Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lions and tigers and bears... oh my!

I have to tell you, Nathan and I are really enjoying Colorado Springs. The weather is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the people are friendly. However, the last few days have made me question whether it is smart to be here without having a tranquilizer gun handy at all times.

On Saturday, we headed up to Denver to explore a little bit. Denver has officially entered itself on my list of cool cities. The downtown has retained all the old buildings and it is very pedestrian friendly. There are parks and funky shops and a pretty chill attitude that I love. The South Platte River runs through the west side of town near the football stadium, basketball arena, and amusement park. We found a spot to cool our feet off in the water and watch people innertubing and kayaking down the little stretch of rapids that curves around to a dammed off section where kids could jump in and swim.Just up from there is the Denver Aquarium where we spent a few hours. I was pretty impressed with the setup there. They have a great variety of fish, sea turtles, sharks, etc., etc. (to be said like Yul Brenner), but then you turn this corner and BLAM! There are three Sumatran tigers only inches away from you licking their chops.

They were absolutely beautiful and completely bored with all of us, thankfully. I did have to chuckle at the woman behind me who was telling her little baby "Look at the kitty cat, sweetie. He says 'Meeeeeow'." Yes, yes, set this child up for almost certain death, why don't you. He might also purr a bit after PICKING YOUR BONES CLEAN!

You might have seen on the news that there is apparently an African lion roaming the hills around the Springs. Or... it could be a big dog. It seems that the media here (as all media tends to do) is just giving the finger to the idea that the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. I'm thinking Sparky dug a hole under the fence and thought to explore a bit, but I'm probably wrong. It's much more likely that a non-native predator from a different hemisphere thought he would just take in the sights and sounds of our lovely hamlet and get a good stretch of the legs. It makes perfect sense.

Lastly, a bear broke into the local Circuit City. According to the Denver news "Authorities said the young adult black bear had become spooked after setting off an alarm at a nearby Fazoli's restaurant." Hey, we've all been there. We're sitting there enjoying our chicken parmesan when the guy comes around to bring us fresh, hot breadsticks and we lose all control of our bodily funtions. I feel the bear's pain. Sometimes Nathan is so worked up that the only thing to do is to take him to Circuit City to check out the deals on the bargain table up front. He gets very serious at that table. The bear was showing rational consumer behavior. In this tough economy, it pays to bargain shop.

Monday, July 7, 2008


This is something I wrote October 26, 2005. It has come to have even greater meaning over the last month.

I hope my readers will not mind if I wax a bit sentimental today. Usually when I think of a hero I have to do research to find out the details of his or her life because I am not intimately connected with my subject. Today is different in that I have known my hero since the day of his birth. He is my little brother.

I am the oldest of four children who happen to be about as good of friends as it is possible for siblings to be. If you were to dissect us, though, there would be a clear division between the oldest three and the youngest. The older three of us have pretty much had an easy ride through life. We have all excelled at school, extracurricular activities, relationships and employment without having to work too hard. For my youngest brother, however, things have been very different.

Simon was born with several challenges. He was deaf in one ear, had a deviated septum, learning disabilities and ADHD. My parents were told that he would require multiple surgeries and have difficulties learning for the rest of his life. It was a scary outlook but one that my parents accepted and devoted themselves to.

As soon as it was possible, Simon starting seeing specialists. He had to train his eyes and brain to function together and this required hours of repetitive exercises. Not only did he do them day in and day out, but he did them with a sense of humor that I envy.

When he started school, Simon struggled as had been expected but his determination and tenacity kept him going. Instead of being held back a year, he spent his summers with tutors working to catch up with the other kids in his class. As hard as he worked, though, it was never enough and eventually he was placed in learning disabled classes.

Instead of feeling down by the situation, Simon thrived. He had amazing teachers that helped him realize that life holds the same opportunities for him that it does for the other students at his school. It was not uncommon that my family would discuss a celebrity and Simon would say, “Did you know he's LD?”. It was said with a sense of pride as if to say “See? We can make it too!”. His attitude is always a reminder that I have no excuse for laziness.

When the No Child Left Behind law was put into effect and our state required passing a standardized test in order to graduate, we were all concerned. The vast majority of students without learning problems had failed this test and the only provision given for LD students was that they would be given extra time. Time was not what Simon needed. He needed to be able understand what was on the page.

Yet again, Simon amazed us. He went to work with a fury and got tutored on each section. He spent hours every evening teaching his brain to think like a standardized test. He ran drills and practiced like a madman. When the day of the exam came, I am sure we all said a prayer for him. He was more confident than we were.

To make a long story short, Simon passed. Now when I hear news stories about state legislators trying to get the test revoked as not enough students are passing I feel a surge of pride. Simon did it. Simon always does it. This year, his senior year, his counselor shared with him that he was now going to be integrated into all regular learning classes. My little brother has overcome the system.

As I type this, I am crying. Simon is the hardest working person I know. He is also one of the most sensitive, funny, and talented people I know. He deserves every good thing that comes his way. When he goes off to college next year to study to be a teacher I will miss him so much. But as much as I will miss him, I wait with anticipation to see what my hero will overcome next.

Simon, as you overcome this latest challenge in your life I want you to know that I know you are bigger and stronger than it is. You are one of my favorite people and I am one of your biggest fans. I love you.