Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Final Lap for the Gang of Five

My daughter is blessed with many friends and she transitions deftly between several social groups. There's some crossover, but mostly her worlds orbit about her in harmonious concurrence.
There is a core group that is her well-established base and while there's occasional infighting, they're still together. They have traveled thousands of miles with one another, spent countless nights together, laughed, cried, argued and most importantly have inspired those around them with how much they love one another.
Now, they are preparing to start their senior year in high school. Who knows where they all will be a year from now?
So, we have begun the rites of passage. Senior rings were acquired in the spring and now it's senior portrait time. The five got together for a group session and based on the first promising preview we've seen from talented and beautiful photographer Kristin Mosura, we may be spending a whole lot of money on keepsakes.
Whatever it takes, we will be happy to have them. All of these girls (and several more) have taken up permanent residence in our hearts. We look forward to discovering what becomes of them. For now, we will cling to them for one more year. Then, we will have to settle for lasting images to remember where they started.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Worried About Our Puppy

Originally uploaded by Darrell
Our sweet puppy, the Best Dog Ever, is sick. She may be gravely ill. Today, she had surgery to remove a golf-ball sized lump from her neck. It's an inflamed lymph node and the worst-case scenario is lymphoma, which is always fatal.
She's too young to be sick, just six years old. We're on pins and needles awaiting the results of a biopsy.
She's a member of the family and we love her intensely, but we must face the reality that she is a dog. I made the mistake of doing internet research of possible treatments for canine lymphoma. It seems that chemotherapy might be able to buy us a year. The question is, do we want to go through the heartache and expense? Do we want to put her through it?
If it's a child, you know you would spend your last dime and exhaust your last ounce of energy to fight this all the way. For your beloved pet, how far should you go?
Hopefully, all of this will be moot. The biopsy could come back negative and everyone will be okay. There's nothing profound or creative to say. For now, we nurse her through her post-operative discomfort and just hope for the best.
I can't bellieve how sad and worried we are.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Day in the Life

Somebody must have told the kitten I'm not a big fan. She's trying to win me over. Awakened by a 6:30 a.m. Sunday alarm, a little early afternoon quiet time proved irresistible. My best efforts to make it through another chapter of a thoroughly entertaining book were rebuffed by the comfort of a well-worn couch and an eerily soothing thunderstorm.
At some point my siesta was disturbed by three furries climbing on top of me, all fearful of the clmatological clamour rattling the windows. The dog was alternately begging for attention and panting/ pacing.
Old Fat Cat seems finally to have accepted that the kitten won't be going away, so they are forging a feline friendship.
As for me, the nap was worth experiencing. I can kind of see a redeeming quality or two in the young cat, particularly when she's still and needy. She still has a long way to go, though, to convince me that she's worth the trouble.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Fun in the River Cities

Despite having debutante blood coursing steadily through her septuagenarian veins, my sweet mother-in-law has become enamored with a somewhat proletariat pursuit: Arena Football. At her urging, we have attended several games this spring and summer. Fortunately, the local team is consistently winning.
Her unlikely devotion to a relatively obscure sport has now spanned two seasons. She has identified her favorite players. She reads previews, game stories and features about the team in the local sports page. Last weekend while we were out of town, she listened to a road game on the radio and e-mailed score updates to us. For the most recent game, the team's management urged fans to wear black. Of course, she complied and also went the extra mile, calling to make sure we would be appropriately attired.
Truly, this does not compute. The two seasons which have captivated her have been successful for the team. It has won its division championship and advanced to the playoffs both years, so she is something of a good luck charm for them.
During the most recent game, she received a true fan's christening. She snagged a keepsake during the cheerleader tee-shirt toss. The look on her face was priceless, like she just found the perfect gown for the fall formal or something.
This is all a part of her "new normal" as a merry widow. We are thrilled she's having fun and are just grateful she's letting us tag along.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Daughter the Difference Maker

My daughter is home from Mexico where she had been on a mission trip to build houses for underprivileged families. We were approached by several of the adults who went along on the trip, who described her in glowing terms. "A force," "A blessing," "A joy" were just a few of the comments we received. What a wonderful thing to hear about your little girl.
She became adept at drywall, we are told. The "force" part came from her work ethic.
The credibility of our feedback was underscored at a church service dedicated to the enterprise. Two of the young people were chosen to address the congregation, one young man and one young woman. Guess what? Happy Couple II were the ones. They spoke separately with no reference made to their romantic entanglement. Both were eloquent and passionate. It was a proud moment for a parent, to be sure.
The crew made an easily identifiable difference in the lives of at least one family. They had been living in a corrugated tin dwelling with no windows or doors. Now, thanks to the efforts of my daughter and her companions, the family has a solid roof over their heads along with real windows and doors.While they were doing admirable work, they did have time for some good fun, morphing from missionaries to tourists as quickly as they could slap on a silly sombraro. Or, if you're a guy who thought long and hard about going to an actual outdoor Mexican wrestling event, you could hide behind a mask.There was time for fun and games, too. There was plenty of pick-up soccer and a little game called broom ball.He said the only regret he had was that they didn't bring enough soccer balls to leave one behind for everybody. They had to randomly choose who got to keep all the things they donated.
With just three weeks left until she starts her senior year, my daughter's "summer of service" seems to be winding down.
The romance seems to be going in the opposite the direction. After spending a week in one another's company in impoverished conditions, Happy Couple II seem to be even closer. I'm thinking that's an entirely different kind of "force" to be reckoned with.

