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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Road Trip Fun 

Better late than never

Since Brian and the kids are taking off tomorrow, thought I'd give em some ideas about how to while away the time without getting on each other's nerves.

Take polaroids and keep a journal. I know it sounds cheesy, but my daughter and I love to stop at "landmarks" and take a polaroid of ourselves (its much funner if you do it yourself instead of having someone else take a "staged" picutre). Then she liked to write about what she saw there in a little notebook. It's a lot of fun to go back and read.

20 Questions. Holy cow, this is our FAVORITE game! We always try to pick as obscure of a person place or thing as possible. It's amazing after a few rounds how your thought patterns develop to be able to figure it out.

Talk. Never a better opportunity than when you are all trapped in a car together to get to know each other. Those are the times you will remember the most.

Drive safe, Stone family. and Welcome to Oklahoma!

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Audio Blogging 

I will try and do some audio posts from the road as cell phone coverage, noisy kids, and conditions permit. Otherwise, you're in the hands of my wonderful guest bloggers.

As Arnold says in his thick accent..."I'll Be Back"!

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Changes In Latitude 

This is it. I'm mostly packed and ready to go. My home is becoming more devoid of my presence with each trip out to the trailer. Our wedding photo still hangs on the wall where it always has. My picture is still on her computer desk. Our picture and hurricane glasses from Pat O'Brien's still occupy their familiar spot. But 24 hours from now, this won't be my home anymore.

Its a beautiful day here in Washington. The sky is blue and the sun seems to bathe everything in its light. I'll miss this place...the scenery, the beauty, the people, the places. I thought that this is where I would set roots and grow old. Life is funny, isn't it? I used to be so sure of things. The rest of my life was laid out ahead like a highway through the flat desert. I could see miles ahead. Now I see curves, trees, and uncertainty. Its time to grab the wheel, make the turns, and see what lies ahead.

I'll miss Lee. For most of the past 6 1/2 years she was a wonderful wife, partner, and mother. Even looking at her now I can see the light that always filled me with warmth. I truly and honestly hope she finds what it is that she is searching for. Best of luck to you darlin. I'll always love you.

I'll miss my friend, Marlane. She's been a rock for me through all of this. She's listened to me cry, rant, and rave and always been there to pull me back to reality and what I need to do. A better soul and a better friend would be truly hard to find. I love you and will miss you too.

I'll miss Oakville Schools which welcomed me into their school family and treated me like I'd been there for 20 years. I'll miss my colleagues, friends, and the kids who looked to me for direction. I was the last one out of the building when summer school ended Friday. I stood in the darkened halls and wept. Most people would drive right by without even noticing, but this was a special place for me.

Now I look ahead to what awaits... a new home, new schools for the kids, a new job, and a new life. The possibilities are truly open and endless. I'm excited by the chance to start again. I'm not done by a long shot. I will find peace and hope. I'll meet new friends and enjoy them. I'll kick my career into high gear. I'll be the dad I always should have been. New possibilities, challenges, and interests await me. I'm ready for them.

Its time to go.

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Friday, July 30, 2004

Moving Time 

I went and picked up my 6' x 12' trailer from U-Haul this afternoon. Everything I intend to take with me will go inside that trailer or in my van. I've been loading it this afternoon and have all the bigger items inside. Kind of amazing...I'm 43 years old, have worked my entire life, and all my possessions will fit inside that little trailer. Of course, it was my choice to "travel light".

I know I'm a long way from "out of the woods", but I feel a peacefulness settling in. I'm working hard, sweating, preparing, thinking of the gazillion things it takes to make a move like this. Lee took the kids out to her parent's tonight to say their goodbyes. They will spend the night and come back tomorrow. I'm here in the house deciding whether or not to take the crock pot with me.

Lee and I have had several nights of frank conversation in recent days. We listened to each other without rancor, and I feel like I had the opportunity to say everything I've wanted to say for the last six weeks. There's nothing left on the table. I profoundly disagree with her decision but have come to accept it as one of life's very bitter pills. Its only in recent days that I could wish her the best and really mean it. I do hope things work out the way she thinks they will. Otherwise, this tragedy will have all been for nothing.

In some ways I feel like a totally different person. My emotions are all out there for everyone to see. I cry when I'm sad. I laugh loudly when something is funny. I get angry when something pisses me off. I've always been someone who prided himself on keeping his emotions in check. But you know what? This actually feels pretty good.

Forty eight hours from now I'll be long gone from here. I'll be driving along the Columbia River in northern Oregon headed toward Boise, Idaho. I will have dried up the tears I know I'll shed in the first hour when I drive away. My sunglasses won't be wet with those tears anymore. I'll be laughing with the kids and singing songs with them. Aubree will be trying to convice me that we should listen to Britney Spears instead of Led Zeppelin. Patrick will be asking me for the 50th time how far it is before we stop for the night. Both of them will be trying to convince me that we should eat at McDonald's instead of a nice steakhouse. I'll be marvelling at the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest as I get further out of it every minute. Thoughts of the life I'm leaving will flit through my mind as I try to chase them away. I'll be thinking of friends I'm leaving behind, old friends I'll be seeing again, and new friends that I've yet to meet. I'll be wondering about my new job and how I will fit in. I'll be worrying about all the money I have to spend on outfitting a house basically from scratch. An occasional tear might still well up in my eyes. Then Aubree or Patrick will say something that makes me burst into laughter. I'll ponder my mistakes, my shortcomings, my strengths, and opportunities yet to come. I'll make some resolutions knowing I won't keep all of them. I'll think of a brighter day to come. When the sun sets I'll be captivated by its beauty. I'll think of all the intriguing opportunities that await me.

