Monday, December 31, 2007

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

TV Shows I'm enjoying...

Doctor Who
Robin Hood
The Office
The Simpsons
Battlestar Galactica
Deadwood (dvd)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Middle Class Angst

The last thing I want to be is a whiner.

I want to be a problem solver. A solution finder. The hero in the storm of chaos. Entropy and time are my enemies. Lack of vast quantities of liquid assets is also an issue. We're doing fine, but you got to believe that if I didn't have to travel 25 miles away every day to get yelled at by people wanting to put up a 1,200 sqft metal building behind their trailer house - I certainly wouldn't.

I had a great time with Alexander yesterday evening. We went out about 7pm to go to Wal-Mart to find the little plastic stakes to put our Christmas lights outlining our front yard. I spent a little too much time driving around and he went to bed about 30 minutes later than he should. My time with him is so limited - the other half of the problem is that on weekends when I should have more time with him, I'm usually spending it attempting to get all of the things that I didn't accomplish during the week done. Most of my time is spent cleaning the house or trying to work on a project for the house.

Why is it that I've achieved what I wanted as a kid - pretty, funny and intelligent partner; heathly, intelligent and good looking kids; a house that I am exceedingly pround of - and I feel like I've lost my way.

I've been praying a lot about why I have such self-doubt in the face of relatively good success. I'm not as creative as I want to be. But I'm not sure that I'm achieving the level of success that people expect of me.
But then, there's the part of me that is ready to divest all and move to New Zealand. So, what ya gonna do? Move on and love my kids and work harder at being happy.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Happy Halloween - and Happy Birthday Alexander

We had a great Halloween. I got home early from work. Meredith cooked a nice dinner and we dressed the guys as Batman and Robin. (photos to follow). My parents came over about 6pm and Aunt LaLa over shortly after that. 6:30 rolled around and many kids were starting out into the street.

Our neighborhood has lots of kids, so many of the houses are either decorated for Halloween or have their front porches lit up for the occasion. Even further, many of the neighbors find it an enjoyable experience (even those without children of trick-or-treat age to get out their portable chairs, get a glass or bottle of frosty adult beverages and a bowl of candy and wave at the passing throng.

Meredith and my father spent much of the evening out front of the house, while Laura, Alexander, Ford and I went out for treats. My mother had a class she had to get to. Ford really enjoyed the trick-or-treating process from upon his perch in the frame backpack on the back of Daddy. He paid special attention to his fellow caped-crusader as he bounded up each walk to the front door only to be rewarded with candy.

Alexander was very pleasant as he had his line down:

"Trick or treat!"

and after his reward, came a gracious "Thank you" with only a little prompting from Daddy. At one house in particular, the lady stated that Alexander had terrific manners and told him to have a great time. Alexander responded with:

"All right, I WILL. IT'S HALLOWEEN!"

We met all sorts of costumed characters along the way. The most memorable for me was three middle-school aged boys dressed up as middle-school aged cheerleaders. That was gutsy and impressive.

The best trick-or-treater of the evening was a little boy younger that Alex who was so impressed with Alex's Batman costume that he had to comment about it all the way up and back the walkway. Alexander made his evening by calling to him as he left...

"See you later, Buzz Lightyear!"

The weather cooperated in that it wasn't excessively hot or cold with just a little wind. The fire department showed up in the neighorohood with two firefighters handing out glowsticks to all the kids.

After the treats were finished. Alexander helped sort out the candy that wasn't good for his "Superman" teeth (those which were excessively sticky) and kept mostly the chocolate ones.

It was a truly a happy halloween.

Then following the 31st is Alexander's 4th birthday. He arrived from school wearing a red construction paper crown exclaiming the fact. We ended up going to Double Dave's pizza for dinner as Alexander's special treat.

His birthday party will be on Saturday. The theme: Transformers.

Alexander. More than meets the eye.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Somewhere There's Happy News - We Just Don't Get To See It

Following up on my rant about how bad the news media is getting, here's an opinion from a clearly conservative capitalistic point of view, but with which I agree with. Here's the opinion. I've read The Population Bomb and I believe that one of the reasons for the lessening of human suffering by ever enlarging populations is the increase in efficiency in agriculture since the 1960s. There is an abundance of food and a more efficient way of getting that food to locations where it is needed.

The technology has reached the point where we can help out the planet. It's just the politics that get in the way. If you've seen me the past six months you've seen a white wrist band around my left wrist. All it says is "ONE". It represents my support of the one movement to end world poverty. It isn't a call for money - just discussion and action wherever and with whomever you can to bring policies in line to help the indigent and poor in improving their lives. I attempt to work solutions with developers to provide jobs and affordable housing within communities and to increase the quality of life for the residents of those communities. There is a link to the right hand portion of the screen if you're interested.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Insane Nutjob Phone Call

I recieved my first real nutjob phone call today about the annexations. She called to complain (not about the annexation notice) but the fact that the label on her letter had accidentally placed the word "David" on her letter. This was a minor computing error that glitched when the mail merge from the database to the label list occurred. Her correct name was on the list. She received the notice. It just had the extra "David" attached.

