Happy 10th Birthday, Peanut!

Can’t let the day end without the point of it all. 10 years ago tonight, Sue’s and my life changed forever as Shannon came into our lives. In many ways, we feel every second of those past 10 years–and in many ways, we don’t even know where the time went.

The past two years of unsuccessful adoption in the attempt to grow our family has proved heartrendingly painful and even enraging. Yet, inside all of that is the one true bundle of joy and now the one true beautiful child we are blessed with.

Shannon Patricia Storer turned 10 today. She said it was a great birthday and it was culminated with the kids in the play at the high school tonight, where I teach, pulling her up on stage and singing Happy Birthday to her. The look on her face was priceless and she was so grateful and thankful. What a treat.

Sometimes, the intersection of what you choose to do for a living and the passion of why you do it come together and tonight was one of those nights. Sue came with me to the play, a relatively rare occurrence as that has traditionally been a daddy/daughter thing–but she got to see tonight the kids–many of them my kids–and how talented they are. What a gift-what a grand and wonderful gift.

Goodnight, gentles-

Onward.

Sleepy Sleepy

I am laboring under lack of sleep which is my own fault. I did get diagnosed with apnea–and the night that I did the study was a particularly bad one, so they have me as “severe.” This is upsetting for a number of reasons. I just had a physical last month and all the numbers were great–everything. I’m in good shape.

I have known that I snore for sometime and I have known that I wake up at night at times, so I went and did this. I went back for the second night of cpap stuff. No go. Didn’t do a thing for me. I lay there staring at the ceiling for two hours and at midnight, the guy came in and said, “You’re not falling asleep.”

No shit.

So, I went home at midnight that night. I’m working on it, folks. Obviously, I don’t want to ignore the issue. But the problem is, I’m sensitive to this stuff and I now have trouble sleeping because…well, because I’m afraid to. Afraid I might have another episode, etc. Stupid, yes. But I knew this would happen as soon as I knew what the sleep study found. I actually asked them not to tell me what it found, so I wouldn’t obsess on it. They told me anyway.

Sigh.

My nose gets plugged a lot at night and that’s part of the issue. The ENT wants to operate and do “nasal turbinate surgery.” Well…not yet. Going to the allergist to talk about possible options there. Sleeping with my head elevated has helped a lot and I keep my nose clean, literally. So far–well, we’ll get there.

Keep a good thought, gentles. I would appreciate it.

Onward.

Flogging and Phlogging

This is sad. I just haven’t posted and I am very sorry for it. I need to post more and want to post more, but I’ve been swamped. I wrote this piece here after meeting and interviewing Michael Broggie the Disney writer. He was as nice and decent a man as he could be and he gave me a DVD to give to my dad about Walt and his trains–and a book for my daughter that he autographed.

I met Broggie at the Railfest in Fillmore which I wrote about here. I was in my element, friends. Trains, food, more trains, fun and useless retail booths and more food. This is the stuff of life. Wonderful–absolutely wonderful. The photographer that day, my pal David, got some wonderful shots of the old Steamer, number 14, a 1913 Baldwin 2-8-0.

I wrote this last night. These stories never fail to get me all choked up. This is the second time I’ve actually written about one. Whenever I read them, it’s wonderful to see the guys coming home. It’s even better when I get to go on base and talk to them as I did here. What a great time. Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, here in our backyard in Camarillo, is a really fine resource for the community. Yes, my Libertarian leanings do prickle with government hacks running about, but these are the heroes. And I don’t grudge them a thing. Not a thing.

Oh yeah..those trains. I took some photos, too. They’re not as good as David’s, but they’ll do. Click on the images to see larger versions:

The F-7 Diesel which does a lot of Fillmore and Western Railway's tourism hauling and such. What a beautiful and sleek, pretty thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this is the real feast for the eyes and ears--a 1913 Baldwin 2-8-0 fully restored and chuffing about the Fillmore railway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couldn't resist. Just beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s about all for this evening. I’m ready to do some researching and writing–and then off to bed. Goodnight, gentles.

Onward.

On remembrance

I keep a painting of Scoop on the wall in our bedroom over the bed. Each morning, I wake to see him there and each evening, I bid him goodnight. I doubt that this is healthy. In some ways, I question whether I should have the painting there, but it has become a comfort to me, in a sad and lonely way.

