September 2009


Everything happens at once.  My life can go for months with nothing interesting happening and then a flurry of things (usually bad) will come.  When I order several things off the internet, I try to space them out a bit so that they arrive on different days and they inevitably all arrive the same day. 

So it is this week.  Friday night after we returned from the football game, we found that our poor old dog had had numerous “accidents” all over the house.  Not on any linoleum or tile of course because the law of nature apparently decrees that no animal shall ever crap on tile.  Anyway, she seemed fine until this happened again Sunday night/Monday morning.  She was then banished to the back yard to recover from this but she has continued to walk around the yard squatting over and over and yet apparently producing nothing.  She seems to feel fine except for this.  Normally I would call the vet but other things transpired.

Mel got a call from her mom that she (the mom) was to check into the hospital for one of those things where they stick a camera on a cable into your thigh and snake it up into your heart to take pictures of things there.  This of course re-prioritizes everything.  She took off to Fort Smith to be there only to be turned back due to a re-scheduling of the procedure.

In the meantime, Erin called home from the school nurse’s office.  Temperature:  99.9.  This does not seem like a high fever but since the swine flu has made an appearance in the school system, she was sent home and told not to return the next day.  She seems not to have the flu; only something minor that gives her a headache and the desire to nap.  This seems much less serious than any flu.  Nevertheless, I went to the store to stock up on antiviral wipes, and hand sanitizer.  I then swabbed down the house, or at least the computer and other things that I know she touches.  I need not swab down the lawn mower, the vacuum cleaner, or any of the household cleaners for example.  But that’s another story.

So things are busy.  I’m not sure what to do about the dog.

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We’ve been talking about getting a DVR for years and today I finally did it.  The Cox cable guy showed up to install it along with some other various upgrades.  Since I had to be home anyway, I arranged for someone to come repair out piano and tune it.

It was a busy little party there for awhile.  Both guys were very friendly which I suppose is what they are commanded to be when they make calls.  Not the piano guy though – he was in business for himself. Like most musicians, he plays his way around town whenever he can get a gig and also tunes and repairs pianos (and pipe organs) as the need arises.  He was quite interesting.

There’s a club for everything and there is a club of enthusiasts of the theater organ.  As in organs that they used to play during silent movies in movie theaters.  Who knew that there was one here?  Naturally, there’s a video.  That’s my piano tuner narrating and acting as tour guide.  He was interesting to talk to although tuning a piano does not lend itself to talking.  I mostly watched.  But in the end, he gave a brief concert which I preserved with my Flip video camera.

After they left I sat down to climb the DVR learning curve.  Naturally, at the beginning there is no recorded video to watch so I guess I have to wait for that.  First program recorded:  the last half of an episode of The Dog Whisperer.

For the past two weeks, it has been raining every day.  Not always a downpour; mostly just drizzle but it’s been dark and dreary for a long time.  Finally on Friday it stopped.  That was the first home game for the BA Tigers but Erin was off on a church thing and so our motivation was gone.  We finally decided to go anyway because we had new seats and were curious as to where they were.  Plus, they were paid for so, hey!  Our new seats are fantastic – right on the 50 yard line and about 15 rows up.  It’s too bad they aren’t in Razorback stadium instead of the high school stadium but one can’t have everything.

The game was pretty fun although we didn’t see too many people we knew.  I guess they were still sitting in their old seats further up.  There was a two-year old boy in the seat next to me who was enjoying himself.  He kept trying to high five me whenever something happened but I was frequently blowing my nose with the hay fever and I figured his mom would prefer that I not touch him.  I hope he wasn’t too disappointed.

The nice weather on Saturday and Sunday offered me the chance to start in on a couple of things that had been nagging at me for a long time.  After mowing the long-overlooked lawn, I took on a continuation of the gutter project.  When I replace them last time, I left off any screens to keep the leaves out.  This was a mistake as the things filled up with trash many times – almost always getting clogged at the beginning of a rainstorm.  So I cleaned them all out and installed screens on most of them.  I got the most problematic ones finished before I ran out.  I wanted to install some plastic ones of a new design but they were over $5 apiece and I needed about 30.  Until the new design is proven out, I will stick with the old school.

For the record, the mosquitoes are still out in full force.

I also bought about 8 feet of fence material.  Our fence is a disgrace.  It was infested with termites along with our house about 12 years ago and should have been replaced long ago.  It is so derelict that the neighbor’s puppy pushed the pickets out enough to get into our yard all by himself a couple of years ago.  Yesterday, I started in on the reconstruction which I will do in phases.  I’m so out of shape that I can’t do too much before wearing out and yesterday’s eight foot section just about did me in.  Still, I find it enjoyable in the same way that most people enjoy tasks that are moderately fun, moderately challenging, and where you know exactly what to do.  I like woodworking and this almost qualifies.  Very quickly you begin to show evidence of progress so there is much to like about fence building.