My life will never be the same again. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, only time will tell.

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Keys 

With the wrapup of summer school today I am preparing to turn in my keys. Number of keys on my keychain before..15, after...3. When you work in schools you have lots of keys. I'm used to the weight of them in my pockets and it already feels strange without them.

In a Murphy's Law note, I was supposed to get paid today for teaching summer school. This is money I had counted on as part of my move. The school's business manager will do her best, but I won't have the money before I leave. Ack.





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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Brynden 



Brynden, my 16 year old stepson, just left to go to his grandparents. I won't see him again before I leave. Whenever I don't think I have any tears left, I find a fresh reservoir.

I met Brynden when he was 9 years old, the same age Aubree is now. He was always something of a quiet kid, just like I was at his age. I grew close to him over the years. He loves video games, and I can remember many hours playing "Mario Kart" or "James Bond" on Nintendo 64. We watched movies and sports together, went on campouts, and sometimes just hung out and talked. I hassled him about his grades and talked to him about his future. I hunted him down when he went places he wasn't supposed to go. I surprised him with gifts. I bought him his first BB pistol and showed him how to shave.

Today I took him to the store and bought him a video game and a CD. Part of that was a goodbye gift and part was thanks for babysitting Patrick and Aubree this summer while I was toiling at summer school. We ate lunch at Subway, his favorite place. I kept trying to say goodbye but everytime I pursed my lips I could feel tears welling. We talked about his summer plans, what math he would take next year, cars, and jobs. Finally, on the way home I told him that I was so sorry for how everything worked out. I told him that I considered him my son and that he had been a good brother to Patrick and Aubree. I told him that he was a fine young man with a bright future and that I was so proud of him. I told him that I would try and fly him to Oklahoma to see us and would make every effort to attend his graduation from high school. ("after all this hassling you about grades I have to see it for myself"!) He told me, "its been a lot of fun Brian" and "I'll miss you". I unsuccessfully tried to choke back the tears and tried to talk without my voice cracking. Damnit. Damnit. Damnit.

When it came time for him to go, I walked him and Lee out to the car. I shook his hand and hugged him. I wanted to say more, but all I could choke out was "I'm so very sorry and I love you. Be good".

I knew I would miss him but I don't think I realized how much until today. There is a part of me in that kid.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The In-Laws 

One of the many difficult things about the breakup of my marriage is losing my mother and father-in law. They have been very good to me and to my children.

Almost seven years ago I had never met the two of them. They split their year between Arizona and Washington. At the time, they were living in Arizona. I had asked their daughter to marry me and she had accepted. I had the old-fashioned notion of calling them up to discuss it with them. Lee told me to wait until she had called them herself to "smooth the path". They knew about the boyfriend named Brian, knew what he did for a living, knew that he was divorced, and had kids.

The next night I called their home. Actually I hung up twice dialing the number to get my courage up. Lee's father, Dick, answered the phone and I introduced myself. He is a retired ROTC instructor, and with my background we had a lot to talk about. We chatted about schools, sports, and other guy stuff for about 20 minutes. Never once did the subject of marriage come up. He said, "would you like to chat with Bobbye"?

I got on the phone with Lee's mom and she told me, "I haven't told Dick yet". Whew! Had I mentioned marriage it would've been the first he had heard of it. I definitely didn't want him to hear it from me first. I may be old-fashioned..but not that old-fashioned!

From there, things went well. We all flew out to Washington to meet them the summer after we got married. They were gracious and kind to me and to the kids. I found them to be warm, educated, intelligent people and I thoroughly enjoyed their company. We all spent many happy days at their home on a Puget Sound island during the past few years. Swimming, boating, feeding the deer and raccoons that came to their back porch...we had a blast.

I often hear others complain about their in-laws. I never have and never will. They welcomed me fully into their family and I will always be grateful for that. I know they were disappointed about the breakup of this marriage.

Divorce affects so many people. I regret that I lose this relationship that I've come to value so much.

Goodbye Dick and Bobbye. I'll miss you both.

UPDATE: I sent a letter to them last week telling them I would miss them and thanking them for everything. Today I received a gracious card from Dick and Bobbye. It brought tears to my eyes. They thanked me for being there for their daughter during hard times, expressed deep regret about the entire situation, and said they would miss us all.

The two of them are a class act all the way.

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The Home Stretch 

I'm probably 75% packed and ready to leave on Sunday. Of course, that final 25% is always the hard part. I have my lists and am checking them off. I've decided where to stay the first two nights of the trip. Day 1 - Boise, Idaho, Day 2 - Rock Springs, Wyoming. I have the kid's suitcase all packed up, not to be opened until the first night in the hotel. Most of their toys and clothes are packed. The biggest pain is sorting socks! I think Aubree must have 25 pairs of socks...many similiar but not quite exactly the same. Grr!

Friday I finish up summer school, do banking, and pick up the rental trailer from U-Haul. Friday and Saturday will be spent packing, organizing, and getting ready to go.

