25 March 2008

An open letter to the Michigan Legislature

25 March 2008
Dear Representative Clack,

The Michigan legislature has before it House Bill Number 5912, a bill that would require home-schooled children to be registered with their school districts.

My question is: Why?

The United States was built on the principle of individual freedom, and the State of Michigan has fought, from its very inception, to maintain the independence of its citizens from government interference. We, the citizens of the state of Michigan don’t like government intervention unless we can see good reason for it. Have we forgotten young Governor Mason, deposed briefly by federal intervention for purposes of political expedience, who was re-elected in a landslide in a protest by the people of Michigan who, on the same day, voted for the constitution which serves our state so well?

It alarms me that the state legislature now intends to require home-schooled children to be registered with the government, a principle that flies in the face of the freedom of the citizens of this state and can serve no purpose useful enough to justify this violation of citizen autonomy.

For every tale of woe about an irresponsible family who neglects their children by failing to educate them, there are a thousand such tales of publicly educated children in our state who enter high-school without basic literacy skills. For every story about an abusive family who keeps their children home to hide their abuse, there are hundreds of stories of children whose abuse is discovered only when the child is killed, though teachers had reported the evidence to child protective services.

Those families who neglect their children's education would not be more readily identified simply by registering them with their school districts, but the education of those children whose welfare has already been entrusted to the public school system of the state of Michigan will be threatened by the addition of one more burden on the local school districts, already understaffed and struggling with inadequate funding. While home-education will continue successfully, as it always has, the already burdened state system will have the increased workload of registering its home-educators and their students.

There is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Michigan is broken. Registration of home-educators achieves no end useful enough to justify this intrusion into the privacy of home-educating families, nor the further assault on the resources available to educate the children entrusted to the public schools. As a home-educator, I can assure you that government registration can represent a significant barrier to home-educating families who may consider moving to Michigan. Home-educators tend to be"can do" people, people who see a problem and work toward a solution rather than waiting for the government to fix it. This is the very sort of people Michigan needs to make its way back from the brink of economic disaster.

Surely there can be no fruitful end to an endeavor that would burden an already under-funded system with useless information, and present one more barrier for the kind of autonomous, enterprising families we need so badly in our state in these difficult times.

Please reconsider your co-sponsorship of this bill that flies in the face of our freedom and adds to the already substantial burden that the people of the State of Michigan bear in these difficult times

Misti Anslin Delaney
Parent Educator

To my readers: please feel free to take this letter, make it your own and send it to your own Michigan representative. I will sending paper letter to Lansing tomorrow.

Representative Brenda Clack is the major sponsor of this bill.
Rep. Brenda Clack
N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514


CO-SPONSORS OF H.B. 5912 are:
(There are 24, you might want to select those who represent you.)

Joan Bauer: 517-373-0826, joanbauer@house.mi.gov
Bob Constan: 517-373-0849, bobconstan@house.mi.gov
Marc Corriveau: 517-373-3816, marccorriveau@house.mi.gov
Robert Dean: 517-373-2668, robertdean@house.mi.gov
Kate Ebli: 517-373-2617, KateEbli@house.mi.gov
Barbara Farrah: 517-373-0845, barbarafarrah@house.mi.gov
Richard Hammel: 517-373-7557, richardhammel@house.mi.gov
Ted Hammon: 517-373-3906, tedhammon@house.mi.gov
Shanelle Jackson: 517-373-1705, shanellejackson@house.mi.gov
Bert Johnson: 517-373-0144, bertjohnson@house.mi.gov
Robert Jones: 517-373-1785, robertjones@house.mi.gov
Kathleen Law: 517-373-1799, davidlaw@house.mi.gov
Richard LeBlanc: 517-373-2576, richardleblanc@house.mi.gov
Gabe Leland: 517-373-6990, gabeleland@house.mi.gov
Mark Meadows: 517-373-1786, markmeadows@house.mi.gov
Fred Miller: 517-373-0159, fredmiller@house.mi.gov
Gino Polidori: 517-373-0847, ginopolidori@house.mi.gov
Mike Simpson: 517-373-1775, mikesimpson@house.mi.gov
Alma Smith: 517-373-1771, almasmith@house.mi.gov
Virgil Smith: 517-373-0589, virgilsmith@house.mi.gov
Aldo Vagnozzi: 517-373-1793, aldovagnozzi@house.mi.gov
Lisa Wojno: 517-373-2275, lisawojno@house.mi.gov

