Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trudging Along Through Life

My bride and I have been mightily distracted this week, and that has been helpful. We have the same employer and trust me when I say it has been an intense week at the old salt mine. Company policies explicitly prohibit us from saying anything about the job in a forum such as this, so let me carefully pass along one piece of information. There's this Really Big Thing that my wife is mostly the boss of, and she's has a really good week. How's that?

Rarely do our work duties intersect, but for this week I've been on her team. So, assuming the work week wraps up the way I hope it will, there is reason for relief and celebration. For me, it's on two fronts: professionally and personally. Let's just say that a huge amount of pressure is about to be lifted off her shoulders.

So, there has been precious little time or energy to devote to worrying about our daughter, the college freshman. Neither has their been time to worry about ourselves and how much we miss her.

We finally received a photo of her pledge class, so at least we know what the Baby Zetas look like.

I know that our daughter went to a Christian-oriented social event last night, and she advised us by text message that it was "Awesome." I read somewhere on Facebook that she's going to an 80's party tonight. I have no idea if it's sorority-related or not. She is also expressing tremendous enthusiasm for Campus Crusades. So, overall, her first couple of weeks of college have been exceedingly positive.

We are still adjusting to her absence. My wife was intensely emotional over the most recent weekend. I kind of lost my composure last night. When she was a baby, there was a song I made up for her and would sing to her as she went to sleep. I texted the words of the song to her right before I went to bed. She wrote back, "Thanks Daddy." I was done.

Somebody get me a Kleenex. I gotta go.....

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trapped in a Glass Box of Emotion

Classes have begun for our freshman at TCU, and in a late-night phone call after Day One of School, she seemed pleased. The emotion and drama of rush week is behind us, and she has a bid to ZTA tucked safely into her resume. What a minefield that process has been. She’s still treading carefully around the periphery, trying to figure out what membership in a sorority is all about.

After a late Sunday night-into-Monday-morning social foray, she assessed her “first night out at college” as "A++++++++."
Of course, my reaction was “what about school?” She admitted that she started classes on very little sleep, but said a mid-morning power nap really helped.

Meanwhile, back at home….things are not going well. My wife just didn’t make it through sorority stress. It’s one of those things Darrell Just Doesn’t Understand. I’m sure the disquieting emotional displays at my house were the manifestation of an accumulation of factors, but knowing that didn’t make it any easier to witness. I actually share a feeling of helplessness with my wife. Our daughter is making huge decisions and we are not around to help. Even a gesture as simple as a supportive hug is simply out of reach for us.

Anticipating how empty the house would feel, I overscheduled myself during the week. I took three freelance TV assignments which ate up a few evenings.

I also hosted a program at a local church paying tribute to 100 years of Broadway. This required rehearsals and of course a performance. That was fun. I enjoyed the music and spending time with creative, arts-minded people. I guess you could postulate that under stress I defaulted to my media/ arts roots, and I would be hard pressed to deny it.

Oh, but the weekend was the worst. We had some social engagements lined up and we went through the motions; but we were so distracted we could hardly enjoy ourselves. My wife was worked up about our daughter and I was worked up about my wife being worked up. It was pitiful, truly I tell you.

On Sunday evening, we were so restless that we actually just went driving. We jumped in the car, opened the sun roof and drove toward a distant thunderstorm to watch the impressive lightning display.

Now that school has actually started in Ft. Worth, we can hope that our Freshie Frog quickly establishes a routine and finds some social equilibrium. Until then, it seems our day-to-day existence will continue to be alarmingly off-balance.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

A Rush of Adrenaline in Ft. Worth

Less than a week into our daughter’s college experience, she’s already reporting tremendous fun, a loss of her voice and a satisfying kind of fatigue. She’s been going through sorority rush, which has kept her extraordinarily busy and has severely limited either her ability or her willingness to communicate with her parents.

