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Short hike with both of my children yesterday – enjoying the same trail used for a few of my latest runs.
19. May 2014 · Comments Off on Today, we told the kids… · Categories: divorce, kids, moving

I wrote this last week, but waited more than a week to publish the post. This post relays a very difficult conversation that was hard to document. It was about the most adult conversation we’ve ever had with our children…


Today was a day I was dreading. My children’s mother and I have decided that we are getting divorced. We have lived together for well over a quarter of a century and have been married for all but nine months of that (but lived together for most of those 9 months). But, we are two adults that have determined that being married is not where we can be any more. The task of telling our adult children was one that needed to occur before the word got out with very many people. They had to hear from us – not friends or other relatives. They certainly couldn’t find out from a change of a facebook status from married to it’s complicated or separated. We had to tell a few people first – a few friends (to keep our sanity), a few relatives (because, in reality, they already knew), and a few co-workers (how to deal with benefits). We had the built-in delay of our youngest living away in college until her summer break, but knew the talk had to come shortly after her arrival home for the summer. We could have talked to them in the house, but 25 years from now, we didn’t want them to have memories of horrible events that took place in their home.

I always hated that house – it’s where my parents told us they were getting divorced.

That just wasn’t an option. So, we decided on a neutral spot, one that held no meaning whatsoever; it was my job to figure out where. I looked at a few different public areas, parks, and ballfields. Since neither of our kids play ball, the ballfield was up there as an option, but the fact that today is Saturday and every ballpark in New England is being used took that one off the table. A public area might work (the food court in our local mall was an option if it was raining), but thought that if all things went wrong that we would all be arrested for creating a scene. So a local park was the best option; I was off to find a suitable location not far from home. One quick drive later, I had the spot selected. This new, small park had an ample parking lot and trails that could be walked to set the stage. I also guessed (correctly) that we would be alone in the park.

We arrived in three separate vehicles – one for their Mom, one for me (their Dad), and one for the two kids. This way, the kids could drive off together and deal with the news without being in a vehicle that one parent was driving home. The logistics were suggested by my therapist, but made the most sense once we thought about them.

We already told the kids that we were selling the house. Living in a huge house, with a huge property to care for, and without the need for living in a town with a great school system (since both had already graduated), meant that the location in town was no longer keeping us here. The huge taxes (mostly for the schools) were not buying us anything as well as the fact that we know almost no one in our town after six years was reason enough to move.

So we walked for a bit, exploring the park. After a 5-minute walk or so, we were pretty much in an area where we could talk – almost at the end of the park trail. She looked at me and gave me the nod to start  – indicating that she wasn’t about to start the conversation. Knowing what needed to be said, I started talking…

So, you know we’ve been having problems for a while, right?

I wasn’t going to mix words. The kids are adults and need to hear the truth. Time to spit it out…

We came to the conclusion that the only solution was for us to get a divorce.

If we were inside, you could have heard a pin drop. But we were outside, birds continued to sing, bees continued to buzz.

Our daughter’s eyes started to water; she turned around and walked about 10 feet away. We were silent. Her brother also remained silent and stood still, processing the information – that is his way. After about two minutes, he turned around and joined his sister, then put his arm around her as only her big brother could do. While this was a difficult time for their mom and I, neither of us could have been more proud of his actions – taking care of his sister as only he knows how to do.

After what seemed like an eternity (probably almost 10 minutes), the two of them turned around to speak to the two of us.

Our daughter had processed the events, cried a bit, then was ready to ask a few questions.

What does this mean for us?

Who have you told?

Where will we live?

The questions were answered, mostly with a we’re not really sure type of answer. Then, as in our normal family way, we ended up with an awkward laugh about something silly which is way easier than crying. The conversation ended up with hugs all around and the kids heading off to get ice cream because, as you know, ice cream fixes everything (short term, that is). Their mom and I hugged as well, glad to have this really important discussion done.

Both kids will be okay, and so will both of us. The next moment that will be tough is when one of us moves out or we sell the house. Big events that make for big memories.

Time to look forward and get the tasks to sell the house done – and time to contact a few realtors.

18. May 2014 · Comments Off on Spending the day in Boston · Categories: Boston, kids, travel · Tags:

Yesterday was a very good day.

Late in the week, we realized that neither of the kids had to work on Saturday. Since their mom was out of town for work, it was a perfect opportunity to spend the day together – a Daddy-kid day as we like to say. I don’t get many of those days anymore, so grab the opportunity when it’s there. The youngest just loves Boston, less than 90 minutes from home, and she heard that the New England Aquarium had several cool new exhibits – penguins, refurbished coral in the main tank, and . We set the plan in motion, leaving around 9:30 (at least that was the schedule), and headed to the MBTA Riverside Station after a quick stop at our local Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast.

