Archive for January 2009

Sunday is the big game as the Pittsburgh Steelers takes on the underdog Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

Jamie Kelly, Brian Siguenza and Angie Holmes discuss Kurt Warner and the Super Bowl.

Jamie Kelly, Brian Siguenza and Angie Holmes discuss Kurt Warner and the Super Bowl.

As I have made my admiration of Cardinals’ quarterback Kurt Warner quite clear, GO Time host Brian Siguenza asked me to be on his weekly show to discuss the Cedar Rapids native and the Super Bowl with Steelers fan Jamie Kelley, The Gazette’s social media guide.

It was the first time I’ve done a video project (I usually run and hide when my uncle has his video camera out at family gatherings). It was fun and I hope to do something similar in the future.

After numerous attempts, I was unable to embed the video into this post. Here is the LINK. Enjoy the video and Go Cardinals!

Several days into my son’s Ritalin regimen, we have halted it. The stimulant, commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is supposed to help with focus and concentration.

Unfortunately with Sage, it did the opposite. He is usually a chatterbox and busy body but this magnified everything. He talked louder and more continuously. But the worst trait it brought out was agressiveness, something that has never been an issue with him.

After doubling his dose this morning (at 6 years old he’s 4 feet tall and nearly 60 pounds), he threw a fit while entering school, screaming and hitting his head against the wall. When his dad tried to calm him down, Sage hit him. When one of his teachers tried to calm him down, he pushed her away.

My husband called the doctor who said to discontinue the Ritalin and take Sage home immediately. It should take about six hours for it to get out of his system. We have been referred to a child behavioral specialist for more testing and possibly a different medication.

Ritalin has done good things for many children and adults. But for some reason, it wasn’t what my son needed. I can tell he is already feeling back to normal. He wants to go back to school and see the teacher he pushed away this morning. “I love her,” he says. And he does. That’s my sweet boy. We want to keep it that way.

Before I became a parent I was one of those who questioned others’ parenting skills and had no patience for less than little angels. All children were created equal weren’t they?

I also jumped on the bandwagon that diagnoses like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD, were just a crock and cop out for bad kids.  And prescription drugs like Ritalin were just a way for pharmaceutical companies to make a buck. I fell into all of the one-sided arguments about lazy parents who couldn’t handle their little brats so they sedated them.

My beautiful baby a day after he was born.

My beautiful baby a day after he was born.

And then in November 2002, five weeks before my due date, I became a mother. Sage Jeffory Holmes was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Yes, he was a little yellow-orange due to jaundice and had a minor eye infection, but he was perfect in every way to me.

 Within a few months it became evident he wasn’t developing on pace with children his age. Eventually, he rolled over, sat up, talked and walked. All of these milestones were way behind, but it was a major accomplishment when each one finally happened.  

When we took him to events like Easter egg hunts, kids’ events in the park and even trick-or-treating, it became more evident he didn’t have the same interest or abilities as other children. He liked to do his own thing. Rather than playing with the other kids, he would rather look at the air conditioner. When he got stuck on something, it became an obsession – like air conditioners or fans.  He didn’t engage in conversation, but rather talked about his current obsession.

After testing and evaluation at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in 2006, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS, which falls on the autism spectrum. I’ll never forget when we were leaving the clinic after a long day of testing, one of the nurses said to me, “He’s a handful. Good luck, you’ll need it.” Gee, thanks.  I was hoping for help, not luck.

Through all of his developmental delays and social difficulties, it has been evident he is a sweet, intelligent young boy. He learned his letters and numbers at a rapid rate. He memorized all the states and capitals and could point out any of them on a map. Even Montana. He loves music and has taught himself how to play piano. Once he hears a song, he plunks it out on one of his electric keyboards.

Sage composing a song on one of his keyboards.

Sage composing a song on one of his keyboards.

So, it was never a question of whether he would attend school on schedule. Last year, he was in special education preschool and continued to learn basic skills. This year he is mainstreamed into kindergarten with the help of several special education teachers. He is still learning at a strong pace, but his inability to focus and stay on task is interrupting his class and his own learning.

We took him to the doctor last week for another evaluation and we all agree he more than likely has ADHD. The doctor explained to us how Ritalin works, possible side effects, and the possibility it might not be effective given his other delays. But we’re going to give a shot. If it will help him focus and have a more productive life, we can’t deny him that because we might be criticized because Ritalin is not popular with everyone. Because in the end, it is not about everyone else or his teachers or parents. It’s about him.

