Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer is almost over....or is it?

Pretty soon school starts....rather way too soon. I remember when school started at the end of August if not at the beginning of September. Now the kids go in the second week of the month....and summer is barely half-way through from a season-of-the-year standpoint. We should not call it summer vacation or summer break, but better to call it "brief-no-school-time" which should not be confused with spring break that actually occurs during its proper season....and subsequently winter break. Soooo when the teacher asks, "Timmy, what did you do this summer?" He should retort, "Well, I'll answer that in about five weeks when it's over...or do you not know that summer ends on Sept. 21st?" (Next stop, detention...or ISS as they say.) To be fair, school seems to end about a week earlier than when I was a kid (so there is still a two week disparity overall).

We are almost done with the flurry of getting ready for, clothes, etc. More importantly, BEDTIME. The summer can take its toll on the parents. Often, the down-time is right after the kids are tucked in. During brief-no-school-time, the kids get to stay up later...often way too late. So who suffers but mom and dad? Yes, the extra opportunity/time to spend with the kids is fun, though it might be better suited for an established night for a movie or a game. The other evenings need to have an established bedtime which can be a little later than the school-week bedtime. A caviat to this could be to allow the kids to extend bedtime by reading in their rooms (better yet, their beds so they can drift off to sleep). Moms and dads need down-time especially during brief-no-school-time (likely moms more than dads) as the kids are underfoot all day long. Now that I have constructed a wonderful plan to maintain a bit of sanity, I need to remember to put it into action.....say in 4-1/2 months when winter break comes around.

Now the purpose of this down-time is for moms and dads to reconnect. Commiserate over their busy days, discuss news events, plan the next couple of days' activities, even sit quietly and enjoy each other's presence, maybe even hold hands. The long exhale before bedtime in anticipation of the stirrings of the next morning....breakfast, preparing lunch, watching for the bus, scurrying off to work....rewind, repeat, rewind, repeat. But for me, I cannot imagine getting through the routine without my wife. She is the glue that holds it all together....I have seen the job and I don't want it as Bill Cosby would say....but Kath rises to the challenge each day. I would also offer that she does not want the job either, but demonstrates grace under fire. What can possibly motivate her? Love is the answer. What she wouldn't do for each one of her kids. Math, actually....neither one of us understand how it is being taught these word...calculator (but you have to say it like John Malchevick on SNL).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oh, when the Saints go marching in.....

I will try to get better at posting...or at least more frequent.

Today is the New Orleans Saints at the Atlanta Falcons football game. This is a time honored tradition for me growing up...historically mostly of pain and suffering as my Saints would find a way to lose a game that they had a two touchdown lead with less than two minutes remaining.

To set some background, I am originally from New Orleans (born and grazed, as I say....due to all of the good food). My dad, also born and raised there, was a big Saints fan....season ticket holder from the beginning, I believe. I would watch the Saints each week sometimes win, often lose...and my mantra after a loss was not to watch'em anymore that season. Well, come the following Sunday, I was watching again...short memory or just one of those people that has to see the train wreck happen, not sure. Maybe a little of both. I now have three boys of my own and my eldest has taken up where I left off as a child and I have resumed the role of my dad. I now grunt and groan in a rather civilized way my displeasure when the Saints struggle or outright lose and my son demonstrates the passionate version (blurts and outrages) that I had once displayed for my father to witness. But despite my actions and discontent, the next time the Saints were in town, my dad would take me to the game; though he did at times have to alternate the opportunity with my brother and I when he opted to only hold two season tickets.

So, today the Saints and Falcons (division rivals) get ready to do battle on the gridiron. Now that I live in Atlanta, I do like seeing the Falcons win, just not to outdo my Saints when the play-offs arrive. I will be sitting there praying for my team to rise up and crush the Falcons today. When the Saints had fallen behind in the past, it was over. But now the Saints over the last three seasons have started to prove that they aren't cut from the same cloth. Either way I will be on pins and needles on those last two minutes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Got my motor running....

