This morning I was introduced to a poet performer that spoke, in the video I saw, about a childhood filled with bullying. As a father of one that has been bullied it was powerful. Messages about bullying, abuse and the realities of life as a child today conflict me. Maybe conflicted is not the right word, maybe its confused, surprised, amazed. You see I never really experienced that. My childhood had plenty of weirdness, plenty of the things that can scar you and make you who you are, but one of those things was never abuse, not from my parents, not from other kids. If you are reading this, you most likely know me, and have for a while, and know that I am a social person. People are one of the things I enjoy and wonder about as an adult. As a child, I was friends with just about everyone. One might say I was a popular kid, and I guess I was. Through none of my own doing, I look this way, and know how to get along with people so I always did. To this day, I have never been in a fight, but it is not about my life, it about the other lives going on in my house.
My daughter has Aspergers Syndrome. If you've never heard of that, look it up. The short version is that she doesn't receive the social cues you and I do. The nuance of human interaction, that is so natural for me, and for her brother, escapes her completely. It can lead to some wacky and very awkward exchanges, just because she can't get that you are finished talking, or that her comment is odd. The message didn't connect because you didn't say it, out loud, in no uncertain terms, without a grey area.
Kids don't dig awkward. They can't handle it, and unfortunately, most of the kids at my daughters old school, reacted the way a lot of kids do, and that is with abuse, and separation. Chupacabra, loser, weirdo, crazy, stupid, coupled with a dedicated and concerted shunning created an atmosphere that must have been miserable. It was miserable, but I couldn't get it. It was I that wasn't getting the cues. So at home, we blamed the victim. She must be bringing it on somehow. It must be her fault. For over a year, and it makes my cry to type that, for over A YEAR she suffered abuse all day every day every where by everyone. There was almost no port in what must have been an incredible storm, and it breaks my heart to think about it, to imagine the loneliness and despair.
Her reaction over time was predictable. Retreat, anger, despair, and depression. We were losing our child. She was on suicide watch. Suicide watch. My child. We hid the kitchen knives and made sure the drugs were locked away because her therapist explained with tears in her eyes, "Most kids I don't have such a concern for because they don't have the ability to complete. Delaney is smart enough to complete." She said that to my face and I shattered into a million pieces. This is real, my daughter hates her life so much that she is talking about killing herself. It was un-fathomable to the guy that was never teased, always picked first, always lucky and at the head of the line. Something had to be done.
We had spoken to the school before, but never with much determination. This was different. This was the school from which I graduated. The headmaster is my friend, the other parents my classmates, this was supposed to be my world, the world that had treated me right. Tough shit, I learned. Your kid isn't athletic, isn't cool, looks different, and sounds different. She doesn't act like the other kids, or do the same things as the other kids, or have the same interests as the other kids... and there is nothing we can/will do. The bullies were called in, sure, and some confessed, and some differed, and one was a powerful man's son so things improved for a week, or so. But not really, so I called a few of the parents, not to berate but to beg. Please help me! I am losing my first born, please make your kid stop abusing her, please, please, PLEASE! But the ringleader's dad said, in effect, no. He'd told the kid to stop and that should be enough. "But he's not stopping" I explained, "nothing has changed." Later I was told by another classmate that was closer in age to this parent, "He was bully in high school." and another, "He was a bully in law school." So maybe the kid comes by it honestly, and maybe thats why no one ever made him stop. We were fighting for our child's life, and in turn our own, because any parent knows that you are only as happy as your unhappiest child and we couldn't bear another minute. Our daughter was taken out of the classes of this boy, so he decided to focus on her only friend that was left behind. After three weeks of this, she went on Spring Break and never came back. How would we survive, literally, the rest of the year?
We were fighting for our daughter. Exploring options, making calls, changing what could be changed. In short, we were believing her story. In the words of her therapist, she was being "HEARD." I had to sit down with my girl and apologize, and admit that I had been part of the problem. I had contributed to the hell that she was forced to endure every day, all day. It is guilt that is as powerful as anything I've felt, and it will never go away. Never. Just like the memories and scars left because of what I failed to recognize, failed to acknowledge, failed to stop. Failed. But, this is the good part. Delaney saw that we were on her side. She heard the conversations, and the anger from her parents, and inside she knew that she had been right. Life wasn't supposed to be this way, and her folks were going to try and make it better. She realized we hadn't known. That our lack of understanding stood in the way of our action, of our acceptance of the reality of her environment day to day. Her realization was what she needed to start to come back to us. She had advocates, us, that were hell bent. And she did come back. The anger began to subside. Hugs happened, without prompting. Clouds lifting, but not gone.
