Todays Walk 1.015

When:  Interspersed throughout the day
Weather: Freezing overnight; sunny and high 40’s by afternoon

I used the day to bond with my daughters in different ways.  I didn’t take a dedicated walk.  I did not hit my normal walking quota.  I find it special to do unique things with them.  Their mom is the one who does crafts with them and plans their parties.  I have to carve out my niche where I can.

  • Mistletoe:  Our elm tree in the backyard is full of mistletoe.  My oldest daughter considers herself a tree climber.  She climbed up into the tree with a little boost from her father.  Climb as she might, the mistletoe was out of her reach.  She continued to cut the new branches that had sprouted up along the main branches.  I retrieved the extendable hand saw from the garage.  I “trimmed” off all of the mistletoe I could reach.  When the ladder was added to the equation, I could reach a little more.  The trimming was unsteady when balancing on a ladder.  It was especially so when wielding a tool while doing a sawing motion.  My daughter tried her hand at the trimming.  It felt necessary to complete the bonding.
  • Picked up their car:  Earlier in the week, my daughters had a little problem with her car stopping in the appropriate length of time.  Dad sweated it out for one day as she drove the car the next day.  She got home and back again, so dad was happy.  Her car ended up at the dealership the next day.  After going thru the diagnosis, it was found the car had a bent rim and a few other things.  The bent rim was playing with the sensors and preventing the car from stopping in the expected time.  A commitment to pay a fee and a few hour wait was all it took to be greeted by our “new” car.  Without the girls having a safe car, it was hard for dad to relax.  Now, I can let my guard down a little in this area.
  • New bank account:  Going to the bank to get something done on Saturday before a 3-day weekend is not a guaranteed quick trip.  Today, it was not.  My youngest daughter and I waited for over half an hour before I could meet with a bank officer.  Getting an account set up is not hard.  But, sitting in the lobby will not get it done.  When we were able to speak to Daniel, he multi-tasked.  He spoke of rattlesnakes from West Texas, his 10-month old son, and his desire to make a difference in the world.  We contributed some info on my daughter’s robotics team, and maybe a little bit of what life looks like thru my eyes.  The minutes flew by as the account was created.
  • Cleared out the garage:  The final task was well overdue.  Recent illness and cold temperatures kept the project from going forward.  The project took on some steam when my son moved out with his dog.  The edges are still in need of some clutter removal.  The center is almost car worthy.  The ladder (a couple head injuries resulted from the suspended ladder) and the bikes are now engaged intimately with the garage’s ceiling.  The soccer balls and water guns of old will fill the garbage truck when it next travels our streets.  Furniture and other things of no further adult purpose were also discarded OR guided toward more suitable homes.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice day.  A walk of the more conventional type is sure to take place.

Free Drinks

Although I have gotten free drinks (these are the non-alcoholic type) in the past, I had some good fortune over the past week.  Two different establishments volunteered to give me a free drink even though I was willing to pay for it.  This was no scheme.  It did not involve taking advantage of any unique promotions.  Neither did it involve dressing up like an employee and wondering into the back with an empty cup.  Since I am sure the curiosity is killing you (it is killing me as well.  Can I walk the story thru with enough warping to make it more interesting than was the original experience?), let me begin….

With a dentist appointment ahead of me that morning, I was concerned to brush before I went.  My breakfast of 2 cups of coffee and a piece of toast was followed by my mouth being molested for 2 minutes by my electric toothbrush.  After the near silence common to parents who drive their teenage children to nearly any activity(in this case school), I chose to stop at a Panera before my dentist visit.  As I lugged in my laptop and threw on my cap, I must have done something to very negatively affect my appearance.  After being asked what I wanted, my response of a “medium coffee” was followed by an, “It’s on my today.”  My billfold quickly dropped back into the comfortable recesses of my pocket.  I gave a hearty “Thank you” at the time I received the cup and again a few minutes afterward.  Was I wearing the “secret hat color of the day”?  Was I the 125th customer?  Did I look so haggard it was all about pity and nothing to do with some mystery to remain unsolved?  Or, did my new friend know the dentist would tell me I had been a very, very bad boy lately.?

