Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fear and Loathing in North Texas

I have to be honest with you. I am a worrier. Anyone and everyone who knows me, knows that I worry about getting things done, being practical, being frugal, being correct to the point of obsessiveness...but there are few things that I have phobias about. One is wasps and bees. Don't like them...keep 'em away from me. But I'm not scared to go walking through a forest or do outdoor activities because of it.

My one phobia...and I'm holding on to it with fingernails is:

Myself or people driving on ice.

I admit it. Its a lack of control thing. People lose thier frikking minds in North Texas when it ices. Driving way too fast, slamming into bridge barricades and sliding down embankments. I have to drive 25 miles each way to get to work. I'm not doing that through the center of overpass hell attempting to get to or from work. I'll call in sick or dead first.

I've had one accident and one near miss on ice. In 1994 on New Year's Eve I was driving back to Hurst from Arlington about 1 am when I hit a patch of ice crossing over Lake Arlington on I-20. My car spun completely 180 degrees and I was facing oncoming traffic. Luckily I was far enough ahead that I was able to get turned around and on my way.

The accident occurred in 1996 when it iced in Bryan and I was trying to get to work. I was on a small road and lightly tapped my brakes when I hit a curb and swung the tail end of the car into traffic and was hit from behind. I had braked because there was already police activity in the area. The police report stated no fault on my or the other driver's part, but my insurance was SUED by that guy for his injuries. He hit me! Anyway, they paid him off with $300, but it left me with worry about the next time. My Grandfather, Randall Stelly had it right:

"You watch out for the other fools on the road."

I can't control them or the weather. My best bet is to stay at home and work from the computer.

Last night, in anticipation of bad weather and no other time allowances in the coming week, I put up Christmas lights on the bushes in the front of the house. No interior decorations, just the front of the house. I went and splurged $30 at Wal-Mart for all new lights as my strands had become non-responsive after using them for several Christmases and various decoration church events over the past several years. I threw the old ones away. How much time and effort can be made to repair light strands that only cost $2 in the first place?

The only bummer of the evening last night was Alexander. He came outside excited about seeing the lights...jumping around and laughing...then he stumbled and took a header down the sidewalk leading up to the house and scraped the hide off of his left knee. Almost 2 hours later he calmed down enough to sleep.

I'm really enjoying Alexander more as we can have conversations and talk about cool things like Star Wars and Justice League, but with that happiness comes the difficult parenting of the screaming fit...the "I want this, but I don't want that" especially at mealtimes. These are typical of a three-year old, particularly a smart one with a high vocabulary. I just need to train myself better at handling those situations better. Meredith is really good with the baby aspects, but gets exasperated with the little boy aspects. I need to help her out too.

Pray for no ice accumulation.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vicksburg, MS Battleground

Here's the photo of the Vicksburg Battleground from the Ohio Battery position looking West to the Confederate Position.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday November 26 2006

Howdy from Keller!

We arrived back from South Carolina this afternoon about 5:00 pm. The past couple of days were hectic in getting through the shopping day on Friday for Meredith and then driving the 1000 miles back to Texas from the Rentzes' house.

Friday - What can I say? Gig 'em Aggies! Can you believe a win over the 10th ranked Texas Longhorns? My only sadness was that we couldn't have beaten Oklahoma as well for the Big 12 South Title and the ability to play Nebraska next week for the Big 12 Championship. We will get to go to a "hopefully" good bowl game. Coach keeps his job for the next year...and perhaps we are on the road to comeback!

BTW, if you're reading this and are interested in coming to the house for the bowl game (whatever it is) Meredith and I are planning on having a come and go party here. I'll be flying my Texas A&M Flag.

Also on Friday was the biggest shopping day of the year and Meredith, her Mom, and niece Rachel went out to Columbia and fought the crowds for most of the day.

The most interesting thing that occurred on Friday was that Alexander gave his Grandmama one of his two plastic Superman Rings he had left over from his Superman Birthday party. I asked him if he was going to want it back and he told me "No, I gave it to her."

