Month: September 2007

I’m getting a little vaklempt…

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I recently found an interesting Web tool called “Zillow.” It’s billed as a Real Estate tool that both agents and homebuyers can use to sell and compare houses in a given market. It’s pretty neat in that it lets you, as a homeowner, see what your neighbor’s houses are assessed for, along with square footage, etc. So, if you think your house is bigger than your neighbors, but you weren’t sure enough to go crowing about it…well, now you can.

 Another interesting feature is that it uses other freely available aerial photographs to show the houses. Granted most of the pictures aren’t detailed enough to see what color paint is on the house, but you can see the top of the house and the surrounding land.  

I thought it’d be fun to look up some of my old stomping grounds from my childhood and sure enough, I was able to find them. For instance, our first house in Mobile, AL is now selling for about 95K, which in Atlanta prices, would get you a hovel in an undesirable part of town. So, I then looked up our second house, the one my family built with our bare hands, and while there was no value listed, I was able to see the general layout:


Our House in Semmes, AL

When I lived there, we owned five acres on the NW side of a huge tract of wooded land owned by a great uncle-in-law. It appears that it now has been junked up a little bit and more trees cleared off, but it’s still clearly my old house. And boy does that bring up some memories…some bad, some good, some just plain old indifferent. It’s funny though how nostalgic seeing the place makes me.

For instance, that bare spot to the SE of the house…I cleared that out myself over the course of a couple of summers. Mind you, this was in the heat of Alabama summer. I remember working out there during the day (because my dad made me) and being completely soaked in sweat; then going inside the a/c and drinking gallons of sweet tea. I remember our Dobermans running around in the woods as I worked, chasing after who knows what. I remember the girls who used to drop by…well….never mind about that. Suffice it to say that there is apparently something to be said for a sweaty, slightly overweight teen-age boy holding an axe and a pair of lopping shears in the middle of a sweltering Alabama summer. Ah…the memories.

And oh the fishing. Fly fishing, bass fishing or just sitting on the banks with a cane pole in one hand and my faithful dog lying next to me hoping I’ll throw her a piece of my PB&J. It’s almost enough to make a guy get all choked up.

I never really had any desire to go back and visit my old home, until now. Now, I just need a good excuse. Hey, only four more years till my 20th high school reunion.

Man…now that’s depressing.


It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…

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Sorry for my lack of correspondence the last few days, but truth is, I rarely have time to blog on the weekend, and then on Monday, I was home sick with a (yet another) sinus infection. Hello my good friend Augmentin. Let the stomach flora-massacre begin!

On the bright side of that, I will get a rosy clear complexion for a few weeks as the antibiotics kills off all the acne-causing bacteria in my body.

So yesterday, as I lay in bed playing “Tomb Raider: Anniversary,” my stomach started cramping. Figuring it was gas, I ignored it. By 9 p.m. last night, there was no ignoring it. The pain had me hunched over and the only relief I could get was lying flat on my back. When the sharp pains started in my right side (where yon appendix lies), I figured “better safe than sorry,” and headed to the hospital emergency room. Now, we are situated between several hospitals and since I didn’t want to drive all the way down to the “good” hospital (St. Joseph’s), I opted for one closer to home.

Did I mention it was a full-moon last night? Oh yes and it was an interesting eve in the ER. As I waited for the doctor to see me, I heard conversations about multiple shootings, a poor guy whose leg swole up after a plane trip (the doctors thought he got a blood clot…I guess it does actually happen) and some girl who had apparently threatened to kill herself multiple times and was on her way to the looney bin. As they strapped her down and wheeled her out, she continued on with what had been a 45-minute nonstop name-calling hate-fest.

So about 12:30 a.m., after some extremely painful waves of cramps, everything just stopped. I lay there for a few minutes to see if it was just a reprieve, and then when nothing happened, I got up off the bed, hopped up and down a few times and decided, “Ah, must have been gas!” I found a nurse and tried to convince her to let me go, but she insisted that I see a doctor first. 

