The simple joys of summer

2009/06/10 at 07:28

The simple joys of summer
This is my great-nephew Scottie.

Like father, like son

2009/02/01 at 19:46

This weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 79th birthday at Lake Buchanan. On Saturday, we all went on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, and then we spent the night at the lodge at Canyon of the Eagles. We had a really good time. (You can see all our photos from the weekend here)
As we walked around the Canyon of the Eagles park, we discovered that it was lousy with armadillos. I lost count at ten. For years, I’ve regaled the kids with stories of my childhood armadillo chasing and catching. This weekend was my first opportunity in over 25 years to relive those good times. To my surprise, it was much easier to catch an armadillo than I remembered.
Here’s the first one that I caught. It was a young one:
My first capture
Samuel would not get near the first one that I caught; but he was willing to hold the second one. By the time we went hiking on Sunday morning, he was ready to try to catch one for himself. Fortunately, he got the chance. Here he is with his catch:
Caught him!
He’s very proud of his accomplishment; he asked me to print out this photo so he could take it to school on Monday.

Monday…

2008/12/15 at 09:37

Got to my office this morning, got my coffee, sat down at my desk and started going through my email. I happened to look down into my lap and noticed ugly brown stains in the crotch of my jeans. Since I don’t recall soiling myself, I’m pretty sure it’s cat barf*. Fortunately, it’s only visible if I’m sitting down with my legs spread somewhat, and you can see up between my legs. I get to go through the whole day worrying about this.
* Unfolded, clean laundry piled up on the couch last week, and the cat started sleeping in it. When I finally started folding laundry, I discovered cat barf on another item of clothing.

Blessing

2008/11/04 at 09:33

Gordon Atkinson has written a blessing for his fifteen-year-old daughter. As the father of a daughter who just turned fourteen, the entire blessing speaks to me. From my own experience, the following passage struck me:

Walk the halls of your school with your head held high. While others may worship at the altars of camouflage, conformity, and compromise, you stand above those shortcuts and soul slayers. Rise up, young woman, and do not be afraid. Rise up and be true to yourself. Let the strength of your presence transcend hair and clothing and music and boys. Let your true colors show in the halls and know that many in high school have scales on their eyes. They only see what they want to see. Many will not see you. There will be times when you walk the halls and feel invisible.
But here is a secret that I know. One boy will see you. He will see you in the middle of the noise and the energy and the hype and the crowds. He will see your strong walk and your eyes. He will listen to the answers you boldly call out in class. He will hear your voice and know your power. He will watch you until he knows you, and then his heart will fall into his stomach, for he will understand that there is only one like you.
Look for him. He is the only one that matters. Do not listen to boys who say they love you. Instead believe in the boy who wants to cherish you. If you hide now, ducking into the crowd like so many others, dressing and looking and acting and praying for safety, you might indeed be safe, but the only boy that matters will miss you. He will miss you because he is looking for a girl like no other. And you will have become just another girl in the crowd.

I’m extremely fortunate that I ran across this one person very early on and that we each recognized the other as the one. Thirty-some years later (24 of them married), I still consider myself blessed.

Singapore souvenirs

2008/10/08 at 21:07

Sinapore skyscrapersI am working this week in my company’s office in Singapore. Singapore is a cosmopolitan, international city. Because the residents of Singapore come from so many different cultures, it’s hard to find souvenirs that are ‘uniquely Singaporean.’
I was discussing this fact with another coworker from Minneapolis who is also working in Singapore this week. He said that he described this situation to his girlfriend as follows: “Asking me to bring a unique souvenir from Singapore is like asking me to bring a unique souvenir from the Mall of America.”

The death of neighborliness

2008/10/02 at 10:11

Our son’s elementary school is only about three blocks away, and there is a crossing guard at the big intersection. He’s in third grade, but we still walk him at least partway because of the traffic on a side street that he has to cross (without a crossing guard). The danger in crossing this side street is caused mostly by the large number of other elementary school parents who who park in the side street in order to let their kids out or to walk them from there to the school. Because of this, there a lot of cars turning each way into and out of this street before and after school.
One woman frequently parks right smack in the crossing zone (which is not marked as a crosswalk), so that we have to walk around her car to cross the street. Yesterday, she pulled in right in front of us, so when I got across the street, I came around to the passenger side of her car and made the ‘roll down your window’ signal. Instead of doing so, she assumed what I wanted to say and pulled out to find another parking space.
Today, she was parked very close to the crossing zone. We didn’t have to go around her car, but having it right there just adds to the visual clutter of the already busy intersection. She was helping her kids out of the car as we crossed the street.
I came over to her and asked, “Excuse me, ma’am, could you please not park your car right here?” She came around to the back and noted that she was not actually in our way, to which I responded, “Yes, I understand, but I feel that it makes this intersection more dangerous to have cars parked so close to the crossing zone.
She rolled her eyes at me and went back to her kids. I was so shocked at her blowing me off that I uttered a profanity that didn’t help the problem.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about why her response upset me so much. I came to the following conclusion: I assumed that the fact that she lives in the neighborhood and that her kids go to the same school resulted in some sort of neighborly connection between us, even if we don’t exactly know each other, and that that connection would lead her to at least make an effort to be polite and pretend to show understanding for my concern.
I guess my assumption was incorrect. And that makes me sad.
And I’m even sadder when I think about the future. Because she didn’t even feel the need to pretend to understand, there will be tension every time she and I cross paths. Plus, I’ll probably escalate my concerns to the city: asking the to come a few mornings and monitor the parking and traffic around this intersection.

