Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two Point Five Hours in "The Chair".

So I got my crown yesterday. My crown + a filling replacement with composite. A double header so to speak. Two and a half hours of unbridled pain and suffering. All I can do is thank my maker for Novocaine. It is the wonder drug of all time. Now if they could invent a drug or earphones that would neutralize the sound of a high-speed, water cooled drill penetrating my cranium, I'd be all set.

It really isn't the pain thing, thought there is something to that. It's really about the noise, the smell, the agape-ness of my mouth, all of it. It's a bit like being awake for major surgery, really. Let's see, what is the strongest bone in your body? Hmm, your teeth. Let's grind away at those and see if we can make them better. I'm having a hard time with that.

So here's how it works. It's the strangest process I've ever heard of. They started by numbing both sides of my mouth, because my crown was to be upper left and my filling was lower right. Right there, you've got a man who cannot speak, so as a dental professional, stop asking questions. One time I meant to say "Yes, certainly", and it came out as a death moan. She responded "Are you OK?" to which I could only give a thumbs up. Poor boy's been reduced to sign language.

Anyways, once numb, they drilled out both existing fillings, top and bottom. This took what seemed a month and a half. No pain, just a jackhammer resonating in my head for the duration. I shouldn't say no pain, there were moments where I saw Mother Theresa, but they were brief. She says to say hi.

Once drilled out, they then filled the fillings, which seems a bit cyclical to me, but hey, what do I know? Once the filling on the crown tooth had dried, she then pulled out the cursed drill again and started to work on the "remaining tooth" that was outside of the filling. This was done to "shape" the tooth for the eventual crown. Now to see the drill after having been on the receiving end of it for so long, I began to wish bad things about my dentist. Is that wrong? I think so.

Luckily, the post drilling drilling wasn't near as intense. It was still not my first choice for what to do on my summer vacation.

Next they took an impression. Actually they took two impressions, because evidently I'm not good with first impressions. I seemed to have over compensated in biting down on the impression. It's weird how having a big piece of foreign material with bathtub caulk in it in your mouth, will make you do that.

Actually, they took three impressions. Because I failed so bad with the regular impression, I had to take a "bite registration" to send to the flunkies at the lab so that they could account for the guy who couldn't bite normally with a half pound of rubber in his mouth.

Finally, to cap it all off, literally, they super-glued some sort of fako-temporary crown to the remnants of my previous tooth. "Don't chew on that side, brush, floss or enjoy life at all, for the next two weeks. Oh, and pay the lady on the way out."

I was then released to pay for my suffering to the tune of $301.00 out of pocket. "Thank you ma'am may I have another", I thought. What a world.

I took shelter in my vehicle, which given the state of shock and Novocaine after-effects, I should probably not have been driving, to cry into my shirtsleeves. Mama, tell your kids to floss and brush, because I'm...

Blogging off.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah, Michael and Ed

What a week! So many icons of my youth dropping in a week makes me a bit introspective. It all fits into that death and dying thing that seems to be creeping up everytime I begin to forget about it.

Life is but a whisper, and everyone thinks it's just a big long winded story. Not always, my friend. Sometimes its like a sneeze. Sometimes it's like a quick leap over a crack in the sidewalk. Sometimes it's like a raging river and sometimes it's like a muffled scream.

So again, to my point of a few posts ago. Embrace every day. No, embrace every minute of every day. See joy and beauty in the small things.

I saw a college girl walking toward her dorm tonight. Flip flops, hippie purse, skirt and bandana. It occurred to me how simplistic and happy those days were for me. Not the skirt/purse part, but the college student part. I was (am) idealistic, convinced that I was never going to buy into the system of a house in the burbs and 2 cars. Alas, "sigh"...

My point however is that I can still feel how that felt. It seems like last week. While I don't wish it back, I do realize how quickly time passes. Farrah was 62! That's 15 years away for me? And she took good care of herself. I can SEE 62, and I don't know that I want to get there as quick as I'm heading. If you can think of a way to give me the illusion that it's taking longer to get there, let me know. Because I don't want to be blogging this same thing at 62 about becoming 77. I want to be talking about how 62 feels like 47.

Enough ageisticizing.

Went shopping for a new Van today. A super-nice man named Chris helped us. It turns out that by saying we didn't like the white van, another man named Chris said he'd get us a different color for roughly the same price within a week. Sweet. The bad economy makes car shopping a bit less of an ordeal.

