The following is my autobiograpy. It is divided up into many sections, arranged categorically. It browses over my life: my roots, my memories, my hard times, and my triumphs. Read it to learn a little more about me.
Birth and the Early Years
I was born on November 27, 1984 on Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH. My father was a Master Sargent in the Air Force, and my mother was a stay at home mom. My sister was 13 at the time and was in middle school. As far as I know, my first few years were happy. I base this on photos from our family photo album (my favorite being of me and a red inflatable car). I lived at Pease until 1987 when my father decided to retire. We moved up to Rochester, which is about twenty minutes away. My father worked at Eerie Scientific until he got laid off in the early 90’s. After a period of unemployment, he began working third shift at airplane engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney. This coincided with my first grades of elementary school and allowed him to spend time with me at school. He used to come in to my first grade class once a week, along with a couple of other parents, and read to us. He also chaperoned a few field trips in grades 1-4. I really liked the fact that he could participate in school with me and that he cared about what I was doing in class.
I attended School Street Elementary School in Rochester, NH for grades 1-5, then Rochester Middle School for grades 6-8, and finally Spaulding High School for grades 9-12. I was a solid student in grades 1-12. My grades were usually around the top of my class until High school, where I was still part of the upper tier (probably the upper 15% of students), but towards the lower end of that tier.
School Street School was a place of fond memories from my childhood. It was the smallest elementary school in Rochester, with about 100 students in grades 1-6 (later K-5). It was an old 3 story building that looked like a milk carton, had a small playground with a dirt field and old equipment, and had a cafeteria in the cellar. Most of the teachers were very good; friendly, fair, strong role models. My favorite staff at School Street were Mrs. Craigie, the secretary and Librarian who used to read to us every week; Mrs. Grassie, the teacher’s aid until I was in fourth grade; and Mrs. Curran, my fourth grade teacher.
The end of fifth grade signaled the first school switch that I would experience in my life. I started middle school at Rochester Middle School in 1996. A new school seemed like a good experience to meet new friends, grow up, and even be a different person if you wanted to. It turned out to be quite a bit less that that. I severely disliked my middle school experience. Why, you may ask? It is not because I was bullied, beaten, or scarred in any way, it is just that I was bored. The curriculum was just repetition of 4th and 5th grade, there weren’t too many new things to do, and the staff treated students as if they were in elementary school, but expected them to act as if they were in high school. In short, it was basically a waste of time. Ugh… The only fond memories that I really have were from band. I met a lot of my current friends: Josh, Tyler, and Jason in eighth grade, which was a realatively fun year for me, mostly because Josh and I made fun of our English teacher for the entire year. Middle school was where I experienced the infamous Mr. Marks, a 7th grade Math/Science teacher who didn’t ever teach anything. I spent half of the day in his class watching people throw Jello at the wall, run around screaming, and do any other thing that was not classwork. Meanwhile, I was coloring pictures of the human body: the bloodstream and stuff; it was a waste of time.
High school was a different story. A new place where they expected you to act like an adult and treated you like one (usually). There were many new opportunities and many friendly people to hang out with. I made all of my current friends in high school and enjoyed the experience overall. The classes were more challenging, they were actually worth something (a.k.a getting into college), and there were many more things to do. I participated in Band, Drama, Student Council, Newspaper, Yearbook, and Fencing during my four year stay. Spaulding has a reputation for being a rough school with bad teachers, but it’s not. I enjoyed my four years and had many good teahcers there. All in all it was a good experience that shaped who I am today.
I started playing the Clarinet in fourth grade. As a third grader, I saw a presentation from the music program that caught my interest. I was amazed by all of the shiny instruments and all of the buttons, so I decided that I would ask my parents if I could join the next year. When fourth grade finally came, my parents enrolled me in the program. I chose to play the clarinet because it had a lot of buttons and I thought that it looked cool. I played clarinet through elementary school, middle school, and into high school, where I joined the SHS Marching Band.
The SHS Marching Band was considered “The Best Band in the Land” by many, mostly because of its famously (and infamously) powerful and visual half time shows. Marching band was an extremely demanding yet fun experience. Almost all of my close friends (including Sally) were in band with me. Band was more than just a group, it was a family and a community, complete with leaders, troublemakers, and all the drama of the best soap operas. Overall it was an awesome experience and had a huge impact on who I am today.
