Archive for the Family Category

Bound for the Rock

Posted in Family, Movies, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2019 by macmystery
alcatraz-map
Tomorrow (later this morning, actually), I’m lucky enough to be heading to tour Alcatraz with friends, the Winston family and part of the Rothschild family. (Thank you, Will.)
 
I’ve seen the Rock from afar, but will actually get a close-up view for the first time, and it brings up a strange but treasured memory from when I was young.
 
There was a classic movie from 1962 called The Birdman of Alcatraz starring Burt Lancaster. It’s an old black-and-white picture about an inmate who worked with birds. But when I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8, I had no idea.
 
I’m sure we saw a promo for a re-run of the old movie on TBS or something. And somehow, my sister, then 5 or 6, and I crafted this character, the Birdman of Alcatraz. And we would take turns wearing a blanket around our neck as a cape and swooping around the den trying to get the other. Michele would say, “I’m a jail bird,” without any idea what that really meant. Just the things that kids do.
 
It’s goofy. But for whatever reason, all these years later, it has stuck in my head, like so many other seemingly meaningless things that, in all actuality, are the things you remember. And tomorrow when I’m seeing a famous prison for the first time, an unhappy place for a lot of people, I won’t be able to help but think about happy memories.

Back in the game

Posted in Family, Journalism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2019 by macmystery

My first issue as editor of The Island News.

I posted something akin to this on Facebook a little more than a week ago, I guess, but I’m just getting around to posting it here.

The name of my blog is Raising Two Americans, a reference to my two kids. The subhead of sorts initially read “Tackling life as a husband, a father and a journalist.”

Funny thing is that in the almost 10 years since I started, everything about those headers has been shaken up.

I am not a husband. My wife informed me almost 5 years ago that she was no longer interested in being married. Of course, that’s no longer mentioned on the masthead above this post.

I am still a father, of course. How good of one I am, some people may call into question. But nonetheless, my children reside with their mother.

And, practically, I ceased being a journalist on Feb. 22, 2016 when I was laid off at my McClatchy newspaper. Though, in spirit, I have remained a journalist, even if I was not being paid as such.

(Working or not, I will gladly embrace the Donald Trump title “enemy of the people.” Opposing Trump is a badge of honor I will wear proudly until the day I leave this life.)

Currently, the top of the page reads “and former journalist.” It’s safe to say that’s no longer accurate.

I am now the editor of The Island News, a weekly newspaper that covers northern Beaufort County in South Carolina.

It pays but won’t pay the bills. It’s not a full-time gig. I’m still employed at Randel’s Lawnmowers Equipment Sales and Service to make ends meet. But it’s a nice bump.

And I’m back in the game.

The Island News is a typical small-town weekly. At the small end of the small-town spectrum.

There are a lot of community event pictures and rewritten press releases. But the new owners have goals of something bigger — filling the void left when the local paper, The Beaufort Gazette, basically abandoned its hometown.

And there is a lot of potential. But there is little staff.

Also, I’ll admit I like the job. Almost too much. While I needed a break after getting laid off, I will admit I may not have realized how much I missed the grind. It was time to get back.

Given the landscape, I’ll never get back into newspapers. Not in the big sense. But this job gives me the opportunity to play a constructive role in the community I have chosen to make my own.

And maybe one day, it’ll be more than a part-time gig.

But right now, it’s a positive. And given the way 2019 has gone for me personally, I needed it. It’s given me a little hope I have been lacking.

And a reason to change “former journalist” back to “journalist.”

Gaining even more respect for my father

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by macmystery

A week or so ago, after picking my kids up for the weekend on Friday evening in Columbia, we stopped for dinner at Lizard’s Thicket near the airport.

For the unfamiliar, Lizard’s Thicket is a small chain of meat-and-three style restaurants in the Columbia area. Like Cracker Barrel, Dylan and Ella are fond of their food.

As we entered, I noticed and elderly man and his wife – I assumed – sitting opposite one another in a booth near the front of the restaurant. There was a walker stationed at the end of the table, and the woman looked quite frail, leading me to believe it was her walker rather than his.

