Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why, Do I LOOK Lost?

My first day of school was this morning. Trying to avoid looking like the NKOTB, I spent the better part of last evening studying the campus map so that I could at least pretend I knew where the crap I was going. My plan was to arrive on campus early, find the bookstore and purchase my USED textbook for $73.75 (WTH?), locate my classroom, and then spend time catching up on reading since I missed the first day of class. I felt pretty good about it, but everybody knows that nothing ever goes as planned.

This morning Kailey had one of her classic clothing freak-outs, where clothes that suited her just fine last week all of a sudden morphed into evil garments that "tease" her. "It teases me!" is Kailey's all-encompassing method of describing how a piece of clothing itches, clings, or just doesn't "feel" right. She went through five outfits before finding one that met with her approval. So I was frustrated with that whole situation when Diane asked me if I would take the girls to school. This is conflicting with my plan, I thought, but I reluctantly agreed. So right around the time I was hoping to leave the house was when I actually stepped into the shower. I hit the road 25 minutes later.

Being an East-sider, I've never been to the West Campus. I knew its general vicinity, but was not at all familiar with with any of the buildings or the layouts. I arrived about a half-hour before my class started and headed to the building that I had memorized from my map the previous evening. What the map fails to show you is the layout INSIDE the building. As I approached the building, I saw that I had a decision to make: stairs or no stairs. I chose stairs.

You IDIOT! You NEVER choose stairs!

I know, I know...what can I say? I panicked.

I climbed the stairs and entered the first set of doors I could find which opened into what looked like a student services area. I walked through and came to a staircase going down to the ground level where, at the foot of the steps, was the bookstore. Crap. At least I got some exercise. I descended the staircase to the bookstore where I ponied up $79 for my textbook and, yes Hon, a new notebook. I emerged from the bookstore with 10 minutes to spare.

It was at this point that I realized that though I had studied the campus map to pinpoint the building in which my class took place, I had failed to memorize the room number. ROOKIE IDIOT! So I rifled through my bag to find my registration slip and identify my room number. I knew I only had ten minutes to get to class, so I consulted the building directory in order to get pointed in the right direction. Ah, there it was: "Student Classrooms: Level 2". I jumped on the elevator and rode it to the second level. Only when I got off the elevator I was greeted by another sign informing me that the classrooms were in another building. I'M THE STUPIDEST FRESHMAN IN THE HISTORY OF STUPID FRESHMEN!!

I whipped out my registration slip again, this time noticing the two letters in front of the number: "CG". A second consultation of the building directory confirmed that "Computer Graphics" was located on the ground floor. Back to the elevator! I wasted no time on the ground floor and asked a woman thumbing through a magazine where the classroom was. "Right there," she mumbled and pointed to a door RIGHT NEXT TO THE BOOKSTORE! Correction: I am the stupidest person alive.

Here's hoping the rest of the semester goes a little better.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Old School

Well, I finally did it...I'm going back to school. Kind of. Actually, I'm going back to get a taste and see if it's really for me at this point in my life. I'm tired of my current position at work, tired of being overlooked for other positions due to "lack of experience", and tired of doing nothing about it. So I decided to do something about it. Whether this is the right step for me now remains to be seen, but at least I'm moving, which, for me, is half the battle.

I'm starting back on the community college circuit, which feels totally bizarre. I'm also starting a week late...yesterday was the deadline for registration. I'm a procrastinator and couldn't decide whether or not I wanted to take classes again. Some days I did; most days I didn't. But the thought of wasting any more time sprung me to action. The thing that ultimately held me back: laziness. Pima Community College requires that all "new students" register for the first time in person. After that, it's all online. I had to drag my aging butt to one of the campuses, roughly a ten minute drive from my house, to register for a single, measly class. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to register for my class from the comfort of my keyboard. So I waited. 'Till the last possible moment. Which was yesterday morning.