I did uncover a previously unknown wasp nest which brought work to a halt briefly.  Apparently the new pickets are slightly narrower than the old ones so I found myself with an unfortunate gap that required a second trip to the home center for three more pickets.  Other than that, the job went without a hitch.  I wore out near the end and so many of the pickets are only held in place by two screws.  I’ll have to get out there today and fill in the rest of them.  I discharged both drill batteries which always leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment.  It’s also good for the batteries (at least I think it is). 

That’s quite a lot of home improvement for $100.

This past week is more or less typical for our household except perhaps for the swine flu epidemic that is going around the public school system.  With both Erin and Melissa in the system every day, it’s become a bit of a concern.  Lots of people at work are out with something or other as well so I find myself washing my hands a great deal more than usual but other than that, life is average; which is to say that it is filled with stuff.

Mel’s backyard paver project has passed the first phase and we’re ready to move onto the second if it would only stop raining long enough.  The weather has been extremely dreary for the past week with just enough rain to keep us inside but not enough to cause any flooding problems.  The back fence is in such a disgusting state of decay that I can’t get it out of my mind and yet I still haven’t gone to get the materials to rebuild it.  It’s the thought that the fenceposts might have to be pulled out and replaced that stops me.  I’ve got to do it soon though; pickets are falling off by themselves.  One good wind and the whole thing is a goner and in Oklahoma, that’s a pretty good possibility.

Last night was the high school talent show.  It was way more entertaining than the last one I went to which was the Indian Springs Elementary talent show.  I not actually surprised but if one keeps one’s expectations low, then when they are exceeded, one is happier.  This is another variation on that old line: “Blessed are those who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.”  But this talent show was very good.  Erin played her piece that she made up herself and it seemed to be appreciated.  The great thing about composing your own music is the curious fact that you can’t get it wrong.  Things that come out of your own head cannot usually be forgotten and if you change something from the last time you played it then it’s not “wrong”, it’s simply the composer expressing herself.  It appears to an outside observer that playing ones own composition is quite a bit easier than playing someone else’s. 

It’s a huge high school so it’s not surprising that there should be 17 kids with real talent.  Unfortunately, my camera failed to come to a focus in the dim light so my video is fuzzy.  Stupid camera.

We have tickets to see the traveling production of “Mama Mia” tonight so that should be fun.  After that, we’re headed to Stillwater on Friday to have Erin visit the OSU campus and check out their engineering school.

This holiday weekend, Mel decided that we needed to get out of the house so we went to stay in her mom’s house instead.  But not before moving a few rocks.

She had made three trips to Home Depot during the past week to get pavestones for the back yard project and had unloaded them all by herself.  On Saturday morning, we both got out there and moved them around a bit to work them into their final positions.  At least this is what we did until we got tired of it.  My back is still recovering from the great dorm move-in and I performed my contributions on my hands and knees trying not to used any of the damaged muscles.  That’s hard to do by the way.  There are a couple of muscles that are involved in sneezing that are down there which I found out as hay fever season got started this week.  Anyway, we got a portion of that done and went back inside. 

As Saturday wore on, the details of our plans changed a bit.  I don’t mind these changes so much as long as somebody is not badgering me all day asking me what I think of the changes.  Typically when these things start to change, they do so in many incremental ways and I prefer to just hear the final arrangements.  As near as I have been able to tell, very few of my suggestions are ever accepted anyway.  So by the end of the day, we had changed our destination to the Fin And Feather resort in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma.  But first we went to see “Night at the Museum” Smithsonian version.  I enjoyed this a lot since we had just been to several of the Smithsonian museums in July.  Then we tried out the latest awesome burger place in town.

On Sunday we headed off to the resort.  This is a local rural institution; having been there since the late 60’s and having changed very little.  They have a small motel, lots of rental cabins, some large home-sized cabins for family reunions, stuff to do, an event center and the big draw:  the restaurant called “Nannie’s”.  The restaurant is a huge buffet (a really expensive buffet if I may say so) like one of the cafeterias of old.  My parents used to seek out Furrs cafeterias and the like and knew where all the local mom-and-pop ones were like the Magnolia Cafeteria in Malvern.  I always hated these, preferring fast food instead but I was a kid so that explains the bad taste in restaurants.

Nannie’s at the Fin And Feather has not been decorated since 1982; at least that’s what Mel and I decided.  It’s like a little time machine in the hills of eastern Oklahoma and that’s what most people like about it.  It’s full of blue-haired grandmas who are celebrating a birthday and they were all in their eighties.  We know this because their names were announced by the guy playing the organ in one corner.  This one item, more than anything else, was what gave the place its unmistakable 1970s ambience – the electronic organ.  I remember those; most malls had a piano store that sold these huge wooden-cased electronic marvels which came before the ubiquitous synthesized keyboard.  This one was original and had all sorts of percussive and orchestral accompaniments that were played along with the melody by the blind organist who, I suspect, has been there as long as the organ has. 

I was the first of our group through the buffet line and so I told the guy that we had a party of six.  We were only the second family through the line so we had our choice of seats but our guide took us directly to what he perceived to me the best seats in the house:  right next to the organ.  I thought briefly of asking him if he could seat us totally away-the-hell from there (I prefer to be able to carry on a conversation) but that would have been rude and would have gone against the very ambience of the place.  Plus, my mother-in-law loved it.  Erin said that it sounded like somebody had pushed the “demo” button on a Casio.