I cannot believe how much I miss Sarah's presence. 5 years and I won't have the chance to get her back for good like I do tomorrow. (She's at Camp Invasion for church.) I miss her wit, her beautiful smile and her kisses goodnight. She's a good kid who will hopefully come out of the teen years as "a good kid", or adult, as it were.

Well, it's like 85 degrees in this room and the ceiling is practically bleeding moisture, so I'm going to cut this blog short.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camping to Clear the Mind

I'm on a 3 day sabattical at the Boys Club Crystal River campout. There are sure to be some tales when I return, so check back because right now I'm...

Blogging off.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Three Steps to Insanity.

I was tasked with building a set of stairs to our back yard this past weekend. We have a 24" drop from a rock wall on the upper to the lower backyard area. It seemed like such a simple project. Silly me.

First of all let me start by saying there's a reason I'm not a carpenter or tradesman by choice. I don't much care for it. The other reason I'm not is because I am just not that good at it. I do OK for most projects, but am my own worst critic and so am never completely happy with anything I've done. (Kind of like my writing.)

That said, I took the project on as a challenge to reassert my architectural aptitude.

After much research online and through men friends of mine, I had a good idea of what needed to be done. It was really 3 simple steps.

  1. Secure a 2X6X40" board to the wall
  2. Screw the stringers to the board in #1
  3. Screw the steps to the string

No where was mentioned "Screw up", but that came without provocation anyways.

Shopping Trip #1

The shopping trip was a bad omen from the start. I went to Menard's and Home Depot and got all the wood and hardware. 3/4 of the way home I realized I'd bought a 2 stair stringer, which wouldn't work and that I'd have to return.

Shopping Trip #2

Return to Menard's and get correct stringers and another deck board for the under appreciated third step.

I then start the project. I drill with all my might to make first hole. Change drill bit. The first anchor goes in like a champ. "This is easy" I think to myself.

Change drill bit. Drill with all my might again. Second anchor hits a dead spot and ceases its entry into the concrete. Change drill bit. Remove anchor. Change bit. Drill with all my might and a bit of reaming. Change drill bit and think "I really could use another drill at this point".

I re-try to sink anchor and get it 3/4 of the way in. Then I ponder if that's good enough. It looks like crap, but we'll see how the rest go. Maybe it's good enough.

Change drill bit. Repeat drilling with what might is left in me. Re-fail at sinking any of these other anchors more than 3/4 of the way. Being a man, I use my secret weapon, brute force. I proceed to snap 3 of the anchors off. This misfortune causes much self loathing and doubt to the point that I give thought to abandoning the project.

I then plugged in my radio. It turns out that NPR had the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show on. It seemed to lighten the mood and change my spirit.

Shopping trip #3

I run to the hardware store and buy 8 more shorter anchors. I get home and these remaining 8 sink much nicer than the rest. Things are rolling now.

I go to attach the stringers to the now-anchored 2X6 and break an embarrassingly fundamental carpentry rule. I'm not telling what it is it's so stupid. Ask me sometime and I may tell. Or not.

Otherwise, the stringers go on without a hitch.

Shopping Trip #4

I run back to the hardware store and pick up 4 more deck screws that were necessary because of the underappreciated third step.

Otherwise, installing the treads also go hitchless, except of course for the first one which is cockeyed, because my wall is cockeyed, because my yard is cockeyed. Luckily the Skil Saw has a setting for cockeyed.

6+ hours, 2 Coke Zero's and 4 trips to the store later I've got the ugliest, most beautiful three step staircase on the block. Boy that was easy. This is why I do GIS and not deck installation.

Tomorrow is my 19th anniversary with Donna. I hope to blog it, but we will see. I love her so!

Blogging off...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whiling Away the Night

<<<<------------My New Bike.

Got a few minutes free so thought I'd sneak an extry post in with more random thoughts.

I saw a GM truck the other day that had those obnoxious stickers on the back window that are the sign of a true "wingnut" (That's the nice term). This one said "Eats Fords, Shi** Dodges".

I thought it was quite a statement given that GM is bankrupt. At this point I think GM is eating anything it can get it's grimy little hands on. Come to think of it so is Dodge/Chrysler. Unfortunately you and I are paying for more of their bad decisions than they are at the moment. I wonder why they didn't see the writing on the wall when gas was first nearing $2.00/Gallon and start making Priuses instead of more Tahoes. Alas hindsight is 20/20.

