Tuesday, October 28, 2008

IHIP for grade 11

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm challenging Jacob enough. I push his younger sisters, but it's like pushing a wagon down a sidewalk. An even sidewalk. They're studious and conscientious. And they like to read. With Jacob, I feel like I'm pushing him up a steep incline on a dirt road with lots of potholes. He'd much rather be taking a computer apart than reading.

Because Jacob doesn't like to read, I have to give him daily assigned readings with page numbers; with the girls, I just say, "Read this book by Friday." Giving them daily page counts would drive them crazy; not giving Jacob daily page counts is too unstructured for him.

And he doesn't like foreign languages. Spanish is torture for him. Fortunately, Alexandra takes the same class at a friend's house and coaches him - if he asks her politely and she's in a good mood.

If Jacob had gotten into that auto mechanics class, perhaps there I wouldn't get the resistance I do with the more traditional subjects. But I'm doing the best I can. Which means I'm pushing that grammar and writing and vocabulary, history as a story rather than a set of facts, and lots more, as you can see.

Monday, October 27, 2008

IHIP for grade 10

Alexandra was in Honors everything in public high school last year, so this IHIP surely looks like I'm not just pushing her, but drowning her in work. But she manages her workload better than my other two, turning in the most thoroughly documented labs and topnotch writing projects. And she catches her French tutor's mistakes (which is a little troubling, since the tutor is expensive...)

If only she were as polite as she is talented.

Here is her IHIP for this school year:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finally - my IHIPs!

At last, two months after I started school, I finally completed the IHIPs (Individualized Home Instruction Plans) for all three of my kids.

It’s not that I didn’t know what I was going to teach them or was that late in writing them. I was just putting the finishing touches on them when I got news of my brother’s accident. Then his death. After that there was the funeral preparation. The dozens and dozens of calls each day. The funeral itself. The thank you notes afterward. The phone calls canceling his credit cards, magazine subscriptions, phone service... I’m still dealing with the ramifications of his death - his estate, his bills… So IHIPs fell off my radar screen - until the school district contacted me last Friday. Oops!

So here is Larissa's eighth grade IHIP, hot off the computer. As I revised this plan, I added books to her English curriculum because she read five of them before mid-October! I suspect I'll have her read even more literature, but I won't commit her to it yet. Perhaps this plan is more detailed than those submitted by others, but for me, it serves as a chart across the unknown territory of an eighth grader’s education. I consult it when I don’t know where I’m going next.

I hope I do Larissa justice, pushing her, but not overburdening her.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Yesterday Jacob and Alexandra finally took – and passed! – the test for chapter two of our Chemistry book. We’re weeks behind, but we’ve made progress!

We learned the different units with which you measure energy. We survived calculations to determine specific heat of objects. Even I could recite equations such as q = m c ΔT (where q is heat absorbed or released, m is mass, c is the specific heat, and delta T is the change in temperature), and -q (object) = q (water) + q (calorimeter), which tells us that the heat lost by the object placed in the calorimeter is gained by the water and calorimeter.

Aren’t you impressed? I certainly surprised myself by memorizing those equations!

I was solving for that mysterious specific heat of an unknown metallic object or finding out how much energy was lost or gained, working out algebraic equations better than my kids were. Perhaps now – decades after being a new girl in my school and being forced to take Algebra a second time because my new school system didn’t believe that a seventh grader could possibly have taken Algebra – the Algebra that I had so thoroughly learned in junior high was coming in handy.

I don’t know why both my kids got so mired in that chapter on energy, heat, and temperature. I understood it. It was a painful three and a half weeks as I explained and reworked problems and sat with them, handholding them through equations, reteaching them algebra so they could solve the equations.

And through it all, my son shook his head and said, “Why do I have to learn all that? I’ll never need to know the specific heat of anything!” Deep down I could see his point, but… We plodded on.

And it paid off. They both got the same grade on the test, a 93%, though each got different problems wrong. I was so relieved.

On to atoms and molecules.

Sigh. I know what tonight’s bedtime reading will be for me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall is...

I gave another creative writing assignment to all three kids today titled "Fall is..." The kids could write prose or poem and about anything that the words "fall is" trigger.

