Monday, September 1, 2014

First Time for Everything.....

            In the previous three years, Kim and I have several firsts. First phone call. First date. First kiss. Today was another first. We looked at our first house.
            Two weeks ago, this would have never happened so what has changed? Simple. Mom has decided to sell the family home and move on to Metter.
            In my last post, I explained in great detail the whole story. At the end I also recognized it was just a place and I’d be happy anywhere I lived so long as Kim and the kids were there along with the occasional visits from Aunt Mary and Aunt Christine not mention Amy, Kim's sister, who always makes the best cocktails. While, on one hand it sucks, on the other it has been quite freeing. I am amazed at how easily I am adjusting to the idea of not having a home at 2619 Salcedo Ave.
            We rent and have been here for several years. I love my house from the swinging bachelor days when I moved in here five years ago to the quiet family life I have here now over cook outs by the pool. Over the past year or so, Kim has often mentioned the money we’d save if moved somewhere smaller or bought. I’d always balk because I knew the family home was in my future and I didn’t want to get stuck with a house payment and the family property.
            That’s all gone now so I am freed up to look around and not feel tied to anything. And we did. It was pretty exciting.
The New Geeky Hut or maybe stately Rich Manor?
            I had never looked at a house to purchase before. The place is a foreclosure out on the marsh. I’d have a deck with palm trees. There’s a huge fireplace to hold my Star Wars Trash Compactor Book ends and room for Xmas stockings. I pictured myself cooking many pancakes over the island in the kitchen. I already could picture Roni and Jude’s room. I also know where I want the shark head to go.
            I flash forwarded to next summer Raising Arizona style to a scene of us hosting a cookout when the Freenors would arrive along with David Westbrook and his magical recorder. We’d pop a few beers as much shit would be given to me about whatever point Steve and Dave could rib me about. Jeff Doke and family would arrive with their obligatory bottle of rum and his guitar for a little strumming on the deck.
            So are we going to buy this place? I have no idea. It’s a HUD home with much to look at. Yet for the first time, I allowed myself to do just that. Look at something I had not already pre-ordained in my head. And somehow I survived. Lol.
            The reason I am writing this is because I now know I am going to be all right with this unexpected change in my life. I had fun walking around with my wife and trying to plan out in my head how to fit all of our stuff into this new place. I want to do it again and I suspect we will now.
   A couple of days ago, I came across this on Facebook. I don’t really go for all those uplifting expressions and usually reserve my meme watching for something more sarcastic. Yet this one got a hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. I guess someone is trying to tell me something and for once, I am going to listen.

            Well there you go, another first…..I’m getting good at this. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Letting it Go.

           It’s been a rough patch of late and I’ve been having a hard time trying to find my smile and I am finally going to explain why. I haven’t been holding back because I wanted to be dramatic. It’s just been a bit difficult to wrap my brain around how life has been going lately and I wanted to figure out how I felt before I said anything because I know questions are going to follow.
            Thursday a week ago, my mom called me after dinner. I assumed it was to check in and see how things are. She was a former teacher so I unloaded all the drama that comes with going back to school. My mother listened but I quickly realized this was not the reason she called.
            My mother said, “We need to discuss some things that are going on. I can’t maintain where I live any longer so I am selling the property and I’ve going to move to Metter and buy a house there.” Mom went on to explain that this is where her life is and she really feels this is where she needs to be. The conversation took a severe nosedive and ended with my mother hanging up on me because I lost my temper and was screaming at her.
  The property in question is four acres with a marsh view, a deck, and a dock. My grandfather purchased the land for $800 during the Depression and had a small farm out there for some time. By the time I was around, Grandma and Pop had retired and made this tiny 5 room house into a home that to me still rivals any mansion or castle.
 Grandma had a small green house on the front porch where she’d tend to her hundreds of plants. Many had overgrown their pots and were spilling over and a few had even grown to touch the porch ceiling. Every spring their yard would explode in a series of reds, pinks, whites, and yellows from all the azaleas and other flowers Grandma babied.
Easter 1979
My Pop would always be tinkering outside the pump house. If he wasn’t fishing or crabbing, Pop would be in the garden. Often with me in tow because I would be in charge of mowing or weeding. Looking back, I hated every minute of it but I also now seem to have that same Richardson Green Thumb because all that time turned out to be a gardening class with Pop as the headmaster.
After they were gone, my dad and mom would spend all their free time fixing up the place. I’d get a phone call once a weekend because while dad was tinkering on the dock and mom would be laying out getting some sun, they’d see a dolphin or maybe some otters playing on the floating dock. It was always a story and I’d love to hear my father spin them even if it was over a phone cord. Not every bit of my storytelling skill come s from my grandfather, the Big Guy gets some credit too.

