Playing catch up – Part 1…..

OK, I’m a bit behind on posting. I basically took a week off. No reason. Cool stuff was going on too but it just wasn’t posted. Nobody emailed or complained so no harm, no foul. I will do my best to catch you up.

Friday, May 27, 2005
I went into work late on Friday because of all the long days I had been pulling the rest of the week. I took the opportunity in the morning to plant 6 fruit trees and really put a good start to our mini-orchard. Remember, a while back I planted our first fruit trees with the kids. Well, I caught a great sale at Lowe’s — they were clearing out their fruit trees. The first time I went there, I picked up 8 that were normally $30 to $40 each. They rang up at $9.48 each! When I went back, they had a whole pallet marked for $5 each! I grabbed every last one and barely squeezed almost a dozen into my Suburban. I looked like George of the Jungle driving down the street. These were 7-9 foot tall fruit trees — peach, apple, pear and nectarine. My mini-orchard was now well on it’s way to being well stocked. But I had to start getting these trees into the ground and Friday was a good start.

Since Thursday was my middle daughter’s birthday and she wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese (for the fun, not the food), we went Friday afternoon. One of my wife’s friends went with her three kids too so we had an energetic and fun time.

Saturday, May 28, 2005
Since this was the long Memorial Day weekend (and official kick off of summer), I had three goals to complete before the weekend ended — to plant all the trees I bought for the mini-orchard, to finish putting together the swingset/activity center I started 2 weeks ago and to plant our garden which was finally prepped. In the morning, I planted a few trees while the soil was still moist. The rest of the day I focused on the swingset. I finished it in the afternoon and began the long process of putting away all my dangerous tools since my kids and a few of the neighborhood kids were swarming around the completed structure in test mode making sure everything worked and was safe.

This was also the day I got into some poison ivy. I was great in California at being able to spot a poison oak plant from 100 yards away. This was a valued skill for someone like me that gets a rash from the plant oil just by looking at a picture of it. Well, I’m not that good at poison ivy — yet. However, I know I didn’t touch the plant directly. I believe that my shoe collected some of the oil from a recently mowed trail down by the creek. I was using the trail with the wheelbarrow to dump excess dirt from the planted trees. I walked on a cut plant, got the urushiol oil on my shoe and then kneeled down to plant the trees and spread mulch. My shorts touched the shoe and transferred it to my knee and leg. Luckily, Dr Scott in Texas (the best man in my wedding) saved the day with some recommendations. Combine that with some local stuff from one of my neighbors and we have the best case of poison ivy rash I’ve ever had. Very little itching and discomfort. I also learned to wear long pants while doing yard work.

Sunday, May 29, 2005
Before church, I headed out to plant the last remaining three trees. That done, I jumped in the shower and we made it with lots of time to spare. This was another weekend where my wife was volunteering in the nursery.

While planting the trees, I got on a roll and was very tempted to just let my wife go to volunteer while I stayed at home with the kids to “get more stuff done”. I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past. It’s so easy in life to just let momentum run your course instead of doing the right thing and making the right choice. For our family and especially for the kids in their development, I know that church and the consistency of attending church is a vital part of our spiritual lives and fulfillment. However, it is just a piece of our total puzzle, not just one thing to do one day out of the week and then check off our Christian accomplishment for that week. Combine church attendance and involvement with daily prayer and thanks, time and monetary donations, giving back to the community, having a positive impact, and consistent living of values and I believe that is a good start to being a disciple of example — to myself, to my spouse, to my kids and to others. Now don’t get me wrong — I fall short on all of these quite often. But it is a constant beacon to set the course of my life to. I might get off track or blown off course but I make adjustments and continue on resetting the course all the while being led by that steadfast beacon.

Now fast forward to the afternoon and our garden preparation. Given that last philosophical paragraph above, the garden is a very nice metaphor for our lives. We are at the very beginning stages of it and will be involving the kids heavily in it. There are so many lessons that a garden can teach the kids…..and all of us. Delayed gratification, hard work equals benefits to be enjoyed, problems to be overcome, what you put into the garden (life) is what you will get out of it. So many different lessons to be drawn from this summer’s outdoor classroom. It will be fun, interesting and educational.

More to come.

…..Dan at aslowerpace

Happy Birthday!…..

Today was my middle daughter’s birthday. We woke her up with breakfast decorations and a candle in her cinnamon roll. At lunch, the whole family came down to meet me. We went to our good ol’ family favorite — Smokey Bones. We had a nice birthday lunch meal and I enjoyed spending a weekday lunch together. Back in Thousand Oaks I used to see all of the family for lunch everyday when I came home. I sure miss that. However, now that it is summer I am hoping we can take advantage of the opportunities when my wife can bring everyone down for lunch.