So we sat there and stuffed ourselves.  I wondered why we could go back and have as many helpings as we wanted of everything except dessert.  One dessert only.  Strange.  There was a hand-lettered card next to the cash register admonishing us all to take all we wanted but to eat all we took and not to waste food.  It was, in many respects, just like eating at home with my parents as a kid.

We also checked out an art show at the events center.  My mother took an art class at the local community college when she was in her 70’s.  She was in good company; apparently a great many people do this in their retirement and so they end up with a fair number of oil paintings that they can’t seem to do anything with.  This was what was for sale at the art show.  I’m sympathetic; it’s a lot like woodworking in the sense that you create a number of things that take up space and last forever and can sometimes be difficult to find a home for.  Still, I was not in the mood to purchase an oil painting of a pastoral scene of a barn – of which there were many.

There are several of these resorts hiding in the nooks and crannies of the countryside and we checked out a couple with an idea of having a family get-together at one of them.  In spite of my snarky comments about the décor, these are great places to get together with the family and the fact that these places have been there forever is a testimony to that fact.  After this bit of field research, we drove on to Ft. Smith. 

I don’t think Mel’s mom gets out much these days.  All her friends are getting to the point at which they can’t get too far from home (and their medical support system) so I think she gets a little stir crazy.  As a result, we don’t get much chance to sit around and relax – she usually has us up and out doing something.  She is 82 and is fully in favor of making hay while the sun shines.  So it was on Labor Day where we got up and took her shopping.  We found that the entire mall was almost empty; it was like having the whole place to ourselves.  It was great; plenty of parking in the shaded garage and no lines anywhere. 

All the females decided to go see “Julie and Julia”.  I was moderately interested in this but my brother in law was dead set against the idea so we wandered about town doing guy stuff while they were at the theater.  I never learned an appreciation for fishing and he loves it so he spends a lot of time explaining it in an effort to make me see the light.  He likes to talk and I don’t so much; therefore, in a way, this all works out pretty well.  Now that he’s had all this time to frame his arguments in favor of fishing as a way of life he could write “A River Runs Through It” but somebody beat him to it. 

That was enough to fill the long weekend.  Now I need another day of holiday to rest up from it.

I’ve been wasting a bit too much time on facebook lately and some things that get a brief mention over there get overlooked here where I can fill them out a little.

Let’s see…  Evan seems to be enjoying himself at college except that his one fish died. 

Mel has gone head over heels over the idea of doing a bit of landscaping and so has bought a bunch of pavestones and brick edging blocks for the back yard.  We need to replace the fence more but this has taken control of her.  With my still-recovering back, she has done all the moving of these blocks herself which is no small task.  So far the project is looking pretty good but we haven’t done any of the digging yet.

We also had the garage door replaced.  Our garage door has been one of those things that has been an annoyance for 15 years but not so much as to prove intolerable.  It was of the previous generation of things and was made of wood ; therefore, extremely heavy.  It had wooden siding on the outside to match the rest of the house and this had begun to warp and crack and need a new paint job.  On the inside, a nut or bolt would work loose and fall on the car about once a month.  I even had a special socket for my wrench to tighten all these back down as I went on my monthly maintenance circuit.  Finally, it squeaked and roared like a freight train whenever it went up or down.  You could hear it from inside the house and even from inside the car at the end of the driveway. This month, after discovering that we had a bit of extra money, we decided to take the plunge and replace it.  The new one is much nicer and very much quieter.  It’s also insulated; therefore, we can take a tax credit this year. 

Erin is heavily involved in school things.  She has a bunch of AP classes and is actually having to do homework at home for the first time ever.  This is a rough transition.  She also auditioned for not only the fall play but the school talent show as well.   The jury is still out on the play thing although she did get a callback for today.  For the talent show, she played a piano piece that I’ve heard her play for years but only now realized that she just made the whole thing up herself.  I guess the proper term would be “her own composition”.  I had no idea until this week; naturally I’m impressed.  I hope the talent show committee is impressed as well and lets her perform because if they don’t, we the parents will have to deal with the aftermath.

Last night was “meet the teacher” night at school and we got to briefly meet all her teachers.  Unfortunately, they only gave us 10 minutes each and so all we really did was run from one room to the other smiling and shaking hands.  All the teachers looked like they had been there for 14 hours straight which, of course, they had. 

One parent introduced herself and mentioned that her son talks about Erin all the time and I mean:

ALL… THE… TIME! 

That’s nice but Erin has never mentioned his name so I think that relationship may be a bit one-sided.  We didn’t say that of course. 

It was fun but, as I said, too short.  This is the time of year that my hay fever kicks up and so until I get used to the antihistamines I am usually a bit dull-witted so I had that working against me too.

The high school football season opener is tonight but rain is forecast so I will not be there.  It’s across town anyway and the fun ones are the home games.  We have our tickets for that one already.