Friday, November 6, 2020

I Voted For Tyler

 Tyler is an American.  In fact, I believe he is a GOOD American.  He works hard, he overcomes adversity, and he loves his fellow man.  

Tyler does not vote.  He does not have the mental capacity to vote.  He cannot understand the complexities of the political world, and perhaps he is lucky not to.

But let me remind everyone...

This shameful display was a "leader" who saw fit to insult a handicapped journalist.  When he did such a despicable thing, it effected me personally.  He insulted every disabled American and he insulted my son.  In this moment HE INSULTED MY BELOVED WONDERFUL SON.  So I am going to exercise my right as his father to now comment on that and this election.

I have never seen such a despicable human being.  If you disagree, look at the picture above and then check yourself in the mirror.  This puke made fun of a brave American hero because he was different due to a handicap.  My son fights to prevail every day despite those who mock him.  

Most disappointing is the religious institutions that whored themselves for Republican money and protections that they sold their morality for a few pieces of silver.  Those who pretend to have religious purpose while turning their heads to bigotry, hate, misogyny, and class warfare.  There is no other way to put this, our religious leaders have failed to stand up for true Christian values.  They have failed the most vulnerable of us....and that is Tyler and everyone in similar circumstances to him.  

I spoke for myself and I spoke for him.  Let me show you this picture again.  This was a stake to the heart of me, Tyler, and the special needs community.

I challenge any so-called Christian to spend 5 minutes with Tyler and then look at this picture.  If you aren't disgusted and appalled with this, I have no more time for you.  Period.

For those who want to say "he has flaws" I challenge you to show me where he has humbled himself, apologized, or repented for his actions.  Never.  

I voted in this election.  And in some fashion, so did Tyler.  We voted for compassion, love, and tolerance.  We voted for Biden.  And maybe just as importantly, we voted against hate and ignorance in the form of a coward by the name of Donald Trump.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Family Update

 The clock just seems to roll one day into the next.  The calendar clicks away the days, nearly empty of appointments, gatherings, or adventures.  Every day feels like groundhog day, just without the groundhog.

Tyler is doing "ok".  Because he is unable to wear a mask, he has not been able to return to his day program or go out into public.  It has become a challenge to keep him exercised and stimulated, but the house is doing their very best.  Even the church hasn't responded to my e-mail about how to bring Tyler back safely.  Its hard for everyone to know the right answers and get things right at thee moment, but I would expect that Tyler would be an important enough member of the congregation to warrant discussion on how to safely keep him actively attending.  On the health front, Tyler is also just "ok".  As he is often subject to, his stomach has slowed down and caused him some temporary bloating and discomfort.  Its the kind of thing that a young man with so many challenges shouldn't have piled on top of him.  It just isn't fair.  It adds to the helplessness of not being able to see him and comfort him.  Its been 7 months since we have seen Tyler, hugged him, laughed with him, or told him face-to-face how much we love him.  He doesn't understand the circumstances so he is simply in a seemingly endless void.  Somewhere in his mind I hope he knows that our love is always with him even when we can't be.

Samantha is doing "ok" as well.  We decided that she would remain at home for now and attend cyber school.  It felt like the safe play considering it is too hard to predict how returning to school will effect the spread of the virus.  We have already gotten calls warning us that staff have tested positive in our district.  There are also other local districts temporarily shutting down due to positive cases or suspected positive cases.  I'm hoping that my predictions have been wrong, and the schools will remain healthy and open.  Meanwhile, Samantha is actually enjoying cyber school.  She likes the shorter overall day, not getting on the bus, and not having some of the social pressures that come at this age.  She lights up when she talks about her teacher...saying she is funny, sweet, and "best of all she is a good person".  I figure that is about as good as it gets.  She does miss her friends and socializing of course, but we try to make sure she has other means to fill those needs.

My wife is very steady through almost everything, so its hard to gauge exactly how much she has been effected.  I know she misses Tyler desperately.  But I think as long as we are all healthy and keeping the roof over our heads, she is "ok".