Pizza Hut, my daughter’s favorite, was on order for dinner. After that, we all killed time until the fireflies came out. At that point we all got together on the front porch for about 45 minutes. My son ran into his room to get his bug catcher net and my wife grabber a clear jar. The kids all took turns “catch and releasing” fireflies. It was very relaxing and entertaining as my wife and I sat next to each other watching the kids and their excitement. Another country memory filed away in my memory banks.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

What a great day!…..

Wow! I don’t know where to start. It is late — I just finished watching the NASCAR All-Star race and am reflecting on the day. For me, it was picture perfect.

It started with our last soccer game. I picked up my son’s soccer pictures and they looked great. I ordered some of those trading cards to send to family along with a button to match all the ones of my daughters that we have on the sun visor in my wife’s truck. The kids played a great game…..and we didn’t lose! We didn’t win either but I’ll take a tie over the losses we’ve had this year. I’m kinda bummed because they were just getting the hang of it — scoring goals, playing defense, attacking the ball. At least we ended on a high note and were getting better.

With that checked off our busy day list, my son and I ran into town to pick up some wine for tonight’s company. While driving down the freeway, I spotted a truck on the side of the road with a father and daughter waiting for something. I was in the slow lane and in a position to quickly pull over and stop. I offered help. They told me that she had a soccer game 30 minutes away that they were late for. Their wife/mom had surgery the night before and they spent a little too much time at the hospital this morning. They were running late and pushed their gas too far and had run out. But they had called someone on the team who was on their way. Within that time, that person showed up with the needed fuel and we left them in good hands.

A quick trip to the store for some nice wine and we were back home to help get everything ready for tonight’s dinner. I started the coals for the smoker and began prepping the two chickens. Once they were happy together with the hot coals and wet hickory wood smoking away, I was able to begin straightening up the back yard and garage. My wife already had the house clean and the kids were being good staying out of the way and not undoing all of our hard work. We were ahead of the curve with everything ready and the meal on it’s way to being enjoyed so my wife and I sat on the back patio for a while and just relaxed and talked. The weather was perfect today and we soaked it all in.

Our company arrived and we truly had a great time. Good food, good company and good chatting. We were able to visit, eat some good food and share some stories. We took a little hike around the property and my kids loved playing with their older daughter. I’m sure glad we could reciprocate and say thank you to them for all they had done.

After dinner and after our company had left, my son ran over to the neighbor’s house to play with his little buddy. Upon retrieving him later in the evening, I brought my neighbor’s favorite beer to him and we chatted for about 1/2 hour while the boys continued to play. The fireflies coming out was my cue to head home and say goodbye. Later that night, I actually caught one in my hands. I put it in a glass jar and took it inside to show they kids…..but they were all asleep. And so ends our great day.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Lightning strikes…..

Last night was a very enjoyable evening. My wife looked beautiful and I actually cleaned up nice. The country club was swanky — it was originally a huge mansion from the 1880′s or something like that. A very long two lane drive flanked by two rows of trees 60 ft tall ushered us into the golf course area, across an aged stone bridge with lots of character and to the parking area by the club house.

Right off the bat I could begin introducing my wife to people from work she had heard about but only had a name of. Now she could put names to faces. The drinks and chat time before the dinner flew by and we enjoyed talking with some of the better halves of all the people I work with (I brought my better half and I am assuming they all did too).

The awards presentation was nice too. I really like that my company believes in their values and walks the talk. Programs like this that give back to the community are great examples of that. I found out that in the 14 years they have been doing this program, they have given over $1 million dollars in money to teachers. In the last 9 years of doing the program in Kentucky, they have given over $100,000 in money to Kentucky teachers. I am proud to be a part of a company that not only improves patients’ lives but also improves the communities I work in.

During dinner the lights flickered a few times. The banquet room reminded me of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion entrance. It was a much larger room, but had dark wood paneling, fresco-ed ceiling and the electric candelabras on the walls. The booms resonating from outside informed us that the 2nd of 3 storms had arrived. The first blew through around 3pm. This one was making it’s presence felt. It looked even more like the Disneyland Haunted Mansion when the lightning flashes came through the window.

After about three hours things started winding down and we said our goodbyes. We had our kids to return to and the storm was getting quite nasty. Many people had the same idea but were bottlenecked at the front entrance canopy. It seems not many people brought an umbrella and the sheets of rain were flooding the parking lot. In fact, I don’t think an umbrella would even help in this situation. I guess I’m a gentleman seeing as I was one of the first to dash to the truck so I could bring it around for my wife. I ran the 50 yards or so but might have well had walked. I could not have gotten wetter if I had stood in the shower with all my clothes on. I swung the truck around and my wife jumped in making a statement about how wet she got in the 2 feet she had to travel from the overhang. Then she looked over at me, soaking like a drenched poodle. She was half in amazement, half laughing. I pulled to the side of the parking lot and took my shirt off.