I slid into the car and made the ten minute trip to Pima's East Campus, and, amazingly, found a great parking spot in the lot directly outside of the Student Center. It must be a sign. I grabbed my paperwork and my book, in case I had to wait in a long line of students desiring to make last minute class changes. No such thing. I found my line, which consisted of two whipper-snappers with their ball caps slightly askew and their jeans one ass-hair away from dropping to the floor. Actually these gentlemen looked so young that I wondered if they even had ass-hair yet. I then scrubbed those thoughts from my mind and waited for my turn which came a minute later when the young lady behind the computer monitor looked at me and, in her best Barbie Cheerleader impersonation, said, "Next."

"Hi, I'd like to register for a class."

"Are you a new student?"

"Well, I'm not a new student, per se, but I am new to Pi..."

"Ookaay, what I'm going to need you to do is to sign in to see an adviser, and they will arrange for you to attend a New Student Orientation as well as any placement assessments you might need. Have you taken your assessments yet?"
I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone. ", I don't really need to take an assessment or see an adviser," I protested. "I already have my degree," take THAT you little cupcake, "I just want to take some supplemental courses."

But Barbie Cheerleader, with her exterior plastic coating, absorbed the blow and responded unscathed. "Even so, we require all incoming students to meet with an adviser to determine all educational requirements before registering." Barbie Cheerleader 1, Me 0. I stepped to the to the touch-screen monitor to my left, entered my name for an adviser appointment, and retreated to the waiting area with my book. Stupid Barbie Cheerleader.

After a short time I heard my name called and I looked up to see a woman's head peeking over the cubicle wall, which was bizarre because the cubicles were barely four feet high. I stood and was greeted by an almost perfectly round woman wearing thick black Harry Potter glasses. We'll call her Ramona. She directed me to a chair in her cubicle and we sat down.

"So what are we doing?" Ramona cut to the chase.

"I'd like to register for a class."

"So what's your deal. You a new student? Returning student?"

Ramona needed some serious adviser/advisee etiquette retraining. Still, I liked her. She was a straight shooter, and for me at this point, cutting through any red tape and B.S. was a good thing. I decided to launch a preemptive strike on the rest of her interrogation. "I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois. I graduated in 1991. I am currently working in television and would like to take some courses to supplement my position and help me move along in my career. I'm not sure at this point if schooling is the answer, so I just want to start off slow and see how it goes."

Ramona detected the edge in my tone and grinned. It seemed like she enjoyed people who dispensed with the B.S. as well. "Career change, eh. So what course you wanna take?" With a few keystrokes, Ramona had me registered for my first class in nearly twenty years. "Yeah, we used to ask for verification of high school graduation, college transcripts, that sort of stuff, but we don't do that anymore. Only if you want to apply to a program. Okay, you're set."

I really liked Ramona. She wished me well on my semester, and I laughed and thanked her as I rejoined the line to register for my class. Thankfully, Cheerleader Barbie was on a break and I completed my registration with a tattooed young man who kept calling me "Sir". School starts tomorrow morning.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thank Goodness I Don't Prance Around the House Naked

This afternoon, Diane took Kyra to Starbuck's to work on her homework while Kailey was at tutoring. The place was fairly busy with many patrons occupying several of the closely spaced tables. They picked a table next to two older women and proceeded with Kyra's homework. The ladies took an interest in Kyra working on her homework, and when one of them went to use the restroom, the other engaged Kyra in conversation. She won't make that mistake again.

"Boy, I wish MY Mommy would've taken ME to Starbuck's to do my homework when I was a little girl." she teased. They continued with a little chit-chat when the lady asked Kyra if she had any brothers. "That's good," the lady said, "'Cause those boys sure can be a lot of trouble."

Without missing a beat, Kyra blurted, "I know. Whenever my Daddy farts, he yells, 'BARKING SPIDERS!!' It's so annoying!"

And with that, Kyra rendered the chatty lady speechless while Diane practically peed her pants laughing. While what Kyra said was probably not socially appropriate, it was true: I do sometimes yell "Barking Spiders" when I fart. I suppose it's time for me to examine some of my other household behavior before it becomes Starbuck's Kyra fodder.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For Love of the Game

Since I've made a vow of blogging silence regarding my favorite MLB team, I'll write about the next best thing: the Little League World Series. I've enjoyed watching this year's LLWS coverage, which wrapped up this afternoon in dramatic fashion with Georgia winning on a walk off home run in an extra-inning thriller against Japan.

