August 2008

As we wind down into the labor day weekend, I can say it’s been a productive week.  I’ve been busy enough at the office to feel like I’ve earned the paycheck with the prospect of more good stuff coming next week.  Erin has earned a part in this fall’s play at school and Evan has completed his first real week of classes at U of A.  I look forward to a bit of a rest this weekend although Evan is coming home so who knows what lies before us?

The BOK arena is having its grand opening tomorrow so we might go down there for a look if Evan doesn’t have something that needs to be taken care of.


I’ve been thinking a bit lately on how I see the world and how others see it. Mostly in the financial sense.

I’ve noticed some things that I’ve never noticed before after having a couple of guys marry into the extended family. What I noticed is their tendency to view the world as a series of opportunities rather than a series of things that happens to them.

Several years ago, I replaced all the doors in my house. I needed to get rid of the old ones and so I had to cut them up into little gift-sized chunks so that the garbage man would take them. It took several trash pickup days but I did it. It was all just part of the hassle to me. My newest nephew-in-law (or whatever he is) was raised by parents who owned their own business – usally more than one at a time. He did the same project at his new house only when it came time to get rid of the old doors, he put them on craigslist. He ended up having somebody come pick them up from his house and pay him for the priviledge.

That never occurred to me.

In another case, I was listening to another new “nephew” (too complicated to figure out what he really is) describe his hobby of water skiing. My view of any water sport is of someone buying a boat that he really can’t afford, making payments for years, and even though he enjoys it, it eventually wears out and sits on the property and rots because he doesn’t know what else to do with it. His view is quite different. He bought a “tournament” boat by shopping for it in a part of the U.S. where they don’t ski a lot. Somebody in the former category had bought it and didn’t want it any more so he got it for a great price. He drove it down here, used it for a couple of years and sold it for more than he bought it for. He used that money to do the same thing again and so now he has a kickin’ tournament ski boat that when all the math is done, he paid a pittance for – perhaps even made money on.

He really likes his water sports so in addition to indulging in it when he can, he and some other enthusiasts decided to get involved with a competition and so put together a huge event with all sorts of sub-events, paid admission, and food sales that he catered via the restaurant he owns. He basically threw a party and charged admission. People paid to watch, to participate, and to eat.

He found something he likes and also envisioned a way to enjoy it while at the same time, making some money to offset his expenses. I suspect he ends up making money after all is said and done. Apparently catering is a huge part of any restaurant business for an energetic owner.

Again, this would never have occurred to me.

Their viewpoint is to make things happen. Mine is to wonder what happened.

What’s weird is that I never realized this about myself. Now that I realize it, what do I do?

I guess the first thing is to try and sell the detritus from my next home improvement project and see if that works.

I took the day off yesterday to deal with the broken window on our car and decided to deal with as many other issues as possible.  It turns out there was only one – the dog.

I was lucky in that I found a glass shop that could do my car in the morning and which had the window in stock.  I was luckier still to find that on that car, our deductible is lower and so I managed to get some of it paid for by insurance.  It was all handled rather neatly and all before noon.

I decided to call the vet; our dog has been scratching a lot lately to the point where she has created an open sore on one leg.  I took her in and I’ve never seen a more miserable dog.  She hates the vet and with no good reason.  Anyway, she apparently has an allergic reaction to something – possibly a bug bite while out on our walks.  In addition, she has arthritis in her legs which accounts for the constant licking.  Apparently, licking is sort of like a massage.  Anyway, the walks are that much more important; if I don’t keep the joints in motion, she will freeze up and lose all mobility.  At that point we’d have to have her put down and nobody wants that.  So off to walk we go.

I also got some shampoo and have to bathe her once a week with it.  That’s pretty bad since she’s a pretty uncooperative patient in the tub.

I also wasted a lot of time on the internet. But hey, it was a day off.


Originally uploaded by gregwest98

Somewhere in this photo, Erin is wallowing around. Funny how everybody looks alike when covered in mud. This has to be the strangest way to entertain teenagers ever but it’s become one of the most popular. And how’s this for preparedness: they had a doctor and a nurse right there to deal with any mud-in-your-eye issues. Not that they were needed; these people simply had kids in the mud but it’s cool that they were there.

I’ll cut straight to the chase:  someone smashed the side window on my car and made off with a purse.  This has a tendency to color your attitude for the rest of the day to say the least.

Erin had a bit of drama last week when her boyfriend broke up with her unexpectedly.  In response, her friends rallied around her (literally – at our house) and stayed up late, watched movies, and ate up all our ice cream.  On Saturday, they decided they would go ice skating.  I dropped them off at the ice arena which is down the street from our church and next door to the swim school.

I spent the next half hour pleasantly at Lowes buying some nice pieces of wood for my next project(s) and then went to the Krispy Kreme next door for a donut and coffee.  I still had time on my hands but not enought to justify driving home so I went to the ice rink and waited.  It was a popular place and I had to park way down the side.  While I was in there, someone apparently spotted the purse of Erin’s friend and decided they had to have it.  What a pity they only got some pajamas and a cheap off-brand mp3 player.  They’re probably plenty pissed at having gone to such effort for nothing.  They chose not to steal the new leaf blower that I had just bought which was laying in the back or my iPod which was cleverly tucked away out of sight.

