My first day at college

I went to college for the first time this week. Got really nervous in the car, and was shaking by the time we arrived on campus. Maybe we should have walked – it’s so much more enjoyable. Next time we go in a car, let’s make sure the windows are down so all of us can enjoy plenty of fresh air.

My friend let me hang out while he made phone calls and did other work in his office. I was still pretty wound up and excited, and (being very curious by nature) began nosing around the building. One of his co-workers was especially welcoming and talked to me as though we were old friends; he didn’t seem to mind me wandering in and out of his office.

Just as I was beginning to relax, one of my very best friends showed up. I was speechless, as we hadn’t seen one another for some time. She embraced me warmly and showered me with kisses; I responded with my own affectionate gestures at every opportunity. We went for a short walk to enjoy the autumn sun and stretch our legs before she left for her next class. I had forgotten how beautiful this woman is, and how my heart leaps at the sight of her.

Nothing was on the schedule until mid-afternoon, so I settled into a comfortable corner and closed my eyes. Never really fell asleep, however, as for some reason I felt obligated to go out and meet each person who came into the building.

My friend came back after her class and escorted me to what I assumed was our afternoon meeting. We headed to her dorm instead. I wondered if there might be any concerns about having a male in her room, but she assured me she had checked it out with the residence life staff.

We’d only been in her room a few minutes when she partially undressed and got into bed. She invited me to crawl in with her and I did so without thinking; actually, we’ve done this hundreds of times. I listened to her talk as we snuggled under the covers. We dozed occasionally, each appreciating the warmth of the other’s body. Nothing else happened, and that’s just as well. My breath wasn’t fresh, and I wasn’t particularly well-groomed that day. At dusk she walked me back to my friend’s office where we bid each other a fond farewell.


I’ve been scratching my head over why that day was so baffling and exhausting. I couldn’t make heads or tails of conversations, and can’t really picture myself in classrooms or the library, or handling books and computers, or writing papers or lab reports. There’s a lot to chew on, but at this point I’m not at all sure college life is for me.

Here’s a pic of me with my lady friend:

Odie and LOL


Today I learned more than I wanted to know about taxi fares in Chicago:

chicago taxi fares

Sometimes gratitude and perspective come from the most unexpected places.

Kindness + attitude = Zack

When Zack answered a call yesterday, the caller asked if she had reached “Emily.” Zack inquired as to who was calling. “Sharon” identified herself and said she was calling for Emily.

Zack – whose voice is deeper than mine – said, “Sharon, do I sound to you like an Emily?”

When Sharon realized she had a wrong number and apologized, Zack responded, “It’s okay, Sharon. I forgive you.”

Sharon ended this perfect moment by hanging up.

Stupid parents

I have two teenage kids, so couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this on someone’s wall earlier this year:

Tired of being hassled by stupid parents?
Move out, get a job, and start paying all of your own expenses.
And do it now, while you still know everything!

That shoe doesn’t fit all of the time, but it fits like a glove some of the time!

O Christmas tree…

2012 Charlie Brown tree

The last time we brought a fresh Christmas tree into the house, both kids started sneezing their heads off, and stopped as soon as we removed the tree. Since then we’ve had a fake, sneeze-free tree.

This year Susan noticed a Douglas fir in the backyard that was already about ten feet tall. Left on its own, it would become a beautiful, spreading tree completely overwhelming the yard and blocking neighbors’ views. One neighbor planted their Christmas tree years ago; it’s now more than 50 feet tall.

We decided to harvest the tree in back and give the fake one a year off. But when I put it up in the living room, it revealed big bare patches, a heavy circle of spiky branches around the top, and a general lack of the symmetry we usually associate with Christmas trees. It was not beautiful.

We appreciate how Lauren’s taken ownership of getting lights and ornaments on the tree and putting up many of the household decorations in recent years. When she saw this year’s tree, however, she announced that she wouldn’t decorate such an ugly one. When Lauren lobbied for getting out the fake tree, I was ready to deliver a mini-lecture and then argue with her. Thankfully, Susan stepped in to save the day: she suggested that each of us put three ornaments on the tree before watching a movie. How sensible. How thoughtful. How manageable. We did it, and not too long afterward the decorated tree didn’t look quite so bad.

I’m learning to recognize teachable moments when I see them, and this one has to do with more than one way to think about a set of circumstances:

  • It’s the freshest tree we’ve ever had.
  • It’s locally grown.
  • Dad cut it.
  • It’s green – he dragged it all the way home without using a car.
  • It’s a Charlie Brown tree.

That’s this year’s story, and we’re stickin’ with it. And even though we’ve often left our tree up until the twelfth day of Christmas (Jan 6), it’s already down. The kids were sniffling and sneezing (though not as much as before), and none of us were too sorry to get it out the door.