I received an earful that there was on no certain terms a "David" at that address and that we shouldn't be mailing incorrect information. I told her that sometimes computers make errors and that I'd be happy to check the database and make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm sure there were some errors when I was mailing out over 250 letters.

She hung up on me.

When can I have a job where I make people happy? That's kinda why I wanted to get into this planning gig. I wanted to help make great places for people to enjoy themselves. But I have little influence on the developer's side - they don't want to spend the money; little influence on the implementation side - I write ordinances which get watered down and disused.

Unbelieveable. I literally can't believe someone was that upset about something like that.


Tabloid 10 o'clock and the Harm of Children

What are we to learn about the constant information pouring into our lives of the harm of children by their parents, caregivers, relatives and other children? Are we to click our tounges disapprovingly and thank our God that our family doesn't have these issues? What is it that our media (in particular the local televison news agencies and local newspapers) is trying to tell us about these incidents? Again, I have to ask:

What are we to learn?

Every night we are barraged with images of some "intrepid" news reporter with a HD camera sitting outside of some non-descript home with a few neighbors in the background discussing how the family was either well-liked or no one really knew them. There isn't any substance. No one talks about trends in the country, or how we can help people through parental education or how through funding better family intervention programming. This is where an unleashed invisible hand hits at the most vulnerable and our media happily (but with a stern look and a quick read of the teleprompter) reports it. Harm or death of children in 30 second sound bites only an inch deep and a mile wide.

News like this MUST have context of our greater society, otherwise what does reporting the body count of our locality actually mean. "Look: a child was run over by a car. It's a terrible accident. Their family and friends are sad. Next, we'll talk to you about the new fried foods at the State Fair."

My children have hopes and dreams and laugh and cry and nurse and love. These children did also. They deserve more. Our society deserves more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Annexation and Retaliation

My job has just become much more visible and active. The city will begin annexation processes on October 11th. We're annexing significant portions of the I-35 Corridor and some areas that were originally left out of the city as "doughnut holes" areas completely surrounded by city.

There is going to be a ton of angry people.

They all have my phone number.

Welcome Michael, Krista and Charlie to Keller

Michael, Krista and Charlie Andress are now the proud residents of Keller. We're glad to have such good friends close by. Now that the center-of-gravity has shifted to northeast Tarrant County, we need the Uggens to realize that soon, they too may feel the call...

Austin Trip

It's been almost a month since the last blog entry. I apologize to those who have read this before and are interested in reading it again. I'll try and keep things up to date a little more often.

The first part of August saw us take a real four-day vacation to the City of Austin. Our good friends the Reeves recently moved to Austin last year so that Keith could take a job as the head producer for the City of Austin's cable channel.

The Reeves let us stay in their house just south of 290 on the southwest corner of the city. Quick access to the Hill Country, quick access to downtown...its a nice location. They have a Central Market just up the street.

We drove into Austin on the west side of town skipping past the traffic along I-35 that would be taking place on a Friday afternoon, and stopped shortly in the town of Leander, where HEB Grocery stores recently built a large HEB Plus store. The company is planning on building a similar style store and retail center in Burleson, so it was an opportunity for me to take pictrues and walk around the project enough to be conversant in the planning of the future project for my job.

We had make your own pizza night with the Reeves and Keith's parents who were in town that evening.

Saturday saw Meredith, the boys, and I driving into downtown and visting the Bob Bullock State History Museum. We toured the various exhibits including a history of the space program from the perspective of Texas. Many artifacts of the raising of LaSalle's ship from the Gulf of Mexico (thanks to the Texas A&M Department of Nautical Archeology) and a great interactive exhibit on the Texas Centennial of 1936 held at Fair Park in Dallas.

Alexander's favorite part was the Texas Spirit Theater which had interactive thunderstorms, loud noises, and many moving images of stories of the history of Texas.

Afterwards, we went to the original Kerbey Lane restaurant for mid-afternoon pancakes. We went to Austin Comics and I bought a Superman T-shirt to match Alexander's. We drove around the west side of the city for a while and met up with the Reeves at thier house for a trip into downtown to the Whole Foods national headquarters at 5th and 6th Streets and Lamar. We had dinner and watched the sun go down on the second floor veranda while the kids played on the playground. We then went to the Congress Ave bridge over Town Lake (now Lady Bird Johnson Lake) to watch the bats come out. We thought it was a little too warm for the bats, as many were swooping out, but they didn't come out en masse.

Sunday we had breakfast (yet again at a Kerbey Lane) and went to Bookpeople, the largest independently owned bookstore in Texas. That afternoon Meredith and the guys and I went driving around the hill country on the west side, saw her former home in Austin, and drove out to Lake Travis. We ended up driving back through all of the new housing growth in towns like Bee Cave and had a nice dinner back at the house.

Monday was a spectacular day in the history of the Stephen and Meredith Cook family. We set out in the morning to drive to the true Hill Country by way of Marble Falls and Burnet and taking a detour at a state park: Longhorn Caverns.