I had read the other day in my High School Annual Update Newsletter that a guy from my class had passed away suddenly. A real nice guy at that. It brought to the forefront once again that whole death thing that has been haunting me lately. It's just everywhere I turn lately; friends, relatives, rock-stars I once thought were ageless, you name it. It's not really scary to me so much as sobering. When I think that every one of those people could be me, it's a bit of a wake up call.

So, what am I going to do about it, I often ask myself? I am going to:

  • Kiss my wife and kids before I leave for work every day AND when I return.

  • Appreciate every morning regardless of the weather. This is a gift from God, use it!

  • Take that class I've been meaning to take but put off for so long.

  • Forgo the cursed TV for ANYTHING else. What an unholy waste of time.

  • Write the words of praise to someone that I wouldn't have the courage to say to them.

  • Thank God for EVERYTHING, big and small.

  • Travel as far and as often as I can.

  • Listen to music. It takes me back to my youth, helps me soar, mellows me when I need mellowing, inspires me, makes me dance badly when nobody's looking, puts life in perspective, reassures me that what once was is no more, but is not lost.

  • Pet my dog. Kiss my Cats on the top of their head.

  • Live in the moment, or even the minute.

  • Save gas, ride my bike or walk to work, buy CFL bulbs, save water, recycle, pick up trash, love the planet that God made.

  • Do not buy crap I don't need. Simplify and declutter.

  • Reconnect with old friends using Facebook, e-mail or whatever means necessary

  • Work hard, play hard, rest, repeat.

I am pledging to do these because these years called my forties have put a sense of urgency to my spirit. I can't explain it, but it's most definitely on my mind.

Enough introspection. It makes me think too hard.

We are coming up on our 19th anniversary on Tuesday 6/19. It was such a great day in my life. Probably the greatest. Definitely the greatest. Who can take a single day in their life and say it is when the indescribable richness began? The day that shaped my life more than any other. It really deserves its own post entirely, so perhaps I'll leave it for another day.

Today was the last day of school for the kids today. I remember that feeling. FREE! A whole summer of running with robbers, thieves, pirates and sports legends. The whole neighborhood was our playground back then. Not much was off limits. This is another subject that deserves its own post, so I'll stop for now because I'm...

Blogging off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Braces, Bicycles, Broken Brackets, and Biographies

Ah, Wednesday. Blog Day. There is a song by Morrissey (Formerly of the Smiths) that is titled "Every Day is like Sunday". I wish every Day was a blog day.

My beautiful daughter took that leap into adolescence known as brace face on Tuesday of this week. This is a right of passage that I never new, nor did Donna. So we were not "braced" for the resultant fallout from Sar. Poor girl got it tough it seems. From her description, her orthodontist was trained by the same sadist my dentist was. (e.g. Steve Martin in "Little Shop").

It wasn't enough that she had to have them all put on, but within one hour of when she had them installed, if that is the term, one of her brackets busted off. Or perhaps came unglued is a better term. I'm sorry, unglued was the description of Donna when she heard the part had broken.

Needless to say, Sar had to go back in for an adjustment of sorts today. While they were repairing the broken brackets, they noticed that her lower front gum looked like hamburger. Evidently this is not normal. Again, not knowing what to expect, I figured it was just her complaining. Hows that for "Mr. Sensitive". If she was under my care, she'd be drooling through the hole in her lip by now. Hopefully I won't be the focus of some future therapy session for her. (I love you hon! Oh, and you shouldn't be reading this.)

How I lucked out with not having braces is beyond me. It hit 4 out of 7 kids in my family. I think as punishment for that, God gave me the bad dental habits that led to all these fillings I'm having fun with as I stumble into middle age. I think God does have a great sense of humor, and I mean to have a chat with him about some of it when I get there. Hopefully this conversation happens later than sooner; else the joke is TRULY on me.

The new bike is working out like a dream. Other than some butt cramps from a bad seat that I replaced tonight, I haven't had any complaints about it. The seat I upgraded to tonight is a slightly larger Gel seat, that I'm certain would be the scorn of any serious biker. You know what? I don't care. I'm 47 years old and if you don't like my bike seat, I'll shoot you in the knee caps.

