Monday, August 29, 2011

Daddy D's Tool Time

It’s no secret that I am woefully lacking in any number of arguably essential “man skills,” such as handyman home repair sort of abilities. If you get much past hanging a picture or painting a wall, I’m pretty useless. People have tried to cure me of this malady over the years by giving me tools. Of course, I’d need to be self-taught for these instruments to be of any use to me. Why learn something when I can hire someone? Believe me; the job will be accomplished in a much more acceptable fashion if an expert is brought in. So, imagine my wife’s shock and awe when she discovered me standing on a ladder in the garage using tools.

My garage door has a little age on it, and several times it has developed gaps in the panels. This is unsightly, of course and I’m alert enough to realize that ultimately the loss of integrity will negatively impact function. Or, in other words, if it’s broken it will stop working. So, it needed to be fixed.

I got sick of looking at it, as well as fretting about the potential expense of replacing the door. So, given a quiet morning I started rooting around the shelves where all of these tools have accumulated. I found some gizmos and other goods that seemed to have potential to address my issues and went to work!
There was some banging and twisting. There was sweat and one blood blister; but in about forty-five minutes, I had the door reassembled, looking normal and working just fine.

I also found some WD-40 and Gorilla Glue. A spray here, a squeeze there and the garage doors are making much less noise while opening and closing than they had been. At the place where the most recent gap had developed (which was a reoccurrence, by the way), the bolts that held things in place had stripped. So, the glue and a “Look what I found!” C-clamp seem to be holding things together for now.

I have enough sense to know that won’t hold forever. Maybe there’s some duct tape on the shelf.
In the meantime, my wife got to pretend, for just one fleeting weekend morning, that she married a man’s man. Enjoy it while it lasts, Honey. If the door breaks again, I’m calling somebody.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back From Exile in Westeros

Most of my family has spent the summer on the mythical continent of Westeros. I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but it’s been an adventure. Among those of us on the journey, I’m the first to return to normal life. My wife and son are taking a later boat back to the mainland.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ve missed the geek pop culture phenomenon of the year, A Song of Ice and Fire. (More popularly known as A Game of Thrones).

For us, it started with a mini-series on HBO. My 21-year-old son and some of his buddies started watching it and got hooked. This led them to the book upon which the series was built, which was the first of five books currently in publication, with two more planned.

Each volume checks in at 1000 pages, give or take a few. So, you can see how dedicating ourselves to reading them all has dominated the past few weeks.

A Game of Thrones is the title of the first book. A Song of Ice and Fire is the name of the series. If you’re not into it, it means nothing to you. If you start reading, chances are you’ll find yourself looking for reasons to park yourself on the sofa and read for a couple of hours a night.

I find myself surrounded by people who are somewhere in the middle of this literary saga, set in medieval times. There’s lots of violence, lust, love, war and travel. There’s plenty of anguish. There’s not much positive going on, but somehow it’s all riveting. And, yes, I have to admit there are dragons. I think it would have been better without them

This is the most concentrated time I’ve ever dedicated to one set of characters and ideas, and frankly I’m happy to come up for air. I’m glad I read them, though. The next book in the series is probably years away, so I’ll probably forget the details of all the cliffhangers before it hits the e-reader. But, whenever that happens I expect I’ll dutifully read the next thousand pages.

I’m grateful for my son, who berated us until we acquiesced and started reading. There are several people around me still in the middle of things and I’ve enjoyed discussing it with them. I’m also grateful to author George R.R. Martin, who got me through the hottest summer on record and led me right up to football season.

It’s time to stick my nose where it belongs: into sports periodicals.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shady Dealings in the Neighborhood

It seems we have established a joint custody arrangement regarding the newest youngster at the family home. The little mimosa tree named Seymour has his first blooms and the neighbors are all atwitter about it.

Earlier this week, shortly after sunset, our doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting anyone, so my wife and I looked at one another quizzically as I flipped on the light that illuminates the front porch. Peering through the window, I saw our neighbor the doctor and his lovely wife standing there…beaming.

Of course, I invited them in, even before I realized they were bearing gifts. The doctor, having noted our struggles as we tried to get a mimosa tree to thrive in a section of our yard adjacent to his house, raised the little sapling for us in a pot and planted it in our yard himself. He noticed the new blooms; and like a proud god parent, he brought over a basket with champagne and orange juice (so we can make mimosas!) and a card proclaiming that we have “The Cutest Baby Ever.” Inside the card were photos he took of the blooms.