I consider my own self to be a mixed bag.  On one hand I'm enjoying the family time.  We've also used the time to work on home projects.  Unfortunately there is a downside too.  Parts of my anxiety seemed to have spiked.  Its difficult to explain, but certain conditions and sounds have the tendency to take me back to highly anxious times and events.  Sometimes it takes a lot to throw me back there, sometimes it takes very subtle things.  I think by not seeing him and having that first hand connection it is harder for me to feel reassured.  

We send our thoughts to everyone who is struggling right now.  So many people are hurting because of COVID-19, social injustice, and the divisive climate.  Our family wishes a successful end to the pandemic, equality and love for all humans, and peace and cooperation to return to our nation.  We are common in our struggles, yet choosing to be divided in our fight.  We cannot conquer these issues without unity.

Be well and God bless.    Tom 

Monday, July 13, 2020

COVID and Tyler II

It doesn't seem like 2 months since I've posted here.  In a strange way, we are experiencing a "Groundhog Day" type of vortex in this world.  Our calendar remains mostly bare of engagements and appointments.  Outside of brief visits with close family and close neighbors there is not much of a social life. 

Tyler remains in constant quarantine at his residential home.  We have not seen him since the end of February, which at times seems like years ago.  He is doing "just ok" but I think the isolation is beginning to rack his nerves, as it would anyone.  The amount of outside socialization can't be good for him, and even fresh air and exercise seem more difficult to come by.  His staff and the agency are doing an amazing job protecting his well-being, as well as the health of his staff.  It's all they can do right now.

COVID has been unique in that most problems stemming from it have no clear answer.  The most notable I find is the argument of health versus economics.  This is not a new thing....workplaces and households make these kind of decisions all the time.  Our workplace could always spend more money making things safer but at some point if the company can't make a profit it won't matter anyway.  COVID is different as it is turning these decisions into true life-or-death propositions.

Tonight our school board will be deciding how to resume school in the fall.  Most parents have voiced that we need to get the kids back to school and start getting things "back to normal".  Unfortunately, this ignores the undeniable fact that the virus is actually thriving and not dying.  We are hearing people justify the decision by saying how kids do not seem to get it as bad as adults.  The problem is we truly DON'T KNOW how this effects children long term.  Most schools were closed and children quarantined very early on.  We are also just finding evidence that those who have even mild symptoms are experience long term effects that were not seen before. 

The other infuriating denial statement is something like "well, its only elderly people that seem to be dying from this".  First, this is not true.  Secondly, people that are vulnerable are not expendable.  By sending children to school full time we will be jeopardizing loved ones that we should be protecting.

So...I'm going to document how I see this going over the next few months and we can see how close I get:

Most schools will vote to re-open fully with the foolish notion that they can use social distancing and masks.  Have you ever tried to get a kindergartner to eat peas?  Try keeping the mask on them every day all day.  Try not having them touch other kids.  By day 3 they will be licking each others faces and making bubbles with their snot.  Many schools, lets say within the first 8 weeks, will begin reporting positive cases, some a handful, others a full outbreak.  Emergency meetings will be held and schools will close back down.  Unfortunately it will be too late and older administration and family members will fall ill as well by the time we take action.  We may even find out more effects it has on children than we knew before.  It will be March all over again but now we will have already lost people due to the rush to become "normal" again.

I pray I'm wrong....but I doubt that I am.  We are ready to gamble lives for the sake of normalcy, selfishness, economics, and saving political face.  Exactly all the wrong reasons.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

Monday, May 18, 2020

COVID-19 and Tyler

The first and most important thing to point out is that Tyler, his staff, and his housemate are all safe and sound from the virus so far.  His agency has done an amazing job, and the staff are HEROES without question for the safety and love they are currently providing.  We are blessed beyond measure that so far the family has remained healthy.  My most sincere thanks go to those people on the front lines trying to keep us all safe, fed, and entertained during such a difficult time period.  Bless all of you.

It has been about 3 months since we have seen Tyler.  The number one concern right now is to protect those that need extra protection.  Tyler cannot protect himself from the virus, so we must step up and do the right things for him.  He understands that his routine has been shot, and people around him are wearing masks, but he doesn't understand why.  Fortunately time is a concept he doesn't fully grasp, so he may not realize just how long all this has been going on.

But we do.  We miss him every day.  We want him to know that we are still here for him and that we still love him as much as ever.  