Which leads me to my next point. I think at 45 you stop caring about some really irrelevant things. Washing my car for example. I used to be pretty good about it. Not weird good, just pretty good.

Well all that changed a couple years ago. Now the only time I wash the truck is when I can't see out the passenger windows. Is this a bad thing I ask myself? Am I a bad person? Should I seek professional help? Maybe a lithium pill or something. I'm not sure, but I do know that until I care or find time, I'm not going to worry about bug carcasses on my vehicle so much any more. I once saw a bumper sticker that read: "A clean car is the sign of a sick mind". I now understand.

What else stopped mattering at 45?

  • A meticulous lawn (not that I ever got there anyway)

  • Worrying if I went over 3000 mi. between oil changes

  • Nicks in the paint of previously mentioned vehicle(s).

  • Sweating the forecast.

  • That my eyebrows have decided to take their own path.

What matters more at 47 (2 years later):

  • Spending time with friends and family

  • Sending sympathy cards to grieving people

  • Volunteering for church and community events

  • Hugging kids who won't want to hug much in a couple years

  • Enjoying the moment, and every day that isn't -10 below

Finishing up, a week from today starts my writing workshop. I'm still psyched! I've picked out a few pieces of work compiled previously that are rough, to put it nicely. I plan to roll them into the BWCA paper I started a few years ago. Not really a full biography, but kind of a memoir of the BWCA trips my brothers and I took.

I'm not sure what to do with it once it's done, but feel that it needs to come out of me, so this seems like a good outlet. I may share it with the brothers eventually, but am not sure. It's one of those things that I guess artists struggle with, (not that I claim to be one) is art for art's sake. I do it because I enjoy it and it makes me more complete I guess, for lack of a better description.

Well, it has been a blast. I can't wait till Sat/Sun to write again, so check back then because now I'm...

Blogging off.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is it Summer Yet?

A strange day at the Landwehr Compound. Random news factoids and points of minimal interest to cover, so if you're in the mood for cohesive thought, I'll have to say you're out of luck.

Ben's last game was this morning at 10:00. I'd love to say he went out with a splash, but it sounded a bit more like a convertible Fiat tumbling down a canyon wall, leaking fluids and landing top down. Graceful it was not. It's always fun to watch, but when you lose 5-1, it takes the "funness" down a level.

On the upside, Ben played at an intense level after his initial slow start. It seemed like the first 7 minutes of the game he was still with Sponge Bob and Patrick on the couch, where he was 30 minutes prior to game time. (The story of getting him dressed and ready for each practice and game is one I'll save for later. Suffice it to say that it's like trying to motivate and dress Jello.) Once they got a couple goals scored against them, and he moved from defense to forward, he seemed to kick it up a notch, so to speak.

In any case, his team had a great year finishing with a record something like 5-3-1. The important thing is that they improved significantly from last fall. Winning isn't the only thing, but it sure beats the other option.

When we got home from soccer, we'd learned that our neighbors' boy had his bike stolen. It was laying on the side of the house, sometimes for days on end, and it seems some jerk took off with it. Now, having had this done to me once, literally in front of my eyes, I can say that NOTHING bugs me more than thievery. I cover a lot of ground in the neighborhood walking the dog and such, and I promise if I see some 15 year old punk riding this kids bike, I'm going to chase him down and make him publicly humiliate himself by returning it and apologizing to this boy. (Note that this boy is one of two kids in a single parent home, which makes it an even crueler crime.)

Now I also know from past experience, that a stolen bike will only happen once to a kid. They learn quick and will (or should) lock it every time they get off it from that day forward. I can distinctly remember my older brother giving me the lecture after mine was stolen.

On the lighter side, speaking of bikes, I made the big purchase myself today. I got a Trek 4300 Disc, which means it has disc brakes. More bike than I'd intended to purchase, but when the salesman said he'd take $75.00 off the price , it was only about $80 more than I would have spent for the other model.

Do I really need a bike with disc brakes? Probably not. But I figured it was a $25000.00 savings from the Harley Davidson I'd really like. Besides, I'm a Renaissance man who is of the thought that if we've got the technology, why not take advantage of it. (Is that what a renaissance man is in 2009? Hmmmm...)

14 years ago when I bought my last bike, I was Renaissance-ian when I got a bike with a shock. Now they're almost standard on all bikes.