Its very weird, almost like two people are living in my head. One guy is mission-focused and looking at all the practical things that must be done to make this happen smoothly. The other guy in there is still so very sad and having trouble focusing. Between the two of them I'll get it figured out! Is it possible to look forward and backward at the same time?

I'll probably make my final post here before leaving on Saturday. I want to thank once again each and every one out there who has been there for me publicly and privately. Its easy to be cynical about people in this day and time. You think people are locked in their own little worlds in their own private pursuits. Then you meet people like I've met online in the past couple of months...people who take time out of their busy days to offer support, advice, and friendship to someone they've never met. I don't think I've ever totally forgotten it, but this buttresses my faith in humanity. You people rock!


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Guest Bloggers? 

With my impending move I once again find myself desiring the services of one or more guest bloggers. If you'd like to play in my house here a bit while I'm on the road, comment here or shoot me an email. I leave Sunday, Aug. 1 and anticipate arriving in Oklahoma around Thursday, Aug. 5. After that, it may be a couple of days before I get all moved in and have internet service set up.

Soooo...if this sounds like something you'd like to do, let me know!

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Sleep 

One of the side effects of the change going on in my life is that my sleep patterns have changed. I'm historically an incredibly sound sleeper. I sleep all night and hardly ever wake up for anything.

Over the last month I doubt if I've had one single good night's sleep. I wake up often in the middle of the night. Then I can't go back to sleep for awhile. A few nights ago I woke up no less than four times during the night. Its almost like subconsciously I'm afraid to relax too much...to really sleep. Its like the old joke: I sleep like a baby. I wake up and cry every two hours!

I look forward to the time when I can fall asleep and not wake up until the alarm clock is beeping annoyingly in my ear.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bouncy 

Via Shelli comes some good clean animated fun. Good luck! I kept landing in the middle...whats up with that?


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Hear Me..Roar! 

Damnit, I wanted to be Mufasa. I wanted hyenas to shake at the mention of my name. Instead....(swiped from Shara)


Which Lion King Character Are You?

Created by CrazyCoasterCo.

Damnit!



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Monday, July 26, 2004

Bros 


One of the good things about my impending move will be the opportunity to see and spend more time with my three brothers. I am the oldest of the four and I have had scant opportunity to see the guys in recent years.

My brother Scott is closest in age to me. He is 40 years old, the proud father of an adorable toddler, and is married to a lovely woman. His background is in art, but he has ventured into the intricacies of web page design and online marketing for his company. Scott is knowledgeable about current events, is a veteran of role playing games, and can talk about anything from presidential politics to college football to little Kyra's latest triumph! He's a great guy and I always enjoy visiting with him.

Kerry is the next brother in line. He is 37 years old and an executive with a nationally known telecom company. He recently became engaged, sold his house, and is preparing to build a new one. Kerry is one of those engaging personalities that people like being around. He is a diehard Oklahoma Sooners football fan, loves to travel, and is a superb soccer player. His red hair lead us (ok, mostly me) to come up with many nicknames for him as a kid. Sorry about that bro!

Matt is my youngest brother. He got most of the good looks in the family, and at 35 years old is still built like an 18 year old. He works for the same company that Kerry does and has had a successful career there. Additionally, he is an real estate entrepeneur, and spends most of his weekends and evenings renovating homes to sell or rent. He's also my new landlord, so I have to be extra nice to him! He recently married a lovely lady and seems to have a very bright future.

I grew up with these guys. We fought each other, played endless games of football and basketball, conspired to sneak downstairs on Christmas Eve to see our presents, went to each other's ballgames, built forts, and played in the hayloft at grandpa's farm. There is something that binds you together always from such shared experiences. Now I hate to tell you guys, but we are all middle aged or fast getting there. None of us have the hair we used to have...especially me!

During my recent trip back to Oklahoma we all met at Scott's house for pizza. I'd been feeling very despondent about the turn my life has taken. Being around my brothers rejuvenated my spirit. In a very short time we were all telling stories, laughing our asses off, and their wives/girlfriends were probably rolling their eyes at our silliness.

There was something else too. Each of them offered me their support, both moral and practical. I've never been in a position to need anything from them or ask them for their help. I was frankly a little embarassed. But it was also incredibly reassuring and it made me feel valued.

As you get older you evaluate the things and people in your life that are important...those that really matter. My brothers really matter to me. I'm proud of each of them. Not only are they all good brothers, they are good men. To a man, they are decent, kind, generous, and thoughtful. They will all make superb husbands and fathers. I look forward to reviving my relationship with each one of them.

Their big brother hasn't been around much for a long time. That will change. See you in Oklahoma boys. I love you guys. And no, you can't have my Bud Light!

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Music For The Road 

This may seem a little silly to many. But I often think of the little details and I've been thinking a lot about what happens a week from today...the goodbye, driving away, heading down the road.

I decided to make a CD to play when we drive away. I thought about what songs I wanted to be on it and what mood I wanted them to set. You can often tell a lot about me by what music I'm listening to as I drive. If I'm feeling low, I listen to the blues or softer, romantic stuff. If I'm on top of my game I like to rock out!