This is what Jacob came up with:

Fall is…
Fall is a season, one out of four
Comes after summer and right before snow.
The cold arrives and the warm winds pass,
When colorful leaves fall, and cover the grass.

The raking begins, more work for me.
There’s so many leaves it seems like a sea.
A new school year, eleventh grade
Can’t wait for it to pass and fade.

The wood-burning stove creates some heat
So we can come by and warm our feet
The wood that we burn, I had to chop,
Bring from the woods and pile up.

Fall brings us more cold days
To stay inside is the best way
You bundle up, but your nose turns red
You go outside, “Put a hat on your head!”

The leaves twirl and flutter down
You can hear the rustling sound
To play outside they do insist.
The poofy leaf piles they can’t resist.

I wish you could like the poem I wrote
But I’m a failure, it will not float
Just please don’t give me a big, fat F
Because I’m special, my name is Jeff.

Very intersting. Jacob certainly got into rhyming today; I was expecting prose. But I did say they could be creative in any style or format they wanted. While my son's name isn't Jeff and he said that he doesn't really want eleventh grade to speed by, he made those up just to rhyme. He certainly got silly at the end, rhyming words that made no sense. We have a Rhyming Dictionary, and it's a great way to explore words, especially words that rhyme.

I'm glad Jacob enjoyed himself - after carrying in the wood he chopped so we could light a fire in the wood-burning stove and stay warm as he writes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Black beans

I inherited a stockpile of food from my brother: noodles and dried beans, fish sauce and rice vinegar, sesame oil and popcorn, canned green beans and canned tomatoes, a shopping bag full of exotic spices — and a whole case of canned black beans.

Black beans? I’d never cooked with black beans.

Larissa came with me to the grocery store last week. When they were little, all three of my children played with a computer in the store, a computer near the meats where you type in a keyword and it provides a recipe using that item. Larissa suggested finding a recipe for – what else? – black beans.

This is what came up on the screen:

* * * * * * *
Black Bean Chili

1.5 lb. boneless pork, cut into 1/2–inch cubes
two 14.5-oz. cans black beans, drained
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup thick and chunky salsa
one 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, do NOT drain
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt to taste
sour cream and shredded Cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except garnishes in 3.5-quart slower cooker. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 7 to 8 hours.

Garnish individual bowls with sour cream and Cheddar cheese, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.

* * * * * * *

Sounded good. Since we had all the ingredients but the pork at home, we printed out the recipe and bought the pork. I assigned cooking “class” to Larissa the next morning.

“Looks like a salad,” commented Jacob when all the ingredients were in the crock pot.

By suppertime, the “salad” had cooked down into a fragrant chili.

While we waited for George to come home from work, a neighbor came by to greet me as I worked on my new garden – a Greg memorial garden using hostas from my deceased brother's gardens – in the front yard. As she strolled up to me, George arrived home. Since the neighbor, a nurse, lives alone and was just coming home from work, I invited her in for chili dinner.

The chili was delicious! That recipe is a keeper.

I no longer wonder what I’ll do with a case of black beans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What can one person do?

I dug a well in a Cambodian village. I sent care packages to inmates in Middle Eastern prisons. I educated several Sudanese children for a year.

And that’s not all.

I bought uniforms, books, and writing paper for children in India whose parents barely earn enough to put food on their table; they could never have sent their children to school without help. I delivered live rabbits and chickens to destitute Indian families so they could raise them for food. And in Africa, I gave away dozens of life-giving goats, goats that provided milk, and thus sustenance, for impoverished families on the brink of hunger.

And I did all this from the comfort of my home.

It was a single incident during a trip to Kenya that spurred me to give in this way: In a church in a mountain village two hours drive from Nairobi, I watched as the poor gave their extra clothing to the poorer in their own church. Their pastor thanked them – and challenged his parishioners to give even more, to bring in extra bedding and blankets and beds to give to others in their church who had no bed or mattress to sleep on. “They sleep on dirt floors,” he announced to the church.

I had seen poverty before, but never a home without a mattress or hammock. I asked to be taken to such a home.

We hiked down a very steep red-earth path to an equally red mud hut. In the doorway stood a widow holding an infant; inside were three young children sitting on the earthen floor. Just sitting there – not chattering, not running around, not reacting to my presence.