My band experience really helped shape my character. It gave me something serious to do, and believe me, band could be pretty serious. The band had 160 members when I joined my freshman year and I met a lot of people. I became a section leader along with my friend Tyler during my sophomore year. I tried out for Drum Major, but I just didn’t have the skills to work in front of a big group of people. I could have worked with them, but I got really nervous in front of them. Plus I was rather opinionated and had a tendency to cause controversy with Ms. Houston, the band director. My controversy was always in the best interest of band members or my section, but I still think it is one of the reasons that I was not picked. When I look back on it, it was really no big deal.
As a sophomore, I enrolled in a class called News and Photo. I took it because I wanted to write for the school newspaper, but it turned out to be the class that introduced me to photography. I originally had no interest in the photography part of the course. We had to roll our own film, use manual focused and manual metered cameras to take pictures, and develop and print the film when we were done. I wanted nothing to do with that… until I did it. Once.
Developing your own film and making your own prints is amazing. It is an art. I enjoyed taking a picture with the camera and then going into the dark to see what I had done. I soon learned little tricks to make the prints look better and started borrowing photography books from the library. The fact that I got to use an SLR made photography even better for me. They take much better pictures than point and shoot cameras.
I liked News and Photo so much that I took it during my junior and senior years as an independent study. During my junior year I was given the opportunity to write for a local newspaper. Each week I wrote an article that updated the city on what was happening at Spaulding. I did this through my senior year as well. I shared my independent study with my friend Steve for the first half of my junior year. We went outside a lot and took pictures of the school’s not so expansive campus and talked about ducks (joke, Steve knows). During my senior year, I shared the darkroom with my friends Josh and Rachel. It was a lot of fun.
After high school ended, I was left without a darkroom. Although Mrs. LaChance, my News and Photo teacher, absolutely loved me and would let me use the school’s darkroom over the summer, it was still hard to coordinate it. To remedy this situation, I purchased all of the equipment that I needed for a darkroom at the end of my freshman year. I set it up in my cellar and had fun with it. I do not use it as often as I would like to, but I am trying to use it more often.
Advanced Placement: On the way to college
During my High school career, I tried my best to plan for college. I took 3 years of Honors English and Honors math in the Honors programs. I finished off each program by taking Advanced Placement (AP) English and Calculus during my senior year. Advanced Placement courses prepare students to take a test that can count for college credits if passed. I scored a 3 on the AP English exam (passing, enough so that I didn’t have to take Freshman English at UNH) and a 5 on the AP Calculus exam (the highest score you can get). I was really proud of my AP Calculus grade. I always had trouble with Math, even though I took hard classes. Getting a 5 was a huge achievement for me. The two AP tests earned me eight credits at UNH, allowing me to take only three classes during my last two semesters (instead of four).
Looking back at school, I think that I did pretty well, considering what had been going on in my life between third and eight grade . When I was in third grade, my mother developed a limp in one of her legs. When she went to see the doctor, they were not sure what was wrong. They said it could be due to a few different things, one of them being Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis is a neuromuscular disease that affects a person’s entire life. The effects of MS vary widely, from having a limp to being paralyzed in different parts of the body. My mother went to the hospital several time for tests and CAT scans to figure out what was wrong. After a few weeks, the doctors made a diagnosis. My mom did not have MS.
She had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a debilitating disease that attacks the motor neurons of a person’s nervous system. The result is loss of muscle control and muscle atrophy. ALS is much, much worse than any form of MS. A diagnosis of ALS is terminal. Your heart is a muscle and ALS attacks the neurons that control your muscules. A person with ALS will eventually die.
Over three years, my family and I watched as my mother’s body died off around her. She started out just needing a cane to help her with the limp in her leg, but that was only sufficient for six months or so. During that time, her speech began to become slurred. It was still understandable, but she had trouble saying a couple of words. I can only imagine how hard that was for her. She was very outspoken and independent and was losing one of the key things that allowed her to be that way.
When my mother used a cane, she could still get around on her own. She used to go out to the mall on Saturdays and spend some time by herself shopping. This alone time was important to her and as a child I did not find it odd or out of the ordinary, though I later learned about my mother’s emotional problems and her need for time to herself. When she had the cane, she could still do this. She even came to one of my band performances at school when I was in fourth grade. At the time, I knew something was wrong with my mother, I knew it was ALS, but I did not know what the outcome would be. My parents didn’t tell me. I was living with her ALS without knowing the consequences. That would soon change.