As I write this, my right elbow is resting on Simon’s rear end. He climbed up on the couch between Peanut and me and he went to sleep. He and I trudged 4 miles this afternoon after school. I was in pursuit of a serious cardio workout and Simon was in pursuit of birds. He wasn’t disappointed, neither was I. But then, I remembered.

The last time I took that particular walk, or at least the first 2 and a half miles of it, was with Scoop the wonderdog. It was another spring day, much like today, with a cool steady breeze coming from the ocean and a pale blue sky, gossamered over with wisps of dark cloud. Scoop loved these days. His tongue lolled to the side and his consistent and kind communication with me was a given. HeĀ  would make eye contact with me, ask which direction we’re going and all I had to do was choose. He sensed it immediately, and off we’d go. In many ways, from what I’ve read and seen of horses, the communication I had with Scoop was like the relationship between a horse and its rider. There was symbiosis. Scoop talked to me and I to him. It’s just that he didn’t use words.

Simon is a grand dog, a good companion and a loving friend. He has filled the void left here by Scoop’s death, but it is not the same. I love Simon and I imagine that one day, that communication may exist between he and I when he trusts me completely as Scoop did. But I miss Scoop dreadfully and I find the past few days have been tough. At first, I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps I was thinking of him more or perhaps it was because I constantly see his picture in that painting in our room. But that’s not it.

It’s spring.

Scoop loved spring time. He was happy most of the year round, but spring seemed to energize him. Like me, he loved the cool evening breezes, the almost cold weather, colder than autumn, the wispy clouds. As we walked, he’d look up an awful lot. I know it sound strange, but he did. Scoop smiled when you petted him and Scoop loved cool spring days.

A year ago this month, Scoop wasn’t sick. He walked with me through Camarillo and we were at the height of our lives together. I was searching through the blog of a year ago and found a post in which I was writing about a leg injury I sustained when I ran at full speed into a bookshelf opened door and bruised my femur. I was moving slow, and Scoop enjoyed it because he could stop and sniff and pee more. My brother Jerry penned a comment that he envied Scoop that feeling of newness, that everything was so wondrous and full of information. And after reading, I remembered the day very well because it was like today.

Now, it’s a year later and I walk with Simon the two-year old pup who hasn’t quite learned the nuances of communication by leash and by look. But, I suppose he will and that’s reason enough for optimism. After all, spring is a time of rebirth and life. I’m still convinced that Scoop sent Simon, I know he had a hand in it and it makes me love Simon all the more.

And it makes me miss Scoop all the more, too.

Onward.

I have nothing to say.

My life changed yesterday. I fell in love. No, not sweaty, lusty love with some 24 year old with bouncy hair and tight clothing. I’m rather in love with my wife. Nothing changed there.

No, not that-thought it is another female. And a male, as well–it’s just that they’re not human. Inappropriate, you say? Yes. I suppose. Here they are.

 

 

 

 

 

Behold, the alpaca. That’s Boo on the left, Flirt on the right. I covered this story for the paper and I got to meet the alpacas and their owners. This is a fine breed of livestock. They’re not so dumb as sheep, but they don’t defend themselves very well. They need constant monitoring. Most alpaca breeders keep Great Pyrenees dogs or other loyal and territorial dogs–not herding dogs–to help protect them. Some people have llamas, which are also fine protectors.

So, I want an alpaca. My wife doesn’t. That’s OK, though. I’ll convince her. Slowly. Over time. Just like I’m working on her to move to Colorado or Idaho and buy a ranch. Where I can raise alpacas. See where I’m going? Yeah. Thought so.

The rain that came today was unlike any we’ve seen here for a long time. It rained all day and did not stop. Not once. Occasionally, the rain would come down in sheets, sounding a roar across the landscape and loud enough to stop conversations mid-stream. We got about 5 inches of rain in our little burg today alone.

But no matter. Tomorrow, some government wanker from the state or the county will say it’s still not enough, we still need to conserve water and there’s a drought on, you know. Except there isn’t. Just like all the whackos and their global warming chants. There’s no global warming. Might be some cooling–but no warming.

Doug the elder brother (heretofore known as Doug the elder) and I discussed this today. I’ve been thinking about this for sometime–constantly, nearly all my life since I lived in CA, I’ve been warned about water shortages. Yet, go to any drug or grocery store and you can buy as much clean, pure, filtered water as you want. No shortage. Arrowhead isn’t standing around talking about water shortages. They’ll get you as much as you need–when you need it–for a price….

Eh. I’m bored with it. Liberals take note: You are boring me. Conservatives, also take note: leave the Republican party now. They’re not going to save us.

