or into teaching positions… and always, more personal growth.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

The first four months of 2010 were difficult.

Just a few days into the new year a dear cousin, who had been somewhat of a hero throughout my childhood, passed away with pancreatic cancer. Steve Daughterty was an incredible individual, and is sadly missed.

Life brings on a natural drama, but often, people prefer to create drama.  Those are the individuals with whom I can do without, and through the course of this year, I have distanced my self, and my family, from those who prefer to infest their poor life choices and hideous personal drama into my family’s life.   The events of the first four months strengthened us as a family, and secured the understanding that our family does come first.  And life has been grand!  However, we were greatly aided last April by several loving, caring, and dedicated family friends.

Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul
Thunderclouds have their lightning
Nightingales have their song
And don’t you see I want my life to be
Something more than long….

Sadly, I cannot remember much about this past Spring and Summer.  I know we had a ton of fun going to musicals, concerts, visiting family in Indiana, spending time with family friends here in Dayton, and kicking off Jose’s fourth, and final year of marching band.  We enjoyed visits to  Carillon Park, as well as many hours of hiking, and canoeing at Old River Park.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

June and July were somewhat busy with graduated students prepping for college.  I was also updating my home study through ACTION Adoption, half-heartedly, as I was not as hopeful of finding the right son to adopt.  Those roads seemed hopelessly closed.

The first of August I delivered Jose to his final marching band camp.  It was a tad bit wistful, but I also knew that the fall would bring on several more endings… so this was just the first.  Mother drove over to Dayton to celebrate the end of band camp with the parents’ show.

Then tragedy struck… August 24th, our beloved dog, Flyer, became gravely ill, and was suffering from pancreatitis.  We were told she would only have a few days with us, but through combined determination from our family, dear family friends and students, and tons of nursing, Flyer pulled through it.  By Labor Day she was acting as though nothing had ever happened.

The annual Labor Day Haasienda Celebration had adjustments due to my sister-in-law having three weeks remaining in her pregnancy.  Still, Mother made the trip, and Monday we enjoyed the parade and what has become our traditional potluck at the Lockharts’ home afterward.

With the start of school, the marching band season kicked into full gear. There were football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays through November.

The highlight of September came on the 21st and the 24th.

September 21st, my sister-in-law, Stacia, gave birth to a beautiful niece, Carolyne. Fortunately, that Saturday, my 46th birthday, was marching band contest-free, so Jose, Mother and I spent the day in Fowler with Destin, Stacia, Parker, Freddie and Carolyne.

September 24th, I spoke with a case worker from New Mexico who wanted to consider the prospects of matching me with a 15 year old Navajo boy on whom I had sent an interest form.

So many men seem destined
To settle for something small
But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all
So don’t ask where I’m going
Just listen when I’m gone
And far away you’ll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:

Marching band and adoption took over my life throughout October and November.  As marching band began to wind down, the adoption process began to wind up.

October 22nd, Jose and I, along with several other matching band parents of senior members, walked across the football field for senior night.  Two Fridays later, I was fully matched with Quintin, and two hours later, with my full support, Jose was enlisted with the Ohio National Guard.

Life was changing, and what blessings these changes were becoming.  A new son was joining our family, and Jose was establishing the start of a childhood dream – to be in the military.

The following week, Jose performed in his last marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, and completed his last band concert.  Thanksgiving was spent with Mother, and then on to Fowler for Freddie’s birthday celebration.

Within five days, Jose and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet Quintin, his foster family, and the wonderful folks at Red Mountain Family Services.  We had one of the most remarkable, and memorable trips.

December 10th, Quintin and his foster dad, Jun, joined us in Dayton for the weekend.

And then December 20th finally arrived… Mother, Jose and I drove to Dayton International Airport to bring Quintin home.  We had a beautiful candle lighting ceremony led by New Mexico worker, Janis Melendez, witnessed by family and members of our god-parent team.

The past eleven days have been so fulfilling with the arrival of Quintin, many kindnesses shown our family by my students and their families, Christmas in Indiana, fun times with family friends here in the Miami Valley, and now, our final day of 2010.

Our family is finding its own corner of the sky as we journey into 2011.  I am thrilled for the prospects of this coming year, and am eager to get it started.  I have my own personal goals, and corners of the sky I will establish, and will continue to assist my sons in establishing their own corners.  Jose will graduate and leave for basic and advanced training with the military.  Quintin will start a new life entirely with many promises of new adventures.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

So here is to a new year… a continued journey with many opportunities and thrilling adventures… the continuation of my family… the continuation of my brother’s family… and many more wonderful experiences – those anticipated, and those unexpected.

Many blessings to all our wonderful family and friends…

Love,

Darin, Jose & Quintin

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  I don’t know when I have had a more wonderful Christmas!

Very early Friday morning, the boys, Flyer and I headed westward, arriving in Elwood at 11:00am. Jose and Mother followed Quintin and I, and by 12:30pm we were pulling in to Destin & Stacia’s.

An hour or so later I drove to the church to practice the organ in preparation for the Christmas Eve service. By this time, the snow was falling heavily, and bounding down with a purpose of making travel difficult.

A highlight of the weekend was the most delicious dinner at Norma’s, Stacia’s mother. Norma moved from the farm where Destin & Stacia live, and bought a historical landmark in Fowler, about one block from her church. The home was once owned by the town’s dairy man and was part of a huge dairy farm. Norma has decorated it beautifully, and the landscaping is quite fetching (we need to bring this word back!).

Norma sets an exquisite table, and yet, it is most comfortable. The littlest touch does not seem to escape her!

The dinner was incredible. Stacia made white chili – my first time to sample it. Wonderful!

We finished dinner and it was time to head to church. The service was very nice, and nothing is more beautiful than to leave Christmas Eve services with snow falling!

Back at Norma’s home we enjoyed hot chocolate (kindly made with Splenda for the diabetics), and a nice sampling of desserts. My sons were such great cousins and playmates for my nephews, Parker (5) and Freddie (3), and they all enjoyed themselves.

It was so nice to sit up talking to Destin for a good deal of time. So often, when we are together, any time to sit and talk is sapped by the events. However, after the entire Haashold began settling down, we had some chat time which made my day.

Christmas morning began on a quiet note as Mother and I sat at the kitchen table talking. Stacia was the first to rouse, and then the smaller peeps began adding momentum to the day with their unrivaled energy. The stockings came down with much excitement. The family breakfast was eaten and then it was back to the Christmas tree for the unwrapping of gifts. I held my beautiful three-month old niece, Carolyne throughout the flutter and crackle of wrapping paper and gift bags.

At some point, I fell asleep with Carolyne lodged securely in my arms. When I woke, she was also asleep.

At 12:30pm, Mother and Quintin followed Jose and I back to Elwood. The roads were clear, and very safe.

Since we did not have our traditional Chinese dinner on Christmas Eve, we maintained the tradition Christmas night.

Sunday morning, we took down Mother’s tree, packed up, showered, and went to Richard’s for lunch. After an enjoyable lunch, we hit the road for another two hours, returning to Kettering by 3:00pm.

When Jose returned from work, we sat down to creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – the right combo for a cold Christmas night. We opened a bottle of sparking apple juice, and with my seldom used wine glasses, we toasted our new family… to sons, to brothers, and to family.

A beautiful, memorable coda to two months of zipping along an incredible rollercoaster.

 

 

It is 14-degrees, and the air has a brutal, bitter bite. I delivered Jose to his National Guard drill at 7:30am, and the sky was heavy with frost.

Last night I taught a pre-adoption class at ACTION Adoption Services, and it dealt “grief, loss and separation.” It’s a tough topic to teach, and one of my least favorites because of it’s heavy nature.

On the way to ACTION, Jose and I were talking, and we discussed some of his own past, and how he is still dealing with certain things. As we continued our way to the agency, it occurred to me that my own life was not far removed from my son’s.

My own birth father was an alcoholic, and abandoned my family when I was eleven. I don’t think that sense of abandonment from a parent ever truly leaves one. Despite having a fantastic grandfather (Leroy Barmes) and uncles (Garry Jolliff, Ron & Tom Barmes) who often stepped in to fill this empty role in my life, I was still missing having a real dad of my own.

Perhaps that is why my sons are adopted around the same age I was when we were abandoned. Whatever the reason, at least I get to be the dad I never had, and for this I am so blessed.

We arrived at the agency and as I was signing in, it dawned on me that it was the 26th anniversary of my birth father’s death… almost to the minute.

Twenty-six years ago there was little consideration for the loss. Mother had just remarried, I was making great strides in college, and the events that dropped before me in 1984 were opportunities to start life over again. A fresh new start with renewed hope built upon the foundation established by my mother.

And a fresh start it was…

The topic of last night’s class dealt with how we work with hurt children, and how we offer them fresh start’s. When we discussed birth parents, I explained to the prospective adoptive parents that so often, the birth parents are not necessarily bad people – they have just made bad choices. My birth father had a number of good qualities, but he just did not have all the tools he needed in life due to his own childhood, and the alcoholism that preceded his own generation.

Twenty-six years later, even after moving on to wonderful careers and sharing life with our wonderful families, my brother, Destin, and I have changed the course of our paternal history. We possess many traits of our birth father, and rightfully so. I do recall the affection, and tenderness he generously shared when I was young, and I see that component shining through Destin, and myself. Destin and I have a deep passion for history, and that, too, was something our birth father dearly loved.

Monday, my newest son arrives. While being “Dad,” I also have the responsibility of assisting Quintin on his own journey of moving on. Sometimes this is easy, and other times it is a challenge. Quintin is chomping at the bit to move on, and desperately wants this new start at life. I am sure my sons look at me, never believing that I was once in their shoes. It will, once again, be my turn to share life tools with a new son, and the opportunity to fortify, even rebuild if necessary, his own foundation.

I am so grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to move on in my own life. Even more, I am grateful and blessed to assist my own sons in their journeys of moving on.

Everything happens for a reason. Of this, I am quite certain.

Once upon a time I was a part of The Pepsi Generation.

Now, honestly, I have no idea what that meant, but as a young child, the commercials told me I belonged to this exclusive fraternity of young, vibrant individuals. Even before Michael Jackson added his own twist to the New Pepsi Generation, I generally had a ‘Pepsi Day’ because I was hip.

At forty-six, I still consider myself a member of The Pepsi Generation, knowing that in several decades I will probably be a part of The Poligrip Generation. God knows I often have Metamucil Moments in the middle of Kroger.

As a forty-six year old, hip, vibrant dad, I am sadly removed from The Texting Generation. In fact, I don’t know that I wish to be a part of this generation as I am just finding it somewhat rude.

Last night, while attending a wonderful holiday concert at the high school, I looked around where I was seated and eleven students had their phones out, texting away, while their fellow students/musicians were performing. They may as well have been talking openly during the music (and some were).

First of all, the lights from the cell phones were distracting, especially when the phones were whipped out. It was like a field of fire-flies!

Last month, my eldest son encouraged me to get unlimited texting on our family plan since he generally had to pay hefty fees back to Dad for extensive texting. I have tried to encourage more “voice time” rather than texting, but I am clearly non-texting/voicing to a stone wall. I am not trying to lead a revolt against texting, mind you, but I do hope to instill a strong sense of etiquette, especially when in public.

I, like so many other parents, see the cell phone slide out of the hoodie pocket, and under the table as though it is not noticeable. With a second teenage son arriving in two days, I will be addressing the new Cell Phone Generation at the Haasienda. I did express to my teenage private students that cell phones are forbidden in lessons, and now, it is time to address it on the home-front.

I have some trepidations about enforcing cell phone etiquette because so many adults abuse it, as well. I think texting is a fantastic means of communication for short messages providing it is completed in the right place.

One of my favorite examples is my friend, Valerie Lockhart. Through marching band season, I was Darin Jolliffe-Haas-Lockhart, and was always seated next to Mike & Val at games and contests. If I was arriving after they had selected seats, Val would text me to let me know where they were. Even last night at the Holiday Concert, Val sent me a text to let me know where they were seated. How convenient is texting for these moments when it would be impossible to talk over several hundred people!

What has been irritating lately is how insensitive, and even rude some of my son’s friends are when they know we are sharing family moments. While in New Mexico visiting my new son, the current son’s cell phone was whipped out of his pocket like watching gun-slingers in an old John Wayne movie. These teenagers knew we were on an important family mission, yet it did not matter. I suggested, several times, that my son remind his friends that we were trying to enjoy some family time and that his friends could wait… but it fell on deaf ears. I would look around at other families in the restaurants, and their teens (even the parents) were glued to their cell phones.