Just yesterday, my son decided nothing presently living in our refrigerator–a survivor of one of our dinners over the past couple of days–was worth of his consumption.  He requested I run him up to the local Whataburger for a hamburger.  Since leftovers translate into, “I am not buying you your next meal.”, he knew he would be buying whatever he ate.  While driving him there–a five-minute drive even if driven in reverse, I received a phone call.  The call was quick but not so quick that I finished it up before my son had his order placed and paid for.  After completing my call, I walked to the register.  As I pointed my thumb at my son, I said, “I was hoping to place it on his order so he could pay for it.”  The employee felt some pity or exercised some liberal interpretation of some company rule dictating when a drink can be given away for free.  He handed me a cup and said, “Enjoy.”  Without hesitation, my mouth uttered a, “Thank you.  I will.”  Maybe he sensed father/son time is better when dad has a root beer.  Or, maybe he just sensed the free drink would make sure the conversation would stay away from the topics that sometimes strain the father/son relationship.  Whatever his logic, it helped!


Apparent Contradiction

As my wife and daughters left to go to my older daughter’s early 16th birthday “tea” party, I had just sat down and started to get relaxed.  Then, my phone received a couple of  text and a short dialogue ensued.

WIFE:  I have my car keys. You’re stuck unless you find the spare
WIFE: Sorry
ME: Nothing important to do. I hope [INSERT DAUGHTERS NAME] enjoys it!!
WIFE: I actually need u to bring me something.

If the texting was not clear enough, my wife took my car with my keys while keeping the keys to her car as well.  It seems I was being told “You can’t go anywhere, butif you will ride a bike, please bring me this.”  Fortunately, it was not that dire, but it did take a little work.

Since her car was not locked, I was able to retrieve the necessary item from her trunk.  Just as I found the item, my son made it home from walking his dog.  His car was parked out front and if he was willing, he just might be able to help fulfill my wife’s request.   The tea party was about 4 miles away.  My bike legs were a little rusty, so fulfilling her request was dependent on a vehicle with available keys.  Once I got him to commit to the assignment, the first set of directions came like this:

WIFE:  Down [Insert street name] just north of the Whataburger.  It is on the right.

Fortunately, my wife quickly realized those type of directions might delay the delivery of the requested party item.  Shortly afterwards, she provided the exact address.

My son returned from the delivery glad he could help his sister with her tea party.  I was glad momma and everyone else got to learn the nuances of tea etiquette.  (The requested item was multiple copies of this multi-choice “test”.)  My wife does a great job planning parties, and my daughter deserves a good one!  Love you dear!!

Leftover Lane

Last night we took a drive down Leftover Lane.  It was not a completely miserable “drive”.  I made sure the “cars” occupants had snacks to make the drive tolerable…..

After over a week of staring at the plastic containers in our refrigerator without fully committing to emptying them, the day finally arrived.  The male members (As the father, I am technically a male.  My appetite disqualifies me from sharing in complete male status) were both off work today, so the chances were good the refrigerator would soon by emptied and open for new residents (leftover food items).  As further enticement, we stopped at a bulk food store where bribery was offered as a pathetic but effective closing technique.  Although no signatures were captured in blood, my threats of repercussions seemed to properly prepare the diners for my expectations.  I was even willing to purchase a couple of bottled specialty soft drinks to virtually guarantee our “drive” of being a successful one.

As luck would have it, they were good to their word.  Despite recently consumed apple fritters with a side of gummy bears and the effects of carbonation on an already rather crowded appetite , the protein was all consumed pretty quickly.  (Young men do like their hot dogs)  I could also depend on my daughters cooperation when it comes to visiting Leftover Lane.  Unfortunately, their portions are usually only capable of slowing working away at a leftover rather than fully demolishing it in a single visit.  I am generally content being a cheerleader until everyone gets their plates full and their obligations fulfilled.  This usually leaves me as getting the “leftovers-of-the-leftovers”.  (It is not as bad as it sounds.  Some unlikely combinations have yielded some good eating.) With a guest appearance by my wife who was not expected home until much later in the evening, we emptied five houses on Leftover Lane of their residents.

Now, we start plotting on how to refill the “houses” on leftover lane.  Mexican is good.  And, my son at college comes home for fall break next weekend.  Chicken on the grill always makes for a nice neighbor.  The houses(refrigerator containers) should fill up quickly!!