In late-night phone calls, she reports that the rush process seems to be going well for her. There are several sets of young women she seems to like very much. I don’t know a lot about it, but I’m told the process is so intense because everyone involved wants to make good decisions about the group of people with whom they will be closely identified potentially for the rest of their lives. Okay, that makes sense.
My wife is on the edge of her seat as evenings wear on, awaiting word on the day’s activities. A friend of hers whose daughter is at LSU is so distracted and anxious about her daughter’s rush in Baton Rouge that she can barely concentrate on work. Me? I’m grateful the gravity of all this is lost on me. I listen in with great interest, and then just tell my daughter I love her. She’ll have friends. That’s the kind of person she is. The significance of the label she might wear is lost on me.
We are getting text messages from people in far-flung outposts who want to know how rush is going. All of them are sorority women, of course. One close friend who lives in Texas is pulling for a particular sorority to nab our daughter so she can go to her initiation.
Soon enough, we will know and hopefully there will be cause for celebration throughout the land.
There’s an alarming lack of photos being produced, and so we still are reliant on Twitter and text messages to have any sense of what’s happening. Reading between the lines from 1:00 a.m. microblogs, we can assume that some pranksters rousted freshman girls from their beauty sleep overnight.
I guess somebody set off a fire alarm just in time for the dorm to be evacuated as the lawn sprinklers came on.
Don’t you know she’s having fun? There will be great stories to tell, and this is just the start. Speaking of starting, when do classes begin? Oh, that’s next week! We’ll see how much fun that is, won’t we?

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Sweaty Start to College Life

On this, our daughter’s first full day away from home, we are quickly learning to monitor her activities from afar. That’s the magic of text messages, Facebook and Twitter. We realize we only will see what she wants us to see, but so far everything’s positive.
From those short dispatches, we can determine that she has said good-bye to home, hello to her new sleeping arrangements and presumably had pizza at Mellow Mushroom.
She evidently went to church and then went shopping and is loving college so far, and that’s just in the first 24 hours since she said good-bye to her parents.
The journey from home to dorm was arduous and steamy.

Two SUV’s were packed with her essentials, and off we went, only to be delayed for almost an hour on the interstate. Along with thousands of other motorists, somewhere in East Texas we were at dead stop while an accident was cleared. We became philosophical while we waited, deciding it’s better to be delayed by a wreck than to actually be involved in it.
We arrived at TCU in the hottest part of the August afternoon, and in the company of many similar families became supersaturated with our own sweat as we hauled everything into her room while battling triple-digit temperatures.

Her roommate’s father was there and welcomed us to Texas, making a comment about the heat. I said, “Hey, we’re from Louisiana. This is nothing. Come visit us. We’ll match your heat and raise you 20-30 points of humidity.” I’m not sure he believed me.
We piled everything into the room and arranged the furniture for the young ladies.

Getting the beds assembled and made up quite quickly became the highest priority. I’m not sure why, exactly; but by the time we got to that point, the other father had hit the road. As the only male in close quarters, I knew enough to simply follow instructions. My wife snapped a photo of the bed and e-mailed it to her mother. Why my sweet mother-in-law needed an on-the-spot report with photos about the bed just escapes me…but, hey, you know what I’m saying here?

After that, suitcases were unpacked and empty boxes were taken to a trash pile and suddenly there was nothing left for Dad to do. As if by magic, Frog Camp friends showed up on cue and it became abundantly obvious it was time for the parents to hit the highway. As I hugged my daughter good-bye, the preppy kid I had met moments before asked, “Isn’t there supposed to be crying right now?” I thought, “Keep your topsiders on, Biff,” but I just smiled and said, “Don’t worry. There will be.”
That prediction came true, but the ride home wasn’t as emotional as I had expected. For the moment, it feels like she’s just gone to camp or something. So, check with me in a couple of weeks.
I’m hoping the adjustment will be easier if we are convinced she’s happy. We’re willing to believe it as long as she keeps posting happy thoughts.

We are keeping an eye on her from a distance, but everybody knows she’s less than four hours away by car. I’m positive about that, too.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Long, Lingering Hugs and Torrents of Tears

A steady stream of well-wishers has filtered through the family home on this, the last day before our daughter leaves for college. There have been tearful farewells with friends, as well as a nice dinner with the grandparents. At the end of the evening, a smile could not hide the puffy eyes.