I've been to Natural Bridge Caverns and Carlsbad Caverns (at least three times) ... Longhorn Cavern was the most real experience I've had in a cave. We arrived only minutes prior to the 1pm tour beginning (no wait time) and we enter into a 64° cave in 100°+ weather. Our tour guide was a local geologist and historian. The cave is an active river cave. Rather than live stalagtites and stalagmites, the cave is full of sweeping curves etched into the stone from the flow of water. Whole circular rooms with sprial ceilings exist where whirlpools eddy through the cavern when filled. The most recent flooding in Central Texas this past May closed the cave system for several days.

The cave has been the host of Comanche tribal meetings, a 1920s speakeasy, possibly a hideout, and the site of much blasting and excavation in the 1930s by the civilian work program. The trip in and out is about 1½ miles. Alexander, Ford and Meredith were troopers.

At one point they turned out all of the lights for the experience of complete darkness. Alexander, who was holding my hand at the time gripped harder, but as his contemporaries in the tour group began to cry, he held on and was ultimately fascinated by the experience.

At several points through the tour we got muddy as there were still slick areas of the cave. There were several points were Meredith and I had to duck low to get through to the next cave room, while Alexander happily pointed out that he was just the right size.

Emerging into the heat and sunlight after an hour and a half, we washed off the mud and loaded back up into the car. Alexander and Ford promptly fell asleep for most of the remainder of the trip home.

I had never before felt this unified as a family. We had a terrific family memory, in which we were active participants in our lives and not sitting by watching it pass on television.

It was a great trip.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Star Wars Exhibit

A couple of weeks ago I took some time off to stay at home and to take Alexander to the Star Wars Exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science. It is a travelling show staying in town from June to the first week of September. I received tickets to the event as a Father's Day gift from my parents. Alexander and I arrived at 9:00am to the museum and we were able to walk right up to the ticket window without waiting in the queue. This will have great significance later.

We got our package tickets to the event and to the IMAX movie "Special Effects". The tickets were set for a particular time to enter the exhibit. They had movie props including Luke's Landspeeder and many costumes.

The most interesting portions of the exhibit were the interactive "real science" experiments that showed off how the technology of Star Wars was applicable to real life. Alexander and I enjoyed building a landspeeder out of Legos with magnets on the bottom that would repel from some magnetic tracks. Then by placing another magnet on the back of the speeder and sending it through a series of electromagnets, they would propel the speeder along in a similar fashion to a mag-lev train.

Most of the other experiments had to do with the creation and programming of robots. Alexander enjoyed programming a R2 unit to work itself through a maze, and I enjoyed a robot that you could control to make it walk.
The exhibit ended with an animatronic C-3PO talking to the audience about different types of "real world" robots.
Alex and I had a great time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Brave Combo Philosophy

Carl Finch of Brave Combo had some interesting things to say about isolation of society and listening to music. People just don't interact with each other much anymore. Here's the article.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Having a difficult time CON-CEN-TRA-TING today. I have had what feels like a sinus headache for over a week now with no change. It's like a low-grade evil pulsing through and clouding all that I perceive and...I'm rambling.

Again, it's that concentrating thing.

There is a line from a favorite brit-com that applies:

"My short term memory has been erased. This I ascribe to the proximity of the magnetic coils from Starbug's rear engine. Secondly, due to the proximity of the magnetic coils, my short-term memory appears to have been erased. This, combined with the erasure of my short-term memory, has has left me a little disoriented, disoriented, disoriented." - Kryten, Red Dwarf

If I never hear about drilling gas wells in the Barnett Shale again I would be a happy camper. I don't care how much money you're pulling out of your 7,000 square foot hovel built in 1964...I don't want to deal with gas well drilling operator companies anymore.

I miss feeling relaxed.
I miss not having responsibility.
I hate having frustrating dreams about not getting work done.
I miss art and being creative.

I still haven't had that original thought - I'm looking for it everywhere.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Add 3 Sizes to your Email

I'm tired of spam. I go all weekend without checking my email. Mainly because I'm really busy doing other things... and I tend to not want to sit in front of the computer when I'm not getting paid for it, or working on a real hobby - or doing something nice for someone. But I'm bored this evening so I thought I'd try and see if anyone has connected to me. An lo and behold two women have contacted me that they would love to see me with a larger piece of my anatomy. And here I am trying to make my stomach smaller. (16lbs so far for anyone watching).

I'm mad at my email client for not filtering these emails. I'm disappointed because most of the email I recieve at home lately has been from bookstores that I've purchased books from or forwarded messages of chain letters...I would love to be able to sit down with one of my friends, or a new friend and just write letters back and forth, describing my day, the frustrations of life and the humor of which I seem to have to hold up to it.

I'm going to have to see the doctor again. The blood pressure meds aren't seeming to help. I've been religiously taking the BP meds, the blood sugar, 1g of cinnamon and a multi-vitamin everyday. The last couple of nights where I've been really tired, I've laid down and could hear my pulse in my ears. I've always been able to do that at night especially - even as a child. But it is combined with fatigue -I know it's got to be elevated pressure.

The weight loss, like anything, has had its ups and downs. I've started having complements that people have noticed that the weight has reduced in my face. I'm still having a difficult time seeing it.