For me, this brings into play a truth that I will probably never be able to live with....I can't fully protect him.  No matter how diligent we all are, no matter how great our staff is, and no matter how much we plan for every scenario, we can only do so much.  I'd like to be able to say that doing the best we can is enough to be able to sleep soundly at night, but it isn't.  The cold hard fact that this virus has shown us is that when a person is truly vulnerable there are things in the world that can get to them no matter what.  

For years, even before Tyler left home, I've suffered from recurring nightmares about him.  The settings change but the theme remains the same, something is happening to him and I cannot save him.  Sometimes we are in a body of water and he is sinking and the realization that I can't keep him and I afloat at the same time.  Sometimes we are crossing a road and for some reason I can't get him out of the middle of the road.  I don't think the dreams play out completely, they just center on my fear of being helpless to protect him.  The virus feels like this scenario playing out in real life.  Its invisible, and in some cases unstoppable.  For people with special needs and their staff, there is no way to completely isolate themselves.  The care of their individuals have to come first, even if it makes them more susceptible to getting sick.  Its a no-win situation.

For the time being, we can only pray for everyone's safety and make the best choices we know how to make.  We have to thank all of those people that are enduring additional hazards in order to protect our loved ones.  And we have to hope that our worst nightmare confines itself to our sleep.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Sam's View on COVID-19 and Tyler

Hello Everyone, my name is Samantha and if you don't know me here is a quick summary: I am Tom's daughter and Tyler's little sister. I am 11 years old and today I will be talking about COVID - 19 and how it is effecting me. So to start off it has made me not be able to see my brother for one thing and I can not see him for my birthday. My birthday is in April and that is coming up so I won't be able to see him for this special occasion. But on the other hand I miss Tyler so much. I mean, not seeing your brother in almost a month is sad because he is family and it is sad not to see someone you love for so long, and it breaks my heart to say I may not see my brother for the rest of the year. And I know that some kids complain about their sibling in these unfortunate times but you should be thankful for them because Tyler is all I have as a sibling, so when I have no more school work to do I don't have a clue what I want to do because I have no siblings. So all the children out there who complain about there siblings they should not in these times, because we all need each other so we should be working together and defeat this stupid virus. We need to be family like we are right now because we need everyone's help in not spreading the virus anymore, so wear your masks, wash your hands and sanitize every time you touch something such as ....... doorknobs, handles, karts, anything. You need to stay safe and stay healthy please please please please stay safe and listen to the 3 H




Hope you enjoyed today's blog I hope all of this will be all over soon please stay healthy and happy and at home you and I need to stay safe.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What If

What if tomorrow we had our last
And our future suddenly met our past
What if we didn't have another day
And a bigger plan now blocked our way

What if our dreams have met their end
Without a daydream left to spend
And those we did not quite achieve
Laid broken for our souls ro grieve

What if we left some things unsaid
And did not bury things long dead
What if we failed to mend a hurt
Before we filled the hole with dirt

What if this was the final call
Would we step up to answer all
What if our judgement day was here
Are we righteous people without fear

Did we live our lives without regret
And love the others that we met
Did we make the most of every day
And help those lost to find the way

What if tomorrow all was lost
And we had to pay the final cost
Would we say we saw it all
Or would just accept the fall

If you feel you forgot to live
Or the blessings how we can forgive
Reach long and hard within your heart
It's not too late to embrace the start

Tomorrow is no guarantee
For anyone like you and me
So make the best of every day
And together we can find our way

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tribute To Richard Fink

Good morning.  I have a heavy heart for some extended family today.  I'd like to share some of those feelings with all of you.

Growing up in a somewhat rural area meant not having a whole lot of other kids living close to me.  However, I was blessed beyond words to have the Fink family a short distance away.  All of the kids were older than me, some significantly so, but for some reason they took me in anyway.  In many ways I became the kid brother, kind of like the ones that would suddenly show up in a sitcom once the main kids weren't as young and cute anymore.  I hung around the house for weekends and summers on end, always feeling welcome and loved.

