For A Girl Recently Diagnosed With Crohn’s Disease

The daughter of close friends just found out she has Crohn’s Disease. She’s suffering a lot right now, and I know exactly what she’s going through. This post is for her.

Mood music:

Hello, my young friend. I’m sorry that you’re hurting so much right now. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was around your age, and spent many weeks in the hospital between ages 8-16. It stinks. But if there’s one thing I’d like you to remember after reading this, it’s that it WILL get better.

I experienced all the things you are now — the massive loss of blood, the knifing pain in the gut, sleepless nights in the bathroom, and more blood.

A couple times, I’ve been told, the doctor’s came close to removing the colon. Too much of it was under siege and they didn’t know where to start in terms of targeting it. But it never came to that.

The pain was pretty intense. I really don’t know how my parents were able to get through it. I think it would cause me more anguish to see one of my kids suffer than to go through it myself. That had to hurt. Especially since they lost another child along the way. It also couldn’t have helped that I would be in the hospital for six-week stretches in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

I mention this because you should know how hard it is for your Mom and Dad to see you hurting. They’re new to this Crohn’s thing, and they will worry endlessly about what they are doing for you and whether it’s the right thing. Be patient with them if you can. But if you need to yell at them once in awhile so you can cope, go ahead. That’s what parents are for.

As you will probably soon discover, the most popular drug to treat what’s making you sick is Prednisone, which comes with a long list of side effects. Your face might get puffy and you’ll want to eat everything in sight. But you’re a strong kid and you can handle that.

A lot of people helped me survive a childhood of brutal Crohn’s Disease: My parents, great doctors, school friends who helped me catch up with my schoolwork and rooted for me whenever I got out of the hospital, and a great therapist who helped me sort through the mental byproducts of illness.

I think you’re going to get through the current attack and that you will be able to move on to a better life. Again, I lean on my personal experience.

I’m probably one of the luckiest Crohn’s patients on Earth. The last bad flare up was in 1986 and I haven’t had once since. I still go through frequent periods of inflammation, but nothing that requires drugs or hospital stays. The colon is checked out every other year to make sure the layers of scar tissue don’t run wild and morph into cancer.

Had the doctors removed the colon when I was a kid, I think things still would have worked out. I would have learned to live with it. Whatever you have in front of you, I think you can make the best of it and push through.

Be strong and keep the faith, my young friend. I hope you feel better soon.

–Bill

P.S.: Here’s a picture of me the year I was diagnosed. I’m the kid at the very back, right in the middle. As you can see, Crohn’s Disease couldn’t kill my smile. It won’t kill yours, either.

A Crohn’s Disease Attack, Put To Music

During a severe Chrohn’s Disease attack in the mid-1980s — around the time I was discovering Van Halen‘s older albums — I found one song that really personified what I was feeling.

It’s the final song on the band’s debut album from 1978, which is also the year I was first attacked by this disease.

As I’d spend the early-morning hours sitting on the toilet in the upstairs bathroom of 22 Lynnway, Revere, losing blood, clutching my gut and making a thousand deals with God, that song would reverberate through my head, over and over.

I had forgotten about it over the years. But this morning, for the hell of it, I decided to listen to that first Van Halen album on the drive to work. Somewhere along Route 128, the song came on, and I was transported back in time.

I went a lot of years without listening to the song. It’s not that it brought back the bad memories. It’s just that I’ve been listening to other things, including Van Halen’s new album, “A Different Kind Of Truth.”

Looking back, I’m glad I had that song going through my head during the overnight Crohn’s attacks. It put noise and words to what I was feeling, and made those long hours of darkness feel a little less lonely.

As I replay the new Van Halen album over and over, I’ve found another song that fits my life today. It’s a track called “Blood and Fire.”

Those two words fit the feeling (fire) and result (blood) of a Crohn’s attack. But the song is about coming out the other side, making it through the blood and fire and doing, as David Lee Roth sings, a victory dance.

Thanks for the coping music, boys.

When The Going Gets Tough, I Disconnect

I’m leaving my weekly therapy sessions with a headache these days, because I’m working through another deeply embedded flaw in my soul.

Mood music:

It’s not nearly as bad as the therapy I had in 2004-2006, when I had to endlessly churn the sewage of my childhood memories in search of clues on what was wrong with me and how I got that way. Back then, I didn’t know myself very well. Now I do.