The night before Election Day my husband came to bed and said, “This night eight years ago we had a beautiful house we loved, we both had good, stable jobs and we were happy.” In a sense, with the exception of our son who was born in 2002, we had it all in November 2000.

Brian Ray/The Gazette                                                                       President Barack Obama
Brian Ray/The Gazette President Barack Obama


Fast forward to November 2008 and we lived in a house half the size which we owe more than its value, we both had our share of employment ups and downs, and we continued to struggle financially as my husband pursues his masters degree in special education after being thrown out the businesses he started. Were we still happy? Let’s just say we’re happy we survived the past years with our marriage and sanity still intact.

The 2008 election provided us, as well as many Americans, a sense of hope and renewal. Barack Obama’s overwhelming win was a stark contrast to the drawn-out 2000 election which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. The sense of unity that our new President instructed us to have just didn’t seem natural.

Now I am not naïve or irresponsible enough to blame all of my maladies of the past eight years on the Bush administration. He didn’t cause my health problems or the changes in the newspaper industry. And I am of the belief that 9/11 would have happened when it did no matter who was President. As an American, I thank the Bush administration for the security it has provided us at home since that horrible day.   

But it is time for a change – in leadership and attitude. Throughout the primary season, Barack Obama was not my first choice. I thought he was too young and inexperienced and the “Yes We Can” chant seemed like transparent propaganda.  It wasn’t until the Democratic National Convention that I finally changed my mind and believed our country could thrive under his leadership.

Let’s face it – our country is a mess right now. With a tanked economy, drawn-out wars and a deterioration of the middle class, it’s not going to be a quick or easy fix. President Obama knows that and, hopefully, the American people will be patient.

Watching the inauguration, I got the feeling the tide is turning. Not just because of a new administration, but because of the reaction and attitude of the people. The emotion was evident on the faces of people of all races and age. We are ready to stand together and work hard to get our country back to its greatness.    

For everyone…who’s ever has been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one’s for you.

Hillary Clinton’s speech after winning Ohio primary, March 4, 2008

Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner

 This very well could be Kurt Warner’s mantra as he has made another improbable comeback in his football career that has seen him go from discarded to glorified to forgotten and now on top of his game once again.

 Yes, I cheer for Kurt Warner because we went to the University of Northern Iowa at the same time, but I mainly cheer him on for his never-say-die attitude.  At the beginning of this NFL season, Warner was to be the backup quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals behind Heisman trophy winner and former Southern California star Matt Leinart. But Warner proved himself in the preseason and earned the starting spot.

 Now he has led the Cardinals, who are not known for their football prowess, to the Super Bowl. At 37 and considered washed-up before this season, this may be even sweeter than the two Super Bowls he led the St. Louis Rams to earlier this decade.

Since being the star quarterback at Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the late ’80s, Warner has had to prove himself every step of the way. He wasn’t always a starter at UNI (much to many fans’ dismay), but when he finally did start, he was allowed to showcase his talent.

The rest of his storybook career is cemented in history. He tried out for but failed to make the roster of the Green Bay Packers. To support his family, he worked as a stocker at Hy-Vee. He then turned heads while in the Arena Football League and landed a spot with the St. Louis Rams. When starting quarterback Trent Green was injured in a pre-season game in 1999, Warner was given a shot as a starter. What was to be a promising season for the Rams, was certainly over with this nobody QB.   

But, again, when given the chance, Warner rose to the occasion and stunned the football world with his performance which led him to the Most Valuable Player award and a Super Bowl championship. Sports stars are supposed to come from big, fancy schools and be drafted into the pros with pomp and circumstance. They typically aren’t nice guys from a small school who weren’t given a real chance until they were 28.

That type of perseverance gives the rest of us hope that we too can work hard, improve our skills and finally get noticed. As somebody who went to that same small school as Kurt Warner, I can relate with him. I didn’t get my college degree in journalism and didn’t work at large daily newspapers before I came to The Gazette. But with perseverance I have stuck with my career and plan to keep up with the new and exiciting changes ahead.

Thanks, Kurt. And good luck in the Super Bowl.

Record-breaking cold temperatures. Restructuring of the organization where I work. Constant news of layoffs in the industry I’ve built my whole career around. Where’s the comfort?

I’ll admit my plan to dutifully watch what I eat and keep to a strict workout routine has gone by the wayside this week. Staying committed to an overhaul of the diet and life in general should be fairly simple. Then stress intervenes.  

At times like these, I’m almost thankful I’ve gone through my share of job insecurity, financial struggles and uncertainty – especially over the past eight years. Every time it seemed like nothing could get worse or better, a new opportunity presented itself.