All of them can also be reached at:

N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Edited to remove Joel Sheltrown, who has officially withdrawn his support for this bill.

24 March 2008

Happy Ostara!

Ostara, the season of new life.

I was so ready -- no, in need of -- this season this year! The dark season was indeed dark for us and we felt our middle age creeping into our bones a little more with every loss. The return of the light brought with it the deepest loss yet.

But now comes the time of new life -- the planting of seeds and the return of song birds. Maybe even eventually some warmth.

We took Jack to a children's Ostara circle on Friday and he absolutely loved it. They meet regularly at the Sabbats, and Jack wants to join them for Beltane as well. He loves circle, and the very idea of a circle aimed at his age, in which it was perfectly OK for him to dance around inside the circle while everyone was participating in their own way was a dream come true! Interestingly, he had been behaving less well in adult circle of late and I noted that when we celebrated at home later, he actually did much better than he has been. I'd have expected the opposite...

Yesterday started with Jack's discovery of a basket of gifts on his place mat. Since we don't usually use the parlour until later in the day, that took some time. He was pleased to find a CD of Mozart and another of Beethoven, and a Mary Pope Osborn novel (Dinosaurs before Dinner). A little more digging revealed not one, not two, but three dinosaurs! He played his CDs and read the first chapter of the book -- but the title of the second chapter was "Monsters", so he thinks maybe he needs company to read the second
chapter. He has a lot of trouble with books that have much emotional intensity.

As an example, _Five Run Away Together_ by Enid Blyton had to be out away for another time because the The Stick family was just so abusive that he couldn't take it!

Anyway, the chapter called Monsters in this latest find suggested that it might be scary, so we'll read it together.

Eventually he spotted his first hidden (plastic) egg -- and then the day became a flurry of egg-spotting. I didn't hide them very carefully this time -- next time, I think I will. Jack had found all of them within an hour and he ate all the chocolate as he found them. Needless to say, we needed a kite string on his ankle to make it through the rest of the day!

Later in the afternoon, Grandpa John came over and we had our Ostara celebration -- a very perfunctory circle, the work of which was planting our seeds for this year. I got a couple of things planted, but I also spent a lot of time helping Jack with his seeds and helping the guys get the balance of soil and "plant baby food" right. It's not that finely detailed a process, but if you didn't invent it, I guess it's a little weird.

After dinner, we chatted a while, but we were all feeling pretty sleepy so John left early. After a couple of hours, we started to feel more awake and we went off to hang out with Shelley for a while and then we came home and finished up our planting project.

In the end, we got 75 containers planted. A good start. We'll put the carrots and other things that don't want to be transplanted in after the snow has melted.

Edited to add: not all of those plants will go in our own garden. Some are also for friends.

Between the company, the circle, and the seeds, I am feeling more alive today than I have in some time.

18 March 2008


It's a cold grey day here in Ypsilanti. That seems suitable, given the incredible sadness of the day.

I woke up to the sound of the phone in the dark .. .that's never good.

It was my dear friend, Shelley. Her beloved Al had died in his sleep. The poor kid was in shock. I immediately went to her. I can't make it better, but I can be there. That's all anyone can do.

It's been a hard day.

Al was larger than life. A storyteller of the first order, a musician with a voice like velvet, and a world class curmudgeon. A visit with him was always extremely entertaining, and reading one of his blistering essays in the newspaper or in an e-mail always left me in awe of his talent with the language. It's so hard, even though I saw them take his body away, for me to realize that Al won't be over for dinner next week. Al will never be over for dinner again. It's hard to understand, but it's also deeply sad. The world is a poorer place without Al.

