Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hiding the house's past

I spent the morning in the gym. Shoulders and legs. Just powering through the routine and trying to forget about anything else.

Hit the yard, next. New adventure though. Borrowed my father-in-law's tiller. An ancient thing. Probably south of twenty years old. Half broken. Half rusty. All pissed off and angry. A beast to crank and a bronco when it gets going. It was like trying to hold on to a bucking mule. It would bite into the ground and try to pull itself free from me.

There were huge lumpy mounds in the back yard. I tilled them smooth, mostly level with the rest of the ground. Took multiple passes and I had to stop frequently to hack up big roots. And sometimes the old blades would get wrapped with vines. Cumbersome at every turn. But it gave me a newfound respect for my ancestors. Men who must of have done the same thing, with even less favorable tools and in less favorable conditions. The tiller may be a rough brute, but at least it isn't a plow tied up to a braying, stank mule.

Also tilled up an old half-road which led from the back gate to the garage. Of course the garage didn't used to be a garage. It used to be a carport. And the former owners used to come in through the alley, drive through the back, along the half-road, then park under the carport. Over the years the grass had faded and stones were everywhere, like a primitive dirt road. I tilled the whole thing until it wasn't compacted and the stones were gone. It looked like freshly plowed earth.

Come summer and then fall, the grass will grow again. The scars will heal. And hopefully nobody will ever know how I hid the past, how I ground down the mounds or how I covered the road. Nobody but me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

All These Sick Ladies

My Grandmother finally went to the doctor. Turns out that she had double pneumonia. She is back on the road to recovery and well beyond the worst of it. But the fact remains that she's an eighty one year old lady who battled a major illness with only her spirit and her determination to help her through it.

My Mother has a sinus infection. She's coughing and congested and barely recognizable on the phone. Of course she resisted going to the doctor for a couple of days. She thought she'd get past it on her own.
Finally caved in and sought help. She's got meds, now. On her own road to recovery.

Cindy's trying to figure out what is creeping over her. She's getting lethargic and headachy. Moody. But nothing specific that we can pinpoint as the problem. Just a lot of stray symptoms.

Thankfully, I'm good. The children are good, too. Just have to find cures for all these sick ladies in my life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Career Day - Dr Liam

Bayou View Elementary had "Career Day" today. My boy Liam decided to dress up as "Doctor Liam." Complete with doctor's bag. And a stethoscope. (Click the pic for larger image.) He wants to be a pediatrician. Wants to take care of sick children. Make them better. Make their parents feel better by nursing their children back to good health.

Doctor Liam Connor McDougal. I like the sound of that.

He's seven, now. It will take him twenty years to earn a real coat and stethoscope. If he wants to be there, we'll get him there. No matter what price, we'll get him there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Curry's revenge

I was in the gym when the curry chicken struck.

One minute I'm going ninety miles per hour, then next my stomach is bellowing like an angry T-rex.

I had to cut the workout short and make a break for the house. Made it, barely.

Monday, April 16, 2007

In Line For Tickets

Meg has a ballet recital in a few weeks. We, as parents, have to buy tickets to the event. And it is reserved seating. So when it comes time to buy tickets, it is an epic adventure. Usually I luck out and Cindy goes. Today she was working. I had to take the kids and wait in line. For, oh... just two hours. Two hours of being the only male in a cluster of angry, frustrated, constantly-complaining Soccer Moms.

"It gets worse every year."

"They never do it right."

"This is ridiculous!"

I'm with you, ladies. But complain is only wasting your time and burning my brain cells.

So, I suffered in silence. The outcome would not have changed anything.

In the meanwhile, my Grandmother is feeling under the weather. She doesn't want to go to the doctor. She refuses when my Mother or my Aunt Susan offer to take her. She says Sears is coming to install some new counter tops in the kitchen, and she wants to be ready for them.

Then, Liam finished Tom Sawyer today. A first grader reading Mark Twain? What will he be up to in 10 years?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

MOVIE: Superman Returns

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give this one a rating of: SUCK!

After catching a really good flick this afternoon, I was hoping for a repeat performance. Several folks had told me that I need to rent this one. That it made up for other failed Superman movies.

