Monday, December 31, 2012

See ya 2012

It's less than an hour and a half before midnight on New Year's Eve. We celebrated New York's new year at 10 p.m. Mountain time, and Lori and Michael went to bed, but Ben is being a trooper and trying to stay awake for 2013. I've cracked open a Bristlecone Brown Ale (microbrewed in Utah -- yes, we have microbreweries here, some good ones, too) and am watching "Return of the Jedi" on Spike. Here's my customary last blog post of the year.

I would be cliche to say 2012 went by too fast, because it did. The year was great. Fun. Productive. Rarely boring.

Yet, I think 2013 can be better. There's a blanket resolution -- improve everything even if it's already good. Enjoying every minute with my family. More writing (202 blog posts in 2012; can I reach 300 in 2013?). More healthy living. Fewer wasted moments. Efficient, productive days. Enough sleep at nights.

Ben is starting to drag just as the battle of Endor is turning in the rebels'/Ewoks' favor. Here's to 2012. Thanks for being a good year.

Here's to 2013. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to make the most of the next 365 days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

An expected journey

We took the boys to see "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" today. We originally planned for me just to take Michael a few weeks ago, but the day the screening was scheduled (through Lori's office, mostly for clients but also for staff), we discovered he also had a basketball game. So we went as a family today.

Michael and I liked the movie, but I agree with others' criticisms that the producers are unnecessarily dragging out the book. Almost three hours of movie was possibly too much for Ben, who was antsy and probably drank too much soda (he was bouncing at dinner at Applebee's afterward).

Our Saturday was dominated by movie and a dinner. I took Popcorn to the vet this morning for a couple shots. The weather is still a little cold -- none of the snow we got in the last week is melting. With Christmas over, I am already looking forward to spring.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the first day after Christmas ...

Christmas came. Christmas went. Ho ho ho.

Growing up, December seemed to last forever. The anticipation leading up to Christmas morning can overwhelm a kid looking forward to presents and several days off school. Dec. 25 couldn't arrive fast enough (I scanned several old pictures today and included this one of me on Christmas morning when I was 9 -- same age as Michael. What's with the green outfit?)

As an adult and a parent, the anticipation is replaced by anxiety. December is so busy, even more so this year because we went to Texas. I'll admit, the anxiety is sometimes good anxiety, but it's there nonetheless. The days and weeks of Christmas music, holiday decorations and shopping decisions (compounded, at least for us, by Michael's birthday) zip past. This year, Christmas seemed more sudden than usual (and I noticed how quickly it went last year as well).

However, I'm not sad or bittersweet Christmas came and went so quickly. Except for Ben getting sick Sunday night (but better by Monday afternoon), we thoroughly enjoyed the holiday. The boys loved their presents, and of course, Lori and I loved watching them opening their presents. I helped them build new toys and play new video games. About 5 inches of snow have fallen since Monday morning, so we got the white Christmas just like the ones we used to know. We skipped Mass because Ben was sick but otherwise followed all our usual traditions. I worked Christmas night, but that wasn't so bad, and I prefer that to working Christmas Eve (which I have done before). And know that Christmas is over, I'm looking ahead to the new year.

What I wish for in future Decembers is to appreciate the run-up to Christmas a little more. Sure, we took the boys to see Santa, looked at Christmas lights, and listened to holiday music all month long. Can the anticipation I enjoyed as a child intertwine with the parent's December point of view? It should. I think I do feel that combination to some extent, whether it's coming naturally or I'm forcing it. Maybe being anxious about not enjoying December enough is causing the anxiety in the first place, thus suggesting I shouldn't force it. The funny thing is, I don't think I was forcing it.

So where does this logic lead me? Back to my original thought: Christmas was wonderful and went by too fast. Just like the 11 other months of the year. And to all, a good night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roller boogie

From 1980 to 1984, I owned roller skates. My first pair was a blue-and-white pair without stoppers that were from Sears. I got them right after finishing fourth grade. Our parish had built a gorgeous new gym that could double as a skating rink. I was so uncoordinated, and those skates were scary, but after practicing on our gangway for days, I finally became good enough to go to skating at St. Eugene's (Fridays 7-10, Saturdays and Sundays 1-4; $1, but you needed to bring extra cash to buy a candy bar or a soda).

My second pair was a gym-shoe style skate, gray and blue. I quickly figured out how to learn the stoppers. I never could skate backward, but I could turn and stop.

The third was a more grown-up pair, black boot style. I think I got them before eighth grade, but I didn't use them as much as skating didn't seem as cool. I graduated grade school, so I wasn't really allowed to skate at St. Eugene's once in high school (not that I would have anyway). And I wasn't spending weekend nights at the Axle, the roller rink near us that eventually closed within two years. I outgrew the skates and hadn't put a pair since.

I put roller skates on again today, for the first time in at least 28 years. I was a co-oper/chaperone for the boys' field trip today to a roller rink/fun center, and the skates were free to use. I wasn't planning on skating. I feared hurting my left knee again that finally feels better. But a little part of me wanted to try.

After seeing some of the other parents and teachers who hadn't skated in years lace 'em up, I gave in to my recklessness. I wish I could say it was just like riding a bike and that I was skating proficiently right away. I wasn't even close. My center of gravity has shifted in the past three decades. The first few minutes were me just skating on the carpet around the rink. Eventually, I gained enough confidence to move to the floor.

The fun center has a second track with some obstacles to do stunts on, but also, walls to hold on to. I got a little better, though a couple small downhills freaked me out slightly. In time, I was able to actually skate rather than just move my legs in a walking motion to make the wheels go. Just as I felt I was getting it, the field trip was ending and it was time to go.

I survived. I only slightly fell once. But damn, this afternoon, I was sore, especially since yesterday, I did squats for the first time since I hurt my knee. And I forgot how much stress skating places on your ankles. No matter. I had fun and didn't get injured.

Here's Michael and one of his friends trying skating for the first time. He fell a lot but had fun and never gave up. I bet if we took him a second time, he would get the hang of it right way, as he's much more coordinated than I was as a kid. Ben stayed on his scooter (yes, this rink allows kids to bring scooters) the whole time. Some of the other parents got better as the day went along as well. Some just gave up. I'm glad I didn't.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No place to hide

It's after midnight on Friday night, and I'm home from a shift at the newspaper. I'm watching old "Saturday Night Live" episodes on Netflix as I type this. Netflix just added episodes from the 1980s, but unfortunately, they are not complete episodes (no musical guests, and the 1984 episode that Eddie Murphy hosted -- maybe the most quoted episode from my youth, didn't have every skit, including the film where Eddie disguises himself as a white man). I'm actually happy that the wet snow outside has coated the satellite dish, thus forcing me into NetFlix, because I might be too tempted to watch CNN or MSNBC for more coverage of the Connecticut shootings.

After a long day of watching the tragedy unfold, the last thing I needed this late was more reminders on how the world can be a terrible place.

No matter what I do, I can't completely protect my sons.

I can't stop not thinking about this conclusion, even after hours of work and SNL reruns. I know that it's something all parents must accept -- that there's always a small, small chance something bad will happen to their kids. We can't be with them 24 hours a day. And even when we are with them, there's always a risk something unexpected, something tragic, can occur. I know all this. If you dwell on it, you aren't going to be able to function as a parent. A line from "Finding Nemo" says it best (and I'm paraphrasing): You can't never let anything happen to your kids, because then nothing ever will.

Still, after following the news all day, and after thinking about the children who died in a place they thought was safe, I couldn't help but feel helpless.

On nights I work, Lori usually lets the boys fall asleep in our room, and then I move them when I get home. Tonight, I didn't move them, instead kissing them goodnight and letting them sleep. Let them stay close to their mom, where they will be ever so slightly safer tonight.

I can't protect them forever. I can't protect them the way I want. I can't. It's a horrible fact of parenting made all the more horrible today.

I should go to sleep, but I can't bring myself to do so. I'm afraid to close my eyes. I'm afraid what I'll think of when I try to fall asleep. I'm afraid of what I might dream.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heroes past

I just started reading a biography of baseball Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax. The book is about 10 years old and is written by the same author who wrote a more recent book on Mickey Mantle: "The Last Boy." These are two athletes I never got to see play. Admittedly, I'm a little bit of a sucker for historical baseball nonfiction -- the sport seems to lend itself to that more than any other.

I was born in 1970. I didn't start watching sports until about 1977. I missed a 100 years of baseball history, a good 70 years of football lore and about 40-50 years of basketball. I can only read about the exploits of sports heroes past, with some occasional film footage thrown in. But watching old video just isn't the same. No offense to NFL Films and ESPN Classic, but watching sports legends decades later isn't the same as experiencing their accomplishments in real time.

In basketball history -- and remember, this is my favorite sport -- I wish I could have seen Bob Cousy play. And Bill Russell. Surprisingly, I don't have this need to watch Wilt Chamberlain; I imagine he just dominated because of his size compared with everyone else (and I saw Shaquille O'Neal do that in the 1990s). That said, George Mikan's emergence would have been a sight to see (Mikan is considered basketball's first big man). I missed Jerry Sloan as a player. I missed Oscar Robertson entirely..

In the NFL, I missed so many great running backs: Gayle Sayers, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson (whose career was tailing off just as I started watching football). There's also quarterback Johnny Unitas, linebacker Dick Butkus and the entire Fearsome Foursome.