It was a very grown up response from a three-year old.

The following day we departed for home about 6:00am CST and had lunch at a nice rest stop in Alabama. Alexander was chasing Meredith through the leaves surrounding the picnic site, and I had a real flash...this was my family. We had never really had just "our family unit" vacation together and we were doing great! We had little problems through the week. No real arguments, just cooperation and fun.

We ended up in Vicksburg, MS after a debate whether I was too tired to drive the remaining seven hours to Keller or not. We decided that the Notre Dame/USC game would be on the TV in the hotel, we could get a nice dinner, the National Battleground park was just across the interstate from the hotel, and lo and behold, the Outlet Mall was just next door.

So we stayed.

It was a nice room. We stayed at the Jameson Inn where we could have Belgian Waffles for breakfast in the "Continental Breakfast Area."

We shopped a little at the Outlet Mall. Alexander rode one of the little storefront rides. We then went to a McAlister's Deli for dinner where Alex ate all of his hot dog after Daddy threatened to go get the mustard to finish it off for him.

We watched a stupid movie on TV while flipping back and forth to the football game, reveled in the fact that South Carolina (The True USC) beat Clemson earlier in the day (Grandmama attributed the win to the "lucky" Superman Ring) and had a relaxing evening.

Then this morning, we had our breakfast and went to the National Park for the Vicksburg Battleground. A fascinating drive of about 20 miles of park roads winding through all of the still existing trenches. Monuments to individual states and divisions of both the Confederate and Union Armies and detailed troop movements document the site. Flanking the site between the battleground and the city center of Vicksburg is the National Cemetery.

Alexander learned the word "obelisk" and accurately described several that we saw through the site. What terrified me was the closeness of the lines to each other and the ability to view the opposing gun emplacements. I have been on several battlefields before. Primarily in the West and in Normandy, France. What was shocking for me was the sense of immediacy.

We are now at home and are working towards getting to our week. Check out the photos on the site and if you can't see those, you can look at them at

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Thursday November 23 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! We got up this morning to the sound of duck hunters once again blasting their birdshot across the lake. We drove to Greenwood, SC and had a lovely Thanksgiving with Meredith's Grandaddy Young. Brooksie's sister's family including Jo Beth and Jerry, Russell and his wife, Rhonda, Laura and Meredith's niece, Rachel all joined us there for the dinner.

The assisted living center has a room to check out to residents with a small prep kitchen attached where we set out the dinner. My turkey was a big hit. All the dishes were terrific, with Laura's bean casserole and Russell and Rhondas dessert-like sweet potato dish. Dessert was a Young family tradition, a custard like dish called Charlotte. It isn't like the dish Charlotte Russe, but it is really nice the way they make it.
After dinner we sat in a common area, and Alexander played superhero with Jerry and his daughter Laura. Alexander had to explain that he was "The Flash" while Jerry was "Superman." I believe Laura ended up becoming a villan and was placed in "jail" several times. Grandaddy Young even got into the act by tossing superhero zaps at Alexander.
Once we returned to the Rentzes' house we walked out to the dock, where yesterday's rains have finally raised the river level back up high enough to float the end of the dock. The setting sun lit up the trees on the opposite bank and made for some nice widescreen photos.
Meredith has made reservations for a hotel in Vicksburg on the way back for Saturday night. We are planning on leaving here early Saturday and arriving back in Keller by late afternoon on Sunday.
Again, I hope your holiday was terrific.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

South Carolina in the Rain

Greetings again from rainy South Carolina. A sub tropical wave low pressure system has come in from the Carolina coast and dropped several inches of rain on Charleston and at least a couple of inches here in the Midlands.

Alexander is feeling much better. We went and purchased him some nasal decongestant and he seems to be doing great. No more upset stomach since yesterday morning.

We went out shopping this morning in the driving rain. After dropping off Rachel and Meredith's mother at a women's store, the rest of us drove around a bit and ended up at a South Carolina foods store and then to Toys R Us. To our knowledge, Alexander had never been inside a TRU before and went completely nuts. He was only cajoled out of the store with the promise of a couple of gummy bears in the car.