I like this Georgia team. In the late innings of yesterday's U.S. Championship game win against Texas, the Georgia coach called time out and strolled out to the mound to talk to his pitcher. The game was tight and the pitcher was a little rattled. ESPN had the coaches miked so viewers could eavesdrop. "Is everybody breathing?" the coach joked, trying to keep his team loose. He reminded them that it doesn't get any better than this; to relax, have fun, and keep doing the things that had gotten them that far. I loved that. He didn't go on some testosterone-infused, in-your-face pep talk. He calmed his team and they won. That impressed me.

I've also been impressed by the purity of the game at this level. These kids are well-instructed in the the fundamentals of baseball. They can hit, field, pitch, and run. There were a lot of home runs, even though the league moved the fences back fifteen feet. All the kids on a team have to play over the course of the game, and the league protects the arms of their young pitchers by limiting them to 85 pitches.

But what I think I enjoyed the most about the LLWS is that these kids are still young enough to allow the enthusiasm of their youth to creep into the game. Big league players are too tough and cool to show their emotions, unless it's screaming at the ump to argue a call or rushing the mound after a brush-back pitch. And they are the only professional sport, that I know of, that doesn't congratulate the opposing team at the end of the game. How lame is that? I once saw a former major leaguer trying to answer a question from a young fan about why they don't shake hands with the other team. His answer was lame. He threw out some B.S. about "being so wrapped up in the battle" with the other team that it's hard to separate from that and shake hands. What a crock. You're playing baseball. You barely have ANY contact with the other team, unless you're getting tagged out or beaned by the pitcher. Football and basketball players literally beat on each other for four quarters, yet somehow are able to put "the battle" into enough perspective (as in: IT'S A GAME!) to congratulate their opponents at game's end.

Contrast that with Little League, where players flash broad smiles as they round the bases after a home run and are greeted by their whole team at the plate. Heck, they smile after ANY hit or any time they get on base. In this afternoon's game, one of the Georgia hitters missed hitting a home run by inches. He wound up on second base, shaking his head in disbelief and mouthing the words "So close!" And after the game-winning homer and the ensuing celebration, the Georgia players graciously consoled a distraught Japan team. It was a great show of sportsmanship.

So in an age where our baseball heroes are doping and dropping like flies, the Little League World Series was a welcome and refreshing change of pace. It's too bad it's only two weeks out of the year.

Friday, August 24, 2007

She's Got My Back

One thing I love about being a dad is those moments when one of my girls does something that catches me totally off guard, leaving me speechless and breathing deeply for fear that I might lose it right in front of them.

At the beginning of the school year I established a morning routine where, after either gently or rudely awakening the girls from their peaceful slumbers, I would give them piggy back rides to the family room while they picked the crusties out of the corners of their eyes. I have spoiled the girls with piggy back rides and the girls have come to expect them. Imagine their disappointment when, a couple of weeks ago, I woke up and could hardly get out of bed due to pain in my lower back. I am no stranger to lower back pain. It comes and goes in phases, and I can usually work my way out of it over the course of the day. But for the past two weeks, it's been too much to work through first thing in the morning. So not only do the girls literally receive a rude awakening, they then have to stumble to the family room on tired little feet.

The girls have also become accustomed to my back pain. They know better than to ambush me from behind as they have seen me crumple to the floor, crippled with pain, on more than one occasion. They've seen me struggle to get up from the couch like an 80 year-old man, and they have also "adopted" lower back pain to get out of doing things they don't want to do.

Earlier this week, I was surprised to find Kailey sitting up in bed when I walked in to wake her up for school. Trying to wake Kailey up is like trying to wake the dead. She's the one I most often have to resort to the "rude awakening" to get out of bed. I shuffled into her room clutching my back and trying to work out the kinks. Her eyes lit up when I entered the room, and as I sat down beside her, I noticed
she had her allowance money spread out across her bed. "Hey, Sweetie. Whatcha doing?"

"Dad. I saw this commercial yesterday for this bed. It's called a Tempur-Pedic. They put a glass of wine, like this red wine, on one side, and they jumped on the other side, and guess what? It didn't even fall down! But on the other bed, they jumped on it, and it spilled all over the bed!"

