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Boston Children’s Hospital

TBT – 1997, Boston Children’s Hospital. I’ve been going through my old journals and came across this email that I sent to friends and family back in June 1997, over 20 years ago. Aaron was in the hospital having a major surgery, laryngotracheoplasty (tracheal reconstructive surgery to remove his tracheostomy tube). This was sent out via AOL when pretty much everyone who was on-line was on AOL.

Aaron at Boston Children’s Hospital, June 1997

Update #14 – June 19, 1997

Children’s hospital is quite a place. These doctors and nurses see it all. The most serious cases and cases that can’t be handled in the community hospitals come here to Children’s. There are families here from all over the world. We are so lucky to have this hospital so close by. You don’t need to spend much time here to realize how fragile life is and to be thankful if your kids are healthy. Just walking through the lobby you see kids in wheelchairs, kids with deformities, kids so pasty white and sickly; bandages, IV’s, hearing aids, casts and crutches are plentiful.

They had a busy day in the O.R. the day of Aaron’s extubation / bronchoscopy, so his surgery was delayed. We were told they had 18 O.R.s running all day long and did over 80 surgeries in one day! Eighty children having surgery and more than eighty worried family members pacing the floors of this hospital.

In the past week, we have seen lots of kids come and go from our small little corner of this one-of-many intensive care units. Some with chronic illnesses and experienced parents who know the routine and are coping with more of the same. Then there are families who were worried about their kid’s grades in school one day; and the next, worrying about their kid’s life. The teenage girl who was hit by a dump truck. The 11-year-old boy who lost his hand and his vision when a fire cracker exploded in his hand. The 14-year-old boy who barely escaped death from bacterial meningitis. The baby who has multiple fractures and brain damage after a beating from her mother.

Life certainly is a matter of perspective. And this place certainly does make you think about life and death and what is truly important…


Meeting Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is a British ethologist and evolutionary biologist; but he is probably more well-known as an outspoken atheist. He is definitely a hero of mine. What a thrill it was to actually meet Richard Dawkins in person!

Richard was a speaker at the 70th Annual American Humanist Association Conference, which happened to be held in Boston this year. Aaron is also a big fan, so we went to hear him speak. His speech was interesting, insightful and entertaining. I just love listening to his British accent. We were even more excited to be able to meet Richard at a book signing after the lecture!

Aaron and Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins and I

Aaron brought his book “The God Delusion” and was able to get it signed. In this best selling book, Dawkins ruffled many religious feathers when he wrote that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that all religious faith is a delusion. Dawkins encourages Atheist to speak up against religion because religion is a major source of conflict in the world and because it gives people justification to blindly believe without any evidence.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dawkins was asked how this event might change the world, he responded:

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labeled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!”

Dawkins gives atheist the courage to come out of the closet. Atheists are far more numerous than most people realize and our voices need to be heard in order to fight back against religious intrusion in our schools and politics. We need to fight back against those who force their own religious agendas down the throats of our children and our government. It is vital to uphold the separation of Church and state. Religion is an unnecessary part of our global problems and it is time to stand up against the enemies of reason.

It is also important to help remove the negative stigma associated with atheism. Here in the US, research has found that Atheists are the most hated and distrusted minority in the country. University of Minnesota study found that atheists are more distrusted than Muslims, recent immigrants and gays. While in reality, Atheist are statistically more peaceful, moral and trustworthy than Christians. The best way to fight back against the negative stereo typing of atheist is for atheist to stand up and say, I’m an atheist and I’m a good person. After all, an atheist is just a “non-theist.” A theist has a belief in the existence of a god or gods, an atheist does not have a belief in the existence of a god or gods. Is that really such a bad thing? On the contrary, it’s a good thing. Being an atheist is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.

Thank you Richard for speaking out for free-thinkers. It was a pleasure to meet you!

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Boston SUPER Megafest 2009

Boston Super Megafest or SMF is the largest gathering of celebrities, fans and memorabilia dealers in the New England area. This weekend event, which took place on Nov 21 & 22, 2009 at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA is lots of fun for only $20.

The people attending are often more interesting than the celebrities. People come dressed in all kinds of elaborate costumes and really get into the fantasy of being a super hero or sci-fi character. The most popular costumes tend to be from Star Wars and Star Trek, but Batman and the Joker are also popular.

Parked outside the hotel was the Batmobile from the original TV show. I was a big fan of the TV show when I was a kid. It is so funny to watch those episodes now. If you are too young to remember the show, there are lots of episodes and clips on youtube.

The vast majority of people who attend these events are geeks, nerds, and dorks, with a few typical folks along to ‘people watch’ the geeks, nerds and dorks. All together it’s a nice bunch of folks just having a good time. For me, it’s a fun escape from everyday life; add that to the nostalgia thrown in and it’s a blast!