I took notice because he looked tired, like a caregiver. I recognize this from watching my father descend over the years as he cared for my mother. By the time my mother passed in 2012, my father was a shell of the man I knew growing up. He had aged 50 years in 15.

Though he tried, the smile wasn’t the same. He dealt with blood pressure issues and depression, and my mother’s situation, and stubborn streak born out of fear, contributed to the accelerated demise of my father’s professional and military careers.

But he soldiered on. I heard my grandmother tell my mother once that she was lucky. Most men would have left and my father did not.

Statistically speaking, she was right. Noted and bloated TV psychologist/talking head Dr. Phil says 100 percent of relationships where one partner is a caregiver end in failure. I don’t think that’s 100 percent accurate, but I’ve no doubt it’s close.

As I watched my father, the best man I’ve ever known, struggle, I was not much help. I just hoped the strain and stress wouldn’t win. Once when my mother was being particularly difficult about something, I told her that if she killed him before she lost her battle to the myriad illnesses that were slowly taking her, I would never forgive her.

I haven’t endured what my father did, but my divorce several years ago and, more recently, the end of a serious relationship have hit me hard. I deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep, and quite frankly, I’m admittedly depressed.

Almost seven years ago, a freak occurrence – my mother banged her leg on the pole under a table at a restaurant – led to a heart attack and, eventually, my mother’s passing.

In the seven years since, my father is again the man I knew when I – and he – was younger. He smiles more, talks more, and his wonderful, dry, sometimes dark sense of humor is back. Despite a knee replacement several years ago, he is more active than he was 10 years ago.

He was lucky. My sister and I are lucky. If my mother had lived another 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind that my father would not have. I’m not sure if that would make him among Dr. Phil’s 100 percent or not.

Back to the couple at the Lizard’s Thicket. Though their interactions went unnoticed to my kids, I watched. I do this often in public.

The woman was lost. She could barely feed herself and appeared on the verge of tears the entire meal.

He did things for her. But he was not kind. It troubled him. It was like he had somewhere else to be, something else to do and she was keeping him from it. He was annoyed. He once yelled at her that the potatoes were not hot.

Then, when it came time to leave, he stood and waited for her to get up, while holding her walker at the ready. When it took more time than he anticipated, he banged her walker on the floor repeatedly in frustration.

I wanted to cry.

As bad as a look as it was for him, I don’t blame him. I don’t know that he’s a bad person. It’s quite possible that he’s just tired. Beyond all human limits. He’s at his end, and the fact that’s he’s still going is in itself an accomplishment.

That didn’t make it better for her. You could tell she was struggling emotionally, not just physically. She just couldn’t “do” anymore. And like most people in this country, they likely don’t have the means to make things any better for themselves, to get care for her above what he can provide himself.

All of this makes me even more grateful for my father. I’ve never told him that enough.

He never bailed on my mother, though at this point in my life, I can’t say I would blame him if he had. He could have tried to make his life better. He instead tried to make my mother’s better. And is still trying to do the same for my sister and me.

If I live to be half the man my father has been, it will be an accomplishment.

He’s gay … he’s not gay … it’s none of your damn business

Posted in Family, Internet, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by macmystery

So a couple of nights ago, I’m sitting in the living room with my wife Brooke. She’s got the laptop with her on the couch and she’s reading some other people’s blogs while I’m watching an episode of Psych on Netflix.

And she comes across this blog post from a woman about her son who wanted to be Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. The woman talked about how much her son loved the character and his best friend, a little girl, also went as Daphne.

She also talked about the negative reaction the costume got from other parents.

She was very supportive of her son and basically told the other adults it wasn’t their concern what her son wanted to be for Halloween.

As my wife explained the woman’s blog, Nerdy Apple Bottom, and read the post to me, I found myself sympathizing with the mother.

So Thursday night, after work, I was working on the dashboard of my blog and noticed that her post about the costume, entitled “My Son Is Gay,” was the top post among all WordPress blogs.