After another 30 minutes, a doctor–young, decent looking guy straight out of “Grey’s Anatomy“–comes in  and after talking to me and poking around a while (there was still some soreness) tells me, “Here’s the problem. A lot of people with appendicitis hurt for a while, and then suddenly start feeling better. But that’s because usually the appendix has perforated. They feel better, they go home and then they end up on the operating table in much condition than they could have been if they’d gotten checked in the first place. I don’t feel comfortable sending you home until we have a look.”

So, I kicked off my shoes, got myself a banky and tried to ignore the guy in the curtained area next to me who got the most wonderful shot of Dilaudid and was happily chatting up whomever walked into his room (I was soooo jealous!).

Now let’s play a game…can you tell me which of the vile-containing mixtures in the picture here I had to drink in an hour:

  Yep, you guessed it. The tall cool drink of chalky mixture there in the middle.

On top of that, for some reason my veins tonight didn’t want to co-operate, so I have no fewer than four holes in my arms from various blood drawings (the first set “clotted” which my nurse tells me is code for “we dropped it…oops!”), an IV and whatever else. Now, this mixture is a dye that wanders around your body so that when they put you in a CT scan, they can tell where things are. And did I mention that when they put you in the CT scan they put this stuff in your IV that goes all through your body and when the CT Scan hits it, it heats up and you feel all warm. In fact, so warm that you feel like you just peed in your pants (I actually checked).

Luckily, no pee and guess what? Another hour an a half went by and my doctor tells me my appendix looks fine. Diagnosis: Secondary inflammation of my “guts” due to my sinus infection.

He gave me some Phenergin (even though I told him multiple times that I wasn’t nauseous) and some Percocet (Oh well, if you insist!) and sent me on my way. Got home about 5 a.m., went straight to bed and slept till eleven. My guts feel better, but this sinus infection still has me feeling like crap and on top of that, I’ve missed two days of work for which I feel guilty (even though I really had no projects on my plate). But thanks to all my family who were praying for me last night. Who knows…maybe it actually worked. 

That Heathen Family Down the Road (part 1 of 2)

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Sistine Chapel As with so many things pre-kids, I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I don’t attend church as often as we used to before we had children. Did I also mention that I feel really bad about this? Or, at least I try to feel bad, but most of the time I just feel guilty. There is a difference.

I feel guilty because I know that if I don’t make an effort to introduce my children to God, when they get older, they’ll inevitably fall victim to whatever view of God society has most successfully been able to foist on them rather than coming to their own view of God after having been given as much data as possible from a variety of sources.

So, I want to take my children to church, but taking children to church on the weekend is work! After getting up at 5:30 am for five days during the week, on Saturdays and Sundays I just want to get up, enjoy some coffee, maybe sit outside on the porch for a while, and just generally not be rushed to do anything. And taking kids to church is anything but relaxing. It’s basically like taking them to another daycare at this age (my oldest is 3 and my youngest is 7 months), which we don’t like doing since they’re in daycare the rest of the week anyway. We’ve also tried reading Bible stories to our oldest son but right now, unless the story involves danger (“Daddy, did the lions eat Daniel?“) or I can read the story using some heavily accented speech, he’s just not interested. And I’m sorry, but three years old is a little too young be dropping the whole, “Jesus died so you could be saved” thing on him. So right now, I just don’t see that it’s a big deal.

Looking back though, I’ve realized that this drift from church started before the kids were born; they just make a good excuse for behavior that we were already leaning towards anyway.

When my wife and I first met, we were both going to church heavily. I had fairly recently come off of a bad break-up (involving a wedding ring) and had turned to the church for stability since I had no family local. My wife had recently moved to town after finishing her B.A. degree at the U. of Texas and was living with her family while she worked on her MBA. Her family was strict Catholic, but has since embraced the lighter side of church–the Pentecostals.

After we got married, we continued to attend church, but with less frequency. A large part of that I believe is because of the difference in Catholic churches that my wife was used to attending, versus what I was used to growing up under the Pentecostal label.

