Ups and downs

Things are leveling off a bit in our house, still a lot of ups and downs, but lots of progress. Luca said he had a great day at school yesterday. He had fun on the playground and seems to like his teacher a lot. He still has issue with the architecture but it’s not everybody’s style.

Luca has been sleeping better and even through the night a couple of times, although it isn’t as consistent as it was before my bike trip. We had a couple of flare ups over the weekend which started over nothing. He had a full on tantrum because we didn’t want to turn on the heat. It was too nice out. He got very irate and talked in a disrespectful manner. I tried to get involved and that backfired.

Sunday he had a really good play date with a friend from school. I was happy it was successful. This morning was difficult because he overreacted on two occasions. The first was over a shirt that bothers his neck. We have tried a few times now because it’s a very cool shirt but he just doesn’t feel right in it. We said fine and that I could wear it. That sent him over the edge and rather than let me wear it, he wanted to throw it out. Not sure what the issue is.

Soon after, we put a new collar on our cat and Luca got very upset, yelling at us to take it off. He couldn’t see that she was not being choked. He tends to harp on things like this and he continued the discussion after school. Later that night we removed the collar. Luca 1 Us 0.

Tuesday night was the worst night of sleep of the week. Wednesday night was the best. It’s very hard for all of us to function on such fractured sleep. He was up Tuesday night from 11:30p.m. to 4 a.m. It was brutal. Nightmares apparently and then he was wide awake.

In the morning I let him sleep until 7:30 and then took him to school late by about 15 minutes. He was very agreeable and I was happy he went to school.

I have been working on a brick path for my brother-in-law to match others I have done and it went well. In the studio I have been pleased with the output, painting and silkscreen pretty much simultaneously. I am trying to promote both in the next months by applying to shows.

My hand and wrist are getting better. I have been to acupuncture 3 times now and am seeing results. It’s a trippy process. I have done some electro-acupuncture and that is a really trippy sensation, strong thumping inside my arm.

I have found time to ride my bike and skateboard lately and that really clears my head and makes my mood brighter. We are having summer weather here lately, 75 degrees yesterday, so that helps too.

My nephew Rowan went off to college last Sunday, crazy. We moved here when Rowan was born, 20 years ago.

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Ups and downs

Self Care

Luca’s back to school was pretty rough and you won’t see me hanging a sign around his neck announcing his entry into grade 5. I will however, post a pic in this blog of him with thumbs down and eyes closed. You can try and imagine his anxiety level and sensory overload. They built a brand new school and tore down the old one. The school was delayed opening for a week because of construction strikes.

It is a very cool building in the Northwest Vernacular style of architecture. Two huge shed roof structures connected with hallways, lots of exposed Douglas fir beams and cedar, open, airy…it’s cool. Luca despises it.

I forgot that his idea of what a school should look like is very rigid, brick, block…traditional. This new design is not comfortable for him. I am hoping he eventually grows to appreciate it. We had an incident last Spring in Portland where I booked a super cool, hipster hotel called the Ace. It’s old with regular keys, funky design, murals in the rooms, a hunk of wood as a bedside table, coffee bar and a barber in the lobby. Anyway, not a Days Inn or Hilton. Luca hated it and the mural freaked him out. We had to switch rooms. We ended up leaving Portland a day early. This was all sensory stuff.

But he is learning to be flexible and I hope that helps with school. The afternoon and evening of his first day, Luca was beside himself with anger and negativity. Everyone was an idiot, he hated his classmates, no friends, he hated his teacher’s decorating (super cool by the way, Elvis and Tupac posters!) He shredded his homework, a bag he was supposed to put things in that represented himself, so his class could get to know him.

Imagine a neuro typical scene after the first day of school. Quite different I would guess. The stress level and negativity in the house was a lot to deal with. The morning of day 2 he refused to go to school. There was crying, yelling, threats. He wanted to call 911 so I handed him my phone. I called his bluff and he handed my phone back. A police escort might have been helpful.

We normally would have left at 7:35 a.m. and school starts at 8. By some miracle I got him in the car at 8:20 a.m. (I actually bribed him) We checked in late and I walked him to class. He was incredibly nervous and upset, but he did it. I went back to the office and made them aware of Luca’s autism, his stress, and the fact that he has an iep. “So please find some people to watch him today” was my plea. When I left the school, he was with his teacher from last year, walking to music and looked okay.