"I'll bet that made quite a mess," I laughed, knowing exactly what commercial she was talking about.

"Yeah, it did! When I saw that commercial, I thought I could buy you a Tempur-Pedic bed for your back!"

I sat there staring at my daughter, dumbfounded as I realized what was going on. Kailey woke up that morning and pulled out her allowance money to count it and see if she had enough to buy her old man a bed that would ease the pain of his aching back. Kailey has saved quite a bit of money for an eight year-old, but nowhere near enough for a Tempur-Pedic. Believe me. I've checked. But the fact that she was willing to spend her savings on me blew me away. I tried to say something, but the words clotted in my throat. So I reached out and gave her a big hug while I composed myself.

"Thank you, Sweetie. That's very kind of you," I finally managed. I wanted to give her a piggy back ride right then and there; hell, I wanted to buy her a pony, anything to show her how much I appreciated her gesture of kindness, but knew that somehow it would all fall short. So I did the thing that she needs most from me: be a dad. Love her. Protect her. Care for her. Provide for her. I helped her put her money away and we walked hand in hand to the family room where I resumed my morning ritual duties. Only on this particular morning, I did it with a little more spring in my step...bad back and all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Giving AA Another Try

No, I'm not talking about Alcoholics Anonymous, although I may have to eventually give them a try if I receive any more crap from American Airlines. Earlier this year I thoroughly documented my "correspondence" with AA "Customer Service Agents" over sharing my $700 seat with a 500 lb man on a flight to Chicago. They didn't want to give me jack, but eventually offered me a low-ball offer of a $200 voucher, which I reluctantly accepted. I really didn't want to fly American again, ever, but since I have over 50,000 frequent flier miles and a $200 voucher, I guess we'll be using them at least one more time.

Well, it's time for the family to head back to Illinois once again, so I grabbed my low-ball voucher and surfed over to to see what they had to offer. It didn't take me long to find some reasonable fares for $278. With two free flights and the voucher, this meant I would pay roughly $400. Not too shabby! So I reserved the flights,
cashed in my miles, redeemed my voucher, and paid for the balance without a hitch, right? Oh, you have so much to learn about American Airlines.

First, there's no way to combine payment methods online. You either reserve all of your tickets using miles or you reserve them using plastic. There is no in-between. Second, you can't redeem vouchers online either. You have to call and talk to a "Customer Service Agent" to do that. Oh great, I thought, I'm sure I have a very large asterisk next to my name when they pull my account up on their database. This should be fun. So I put the tickets on hold under using frequent flier miles, which basically said that I needed to purchase 47,000 more miles to complete the transaction. I took a deep breath and dialed the 800 number to talk to a ticketing agent. After ten minutes of maneuvering through the menu options, I finally connected with a living, barely breathing human being.

"You wanna do what?" she gasped.

"I want to reserve two of these tickets using my miles, redeem a $200 voucher, and purchase the balance. I tried to do this online, but your website doesn't allow it." I explained.

"Of course it doesn't allow it," she squawked. "Those are two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT types of transactions." You'd have thought I was asking her to book me a flight to Uranus, which was where this conversation was quickly headed. I wanted to tell her that the process probably wasn't all that complicated if American Airlines would just get off their lazy a...but then I remembered that asterisk by my name, so I bit my tongue.

She asked me to hold for a moment, and I heard her pounding away on her keyboard. "OK, I've reserved two tickets using your miles under your current record locater, and I created a new locater for the remaining two tickets where the balance is $878."


"I just saw those tickets online for $278," I objected. "With fees and taxes they came to $309."

"I'm sorry, sir, these are the fares that come up on my screen."

I called up the fares page on my computer screen, and, sure as Shinola, the fares had gone up in the fifteen minutes it took for me to talk to a ticketing agent. CONSPIRACY! There MUST be an asterisk next to my name! I thought about it for a moment, then told her that I wasn't ready to reserve the tickets. I had seen tickets available for around $400, and I wasn't about to give that up. She told me that my current tickets would be on hold for 24 hours. I thanked her and hung up. And after spending another couple of hours surfing, I couldn't find anything close to the original fares.