I was asked a difficult question at church today. I was asked where I was going for vacation this year. I had to really think about it. I haven't been on a vacation that hadn't involved seeing family in over ten years. Since my honeymoon actually. Now we've gone to some really nice places - Ruidoso, NM - Burnet, TX - San Francisco, CA - Galveston, TX - and all over South Carolina, but since we've been married, we've never just taken a week off to go somewhere just us.

The first 7 years of marriage have been mostly taken up with working for the City of Denton. Going on vacation was really difficult while I was working there. We were constantly berated with yet another set of public meetings in writing the Comprehensive Plan and the Development Code. All in all we held approximately 250 individual meetings getting those projects done. Any time away from Denton had to (rightly) be spent visiting family for the holidays. We saved a lot of money that way and when I finally left Denton, I had 300+ hours of vacation built up.

I haven't been back to Europe since 1994. I haven't gone to Boston to watch the Red Sox with my friend Bruce. I haven't driven up the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Minneapolis like I wanted. I haven't gone sailing in Auckland Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. I'm always committed to meetings and schedules months in advance.

I'm not about to say "poor me" who doesn't get a holiday. The reason mainly is that it would be crass and wrong to say that it is anything other than my own fault. But to stretch a metaphor a bit, my sail has been full with job, volunteerism, babies, moving, caring about politics, the environment, for so long now that the rudder has been tied off. The heading is set and the halyard has been locked in.

I need an anchor

or the keel is going to wear away...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nice Kids

Don't you wish that you could live your life as simply as children do? Things are good and bad. We pick up our toys when we're done. Nobody bothers us if we need to take a nap. Snacks are ok...and sometimes, just holding hands and being friendly is a great thing. Alexander and his friend Kendall are watching other kids hit a pinata at Alexander's friend Eddie's 3rd birthday party this weekend. They just waited patiently for their turn. Holding hands.

Hey Man, Like Wow... (Edited)

This post has been removed because the other Stephen Cook was insecure enough in his own business that he had his sibling post to the blog to remove a photo (taken from a public street). I didn't make any judgements or comments other than the fact we had the same name which I thought was funny.

Some people have much more problems than I do...

Update: It also turns out that if you type in Stephen Cook - and his title on the outside of his store...which I won't write here to avoid any further turns up that this post had made it to the second in Google searches. I'm still laughing about that. No wonder he was mad. More people must have clicked on my link.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ford's Baptism

We had a lovely weekend with Meredith's parents, sister's family, two cousin's families, my parents, sister, godparents to Alex and Ford and friends celebrating Ford's baptism. The outfit he is wearing was originally bought in Vietnam by my mother's parents for the baptism of my mother's younger sister Louisa. I and my siblings wore it at our baptism as well as Alexander to his.

It was special having so many people there. We are truly blessed with friends and family. Our love goes to Kathy and Gary Griffin, Ford's Godparents. They gave Ford a child's book of prayers and one of bible stories. It was a successful weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sugar...Buh..buh...bah..bah..Ahh, Honey, Honey.

I've got high blood sugar. Officially (cause the letter says so) I've got diabetes. So, I'm on a blood sugar medication to reduce the tolerance level in addition to the other one to reduce the blood pressure. If I don't make the changes, then parts of my anatomy which I'm particularly fond of - feet...may wither and fall off. Or the kidneys will clog up and shut down...or the heart goes phfttt. Or inumerable other things may happen to me. Including getting hit by a truck.

Nothing else new however...I need to continue on the weight loss and excercise. I'm walking about a mile a day and would like to increase that amount. Yesterday, I cajoled Alexander into walking around the subdivision with me by telling him we're going out to fight bad jedi with out lightsabers. That worked up until the point halfway around when he started asking where the "real jedi" were.

Yesterday was also a banner day for Alex when he piped up in a restaurant with Meredith that he saw a man with only one leg. He then proceeded to laugh uproarously. Meredith had to calm him down and explain that sometimes people have bad accidents or have gotten hurt somehow to only have one leg.

If you were three and you first saw someone hopping around with one leg and a walker wouldn't you think they looked funny? Anyway, Meredith handled it fantastic. Alexander really does have a sympathetic ear for people when he understands what's going on.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Weight Loss and Life

I'm on the Weight Watchers Flex Plan diet with Meredith helping me out. Its a lot easier tracking points during the day and evening when I can just do it over the computer. I don't even have to think about the calculations and I can manipulate the serving amounts with ease.

This is all precipitated by going to the doctor last Tuesday. I've been feeling rather run down - problems with occasional dizziness and blood sugar issues. At my height of weighing I was 276 lbs 2 years ago. Since then, I'm down to 260 and I need to lose the 60 extra pounds. By the charts I'm supposed to weigh something like 170 or something...but I'm not sure I could do that. If I can make it to 200 I'll be happier.

In addition to the doctor's office, I had to go get a battery of blood/sugar/fluids tested. That was last Saturday and took up my entire morning. I had to drink the orange drink and wait around for two hours then get blood drawn on a regular basis. Hopefully, I'll come in under the "Diabetes" range of the glucose test and just need to work on the lifestyle changes.