Well, I finally ran a road race....5K Run/Walk with my office in support of Kaiser Permanente. First, I gotta say that KP puts on a great event....sponsors, tents, power-bars, bananas, music, volunteers and a show ending fireworks display. It was a wonderful experience.

Now, I have to first admit, I am not a runner. I signed on for this gig about 6 weeks ago fully intending to train properly for the run. Looking back, it sure would have been smart to do so. But what I did instead was let all the other important things in life take priority. The last three weeks have been more about sick kids and worrying about them than anything else. This is where my wife gets huge credit. When my 11 year old had a nasty flair up of his asthma with a cold on top (check out "The responsible one" blog), he would often wake up in the middle of the night (and usually two or three times on average) and Kath would be there quick as a flash. I however would wake up to see Kath heading to his room and might only make one of the visits myself to check on Ryan or set him up with a nebulizer treatment, but each and every time Kath was there. I was often in a comatose state of rest. Whether I just felt everything would be all right or I still have residual flashbacks of letting the kids "cry it out" when they were babies, I do not know. If things were really bad for Ryan and his coughing, he would come get us...those moments I aslways responded to.

I have gotten off track a bit, but this was to basically explain that with the late night asthma attacks we had not gotten a solid nights rest in a couple of weeks. More importantly, I have been down-right lazy spending more time at the laptop that on the elliptical which I am reminded occassionally by my wife that I "had to have" but only used about 5 times in 5 months. Heck, I could have even gone for a walk or a jog around the neighborhood (how novel and idea)....

Well, once the aches from the past race wane, I will take up the gauntlet once again to exercise on a regular basis. So what has been my work-out routine to prepare for the race....maybe twice a week I would do push-ups and sit-ups and some light free-weights. Other than that it has been the brief walk to the office from the Marta Rail station and then taking the stairs each day to the fourth floor and ignoring the elevator...and I am weighted down by a that counts for something.

So where did this get me in the race? Well, I am proud to say that I at least ran the first half of the race (some slight down hill, most of it flat) and then on the way back I ran about half of it for a grand total of about 4K running and 1K walking. My time was approximately 34 minutes....close to a 10 minute mile. Now I have a benchmark to beat at the next event I attend. What I have realized from this is that the muscles seem to tighten up more two days after the event then the day after. I think with the recent gas shortage in my area that I will take the wife on a coffee date and we will walk to the neighborhood Starbucks....maybe even take the dog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Showering my brother with praise....

Well, it only took 9 years to get around to it, but I (meaning "we") finally fixed the faucet of the tub in the kids' bathroom. When we first moved into our current home, the handles on the tub faucets all needed to be changed. They were the plastic "cut crystal" look that had lost its sparkle long ago. When I tried to take the old handles off, the plastic broke in my hands. Not a problem, until I tried to remove the screw that holds the handle....they were frozen (meaning rusted) in place. I tried the liquid wrench type oil hoping it would loosen the screw, but no way, no how. So, for the time being, I got a pair of the friction fit handles that have set screws to clamp onto the outside of the valve so we could turn water on and off. This worked fine for the first seven years, then the cogs on the end of the valves became stripped and the handles would not grip as they should. So....what do you do? Of course, you buy a new set of the same handles to grip onto the outside, hoping that they will restore the glory days of turning water on and off. NOT!

Now to digress a moment. I did make an effort to do things right early on. During the first year, we had one of those Home Shield warranties which we rarely made use of. This time around, we thought it good use to have a plumber trade out the valve stems with new ones that had the cogs and screws so that we could put on our shiny new handles be like normal people. However, I was not at home to explain exactly what needed to be done and all the plumber did was verify that the existing valves work, not that they needed a way to attach handles. This effort actually was made twice...and both times the same result. So the makeshift handles have been on for the last nine years. Granted, the handles never bothered me....I don't use this shower, I have my own. So my kids (and any guests) have been troopers all along, sharing the same shower with a common suffering.