Riding the T (MBTA) is the best way to get into the city. Parking is about 12 miles from the city, only $6 for the day, and you can get practically anywhere in Boston for a $5 round trip per person. You cannot park anywhere in the city for the $21 we spent for parking and the T tickets, and you have to deal with Boston streets (terrible), getting lost, and hoping your car is in one piece when you find it. Then there is the traffic out of the city. Taking the T is a much better route. One of the stops that we could have used to get close to the aquarium is shut down for major reconstruction, so we couldn’t get close but couldn’t have asked for a better day as far as the weather was concerned.

The day was supposed to be at least partially a washout, with a chance of rain through at least 11 AM. By the time we got to the Riverside parking lot, the temps were in the upper 60s and the sun was out. It was a spectacular day to be walking around Boston! We parked and purchased a single, $20 ride pass for the T to share, and waited about 5 minutes for the next train to arrive. On weekends, there is plenty of parking in the T lots unless you are late and there is a home Red Sox game starting within a few hours of your arrival. 40 or so minutes later, we ended up at Park Street Station, about 3/4ths of a mile from the aquarium. We could have switched trains and ended up close to the aquarium, but opted to walk on this gorgeous day.

When you arrive at the aquarium, there is an external tent used for ticket sales, then a harbor seal exhibit between that tent and the front door. While it is nice to watch the two seals, the real show is inside. If you get a chance to go to Boston, the aquarium isn’t to be missed.

We left to grab a bite to eat, at Granery Tavern on Milk Street. The chicken, avocado salsa, lime aioli sandwich was fantastic – and the Sam Adams Summer Ale was the perfect beverage to accompany the meal. A chipotle mayo served to my son for his burger was the perfect dipping sauce for the homemade potato chips.

We headed back to the aquarium to finish our tour and even saw a little creature that showed off their fantastic, natural light show. We knew that a trip to Mike’s Pastry shop, for a box of goodies to take home, was the only way to end our day trip to Boston. A quick walk back to Park Street Station and we headed home with many Red Sox fans exiting the T near Fenway (making a crowded outbound train, then nearly empty train).

The weather, food and sites, no matter how good, fell far short of being the best thing about yesterday. Just getting to spend the whole day with my adult children was by far the best thing about the day!

The kids behind the New England Aquarium

The kids behind the New England Aquarium

Chicken sandwich with lime aioli and avocado.

Chicken sandwich with lime aioli and avocado.

Strange creatures, fascinating to watch

Strange creatures, fascinating to watch

Mike's Pastry

Mike’s Pastry – the perfect end to a Boston trip!


30. March 2014 · Comments Off on A long distance trip to the ER · Categories: hotel, kids, Maine

My youngest child has been fighting what we thought was the flu or mono this week. She has visited the health center on her campus on Wednesday where they did a test for the flu and a test for mono. Both came back negative. She was feeling somewhat better on Thursday a evening and on Friday during the day (her birthday). But overnight Friday, things turned worse. She was nauseous and had a spiking fever. She had symptoms of appendicitis (he lower pain) and hadn’t been able to keep anything down since early Friday morning.

Early Saturday morning, she called me and was texting her mom – both of us convinced her to head to a walk-in clinic and not wait any longer. They ran another flu test (again negative), and said that any further tests needed her to visit the ER. So I packed an overnight bag and headed the 3 1/2 hours north to meet her at the ER.

After a fairly short wait, they hooked her up to a saline drip and had the doc run through the initial questions to form an opinion. His opinion was that it was Mesenteric lymphadenitis – basically a viral infection causing the lymph nodes to swell. I wasn’t overly impressed with the care she received and probably should have been more vocal. It’s a fine line to cross, although I did ask a ton of questions via her mom who was consulting with doctors at her conference.

2 liters of fluid later and she headed home. We went out to get some food since she was starving and to the grocery store to get Gatorade and water for her. Then, off to an early bedtime in the hotel. There was no way she wanted to head back to the dorm.

This morning, she was still feeling like crap, her eyes are swollen, and nauseous. So we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the ER where we are currently. The initial diagnosis is mono, so they are running that and a few more tests to rule out anything serious. At least she’s in good hands now.

After leaving here, we will head back to her dorm room and get a couple of things before heading back home. It’ll be up to her mom or brother to bring her back up after recuperation for a few days.

There are times like this that make me very glad that she goes to school only a few hours away from home!