The first week hasn't been that hard. The more difficult time will be on Sunday after church with all of the snacks out...and then the following weeks as I start having cravings for Whataburgers and Mexican Food.

So far, Subway has been a friend. I can have a 6" Roast Beef sandwich with lots of veggies, no cheese and spicy mustard and a bag of Lays Baked Sour Cream and Onion Chips and a Diet Coke for $6 and only 400 calories.

Lastly, I've been scared straight with the news that one of my good friends suffered a heart attack this past weekend. He's going to recover, but it scared him and his family something awful. I can't imagine what they went through as it was happening. He's a bit older than I am, and smokes, but he has a much more relaxed viewpoint on life than I do. I have to make the changes now...or I'm putting my whole family at risk.

So, if you and I go out to lunch or dinner...encourage me to get the healthy choice. I've always needed friends to kick me in the butt on occasion to keep me moving forward.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Catch Up!

This weekend was a good family weekend. It started off with Friday evening that I was able to get much of my workload done for the week so I felt like I've actually accomplished something. Second, Meredith and the boys came down to my work for lunch.

On Saturday we went to the Fort Worth Zoo, where we have memberships, and participated in a Baylor Alumni Diadeloso Event (Day of the Bear). There were door prizes and we met some very nice Baylor Alumns. We were even singled out as a "mixed marriage" of Aggie to Baylor Bear as well. Hey...I wore green and yellow for the day. The zoo was packed. There were more people visiting the zoo than I have seen in a long time. Afterwards, we went home and all of us slept for the afternoon. Alex and I are slowly watching through "The Lord of the Rings" making sure that we skip over the really scary parts.
Today we went to church and then went to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. It was really nice seeing several Denton friends from my time working at the city. I was even told by one of the police officers that I should apply for the Director of Planning position. He said that he felt I could do a really good job at it. I'm not so sure. I'm having a little heartburn over presenting my first divisional budget tomorrow morning as well as attempting to hire my first person solo in the coming week. Lots of little stressers that depending on how well I do, will be reflected in my performance review as a manager.
The past week has been a time of working on the house. I've repaired the hole in my ceiling that I placed (2'x3') by falling through from the attic while looking for a wayward Easter basket. Dad came over last Saturday and we repaired the hole rather well. I've also installed new florescant lighting in my garage and have planted herbs, tomatoes and okra in the garden. It seems like I'm always working at accomplishing something.
I'm thinking I may take Friday off.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


After some time off from blogging...mainly because of the vast amount of time that has been spent on Life 2.0 upgrade I've been having lately...I can sit down and write some stuff out.

Its been a little hectic with the two boys. Alexander has started showing a little of the small regressions including some bathroom problems, wanting to sleep in our bed a little more and being overly loud at times attempting to get our attention. Ford has decided that 8pm is his bedtime - thank you very much - and lets us know under no uncertain terms that he is mad if we don't hit that time. Also, car trips are not his favorite pasttime, particularly when the car is stopped.

We've had some lovely outings though. A couple of weeks ago we found out that Thomas the Tank Engine was in Grapevine pulling the passenger cars along the Cotton Belt Line. We only found out about it late in the day from the news. So we packed up and went out to see if we could find Thomas. Luckily we arrived just as they were disconnecting Thomas from the cars. We got to see them put Thomas on the turntable and park him. Later in the afternoon we went to Grapevine's Botanical Garden and playground.

Adding to the stress that Life 2.0 has created - I have been promoted at work. I'm now the Planning Official and I report to the Director of Planning and Engineering. Its a lovely raise and a ton more work, but since Meredith isn't teaching this semester...its a good upgrade.

One of my first things as the new Planning Official was to go to Texas A&M to a Sustainable Urbanism conference. We heard from James Howard Kunstler - a bit of a rabble rouser of a speaker - on the end of the oil boom in the country and the beginning of a period in gloabl history in which we need to focus more on the local habitation of our communities rather than how we will be able to focus globally.

This next week I will be setting up interviews for a new planner position and hopefully I can get someone on board that will help me with the development review items.

Life is good. Its just a little stressful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Changes in Attitude - Changes in Lattitude

I'm not moving again. My boss and friend is letting go of the job situation because of personality conflicts. He's going on to a better prospect with knowledgeable people about the process of planning. I'm going to attempt to fill his shoes at my job as best as I can. With the knowledge that the same type of conflicts may arise again. So I've got to be prepared. I'm a team player, but as I learned in Denton, even good teams are split up if the coaching isn't there.

Meredith took some photos of Alexander and Ford to record Ford's progress through his first month. He's filled out and gained at least a pound and a half and has cleared up his slightly yellow tinge from a small touch of jaundice. We're still having to deal with a bit of the snuffle nose during the night, but hopefully when everything isn't blooming quite so much, that will clear up as well.

The weather has been really dry this month. We haven't had the rainfall we're used to in March. It keeps threatening to rain the past week, but a large high pressure system in the Gulf has been keeping the instability to the west. My yard needs the rain, and I don't want to be greatly increasing my water bill quite yet.

Friday, March 9, 2007

One Week of New Baby

What a week. Meredith is doing well at recovery. She stayed her required three days in bed and only today did she venture out of the house with all of us in the Rentzes' Cadallac to Central Market. We enjoyed their snacks and bought a modest amount of items. Ford had his first car ride and big brother Alexander was able to go play on the playground.