When speaking about people, we often overuse words like "larger than life" or "one of a kind", but Richard (the Dad of the family) was truly those things.  But he was not a boisterous person, in fact he was quite the opposite.  He was genuine, honest, and quiet to some degree.  What he said had purpose.  Once you got to know him you could find a gentle side that liked to laugh and tell the tales of his experiences.  His stories would be captivating in their unbelievable nature and yet you knew they actually happened.  Once he would finish the story he would shrug and give an almost boyish giggle as though to say "I'm amazed by it too!".  Despite the simplicity he showed on the outside, there was a terrific mechanical genius on the inside.  He told me once that he would get a job at the machine shop he owned that he didn't even have a machine capable of doing.  So he would lay awake at night and picture the process needed to make this certain part and he could design a new machine in his head, and go build it. 

I was incredibly lucky to have been part of Richard's life, and the entire Fink family's life for that matter.  He was so patient and gracious having this young twerp hanging around all the time, yet I never felt he looked at it that way.  He taught me to ride dirt bikes, took me for motorcycle rides, and let me hang with him at the mountain cabin.  We bowled together for a number for a few years and he got to know my wife and son.  As the years went on, the family moved from state to state, but we still kept loosely in touch.  I last saw Richard at his 80th birthday party.  He should have been ashamed of how good he looked for that age!  We wrote a few letters.  The last we spoke was a phone call 5 years ago when we had our 25th Anniversary party.

The last few communications with him I made it a point to tell him that his friendship and willingness to essentially adopt me as one of his own was one of the most important things in my life growing up.  I hope he understood that.  I hope he understood that as I got older I looked back on that relationship with him and the entire family as a true gift that is beyond any earthly value. deserve a very special place in heaven and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every story, and laugh, and adventure that you provided me.  God speed.  Love, Tommy.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Coronavirus

Put any 10 people into a room right now and you very well might get 10 different opinions about the Coronavirus.  These opinions will range wildly from panic, to claiming it as a conspiracy to cost Trump the election.

I'm not going to offer my own opinion necessarily, but rather I will focus on how frightening the prospect is as a special needs parent.

For now lets make the assumption that there will be infections locally.  The impact that this could cause for Tyler could be quite frightening.  Consider:

1. Tyler attends a day program with many other disabled individuals with many types of disabilities.  I cannot image the challenge to keep perfect hygiene in a place where there are adults in diapers, drooling, hands constantly at faces, etc.  Even in the best of circumstances its got to be a breeding ground for germs.

2. What happens if Tyler, or the staff contract the virus?  How will the agency maintain staffing levels if the worst scenario comes true?  Tyler and his housemate are not able to care for themselves in an emergency.

3. Tyler, like many other in the special needs community, has pre-existing conditions.  While these are not specifically threatening against the virus, how many others are in the direct line of fire because of theirs?

These are serious issues that nursing homes, group homes, and other care facilities are about to run headlong straight into.  I just hope and pray we don't reach some of these possibilities.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

Friday, February 28, 2020

Communion Delayed is Communion Denied

I don't know the LaCugna family personally, but I understand their struggles.  Their son Anthony is non-verbal with a serious form of autism.  Like Tyler, he also appears to be a very beautiful young man with a supportive family.

What is so often underestimated is how special needs families struggle with the daily life occurrences that others very easily take for granted.  Robin and I once had to fight to give Tyler a private place to go to the bathroom at his school.  Another time, we had to fight for a bus schedule that would protect other children from his aggression.  Tyler cannot fight for his own rights, and many institutions in our world won't stand up and fight for them on his behalf either.  It's the family who must dig in and be that advocate.

This week, the LaCugna family found out that their son would not be permitted to participate in Holy Communion due to his disability.  According to their church, Saint Aloysius Parish in Jackson, NJ, he does not meet the criteria of partaking because he cannot understand right from wrong.  Apparently they do not believe that he can profess his relationship with God in a manner appropriate for communion.

First, let me say this.  NOBODY can know what Anthony's relationship is with God, just as nobody could know what Tyler's relationship with God is.  Just because they are non-verbal doesn't mean that they aren't speaking with God.  In fact, I would submit that because they have no natural inclination to sin, they are walking right alongside God every day.