The service is Thursday. I usually officiate at a funeral about once a year. This is the last one I could have foreseen and the certainly last one I would have wanted to have to do. But I will -- for Al, and for my dear, sweet Shelley. I wish it wasn't time yet -- but I am honoured to be asked.

15 March 2008

Welcome to my Fantasy

*grin* just being silly...
Posted by Picasa

Dinosaurs Boy and the collection of facts

Jack has become quite an expert on dinosaurs. He reads about them, memorizes facts about each dinosaur, its era, and its relationship to others of the same era.
I have no idea of the accuracy of his facts, because, I am embarrassed to admit, I couldn't care less about dinosaurs. For his sake, I wish I could -- but I have tried and the details simply won't stick. Probably because I am too lazy to really invest the effort required.

Rod, on the other hand, while he doesn't really care much more about dinosaurs than I do, has managed to memorize enough to assure me that Jack is right in most cases. (And to remind Jack when he gets one wrong.)

I am very pleased to see Jack making the effort, and while I can't really get enthused about dinosaurs, I encourage him ... and I am observing what seems to work for him as learning tools. He has plastic models of dinosaurs, flash cards, and encyclopedias of dinosaurs. He seems to really use them all together, and he plays out scenarios of carnivores attacking -- and also of herbivores defending themselves. (I am amused to note that in Jack's Dinosaur Park, herbivores usually win.)

Anyway, Jack has been almost as fascinated by the Thornton Burgess Animal Book -- which is a story book, but it contains a lot of the same sorts of details about the animals as Jack is memorizing about dinosaurs. When we got to the order carnivora, he was hooked! he knew that word and what it said about members of that order!

When he got excited, I saw my chance to expand on the talents he's developing!

Jack and I have started work on a series of lap books and flash cards about animals that feature in his favorite stories. He adores Wind in the Willows, so we started with water rat, mole, badger and toad. He loves Frog and Toad, so there's frog. And so on. Jack tells me what animals to add and we use the burgess book and wikipedia (and any other page on which we can find the information we need) to collect a whole lot of details on each animal. Order, species, size, diet, etc.
I am printing the flash cards on card stock from my scrapbooking collection, but I need to run out and find a cheap laminator so they will be sturdy enough to be carried everywhere while he's memorizing them. I am also working on getting better with lining up the right picture on the back of the detail page and getting them centered correctly. So far it's worked better to glue the picture on.

So far, as much as he likes to read, Jack seems to be the most proud of "being a scientist" -- and my friend Shelley pointed out that an important message to give kids is that adults don't know everything about everything, either. They, too, can grow up to be scientists who will add to the store of human knowledge. Hey, it seems to have worked -- her oldest daughter is the recently acclaimed Margaret Bakewell. Go ahead -- Google her! *grin*

Anyway, we've been more conscious of giving Jack that message since she mentioned it -- and he really does seem to be fired up by the idea. He's quite clear, though, that children can't be scientists -- an idea we disagree with at every opportunity. We agree that child scientists are unlikely to discover anything no one knew before, but practicing science as a child would seem to be the only way anyone ever did discover anything new as an adult!

You know -- I love homeschooling!

08 March 2008

Apologies to all...

We are still on the search for the right thyroid dose. In pursuit of that, I have been on a dose that tests "perfect" and leaves me utterly exhausted for several weeks now. I saw an endocrinologist this week and she has changed my dosage around again, so I have high hopes for feeling better soon.

But in the meanwhile, just getting through my day has been an utter nightmare. Getting the energy together to figure out what to blog about and then doping it has been harder still. (No one want to read whinging, after all.)