See, Catholic church rarely lasts more than an hour. Catholics long ago realized, “Hey, we’re all sinners. Let’s get together for an hour on the weekend, break some bread, drink some wine, and then go and sin no more. E- Pluribus Unum…I missed the bus, you missed the bus…” 

Pentecostals (Baptists, Church of God, Assembly of God, etc.), on the other hand, still labor under the belief that most of us are perfect and that to remain in a state of perfection, we should meet on Wednesday night and also on Sundays, and attend a church service lasting a minimum of an hour and a half and involving several uncomfortable situations for both the body and the mind.

So while my wife and I both began to drift away from regular church attendance before we had children, I believe it was for different reasons. 

In my case, I got a heavy dose of God as a child. Then, as I grew up, studied texts outside of the strict Biblical tombs the Catholic church deemed acceptable several hundred years ago, and was able to decide for myself what I believed in given all that I had seen and heard, I came up with my own beliefs, which still include the basics of what I learned as a child…only more tempered with what I consider a healthy dose of skepticism.

Growing up also opened my eyes to the world of the church. The church today, while certainly offering those who need it, a sanctuary and a place of refuge, is also a business. It’s a business with a CEO (the Pastor) a board of directors (the deacons and elders) and worker-bees (the flock) without whom the church could not and would not exist. And while I believe many (possibly most) churches start out with the best of intentions, I also believe that a great many of them become self-perpetuating businesses with the same desire to succeed as cam be found in any corporate boardroom.

Am I jaded? A bit. Skeptical of “the church” as a whole-absolutely. Do I want my children to endure what I went through as a child only to watch my own parent’s marriage fall apart despite all of the holiness and platitudes they espoused throughout the week in their everyday life-a resounding NO!

Whoa! Where’d that come from? We went from talking about the church, to delving into my personal past. Hmm, maybe we should explore this some more.

(After this commercial break…like tomorrow maybe).
Part 2 on it’s way.

The Family Tree

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Family TreePrior to having children of my own, I scoffed at the idea of “It takes a village” to raise a child. My abhorrence might partly stem from the fact that the so-named book was released by Hillary Clinton (I say “released” because you know she had a ghostwriter), a person I have a particular dislike for.

Now that I have two children of my own, I find myself drawn to this idea of a village approach to child-rearing, especially when I talk to other parents who have willing grandparents that frequently offer to help watch the children while the parents take some free time. So my idea of a village you see, differs quite significantly from one Democratic hopeful in that I don’t want the “state” raising my children; I’d quite rather prefer it be people I know and love rather than some underpaid, sullen worker-bee who is only there because the public school system wasn’t hiring anymore lunch-room workers.

The only problem is, we don’t have a village support structure within arm’s reach. Oh, we have neighbors and we have co-workers, but in my mind, a village is full of people you grew up with-your family-and that’s what we don’t have. But not for a lack of sheer numbers mind you…we have that a’plenty. We have what you might call a “geographically challenged support system.” Let me explain.

On my side of the family, I have one dad, one maternal mother, one legal mother who adopted me along with my dad and who has been divorced from said dad for nigh on 28 years now. I also have an additional mother to whom I am very close. But guess what? None of the aforementioend tree branches live in even the same state. So even if they wanted to help out with the kids (which is questionable as far as at least half of them are concerned) they cannot.

On my wife’s side of the family, we have a traditional mother and father, along with six other siblings. Her mom and dad both work. After being a SAHM to seven kids, and immediately after my wife got pregnant with our first child, her mom announced she wanted to be a teacher. Additionally, between the seven kids, they now have 14 grandchildren. So, by the time the evening or weekend rolls around, they are in the same boat we working parents are in; they want their own free time and the very thought of taking care of two rambunctious children is about as savory an idea as taking a long road trip with the kids strapped into car seats for hours on end (see blog entry titled: “You gotta know when ta hold em…Know when ta fold ’em“).

So yeah, I’m a little bitter when my wife and I want to go out and have a date and it costs us an extra $40 on top of the date just to get someone to watch our kids…and that’s usually my wife’s little sister. I’m envious when friends tell me their kids are no longer allowed to go visit the in-laws for various, hygenic reasons. And yes, it’s annoying to have to take a vacation day off of work just so I can have the free time to catch up on yardwork and maintenance chores that need doing around the house (ok, I occasionally work a round of golf into my vacation day too).