I switched the wipers to warp speed mode which allowed me a full 1/4 second of good visibility for driving. As we crossed the aged stone bridge with character, I caught a glimpse of the small brook below. It had transformed to a massive watershed bulging with white water. It reminded me of a time I was caught 4x4ing in the Mojave desert and got caught in a flash flood. The power of that surging water was incredible and I was wondering if in a few minutes people were gonna have to stay at the club house because the stone bridge would become impassable.

Between the 1/4 second clear windshield I got from the wipers and the 1/2 second of quick, random daylight I got from the lightning, I was able to slowly make our way home. You couldn’t count one one thousand, two one thou—-BOOM!—–between lightning strikes. I hadn’t ever seen this much lightning activity. In fact, while driving down one of the main roads, we had a clear view forward for about a mile because of the city lights and BAM!, down came a lightning bolt immediately followed by a explosion crackboom sound. It scared the crap outta my wife and she actually jumped in the truck. The touchdown point was probably only 1/2 mile up ahead. We both happened to mention that the strike was the most intense one we had ever seen. Then, while waiting for a red light to change, another one hit about 300 yards away. We saw the strike point and the explosion sparks from it as the energy was dissipated to the ground. WOW!!! That was incredible! Now, that lightning bolt was the most intense one we had ever seen. I sure hope we don’t keep upping the stakes.

Hundreds of lightning flashes more, buckets of rain, a few washed out creeks and bridges later, we were finally home safe. I put on a shirt (remember, I took the soaking thing off after we got in the truck) and I went over to pick up the kids. They had a good time but were glad we were home. With the flashes and thunder it took a while to calm them down and get them to bed but we finally did it.

What an exciting evening all the way around.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Old friends…..

All of us have them — old friends that are out of touch. No matter the reason, whether it was distance or a job change or family responsibilities or just plain ol’ laziness, they meant something to you at one time in life. Drop them a note and let them know you’re thinking of them. You might just be surprised at what transpires.

I recently did just that and have a lot of catching up to do with someone I haven’t seen in many years. Lots has changed and I am looking forward to seeing all the exciting things that have happened in our lives.

And while you’re at it, let someone that is your friend right now know that you are thinking of them. We all have these thoughts — a past memory that visits us as we drive down the road, or a distant feeling that is triggered by something we used to do with someone else. Give that person a call or email and let them know. This world would be a better place if we all did that more often. I’ve been OK at doing that but pledge to get even better at it.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Where’d they go?…..

Last night after dinner, after the soccer game, after getting the kids ready for bed and during a little snack, I turned on the Academy of Country Music Awards. The kids jumped on my lap (remember this recent post? Good ol’ fashioned music with lyrics you can understand that you can listen to in front of the kids) and we watched some of our favorite country music singers perform — Kenny Chesney, Sara Evans, Keith Urban.

Now if you AREN’T a country music fan, you probably won’t get all this so go ahead and close your browser and pick back up tomorrow. If you ARE a country music fan, you probably missed a group that, for a while, had a big impact on country music.

All I have to say is: I saw Toby Keith. But I didn’t see the Ditsy Chicks! I’ll leave it at that.

Or maybe not. Toby Keith has had a quite a few banner years and continues to rise in popularity even after the Ditsy Chicks criticized him back in 2002 which began an ugly spat. But since then the Ditsy Chicks have fallen flat on their faces. They dropped country music fans like a hot potato embracing the “pop” music scene thinking that the fickle teeny bops that make up that fan base would pick up the slack and buy their albums. But, just like they underestimated their country music fans, they overestimated their popularity outside country music. Consequently, they have pretty much gone no where in the last few years. They have been deleted from country music radio just like I deleted them from my networked MP3 server.

For some background history, check out http://www.celiberal.com/linkcache/2a/240.html

Good riddance!

Ok, rant off. I’m off my soapbox…..for now.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

No title…..

This morning the kids started the day off on the wrong foot. They began arguing at breakfast — not a full knock down, drag out fight but just little sniping here and there. Because they were in sour moods, I decided to put on “angry” music on the networked MP3 player.