After school his mood was better and he wasn’t as negative about it all. Catherine even got him to do his “me bag”, which is a huge accomplishment. He chose his fox stuffed animal, a rubix cube type thing, a funny Donald Trump head that you squeeze real hard, a comic he made for me, can’t remember what else. Anyway, he did his “about me” presentation on Thursday and by all accounts he was amazing. I’m not surprised, he is really good in front of a crowd.

His teacher and another adult in the room told Catherine that he performed exceptionally well. Of course he got sick and missed school Friday! We are planning that he will return tomorrow (Monday) after a weekend of convalescing.

I’ve been battling my own moods lately and had therapy on Friday. Before I go too dark, he suggested I get a b12 shot from Prosper Natural Medicine and also SAM-e pills from the co-op. I did both things and my mood indeed seemed brighter. I also scheduled acupuncture for my hand and a massage.

We shall see if I can lift myself out of this funk. I had a really tough time in the studio this morning and finally abandoned a painting that has been frustrating me. That’s how it goes sometimes. On a good note, I finished a walrus painting earlier in the week that I kind of like. He came pretty easy and I like the results.

I probably should have ridden my bike this weekend, that usually gets me in a good mood. Instead I worked on trimming out the dining room in some better wood. It is a big improvement.

Almost forgot, Luca did an amazing job on Grandpa Bob’s wrapping paper for his Birthday. Really amazing underwater scene. Luca definitely blows my mind with his talents.

Self Care

Welcome Back, Kotter

It has been an interesting week. Tuesday, I was a bit of a wreck. Not much sleep because Luca has been up a lot with anxiety. My ulnar nerve damaged hand still bothering and frustrating me. My ankle hurting from my bike crash. And my right ear was ringing. I fought through the day, promising myself I would take care of my health. I believe I took a nap that day.

Anyway, Tuesday was better. Amazing what a difference a day makes. I have been working on an octagonal patio for some very nice people near my house. I buttoned that up on Wednesday. It is still difficult getting back to that kind of work, but it pays the bills.

Over the holiday weekend we worked on “less preferred activities” for Luca, so he will be more flexible. Going to a neighbor’s party on Sunday was one. He did great. We timed how long we would be there (45 minutes) and I walked him to get a strawberry milk after. On Monday, the less preferred activity was a hike along the Lower Big Quilcene river. He did well on the hike in, got tired on the hike back and kind of fell apart on the ride down the mountain. He was nervous about driving off the road and crashing. This was never an issue before, and I think his heightened anxiety around school and sleep played a role. Anyway, we are laying the groundwork for more family drives and trips.

On Sunday morning I rode bikes with some friends. Felt good to be pedaling again. I have been tinkering with my bikes and put some fatter tires on my 1983 Miyata touring bike. We did mostly trail riding on Sunday.

So the big news for this post are the events from yesterday. I was invited to the Seattle Children’s Autism Center for their “all staff meeting”. It was a welcome back event to thank me for fundraising. I met over thirty people and gave a ten minute talk about my ride. They cheered and applauded several times. It was pretty awesome.

I parked my truck four miles from the Bainbridge Island – Seattle ferry and rode my bike on. I arrived ahead of schedule into Seattle so I found an old building I wanted to see. It is the “Arctic Club Building” from 1914. The Arctic Club was started by the wealthy men who made their money in the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska. The Beaux-arts building is completely faced in multicoloured terracotta glaze and features dozens of walrus head sculptures between every window on the third floor. I really enjoyed admiring and photographing the building. The walrus heads were absolutely fantastic. I was able to get a very close look from a neighboring parking garage.

My ride up to the Autism Center along the Burke-Gilman Trail was very enjoyable. It was a beautiful day and riding along the ship canals is always fun. I ended up with 33 miles on the day.

Welcome Back, Kotter

Sidestep the Funk

I am not great at transitions. Coming home from a vacation, starting a new job, etc. Well, being on the bicycle for 41 days was a huge break from the everyday. I have been transitioning back in phases. First was staying in NY with Luca for nearly ten days, next was coming home to my wife Catherine in the Pacific Northwest. Now I am on the phase where I am back to doing masonry work.

It is not my passion, it is my job, and it provides me and my family with a decent living. But it’s hard work and my body is feeling it. Part of me is glad to have the upper body workout again, without going to the gym. But another part of me knows there is another way for me to make a living.

I am an artist first and foremost. Being an artist makes it difficult to do anything else. I’d rather be creating. I have my silkscreen company, Mikestro Industries and oil painting as outlets. The shirts do quite well at a local store and the feedback on my designs is very positive. It’s the exposure I need to work on, more stores.

