Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Holy eyelids!

Took the family to Sea World in San Antonio for a four-day weekend -- had an incredible time! Soon I'll post pictures and a recap, but not yet due to technical difficulties.

You see, my business laptop had been acting up over the past couple of weeks, and finally died completely. So with some work both before and after my mini-vacation, I'm now up and running with a new computer. It will still take a while to get all my old settings and programs restored, and even longer to catch up on my office backlog from the downtime, but at least I can work (and blog) again.

Instead of the vacation recap, then, here's some news from the world of LASIK. I had the surgery back in December and have had 20/15 or better vision in my right eye ever since. Unfortunately, the left eye has been so dry that the doctor said "it's like you're looking through two layers of wax paper". Not exactly crystal clear.

They have a scale to measure eye dryness. It goes from 0 (nice and moist) to 4 (wax paper). I was a 4 one month post-op, and a 3 two months post-op. Now I'm around a 2, and they have finally figured out the reason for my relatively slow progress -- I have an extra puncta.

No, it's not something I can sell on eBay. Puncta are drainage holes for tears, located on the inner half of the eye. There's usually one on the upper eyelid, and one on the lower. I have two on the lower, which is generally thought to be the one that drains more anyway (due to gravity pulling tears to the lower eyelid).

The doctor kinda freaked out when he found it (then he put plugs in both holes... that was pleasant). He said not only has he never seen an extra punctum before, but he's never even heard of it or read of similar cases. Of course, when I got home I immediately searched the internet and found a picture of someone else with the same "thing" (I'm not sure whether to call it a mutation, anomaly or feature). The picture is below.

To harken back to my recent post about Moses, I have finally found my special purpose (just like Navin Johnson... obscure movie reference). I was born to drain tears like nobody's business and get rid of that moisture ASAP. Maybe that's why I always chose washing windows as a child when it came time to allocate chores.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Dennis Miller Syndrome

Back when comedian Dennis Miller was an announcer for Monday Night Football, he would get a 60-second slot at the beginning of every broadcast to spout some fun stuff. I would actually understand about 5 seconds worth, due to his arcane historical references.

That's what it's like for my kids when I go into funny mode. Here are some samples from the past 48 hours:

Samantha: Daddy, look! I drew a crooked "B".
Me: What makes it crooked -- did it take some bribes and payoffs?
Samantha: (blank stare)

Samantha (as we're parking near a restaurant): Daddy, what are we doing?
Me: We're going to eat supper.
Samantha: No we're not! What are we doing?
Me: Oooookay. Um... we're all getting haircuts, then we're gonna buy a motorcycle.
Samantha: WHAT?!?!?!

Recently, we changed the kids' sleeping arrangements -- they're now in the same room. So we have a kids' bedroom, and a kids' playroom. So far it 's working well.

Last night Jamie was reading a book to both kids as they laid side by side in Samantha's bed. This is our new routine, and after the book is over, one of us rocks Jacks for a minute and then lays him in his crib.

Somehow, the book selection last night was "Barbie and the 12 Princesses." Jack didn't approve. It was so girly, that after three pages he was writhing in the bed and saying incoherent phrases as loud as he could, to drown out the estrogen. Jamie asked if he wanted to keep reading, or if he'd rather go see Daddy in the rocking chair. Jack said, "I unta go see Daddy."

Good boy. As he climed down from the pink bed and escaped the tale of dresses and parties, I told him:

"Come here, son, Daddy will fix it. Let's watch some wrasslin' and then scratch ourselves."

He said "Unkay". Samantha looked at me briefly, then went back to her book. Jamie had a good laugh, but she was the only one.

I'm afraid that by the time the kids can grasp the hilarity, I will be past my prime. Guess I'll have to revert to potty humor at that point. Burps and farts... my family's comedic legacy will live on.

Speaking of which, Jack told Jamie today that "Daddy poot." Traitor.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Times a' changin

As promised, this post will include some pics of the annual rodeo here in Houston. Also, this month is when the kids' preschool program has a petting zoo.

Below are pictures of both events from the past two years. Time is an amazing thing.

Note: That's "Gramps" holding Jack at the rodeo both years. Jack clearly has a little more stamina now.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More from the office wall

Here's the latest round of stuff to elicit visitors and conversations in my office -- these have been posted outside my door. They're all from www.overheardintheoffice.com and are supposedly true.

Secretary: I can write memos like it's my job.
Boss: That is your job.

Co-worker #1: What is our Vision Statement?
Co-worker #2: It says here, "Our Vision is to always be true to our Vision."

Teller: I haven't decided yet if I'm going to see The Da Vinci Code. I want to see it, but if I do I'll feel like I'm... supporting. You know?
Bank VP: ...Supporting?
Teller: The Devil! (long pause...)
Bank VP: Tom Hanks is the devil?