However, baseball rules my wish list. And oddly, most of the players I wish I had seen play are from the 20, 25 years or so before I was born. As opposed to Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, the more recent legends are so tantalizingly close. Koufax and Mantle of course, but also Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Hank Aaron.

My son Michael (who turned 9 today) loves basketball, but missed Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley -- and even Shaq. I can DVR classic games on NBA TV, and he might be a little awed by MJ switching hands with the ball in mid-air during a drive to the basket, but it's not the same. He will come to know his own legends as he grows up. And that's the lesson I must remember: I got to see Walter Payton play. And Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux. And Jordan. Especially Jordan.

Thankfully, enough writers have documented the legacies of sports heroes past. I might have missed them the first time around, but at least I can find time to catch up.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The philosophies of Shamu

We are on vacation this week in Texas visiting my family. The one thing Michael really wanted to do on our trip was go to SeaWorld in San Antonio, and today, the day before his ninth birthday, his wish was granted.

The park is in full Christmas mode, with all the shows (the ones still being performed anyway; the park was definitely in off-peak mode) tying in a holiday theme. The dolphin/beluga show was set to music from "The Nutcracker." The Shamu show tied into the miracle of Christmas, because when you think of the birth of Jesus, you naturally also picture an orca doing a midair flip to get some fish as a reward. The sea lion show was slightly Santa-themed. I shouldn't sound so cynical -- the shows still were entertaining and fun, and the boys, especially Ben, enjoyed themselves. I liked the the sea lion show the best, and thankfully, we were high enough in the seating area that we didn't get wet at the Shamu show.

We were blessed with warm weather, though it was a little cloudy. Lori planned the day well -- we made it to all the shows we wanted to see and never waited long in a line. Michael and Lori went on a tall roller-coaster -- the Steel Eel -- that Ben wasn't too keen to try. We skipped the water rides (no matter how much Michael protested), and the boys got to romp in the play structures in the park. I think Ben's favorite part of the day was the chance to feed some dolphins, including the one pictured. We weren't quite brave enough to pet one (especially after I saw the video of the girl being bit by one in Orlando), but it was fun nonetheless. We later fed some sea lions, when we discovered Michael, who loves animals, likely won't become a marine biologist after not wanting to touch the fish we were throwing to the animals.

The boys got souvenirs -- a stuffed dolphin and a wristband with his name on it for Ben; a Santa hat with a whale tail instead of a fuzzy ball on top and a stuffed baby seal for Michael. After seven hours at the park, lit up quite beautifully for the holidays, we left SeaWorld and drove back to Kerrville. We are so not used to going to an amusement park in December that it felt much later than it actually was. After getting some dinner on the way home, we arrived back at my mom's house. The boys were exhausted but happy after their fun day.

We have two full days left on this trip, and so far, it's been great, visiting family and going to SeaWorld. The weather has been great, and the only negative of the trip was a bumpy flight into Denver (hell, I hate turbulence). The boys have been having so much fun playing with cousins and being adored by the adults. Of course, the trip is going by too fast. I'm sitting on the balcony of my mom's house that overlooks part of Kerrville on a quiet, cool but also humid night. I hope Utah isn't too wintry when we get back, no matter how close to Christmas we are.

Friday, December 7, 2012


This is December.

Bells. Constant, jingling bells. White and red and green. December is lights gleaming on a cold, quiet night.

December is snow. In other months, snow is somewhat of a nuisance (especially if you aren't much of a skier). But snow in December always is prettier, always more welcome. The first snowballs you form in your hands feel full of potential this month.

Pine permeates December. There is not a more joyous scent than walking through a Christmas tree lot.

December is too many Christmas songs to count. It's year-end lists and countdowns. It's days of preparations for one holiday, than a sudden realization that the next holiday is coming, and with that next holiday, a new calendar. It's Saturday NFL games (though only one this year) and purple and pink candles.

December is George Bailey jumping into the ice after his little brother, falling into the gym floor pool, pulling the wood off the bannister, saying hi to Bedford Falls over and over. It's Ralphie's parents gazing at the snow. It's Charlie-in-the-Box, bumbling burglars and a tree that won't accept heavy ornaments.

Since moving to Utah, December is different than the few decades before in the Midwest. We don't get that much snow in December any more (we thought it would be fun to do a sledding party for Michael's birthday at a local park, but the weather has never cooperated the past four years). We don't travel for the holidays. It's just our little family, carving out our own traditions and memories for this season.

The first day of winter comes this month. After that, the days get longer. Colder, but longer. The cycle of the year begins again.

This is December.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This is November.

Brown and orange. Cool and brisk. Gray skies -- really gray skies that can produce no rain but are simply the norm -- are reintroduced in November. Yes, this month has its share of sunny days that are actually quite pleasant (despite being cool and brisk), but those days are just a tease for colder and bleaker days to come.

November gets dark so early. You hit that time change, and too quickly, that sun is below the horizon too soon every late afternoon. And it only gets worse as winter approaches.

Between the day after Halloween and Thanksgiving's aftermath, November is filling. And sugary. Yet, this is the worst time to work out. The weather isn't always agreeable to exercise outside, and there never seems to be enough time to work out inside. November is indecisive in so many ways.

This month is personal for me because my birthday lands here. I get through it, and the remaining weeks are a blur through Thanksgiving. Maybe I'm not giving the rest of November enough of a chance.

But basketball season returns this month. And football is in full swing. November is Walter Payton running in slow motion while "Nobody Does It Better" provides a musical complement to his excellence. And it's preseason college basketball tournaments, watched eagerly after months since March Madness. And of course, it's throwing a football around in the cool and brisk air and on the last leaves that didn't get quite raked.

November is "Heartache Tonight" by The Eagles, "Alive and Kicking" by Simple Minds and New Order's "True Faith." It's a month without reruns. It's a time to vote. It's Asteroids on the Atari 2600.

But more than anything, November is the first realization that the year is coming to an end. Spring came and went, as did summer, and fall is dwindling quickly. Winter is going to set in, as will the new year. Too much of December is focused toward the holiday that we don't quite contemplate January and February. Without November, the new year would take us completely by surprise. November, a little cruel and sometimes uneventful, reminds us of what's to come, even if we forget it until after Dec. 25.

This is November.

My first newspaper job

Before my side goal in November, I had been blogging about some fall memories. I had written this and intended to post it around my birthday, but never got around to it. Before December, here's one more fall memory from way back when.

I've been in the newspaper industry for almost 22 years (and that's not counting my first couple years working for my college's newspaper). Yet my first newspaper job wasn't writing or editing or clerking. Eight years before I set foot in a big-city newsroom, I was a paperboy for a neighborhood weekly.

I had wanted to deliver newspapers, following the lead of some of my friends who did. My parents didn't want me (and them -- on cold days, who's driving?) to take on the commitment of waking up early every morning to deliver a daily newspaper. But in the fall of 1982, they did let me take a job delivering the Harlem-Foster Times. Published once a week, the Harlem-Foster Times was one of a string of neighborhood weekly papers in Chicago and its suburbs. The day after Election Day, three days before my 12th birthday, three bundles of newspapers showed up on my doorstep.

I still remember the first edition of the Harlem-Foster Times I ever delivered. The election for Illinois' governor was the day before, and the ribbon headline declared that Adlai Stevenson Jr. had defeated the incumbent Jim Thompson. There was one little problem: Thompson had actually won in a close race (by about 5,000 votes). In true Dewey-beats-Truman form, the collection of papers in this chain (I'm sure this was the lead story in every one) must have went to press when it still looked like Stevenson would win. Essentially, and ironically, the first newspaper I, a professional copy editor and award-winning headline writer, delivered was inaccurate.

Mom helped me deliver all my papers that gray November day. Eventually I settled into a routine every Wednesday for the next three years in which I could get all the papers rubberbanded and delivered rather quickly. Amazingly, I did the paper route for a fall while running cross country my freshman year in high school. I didn't mind the delivering. I'd take a radio or a Walkman along and do it in two trips just walking it (I didn't have the right bag to deliver these on my bike) in the immediate neighborhood around my block. The first year, and the music I listened to all that winter, was the most memorable.By the third year, it was all routine.

What sucked about the route was collecting. Thirty years ago, it fell on the delivery boys to collect the subscription fees from customers. I'd try to get as many as I could over the course of a few days, then mail in or drop off half of what I collected. I got the rest and whatever tips were given. I liked the money, of course, but collecting was such a pain. It took more time than delivering, and I'd always have to follow up at houses when someone wasn't home. At first it was just once a month, but in the last year, it was once every two weeks. That was too much, and by the beginning of sophomore year, I quit.

I doubt many kids have paper routes anymore, even for weeklies. Adults with cars are more efficient at delivering newspapers. Hey, three years at one job for a 11- to 14-year-old is an accomplishment. The collecting I hated so much probably was good experience for future jobs -- sometimes, you just have to put your head down and barrel through the work you have to do, no matter how much you don't want to.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where I've been, where I'm going

It's been awhile, hasn't it?

I haven't posted in more than month. I've been busy.

