A Day Alone

I love my family, perhaps too much. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in Tulsa, OK. It’s been called the “Paris of Oklahoma“. The other guys were out having fun – frisbee golf, checking out various sites. Me, I wanted to sit in the hotel room and call my wife and kids.

Why is it that I am so utterly devoted to them that I cannot enjoy anything if they are not around? Why is it that nothing I need to do (mow the lawn, work on Rosetta Stone, clean the kitchen…) – the things that should both consume my time and emotions – are so difficult?

Today, my wife is taking my oldest daughter to camp. It is 5 1/2 hours away. That means they will be gone for at least 12 hours. I volunteered to stay at home and care for the dogs. This length of time would be torture on their bladders and empty stomachs. I am depressed. Disappointed that they are travelling without me. Disappointed that I cannot be with them.

God has promised that He will be with us at all times (Matthew 28:20). Is my faith at such an ebb that I feel complete only with my wife and children?

I have promised to mow the lawn and clean the kitchen today. Because I do not want to disappoint my wife, I will complete those tasks. In the meantime, I will likely will watch Star Trek – alternating between Next Generation and Voyager. I love DVDs!

Don’tcha love homeowner’s associations?

Houston has been suffering it’s hottest and driest summer in recorded history.  With 2 inches of rain since February 1, my lawn is looking pathetic.  The City of Houston has imposed lawn-watering restrictions.  I don’t reside within the city, but I’ve been doing my part – even draining the condensation from my portable A/C into the Pur water filter to drink.  Needless to say, watering my lawn just doesn’t rank up there in the top of my priority list.

So my homeowner’s association, with their infinite wisdom, wrote me a letter to complain about the condition of my lawn.  Looking at my neighbors, it’s likely they wrote letters to 90% of my neighborhood.  They told me that I need to water my lawn.

Huh?

In the middle of a drought, they want me to water my lawn.

Let’s hear it for the brains of the operation.  Since the letter of the law – the DEED RESTRICTIONS – do not exempt droughts, I am compelled to comply.  Regardless of the fact that watering my lawn may deprive firefighters of water – regardless of the fact that watering my lawn may reduce the levels of our water table – regardless of the fact that watering my lawn may actually cause someone to become dehydrated…  I must abide by the rules.

We have done a very good job of keeping our lawn mowed and our flowerbed weed free.  We have done a very good job of keeping our place maintained during this recession to avoid being those people.  But the house around the corner – which has been foreclosed and unmaintained for the last two years – looks like something out of a horror movie.  My neighbor and I are contemplating opening it as a haunted house in October and charging admission.  We won’t have to do much, it’s already falling apart!

And they want to write me up for not watering my lawn during water restrictions.

What the heck ever happened to common sense?  When did we become so blinded by rules that we refused to listen to our brains?  Why did the family that signed the original deed restrictions circulate an unsuccessful petition to have our neighborhood removed from them?  Because the Homeowner’s Associations are incapable of thinking.

People, let’s use our common sense.  Refuse to buy houses that have deed restrictions.  Force the street gestapo out of business.  Let us get back to the business of living.  Don’t we have to bow to politicians and our bosses enough?  Our homes should be our sanctuary.

Saying “Good-bye” To My Dreams

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was an obscure blogger.  We’ll call him “Clay”.  He had dreams – some sane, some outrageous.  They included a car of his own, a home in the country and a yacht in which he could experience the sea again for he was a veteran of the US Navy.  The car need not be fancy (but fast would be a plus).  The home need not be fancy but 20 acres or so would fulfill the dream.  And the yacht – well it does need to be seaworthy and what’s the point of having a yacht if it’s not fancy?

So Clay woke up many mornings depressed to be without wheels of his own and in a very modest house in the city.  His friends had more ‘stuff’ than he did, but they seemed to be no less depressed than Clay.  There was, after all, new stuff always available.  Gotta get the next new smartphone.  Gotta get 3D TV.  Gotta get HD radio.  And the list goes on.