Office Manager: The first rule of thumb is that two geotechnical engineers will always give you two different answers. The second rule of thumb is that I'm always right.
Interns: Hahahahahahahahah! (pause...)
Office Manager: I'm being serious.

Canadian: Is there anything I should know about Cuban business customs before we get started?
Translator: No.

(Girl with tray of espressos walks in and hands one to each person.)

Canadian: I don't drink coffee.
Translator: You do today.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Children's prayers

My sister-in-law just posted one of her son's prayers on her blog, and it reminded me of this gem last week, from Samantha:

"Dear God, thank you for Jack's medicine that isn't working. Please help
it to start working so Jack can get better. Amen."

It's impossible to tell if she was being sweet or cynical. I've taught her well.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Moses and Me

There's a reason so many personal life stories are in the bible, especially in the Old Testatment. I don't think the reason is to "pad" the length of the book, nor to make sure the printed edition feels nice and solid when placed in hotel room nightstands across the country. I think the reason is to provide a broad enough human experience that just about all of us can find ourselves in there somewhere. Tonight is a little illustration of how I do that.

Moses' story takes place about 3,000 years ago, in Egypt. His family was in slavery to the Egyptians. So far I don't have much in common with the guy. His ancestry, location and political atmosphere bear little resemblance to mine. What I see in him, though, is three distinct phases of life. Phases that I'm starting to see are taking shape in my own experience.

Interestingly, each of Moses' three phases lasts 40 years. Since I'm not planning on living to 120, I may need to move at a slightly quicker pace than he did. :)

Phase 1 -- I'm Kinda a Big Deal

Moses was born into a slave family, but due to a unique turn of events, ends up being adopted by the Pharoah's daughter. He's pretty much in the position of a Prince of Egypt, hence the Disney film with that name. It would mean unimaginable wealth, comfort and education. He is among the very elite of the whole empire.

My own beginnings weren't quite so dramatic or illustrious, but I'll admit I was advantaged. Raised in a wealthy and free country, by loving and generous parents, I had access to all the great opportunities of the time. And they far exceeded the comfort of Egypt circa 1,000 B.C. Advanced education was available full-time -- I didn't need to work for wages at a young age. And good nutrition helped me grow physically, far beyond children in many other countries.

By the teenage years I was excelling at both academics and athletics. This continued into college, where I played sports and made honor roll. Even the FBI came calling about their training program, since I hit their three key marks of a Special Agent (intelligence, athleticism, foreign language skills). I didn't interview with the FBI, and injuries halted the sports career, so I went to business school. At age 22 I was the youngest graduate of a top MBA program, and was told by the professors that I was sure to be a rich, successful CEO before long. The world was at my fingertips. I was kinda a big deal.

Phase 2 -- I'm Not So Great

When Moses was about 40 years old, he was exploring the city to check in on his fellow people (the Israelite slaves, not his adopted Egyptian family). What he saw, though, was an Egyptian slave master beating up a slave. He did the understandable thing -- check to make sure no one is watching, then kill the Egyptian and bury him in the sand. OK, maybe a little outrageous to us, but it was a different kind of life back then.

Bottom line -- news of the murder spreads and Moses flees to save his own life. He ends up a shepherd, apart from his family and far from the glory of Egypt's palace. While he does get married and have children, that doesn't seem to pick up his spirit. Moses named his son Gershom, which means "an alien there". It would be like me naming my son "illegal in hiding". Nice. Moses' life isn't going quite the way he thought it would. I guess after living with the pharoah, watching sheep all day just doesn't cut it. Moses is realizing that he's not such a big deal after all.

Again, my own Phase 2 isn't nearly so dramatic, but some of the same themes are there. I was supposed to be this awesome business leader... hasn't happened yet. In fact, when you count inflation, I make almost exactly the same money today as I did eight years ago as a fresh-faced, naive graduate. Not exactly the fast track to CEO-land. Like Moses, I also got married and have children. Unlike Moses, I didn't name them something depressing -- on the contrary, they are a great joy to me.

But no matter how much men might want to deny it, there's this little voice inside us that says, "If only X... or if only Y... I could be President/MVP/Donald Trump/Astronaut/etc... it wouldn't be hard". And no matter how much joy our comfortable family life brings, a little part of us always wonders if we cheated ourselves by not going for glory in our worldly pursuits. The movie Fight Club put it a different way:

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be
millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly
learning that fact."

Every guy hits this phase. Some at 23 years old, some at 93. I'm 30, and it seems like my time, and I won't feign guilt about those feelings since they're a natural part of life. What seems important is to not get stuck here. Which brings us to the final phase.