 I don’t know…I’m just burned out I guess, and while I have a very promising, but short vacation coming up–sans family–I know that it will only be a matter of a a few days upon returning that I’ll be back in the doldrums again wishing for some time away.

So Mrs. Bill, I find myself swayed by your logic, but still sternly against your choice of execution. While I’d love to have the village, hell, right now I’d settle for a supportive telephone call from a few of its residents.

The Hills are aliiiive with the sound of…bad jazz music

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Nothing says fall like an arts and crafts (craps) festival, and this weekend marked the something-something anniversary of the Roswell, GA Arts and Crafts Festival here where I live.

Despite there being copious amounts of college football on the tele (ROLL TIDE!), I, knowing that my wife, who also enjoys football, wouldn’t be able to sit and watch it like I can (for which I would also feel enormously guilty), I knuckled down and suggested we all head over to the festival to “get out of the house.”

Personally, I didn’t really need to get out of the house…having enjoyed the cooler air in the a.m and again in the early afternoon doing some outside work, but it was the weekend and I do have a family, so…I offered to do the family thing.

As expected, it was far too many booths crammed into far too little space. People walking on top of people. People holding their little dogs because apparently they couldn’t bear to leave them home for a couple of hours. And also as expected, it was the same old amateurish crap you see from one year to the next and quite frankly, if you’ve seen one arts and crap festival, you’ve seen them all.

But wait! This one had a little something extra….my Boss!

It’s always a joy to be walking around all carefree like, and to come upon someone you generally try to avoid. Now, don’t get me wrong, my boss does try to be a nice person (to your face), but let’s not forget how she shoehorned me into this go-nowhere job and dictates against general company policy that I can’t work from home unless I have a “reason.” So as far as I’m concerned, she’s the spawn of satan.

The only problem is, she’s not bad looking. Not that this gets her any points with me, but based on the general picture I’ve painted of her to my wife, she (my wife) was quite surprised upon meeting her and all she said as we walked away from the awkwardly exchanged pleasantries was, “She’s not what I expected.”

So now I wonder…does my wife think that perhaps I overexaggerate things and that really my boss is a fine person? I mean, anyone fairly attractive MUST be nice right? Is there some “hot career woman” club that I don’t know about whose only requirements are that you be A) a woman B) good looking and C) career oriented? Does inclusion in the club automatically grant a woman clemency from scorn and derision? I wonder.

When I asked my wife what she DID expect, she said, “Someone frumpier.” Yeah, I can see how that might have come across, but I promise you, her looks have absolutely no bearing on her desire to prove her superiority to the men subordinate to her. Looks are a poor barometer for measuring how a person treats others. Even the evil queen in Snow White was a hottie…the handpainted mirror with the woven wicker frame made by a lady in Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa said so.

Third Time’s the Charm

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Best DadAfter three visits to the pediatrician, my son is finally starting to feel better. The problem stemmed from the fact that it was I, the father, who has taken him in each time to see the doctor. See, the thing is, if you’re not a “father” then you may not understand it when I say that doctors don’t put much stock in what dads “think” about their kids. Call it ignorance about today’s dads; call it ambivalence…whatever; the truth is that unless a doctor can physically see or hear the symptoms that a “father” claims his child has, it simply does not exist.

For whatever reason, mothers are these perfect little diagnosers who only bring their children in when it’s an emergency, as compared to fathers who apparently run right in with the child at the first sign of a fever.

So it was that I was profoundly ecstatic when after our name was called, and I cradeled my sick son in my arms and walked to the back where the waiting rooms are, that my son started hacking like there was no tomorrow. Immediately, no fewer than six women turned towards the sound and upon seeing my pudgy little blonde-haired, blue-eyed son coughing his lungs out, all crinkled up their foreheads in a concerned look and let out a collective, “Oh…”

I knew in that instant that I was FINALLY gonna get some satisfaction “up in here.” I looked around and said as loud a could be, “See, I’m not imagining it!”