The next day I decided to risk it and start from scratch. I also decided not to log into the AA website while researching fares just in case there WAS an asterisk by my name. And, wouldn't you know it, there were my original fares for $278. BINGO! I moved to reserve them as fast as my fingers could type, this time under the regular reservations page so those bastards couldn't change the fare on me. When I got to the "Hold/Reserve" page, I realized that I had only reserved two seats. Rat Farts! So I started over, reserving two adult and two child seats, and when the fares page came up, the flight rates, again, had increased to $389. RAT FARTS!!

Then I wondered if the amount of tickets had anything to do with the price. It shouldn't, but I decided to check anyway. Two tickets...$278 apiece. Four tickets...$389 apiece. What the hell? I put the two tickets on hold, opened another tab in my browser, found seats on the same flights using my miles, and put those tickets on hold. Four tickets for a final out-of-pocket expense of $416. EAT THAT, AMERICAN AIRLINES! I triumphantly dialed the 800 ticketing number, no longer caring about the asterisk next to my name, and closed the deal.

They'll probably have the last laugh, though. This time they'll book a 600 pounder to sit next to me. I say 'Cause this time I'll be ready.

The Backstory:
I Am Not A Happy Camper
A REALLY Unhappy Camper
American Airlines...Doing What They Do Best...Irritate Customers
Could the End Be Near?
American Airlines...The Final Chapter

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It Pays To Be The Tooth Fairy

I guess Kyra was in a generous mood after loosing her sixth tooth yesterday. Diane snuck into her room last night to make the tooth/exorbitant money exchange when she found this note folded inside Kyra's Tooth Fairy pillow (yes, the girls each have their own Tooth Fairy pillow).

I didn't say it pays WELL to be the Tooth Fairy.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Skechers...the Key to Happiness

I bought some new shoes the other day.

I haven't bought shoes in a couple of years.

I hate buying shoes.

I hate shopping.


Which is why I haven't bought shoes in a couple of years.

I went to Kohl's to buy a new pair of running/athletic shoes.

But I couldn't find any I liked.

I saw these on my way out of the store.

They're Skechers.

They looked cool.

I liked the stitching...

...and the little nubby things on the bottom.

Even though you can't see them, I know they're there.

I tried them on.

They looked even better on my feet.

They felt good, too.

Good and comfy.

So I bought them.

They make me happy.

I'm smiling.

If I'd have known that these shoes were the key to happiness, I'd have bought them a long time ago.

If only my meds had the same effect.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Phase 1 of the patio project is finished! To say that I am pleased with the results is a major understatement. It was a lot of hard work, but still very much worth it.

After laying the flagstone and mortaring the cracks, my father-in-law rented a saw and trimmed off the edges of the patio and rounded off the c
orner (pic 2).

We then dug an 8" trench around the patio, boarded it off, and mixed several wheelbarrows of fresh cement on which we laid a brick border. My father-in-law completed the job by filling in the cracks with mortar. I told him that he was definitely the man for the job because he has the patience of a saint when it comes to detail-oriented projects like this. Mortaring brick is a long process requiring much more time cleaning the brick than applying the mortar. I hate that. I just want to slap on the mortar and be done with it. Not so with my father-in-law. When he does a job, he wants to do it right. I really appreciate that about him.

So now we'll take a litt
le break before beginning on Phase 2 of Operation Flagstone Patio: clearing the rest of the river rock from between the back patio and grass and extending the patio to the grass. That's going to be fun.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Hope My Princesses Don't Have to Kiss A Lot o' Frogs...

I pulled into the driveway the other night when out of the corner of my eye I saw something that caught my attention: a large dark pile resting up against the house along the front walkway. "What the hell?" I thought as I rolled into the garage. It looked like a Bull Mastiff decided to empty the contents of its bowels on our walkway. Nice. But closer inspection revealed the turdy-looking lump to be something completely different...a very large frog. Or toad. I'm not sure which. Either way, it was pretty gross; all moist and slimy and bloated. So I did what any responsible father would do. I ran and got my camera so I could gross out the girls in morning. As I squatted down to take this picture, I realized how big this thing was, easily the size of both of my fists. I thought, "If this thing jumps while I'm down here, I'm going to wake up the whole neighborhood with freakish schoolgirl screams." It didn't, thank goodness. In fact, it looked like it just slept there through the whole ordeal, oblivious to my presence. Either that, or it was so big that it just didn't care, figuring if I gave it any trouble that it would merely jump up and eat my face off.