Things I'd be blogging about if I had the energy:

Jack has developed an obsession with dinosaurs. He owns several books about dinos and several more encyclopedias of dinosaurs and can tell you the habits, diets, eras, and prey or predators of more dinosaurs than I can count. I am happy to see him collecting information, I know that dinosaurs are a common obsession with little boys...and I wish it were a topic with which I could share his obsession. Oh well.

Jack recently got stuck in a bedtime reading rut -- he wanted to alternate one Bobbsey Twins novel then one Box Car Children novel and then again. At first that was ok with me because the books were interesting. (I started out with the original Bobbsey twins rather than the modern bowdlerizations.) As with all serials, though, they quickly got repetitive and began to strike me as twaddle. Rather than rule them out entirely, I have told Jack that he is welcome to read them for himself, but I am no longer including them in the bedtime routine.

That opened the door for us to discover an author, Thornton Burgess, whom we are enjoying very much! The stories are fairly simple, but they contain a great deal of information about animals
that add a lot to our "noticing". Right now, we're reading The Burgess Animal Book for Children which is "school" for Peter Rabbit, Jumper the Hare, and their friends and neighbors, with Old Mother Nature (or Old Mother, when we read it) teaching them for a few minutes every morning all about themselves and their friends and relatives. The pace is just right, with a few facts about one or two related animals per chapter. We are pleased to be sitting in on 'old mother's' school for animals, and I am very pleased with the impression of school as something one does for a few minutes at a time every day. It's a good introduction for when we start "doing school" more in earnest in a year or two. I plan to add The Burgess Seashore Book for Children and The Burgess Bird Book for Children to our curriculum, and if Jack is interested, Burgess wrote dozens more books about specific animals.

On my own time, I have been reading Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think And What We Can Do About It by Jane M. Healy. It's a fascinating book, but i don't currently have the brainpower to summarize it, so I've lifted this summary from Amazon -- it sums it up nicely.
"Healy's basic premise in this book is that human minds undergo actual physical changes with external stimuli, with different kinds of learning and stimuli producing different effects. She also attempts to show that while the human mind is pretty plastic, it is not infinitely so in that some physical characteristics of the brain are more or less fixed by the time the child reaches adolescence."
I have also been making a concerted effort to do more crafting, since I feel a lot happier and more grounded when I do.

Oh, and my seeds and supplements have arrived and I am now officially "waiting for spring". ;)

I hope to actually be coherent sometime soon. Thanks for your patience, my friends.

03 March 2008

I did it!

After all these months, I managed to walk today! I have lost an astonishing amount of fitness..I had been walking 2.2 miles every afternoon in addition to the 1/2 mile to and from my car, but today I was only able to walk 9/5 of a mile. The last two circuits wre just too much. Part of it was that I got too hot (a velvet blouse on the fourth floor --ugh) and part was that my feet hurt (I wasnm't wearing waslking shoes and the stiff "dress" shoes started to pinch afteyr a while) but the important part is, I DID it!

I'm happy.

I'm back!!

Well, I am home and feeling much better!!

Thank you, all of you, for the support you have shown for myself and my family. Not long after word got out that I was in hospital, I started to improve at a remarkable rate. The flood of support for us has been truly amazing and really wonderful. Of course, having some very talented healers in our circle of friends, and a bunch of fervent prayers in our family and wider circle of friends, helps a bunch too!!

Misti has been a tower of strength through all of this, to the point that she is now pretty thoroughly worn out. In many ways, this weekend was harder on her than on me. She not only had me to fret over and Jack to look after, but she had to deal with her own angst and keep everybody posted. She works like a trojan, does my Misti, I am very lucky to have her as my wife.

Jack has been truly remarkable. His behaviour has been exemplary and, as boring as hospital is, he didn't want to be anywhere else. His dad was sick and he was going to be there until I came home.

I think it has helped that Jack has been with us when visiting hospital as some of our closest friends have had major crises, and we have, as a family, done what we can to see them through. Hospital is not his favorite place to be, but it doesn't phase him.

