Monday, May 31, 2010

It helps to have someone to lean on...

Another mid-90 degree day in Longview prompted a late afternoon Memorial Day trip to the aptly named Longview Mall. After Lover sorted through a stack of Chick-Fil-A calendar coupons (we got three of them this past year for Christmas and we dutifully use the coupons each month), we loaded the kids up in the Prism and fired up the AC for the 10 minute trip.

Clutching our "Free Small Handspun Milkshake" coupons, we parked near the JCPenny door and scampered inside with the double stroller. We wound our way past painfully empty stores and "who thought this was a good idea?" kiosks scattered down the middle of the mall. Sam and Titus were unusually calm and quiet as we meandered through the echoing halls.

We waited in line for our milkshakes (Lover got a peach flavored one and I chose cookies and cream) and then continued our walking tour of the mall. We came across a group of kids having a grand old time on the children's rides, so we dug through Lover's purse and found $.75 to cover the cost of the riding horse. Didn't those things used to cost a quarter? Evidently, "times is hard" for the children's rides...

We naturally assumed that riding the horsey would be the best way for Sam to celebrate our trip to the mall. Naturally, we assumed wrong.

And then it got awkward.

Sam started kicking and screaming in terror when we tried to place him on the mechanical horse. You'd have thought he had experienced a severe traumatic fall off a horse or that he was bitten by a huge stallion at one point...the poor kid was just petrified. Having put the quarters in the machine and determined that we would get our money's worth, we quickly decided that Lover should get on the horse WITH Sam to make the ride more bearable.

I couldn't stop laughing as I watched my brave Lover climb on this decrepit mechanical horse while Sam clung to her in abject terror. He calmed down after a bit of fussing and I am happy to report that he did derive some enjoyment from the experience. It was quite the sight to behold. At least we got our $.75 worth of fun...and fortunately I had the camera out to record the adventure.

We kept walking after the horse ride and just a few shops down the hall we came across this
scene on one of the mall benches. I am SO angry about the timing of this picture, because it looks like the couple on the right side of the bench is just sitting near each other. But make no mistake: they were MUGGING each other just before I snapped the picture. It looked like we were back in Paris at the Metro stations where PDA is standard operating procedure...I mean, these kids were just making out like no one was around. Meanwhile, the poor sap on the left side of the bench just sat there listening to his headphones. Painfully awkward. My guess? He had to go to the mall with his sister and hang out while she played kissy face with her 9th grade boyfriend. It would have been legendary if I could have gotten a good picture of the amorous festivities, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.

We enjoyed the rest of our walk and made it back to the car for the ride home. As we drove home, we went down Judson Road and saw that it was lined with American flags in honor of Memorial Day. I thought about my friends and relatives that have served our country and realized that our whole trip to the mall was just a small glimpse of what Memorial Day is all about.

Sam needed to know that his momma was there for him on the horse...she was on his side and she protected him from what terrified him. It's good to know that you've got folks that are WITH you...that you can lean on.

I thought about the silly bench couple that couldn't keep their hands off each other and I remembered how it felt to have a ridiculous crush in middle school. It's good to know that you've got folks that are WITH you...that you can lean on.

Incidentally, I lucked out and ended up married to my middle school crush...and as we drove home with the boys sleeping in the back seat, I thought, "It's good to know that you've got folks that are WITH you...that you can lean on."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Broken AC...and me

Several weeks ago we took Lover's 1993 Geo Prism to a local auto repair shop to have the air conditioner fixed. The wonderfully frigid air was certainly worth the $800 bill, especially as the temperatures here in East Texas push towards triple digits. Now we ride around town as a family in the little ol' Prism, taking no prisoners at estate sales, Starbucks, and the Wal-Mart parking that car.

And then it got awkward.

A few days after we got the Geo back, I noticed that my 1996 VW was not kicking out the cold jets from the air vents. This was, to put it mildly, horribly frustrating. "NOT AGAIN!" This is merely the latest in a long string of maladies suffered by the Passat. For instance, the passenger side rear door has no handle and can't even be opened from the inside. It is stuck shut forever. The driver's side door does not open from the outside, so every time I want to get in my car I use my keys to roll down the windows (cool VW feature, I know) and open the door from the inside.

The Passat in Better Days

The trunk locking mechanism doesn't work, so if I want to haul stuff I literally have to put my back seat down and stuff items through the small opening. The windshield has a huge crack in it, the paint on the top of the car has started to peel off, and the nearly 160,000 miles on the car are embarrassingly evident.

And don't even get me started on how annoying it is to shove a car seat (with a JUMBO fat baby in it) all the way across to the passenger side of the back seat from the driver's side rear door...once I shove the boys into their seats in the back, we roll through town with steamy Longview air blasting our faces. Three glistening gingers riding in a little white Passat...quite a scene we create.

I've learned to deal with these little annoyances and we've made the decision to stick with this car until it dies (even though we saw a classy little scooter for sale on the side of the road today). The Passat is certainly not perfect, but it's paid for, and it gets us from Point A to Point B. So it's a "working broken" car, and for now it'll have to do.

This idea of the Passat being a "working broken" car resonates with me because my life could be described in exactly the same way..."working broken". And if we were honest, we'd probably agree that the description fits all of us. And sometimes, car repairs can be a great metaphor for bigger "repairs" that need to be made.