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A Beautiful Friendship?

The newest resident of our home is not making herself welcome. My wife's kitten is driving me insane. Being a kitten, there are many things in her nature which can put an occasional contrarian like me off kilter.
We won't talk about all the hiss fights as the old fat cat adjusts to the unrelenting presence of this fuzzy interloper.
Neither will we discuss the sometimes subtle but always annoying damage to furniture and baseboards caused by young claws.
We can discuss sleep loss. The kitten, it turns out, is an early riser. She also likes to chase her tail. She also likes the lady who brought her into the house. If you're a kitten, how do you combine these three things? By chasing your tail early in the morning on top of the lady. If you're me and you're sleeping beside the lady, you have a tendency to let your inner contrarian emerge.
The little thing is cute and she's apparently won over at least one member of the household. If she hopes to stick around for the long haul, though, there's still work to do. The numerator in that cuteness over annoyance fraction needs to rise dramatically. Otherwise, Daddy's gonna be cranky.

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Easing Into Old Age

The weekend of my 49th birthday has been spent with one goal in mind: taking it easy. I am fortunate to have a close friend who has a weekend home on waterfront property, so we got together with the wives and just hung out on the dock. That's all I really wanted. The weather took a temperate turn, so we spent a long lazy evening sitting on a neighbor's deck just talking and watching the stars. A couple of us even caught a lingering glimpse of the space shuttle at it streaked across the east Texas sky.
There was some slight disagreement over whether the ladle-shaped collection of distant stars was the Big Dipper or the Little Dipper and that dispute was never settled. It tells you a little about the mood of the day. To borrow a phrase from Neil Diamond, the feeling was lay-back. The weather was fine, the sunset was beautiful and the company was comfortably familiar. For the last birthday before I turn 50!, there's not much more to ask for.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sunrise Over Texas

(Coldspring, TX) - We sit on the sunny shore of Lake Livingston contemplating life. These things can happen as you age. Tomorrow's my birthday and for the first time, age is getting to me. Chronologically speaking, I have lived more than half my life. That's a rumination for another forum, I suppose.
I have the pleasure of spending the weekend in the company of two of my all-time favorite humans, the wife and the lifelong best friend. If you can't resist the cumpulsion to contemplate mortality you might as well do it surrounded by the people who know you best. Oh, wait. There I go again. Sorry.
We came to Texas at my wife's behest. Broadway Across America has brought "Phantom of the Opera" to Houston and my wife got all giddy at the prospect of seeing a high-end production of her favorite musical. The show did not disappoint.
In the world of wacky coincidence, we saw Phantom on Broadway this same weekend nine years ago. I remember it well because it was my 40th birthday and because the feature attraction that weekend (for me) was not Andrew Lloyd Webber but Roger Clemens. It was my first trip to Yankee Stadium. 40 was big. 50 will be enormous. We should probably start planning that excursion now.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Finding a New Groove

For a couple of decades, my wife and I haven't been getting out much, but that seems to be changing. Tonight, we may have earned cool points by attending a live music event at a recording studio near downtown. The artist was David Egan, a highly respected soul/ blues songwriter. He played to an enthusiastic crowd that packed the little studio. Between songs, he regaled his rapt and thoroughly entertained audience with stories of his travels and encounters with legendary performing/ recording artists.
Egan is a Shreveport native who was part of arguably the most successful local band during my single/ partying years, A-Train. Egan and his bandmates were responsible for many nights of revelry for thousands of people for almost a decade. Several members of A-Train were in attendance and one of his collaborators, Buddy Flett, joined him on stage for the second half of his set.
The performance was recorded in High Definition teevee for broadcast on a statewide program which celebrates Louisiana music.
For me, it was a thrill to hear his familiar voice live. I actually have many of his songs on my iPod. His style and flair brought back a lot of memories. Even without them, it would have been a thoroughly entertaining and relaxing night. I got to enjoy it with my best girl, and you can't ask for anything better than that. Maybe this "empty nest" thing isn't so bad after all.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hasta la Vista, Chica

As the sun rose over a Southwest Shreveport church this morning, my daughter was among three dozen or so missionaries loading supplies into a trailer soon to be headed for Mexico. The group, equally divided among adults and teens, is bound for the border town of Acuna where they expect to join others like them to build houses for impoverished residents.
Interestingly, we have been advised there is only one romantically involved pair on the trip.