(For what it’s worth, if you read the blog post, you’ll find that the title “My son is gay” is actually just the first line of the post. It’s immediately followed by “Or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don’t want to know you.”)

I didn’t think much of it, just thought I’d mention it to Brooke when I got a chance since it had sparked her interest.

Then at work on Friday, I was perusing CNN.com and found that her blog post had sparked an uproar. It was the top post on all the WordPress blogs because it had gotten more than a million hits in a day’s time.

She had gotten lots of feedback, mostly positive, but some negative and some downright ugly.

On CNN.com, there’s a video (click here) of her live phone interview on television. She holds her own with the reporter, who’s sympathetic, and a child psychologist.

I find it truly amazing the a 5-year-old child’s choice of a Halloween costume could cause such an uproar.

There are many people criticizing this mother for blogging about her son’s choice of costume. But that’s not what she did. She only blogged about her son’s choice of costume in response to the negative and ugly feedback she got from neighbors and other parents at her son’s school.

She told them to shove off. And she was right to.

It’s bad enough that we in this country spend a large portion of our time passing judgment on other adults.

But one 5-year-old’s choice of a Halloween costume … his choice to dress up just like his best friend … on a day, the one day every year, when everyone has the opportunity to pretend to be someone they’re not and it’s supposed to be OK … one 5-year-old’s choice of a Halloween costume shouldn’t cause this kind of furor. It shouldn’t draw venomous feedback from supposed adults and it shouldn’t make the national news.

In fact, the more I read some of the idiotic feedback she got, the more frustrated and angry I become, and he’s not even my child. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have to deal some of the people face-to-face.

And even after all of this, I’m at a loss of what to say.

My son and my daughter are free to pursue whatever dream they desire. I won’t dictate what road they take in life or who they love. I only hope that they grow up to be good people, they embrace their journeys in life and that they are lucky enough to find love.

I can’t imagine trying to dictate to them what should and shouldn’t make them happy. But I know I’m certainly not OK with anyone else trying to do it either.

So I guess if confronted with the same situation this mother was, I’d say the same thing she did in her blog post …

“It’s none of your damn business.”

I swear, we’re not crazy

Posted in Education, Family with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by macmystery

I haven’t posted much on this blog since having a health scare in late April that affected my everyday schedule, particularly my schedule at work, for a while. Some things have returned to normal, but others will never be the same.

Most of my posts have been reposts of stories, photos, videos, etc. But basically little that I’ve written myself. This post is a break from that recent trend.

My son, Dylan, began his second year at a charter school this fall. He attended a different school in our district for 4K and 5K, but we made a change before first grade.

Dylan is ahead of his grade level, and my wife and I felt that the charter school offered flexibility that his regular public school couldn’t. Namely, the ability to work ahead to his level, rather than be held back with the class (A product of No Child Left Behind … rather no child gets ahead.).

Aside from a few hiccups here and there, which I’m sure most parents go through, the school has been wonderful and Dylan has thrived academically.

But socially, that hasn’t been the case.

Probably much like I was, Dylan has the misfortune of being far ahead intellectually of where he is socially or emotionally. And this has resulted in behavior issues.

Phone calls home have been common. Detention has been served. He’s made a few trips to the office.

None of the offenses were serious, but they were beginning to add up. No matter how well he was performing academically, we were having troubles behavior-wise.

My wife has long desired to be at home full-time and has long expressed the desire to homeschool our children. I was, and am not, as enthusiastic as her about the notion.

My sense of people that homeschool traditionally has been that they are those with the means (either wealthy or extremely intelligent) or crazy (send your donations in care of David Koresh, the messiah). I didn’t leave much room in between. Honestly, I still don’t.

For all of the drawbacks of public schools, and there are many, especially in the progressive (using sarcasm font here) state of South Carolina, one thing they provide that cannot be replaced by homeschooling, or private schools for that matter, is a trial run at life experience. Definitely, not all of the experience will be good, but there is a value to learning to deal with people unlike you — people who don’t think like you, look like you, believe like you, worship like you, behave like you … or like you. And in real life, that’s what you’re forced to do every day.