Some background before I go any further. My musical tastes vary greatly from oldies 60′s and 70′s music that my parents listened to when I was young (read The Beatles and The Carpenters) to heavy metal during my rebellious teenage years (Scorpions, Michael Schenker, Van Halen) to alternative (the Offspring, Toadies) to instrumental (George Winston). However, day in and day out for the last 13 or 14 years I have been a country music fan. Simple American music that reflects good ol’ American values with lyrics you can actually understand. It’s even better now that I’m a dad and I can listen to the music in front of my kids — which I can’t say for some of the groups I named previously. Anyway, that’s pretty much what we listen to in the car and at home and the kids like it and have gotten used to it.

So I’ll continue the story.

Kids cranky and nipping at each other. I turn on “angry” music from my youth. My wife looked at me very weird when the song “One” from Metallica came on. If you haven’t heard it, the song starts off very softly with a single slow guitar. However, a few minutes into the song, guitars are furiously blaring and drums are machine gunning from the speakers. My son, with a turned up nose, looked at me and said “I don’t like this”. I, in turn, told him that I did not like the way he was fighting with his sister. Within seconds, we agreed that if I turned off the music that he would be nice to his sister.

While I was at first trying to be funny just to my wife, I ended up using Metallica as a discipline tool for my kids. Pretty damn funny if you ask me. And they’ll probably never listen or get into that kind of music as they grow up to boot.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Nature’s fireworks display…..

As promised, I took the whole family out last night to watch the firefly display. The kids had never seen something like that and were mesmerized by the random flashing all over the front lawn down to the treeline and creek. We sat there on the front porch steps as a family for about 15 minutes in amazement. It was truly beautiful. It reminded me of when we would go and watch the 4th of July fireworks…..except without the booms and bangs reverberating in the sky. It was just very peaceful to soak in nature’s fireworks display.

And to think that we’ll get this all summer. How lucky are we.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Disconnected…..

This week at work, I have been on a special project that takes me away from my normal staff and routine. While they continue on without me (with no problem I might add), I have been apart elsewhere physically and timewise. I will catch up with all of them tomorrow but these last two days I have felt disconnected.

I feel that way with this blog a bit now. While I never received lots of comments from readers, having turned off the comments section because of the gambling spammers (see this post) gives me that same disconnected feeling. I feel that I am in a pitch black room talking (posting) in complete silence. There might be people in the room; there might not be. But I won’t know until I turn on the light.

Yesterday’s post gives me the opportunity to turn on the light. I am interested to know the blessings you discovered right at your feet. I encourage you to drop me an email here and let me know.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Confirmation…..

We’ve been back from our spring break vacation back to California for about a month now and here is one of the postings I promised.

First observations: while it was nice to be back in familiar territory, my first thought was “Damn, there sure are a lot of people here”. We hit LAX on a Saturday afternoon. It felt like the day before Thanksgiving — the busiest travel day of the year. And the normal 45 minute drive back to my folks’ home took us 2 1/2 hours — although in fairness I don’t know what year I decided that 45 minutes was “normal” for a drive to the airport. Maybe 1989? And we did take the coast which was infected with people trying to get to the beach on the standard spring day in southern California. And it didn’t help that the four lane PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) was down to a two lane PCH.

I was reminded to be in competition driving mode by the bus driver who was yelling out her window to a young couple carelessly blasting rap music out of their convertible Mustang. And another reminder in the form of “the bird” flipped to my by a lady who U-turned in front of me. I gave her the horn to let her know that I had switched from my Kentucky driving mode into my previous California driving mode. It was all very interesting.

A nice dinner with my folks kicked off our eating checklist. Being gone for 3 1/2 months, there were several places that we HAD to eat at while in CA. Cheesecake Factory was one of them (although we are getting one in Louisville this summer — my wife is thrilled!). Following that were In N Out Burger (the best burgers in the world!), Baja Fresh, Wood Ranch and Mission Burrito with some Jamba Juice snacks sprinkled in.

We also hit a few of the tourist traps — Disneyland, the beach, Santa Barbara and the Reagan Library. Cramming all of this into our trip along with family and friends was quite challenging but my wife did a great job scheduling everything. I needed a few days off just to recuperate from our vacation!

Our time there seemed like a blur — which blatantly contrasted with our settled in slower pace at home in Kentucky. Granted, we had lots to see and people to visit in a short amount of time but it also seemed par for the course when we lived there. Aside from not living in our old house, it seemed as if we could slide right back into the pace. But after slowing down we realized that we didn’t want to. Sure we missed our family and friends. And it was great spending time with them, catching up, telling stories, seeing what changed. And we missed the weather with it’s cookie-cutter, sun-always-on theme. But we came to realize that the decision we had made months before and were still in the midst of was the right one for our family. Through all the effort, challenges, sorrow, changes and differences, we have morphed into a more focused family.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net