Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Force is Strong in You

I feel like watching Star Wars. I haven't seen any of the movies for a few months now and I think I'm having some sort of withdraw. Back in my younger days when most 18 year olds were out getting drunk and sowing oats I was meditating and trying to harness the invisible energy field that flows through all living beings. I spent many productive hours in the furniture store where I was working at the time focusing my inner strengths to try to use The Force to move sofas, chairs, and dining room sets without laying a finger on them. Having failed at that I settled on staring at a foam cup - since that was a little lighter than a couch - and using my Jedi abilities to knock it off the table, which I succeeded in doing with The Force that guided my fingers to flick it on it's side. Powerful Jedi was I.... yes... powerful. I could never understand why my boss lady didn't appreciate me trying to perfect my skills in the back room of that furniture store. My Jedi mind tricks didn't work on her, so I knew the Dark Side had her in it's clutches. Pure evil... that's what she emitted.
Anyway, since that time I've realized that I can only let The Force flow through me, bending it ever so slightly to do my bidding from time to time, but never taking control and becoming a mystic, powerful wizard like Obi Wan. But.... every so often I need to go back and watch the movies to see if I've missed a vital detail that will help attain my desired Jedi status. Maybe tomorrow night I'll fire up the ion converters and venture to a galaxy far far away.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Please leave a message at the beep

School is in for the kids and, as it is every year, it's hard to get them to change their summer routine of staying up late and sleeping in. Also, trying to get a homework rhythm going is a struggle. Sponge Bob, The Simpsons and King of the Hill are a definite distraction when it comes to study time, as I find myself unable to move from in front of the tv to help with homework. I mean the kids... Watch... Those shows.... not me of course.
Met with a contractor the other day at the land, hoping he'd give us some info about where we can build. What he told us was pretty discouraging. Since most of the land is a reclaimed strip mine there isn't a lot of virgin earth to work with. That presents a costly problem for building on the hill, like we had wanted to do. With the extra materials involved, extra labor and engineering costs we're looking at probably an additional $30,000 to $50,000 to build there. Since our checkbook balance usually hovers around $12.73 that's a major setback. The option is to see if the flat bottom part of the land has been reclaimed also, and if not then there's no problem building there... well, fewer problems I should say. We might still run into slippage from the hillside and drainage problems, so we might just scrap the building idea in favor of looking for a house that's ready to move into. I want to keep the land though, because of the peacefulness and beauty out there. I still have a lot of plans for it.
I've been sick for the last week and a half. Some kind of flu or something. I can't remember ever being this weak when I've been sick. At work I'm totally exhausted by days end and just want to come home and relax the rest of the night. That doesn't always work out though. I'm feeling a little better today but just got a little nauseous writing this. Maybe it was when I hit the part about how much it's going to cost to build. Yeah, I think that was it.
My oldest son was looking forward to going to Florida to do some clean-up work when Ernesto hits, but it looks like it might not be very bad at all. That's a good thing for the Floridians, and I hope it doesn't hit them hard. As of this writing it is headed for the Keys.
Well, MIL needs some money so I have to go get some to her before she calls again. Later!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Summer's End

School starts in two days, so the summer is just about kaput. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hate when school starts. Everything changes. The sleeping in on days off is over, relaxing after work is no more, and the warm weather will be coming to an end. It might be different if either my wife or I stayed home and could take care of getting kids off in the morning and making sure homework gets done, but as it is everyone gets home within a couple hours of each other and nobody has the energy to do anything. I'm sure we'll struggle through another year...somehow.
It was a beautiful day out today, a great day to go out and get some weed eating done. But... I came down with a cold yesterday after camping out Saturday night and right now I have a fever, runny nose and cough, so no working outside for me. :(
Oh, just in case you've read the last four posts and wondered what the heck the titles were about, they are lines from "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. I guess I got that song stuck in my brain when I started writing and just..... aw heck I don't know but I just put them in there.
I hope tomorrow is like today, and I hope I'm not sick then because I'm running out of time to get things done that I wanted to before summer's over.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Don't Do Anything At All