This may be acceptable for some families, but I have decided that for the Jolliffe-Haas family, we need to adopt cell/texting etiquette. After all, cell phones are a privilege, and do not fit in with the guidelines of what we, as parents, must provide our children: food, shelter, education, medical care, and love.

This morning, I looked up cell/texting etiquette, and discovered I am not alone. Here are some of the suggestions from fellow parents:

  • Common courtesy still rules.
    • Contrary to popular belief, composing an SMS while you’re in a face-to-face conversation with someone is just about as rude as taking a voice call.
  • Teens (and adults) need to understand that they should never, ever, text one friend while they are spending time with another.
    • That’s rude and can make for hurt feelings.
    • Text messaging and cell phone etiquette requires teens to think about how their actions make other people feel.
  • No texting while in:
    • class
    • church
    • a movie
    • a concert/show
    • funeral
    • wedding
    • public dining out (or home, for that matter – a family dinner is a social event and not an ingestion event)
    • public setting where one’s attention should be focused on others
  • Texting should be for simple, quick messages to provide information – not to be engaging in full conversations.
    • If that’s the case – call the other person and have a conversation.
  • Along with cells, IPods will be addressed, as well.
    • During face-to-face conversations, or in family/public gatherings, the IPods are turned off and earphones removed from both ears… no single earphone wedged into one ear while the other dangles down the chest.

Well…

I know this all sounds great on paper, but I am sure will be a slight revolt from the teenage sons… and maybe not.

I just keep reminding myself of something my mother said to a friend who complimented my two older sons and nephews when they were eating at a local hometown restaurant. The friend told Mother how polite, and well-mannered her four grandsons were. Mother smiled, and said, “Thank you. I raised their parents.”

The adventure began at 9:00am this morning as we crossed to northwest Albuquerque to hike through Petroglyph National Park – a dead volcano with 6000 year old Native American drawings on the rocks. The two hours of hiking was so enjoyable, and breathtaking. Looking out over the canyon, and seeing mountains in the distance was a terrific.

As we got ready to get into the car, Jose turned to Quintin, and asked, “Hey Kitten, you want to ride shot gun with the Old Man?”

So, all day long Jose called Quintin “New Guy,” or “Kitten” – but mostly, “Kitten.”

We left Petroglyph National Park and drove a mile over to Quintin’s middle school – wow! Impressive!

We drove over to Old Town – the historic section of Albuquerque, settled in 1706.

We went into the old cathedral that was filled with beautiful artwork, and then walked to a great tiny diner that was in the rear of an art/jewelry store. One of the neatest things was that one of the resident artists was a student of famed glass artist, Dale Chihuly. The hot dog I ate was filled with green chili and dill pickle spears – quite tasty!

We moved right on to the zoo which we thoroughly enjoyed. We spent a good deal of time taking photos, and just simply enjoying the sites while spending great quality time together. As the afternoon continued, it was apparent that Jose and Quintin ARE brothers.

We returned to the hotel for about 90 minutes to unwind, and freshen up.

As we drove to Nina & Jun’s, Jose and Quintin talked on the telephone to Mother. I was quite surprised how talkative Quintin was. I think he was more talkative with Mother than he was with me on the telephone for the first time.

And then we arrived at the Campo home!

I got to spend a good deal of time talking with Jun & Nina, and the more time I spent with them, the more and more I loved them. We were brought together for Quintin, and I think our families shall be close for many years.

After dinner, which included the adorable Red Mountain Family Service treatment coordinator, Valerie, the four adults sat at the table for several hours talking. One of those magical moments when hearts are joined together for a common purpose…

We took photos, and then it was time to say the farewells. My new son clung to me in a tight hug, for several minutes, not allowing me to go. He was happy, and smiling, but nonetheless, he was hanging on. He looked up and said, “I know – it is part of the process…” (he catches on quickly).

After dinner, Jun drove me to the top of the western ridge where you can see all of Albuquerque at night. It was indescribable…

I had far more difficulty saying farewell to Jun & Nina, and their 6 yo son, Neal. I know we shall see one another again, but what an incredible experience to come together via Quintin.

So, our Albuquerque adventure has come to an end. Jose and I fly out tomorrow at 3:45pm Sunday afternoon. I will miss Nina, Jun, and all those fabulous people at Red Mountain Family Services!

But I know I shall return… I now have family in New Mexico!

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By the time I finished blogging, and uploading photos, it was 12:30am here in New Mexico. However, I was wide awake at 4:30am Ohio time (2:30am NM time).

Around 9:00am Jose and I were fully stirring, and planning the day. We decided to check out the Sadina Tram since Sandy Focht recommended it.

What a fantastic time!

The drive was about 45 minutes through gorgeous countryside – sand, wonderful architecture.

We hopped on the tram which took us 10,300 feet up to the top of Mount Sadina in 15 minutes. Great ride up, and the beauty of the mountain range was breathtaking.

After taking more photos at the top, we decided to hike 1.5 miles up to Kiwanis Cabin – a cabin made entirely of stone by the Civilian Corps in 1930. The hike was over rocks – both smooth and jagged, ice, snow, and dirt – and through a forest that matched a Bavarian fortress from ancient tales. We arrived at an open area where the wind was fierce, and biting. We decided, due to time, to not proceed up to the stone cabin which, even after a 45 minute hike, was still quite a distance.

Jose and I had a light lunch of green chili stew and the best chips and salsa I have tasted. The green chili soup was delicious, and was so soothing after the hike.

The tram returned us down the mountain, and we set off for the party in Quintin’s honor.

I am in awe of the people who are with Red Mountain – the staff, the foster parents I met, and the children who were there for services. It was definitely not a clinical feeling, but always one of warmth, welcome, and a passion for helping one another. Even the foster parents were so warm to one another, and the entire atmosphere is focused on family.

We had a great selection of tasty pizza. With the large crowd, Quintin was quiet. He brought his acoustic guitar, and I was very impressed! He is self taught, but he really played beautifully, and musically.

Quintin left for a school Christmas dance – his first! Until recently, he never invested in some of the social fun with classmates.

Jose and I spent time talking with some of the staff, and I truly hated bidding farewell to these fine folks. They have been such an inspiration, and I am greatly honored to have known them.

Jose and I drove along Unser Drive to take in the sparkling spread of Albuquerque from the ridge. We found a Dollar General Store near the UNM, and then stopped for some donuts.

The neat part was that we were driving on Route 66. We remembered walking on the slab of Route 66 at the Smithsonian in 2006.

Tomorrow morning, I will meet Quintin across the street when his foster mom heads to a morning prayer meeting. I will spend the entire day with Jose and Quintin, checking out Old Town, and the Petroglyph National Park. Later in the afternoon, we will return to the foster home for dinner.  I love this foster family, and am so looking forward to spending time with them.

Another wonderful day. I was so glad to share the hike toward the mountaintop with Jose for two reasons. It seemed somewhat symbolic of our own adoption/father-son journey, as well as Jose’s own personal journey. And it was one of our last moments together before Quintin officially joins us.

Now I can say that I hiked toward the top of a mountain with one of my sons… and what a memorable hike it shall always be.

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Since my days at Ball State University, I have always marveled at the many individual journeys that meet at particular crossroads throughout our lives.

Crossroads are exciting!

We never know when certain fellow travelers will cross our own path, joining us on our own journey. Sometimes we travel together for the remainder of our earthly journey, while understanding that some paths are joined for a certain length of time.

Over the past few months I have neglected to recognize my own fantastic journey, and just how blessed I am with so many I know from this journey. The world of Facebook certainly allows me to connect, reconnect, and meet many wonderful fellow travelers. As the world becomes smaller through technology, our personal lives are enriched beyond measure.

As Jose and I entered the lobby of Red Mountain Family Services, where we were to meet Quintin for the first time, Cindy, the director of the agency, stepped forward with a warm, generous smile to say, “We know who you are.”

Immediately, there was a new person joining my own journey. And within minutes of walking through the door, the world of the Haasienda grew extensively as we met Valerie, Dr. Davison, and several other staff members of Red Mountain. This is just not an ordinary staff of people who come to work in a building. It is very clear that Red Mountain is an ensemble of heaven’s earthly angels sharing their affection with all who cross the threshold, and giving their heartfelt devotion to countless children who struggle not only with life, but in finding hope to continue their own journey.

I don’t know how anyone could read the great teachings of Christ, and countless other teachers, or prophets, and not recognize that Red Mountain, like ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton), is living proof that The Great Spirit, God, Allah, Jehovah, Creator of the Universe, the Supreme Composer is not only very real, but very much a part of each of us.

I wish I could bring Red Mountain and ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton) together. I see the magic, the beauty of families formed all the time at ACTION; however, Thursday afternoon, I walked into an incredible world that offered me a glimpse of those who believe in others, and in this case, those who prepared a 15 year old boy to become part of my own family.

To me – this is magic! This is the stuff from which dreams are made!

When we believe our journey is one of solitude we have failed to recognize that The Great Spirit – or whatever title – is not only next to us – but inside us. So often we fail to recognize we are not simply followers, or students/disciples on our journey when we have actually been trained to be leaders. I cannot see how the ancient teachings could be interpreted differently.

Right now, I am at, yet, another wonderful crossroad on this fantastic journey. Several folks from New Mexico – the staff of Red Mountain, and Quintin’s beautiful foster family, Jun & Nina – have met Jose and I at this beautiful moment of our intertwined paths. I know we shall maintain contact once our individual journeys move in various directions to continue our missions, but oh, what a moment.

And of course, my new son, Quintin, is the reason for all these paths to merge. At 15, he probably doesn’t recognize how his own life has impacted so many others at this particular crossroad.

Peace to all….

 

At 3:45pm – Albuquerque time – I met my newest son, and Jose met his new brother.

It is so amazing how three people – complete strangers – immediately merged as one family. Jose, Valerie (the adoption worker), and I were on the patio when Quintin and his foster dad, Jun (pronounced “June”), stepped out.

After a round of hugs, and introductions, there were no awkward moments… we simply stepped into the roles of the Jolliffe-Haas family. Jose and Quintin already act as though they have been brothers since birth; they eased into their relationship without missing a beat.

We spent some time with the staff, and Jose and I were treated like celebrities. Red Mountain Youth Services is outstanding, and I fell in love with these people.

Finally, Quintin, Jose and I met with Quintin’s therapist, Dr. Davison, and this guy is outstanding. I can see why Quintin improved so quickly – he not only had Red Mountain, but Dr. Davison, and two wonderful foster parents, Jun & Nina.

At 5:00pm, we were ready to go our separate ways and Quintin became very quiet. Finally, he spoke up and asked, “Can I spend the rest of the evening with them?”

The minute his foster dad said, “Well, sure,” the biggest smile spread across his face and within minutes we were in the car heading through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. As we drove along a high ridge of the valley, we could look out over the beautiful city of Albuquerque and the mountains beyond… breathtaking!

As always, the first meal with any new son was eaten together at Wendy’s in honor of Wendy’s founder, and adoption philanthropist, Dave Thomas. I am sure the guests of Wendy’s was wondering why I was snapping photos – but this was a big moment.

We had the best time, and it took very little time for Quintin to begin tossing in the wit, and throwing it right back at me – like Jose. We laughed, shared some serious conversation, and laughed even more.

Since Jose and I are in a nice efficiency room, we decided to stop by Walmart for some breakfast food. As a father, I had the best time shopping with my two sons! Quintin quickly learned that Dad does not lay things in the cart – he throws them to each son.

As we stood in the produce department, I turned to Jose and asked if he would please go grab a basket. In true Jose-fashion, he snapped his finger at Quintin, and said, “Hey! New guy!” and directed Quintin to the carts!

Again, it amazed me at just how much we seemed like a family who has been together for years.

We drove Quintin to his foster parents’ home, only to discover they had gone to church. Jun said it was fine that we go ahead and drop Quintin off at church since it was right by the airport… well, their church happened to be across the street from our hotel!

We sat in the lobby waiting for church to let out, and had even more fun chatting. By this time, Quintin was acting as though he has been my son all fifteen years of his life.

I got to meet Nina, and she is just darling. Nina’s parents were there, as well, and they were both so thrilled that Quintin was being adopted. Many of the church members greeted us, as did their pastor who was a swell guy. The neat thing was that Quintin was introducing Jose and I as his dad and brother.