Something wasn’t right.

“What is wrong with the children?” I asked my travel companion, a woman who had worked in refugee camps in Africa.

“These kids are starving. Literally.”

Indeed, we saw no food in the house, other than the flour, oil, and sugar that we had just brought as a gift. For furniture, the house had but one chair. For bedding, just a few rags. The “kitchen” was a few stones on the ground where ashes marked the remains of the cooking fire. The single pot was empty.

The children, we learned, were six, four, and three. The “infant” was over a year old. The three-year-old had not yet learned to walk. She just sat dull-eyed on the uneven floor without the energy to get up.

The scene haunted me long after I was back in Nairobi. I’d never seen starvation with my own eyes. I’d never seen a house with so little in it.

“What can we do for that widow?” I pondered aloud, discussing with my fellow traveler how we could help.

“If we send her more food, it’ll run out in a while. What if we bought her chickens?” I mused. “They could eat the eggs. But I’m not sure what they would feed the chickens. Hey – how about a goat? They eat almost anything, and they produce milk. If we buy her a lactating goat, the children could have milk right away. I read about tribes in Africa that subsist on milk alone for periods of time.”

The lactating goat, purchased for $35, was delivered a few days later – right during the funeral of one of the children. For that child, it was too late. But for the others, milk from that goat would make a difference – the difference between life and death.

It’s only by God’s grace that I was born in North America into a family that never knew the kind of starvation that is all too common in other parts of the world. Maybe, I once read in a book, God is testing you by placing you in North America. Maybe He gave you the wealth you have to see what you would do with it – spend it for your own pleasures, or do as the Bible says and share it with the less fortunate. “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31b).

Sometimes the issue of poverty seems so overwhelming that we are immobilized. The problem seems too immense for one person. But if we each did our part, each bought a goat to distribute instead of purchasing another change of clothing or streaking our hair or dining out, we would make a huge impact. I know that I change the fate of many families with
goats and chickens and wells and medicine.

And now my children, through my teaching and my example, are making a difference, too. They’ve heard my story and have seen the pictures. Now they, too, send in their coins or part of their tithe to buy a few more goats for the children of Africa. I can imagine the joy in the faces of the recipients.

Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).

“Someday in heaven, Jesus will thank me for all the goats I bought Him,” 12-year-old Larissa said.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Relearning Chemistry

Heat equals mass times specific heat times change in temperature.

Colorimetry. Calories. Joules. Atoms. Molecules.


My nightly ritual after work and dinner is to write up daily schedules for the next day of schooling, correct the kids’ assignments, grade tests – and then sit up and read Chemistry. Yes, Chemistry. I get out my highlighter, mark the important text, memorize the formulas, then using my paper and pencil, I figure out the examples and assigned problems.

Why am I relearning Chemistry?

We have a tutor for math. Another for French. A friend teaches them Spanish. And a music teacher gives them piano lessons. These are subjects I cannot teach my kids. But I was a science major in college – granted, in Biology, not Chemistry – and I can teach the science myself.

Oh, I thought I could hand off the book – Aplogia’s Exploring Creation With Chemistry – to the kids and have them teach themselves. I even found help on the Internet for scheduling the course. I thought they would read the small chunks of material, follow the examples, work out the problems, and learn Chemistry on their own.

But they got stuck in chapter 2. The only way to help them is to read the material myself. If I tutored Chemistry in college, I know I can relearn this stuff. So night after night, after the kids are in bed, I read my Chemistry, work out the problems, and follow along so I can explain the problems, the math, the concepts.

I hope that one day the kids will appreciate what I am going through to teach them at home because frankly, I’d rather be gardening or reading novels than relearning Chemistry. But one thing I’ll say about this: my brain is getting a workout, so I’ll be keeping Alzheimer’s at bay for a while!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


It's official: I'm handicapped.

When I went in to the company office recently, the long walk from the back of the company parking lot to the building, then up the elevator and through one building, then another and another all the way to my office was too much for me. By the time I got to my cubicle, my heart was pounding and the chest pains worsened. Granted, I don't have to come in often these days; mostly I work from home. But when I do have to come in, I'd like to park close to the entrance of the building. So this week I did park there – and got a note from Security warning me not park in the handicapped spots again.