Well it's been awhile between posts because I've been busy, but I'm finally finding time to sit down and peck at these keys.
I was starting to talk about last year when my oldest son, Steve, had just started working for a tree service and got called out for hurricane duty when Katrina was approaching. He and the rest of the company headed toward Florida, leaving on the 27th of August, because that's where they thought the damage would occur. He had his cell phone with him and called while he was on his way down, so it was a little bit of comfort to hear from him. They stayed in a hotel , and went to a Hooter's restaurant, which was something I'm sure he hadn't expected. The mood of the company seemed to be almost festive at that time. They found out that they wouldn't be going to Florida, however, and instead headed to Louisiana when the storm looked certain to hit there. I was worried that they would be driving through the hurricane, but they stayed back until the worst of it passed. After a lot of driving they came to the town of Kenner, where they were stationed along with the power company that was to head operations. For the next few days there was a lot of frustration as it seemed no one knew where to go or what to do. The weather was hot and humid and the place they were staying had no place to sleep so they all slept in the truck or on the ground. Since all electrical services were out in the area they didn't see the devastation in New Orleans like we did back here on tv, so they had no idea how bad things were except for the brief phone calls that went through (cellular services were very limited also). I forget how long they were at the staging area before finally being sent out to try to restore power, but the first attempt at getting work done turned out to be disastrous.. He said that they were working good for a couple of hours then all hell broke loose. It seems that the gangs of N.O. had formed themselves into one large group which was going around looting the whole area. They called themselves "The Train" because the group made up a mile- long mass of gangs. When they heard that the crews were starting out to try to get power on and restore order- thereby putting an end to their pillaging- they set out to stop them. This was a day before the National Guard came in, so there were only a few law enforcement people there at the time, and they weren't equipped to handle anything like that. They went around and tried to get the crews out of there as fast as they could. Some of Steve's coworkers were fired upon by the gang. Some of the crew got split up and they had to drive around looking for each other. They finally made it to safety. I heard all about that incident third-hand, since my wife had talked to my niece who had talked to her husband who was my son's foreman. Needless to say, the thought of my firstborn being in harms way and only hearing about it through sketchy details from a short cell phone conversation had me in a state of panic and feeling utterly helpless. One thing that was just a bit of a comfort was that they thought they might be sent home or to Mississippi the next day, seeing how the situation was so hostile. But I got very little sleep that night and the next day when I was at work I got a call from my wife who said she had just heard from my niece again and they were sending them back into N.O. That news, combined with no sleep the night before, had me in a depressed, helpless-feeling mood the whole day at work. That night he was able to get through with a phone call and told us that they had National Guard escorts that day and were able to get some work done. His crew helped to get the first pumping station up and running, so that was something that made him feel better. From then on the work was easier, but tensions at the camp where they were staying became more strained. After being there for two weeks a lot of the guys wanted to go home, not having seen their family in all that time. The fact that a couple of hundred guys were all bunking under the same tent didn't help tensions either, and a lot of arguing broke out. As for Steve, he was getting depressed. He worried about seeing bodies floating in the streets (thankfully he didn't) and was also angry because he hadn't gotten paid yet for his time there. We had been calling the main office of his company trying to find out why. There was a mixup with his pay due to the fact that he had just started and his direct-deposit hadn't been set up yet, and since the whole company was down there his time hadn't been turned into the office. It was so hard to hear the frustration in his voice and not be able to do anything to help. Finally, he got two checks in the mail and we were able to deposit them for him, and it was just about the time they were getting a Wal-Mart opened on a limited basis, so he was able to get a few things. He started to feel better about things then, which made us feel a little better but he still didn't know when he would get to come home. I think it was into the third week that he was there that Rita hit Texas, and they were talking about sending them there to help out there. Even farther from home and more worries for his mom and me. Thankfully he and a few others were able to head home and arrived on Sept. 23, my wife's birthday. It was a great present for her, and for him the end to an adventure he wouldn't soon forget.