That being said, Dylan’s behavior was causing a problem, and in the latest incident (though we can’t really get anyone to tell us what, if anything happened), he was labeled a bully by a woman who works at the school.

Forget the fact that the chances of Dylan being a bully fall right behind Ghandi being a war-monger. The woman who made the accusation is someone who was involved in the founding of the school and will be there for the duration of Dylan’s time. Translation: Dylan will be branded a troublemaker, and that label will stick and he’ll have to deal with it as long as he’s there.

Despite good grades and amazing test scores, Dylan has been miserable at school lately, and Brooke is now at home full-time after leaving her job at a nonprofit. This time, when she brought up homeschooling, I didn’t fight.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure how I feel about it. And I don’t know if we did the right thing. But at least for a while, Dylan will be homeschooled. We’ve taken the plunge, and I’m up to my neck. I’ve no choice but to swim.

Brooke has taken or is in the process of taking all the legal steps, making sure we follow the rules or our state and district.

And Dylan had his first day of school at home Monday, spending time on spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, reviewing math skills … as well as his first taste of long division. And he got a tutorial on voting, with Tuesday being election day.

I don’t know if we’re doing the right thing. And I’m sure that I’m not sure what I’m doing. But at the same time, I won’t let him down. If I fail him, it won’t because I didn’t give my all.

I don’t think this is permanent. I foresee Dylan returning to public school at some point. My wife and I both are big supporters of public school (despite this move), and I think it’s important socially, as well. But I don’t know when. (I know I’m not teaching him chemistry!)

I’ve heard my wife tell people that we’ve prayed about this decision. Honestly, that usually means she’s prayed a lot more about it than me, but I’ve spent a lot of time going over the pros and cons again and again in my head.

Maybe some of this is our fault. Dylan’s never been to day care. He’s always been with one of us. He’s always gotten one-on-one attention. At school, he doesn’t.

Dylan’s a really smart, happy kid. But he’s got some growing to do to catch up with the kids his age. And until then, I think public school was going to be trouble for him.

Hopefully, we can work on some things at home that weren’t getting attention at school. And God willing, we’ll do more good than harm.

Because I don’t consider myself one of the crazies. And I hope when I look back on this decision down the line, I don’t see a crazy then, either.

Like it or not, I’m back

Posted in Family, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 2, 2010 by macmystery

After successfully failing to post for the entire months of May and June (Heck, I posted just one day in April), I have returned. See how I made that sound positive.

Some health issues (well, one actually), a lack of computer access and a heavy load at work have conspired to keep me down, but I have prevailed.

I’ve missed a lot the last three months … a lot I’d have liked to comment on.

I saw a Neil Young concert, my third, that was downright nasty it was so good.

I went to camp for three days with my son, Dylan, and thought I was going to die.

I had some sort of episode at work and thought I was going to die.

And among other things, I really would have liked to comment on some people I admired who did die.

Down the road, I may get to some of those things, albeit a little late. But for whatever small number of people who read this and myself, it’s simply progress that I’ve typed these words. Any catching up I do will be icing on the cake.

Later this morning I leave for Washington D.C. and then New York City for my annual baseball trip. Hopefully, I’ll have some things to comment on from there.

Bye, for now.

Church group reunited with orphanage in Haiti

Posted in Family, Journalism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by macmystery

In a photo from the MSNBC.com story, kids at the Rescue Children orphanage watch a generator-powered television on Friday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The group from a Pennsylvania church and an MSNBC.com news crew reached the Rescue Children orphanage in Haiti on Friday.

The orphanage is supported by Spratanburg, S.C.-based Rice Bowls, a world hunger ministry, for which my wife Brooke works.

Here’s the MSNBC.com story with information about the 11 kids, who are all safe and well, and where the orphanage expects to go from here. There’s a cool slideshow, as well.

Once again, for those who want to give to relief efforts, here’s a list of organizations already working in Haiti.

Again, for those interesting in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.