Knowing myself as I do, I’ve started to zero in on the ongoing flaws that hold me back and hurt loved ones. That apparently requires a few more trips to the sewer.

I’ll give you a fuller account further along in this process. For now, let’s just say I have a wall I tend to hide behind when the going gets tough. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if not for the fact that life is ALWAYS tough. Not just for me, but for everyone. We all have our Crosses to carry and difficulties to endure. In my case, it’s a lot harder with a wall in the way.

So here we are again. Back in the mental sewer. I know my way around now, but the stench can still be too much to take.

The first question from the therapist was if I had talked to my mother lately. No, I told him. I thought Mom and I were making progress in December, but she couldn’t handle this blog and went off the deep end. I won’t defend myself. She’s entitled to her point of view. But let’s just say I was hoping to be writing posts by now about how we were reconciling.

So no, I told him. We’re not talking.

Then he asked about how I handled my brother’s death when I was 13. I told him I pretty much disconnected from the world. Same thing after my best friend killed himself in 1996.

“You’re starting to see the pattern?” the therapist asked.

Yeah. When the going gets tough, I disconnect. The bigger events caused that self-defense mechanism to take root all those years ago. But it kicks in during life’s more routine challenges. And when the wall goes up, my anger level kicks up a few decibels. I don’t do what I did in my teens and 20s: Throwing furniture through walls and plotting endless ways to find those who hurt me so I could hurt them back.

I’m not THAT guy anymore. But I do still get angry. When I do, I turn in on myself and brood.

But I knew that already.

Now the question is, what to I do about it?

I love my life now, and I’m blessed beyond measure. But the better my life gets, the more of an eyesore the wall becomes. It’s got to go.

My therapist has seen this stuff before. He knows the wall is rooted in the memory sewer.

So I guess I’ll be here for awhile longer.

RIOT Guitarist Dies From Crohn’s Disease

I’m sad to report that Mark Reale, founding guitarist of the legendary metal band RIOT, died yesterday from Crohn’s Disease complications.

Mood music:

Here’s the news from Blabbermouth, a heavy metal news site:

Reale died yesterday (Wednesday, January 25) in a San Antonio hospital due to complications of Crohn’s disease — an ailment he had battled for most of his life. He was 56 years old.

Reale had reportedly been in a coma for the past two weeks after suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage on January 11.

Mark is survived by his father, Anthony Reale, and was preceded in death by his mother, Frances Reale.

Mark spent most of his life working and performing while enduring almost constant pain and the side effects of treatment for Crohn’s disease. He was in Texas bravely attempting to practice for the shows, but was felled by a severe onset of Crohn’s symptoms, leaving him in the Intensive Care Unit at an undisclosed facility. Mark was struggling with these symptoms throughout the production of RIOT‘s new album, “Immortal Soul”, and guitarist Mike Flyntz recorded a major portion of the guitars on the LP with Mark‘s creative direction while Reale was unable to perform. 

For those wondering if I’m freaked out because the disease I’ve had for most of my life killed someone, the answer is no. I’ve always known this is a potentially fatal disease. But deaths are pretty rare. Deaths from asthma are rare, too, but asthma complications killed my brother all the same.

The truth is, you never know when you’re time is up. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my own mortality but not anymore. The more time you spend doing that, the more life you waste.

I’d rather go out knowing I did my absolute best as a dad, husband and writer than sitting back at age 95 wondering what the hell happened to my life.

Pearl Jam’s Brush With Crohn’s Disease

Watching some of the “Pearl Jam: 20″ documentary, I learned something I didn’t know about lead guitarist Mike McCready: Like me, he has Crohn’s Disease.

Mood music:

Knowing what the disease does to you when you’re under attack, I’m impressed he’s been able to keep the kind of touring schedule Pearl Jam is known for.

How anyone can spend two hours a night on stage when they’re taking Prednisone is beyond me. I’ve done a lot with my life despite the disease, but I doubt I could have done that. Physically I could have. Not mentally, though. Whenever I’ve been on that drug my prevailing desire has been to tell the world to fuck off.

McCready performs an annual concert to benefit the Northwest chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and has been pretty outspoken about his bouts with the disease.

It’s another example of how no one with the disease has to settle for a lesser life.