So for my "driving away" CD this is what I created tonight:

1. Kiss From A Rose (Seal)- This is one of "our songs"
2. The Show Must Go On (Queen)- It does, doesn't it?
3. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Ray Charles)- Because its "my song" and it
seems very fitting.
4. Turn The Page (Bob Seger)- another of my favorites and its what I'm doing
with my life.
5. Mama I'm Coming Home (Ozzy Osbourne)- not much explanation needed here
6. Take Me To the Place I Love (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)- I'll find that
place.
7. Time For Me To Fly (REO Speedwagon) -because it is.
8. Come Sail Away (Styx) - just because I love the song

Now its time to shift gears:

9. Tulsa Time (Eric Clapton) - Clapton's version of the classic tune
10. Get Over It (The Eagles)- thats what I have to do..and the song rocks!
11. American Pie (Don McLean)- because the kids love to sing along with me
on this song.
12. Back in Black (AC/DC)- another sing-along that we can crank up and rock
out to.
13. Dream On (Aerosmith)- my favorite sing-along car song!
14. The Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels)- my kids absolute
favorite song. They could listen to it 10 times in a row.
15. Whats Going On (Four Non Blondes)- people three cars back will hear us
this one.
16. Sweet Child of Mine (Guns N Roses)- I like singing this to the kids.
Did I mention that I don't sing all that well?
17. Take Me Home Country Roads (John Denver)- another of the kid's favorites

You know that one CD isn't going to last us for 2000 miles. I have many more, but I have an idea here. I'd like as many of my blog friends as possible to list one or more songs here that you think I should put on a CD. Genre and style are of little consequence..if you put it here I'll burn it! If I don't have it in my rather large collection of tunes I'll go dowload it. So.....gimme some tunes! :)

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Saturday, July 24, 2004

My Mom and Church 

My mom is a very strong Christian lady. She is an old-fashioned Southern Baptist with a strict view of what is right and wrong. She believes in her church and her faith, and in large part practices what she preaches. I admire her for that.

Her son is not nearly as strong in his devotion. I haven't been an active church member in many years. Even when before I married Lee and lived in my hometown, I was a sporadic churchgoer at best. Its not that I don't believe in God...I do. Its not that I don't think the church accomplishes wonderful things..it does. This is the church I grew up in but I'm not sure I've ever felt totally at home there as a child or as an adult.

In a recent conversation with my mom I could feel her giving me the big pull about being active in the church when I get back. "Aubree can do this, Patrick can join the youth group, we'll sign you up for the men's basketball team". I have no objections at all to the kids being involved in church activities. It will undoubtedly be good for them and give them a positive environment to grow up in. Their religious upbringing is not something I've been very strong in.

In spite of what I pour out of my heart on this blog, I'm a fairly private person. I have my religious beliefs but I'm uncomfortable discussing them or having others discuss their beliefs with me. I'm not sure how involved in the church I want to be.

My mom is strong-willed but I have a stubborn streak of my own. I have to do things my way and in my own time. She has to accept that I may not live my life exactly as she would have me do it. I may be in a weakened condition right now, but thats all the more reason for me to take firm control of my own life.

Mom, as Frank Sinatra croons, "I'll do it my way".

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Friday, July 23, 2004

Email change 

I've had my nice new Google email account for over a month and haven't used it at all. After I move I won't have access to my Comcast email for much longer. So for those of you who want to shoot me an email, please use my new one:
  • princ61@gmail.com.
  • Please don't hesitate to write if you have the desire. It would be nice to get emails other than blurbs for political candidates, penis enlargements, and Viagra! If anyone would like to chat sometime, I'm on Yahoo with the username okieyetagain.

    By the way, if anyone wants a gmail account, I have a couple of invitations I can use.

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    Thursday, July 22, 2004

    Saying Goodbye to Lee 

    I've re-written this post several times. Now the time is approaching where I must say goodbye to Lee.....perhaps forever. I don't know that I'll ever see her again. If I do, it won't be the same. We'll both move on and our lives will change.

    So how do you say goodbye to someone you love so much? How do you end it? I know that we'll go to bed on that Saturday night in the same bed we've had for six years. That bed was the first major purchase of our marriage. The next morning we'll awaken together for the last time and I'll prepare to leave. The kids will be running around wondering when its time to go I'll have the van and trailer packed and ready to go. My stuff will be gone from the house. Her stuff will be here.
     
    We'll hug and kiss. We'll both cry. What do I say to her when she walks me outside? When she's standing with me by the van? How do you do that final goobye and just drive away? I imagine looking at her standing in the street through my rearview mirror. What will she be thinking? What will I?

    I've never been much on goodbyes. I've always tried to avoid them, especially if they are going to be very emotional. But I have a strong desire to do this right, no matter how painful. I'm not sure why.

    I think to say goodbye here, I'm going to relate a few things that made me say "hello" in the first place.

    We met online late one night, and that chance meeting ballooned into a year of countless cards, letters, packages, frantic meetings, wild weekends, and outrageous phone bills. We even had "our song"...I Know You're Out There Somewhere by the Moody Blues. We ended all of our letters and cards with, "I know". When we finally met, I knew what all this "love at first sight" business was all about. We shared our most intimate secrets. We laughed until tears ran down our faces. We cried together. She was unlike anyone I'd ever met...exciting, funny, adventurous.