I had a doctor appointment this past week to re-evaluate my health and my ability to work. I've felt ill with my lupus for so long that it's now "normal," but there is no way I could work an 8-hour day, not even if I weren't homeschooling the kids. I'm just too fatigued and my heart hurts much of the time. I feel comfortable working my six hours per day from home, but more than that would set my health back, probably to the point where I could hardly work at all.

So the doctor extended my part-time disability for another ten weeks. Meanwhile, I've asked for part-time status at work to relieve me from the pressure of getting well and getting back to work full-time. Part-time is all I can handle, and I'd like to have that be my official status. But we shall see. This is about being handicapped.

What a strange and unwanted status: Handicapped. Impaired. Disadvantaged. These words apply to me, a "supermom" who until lately was a full-time employee, mother, wife, housekeeper, Sunday school teacher, and singer in the church choir. I was a volunteer newsletter writer and photographer, and I went on international short-time mission trips almost annually. Sometimes twice a year. And I wrote about these experiences for my company's blog on a volunteer basis. I was a mom who took on homeschooling as well (after dropping the choir and Sunday school roles). Yes, I was someone who burned the candle at both ends – and still had time to read.

And now I have a tag in my car that allows me to park as close as possible to a building so I don't exhaust myself...

My doctor had offered to fill in the paperwork so I could get a handicapped parking permit the last time I saw him. I refused. During this week’s visit, I requested it myself.

So it’s official: I'm handicapped. And I have the tag to prove it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New driver

Jacob passed his driver's test this morning and got his driver's license. Now I have an additional item on my prayer list: his safety while driving.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


“Hi Nita. How are you doing?” I started my conversation, not knowing how to tell Nita that I needed to drop off my kids at her house at least half an hour early for their Spanish lesson with her.

I was feeling frazzled because I had to be at my company office for training at 1:00, but the work I was trying to do from home in the morning wasn’t working. The database wasn’t accepting my images, and I didn’t even know how to link an image in the new software program I’m learning. I had to go to the office to seek help – before my training.

Nita sounded rather stressed out herself. Nita homeschools her three children, who are about the age of my three. She helps me out by teaching Jacob and Alexandra Spanish twice a week.

“Well, it’s not a good day,” she admitted.

I could tell that by the tone of her voice.

“Things aren’t going well. It’s Peter. Again. I’m so frustrated that I’m considering sending him to the public high school next year.”

I’d heard that before, but Peter has been homeschooled all his life. He is now in tenth grade. Somehow Nita has managed to keep on homeschooling him despite some rocky periods.

“Or maybe a military boarding school,” Nita continued, venting her frustration. “He’s just not doing his work. I’ve taken away his iPod, his computer, I’ve taken away his privilege to use the phone. I’ve grounded him so he can’t go outside. I’ve taken away his books. He’s not even allowed upstairs because he goes up there and doesn’t do his schoolwork. I’m so annoyed and discouraged – he’s not doing his work!!”

I can’t say that I was glad to hear it. Not at all. But I sure empathized. My kids haven’t gotten to the point that they didn’t do their work; they sometimes do it more slowly than I’d like, turn it in days late, end up reading a book on horses instead of the Holocaust, or take homeschool less seriously than “real” school.

But I could sure relate!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


All the homeschooling blogs I’ve read paint a rosy picture of happy children with unruffled moms blissfully pursuing knowledge in the form of fun field trips or organized home activities. The kids are happy, the mom is happy, and learning happens almost as an afterthought.

So what am I doing wrong?

I have three teens at home – grades 8, 10, and 11. I’ll ignore for now the fact that they don’t always stay on course and get their work done within the timeframe I specify. That they distract one another with chatter. That on a nice day one or more go outside and putter in the garden until I herd them inside, chiding them for taking a break before finishing their work. And I’ll overlook that I’ve completely disrupted their routines – routines that we were just in the process of establishing, frankly, because we hadn’t even completed two full weeks of school – by putting schoolwork aside when I first heard of my brother’s tragic accident, then worked with my family to organize his funeral. I’ll ignore that because we’re back on track now, really we are. Back to doing all our subjects.

That means that Jacob and Alexandra are studying Chemistry again. I decided to have Jacob and Alexandra both do Chemistry this year because it’s easier on me to have them do labs together, and for me to keep up with two science courses rather than three.