Clay woke up one morning, and was more depressed than usual.  His dreams seemed to be so far out of reach that they were, in a word, unattainable.  In a rare moment of lucid dreaming (does that even make sense?), Clay decided that his dreams weren’t worth the depression.

“If I gave up on my dreams,” he thought, “I could be happier.  I would no longer be striving for something unattainable.  I would simply be glad that I can still see my kids in my modest house in the city because I can’t go anywhere.”

Now, don’t misunderstand the situation.  Clay still desires a car of his own, a house in the country and, maybe, a yacht.  But his driving force is now facing each day for the glory and blessing it brings.  He no longer wakes each day to dreams that are unattainable.  He can now see the trees because he’s closer to the forest.

One day, maybe he will get a car of his own and a house in the country with 20 acres or so for the milk cows and chickens and garden.  But until that day comes, he eagerly looks forward to the fleeting moments with his children and his wife.

Life is not yesterday, nor is it tomorrow.  Life is today.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:24, NIV

Storgē

Like I said before, I can have a lot of fun with these Greek words.  “It’s over there by the storge container!”

Storgē is that special love that bonds a parent with a child.  When a parent says to their child, “I love you,” the Greeks say “I storgē you” or something to that effect.

The love for a child is an amazing thing.  Before I found out I was going to be a Daddy, I didn’t even want to ponder that possibility.  I’m a horrible person, I’m going to make horrible kids.  But I saw that little hand on the screen at the doctor’s office and that stony heart began to melt.

When she was born, I was an emotional wreck.  I had never held a child in my entire life.  Now, here was one of my very own!  By the time she was four, I was a very happy stay-at-home Dad.  About that time, her younger sister joined the family.

From a guy with absolutely no use for people under 21 to being totally enamored with my children – I discovered exactly what storgē is.  I love my kids.  Now that I am working, I try to arrange my schedule so I get more time to spend with my kids.

Storgē – the most amazing love of all.

Eros

I can have a lot of fun with these Greek words.  Agape.  Eros.  🙂  No, I’m not even going there! You would only boo and hiss at my joke about bows and Eros…

Anyway, Eros was the Greek god of intimate love – between a husband and wife.  We know him better by his Roman name, Cupid.  It is from that description we get the second in this treatise on love.

When I met my wife, 20 years ago, I was struck by her beauty.  Some would say there was love at first sight, and I believe them.  She haunted me even as I pursued other relationships.  After all, why would someone as beautiful as her want to waste time with an overgrown beer-swillin’ sailor whose face could sink ships?  But she found something in me as well.  We’re very happily married, have two kids and a house with a cedar picket fence.

It was the initial attraction that brought us together.  Had I not seen something in her, I would likely have not remembered her from that history class in college in 1991.  Her smile, her hair – but most of all her laugh…  But, as I am wont to do, I digress.

I started to go somewhere with this that would have made a lot of people angry.  So, here goes again.

God created the attraction-based love that brings together a man and a woman.  He did so for one reason – kids.  He wants people to worship Him.  He wants lots of people to worship Him.  And, as the Sovereign Creator of the universe, He pretty much gets what He wants.  So he put a drive in each of us to get married and have kids.

How do we find the one with which to have kids and remain true to God?  Through prayer and attraction.

I’ll admit that I didn’t pray before I married my wife.  Yeah, I went through the motions, but none of it was real until we’d been married for 2 ½ years.  It’s taken me from then until now to figure out how this hot babe that I married was brought to me by a God that I refused to serve until after we were married.

It’s all part of His plan.

Now that I love to worship Him, my kids see that.  They want to be like Daddy, so they worship Him as well.  And, when they’re grown, hopefully their kids will worship Him too.  It’s a cycle that’s gone on for millenia – ever since Eve first whacked Adam upside the head for driving too fast.

Whether are married or not, keep that attraction in the marriage.  Don’t let it go outside.  There’s something special between two people who have saved themselves for each other – something special that I shall never know.  And that special something is exactly what God intended for all of us.