We operate as a family unit. We stand by each other, we support each other, and we do the hard yards when they need to be done. That's the way Jack sees the world, and I am impressed a the depth with which he has internalized it all. It has taken its toll emotionally, though. I think he'll need a couple of days of no-pressure-at-all to just unwind and be "nearly 5" again.

So, the whole story from my perspective, goes something like this...

I had been fatigued for a couple of days, and figured I was fighting off a cold or some other undesirable bug (the only reason this is important is that Jack insists that the afternoon's events sparked the evening event). I was clearing the driveway of snow, and it had taken a l lot more effort than it usually does. I uncovered some "black ice" on the concrete which, of course, looks just like the concrete.

I slipped on the ice and landed hard. I had bruised my rib by falling on my arm, but thankfully I had the presence of mind to throw the shovel away from me. I didn't think too much of it, but it unsettled Jack, who was standing on the porch waiting for me to be able to shut the gate (which is another story).

I finished the driveway off (which totals about 1200 sq feet) and proceeded to free the gate, which had been frozen in place all winter under about 8 inches of accumulated ice.

I was pretty wiped out, so when Misti arrived home a little while later, I wasn't up for cooking dinner. We eventually went out to a familiar restaurant for a familiar meal.

As we arrived home after dinner, I became aware that I was "coming down with something". I had that nasty chill that often portends a raging fever.

There was no doubt in my mind I was sick, and while I had been off color for a couple of days, this hit like a ton of bricks.

Misti grabbed a large thick blanket for me and I lay under it (and my regular blanket) for at least an hour and a half shivering hard enough to shake the bed.

During this time, my breathing became increasingly difficult, and I developed a rattling wheeze. My lungs have been compromised for many years, so I am accustomed to fighting for breath on occasions when I push myself a little harder than usual, but this was quite different.

Misti became concerned, and I suggested a wait-and-see approach, there were a couple of things I hadn't tried yet.
Still fighting for breath and shivering, I put my c-pap on, figuring the extra pressure would open the airways, and the warm, moist air would help things along as well.

The shivering eventually gave way to the expected fever, but I never stopped fighting for breath. The rattling wheeze became worse over time, and the shortness of breath remained.

After giving it a couple of hours, I managed to calm my breathing to a regular, though still very forceful pattern, and any movement at all resulted in 10 minutes of heavy panting, trying to catch up.

It did not improve from there. I figured I probably had pneumonia.

I made it clear to Misti that I was unable to think straight, and not improving at all.

She immediately rang the hospital, and set the wheels of industry in motion - very slow motion as I recall. It seemed to take most-of-forever to get upright, dressed, downstairs, and into the car. Sitting upright required considerable recovery time, as did every other step in the process.

Misti managed to take care of my needs while bundling Jack into the car and preparing everything else for the journey across town. it was snowing and another inch had accumulated on the driveway.

The drive over was slow and somewhat slipery. I thought about pneumonia, and the probable recovery time for that. I thought about the bruised rib and hoped I hadn't done the extremely improbable, and punctured my lung. I thought about the amount of time Misti might have to take off work, and whether or not we'd have to cancel our Australia trip (the cancellation alone would cost 600.00).

We arrived at the hospital and they ruled out pneumonia or any other form of lung trouble with a chest ex-ray. At that point I began to really be concerned, because anything else I could think of was really serious.

They gave me oxygen, which helped a lot, and a breathing treatment, which helped further. However as soon as it was removed, my blood oxygen dropped and breathing difficulty returned, though it was nowhere near as severe as before.

They then ruled out out blood clot in the lung, which required a CT scan. Next on their list was heart disease, which required a longer time to test. At that point, I was admitted to hospital, and Misti and Jack finally went home.

Of course, I am a substantial guy, (and at 4 am in distress, I look pretty unkempt and disreputable) and the first thing anyone else thinks of is heart disease. I know my heart to be strong and healthy, so heart attack is never high on my list of probable causes, but "atypical chest pain" nevertheless turned up front-and-center on my admission papers.