McCready was reportedly diagnosed when he was 21. I was diagnosed when I was 8 and the worst of the attacks for me ended by the time I reached 17. I’ve been freakishly lucky, though the effects of the disease and the Prednisone use certainly contributed to the mental illness and addiction that has clung to me light a wet blanket in adulthood.

That’s life, though. The curve balls are hurled at us and we can duck, get hit or learn to catch them and make the best of it.

I’m glad McCready is doing the latter.

My Mother Found The Blog

In my slow effort to reconcile with my mother, I made it easier for her to find this blog. Given the raw emotion to be found here, I was pretty sure it would be rough.

Mood music:

I suspect it hasn’t been easy for her to read through this thing. Not at all. But her initial comments suggest she’s really trying to get it and put it in the proper perspective.

Some of my memories are not as she remembered the sequence of events, but I knew that would be the case. As I try to point out regularly, this blog is based on my recollection of things. But my recollection is never going to be the same as how others saw it.

One of my favorite rock autobiographies is “The Dirt” from all four members of Motley Crue. What I love about it is that each member writes about the same events, and while they remember many details the same way, there are other events each band member remembers differently, especially when it comes to what they think was going on in their bandmates’ heads. By seeing the four different perspectives, events become a lot more real and ironclad.

That’s why I always encourage family members to chime in via the comments section. If they remember an event differently, the reader should know about it. Then we get closer to the truth.

I suspect my mother will focus more on the bad stuff in here than the good. It would be hard not to when you’re essentially reliving family history as remembered by the youngest child.

That has to be a mind-bender.

She commented this morning that while she doesn’t remember everything the same way, she understands (or at least accepts) my need to write it all down and share. She suggested that she just wants me to be well and focus on my family.

She also noted that the post I wrote about my brother’s death had a couple facts wrong. He didn’t walk to the ambulance as I remembered, and he died earlier than I thought. She said it as an FYI, not in an accusatory, bitter tone.

I don’t think she would have been able to see things this way even a couple years ago.

I’m still not sure how far I want to go with this. I’m still somewhat gun shy about getting too close again. That’s not her fault. It’s just that I have my OCD triggers, and I have to be mindful of them. I have to set clear boundaries. I’m still going to keep my distance. But I’m at least ready to talk.

I started to feel this way at my Cousin Andrew’s wedding in August. I saw a lot of family members I hadn’t seen for a very long time, and I was admittedly feeling somewhat lost.

I give my mother a lot of credit. Despite all the trouble between us, she gave me and Erin hugs and was very friendly. That couldn’t have been easy. My stepfather kept his distance, but given the tension in the air, who could really blame him?

My Aunt Robin didn’t say more than three words to me, but that’s ok. She hadn’t seen us in a very long time and that has to create some awkwardness. I watched her being a good, nurturing and loving aunt to several cousins, and that made me happy. It was really good talking to my Aunt Dee. The two of them look great. Aunt Robin has such a close resemblance to my late grandmother that I was taken aback at first. It goes to show that the dead live on in others. Also very comforting to see.

One of my cousins was there and it was the first time I had seen her in over 20 years. She’s not on speaking terms with much of the family. She didn’t remember me on sight, but last time we saw each other I was a skinny, long-haired metal head. Now I’m a husky, bald-headed metal head.

Since she’s a black sheep too, it’s rather ironic and funny that she didn’t recognize me. Or maybe it made perfect sense.

This family has been through the meat grinder. There has been a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding along the way. There’s been way too much sickness and death. We’re not special in that regard. Every family has a deep reservoir of drama.

I don’t think the wedding did much to change the family dynamics. The people who are not on speaking terms need a lot more than a family wedding to resolve the overwhelming tangle of misfiring wires.

But everyone getting along in the same space showed that despite everything, despite the divisions, everyone still fundamentally loves each other. That’s important, because as one of the refrains in the second reading of the wedding ceremony made plain, you can have everything in the world. But if you don’t have love, you have nothing.

I’ve had a lot of love and blessings in my life in the last few years. I’ve come far in overcoming addictions and mental illness. Even the family discord has served a purpose.

My Uncle Bobby, the last of the siblings that included my grandmother, took me aside at one point and said life is too short to hate.

He is absolutely right.

But hate has nothing to do with it.