Because of our disruption, it took all of September to cover just the first chapter of Chemistry: Measurement and Units. Now how hard can that chapter be? I read half the chapter to familiarize myself with the subject. Yep, it’s a lot of math. The chapter stressed consistency in units and significant figures. They beat significant figures into you. There were practice questions and review questions and pre-test practice questions. No, I didn’t hand hold Jacob and Alexandra through it. I expect them to review their answers and read the answer key and figure out where they went wrong if they didn’t get the correct answer.

In our home, homeschooling means self-study. Maybe it’s not the best way, but that’s what it is here. You read, you do the problems, you check your work against the answer key. I check the labs. If you have a question, ask me and I’ll make sure I find the answer and explain it; if you don’t ask, I assume you understand.

“Ready for your first test?” I asked. It was, as I said, way behind schedule. “It’s all problems just like the practice questions. Remember – always convert numbers so they have the same units – you can’t compare measurements in inches and centimeters, or centimeters and meters. An answer with no units is considered wrong. And always, always pay attention to significant figures. Are you sure you’re ready?”

Alexandra took the test before Jacob. She got a 95% – one problem wrong.

Jacob dragged his feet and studied longer.

“Yes, I’m ready,” he finally said.

He’s not as diligent as Alexandra, so I reminded him about the units and significant figures. Then I repeated myself. I had a bad feeling about this test.

He got the first few right. But then as I compared his answers with the answer key – correct answer, wrong number of significant figures. Unfortunately, that’s considered wrong. One wrong, two wrong, three… My stomach sank. Four wrong… By the time I’d marked the test, he ended up with a 69%. I was so disappointed. I felt I’d failed somehow.

“Jacob, I told you to pay attention to significant figures. That’s the one thing that they stress over and over in this chapter.”

Without missing a beat, he sassed back. “Stupid test! All along we’re taught in math to be precise, to have as many significant figures as possible! This is really dumb!”

“Yes, but this chapter is specifically about measurements and calculations with these measurements. If you measure a board that’s 3.1 meters long, you suddenly can’t do a calculation using the 3.1 meters and come up with an answer accurate to the thousandths of meters!” I explained.

“I bet they’re not doing stupid stuff like this in public school!” Oh, Jacob said more than that. Stupid book, stupid test – it’s everyone’s fault but his.

He grabbed the phone angrily and called his classmate from last year, who is taking Chemistry in public school. What I heard of the conversation suggested that in public school, they, too, learn about – and are tested on – significant figures.

Meanwhile, I confronted Alexandra about her Health test that she’d taken that day.

“Alexandra, this is a really easy test. You’re an A+ student. Last test you got an 80-something. This week you got an 86%. You can do better than that! Jacob got a 103% on this test last year – all the answers plus the bonus. Did you even study? I think you aren’t taking homeschooling seriously. I expect you to score in the 90s. You’ve always been a good student; you aren’t trying.”

Was Alexandra remorseful? Embarrassed? Did she vow she’d do better? No, she laughed! In a sing-song voice, she mocked, “Oh, let’s all be sad now.”

I lost it. Where are the happy, respectful kids? Don’t they have an ounce of appreciation for the sacrifice I make daily to homeschool them? (Yes, we know the answer to that.) For all my time and efforts, my late nights and failing health, they argue and sass and mock.

I left the house. I did not stay for dinner. I did not make dinner. (Fortunately, it was Larissa’s assignment to do that.) I went to my deceased brother Greg’s house and just chilled out there, alone with my thoughts, alone in his garden, alone with photos of him with his son.

And there I finally found a strange peace.

Friday, October 3, 2008


My brother’s house stands empty now. The tools that I had to step over upon entering it the first time after his death are put away. His piles of motorcycle parts and papers – gone. Cleaned up. Boxed up or thrown away. All the things he considered dear or essential – unnecessary now. Left behind. He took nothing with him. No one does.

I’ve been to his house more times in the last two weeks than in the six years that he lived there. I’ve been there with my kids, with my husband, with my sister and brothers, with Cindi and her sister. And recently, I’ve been there alone. I walked through the chilly house, trying not to think as I saw the framed photos of Greg smiling with his son still up where he left them.