After about six months, the cane was not enough to keep my mother walking. We had to buy her a walker. She no longer went out because she didn’t want to be seen in public with her walker, but my dad was able to convince her to allow us to bring her to the mall in her wheelchair. She had lost her alone time, but my dad and I tried our best to allow her the shopping time that she was used to. Her speech was slurred. Many people could not tell what she was saying unless my, my father, or my sister “translated” it for them. This made my mother angry, and for good reason: imagine what it would be like if people couldn’t understand you when you were speaking their native language. At around the same time we bought the walker, visiting nurses began to come over during the week to do physical therapy with her. I was in fourth grade at the time. By that time my mother had quit smoking, which was a good thing because I had always wanted her to, but the reasong was not: her hands could no longer hold the cigarettes long enough to smoke them.
When I was in fifth grade, my mother could no longer stay by herself in the house, so we had to have a Nurse’s Aid spend the day with her. Our first Aid was named Nancy. She worked for a company called Interim. As I mentioned before, my mother had emotional problems, lots of them. She didn’t make friends very easily, especially when she was losing her independence. Despite this, she got along with Nancy relatively well. Unfortunately Nancy quit Interim a few weeks after she began visiting us. Just when she was feeling comfortable, my mother had the rug pulled out from under her.
The next nurse that we had was named Pam. She was a nice lady, but her and my mother didn’t get along. She started during the summer, so I was home all the time and witnessed the entire thing. By this time it was very difficult for anyone not in my family to understand what my mother was saying. She was wheelchair bound and spent most of her time in her living room chair because she couldn’t get up. Her neck muscules were no longer strong enough to support her head, so it tilted down and to the left. It was so sad to look at her. She was becoming thinner and thinner as time went on, and I knew that something was wrong. The trouble with Pam stemmed from her not being able to understand my Mother’s speech. My mother swore at her, called her a bitch, and screamed about why she couldn’t understand what she was saying. Eventually they got through this and my mother made a friend. She was extremely sad when Pam had to leave a half a year or so later.
Our next nurse was a lady named Brenda. My mother had the same kind of trouble with Brenda that she had with Pam, but they eventually became friends. Up until this time I did not know that ALS was fatal. My sister had gotten married and moved out with her husband, but came over often to spend time with my mother because she knew that this would not last forever. I guess they didn’t tell me because they didn’t want to ruin my childhood. I am not mad at them for not telling me because I knew they would have told me before it happened. Unfortunately I didn’t give them that chance.
A Devastating Discovery
I was in fifth grade at the time and had just learned about some scientific thing in class. While I was in the kitchen I noticed a piece of paper on the bulliten board that looked like it had to do with the subject I had learned about that day in class. I took it off the board and read it over, but it had nothing to do with class. It was an informational sheet about ALS. I was curious and decided to read it through to see if I could find out more about what my mother had. I read that it was a neuromuscular disease, I knew that. I read that it had no cure, I knew that too. Then I saw the words that broke my heart and brought my world down in flames: “… and is terminal within 2 – 5 years…”. I may have been in fifth grade, but I knew that ‘terminal’ meant ‘dead’. Tears began pouring out of my eyes so fast that I couldn’t see and my nose filled up to the point where I couldn’t breathe. I was bawling in the kitchen and my father ran out to find me in tears clutching the paper. My mother was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it.
My father brought me into the living room and we discussed it together with my mother. I asked her if she was scared to die and she said no. Most of it was a blur to me. She was my best friend in the world. We were alike in so many ways and she was the only one that understood me and my personality completely. I was her miracle baby and she was the greatest mother that anyone could have asked for and she was going to die. She would no longer exist. I would not be able to see her, touch her, or hear her. My world would end.
I guess I eventually accepted the fact that my mother would pass, although it is more like I forgot about it when convenient. It is funny how we can go on with our lives when we know that something is imminent. I started sixth grade, my sister got pregnant with her first child, my father and I began improving our rocky relationship in therapy, and Pam came back to Interim and asked if she could work with my mother again. Her and Brenda split shifts during the week. Life went on. My mother’s condition worsened. Her speech was almost unrecognizeable, she weighed 90 pounds, and could only move her right hand barely. But she was still my mother. She still loved me and I still loved her, but the end was nearing.