OK. I’m done there.

I need happiness again.

 

 

 

 

 

There we are. See the alpacas? Aren’t they neat? I like the little guys. And really, I have nothing else to say.

Onward.

The Big Picture

The week is a pleasant one, pleasant enough. The dreck seems to be finally leaving the family after weeks of constant illness and sniffling, sneezing and the whole of it. March is interesting this year as it has had its cold days and its warmer ones. We seem to be cooling down again for right now, but who knows how long that will last?

The news out of Japan, the updates, are so heartwrenching, incredibly sad and disastrous. Prayers seem not enough, and no amount of money can assuage a singular sorrow for the devastation there. If any of you have ideas about what people can do, I’d love to hear about them in comments. When Katrina happened, I took a pretty straight role and began a campaign of direct aid. I still have friends in Biloxi, MS to this day. Maybe there is more to do in Japan than I know. Thoughts?

There was a book and subsequent movie called Fight Club. In it, one of the main characters played by Brad Pitt, has a monologue in which he states that men today don’t have a real challenge to live through. He was speaking, I think, of the 1990’s. He said that men needed something to threaten them, to challenge them. That’s how they know they’re alive.

Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. 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. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Well…

We seem to surely be at a place where, in fact, the challenges are larger than we can surmise. We’re not history’s middle children. We’re in a time and place that needs serious attention and serious focus, but we are too pre-occupied to know any different. That’s going to be a problem. An economy in tatters, a natural disaster of epic–even Biblical proportions, a feckless and ignorant government and worrisome signs of war on the horizon. This is a dark time.

There must be light, though, yes? I believe in that light and know that it’s there. I’m an optimist at heart, not a pessimist and I think that things can turn around. But people need to want that turn around and maybe they’re just not convinced yet.

So, I’ll continue to pray. Pray for peace. Pray for healing. Pray for love to conquer and evil to shrivel. And right now, it’s all I can do.

Onward.

Aid to the Schnoz

I have never used a neti-pot and I don’t want to. The idea seems to be that you fill a pot with warm water and a kind of salt solution and then you take this poorly designed vessel, it looks like a genie’s lamp, and you “tilt your head” pouring the water through your nose, cleaning out the dreck that occurs in your sinuses. Neat concept.

Except….

I think the only reason it may work is because of the “head-tilting.” Just look at what you have to do. I don’t think the saline solution does anything. I think you have to contort your neck into such an impossible position that either you experience some kind of weird zen chiropractic thing that cracks your vertebrae and releases all the sinus pressure–you know, sort of like when the chiropractor says he can crack your back and that will helpĀ  you to pee better. Either that, or you’re in too much pain from the blown discs, cracked vertebrae and muscle spasms to give a damn about your nose.

But–there are other products that deliver a soothing and warm saline wash to the old schnoz. One such is a simple bottle with a hole in it called, strangely enough, nasal rinse. I bought it. I needed to. My schnoz is a mess. I feel like Charlie Sheen only I didn’t use the coke. It dries up in there and then I can’t breathe through it and then I sound like I’m underwater and all the rest of it.

So, I got a hold of a sinus rinse and I used it. Now, it’s effect is not magical. I’m not cured. But, I can breathe through my nose-mostly and I can do so without chemicals like Afrin or Zicam, both of which warn you to use them each for only three days at a time. So, I’ve found at least a stop-gap measure until I go back to the ear-nose-throat guy and see what the heck I can do for my poor suffering schnoz.

Sunday is as I described it last night. No changes in that very description except that the story I had to write for the paper wasn’t nearly as much fun as I thought. That was mostly because I was otherwise occupied at some friends’ house in Thousand Oaks and I had to leave early to cover the event, though I didn’t want to.

Alright-I’m done. Back to the Monday grind tomorrow, gentles.

Onward.

Happy Happy Joy Joy.

A nice Saturday and a rare one. I’m working tomorrow and I worked yesterday, but I get a break today and that makes me happy. Yes, I had to write a piece tonight-but I’ve already done the interviews and reporting. I just had to write the piece–you know, be creative. So, that’s what I did. Bells, whistles and huzzahs all around.

Peanut did a cheerleading camp today. This did not make me happy. I mean, I want my daughter to make her own choices, sure. But I, for one, never imagined that she’d want to be a cheerleader. Just goes to show you–the best laid plans and all. I thought she’d want to be a scientist by this age. You know, 10 years old and sitting up in her room at her desk reading books about nuclear physics and the like. I just didn’t think she’ want to be a cheerleader. But she does.