We currently have three vehicles in the house. My wife’s Audi, my Toyota, and an old Chevy Tahoe. We also have four drivers that are all employed and none of those jobs are in town. The Audi is a very fast sports car. My wife lets the kids drive it far more than I like, but that is only because it is easy to go very fast and unknowingly be going way faster than you realize. This car also takes premium fuel, at least 92 octane, so is more expensive to drive than mine.

My car is a Toyota Camry, and is a hybrid. It’s just over five years old and passed 100,000 miles this week. I have tried to keep up with the maintenance but it’s a bit tough with my work schedule. I religiously change the oil every 5,000 miles and have gone to using synthetic oil over the past two oil changes. I plan on driving this car into the ground someday, or until I have to spend $3,800 to replace the batteries according to current costs. My mileage varies, but is never less than 28 miles per gallon (MPG) when I run only highway miles, with air conditioning running full time. Typically, I get a bit over 33 MPG on average, better if I run with no A/C and drive more back roads at 45 than on the highway at 70+. Last May, I was driving and was hit by another driver. Damages were a bit over $11,000; it should have been totalled. The other driver was at fault and her insurance paid the entire claim.

The last vehicle we have is a 2001 Chevy Tahoe. We purchased this in late 2001 from CarMax in Richmond. It has only 6,000 miles on it back then and we now have about 160,000 miles showing on the odometer. It has been in three accidents and a few close scrapes. My wife was driving in the first two accidents, and both times the other driver was at fault. The third accident was very minor and caused the ding in the hood and front bumper, but shook up my youngest quite a bit (first accidents do that). The truck also has a sometimes works, most of the time doesn’t work gas gauge. So, you just count on the odometer to know that if you’ve driven more than 200 miles, you should be thinking about refueling. More than 250 miles, it better be filled soon. Last night, the driver’s side window decided to not go back up. So, it’s currently parked in the garage, awaiting my attacking the window to figure out what is needed to get it back up. Based on what I saw on YouTube, it’s likely a $150 part and a good bit of labor to repair. Since we are selling this as soon as we can, it’s basically money down the drain.

So we are on the hunt for two new vehicles and the quest to sell another. One is for my son and will be his purchase, not mine. When he finally locates the Subaru Imprezza that meets his financial restrictions and is a descent car, he’ll purchase it. The other vehicle has become my task to find and acquire. I will hit a few lots today to see what I can find. Then, we will need to find a buyer for the beat up Tahoe. At least the engine is in excellent shape if people can look past the cosmetic damage.

Time to play mechanic and tear apart the Tahoe’s door. Unlike many guys, I dread tearing into any vehicle.

Coloring Easter eggs is always fun in our home. Nothing too elegant, just basic colors with natural dyes. No PAAS in our home!

Coloring Easter eggs is always fun in our home. Nothing too elegant, just basic colors with natural dyes. No PAAS in our home!

Yesterday, I was outside, wearing a short sleeved shirt while washing the car. It was simply lovely. Since my office is closed on Good Friday, I had the opportunity to go run a few miles wearing shorts and one long sleeved shirt. This morning is Easter and the sunrise was spectacular but we’re expecting rain later. Both kids are home all day, with my daughter heading back to school early in the morning. Even my mother in law will be here for Easter dinner and, later, a short stint with her taxes.

For the record, I hate doing my own taxes. Why in the world would I ever volunteer to do hers? Just a sucker that is trying to be a good son in law I suppose. Federal taxes for both of us, Connecticut and Massachusetts taxes for us, then Connecticut and Georgia taxes for Connie. I’m not sure how I thought this was ever a good thing. Every year, there is at least one tax situation that I need to deal with that is both frustrating and scary to me. I’m sure I’ll be audited, although always error on the side of caution so it would be a simple mistake. This year, we sold several mutual funds in a standard investment account to pay off both cars. Since we are both investing heavily in our retirement plans at work, this seemed to be the prudent thing to do. We also have both kids in college so I need to determine what can come from those college expenses. It will be easier next year – at least that’s what I tell myself every year.

Last night, we also celebrated our daughter’s 19th birthday. I’m not exactly sure when 19 years sped on by but she’s still my little girl in so many ways. Two weeks ago, I took her to the airport for her to fly to Tampa and join my wife at a conference (to work). When I said goodbye and watched her negotiate security and head to the gate, I realized that she has grown up into a lovely woman. She still has the eyes of a child in many ways, but has also been witness to so many adult things. She will be happy with life and know that we’ll always be a part of it which makes me a very happy dad!

Happy Easter, happy spring, happy warm weather!