Once they had ruled out heart disease, the remaining possibility, was laryngal spasm, the type of thing associated with anaphylactic shock.

We hadn't considered this because there had been no obvious cause, and I have no history of anaphylaxis at all, but the symptoms did point more clearly to that than to anything else.

We eventually put it down to a cross-contamination. The most likely culprit being the fish I had for dinner being something other than the cod it was advertised to be (there are certain fish I cannot eat), or cross-contaminated with the shellfish (which is abundant in lent, and I can't eat that either).

Anyway, that is the full story, it was a very harrowing time for Misti and Jack, and it was no bunch of roses for me either.

I'm glad that the problem turned out to be something that is largely avoidable. I'm also very glad that my general health hasn't deteriorated further, as I have been working hard at mitigating the damage done by many years of hard living.

Now its time to set about doing those things that only I can do, because I've got a long list of things to accomplish, and none of us can be sure of how much time we have.

Take Care


01 March 2008

He's home!!!

24 hours after this whole scary adventure started, Rod is home.

It turned out not to be his lungs, or his heart -- best guess -- an anaphylactic reaction -- probably from an inadvertent to a known allergen. Rod has known for some years that he's allergic to sea food. He avoids it, but until now the reaction has been unpleasant but not scary. Last night, we went out to dinner, and Rod had fish and chips. Ina restaurant that had an unaccustomed sea-food special on for Lent. Our best guess is that somehow Rod's fish was contaminated by shrimp or crab or...something, either in the batter or in the fryer. If that's the case, then his reaction to sea food is becoming life-threatening.

However, the good news is, Rod is home and doing much better. He still doesn't feel great, but I think a good night's sleep will likely make a difference.

Now, I will let Rod post any details he sees fit. About 24 hours ago, I was starting to think it was past bedtime. I think I'll follow through on that now.

Good night all - -and thank you, everyone, for all the help, support, energy and prayer!

Latest news is that they can find *no* sign of heart problems nor of new lung problems, so they are releasing him today.

Jack and I are on our way over now with Rod's lunch. I hope to come home toting Rod! ;)


A real update

I just got a call from Rod. He's safely ensconced in University of Michigan Hospital room 7127 (he can be called at 734-936-7127).

They have decided that he has had an atypical heart attack. Of course, some clever soul wrote "chest pain" on his chart, and he has never had a moment of chest pain, pressure, or anything of the sort nor did he ever answer that one in the affirmative.

Ah, well, they're watching him closely. That's all I can ask.

Now that he's had some sleep, Rod is bored out of his mind. Calls and visits are very welcome.

Hearing him sound so much like himself has made me feel a little better. But I have a BAD feeling about how soon jack will be willing to sleep.

Not really an update...

This isn't really an update...I haven't heard anything, so I am cleaning the house within an inch of its life.

I'm exhausted and I wouldn't mind sleeping, but Jack has decided that he'll sleep later. When Dad gets home. *sigh* If Rod gets home tonight, I guess that's do-able.

Rod Hospitalized 3/1/2008

Rod was admitted to the University of Michigan hospital this morning, after spending all night undergoing tests in the emergency room.

He has an 'an episode", though the doctors can't define it -- at least not yet. He is finding it extremely hard to breathe and his oxygen level keeps dropping frightening low.

Jack and I were in ER with him from 2am to 9am and we're exhausted, so we'll be asleep for the next several hours. After that, I plan to head back and check on Rod -- our dear friend, Nerida, has offered to take Jack for the afternoon so that he doesn't have to spend any more time at the hospital unless he wants to.

I don't know how to get messages from our home phone, so any messages should be for Rod to get when he gets home. You can try, anyway, in case I am home and awake, but I don't think I will be much, unless this drags on a longer than we're hoping.

Email is better, I can get that when I get home or wake up.

I will also post updates to the here when i get home from the hospital.

I'm scared.