Since the beginning of all this we had explained that there are kids out there like her, but we couldn't produce any. That summer our girl got to be involved in a program, almost like a camp, for gifted children. She spent a month at a college in North Carolina with kids from across the nation that had been chosen to participate based on their test scores and intelligence. You see, Delaney is a genius. Her verbal IQ is un-chartable. What happened there was a miracle and I didn't need Al Michaels to tell me about it. It was an entire dorm of Dr. Who watching, geek lit reading, hyper-intelligent kids that were JUST LIKE HER. She came back a different person. Truly transformed. After seeing her, and hugging her, and helping her put her things away, I quietly went to a private place and bawled like a baby. She was happy. Maybe this would be OK.
Fall came, and she finished middle school where I did. It was as safe a place as I know of in the world. It was safe to me when my world disintegrated when I was 10-11-12. Maybe it would be a safe place for her too. And it was. She made some friends, was accepted, and stood out in ways that were commendable and rewarded with praise and recognition. Homework was still an issue, but my girl was back. Naturally it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows, but everyday when I picked her up she was standing with friends, talking and laughing, instead of hiding to evade the scorn of the crowd. She dominated and drove the school production of The Outsiders and killed at the talent show. It was a new world, and in it our girl made it through the last vestiges of middle school. The hardest time in most of our lives is Middle School and she was through it.
Now of course is High School. She started at a fine arts school this year. Its the same one her brother started a year ago. He went first to flee the jock heavy, creativity dismissing culture of his old school and loves that he gets to act, and dance, and be creative every day, and he showed her the way. Now they get out of the car without prompting. They are ready, "Come on Dad, its time to go."
So this morning, when I listened to that poet tell me about his history, it all came flooding back. When I hear about bullying now, in any place or situation, I am enraged, and motivated to make it stop. It hits home now. The kid that was never bullied finally got that its going on, right now, in your kids school. Be your child's/any child's advocate because that is what they need the most. We aren't sea turtles left to fend for ourselves, we are humans, and we need help to make it to adulthood. My kid needed a champion, and its one of the defining episodes of my life that we finally realized it.
Sixteen years ago today. Sudden, horrific, galvanizing. That day marked the beginning of a new Oklahoma City. The nation and the world turned its eyes to Oklahoma City that day, most for the first time. What they saw was something unprecedented in the history of our nation. The largest and most deadly and destructive terrorist attack ever undertaken on our soil.
That wasn't all they saw. As the attention of the world stayed focused on Oklahoma City, the rest of what was revealed was a city of depth, caring, compassion and sacrifice. A community of hard working, giving people willing to drop what they were doing in order to help. Our city, that was once considered a dusty backwater, was re-invented in the media's lens. So long we'd been the butt of a joke, a punchline synonomous with tornadoes and trailer homes, but once everyone got here, things weren't what they expected. We were smart, thoughtful, and dedicated. A great American diamond in the rough. No, we weren't a top ten tourist destination, just a rock solid place to live, work and raise a family.
The praise poured in from every angle. "How could we have missed it?"' they wondered. "Why didn't we know?" For the first time in the city's history people were saying good things, positive things about Oklahoma City.
The City I grew up in was a portrait of self loathing. "Action City" people would sneer as they left for Dallas, Denver, anywhere else. Our populace was the proud owner of quite possibly the worlds most ingrained inferiority complex. This town was nothing, had nothing and we couldn't wait to get the hell out. What changed?
We finally got a little positive feedback. Claire was nice to Allison, pulled her hair back, added a little mascara and when they came out of the bathroom everything was different. You could see our face. And after looking in the mirror, we all started to realize what we had, right under our feet, all around us, every day of our lives.
Our city fathers, as much as many would like to malign them, also played a huge part. Downtown had to be revitalized, and the money pouring in due to the distruction wrought by the bombing became just the foundation. MAPS was devised and sold. We took a chance and made an investment in our city. "Private money will follow!" they said. "We deserve it!", they said. "It will change our city!", they said. Home run. We raised the money, spent it wisely and remade the core of our city. We all know the rest. Private money followed 5 to1 and Bricktown/Midtown/Downtown was (re)born.