The four of us chatted for a good long while about the progress of our little project. I explained that the tree is thriving because my wife talks to it on a daily basis. The doctor said he has been carefully watering it, too. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it must take neighbors, three of whom are health care professionals, to grow a tree in historic drought conditions.

It is said that good fences make good neighbors, and maybe that’s true; working together toward a common goal helps, too. One day soon maybe we will share the benefit of shade from our little friend. In the meantime, we should probably set up lawn chairs in the driveway and drink champagne and orange juice. Mimosas for everybody!

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Are You Doing in Texas?

About an hour after sunset, we were driving eastward on I-20 in Harrison County, Texas. The posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour during the day and 65 at night. I was driving about 64. The highway had been generously staffed by state troopers and sheriff’s deputies on a Saturday afternoon and evening, and who needed the hassle? I saw the rotating lights of a police car rushing up behind me and I thought, “Ha. He got somebody.” But he stayed behind me. What?! He’s pulling ME over? Yes, he is.
Dutifully, I found an exit ramp and a wide shoulder, stopped and awaited my fate. A state trooper creeped up to the passenger side of my car and freaked out my wife by tapping on her window.

He asked for “the license for the driver,” which I thought was an odd way to put it; but we quickly produced my license, plus the car registration and proof of insurance. The young trooper sized up the middle-aged couple he was detaining and quickly took on a friendly demeanor. He told me he pulled me over because I had changed lanes without using a turn signal.
Later, he admitted he was amused by “the look of shock” on my face. I told him as we laughed that I wasn’t shocked at why he pulled me over; I was shocked because this kind of thing had happened to me several times in Texas and I had never gotten a ticket.
I told him I understood what he was doing, but I just had to know what it is about a middle aged white guy in a black SUV that compels law enforcement officers of all levels in Texas to find a lame excuse to pull me over. He admitted I was driving “too carefully,” if you can believe that. I guess all the drug mules on the interstates and federal highways try really hard to follow the letter of the traffic laws. He also said he noticed out of state plates. This made no sense to me, since we were in a county contiguous to Louisiana, but okay.
We told the trooper we appreciated what he was doing as we wished him well and advised him to be careful. Then, he asked the question I’ve been asked by county cops, municipal officers, and now a state trooper: “What are you doing in Texas?” Here I must admit that part of my brain always wants to say, “It’s none of your business what I’m doing in Texas and as far as I know I can drive through any state in the U.S. without have to declare my intentions to law enforcement, a**hole.” But, obviously I wouldn’t do that. He was a very nice young guy just doing a job and I truly do wish him well. I want him to catch the bad guys. Still, part of me worries about the slippery slope of being asked that kind of question. I mean, I don’t think he was making small talk. As much as I travel in Texas, It’s a virtual certainty I will get pulled over again for some minor violation. When asked, I will state my business.
The answer, by the way, was “We were hauling supplies to our daughter at TCU.” We did the one-day turnaround to Ft. Worth with all the stuff that would not fit in her car last weekend.

We caught a real break, too. The long string of 100 degree days came to an end.
With an intermittent drizzle and a heavy cloud cover, the temperature did not rise above 85 degrees while we were unloading the suspicious SUV and moving various apartment furnishings into our daughter’s new digs.
She went with us to a great Tex-Mex restaurant where I enthusiastically overate. Later, I actually took a nap in her room while she and her mother did a little organizing. Then, after we had been there about five hours, she was ready for us to go.
The last words she said to me were “Go home, Dad.” This was after we had said our good-byes, but she shouted at me through her window when she spotted me taking photos.
That’s okay. We’ll be back in three weeks or so for the start of football season. We’ll have to drive over again on I-20. Maybe that time I won’t be so careful. I might drive 70!

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Suddenly Silent Saturday

As expected, the house is disarmingly quiet this afternoon. Our daughter has hit the highway, bound for Dallas-Ft. Worth and another year at TCU. She did a kind of farewell tour, having dinner with her grandmother and her aunt among others on Thursday. Friday was packing day. Today, departure day, the circle got a little tighter. Her brother came over to wish her well.

Her mother, attentive to the last, said “remember the ‘very important box?’ You almost left without it.” The box is essential to her interests, because it contains various electronic devices and their chargers.