I bought a ton of accessories to go with it too. The clerk asked me if I would like them all mounted for me. Now there was a day when asked that question I would have said, "Nah, I'll take care of it." But I'm at the age where if some kid clerk asks me if he can save me a little work, I'm all over that. So, they put everything on it for me, except the computer.

The computer I got came with directions in, I kid you not, 12 different languages. These are: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Dutch, Polish, Netherlands (Didn't know that was a language), Cestina (Wha?), and Magyar (Wha again?). What, no Swahili? My goodness, I know we're a global economy and all that but my goodness.

In any case, I've given up trying to program the computer using the English instructions. I figure it might be easier to learn Portugese and try those. Seriously. They have 3-D diagrams showing you the buttons you have to push to get the thing to do certain functions, but when I look at those things for some reasons it's like palm reading. I just don't see it. I have the same issue with assembling furniture. If it's a 3D diagram, rather than words, I should just return it to the store. When they ask why, I would just have to say the guy I bought it for is an idiot.

As it goes, I wanted to say so much more, but will have to defer it to another day, another post, because I'm...Blogging Off.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Instruments of Peace

I went to Sarah's final band concert on Wed. It was held at Carroll University in Shattuck Auditorium. I'm figuring for Middle Schoolers, it's the equivalent of Carnegie Hall. A beautiful, acoustically-sound facility it is.

The seventh graders were up first and were slated to perform 5 songs. They did a great job for the most part. There were some parts that sounded like the tubist got kicked in the privates in the middle of it. Other parts sounded like one of the clarinetists was playing under water, or perhaps inside an overturned port-a-potty. But like I said, overall they were pretty tight as a group. Sarah's flute of course was spot-on for the duration. Being a "beginning band instrumentalist", she was encouraged not to do one of the songs and because of this slight, the song was horrible. That will teach 'em.

The eighth graders did well too. They've got a drummer though who kept dropping one of his sticks, much to the instructors' chagrin. She stared laser daggers at him while he fumbled about picking them up. Sarah even confirmed that this teacher was very capable at giving "the look". We all laughed when she demonstrated it for us. Ben attested that he has a teacher with that same skill. I think it must be part of the Teaching Degree;

"The Look 101: This class explores the situations deserving of the look needed to strike fear, stop foolishness, bring students to Christ, make them wish they were never born, and if nothing else bring on shame and public humiliation. Such techniques will be discussed as:

  • The "Tsk Tsk" - Is it dated?
  • Is a look more powerful than words?
  • The eye roll
  • How long is too long to hold the look?
  • Is blinking a sign of weakness?
  • Is the look more effective when done over your glasses?

This class is sure to carry you far in your teaching career. It can also be used in social situations, during parenthood, when arguing with a spouse and even when arguing a call with a sports official. Prerequisites courses: The under your breath cuss 101, Patience and Pills 301, and Healthy Anger Outlets 301.

Of course I brought my video camera to the concert expecting to capture the whole event for posterity and You Tube. It has been a troublesome piece of electronica lately for me however. I spent the better half of the first 2 songs trying to get past the black screen of death. After paging through every menu on the camera at least twice, including the french language option (just in case), I gave up and almost hurled the thing at the bass drum. As it turns out the thing is on the fritz for real, and it was not my technical ineptitude.

As many people will attest, I tend toward the technically adept side of the spectrum. For some reason though, this camera is just beyond me. It has a manual that is as thick as a phone book and reads about the same. I think you can do some great editing, make movie greeting cards, google subjects of interest, draw mustaches on people in the films, and probably make phone calls with this thing.

But frankly, all I want to do is one thing...record. Unfortunately to do that you must also be willing to browse fifty three menus while your "low battery" light flashes that you only have 5 minutes of battery life left. Great, even if I could get the thing running, I'd only get through one and a half songs anyway. So alas, I'm left to record the concert in my brain, as it was meant to be in the first place. The replays aren't quite as clear, but they'll never be lost in a drawer somewhere.

To finish, I did want to say that during the switch from 7th to 8th place, there was an 8th grade girl who played George Winston's rendition of Pachobel's Canon that actually brought tears to my eyes. It was absolutely flooring. To see this beautiful music coming from the hands of such a young person was, well, inspiring. Kind of like listening to Sarah practice her flute and violin in her room in days gone past. I'm going to miss that as she opts to pursue other subjects in 8th grade. Who knows, maybe I'll pick up violin at 50.

Right now though, I'm blogging off.