Quintin began sinking in spirit as we began our good-byes for the evening. When I asked what he was thinking, he looked up said, “I don’t want to leave you.”

I explained that he had school Friday, and we would be getting together after school at Red Mountain for a catered luncheon they are throwing for this celebration. He nodded, but was still down.

So… my family has grown, again. I simply cannot put into words this entire experience. Perhaps I truly understand Mary, the mother of Christ, when “she pondered these things in her heart.”

While sitting in the office of Dr. Davison, Quintin announced that he wanted to be sure I was OK with him changing his last name to Jolliffe-Haas. “Is that OK with you?”

I assumed this would be the course, but he is an older child and could have kept his birth name.

So, Quintin Jolliffe-Haas it is.

Jose seems excited, even thrilled with his role as the older brother, and I saw him bump it up a notch today.

Tonight, I will close, echoing the words of baseball hero, Lou Gehrig: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

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Today, the snow is gently falling here in Kettering for the first time. It seems as though the weather has officially changed into winter.

This particular change seems in keeping with life in the Haasienda. Tomorrow morning at 0715 hours, Jose and I will begin our journey west, landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico by 1115 hours.  A few hours later, we will meet my new son, and Jose’s new brother, Quintin.

The chain of change began in October as the marching season began to close. With the end of marching band I knew it was officially the true end of Jose’s high school career as marching band was truly his major love.

November 5th, at 1030am, I officially learned that Quintin’s adoption was official.

November 6th, Mother, Valerie Lockhart and I sat in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium to watch The Marching Firebirds in the last performance. It was a little wistful watching Jose with the band for the final time, but I knew that his future was beginning to take on a new beginning.

Change is often good, but we seldom realize it at the moment.

Ninety minutes later Jose returned from the national guard recruiting station (with my blessing) to announce he would be heading to basic and advanced training on June 14th, 2011. Then, he said sometime after September he would be deployed to Afghanistan.

I was ready for the change of Jose entering the Ohio National Guard, but was not mentally prepared for a deployment in the near future.

November 12th, Jose was sworn into the military.

Within the next few days he had a very nice workout suit, and his army uniform.

One night we were walking the indoor track of Trent Arena. As we were walking and talking together, Jose took his jacket off, and laid it over mine. For some reason, the sight of his jacket over mine tugged at my heart.

A week ago, Jose and I got to talk to Quintin for the first time. He seems to be a delightful chap.

Last week we hurried to Indiana for Thanksgiving, and on up to Fowler to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. My two nephews are growing up, and their new little sister, my beautiful niece, Carolyne, is already two months old.

More changes…

Sunday was taken up with ACTION Adoption’s National Adoption Month Celebration – something to which we look forward every year. I am generally behind a camera, but manage to mingle with old friends of the adoption world – many whom I have trained. It is so wonderful to see all these families, and to see how their own children have grown over the year.

Tomorrow is the major change. At 3:45pm in New Mexico, I will greet my newest son.

I am not nervous, nor am I overly eager. It just seems to be a natural part of life. Quintin’s arrival on December 20th seems as though he is merely returning from a camp. Already, he feels as though he is already my son.

Change is exhausting at times, but when we can appreciate the wonderful results of any change, it is a damned fantastic feeling!

 

 

What an unusual, yet exciting year!

I have received so many blessings this year, and I hope, as an individual, and fellow traveler on Planet Earth, that I have been able to be a blessing to others, as well.

My  blessings do not come in the way of material things, but through individuals who have touched my life, and the life of my family.

First, and foremost, there will always be my mother, Diana, who is counted as one of my best blessings in this life.

Right alongside Mother, is my son, Jose, almost 19 years, and a senior in high school. Last week, Jose became Private Jolliffe-Haas with the Ohio National Guard. The past six years since Jose came to live with me, I have watched him grow, mature, and become an incredible young man.

Next week, I shall meet, for the first time, my newest son, Quintin, 15, currently living in New Mexico. By December 20th, he will be a full-time resident in the Haasienda.

Another blessing is my brother, Destin, my sister-in-law, Stacia, and their three beautiful children, Parker, 5, Freddie, 3, and Carolyne, 2 months. I am also grateful for the many blessings Destin has received this year with the birth of Carolyne, and his new position as superintendent of schools. Of course, he is blessed daily with Stacia, as well as Parker and Freddie.

Our home in Kettering is doubly blessed with two fuzzy-faced family members – Flyer, 9, and Logan 16.

I am also blessed for my many uncles and aunts, cousins, and extended family.

Throughout my life, I have been so fortunate to have many wonderful neighbors and friends. From my roots in Elwood, Indiana to my current home in Kettering, Ohio, THANK YOU to all my neighbors, and friends for your constant love and support.

For twenty-six years I have been blessed with many, many fantastic students, parents, and colleagues… bless you!

Improved health, and so many other things, often taken for granted, have encouraged me to realize even more, just how blessed I am this day.

Thank you, to so many of you, family/friends, near and far, or even on Facebook, for being such a blessing in my life.

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This week has been saddened by, yet, several more youth suicides due to bullying.

Regardless the struggling youth’s issues, we adults – parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches, directors, youth leaders, etc. – need to take the lead in this universal epidemic to help our youth.

We cannot afford to stand by, waiting for the guy next to us to act; each of us must act, and act NOW to prevent this from happening again.

We cannot afford to wait for the symptoms to present themselves to us; we must try to be ahead of the symptoms.

I have raised teenagers, and taught and directed countless teens, and I am always like a blood hound when it comes to watching for any hints of teen depression, or overwhelming life issues . One year, I noticed a dozen students with what I believed to be teen depression. I contacted their parents and presented my observations, and documentation. Eleven out of the twelve were diagnosed with depression.

This rash of bullying-induced suicides is becoming alarming. Too alarming.

Tonight, my son and I discussed the different levels of bullying. As we chatted, I was startled to realize the varying degrees of bullying. It is all around us, and in areas I had never even considered.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has really been pounding away at Michigan’s assistant attorney general who is bullying a student at the University of Michigan!

How insane is this?

The state’s assistant attorney general is bullying a college student right before our eyes, and yet our officials all sit back watching, and waiting for unfolding events! I feel like we are all glued to our televisions watching a white Bronco move along a California free-way!

Right now, I just heard Dr. Phil, in an interview, say, “It is tough on the students who are bullied who don’t have sports or music…” I have to chuckle, and disagree with Dr. Phil as there is bullying everywhere – even in sports, and music! I know of a section leader who is a terrible bully in band; one student is in sports and has related different stories about some bullying against a teammate in soccer; and there is even a music teacher who has a long track record of bullying students.

Sadly, the bullies are not just in the lives of the young. Many of us adults deal with bullies in our personal lives, and careers. I, myself, have endured bullying, and harassment by a colleague for several years. I know of several other adults who have had issues with colleagues bullying them in the workplace.

Domestic abuse falls under many of the same criteria – it all goes back to control, and domination.

Right now, we are trapped in election fever with a month remaining. We see bullying in various media advertisements, interviews, debates, etc.. We are told what unpleasant things will happen to us if we do not vote the way the politician directs.

Why do we always fall prey to threats during campaigns? Aren’t the voters the ones who are to be in charge? Yet, somehow, we have allowed our leaders to be the tail that wags us.

Bullying is another form of terrorism. Terrorists instill fear, desiring to wear down our strength, and courage. And this is exactly what a bully does – attempts, and often succeeds, in wearing down the individual they deem weaker. It is is much like “raping the soul, or spirit” as it is nothing but control, and domination.

How do we help our children to conquer these bullies?

How do we protect our children from these bullies?

How do we, ourselves, deal with adult bullies?

No one should be bullied.

No one should allow another person to control, or dominate over them, nor feel threatened by another person.

No one should live under the haunting shadows of fear.

I wish I had answers…

I do, however, have hope, and confidence that these young folks – and thousands more before them – who were hounded by cruel individuals, have not died in vain. I pray their lives are memorialized, serving as a rallying cry for all of us to ban against bullies… terrorists!

I think I passed three of the most enjoyable days of my summer!

Thursday morning, I had a two hour lesson with one of my graduated seniors, Ryan Crouch, and as always, it was a great time – and tons of laughter.

Shortly after Ryan departed, Mother arrived from Indiana. She took two days off work from the police department to come see Jose’s band show a the end of band camp. She and I went to Mongolian Grill, and after a brief rest at home, we headed out to Wright State University where the Fairmont marching band has practiced all week.

We enjoyed the pre-game presentation, and especially the first completed movement of the 2010 competition. The percussion ensemble also played their feature which was already sounding great.

At the end of camp, two of my former students, Torrey Cowan and Chris Taylor, arrived. Chris’ apartment is just across from where our band practiced. Torrey was one of my field commanders, and served Springboro High School’s marching band last year, and did a superb job. I met the Taylor family in 1999 when Chris was eight years old. His older brother, Joe, and his older sister, Rebecca, were also piano students. Joe went on to play trumpet for SHS, and Rebecca began on flute, and switched to French horn her junior year – doing a remarkable job. Chris started on piano, and in fifth grade, at age 10, started saxophone lessons. By the end of his freshman year we were working hard on field commander preparations. Chris served as the saxophone section leader, and as field commander throughout his high school career. So, I had the Taylor family for ten years in lessons. Rebecca is working on her masters at WSU, Joe just graduated from WSU, and Chris will be a sophomore this fall at WSU.

It was so great to see these two former students.

After leaving camp, we had a traditional post-camp supper, this year at Steak N Shake.

Friday morning I prepared an egg casserole, and pancakes, and we enjoyed a great breakfast out on the deck where, for the first time in weeks, it was actually comfortable!

At 2:00pm Jose had his upper wisdom teeth removed. He was a brave little soldier, and handled it just fine. In fact, he is still doing fine, having bounced back with no problems.

We got Jose’s prescription for his pain medication (he has only taken one pill as of Saturday morning), and returned home where I prepared a spaghetti & meat balls dinner in the crock pot.

Mother and I drove to the beautiful Smith Gardens of Oakwood. We met my wonderful neighbor lady, Kay, who walked with us through the very beautiful grounds. While we were chatting, we saw a judge enter the garden, followed by a bride and groom, and two witnesses. At first I thought they were looking for a location to shoot some photos, however, I learned that they were actually performing the very private ceremony there. I offered to take photos for them throughout the ceremony, and several after. It was really great to be a part of their cherished moments, even if they were complete strangers.

We left the gardens, and bid farewell to Kay who was off to a birthday party.

Mother and I drove through Oakwood, down past Carillon Park and Old River Park – I even drove her to the former NCR headquarters so she could see the lagoon where Jose and I often canoe. We then headed to Big Lots for some odds and ends. While there, the executive director from ACTION Adoption Services contacted me to see if I could come in to teach the pre-adoptive class since the scheduled trainer was held up at work. I agreed to do it, and Mother went with me.

It was fun having Mother in on this class, which was about “Discipline,” as Mother participated, and shared some of her own parenting experiences, especially supplementing the fact that each child is very different, and not every child can be parented the same, exact way. It was a fun evening.

We arrived home, and had a bowl of spaghetti out on the deck.

This morning it was English muffins, cereal, sugar-free angel food cake with strawberries (what we would have eaten for desert had I not taught class), and coffee.

Sophie Lockhart arrived for her saxophone and voice lesson, and Mother really enjoyed getting to hear Sophie play. We also got to chat with Mike Lockhart for a few minutes.

After the Lockharts left, Mother returned to Indiana. Jose and I are now plotting the rest of our day.

This was just a super, super few days, and what a way to springboard into Beavercreek High School’s show choir for which I will be teaching this week.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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I started my day by teaching two three-hour pre-adoptive classes at A.C.T.I.O.N. Adoption Services from 9:00am-4:00pm.

I ran home, took a nap, and then drove the three of us up to Old River Park near the University of Dayton campus. The one hour canoe ride was warm, but so relaxing – and invigorating! I had a canoe all to myself while Jose and Kelley paddled their own.

What an enjoyable evening.

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Finally, the steamy, sticky, humidity has temporarily taken leave of The Miami Valley. Last evening’s thunderstorms, with a brilliant light show surrounding the entire Miami Valley, set the cooling-off into motion, and today we are blessed with a continue cool, breeze, and this with a temperature reading of 82-degrees at almost 4:00pm.