Alexander and I had a "Alex and Daddy" afternoon. We went to the library and checked out some books on Dinosaurs, and a book on history. We then went to go have the Honda's oil changed. Then we made a quick detour to CompUSA where they're closing the Hurst store. It took all of Daddy's willpower to not buy the MacPowerBook Pro right then and there. It runs SO fast.

Afterwards we hit Toys-R-Us where Alex scored a Lightning McQueen Racecar and some Star Wars Galactic Heroes (Bespin Luke and Lando Calrissian). We then went to Best Buy where Daddy upgraded his headphones for his ipod.

We had a nice day. Tomorrow I'm going to be spending it with my friends over at Hot Chocolates and will be attending the Grapevine Chocolate Festival where I will be a representative of the company. Yeah! It should be a ton of fun.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Alexander's Baby Brother

Alexander through the whole new baby experience has really been a trooper. He was with his Nonna and Papa during the actual birth and only asked to be taken out once (during one of Meredith's more vocal moments). Most of the day he had spent playing with Nonna and Papa either upstairs or out walking. He even ran an errand with Nonna.

Lots of people have talked about Alexander having regression into being a younger child. Perhaps we're still way early in the process (Ford only being 3 days old) but I seem to have seen a greater maturity in Alexander that wasn't there before. He's going to the bathroom by himself without help - he's learning to accept me telling him to go to sleep with out having to use Meredith as a crutch...he's only been absolutely gentle and loving towards his grandparents and to Ford as a tiny baby.

I just want to make sure that they don't have the sometimes great explosions of anger that my brother and I had while growing up. I was too controlling - he was a little lax. We didn't have much in common for much of our under 20s. We have become much closer in the last several years, both when he lived in Aubrey and having now moved to Maine. I love my brother, and of course my sister (who I get to see very often)...but because of Alexander and Ford's relationship in ages is going to mirror my brother's and my own so similarly, I want to help them along as much as possible.

They will be enemies, comrades, co-conspirators and accomplices, but as they will forever be brothers, the most I want for them is to be friends.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Ford Christopher Cook March 3, 2007

We welcome into the world, Ford Christopher Cook! Here are the particulars up front:

Born on March 3, 2007 at 3:03pm
Weight 8lbs 2oz
Length 21in
Hair: blonde

About 9:00pm on Friday, Meredith started to feel a little bad. Alexander and I were watching a movie with Meredith's mother, Brooksie (Grandmama). Around 10:00 Meredith said that she really felt like she was having contractons on a regular basis so we called the midwife, the birth photographer (to give her a heads up), my Mom (Nonna) and Meredith's sister Anglea to say:

"We might be having a baby."

After Alexander was in bed, I took a small nap and Grandmama stayed up with Meredith watching late-night television to about 2:30am. We then called the midwife to come over. Meredith had only progressed about 3cm. So the midwife went back home to sleep while we worked at Meredith progressing.

We called Bonnie Kitchens our Midwife about 11am. She came over and Meredith had only progressed about half a cm. That was really discouraging. She had worked so hard for so little progression. Additionally, we hadn't had that much sleep so her fatigue level was increasing. We moved from the side of the bed on the balance ball to the bathtub several times - and increased our walking around. Meredith also did a little pregnancy yoga to help reposition the baby a little since he was riding high.

Meredith's family and my mom were really big help throughout the day. She finally progressed around noon and by 3pm she was pushing hard. Like the powerful woman that she is...she was able to do it with as little stress as can be expected.

The black and white photos above are from Meredith's professional birth photographer. They turned out fantastic.

Meredith and Ford are doing terrific and are nursing well.

Happy day.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dance Dance Revolution

Friday night our friends came over for the evening. We had homemade pizzas and bellini drinks in the Vita-Mix and played Dance Dance Revolution on the XBOX. Kids played and babies were discussed. Meredith's mother Brooksie arrived a couple of days earlier. She is here for the duration as we are now in official "Any Day Mode" on waiting for the baby.

Meredith is getting rather tired now and I think she's about had enough of her body rebelling against motion, activity and generally getting around. She has really started to get into the groove of keeping the house ready for the new baby. There are plenty of things that we've done already and plenty more to do.

We even are in agreement about the possibility of a name...which will most likely be withheld until the day of.

We're planning on having the baptism for the new baby at the Pentecost service rather than Easter service (both traditional days for the Episcopalian Church) mainly because we don't want to interrupt people's family Easter celebration for our baby's baptism.

The Oscars were this evening. I really didn't have a horse in the running so I didn't much care to watch. I mostly played video games this evening, then went and worked on my consulting job for a couple of hours. Meredith and I have watched Little Miss Sunshine which we enjoyed. But we haven't seen any of the others. The last movie I saw in the theater was King Kong in December 2005 and Meredith went with Alexander to watch a movie called Doogal...which she didn't like very much. Previous to that for her was Star Wars Revenge of the Sith - summer 2005. So its been a while.

Random thoughts for late in the evening. Too much root beer.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Umm...Was That A Snake?