High Velocity Ketchup

I think the mother was doing a great job!!  She had her 3 children following her and the tray of Happy Meals to their seat.  The twin girls and brother (they could have been triplets….they were all that close in age) sat at the circular table waiting for their specific Happy Meals to be placed in front of their smiling, happy faces.  The first delivery hit a snag when a cheeseburger appeared where a plain hamburger was expected.

With the rest of the Happy Meals being passed out without any problems, “mom” prepared the kids to sit still while she went and exchanged the faulty hamburger.  (I was prepared to jump in, but people with kids are wary of strangers volunteering to help them with their precious kids…)  Before mom got to far into her “be good for just a minute” speech, the male member of the party decided to go for some attention.

Twin#1:  Waaaa!

Mom:  What is it?  What happened?

Twin#1:  He got ketchup in my eye.

Mom: Looking at son, “You don’t even like ketchup.  What were you doing playing with the ketchup?  Gimme that ketchup.”  Looking at daughter, “It was just ketchup.  It is not worth getting that upset about.”

After she returned with the hamburger defrocked of its cheese, my fellow Mickey D-ites pretty much kept to themselves….almost.  As I was preparing to put my laptop back in its case, I noticed a ketchup looking substance on the top of the case.  And, the table top by my case had a few splotches of ketchup as well.  They were easily dabbed up with a napkin.  But, their presence set me to wondering…

The table with the triplets (or twins plus one) was probably 8-10 feet from me.  For the little ketchup packet to spit out its contents with enough velocity to reach my table, it would likely have stung someone pretty well if it hit them in the face with the rest of the “spit” heading to my table.  Obviously, I felt a little more sympathy for the ketchup-welted daughter.  And, mom gets some sympathy, too.  A son doesn’t stand a chance when he has two sisters right near his age.  He likely made a habit of dispensing some creative justice as he attempted to get some attention–any type of attention.   Likely, one or both of the girls were also very good at making sure he got away with little—aren’t family dynamics fun?


The Family Reunion

At the very beginning of our 5 weeks vacationing out of our present home state of Texas, we had a family reunion.  I am sure my family reunion is just like everyone else family reunion:

  • There was the cousin recovering from cancer.  (He had no hair, but his smile was still familiar.)
  • There was the token cousin from each family of cousins who graduated from college.  (Some families maybe have a higher concentration here.  In our family, the farmers and assorted other blue collar workers outnumber the graduates.  And, if you throw in Bachelor+ degrees, the numbers dwindle even more.)
  • There was the beloved family who lost an adult son a few years ago.  You know they hurt even still.  There smiles, however, don’t give them away.
  • The kids of cousins (are those second cousins?) who are way taller than they were when I saw them 5 years ago.
  • The young cousin/2nd-cousin with a health condition.  His health condition gives us a more accepting attitude of his behavior.
  • A large sheet cake is brought out in celebration of a birthday, anniversary, or some other milestone of significance.
  • The mix of German and other ethnic food for the potluck.  Many of the dishes brought currently are usually much better for you, much more colorful, and capable of generating extending conversations about how it was made or what potluck it was taken to last OR how it resembles something that used to be a potluck staple.
  • The cousin who runs his mouth without thinking hoping he doesn’t completely inhale his foot and develop a full gag reflex. (Me.)

After doing a little “visiting” with old friends at the church I grew up in, my family arrived late at the converted parsonage where the reunion was taking place.  (It used to be for the pastor and family to live, but now it is just a place with LOTS of first floor rooms and a kitchen.  It must be rent-able pretty inexpensively.)  One of the first people I encountered was a cousin a couple of years older than me.  We reminisced briefly.  Did a little update, and got in line for “firsts” before the earlier diners got seconds.

I continued to wander from groups to individuals for the rest of the afternoon – attempting to avoid the least favorite (or attempting to have an excuse built in before the conversation started to virtually guarantee its brevity.) and orchestrating the conversations with others so I could enjoy their wit or possibly their sage-wisdom for the last time.  I visited my father’s grave at the church cemetery and refrained from planking on his tombstone.