    We chose to marry on Christmas Eve, 1997. She flew to Oklahoma with her kids and we all drove down to Louisiana together. We were married in a beautifully decorated church with only a handful of people in attendance. Our kids were so young then. One refused to get out of the car because he couldn't be the ring bearer, and it took a lot of diplomacy to get him out. Another made farting noises during a good part of the ceremony. Patrick kept pulling on my arm and trying to get my attention. Still, I've never felt such warmth and love as I felt on that day.

    We went home that night and put the kids to bed. We sat up late into the night, sipping champagne and wrapping gifts. We talked of how we wanted to live our lives, dreamed big dreams, and planned a future together. The next morning we woke up and did Christmas as a family for the first time. It was magical. We've repeated the champagne/gift wrapping scenario every year since. Its something I looked forward to all year.


    In this picture, Lee and I are at Pat O'Brien's Bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. We both drank a lot of "hurricanes" that night. As a matter of fact, an older black man who was the custodian stopped by our table, looked at the stack of glasses, and pointed at us questioningly. When we nodded our heads, he just shook his and walked away. We got fairly enebriated, bought a cigar and shared it, sat by an outdoor flaming fountain, and talked for hours. When I think of the Brian/Lee "magic", that night is one of many examples. We stumbled out of the place at 2 a.m. and made our way to the hotel on foot. When we arrived we had to bang on the door to get in..the night watchman was asleep. We walked into the courtyard on that very warm night and saw...the pool! The pool was closed of course. Did we care? Not a bit. I removed my shirt, socks, and shoes and jumped in. She stripped to her bra and panties and joined me. There were probably 100 rooms that had views of the pool even in the darkness. We tried to be quiet but couldn't help giggling and laughing. I was swimming underwater and was SURE I was being quiet. She had to remind me that my kicking feet made quite a racket. We stumbled upstairs for a wild night of passion. I'll never set foot in Pat O'Brien's again.

    Once we went to "Silver Dollar City" in Branson, MO. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas and the park was decked out in Christmas decorations. Lee had always loved the Vienna Boys Choir and I had purchased tickets to see them in the park. We arrived in the evening, took our seats, and sat down holding hands for the show. It was snowing ever so lightly and her curly hair captured some of the snow. As I watched her sing along with the Christmas tunes from the choir I was just intoxicated with her beauty and radiance.

    We used to attend Mardi Gras parades during January and February. There always seemed to be a parade going on, the kids loved them, and we always had a blast. They would throw beads, toys, and trinkets from the floats and we'd join the throngs of people scrambling for our booty. She probably doesn't remember this, but it seems like yesterday to me. She was festooned with a neckload of beads, had gaudy bracelets on her wrists, and was wearing a Mardi Gras hat. In the midst of all the people our eyes caught. She grabbed my hand, kissed me passionately, and whispered in my ear, "I love you so much. You make me so happy". I still hear that voice in my head today.

    These stories and countless others are what I want to remember.

    It used to be hard for us to say goodbye in our wild weekend/pre-marriage days. We had many tearful airport departures. This goodbye will be much harder. It represents the end..and yes, a beginning.

    So before a week from Sunday when I depart, I'll say my first goodbye right here.

    Goodbye my love. I'll always know you're out there somewhere.

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    Plumbing The Depths 

    Most of my afternoon and evening yesterday was spent plumbing. We've had a problem for some time with a bathtub that drains slowly. This is something I wanted to get done before I moved. I'd installed a new trap, snaked ponytail holders and rubber bands out of the pipe, and still no luck. I couldn't get the "snake" into one section of pipe around a corner, so I decided to cut out the corner, "snake" the pipe, and fix the problem. I rented a "sawzall" from Home Depot, fired it up, and began cutting the 50 year old cast iron pipe.

    Of course, foul nasty-smelling water came flowing out into my eyes and all over my clothes. I can't describe exactly how bad it smelled..whew! Thankful that no one was around to hear my string of profanities, I cut all the way through the pipe. CRASH! The entire maze of cast-iron pipe which ran across the basemet ceiling fell to the floor, barely missing my head. Do you know how heavy old cast-iron pipe is? When it fell it pulled the vent pipe down out of the roof. Now I had a big-ass mess.

    I decided that there was no way I was putting back up all that cast iron. Off to Home Depot I ran and bought a bunch of plastic pipe to replace the entire assembly. Of course I forgot a plastic pipe fitting. I made a total of four trips to Home Depot! I couldn't find my stepladder to get on the roof and had to go rent one of those too. GRRR!

    With the assistance of a friend, my little project that began at 1:30 yesterday afternoon was completed at 11:30. Hopefully the tub will drain properly. I'm almost scared to test it out today.

    Its a good thing I went into education. A plumber I'm not!

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    Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    To Take The Dog? 

    My daughter Aubree got a dog for her birthday in February. Wendy is a German shepherd mix, of medium size, and is a sweet natured pet. I've been debating in my head for weeks as to whether to take Wendy with us when we move to Oklahoma. I'd told her absolutely not a couple of weeks ago but now I find myself wavering a bit.

    The problems you ask? First, we are moving into a rental house without a fenced yard. My brother is the landlord, but he is fixing up this property to sell. I'm sure he doesn't want any damage from my pets. Wendy has dug up holes all over the yard here. She has also been known to pull the cushions off the couch, knock over trash cans, chew up pillows and toys, and generally just make a mess of herself. If I take her she'll have to remain chained up outside. We plan on moving to a different house with a very small yard in a few months. Where does a dog fit into all this?