One good thing to come out of that adventure was that we were able to talk to him and tell him that he was missed and loved. For quite awhile before that he had always been gone with his friends a lot, and when he was home the only talk was of trivial matters in the day-to-day household life. In a way I was thankful that events happened the way they did, because I think we were all able to convey our feelings and recapture a little bit of the way it was when he was younger.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

And the Ones That Mother Gives You

I'm getting ready to go out and work on the hiking trail I started on yesterday. I got about half of it done, which is more than I thought I would. Also burned some brush while I was out there, making a huge fire, which is always nice to sit around on a summer night.
I've been thinking a lot about my kids today and how things change no matter how much you tell yourself they won't. When they were little there were always hugs and kisses and plenty of "I love you"'s. But as they get older and have different demands it gets hard to show them just how much you really care and how much you love them even more. They view discipline as something which proves that parents hate their kids when they get older. I felt about the same at their age I guess, and it was awkward for me to show my parents how much I appreciated all they sacrificed for me and all of us kids. I think it took my mother's sudden death to make me realize that there were so many things I should have told her and would never be able to.
My youngest is 11 and I can still communicate with him well, but in a few years he'll be going through the same pubescent pulling- away that the other two have, and then I'll probably really be feeling old.
Last year just about this time - well in a couple of weeks it'll be a year - my oldest son was a part of what would become a nerve-wracking heart- wrenching situation for us. He was 19 at the time and had just started a new job with a tree trimming service. He had been there a couple of weeks and the area that he was working in was about an hour or more away from home. This was a worry at first for me since he had never been very far from home on his own except for going to Boy Scout Camp, and I worried about him driving that far every day. Then last August 26th he got a call from work saying to be ready to leave the next day for Florida because there was a hurricane heading that way named Katrina. So off he went, and for me a lot of anxiety and worry. At the time I was worried about snakes and alligators which get washed inland during a hurricane, and generally just him being so far from home. Little did I know then that those worries would be laughable compared to what lay ahead in the next days and weeks.
It's getting late now so I'll finish this next time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And One Pill Makes You Small

Not so depressed today. I had the day off work so that always helps. I went out to my land and worked for a couple of hours. While I was gone I bombed the house with bug bomb, hoping to get rid of all those nasty little fruit flies that have been irritating me for weeks. I just went to take the trash out and as I lifted the bag out a few of them buzzed up out of it, so they must be hardier beasts than the previous ones I terminated.
Really not much else going on. It wasn't as hot and humid today so it was pretty nice working outside. I hope it's the same tomorrow so that maybe I can make a hiking trail around my land. That'll help me and the rest of the family get into shape. Oh, and my wife talked to the construction company about building and we found out that they don't do the excavation for the house, so we'll have to have that done. Another big expense. Oh well.

Monday, August 07, 2006

One Pill Makes You Larger

Sorry, but the theme of this post will be quite depressing because it's about... Depression. It's something that I find myself in right now. It's strange that when I'm in that state things constantly come up that pull me deeper and deeper into it. When you're having a bad day everything goes wrong. I've been like this for a few days now, due to some things that have come up and some realizations that have set in. Would you like to hear about all of it? Ok, well I'm going to talk anyway.

I've lost control of my kids... if I ever had it to begin with. Right now my middle son - the 17 year old - is giving me problems. He's rarely home anymore, spending his time with his girlfriend mostly, or with his friends. That doesn't bother me, but what does is that he is irresponsible about most things in his life, and also very stubborn and hateful. He demands things, like; use of the car when he wants, money to go play or eat on, and the right to go where he wants when he wants without answering to his parents. He gets angry and throws a fit when he doesn't get what he wants, so more than a few times lately we've had yelling matches that the whole neighborhood could hear. Son number one cannot manage money at all and gets mad when we try to help him. He got a double bill from his cell phone company because he didn't pay last month's bill, but he swears he did. However, since he doesn't keep track of his checks or, in fact any money he has, he has no record to show he paid. My youngest is the biggest mess-maker I've ever seen, and it's always a battle to get him to clean up after himself.