At lunch today, Clayton and I took a detour and stopped by the local Staples office supply store. Clayton wanted to purchase a new Palm Pilot handheld. As we are waiting in line to checkout Clayton taps me on the shoulder and tells me that a young woman has just entered the store with a python wrapped around her shoulders.

I turn to find her. But she has walked down into the aisles. After only a short wait however, she reappears towards the front of the store. She's of average height and weight - slightly auburn hair in a more "Big Texas Hair" kind of way...and a 7' green spotted python wrapped twice around her shoulders. Walking in a "you can't ignore the big snake" kind of way around the store.

I told Clayton that nothing screams "Look at me!" than a 7' snake.

It just goes to the mind the previous mental conversations before leaving the house:

"Should I - or should I not - wear the snake?"

"Would it clash with what I'm wearing?"

"Can I look less like an exotic dancer/stripper/insert your fancy here while wearing the snake?"

"Do I know anyone willing to wrestle the thing if I inadvertently scare it and it decides to go for full strength stranglehold?"

The mind boggles.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I've been having some strange dreams lately.

The first was one late last week. I was sent to work in an office towards the back of a building. Not my current building...just in the back. The overhead lights weren't working and there weren't any windows. The only light I had was from the computer monitor and small desk lamp. I couldn't work there very often because there was always someone on the computer trying to fix it.

So I would wander in the rest of the building. For some reason, the library was on the next floor at the top of an escalator. I went in and all of the books were law book bindings. After going to the library I was notified that I would have to move offices into a glass encased office just above the central atrium of the building. With absolute no privacy and everyone entering the building could see into the office.

All this happening while I was wearing a white t-shirt with a blue collar and blue cuffs on the sleeves and in red print on the front:


Could someone explain to me what that means?

The second dream was a bit more jarring. I was visiting my parents who have seemed to have moved into a subdivision at the top of a fairly steep hill. As I was leaving their house in a car, there is a street going down the hill at a 40% grade then turns at an oblique angle. A large barricade was in place to deter any launching off of the road into the water off of a cliff.

Obviously in R.E.M. sleep where was my car going to go? Off the cliff and into shouting at the ceiling at 3:30 in the morning.

No wonder I'm nervous all of the time. I don't have nightmares. I have frustrating dreams.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Brave Combo Still Subversive

Brave Combo, The City of Denton's "House Band" played Tuesday night at the end of the 150th anniversary party hosted by the City of Denton. They debuted their new song about Denton and not even the Denton Record Chronicle picked up the slightly subversive tone to the song.

Here are the lyrics:

Troubled times don’t get us down in Denton town.
Troubled times don’t get us down in Denton town.…

Life is best in the home of happiness.
Peaceful rest in the home of happiness.…

When it’s dark, we’ll find a light.
We’re Dentonites!
Polka hard, with all your might, Dentonites!
Polka hard, with all your might, Dentonites!

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, DANCE!
Troubled times don’t get us down in Denton town. …

Ya la la la la loo la la.

What's really funny about the lyrics is the reference to Denton being the "Home of Happiness" which is a direct reference to the movie: Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which at the very beginning of the movie, the lead characters, Brad and Janet sing a love song Dammit Janet in the churchyard with a huge billboard in the background stating -

Denton - The Home of Happiness

I just think that's funny.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I miss my fantasy life. Not the one of teenage variety (that one wasn't that much anyway). No, I miss watching Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica as a 8 year old and feeling the way the show's soundtrack moved me to want to fly in the stars. Sometimes, listening to the music in my car, or with Alexander I get those flashes of how it felt to dream like that. Its difficult to hold onto it for very long. Immediacy and responsibility tie you to the ground as if you were formed with it millions of years ago.

I truly believe that I've been cursed with good long-term memory. Sure it helps out in Trivial Pursuit games, but with technicolor and THX surround-sound recall of past events intimidates and frustrates me more often than not. Coupled with the sense of ultimate responsibility for when things go wrong...I get to enjoy that sense of "what could I have done to forgo this feeling of failure" on a continual daily basis.

Even at night my subconscious loves dredging up times in which I said the wrong thing, did the wrong action, killed the wrong butterfly that spurred the wrong hurricane across the world. There can be a case stated (not a very good one I might add) for taking drugs to just shut the whole thing down for a time. A brief respite from reliving life. Thank God I'm not this poor woman: Link.

But I can't do that. And the staff report has to be done. The house needs to be cleaned. The responsibilities have to be accomplished. In this strip center, highway sign existence we've doomed ourselves to inhabit.

And I'll get to remember it all. Forever.

