Friday, July 30, 2010

Almost Game Time

Wife and I attended the football team's "12th Man Club" picnic at the high school a couple of nights ago, then a scrimmage last night, getting us back in the groove for the upcoming football season.

Fortunately, we had some rain come through Thursday afternoon and the clouds lingered during the picnic, making it a little more tolerable to be outside. Last night was hot as all get-out. Younger Son is completing his first week of two-a-days and he's exhausted, but faithfully hanging in there. I am extremely proud of him.

I am far from the best dad in the world, and my children are not perfect, but somewhere along the way all three of them caught the concept of following through on things. Wife and I always stressed to them that, once you commit to something, you should see it through for the long haul.

Now that's not to say that there are not times when one must cut losses and decide a certain activity is not a fit. For instance, Younger Son once decided he would just love the martial arts. It did not take long to see that he was mistaken. Before we went to the next level where more money and time would be committed, he (and we) decided it was time to bow out. And it was a good decision.

Like many little girls, Daughter took dance lessons when she was about five. Of course she was just the cutest little thing you ever saw in her little tights and slippers. Wife and I probably envisioned her one day being gracefully featured in "Swan Lake" on stage.

After a couple of months of dance, however, it came time to buy the recital outfits. It would have been a signficant expenditure. Wife began to take Daughter's measurements. Daughter looked at her mom quite matter-of-factly and told her, respectfully, that she could take her measurements and purchase the outfits, but she would not be participating in any dance recitals, then or ever. We got the message and the dance career came to an abrupt end.

Younger Son wrestled for two seasons in middle school. It was definitely an acquired taste from a spectator's point of view, but I became a fan and of all the sports in which I've seen my children participate, wrestling might require the most discipline. Those guys are in incredible physical condition. After two seasons, though, Younger Son decided that he would become a one-sport guy and just play football. And he has been committed since freshman year, working out virtually year-round.

Of all the sports in high school, it seems football gets the most attention. There is a certain good feeling in the air when the season turns to fall (although we're far from that yet) and you're gathering on Friday nights.

I didn't play high school football (or any other sport, for that matter) so it has been at times difficult for me to gauge how our school compares with others. I suspect, however, that we're typical.

There are parents who are there at every practice, scrimmage and game who appear that they run the show (or want to give that appearance). A lot of the dads either walk the sidelines or stand up at the top of the stands, with papers in their hands or back pockets, as if maybe they're reporting for the media. I see some of them tracking down the coaches before or after the games. I suspect that they drive some of the coaches crazy, but they probably don't cross them because they give so much time and money.

Sometimes I think a high school football team is kind of like George Orwell's Animal Farm where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. For the players, although the standards are high for workouts and practices, there are some who appear to be exempt from those requirements, yet still will get much playing time.

Similarly, for the parents, there's a clear class system. Although I know some of the dads who pace the sidelines or stand at the top of the stands, I'm clearly not part of this group at game time. Frankly, I don't know what I would need to say if I paced with them, or what kind of papers I'm supposed to carry with me, so I'd clearly be out of my league even if I wanted to break in.

Wife and I don't get invited for drinks at the local bar and grill after the games but we are fine to keep a low profile. Wife has cooked some wonderful meals for Younger Son and his teammates the past few years and has gotten nodding approval from some of the "higher ups." We always join the booster club and contribute what we need to (although one day I would love to know what they have done with all that money . . .).

This is the last year we'll be doing this. I can more thoroughly analyze the psychology later. For now it's almost game time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

End of the weekend

It's the end of the weekend. It's been another scorcher here with the mercury hovering around 100 degrees. The "heat index" which, apparently, is the summer equivalant of winter's "wind chill factor" -- i.e. "the temperature is this, but really feels like this" -- is supposedly in the low 100s or so. It's just not fit to be outside.

So, to avoid outside activity, Wife and I went to see "Toy Story 3" this afternoon. That's right, we went to see a Disney animated movie, Rated G, and we laughed and cried. Wife had already seen it and told me to trust her, that I would love it. And she was right.