But it all started on this day sixteen years ago. The city that Forbes raves about, that is in the NBA Play-offs, that is the Natural Gas capitol of the world, that makes the top ten in every positive poll done around the country was born on this day sixteen years ago. It was painful, messy and difficult, but it revealed our true colors to the world. The ladies in the audience can speak to whether that sounds like childbirth or not, but it does to me. Our town, my town, was re-born. And with piles of great attention, lots of love, hard work and money we have raised a city up. It was always here, waiting to be discovered. The world recognized it, and showed it to us. It was so close all those years we couldn't see it. All we needed was a little attention. For someone to be nice to us, because we let them.
This day will always be one of sorrow and remembrence for many in our community, and rightfully so. But for me, in my own mind, this is a day to rejoice, to celebrate the beginning of the NEW Oklahoma City. I love this city. LOVE IT! And April 19th is its birthday.
Music is my God. That what Simone says. Beyond my wife and children, there isn't anything I couldn't possibly live without except music. Alex, my 9 year old son, is an actor and takes voice lessons. His dreams are on the stage. Delaney is 12 and is such a wonderful piano player, even though she is 12 and has a predictable pre-teen destain for something most would kill to master the way she can. Simone is the one with the credentials. She has a degree in vocal music from OBU. She taught for three years before she went to law school. Every day in the trenches, and her voice just floats on the air. Real, actual talent, all three of them. Dad is just a listener. Like the DJ between the songs. No real skills or knowledge. On the flip side, occasionally I think, somehow I am the one that loves it the most. She says I use it to feed my soul, like many do with religion. I'll buy that. I know there isn't anything else in the world that makes me feels as good or as much as a song. Especially a good one.
Tonight was date night. Simone and I went to a wonderful dinner at The Metro (Its not hip, but its really a great restaurant. Any city would be lucky to have it, so take your significant other there and have a great meal. Yes I am biased, and if you know me, you know why.) Due to some allergy related, allergy drug induced, weekend morning weirdness, Simone was up at 4 this morning. Yep, that stinks. It stinks at 4, 5 & 6am, and at 8pm, when, after eating well, you are supposed to go out on the town with your husband on Date Night. She pooped out. I don't blame her. Not happy about it, but I don't blame her. But I wanted to see Graham Colton. Chad was nice enough to put us on the list, and I wanted to hear the music. In case you didn't know, my wife is awesome. She didn't whine or lump around, she said, "Go to the show. Don't come home too late." She knows I can stand there by myself and enjoy the music alone. Thats the point, right? The music? Anyway, I went without her.
Class of 1988, Casady. I've been around here my whole life, and yes Heritage Hall seems to have all the famous folks. Barry Sanders' kid, Wes Welker... Graham Colton. (What about Clay & Aubrey, hell they went to Casady. Go Cyclones!) But for all the Oklahoma City I've seen and heard, before tonight I have never heard a note of Graham Colton. No, I'm not ashamed. I'm old, with children and as much as I love music it has never bubbled up to the top, but tonight I was determined to check it out.
I couldn't be more impressed.
Colton and his band started off as all the good ones do, a little late, and with lots of energy. I don't know which songs were new and what was "old" but it all sounded relevant, familiar and positively inspired to me. So much of what I hear, and its a random and unscientific sampling, is just not interesting to listen to. Every song I heard tonight, I was drawn to. As much as the Final Four beckoned on the TV's around, I was compelled to listen to what came next. With each song I became more and more impressed. At one point I found myself face to face at the bar with "Jarrad from Tuttle" the guitar player backing Graham. All I could say was, "I'm a big fan of yours Jarred from Tuttle. Well done." I meant it and he seemed to take it in the manner in which it was intended. Tom Petty is my favorite, and if you like Tom, you know about Mike Campbell. Campbell is the guitar player that makes Tom's music come alive. Watching Jarrad, reminded me of watching Mike during Petty shows. Making all the good stuff happen while the popular guy sings the song.