As the pictures (my branch of the family one for most in attendance) wound down and the farmers needed to get back for “milking”, the cars cleared from the parking lot.  As I went into the house to gather our cooler and potluck item (Since we flew in, I think our dish may have been more like a “bag or two”.), I bumped into the cousin I chatted with earlier.  This conversation went something like this….

Me:  Everybody is leaving and we really didn’t get to talk that much.

Cousin:  We did get to talk when you first came in.

Me:  You talk so slow, we really didn’t get to say much.

Cousins wife:  (Gives me dirty look.)

My wife:  (Says some random thing to change the subject)

Me: Well, some things never change.  My mouth is still trying to lead my brain.

Although there was nearly five weeks of traveling that followed this reunion, the next couple of days I was feeling the guilt.  This cousin is so laid back, while I am the type of person who often finishes sentences for people and talks over them.  I am barely house trained let alone capable of navigating the many pitfalls that occur every time I open my mouth.  When the apple fell from the tree, I must have been crawling underneath it while a whole bushel fell on top of me.

So, if you were the cousin in this conversation (or one of the other cousins or friends or coworkers or people I entered into a discussion with while at an amusement park or while checking out at a grocery store), please accept my sincere apology.

Breaking in the New Neighbor

(Guest blogger – written by our new neighbor that just moved in a little over a month ago.)

It is great to have our own place again after living in an apartment waiting for the right house to come along.  After we found the right house, the 4 months to get the financing lined up was a little excessive.  Despite that, we are in the house now and it is great!

My mother finally has the room she needs.  There is a covered back patio and a covered area to the left of the front door.  It is a perfect area for her to smoke.  Since they are covered, I don’t feel as badly making her smoke outside.  I realize we have one neighbor to our north who may have smoke blow into their yard and patio.  With the fence between us, at most it is 5th or 6th hand smoke.  And, they haven’t complained, so it must not be bothering them.

It is also great to have the pool out back.  It has not been warm enough to use the hot tub.  This is unfortunate.  We still like to be outside whenever we can.  The neighbor to the north is pretty quiet, so we consider it our responsibility to bring a little life to this end of the street.  Since I work out of the house and my mother is there with me, we enjoy being in the back yard and talking loudly and freely.  We can talk about guns in our purses and the impact of age on our bodies as if we are in a confessional–no one but those on our side of the fence to worry about.

My mom’s dog is a little deaf, but his nose still works fine. The walking path that runs behind the house keeps his sniffer working pretty hard–as long as it is not raining.  As he has gotten older, he seems to like other dogs even less.  He barks at nearly every dog and owner walking along the path.  Usually, my dog joins in and gets every dog within a 100 yards excited as well.  The neighbors to the north are usually so quiet.  I don’t even think they are around to hear all of the noise we have added to this corner of the subdivision.

Overall, the new place is working out.  It was worth the wait.  I am afraid to ask the next door neighbor if we are louder than the previous owner of the house.  They wave nicely and seem to be fine.  But, if I ask the  question, I don’t know them well enough to know how honest they might be.  We do like to talk, and we prefer loudly.  So, I will probably just continue with the wave and pleasant “Hellos”.  Anything more than that, and I might get more than I bargained for.  At least I don’t have a neighbor on the other side.  I am only at risk of raising the decibel level for one immediate neighbor.  I bought the house, so a family has to live!


National Comic Book Day

It was a nice treat to walk into the library today and be greeting by so many super heroes.  (I was not aware Dr Who was a super hero, but he must have a comic book.)  The tardis was not real authentic and Batman probably would not have answered the call in the sky, but it was a real neat thing for my older kids to do.  They both made a mask with duct tape for decorations.  They got some type of “goo”, too.

We also found out the library’s summer reading program will be available online this year.  And, the reading hours can all be logged online, too.  This will be my daughters 6th year doing the reading program in Texas.  The rewards they get for certain goals are not incredible, but they do provide a little more motivation to crack open those books.

With all of the activities, I don’t think they even had the chance to look at any cookbook or craft books today.  (My wife did get quite a few travel books.)  I have always enjoyed going to libraries, and fortunately, my kids have also.  But, if they didn’t, seeing a dwarf with an ax sure would make you curious!