Typical of Disney, the humor, though clean as a whistle, likely went over the heads of most of the youngsters in the audience. The laughter came from the parents and/or the older ones in the audience like us.

If you haven't seen it, get yourself to the theater ASAP, or when it comes out on video, make sure you watch it. It's one of the best I've seen in a long time.


Younger Son is back in the fold now. He was "numb" for a couple of days as he re-programmed himself for home life vs. camp life, but his buddies have helped him to re-acclimate to things. We're awfully glad to have him home.

He starts two-a-days for football tomorrow, if you can believe that. With a school start-date of August 12 and the first football game scheduled for August 21, things get rolling early around here. This is the earliest start date he has had for full-pads practice. The state athletic association apparently decided the players needed a little more time getting used to the heat before the season actually starts. Not sure how I feel about that but nobody asked me, if you can believe that!

My blogger friend Bob has really been on a roll lately, but today's post about cell phone usage is one of his finest. He expresses many of my own sentiments towards these dastardly-but-seemingly-necessary machines, so I would commend his latest entry for your reading. Bob says he's taking the drastic step of disassociating with people who are more into their cell phones than their dinner companions. To that, I say, "Bravo!"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting it off my chest

I really try to stay away from politics (I really don't count my post about the Tennessee gubernatorial election as political -- yes, it was about an election, but more about the peculiarities of human nature) and I know my political posts get the least comments than any of the others.

That should tell me something. Still, sometimes I need to express an opinion and, well, this is my forum. I never, ever mean to offend and I understand there are those who disagree. That's fine.

Here goes:

-- This new Financial Reform legislation is a stinker, that's all there is to it. It contains upwards of 2,000 pages of new regulations that will apply largely to financial institutions that had NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING to do with the financial crisis through which we have just lived (and are still living, to a large extent). To the average consumer, it's just going to make banking more complicated.

To me, a lawyer for a bank, well, maybe it's job security, but right now it just stresses me out. I get e-mails every day from law firms and consultants just dying to tell me what it all says and what it all means -- for a fee, of course. Like they know!

All I know is we'll have a new regulator to deal with on top of the other one I deal with every day. I just don't get how that's going to help anybody.

-- Would someone please explain to me what the State of Arizona did wrong by passing a law that requires immigrants to, essentially, be legal? I just don't get what's wrong with that, and why President Obama felt like he had to tax the resources of the federal government and sue Arizona (other than, perhaps, being -- get ready for this -- politically motivated????)

My friend Steve wrote a great post about this a while back. His reasoning makes perfect sense, which is why I'm just hijacking it for your perusal if you want to read more.

I will add what I have long told my children: there are rules everywhere, whether at home, school, in the workplace, or wherever. We might not like those rules, but that does not mean we do not have to observe them.

If the feds are successful in overturning the Arizona law, then somebody on the federal level better get busy enforcing the rules so states like Arizona won't have to take the action they took in the first place.

OK, I feel better, and I promise to return to lighter topics.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend Travels

Wife and I are in Little Rock today (Saturday). Wife came over a couple of days ago and has spent some time with friends, and I drove over last night. We're now at her parents' house and we'll leave in the morning to drive to Missouri for Younger Son's camp closing.

He may or may make the nine-hour drive back home with us. As I wrote a few weeks ago, he and his buddy drove there in his friend's car so, if he wants to ride back with him, I totally understand. We are looking forward to seeing him, though, and having him back at home after his nearly month-long absence. Soon after he gets home, he'll start his Senior year. That's very hard for me to believe.

I was able to get to Little Rock last night in time to meet one of my old friends for pizza. It had been a long week for me and the pizza and beer -- and especially the company -- really hit the spot. This is one of those guys that I see too infrequently but when I do, it's always an upper and it's always as if no time has passed since we last got together.

He takes me totally as I am, never scoffs at the stupid things I might say, laughs at things I say that I think are funny (but probably aren't) and listens to all the things I tell him about my life and family, showing genuine interest.

And I extend him the same courtesy. I know this is not anything profound and that I am stating the obvious but I'll say it anyway: the older I get, the more I believe that there are only a few things in life that really matter, and solid friendships are among them. It was sure good to see my old friend.