Secondly, I have seen God work through Tyler in ways that have astounded me.  Tyler has brought family members back to the church after long estrangement periods.  Tyler has told his story (through me) to tens of thousands of people throughout the world.  Tyler has given Bibles to those who have needed them.  We will never know the scope of his impact, just as we will never know the scope of Anthony's impact.  But I promise you, they are working closer to God than most of us stumbling "normal" mortals are.

Lastly, Tyler and Anthony are specially made and loved by God.  God made them to be different. They are blessed creatures that deserve to be honored and protected in every phase of their lives.  God would want us to include his most precious children in communion. 

I predict that the church will realize that this arrogance and ego-self-righteousness isn't going to be worth the outcry to follow.  They appear to already be back-peddling and trying to claim this as a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of their true intentions.  It's not.  They are in damage control mode.

To the LaCugna family I say family will pray for you all.  We are proud of your conviction and your willingness to fight for your son.  He has every right to practice his beliefs in his own way.

And if you need a nice church to attend where Anthony is welcome for communion...join my family any Sunday you wish.  Where I come from, we honor God's special children.

Be well and God bless.   Tom 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mama I'm Coming Home

I grew up a fan of classic and hard rock.  From the first time I heard Ozzy Osbourne I liked his music.  It's easy to dismiss Ozzy because of his oft publicized younger exploits (many of which are more legend than fact) and his self-referral of being the Prince of Darkness.  In reality, Ozzy has been a major part of Rock and Roll for over 50 years, and continues to be relevant today.  The main reason I respect Ozzy is for his gentle sensibilities.  Ozzy is actually a very thoughtful and gentle person at heart.  His songs often denounce war and man's inhumanity to man.  Watching his road trip show with his son Jack makes you quickly realize that he is a humble man who adores his dogs and his family.  The Prince of Darkness is more persona than practice as he reaches 70 years old.

In the spring of 1992 we were anxiously awaiting our Tyler to arrive.  The amount of worrying we did was overwhelming.  As we were reaching the final days and hours of her pregnancy, we began hearing Ozzy's latest release on the radio "Mama, I'm Coming Home".  And when we went to take Tyler home from the hospital, the song was playing again.  All we wanted in the entire world was to take our baby away from the hospital, and to the safety of our home.

"I've seen your face a thousand times
Every day we've been apart
I don't care about the sunshine, yeah
'Cause Mama I'm coming home"

We all interpret songs to our own personal situations and these verses said to us "we don't care about anything else right now...our boy is coming home so we can face things as a family".  It was a powerful window in time that was forever marked by that song.

In 2018 we had the opportunity to see Ozzy in concert for the first time.  At about the mid-point of the show he played "Mama, I'm coming home".  I wrapped my arms around my wife and we stood listening to him perform Tyler's anthem.  It was a touching and surreal moment for me, as I'm sure it was for her.  As with so many things, it allowed Tyler to be right there with us.

Unfortunately it sounds as though Ozzy will be cancelling any hopes of touring in the future due to health problems.  There are times that his posts seem to suggest that he is ready for the final stage of life to begin.  Its just nice knowing that whenever I feel like peeking into that little window of our life in 1992, Ozzy will be there to sing "Mama, I'm Coming Home" for me.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Monday, February 17, 2020

Happy Birthday Tyler

In just a few days, it will be Tyler's 28th birthday.  Gas prices were $1.13 per gallon.  The mall of America was just opening its doors.  The police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted.  I had a mullet.

Over the last three decades we would experience countless changes in our own little world, as well as the vast world around us.  There would be additions to our lives, and there would be loved ones that we would lose.  I would also lose the mullet.

I want to fill the blog today with wonderful memories of these years with Tyler.  He deserves happy thoughts and happy memories more than anyone other person than I have ever known.  His courage and fortitude are remarkable. 

I remember when he was very small he would pretend to wrestle with me.  We would roll around the floor pretending to bodyslam and pin one another.  We would bounce on the bed pretending to dive onto each other.  He would put my shoulders to the mat and count "2...2...2...2....3!"  I just laughed out loud thinking about how he would scramble up on the couch with me laying on the floor and launch himself down onto my chest.  It might have looked rough and crazy, but I was always protecting him 100% and he trusted me 100%. 