After completing my toad photo shoot (...tilt your head...YES, JUST LIKE camera loves ya, baby...), I went inside to check on the girls before going to bed. The whole experience brought to mind the fairy tale of The Frog Prince, where the princess kisses the frog and he turns into a prince. YIKES! I couldn't even imagine HOLDING the turd toad much less KISSING the thing. It brought a whole new realm of perspective to the well-known tale.

Then my over-protective daddy mind kicked into gear, wondering how many frogs will hop their way into the girls' lives before they meet their "prince". Hopefully not many. But the thought left me feeling helpless knowing that I won't always be there to protect the hearts of my little girls; that my little girls are growing up faster than I would like and that they would have to go through their own series of relational trials on their path to womanhood. So that night, in my helplessness, I said a little prayer for Kailey and Kyra as I rearranged their covers and tucked them in. I asked that they might grow to become caring, strong, confident and self-assured young women, and that they would know how to effectively handle those frogs. I think much of that is my role as a father and a parent, teaching them and caring for them and reassuring them, preparing them for life, but a little (or a lot of) Divine Guidance never hurts.

All of this from an encounter with a turdy toad on the front stoop. Man, I need to start getting some more sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Holy Javelinas!!

I looked at my ringing cell phone and saw that Diane was calling. Being the good husband that I am and seeing that I had nothing to hide, I answered my wife's call. We started our conversation with the usual chit-chat, "How was your day," "How were the girls for you tonight," etc, when Diane decided to tell me a story.

"Tonight I did something YOU would do," she began. "I don't know what I was thinking...It was so...STUPID."

It took a moment for me to realize that my wife, the love of my life and the woman of my dreams, just referred to me as "stupid". Actually, she referred to my actions as "stupid", which is true because many of the things I do are admittedly "stupid", but I don't really need my wife to remind me of that. What I need from my wife is the reminder that she loves me IN SPITE of the stupid things I do.

"HEY," I objected, but she just laughed it off and continued with her story.

Rewind a couple of hours to another cell phone conversation I had. This one was with Kailey. I answered the phone to her animated voice, "DAD, WE JUST SAW A JAVELINA (hah-vuh-lee-nuh)
...ON OUR STREET!" We live in a residential area on the outskirts of Tucson that is surrounded by desert. It is not unusual to see coyotes roaming around neighborhoods at night. But I've never seen a javelina roaming around in the neighborhood, which would be very exciting. Diane was driving the girls to softball practice when Kailey saw the javelina in a neighbor's yard roughly six houses down from ours. Diane didn't see it, and on Kailey's request, turned the van around to have a look and verified that there was, indeed, a javelina in the neighbor's yard. The girls flipped. out.

Fast-forward to the current conversation of the alleged dad-like "stupid" thing done by my wonderfully supportive wife. As they were coming home from softball practice and pulling in the driveway, Diane told the girls, "Papa kept the garage door up when we left for softball practice. I hope no javelinas got in there." The girls flipped. out. Kyra was bawling at the top of her lungs and wouldn't get out of the van because she was convinced that she saw a javelina lurking in the dark corner of the garage. The girls spent the rest of the evening screaming and freaking out at every little noise and inspecting under chairs and beds (like a frickin' javelina could fit under the bed) to make sure they wouldn't be mauled in their sleep. It turned out to be an exhausting night of bed-prep for Diane, and all because of a little comment.

As she finished telling me the tale of her borrowed "stupidity", I was no longer hurt or offended. In fact, I could feel that hurt turning into something like pride because this was something I would TOTALLY do. And finally, after sixteen years of marriage, I could see my wife, the love of my life and the woman of my dreams, FINALLY taking on some of MY characteristics. May God have mercy on our children.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

You Know You're Out of Shape When...