* * * * * * * * * *

Around Christmas we can load ourselves up with expectations for welcoming our perfect families and friends into our perfectly-decorated homes to serve them perfect meals and exchange perfect gifts. But once upon a time, people expected the arrival of a Messiah who would be a conquering hero and a political leader. The Messiah came instead as a baby, the weakest and most dependent of creatures, and there wasn’t even a clean or comfortable place where this little one could be born. I’m beginning to understand that when my expectations are turned inside out or upside down, it may announce the arrival of something bigger and more wonderful than I could begin to imagine.

Plumbing joke

Our kitchen faucet has been dripping for months. Unlike so many other problems that fix themselves when I ignore them, this one just got worse.

When I mentioned to a plumber that I was reasonably handy,* he said it wouldn’t be difficult to replace the faucet’s cartridge. I believed him (my first mistake) and promptly fell into one of my oldest and most familiar traps: “I should be able to do this.” After all, why would I want to pay a professional who knows what they’re doing and could do it quickly, and thereby deprive myself of the injuries, the aggravation, and repeated trips to the hardware store?

* Probably time to re-examine this assumption

One of the plumbing people at McLendon Hardware sold me the $25 cartridge and loaned me a special tool to help remove the old one. Despite applying all of my might, I failed to get the cartridge out. I did, however, succeed in destroying the faucet.

Back to the hardware store. Returned the $25 part and selected a new faucet for about $180. Now for the simple matter of removing what was left of the old faucet.

No, sir. The twisted metal would not yield, even to the persuasion of an almost two-foot-long pipe wrench. I grunted, thrashed, sweat, swore, and bellowed. I cut my hand on some jagged metal, producing plenty of blood but no progress.

Enter Zack. “How can I help, Dad?” Were there ever sweeter words from a 16 year-old? He crawled under the sink, studied the situation with a flashlight, and soon discovered a hidden nut holding the ruined assembly in place. A few smart turns later and the old faucet was out.

Against all better judgment I had started this project late in the afternoon and it was now almost 11:00 on Sunday evening – time to go to bed. Dirty dishes sat piled up on the counters, and a big assortment of tools and the contents of the under-sink cabinet covered the kitchen floor. Not a good way to end a day or a weekend…

Monday morning I set the new faucet in place and realized one of the supply lines would not fit the existing shutoff valve. Hardware store trip #3. While there I told this joke (one of my Dad’s favorites) to the woman at the plumbing counter:

A plumber had just spent 20 minutes fixing a leak in the basement of a doctor’s home. When he presented his bill for $750, the doctor’s jaw dropped. “You haven’t even been here 30 minutes, and you’re charging me $750? I can’t afford that!”

The plumber nodded. “I know – I couldn’t either when I was a doctor.”

Happily the new faucet went in without further incident. No drips. No leaks. Looks good and works perfectly.

Zack saved the day and my few remaining scraps of sanity. When I apologized to him for being severely frustrated, he said, “I would have been frustrated, too.” What an awesome kid. Maybe when I grow up, I can be as mature as he is.

From the son of a co-worker..

Henri 2, Paw de Deux

Kudos – and many thanks – to Will Braden for this hilarious view of the trials of being a cat.

Tell me again what’s wrong with Google Docs…

Got this email this morning…

…clicked on the Excel Web App link and this came up:

I guess there are a few things that can change or go missing when you use Office Web Apps, too.

My life as a cartoon

Most of us have a pretty good idea of how hard to squeeze a ketchup bottle. But one afternoon in a cafe near the university where I work, applying that much pressure and a little more still wasn’t working. The bottle was full and the nozzle was not clogged.

I set the bottle squarely on the counter and squeezed with both hands. That did it: a stream of ketchup shot almost three feet into the air and came down on top of my head. By some minor miracle no one in the sandwich shop was looking my way at that moment. It took three napkins to blot up the ketchup before returning to my class.

Old age or cabin fever?

You tell me:

  • Susan just finished scrubbing out the dishwasher when she spied an old container of Easy-Off oven cleaner under the kitchen sink. Going from one task right to the next, she began applying the cleaner to our oven, unleashing a powerful wave of chemical odor through the house. It was just above freezing outside, but we cranked the windows open and soon stopped coughing. By the way, our oven is self-cleaning.
  • The residue of Seattle’s infamous ‘Snowmageddon’ was quickly washing away in the rain, but I found myself shoveling slush in the street to create direct channels for water to reach storm drains. Didn’t occur to me until later that water finds its way to those drains every time it rains – without my help.
  • I got up on our almost-flat roof yesterday to make sure that snow wasn’t obstructing the downspouts. Strong winds blew in that night, and a tremendous crash about 3:00 AM reminded our household and neighbors that I’d forgotten to take down the extension ladder I’d used to climb onto the roof.