For the fourth November, I attempted NaNoWriMo. Three years ago, I finished, achieving a 50,000 word novel. The last two years, I didn't make it so far. But I was optimistic this year. I had an idea that I had been thinking about for months, and in October, I even started writing things down -- characters, plot, logistics. I was looking forward to finishing Novel No. 2 in November. After midnight on Halloween, I started writing and knocked out 700 words before the month was even an hour old.

Then, November happened. November happened in a big way.

November really started in October -- the last two weeks of that month completely throttling my schedule. I wasn't able to manage any more prep work for the novel, and though I was still confident in my imminent creation, I should have recognized the signs that November would be nutty.

On top of the extra meetings, the extra co-op shifts, the extra shifts I took at the newspaper, the conclusion of soccer season, the beginning of basketball season and a major house project, I accepted a big contract editing job that took up a fair amount of my time the first couple weeks of the month. I got through it and was still somewhat optimistic with the novel. The words were coming easily when I did sit time, and I was thinking about the story often.

However, all the other stuff kept getting in the way. I'm not begrudging the other stuff, but it was either taking up time or sapping my energy. The last two Novembers have been like this -- it's such a busy month to begin with, then I take on extra work (which I can't turn down), and I feel buried. The kicker was the week before Thanksgiving. After working two of three days over the weekend, I was ready for a big session on Monday night. Then I was asked if I could do a rush contract writing job. Again, this is work I can't turn down, and though it only took a couple hours, it was still a thousand words I didn't write for the novel.

Finally, last week, I looked at how many words I had left, how much time I had left, and how many words I would have to write every day, and realized finishing in November wasn't going to happen. After finishing NaNoWriMo once, the desperate energy isn't quite there, even with a story that I was happy with. I gave it a shot again, and unlike the past two years, this is a story I want to finish and is in a framework that sitting down and writing 500 words if I feel so inspired will be easy. I'm disappointed that I didn't finish in November, but not so much that I'm discouraged.

So what did suffer this crazy November? This blog, and all the other writing projects I want to undertake. The immediacy of my other writing that I put on the backburner for NaNoWriMo will return. This post is the first step back.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Travels and travails

I'm sitting on the couch with my laptop, typing this post and watching "All the President's Men" on TCM. The last two weeks or so have been nonstop, and tonight, I finally feel like something isn't impending. That's false, because things are pending -- contract work, shifts at the newspaper, soccer, more soccer, registering the boys for basketball, Halloween, NaNoWriMo.

We went to Moab last weekend for a little vacation. The trip was fun, culminating with Lori running a half-marathon. As we walked to the car following lunch in Moab after her race, very suddenly, I felt a cold come on. We stopped in Price so I could buy some Cold-Eze and attack the cold, because two hours in, I knew it was going to be annoying. I got a flu shot last week, and I wonder if it was simply a residual effect of the immunization. Nevertheless, it hit quick.

Lori got a one-day break before departing for Milwaukee on a work trip. I felt miserable Monday, slogged through Tuesday, and felt a little better Wednesday. The whole week felt like a slog. Usually, I get by fine when Lori is out of town -- sure, we endure some little dramas, but the boys and I do fine. This week, maybe because of the cold, maybe just general chaos, might have been the toughest time I've had without her. I felt so unproductive all week, even with everything pending. On top of everything, Salt Lake City got hit with an early snow, further clouding my general mood.

So here I am tonight. Lori flew back this evening, and we went from the boys' Halloween dance at school to the airport to pick her up. Tomorrow morning, I'm coaching two soccer games, then we go to a Real Salt Lake game in the evening. I work Sunday, then another crazy week ensues. But that's OK. Tonight, as I type this and watch my favorite newspaper movie, I'm decompressing. I'm blaming this past week on the cold. Next week will be better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Walk the walk

(It's been more than a week since my last post about fall. On the bright side, my Internet is finally faster. Alas, my PC is just slow ...)

This post recalling autumns past is actually about two years: 1993 and 2011. The story starts 19 years ago.

Lori and I had been dating about five, six months in the fall of 1993. She was living at her childhood house on Milwaukee's far west side, keeping it up while her parents, who had moved to northern Wisconsin a few years earlier, tried to sell it. We used to go for long walks at night in her neighborhood and nearby Wauwatosa, just talking, getting some exercise and breathing in the cool fall air. I loved these walks.

As we walked through the residential neighborhoods, I would look at the fronts of houses, some of them with the window shades open, and wonder about the occupants inside. What were their lives like? What did they do today? Were they bored tonight after a long day of work? I didn't want to think that these homeowners were mundane, but I could felt that the mere fact they owned a house, shuttled their kids around, worked a 9-to-5 job, came home and settled in for the night was a little boring. It was a life I couldn't yet comprehend. I was fewer than 18 months out of college, had my foot in the door for my dream job (working at a newspaper), worked non-traditional hours, lived on a more vibrant, younger side of the city, and had a new girlfriend and was falling in love. I didn't disdain what I was seeing; it was just that life I witnessed as we walked might have well been another planet.

Jump ahead 18 years. I don't take as many night-time walks as I once did, and when I do, I'm either running and/or listening to my headphones. But with us adopting Popcorn last year, the number of night-time walks exploded last fall. They started out small but got longer as the dog kept growing. I usually listened to (and still do) fantasy football podcasts off my smartphone during the walks. I found myself looking forward to walking her, to the point that when fantasy football season ended, I found other podcasts to listen to instead of just taking my iPod. Part of the satisfaction with these walks surely was just owning a dog again, but another part was a little bit of serenity I've always found on walks.

For the first time since those walks with Lori two decades ago, I found myself looking at the houses in our residential neighborhood, wondering about the occupants inside. What began to occur to me was that I had become one of those people I wondered about when I was 23. I own a house. I shuttle kids around. My work schedule is still non-traditional, but there's still a clear routine (one in which I'm settling in after walking the dog). But I don't feel bored. Restless sometimes, but not bored. Did I misjudge Wauwatosans way back when or simply not understand them? I understand now. Those people were home. Maybe home wasn't the happiest place for all of them, but it was home. Home was something different to me back then. It's evolved as our lives have evolved, from being 20-somethings falling in love to being a happy family with kids, a mortgage and a dog. It was something I couldn't understand just walking past, but instead, until I lived it. Then it took a few extra years to even realize that.

The walks with the dog are more routine now, and I'm worried I see them more as a necessity rather than an opportunity. I do know this: Every walk ends up at home.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Internet intermittent

I'm fondly remembering the days of dial-up.

In 1996, my first foray into the Internet was via America Online. We got a disk with the new computer, plugged our phone into the tower, logged in, endured 30 seconds of an annoying connecting sound, and voila, we were online with a reminder that "You've got mail!"

It all seems so quaint now. We just take instant Internet for granted. Within a couple years after moving into our new house in 2003, we had DSL installed. Double-click on the Netscape shortcut (damn, Netscape sounds so quaint too -- I must have switched to Firefox very soon after) and I was on the web much sooner. And it worked better as well. It had to work better with the arrival of YouTube and websites that ravenously gobbled data. Songs would that would take 20 minutes to download from Napster (the nostalgia continues!) took only two on iTunes. DSL was wonderful.

Eight years later, our Internet is slow again. I thought maybe it was just my older computer, but this week, our Internet slowed waaaaay down, to the point it wasn't working. Though it came back hours later, the phone company tech who came out said the line coming into the house was just slow.

As a result, we are upgrading to a speed eight times faster and switching from the old turtle-esque phone line to the fiber optic line. We got the new phone/Internet package for less than what we were paying before and got a new modem free. The faster Internet starts Tuesday. I can't wait.

In the meantime, I'm fondly recalling when no one watched video online because it was too slow. I remember when it would take 20 minutes to download one song off Napster. I'm remembering to dulcet tone of the dial-up. And I remember how awesome that 1996 computer seemed in comparison with my old Atari 400.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


(Click here for my last post about fall and how nice Wisconsin is this time of year.)

Football is in the fabric of every fall. No matter how much I don't want summer to end, I know that football season is one thing I will look forward to every September. And yes, the football memories abound from all these autumns.

I blogged about my grandfather taking me to a Bears game when I was 9. That wasn't my first Bears game, however -- I went with my dad to one a couple years earlier -- nor was it my last. I saw my high school's football games; unfortunately, the four years I was in high school might have been the losingest stretch in the history of the school (1-8 my junior year, ouch). I saw my first college game at the University of Illinois when I was visiting friends in 1988, then saw a bunch once we moved to Madison. I covered high school football as a reporter. I collected football cards and 25-cent helmets from gumball machines. I played Tecmo Super Bowl. I still own a Mattell Electronic Football II (the green one). I've played fantasy football since 1995.

Yet one of my favorite football memories is from playing the game, not watching it.

No, I never played organized football. Are you kidding: I would have been crushed. But I did play pickup games with my friends. Mostly tag, in the street, but sometimes tackle at the park. There was a stretch of street near our house bordering a long, wide stretch of lawn (before it got to the sidewalk), and the owner didn't mind if we played football there. We would tag on the street, tackle on the grass. I'm lucky I didn't get killed -- I was so skinny, and most of my friends were older.

In 1988, my first month of college, I came home for a weekend. There's something about that first trip home after you go away to college -- everything seems ... quaint. My high school friends were all off at their colleges, so I hung out with the friends from my block, the older ones who I didn't keep up with as much once I got to high school. That Saturday afternoon, they were going to play pickup football with some other guys they knew, and I joined them.