Thinking about all these things, sometimes leads to a funk, or a gray cloud as my therapist calls it. Keeping the gray cloud away is a great motivator. When I am active, busy and creative, no gray cloud.

I have been working on this blog post for days, mainly because truly honest writing is harder to put out there. So now it’s Saturday. We had a very hard night with Luca last night. His anxiety about school and being scared in the house is keeping him up at night. It keeps us up as well as he came to our room a dozen times last night.

It’s a tough one and everybody is tired today, things are harder when you’re sleep deprived. Luca found out yesterday that two kids he hates will be in his class. That was the source of his restless night I think. One kid is a bonafide shithead, his parents are assholes too. So now we have to see how that plays out when school starts. And Luca’s school is delayed until September 11th. They built a brand new school but the asphalt union is on strike so there is no legal fire lane yet.

Luca told me he is eager for it to start so he can get in the routine again. I don’t blame him. The other kid he isn’t thrilled to have in his class isn’t so bad. They were friends once, maybe they can be friends again. The shithead kid is a bully and a redneck. I’m going to talk to the teacher about it as soon as school starts so he can keep an eye on it.

I had a productive day at work yesterday, completed half of an octagonal patio. The owners are nice. Felt good to get a lot done.

My visit to physical therapy this week was more of the same, more exercises, still have no strength in my right wrist and my right pinky and ring fingers are numb. I may need a steroid injection.

A little more bitching about the art world…gallery walk is tonight in Port Townsend. It drives me nuts how amateur it all is and what people think is good. I know my stuff is not for the masses but it would be nice if I could have more exposure. I won a jury prize last February in a statewide juried exhibition. That was encouraging. I need to apply to more shows is all.

In happier news, I was invited back to Seattle Children’s Autism Center this Thursday to talk about my ride. They also asked me to write a guest blog post for their website. Should be fun.

Sidestep the Funk

A Sort of Homecoming

That’s a U2 song title by the way. And indeed, it has been a very nice homecoming here in Port Townsend, so many people welcoming me back and congratulating me, feels really good.

My bike arrived on Thursday via UPS. It survived the trip and it was fun to put it together and clean it. Bob Chung of PT Cyclery had me bring it in for a tune up and assessment. His mechanic Gabriel gave it a good prognosis and only had to put on a new chain. Thanks to Bob and PT Cyclery for taking the time with my bike (for free), and charging me practically nothing for the chain.

Friday night we had a party at our house, a welcome home party with lots of friends. It was a very fun night. About an hour before the party I jumped on my single speed bike to go to the Recyclery which is just down the road. As I flew into the first turn, which is fifty feet from my house, I went down hard on my right side. It happened so fast, the rear tire totally slid on me. I rolled my ankle under the bike and people got out of their cars to help me to the curb.

So ironic, I ride 3,436 miles without falling and then crash in front of my house. It was pretty gnarly but I’m healing up.

Saturday night was a big deal in Port Townsend. Modest Mouse played two nights at Fort Worden just a few miles from our house. Modest Mouse is one of my favorite bands so I was incredibly excited. This was my fourth time seeing them. It was a great venue. The band set up in the giant doorway of the old Blimp Hangar. If you ever saw “An Officer and A Gentleman”, the blimp hangar is where Lou Gosset, Jr. fought Richard Gere. Mixed martial arts I believe.

Anyway there is a big lawn in front of the hangar where we set up chairs and blankets. Before the show, a friend messaged me that her husband was working the concert. Turns out he is the manager for Modest Mouse! Amazing guy, gave me all sorts of free stuff, maybe someday I’ll meet the band, not this time though. The show was incredible regardless, and they played some of my favorites.

My nerve damaged fingers are still bothering me. I went to physical therapy and she said with exercises and time it should go back to normal. Kind of frustrating not to have the strength or dexterity. Especially since I go back to work tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

The smoke cleared for now and it was a beautiful day today. Clear blue skies, 70 degrees. I have been painting a bit since I’m back and it feels good. Working on a painting based on a drawing based on a photo I took on the road. I love oil paint.

A Sort of Homecoming

Port Townsend, WA

Wildfires rage on in British Columbia bringing an eerie look to the smoke filled sky. There is an unhealthy haze all around us here, and it is recommended we stay indoors. I watched “Only the Brave” last night with Josh Brolin, the true story of the “Granite Mountain Hotshots”, an elite group of firefighters on the front lines of a massive wildfire in Arizona in 2013. 19 out of the 20 lost their lives trying to stop it. The movie made me think of the heroes that risk their lives while we sit here in our Victorian Seaport and complain about the smoke.