Also among those saying a final farewell was, of course, The Girl From Across the Street, who for many years has consistently been close by.
She’s still two weeks or so away from her own departure to Norman, Oklahoma. So at least we have her to look at for a few more days.
A fly-by for a couple of hometown friends was in the works, then it was off to the interstate.
While our daughter was in the shower making final preparations for her departure, my wife finally allowed herself a good, long cry. It’s never easy to witness that, although part of me thinks I might feel a little better if I could somehow make that happen for myself. Too much testosterone, I suppose, for it doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

The one who may miss her the most: The Best Dog Ever, who got to stay in the house all day every day while her friend was here. They also went running together almost every night. So, everybody's routine will be disrupted.

And I can assure you our daughter's 13-year-old cat will mope around in a funk for weeks. I've seen it happen.
The good news is, although her vehicle was packed like a sardine can, there’s still a lot of stuff left to be hauled west.

So, we get to go visit in a few days and check out her new apartment. She has three new roommates this year, hand-picked all. So, it’s shaping up to be a fun sophomore session.
Our low-key summer, which has been dominated by oppressive heat and intensive attention to the e-reader, is about to come to a close. Gas up the car, because we’ll be seeing a lot of Ft. Worth in the weeks ahead.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Does This Ever Get Easier?

On a blindingly hot August day, our daughter’s summer comes to an end. She’s been busily packing her belongings into her car so she can return to TCU this weekend.
For her, moving day has approached at an achingly slow pace. Her glee at returning to school is scarcely contained. Who can blame her? A Shreveport swelter stands in stark contrast to all of her early summer activities. She spent June eye level with the clouds in a remote part of British Columbia, where she was surrounded by mountains, cold water and newfound friends.

This was following a week in Colorado with a different set of people, all of whom enjoyed a late spring snowstorm.

And there was the trip to Sharp Top in Georgia, where she worked for a week but also took a little time to frolic in the clover with one of her closest friends.

As she hop scotched the continent, she encountered at least two waterfalls.

And somewhere along the way, she made a couple of trips to the Texas hill country, where she spent time with some up and coming young filmmakers and also found her way onto the water.

We are told there was work to be done. She staffed a snack shop or two along the way at summer camps, but certainly found time to put up her feet.

Over the last five years, she has shown a remarkable ability to go solo into new circumstances in new places and make friends. Maybe that’s why her transition to college a year ago seemed to be smoother than most. Wherever she goes, she seems to find a way to surround herself with laughter. What could be better?

And so it has been with a sense of forlorn resignation that my wife and I have watched her hang around the house, knowing well that she is just itching to leave. I know the alternative is less desirable. She’s happy at TCU and that’s priceless. We also know she’s not running away from anything here, but she is in fact running to something there. That’s a wonderful thing.

But when she goes, she takes all that laughter with her and the house seems so quiet. We also realize this was her first college summer, which will probably be her last at home.

I guess we’ll close the door to her bedroom until Thanksgiving, when I think we all can hope the weather will be a little more reasonable.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

See the Tree, How Big It's Grown

When I was a little boy, there was a huge mimosa tree in our front yard.
When I was four or five, my mother started having what the doctor decided were allergy issues and a decision was made to saw down that tree. For some reason, it upset me so much that I still remember it vividly. So, I’ve always wanted a mimosa tree.
The landscaping people arrogantly refuse to plant one. I’ve been told more than once “It’s a trash tree.” Maybe so, but it’s my yard and if I want to pay tribute to my roots with a trash tree, so be it.
Twice over the years, we’ve planted mimosa saplings in a strategic spot in our yard. The first one was a gift from my late father-in-law, who knew of my mimosa quest. Sadly, both of them died. I think they were done in by the string trimmer the yard man uses, but that’s just a theory.
This has mystified me, because these trees grow like weeds (which, if you believe the landscape people, they are) all over town.
Unbeknownst to us, our next door neighbor the doctor has been watching our mimosa struggles. He met me at the mailbox one day over the winter and said he had been growing a small mimosa tree in a pot on his porch and that he would plant it for us whenever we were ready. He evened named the tree “Seymour” after the fast-growing, man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Here we are, in the August blast furnace, and Seymour seems to be thriving. He’s defoliated a couple of times, but has bounced back strong. Now, it looks like he might make it. I think I know why.
My wife has taken to talking to him on an almost daily basis. She praises him for standing up straight (He does have a history of bending his young trunk).

She oohs and ahs over his new leaves and she tells him what a big, strong, shady tree he will be one day. It seems to be working. The third try is the charm, it appears. Seymour is getting a lot of attention.
We will keep watering, keep encouraging, keep watching him grow and keep hoping nobody develops any nasty allergies.

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