My friend Jim is four years older than I am. When I was little, he would pick on me more than anyone else. He outgrew that, but there was still a clear delineation -- he was older and I wasn't. By 1988, he already had served a stint in the Air Force and was married. That afternoon, he was on the other team, and something he wasn't used to happened: I tackled him

It shouldn't have surprised him -- after all, I was taller than him by this point. But it still did, and maybe annoyed him. On his next play when our team had the ball, even though I wasn't involved on the play, he felt the need to bring me down. I wasn't hurt and laughed it off. I knew why he did it: Little Joey had upset the past order of the Rascher Avenue universe.

I had dinner with those guys that night and played Nintendo with Jim. Even though I was still 17, I felt like an adult that night, not because I was hanging out with the older guys, but because I was one of the older guys as well.

We're all adults now -- parents, no less -- and the tackle football days are long gone (and a little reckless, in retrospect). The kids in us still remain, and I can't see those guys without wanting to reminisce, or at least to count off on a pass rush, "One-one thousand, two-one thousand ..."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Walk and ride

(My last post about fall was from 1983; I'm zipping ahead to 1998 in this one)

We have lived in Utah for 12 years, and though there are some things I miss about the Midwest (SuperDawg and Leinenkugel's top the list), we don't miss the weather. Winters here aren't as cold and not nearly as snowy, May is absolutely gorgeous, summer is hot but not humid, and fall so far has been sunny and warm. That said, I miss the Midwestern fall, particularly the northern Wisconsin fall. The temps here in Salt Lake stay warm into October, it briefly cools off into sweatshirt weather, and then, it's winter. In other words, true fall is truly short. I don't mind the extended summer, but if winter is going to happen, you might as well enjoy the fall.

While living in Wisconsin, we didn't get up north in the fall to visit Lori's family as much as I originally thought we did. I can remember three fall trips and that's it, and one was a weekend to Wausau in which I was a zombie after working very late on Friday night (and it was my birthday weekend -- past the peak colors). Fall weekends were so dominated by Wisconsin football that if we weren't seeing a game, I was likely working the days around it. But in 1998, we made it to the Northwoods for a memorable, and tiring, weekend.

We had already planned to visit Three Lakes that weekend, which also was Eagle River's Cranberry Fest. We bought new bicycles that summer, and one of the Cranberry Fest events was a 30-mile ride through the woods at the most colorful time of the fall. The ride was scheduled for Sunday, and when we were pre-registering, we discovered we got a discount for also signing up for the 10-mile walk. Being adventurous, we registered for both.

The walk was nice though tiring. It started in town on a gorgeous morning, found its way to one of the many lakes, included a boat ride across said lake, then returned back to town. Years later, we would end up going to the same park the boat landed at with Michael when he was little, and also hike by a resort we stayed at twice last decade. We got free ice cream at a gas station, then shuffled back into town. I had brought my Walkman and was listening to the Wisconsin football game (playing at Indiana; the Badgers would barely win) and giving Lori updates. We got back to the festival tired but feeling a sense of accomplishment.

The bike ride was even prettier, winding through the back roads southwest of town. We felt great through the first 20 miles of it, but the tour turned hilly and drained any remaining energy we had. We got back to the festival exhausted, but we didn't have too much time to rest: We had to drive home to Madison and I was working at 4 a.m. the next morning.

Despite our fatigue, this was one of my favorite fall weekends from my 12 years in Wisconsin. Today, traveling back to the Midwest in the fall is near impossible -- between soccer, school and work, fall is so busy. The leaves in the mountains change colors and are pretty, but it's a narrow window before they start falling. And the leaves down here in the Salt Lake Valley are unpredictable, particularly when it's warm one day and cooler the next. Maybe one year we will make it back and get Ben to do the hike and Michael the bike ride (which, despite the length, he would love). In the meantime, we have our own fall memories to make here in Utah.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Living on the edge

(Still reminiscing about fall, still looping back in time after my last post about 1995.)

In grade school, from 1981-1984, I was an altar boy at our church. I tell people this and get some snickering, considering all the scandals with Catholic priests over the decades, but that's the (unfortunate but sadly not inaccurate) stereotype and not the norm. I didn't mind being an altar boy, and it was the kind of thing that was expected for boys at our Catholic grade school (this was before most churches switched to altar servers, letting girls help out at Mass as well). But there was one Mass assignment altar boys dreaded: the 6:30 a.m daily liturgy. You usually only got it one week a year, but it was for all five weekdays, 6:30 a.m., in a near empty church. It was so early.

In September 1983, I likely served 6:30 a.m. Mass for the last times. I woke up around 6 a.m., got dressed, and if I was lucky, either a parent or my grandmother (if she was staying with us that week while my grandfather was out of town for work), I would get a ride to church in time to light the candles, fill up the water and wine vials, and assist with Mass. The service averaged maybe 20 people, half of whom would get Communion right at the beginning and then head to work. The rest of the church was empty (I bet a reason why newer churches have chapels -- and St. Eugene's church wasn't that old, built maybe in the early '70s). The priest would barely give a homily (if he gave one at all), and the whole Mass was done in a half-hour. The only thing tough about serving 6:30 Mass was it was 6:30 a.m.

This memory isn't about Mass itself but getting ready for it. Chicago has some insanely early sunrises, but by  late September, it was dark when I woke up. I turned on the radio as I got dressed to hear "Livin' on the Edge" by Jim Capaldi. The song wasn't a big hit nationally, but WLS played the heck out of it and was one of the most-played songs on the station that year (No. 21 on the end-of-year survey). In a fall in which I was enraptured with music videos, I didn't see "Living on the Edge" until way into my adulthood when I found it on YouTube.

And that's it. That's the fall memory. Fall 1983 was full of memories -- a lot of taping songs off the radio, watching music videos, playing Dungeons and Dragons, my Atari 400 and being an eighth-grader -- but this is the one I keep coming back to. I'm not sure why, either. Maybe the dark morning that foreshadowed a long winter lingers in my brain three decades later. Plenty of songs hold memories for me this fall; maybe "Living on the Edge" stands out.

Maybe, I was so out of it at 6 a.m., the song was the only thing that registered that morning. I already wasn't a morning person in 1983.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mad fall

(My last fall post jumped from 27 years to 2006. Staying non-linear, this one falls back to the 20th century).

In October 1995, I got a new job. I had been working at a newspaper in Milwaukee since college, but after almost five years, I was still part-time. For the last 18 months, I was almost making full-time money with extra shifts, stringing and a temporary full-time assignment. But by 1995, I was still technically part-time with few benefits. I was tired of waiting for the promotion that wasn't coming (and became less imminently likely after the two papers in Milwaukee merged -- I was just happy to still be employed). I theoretically was going off my dad's health insurance at 25, and with Lori and I not quite ready to get married, I pushed ahead with a job search.

After a few interviews, I finally was hired in Madison. Lori and I were both so excited -- she loved her old college town, and I finally had taken the big step I had coveted since I graduated three years earlier. We drove out to Madison on one of my days off to find an apartment and for Lori to interview for a job (which she got). The day was cloudy, but we were pumped. I discovered a '70s station in Madison and listened to it while driving around the city while Lori was interviewing. We visited several apartment complexes, ate lunch at an Irish pub, and basked in the imminent move.

The rest of that October was crazy while we moved our lives to Madison. That Saturday night, after my dad and sister, who helped us with the move, had left to return to Chicago, I took the Celica (my grandmother's old car; they had just given it us that week) in search of Chinese takeout for our first meal in the new apartment. I asked at a gas station and found a good place somewhat nearby. But as I drove around that my new city that night, I felt as if I had finally arrived. Enormous confidence. The new adventure had begun.

That first month in Madison was cloudy. And it was frenetic. Lori was still working in Milwaukee for a few more weeks and commuting. I explored my new city after work (I was on extreme morning and was usually off by 1 p.m.). I took walks in the neighborhood behind our apartment complex, including down one wooded street without sidewalks (and I still remember the CD I was listening too -- a Sounds of the '70s compilation with "Hold the Line" by Toto on it; I was big on '70s music in the mid-1990s). We went to a couple Wisconsin football games. We tried new restaurants in our new west-side neighborhoods, including Griff's (a burger/custard joint, which I miss; just found out while searching for a link that it closed a couple years ago).

The novelty of our new town wore off a little as the fall ended. The '70s station changed formats after Thanksgiving. Lori started her new job in Madison.Winter arrived, and winter in Mad Town was no different than in Milwaukee (cold and snowy). We loved Madison, but it became less new, especially for me, as we settled into our lives there.We were engaged six months later, married in 1997. Though we flirted with the idea of settling down permanently in Madison, eventually, we left for Utah in the summer of 2000 and have been here since.

The grayness of fall, the falling temperatures and the early evenings can feel bleak, but it does sometimes remind me of the start of a big chapter in our lives. The clouds hovered over a new adventure in 1995, but the sun was shining behind them nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


October is orange and red and yellow. The leaves are these colors. The candy are these colors. The decorations are these colors. I dare you to find blue in October.

October is a sweatshirt. A fall jacket. Blue jeans are reintroduced this month. So are everyday socks.The sun creeps lower in October, but it still feels warm on your face when a cool breeze tests that sweatshirt.