I remember the years of walking with Tyler up on my shoulders.  He loved to see the world from there.  We walked through malls, the York Fair, and the Ocean City Boardwalk.  I even walked an 8 mile fundraiser with him on my shoulders.  I'm so glad I was able to do that for so many years.  I got to hold onto him as long as I could, and he got to see the world taller than anyone else could.

I remember the trips to Ocean City with him.  He loved to be pushed in his stroller along the boardwalk, sipping on a Dumsers milkshake, and watching the people go by.  Sometimes I would enjoy doing this alone with him so I could feel his peace and the peaceful tempo of the ocean.  So rare it was to feel as carefree and normal as I would feel at that time. 

I remember trips to Disney World with him.  It was so fun to watch him giggle as the rides would push him around in his seat.  He would love the Test Track, and Tower of Terror, and Splash Mountain.  At the end of the day he would bust a gut laughing at the booms of the firework displays. Best of all, we all got to spend quality time with him...something that we will never forget.

I also remember so many little things....the walks, playing basketball, him jumping into the pool into my arms, blowing bubbles, or just laughing at something silly I did for his amusement.

Every positive memory of these 28 years will be cherished forever.  Here is to you, my son, who I have loved with all of my heart since before you were born.  May you have good health and peace for the next 28 years and beyond.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Tyler Update

Some months ago Tyler's Neurologist informed us that he would no longer be able to keep Tyler as a patient.  This did not really come as a surprise to us since the doctor was a pediatric doctor and was not supposed to keep him once he became an adult.  Dr. G had had Tyler for about 15 years when he was supposed to give him up, but because we had all grown so close, he wanted to keep Tyler until he was forced by his group to do so.  We were saddened by the news, but we had an additional 5 years with him that we shouldn't really have had.  We moved on to a doctor closer to home, and one that works well with Tyler's psychiatrist.  

Here is where it gets tricky...I'm glad now that it happened.  Dr. G was an amazing friend and advocate for Tyler, so there is certainly no reason to regret a moment of that relationship.  BUT, his new doctor has a different approach to medications which may be key in moving Tyler in a better position for the long run.  As soon as we started to see the new doctor, he wanted to get Tyler off of Dilantin.  Tyler has been on Dilantin to repress seizures for nearly a quarter century.  Unfortunately, Dilantin is known to have long-term side effects that we believe we are seeing over the last couple of years.  We feel that this was the time to take a calculated risk and see if we can bring him down off of it.

Comfort level is a funny thing in our special needs world.  On one hand, it provides a lot of what a special family needs.  There are tons of benefits to a doctor knowing your child over a long period of time, and taking a personal interest in their care is a rare and wonderful thing.  But there have been times where it allowed us to be content and more hesitant to try to make changes, and that has significant downside too.  I think I was guilty of this when looking back.  

When Dr. G told us we had to part ways, things were pretty upside-down anyway.  Tyler was struggling with behaviors, I was struggling with the psychiatrist's office, and things in generally had gone to crap.  It turned out to be the perfect time to decide to shake things up.  Now we are trying a bit of a new path.  Its not to suggest that the old path was wrong, its just a different methodology.

As for Tyler, he is nearly off of the Dilantin and so far (knocking on wood) he hasn't showed any ill effects.  We decided to ween him down VERY slowly, and to do tests before, during, and after the change to make sure his body didn't suddenly want to jump back into the seizures again.  Its still a risk, even though we have taken as much consideration as we can.  We saw him yesterday and the smiles were there and he looked healthy.

Please take heed from the lesson I am learning through this, getting into a comfort zone is GREAT, but make sure there are still other influences pulling you to keep stepping out of it once in a while.  

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Our Hypocrisy

Let us not forget that our children hear everything we say.  Whether they are "typical" or "special needs", they hear our words and feel our tone.  They look to us to guide them into a very big and very scary world.  They look to us to teach them right from wrong and to show us how to treat one another.

Let us not forget that our children watch every move we make.  Whether they are "typical" or "special needs", they watch our body language and they feel our vibes.  They look to us on how to make peace in a world that continues to offer little comfort.  They look to us to teach them that strength of character is what heroes are made of.  Instead...we give them this:

We tell them that human life is important, and yet we accept that human trafficking is thriving in the US.  We accept that opioid addiction is crushing people in every community.  We accept that veterans are killing themselves every single day.  We accept that our teachers are forced to spend their own money on supplies.  We accept that mental heath care is failing miserably.  We accept that millions of people live without insurance, health care, and the medication that they desperately need.  We accept that millions of people in our country do not have adequate food.  We accept that our actions are contributing to the death of our own planet.