Hurricane Ike Relief

2008/09/14 at 14:34

Our nearby high school and middle school are serving as emergency shelters for evacuees from hurricane Ike. I volunteered this morning at the high school. I talked to one family who said that their house was flooded up to the tops of the doors, and some others who had heard that their electric service might not be restored for up to a month.
Please keep these people in your prayers and donate to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund.

Good news and bad news

2008/08/20 at 09:23

The poor CamryWe lived in an 1880s house in the country in New Jersey for several years in the 1990s. The house was on a hill rising from the street. It had a short driveway and a long sidewalk up to the house (which was good in terms of snow shoveling).
The remnants of a hurricane blew through one night (it must have been hurricane Opal), bringing rain and relatively high winds. The storm woke me in the middle of the night, and I could see the dome light on in the car down the hill. Shit, I told Katie, I must have left the door ajar in the Camry, and it’s raining.
So, I put on my raincoat and ran down to the driveway to fix the situation. When I came back to the bedroom, I told Katie: the good news is, I didn’t leave the door ajar; the bad news, the car has been crushed by a tree branch.
Man, we loved that car.

The swimming hole

2008/08/01 at 10:48

rebecca_creek_swimming_hole.jpg
In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I grew up in the Texas hill country. In the course of writing that entry, I ran across this photo of the swimming hole where I spent most of my summers.
This swimming hole is on Rebecca Creek, located about a mile from my house. In the photo, you can see a concrete platform with a ladder out of the water and a very large cypress tree next to it. When I was young, there was a platform about 8 feet above the concrete platform, though it was cut down when I was a teenager.
The swimming hole is about ten feet deep, and when I was growing up, there were 2×4 steps nailed up the cypress tree. The first branch over the water is at about 35 feet with an awesome rope swing hanging from it. Originally, you could swing off the platform, but after that was gone, we just climbed a few steps up the tree to swing. A rope swing that long makes for a nice wide arc over the water.
You could also jump directly from the tree, either from any step or by climbing up to the first limb. I still remember the first time I jumped from the limb. I was probably eight or nine years old.
The steps led to two higher branches, maybe 45 and 55 feet, but I never went up to those branches–not because I was afraid of jumping from those heights, but because it was more difficult to get from the steps out onto the branches. That part scared me.
In the summer, there were always people at the swimming hole–if not swimmers, then teenagers hanging out, drinking, and/or smoking pot. I didn’t partake, but I was known to be ‘cool’ about it.
There were a lot of disadvantages to living in such a remote location–the solitude and loneliness, the 1-2 hour bus rides each way to school, etc.–but all in all, I consider myself pretty damn lucky to have lived in such a place, and the swimming hole was a big part of it.

Hunting

2008/07/30 at 09:35

As part of a post on gun control, Gordon Atkinson describes the history of hunting in his family:

I am not a hunter, but I come from a family of hunters. One of my grandfathers grew up in a poor family of sharecroppers. When he was a boy, his family hunted animals, killed them, and ate them…
My uncles and father hunted with my grandfather, but by that time hunting was no longer a necessity. It was something that they enjoyed. There were old rituals involved that reminded them of their roots and of the land and of our close ties to it. They chose to hunt and eat what they killed instead of buying all of their food from a store.
My father moved to the city, and I grew up in that environment. I went hunting with my grandfather, father, and uncles when we were visiting East Texas. It was something that men did together in our part of the world…

I don’t want to get into the gun control issue, but Gordon’s description of the tradition of hunting in his family caused me to reflect on my own history with hunting and guns.
Guns were an important part of my upbringing. I learned to shoot at an early age, had a BB/pellet gun from as early as I can remember, and had gun safety drilled into me. My dad hunted some for sport, mostly with business contacts in South Texas (though we always ate what he killed), but I was mostly only involved with deer hunting which we did primarily for food purposes.
Living in the Texas hill country, we shot deer close to home, and we weren’t concerned with killing bucks with big racks. We also butchered and processed all our own meat (unlike many hunters who take their deer to a meat processing plant). I never knew whether we were eating store-bought beef or home-processed venison.
I have not hunted since I left home for college, but I go through phases when I would like to take my son Samuel hunting. It’s important to me that he learn where his food comes from. After reading Gordon’s post, though, I realize why I have never done so. It would lack the social significance that Gordon describes. For Samuel and me to hunt, we would have to go about it as other suburban sportsmen–get a deer lease, buy gear, etc. It would be an event or an outing, not part of our family routine, as it was when I was a kid.
I also recently bought Samuel his first BB gun. He shot targets with it for a few days and then lost interest in it. I realize now that I was disappointed with this. To me, getting your first BB gun is an important rite of passage. In his suburban life, it was just another toy.