October is the perfect month to run. Run for the soccer ball. Run in the woods. Run a crossing pattern. Run into leaves.

Life seems more settled in October. The two months before and the two after are full of transitions. Not October.

The moon is simply way cooler in October. You know this to be true. And this month, it's OK to be a little scared.

October is "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls and Tears for Fears' "The Seeds of Love." It's baseball's last, magnificent gasp. It's "Risky Business" and "Pulp Fiction." It's a rake and endless bags of leaves.

This is October.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dusk fall

(After posting about about the Pope in 1979, here's another fall memory, 27 years later.)

In the fall of 2006, I was stressed out. Work was stressing me out, the demands of a new baby were stressing me out, and my worrying brain was making it worse.

My friend John was getting married in Chicago that September, and Michael and I flew out a few days early to spend some extra time with my family. The trip was a much-needed break from the stress I was feeling.

Unlike our usual trips to Chicago, this one wasn't packed with things to do. One evening, Michael and I were looking for something to do, so we went with my father to my 11-year-old sister's club soccer practice on the fields outside of Taft High School. While she practiced, Michael ran around and kicked a soccer ball with me. He seemed so big back then (and was kicking the ball well), but I must remind myself he wasn't even 3 (Michael will always seem so big to me, no matter what age I'm remembering him at).

The sunset becomes startlingly early in September in Chicago, and soon, dusk was encroaching upon the soccer field. It felt so familiar. After being in Utah for six years -- and working through most sunsets -- there was a powerful familiarity to that evening. I don't want to say I forgot all my stresses, but that night, they were mildly soothed by the pink sky of the soon-to-be-dark evening.

The next night, with nothing to do, I asked my dad if we could tag along to soccer practice again. I needed that fall Chicago sunset again.

TGINW (Thank God it's not Wednesday)

The boys are off school today, and I'm typing this from Kangaroo Zoo, an inflatable playland in North Salt Lake. The day off was such a rare, revered occasion in my youth that I wanted to make sure they had fun today.

My plan didn't go as smoothly as I hoped.

I originally wanted to take them on a train ride at the Heber Valley Railroad. The changing leaves in the mountains are peaking, and we hadn't been on this train in since 2008. Alas, our Outback needs a new water pump, which are replacing on Monday, but I didn't want to tempt fate. My next idea was Cowabunga Bay, a waterpark that is open for one more weekend. The temperature today is in the low 80s, so weather wasn't a concern, but the park wasn't open until 3 (and then closes at 7). I still think it would be fun to go this weekend (tickets this late are cheap), but it just wasn't going to work out today.

So, we ended up at Kangaroo Zoo. We had some passes and took one of Michael's friends along. But I wanted to go sooner, but we didn't get out until later. I'm trying to figure out the three hours it took for us to get out the door, but other than some work-related stuff and a load of laundry I folded, I don't know where the time went.

Do I feel a responsibility to make sure the boys' weekdays' off from school are more than just playing video games and watching "Phineas and Ferb?" Hell, yeah. Maybe I shouldn't feel that way, but I do. The days off are rare, and will be rarer when they grow up. They can veg out on weekends. Days off from school are meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Does the Pope drive through the woods?

(With summer ending and fall approaching, I'm recollecting some autumn moments over the years. Sweatshirts, football, red and yellow leaves, cross country meets, new Old Farmer's Almanacs and bite-sized candy bars. No, fall isn't so bad.)

In the fall of 1979, my mother had signed me up for a soccer clinic at Norridge Park. The clinic basically was to introduce kids to the game, and Mom must have thought I would enjoy a new sport (I already was sports-obsessed by age 8). Even just a decade later, I probably would have been playing soccer at age 6, but in 1979, it hadn't invaded suburban (or in my case, the middle-class neighborhoods inside the fringes of Chicago) youth sports.

I don't remember much about the clinic, which was one or two days a week for a few weeks. I obviously wasn't that enamored with soccer, because if I really took to it, I probably would have asked to keep playing. That's too bad -- I think if I was born 20 years later, soccer would have been a good sport for me, and if I did take an instant liking to it, I might have gotten good enough to play in high school, not because I was naturally talented, but because there simply weren't as many soccer players back then.

Soccer isn't the theme of this post. The papacy is.

On Oct. 4, 1979, Pope John Paul II arrived in Chicago. He spent about two days in a city with the largest Polish-Catholic population outside of Warsaw. Needless to say, this was a big deal to Catholics in Chicago. Our parish and support wanted to show the our support. Mom picked me up from soccer that gray-skied day to join other parishioners and classmates to see the Pope.

We drove to a grassy area next to the Kennedy Expressway off Seminole Street somewhat near our house. There was a hole in the fence and a good 50 yards to the expressway, and a many people had gathered. The Pope's motorcade would travel from the airport via the Kennedy to downtown. We waited to see him. Zoom! His limo with tinted windows sped by. I never actually saw the Pope that day, but just his a brief blur of his car.

I remember so much from this fall, especially this October. Oddly, there are some autumns from my youth from which I haven't remembered as much (including one I wrote about last year). But not 1979. The memories are vivid and important. Even when I was younger (about 12), the start of fourth grade seemed like a transition from being a little kid to being a not-so-little kid. Maybe that's why everything from that fall -- the whole next 12 months, in fact -- is so easily remembered.

Michael is only a third grader, but is turning 9 this fall like I turned 9 in the fall of 1979. I hope he remembers everything.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

All things equinox

Fall began today. Summer was still yesterday. I don't go much by the official seasons when I think of what is summer, what is fall, and so on, but astronomically, we are now in fall.

I didn't blog last night after being just worn out at 10 p.m. Yesterday started out well but descended into frustration and antsy-ness. The boys didn't cause this, but after they got home, any fatigue I had been battling all week finally caught up with me. I just felt blah, and instead of being productive, watched two episodes of "Law and Order: SVU." Yes, that's the way my mood turned. We did go outside for a little while and watched a movie as the boys fell asleep. But I was dragging and went to bed by 11.

I'm not sure what's up. I shouldn't be this tired -- I slept OK all week (though overnight Thursday, I did have a bad dream in which I temporarily couldn't find Ben). I ate like crap all week, too (though I managed salads the last two days). The routine, the goals, the list are all waiting. I just can't seem to find the energy to get there just yet. I'm hopeful for next week.

Today was a soccer day, and I felt re-energized coaching two teams to victory (though I tell my kids, don't worry about the score). Michael's team played its best game of the season and won 10-0 (and he scored three goals), and Ben's team played phenomenally against a team that, according to its coach, hadn't given up a goal all season until us. We won 5-4. Ben is amazing to watch, not because he's this incredible talent (he's not, but he tries -- I wish he was more aggressive sometimes, but today, he was tough, especially after taking a corner kick right to the gut and playing through it), but because he gets so excited playing defense. The ball starts coming his way, dribbled by the other team, and he does this incredible, hyper, uncoordinated, excited bounce before he starts heading for the play. I need to get this on video so I never forget the sheer exuberance, fear and anticipation he feels.

We went to Smashburger for lunch. The boys played with their friends on the block for a few hours while I worked around the house. The energy was back a little, at least enough to get out after the boys fell asleep and blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thirsty Thursdsay

As hoped for, I had most of the day to myself. I went to Kohl's and Harmon's, did some stuff around the house and ... not much else. That's OK -- I needed a little time to relax.

I ran soccer practice for both teams in the early evening, then the boys and I went to Red Robin for dinner. They were hungry after practice and gobbled down their food. Despite being out later than I would have liked, we got home by 8:30 and the boys were in bed by 9. 

Bring on Friday -- another day to myself. I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Wednesday!

We took Lori to the airport early this morning. Really early. I picked up McDonald's for the boys at the nearby location, and our order was only screwed up twice. Luckily, I caught the gaffes before leaving. We got home, had breakfast, and I managed 10 more minutes of sleep before getting us all ready for school.

I drove on Michael's field trip to Silver Lake, up Big Cottonwood Canyon. The excursion was fun, the weather was nice, and we were back by 12:30. I drove home and managed a little nap, finished the freelance project I had been working on and took Popcorn on a quick walk before returning to school to get the boys. We lounged a little at home, I made them ravioli for dinner, and Lori and the boys Skyped. We took Popcorn to Petsmart and came home. The boys were in bed by 9. I've been watching TV and finally got my laptop out to blog. I'm planning on going to bed soon.

Another parent in Michael's class called asking if I could possibly sub  as a co-oper tomorrow. I feel bad, because she's sick tonight, but I need a day without school or errands -- a day to get stuff done around the house and take Popcorn on a long hike. And a day to relax, at least before soccer practice and the long weekend ahead. Hopefully, the other mom is feeling better or my conscience shuts down. I need the break.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday afternoon

I co-oped all day, and it went well, but I got home and was tired, only to discover Popcorn had chewed into her bed again and a punk kid coming home from the nearby school felt it was OK to ride his bike over everybody's lawn. I shook a fist and yelled at the kid, thus tiring me out more. The boys and I made a quick trip to Shopko after dinner, and both boys read for me.