After returning to the house I cooked the brined turkey from the night before and it is now waiting for me to finish the blog and go and cut it up for tomorrow.

Meredith's maternal grandfather, John C. Young, is her only remaining grandparent. A WWII infantry veteran, he continues to live in the town where he grew up, married, and raised a family in Greenwood, South Carolina. His family, including us, are going to visit him at his assisted living residence in Greenwood for Thanksgiving dinner. I will be taking our camera with us for some photos of the event.

Meredith is mapping out a strategy for Black Friday shopping. She thinks that she may get what she wants to get at Wal-Mart at 7:00am rather than attempting to get going at 5:00am with the rest of the consumer-crazy nation.

I did the early Friday morning once a couple of years ago. I spent 2 hours in line at Best Buy purchasing a copy of a DVD to save a mere $15. If I had spent those 2 hours doing something for work, I would have been paid much more than that. I'm not doing it again. Even for that kind of a sale. If I can't afford it on Monday morning, I really didn't need the item anyway.

I'm a little tired of spending money on things I need for the house. With new furniture, repairs to the garage, some car repairs this fall, and a new set of teeth for Alexander coming in the new year (5 of his baby molars have been affected by some genetic softness and perhaps softness from his small bout with pneumonia a couple of years ago), I'm feeling a little tapped out. The Mustang is going to start needing regular large part repair and I need to seriously look into purchasing a new family-size vehicle in the coming year. I'm leaning towards the Ford Freestyle or the Honda CR-V.

So come back for the photos tomorrow and don't hesitate to leave me feedback on these messages.

One other thing, I have been really enjoying working on this trip blog and I intend to continue to use it as a diary of things I'm thinking about and life as it happens and how I make it happen. I'm hoping that my two sons Alexander and a player to be named later will read it and enjoy some of the musings of their father.

See ya tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tuesday November 21 2006

Sorry for no update yesterday. It turned out that we didn't do much of anything. The Rentzes had their house exterminated for termites (there's a bunch of the little buggers in the woods - go figure!) so I had to help Dad Rentz with pulling everything out into the middle of the garage and out from underneath the house. That took most of the morning yesterday.

In the evening Alexander and I watched Justice League on DVD while Meredith played on the computer. The Rentzes had a Lions Club meeting to go to. We didn't feel like going to the bbq place after all.

This morning, Alexander presented us with a new aspect to his life. He actually was vomiting ill for the first time ever. He has had a stuffy nose for several days and I think all of the drainage really upset his tummy. So this morning we cleaned out our schedule and spent the day resting hoping he will be better for tomorrow and especially Thursday to spend with other family for the holiday. Rachel finished her class this morning and arrived this afternoon (carefully because its raining with a mix of sleet - but not sticking). The weather looks much better for the rest of the week and especially the drive home on Saturday and Sunday.

I've spent a lot of time reading which has been a real treat. I haven't pleasure read for several months. I'm currently reading The Joiner King a post - New Republic era Star Wars book. There's a link to the book on the left of the yourminis webpage.

I've had a little feedback about the yourminis website. Some people haven't been able to see it. If you're having trouble, update your verison of Flash Player to (7) and make sure you have the ActiveX control enabled for the website.

Tomorrow it's Turkey Cooking. I'm doing the Brine Turkey from Alton Brown and Food Networks' Good Eats.

Have a great day.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday November 19 2006

Rachel, Jo Beth and Jerry and Dick and Phyllis came over for brisket dinner and we had a lovely time. Alexander had a grand time showing off for everyone. This evening, Rachel has decided to stay the night and go back to her classes in Newberry in the morning. She is now reading stories to Alexander and he is soaking it all in.

Tomorrow the Rentzes have to go to a Lions Club meeting. Meredith, Alexander and I are going to Shealy's BBQ (there's a theme going on...if you haven't noticed) in Batesburg-Leesville. My favorite South Carolina mustard-based BBQ.