I have begun my summer teaching schedule, and due to several students at camps, or on vacations, I have had several long spells to relax. Well, nap, actually. I am still finding the energy completely drained. Last night I finished teaching and nearly fell into bed, too tired to lift my head. Around 10:00pm, Jose and I walked to Speedway as the storm approached. The sky looked as though fireworks were being set off miles away as the skies were filled with many colors from the heat lightning. It reminded me of conducting the Centerville Community Band one summer at Stubb’s Park. We had just begun playing our final piece, Phantom of the Opera, when the heat lightning began accompanying the medley. It was quite spectacular, and so fitting for that particular number.

Within minutes of returning home, the heaven’s unleashed its wet fury!

I opened the windows to allow the cool winds and fresh air to fill the house. Rather than fall asleep, I remained awake until 2:00am – something that generally happens during the summer months.

During the summers, I only teach on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, freeing up my Thursdays and Fridays for writing, additional business, yard work, and time with Jose. This time next year, he will be in basic training, and the house will be quiet… and most lonely. So, I will try to find something fun for us to do on Thursday, or Friday – hiking, photography at various places, Carillon Park, Old River Park… anything fun.

Friday night I have on-going training for adoption-life, and then will teach a six hour course on Saturday for training.

The blog I posted this morning regarding Touchdown Jesus received a nice comment from the Word Press editor, and placed on the Freshly Pressed page for the system. I have received many responses – varying in their opinions.

It is nearing time to teach for another three hours. The days of teaching are longer, but I have scheduled breaks throughout to assist with pacing, and energy.

Friday morning at 9:30am, Jose, Flyer and I left Kettering, and aimed westward for Indiana. We took the scenic route, and enjoyed it so much more. Jose and I had the best conversations on the way, and I was so glad that a teenager opted to share a lengthy conversation rather than plug his ears with his favorite tunes.

My cousin, Dana, and her family lives near Lynn, Indiana, and for some reason, I thought it was south of Richmond, Indiana. To my surprise, it is approximately ten miles north of Richmond. Nice little community – as well all those lovely towns along Highways 27, 1, 32 and 28. Winchester, Lynn, Fountain City and Farmland are exceptionally quaint little communities, still thriving with many hometown, downtown businesses. Jose was highly interested in the fact that these communities still maintained so much of their former charm – a charm I knew so well in nearly every city as a child.

One site that caught our attention, and interest on SR-32, just west of Winchester, was the stone entry to the former orphanage, long abandoned. The entrance had the words “Orphans Home” engraved, and the long drive led back to a circle of trees where the building once stood. It was a lovely area, but also one that seemed rich in history, and many sad stories.

We stopped at a Dollar General to buy a water dish for Flyer, and as I stepped out of the car in Albany, Indiana, I looked up and there was Rivar’s! Rivar’s is a dance/show apparel shop, built by former Ball State University Singers alumni. The Rivar sisters have a huge, competitive business that is known throughout the nation.

We pulled into Elwood around 1:00pm, and took Mother to lunch at Richards, one of our favorite haunts.

Back at Mother’s, I saw a tall, elderly gentleman looking at my car. Finally, he came to the door and spoke to Mother who eventually called me out. The neighbor was backing his truck out and rammed into the back end of the car which was parked off the street, and on the grass since there is no curb. He had already called the police out to make a report, and I filled out all the pertinent  information. The gentleman repeatedly mentioned something about a law about vehicles needing to be 18 inches off the street – however, Mother, who has been with the police department for nearly thirty years, and Diane at State Farm Insurance had never heard of this ordinance. I will go have an estimate made, and then send it to State Farm.

After a running a few errands, cutting up vegetables, and chatting endlessly, it was time for supper. We went to the local Chinese Restaurant, greeted by the VERY loud hostess.

The remainder of the evening was relaxing.

The following morning we left the house at 8:00am for Fowler, Indiana where my brother and his family lives. Fowler is one of my favorite spots in the world – it is just so relaxing, and I always seem to return refreshed, and energized. One of my favorite things is seeing the tall, futuristic-looking wind turbines

We arrived shortly before 10:30am and watched my nephew, Parker, play soccer. It was so hilarious watching those little peeps on the field!

Out at the Fowler Haasienda, lunch was prepped while I snapped photos of my nephews at play. Freddie, who is two and a half years, and my Godson, is a riot to watch in action. He is an exhausting little fellow to watch, but quite hilarious, and adventurous.

As always, lunch was delicious. My sister-in-law, Stacia, and her mother, Norma, always fix some of the tastiest dishes.

Just as lunch was finishing up, the guests for Parker’s birthday party began arriving.

Stacia and Destin led them through games, and other fun activities that captivated the lively little crew. While this was going on, Freddie was soaking himself, and Jose, with water from the kiddie water trough in the side yard.

Presents and cake were on the screened in porch – one of the neatest features of the farm… so relaxing, even in the 90-degree heat, and 1,000% humidity that bathed us. Eventually, a thunderstorm arrived, temporarily cooling off the temperature, but before long the steam began rising throughout the countryside sauna.

We left Fowler around 3:45pm, and arrived in Elwood at 5:30pm. We loaded the car, and were pulling out of Mother’s drive at 6:00pm. We retraced our Friday path, and enjoyed the little towns along the way, with more accompaniment of great conversation. We pulled into our own drive at 8:30pm, unloaded the car, went to Family Video so Jose could get a game, and then grabbed a Hot-N-Ready $5 pizza from Little Caesars. Finally, at 11:00pm, I was crawling into bed as a thunderstorm began raging.

A brief, but enjoyable trip.

And Monday, the official summer teaching schedule begins!

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

Yesterday was quite nice.

It began at 2:30am when I woke after three hours of sleep – something I have experienced for several weeks. I returned to sleep around 5:00am and barely remember Jose coming in to tell me he was heading to school.

I went for my doctor’s appointment, and the news was good:

  • He was very pleased with my blood work and some of the tests, especially as a diabetic – he said he felt I was in very good shape, health-wise
  • The triglycerides and good cholesterol are good – yes, the triglycerides are slightly above normal but he said that is still very good for a diabetic and that he doesn’t treat the triglycerides until they are over 500
  • The only concern was with my LDL (bad cholesterol) – diet and exercise for the time being
  • The endocrinologist had my A1C @ 7.2, and the doctor’s was 7.4 – he said he would like to aim for low 6’s by the end of summer
  • I am being scheduled for more tests – an EMG and an X-ray – on the nervous system due to the tingling in the arms, shoulders, neck and head
  • We discussed waking up in the middle of the night, and he thinks it might be something with hypoglycemia – my sugar has been low several times in the morning – between 64 and 80. So he said that when I wake up he wants me to check my sugar and to eat a snack and see if that helps.
  • Other than that, I am to exercise more upper body, keep walking 10,000+ steps a day, and keep up with the diet.

Good stuff, I’d say!

Whew!

I returned home, took a nap (my reward for a healthy report), taught some fantastic lessons, had a bite to eat with Jose who brought home a container with fish and potatoes. The previous evening he brought home some ham load which was delicious.

We ran a few errands, and then settled in for the evening – me watching GLEE, and Jose watching something else, all the while joking that he, too, was watching GLEE.

By 11:30pm the Haasienda was shutting down – a little early for us. However, I woke twice (that I recall), but readily went back to sleep.

This morning I was wide awake at 6:30am, feeling somewhat refreshed.

At Noon, Mary Tarlano will visit for an update on my home study.

I hope to get some writing in, as well as an arrangement for a student’s upcoming baccalaureate.

By 3:00pm I will be teaching, and will have late dinner. Hopefully, this evening I will be able to walk around the neighborhood as there is an evening event in Trent Arena that will close the walking track.

Despite the grey skies, the birds are joining in a cheerful chorus!

Karen Carpenter said it best with…

Since the early morning it has been a steady shower here in Kettering. The skies seem forbidden of allowing the faintest glimmer of sunshine through. Jose did a great job on cutting the lawn yesterday afternoon, so the rain will refresh the lawn, and some of the plants I transplanted last weekend.

Have been busy doing nothing but business stuff today, and working with Rita who looks after my studio items. The agenda for tonight’s ACTION board of directors’ meeting is completed, and now I am hoping to do some items around the house.

Yesterday was fun doing yard work with Jose, and then relaxing to some movies on Netflix. I drove Jose to youth group, and then ran some errands. Since he did a nice job on the lawn he had a 12-inch sub waiting on him from Subway.

I settled in with some work while watching AMERICA – THE STORY OF US on The History Channel. The series has not been holding my interest as much as I thought it would. Last week I paid scant attention to the show. Last night, I watched the segment on The Statue of Liberty, and then began paying attention when during the history of Henry Ford thinking they would feature the Wright Brothers… nothing. Grrrr….

Tonight I will finish teaching and hurry to ACTION for the board meeting, and then return home and head to the gym with Jose.

Yes! The weekend is almost here!

I have a few lessons to teach this afternoon, and then on-going training at ACTION Adoption from 7:00-10:00pm.

Saturday will be a day or writing, and maybe some yard work as long as I don’t over do it. I trimmed shrubs out front Thursday evening, and then raked the cuttings. I was ready for a nap after 30 minutes of fairly easy work. I will hopefully chat with my dear friend, Jeffrey Carter, in St. Louis during the morning.

I plan to get some walking time in providing there is no rain. As always, Flyer will love this. If not, I may head over to the indoor walking track at Trent Arena.

Will take prom photos of the Carter twins Saturday evening, and then enjoy a nice dinner with some wonderful friends. Jose has percussion from 9:00am until 9:00pm Saturday, so I will have time for writing, and spending time with friends.

Wishing everyone a fantastic weekend!

This was a slightly busy, yet relaxing week. Despite the heavy rain and thunderstorms throughout the first half of the week, we had mild temperatures. Many times we were threatened with rain, or storms but they by-passed us.

The students were great this week – hard working, and really digging into some good material.

Jose has been busy with marching band percussion until 9:00pm most nights this week, yet we have managed to have some ample quality time together.

I have done a fairly decent job this week with maintaining some good walking time! Flyer has really been enjoying these neighborhood journeys. Tonight, she found a tennis ball, and was delighted to carry it, and then grab it when she tossed it front of her. It certainly made her trip more festive.

Today I had three visits to the doctor to draw blood to see how the new medications are working. The last time, I had to be “stuck” twice but I kept my humor… needles don’t really bother me.

Tomorrow morning I will spend time with Magsig Middle School students in Centerville to discuss the performing arts as a career.  I will have a few hours before teaching to eat lunch, and maybe grab a walk through the neighborhood. After several hours of teaching I will head to ACTION Adoption for training.

Saturday, Jose will have marching band percussion rehearsal from 9:00am-9:00pm. I am planning on working in my study the largest part of the day. I will be at the Carter home by 5:00pm to see the twins as they head off to the Beavercreek prom.

If there weather holds out Sunday, I would like to head down to Old River Park with Jose and grab a canoe to enjoy the 1.5 mile historic lagoon. We had hoped to hit ORP the past few weekends but in-climate weather prevented us from doing so.

Other than that, there is just not much to report.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”
–– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A weekend of hacking, planning and prepping, cleaning, and all sorts of other mundane, yet slightly invigorating tasks. I still cannot log into my Facebook account, and this is most aggravating.

Sunday I clicked on an icon in my start-up menu, having completely forgotten it was there. It was Microsoft Office OneNote.

Microsoft Office OneNote is a software package for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. While OneNote is most commonly used on laptops or desktop PCs, it has additional features for use on pen-enabled Tablet PCs, in environments where pen, audio or video notes are more appropriate than an intensive use of keyboards.  OneNote notebooks are designed for collecting, organizing and sharing possibly unpolished materials, typically for projects usually targeted at publishing in some way. Pages can be moved inside the binder, annotated with a stylus, word-processing or drawing tools. Users may add embedded multimedia recordings and web links. OneNote’s file format (.one) is proprietary. One of OneNote’s innovations is the integration of search features and indexing into a free-form graphics and audio repository. Images (e.g., screen captures, embedded document scans, or photographs) can be searched for embedded text content. Electronic ink annotations can also be searched as text. Audio recordings can also be searched phonetically by giving a text key, and can be replayed concurrently with the notes taken during the recording.

I am still learning the program, but have thoroughly enjoyed getting organized through this incredible tool.

This week, and next contain particularly busy days. While working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, I am also preparing for Magsig Middle School’s career day, which I have thoroughly enjoyed in previous years. I have a few items to touch up on the presentation, and then I am good to go. Thursday is an endocrinology  appointment for my diabetes.