When I lost my newspaper job in March 2001, I got a different one three months later – one that I loved and thrived in. In March 2002 when the doctor told me I was infertile, it turns out I was actually pregnant. Eight months later I became a mother. When there was upheaval at my job (the one I loved) in 2004, an opportunity opened up at The Gazette, allowing us to return home to eastern Iowa.

Now, there is upheaval once again in the workplace. But this time it is different. Scary, yes. Nobody can afford to be unemployed – especially with the job market so grim. But I see opportunity and forward-thinking in The Gazette’s plan. Will everybody who works there now make it through the restructuring? Probably not. Am I guaranteed a job? No, nobody is. But I do have a sense of resilience that will keep me going no matter what happens.

I am not going to be militant about counting every calorie and dragging myself to the gym every day. After all, it is 30 below zero and everything I learned in my career the past 15 years is changing. But I’m not just going to give up either. That’s how I became frumpy in the first place.

One of my familiar excuses for not working out has been popping up a lot lately. The weather. It’s too cold, snowy and icy to go for a walk. It’s too dark to get motivated to drive out to the gym. And it’s just too darn warm and cozy sitting in bed with my new laptop.

OK, so I could do something in the house. I don’t have a Wii Fit. I sold the stationary bike when we moved here from Kansas because this house is much smaller than the old Victorian we left. I can’t use the big TV downstairs with my workout tapes (“8 Minute Buns is my favorite) because my husband is studying for grad school courses.  Did I mention the warm and cozy bed?

So, what to do? After the big snowfall Friday night, I shoveled out the entire driveway Saturday out of necessity. I wanted to go to the gym and I had to dig out the car. Turns out, I was so exhausted after an hour of shoveling, I didn’t go to the gym. According to Matt Weik of, shoveling can burn from 300 to 500 calories per hour. Not bad.

How about cleaning the house? I know I work up a sweat while cleaning the bathroom, especially scrubbing the shower.  Carrying laundry back and forth between upstairs and downstairs, vacuuming, rearranging furniture, picking up toys and taking out the garbage all burn calories. Here’s a calculator showing how many calories you burn doing chores.

My son Sage helping daddy up the sledding hill.

My son Sage helping daddy up the sledding hill.

If it’s too cold, there is opportunity to burn calories and have fun in the snow. Sledding down a big hill and walking back up to the top dozens of times certainly wears me out. The child, of course, could do the routine for hours on end. Oh, yes, the child. One of my favorite forms of exercise is singing and dancing with him. Depending on the song, that is a quite a workout. And we carry on like nobody is watching.





Any other ideas for working out in the winter? I could be encouraged to get a Wii if somebody would invite me to try out theirs…

I’ve always been a little slow catching on to the latest technology.  When I was a child in the ’70s, my neighbor’s Atari system was a bit overwhelming so I settled for my manual pinball game. In high school learning computer programming was like pulling teeth. In college while everybody else was in the computer lab, I was plunking away at my typewriter. It was electric.

Lutheran Interparish School, Williamsburg, Iowa, third-grade class in 1979. Guess which one is me?

Lutheran Interparish School, Williamsburg, Iowa, third-grade class in 1979. Guess which one is me? (Hint: I am standing)

Now in my late 30s and extremely proud of my Pac-Man game which plugs into the TV, you can imagine how hard it was for me to accept social media. For the last couple of years I had heard the buzz about MySpace, Facebook and those other silly sites. They were for kids and fortunately I was past the age to care.

But after peer and career pressure, I finally created a Facebook account in August. At first I felt awkward filling in my status update. “Angie is sitting at her computer.”  But then friends who I hadn’t heard from in years starting popping up. My memory incited, I searched for people I hadn’t thought of in years. And found them. Bridesmaids who I hadn’t seen since my wedding 12 years ago; college roommates who are all grown up with families and real jobs; people I met during my newspaper journeys throughout Iowa and Kansas; classmates who date back to the parochial grade school on the hill. 

We’re all a little older, a little wiser and yes, even a little jaded. Over the years there’s been health problems, financial difficulties, insecurities and heartbreak. I thought those things only happened to me. It turns out nobody has had a perfect life since school. Who knew? But there’s also been marriages, births and personal triumphs. I love seeing pictures of my friends and their families; and I like to share them too.

During the tough times over the years, there has been a sense of loneliness and isolation. I was sure my friends were living the perfect life and I was just the black sheep who couldn’t adjust to the real world. Seeing former and new friends on Facebook is comforting and gives me a sense of community. Oh, I do intend to get together with many of the buddies I am now in contact with – a computer will never replace the joy of face-to-face interaction.  