Early this afternoon, while our son was in class at our local community college, a woman called 911 to report that she had seen a man with a gun. Given the recent situation in Newtown just an hour from here, the response was rapid and intense. The campus was put into an immediate lockdown. I hadn’t heard about the situation when I received a text from our son. Needless to say, I was very concerned.

The police from multiple cities descended on the campus and started searching room by room and found, thankfully, nothing. Since Sandy Hook, there isn’t a police force in the country that is making light of any situation. The same can be said about this time. At least the parents can be thankful that such a quick and forceful response was carried out in this case.


Winter has decided to stick around for at least a while longer. Of course, we do live in New England, so it is certainly expected that by mid-February that winter is far from being over. My wife has determined that The Farmer’s Almanac has been spot on for this winter and that we’re scheduled to have a huge late winter storm while she is in Florida in late March. I certainly hope that the Almanac is wrong on this one. At least this morning’s snow is light and under an inch, sure to be gone by mid-day and certainly not sufficient to shovel.

I headed to Boston late on Thursday to pick up my youngest who came home for a long weekend. She’ll head back on Sunday via a classmate that lives near Boston. Using Boston as a point of transfer (via friend or the MBTA / Amtrak system) is significantly more convenient than heading up I-495 and into Maine. It not only saves gas and tolls, but hours of driving. I do love that I get to pick her up more than drop her off. Picking her up is always filled with joy, warm hugs, and a drive that allows us to catch up. Dropping her off is still tough for me, although getting easier as I see that she is happier as time goes on. I should be very glad that she finds home so comforting and desirable as a destination, but know that I need to be the supportive parent that wants to kick her out of the proverbial nest for her own growth and her own good. But, she remains, and always be my baby girl.

Our son started work at a large sporting goods company (outfitter) recently. While he is a full time student at our local community college, he’s been working 20+ hours each week at the store. So far, he is thrilled with what he is doing although finding the life balance a bit challenging. I feel for him, but know that both his mom and I have done the exact same thing and he will figure it all out. I suspect that he will do his best to continue working there for some time after he graduates while waiting for another, more permanent opportunity. I also have no doubt that his employer is thrilled to have him working there – he follows the rules to the letter and goes above and beyond what anyone expects.

One thing that we have noticed this winter, unlike others, is that we have actually taken a few days (or late part of some days) to just, sorry for the pun, chill. We’ve watched a few movies on TV, gone to bed a bit earlier, and even skipped the gym a time or two to sleep in. All in all, we’ve settled into late winter and are ready for spring to come as soon as Mother Nature allows – we’re just not in a hurry this year. And that is a nice change.

Yesterday, a birthday wish was finally granted. Jake wanted to spend the day with me and wanted to go to a firing range. Given that his eventual goal is to become a police officer somewhere, this was a very sensible request. I just wanted to spend some quality time with my son. After weeks of planning and schedule adjustments, we were able to schedule it for yesterday.

We headed north to Manchester Firing Line in Manchester, New Hampshire. I jokingly refer to New Hampshire as “Lawless New Hampshire” based on a former boss’ description of their laws, but know that they are serious about the few laws they do have. After all, any state that dares to use “Live Free or Die” as their state motto surely doesn’t have as many gun laws as other states. This location allows for a single person to rent and shoot a wide variety of guns with a short training course, but doesn’t require it if a second person is with them. After talking with a very knowledgeable sales person (retired police officer) about Jake’s eventual goals, he set us up with a standard issue weapon used by CIA, FBI and many police officers around the country. We rented a Sig Sauer 9MM handgun, then headed into the back through multiple doors used to keep the air clean in the store and the noise contained to the range.

We shot a total of 150 rounds of ammunition, with each clip 13 rounds shot at a different range. While we started at 25 feet, he shot at the target from as far away as 50 feet. The target was pretty much demolished at the end, knowing that almost every round hit somewhere on that piece of paper. We ended up in the member’s area because of availability, so got to see some of the serious weapons that others brought in their own cases. From small handguns to large rifles, we were somewhat shocked that these huge guns were being shot indoors.

Within the same set of 14 stalls, we watched a semi-automatic AK style gun blast the hell out a target by two guys. Another rifle was used with a scope for very accurate shooting at the maximum distance of 60 feet. Yet another small caliber handgun was shot with deadly accuracy at short range, nailing the target that had the outline of a person first in the heart over and over, then in the head for the final rounds. I had to think that this well dressed man was one that should never have problems defending himself. I played it out in my mind that he provided personal protection for a dignitary, or was in a witness protection program and needed personal protection.

On the drive home, we talked about the experience, what Jake’s aspirations are, and how the mechanics of a single action vs. dual action weapon work. After all, we’re guys and we’re geeks to understand the mechanics of whatever we’re working on.