Sigh.

As Saturdays go, it was indeed grand. Simon and I hiked for over 3 miles. The air was spring-like, cool and slightly breezy and a light cloud cover made pale a bright blue sky. Simon chased birds to the end of his roll-up leash and I nursed a lower back that threatened to force me into a wheelchair with every step.

Lower back stuff. I threw it out again and the ache is pretty profound. Can’t cross my legs and getting in and out of the car is pretty hard. The pain goes over to my right and left hip, too. There’s fun to be had in all lower portions of my body.

Tomorrow will go too fast, sadly. Church in the morning, a family gathering with some fellow church-goers in the afternoon and then off to write another story. It’s a good story, too. They all are, though. That’s what I like about them. Hopefully, the family gathering will still be going after I finish–and I’ll go back to it. When you work 7 days a week, you look more for a few hours of respite rather than a day or two.

Images from Japan are disturbing and sad. It’s hard to live in So. Cal and not appreciate and be concerned. There but for the Grace of God and all that. It does put things into perspective, however. Anything can happen–at any time. There are no absolutes, people. Pray for healing. For everyone.

I’m experiencing a back spasm and thought you should know. Howling and screaming, it tightens, then loosens and then it kind of lays there. And it leaves me wanting to do the same. I seek not your sympathy, gentles-it’s just that writing about it allows me to exercise the demons. It can, at times, be a veritable denizen of dark and sinister pain.

So-I’m going to bed soon. I want you to do the same. Or at least, enjoy the evening.

Onward.

Fast and Furious

Fast and furious now, folks. The work is rolling in and I’m still teaching a full-schedule. For now, it’s fine. And soon enough, summer will be here and it will be even more fine. After that? Well…let us cross that bridge when we come to it.

The week is perilous. My dreck has, as feared, transferred into daughter’s dreck and daughter’s dreck will no doubt transfer into Sue’s dreck soon enough. Bad cold, too. Nasty. Peanut is still in the sore throat phase. That is actually the worst part. I can deal with the head cold, believe it or not. There are meds and treatments that can make that better. But nothing–and I mean nothing–eases the sore throat. It just sits around for a couple of days, burning and scratchy, exhausting you and wearing you down.

It ends with you waking up one morning and realizing the pain is gone and then your nose starts. That can be anything from runny to stuffy to headache to lethargy to downright miserable.

Well…

Fight the good fight. Rest, fluids, you know the drill. But it takes a while to go away. Mine still hasn’t left and the nose–for me–is just stuck. Without chemical intervention, currently in the form of Zicam nasal spray, I may as well not have a nose. It serves no purpose. It’s not running so I can blow it and it’s not smelling anything. There is, in essence, a big fleshy growth on my face with virtually no real use. I wish I could say it adds character or makes me look handsome. It most decidedly does not.

So, I wander on through it. Perhaps soon it will dissipate and I can go back to smelling things. As I have previously mentioned, I like smelling things.

I got a snore guard. Yes-here in the midst of no working proboscis, I went to the dentist and got a strange little plastic device that sort of moves my lower jaw forward and my tongue along with it. I wear it when I sleep and you know what? I don’t snore. I mean really, it’s the coolest thing. True–it did cost nearly $500, but near as I can tell, it’s worth it. It stops apnea, too, That’s a good thing, because I do get that every so often–not every night. I have a theory, by the way, that most adults after the age of 40 get apnea once in a while. Maybe I’m wrong, but I rather think not.

Day is just over–at 9:25 as I write this. I have put in a long day, gentles–and I am weary. I ask for your leave and pardon.

Onward.

So Long, Farewell, Amen

So, first-a few housekeeping items. I cannot figure out why comments seem to have been shut off. I’m working on it and will continue to do so. If you’d like to comment–and are feeling the angst to rebel against something stupid I’ve said, drop me a line by hitting the contact button up top there.

Also-Bernadette, a former student of mine, contacted me and I wrote back–but to no avail. B-dette, if you’re out there let me know you got my reply as to your career choices. Glad to offer whatever “guidance” I can.

OK. Done with that.

Back last night from Disneyland with just the three of us. Sue, Peanut and I left on Saturday afternoon and braved horrid traffic-it took us two and a half hours to get to our hotel which is directly across the street from the park. Once we arrived, we checked into the Sheraton Anaheim, one of our favorite haunts, and we brought in our light luggage. We were there only one night and wanted to make the most of it, so we freshened up, as they say and headed out to the lobby.