The following week I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and a home visit from an ACTION Adoption Services case worker to prepare my home study.

And I am also adjusting to the new schedule of trying to master 10,000 steps (walking) per day. For the most part, the slightly new diet is very agreeable, and I am loving the fact that my appetite is greatly diminished – especially where meal portions are concerned.

There is not much more to report here. I am behind in starting my writing for the day as I have been doing other odds & ends.

I have not seen Harvey, the white squirrel newly moved into my neighborhood. For several mornings, Harvey has scampered down the tree outside my study to look in on me. He will position himself on the tree and fence, and stare in through the window. I did happen to capture him on film the Saturday morning.

“I am convinced that attitude is the key to success or failure in almost any of life’s endeavors. Your attitude-your perspective, your outlook, how you feel about yourself, how you feel about other people-determines you priorities, your actions, your values. Your attitude determines how you interact with other people and how you interact with yourself.” Carolyn Warner

My dear friend in St. Louis, Jeffrey Carter, is always a few steps ahead of me with technology (and a score of other things that raises my admiration and respect for him), and I figured out how I can write a blog post on my Word Press account and get it to post simultaneously on my Facebook and Twitter sites!

So much easier!

The lilac bush, which offered more than 140 large bouquets given away, was still full. The lovely blooms have finally died off. However, the clematis is blooming around the front yard corner-fence.

I am hoping to paint the front yard corner-gate, wagon wheel, bench, and mailbox. We have some nasty weather approaching, so this paint session will have to wait.

This has been a particularly long week. Not a bad week, mind you, but one that just felt terribly long – one that dragged.

The doctor suggested I split my medication in half as I have been battling extreme fatigue. Hopefully the half dose will help me maintain the usual amount of energy that carries my full day.

I have done little this week that amounts to what I would call a successful week, but I do feel rested. I have walked nearly two miles each day, and am hopefully with renewed energy, I can at least accomplish 10,000+ steps each day, or 5 miles. My waist does seem to be reducing, and I am wearing shorts I have not worn in several years… progress. The medication does seem to reduce my appetite which is a blessing. My meal portions are much smaller, yet I do feel full!

Tonight, after teaching private lessons I will teach a pre-adoptive course at ACTION Adoption.

Saturday I will hopefully accomplish some work, and attend one of the two productions of [title of show], produced by some students at Wright State University. If the weather permits, I would like to hit Old River Park’s canoes with Jose.

May 8th would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday, and each Mother’s Day I always remember her fondly by playing, “Red River Valley,” one of her personal favorites.

I have no idea what Sunday holds beyond a Mother’s Day call to Mother.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and please don’t forget to wish all the mothers you know a “happy Mother’s Day.”

It is May 10th, 2009…

Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. It is a day we celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women in our lives. While I am thrilled I got to spend some time with my own mother this day, I know several friends are mourning the loss of their own mothers, and grandmothers.

This year, May 10th, though joyous for the celebration of my wonderful mother, and remembering many friends and family on this day, it feels heavy.

A former student’s grandmother passed away last month. Mimi was a delightful lady who was always there to cheer on her grandchildren, Jeff and Danielle, at all the Kettering Fairmont music events, as well as their post college careers. Today, Candy, Jeff and Danielle’s mother, is celebrating her first Mother’s Day without her mother…

Last summer, the mother of my dear friend, Duneen DeVore passed away suddenly, and this past Friday, the angels sang Grandma Dora to her rest. Grandma Dora was a member of Normandy United Methodist Church where I was director of music, and I cannot imagine a more beautiful lady. Today, Duneen, Erick and Nick have a double emptiness this Mother’s Day…

An all-time favorite of mine was Peggy Straughen, a choir member of Normandy. I wrote an earlier post on Peggy when she died unexpectedly last summer. Today, I also think of her daughter, Heidi (my all time favorite costumer in the whole world), and her children, and family…

One of the most incredible actresses I know, Katie Pfister Musick, lost both her mother, and her father within six months. Last July her mother died suddenly, and on Christmas Eve, her father slipped away to join his wife.

Last summer, Duneen, Heidi and Katie all lost their mother’s within four days of one another…

Many other friends, and family, also spend this day celebrating mothers and grandmothers who have been sung to their rest by the angels.

For my family, it is no different.

In 1992, my own beloved grandmother departed this world. Grandma Donna, the most beautiful of ladies, is still with me, but oh how I wish she could have enjoyed the great-grandchildren.

I got to spend the weekend with my own mother, for whom I owe so much. Therefore, I am so much more grateful for time spent with my mother knowing that a number of friends are experiencing their first Mother’s Day without their own beloved mothers…

And for my dear friend, Kay Hetzer, this is the eleventhanniversary of her son’s death. At about this time, 11 years ago, I learned that Bill & Kay’s son, Andy, had died in a tragic car accident. Their hearts are even heavier this year due to the loss of a second son…

Today, while celebrating our mothers, let’s all remember those who no longer have their mothers to share this day, and to those mother’s who have lost children…

And on a wonderful note, this arrived from my friend, Debbie Allen:

Darin, thank you. And back to you. Because gender has nothing to do with mothering. You play both parts well.
 Love,
Debbie

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

bewitched

Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

westwing-cast-2001-2002

Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

percussion

At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

There are some days when I just don’t see myself being old enough to be a father. And other days, I feel as though I am the age of a great-grandparent. Being a father is certainly an experience – and more often than not, a delightful one. My life as a parent is not without the typical stress shared by most parents, but on the whole, I have been blessed.

family-dljh-son-jose-ki08-c

My youngest son, Jose, is seventeen, and is adorable as they come. We never sit down to a meal where he does not say, “Thank you.” I can probably count on one hand the times he has not said, “thank you” for seeing a movie, getting ice cream, going to an event, etc.. Jose is a very grateful child.

The best part is that Jose has a terrific sense of humor. He may not look like me, but he is, most definitely, my son! He never knows when he will open the front storm door and a bag of water will drop… or a piece of napkin shoved into his straw when we are out to eat (he often takes his straw with him when he leaves the table at a buffet).

family-dljh-son-jose-nov-2-2008-a1

Not only is he great about being the recipient of jokes, or pranks, he also knows how to dole them out as well.

One day we were getting into the car, and I made some remark to him, and he responded with, “eine was für stumme Scheiße” (German: “What a dumb shit!”)

“Jose, you just called me a ‘dumb shit.’ I know enough German you stumme Scheiße!”

One night we were at Wal-Mart just after I had finished painting the kitchen during winter break. I was explaining how I wanted to do something on the cabinet doors – decals, or something decorative. I said that even something with wooden letters would work. Jose left my side and grabbed several wooden letters, laying them out in front of me: G A Y.

At Meijers I was trying to explain to an associate I was searching for Stitch Witchery – a glue tape that cements fabric. As I told the associate my intended use of making a valance for my kitchen, and some shelf drapes, I said, “It is the best thing since sliced bread.” Jose walked by me, and under his breath said, “My dad’s such a fag!”

Too often, when in public, we are forced to not look at one another when someone else says, or does something that tickles us. Jose and I are generally on the same page!

family-haas-mother-mother-darin-2007

I had the same relationship with my own mother, and my grandmother. In church, Mother would frown upon Grandma and I sitting next to one another because we often could not behave ourselves.

In a few years, the house will be quiet as Jose moves on to college. By the time he graduates, I will have only had him eleven years, and though I anticipate a wonderful relationship throughout his adult years, I know I will miss the daily humor we share.

family-dljh-darin-jose-pets

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

Tuesday, January 13th, began as any other normal day, and seemed to continue as such. My son, Jose, returned home from school at 3:15pm, having taken his 7th period final semester exam. I began teaching at 2:00pm, and was thoroughly enjoying the afternoon’s lessons. My 5:00pm lesson arrived and we entered my study.

The telephone rang and I saw the name of my friends, Hetzer, appear on the screen. I assumed it was Bill calling to remind me about breakfast as we had discussed, or Kay to set up our annual get-together dinner in January. I would call them back when I finished teaching in an hour.

But then, I heard Bill’s voice… “Darin… Bill & Kay… we need to talk to you… please, please give us a call.”

Bill’s voice sounded peculiar… strained, urgent.  I picked up the telephone, but Bill had already hung up.

I looked at my student and she said, “You better call them now.” Normally, I would not make a personal call during lessons, but this message just seemed to yield something of a very different nature, beyond odd. I told my student, “Something has happened to their one son.”

bill-kay-early

Bill & Kay Hetzer

I met Bill & Kay Hetzer, and their two teenage sons, Brian and Andy, in 1996 when I first became director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church. They were a family like so many other wonderful families at this church, but there was something about the Hetzer family that was not like the other families. After thirteen years, I still cannot place my finger on it.

Kay sang in the choir, and played in the bell choir, while Bill and the boys ran the television cameras during service. I quickly connected with this energetic, and spirited family, teasing their younger son, Andy, mercilessly. Andy shared the same sense of humor, and could be a goofball like my brother, Destin, and my Uncle Ron. Brian was more quiet, and reserved, but always genuinely friendly.

Kay was the ultimate Kool-Aid mom, and the type of person whose radiant personality entered the room long before she did. Her descending giggles were infectious, and when singing, her smile was sincere, and quite captivating. While many people wore their hearts on their sleeve, Kay wore her joy in her face. It is one thing to be happy… but happiness is fleeting. Joy is what really matters. And joy is what Kay possessed. Her joy was solid.

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Andy & Brian in Germany as young boys.

And Bill… Bill, a former captain in the Army, always had a twinkle in his eye, something funny ready to share, and prepared for a chance to laugh at my jokes or comments. He was everything you would want in an older brother, or uncle. My Uncle Ron killed himself in 1987, and when I met Bill & Kay, I still had not healed from that dreadful tragedy. It was 1999 before I finally returned to Virginia, and the Outer Banks – favorite vacation sites closely associated with my uncle who lived in Virginia Beach while serving in the United States’ Navy. My uncle was twelve years older than me, a little younger than Bill, and I believe this is why we connected so easily.

Bill and Kay were an adorable, attractive couple, and along with the boys, created the refreshing, delightful image of a well-loved Norman Rockwell painting about “family.”

Mother’s Day, 1998, I sat at Normandy’s piano, prepared to play for the children’s musical. The minister’s opening announcements stated one of our families had suffered a major tragedy. He explained that a young teen had been in an automobile accident the night before.  “Andy”…. there was a slight pause. I thought he was going to say the last name of another teenager named Andy… “Hetzer.” (Actually, the minister said, “Hetzler” which is still a running joke to this day!). I barely remember hearing the minister say, “he is still on life support but his family are at the hospital working on donating his organs.”

While seated at my computer the night before, I heard sirens blaring. My worriscope surfaced, hoping it was not one of my many students attending Centerville High School’s prom. I even considered calling several parents but did not wish to alarm them. At one point, I almost drove to where the nearby sirens were clawing  through the gentle air of that lovely spring night.

Those few days leading up to Wednesday’s funeral were a blur, and still are. Bill & Kay asked me to take care of the music. I remember sitting in their family room, feeling the weighted sadness of this boy’s loss. It just seemed surreal. I expected Andy to come bounding into the room at any moment, waking us from a bad dream. 

Tuesday afternoon, Andy’s casket arrived at Normandy, and was prepared for the visitation. The minister, the church’s secretary, Nancy Winslow, Carolyn Bendrick, and I gathered around the casket, joined hands, and listened to the minister’s prayer. I stood there looking at Andy, unbelieving. He looked as though he was ready to tell another joke, or join me in an escapade at Edler-Beerman pretending to be sales associates (and we were good!).

That night, after hundreds upon hundreds had passed by the casket, the staff and volunteers of the church threw themselves into the vast preparations for the following morning. I don’t believe there has ever been an evening that so touched, and so impressed me. Tom Sellars, the genius lighting and sound director, and a dear friend, joined me in the pew near the casket. We both agreed we could not let Andy be alone the rest of the night. The pews were reasonably comfortable for sitting, but were intolerable as make-shift beds.

The funeral, as expected, overflowed the sanctuary’s capacity by several hundred, and spilled into the narthex, hallways, and circle drive of the beautiful manor house connected to the church. The opening hymn was “Come, Christians, Join To Sing”, shares the same melody of the beloved, and practically sacred, “Carmen Ohio” of The Ohio State University. The service was very moving, but tremendously agonizing. 