Mistrust, hurt feelings and deep disagreements over right and wrong? Absolutely. But not hate.

I still love everyone, and I forgave my mother a long time ago.

So why, you’re probably wondering, can’t we just let the past lie in its grave and move on? Because relationships are deeply complex things, and it is never that simple or easy.

But I let Ma find this blog, and believe me: That was a big fucking step.

I hope it leads to something better.

Michael, left, me and Wendi, sometime in the early 1970s. The family has been through the wringer over the years.

To A Woman Under Attack From Crohn’s Disease

A friend asked me about good Crohn’s causes she could donate to because a friend of her daughter is gravely ill from the disease. I shared my thoughts, but wanted to reach out directly to the person suffering.

Mood music:

I hear you are really going through the meat grinder right now and that you face life-threatening surgery. I’ve been there, so this is my attempt to give you some peace of mind.

I experienced all the things you are now — the massive loss of blood, the knifing pain in the gut, sleepless nights in the bathroom, and more blood. But looking back, I must say that in the long run it’s been more damaging to my mental health than my physical health.

It screwed up my brain and pushed me toward an adulthood of addictions and other hangups. I had a couple transfusions in the late 1970s. This left me scared to death in the 1980s and 1990s about AIDS, because many people got it from tainted blood transfusions. Fortunately, I’ve been tested many times for it and that didn’t happen. I was lucky.

A couple times, I’ve been told, the doctor’s came close to removing the colon. Too much of it was under siege and they didn’t know where to start in terms of targeting it. But it never came to that.

The pain was pretty intense. I really don’t know how my parents were able to get through it. I think it would cause me more anguish to see one of my kids suffer than to go through it myself. That had to hurt. Especially since they lost another child along the way. It also couldn’t have helped that I would be in the hospital for six-week stretches in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

As you have probably discovered by now, the most popular drug to treat it is Prednisone, which comes with a long list of side effects. In fact, the drug screwed with me much more than anything else. More on that in another post I wrote called “The Bad Pill Kept Me from the Good Pill.”

But I’m here to tell you there’s no need to write yourself off as doomed. There’s the spiritual argument for this, where you put all your trust in God. I’m a true believer and subscriber of that argument.  I also know that in your darkest moment, there are always people to help you through it.

A lot of people helped me survive a childhood of brutal Crohn’s Disease: My parents, great doctors, school friends who helped me catch up with my schoolwork and rooted for me whenever I got out of the hospital, and a great therapist who helped me sort through the mental byproducts of illness.

I think you’re going to get through the current attack and that you will be able to move on to a better life. Again, I lean on my personal experience.

I’m probably one of the luckiest Crohn’s patients on Earth. The last bad flare up was in 1986 and I haven’t had once since. I still go through frequent periods of inflammation, but nothing that requires drugs or hospital stays. The colon is checked out every other year to make sure the layers of scar tissue don’t run wild and morph into cancer.

Had the doctors removed the colon when I was a kid, I think things still would have worked out. I would have learned to live with it. Whatever you have in front of you, I think you can make the best of it and push through.

Good luck and God Bless you.

–Bill

THE OCD DIARIES, Two Years Later

Two years ago today, in a moment of Christmas-induced depression, I started this blog. I meant for it to be a place where I could go and spill out the insanity in my head so I could carry on with life.

In short order, it snowballed into much more than that.

Mood music:

About a year into my recovery from serious mental illness and addiction — the most uncool, unglamorous addiction at that — I started thinking about sharing where I’ve been. My reasoning was simple: I’d listened to a lot of people toss around the OCD acronym to describe everything from being a type A personality to just being stressed. I also saw a lot of people who were traveling the road I’d been down and were hiding their true nature from the world for fear of a backlash at work and in social circles.

At some point, that bullshit became unacceptable to me.

I started getting sick of hiding. I decided the only way to beat my demons at their sick little game was to push them out into the light, so everyone could see how ugly they were and how bad they smelled. That would make them weaker, and me stronger. And so that’s how this started out, as a stigma-busting exercise.

Then, something happened. A lot of you started writing to me about your own struggles and asking questions about how I deal with specific challenges life hurls at me. The readership has steadily increased.