My first clue that things were not as I wanted was the increasing number of adolescents as I got closer to the lobby. Teenagers. Everywhere. And not just teenagers, but seemingly Middle School ones and mostly girls. They walked in flocks, like ignorant and bemused birds, preening themselves and each other, cackling about nothing at all.

Dante wrote that there were nine levels of hell. I believe he was edited. There are actually 10–and the 10th involves cheerleaders. I know whereof I speak, I teach high school. Oh, get over yourself–I know it’s really not all that bad. But seriously, I teach all week long and the whole point of weekend getaways is to…well…get away. And my hotel was mobbed with cheerleaders. Middle and High school ones. It was depressing.

I’ll say this, though–they were quiet after about 9:30 PM. I was sporting a cold, a kind of relapse of the one I’d had a couple of weeks previously, and I went to sleep early. No noise. Grand.

But Downtown Disney was mobbed, too. Again-cheerleaders. And their families. Little wanna be cheerleaders at 5 or 6 years old and brothers of cheerleaders with annoying shirts that sported the names of their sisters’ schools and said things like, “cheer support, ’11.” It was ugly.

And parts of Downtown didn’t appeal, either. Peanut wanted dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, one of the worst places in the world to go if you want good food. But, as Anthony Bourdain says, atmosphere counts for a lot, and the Cafe has it in spades. The wait for Rainforest was 2 and a half hours. But, I was assured, if I only would join their Rainforest Cafe club, they could seat me in just over an hour. I couldn’t believe it-I was being shaken down by a barely post-adolescent standing behind a large plastic elephant head. “No thanks, pal. I’ll take my chances.”

Peanut suggested ESPN-zone and so in we went, played a few games and sat to a positively atrocious and over-priced dinner. I had a “chicken wrap” which consisted of deep fried-and pre-packaged-chicken tenders that were as dry as the Sahara in summertime. There were vegetables of various hues, but with less flavor and moisture than the chicken and a frisbee-textured tortilla. Ugh.

The kid ate chicken tenders smothered in ranch. Ranch fixes most things, happily, and combined with fries–she was content. Sue at a steak salad which she said was “passable.” By this time, we were all pretty peckish-so it could have been cardboard and we’d have eaten it. In fact, it was cardboard and we did eat it.

All that for nearly 7o bucks. Ugh. Again. Well, we did have the ever delightful spinach-artichoke dip as an appetizer.

Back to the hotel, the girls went in the spa while I stared at the idiot box and took meds and lay down.

Disneyland was grand. It always is. We love the place. But it was packed for a Sunday. By noon, lines were exceeding long and we were having trouble getting on what we wanted. Many things were shut down including Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh (I do so love that ride) and a few others including the Pirates Lair, what used to be Tom Sawyer’s Island.

California Adventure, by the afternoon, was even more crowded. The line for Soarin’ Over California, a truly great ride, was over an hour long. The line for Toy Story Mania was an hour and a half long and walking through the park’s Byzantine labyrinth of construction walls (they’re renovating the park and adding better attractions), was like navigating the 405 at rush hour.

The highlight of the day? I’ll bet you’re thinking I’ll say it was watching my daughter’s face light up on some attraction or on the sight of her favorite character. And there were those moments and they are precious. But that wasn’t the highlight.

Hands down, best event of the day was the corn dogs on Main Street. If you haven’t been to the little red truck that sells corn dogs, hand dipped into luscious and crispy batter, you’re missing out. Awesome. And for Disneyland, reasonably priced (note: Nothing is reasonably priced in Disneyland and if you got a corndog for 6 bucks outside the park, you’d claim usury laws were broken. But inside Disneyland, it feels like if you were raped, they gave you a kiss first and gently fondled you while they did it).

The hard part of the day was that our passports, which we have owned and renewed now for the past 7 years, expired today and we are not renewing. There are a number of reasons for this, of course, and some of it is indeed financial. But realy, it’s that we’ve run our course. As much as we love the place, Peanut has begun to take it for granted and the fact is, we’re rather uninspired these days. The crowds, the cost, the strange overweight people in t-shirts two sizes too small, making them look like tightly fitted hippopotamuses, all of it has gotten past the point where we’re willing to shell out dollars.

Oh, we’ll be back. We’re Disney nuts–and we love it there. But, for now, it’s time to leave the park to the younger and fatter crowds and give them room.

They need it.

Onward.