One of my co-workers, Natrone Means, recently suffered a car repair episode with his jeep. The car repair hit at the exact time that Natrone decided to make a major change in his life for the better. He's got a "crack in his windshield", but he's moving forward. Couldn't be more proud of him for taking the steps he's taking.

My car repair issues have come to a head recently, but they've actually been developing slowly over the past few years. And like I said, the car still runs and can get me from home to work, but there are a lot of parts that don't work. My life is the same, and there are a lot of unhealthy issues that have developed slowly over the past few years. When did I start eating so poorly and watching endless hours of TV? What made me think that it would be okay to not spend good time in God's Word on a regular basis? How did it become so easy to disconnect from what's going on in my own family when I feel worn out and tired? Why do I feel so inconsistent in every area of life (work, church, home, etc)?

These "life repair" issues have caused a lot of self-examination and with the help of an excellent life coach, I am trying to make some significant changes. But I'm quickly realizing that no matter how hard I try, I'm always going to be "working broken". You can try and try, but you can't ever fix everything. This reality drives me a little bit crazy.

The kids are always going to wake up early and interrupt my time with God, and no matter how cute they are in some moments, they're just as annoying in other moments. I'll have a miscommunication with Lover and feel like we're not on the same page, and then a few moments later I'll look at her and wonder how I got so lucky to end up with her. I'll eat too much, work out too little, and feel terribly out of shape and then someone at work will ask, "Have you lost weight?". I'll ignore people that could be great friends and isolate myself because it's easier, and then feel frustrated when I don't have good relationships...and then some old faithful friend will call just to see how I'm doing.

It's a big, messy, awkward pursuit...and I am becoming more confident that in the midst of my broken approach to life, God is working. And His work is always good, despite how awkward it may seem.

So the VW keeps rolling.

It's gonna be a scorching hot summer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

There goes the neighborhood...

We have been talking for awhile about putting together a neighborhood event where we could meet the folks that live on our street. Lover bit the bullet and got together some invitations and we walked from house to house in the blistering Sunday afternoon heat a few weeks back and passed out the invitations.

She did a great job setting up the cookout and I made it home from work just in time to welcome folks to our home. We ended up having 4 families show up (along with their 10 kids) and the hot dogs and hamburgers were flying off the grill. The ladies gathered on the lawn and several of us manly men ended up standing out by the fence watching the kids run to and fro.

And then it got awkward.

As the kids ran past us for the umpteenth time, several of us caught a whiff of a foul odor. Suspecting the tiny culprits prancing at our feet, we went into full detective mode. The ladies joined us as we sniffed bottoms, did visual checks, and asked if kids had made poo poo. After a minute or two of searching, we found nothing.


I continued to stand and talk with the dads while Lover rejoined the ladies in a conversation circle. I began to suspect that one of the two Mormon lawyers standing near me was the guilty party. Maybe the potato salad was the cause? They were both wearing sunglasses and seemed possibly guilty of the offense.

At one point I muttered something about "perhaps a cat was back here" as a way to let the guilty party off the hook. The smell was overwhelming and in the sweltering heat it was just getting worse and worse.

The party ended when the kids hit meldown stage, and everyone left and agreed that we should do this more often. It was a great evening and Lover and I cleaned up and came back into the comfort of air condition and laughed as we talked about everything.

We couldn't stop laughing about the mysterious, awful odor and we went to bed feeling like we had made great progress in building new friendships. It was encouraging to take a step outside of our comfort zone and invest in the people surrounding us. I thought that night about how it literally does "stink" to build new just takes time to get to a place of comfort and ease. In the meantime, it's hundreds of starts and stops ("So, what is your favorite music?"), misunderstandings and miscommunications ("So, what does it mean that you're the bishop of the local LDS group?"). It takes a ton of work...but we believe it's worth it and so we put up with the initial "stench" because we feel the reward will be sweet.

The next morning, I was sitting on the couch with Titus and it hit me:
That stink wasn't the Mormon lawyers. It was me!

We had recently noticed some fireants crawling near Sam's sandbox and were understandably worried that they would bite him if we didn't get rid of them. I had a potent powder (smelled like rotten eggs spiked with sulfur) that dealt with ants, and I spread it all around the sandbox and surrounding areas. The stuff was just toxic.

After a few days of the sprinklers running in the backyard, the powder was no longer visible. And the evening of the bbq came and I thought nothing of it...

But it reeked. And we all smelled it.

And I'm sure all of the dads think it was me.


Saturday, May 22, 2010


The point of this blog is exceedingly simple: to celebrate awkwardness. I'm choosing to believe that I'm simply noticing more awkward situations, not necessarily creating awkwardness. Nevertheless, it seems that the awkwardness in my life is increasing.

By way of introduction, I have a charming wife I call "Lover", and two wonderful little pale-skinned, red-headed boys (Sam and Titus). These are the primary characters in my pursuit of life, love and happiness. There are many others that will participate in this story, and each of them are vibrant and colorful characters that bring a host of quirks and imperfections to the table.

And my introduction? Well, I'm learning to find beauty in the awkward pursuit. It's the best way I've been able to come to terms with this journey that is NEVER perfect and ALWAYS awkward. The rest is just details...

It begins.