Of course he thought he’d be back.

Today I removed all the photos from the refrigerator. I couldn’t stand to see his memories on the metal door.

I’m still not sure what to do about the things that are left in the house. The lawyer said I’d be appointed administrator of the estate by the end of this week. But being appointed doesn’t give me sudden knowledge of what to do. Isn’t there a manual I should read, a brochure with easy 1 – 2 – 3 instructions?

But it’s not like that. What does one do with another’s estate? I’ve made a few calls, canceled some magazines and a credit card, but what do I do with the house and its contents? Sell them, I know, but where do I begin?

I can think about Greg now without crying. But when I go over and see his beloved gardens, his more than 80 hostas, most of which he could name – that is still very painful. Greg was the only other member of my family who liked to garden; none of my other siblings do. Sometimes he'd come to my cubicle and describe what's blooming that day. He loved to walk through his yard and marvel at the beauty of the plants.

Fortunately for me, Larissa has caught the bug. So we have dug up a few of Greg’s hostas and I’ve started planting a memorial garden in my front yard, a garden created from plants taken from his gardens and transplanted from mine. It’ll be a lovely garden, Greg, right under the redbud tree.

I wish you could see it.

Another note

A grey-haired man approached me after the first Community Bible Study session I attended last year.

"I know you!" he said, waggling his finger at me. "You're Faith! I grew up around the corner from you!" He went on to describe his escapades with my brothers. Since I was older than the boys around the corner, I hadn't paid much attention to them.

But now, as adults, we reconnected. I often chatted with Ken after our weekly class, but by the end of the school year when my lupus flared up, I stopped attending.

After Greg died, I sent Ken a note describing what had happened. A few days later, he replied:


Hi Faith,

After I had a chance to process your email and all the comments I read about Greg on the V-Nation forum, I came home from work today, lay down, and had a good cry. I was surprised how much Greg’s death affected me, but on reflection realized we did an amazing amount of stuff together. Your brothers Greg and John are part of the reason I'm so close to my brother Chuck now – even though Chuck is six years older than me, we all spent a lot of time together. The four (or five if you include your youngest brother Andrew) of us tried to do ourselves in in a remarkable variety of ways, including fireworks, rockets, airplane propellers, flash paper, firecracker powered BB rifles, and insane bicycle stunts.

It seems so unfair that some as well loved as Greg was taken so suddenly and so strangely, especially unfair to Luke and Cindi. This is one of those times you know God is in control, but you have to wonder what he was thinking.

Your family was such a big part of my growing up that I'm feeling a lot of pain for you as well. Please remember that I am praying for all of you, even the ones I've never met. We've published this on our family mailing list, so I'm sure many prayers are going up on your behalf.

The peace of Christ be with you,


Thursday, October 2, 2008


"Now you listen to me," I must have been saying to Greg back when we were so very young in Toronto.

I can't even imagine the pain my mother must feel when she looks at these faded photos of our happy childhoods, childhoods long gone.

And now, not only are our childhoods gone, one of the children is gone, too... Gone. Never to come back again.

And that's what's so hard about the death of a loved one. You have so many things you still want to tell them, so many things to share that you catch yourself sometimes thinking, "Oh, wouldn't he like this," or "I can't wait to tell him that." But that's no longer possible.

Oh, how that hurts...

More letters about my brother

In happier times; Greg is in
the middle, I'm on the right


I am so sad that Greg has passed away. I am sad for his fiancée Cindi, and son Luke, and all your family. I am sad for myself because after years of detachment, Greg and I had resumed our friendship but now we are separated again. My 14-year-old daughter only met Greg twice, but she cried this morning when I told her about him.

I have known Greg about as long as anyone not directly related to him, and I can tell you he became a very good man. Life threw Greg a curve when Luke was born, but he took on the challenges of a special child with same grace and vigor as he took on a challenging ski slope.

One of the aspects of Greg's personality that I loved was his thirst for knowledge. Much of my intellectual curiosity I can directly attribute to the many hours I spent with Greg growing up. He was always into something fascinating, and I could only be amazed by his grasp of subjects that were years beyond me. I just wanted to play with the slot cars; he wanted to show me how the AC current was transformed into DC and how the motors worked. I wanted to play with the plasticine clay; he said, "Let's make an animated movie!" As you know, we did.