Dawn surprised to have a Dwarf near by when getting her picture with the bat call

Dawn surprised to have a Dwarf near by when getting her picture with the bat call


Abby standing next to the Tartis

Abby standing next to the Tartis

When Old Men Play Catch

Since it was a nice Sunday afternoon, my daughter was seeking out someone to play catch with.  As the most experienced and energetic (not much enthusiasm for throwing a ball at our house) candidate, it did not take the long for me to equate “catch” time as father/daughter time.  She gathered my softball glove, got me a glass of water, and ushered me out the door.

As we started loosening up, I remembered why my control wasn’t what it used to be.  When we still lived in Ohio, our long driveway was covered by WAY to much snow.  Our very nice neighbor offered his snow blower.  While I often refused, I chose to listen to my wife’s nudges and children’s loathing of forced labor in a Siberian climate.  As I went into the neighbor’s garage to start the snow blower, I will admit to having a bit more energy than before he made his offer.  I was relieved to realize my fingers and toes would not have to go numb an excessive number of times before the driveway was cleared for safe passage.  The snow blower had a starter rope just like a lawn mover.  So, I jumped in and pulled a few times.  I thought maybe I had flooded it or in someway damaged this savior of the numb fingers.  With a bit of adrenalin, I gave one last good pull.  The blower did not start, but I felt an odd pull/pain in my right arm/wrist.  Not wanting to make my neighbor in any way feel bad, I played off the pain.  He took a look at the blower and quickly realized the gas line had been turned off.  My gentlest tug could have now started it.  My wrist was not up to shoveling, so it was good I had the use of the motorized snow launcher!

Since that day, whenever I try and throw a softball or baseball to hard, I seem to release at the wrong point.  The ball goes off in some less than controlled direction.  So, I am mostly a lobber now with limited control.  Fortunately, my daughter was completely happy with this.  I did change my throwing a bit to try and give her a chance to catch something besides lobs or parabolic throws.  With her being left handed, I worked to spot my throw to try and strengthen her ability in her weak spots.  Whenever a throw went the wrong direction, my first line of defense was, “You have to be ready for those.” rather than, “Sorry, your old man is not the throwing phenomenon he used to be.”  She was understanding…even if she did have to visit the ditch/creek more than she would have liked.  (Throwing a wet ball is good practice!)

Although she does have pretty good control, I did have to field a few grounders.  These grounders were mostly happy little balls that found my glove with barely an invitation.  Not all of the balls were happy.  A couple balls, one specifically, were very vindictive.  It refused my gloves embrace and launched itself at my exposed shin. Not wanting to make my daughter feel bad, I uttered a brave, “It’s okay.” and we played on.

It was early the next day when I felt the aching right arm.  Amazingly, my mind tried to go through a list of other possible deliverers of pain before remembering the neon green ball from the previous day.  Likely, since it had been close to a year since I had thrown a ball and I was throwing it differently to compensate for my snow blower injury, my pain was only reminiscent of the usual pain.  When the pain left in a couple of days, the source was confirmed.

The shin injury has been a different matter.  It seemed to take a little longer for the pain to more fully ripen.  What started as a dull ache is now 6 inches of very sensitive leg starting below my knee.  I have researched shin splints and entertained ideas of impending amputations.  (I am reading a book with an amputee in it right now.)  Despite my pessimistic optimism, the winner seems to be a bone bruise-the most painful shin bruise in recent memory, but just a bruise.

However, with my history of a couple of blood clots, my ultra-pessimism, “I don’t want my kids to be orphans” thinking kicked in.  After a week of the non-diminishing leg pain, my wife hauled me to one of the “quickie” emergency room places.  (It was my insistence that got us there.  She was laughing and teasing me up until the point where the doctor mentioned how swollen and how much it probably hurt.)  The doctor checked all of my pulses to remove any clotting concerns. While I was relieved, my wife took the opportunity to get a couple more paranoid jabs in.  We were home in about an hour.  We paid no bill while there.  The cost for my peace of mind would be coming in the mail….

So, as I walk, stand or get dressed, I just smile.  I assume the pain is temporary. (It was….this was nearly a month ago.)  What is not temporary is the quality time I had with my daughter!  To see her non-complaining run after one of my bad throws (well, she may have missed a couple of good throws) or to hear, “I am sorry.” after one of her bad throws, are times to cherish.  I don’t remember really talking about anything.  And, it is those moments with your daughters that mean everything.