    Then of course there is the matter of a little 2000 mile drive with a dog who has a history of carsickness. I don't really want to be cleaning dog puke off the seats and carpet the entire trip. It also makes it very incovenient to stop and eat and makes many hotels off-limits.

    So with all that, why am I softening to the idea? Aubree is suffering the loss of her mom. Most of her life has been spent with Lee. The idea of adding yet another loss to her breaks my heart. She LOVES that dog. She runs with her, talks to her, and plays with her.

    I've found that Motel 6 and some other major motel chains have pet-friendly policies these days. It would be possible for her to stay with us in a room. So there goes that excuse.

    Whats a guy to do?

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    Damn That Dante 

    Well, it could've been worse! I took this quiz (via Erin-Go-Blog) and ended up in Hell's Second Level. Better than violent, gluttonous, or treacherous! This started me humming Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young"..."I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints". Hey Erin, try to get the air conditioning working there, ok?

    The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
    Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
    LevelScore
    Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
    Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
    Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
    Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
    Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)High
    Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
    Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
    Level 7 (Violent)High
    Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
    Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

    Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

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    Monday, July 19, 2004

    Taking Responsibility 

    Lee told me recently that in all my writings about our marital breakup I haven't taken my part of the responsibility for the end of the marriage.  She thought that anyone who read my posts would have an image of me as the "husband and father of the year" and would infer that she was the "bitch from hell" who was nuts to leave such a fantastic man. Neither of us are any of those things.  There are always two sides to a relationship and rarely does one person ever cause the end of a marriage. I've listened to Lee and had a lot of time to think about my own responsibility in our breakup.
     
    I've had many friends whose marriages ended in divorce.  In some of those cases it was "what took you so long"? The love had obviously long since dissipated. In others it took me by total surprise. They had always been such a loving couple and seemed so good together.  My marriage falls in the second category. We have been very good together.
     
    We were compatible in a great many ways but our personalities are quite different.  Lee is a very emotional person, prone to highs and lows. I'm the ultimate laid-back guy that nothing seems to bother.  I found her emotionalism exciting and I think she found comfort in my laid-back style. Opposites attract, right? They may attract, but can they stay together?
     
    Most of the problems that led to the end of this marriage center around Patrick, my twelve year old son. When we met, Patrick was a five year old kindergartener. I was a single dad and had been active in securing resources for him and medical appointments to find out the extent of his disabilities. I viewed myself as a good father and was determined to find answers to Patrick's problems.  But I also saw myself as perhaps inadequate for the task. I was an educator,  but kids with Patrick's disabilities went way beyond my training and background. I tried to educate myself, but many times I would lay alone at night and wonder if I could really meet his needs.
     
    Then I met Lee. I fell in love with her from the moment we met.  We began a long distance relationship that culminated in marriage less than a year later. One of her many attractions was the way that she dealt with Patrick. She had a background in mental health.  She was affectionate, tender, and kind with him. She had a great deal of knowledge about community resources. She knew doctors and service providers. 
     
    I packed up my kids, married Lee, and moved to Louisiana to start our family.  I'm not sure how it began, but Lee began making the appointments for Patrick.  She talked to doctors and his school. She searched the literature for information. I willingly let her do this.  I began to withdraw somewhat from this aspect of taking care of Patrick.  I was in a new state where I didn't know anyone and she seemed to know everyone.  Somewhere inside I believed she was better at it than I was...she knew more, she saw more, she had more insight.  In those early years she was ok with all that. But as time passed by she grew to resent it and I can't blame her. I should have stayed more involved. I should have stayed more of a partner. I should've taken more responsibility.
     
    Patrick can be a very frustrating child to deal with. My way of dealing with frustration has always been to keep it inside. Lee's way is to let it all hang out. She would express frustration with Patrick and I would respond by trying to fix the immediate problem at hand. Patrick made a mess and I would make him clean it or I would clean it myself. Problem solved, right? I never expressed any frustration to Lee even though I obviously had those feelings. To her this meant that I really didn't care very much or it didn't bother me.  I often couldn't understand why she was still so frustrated if I had fixed the problem.
     
     As her frustration grew in the last couple of years I responded by working harder to fix the symptoms of the problem. Patrick spills popcorn kernels all over the carpet downstairs? I go clean it up. He sneaks into the fridge and eats food intended for dinner? I run to the store and get more. He destroys something that belongs to another member of the family? I try to replace it.  He pees all over the floor near the toilet? Mop it up. She was growing more frustrated. Patrick was getting bigger and older and his behaviors still persisted.  Was I trying to get respite for him to ease the stress in our home? No. Was I taking him places to provide him other outlets for his energies? Sadly, no.  Was I making the doctor's appointments to find solutions? I wasn't.  I was fixing the immediate problems at hand. A cancer was slowly growing in my marriage and I was treating it with band-aids and aspirin. Since our personal relationship was still very "luvvy-duvvy" and romantic, I assumed all was well...just the frustrations of life and dealing with a difficult-to-raise child.  After all, if you have love, what else matters?
     