Phase 3 -- I Have a Purpose

Ask somebody on the street what they know about Moses. Whether they're a bible scholar or just someone who likes Charlton Heston movies, they may give any of the following answers:

  • The guy at the burning bush
  • Flowing beard, ten commandments
  • Parting of the sea
  • Led his people out of slavery

Every one of these things happened in the third phase of Moses' life -- after he was over 80 years old! His first eight decades were preparation time, and now came the payoff. He had received incredible training under the Pharoah, yet he also had time to learn humility, stillness and patience as a shepherd. He would need all those tools for the challenges ahead in Phase 3.

Moses thought he was ready for those challenges a lot earlier. In Acts 7:25, Stephen notes that when Moses killed the Egyptian slave-master, he thought that was his moment to rise up as the leader of his people. Yet it didn't happen then -- he needed another 40 years of seasoning before he was truly ready to serve a noble purpose.

Where I Am

I have no delusions that my purpose will ever be as grand as Moses'. Or that it will be impressive at all, in the eyes of our materialistic society. Maybe one day doors will open up to a wonderful opportunity of managing a small coffee shop near a college campus, and making a life of reaching out to the next generation. Something like that could get an old red-headed man out of bed in the morning.

Bottom line is that no matter how I serve mankind, it is done best with no more than a dash of ego. And there was wayyyy too much ego in Phase 1. And as Phase 2 continues, I'm learning a few things:

  • The more I realize it's not about me, the more good things seem to come my way, from places that were blocked previously
  • The less I worry about winning, the more I find contentment
  • The less I toot my own horn, the more other people seem to notice my contributions
  • The more I focus on others instead of myself, the more nights I go to bed smiling, and wake up motivated in the morning

Another 30 or 40 years of humility training, and I'll be ready to get to work. :)

Monday, March 05, 2007

As the hurl turns

We've had quite the weekend, which explains why I didn't make a post last Thursday. Jack threw up his breakfast Thursday morning, then continued feeling ill all day. I came home early, skipping my workout for the first time in six weeks (!).

Jack was sick all day Friday -- I stayed home. More vomiting. He started to feel better Friday night.

Ate well Saturday morning! Too well... it all came back up in an explosive fashion. Spent the rest of Saturday recuperating from his Vesuvian episode. That was supposed to be the day we all went to the rodeo together, but that wasn't going to happen. Maybe next week.

By Sunday he was doing better, although he stayed home with Jamie during church. Now he's back to his old self, laughing and having fun. Boy, did I miss that!

One silver lining, though, is that I got to spend a ton of time with Samantha over the weekend. We went out together on Friday (YMCA, swim class, lunch) and Saturday (bowling, grocery shopping, play). She is really turning into a beautiful, hilarious little woman. "Daddy-Daughter Time", as we call it, was sorely overdue and deeply appreciated over the past few days. Here are a few anecdotes from that time:

It's Ain't Easy

Samantha and I were eating lunch when this dialogue popped up:

Sam (looking down, sadly): Daddy, it's hard being four. It's hard to wait until November 28 when I'm five.
Me: Really? What's hard about being four, sugar?
Sam: Sometimes I get really tired, but when I try to take a nap, it's hard to sleep. When I'm five I won't have to take a nap anymore.
Me: That's a good point -- I hadn't thought of that.

But just wait until she's five, and suddenly her computer programming class has some hard midterm exams. She'll wish for the good old days when naps were the bane of her existence.

Humble Pie

On Saturday we went bowling together, just the two of us. She's grown quite a bit since Thanksgiving, the last time she played, and it was shocking to watch her sling a 7-pound ball down the lane.

I was also surprised by how well I was doing. After a few frames, I started "feeling the juice", and putting on a show. Usually, just a second or two after rolling the ball, I can tell if it's going to be a strike. So when it felt good, I'd just turn around and walk toward Samantha, giving her a high five before the ball even hit the pins. She was impressed, in the way only a four-year-old girl can be impressed by her Daddy. Which is to say, she thought I was weird.

Around the seventh frame, though, I pulled my "too cool to watch" trick and gave her a high five. But she pulled her hand back, pointed behind me and said, "Daddy, there's still one left." Oops.

Humble pie, part 2

Saturday night we were eating together at the dinner table, when Samantha stuffed her mouth with WAY too much tortilla. I instinctively began to deride her for bad manners... but I couldn't. You see, my mouth was too full. It may have actually been more full than hers.

Ya know, this parenting thing is tough enough already -- do I have to get my hypocrisy shoved into my face so directly? She continued to chew her tortilla, and I chewed on my foot and my pride.

Warning: Thursday's post will contain biblical references, introspection and philosophizing.