CARMEN OHIO (music & lyrics)  http://www.scarletandgray.info/osu/songs/carmen_ohio.html

The next Monday, Bill called to see if I would join him for breakfast. And thus began the historic breakfasts and lunches that we were to share for the next twelve years. Many of the meals were barely eaten as we sat talking about Andy, life, religion, family, and crying often. There just seemed to be no magic button to the grief. By the end of May, we began finding other topics, and discovered that laughter was so healing. And since we yearned to heal more, while not keep laughing? It was the perfect solution.

Normandy was yearning for something new, and it was decided that the church would embark on a new ministry project, musical theatre. This was quite easy for me, but I knew I needed someone to oversee everything – a producer. Tom  Sellars and I were eating lunch one afternoon, and he said, “You know, we need to find something for Bill to do with the musical – something to get him refocused.”

Bingo!

We set up a lunch meeting at the nearby Bob Evans. We approached Bill about being the producer for Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Bill’s eyes grew large as he began to protest. “I don’t know anything about producing. Yeh, I was an Army captain and told a bunch of klunkheads what to do…” I assured him there was not much difference – theatre had its share of klunkheads, too. His argumentative pleas fell on mine and Tom’s deaf ears.

Finally, tiring of Bill’s arguments, I leaned forward, and said the magic words, “Bill, I really need you.”

Again… Bingo!

Of course, having Bill and I both engaged in this production required even more lunches! Sitting in a Chinese restaurant, listening to One Hundred and One Strings performing the best of ABBA… ah… it is no wonder why eating establishments flip their “Closed” signs around when they see us in the parking lot!

The musical was a resounding success, and Bill and Kay threw themselves wholeheartedly into the production. And on the last day, I threw my self into the production – as Pharaoh. Just because the production was over did not mean our breakfast and lunch sessions were over. They were about to launch an entirely new journey.

The following spring, Bill and I were eating lunch at Yankee Trace. I had been toying with the idea of adoption, but had only mentioned it to my mother. I thought I would share the idea with Bill to see his reaction. So I told him my idea. Bill leaned forward.

“You know, Kay and I have been tossing around the idea. We are just not finished being parents.”

And thus began the adoption journeys for both our families.

Separately, we both approached Montgomery County Children’s Services. I was told that I was not the type of adoption material they preferred. The lady smiled, and turned her back on me. Bill was told, by the same lady, “You are only trying to replace your dead son.” And with that, she hung up on Bill.

Several weeks later Bill dropped by my townhouse to show me information on a private adoption agency in North Dayton – ACTION Adoption. That afternoon I first heard the name, Pat Hill. Bill explained, “She is a really, really neat lady, and she has adopted twenty kids.”  The next morning at Miami Valley School, Kay and I, in our routine chat spot, discussed ACTION. Finally, I saw a glimmer of the Kay’s former self return. Though she had maintained her bright spirit following the tragedy, there was a piece missing. Brian was now an adult, and living on his own, so the house on Meadowview Drive seemed terribly empty. Kay really missed being a mom.

One Saturday night in February, 2000, I sat at the Normandy piano, preparing for the start of a musical tribute I had written to the previous century’s music, Spectacular 2000. A little blond headed boy walked up to me with a bag of Valentine cookies, and thrust them at me.

“Here. These are for you.”

I thanked the boy, and asked who he was.

“Joey.”

“Do I know you?”

“No. I am here with him.” Joey turned, and pointed to Bill, seated with his sister, Linda, and her husband, Ray.

JOEY! In the wake of the production I had forgotten Joey was coming to spend a long weekend with his prospective new parents. And he was here! After the show, I spent time with the Hetzers, and Joey seemed to fit right in.

And before we knew it, the following spring of 2001, Chris had arrived.

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 Chris & Joey, 2001, during our trip to the Air Force Museum.

With Brian off on his young adult adventures, the Hetzer family seemed complete again. Bill was once again hauling boys off to soccer and football practices, and Kay was doing all the thrilling, enjoyable “mom stuff” that she had done with Andy and Brian when they were young. But this time, I don’t think she dressed the boys in lederhosen and Alpine hats!

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Finalization Day! Bill & Kay with their sons, Chris, Brian and Joey.

Bill & Kay asked me to watch the boys one night while they attended a wedding. I love being Uncle Darin, and gladly charged into this occasion with a full schedule – dinner, Borders Books & Music, Maggie Moo’s for ice cream, and a movie at home.

During our trip to Border’s, I found a Wright Brothers’ book in the children’s section, and sat on the floor with Joey and Chris on either side. As I read, Joey laid his head on my shoulder.

I knew, then, it was my turn to fully begin my adoption journey.

May 1, 2002, I walked through ACTION’s door. A nice lady named Mary Tarlano handed me the initial packet and explained a few things. I drove over to the Wendy’s on Main Street, near Needmore Road, grabbed some lunch, and let Flyer play in an open field while I sat filling out the forms… and forms… and forms…

I returned with the completed packet, and handed everything over to another lady, Sheila Jenkins. She looked through my information, and stopped on one page. “Just one minute, please.” Sheila left the front desk and walked over to an office door. Her whisper, more like a childlike squeal, informed someone, “The Hetzers’ friend is here.”

Immediately I was escorted into an office to meet Patricia Hill.

July 25, 2002, I met my first son. The following spring a second boy arrived. In 2004, my son, Jose, arrived. In between, and after, were also some boys whose adoptions had been disrupted, and they joined our home, some for several months, for long term respite. I also found my self teaching some preservice training classes, and representing the agency at an Orlando conference for adoptive parent support groups. Currently, I continue to teach classes, join the ACTION team for adoption fairs, and serve as the agency’s president of the board of directors.

Joey and Chris began taking piano lessons with me the fall of 2002. Chris quickly developed a natural talent for the piano, quickly followed by a passion. Chris would complete his assigned lesson, and then work ahead. It was not long until he was experimenting with familiar melodies, and figuring out the complimenting chords.

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Chris & Joey at a piano lesson, 2003.

One particular melody was “Going Home,” based on “Largo” from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I explained the history of the song to Chris, and showed him some photos on the internet. He was taken with the image of the Marine playing his accordion as President Franklin Roosevelt’s casket was loaded onto the train at Warm Springs, Georgia, bound for Washington, DC.

A year later, we were working on Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Chris absorbed all music – the classics, pop music, Disney tunes – he seemed to love it all.

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Bill, Brian & Kay at Brian’s wedding.

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The years grew busier as our sons grew older. The few minutes after lessons with Bill and Kay just never seemed to be enough time for catching up. We tried to make as many of Joey and Chris’ sporting events as possible, but we too were blessed with numerous music concerts, show choir rehearsals and performances, and musicals. Still, the Hetzer and the Haas familes managed trips to the Hetzer property along the Ohio River, pumpkin hunting at Brumbaugh’s Farm near Arcanum, dinners out, dinners in, shows, movies, sporting events, music events, and other family activities.

As I experienced serious issues with an older son, Bill and Kay, along with my family, and many friends, were always by my side. So many great parenting techniques I had borrowed from Bill and Kay through the years seemed to be powerless for the behavioral issues with which I was confronted. Bill and Kay never altered their undying faith in my parenting, nor their support of what I was trying to do for my son. Those of us closely involved all agreed my son was battling overwhelming emotional and mental scars buried deep within before he ever came to our home. Those hideous scars that the best psychological treatments, the best doctors, the best schools, the best support, and the best love a family can offer are simply not enough, sometimes. 

While our hearts rebounding thrill
With joy which death alone can still
Summer’s heat or winter’s cold
The seasons pass the years will roll
Time and change will surely (truly) show
How firm thy friendship …

Last Spring, Chris began emailing me, and chatting with me online in Face Book and MySpace. He was always thrilled to share with me new piano music he had discovered, or improved grades, or anything he felt compelled to share.

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Chris & Joe at the beach, 2008.

Monday night, January 12, 2009, I was finishing up a lesson with a Centerville High School student when Chris messaged me. I told him I would be right back. I asked this student if she knew Chris Hetzer. The name sounded familiar, but she did not know him.

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I returned to my computer, and chatted Chris. He was elated about returning to school full time. Chris had only been attending in the mornings, as there had been some issues through which he was working. Over the past year, Chris had been exhibiting similar behaviors as my one older son – very similar pre-adoption issues. That Monday night, Chris and I talked about school. I also reminded Chris to check with his Dad about breakfast. He asked when we were coming over for our annual January night at the Hetzer House, and  Chris said he would remind his mom. After another five minutes or so of chatting, Chris said he had to get off the computer since it was a school night. “Have a good night. I miss you guys. Love, Chris.”

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I fumbled hitting the redial button. My student stood by the piano, watching intently.

The phone was answered.

Before I could utter any words, Bill tried to talk.

He stopped.

Tried again…

Silence.

Finally, through a choked throat, Bill managed to say, “Chris killed himself this afternoon…”

Somehow, I managed to find the piano bench.

I proceded with the lesson, and somehow managed to teach a following lesson. Before the last lesson, I pulled Jose into my bedroom and sat him down. Telling my son that a dear family friend had commited suicide seemed to be a measure of torture the eve of my son’s seventeenth birthday. As he returned to the basement I could hear his sobs. I wanted to release my own sobs, but I had a lesson to teach.

That night, I sat in the Hetzer family room – practically in the same spot I sat in May 1998 after learning the news of Andy’s death. Surreal is the only word that can describe it. I kept expecting Chris to saunter into the room, calling my name, and rushing up to give me a hug. As I sat there absorbing the horror of that Tuesday night, my eyes rested on the piano in the adjoining living room… Chris’ music was still in place, scattered everywhere. It was obvious he had been working on his music. Bill said that after Chris’ recent shoulder surgery, he still managed to find a way to play, despite the very limiting brace.

Suddenly, I felt a peace float over me, and settle. Chris had his love for music. That had been my gift to him. It had been something we shared as student and teacher, as pseudo-uncle and nephew. Even when not discussing concepts and skills, music was a passion we both shared. Somehow I knew, that very evening, that Chris’ spirit, now on a new journey, was still filled with music. Although he decided to depart this life on his own terms, I will never allow myself to believe the music ever departed him.

Bill and Kay were fantastic parents for Chris, and I know, despite the grim hauntings of pre-adoptive wounds from which he could never completely escape, Chris loved his parents, his brothers, his family, and knew he was loved by us all. As adoptive parents, we can try as we might to fix those dreadful hurts of the past, but some wounds are simply too deep for us to heal, or attempt to soothe with loving salve. There are no magic buttons.

The following Saturday morning, I once again, sat at the Normandy piano. The medley I arranged for Chris was my gift to the young soul who will forever remain in my mind, and heart, “The Piano Man.” “Going Home” was played, but I decided the last several non-harmonized tones would not be resolved with the final note… the unfinished song represented an unfinished life.

This coming Tuesday, January 27th, Chris would have celebrated his 18th birthday. At some point in the day, a candle will be lit, and I will seat my self at the piano, and play the medley from the service. As the hurt, the anger, and all the levels of grief merge, they will be set aside for the music.

“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man;
Sing us a song tonight.
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright.”

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Christopher Allen Hetzer

January 27, 1991 – January 13, 2009 

The evening of New Year’s Eve, I received an email from a friend I’ve never met in person. We actually met on-line in an Internet group to which we both belong. This particular email resounded with me, as it seemed to justify some of my thoughts, and release some of my angst.

“There comes a point in your life when you realize
who matters…
who never did…
who won’t anymore…
and who always will…
So, don’t worry about people from your past, there’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.”

There are times when others slip out of your life for various reasons. There were fellow parents I knew from the middle school years when our sons were in the same activities, and once our sons arrived at the high school we parents moved in different directions with our sons. Of course, I began meeting new parents, especially those associated with marching band.

And then there are people in your life who really should not be there, for whatever reason. There have been times I have unconsciously moved away from someone, later realizing the positive impact. And, there have been those times when I decidedly moved away from individuals, or even groups, because I realized their attitudes, or behaviors, were unhealthy to my mind, my spirit, and a few times, my reputation (personal and professional).

In 2008, I found myself faced with the realization I had to move away from several individuals as I was discovering unhealthy characteristics, or actions, that were draining, or affecting me. At first, when I met certain people, I had no idea how gently around me their web of deception, or masked behaviors, were capturing me. One individual happens to be related to me, but due to choices made which greatly affect the well being of others, I decided I was not going to involve, nor support these behaviors.

This past year, my son, Jose, also had to move away from several good friends who were involving themselves in various negative behaviors. It was difficult for him to do, but he knew he was making the healthiest choices when he took a new path for himself.