Unfortunately, I could barely stomach it. It was painfully slow. The effects, though impressive, couldn't save me from fast forwarding as often as possible. Lex Luther was completely disappointing. The plot embarrassingly trite. Amazingly predictable.

If I had paid $8 to see this on the big screen, I may have walked out and asked for a refund. I don't think it is even worth renting.

Total, utter turd of a movie.


I more or less grew up with comic books. TMNT came out in the mid-80s and was high up on my list of favorites. In the 90s, there were a couple of live-action movies that did justice to the turtles.

Here we are, almost 15yrs later, and I'm taking my son to see the same green shelled-ninjas that I followed when I was a kid. He loved it. I really enjoyed it. The CGI was fantastic. Extremely well done. And it only took a couple of seconds to forget you were looking at something generated inside a computer. Sure, it dragged once or twice, but my expectations were set on a comic level, and I wasn't disappointed.

Liam knew all the characters already and we had a great time talking about the martial moves and the weapons. He was out of his seat half the time. Throwing punches at the screen. Offering words of advice on battle tactics and close quarters combat.

Popcorn, soda, and a great movie. Perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Fight night

Rolled to the gym this morning. One of the best workouts in a while. Shoulders and legs. I think whatever bug had nestled in my depths has fled. Not really pushing myself. Just happy to be able get through a set without forcing myself to bang out each rep.

Feeling much better, today.

Cindy let me out of the house for a couple of hours tonight. I went to "Blood And Sand" at the Coliseum. A mixed martial arts even for local fighters. Had guys from Slidell and Hattiesburg, and of course the local gym. Seemed like the place was packed. The ring looked small in real life. Everyone drinking beer and yelling, "Choke him out!" The first few matches flew. But the fights were GREAT! Mostly tapouts. Mostly armbars. (See above.) A couple of rear-naked-chokes. I'm sure there is much I could say about modern man needing such primitive stimulus. Twenty first century and my favorite form of entertainment is watching two greasy, muscled-up gladiators square up against one another in a steel cage. Lights up the ancient, reptilian remnants of my forebrain like a disco ball.

Nothing satiates the need for violence like watching a good old fashioned ass kicking. Even better when it is several hours of it. Not sure how many matches there were, but we didn't roll out until just after eleven.

I'll sleep well, tonight.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Work brought about another bombshell outage. Nearly half my day spent on a conference call. Listening to people fix the symptoms of a problem rather than actually finding and resolving the cause of the problem.

For those not in the know, the nuclear option for resolving complex enterprise outages is to shutdown all the servers and bring them up again. We did that. Twice. It did resolve the problem, but nobody knows exactly what we fixed by rebooting everything. Business as usual, it seems.

Afterwards, Cindy and I spent some quiet time together. Just the two of us. Ended up at High Cotton Grill, down the street. Me sipping Grey Goose & Cranberry, gnawing on spicy chicken wings. Cindy picking through a salad and some angry shrimp.

One of those, "rekindle the romance" things that old couples do a few times a year. An attempt to relive the days of yore when we would go out and laugh and drink and talk for hours about ourselves and the future and flirt and try to prolong the wait until we could go home and do what new couples do. But we don't drink much any more. We mostly complain about the smoke and the noise and Cindy recognizes people she knew 25yrs ago. We certainly don't flirt. We do laugh. And we do talk about the future, for our children. But anything remotely resembling romance is out the door.

I've come to discover that we should stick with raising children. Romance is outdated.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Slain by the dragon

Lethargy - noun - the quality or state of being lazy, sluggish, or indifferent

Still fighting off some sapping plague. Still weak. Barely able to do much in the gym. Continually yelling at myself behind my eyes.

Fight it. Fight it! FIGHT IT!

Seems like weeks since I slept. Months since I relaxed. When was the last time I was happy for more than a few hours?

And in the middle a utterly fruitless workout, my cell phone rings. I won't put it down for nearly five hours as an enterprise-scale disaster envelopes the corporation.

Some days, you slay the dragon. Some days, the dragon tears the ass out of you.