Instead, our children watch us destroy one another.  They watch us as we mock one another. They hear us call each other demeaning names.  They watch our elected leaders act like petulant children.  They watch the bullying and shaming on Twitter.  They play video games depicting first-person-shooter scenarios beyond their emotional capabilities.  They are inundated with conflict, and more conflict, and still more conflict.  Respect is an afterthought.  Kindness and humility are treated as weaknesses.  Authority is questioned and cut down.

And then we look them in the eye and tell them to "do the right thing".  

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Tale of 2 Pastors

I wanted to write about 2 very influential people currently in my life.  It just so happens that they are both terrific men, and Pastors.  Our relationships are very different, and yet both of them help to give me a sense of purpose and hope, especially when I feel down and troubled.

The first is the new Pastor at our church, John.  The first thing that drew me to John was his humility.  John is a very smart man, which I would learn quickly by speaking with him, but what came straight through to me from our first handshake was his warmth and his humble nature.  His demeanor immediately said "I am here to serve God, and I am here to serve you unconditionally as your Pastor".  What a wonderful feeling to get.  His messages are meant from EVERYONE.  There is no underlying worldly message of church politics, or world politics, but rather that we are meant to rise above that.  I take pride in running the audio/video board for him because I want his service to be smooth and perfect for him.  Despite the fact that we rarely (ok...never) have a flawless service, we have fun laughing at our misfortunes and swearing to get it right next time.  But isn't that what we should be about in every part of our lives?  We did our best, we brought a great message to others, we had our flaws, we embraced as friends and relished in our victories and defeats, and we vowed to try harder tomorrow.  I'm blessed to have him as a Pastor and friend.  Tyler is blessed to have him as his Pastor and friend as well.

The second is my friend Rene.  Rene works at one of our work locations, so I get to see him quite frequently.  Rene was special to me from my first day with the company.  When I walked into work for the first time, I could feel the eyes upon me.  The folks working there have incredibly long tenure, and I figured they would snicker and wonder who the new guy was.  It was a little nerve-racking.  I made my way around the shop and came across Rene.  He welcomed me with a handshake and a hug.  A HUG.  At that moment something in me changed.  I felt myself relax and take a breath.  Only through subsequent conversations would I find out that Rene is a Pastor who travels and delivers his messages in different venues and different ways.  I would also find out that we are probably polar opposites where it comes to social issues, which makes absolutely no difference to either of us.  Each day I see him we embrace and spend a few moments checking up on each other.  Its one of the most meaningful parts of my day.  

Being able to take care of Tyler's needs is an effort made by an entire village of people.  Those people, in order to give their best for him, have to feel a sense of love in their own lives.  The people around them are instrumental in doing that.  When I begin feeling a loss of hope, I need to have people around me who can keep my heart whole.  Its important for us to have family, neighbors, coworkers, and church members who have that ability to lift us up.  Many of those people don't realize it, but even the small acts of love and kindness makes us better at serving Tyler.  Without so many of those individuals, our story would be much different today than what it is.

So remember, when you are reaching out to someone in your own way, you may unknowingly be a part of their story.  You may be part of their village that is essential to keeping them going every day.  You may be the handshake, message, or hug that they look forward to.  They may need you more than you know.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

My Walk With Tyler Announcement

Good Morning!

I am very excited to announce that My Walk With Tyler is now completely transitioned to my personal ownership and will be continuing on without interruption. 

This promises to be an exciting year as the website has continued to pick up steam, and our book is being sculpted and refined. 

As always, I want to thank the readers for their interest in Tyler's story.  The support I hear for the stories, thoughts, and feelings expressed on our posts has been nothing short of overwhelming.  I remember being excited to hit 100 views and that somebody from as far away as Canada actually cared to read about it.  I figured maybe they were looking for a website about the character of Tyler from the walking dead, and accidentally found our site.  Now we are quickly approaching 62,000 views from more countries than I can remember.  I still haven't seen any views from Antarctica which is especially disappointing.  If you know anyone there, please ask them to log in.  And then gently advise them that there are areas of the world where you can live and NOT freeze your extremities. 