“It’s ok. We will be fine”
One evening, my mother told my father in a panic that she needed to go to the hospital. Something was wrong. My father called 911 and an ambulance came to pick her up. Her potassium levels were extremely low and the doctors told her that she would die if they didn’t give her potassium through an IV. She knew that the end was nearing and didn’t know if she should go on. I begged her not to die that night, not just for me, but for Christine, who was still at home and didn’t know. My mother decided to take the potassium, which allowed her to live through the night and through the next week. By that time, it was obvious that my mother was going to die. She could no longer speak; we had to communicate via closing eylids- once was yes, twice was no. A nurse came on Friday and told us that she was holding on for us. We needed to tell her that it was ok to die, that we woudld be ok without her. That was the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. How can a 12 year old tell his mother that she can die and leave him alone? How can a daughter tell her mother that it is ok to pass away when her grandson is going to be born in a month? How can you tell your wife of over 30 years that she can just die and leave you alone? You can’t, unless you lie. And lie we did. I lied through my teeth and told her that it was ok, that I would be fine, while inside I was dying.
After my family told my mother not to hold out anymore, things went eerily back to normal for the rest of the day. Evening came and I was in my room building a space ship out of legos. I went out to the living room to show my mother as I always did and explained all of the details to her. She was delighted, as always, even in her current state. When it came time for bed, I kissed my mother on the cheek as I did every night and she said to me: “Jason, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Enjoy your trip tomorrow.” She was referring to the end of the year band trip to Canobie lake that I would be taking on Saturday. I believed her and went to bed, begging God not to take her and to make her better, as I had done every night since I was in third grade. That was the last time I spoke to her. I awoke at 3 AM to the high pitched whines of my father, who had stayed in the living room next to her bed with her all night. She had passed in the early morning, once she was sure that all of her loose ends had been tied up. According to my father, he stayed up with her until the early morning just talking. She told him that she loved him, which she had not said in years and they held hands all night. My father drifted off to sleep and when he woke up, my mother had passed away. It was June 14, 1997. My nephew was born on July 5.
I was devastated by my mother’s death; she was my best friend in the world. My father and I did not have much of a relationship. I was afraid of him and he did not understand my emotional personality. We went to weekly therapy sessions for this and our relationship improved. For the next six years we learned from each other and he molded me into the strong person that I am today. My father is the role model for how I live my life. We are very close and can talk about anything.
My father began dating a couple of years after my mother passed away. At first, he didn’t tell us about his girlfriend, but after a few months my sister and I figured it out and brought up the subject. He was having a long distance phone relationship with a woman named Schawnte. She is a very nice and caring person and is fun to be around. He is really lucky to have her. They got married in October of 2003 and my father moved to Texas to live with her. We still speak often via telephone and visit each other whenever we can.
As for my love life, I started dating my first girlfriend, Meredith, in eighth grade. We flirted all the time, so I asked her out duing an overnight trip for school. She said “I guess so”, and we were hitched. We stayed together for 11 months, until the middle of the second semester of ninth grade. We had begun to lose interest in each other at the 9 month mark, and our relationship sort of trailed off from there. I didn’t want to go past our one year anniversary if I had lost interest, so I broke up with her. I felt bad about it, but decided that it was the best decision. I started dating Kristen three days later. She was a junior (remember, I was a freshman at this time) and she was a lot of fun. We dated for three months until she broke up with me at her PROM, when she decided that her feelings had changed. She now has a child of her own. After the embarassment of being dumped at the prom, I had a week long rebound relationship with a girl named Amanda. Amanda played the flute in Marching Band and we started dating during Pre Band Camp (keep the “one time at bandcamp” jokes to yourself). The relationship ended because Amanda was going to be gone all summer and I didn’t want to be held back. This left me free going into summer vacation.
I started dating my wife Sally during the band’s end of the year trip to California. She ended up cheating on her boyfriend at the time (who treated her like crap) and broke up with him when we got back from the trip. We have been officially dating since July 4, 2000, which amounts to about ten years at this point. I proposed to her on October 3, 2005. We got married on October 4, 2008. She is the love of my life. We work so well together and have a very deep and meaningful relationship.
When it came time to choose a college, I stayed local and decided to go to the University of New Hampshire. It was actually the only college that I applied to. I decided that I didn’t want to go any further away because I didn’t want to be away from Sally. UNH had a good Computer Science program and it was close – that was all I needed. I applied for early admission and got in. My AP credits allowed me to skip English and one of my require math courses.
I graduated High School in 2003 and started college in the fall. I lived off-campus with Sally in a house in Dover that we rented from her grandparents. It was a one bedroom, one bathroom, but it was enough for us. I started working on campus for what amounted to a traveling tech support team, but the hours were variable and it only paid $10 an hour. I needed more in order to afford to pay my portion of our rent and bills. Luckily I found a job at Research Computing Center – an on campus support company for a building full of research professors. I stared as an operator, doing whatever was needed to help out the professors: fixing printers, installing software, troubleshooting email, you name it. I stayed at RCC through my entire college career and learned a ton.