After Dad was gone, my friends stepped in to help which was a blessing because all the technical skills jumped a generation from Pop and Dad and all went to Mary, my sister. I stuck to mowing, weeding, and any chainsaw related work. But eventually I got sick, Mary moved away, and life went on as all of us began to start our own lives.
Ten years ago Mom moved in and has pretty much been keeping the place up, remodeling, and trying to make it a home again. She splits her time between the family property and Metter with her boyfriend.

It just got to be too much for her and I want to be very clear here. I understand that. Mom is getting older and living on a very fixed income. That property takes a lot of work and even more money. I get that. I’m not mad at my mom for having to sell our family place. I’m upset at how she went about making the decision but that is something else for me to work out and understand as I go on. 
So that’s where I am at right now. I’ve spent the past week talking with Mary and a few others so I can wrap my head around this. This is what I’ve figured out and pretty much the actual process.
It suxs.                                                                                                    
It suxs much animal genitalia.
It suxs but I am also and adult and so therefore I am just going to have to pull up the ol’ big boy pants and trudge along.
For a few days, I lost much sleep worrying about how Mary and I would come up with the $300,000 to save the property. I scoured the internet reading over rent by owners and even looked at how bed and breakfasts work. Deep down I understood I was clutching at straws even though I refused to acknowledge it.
The few friends I discussed this matter with showed enormous amounts of great support. Gideon helped me look at the business side of it and I actually began to think that maybe, just maybe, I could pull this whole thing off.
Gideon hanging Xmas lights before the Oyster Roast
It wasn’t until my old frat buddy, Jeff Ragsdale talked to me that even clicked and I finally got myself into a place where I could think realistically. For very wacky story I can share about Rags and his past like the time, I can also share how he’s grown into quite the responsible adult and very shrewd businessman.
It was Rags who pointed out the very obvious. “How can you afford to live in that place? All your money will go into maintaining the place and Kim and the kids will end up being miserable because it’s so small.”
Rags & his wife, Maria
I shook my head in a not so willing agreement as I knew my friend was right.  I don’t even hit fifty grand a year and I’m the big bread winner of the family. How could I keep the house and land up without investing not only all my time but also any income that trickles in? This is not even taking into account any of my medical bills; living car payment, regular living expenses and the fact that I have a teen age daughter who seems to believe that anything by Hollister clothes are “an investment.”
Then Rags said it, “Robby, if your dad was still alive, he wouldn’t want you to do this. You are going to put your family at risk and that’s not worth it.”
Ding went a bell.  Rags had just said the words I needed to hear that finally rang inside of my head and I knew where I had to go with this. I have to let this piece of property that has been in Richardson hands for over seventy-seven years go.

And I felt ok.
Actually even though I cried a little bit, I felt relief.
The property has been in my way for years and to be a bit poetic, hanging around my neck like an albatross. Yes, I’ve had a dream for years of living there with Kim, Roni, and Jude. I even pictured Roni and Jude learning how to throw a cast net and catching shrimp like we used to do when I was a kid. I pictured Kim and me sitting on the deck, watching the sunset with drinks in hand. She’d snuggle up to me and maybe nuzzle my ear and say something like, “I love our life here.” I pictured Christmases where Aunt Mary and Christine come to visit and we’d open presents in the living room like Mary and I did when we were younger.
1994 Our last Xmas with Grandma
            Those things already exist just in a different form. Roni and Jude love it when Kim and I pack up the van and hit Tybee for the day lounging on the beach. I get to stare at the surf while the kids attack the beach with their boogie boards. We eat cold fried chicken and everyone always laughs at me as I try to fly my kites very badly.
ROni and Kim's first time at the Dock
We don’t have a deck but Kim and I spend many of evenings sitting on the front porch staring out at our cul de sac. Kim has her glass of wine and I drink my bourbon over ice as we peer through the porch ledge which is laden with all our plants and herbs because I have my grandparents’ green thumb.
Every Christmas morning, we open our presents in our own home in Coffee Bluff in the living room. Even though Aunt Mary and Christine live in Hartford, CT, they join us through the magic of my Xbox’s video Kinect.
Xmas 1985
Someday when the wind is blowing the right way, I smell the march around me and I can hear the boats as they come up the channel. It’s not the same thing as way I grew up over at the family property but it is good enough for now because it’s my life and with my family.