Until I reread the above quote earlier this week, I did not realize just how freeing several of my decisions were. One or two individuals I miss, only because they were connected to those who were more infectious, but on the whole, life has moved on in a more positive direction. I always find it amazing how we meet some individuals and later discover how we were sucked into a vacuum of their attempts to dominate, or their masked negativity.

I have always held dear, a comment made by a dear friend, Valerie Lockhart. I knew her sister’s family long before I knew Valerie, having met them in 1991. Her sister’s children always referred to me as “Uncle Darin.” After the Lockharts came into my life around 2001, Sophie and Jackson began calling me, “Uncle Darin,” too. Valerie and I were talking about this one day, and she said, “I totally believe families are made and you don’t have to be blood related to be considered family.”

As an adoptive parent, this is so true. And in other areas of my life, close friends have become as dear as family. And some family have diminished in their relationship to me – and that is fine. I do strongly believe in family ties, and bonds, but not if they are unhealthy, or damaging to others. Valerie has, somehow, become more like an older sister to me, as has Christi Salchak. Jeff Carter, who is a godfather to my sons, is definitely my older brother. I find my self going to these three for advice, so much like a younger sibling, and I value, and respect these three, greatly.

There are always reasons for making healthy choices, and moving on, but bless those who remain with us!

What a wonderful Christmas this was!

Wednesday morning Jose and I left for Elwood at 9:30am. We had planned leaving Tuesday night, but due to the ice storm Mother encouraged us not to risk it. The drive to Elwood was simple and uneventful, but right at 2.5 hours.

After getting settled in, Jose and I went to get him a haircut, and run errands. Later that evening, Mother took Jose shopping so he could pick out some Christmas clothes himself. And on to the Chinese restaurant for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. This tradition began in 2000, the first year in 16 that I was not directing a church music program. Mother and I found ourselves sitting at home on Christmas Eve and decided to go out for dinner. Nothing in Elwood was open (and Jim Dandy was still alive and kicking/cooking!), so we ventured on to Noblesville where we found a Chinese buffet. We have continued to do so every year, only the past few years we have ventured to Muncie.

Thursday morning we were on the road at 6:00am for Fowler, Indiana, where my brother’s family lives. We made a quick stop at Village Pantry to buy donuts for Parker (my nephew), and I grabbed some coffee. Northern Indiana was hit with ice the night before, and we were wondering if the emergency level ban would be lifted – and it was. No ice en route, except a nasty patch on the road leading to the Haasienda of Fowler.

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(L/R) Stacia & Fred; Jose & Parker; Parker & Mother

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Fred, my youngest nephew and godson.

Stacia’s mother, Norma, arrived with a breakfast casserole, and we had a great breakfast. I was seated between my adorable nephews, Parker, 3.5, and Fred, 1. After breakfast, we opened gifts. My gift to my nephews each year is a basket/crate of books. This year, I added more classics of Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, etc., and began their collection of the Hardy Boys series. For Fred, my godson, I added to special gifts – one book belonging to Ronald Monroe Clary, the brother of my grandmother, and a book belonging to Harry Jones, the brother of my great-grandmother.

After visiting a while, Mother, Jose and I headed back to Elwood where we enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner. Mother made macaroni and cheese like my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Jones, and though she will be gone forty years this January 28, I am very sentimental over those little touches.

Friday, we dawdled around the house a bit, took Mother’s decorations and tree down, and then went to lunch. We stopped in the public library to visit our dear friend, Nancy Sumner, and she gave us a personal tour of the Indiana Room which houses some of the Wendell Willkie collection on which I worked when I was in high school.

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The Carnegie Library where I worked in high school. Mother & our family friend, Nancy Sumner.

The remainder of the day was spent visiting, and enjoying time together.

Saturday morning we packed, showered, and then spent a delight three hours with my Aunt Joyce. Joyce is the younger sister of my grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes. We had the best time laughing, and reminiscing. There were a few times when I had to fight back the tears, especially when discussing my grandmother.

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Mother & Aunt Joyce.

Jose and I were on the road at 5:00pm, and arrived in Dayton at 7:35pm after one pit stop for all three of the car’s occupants.

Jose and I went to Wal-Mart and I used my Christmas gift card to purchase paint for my kitchen. Thank you, Mother!

Tomorrow I will take down decorations, prep the kitchen, and begin painting.

Monday morning I will go to the doctor for my blood sugar, return home and finish the kitchen. Later that night is a birthday party for Sophie Lockhart, and my goal is to be finished painting by Monday afternoon.

Wednesday is the funeral for the father of my dear friend, Katie Pfister-Musick. Katie’s father passed away Christmas night after a long battle with cancer. Sadly, I attended the funeral of her mother this past summer.

So ends a wonderful Christmas holiday spent with family, and friends. A great Christmas, indeed!

What a past few weeks – confined mostly to bed for rest, and battling a nasty sinus infection. My asthma kicked in and since it settles in my throat, I have been robbed of my voice. Finally, the end of this week I could talk for more than ten minutes without the hoarseness coming on. The voice tires quickly, tiring me in the process.

Thursday night was a concert at Fairmont. Tuesday was scheduled for the choirs and orchestras, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM. However, the ice storm canceled that concert. So, Thursday, the bands performed, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM which was outstanding. 250 orchestra and choir students for this performance! Wonderful!

After the concert, the Lockhart and Haas families met at Friendlys and as always, it was the best time. I always enjoy my time with the Lockharts as they are as much family as my blood relations. Jackson and Jose are both sophomores, and Sophie is in 7th grade… so our days for after-concert celebrations are numbered. The kiddies are growing up fast!

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Jackson, Jose & Sophie

Friday I breakfasted with my neighbors, Kay Moore, and her daughter, Laura Parker. We try to work in a breakfast every month or so, and it seems we grab the Friday before winter break begins as our one set date. As always, it was a treat of complete laughter.

I went to The Bird’s Nest – the school operated store inside the Trent Arena next door – to buy some items for Jose. Five items and I only spent thirty dollars.

I taught a few lessons, and after Jose returned from work at 7:30pm, we ran to ACTION Adoption for a Christmas get-together with other adoptive families and the staff.

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My friend, Bill

This morning I busied myself with some projects, and then showered. Bill Impson arrived and we headed downtown to Uno’s for lunch, and then to the 2:00pm performance of RAIN at the Victoria Theatre.  http://www.raintribute.com/   It was a fantastic tribute to The Beatles! A friend gave me the tickets, and I cannot begin to tell how much I was delighted by this concert. The visuals on the screens were incredible, and you certainly relived history.

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After the show, Bill and I came back here and talked for about 90 minutes. Jose left for work, and I am trying to get some laundry completed.

Jose gets home around 7:45pm from work, and we will run a few errands, and then I will rest. I am hoping to catch Robert Schuller’s HOUR OF POWER this evening so I can sleep in, or rest more tomorrow.

Sunday, I will rest, teach a few lessons, take Jose to Youth Group for their annual scavenger hunt – which is a riot! Jose loves this event!

This morning, I read this post on Elwood’s internet site. This particular post read:
 
In response to Obama’s complaint that FOX News doesn’t show enough Black and Hispanic people on their network, FOX Network has announced that they will now air ‘America ‘s Most Wanted’ TWICE a week.
What hit me, perhaps for the first time, is that my son will probably have to deal with certain profilings once he leaves the comfort of Kettering where the name Jolliffe-Haas is unknown.
 
I wrote the individual who posted the first comment:
 
Hello,
I was reading segments of Willkie’s Pride and ran across a an item you had posted regarding FOX News.
 
I grew up in Elwood, Indiana, and like so many when I ventured beyond Elwood’s borders, was always trying to shed the stereotypical beliefs about Elwood’s racism. Throughout college, Black students I’d meet would always act hesitant at first, and eventually ask me about my views, mostly in regard to the Ku Klux Klan.
 
In 2004, I adopted a 12 year old Hispanic boy, Jose. Today, at nearly 17 years, my handsome young son is:
  • a good student,
  • a member of the percussion ensemble,
  • a member of this past season’s marching band – in which he had a featured percussion moment/solo,
  • sings in the high school’s concert choir,
  • attends church,
  • is a member of a fantastic youth group,
  • and works in the dining service of a very posh retirement community where he has become respected and loved by a number of the retirees – several of which are retired band directors and my friends.

Jose is adored by his teachers, youth leaders, employers and many other adults who praise his wonderful personality, good manners and courtesy, his kind and thoughtful nature, and his tremendous sense of humor.

Normally, I am not a sensitive individual, nor am I without humor.

However, this morning’s post regarding Hispanic’s and African Americans seemed to smack at the very principles many of us from Elwood have tried to uphold throughout the years regarding Elwood’s racist mentality. I, for one, do not always yield to the current phrase of “political correctness” as it has – in my opinion – gone a bit too far at times. But this morning, I realized I was no longer a former citizen of Elwood fighting stereotypes. This morning I discovered I am the proud father of a young Hispanic son who will probably always battle racial profiling.

This morning I discovered just how sensitive I was to a post that indicated Hispanics were common fodder for “America’s Most Wanted.” I am not ignorant to the various ethnicities and the problems that plague so many. I am also not ignorant of the fact that in Elwood, most of the heinous crimes (murder, rape, child molest) are conducted by mostly Caucasian individuals.

Due to the fact that my son shares the same ethnicity indicated in your post, I have come to understand the great uphill battle that lies before me as a parent.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against drugs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against tobacco use.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against alcohol.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against sex.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is not against gangs.

My biggest battle as the parent of a teenage Hispanic son is with people – even from my own home town – and elsewhere throughout our nation – that do not see the harm in racial profiling. Because my son is Hispanic, he is relegated to third, or fourth, or fifth class status as an American citizen.

Your post this morning opened my eyes a great deal to the work in education that must be accomplished, both for my son, and for individuals who cannot comprehend sensitivity for other nationalities, or ethnicities. My son, no longer in a neglectful birth-family home, and no longer a responsibility of the child welfare system, has a marvelous life that most 16 year old boys would love to have. As his parent, I will see to it that he continues to grow and mature, understanding how to rise above, and beyond, the tremendous wall of unkind, racist views that will probably confront him throughout his adult life simply because he was born of a race that is not Caucasian.

Since I apparently am not equipped to educate my son fully in these areas, I forwarded today’s post Re: FOX News to the NAACP and several Hispanic organizations, asking advice on how I, as a parent of a young Hispanic boy, can better educate my son on the racial profiling that will  certainly haunt him throughout his life.

Until this morning, I simply thought I was the proud father of a great young man. Tonight, I realize I am the proud father of a son who will be categorized a failure, even a criminal in the minds of many — simply because he had the great misfortune to be born of a race so different from mine, and that of a community in which I grew up.

Sincerely…

 
This makes me want to push Jose even harder at being an even stronger student and invidual.
 
 

Jose, 16, began a science experiment for his biology class last Friday. He placed an egg in a mug and filled it with vinegar. It was a pretty neat transformation into a gel-like form.

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Wednesday, I noticed the newly transformed egg was wrapped in a napkin in the refrigerator. So, I placed it in the “dairy” compartment in the refrigerator’s door, and replaced it with a regular egg in a napkin.

The next afternoon, after teaching, I noticed another egg in a mug of vinegar. I asked Jose about it and he said he took his egg to school and could not believe that the shell had grown back. The teacher tried to convince him that the could never have returned to its original form.

I sent a note to the teacher to explain…

At 12:05am the five buses carrying the marching band passed in front of the house. I was standing on the front steps smoking my pipe and letting Flyer explore the symphony of smells in the front yard when they passed. Bringing up the rear was Mike Berning, the band director, and his family, honking as they passed.

This week was just incredibly busy. I worked my butt off, but always seemed to be behind in accomplishing all I wished. My email is backed up a mile long, but the study and rest of the house is organized and efficient.

Today I woke after a semi-restful sleep, and plowed right into writing and researching on the Wright Brothers’ musical. I took some time out during lunch to read up on the economy and some of the boiling political issues. At 2:00pm my first student arrived, and at 5:15pm my last student was leaving – an early night with one student ill, and another on a college visit.

I ate some rice, broccoli and cheese casserole, and green beans, and relaxed with two episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN – one of my favorite shows.

