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Gerbils, Trains, Wine & Snow – it was tough to pick a good "picture of the year", but the annual wine making in the basement of Grandma’s house was the winner. Domenic and I are mashing the grapes before they ferment. We made about 40 gallons this year and Domenic really got into it – he used his bucket to help carry the wine and fill the barrels and also helped to turn the press. It’s a nice family tradition I remember from when I was a kid and drinking the wine is not too bad either!!! This is not that "cool aid" they sell as White Wine, Chardonnay, etc… This is real "red", nothing artificial, no stabilizers, no sulfites, just natural fermentation run wild.

I’ve really got to recommend gerbils as pets, they don’t eat much, they don’t smell, you can change their cage once a week – and if one dies, "heah, they’re just fancy mice!" Last year we visited neighbors with Gerbils, and Dom really loved them, he was also very gentle in handling them. So we gave it a try and its worked out really well. We’ve had them over a year and a half now, started with two, got up to 5 (with babies), and now back to three: Whitey, Blackey, and Cinnamon. Dom just never gets tired, at least twice a day he takes them out of their cage and sets them on a play table where be builds a little world for them out of boxes and scrap paper. He also picks them up, gives them big hugs, carries them around so that Daddy and Grandma can also give them a kiss. Makes a bit of a mess, but he also knows he has to cleanup when done.

Dom loves trains. Grandma lives next to some busy train lines and he still runs to the window every time a freight train goes by (I thought he would have gotten tired of it by now). Of course, we got some toy trains at home too. Over the summer we spent some time walking along some old branch lines deep in the woods – found a lot of wild blackberries and just did exploring. Tried to get Dom to catch some crayfish in the creek bed, but he wasn’t to sure about their claws (especially after seeing live lobsters at the store).

Just getting into snow season again. Dom still thinks shoveling the driveway is a lot of fun – I guess all that will change when he gets older! We spend a lot of time outside sliding, making snow men, or making snow dams to catch draining water. Great therapy for dad!

We have all been in good health during ’97. Grandma has been in great health, and Domenic keeps her busy. He is also happy to take the time and explain to her how complicated things like "legos" or "trains" work. Its been a hectic year, but we have all taken it a day at a time, and kept a sense of humor.

Very thankfully my business on the Internet is growing (enough to support another employee). Which gives Dad more time to spend with Domenic. Feel free to visit our web site, or send E-mail to Money is still very, very tight, but at least we are not going deeper into debt (by much!).

Life has yet to "settle" for our family. I am appealing a Divorce which has left me only a "visitor" in Domenic’s life (I get two 4 day weekends a month). The appeal to the "higher court" is ready and should be decided by March. Oh, I was also "ordered" out of the house by the local Court so it could be sold. I thought I might be able to stay in the home while the appeal was pending (we live in a nice neighborhood), but that was also a NO.

In the middle of preparing this letter I get a formal eviction notice, I am suppose to be out by midnight Dec 13th, or the Sheriff moves me out. To both friends and family, you are the people who have known me through life – it shouldn’t be too big a surprise that I have decided to protest my separation from Domenic by refusing to leave. I have read a lot about non-violent Civil Disobedience, and I guess I get to put it into practice. I fully expect to be under arrest by the time some of you get this, for what could be the start of a long jail sentence (since if they release me, I would just return to the home again). I will lose just about everything I have – they have told me they will take the contents of the home, move them out to the curbside for any passerby to take.

This "system" of ours unjustly separated Domenic and I. I can’t even go to visit him at preschool, at times I have to bring him back after a visit with me and leave him with a baby sitter (and often times he really cries as we separate). It appears that is better than allowing Domenic to spend an extra hour or two with me. Many of you are parents, just sit back and imagine being pulled out of your child’s life, just imagine having to leave your child with a stranger while they are crying and holding on to your neck and asking you to stay – how many times could you do that? And at the same time realizing it was entirely avoidable, that it was just part of some "divorce game". I have known parents that fill with bitterness and hatred – I want to avoid that by taking positive action. Having to watch him cry these past few months is really drilling a hole in my heart and my faith. I can laugh about most things, except that. The "system" needs to change, and it only changes when good people take action, and sometimes they need to take public action – I went through POW training at the Academy, I never thought I’d end up in Jail here.

A punk kids stealing a six-pack of beer from a store, and before getting even a few weeks in jail, gets a right to a Jury, and a standard of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt". I believe all our kids and parents deserve the option of asking for that same process before being separated for years. I’ve had my fill of "experts" deciding.

Am I sure about what I am about to do, yes. Do I think it will really change the system, I don’t know. But through my entire life I have always done what I really believed in, and I know this is the "right" thing. I really have spent a lot of time in thought and prayer and I guess it comes down to this, "God, protect me from my hidden faults, maybe I was so bad a father and a husband, maybe I just don’t understand that this is a good system – in that case perhaps I do belong in Jail for a while, and have a chance to think things over. On the other hand, if I have been treated unfairly then in sound conscience I have to resist and trust that you will care for us come what may – in that case I am also called to Jail."

If you want to learn more, visit this web site:

I most deeply, deeply, regret that I probably will not get to see Domenic too much (it moves me to tears just to think about it). But I still have a strong faith things are going to work themselves out here, just going to take a bit more time. One "good thing" that has come out of this is Dom and I have a strong relationship, you don’t know how it warms my heart to hear him say, "Daddy, I really love you." When he is with me I don’t do anything else, when he talks to me I listen – adults can wait, he can not. My father always had time for me, and I will share that with Dom. We work around the house and outside together, and simply "play" together – its been good therapy for me!

Recently I go to daily Mass when I can. I’d like to say I really focus on the service, but for the most part my mind wanders into many worries about the house, Dom, and legal actions. You know how it goes, you say the prayer’s on autopilot. Well, a while back I was leaving the Church after that kind of service and this woman stopped me and said, "Sorry, but I just had to tell you, I was watching you during the service and you had such a peaceful smile. I’m sure you must not have a care in the world." – Well folks, let me tell you, I paused for a moment and just burst out laughing. I told her thanks and if "she only knew."

I really wanted to take the time to write each of you a personal note this year, but right now I’m a little strapped for time. You have my warmest wishes for a Very Merry Christmas. I’ll be thinking of you from my "cell block". Do you think they will let me hang a stocking? I always wondered if they give out egg nog or candy canes – well, I’ll let you know!

P.S. Family members, if you can help my Mom (shopping visits, visits to me), please call Mary Palliotti – she is happy to coordinate.