    I provided love to Patrick. I gave him hugs. I told him I loved him. I talked to him about school and his friends. I read stories to him at bedtime and kissed him goodnight every night.  But somehow I wasn't doing the things a dad should be doing with his son...especially one with so many needs. Because I work 30 miles away, doctor's appointments, picking up medicine, talking to his teacher at school, fell to Lee. She had grown tired and frustrated with it all. Nothing seemed to be changing. Her new home was being "trashed" by a combination of Patrick and the ever-so-destructive dogs that chewed up everything in sight.  I was running around frantically cleaning everything in sight. The more I cleaned, the more guilty she felt. I had taken over the house. I was doing it all.  She grew more frustrated. I worked even harder.  She wanted me to deal with the roots of the problem. I cleaned even more. I bought groceries, did the laundry, cooked, and cleaned.  She felt like the house was no longer hers. I thought if I could work hard enough and love her with all my heart,  all would be well. From her perspective, her house was "chaotic". I thought it was just a natural condition of having a disabled son and a ton of pets.  I was playing Mr. Fixit.
     
    We went from "I love you like crazy and I could never leave you" to "I want out and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it" in a matter of days. Just because I love her and desperately wanted to be with her doesn't mean that I have no responsibility for the end of the marriage.  I should've been a better listener. I should've been a better communicator. I should've shouldered more responsibility for my son and not placed all those burdens on her. I should've done more with the kids. I should've taught Patrick more about how to live with others and not just cleaned up behind him.  I should've realized that she needed more than a husband who loved her.
     
    I'm not sure if any of these things would have changed it in the end. Patrick has the unique ability to rub on her very last nerve. He frustrates her like nothing else can. Maybe if I had been the "husband and father of the year" it would've made all the difference....and maybe not. I don't think she should've left. I believe with all my heart that we could've worked through this.  She had grown tired and lost the ability to believe. Our "magic" wasn't enough anymore.
     
    I thought love conquered all.  For her, it simply wasn't enough.



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    Sunday, July 18, 2004

    Celebrating Whats Right With The World 

    A couple of weeks ago my summer school staff sat down and watched a video by National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones. The video is titled "Celebrate Whats Right With The World" and focuses on the idea that there is always beauty to be found even when it is not readily apparent. He talked about sitting in a field all day thinking there wasn't a good picture to be had and all of a sudden....there it is! The concept is that if you leave yourself open to the possibilities of finding things to celebrate you will find them.
     
    I've been a very sad and lonely man the past month. I've cried buckets of tears, pondered my existence, made necessary arrangements, leaned on friends and family, got a new job, and prepared for a new future. But Jones is right you know. Even when you don't think its possible, there are things to celebrate right in front of you.
     
    I have a student named "C" this summer who I had in class last year. He had been an unmotivated student who did very little in class except bother his classmates and vandalize desks. He was obviously bright but entirely unmotivated. This summer he is in my "computer hardware" class and is an entirely different kid. He LOVES working on computers. Not only he participating, he is the best student in the class. He is a leader. He is going beyond the basics of what I'm teaching. That is worth celebrating.
     
    During our campout last weekend Aubree and I were alone in the tent.  She was tearful because someone had mentioned our upcoming move. She talked about the unfairness of losing her mom, and said, "parents aren't supposed to leave. Parents are supposed to understand". We talked of why Lee was leaving, and at one point I said, "maybe daddy wasn't the best husband either". She grabbed my arm and said fiercely, "yes you were dad. You were always nice to mom". A daughter's belief in her father......that is worth celebrating.
     
    There is natural beauty all around us. My recent trip to Mount Rainier and to the beach left searing images of nature's majesty in my mind. I often sit and look at posts like this from Flax and this from Leslie and realize what a beautiful world we live in if we take the time to go appreciate it.  Nature's beauty.....that is worth celebrating.
     
    I posted earlier about my old boss and good friend who stepped up to help me after all these years. Other friends have offered their kindness, common sense, and good advice. So many of my blogging friends have given me their support, good ideas, encouragement, and wisdom in public and through thoughtful emails. You all know who you are and I can't tell you how much it has meant to me. I've usually been the one that others draw strength from and now the tables have turned. Friends helping each other......that is worth celebrating.
     
    My son Patrick has never been able to ride a bicycle. We tried for years without success to teach him how to ride. Last summer Parent to Parent loaned us a large three-wheeled trike for him to ride. He loved it and was finally able to go biking with his sister and other neighborhood kids. Alas, the trike had to be returned and he was on foot again. But a few months ago Lee had a conversation with a member of the local Lion's club and brought up this need. The Tumwater Lions Club recently bought Patrick a large , expensive trike with all the accessories.  We were interviewed by the local newspaper and there was an article about him in yesterday's edition.  He is having a blast with it and somehow I will have to figure out how to move it to Oklahoma. Generosity of others......that is worth celebrating.
     
    I've been fretting about all the things I am going to have to purchase new when I arrive at my new home. One obvious large expense was going to be a new beds for me and the kids. My mom called yesterday and told me that one of my brother's friends who knew of my situation called and asked if I would be interested in a king-sized waterbed. Oh yeah.  Good timing and having others look out for you......that is worth celebrating.
     
    I could go on and on. Its there if you look for it and let yourself see it. What do you see that is worth celebrating?
     