Backtracking just a bit, Wife and I decided things were just too quiet around our house last weekend, so we hit the road and headed south, first to Tuscaloosa where we spent the night with great lifelong friends of mine who relocated to this part of Alabama from South Arkansas about seven years ago. Like my buddy I just wrote about, being with them is like continuing a conversation. No matter when the last installment might have been -- whether days, weeks or months -- the next part just naturally flows. What a blessing.

Saturday morning we headed to Auburn where we spent some time with Daughter and delivered her a piece of furniture she'll put in her house this fall. She has had a good summer there and has, I think, enjoyed the more relaxed pace of summer school. We had a nice, leisurely time with her and enjoyed one of her friends who hung out with us a bit too.

Older Son stayed at the house with Ralph the Dog, who was no doubt grateful that he didn't have to visit the doggie hotel. Ralph continues his progress with the crate. He doesn't love it by a long shot but he enters it when asked, which is to sleep and when we leave the house. And there's no evidence of any of his "autographs" on the rugs.


Life will definitely return to a more normal flow when we return home with Younger Son a couple of days from now. He will no doubt have a bit of "re-entry" to deal with as he gets used to life with us again and we'll give him the grace he needs. But we'll sure be glad to have him home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Daze of Summer

Well how in the world did it get to be July and almost mid-July at that?!

How many times did I hear my mother say, "Life is short" when I was growing up? Those words still play over and over in my mind; only now I know what she meant.

Last Saturday the daughter of some dear friends got married. Wife hosted the Bridesmaids Luncheon at our house on Friday. As I've written previously, we have been doing a bit of long-overdue renovation and this was the deadline. Although the major stuff was done, there were some lingering matters like hanging pictures again after the painting, placing some furniture and just some general sprucing up. This was all done by Wednesday night before the luncheon on Friday, so we finished with a little time to spare.

Wife, when hosting such an event, is in her element, but it's a lot of work. During the week of something like this, she might get on a roll and stay up way past midnight any given night. She gets really focused on her goal. I managed to work my schedule where I was gone Tuesday through Friday so I would not, ahem, get in her way.

Daughter and her friend came home on Thursday night so they could help and Older Son's girlfriend was also lending a hand. Wife said they all took their orders graciously (I wouldn't say Wife is "bossy" when in charge of such an affair, but she knows what she's doing and needs her helpers to act quickly and ask few questions). I think it turned out just lovely.

The wedding and reception were Saturday night and our whole family was there except for Younger Son, who has been at camp since June 24.

Speaking of, Younger Son and his buddy DROVE from here to Southern Missouri. This was a huge step for Wife and me and we drastically improved our prayer lives during the trip. We insisted on a phone call or text (only while he was a passenger and not driving, of course) every one to two hours. Since they took his friend's car, I kind of hoped maybe Younger Son would never get behind the wheel, but he called at one point to let us know he was about to take over. Yes, I wore out my knees. We sighed with relief when he called to announce they were safely at camp.

Wife and I, along with Daughter and her friend from school, spent July 4 at our friends' lake house. This was the third year in a row they have hosted us, along with a number of others, and it's always a great day of relaxing and visiting (I don't participate in water sports but enjoy looking on), eating some great food and enjoying our own private fireworks display.

Daughter and her friend left to go back Monday about 2 p.m. Wife and I came back in the house and when the door shut, there was the strangest echo. It was eerily quiet. There are always things to do around the house but we have spent so much of the past two months doing these things that we were not inclined to dive into anything. And it's been so blessed hot that the last thing we wanted to do was anything outside.

But the quiet was just screaming at us, so we went to an early dinner then a movie. In about a year, this will be our life, just the two of us.

I so vividly remember the days when we were in the middle of raising three children, and on the rare occasion when we found ourselves alone, we cherished the peaceful moments. We would lie in bed at night, try to talk a few minutes, then hopelessly drift off in mid-conversation. The chaos would begin again in only a few hours.

Right now we're getting a preview of life to come, with a more orderly house and more time on our hands.

Funny how just a few years ago that looked so good to me.