Daddy Daughter Dance

No, this isn’t an exercise in alliteration.

Tonight is an event I’ve always wanted to attend, but never really had an opportunity.  Tonight, I take my daughters to a dance.  One is 12, the other is 7.  They’re both growing up so fast!

On the one hand, I still see my girls as the young, sweet, innocent and harmless babes with only one goal in life – play.  But they aren’t.  My oldest is a young lady – a friend at church asked me who the blonde lady was standing between my wife and I.  That was over a year ago when she was 10.  My youngest is already engineering bridges and buildings on KNEX.  Neither of them yet realize what a scary place the world is.

On the other hand, I’m hoping that a night like this will teach them how a gentleman should treat them.  We will talk about dancing and how to enjoy it without violating protocol.  And they’ll likely teach me how to dance!

But more than anything, we’re gonna have fun.  We’ll bang our heads and we’ll slowly sway.  We’ll dress up in our finest and celebrate the mix of childhood and maturity.

For all of my time as a Daddy, I can’t imagine a better time with my daughters.

Another Day

Today is another day.  We will get up and do what we do every day.  Eat breakfast, perform some sort of work, eat lunch, perform another sort of work, eat dinner, watch tv and go to bed.

WHY?

Because we have no imagination beyond the here and now.  Because we have no money.  Because we have no idea what to do beyond our paltry little existence.

Here are some ideas to brighten up your weekend – and maybe someone else’s.

  • Take lunch to the folks who live on street corners:
    buy some old-timey lunch bags (yes, they’re still available in the grocery store!) and some bread and some meat and some cheese and some apples and some oranges and some chips.  Make sandwiches sans mustard or mayo, throw in a couple pieces of fruit and a bag of chips.  Drive around and see if you can actually get rid of all of them!
  • Build something with your kids – like a relationship:
    My youngest daughter recently built a house for a KNEX competition.  I helped.  Seriously – I took directions from a seven-year-old!  I did offer advice, but she had the final plans in her head.  We submitted the photos today.  During that time, she and I grew closer than ever.  It was a fun time for both of us!
  • Go somewhere you’ve never been:
    When my family lived in Las Vegas, we never went to the touristy places.  My folks visited the casinos occasionally, but we never experienced Vegas ‘cuz we lived there.  I’ve lived all over the country, and all I’ve seen are homes and offices.  Now that I’ve been 39 for six years, I’m making a change.  One Saturday a month, my family and I are going to make a day trip to a place we’ve never been.  State park.  Kitschy museum.  Biggest ball of string.  That sort of thing.

Let me know what your ideas are.  Let this Saturday be more than just Another Day.

Help My Dog!

We love our dogs.  All four of them.  The chihuahua, the lab/collie, the great dane and the husky.  We love them.

Did I mention we love them?

Today we had an adventure.  Yewsten was shut down because of icy roads.  We don’t know how to drive on ice, and we admit it.  But the meteorologists had promised snow – which did not happen.  My daughters were very upset, but we intended to make the best of it.  Our backyard was icy and they enjoyed playing on it.  But it wasn’t long before the ice was gone from playing on it.

We decided to go to the park.  There would be a lot of untouched ice there, right?  And we had fun over there.  Our two biggest dogs joined us.  The husky (Blue) and the great dane (ShyAnn)  And we let them run.  And our ShyAnn lost her collar.  But that wasn’t the adventure.

We got cold and hungry, so we took a break and went to a leading fast food taco place for 35% beef with 65% fillers.  It was yummy.

Then we returned to the park for more fun on the ice.  About ten minutes into it, ShyAnn started yelping.  She had gotten two toes stuck in the grate.  We tried and tried, but could not get her free.  Now, carrying a cell phone is not our normal way.  So I went to where the pay phone was to call for help.  But the pay phone was no longer there.  Maybe there’s one across the street at the soccer fields?