My wife and I seem to be so far apart on certain things that I'm surprised that we're still together. She has someone from a construction company coming to look at our land about building on it, even though we won't be ready for that for at least a couple of years. I think closer to five or six years, but if I dare mention that to her she goes off the deep end. I've never seen anyone so eager to go as far into debt as fast as they can as she is. While I would surely love to be moving to the country soon, I see no way that this will happen. She, however, has blinders on and only sees a new house sitting on the hill, with all the current and future bills being out of her line of vision. This is probably the main thing that has me down right now, the fact that she can't see the big picture and keeps pressuring me to do something soon. Also I'm starting to question the extent of her morality. She's made a couple of bad decisions lately and insists that there is nothing wrong with what she did.

My mother-in-law problems still exist. My wife suggested that we start keeping track of what we give her, so here's what happened so far this month: She called and said she had $80 she borrowed and gave us that plus two days later she gave us the rest of it - $30. Last night - the sixth - after getting paid on the third, she called and said she needed milk and cigarettes because she was out of money. My son got her the stuff, probably about $5 worth. Who knows where her paycheck went.

I'm just feeling pretty low right now, and since I have no friends to talk to I'll scribe my feelings here for anyone to see. Unlike my panic situation, depression is something more manageable for me, even though things are looking very bleak right now. I know, for example, that even though none of these situations will change soon and will likely worsen, I'll be able to bounce back - or crawl back - to my previous state of semi-contentment.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Revelation

As I was working today I heard some of the pop vendors talking about the upcoming high school basketball season. Well, football season hasn't even started, and school hasn't even started, so basketball is still a long ways away. Then something dawned on me. What dawned on me was the reason, I think, that kids today don't play sports like they used to.

At our small-town park we have several baseball fields where the little league teams play and practice. When I was a youngster the worst one of these diamonds would certainly have been a gem, since I grew up in the country and played baseball as often as I could in a hay field which wasn't as big as a regular field, nor anywhere as smooth and nice as a baseball diamond. Had I been raised in town I would surely have been at the field all day, playing and having fun. But, if you go past the fields when the leagues aren't playing or practicing you rarely find anyone there. I was amazed when I first discovered that fact. I would take the kids down when they didn't have a game or practice and we'd have the pick of any of the fields because no one was there! I had expected kids to be swarming on them, making up their own teams to play each other for hours on end. But, with the advent of video game systems, dvd rentals and a wide variety of tv entertainment the kids stay at home and get in their parents' hair instead of going outside and socializing in a sporting way.

I think that certainly the lure of the boob tube and all its amenities has drawn kids indoors, but I think there's something else that's going on. As I listened to the vendors talk I realized how much of an influence adults now have on kids fun. No, not an influence on but control over. A high school coaching position used to be a parttime job for one of the teachers, which maybe paid a little more. But over the years, the demand to produce a winning sports team has turned the coach's position into one which is answerable to the parents of the school kids. A new coach who doesn't turn a losing season around faces harsh criticisms and the risk of losing his job. It should be the coach's job to make sure the kids have fun and maybe develop physically, but not so anymore. WIN! That's the name of the game. And the kids who don't have what it takes to win get shoved out. When I was in school every effort was made to make a place on the team for every person wanting to participate. There were more than a few 'chubby' kids on the teams, and they fit in with their teammates just as everybody else did. And the practices for tryouts didn't start until school started. Now, the football season starts before school, and football practice is during summer. In fact, most sports have 'camps' that run in the offseason, before time that practices are allowed to start, and if you don't go to one of these camps then you must not want to be on the team very badly. The one thing that was insisted on in the 'old' days was strict adherence to grades in the classes. Now there are so many easy classes and so much help available for athletes that it's nearly impossible not to make the mandatory GPA. All this pressure from adults on the kids to win, and not just to have fun, keeps lots of kids from getting interested in sports, so many of them lack the basic knowledge of baseball, basketball, etc. Therefore, they turn to someplace that the adults haven't made into a competition yet, the tv. X-box, playstation... These are the new kids' sports. Maybe when the grownups take those over the kids will go back outside.