Our flight home two days ago went very well and the family reunion of me, Catherine and Luca could not have been better. I forgot how great our house is, and it was so nice to walk through and remember everything. Catherine went all out with a fully stocked kitchen of all our favorites and we had a lovely steak dinner. My cat Bastet was aloof at first, but she seems to be getting over it. Tallish got a much needed bath.

Catherine had to work Monday so Luca and I did errands and relaxed. I made an appointment at the physical therapist for my “cyclist palsy” hand which isn’t getting better. I also looked at a possible masonry job for September.

Around 5:30 I met my friend Dan Stranahan down at the skatepark. My first skate in six weeks. It felt good, lots of fun, I took it easy and managed to stay on my feet the whole time.

When I got home, Luca was in tears. We took his laptop to the computer store earlier to have a Minecraft Mod installed. In doing that, one of Luca’s most important worlds, “Lufatropolis”, got visibly altered. He was devastated and I don’t blame him as he has worked on it for months.

He managed to find a way to get over it until we could talk to the tech at the store again. It could have been a lot worse and I feel like his self regulation is getting better, even if he referred to the tech as a “fucking idiot”. He took his dinner plate into the living room to be alone and I believe that helped.

Last night Luca woke up and got out of bed around 8 different times from 3 to 4 a.m. His anxiety was through the roof, hearing noises, couldn’t sleep. It’s this part of autism which is hardest. Sleep deprivation for the whole family. And Catherine and I were taking turns tucking him back in.

There is a lot of reassuring, different stuffed animals to sleep with, noise machine, a fan. Finally he went back to sleep, in his own bed. He was up for good around 6:30 this morning. And I was up soon after.

Hopefully he will readjust to our old house and his room and settle back in. I will try and do the same. I am feeling good about being home, not the usual transition problems. Getting up early has its perks, too. I managed to do some weeding and plant Catherine’s new ceanothis. Looking forward to getting my hand assessed tomorrow.

Port Townsend, WA

Back to being a Dad

I have been here in East Islip, Long Island with Luca for a week now. It has been so great to be with him and we have easily picked up where we left off. He is doing an amazing job taking care of himself, self regulating, speaking his mind.

We have a nice balance going between seeing friends, family, outings, barbecues…and downtime. Luca loves the pool and spends a lot of time swimming. He gets along famously with his cousins and I love how they connect even though we live on opposite coasts.

For me personally, spending time at home with my parents and my sister is a lot of fun. Margaret lives two towns over and we see them almost every day. We went to the Skyzone Trampoline Park, had a sleepover, many pool parties and lots of pizza. It’s harder to see my brother as he lives in Westchester, but we all managed to go up there yesterday which was nice.

Luca and I drove to Purchase College beforehand to go to the Neuberger Art Museum. I proposed the idea of a Luca/ Papa outing to see a favorite de Kooning painting and he was all for it.

I have taken him to many museums and he seems to really enjoy looking at art, almost as much as me. One of my favorite things in life is looking at paintings on walls of museums and galleries.

The Neuberger is a small museum with a great collection of mid century American Art, a few Europeans and some African Art. I went there in the mid 90s to see de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Giacometti, small but important paintings by each. “Marilyn Monroe” 1954 by de Kooning is a personal favorite from his “woman” series.

Luca and I had the whole museum to ourselves and it only cost $5 for me, free for Luca. His favorite in the main gallery was Pollock. I impressed him by identifying artists without looking at the labels next to their pictures. I explained how Helen Frankenthaler for example, has a very recognizable style.

There was a special show on Alex Katz called “Brand-New and Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s”. I don’t normally care for Alex Katz but I realized I loved his work from the late fifties. I find the portraits he is known for too slick and flat. These were rougher, more painterly, a nice surprise for me.

The perfect amount of time for Luca in a museum is about an hour, and this museum is just right for that. During that hour, we looked at art, discussed it, admired, critiqued. He didn’t ask to tell me about one of his comics or role play some science fiction characters during our visit. Just me and my boy soaking in some culture, pretty awesome.

In order to test my body for going back to work, I worked on a project to get Mom and Dad’s outdoor shower draining better. I removed the bluestone floor, dug out two wheelbarrows worth of dirt and weeds. Then I lined the bottom with six bags of river stones for drainage. After that I constructed a wood platform to stand on made out of cedar 2 x 4s and decking. Looks good and it works do far! It felt good to do some real work.

Back to being a Dad