At 8:00pm I dove into the musical writing, and edited a good deal. 11:15pm, I was trying to tackle one particular scene with no success. An email from my lyricist, Gail, who now lives in California, arrived, offering some suggestions to the very scene that had been giving me fits for over an hour. With a few more emails, I knew which direction we should take and by midnight I was sending off the latest draft through the miracle of the internet.

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

Around 12:20am I walked Flyer over to the performing arts wing and met up with Jose. It is a beautiful evening, just a little chilly – but still nice.

Tomorrow we will run some errands and try to find something fun to do together until it is time to head over to the stadium for the marching band invitational hosted by Fairmont. We will probably be tripping in after midnight.

In two weeks the marching band season will conclude, and Jose and I shall hopefully have more time together. I so enjoy my time with him, and his humor and cheery disposition is a great comfort. In a few years, it will just be me, Flyer and Logan, unless I adopt more sons.

Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday… what a great lady! Even Jose has one of her quotes posted above his bed.

It is 11:35pm on a Wednesday night and I am finally winding down after a full, productive day. After thinking through all I have accomplished I feel like I have competed with my cousin, Dana, who seems to cram four days into one.

This was my Wednesday:

6:00am     Woke up on my own; began reading my daily newsletters from BeliefNet and theatre groups

6:30am     Cleaned living room ceiling fan, mirrors, dishes

7:00am     Dusted living room, study and bedroom; washed dishes

7:30am     Berry green tea, Cheerios (heart healthy); put chicken thighs on to boil; folded two baskets of laundry

8:00am     At desk writing on Wright Bros’ musical, while watching a DVD on Wrights

11:30am   Deboned chicken; made salad; watched a Netflix DVD on Anthony Robbins

12:30pm   Reorganized the closet in my study, brought down a book case from Jose’s room for my study; reorganized some of my book cases in my study

1:00pm     Took a nap

1:30pm     Afternoon Emails and newsletters

2:30pm     Started spaghetti and sauce; showered & dressed

2:45pm    Finished spaghetti; cleaned the bathroom

3:15pm    Talked to Jose

3:30pm    Began teaching

4:00pm    Had an unscheduled break – watched OPRAH…

Today’s show was on ways to save money during this economic crises. One family described how they cut down their electric bill from $150 per month to $50 each month by unplugging unnecessary items. Hmm… good idea. During this break I reconfigured the living room so that the entertainment unit and all but the torch lamps are on a timer from 2:30pm-8:30pm each day. I may change this so that I just unplug it so that it is off on the weekends, too.

5:00pm    Resumed teaching

8:30pm    Finished last student; grabbed some spaghetti while chatting with Jose just home from work

9:00pm    Began reconfiguring my study’s electrical items; only computer remains plugged in 24/7 and monitor is turned off when not in use (generally do this); Jose and I redid the basement and kitchen

10:00pm  Jose and I sat and talked in the study; his girlfriend called and he chatted with her while I redid the electric items in my bedroom

11:00pm  Jose took care of electrics in his room; I finished some late nite items with business, washed more dishes and cleaned the counters

And the day is done… I feel invigorated, and slightly tired; however, the mind is still going strong. Flyer is snuggled next to me on the passenger side of the bed, and Logan is on my legs while I type on my laptop which is situated on a hospital table. I had to turn up the television volume to hear Letterman’s Top Ten because Flyer is snoring loudly.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is an exceptionally busy day:

  • I will connect with my co-writers
  • hopefully accomplish a good deal of writing
  • start teaching at 1:00pm-6:00pm (my shortest day)
  • run some errands
  • relax until Jose returns home from marching band around 9:30pm

We spend most of our evenings chatting, not even watching television. It is a wonderful relationship, and we enjoy one another’s company tremendously.

People are always asking me to describe what I mean when I mention, “Daily Briefs.”

In the Haasienda, the Daily Brief is our communication system for each day. I am generally teaching when Jose arrives home from school, and this allows me to share information – chore (1 or 2 items), dinner, quote of the day, upcoming events, and my own thoughts. The headings are now in German so Jose can learn a little more for class.

 Here is what a DB looks like in the Haasienda….

 

 

Mittwoch, den 17. September

 

…Helfen Sie bitte Vati mit dem folgenden…

(ENGLISH: “Please help Dad with the following…”)

1.  Laundry

 

…Abendessen…

(ENGLISH: “Dinner…”)

Grab some fruit before you head to work.

 

…Anführungsstrich des Tages…

(ENGLISH: “Quote of the day…”)

    Just do it.” ~ Nike

… Gedanken vom Vati…

 

(ENGLISH: “Thoughts from Dad…”)

I found this and thought it was great… 9 Tips for Being a Successful Student…


… PAY ATTENTION & PARTICIPATING IN CLASS

… MAKE AN EFFORT TO KNOW THE TEACHER

… GET ENOUGH SLEEP

… EAT BREAKFAST EVERY DAY (Let’s try this for one week)

… HAVE GOOD NUTRITION HABITS ALL DAY & TAKE VITAMINS

… HAVE AN ORGANIZATION SYSTEM THAT WORKS

… HAVE A REGULAR TIME AND PLACE FOR HOMEWORK

… ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO SOMEONE AT HOME (we already do this)

…SET GOALS FOR ACHIEVEMENT

Despite the heaviness of knowing many of our dear friends and neighbors, literally several houses away, are without power, I am going to continue celebrating the day. It is a beautiful day here in Kettering, Ohio, and the schools are closed again. For lunch, I am taking Jose to eat downtown to celebrate GOTCHA DAY. Four years ago today, Jose, then 12 years old, arrived from Oregon to live with us.

Jose is an amazing young man with great potential for a fantastic future. I am really proud of all he has accomplished, and for maintaining such a gratfeful attitude about life. Unlike other children who endured birth family horrors and the foster care system, Jose is still positive and joyful on the inside.

Here are a few photographs, beginning with the day he arrived.

Ironically, in the first photo of the day Jose arrived, behind Jose and myself is a portrait of my own birth father who abandoned my family when I was about Jose’s age… I just noticed this today…

 

What a short, but long week.

Recovery from a three day weekend is always a little tough, but this year was a little easier. I set up a new system with my private teaching studio: if there are five Mondays and Tuesdays in the month, I only teach four. So, Monday and Tuesday were my days off for September. I did not accomplish as much as I hoped, but I did catch up on some much needed rest.

Wednesday and Thursday flew by, and though our schedules are packed in the evening, I did get to spend time with Jose, and worked with him on German and social studies. His teachers report a great deal of effort, so far.

Friday I hit the Wright Brothers’ musical pretty hard, trying to tackle one particular song that has been a struggle.

I taught for four hours, and then headed to ACTION Adoption since Jose was with the marching band at an away game at Lakota West High School, just north of Cincinnati.

I thought it would be a night in the big room with support group, but Cissie, one of the staff, asked if I would please teach an independent study to one of my favorite couples. I almost did not go to ACTION, but am so glad I did. Bill & Ann Impson are the neatest couple, and I love every minute I get to spend with these two. They are finishing up their home study, and I cannot wait until they are deeply involved in the search for children. These two just make my day.

Saturday, Jose will have band from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and I am hoping to write as much as I can. In the evening, I will take Jose to dinner, and then maybe grab a movie.

Sunday, nothing until the early evening when I teach two lessons.

Not much to report…

Mouse Trap

Late one Saturday night I heard a pair of footsteps bounding up the basement stairs. I looked up at the clock and figured a commercial had propelled them from the depths of TV Land.

“Dad,” my sons cried. “There’s a mouse downstairs… it crawled down the wall.”

My stomach sprang upward, lodging in my throat. One of my worst fears as an adult had been realized – a mouse had invaded my home. All throughout my childhood I heard others speak of these unwelcome visitors, but had never before experienced one personally. My mother had caught a mouse the previous year and still during our weekend visits my eyes con-stantly scan the baseboards.

Within forty-five minutes I had returned from Wal-Mart with an arsenal that rivaled Wyle E. Coyotes’ ACME collection. The boys busily set around little cardboard box traps and plugged in the pest repellent gadgets. They had pinned him behind my row of file cabinets and were doing everything in their teenage power to capture the little critter. Our dog, Flyer, was busy putting her Labrador pedigree to use and sniffing him out. The fury little creature did escape and ran to the other side of the room. Of course, Logan, our cat, and I, perched halfway up the stairs, observed him running as the trio shifted, sniffed and banged on file cabinets. Logan, a true hunter, seemed resigned to allow the others to do the footwork.

I pointed out the creature’s destination and the trio moved with lightening speed. My thirteen year old stopped and asked, “Father, why aren’t you down here chasing the mouse?”

How could I explain the truth to this young boy who looked up to me for strength, courage and guidance? Guidance! That was exactly what he needed!

“Well, any competent military man will tell you that you need a reconnaissance man to watch the movements of the enemy in order to guide the others.”

He bought it! The chase continued.

Sunday. All quiet on the basement front. No sign of the creature except for the cardboard traps through which he had chewed to free himself. Once more, with the conviction of Elmer Fudd, I hurried to Wal-Mart to purchase the old fashion mousetraps. My eldest son set three around the basement enticing the little fellow with peanut butter.

Sunday night. Traps still empty.

Monday morning. I moved aside the blockade and opened the basement door to let the cat hurry down to her litter box. She did not return within a few minutes. I woke my eldest soldier up earlier than his 6:30am wake-up call and sent him downstairs. I followed at a safe dis-tance. There sat Logan guarding the trap with the little critter caught by the leg and tail, and very much alive. Logan smacked it into stillness and looked up at us for approval and applause. My son picked up the trap and smiled at the little fellow as he took him outside.

Operation Critter was accomplished. I now rank myself with the likes of generals Grant, Marshall, and Eisenhower as an expert military strategist.

You Sexy Thang…

When Matthew first arrived in 2002 as a little scrawny 12 yo boy, I helped him unpack his clothes from foster care, most of which were faded or dingy, and put them away. Between my mother, Aunt Dena and myself, we had the boy “stylin” within a few weeks. A year or so later, Matthew experienced a tremendous growth burst and grew five inches… and he continued to grow.

Late into 2003, after nearly 18 months of living with me, I noticed he had a peculiar stride when he walked. I checked his shoes and they were fine. I asked if he had any injuries… none. Hmmm…. Dad was baffled. We put on our coats and I took him out front and had him walk up and down the side walk so I could observe him. He continued to walk the same way. I asked him to stand up straight so I could check to see if he had one leg shorter than the other. They matched. Finally, it ocurred to me to ask him why he was walking funny.

“My underwear is tight.”

“Well, throw those away and put on another pair.”

“All my underwear is tight.”

“Why is all your underwear tight?”

“Because they are the same ones I brought from Texas.”

The underwear he had was size 12 in boys. The way boys’ clothing is sized is still a profound mystery to me, and thank God for cell phones in the middle of Wal-Mart so I could call my sister when shopping! Matt, of course, was no longer a size 12 but a size 28! Ugh! I have resigned my self to the fact that I have probably destroyed any chance of my eldest son fathering children.

When Jose arrived I immediately asked him what size underwear he wore. Clueless. At least he knew he was wearing underwear. I checked and he was a 12. He had five pair and indicated that his foster mother kept a bunch because she felt as though she had purchased enough with her own money (no comment from me at this time!).

Today, I began a new exercise program of “walk-run-walk-run.” I decided it would be best to begin with just the power walk as our block is the size of approximately 6 large city blocks together since it contains the entire high school campus (with soccer stadium, baseball field, about 8-10 practice fields, the new basketball and fitness arena, tennis courts… you name it!) the library, several major businesses and probably 30 homes bordering the block. It is a wonderful neighborhood!

I started out on Shroyer and moved pas the high school and turned on to Lincoln Park Boulevard, past Brody’s house. His new bride was not working at home so I continued to clip along without taking a break to chat with her. Finally, down the hill to Far Hills Avenue, also known as Main Street in various parts of town, and State Route 48. As I rounded the corner I noticed my shins were beginning to get that sharp ache… no problem – 15 minnutes and half way home. Then, in front of the library I became even more uncomfortable. My white briefs had ridden up and pulled along with them my red, fake silk running shorts. I was in just as much agony from the undies in a wad as I was from the aching shins. Naturally, it was impossible to make any adjustments as I was walking on the busiest road in all Dayton!

My stride slowed and my walk must have appeared humorous, if not pathetic. Of course, the music that began on the CD was… “You Sexy Thang”! Oh yeah, Baby! I know I was the essence of sexiness on Far Hills Avenue, looking as though I was imitating Tim Conway in an old Carol Burnette Show skit!

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