The highlight of this years event for me was meeting Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: TNG). OK, so I’m a bit of a Star Trek geek. I’ve enjoyed the TV shows and movies since the original, but my favorite Star Trek is the Next Generation (TNG). For movies, Star Trek IV has always been my favorite, but the new 2009 movie, is pretty darn good. Brent Spiner is a friendly guy and very funny.

I also got to meet Larry Storch (Corporal Agarn on F Troop). F Troop was another of my favorite shows in the 60’s and Larry still looks pretty darn good in his 80’s!

Also at the Megafest were two of the Monkees, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. I met both of them and saw them preform on Saturday night. Peter played “Day Dream Believer” solo with his guitar, which I really enjoyed. Micky is still quite an entertainer.

Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz


There was a whole lot more going on at the Megafest, but these were a few of my favorites. More photos on Flickr.



Have you notice the blogs and social networking sites are just loaded with lists. Lists everywhere; the best, the worst, the do’s and dont’s, 10 places I’d like to go, 25 random things about me, favorite movie lists, bucket lists, and on and on.

I don’t listen to music very often these days, but I went out for a short run today with my MP3 player, which has many of my favorite songs on it. So, of course I thought of making a list. A favorite song list could be very long… should it be my top 10 favorites, top 20? I decided to cut my growing list down to a Big 30 list.

Those of you who grew up in the Boston area in the late 60’s / early 70’s will remember radio station WRKO’s “Big 30” song lists. WRKO and DJ Dale Dorman were very popular at that time. I remember looking forward to walking down to the local music store to pick up a new Big 30 lists, which came out once a week. And if I was lucky enough to save some baby-sitting money, I could buy a new 45 record. 45’s actually out-sold albums at that time.

So, here is my Big 30 favorite songs list, in alphabetical order. These are songs that I’ve listened to over and over without getting tired of them. Feel free to comment with your favorites. I might have to update this list if I think of a song or two that I’ve forgotten, which could bump one of these songs off my list.

1. American Dream – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
2. American Pie – Don McLean
3. Angie – Rolling Stones
4. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffet
5. Eclipse – John Denver
6. Eighties Ladies – K.T. Oslin
7. Forever And Ever Amen – Randy Travis
8. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
9. From A Distance – Bette Midler
10. Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston
11. Hallelujah – Rufus Wainwright
12. Harvest – Neil Young
13. Hey Jude – Beatles
14. Hotel California – Eagles
15. Imagine – John Lennon
16. In the Year 2525 – Zager and Evans
17. Kokomo – Beach Boys
18. Landslide – Stevie Nicks
19. Love Can Build a Bridge – The Judds
20. Lyin’ Eyes – Eagles
21. Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
22. Middle Ground – Mary Chapin Carpenter
23. Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
24. Spilled Perfume – Pam Tillis
25. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
26. Stay – Jackson Browne
27. Teach Your Children Well – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
28. That’s What Friends Are For – Dionne Warwick
29. Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler
30. Turn The Page – Bob Segar
31. Wonder – Natalie Merchant
32. It’s Gonna Be Okay – Theresa Andersson

Stay – Jackson Browne added 04/30/09; It’s Gonna Be Okay – Theresa Andersson added 05/24/09, now need to remove two song…which ones, which ones?


Bissell Adventure

We got free dinner and ballet tickets from the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Unfortunately, Rich’s schedule changed and he had to work the weekend. So I decided to take the twins by myself. They both love the ballet. I left Anthony at home with my mom, because he is too loud at a ballet and can’t sit still that long (been there, done that). Eric, well you never know how he will do, sometimes he does great, sometimes not… I really didn’t feel like going, but hey, it was free, the boys wanted to go and Starlight was expecting us. So, in order to get the ballet tickets, you have to go to the dinner. We were to meet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (nice!) between 4:45 and 5:00pm. I left my house at 3:15 to give us plenty of time.

Here’s what went wrong…

First, I took a wrong turn getting into Boston, even with my co-pilot Christine (Our GPS; Aaron named it after the movie “Christine”). Any of you who have driven in Boston know how bad it is to make a wrong turn. This city is not set up like a modern city. They made the roads from old cow paths from colonial days, so there are one way streets everywhere and nothing makes sense. Anyway, Christine “recalculates” and starts bringing us around and around in circles! I’ve discovered the hard way that the GPS stinks in the city with tightly packed streets and tall buildings.

After going around in circles for an hour or so, we finally stumble upon the hotel. We were told to park in the garage, but the garage is 6″6′ feet high and my van is like 8.5″! So, I drive around the hotel, no place to park and no valet. We drive around and around again. By this time, I’m ready to turn around and go home. The kids are hungry and the dinner has already started. But the kids were really looking forward to the ballet, especially Eric who love Cinderella. It would be very tough to explain to him why we were going home without seeing Cinderella, Ugggg.