Truth be told, life with THE OCD DIARIES hasn’t been what I’d call pure bliss. There are many mornings where I’d rather be doing other things, but the blog calls to me. A new thought pops into my head and has to come out. It can also be tough on my wife, because sometimes she only learns about what’s going on in my head from what’s in the blog. I don’t mean to do that. It’s just that I often can’t form my thoughts clearly in discussion. I come here to do it, and when I’m done the whole world sees it.

More than once I’ve asked Erin if I should kill this blog. Despite the discomfort it can cause her at times, she always argues against shutting it down. It’s too important to my own recovery process, and others stand to learn from it or at least relate to it.

And so I push forward.

One difference: I run almost ever post I write by her before posting it. I’ve shelved several posts at her recommendation, and it’s probably for the best. Restraint has never been one of my strengths.

This blog has helped me repair relationships that were strained or broken. It has also damaged some friendships. When you write all your feelings down without a filter, you’re inevitably going to make someone angry.

One dear friend suggested I push buttons for a good story and don’t know how to let sleeping dogs lie. She’s right about the sleeping dogs part, but I don’t agree with the first suggestion. I am certainly a button pusher. But I don’t push to generate a good story. I don’t set out to do that, at least.

Life happens and I write about how I feel about it, and how I try to apply the lessons I’ve learned. It’s never my way or the highway. If you read this blog as an instruction manual for life, you’re doing it wrong. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to fit your own needs.

Over time, the subject matter of this blog has broadened. It started out primarily as a blog about OCD and addiction. Then it expanded to include my love of music and my commentary on current events as they relate to our mental state.

I recently rewrote the “about” section of the blog to better explain the whole package. Reiterating it is a pretty good way to end this entry. You can see it here.

Thanks for reading.

"Obsession," by Bill Fennell

Should I Be Upset About This Report Card?

I’ve gotten word that a reader and dear friend was upset over last week’s post, “Reading Between The Lines Of A Bad Report Card.” She shouldn’t be.

Mood music:

She said that she would never have sent such a bad report card to her adult child. I think she was also upset at the suggestion that my parents weren’t paying adequate attention to me back then.

I don’t mind, though. In fact, I’m happy to have that old report card. It put things in perspective for me. It was a snapshot of a difficult time. I used to get angry when thinking about those days. I had a lot of hate in my soul over it.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I think everyone did the best they could with the tools they had back then. The problem was that the tools weren’t that great.

But everything turned out fine.

Below is the original post. Have a look and tell me if you would be upset if such a report card were sent to you.

And to my friend: I appreciate your reaction to the original post very much. Yours is a friendship I treasure, and I don’t want you to worry about this one. Hence the sequel post.

Reading Between The Lines Of A Bad Report Card

My mother found my fourth-grade report card the other day and mailed it to me. On the surface it shows a chronic C student who doesn’t give a damn about anything.

But when I read between the lines I can see exactly where my 10-year-old head was at.

If you look at it on the surface, you see a straight-C student who occasionally sinks to a D in social studies and math. On the back of the report card are comments each quarter from my teacher, describing me as a kid who puts no effort into anything.

My first thought on reading it was that this teacher didn’t like me, and that the feeling was mutual. In reality, I don’t think she disliked me. I think she saw a kid adrift and was trying to scare my parents into a more rigorous study routine at home.

Unfortunately for her and me, she wasn’t the type of teacher who was going to get through to me. She took the academics very seriously, but did little to appeal to the more creative side of me. Teachers before and after her would have a lot more success in that regard. She didn’t get me and I didn’t get her. A troubled kid needs nurturing personalities to intervene.

Even as an adult who has enjoyed a fair amount of career success it’s the same:The more nurturing bosses get more out of me. The ones who shove a 13-point plan in my face and tell me to do it get nothing but trouble. Luckily for me, I’ve only had a couple bosses like that along the way.

I have been both types of boss myself, and I’ve found that most people do better with supervisors who are nurturing souls.

In the 1980-81 school year at Theodore Roosevelt School in the Point of Pines, Revere, Mass., I needed a lot of nurturing.

My parents divorced in the summer of 1980 and it was not a civilized, amicable process. The yelling and instability sent me on to such soothing pursuits as lighting things on fire and shoving the garden hose into an air vent on the side of the house.

I was also sick most of the time with Crohn’s Disease. If you look at my attendance record, there’s a 20-plus day absence in the fourth quarter. That was for one of my extended hospital stays. I missed the class picture shoot that spring, which is probably for the best. I wasn’t a pleasant site.