Today, I'm slain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Logan, Cindy's young cousin, was bit by a Cotton Mouth Viper. Just a baby. But the venom did its job, blackening almost his entire thumb within an hour. They're pumping him full of anti-venom and painkillers. They tried Demerol. It didn't touch the agony he was experiencing. And now he's on "DCH" or something like that. Pretty much morphine.

He was walking down the country road with his mouth when he saw the baby snake along the edge. He went to move it, so it wouldn't get hit by a car. It coiled back and bit him.

We pray he keeps the hand.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Cindy makes it home. Her potassium levels are approaching normal but Cindy will have to keep taking supplements for a while. The children are jubilant. She's smiling. I'm smiling. An enormous weight lifted from our shoulders.

I head to the gym and try to work out. Try. I think I'm coming down with a bug of my own, though. I can barely make it through the workout. I have to silently scream at myself to stay focused. It doesn't really work. I fight my way through a half-assed hour and head home. Hopefully I'll sleep. Now that Cindy's home.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Well again

Cindy stayed at the hospital over night. She is going to stay again. They are pumping her full of intravenous potassium and oral supplements. Her MRI and EKG read normal. So the current theory is that she caught a stomach virus from Meg (who was sick last week) and the lack of food combined with frequent bathroom visits caused her potassium levels to drop.

When I say drop, it is something of an understatement. Her level was so low that it almost reached a point where her heart could stop beating.

Several years ago, the media fixated on the Terri Schiavo case, where a husband was allowed to turn off life support for his catatonic wife, even though her parents wanted to keep her alive and wanted to care for her. I mention it because Terri Schiavo had bulimia which produced a potassium imbalance which in turn caused a cardiac arrest. The lack of oxygenated blood caused brain damage, pushing her into a catatonic state, and ultimately resulted in the Right To Life case that engulfed the nation. If her potassium had gone lower, Cindy could have followed in Terri's wake.

We hope it is under control, now. We're tired. We want to be past this. It is sad to when you pray for health. I don't know what the next phone call will bring. But I tell the kids to be strong. That Mommy is coming home soon. And she will be well again. I hope I'm not lying.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Unhappy Easter

I'm fairly certain the Eastern Bunny hates me. He brought me only anguish and torment this year.

I drove ten hours to bring Cindy home early. The kids take it lightly. Cindy's stomach didn't take it lightly. Not that I liked it. But after thirty some years I've discovered that many times in life like or dislike is irrelevant. So I clenched my jaw and floored it. Cindy moaning half the time. The kids crying for freedom the other half.

I unpacked and collapsed on the bed. My back a twisted wreck.

Cindy packed a new bag and headed to the Emergency Room. Whatever has nested in her stomach is going to get its eviction papers.

At least the kids got candy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bounce While You Can

We had breakfast at Bob Evan's. A turkey and spinach omelet that left me hungry for more. Great service, fantastic food, low price. The American dream! Sadly, Cindy could barely eat. Something unfriendly has crept into her belly and taken up residence. Had to happen when we're half a day from home?

Next to the restaurant was a smallish mall dedicated to All Things Christmas. (Helped that we were bundled in our coats and still giddy from our snowball siege.) A miniature steam engine chugging along the crown moulding. Tons of holiday ornaments. An army of miniatures. Mile upon mile of lights. Even a guitar playing Santa Claus that sang to the kids and posed for pictures. I'm not a big fan of the holidays, but I enjoyed the sights and had a good time with the kids as they explored and experiment with all the different gadgets.

In the late morning, we trek to Ripley's Believe It Or Not Aquarium. The cold is now compounded by rain. And while I'm able to drop My Bride and The Kids off at the front door, I have to park then walk two blocks down the way. I couldn't feel my nose after one block. And it is APRIL! But the frostbite was worth the price of admission. The kids played with a remote-controlled Mars Rover. I snuck us into a private class about sharks (where MEG tried to run the show!) We played with live horseshoe crabs. There would spacesuits. The power went out. And we nearly caught our own sting ray!