I found a different parking garage that looked tall enough for the van, so I pulled in. I barely slipped under the 8″8′ sign, but once I got inside, the garage dipped to 6″8′! I said screw it and parked along the side, got the kids out and found an attendant who said it would be OK to leave the van there. Nice guy, I think he felt sorry for me. I was so frazzled after driving around Boston for an hour.

So, it is two blocks to the hotel and we get there and there are stairs! I had to go around to another door and the doorman had to go find a key for this little stair lift closet. I had to leave Eric in this closet, while the guy locked him in. Aaron and I went down stairs to meet him. Luckily, Eric was happy when he got off the lift. Like I said, you never know with him.

Now it’s 6pm and we are an hour late for the dinner. Aaron’s anxiety is kicking in, since he knows the letter said, you MUST arrive on time! At this point I didn’t really care since I knew the show was at 7pm and what were they going to do, send us home? It was embarrassing arriving so late. But they fed us anyway.

Now, the plan is to walk over to the Wang Theater, which is seven blocks away on Boston’s cobble stone sidewalks! Eric enjoyed the bumpy ride, but I was tired by the time we got to the theater. Now, my anxiety kicks in since Eric is not too sure he wants to be there with all these people. But, we managed to get through most of the show. Eric was a bit loud a couple of times, but not too bad. I sat in a seat behind him and Aaron found a good seat further forward, so Eric actually did a bit better without being able to see me.

The play went a bit too long, if you ask me, but Aaron was loving it. I could tell that Eric was getting tired, and also, he wasn’t happy that the music was not Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, or even Disney. He would have liked it much more if he knew the music. But other than pumpkins, it was really hard to tell we were watching Cinderella. Anyway, there were only a few minutes left when Eric decided he had had enough and started making a big scene. I unlocked his chair and started moving him out of the theater, when I realized my purse was somewhere on the floor in the dark. I reached down to find it and Eric’s chair started rolling away! I forgot that there was a ramp to get him to his seat and I couldn’t see it in the dark. OMGosh, he rolled all the way down the isle and into the sound booth. What a scene! I was so embarrassed. Luckily, Eric was fine. Not sure if there was any damage, I didn’t stop to find out. I got out of there as fast as I could!

Than I had to leave Eric in the lobby to go in and tell Aaron where I was (this time his wheels were locked)! Still, I didn’t want to leave him, even for a minute, but remember Aaron has an anxiety disorder.

Well, the show ended in just a few minutes, too bad Eric couldn’t have lasted a couple more minutes, oh well.

As I was waiting for Aaron to come out of the theater, some lady shows me a camera and said, “is this yours?” Yup, sure was! I have no idea where she found it or how she found it in the dark, but I was thankful. I think I’m losing my mind sometimes…

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. As we were rushing back to the van, I hit one of the cobble stones the wrong way and the tire came off one of the front wheels of Eric’s chair, so I couldn’t push him without tilting the chair back, which wasn’t easy, since he has those “anti-tilt” thingies on the back of his chair. Luckily, we were almost to the garage when the tire came off.

Then, of course, someone parked next to me in the garage, so I couldn’t put the lift down. I had to move the van, just to get Eric in. Now a new problem. I can’t get out of the garage without going up to the lobby to pay for parking and get my ticket validated. I can’t push Eric, so I had to leave the boys in this underground garage at 11:00 at night in Chinatown! Aaron did fine though, he was very brave and locked himself and his brother in the van while I went to pay for parking (parking was supposed to be free from Starlight, but it cost me $20.00).

As we were leaving Boston, I noticed that I was almost out of gas, but I took a chance and got onto the MassPike.

OK, Now for what went right…

The dinner was excellent and Eric did very well in the restaurant, even though there were lots of kids there, which can set him off. He did great and he eat all of his dinner (that’s progress!).

Aaron loved the show and he got to see the whole thing. Eric liked most of it and did fairly well. It was just a bit too long for him. Plus, he had to poop… I think that’s why he acted up at the end. Fair enough.

We made it home without running out of gas, not sure if I’ll make it to a gas station though!

I was able to fix the wheel on the wheelchair when we got home.

I kept the boys home from school today and we all enjoyed sleeping in.

So, all things considered, just another fun Bissell adventure.

Below are a few photos, thanks for the nice lady who found my camera. Thanks also to Starlight!

Aaron at Dinner


Aaron in his element; he loves fancy restaurants and going to the ballet.

Cindy and Eric


Twins at the Wang (see the devil in Eric’s eyes?)