The Downward Spiral

Anybody who knows me knows that I have a hard time seeing the successes in life. Holistic viewpoints rarely do. Entropy and disorder are my bane. No matter how well you stack them end to end, the books are going to slide on the shelf.
Yesterday was my shelf sliding day. Beginning at 5 am with Meredith and Alexander and I all waking up at the same time and in good moods (we had all gone to sleep early) I made strawberry and banana smoothies and left for the day.
7:57 am - email from the city manager - the council has questions about tonight's agenda.
10:00 am - meeting with the city manager - provide a new analysis and presentation by this afternoon.
Skipping lunch and foregoing other responsibilities we complete the task.
6:00 pm - I watch my boss get yelled at for the actions of developers. Ultimately it's the developer's decision to design his own site and put it forward to the council.
We've been told not to express our opinions. We've been told not to make recommendations. Its the Council's decision to approve or deny. We're only presenting the facts of the development.
Now we're told they want a full analysis of all development coming into the city.
I can provide reams - and tell them exactly what is going wrong.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kudos, Teeth and Ice

Sorry about the gap in time from my last post. Lots of life has been occurring since last I wrote.

I've finally completed the majority of work I've been contracted out for my consulting gig, while receiving praise from my boss. That really made me feel terrific. Also on the same day the City Manager for my full-time employment told my director that I performed well in a meeting earlier in the week and that he was impressed by my handling of the meeting and concluded that I was a "good hire." So work things are going well.

We had another bout with the ice on the roadways last week. Which didn't do well for my tension. The snow day on Wednesday closed the City, but I still worked 8 hours that day on my consulting gig trying to get it completed. Sun on Sunday was greatly appreciated.

We had Alexander's teeth done on Friday the 12th. We arrived at 6:30am at the hospital for him to be put in general anesthesia to fill 5 teeth and cap (baby root canal) three others. Meredith did a terrific job at getting all of the pre-op appointments, payment, and scheduling all done without me having to do any of it. I could take the day off and support Alex. He was a real trooper. Still groggy from the early wake-up morning, they gave him a mild sedative to calm him down. It was humorous watching a stoned three-year old. He was giggling quietly to himself. Bobbing his head and swaying to and fro. Finally he closed his eyes and put his finger to his nose and told Meredith:

"Mommy, I can't see my finger."

It was nice to have a light moment before the parental stress. Everything was completed within two hours. Meredith and Alex napped the rest of the afternoon. He now wants to show people his "Superman Gold Teeth" although his caps are stainless steel. Soft teeth due to antibiotics and irregular brushing led us to this point. You better believe we're very strict on the brushing morning and night with a good fluoride toothpaste.

We're having to say goodbye to Meredith and Alex's friends Gina and Pat and their son Drew. Drew has been Alexander's friend for almost two years now. They're moving to Ithica, NY in a couple of weeks. We went to they're going away party last night.

Whatever you do, don't see the movie "Click" with Adam Sandler. Weird movie that starts off as a comedy and then progresses into self-reflection in the vein of "Its a Wonderful Life" but much more depressing. I was in tears at the end of it and didn't like it at all.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Are Ugly Cities Killing Ourselves in a Competitive World?

I'm not going out on a limb here. There are surely some quantifiable studies on social aspects of environment to the ability to think, focus, and be competitive in a capitalistic society. However, because I am a product (currently) of that system...and this is my opinion blog, rather than my professional newsletter...I can say whatever I want.

So I'm saying this. Ugly cities contribute to complacency in people. We settle for what is easy and cheap. It shows in our land layout (urban design); our traffic patterns, landscaping and most of all: our architecture. Who can feel inspired by a strip center? Who wants to go out and see the latest construction of the McDonalds or these days...the Chick-Fil-A? Our urban communities are drowning in land uses which are not going to be sustainable for the next 50, let alone 20 years. How many dead Wal-Marts are there? I can think of about 4 that have yet to be adequately redeveloped. Luckily in Denton the dead K-Mart was finally razed (after 4 years of vacancy) to be developed in what is hoped to be a sustainable mixed-use environment.

What does all this say about our competitive nature in the world economy? We're not willing to create. We're only willing to assemble. The parts of our buildings are pre-arraigned. The shiny metal boxes of our vehicles pumping life-blood of petroleum into the atmosphere. I'm guilty of it as well. I live in a suburban community. Large lot, big house...25 mile commute to work - no HOV for me - I drive alone. That's the choice I have. I would ride the train if I could. It would relax me more I think.

Cities in Asia are planning the future of economics, while Americans want their hamburgers and security devices to keep us safe from "the bad guys". Check out Tony Nelessen's presentation to the Texas APA in October concerning Asian Cities compared to American counterparts.

We need beauty in our cities and our lives. Otherwise we're going to be ground into dust like these buildings will be in the next 50 years.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Sitting on the Mobius Strip

Had a great time over the New Year's Holiday. Sunday evening we went to our friend's house (The Uggens) and had a pajama party to ring in the new year. Everyone, the kids and the adults, wore their tasteful pj's for the evening. There was a family from the Uggen's neighborhood who had the cutest little 3-year-old girl with long blonde hair who immediately attached onto Alexander as a new best friend for the night. They played well. She even invited him to her birthday party in February...which was kinda funny.

We played Cranium Pop 5 which was a fun, fast game of guessing. Meredith turned out to be a terrific player in acting, drawing and sculpting. Krista and Erika were fantastic guessers.

The one play of the night was Christopher guessing a Celebrity: "Dolly Parton" before any clue was given whatsoever.

We didn't get home until almost 3am. It was that much fun. We're hoping to have them all over to our house later in the month.

That's what friends are really for.