The bottom line is that we spent the day together – a quality, father-son day that we rarely get to do. I will remember this forever and only hope that Jake will as well!

Today is Father’s Day, so I wanted to reflect back on what that means to me. The photo here is from many years ago, taken when we were headed to cut down a Christmas tree in Virginia.

Last night, I learned that a long time friend lost her Dad. Not only was she his baby, but his namesake. Martin became Martie when her parents realized that this was their last child and there were to be no boys to take his exact name. So his name was changed to Martie – close enough to pass on. I haven’t seen Martin in over 30 years, I remember our interactions 35 years ago with clarity. He was tough at first appearance, but only because he wanted you to know that you’d better treat his daughter right. I could never fault him for that! Martie always held her father up with a reverence uncommon in our generation. Having a father pass just hours before Father’s Day must be difficult for her and her sisters.

According to Wikipedia, “Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society.” When I reflect back on my time as a father and the time with my own father, I have somewhat of a different point of view. Without getting into too many details, let’s just say that my experience with my own Dad growing up was a bit strained. In high school, I didn’t get much support from him. I was berated for bad grades with little respect to the enormous course load and course difficulty. At our high school in the late 1970s, we didn’t have course weighting, so an A in home economics was superior to a B in Calculus. My class ranking was only mediocre due to the six math and five science courses taken from 8th – 12th grade. My education, however, was outstanding. Not the same in his eyes.

I had early support during sports, although that wained in the later years as I just kept playing. During college, I had almost zero financial support compared to my four other siblings (I was the middle of five). I think I earned his respect when I not only finished school, but took the time to earn much of the money to complete my education without significant student loans. I’m positive that I am looked at in a much better light now that I’m an adult with a successful marriage, two good kids of my own, and, important to him, a very successful career. My father is in his mid 80’s now, in relatively poor health, and with a woman that is both his landlord and his sometimes boss. She likely has no clue how much she uses him – it’s just the kind of person she is. They were once married, divorced but stayed together, and now simply share an address. He does all that he can to please her with what I can suspect, getting very little in return. If he had only had put forth the same effort with my Mom, he would have enjoyed a much healthier second half of his life.

While I don’t want to slam him for the job he did while I was growing up (and later on), I often compare myself to him in determining my own success as a parent. My two children are as different as night and day and I am probably a very different parent in their eyes as well. So there are no doubts, I just want to state emphatically that I love my children more than anyone knows. It’s not more or less love – just adapted to their polar opposite personalities.

Our son is a late-diagnosed Asperger’s kid who is struggling to find his way. He often escapes into his room and the Internet to help. I don’t understand him most of the time, but do know that he’s still a kid, scared to death of what lies out there. He has no friends that he associates with that are not online, although gets along with others (including his instructors) at school. Once school was over, he really hasn’t been out of the house by himself, other than to shop for some groceries or play taxi for the family. He’s applying for jobs only when he can do so without meeting people (via online applications), and will be very hesitant to meet with someone who calls him in for an interview. I’m sure that the job applications are few and far between due to this fear. To say that our father-son relationship is strained would be a complete understatement. I don’t understand what he’s going through, so I walk softly without saying much for fear of setting him off and starting a fight with his Mom because of something I said that is taken incorrectly. His mother is his real parent most of the time, and the fact that he has let her stay “in”makes me grateful. We know that the best thing for him would be for him to live elsewhere, which should provide him with some respect for how much gets done by others on his behalf today. We’re also very fearful of him living by himself, in continued isolation while the world goes by.

Our daughter is the complete opposite. She is 17, outgoing, with tons of friends and not at all fearful of getting out there and interacting with others. She’s a good student when she applies herself, and is looking forward to college away from home as a fantastic opportunity to meet others and find herself. She has been dating the same boy for 18+ months, although he lives 2 hours to the north. She doesn’t want to think about the fact that this won’t last forever, but is enjoying the moment. I am closer to my daughter than I ever thought possible at 17. I frustrate her, and she frustrates me, but we love each other and respect each other and laugh together often. People often say that it’s easy to tell that she’s my daughter – from brown eyes to dimples and everything in-between. I’m cherishing the time was have before she leaves, fearing the empty house when she does.

So while I had a strained relationship with my father growing up, I have tried to understand and grow from that experience. When I reflect on my job as a father thus far, I’m not sure it’s been any more successful in some ways, yet far superior in others. I guess it would depend on which of my children you ask. I’d tell you that you might want to ask my daughter, but if you ask my son, hope that my grades as a father are done with a weighted grade scale in mind.