I shouldn't judge a day just by how tired I am and by how tired I foresee the next day being. I'm helping drive on a field trip tomorrow, and though it should be fun, I'm kind of wishing I had the whole day to work out, finish the freelance project I'm working on (almost done) and get Popcorn out for a long walk. I will try to appreciate all the good and know the fatigue is worth it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Monday

I haven't blogged in a few days, and I'm not sad about it -- I think I needed a break, especially after getting so sick a week ago. This week, I'm striving to post every day, and not just to get back on the wagon. With the routine settling in, I want to chart what I do every day for one week and see where I can be more productive, more efficient.

So here was my Monday. I worked late last night but was up this morning, and after the boys went to school, I drove Lori to the Enterprise so she could rent a car to take to Logan for the day. I came home and went back to sleep for a while, then woke up and ate lunch. I took the dog on a walk. I worked on a freelance project while sitting on the front porch (the weather has been gorgeous the last few days). The boys came home from school, and I worked a little more on the project. Lori came home, and we returned the car. I went to a soccer coaching clinic at Sunnyside Park. I got home, ate dinner, played War with Ben, listened to him read some of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" to me, watched the Broncos-Falcons game, then took Popcorn on another short walk. I'm blogging now and going to bed soon.

See, that was somewhat productive. I do snack too much when I'm in the house, which I need to figure out. I'm co-oping all day tomorrow, so blogging about that should be straightforward.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Miserable vomitous mass

I didn't blog Saturday night simply because I was tired. Sunday I worked late. Monday was just bad.

After going to sleep Sunday night, I woke up about 3:30 a.m.with a song on my still-playing iPod in my dream. Within a couple minutes, my stomach started churning. Two nights earlier, Michael had thrown up in the middle of the night without even being awake to realize he was about to hurl. He was sick for about 24 hours and was fine afterward. I began to worry that maybe I was falling victim to the same bug.

I couldn't fall back asleep for long because I was so queasy. I couldn't lay on my stomach because it upset my stomach even more. Finally a couple hours later, I began to throw up. Then again an hour later. Then again another hour later. Then, about 9:30, the grand finale: All the remaining food that had been in my stomach from the last 18 hours had been expunged.

Michael was lucky -- he just threw up once and went back to sleep. Mine was prolonged for hours. Then, I was still so out of sorts that I couldn't fall back asleep. Finally, as my stomach settled (there was other intestinal distress, but you don't need even more specifics), I was able to rest (and even watched "Pretty in Pink"). Around 4, I tried a cracker. I managed an scrambled egg around 6. At 8:30, I knew I needed some more nutrition and managed to get down a piece of cheese on dry toast. I went to bed and slept 10 hours.

This morning, I felt fine. Tired, but with a little appetite, but otherwise fine. I co-oped at the boys' school and discovered whatever this bug was, it was going around school pretty rapidly. I ate a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch and was still a little hungry after. I was ravenous for dinner. Yes, my brief illness was that quick. But damn, it was vicious while it lasted.

I'm on the porch tonight, and this must be the coolest evening I've been outside in weeks, maybe months. I'm wearing a sweatshirt but am enjoying the cool breeze on my feet. For now, I'm hoping Lori and Ben don't catch what Michael and I endured. Please, tell me Ralph has left the building.

Friday, September 7, 2012

No rest for the weary

There are weeks that seem unproductive. There are weeks that are nonstop.

Somehow, this past week felt like both.

I'm not sure if it was just the shortened week or all the extra things that got thrown in, but I'm glad we have hit the weekend. But that doesn't even provide a reprieve: I'm at work tonight, coach soccer tomorrow and work Sunday. I don't mind the soccer, of course, but what kind of bad luck gave us a doubleheader for Michael's team tomorrow?

I wanted the beginning of the school year to provide a fresh start to my routine, to the things I want to get done those hours the boys are learning. This week, that just didn't happen. An extra co-op shift, a vacation that got planned, two parent meetings, the first official soccer practices of the year -- it all added up. And then today, the I was home, but the day sped by while I felt stuck in slow motion. More soccer matters to take care of, another call to DirecTV to find out where our new DVR is (the old one died last week), and then work. The most productive thing I did all day was shave.

Will next week be different? I hope so. At least I managed to get out on the balcony at work to blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The last day of summer

I'm calling it. Summer is over.

The first game of the NFL season was tonight, which, in my book, officially kicks off fall. Summer 2012 is done.

Today was busy, and I never seemed to get a break. Haircut in the morning. A welcome lunch with Lori (the highlight of my day) at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant to commemorate our annual tradition of sushi to celebrate the school year starting again. A meeting at work. I picked up the boys. At home, I tried to rest, but the broken email account finally could be fixed. I then attempted a 10-minute nap only to be interrupted three minutes in by a phone call concerning soccer. We hosted a parent meeting for Michael's class. Then, I got a call asking if I could sub as a co-oper in Ben's class tomorrow.

See, that feels like fall, down to the fact that I was looking forward to relaxing tomorrow and get to something on my new list and now likely won't. Yep, summer is history.

Summer was great. I am glad I blogged it. I will do so again next summer. Let fall begin.


September is football. Sitting in the bleachers on a Friday night. Bright Saturday afternoons with marching bands. Watching NFL highlight shows for Week 1 and thinking that there are 16 more weeks of this. The feel of your fingers on the laces right before you try throwing a perfect spiral.

September is begrudging acceptance. Summer has ended. School has begun. Winter is coming. Might as well enjoy the present because this will be the most pleasant month over the next six. September is dreaded, but once it gets here, it's not so bad.

Things change is September, or at least get ready to. Schedules change. The daytime changes. Leaves begin to change. Wardrobes change. But September is also new. New friends. New routines. New TV shows. September is coming and going at the same time.

"Total Eclipse of the Heart," Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" and "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies are September.  So is "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire. Duh.

September is light green. I can't explain why. Not plush green, not brown. It's the best of summer and fall all in 30 days.

This is September.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer, Day 106

The sun might be bright and the temperature warm, but after spending all day in school, then going to a parent meeting at school in the evening, today felt anything but summer. Maybe that's for the best. This has been a great summer. Time to move on.

I co-oped all day at the boys' school. I'm happy to report I wasn't tired or stressed -- the day was enjoyable. Michael's teacher seemed a little stressed -- her class wasn't listening to her (or the gym teacher for that matter). Michael was, thankfully (luckily). I think the start of the new school year, even though we are two weeks in, combined with the fact it still feels like summer has kids fidgety. They will settle in soon enough.

I got home to discover the soccer league that I coach both boys' teams managed to schedule both openers at almost the same time. I spent awhile trying to figure out how to avoid the conflict and alert all the parents of the new schedule, and afterward, I barely had time to relax before we had to go to the parent meeting.

I'm on the porch tonight, writing and participating in one more fantasy football draft online. Tomorrow is the summer finale according to the calculations I made in May (though somehow, I came up a day short; I repeated a day while on vacation). I'm contemplating what I'm going to do afterward. I've been happy writing each day -- insisting I write each day. Do I continue this through the fall (which, in my book, runs through Thanksgiving)? Or do I just make an effort to recap my daily activities as much as possible without being cemented to an absolute "I must journal my life" approach? The one thing I felt suffered through the summer was posts not related to my daily recaps. I don't know what the answer is yet. I guess I'll decide in two days.

The last day of summer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer, Day 105

Today was Labor Day. I labored.

Fortunately, my breathing wasn't labored. I'm barely feeling the cold that pummeled me Friday. With my new energy, I mowed the lawn, pruned our out-of-control wisteria, hung laundry, organized all the soccer equipment and took the dog for a two-mile walk. And, I'm planning to get to bed early enough tonight to wake up with energy for a long day tomorrow.

So I'm declaring, it was a good Labor Day. No, I didn't approach it as a last gasp of summer and tried to do summer activities one last time. Things needed to be done around the house, and with Lori and me feeling better, we did those things. I know I'm so focused on the 108 days of summer that I calculated (but for some reason, am coming in at 107; I think I miscalculated), but we still have September -- and I don't see the heat cooling off any time soon -- to do summer things. The JCC outdoor pool is still open all month. The leaves won't start changing colors for weeks. The only things that will be different are school during the week, soccer on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. Yes, there will less time for those summer things in the next four weeks, but I'm not ready to pack my favorite time of year in just yet.

Almost done ...

Summer, days 102-104

The cold I had been fearing Thursday overwhelmed me Friday.

After a rough night in which I kept awakening with stuffiness and a sore throat, I slept late, woke up, went back to bed. I woke up, ate some breakfast, went back to bed. I woke up, at a little lunch, went back to bed. I woke up, then only had a short while before work. I was so wiped out. I made it through work, got home, and tried to get as much sleep as I could before having to wake up early the next morning for soccer practice.

My idea was to get an unofficial soccer practice in for both boys' teams before practice officially starts this week. I didn't know how sick I would be the day before. But I woke up Saturday morning and made fulfilled my commitment. I didn't know if it was just adrenaline or perhaps the worst of the cold had passed me by, but it wasn't so bad. My throat did start to hurt from coaching, and I didn't run much (and made sure not to shake any parents' hands), but I survived. The brunt of this cold was hitting Lori, so I bought lunch for all of us at Costa Vida and brought it home. The cold began moving into my throat, and Lori was worn out, so we stayed inside and watched NetFlix for most of the rest of the day. 