After Rags and I hung up, Kim came in to check on me. She and the kids have been really supportive during this past week. As she asked if I was ok, I smiled and nodded. Everything fell into place for me.
As I started to write this blog, I kept thinking of the scene towards the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy has the Grail in reach while his father is holding them over the ledge. Indy can almost touch the Grail and it’s so close when he hears his father say calmly, “Indiana, let it go.”
You know the rest, Indiana Jones realizes his dad is right and is pulled to safety by Sean Connery. Indy never needs the Grail because in their search, he reconnected with his dad and Indy had his family again.
I have my Holy Grail too but it’s not a gold cup but rather a beautiful wife who can set the word afire when she sits behind her keyboard to write her stories, a daughter who’s beauty and smarts only rivals that of her mom’s, and a son who is as talented with his music as he is quick witted and clever. My love for them and the love they give back are worth more to me than any piece of land.
I know that good days and bad days are ahead of me as I deal with all of this. Been there, done that before. It is going to suck a little but I can’t help but feeling like the rest of my life is now ready to unfold. This is just something I have to go through to get to the next step and I am more than a little bit excited about that. I’ve got my family and that’s all I really need when it comes down to it.
“Let it go and not in the Frozen sort of way”
Thanks for reminding me of that, Indy.

 As I went through my pics to find some to use in the blog, there were just too many to fit in the actual story but I still wanted to use them because there was just so many stories that happened there. 

Hagan & Stu after removing the unplugged freezer 
Mary & me 1987 with Grandma's dog, Dutch
Dad and oysters
Hagan, Stu, Gid, and Robyn at at Low Country Boil

My dog, Belle, loved when everyone was over because there was always somewhere to get comfy

Fire Marshall Rags

This is what happens when liquor stores throw out their Xmas displays...

Sammy and his daughter Ashley

Ms. Oysterroast 2004

The Fabulous Cerveza Brothers, Doke & Casper

Gravy Smoothie?
Fishing with their Aunt

My sister can talk me into anything....

Shrimp 'stache....

Pop and Dad 1987

Ron Bebe

Pop's Piddlin' Place

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Have 99 Posts but Another 100 Won't Be a Problem.....

            So this is what a 100th blog post feels like!

Four years ago when I started this blog, I had no idea that I’d have enough to write about to make it this far. It was all an experiment to work on my writing skills and to improve as a story teller.
            I’ve written these posts in many spots. I started out on an antique hallway desk that was leftover from my first attempt at marriage. I’d sat in a refurnished chair my Papa used in his many wheeling and dealings. The table was actually one of those narrow deals better suited for hallway decoration rather than function because I couldn’t afford a real desk so it served the purpose for writing and getting through me my Masters in Special Education.  Due to my own non-compliance, my kidney disease had worsened and I was got pretty bad off. Somewhere through all of this, I got my head out of my own ass and pulled myself out of a very dark and deep hole to find a very bright world that was always there waiting on me.
 I moved on to a very comfy office chair placed next to the “falcon”, my NX stage dialysis cycler. The chair was courtesy of some very silly governmental waste and a very good friend whom I do not see often enough but that becomes the case as we all get older. I wrote on a lap board while hooked up to my cycler in three and half hour periods. It was probably my most productive time because I was a captive audience to my machine.
It was frustrating to sit there because I had begun to return to the land of the living. Being a shut in for a few years left me wanting to leave the house and do things and see people. Through the nudging of my roommate and E-Harmony, I also met a very special lady with two outstanding kids.
            By the time I switched to nocturnal dialysis and had my afternoons back, I was married to that special lady and those awesome kids were running rampant in my very lucky life. The Ol’ Geek Hut was no longer a bachelor pad but a real home for a family. I began to write on my side of the bed in snatches and when I had the time. I also noticed I began to be less frequent in posts.  Between teaching and dealing with dialysis, I had to deal with carlines, drop off/pick up karate, art club, band stuff, summer camps, doctor appmts. Weekends were filled with going to the beach, and picnics at Forsyth. Life was busy and it still remains quite full. I love it.
These books make a lot of sense now. 
            Nowadays I still write a little on my side of the bed but the best days are when I sit on our new living room couch (which is a whole other story involving family homesteads, meth labs and a pet goat that gets kidnapped) while I tap out whatever hits me on my coffee table that was also an old wooden ships door. I have to pick my times carefully because that’s also where the flat screen and my beloved Lucille stays. 
(Lucille is the X-box). Writing in the main family room can be a bit tricky but we seem to work it out.