The doctor, upon hearing the cough, feared the worst and thought perhaps the cough had travelled into his lungs, but thankfully that was not the case. The diagnosis: a sinus infection, for which I blame myself of course. I’ve had a deviated septum corrected and my sinus cavities roto rootered out, and I continue to be plagued by polyps for which only a daily steroid spray is my last defense (even as I write this, the bumps on my forehead indicate the signs of an ongoing struggle against an infection and I can “smell” my own sinuses, which indicates that indeed, I am not right in the head (that’s so gross!!)).

After this little episode during which a father was shown to not be completely inept with a child, and as I quietly sat with my sick child in a tiny little room and kept him relatively happy for 30 minutes, I’d like to think that maybe my stock has gone up at the pediatrician’s office. I would like to imagine that somewhere in my son’s chart the pregnant doctor who saw us wrote:

 “Child was brought in by an especially astute, caring father.
Child was given 10-days worth of Amoxicillin at 400mg for
a sinus infection.”

“Oh and also: dispensed a size 2 diaper because the aforementioned
father forgot the diaper bag

Ah credibility. So hard to earn…so easily lost.

Adios John Wayne

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A friend of mine is having some difficulties with her son in school. From the surface, it looks like a simple case of ADD, but it’s really more complex than that. At the same time, in my oldest son’s daycare class, there are a couple of “problem” boys with similar behavior patterns. In at least the case of my friend, I know the problem isn’t a lack of discipline, which might be the logical leap most people would make looking in on the problem from the outside.

Couple this with some observations I’ve made in my own household and I’ve concluded that, as suspected, boys in our society have become an unknown, and unfortunately, untolerated breed.

No no…think about it. Some statistics courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau:

 As of 2002, there were 687,000 + daycare centers, employing more than 750,000 workers. This means that a lot of these so-called “centers” are actually in-home daycare centers since the average daycare facility employs 20+ caregivers.

Including pre-schoolers, there are more than 12 million children cared for in these centers.

Also as of 2002, 9.2% of all U.S. households are run by single mothers.

Now I don’t have the numbers for the percentage of workers in these centers that are women, but I’d bet it’s somewhere near 99.99%. Add that number to the total number of children being solely influence and raised by women and it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that a large portion of our young boys today are being raised by someone who is ill-prepared to understand the needs of boys as they grow up.

Just as I wouldn’t begin to pretend to understand the life-stages of a girl, is it right to expect women to understand the mind of a 3-year old boy without someone there to help them understand? Is it any wonder then that in our daycares and schools (and even our single parent homes) young boys are being reared and discipled based upon a woman’s understanding of how that child should be behaving?

I say no! Just as it wouldn’t be right for me to tell a 6-year old girl that she shouldn’t play suzy homemaker with her Easy Bake Oven because it might foster stereotypical behavior that would stifle her ultimate potential as a woman, is it fair for a teacher to force an energetic young boy to sit still and color in a misguided belief that he’s somehow wasting his energy on a frivolous pursuit at football greatness?

It’s sad, but we’ve gone the other way in our desire to “equalize” the playing field in the workplace. And that’s really what all this is about isn’t it? Making sure that when children grow up, they have the same earnings potential whether they are a boy or a girl? Would anyone still give a rip if it was a given that girls did so and so and boys did such and such when the grew up? Would we still be putting record numbers of children (57 per 1,000 for boys and 37 per 1,000 for girls source) on attention deficit drugs if nobody gave a flip whether or not boys could sit still and paste beads on paper plates or girls could play video games without it ending in tears. I somehow doubt it.

Yet here we are and who ends up suffering for it? The very ones we’re trying to “help.”

Years ago when my wife and I were newly married, she would often come home and complain about work at which point I would offer advice in an attempt at “fixing” it. Finally one day she said, “I don’t need you to fix it…I just need you to listen and be supportive.”

Teachers; well-intentioned single mothers; most of these boys aren’t broken, they just need a little understanding. And for the love of all things holy, let them play tackle football for goodness’ sake!