Lori and I had more energy Sunday, and we took the boys and one of Michael's friends to the pool, as we had planned before the colds struck. Neither of us put our heads under water much (nothing like a nose full of water with a cold ...), but the boys had so much fun and must have jumped off the diving board 30 times each. I wasn't too stuffy and was only coughing by this time, and wasn't so tired. I took Michael to a fantasy football draft I was participating in that evening, and I felt OK, though I was sitting next to a heavy smoker, and though he wasn't smoking near me, just the fumes off his clothing was irritating my cough. I drafted a good team, and when I got home, I wasn't coughing any more. I watched "The Hunger Games" again, this time with Lori, and went to bed.

And that brings us to this morning, Day 105 of summer, Labor Day. Just a little stuffy. No cough, though the cold seems to have settled in my lungs like colds usually do. I'll take some Mucinex for that and know that this cold, though quick-hitting and rough at times, was quick. When I am sick, I always think about how long it will last, or how long it has been since I felt normal. I thought that Friday, and here it is, Monday morning, and I'm better. The cold almost erased three days of summer -- among the last days I didn't want erased.Yet, I still managed to get outside and do a couple of the things I wanted to do. Time to enjoy the holiday.

Labor Day on tap.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer, Day 101

Ben started sneezing and being stuffy yesterday. Today, Lori and I showed the same symptoms.

Damn, I better not be catching a cold to end the summer.

Today seemed busy but unproductive. I went to pick up both teams' soccer uniforms and tried to get a roster mistake fixed, but to no avail. Our email address might have been compromised, and we couldn't get that resolved tonight. The DVR receiver appears to be on the fritz. And I'm doing a fantasy football draft, right now, but every pick we want seems to be going one spot before us.

And, I'm sniffling. We are hoping that something we're all allergic too is simply blooming and being brought inside by the dog. I'm hoping Friday is less frustrating.

Yes, I got a cold.

Summer, days 99-100

My, I'm tired right now as I type this. The summer is wearing even on my summer posting project. I don't want to be quick about this, but I'm ready for bed. Let's see where I go with this ...

First, Tuesday, which was my first day co-oping of the new school year. And it is the first time in which I'm co-oping the entire day instead of splitting the co-op shifts between two days. This was by choice, and in the long run, I'm going to appreciate this more, but I was expecting some adapting to this schedule. By 1 or so, I was dragging a little. Next week, I need to sneak a soda (remember, I don't like coffee) in to drink before the afternoon co-oping. Otherwise, the day went well. I'm going to enjoy helping out in the boys' classes.

We got home and I napped a little. Then, we took Popcorn to Petsmart, where we were enamored with a feisty kitten missing an eye that was up for adoption. Thankfully, we came home with just pet food. I made sliders for dinner. I worked on some fantasy football preparation, and then hell, I was ready for bed.

Wednesday, I got some stuff done around the house and got the dog out for a walk. After picking the boys up from school, we went to the waterpark one last time before the season ends. Seven Peaks has afterschool hours this week, and it wasn't as crowded as a normal summer day. The boys had fun, but I arrived home dragging again. Ben might be catching a cold. I walked the dog again and watched "The Hunger Games" (just arrived in our mailbox from Netflix). And here I am, typing after midnight.

Summer fun with Day 101! OK, not really ...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer, days 97-98

Two days of posts. First, Sunday: I worked in the evening. The shift was easy, but I was annoyed when I went to Costa Vida, normally open until 8, to discover it closed at 7. Nothing else is open in the mall that late, so I drove to Wendy's for dinner -- not what I had in mind. I threw the ball to Popcorn in the morning. Did some laundry in the afternoon. Worked in the evening.

Now today, Monday. This was my first full day of both boys at school the whole day. I had made this big list last week of everything I want to accomplish with the hours of extra time I will now get with Ben in school all day. So after not sleeping well last night, I woke up, ate breakfast ... and didn't know what to do next. I couldn't even fall back asleep after my rough slumber. I posted my plight to a stay-at-home-dads forum I read, and someone gave good advice: The list can wait; enjoy the serenity of today. Then another day posted this suggestion: Go to the pool and swim without the kids. The sun was shining, the weather was hot, and I found myself at the pool.

I didn't swim much (maybe a couple laps) but did jump in three times. In between, I did take the nap while soaking up some sun and listening to a fantasy football podcast. I sat in the hot tub for 10 minutes -- normally off limits to kids (and why I never get to sit in it). I took a shower afterward, then went to pick up the boys from school.

For dinner, I tried a pork tacos recipe I found in Men's Health. It turned out all right, and I was sufficiently stuffed afterward. Popcorn got some play time with the neighbor's dog, so I didn't take her for a walk tonight. I'm going to wrap this up soon so I can get to bed early in advance of my first full day of co-oping (I'm volunteering for both kids on one day) of the school year.

I'm not going to lounge in the sun every day with my new explosion of kid-less time (the pool closes in a week anyway). I can't wait to tackle all the initiatives I listed. But the serenity for 90 minutes in the sun and water was a nice way to start the week, as well as a nice way to start a new focus in my life.

Another double post on its way.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer, Day 96

Kind of a boring day today. And I'm not apologizing for it.

The boys went to a birthday party for one of Ben's friends. We had a minor plumbing emergency that we addressed. We watched "Mr. Mom" on Netflix. I took Popcorn for a walk. I'm sitting outside and it's actually cooler tonight. That was our Saturday. Again, no apologies.

Two days of summer on deck.

Summer, Day 95

I got a whole morning to myself, with the boys at school and no need for me to go in. They didn't have a full day -- those start next week, at which point my free time increases. So what did I do with my free morning? Come up with a plan for the extra time while both boys are in school full-time. More working out. More writing. More freelancing. And while summer is winding down, a little more time in the sun.

I picked the boys up and brought them home, and once again, we weren't that driven to do anything. The routine will develop next week. After Lori got home and we ate dinner, we all went to a high school football game, where the local favorite Highland High defeated Cedar City 27-0. The boys had fun (Ben wanted to dance to the cheerleading songs and even belted out of a few lines of "Call Me Maybe") but tired out somewhat quickly. We returned home and I took Popcorn for a walk.

Here's Day 96.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer, Day 94

Everything seemed just off-kilter on Thursday. Maybe we were all just tired.

The boys had an OK day at school. I ate lunch with Ben and helped in the classroom for the rest of the shortened day. We were slugs in the afternoon after we got home, but that wasn't surprising considering how busy our previous day was. I tried getting a roster mistake on Michael's soccer team, which I'm not coaching, fixed, but with no luck yet -- and that flustered me for the rest of the afternoon. Lori brought home Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner. I played a little Wii with Michael. I took Popcorn for a three-mile walk in temps that hadn't cooled off even after dark (I have complained about this before -- this August hasn't felt like high desert). I wanted to blog last night, but sat down, watched "History Detectives" and almost dozed off during it. So, I went to bed early.

A routine is imminent. Just not this week.

Here comes Day 95.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer, Day 93

Wow, what a long, eventful, great day. Next time you want to make the first day of school memorable, go to an amusement park afterward.

The boys were awake bright and early, eager to start their school day. Lori made them lunches and took pictures of them outside our maple, and we loaded into the Corolla to drive to day one of the 2012-2013 school year. One great thing about the boys' school -- a co-op school where parents help in class -- is that parents aren't shunned from the classroom if it's not their co-op day. No we're not encouraged to be there every day, but on the first day of school, to see how what our kids' new classes were like, we were welcomed.

I spent a good chunk of the morning in Michael's new 2/3 class and helped out a little after a co-oper failed to show. From the first couple hours, I could tell Michael is going to do great. As an older kid in his 1/2 last year, he became a role model and a good friend for the younger kids. On his first day as a third-grader, he answered a question explaining what quality work was, then was called on again by his teacher to reinforce the point.

That said, I am more anxious about Ben's journey through first grade then Michael's year in third. I'm always more protective of Ben, and I want him to have a great year. I probably should not worry so much. He had a great first day, mostly witnessed by Lori. He raised his hand and wanted to participate. He had fun at recess. He plopped down next to Michael in the cafeteria, and though he will need to sit with his own friends at lunch, he at least felt comfortable there today (I might meet him for lunch tomorrow to encourage him tomorrow).

After school, we went on our annual trip to Lagoon. Usually, this day occurs before school begins, but this year, the Lori's office moved the Lagoon Day to this week. So, we went straight from school to the amusement park. This was the first year Ben was able and eager to go on the bigger rides. He's lucky -- he's right at a height that he can go on most of the grown-up rides and most of the kiddie rides. However, I get the sense Ben will be one of those people content to forgo thrills for mellower rides. We saw this on vacation when he tried tubing, but was just as happy simply to sit in the boat. Today, he went on some more daring rides, but he said his favorite was the sky ride that carried guests across the park. He went on the wooden roller coaster (my favorite) and didn't want to go on again. Admittedly, Lori was nervous to let him go on some rides even if he was tall enough (he is so damn skinny, after all). Michael was more daring and went on a few rides by himself, but avoided some others. Next year, if Ben doesn't want to spin upside down, maybe we bring a friend for Michael to enjoy those rides with. I know I won't ride them -- in fact, I think I might have reached a tipping point with thrill rides. A few things I normally would enjoy (including a couple roller coasters) dizzied me a little. If Ben gets more brave, he and Michael can go on rides together (they rode a few today).