You guessed it: Happy Couple II. This works out well for them. Their many travels have kept them apart most of the summer. This also works out for two sets of concerned parents because HC II should be well chaperoned by many devout Southern Baptists.
We're not so naive to think that Young Love can't find a way to evade the glaring gaze of the warily watchful, but we're as good as we can get given the cicumstances. They are certain to be sweltering in the Mexican heat doing manual labor for a week. Plus, from what we've been told to expect, there won't be a lot of comfort at the facilities where they will be housed. She would seem to be well prepared for the Spartan accommodations, having recently returned from a weeklong wilderness outing where snow was used on occasion to perform the function typically reserved for soft tissues dispensed from cardboard rolls. On the other hand (Wow, careful with that expression in this context), she might struggle with the climate. A week ago, she was trudging around in snow and ice. This week, she will be toiling in triple-digit misery.
This is the last scheduled event in her self-titled "summer of service," during which she has also worked cleaning cabins at a church camp, among other activities. Remarkably, she passed up a chance to spend a week with friends in a beachside condominium to go on this mission trip. Now, she just needs to get home safely and catch up on her rest.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Misty Water Colored Memories

Out of the blue, an old friend and co-worker posted a couple of photos on his Facebook page. They came from the mid-1980's when Daddy D was not a Daddy and wasn't even married, had much more hair, much less waistline and was having a whole lot of fun being a local TV sportscaster.I have spent most of the evening staring at the companion photo, which apparently was snapped just moments before a newscast. I can discern that because we are all standing and appear to have a purpose. This leads me to believe we were about to walk into the studio to sit on the set for the opening shot.There are so many memories in that one frame, it's almost unimaginable. It pleases me to say that after all these years most of them are warm and fuzzy. Sadly, our news director (standing, with his coat off), has passed away.
Our work environment wasn't the most pleasing to the eye, but we hung in there and spent five nights a week together. The anchors in the photo, Dale Hoffman and Sherri Talley, are still anchoring. He's in another Louisiana market and she's a mainstay at another station in town. She's such a fixture there, in fact, that most people have completely forgotten she worked at KTAL. Here's proof.
I was so fascinated by this that I took the time to annotate the photo. You may have to click on it to appreciate it. Enjoy the 80's.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Leftovers From the Road

The holiday weekend was quiet in Daddy D Land. I owed a work buddy a huge favor and now we're even because I pulled his holiday weekend duty. Consequently, merriment was kept to a minimum. So, the leftovers come from the offspring.
My daughter was alernately awed and amused by a series of Wyoming wildlife encounters. I'm eagerly awaiting the product of a planned photo sharing party. Certainly someone has an image or two of the herd of bucks they saw. True to her parenting, the daughter was quick with the shutter when the camera was handy. Gotta love the chipmunk! Hey, it's not a majestic beast roaming free in the mighty forest, but it's cute.
Our son's area of interest creates a significantly smaller geographical footprint. Somehow, he finagled a backstage VIP pass to a blues festival in east Texas. While he enjoyed the music immensely, he found himself fascinated by a seemingly unrelated activity taking place on the festival grounds. Tapping into his gregarious nature and his innate curiosity, he struck up a conversation with the Pleasant Hills Quilting Club. While he didn't come away with any kind of decorative bed covering, he was able to be a part of a priceless portrait. Some things just speak for themselves.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Home Again, But Just for a Bit

You wouldn't think a 17-year-old girl would be grateful for heat and humidity, but we have one. "I spent a week hiking in snow and rain," said our daughter by text message as she was on her way home from the Wyoming wilderness. A Louisiana girl with a romantic notion about camping in the mountains during the hottest part of a southern summer had a close encounter with reality somewhere in a snowbank. "I did a face plant on the first day," she reluctantly reported. She was not alone. Two of her closest friends were along for the trek. Upon their return, they reported with refreshing candor that our daughter seemed to thrive under the pressure while one of them merely coped and the other struggled mightily. There were spectacular moments, to be sure.But the girls had to work to capture that magic. Trudging through July snow and ice, sleeping under the stars, and choosing to stay far away from the comforts of home ultimately proved to be rewarding.This was designed to be a spiritual journey. Out there in The Great Outdoors, a sense of the world's enormity combined with your own significance is easy to capture if you're open to it. No doubt there were temptations. The backpacks were heavy, the snow cover was cold and the prospect of a free ride certainly had a strong allure.Ultimately, they proved to be anything but chicken and they crossed that road. Each camper spent one night alone Out There under the stars. We are really glad we didn't find out about that until after the fact. My baby was alone on a mountain and a thunderstorm rolled through. She admits she was scared, but she persevered and is no doubt stronger for it. She also produced some interesting self portraits.By most accounts (I stress "most," because one of our young friends was clearly relieved to be home. I said "800 thread count for you tonight," and she said "Thank God.") the trip was rewarding, uplifting and memorable. Some of the memories will be of misery, to be sure. The food left a lot to be desired. And there was the whole thing where they didn't have bathrooms and they couldn't leave anything behind. If they packed it in or produced it, they had to pack it out.
She's home for eight days, and then she's off to Mexico on a mission trip where she will help build a house. I strongly suspect she will quickly yearn for the weather up in the mountains.

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