Facebook and Twitter have been my modes of social media and connecting with friends and colleagues. If that’s not for you, go ahead and seek out an old friend. Give her a call. Write a letter. Just get back in touch. It really is good for the soul.

Last March when my husband’s job was cut and our household income was instantly sliced in half, one of the first family budget cuts I made was canceling our gym membership. Spring was coming (of course it snowed for another month) and I planned to walk and ride my bike for exercise.

I had a pretty good walking regimen going but then the flood hit, I was too stressed, and a host of other excuses got in the way. I vowed that when we had more money, I would join the gym again. Walking is good exercise and clears the mind, but it just doesn’t compare to huffing and puffing away on the stepper and using the weight machines.

The stepper and tread mill give great cardio workouts

The stepper and treadmill give great cardio workouts.

Now, in my quest to slim down, shape up and get my life back together overall, I have finally rejoined the gym after nearly a 10-month hiatus. My husband is in the middle of getting his masters degree in special education and just started a new job. We’re not quite where we were financially last March, but the membership is a good investment. In what it costs per month for the gym membership, I can cut eating out and out non-essentials to make up for it.

I have gone back into my former workout routine – but at a much lighter pace. The past two days I’ve done 15 minutes each on the treadmill, stepper and recumbent bike as well as lift weights. I’m at about level 3 on the machines – compared to level 10 last March. Whew! Level 3 has been quite a struggle. But like the rest of this journey, I am going to ease my into it to prevent early burn out or injury.

While reading a magazine (Glamour, I believe) on the recumbent bike today, I came across an article about increasing your metabolism. Here were a few tips:

  1. Don’t starve yourself. Eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism stable.
  2. Get plenty of sleep and go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day.
  3. Build muscle as it burns calories faster than fat tissue.  

Any other tips that work for you?

It’s amazing how some people are the perfect parents – of somebody else’s child. That kind of thinking has been going on since the beginning of time but has only been exacerbated with the Internet and its endless stream of information.   

I’ll admit when I heard John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s son, Jett, died suddenly last week, I did a search on the family. I wasn’t aware of Jett’s medical problems and immediately became sucked into the comment sections of articles on them. Many of the entries and comments had varying versions of how Jett became ill as a toddler. His parents said he contracted Kawasaki disease – an illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels – from exposure to carpet cleaner.

Others, however, said Jett had autism, a development disorder that affects the ability to communicate. This is where the story gets complicated. The Church of Scientology, of which John and Kelly are devout members, doesn’t recognize autism or any other “mental illness”, therefore they never had their son treated for autism.

When my son, Sage, was 3 months old, we had his hearing and vision tested due to concerns from his day care providers. His hearing was fine but he was eventually diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia – basically a genetically small optic nerve. As the next few months went by, it became obvious he wasn’t developing like other infants his age. He was signed up for infant/toddler services and was in therapy. Over the next several years, doctors had suspected everything from poor vision to cerebral palsy.

After a series of tests in the summer of 2006, when Sage was 3, the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital diagnosed him with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. Depending on where you look, autism is a part of this category or it falls on the autism spectrum. Although it was not really a surprise, and we had been dealing with Sage’s developmental delays since he was a baby, the diagnosis was still devastating. So many questions, so many worries for the future.

 Autism is difficult for society to understand. Many afflicted with it look as normal as any other child – Sage is one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. Jenny McCarthy summed it up perfectly in the forward of her book “Louder Than Words” (Penguin Group):

“When your child is diagnosed with cancer, neighbors stop by your home bringing precooked meals, hugs, and support. When your child is diagnosed with autism, families who see you in the supermarket will slip away down another aisle.”

My husband and I have had plenty of unsolicited suggestions on how to deal with our son. Discipline him more. Take him to more specialists. Put him on a different diet. And the perennial favorite, “If he were my child…”

I’m not rock solid about a lot of things in life, but I will guarantee that nobody loves that child or cares about his well being more than his father and me. I would like to think most parents, including John Travolta and Kelly Preston, feel the same way about their children.

Sage, my beautiful boy

Sage, my beautiful boy

I’m not going to comment on Scientology other to say that early intervention and therapy have helped my child tremendously in the past three years. But to those making comments about Jett Travolta’s death and the way he was raised, take a moment to think how you would feel if you lost a child. I, for one, can’t even imagine the pain.

It’s no accident that one of the most honorable fictional characters is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  His line, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” is one that most students learn in junior high or high school. You learn it for a reason. Follow it.

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