Last week the girls started practices for Fall Softball, aka Fall Ball. They practice twice a week, one practice focusing on defense, the other, on offense. Tuesday night was an offensive practice, and I decided to lend a hand. One of the coaches was pitching for batting practice, the other coach and a dad were working with pitchers, and they had set up a batting net in order conduct soft toss drills. In soft toss, the batter faces the net while a coach softly tosses the ball just slightly in front of the batter. The batter then drives the ball into the net. The drill teaches batters to maintain balance, to keep their eyes on the ball, and to reinforce proper swing mechanics. I decided to be the soft toss guy for the evening.

One by one the girls came to me to work on their swing. I would ask them what their name was, then introduced myself as Kailey and Kyra's dad, and briefly explained to them what we were going to do. I had three balls to work with. I dropped to my left knee and held up the first ball while the batter crouched into her batting stance. Then I tossed the ball, allowed the batter a few seconds to reset her stance, tossed the next ball, etc. When I had exhausted my limited supply of balls, I stood up, collected them and resumed my position on my left knee. I repeated this routine, the equivalent of a right
leg lunge (that IS me in the pic, BTW), roughly one million times. By the end of practice, my shirt was soaked with sweat and I was in desperate need of a beer, er, water. It was completely insane!

Yesterday morning I almost fell to the floor while getting out of bed as my thighs and my, umm, gluteus maximus, screamed out in pain. How pathetic is that? And today the pain isn't much better. I'm a little paranoid because I think I'm walking kinda...funny, which doesn't help the situation either because in my attempt to avoid using the muscles that are hurting, I'm using OTHER muscles that I don't normally use for walking which causes THEM to hurt as well. I'm a frickin' mess! Methinks this is a bit of a wakeup call. No, not to exercise. That's too much work. I think I need to let the more in-shape mommies and daddies help out at softball practice from now on. Sorry girls.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Need to Learn to Keep My Fat Mouth Shut

Well, my Cubbies are on the verge of getting swept by the Astros and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak. I think I jinxed them by praising them a little too early. Little did you know that the success or failure of the Cubs is directly related to the amount of praise I heap on them. I can HAVE hope that this will be their year, I just can't EXPRESS it. The mere expression of hope sends them into a free-fall. That being said, I am resolved that this will be my last entry on the Cubs this season. Unless, of course, they start kickin' butt and takin' names again. Then I'll be compelled to praise them. What can I say? I'm cursed!

OK, there's still a lot of season left, but I'd like to see them continue to win series and keep the pressure on Milwaukee. The only saving grace is that Milwaukee is in a slump as well, allowing the Cubs to stick around. There's still time. So until the playoffs arrive, here's me sticking a sock in it. Cubbies, that's your cue to go on another run.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Go Fish...Cutthroat Style

The other day I was engaging the girls in a rousing game of Go Fish, when the game turned decidedly ugly. Kailey apparently felt the game was being played a little too nice, so she took it upon herself to turn up the heat by adding a little smack talk to the conversation. "Say goodbye to yer hopes!" she declared while laying a pair of 7's on the table. A moment of silence followed.

"Say goodbye to your hopes?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Yep." Kailey replied as she stifled a giggle with her remaining cards.

"Don't you think that's a little drastic, saying goodbye to your hopes? And over what? A pair of 7's?"

Kailey held firm. "Yep. SAY GOODBYE TO YER HOPES!" she cackled. She had thrown down the gauntlet. We could either rise to the challenge or slink away, tail tightly tucked between legs. And I wasn't about to cave to an eight year-old.

"Oh yeah? Well say goodbye to YOUR hopes!" I declared after collecting a 2 from Kyra and slamming the pair on the table.

In retrospect, I realize that there's something fundamentally wrong with a father instructing his young children to kiss their hopes goodbye. I mean, they have their whole lives ahead of them. I should be helping them realize their hopes and dreams, encouraging them to pursue them; not dash them to pieces. But in my defense, Kailey started it.