Her brother has set a personal record for hanging around the house, saying repeatedly, “this is just so weird. I can’t really grasp that she’s leaving.”
Well, get a grip, because she is.

I’ve been saying for more than a year that this would be terrible for me, and that has turned out to be accurate. I’m convinced that I’m better than I might have been if I had not spread the misery out over all this time. My wife, a “live in the moment” kind of person, is just plain weepy. My sweet mother-in-law left the house in tears.
The college girl is ready to go. She was awake until 2:00 a.m. talking on webcams with some of her buddies who have already moved to campus. It’s the process of saying good-bye that has taken its toll.

There was a long lunch earlier in the day with a group of girls, some lingering hugs and rivers of tears.
The Girl Across the Street, who is the closest thing our daughter has to a sister, has been hanging around, squeezing a few more moments of togetherness into the final few hours.

Sure, she’ll be home for holidays and summers, but it’s a safe bet that after tonight, things around here will never again be quite the same.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Everything Must Go!

The day of our daughter’s departure is drawing dreadfully near. She is making final preparations for her relocation to TCU, where presumably she will spend the majority of her time over the next four years. Boxes bound for the dorm room are starting to pile up.

How she expects to cram all that stuff, along with herself and her roommate and her roommate’s stuff into one standard-issue dormitory dwelling space is beyond me.
All the essentials are lined up: A television, a coffee maker, a fan, a printer, a lamp…
In a separate location, occupying approximately a third of an acre of floor space, are the shoes she intends to take along.

Elsewhere, there are shelves filled with DVD movies which she fully intends to take with her. There’s a plan for the DVD’s. She will have a dry erase board in the room, which will serve as a check-out system.

Yep, anybody who borrows one of her movies will be on the honor system; but must make a note that they have acquired the DVD. I’m sure that will work out just fine and she will maintain possession of every last disc.
Truly, she seems surreally excited about all this. That makes me happy, of course; but I’m not so sure how much it’s diminishing the size of the knot in my stomach.

Not only is my spectacular daughter leaving me, but she’s going to an expensive out-of-state private university. All this is daunting and I dare say depressing. My wife says I’ve been cranky for two weeks, but she understands why and doesn’t blame me. Well, here’s a news flash: she hasn’t been her usual Little Suzie Sunshine self for quite a while. That’s okay. I understand why and I don’t blame her.
Mindful of TCU’s mascot, I guess it’s safe to say my princess has turned into a Frog.

She had better become a stellar student somewhere along the way so all of this worry and expense can be justified.
Take a look at the pile of stuff we’re expected to haul west this weekend. Do you see one thing that’s academically oriented? Hey, for her the party’s just getting started. Maybe that’s a philosophy her mother and I should adopt back here at the lonesome homestead. That wouldn’t be so dreadful, would it?

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sweating in the Sky

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I would spend part of my day flying across the city in a helicopter. It’s simply not part of my routine. Dressed in a business suit on a 102 degree day, the thought of intentionally moving closer to the sun seemed insane. A photo assignment was thrust upon me and the best way to achieve my objective was from the air, so I had to roll with the rotors.
Fortunately, despite being consistently needled by my wife about it, I almost always have a variety of clothes in the back of my car. While, sadly, I had no shorts; I did have a white polo-style shirt and a couple of ball caps. So, I changed clothes as best I could and at least I was somewhat comfortable from the waist up.

I received a thorough and thoughtful pre-flight briefing from the pilot, who had no idea if I had any helicopter-riding experience. Fortunately, my salad days as a local TV sportscaster served me well. Many a fall Friday was spent hopping from small town to small town, football stadium to football stadium, in a copter much smaller than today’s ride. So, there wasn’t a moment of trepidation during the flight. In fact, it was kind of a thrill. I wish I hadn’t had to concentrate so much on shooting photos so I could soak in the experience. Then again, if not for the job at hand, I wouldn’t have been flying at all.

We were airborne for an hour or so and the photos turned out kind of nice, so the morning was a success. I need to reserve the images for their intended purpose, but I did squeeze off a few for fun along the way. So, here you go: Beautiful Downtown Shreveport on a blistering August morning.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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