I started to cross the street and a cop came by.  Flagging him down, he graciously offered to help.  But he had no tools with which to help.  He did try to call the fire department, but they were too busy with people emergencies.  I certainly do understand that, and I salute them for their dedication to people, particularly on days in Yewsten that got all the way up to 34F.

The girls, Blue and I went home so I could get my hands on some tools.  But I did not have enough extension cords to get from the pavilion to where ShyAnn was.  I drove back to the park, trying to call for more extension cords along the way.  None were forthcoming.

A tow truck led me into the park.  He pulled out boltcutters and cut the grate for us.  With an officer of the law present we were not worried about this act being misunderstood for vandalism.  ShyAnn came home with this piece of grate on her paw like an oversized ring.

For two hours, my wife and I worked with the Dremel tool and removed the grate from ShyAnn’s foot.

I would like to thank DPS Officer Hutchinson and the nameless driver from Platinum MotorSports for assisting us today.  My wife spent two hours hunched over in the cold, keeping ShyAnn warm and calm.  My kids were incredibly well-behaved.  And I got to look like a useless fool who took his dogs and kids to a park on a day that looked like a margarita.

…and I felt like a hypocrite!

I love food.  I love to cook it.  I love to eat it.  I love to share it.  I love food!

Last night for dinner, my mother-in-law fixed soup beans with ham hocks.  See my food blog for the recipe.  I ate two big bowls of beans.  My kids ate less than half of their bowls and we admonished them that there would be no dessert (vanilla ice cream).

My oldest complained.  I explained to her that I wanted her to eat more healthy, otherwise she would grow up looking like me – a fat tub o’ lard.  She needed to eat more of her main course before she could eat dessert.

As the words came out of my mouth, the logic (or lack thereof) hit me in the face like a young girl’s slap.  I ate two big bowls of beans and three scoops of ice cream with homemade buttercream icing on top.  And I’m worried that she would grow up looking like me.  Does that give me the license to point out the speck in my daughter’s eye when there’s a huge beam in my own?

Do as I say, not as I do

I’ve heard adults say that all of my life.  It makes absolutely no sense.  We need to be examples to our children, not talking heads.  I was a glutton last night and I warned my daughter about gluttony.  I should amend the title; I didn’t feel like a hypocrite, I am a hypocrite.

Today, I am making a change in my personal habits.  I am eating healthier – I’m not a nutcase, but it will be healthier.  And I will live up to the words that I give to my kids.

Nucular Fizzix

Growing up, my dad shared with me all the intricacies of the Periodic Table and the Chart of the Nuclides.  One lists the elements and groups them according to properties.  The other shows how they decay and fission.  I was mesmerized and still enjoy referring to these.  My wife bought me a coffee cup with the Periodic Table on it. 🙂

Last night was one of the proudest moments in my fatherhood life.  While I watched a video of Glenn Seaborg describing the birth of plutonium (atomic number 94, atomic weight 239), my daughter asked what it meant.  I explained to her about bombarding uranium (atomic number 92, atomic weight 238) with deuterons (one proton, one neutron – the nucleus of a deuterium atom).

“What’s deuterium?”

Oh, boy!  Now it’s time to embark upon that road that my father took me down so many years ago!

As I explained how a hydrogen atom is constructed of one proton and one electron, she actually listened.  Then I explained about deuterium – add a neutron.  She understood!  I quizzed her – “What if you have a hydrogen atom with two neutrons?”

She thought and said, “Triterium?”  Ooooh!  So close!  She’s a huge fan of the Spiderman movies, so when I said “Tritium”, her eyes really lit up.

“What’s fusion”?  I had to go through fission first – since it takes a fission reaction to start a fusion reaction.  She listened.  She understood.  She looked at my Periodic Table coffee cup with a new admiraion.

In my life, there is only one thing more important than my daughters and that’s my relationship with God.  I must admit sometimes even that suffers by comparison.  Because of the way I grew up, my daughters’ questions last night were very fulfilling to me.  Now, 14 hours later, I am still giddily excited about that conversation last night.  I hope there are many more.