The tone had been set, and that's the way the rest of the game played out, each of us trying to dash the hopes of the others with each play of the game. The girls got creative with their taunts. They weren't limited to the collection of a pair. "No I don't have a Jack," Kyra taunted. "So say goodbye to your hopes and GO FISH!"

This game was beginning to head south and quick, and I was to blame since I had propagated the whole thing, as dads are prone to do. The game ended and I decided to refocus the girls' riotous energy on something a little more productive:

Full contact tiddlywinks.

Monday, August 06, 2007

'Cause I Don't Feel Like It

Have you ever had one of those "'Cause I Don't Feel Like It" kind of days? Yeah? Me too. Like right frickin' now. Ta-day.

It's raining outside this morning, which doesn't help the problem, otherwise I'd be out there working on the patio right now. But though the rain has offered a welcome reprieve from manual outdoor labor, there is still a mile long list of indoor projects clamoring for my attention. Maybe I'll get to them, maybe I won't. Why? 'Cause I don't feel like it.

I watched The Exorcist on Bravo earlier this morning. Why Bravo was airing The Exorcist at 8:00 in the morning is beyond me. Perhaps they're launching a new campaign to scare the hell out of the little kiddies who are channel surfing whilst Mommy and Daddy prepare themselves for work. I had nothing to worry about today because I'm off work today and the kiddies are in school, so I watched it. Why? 'Cause I'm stupid and didn't feel like doing anything else, including changing the channel. How lazy is that?

After the priests were dead and Linda Blair was restored to her perky self, I strolled into the den, picked up my guitar and played through a half-dozen unfinished songs, half humming and half singing them (half-assedly, I might add), but then put down the guitar. I should have picked at least one of the songs and worked on it a little more, but I didn't. Why? Say it with me: 'Cause I didn't FEEL like it.

I didn't even really FEEL like blogging, but once I started, the feeling followed. So here I am. I highly doubt the desire to vacuum will follow once I start doing that, but here I go anyway.

Responsibility beckons.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Flagstone & Fatigue

The other major project I've been working on, or rather "helping out" on, this week is constructing a flagstone patio on the side of the house. My father-in-law is the brains of the operation; I stick around to learn and help with the grunt work. We laid the concrete foundation a couple of months ago, before the summer heat came, and on Monday went back to work. On that morning I had a special delivery: a pallet carrying over 2 tons of flagstone.

A dude pulled up in a flatbed truck with a gargantuan forklift in tow and asked me where I where I wanted it. I pointed to the back gate. He did a quick survey of the land and then asked if I thought the neighbors would mind if he drove through their yard. I thought, "Probably", then said, "I'll check", and rang their doorbell, twice. Nobody was home (or nobody was answering the door), so I told Dude that it was easier to get forgiveness than permission. That was good enough for him. He hauled the pallet to my back gate, I covered up the track marks in my neighbor's "yard" (it's all rock, not lawn), and we bid one another good-day.

Then my father-in-law came over and the real fun began: unloading the pallet. There were 23 large cuts of flagstone, each weighing around 200 pounds. Armed with only a hand truck and our cunning to guide us, we set to the task of unloading the pallet one heavy chunk o' flagstone at a time. We rolled each piece into the back yard and cautiously leaned them up against the wall. Needless to say, I was sore for a couple of days.

The rest of the week we spent chiseling, laying out, and cementing down the flagstone. It's coming along quite nicely. Our next steps are to fill in all of the cracks with mortar and then build a brick border along the outside of the patio.

Then begins the next leg of the patio project with the remaining 14 slabs of flagstone: extending our back patio which runs the length of the house. That should be fun.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Tribute

I didn't know Larry, but through my in-laws, was recently introduced to his artwork, some of which greatly moved me. A few weeks ago, Larry lost his long battle with colon cancer, which brings me to my connection with him. My mother-in-law asked me on behalf of his wife to arrange a portion of his work into a slide presentation for his memorial. I've spent the better part of the past week working on the project, and it finally came to completion this morning. Diane and I found ourselves a little misty-eyed as we previewed the finished DVD, even though we'd never met the man behind the camera. So tonight, in tribute, I share a few of my favorites.

Godspeed, my friend.


blogger templates 3 columns | Tech Blog