Cindy's stomach continued to act up and we cancelled our dinner plans, but opted for a light meal at Burger King. The cashier was a young man on clutches. He didn't seem too adept with them. "I hope your leg gets better," I nearly said as he handed me my change. Then I noticed his left pant leg. He didn't actually have a leg. And there were horrible scars on the inside of his left arm. At first I assumed it was a car wreck. But the more thought I gave it, the more I came to believe he had returned from a tour in Iraq. And the best we could do for him was a job charging for Happy Meals. No tickertape parade. Maybe just a purple heart, a pat on the back, and an application for Burger King.

Then Meg breaks my trance. In her own very unique, very special way.

"Daddy, look at that girl," she tries to whisper. Of course whisper means the girl can clearly hear her and so can the people on the other side of the room.

I look up and meet her eyes.

"She's from Little People, Big World," Meg says in the exact instant I realize I'm looking at a Little Person.

The woman smiles. She's not a girl. And nods to me. I'm pretty much frozen in fear that she's going to pull out a gun and shoot me in the face. A deer in the headlights. Embarrassed and scared and looking for a quick escape route.

Instead, she nods and smiles to Meg, "Hi, darling," then continues to enjoy her meal. Diffuses the bomb like a trained professional. Silently acknowledging that she knows Meg was trying to be sweet about it.

Of course My Bride had to have "a talk" with My Daughter once we got into the car. But she's five. It is like having "a talk" with a pogo stick. She's just going to keep bouncing around the room no matter what you tell her.

I say: Keep bouncing, Meg. Bounce while you can, baby. Bounce while you can!

A Flash Of White

The morning is crisp and quiet. I wake to the smell of fresh coffee and the high pitched cheers of two small children. Followed by far too much commotion for too early an hour.

They're all smiles and claps and a tangle of limbs as I find them throwing on the clothes and jackets and mittens.

I pull back the curtains to find everything drown in a pale haze. Snow! Real, honest snow, dusting the world as far as my poor old eyes could see.

This is April. It isn't supposed to be snowing! I'm not supposed to be huddled under a blanket. I'm supposed to be in shorts and drinking tasty beverages!
But the kids are loving it.
They sprint down the steps and begin to furiously scrape giant hand fulls of snow off the car. They don't remember how to make snowballs. Don't know to compact them down to improve their kinetic impact. For as long as the snow lasts, it is like one long cotton fight between two laughing, red nosed drunks. They slip and laugh and try to freeze each others heads.

I try to lend a hand, but it isn't long before my fingers are numb. Then the minivan is wiped clean of ammunition. And the fragile dusting on the ground melts in the new morning light.
But for a while, it was a winter wonderland. And we Southerns have our fun in the brief flash of white.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dolly, Dolly, Dolly, get your Dollywood here

Today would have been completely and utterly impossible if it were not for Cindy. She's the only one with brains enough to check the weather forecast BEFORE we trek up to the mountains of TN. And if she hadn't, we have been trapped inside all day, wearing shorts, throwing logs onto the fire, and cursing the cold snap which fell upon us.

As it was, we were still freezing. There was no winter last year and we barely have any cold weather gear. What we brought barely kept out the chill as we navigated through Pigeon Forge and into the open, windy embrace of Dollywood.

Here's a pic of the kids and Flat Stanley, waiting for me to buy our tickets. Notice the hats? Notice the mittens? Notice IT IS APRIL???

Anyway, this place was wonderful and extremely kid-friendly. The grounds were well kept and the staff was friendly and extremely helpful. I don't think anyone younger than fifty is allowed to work at Dollywood, though. (Not that it is a hip and trendy abode where all the 20-somethings are clamoring sign up for summer work. )

We found this "rain maker" gadget around a corner. I think we were the only ones that checked it out. Lots of steampunk dials and levers and analog panels just ripe for my macbre tinkering. Cindy, if you can imagine this, wouldn't let me fiddle with it, though. Something about lawsuit and getting arrested by the Department Of Homeland Security. And Dolly doesn't take lightly to random geeks messing with her contraptions. So no rain was made by Jon.

Our first ride was a "lumberjack elevator," which translates into: Daddy gets to hoist his weight and the weight of the children about nineteen times because when he stops the children will start screaming for more and you're trapped with them on this spinning column of amusement for a looooong time, so get pulling you fat bastard, you should have worked out instead of playing video games last week!