They started with some up tempo stuff, both new and old (what do I know) and then the band took a break (Hence my Jarrad encounter) while Graham continued on his own for an acoustic set of songs that were captivating. No, I never saw one person divert to the bathroom. All eyes were on the home town boy, and he was doing good. Real good. Since the show was a homecoming of sorts, Graham talked a lot, and thanked the crowd for being there repeatedly. It makes sense, if only because he knew most everyone there. At the same time, it was a real Rock & Roll show, and he was a real star. He looked it, he acted it, and best of all, he sounded like it. Yep, he sounded just like a star, with great songs, and good moves, and a great band behind him. I could see him on TV, or on any stage in the country easily in my mind. It was fun to watch, and yes, it fortified my soul, as music will do.
Just as they were wrapping it up a thousand OU football games took hold and I readied myself to leave "to beat the traffic" but the moment of the night kept me there. As I left to leave, I went to buy some cds, but all I had was a credit card. The towering (and I even had my boots on) guy tells me, "To take a credit card you have to wait until the show is over." I'm a good soldier, so I ask him to write up my stuff and I'll wait. Another song gets played and I'm watching from a side stage perspective now which is different and revealing and fun, but the thought surfaces, "Why am I waiting?" Sky scraper dude say, "Graham's phone takes the credit cards." So I waited, and the star of the show jumped off the stage, reached in his pocket and processed my credit card, right there. Technology is powerful, and thats another post. but so is music. Its personal, and uplifting, and local, and timeless, and powerful. Graham has power because he can make those wonderful sounds. I had no idea how good he is. Frankly I had an inkling the local folks might fawn on him because he's from around here, but I was wrong. Every bit of attention he gets is because he's got great talent. I can't do what he does, and I've tried. Tonight was a great pleasure, and tomorrow, when Backroom Records opens, I'll be there to buy the albums that came before the one I bought tonight. I have some catching up to do. But as long as you listen loud, my God is very forgiving.
This morning I got an email from a ReMax colleage that was working on a new Oklahoma City listing in a historic area. The home has a new GeoThermal heat and air system and the colleage wanted to know if that was something that could raise the market price on the house.
Questions like these are something I get at least once a week. People love their homes and want them to work exactly the way they choose. I am the same way. We are all versions of Sally (Meg Ryan), we want it the way we want it. To this end we install complex stereo systems, computerized lighting systems, elaborate fountains and lush landscapes. I know guys that can turn on their porch light on their phone from the casino in Vegas. Sometimes I think those folks need to learn to focus... but I digress. All of these things, swimming pools included, are GREAT! They can be fantastic tools that make living in your home much more enjoyable... for you.
The problem is that for the next guy or gal that comes along, they might not matter at all. There is no way to account for the taste of the next person, and as we all know ideas and opinions do vary. While my buddy wants to play with his lighting scheme in baggage claim, the next guy may just want The Clapper. To a buyer all that whiz bang could be a dud and won't matter at all when it comes time to make an offer.
Appraisers get caught in the deal too. People that build new homes (been there) sometimes get excited with the idea of customization (done that) and go overboard spending more than is rational to add coffee machines to the master bedroom, or mosquito systems to the back yard, whatever. Those costs fall to the bottom line and then I walk in and have to break the news that the house won't appraise for what they can borrow to build. Unfortunately this little tidbit sometimes comes after the damage is already done and people end up underwater before they ever move in.
The problem for an appraiser is that we are forced to use other sales in the vacinity that are similar and not too many homes share out of the ordinary amenities. (Hence the term: out of the ordinary.) In order to give these little gadgets real solid value, an appraiser would have to find a number of similar homes both with the given amenity, and without, and compare their sales. That was the issue with my colleage's listing. There just aren't many GeoThermal homes in Heritage Hills. And, since they are rare, one can't do a Paired Sales Analysis (fancy appraisal school phrase) to determine what value they add, if any. So we can't give them any value.
As a Realtor, of course we love these types of add ons in a house. They are great sales points that can really distinguish your home from its competitors in the marketplace. But don't expect them to raise your value over other homes sold in the area. Into the high range of the market maybe, but not over the top. Theoretically we could raise the price of that new listing by an amount that would make the payment rise equal to the amount the utility bills are lower. Theory is great, but I'm no scientist and it doesn't work that way.
So, if you want to install remote control window shades that run off of an App on your Iphone, Rock On! But don't try to add their cost onto the price of your house when you ask me to list it, or you'll end up in the dark.
If you have any questions about Real Estate, or there is anything I may do to be of service, please do not hesitate to call me anytime.
Have a great week!