It was a mess – shards of broken glass usually are.  The ice rink was all “oh my gosh I can’t believe it, etc” but I couldn’t help but notice that they knew the police department’s number by memory.  This has happened before – a lot.  Evan used to work at the swim school next door and said there was always a cop car out there filling out paperwork on broken car windows.  My own particular office was quite nice but was pessimistic about my insurance policy being of much help; this is likely to cost less than my deductible which is good new in a way but I secretly wished for this being the last piece of evidence he needed to bust this ring of thieves.  Who knows, perhaps they’ll be caught – there was a security camera pointed right at my car.  But this did use up a lot of time on my weekend which might otherwise have been spent being lazy.

Other than feeling a bit awkward towards Erin’s friend and feeling an obligation to replace the mp3 player, it was not too bad an experience.  Of course, I haven’t paid for the window yet.

Imagine singing this to a 12-bar blues riff: “My baby done gone away…, etc.”

We caravaned to Fayetteville yesterday and moved Evan into the dorm at the University of Arkansas.  It felt really weird.

We took the seats out of the old minivan and filled it will all his miscellaneous stuff.  Mel and I drove this while Evan drove his car behind us.  It was gloomy all day long and rain sprinkled on us off and on but at least it wasn’t hot.  The move-in had been carefully orchestrated by the university and was better organized and ran more smoothly than any event I have ever been to.  There were signs pointing us to a place to park (separate routes for those coming from the south and from the north), there were actually lots of student volunteers to unload the car, load the stuff onto rolling carts, and haul it up to his room.

It was amazing.

We were in the parking space for maybe five minutes when the van was magically emptied and I was told to move the car to a more permanent place which was provided further out.  I found my way up to his room and discovered him unpacking his stuff.  His roommate was already there but hadn’t been there long.  Since both our families had met at an earlier event, this was not the meeting of total strangers and not nearly as stressful as things were back in the day.  Mel sat down on the little loveseat thing that we put together out of patio furniture purchased on sale and watched.  Mel is famous for being an organizer and all Evan’s stuff was in boxes organized by type but this other kid’s mother put all that to shame.  She had put all the roommate’s stuff in rubbermaid totes that were labelled with their contents.  It was pretty nerdy actually.  She had even sent along a small dustbuster-class vacuum which I’m sure will never be used.

The Great Unpacking took only a couple of hours during which was got everything stowed away.  We then offered to take Evan to lunch and to a store to pick up one last thing.  We had brought a piece of coax to hook up the TV with but it turns out the outlet is far from his desk and so we needed a longer one. Other than that, there was nothing more to do.  We considered various alternatives but since there was already two events Evan needed to go to (one of which included a barbecue), we dropped him off and watched as he walked in the door.  That was the last we saw or heard from him. 

I’ve been feeling melancholy ever since.

I realize he’s not totally gone and I realize that this is all in the natural order of things but it’s still a big milestone and my job as a parent has just changed drastically.  I used to dream of this day back when he was busy waking me up in the middle of the night but that seems pretty insignificant now.  I found myself wondering what to do with myself and then it hit me that “Hey! I’ve got another kid still!”  We drove home in silence for the most part – both of us thinking about all this. We got home just after Erin got home from school and immediately started dealing with her life which had experienced a mild upheaval during the day.

He said he’d be home for Labor Day although I’m not sure why.  I never came home for labor day because there wasn’t anything to do at home but the situation has changed since 1978.  Fayetteville was (and is) crawling with things to do.

That isn’t the only change. I don’t recall anybody’s parents ever visiting the dorm when I was going to school there.  Nobody I know ever had any parents visit them except perhaps to help them move out in the spring and usually not even that.  But nowadays, the place is crawling with parents.  There are organized events for us although during one of these, we were warned against being “helicopter” parents.  I guess this segment of society has changed a lot.  Even with this; however, we were encouraged to purchase tickets for parent weekend.

So the boy has moved out.  I guess he wants to come back on Labor Day to see for himself that we haven’t converted his bedroom into a craft room or home office.  We’ll leave it the way it is for awhile although we may clean it out some.  All this will quickly get shoved aside in my mind since Erin gets her driver’s permit in a couple of weeks and we’ll have to start letting her start driving the car.

I had several things I wanted to do Sunday and they all involved a friend who has tools that I do not.  He builds guitars in his spare time and since Evan’s friends have left for college and he has nothing else to do, he went with me to see the guitars.

All in all, it was not productive for me but fun anyway.  This is the friend with the flintlock rifle and although we used my miracle cure, we did not succeed in producing any sparks from his rifle so it is still out of commission.

We did help him out in building another of his many projects; this time, a homebrew solar collector.  We happened to stop by at a critical moment so I was able to nail away at this thing and it was assembled in no time.

Meanwhile, Evan enjoyed playing the guitars. 

It was a nice time for he and I to do something together before he leaves.  Plus I filled his gas tank.  That’s what Dads do, eh?

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