Most of all, Tyler, I owe all of this to you.  Without your inspiration and bravery I would have nothing so perfect to write about.  I dedicate every word to you my friend, my son.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone

Back in 1996 Paula Cole recorded the song "where have all the Cowboys gone".  The tune was catchy and I remember liking it for that reason.  She says in part "where is my John Wayne?" as she ponders where the real heroes have gone.  Unfortunately in 2020 the landscape has only gotten worse.

"Where is my Marlboro Man, where is his shining gun?".  She is asking where men of principle have gone.  This week I found myself asking the same questions.

Self interest is not a new concept.  As early as Revolutionary War times there were people who were more concerned with their own affairs than the common good.  But even as recently as the 20th century we seemed to understand that while those selfish parties existed, those on the side of good and right would always prevail.  The tv shows always ended with the moral lesson.  The wrestling match always ended with the baby face winning the big match.  Batman always found a way out of the impossible trap to get the bad guy.

We no longer live in that world.  Where self interest was the stuff of villains, it is now an acceptable and embraced practice.  We celebrate infidelity on Maury.  We celebrate promiscuity on the Bachelor.  We celebrate lies and deceit in our leaders.  We celebrate violence in defense of weapons.  We celebrate walls, and violence, and death.  We used to celebrate the common man when he stood up for a weaker person.  This type of person was a hero....a John Wayne.

Paula was looking for men of integrity.  She was looking for men who would stand up for what was right, and never sell out to personal interests.  We have to look within ourselves and ask why we aren't being that person anymore.  We have to ask ourselves why we aren't demanding that morality and common goodness from our daily lives.

So the question still stands up 25 years later....where have all the heroes gone?

Monday, January 6, 2020

Lessons from a New Baby

The neighbors who live directly behind us are a wonderful family.  We often swim together, make bonfires, and watch the kids play together.  We are also devoted to each other, always there if the other needs a hand.  We are similar in many ways, and very different in others.  

Like our family, they face challenges that are very unique to them.  With four children, they experience a wide range of physical and emotional demands.  Not only are there individual struggles, but there are always the dynamics of dealing with each other.  With the oldest girl ready to graduate high school, and the youngest only in 6th grade, they are trying to navigate kids in all different stages of development.

In the summer, we found out that they were expecting (rather unexpectedly), child number 5.  I'm not sure how they felt when they got the news, but WE were shocked.  I couldn't imagine at my age being prepared to have another little life in the house.  It made me think about the sleepless nights, doctor bills, and constant vigilance required to have a baby.  

Since the baby came home yesterday, we decided to pay a short visit today to meet her, and to congratulate our dear friends.  We approached the door expecting it to open and hear a mix of children screaming and parents crying, or parents screaming and children crying.  The door opened and there was an instant calm and warmth in the house.  In fact, there was hardly any sound at all.  We were led to the family room where one daughter was laying on the floor, listening to music and doing homework.  The son was happy to welcome us, the oldest daughter was at work, and the ex-youngest daughter was upstairs.  Mom and baby were quietly laying on the couch, and Dad was relaxed in a chair.

After a few minutes it was my turn to hold the baby.  She was wrapped in a blanket that was so soft it felt like I was holding her in a cloud.  Other than a few squeaks and wiggles, she didn't have much to say.  She seemed to like me ok, so I think we will grow to be friends.  Suddenly I had that feeling like when I held Tyler for the first time.  The worries, the doubts, the questions, the uncertainties all fall away when you hold them in your arms.  All you see is pure love and innocence.  Not a single other thing in the world matters.

As I held her I looked around the room.  At that moment I remembered some things that I had been easily forgetting.  The one thing that mattered in that room, was family, and the addition of a new beautiful member to it.  That family shouldn't be consumed by its challenges and flaws, but rather living life in grace and for one another.  No matter what happens outside of that room, the love of family will carry them through.  Faith and family is all that they need every day, and the rest will take care of itself.

Welcome to the world H.G.E.  Its better now that you are here.

Be well and God bless.   Tom