Sunday November 19 2006

We left the house at 1pm on Friday and drove the 6 hours to Vicksburg, MS. We stayed at the Ameristar Casino hotel. We checked in and went to get Wendy's for dinner and spent more time there than we would have liked due to two guys getting arrested in the parking lot for fighting.

In the morning we had to take the shuttle bus from the hotel down to the large riverboat style casino for breakfast. The hotel provided us with complementary breakfast buffet tickets for the morning. So bright and early Saturday morning we get down to the lobby and get on the bus. We spoke with some really nice people arriving for work at the casino. The advertisements for all of the games, the big prizes (a 2007 Pontiac Solstice), and Bill Engvall who is going to perform there next week, were all over the place. We entered in..and right onto the casino floor. The breakfast buffet was upstairs. Through the casino. So the security guard showed us the way to the escalator ensuring that we didn't violate state and federal law by plugging a quarter into a slot machine with a three-year-old in arms.

The breakfast was ok, but we were glad we didn't pay full prive for it. So after having security call back down and escort us out of the casino (you would think that a place attempting to be more "family friendly" would treat people better than that) we walked around the welcome station overlooking the river and were on our way.

After seeing 30 miles of bumper to bumper traffic flowing in to Tuscaloosa coming from Birmingham for the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn (luckily going the other way) we arrived in Birmingham about 1:00pm. Coming in on I-20 into the city, you veer around a small hill and then have a large view of the downtown nestled in the valley. We saw our good friends Chris and Anissa Hatcher and met their beautiful son, Nolan Zachary (Zach) who will be 18 months in a couple of weeks. They took us to a great BBQ place (southern pulled pork sandwich!) and we walked around the five points area of Birmingham. There is lots of redevelopment occuring in Birmingham as the economy has improved in the area the past several years. Like other major cities, you see where many buildings have regentrified for downtown loft and condo living. As we were walking down the street, Alex and Zach both took my hand and I felt great that these two awesome humans liked me! They chased each other around. Zach has no fear about people which is nice in some situations, but not so when there are some panhandlers around!

We ended our vist with the Hatchers by following them to their new house/redevelopment project located if I remember correctly in the Norwood Neighborhood. The house was originally constructed in the 1900s and has a full -size basement running along the entirity of the house. The Hatchers have spent a lot of time with the local redevelopment-organization as a pilot project for the neighborhood. There have been many setbacks (they were supposed to be in the house in June) but hopefully they will be in soon after Thanksgiving. I worked with Chris in Denton several years ago, before he moved back to his native Birmingham. It was terrific seeing him and his beautiful family. We are really blessed in this life to have friends in which we don't see for years and can pick up the friendship right where we left off.

We left Birmingham about 3pm and drove almost non-stop (once in Atlanta for gas and bathroom break) to South Carolina. I really felt like we were getting there once we reached Augusta, GA at the GA/SC border.

This morning the Rentzes have gone to church and we're relaxing. This evening, Meredith's cousin Rachel, Brooksie's college roomate and her husband are visiting for dinner. More photos to come!

Thursday - November 16 2006 Evening

It's the night before the big trip to South Carolina. I have packed myself and put together some toys and books for Alexander. We're going to be bringing a bunch of DVDs and a portable DVD player for him and one of us to watch in the back seat as deterrent to road boredom.

We're going to be staying in Vicksburg, MS tomorrow night and meeting with Chris Hatcher and his family in Birmingham, AL on Saturday for lunch.Chris is renovating a historic home in the downtown area and is anxious to show us all of the work he has put it to it. I'll be posting photos to a flickr account which will show up as a mini on this page. The uploading will have to wait until I get to South Carolina and the Rentzes' computer.

Thursday - November 16 2006

Thanks to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks for pointing me to the website from his excellent "Blog Maverick" website. I'll be editing things here during our trip to South Carolina and also hopefully posting some photos to a site where they can be seen from this page. Meanwhile, check out yourminis dashboard website and play around a bit. You can either use that page as a starting point, or create your own page.