We rode the giant Ferris wheel around sunset, as we do every year. That was supposed to be our last ride, but we went on two more before coming home. The boys were in bed by 9:30 -- a little late for a school night, but understandable after the long day. Hopefully, they sleep hard all night and are ready for their next day of school tomorrow.

Day 94 will be much less fun-filled.

Summer, Day 92

(Housekeeping note: I accidentally titled two posts as Day 82. As such, I've been a day behind in the titles of the last 10 days of posts. Rather than try re-titling everything, I'm skipping from Day 90 to Day 92, even though it's only been one day.)

Today was the boys' last day of summer before school began. Quite, honestly, it was mostly a clunker.

I didn't expect we'd do much today, and we lived up to that expectation. It felt like one of those summer days in which no one musters enough energy to get out of the house or to be too productive. Unfortunately, it came on the day before school started. I got a few things done, including some initial organization for the upcoming soccer season (I might be coaching Michael as well as Ben). We made it out to run a few errands. Lori went to a school meeting after work, so the boys and I ate dinner without her -- fish sticks and macaroni and cheese.

The day might have been boring, but the evening was nice. I took the boys and the dog to get a snow cone after Ben wondered a couple days ago why we hadn't got one all summer. The line was long and slow, which threw a little wrench into my plan of hiking to the H Rock to watch the sunset. We weren't able to hike, but I did drive to the other side of the trail, where the overlook is just as good as being in front of the rock.

We didn't stay for too long, but did get a glimpse of the sun briefly peeking out from behind the clouds and dropping behind Stansbury Island out in the Great Salt Lake. The boys seemed to appreciate the sunset -- we only stayed for a few minutes. I asked them what their favorite thing we did this summer, but Michael thought we meant today and said "getting a snow cone." Michael tried to pick out his school from the landscape below us (the haze didn't help). We drove home, and the boys finished their snow cones, got their pajamas on and went to bed. Lori came home in time to kiss them goodnight.

I hope the boys did have a good summer, capped with a snow cone and a sunset. I'm going to keep blogging until my 108 days of summer are over, and we're going to Lagoon after work tomorrow, but in the view of a child who doesn't go to class for 10 weeks, summer ends when school starts. The sunset on the last day before school start is bittersweet. It signifies a new beginning, but also shines on an ending. I remember the resignation of that last day of summer. At least the boys are excited to start school again tomorrow. I'm happy they are excited, and I'm looking forward to some more free time while they are in school, but hell, I'm going to miss them and our summer, too. That's my bittersweet sunset.

Day 93 is our least boring day of the year.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer, Day 90

Our last full, stay-up-later-than-normal day before school begins did not go as planned.

I'll admit it: The boys and I were slugs this morning. We took Lori to work (our Outback was in the shop -- more on that later), but we got home and collapsed into laziness. I thought of maybe going to Kohl's to get Michael some Levi's and then running a few errands, but finally, I settled on taking the dog on a much-needed hike on the off-leash trail near our house. Yes, it was hot again today, but she's been on hikes in the heat before. This trail intersects and ends at a creek, so she could splash around and get a drink if needed.

As expected, Popcorn was running and playing as soon as we took her off the leash. She made some new dog friends, splashed in the creek, fetched a stick another dog owner was throwing and was sprinting all over the trail. In other words, she was loving the hike. On the way, a bee or wasp stung Michael on his hand. He cried, but the sting wasn't too bad. In retrospect, it was an omen.

We got to the end of the trail, which is a pond created by Parley's Creek. Popcorn generally doesn't jump in this pond, but was moving through the creek and being curious. We were there for a few minutes when Popcorn threw up a gooey, thick yellow substance -- possibly bile. Then she threw up again. I got her away from the trail and she threw up a third time. Definitely not good. She wouldn't drink any water we tried giving her. I called the vet, who said to bring her in. Of course, we were a mile from my car. We started walking, but she looked so tired and eventually found a shady spot to plop down. I was getting worried. I picked her up and started carrying her back to the car. I didn't carry her the whole way, and eventually, she did walk some again. We made it to the creek crossing earlier in the trail, and she walked down for a drink, but she didn't play. In fact, she didn't play with any dogs she encountered on the way back, including a cute Great Dane puppy about her size. That's when I knew she was truly feeling icky. I thought maybe she was suffering from heatstroke -- she is a black dog, after all -- or she ate something (yellow flowers?) that disagreed with her. I carried her some more, and we got back to the car and hurried to our vet.

While waiting in the reception area, Popcorn drank some water, and her tail was wagging again, offering me some relief that she was feeling better. We saw the vet, who wondered if maybe something stung her. The vet reasoned that a healthy, young lab, shouldn't be affected by the heat so quickly. At the end of the trail is some muddy, swampy ground next to the creek that is always wet but never has anything really flowing through it. Wasps always are buzzing about this ground, and I wonder if one stung Popcorn and caused an allergic reaction. The vet reasoned that a sting could shut her down that quickly. One minute she was fine; the next, she was miserable. And her heart rate was still elevated when the vet checked. They took Popcorn to a quiet room where she got a couple injections to deal with the possible sting,  then let her rest, drink some water, and monitor her blood pressure, which came down. When Lori arrived, Popcorn was happy to see her and  feeling better. We brought Popcorn home and let her rest. I took her out later, and she wanted to play, but we stopped that -- she needs a good night's rest after her rough day.

Our car had a rough day, too. After the mechanics could not definitively say what was wrong with the Outback, and it started right up for them every time, it conked out on Lori while she was waiting at a light. It started up right away, and now the mechanics are thinking it might be a fuel pump. At least that can be fixed. I drove it home, and I could feel it not getting the surge it should when you step on the gas. But I still got home in it. 

I skip a day in numbers but not on the calendar, so Day 92 is next.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer, days 88-89

I've been lamenting about the heat, haze and humidity all week, and the conditions haven't improved, even though rain, fronts and winds have been forecast for a few days now. After seeming to get better this morning, the haze returned to the point I can't see the mountains across the valley. This weather is making it difficult for me not to wish summer to end ...

Saturday, Michael had a birthday party in North Salt Lake, and I got a couple hours to myself. I looked for a primary-ruled composition book that Ben needs for school and got lunch at Jimmy John's. We returned home and relaxed in advance of the Real Salt Lake game we saw that night. We had rain checks we were given for this season that we needed to use, and Michael and I drove to Sandy to get tickets in the morning before his birthday party.

The game was fun, even though RSL lost 2-1 via a goal in the 94th minute. We were given tickets in the Supporters Section, near where the two major fan groups for the team sit. Next to us was the group of Latino fans, who had their own band (the drums pounded the whole game), chants, confetti, streamers and a giant banner they raised when RSL scored a goal. Most American soccer fans don't get this festive, so sitting next to the section unique, and ultimately, a lot of fun. Ben loved it, but the constant pounding got to Michael.

Today was uneventful. Outside sucks, even now near midnight because the air hasn't cooled off. Nobody felt too much energy, and I needed hours before I summoned enough effort to get outside (I went looking for a late-season lawn chair deal, already contemplating the boys in school and a free afternoon with my laptop, the backyard, and sun). I grilled steaks for dinner, and later, I took Popcorn for a long walk.

I have an odd feeling we are headed for the hottest September ever. I shouldn't have to look forward to November.

One last day before school starts ...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer, Day 87

I'm working tonight, sitting on the balcony and overlooking a hazy valley. Will I associate haze with August the way I associate cloudy humidity, indifferent baseball and desperate inevitability with this month? At the very least, I'll associate this day with the smoky sky.

OK, this day wasn't so bad. The boys had fun, and work, despite this being the first prep football night, is bearable. Our plan was to go to the waterpark, maybe for our last morning/afternoon excursion there of the summer (we are planning to go after school a couple times). We got going early (for us this week, at least), loaded into the car, I turned the ignition ... and the car wouldn't start. Eventually, it started and we drove to the waterpark with the thought the battery would be recharged. I turned the car off, then immediately tried turning it on again ... and nothing. I walked the boys into the waterpark, where we found the friends we were meeting, and asked them if they could watch the boys while I tried figuring out what was wrong with the car.

I returned to the Outback, and it started on the first turn. I took it to a Sears, where they tried testing the battery but had to give it a charge to get a better reading. Lori eventually drove over and let me take the Corolla so I could drive back to the waterpark and relieve my friends. I tried having fun once I got to the waterpark, and there are worse things on a hot day. Ben insisted on going in the hot tub, twice, which sapped my energy. On a very simple concrete slide (almost like a fountain), I hit the water at the bottom and, I swear, water shot up my nose and bruised the back of my head (I still can't figure out how I lost the breathing out timing on water slides). I did go back on the slide upon which I flipped my tube last month, and I reached the splash pool intact. We left to meet our Lori to drop off the Outback at our mechanic after Sears said the battery was fine.

I took the boys through a McDonald's drive-through before arriving at the mechanic. After barely eating breakfast, the Double Quarter Pounder improved my mood. We eventually got home without a lot of time for me to relax before going to work.

The hazy sky is grayish-purple as night falls. I would take a picture, but my camera phone won't do it justice. The car is in the shop until Monday, when our mechanic will test what could have been preventing the car from starting (alternator, starter or fuel pump?). I have a feeling that on Monday morning, they will find nothing wrong with it. Hurray for the impending Saturday ...

Twice the days in one post, up next ...