Fortunately, Liam helped and we won the race to the top. At least his Daddy ain't the fattest one on the ride!

Having witnessed the full glory of Daddy being put to work by a 7-year-old and listening to Mommy's laughter the whole time, Meg immediately drafted me for a second ride.
She only weighs like three pounds less than The Boy, but she's twice as strong and screams three times as loud on the way down. The theory is to hoist your way to the top, let go, and glide down to the bottom. Then start again. And again. And again. Until your limbs fall off, or the ride operator gets tired of laughing at you. Either way, the kids love it.

Cindy took time out from behind the camera to pose in front of Ol' Number Seven Zero, the local coal burning train engine. Flat Stanley got a piece of the action, too. Notice Cindy's wearing gloves? (See any gloves on Daddy in the other pictures???) And Meg is starting to run out of fuel. Won't be long before we're having to carry her. Well, I'll be the one doing the carrying.

Kids. And sheep. And Liam's wearing his "prospectors medal" for panning gold nuggets out of a sandy stream. (The stream was heated, the nuggets were planted. I paid $5 each for them to feign the digging so they could get the medals. And Meg, quickly figured out that she could reach into the sand and pull out the nuggets quicker than trying to pan them out of a lump of sand with a bowl.)

The sheep are as fake as the medal. You think Cindy would let the kids near REAL bloodthirsty sheep?

After escaping the clutches of the evil faux sheep, we swung by the local water mill. I showed the kids how they used the power of flowing water to move the wheel and grind corn and wheat into cornmeal or flour, to make burittos. The kids were most unimpressed and asked if I had to talk every time we passed the boring things. Then we agreed Daddy would shut up if they slept in their own beds tonight. A deal made in heaven!

Finally, me and The Boy relaxing in front of a soothing waterfall.

There were plenty of other adventures that went un-photographed. A glass blower making an oil lamp. Two women making lye soap from ashes (the fumes from which burned our eyes!) Our "Olde Tyme Pictures." Half a dozen rescued eagles gnawing on still-flopping fish. And a giant treehouse with foam-launching cannons and squirt guns that didn't come in too handy in the near freezing conditions.

Meg's wore out. Liam's missing the computer. Mommy is starting to feel sick. And Daddy's wondering how much this will cost him in the long run.

The modern life! Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Country roads

A long, zombifying day of driving through MS, and AL, and TN, and god-knows how many other states, until we reach the quiet, faintly-lit hills of Pigeon Forge and my father-in-law's cabin. It is a welcomed retreat. We are supposed to be relaxing. Supposed to be getting away from the Coast for a while. Spend time "as a family." Breath some clean air.

Our first pit-stop was in Brooklyn, MS. There you can buy 100 live crickets for $4 and a scoop of boiled peanuts (either spicy or Cajun!) for $1. And when I say scoop, I mean you scoop them out and bag them yourself. And when I say boiled, I mean you are scooping fresh peanuts out water that has been simmering in a black kettle since Jimmy Carter was in office.

Eventually we made it to Chattanooga and I had my first taste of traffic since leaving Atlanta. Which reminded me of why we left Atlanta in the first place! Everyone was in a hurry to quickly go nowhere. Nobody bothers using turn signals. And our brisk voyage turned into a sea of brake lights for the better part of an hour.

Then we slipped into the mountains. And as the sun dropped between the trees we soon realized our directions didn't contain any details, such as street names or landmarks. And even if we knew what we were looking for, if it wasn't directly in front us, in the glare of our headlights, we wouldn't see it. There were no streetlights. There were almost no traffic signals. And for several miles, we were the only vehicle on the road. Of course the kids helped us out, by asking, "How much further?" and the very constructive, "Can you find us some place to play?" Useful stuff, that was.

Eventually, slowly, and very low on sanity, we found the cabin. The kids dropped into their jammies, whipped out the toys, and proceeded to keep us awake several more hours. Enclosed is a sample for posterity. Note Meg's bright eyes and Liam's explosive knot of hair. All at once they are watching television, playing checkers, writing dialogue between Baby Meg & Flat Stanley, and tormenting their bleary-eyed parents.

Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Winter approaches

Cold. Cold! COLD!

Did I mention how could it was this morning? I could barely get out from under work in time to catch the limo to the airport. The conversion finished something like 18 hours late. I was SUPPOSED to leave last night. I didn't. I stayed and tried to tie up some of the many loose ends.

Just before lunch, Keith and I grabbed a couple of burgers, checked out our luggage, and dashed for the limo. We both drew air through our closed teeth when we hit the bitter air outside the hotel. BAM! Like a wall of invisible ice against my face. Isn't it APRIL? Aren't we thundering toward summer? Shouldn't I be safe from frostbite?

Fortunately the limo was warm. Our plane was on time. And we had first class seats.

Unfortunately, once I get home and hug the kids and kiss the wife, I have to pack pack pack and pack. No rest for the weary. Especially as winter approaches!

The Whirlwind

As I was riding to the property yesterday, I saw a whirlwind. A thin, wispy thing wobbling across field of cotton. Dust devil some would call it. Whirlwind, I call it.

And my day was just like that: Brunched with Candy from Las Vegas. Putting faces to names and talking about our adventures on different sides of the screen. Had to re-evaluate the property's hardware. Found some servers the likes of which belong in a Dell museum, not a production network. Suffered through setback after setback with the conversion, almost always the result of a miscalculation by DBAs two thousand miles away. And MY GOD the thunderstorms that swept through and rocked the building. Bison for dinner. I fine fine dinery, but we were wearing our work close and having too many drinks.

All of it leaving my head spinning.

A whirlwind.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Land Of Delta Blues

In the wake of returning the heavy lifting gear, I find myself once again on a plane, bound for Memphis. Talking to Don Kessler, who moved from Hollywood to Hattiesburg. Then it's a short flight. Small airports on each end. It gives me time to decompress. I'm not in charge of anything. I'm just along for the ride. And that's just fine with me.

Until my limo vanishes! I'm walking around the humid shadows of the airport, trying to find the guy holding a sign with my name. But he's nowhere to be found. Fortunately I have two things at my disposal: a blackberry and a very (VERY!) good cup of coffee. And before I finish the later, the former is used to summon my ride.

And after I arrive, I wash it down with a phenomenal medium-rare ribeye steak.

The rest of the day is just work. Describing it would only result in premature sterility.

But the night ended with a first class, executive-level bang. I got to hang out with all the upper level folks (CFO, CEO, all the chiefs!) watching the NCAA finals. In the rainman suite. With buckets of beer and all kinds of greasy fratboy food (pizza and wings and fries) and a dozen men screaming and cheering about basketball. Quite a party. A rare treat. A brief glimpse into their lifestyle. And I lived to tell about it.

We all float down here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Return To Thunderdome

Two things that will be hard to believe, but 1) I fired up the backhoe with a front loader, 2) I started early. Like 8AM early. I've provided photographic evidence for doubters!

Each scoop was probably the equivalent of an entire wheelbarrow load of sand. And I moved nearly a hundred of them. It may have cost a couple of hundred to rent the hardware, but it would have cost a lot more to repair my spine after moving all those loads manually. At any rate, I couldn't do too much before the rain came. And then more rain. And even more. Of course during the ONLY weekend I rent a monster truck, there's a flash flood. Before it was over, we had 4 inches of standing water. And that was on TOP of the sand. Would have been worse before the spreading.

I wrapped up and we all had dinner with Paw Paw Raybourn & Granny Pam. We tried O Charlies, but there was no staff and a forty five minute wait. Instead we settled for TGIFriday's. Unfortunately that was an expensive turd and I doubt we'll ever go back. The service was fair, but the food was cold and the floor was so dirty and greasy I nearly did a face plant when I took Liam to wash up. I know it isn't exactly easy to run a dinner, but it isn't rocket science and you'd think "Hot Food" wouldn't be asking too much.

The day was salvaged by Meg's jokes. She took every opportunity to prank Cindy with things like, "Lookout, Mommy, snake!" And Cindy would feign a scream. Followed, every time, by Meg laughing and yelling, "April Fool!"

My little joker.

God help me.