            It’s become my favorite time because when I write in the living room, I get to zone in my little writing world but I also feel connected to the whole house where my family are doing their own thing.
The 11th Dr. is short.

Jude is either reading a stack of comic book or playing with his massive Lego collection in his room which is sure to leave stray pieces for my bare feet to find later.  My teenage daughter, Roni, has created her own world devoid of adults and our on-going lameness in her room filled with music from Panic at the Disco and her own life sized Dr. Who (Matt Smith).

And then there is Kim, my wife. Kim is the glue that holds all this very lucky life I lead together. At any given point, my wife is whipping something together in the kitchen for us to eat later, working on a story for her reporter job at the paper, or anything left out in front of her that needs doing, fixing, mending, or a hug.
But the very best days of writing on the couch is while I’m trying to figure out some way to tie my post together, I hear the tapping of another key board in the dining room. The kids have been gone all summer with their father so Kim and I have both adopted our own work spaces to work at. While I have staked out the living, room, she’s taken over the kitchen table to work on her book and sometimes her very awesome blog.
See when we met over three years ago we both had just started out on our writing path. From the start, Kim always talked about writing her own book on dealing with her past and overcoming the obstacles. For a while, she had stopped but over the past year, Kim has been working hard revising and adding to it. And it thrills me to no end.
I know this is going to be a great book and it’s not just because I love this woman so much anything she does. She is a very talented and honest writer which is a rare combination in today’s writing market. To make it a trifecta, she is a true storyteller though she refuses to admit to it because Kim is also pretty shy until you get to know her.

Reading anything Kim writes not only makes me proud but it also spurs me on because I get it.  Writing is not something to be done to pass the time, or to entertain, or even to get digs in someone who has wronged you or your family. It’s just something that is inside that has to get out.
See everybody has something in them that has to get out. For people like my father-in-law, it’s a painting or a drawing. For my buddy, Dave, it’s music. But for people like Kim and myself, it’s a story where writing is the medium we’ve chosen.
It makes me happy to hear my wife tapping away on her worn laptop because I know she is getting closer to her goal of getting that story out and sharing it with the world. She doesn’t write because she wants to. She writes because she has to.
Kim is lucky because she has figured out what it is that she has to say. I’m not there yet but I know it’s coming because it’s something I dwell upon almost every single day. Until then I write and keep at it until I get my ideas refined into whatever story that I need to tell. The one thing I’ve learned about this blog is that I have the freedom to do whatever I please and I find relevant. So pop in your favorite mix tape, sit back relax and let’s hit the road and see where we end up

I’m up for another 100. How about you?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's Good to be the Robby

This whole bit started when NXStage, the good people who provide with my all my dialysis necessities, asked me to write about what independence means to me. This should have been a cinch but in spite of numerous attempts to get this blog rolling, everything sounded like something Ralphie the Christmas Story kid would write for a grade school assignment.  