Erin was pained to look at my report card. She never got grades so consistently bad. She felt sympathy for the teacher, who was obviously trying to get my parents’ attention. But in the raw wake of divorce and the illnesses me and my older brother suffered from, they obviously were distracted. I don’t blame them.

I suppose I should have felt sad looking at the report card, but I don’t. I see it for what it was — a snapshot of a difficult period of time. I survived it, and turned into an excellent student once I had a couple years of college under my belt. I would argue that despite it all, I turned out just fine.

What makes me even happier is that at least to date, my children do well academically. Duncan has some ADHD-related challenges, but his grades are mostly good and he has a heart I didn’t have at that age. That heart will take him far.

Sean is currently the same age I was when I brought home that report card. He’s razor-sharp academically, though like me at that age, he often rushes through his homework, the most notable evidence being his sloppy penmanship. We can work with that.

I’d like to think that their better academic luck reflects that we’re giving them a good home life — better than mine was, at least.

To me, the big lesson is that when a kid brings home a bad report card, it’s not enough to just look at the grades and brand the student a success or failure based on the letters and numbers alone.

There’s always a story behind the grades, and taking the time to know the story is key to helping that child going forward.

Reading Between The Lines Of A Bad Report Card

My mother found my fourth-grade report card the other day and mailed it to me. On the surface it shows a chronic C student who doesn’t give a damn about anything.

But when I read between the lines I can see exactly where my 10-year-old head was at.

Mood music:

If you look at it on the surface, you see a straight-C student who occasionally sinks to a D in social studies and math. On the back of the report card are comments each quarter from my teacher, describing me as a kid who puts no effort into anything.

My first thought on reading it was that this teacher didn’t like me, and that the feeling was mutual. In reality, I don’t think she disliked me. I think she saw a kid adrift and was trying to scare my parents into a more rigorous study routine at home.

Unfortunately for her and me, she wasn’t the type of teacher who was going to get through to me. She took the academics very seriously, but did little to appeal to the more creative side of me. Teachers before and after her would have a lot more success in that regard. She didn’t get me and I didn’t get her. A troubled kid needs nurturing personalities to intervene.

Even as an adult who has enjoyed a fair amount of career success it’s the same: The more nurturing bosses get more out of me. The ones who shove a 13-point plan in my face and tell me to do it get nothing but trouble. Luckily for me, I’ve only had a couple bosses like that along the way.

I have been both types of boss myself, and I’ve found that most people do better with supervisors who are nurturing souls.

In the 1980-81 school year at Theodore Roosevelt School in the Point of Pines, Revere, Mass., I needed a lot of nurturing.

My parents divorced in the summer of 1980 and it was not a civilized, amicable process. The yelling and instability sent me on to such soothing pursuits as lighting things on fire and shoving the garden hose into an air vent on the side of the house.

I was also sick most of the time with Crohn’s Disease. If you look at my attendance record, there’s a 20-plus day absence in the fourth quarter. That was for one of my extended hospital stays. I missed the class picture shoot that spring, which is probably for the best. I wasn’t a pleasant site.

Erin was pained to look at my report card. She never got grades so consistently bad. She felt sympathy for the teacher, who was obviously trying to get my parents’ attention. But in the raw wake of divorce and the illnesses me and my older brother suffered from, they obviously were distracted. I don’t blame them.

I suppose I should have felt sad looking at the report card, but I don’t. I see it for what it was — a snapshot of a difficult period of time. I survived it, and turned into an excellent student once I had a couple years of college under my belt. I would argue that despite it all, I turned out just fine.

What makes me even happier is that at least to date, my children do well academically. Duncan has some ADHD-related challenges, but his grades are mostly good and he has a heart I didn’t have at that age. That heart will take him far.

Sean is currently the same age I was when I brought home that report card. He’s razor-sharp academically, though like me at that age, he often rushes through his homework, the most notable evidence being his sloppy penmanship. We can work with that.

I’d like to think that their better academic luck reflects that we’re giving them a good home life — better than mine was, at least.

To me, the big lesson is that when a kid brings home a bad report card, it’s not enough to just look at the grades and brand the student a success or failure based on the letters and numbers alone.

There’s always a story behind the grades, and taking the time to know the story is key to helping that child going forward.