With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on New Orleans, my brother and his family headed to Roswell instead of Houston (where my brother-in-law lives) as the storm was possibly going to hit the Texas coast. So, we have had some extra family in the house since last Saturday. With parts of the city without electricity, it is still day to day as to when it is safe to head back.

As it turns out, even though my brother is an accomplished and intelligent maritime attorney, he is also very hands on when it comes to home repair and maintenance. After Katrina hit New Orleans, it took months to get various trades (carpenters, roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc.) to fix up peoples homes. While my brother's house survived the massive flooding like the Ninth Ward, it still took on it share of temporary flooding when the pumps in Jefferson Parish were abandoned and allowed some of the water topping the levees on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain to flood portions of Metairie temporarily. These few inches of water coupled with the weeks of delays to get citizens back into their homes allowed a wonderful growth of mold to overtake most of the flooring and the walls up to about 18" as well as all the way up behind cabinets in his house. Once he and the family did the requisite clean out of all that is rancid and green, they had to figure out how to approach the rebuilding effort. Rather than wait for someone to repair the walls, my brother took it upon himself to cut the bottom 24" of sheetrock on all the first floor walls and all of the sections behind the cabinets that had already been dispensed. This meant that the entire kitchen was trashed as well. Well, Mr. Industrious then set about the herculean task of re-rocking the first floor and getting the kitchen ready for new appliances and cabinets, all while being father, husband, and attorney at the same time. Mind you, also during this time, the glue helping to keep it all together is my Sister-in-law Biffy who was maintaining her roles as wife, mom and State Farm agent. Beyond this, with less hectic circumstances, my brother has performed other home improvements involving electrical, plumbing, and framing.

So now, I have my brother and family with us....and I have a faucet that needs pliers to effectively stop the drip, drip...drip... Upon removing the existing faucet, we found a whole bunch of caulk and a series of bath tiles which demonstrated that whoever retiled the shower surround decided to tile as close to the valves as possible. This in itself took the project from a reasonable half hour to two hours long. This is where I give praise to my "dremel" tool by Black and Decker. I used the fast spinning grinder to create a gap around the valves big enough to get the old valve stems out. After that, it was smooth sailing.

Which brings me to the great big thanks I give my brother for instilling in me the confidence to replace the valves myself and now allow my kids and my guests a shiny way to turn on and off the water in the shower. I do have one regret...that it took me until my daughter Claire was off to college to fix the tub with which she has spent half her life coping.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

You can't DO humble...

There are many things that I need to work on as I grow stronger in my faith. First, let me clarify that by my effort to be strong in faith has nothing do to with the strength of my beliefs in The Holy Trinity or Jesus' sacrifice for mankind, but rather it is a stronger faith in myself that I am living up to God's will and His plans for me to be a better Christian. One big step I made was about two years ago when I went to Kingston, Jamaica to work for a week with Missionaries of the Poor. While these wonderful men that carry on the work of Christ are well equipped spiritually for the efforts they willingly put in each day,there are many financial burdens that can be alleviated by all of us to help this Order reach out to more and more of Jamaica's sick, frail and forgotten of all ages. This mission trip opened my eyes and my heart more than I can fathom. I truly look at the poor and homeless within my own city with a much more sympathetic eye.

Moving on to my topic. While I have pondered my own level of humility (granted, I had no problem diving in to do the work of the Brothers of MOP only because of the power of the Holy Spirit working within me and through me), I keep assessing where I think I am and how far I still have to go while still striking a balance with my responsibilities as a husband, a father and an employee. There even have been signs to guide me...while getting my hair cut (Great Clips) at a location I have never been to, in a part of the city I have never visited, on the mirror of the hair stylist was the statement, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." I will add WOW here as this is a great point to ponder. I have come up with my own definition which is, "Humility is the involuntary act of helping others." The purpose of my definition is to remind me that you can't DO humble, you have to BE humble for it to be truly genuine.

Now, the twist is that I still have to think of ways to be humble which sounds like "doing" humble, but the difference is when someone does not exhibit something naturally, then he or she has to be trained or train himself or herself. Eventually, the trained response becomes second nature. More and more, I find my offers to assist others to just roll off my tongue without a concern of what I was planning to do next. The act or offer of helping supercedes whatever I had originally planned to do next.