See, not only do I teach the occasional high school Lit class but I also write my own blog about the life of a school teacher/tour-guide/pirate wannabe learning how to live as newly found step dad and all the adventures that come with that. Should have been a piece of cake but it wasn’t.
I went back through my blog to see what I had written before. Many of the older posts had been written to pass the three and half hour treatment times of when I was hooked up to my NX Stage Cycler. The funny thing is that other than a few passing references to living with kidney disease, I had not spent any amount of time discussing what it’s like to be on home hemo dialysis in over three years. Why is that?
I had started off with peritoneal dialysis but it wasn’t the right fit for me. PD was great because I did it in my own home and around my own schedule but it wasn’t enough dialysis for me. I’m a big guy coming in at 6’4”.Within two years, my health began to decline. I looked horrible with very pale skin and huge bags under my eyes. I felt even worse and literally shuffled everywhere I went with a constant fear of tripping and not being able to get back up (which actually happened one day at school).
Even with kidney disease, I worked full time, went to grad school, and even had a part time job being a ghost tour guide for a pub crawls here in Savannah, GA.  Eventually, it got so bad that I had to quit my tour guiding (which I loved and got me out of the house). It was all I could do to stand an eight hour day then online classes for my Masters. The disease was winning and I knew it.  
My doctor and nurse convinced to get over my enormous fear of needles and switch over to home hemo dialysis. It was a challenging transition but well worth it in the long run. It took about two months but I began to feel something I hadn’t felt in some time. I felt like a regular person.
As I write this, I realize I could expound on and on about how using the NX Stage Cycler gives me the independence to control my own treatments. How being independent allows me to be treated as Robby that guy who’s a teacher and tour guide rather than that poor bastard who has kidney disease. I could talk about how being independent also affords me to look at myself not as a victim but just as some guy who has a pretty cool life.
The Tybee Flotilla last Sunday
All of those points are important in creating the sum of my whole but it doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head for me. I’ve come to understand the independence I’ve gained from becoming a home hemo patient was the puzzle piece I needed to begin living my life. It’s just pretty much as routine to me and my family as brushing my teeth. It’s just part of the day.
NX Stage asked about what independence means to me? It means I can live my life with all the risks and chances. I have been able to grow and find new opportunities. Somewhere along the way, I discovered my soul mate and two outstanding kids.  Home hemo has allowed me to live with so much going on that my life now is actually even better than before my kidneys failed.

 It means I can be normal and in the long run, that is what anybody would want. 

This is a video I made on my animoto account that might sum of all the above a little better.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Anniversary to My Amazing Wife and some Belated Thank Yous

Two days from our second anniversary and I stumbled across this pic. It never struck me until today that this pic describes hows it's supposed to be as a husband and a parent.
Kim and I are looking down at the path to make sure where we lead Roni and Jude will be safe. Meanwhile the kids are free to enjoy the ride. That's what it means to be a husband and a father and it's something I treasure every day.
Almost weekly, I always thank you, Kim, for this amazing life but I realize I've never stopped to thank the other part of the Richardson-Wade-Yancey Clan.
Thanks, Roni, for finding a way to let me in. I know it was hard and I love you even more for your tenaciousness and ability to care about those you love. You're becoming an amazing woman but that appears to be a Wade family trait (along with beauty)
Jude, since the start you've always been my buddy. I 've always believed the reason I held on to all that crazy geek knowledge was for my your AuntMary, but I've come to realize I was waiting on you. You're becoming quite the young man with personality, smarts, and loads of talent (also another Wade family trait)
Both of you are growing up too fast for me but you both will always be my kids and one of the reasons I smile so damn much.
Thank you Roni. Jude, and Kim. The past two years have been the best a guy could ever ask for.
I love all of you.
Robert "Big Daddy" Richardson

The Crew.....

Monday, March 17, 2014

All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Wear my Sandals...

          I subscribe to a Facebook page called Badass Teachers and I love it. I've actually found a group of teachers who are more militant than myself. A few days ago I came across a contest about hwy you became a teacher. The prize was a $700 Amazon gift card so how could I say no? 
          This is my entry which as usual I wrote on the fly. While I am not expecting to win in the least (my competition is pretty good), I am kinda psyched that I've entered my first writing contest. "First step in a larger world and all that, hopefully. 
           Anyway, while I watch the St Patrick's day Parade on the TV, Roni, Jude and I are loungin" about enjoying our last day of Spring Break. This might be the most productive result of that. 