Greg was a superb writer. I have some email from him regarding his experiences in the Coast Guard. If you want I will send them to you.

Greg had a tremendous sense of humor that endeared him to me a great deal. He turned me on to Monty Python and other British comedy when we were kids. I have always been a bit of a clown, but with Greg the repartee was always a step above.

I will miss him for the rest of my life, but he is a pretty good part of what makes me who I am. I will take some small comfort from that.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tributes to my brother

Family photo: Greg, on the left, is the middle child with two older sisters and two younger brothers. The youngest had not yet been born when this picture was taken. I, the oldest, am in back.


My brother touched many lives in his 49 years. His outgoing nature, his ready smile, his ability to talk with people and share part of himself with those he came across - these made an impact on people. His sudden death affected a great number of people. Childhood friends, coworkers, bikers, cyberfriends - many have felt compelled to write tributes to my brother, then share them. Since we were in the same department at work, I received this email that a work associate sent to her coworkers:

* * *

I finished writing this over the weekend and wanted to share it with you.

September 24, 2008

To Friends of Greg,

Some people touch your life in unexpected ways and leave you with a lasting gift. I knew Greg only as a work colleague and only for a few years, but to know him at all was to count yourself his friend.

What struck everyone immediately about Greg, of course, was his love for his son. When he spoke about Luke, Greg's face beamed. This little boy with all his special needs was perfect in Greg's eyes. And, just as his love for Luke was inspiring, Greg’s love for life was contagious. He made his teammates laugh in a way that put work problems in the proper perspective.

The large number of non-Ukrainian-speaking friends attentively making their way through the beautifully chanted service at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Epiphany last Monday was a testament to the kind of person that Greg was. He was adventurous and told of stories of the kind that, to my mind, "guys" like to tell: his Pacific experiences in the Coast Guard, his nights on the Bristol ski patrol, his motorcycle trips.... But, he could talk with equal enthusiasm about personal relationships in a way that many men in our culture cannot: his parents, brothers, and sisters – the "whole bunch of us crazy Ukrainians," as he affectionately called his family; his son Luke, who cannot walk or talk but would joyously crawl over to his father and babble happily when Greg came into the room; his upcoming wedding plans with Cindi, the beautiful woman who seemed his soul mate in so many ways and with whom he looked forward to spending the rest of his life.

As his love for Cindi grew, it seemed to flow over into his other relationships, even in some surprising ways. Not too long ago, he told me that he loved his ex-wife. At the time, it seemed such an unusual thing to say that I remember it almost word for word. He said something like, "I love her sort of like a little sister. We get along great now. Her husband is so good with Luke, and she's a wonderful mother. She and I...we just weren't good together."

The only shadow that I ever saw fall on Greg was the worry that he would not have the financial wherewithal to leave for Luke' care after Greg’s death. Probably all parents of special needs children worry about that. But, certainly, Greg's death must have seemed to be very far in the future on September 11th, when he was hit by a golf cart, struck his head, and lost consciousness. A golf cart? How could a golf cart fell a man like Greg, an expert skier, a man who "swam with the sharks" in his Coast Guard days?

"Impossible," his friends thought. "How unfair!" "Why," everyone asked themselves and each other.

Why? Why would a compassionate God take such a vibrant man, one whom so many people needed: his son, his aging parents, his fiancée, his siblings, friends, and coworkers. As human beings, we will never know the answer to that. We probably shouldn't even try. Yet, I'm the type who always wants to know that there is a pattern there, even if I can't fathom the weave.

Greg loved his life, and he loved the people who were part of it. He had fun, but not at the expense of other people. He made sacrifices without even considering them as such. He had his priorities right. He didn't just "make the best of a bad situation," he instinctively saw the good in every situation and he celebrated it. So, why would God take someone like that so abruptly and prematurely?

I don’t know. But I can't help thinking that maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the idea that we are all sent into this world to learn to love one another. Maybe Greg just learned the lesson faster than most of us do. "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Our memories of the way that Greg embraced life and danced with it are his legacy to us. This is the gift that we can carry into our own lives if we have the courage to do so. Let's not let Greg down.

- Catherine

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)