I graduated in May of 2007. It was raining and our commencement speakers were George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton. It was very interesting to hear what they had to say, especially knowing what was going on at the time.
Sally and I own several pets, including our two Miniature Dachshunds, Hannah and Holly. Sally had always wanted her own dog. When she was a junior she had the chance to get one. A man in Milton was giving away a nine month old Miniature Dachshund named Hannah. Sally quickly snatched her up. She was a cute little dog and peed all over the kitchen floor when I first met her. She loves to dig holes outside and can ruin a front yard in a day. She also loves to rip the crap out of dog toys. Witin an hour she has the heads ripped off and the stuffing out, making sure to save just enough to cover the floor with three months later when it suits her.
About a year after Sally adopted Hannah, she had another opportunity to adopt. A woman in Milton was giving away a two year old long-haired Dachshund named Holly. Sally took that opportunity as well and adopted her. Holly liked a lot of attention and made Hannah very jelous and anti-social. It took Hannah about four months to really get used to her. During that time she became more aggressive and preferred to rip up toys over being near Holly, who was always around Sally. Holly does not like to play, instead she likes attention, lots of it. She will roll on her belly and moan when she wants you to rub her. She will occasionally pick up one of Hanna’s toys and toss it around, but won’t touch it for more that five minutes. In the winter she likes to dig tunnels in the snow. I don’t know what it does for her, but it is the closest thing to playing that she does.
The girls (as we like to refer to them) are like our children. They play, they learn, they comfort, and they even pout. They sleep in our bed with us (taking up nearly 50% of of the available space) and add a lot of fun to our lives. They can be loud and annoying, needy and in the way, but we love them just the same and I can’t imagine life without them.
The ‘Real’ World
Once college ended, I had to enter the ‘real’ world. Truth of the matter is that I had been living in the real world the entire time I was in college. I lived off campus, had to pay my bills, heat my home, feed and clothe myself, and fill my car with gas. Even with Sally to help it was not easy. We struggled. The ‘real’ world was like a vacation compared to college.
As I neared graduation, I started looking at the jobs that were available for a Computer Science major. Most of them involved working for companies that contracted to the military making software that flew aircraft, directed missiles, etc. Not really what I was interested. Luckily I saw a posting for Liberty Mutual in the career center in November and setup an interview. The company sounded pretty good (I didn’t even know they had programmers there), it paid well, it was close, and it wasn’t a military contractor so I applied for a job. By January they made me an official offer and I took it. It was January and I had a real job! I was so happy to have that out of my way.
I’ve been working at Liberty ever since and its been really good. I’ve worked in five different departments and been promoted four times already. I work in the Dover office, which is five minutes from my house, so I can’t really complain.
My First House
Even after I got a job and started making more money, Sally and I still lived in the one bedroom house that we had in college. We had to save up for our wedding the next year and needed to save our money. That started to change as the wedding came closer. Our house was simply getting too small. We had a bunch of pets and a bunch of stuff and needed more room. Our kitchen was too small and the house was starting to fall apart. We originally just wanted to rent a bigger place, but we had trouble finding somewhere that allowed dogs, had a yard, and didn’t cost as much as a mortgage. What we needed was a house. So we bought one.
We did research online and put together a list of candidates. There was one house that looked perfect but it cost too much money. We went to the Masiello group office in Dover to meet with a real estate agent. By chance, we met with Charlie Jedicke and it was a perfect match. He asked us what we were looking for and found some possible candidates. We looked at some places but nothing really fit us. We checked the listings again and lo and behold the place that we had found earlier that was too expensive had dropped in price – right into our range!
We toured the house a few days later and fell in love. It was huge, had a ton of recent renovations, was in a great location, and was in a wonderful neighborhood. After some heated negotiations, the sellers accepted our offer and three months later we were moving in. We were so happy! We moved in four days before our wedding, which I wouldn’t recommend, but it was worth it! It’s been a year and a half and we’ve finally made it our home. We painted all of the rooms (we went with bold colors – our living room is orange), replaced the carpet in the dining room with hard wood, added a deck and new landings, planted grass, put new doors and trim in the living room, and just put in a beautiful new front door! We love our neighborhood and have the best neighbors that you could ever ask for.
Sally and I are living in our house in Dover with our two dogs and two cats. We both work at Liberty Mutual – I work in Dover and Sally works in Portsmouth. She has recently been testing out a ton of cupcake recipes and recently held her first “Cupcake Party”. I recently purchased a new camera and became more serious about my photography.