            I got into to teaching for two reasons: 1. I was burned out in my current job and wanted to do something new  2. The person who talked me into it convinced me that I’d get to wear my beloved sandals to work every day.
            The person who shared this tidbit was Robyn Rice. Robyn and I were working at an Adults w/ Disabilities Program. Working directly with the guys was awesome but I had grown very tired of the program director and the politics involved in running the program. It was time for a change.
            Robyn was working alongside me as she finished her Masters in special education. She often tried to tell me how much happier I’d be in a classroom and how awesome I’d be with the kids. As much as I enjoyed having my ego stroked, I kept resisting. Looking back, I knew I was afraid. I knew teaching was a serious commitment and I just wasn’t sure I had it in me.
            But Robyn was relentless and eventually I caved. When I had spare time during the summer of 2002, I canvassed the Atlanta area trying to get my foot in the door. I figured I’d be able to start off as a parapro and work my way up. Nobody was hiring.
            By some stroke of luck I ended up in an interview through several strands of friends of friends. It was a middle school in Gwinnett County. I assumed I was there for the para pro job but in reality the principal, Ms. Malone, l was interviewing me for a Special Ed resource teacher.
            I have never been a religious man but higher forces were at work because I was hired after a 30 min interview to be a classroom sped teacher. Without a teaching certificate. This was a fact I was very upfront about but Ms. Malone explained there were in dire need and my background made me more than qualified. Besides GA had an accelerated teaching certificate program and she could get me in. A certificate would be about a year away with a little hard work. I walked into that middle school hoping to be a parapro. I walked out a 7th grade Geography sped resource teacher.
            My father always told me the story of how his father taught him how to swim. It involved being tossed into the river and hoping for the best. My first year was a lot like this but somehow I adapted and found that I liked being a teacher. I’d spent years working with a variety of adults dealing with their disabilities in day-today life. Switching over to children had its moments but also provided so many rewards.
   My imagination was on fire trying to get these kids fired up about World Geography. Through the use of duct tape, discarded household items, and loads of imagination, I took my class on an archaeological dig in China, made up a class song when we built Africa drums out of coffee cans, and even created our own Egyptian burial chambers complete with Hieroglyphics describing our lives,. My favorite was the kid who had Spider-Man and Wolverine duking it over his kingdom.
            Education isn’t just what I did as a teacher, I quickly discovered. I also had other roles. I was a traffic director during bus call. Police negotiator during conflicts in the hall with class dismissal. Curriculum expert as I sorted through the textbooks to figure out how to scaffold my lessons. Testing expert at the end of the year when we doled out all the standardized tests. And I also learned I had to listen.
            Middle school is a rough time for a kid’s self-esteem. Being a sped student almost doubles that. Student feel singled sharing some classes then having to switch. We spent almost as much time processing that as learning about the economies of certain countries.
            Over time my time my classroom, which my students nicknamed “The Hobbit Hole”, gelled and my confidence in being called a teacher began to grow. I figure I made plenty of mistakes but I also felt like I learned from them. I wish I could say that every student I had in my seven periods of World Geography passed but they didn’t. I do believe they left my class at the end of May knowing they were just as valid as regular ed students and had the coping skills to be just as successful.
            Ms. Malone was good on her word and got me hooked up with that accelerated teaching program. Unfortunately, my math skills were badly out of practice and I didn’t score high enough on the Praxis Math portion to obtain a provisional certificate. My contract was not renewed even though I missed passing by one point.
            It was a bitter pill to swallow and I spent a few months upset with the world. Eventually that bitterness turned into something positive and I found myself studying harder than I ever had before and passing the Math portion of the Praxis. With my provisional in hand I eventually got hired at another middle school and went right back to work.
            The next few years would be a series of ups and downs as I tried to find a school which would be the right fit for me ideologically. I got married, divorced, and discovered I had end stage kidney disease but somehow got through all that and finally got my teaching certificate in 2009 when I earned my Masters in Special Education.  
            I am happy to report that I’ve spent the past 8 years teaching at the same high school my parents went to and even met at. I co-teach social studies and Literature and have never been happier. Even with all the controversy in merit pay and Common Core Curriculum, I look still enjoy this second career and still swell with pride when people asked me what I did for a living.

            I’m a special ed teacher. And I’ve still never worked at a school that would let me wear my sandals to work.