A couple of days ago on a Friday, I stopped at the local Super-Wal-Mart to grab some Milo's Iced Tea (good stuff). And while waiting in line, I noticed a young lady with two kids (one in a car-seat carrier and the other asleep in a second cart she had pulled close). Now math teaches me that one adult plus two grocery/kid laden carts across a parking lot equals an uneasily managed effort when the day has already extracted 8-10 hours of work effort from you. Without thinking, I made the involuntary offer to help this lady get to her car. She shyly accepted my offer and was quite apologetic that the cashier was taking a bit longer than expedted to ring up her purchases.

On the way to her car, she mentioned that she works 7 days a week and has no family here. She was very appreciative for the help. Once at her car, I helped her load her bags at which time she placed a bag next to my two jugs of iced tea. I originally assumed that she mistaken thought it was one of my I proceeded to put it in her car. She quickly picked up this particular bag and said that it was for me (it had a gallon of milk, box of cereal and a dozen eggs) for helping her. We spent the next several seconds debating that I did not want a reward and her insisting that I must take it, that I am "a good man" as she says. I did not want to say that I felt she needed the groceries more than me, for that would be judgmental and not my role in life (another blog for another day). She added that she has a business (which is what I interpreted as her being of financial comfort to do without some cereal, milk and eggs on this trip). I could see in hers eyes the genuine look of someone needing the kind gesture and wanting to offer sincere thanks for someone having answered her prayer. I graciously accepted the bag with the reminder that it really wasn't necessary.

I am thankful that even for an instance I could be the hands of Christ reaching out to another. Humility is its own is how Christ entered and left this world. The reward of helping and the spiritual lift has nothing to do with eggs or cereal or milk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An occasional taste of Robot Chicken - Star Wars - Installment #1

I found a clever way to take the 1/2 hour show and split it into snippets that I could post every once in a while. There are some select segments of the show that are funnier (at least to me) than other, since this is my blog, I get to choose what to show. This first one offers some insight into the tragedy and curse that is Jar-Jar.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's late and I did not do my homework....

Okay....done! I have put the basics of the site together. Criticism is acceptable....constructive or otherwise. Presently, I am watching (rather listening) to the Lord of the Rings movie #3. I am a fan of the trilogy. And in case you are wondering, I am a Star Wars fan as well....except for Jar-Jar (the Rasta fish), but I think I am in the majority on that one; if only there could be Episode Seven - "The Ewoks Discover Jar-Jar Sushi." If you ever catch Robot Chicken - the Star Wars special, watch it....nuff said.

Now that football season is upon us (hockey to my friend Robert). I will divulge my loyalty to the New Orleans Saints. I am originally from the Crescent City and attended many a game (in the not-too-glamourous era of the 60's, 70's and early 80's) with my dad, a season ticket-holder since the beginning. My eldest son, Sean, has grown a passion for them as well even though he has only lived in Atlanta all his life. Though I now see in him, what my dad saw in me. There are many a time when a mistake is made and there is the "harrumpf" or pessimistic "there gonna lose" statement that I often uttered (and sometimes shouted) that my dad would have to endure. His retort would be to remind me that it is just a game and not the end of the world....though I know my dad saw my enthusiasm and did not want to diminish it. My dad's disgust with the team's losing efforts were displayed in a similar manner to many as we headed to the vomitorium (the opening from the walk aisles to the grandstands) with a few minutes left to play so that we could beat the other fans to the parking area....for you see, it is only enjoyable to sit in traffic if you have won the game.

Nowadays, I watch the games at the local Taco Mac where I can grab a soda and nachos with two of my sons (my youngest has yet to develop an appreciation for the sport). With the change in financial status (two incomes and a college tuition), we will see how many of the games we make.

So for you other fans out there, I offer a video for your viewing pleasure....

Dempsey's longest field goal against the Detroit Lions.