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    Saturday, July 17, 2004

    House Guest 

    I'll be guest blogging for Stephanie while she goes on her baseball extravaganza vacation.  Stop by and take a look! I just put up my first post there about the greatest baseball team ever!

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    Friday, July 16, 2004

    Its A Sale 

    Tomorrow we are having a "moving sale". I plan on taking few things with me to Oklahoma, and Lee doesn't want a lot of this stuff either. So I've been filling the yard with various items of furniture, knicknacks, toys, clothing, etc. We hope to make a few bucks and clear the house of some of our excesses.
     
    My phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from "earlybirds" who want to get a shot at buying things before the rest of the public. I'm sure there will be people standing in my yard earl tomorrow morning ready to wheel and deal.
     
    I don't want all this stuff. But almost every item has a history. As I place these items out for sale a certain sadness washes over me. Its just possessions, junk, ..stuff. But its all been part of our lives together and now we are selling it off to strangers.  I guess its all part of a new beginning.
     
    I've also began the process of packing. For the last few days I've been sorting pictures, personal possessions, office supplies, etc. My house is becoming filled with boxes. Reality strikes me everywhere I turn. I move in two weeks.
     
    To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, "thats the way it is".

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    Thursday, July 15, 2004

    Life's A Beach 

    After teaching summer school today I loaded up the van with the kids, picked up my friend and her kids, and headed to the beach. We went to the ocean beach at Westport.  We spent the afternoon lolling around, having races and rock throwing contests, and the kids built a pretty cool sand castle!
     
    On the way home we stopped at a go-kart track and decided to let the kids take a spin on the carts. Aubree got a "kiddy cart" which stops very quickly after you let off the accelerator. The other kids all got traditional go-karts. Aubree got a lesson, was ready to go, and they were off! They did a couple of laps, were enjoying themselves, I was wishing I had a camera, and all was well. Then we had a.....mishap.
     
    Aubree was driving a kart for the first time by herself. She was doing very well, slowing and moving to the side to let the others pass. On the third lap Patrick came up behind her, she moved to side, and so did he...boom! One of her shoes flew straight up in the air, she screamed, I ran through the gate into the "employees only" area, and all the employees went running out to the track to help her. She was not injured, just a little spooked. The track manager stood on the side of her kart and rode with her to drive the kart in. All was well, right? Noooooooooo!
     
    She pulled in and stopped her kart. I walked toward her and was bending over to remove her helmet. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur, and it was Patrick veering right toward her again, his eyes wide open, and going full speed. He slammed into the back of her kart, the track manager went flying into the air, and both kids started crying. The track manager limped off, brought back a first aid kit, explained that he was an EMT, and checked both kids out. Patrick had a sore hand from the impact and Aubree had banged her elbow. Both were fine. I'm not so sure about the track manager...he had a pronounced limp.  It wasn't intentional that Patrick hit her. He'd been banging into rails all the way around. 
     
    After all that excitement we went to Pizza Hut, chowed down, and came home. Whew! It was a nice day and the kids were totally exhausted when we got home. I probably won't see the ocean again for quite some time, so I'm glad we had the opportunity to go today.
     
    Maybe next time we'll skip the go-karts though.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    Campfire Wisdom 

    On the first night of our camping trip I was the last one to go to bed. I sat in a chair by the fire, stoking the logs, sipping a drink, and surrounding myself in solitude.

    The logs soon turned into embers and slowly began dying out before my eyes. I had to place my hands lower and lower to keep them warm. I turned out the lantern and it was just the softly glowing embers that lit the very dark night. It was utterly dark and I literally could not see the hand in front of my face.

    As the darkness and cold enveloped me and the embers slowly died, I pondered my life. How did I get to this point? Where did I go wrong? What does the future hold? How can I be a better dad? Will a woman ever love me again? What changes do I need to make?

    For about an hour I sat in total darkness and pondered questions like this. I didn't hear a single sound the entire time. Socrates once said, "an unexamined life is not worth living". I spent a lot of time breathing cool mountain air, smelling thousand year old trees, and examining this life of mine. I sung softly to myself the lyrics from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (corny I know!)

    What did I come up with during all this time in the dark? I did resolve a few things. I will not become bitter, angry, and cold like so many people I have known who have gone through the end of a relationship they held so dear. I will do my very best to keep my bearings and be kind, thoughtful, and generous to those around me. I will dedicate myself to the loving care of my children like never before. I will not be ashamed by the tears I shed almost every day(including right now). I will develop a stronger relationship with my brothers and their families. I will look up old friends and tell them how much I've missed them. I will strive to be the best I can possibly be in my new job. I will read good books and strenghten my mind. I'll be a man my kids can be proud of. If there is someone out there that can possibly love me, I won't let fear hold me back.

    Maybe with all that I will find happiness again...Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

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    Tuesday, July 13, 2004

    Scamming the Scammer 

    This story is absolutely hilarious!

    Mike is a "scambaiter," dedicated to fighting back against those who send out the notorious 419 e-mails, promising untold wealth to anyone gullible or naive enough to disclose their bank details.
    Mike asked us not to use his full name because he's dealing with some heavy cross-border criminals.
    Those who fall for the 419 cons are hoping for millions
    His group of volunteers at 419eater.com use their computer skills to fool the scammers, to disrupt their crimes, and to have some fun at the scammer's expense.


    I get several of those emails a week. It amazes me that some people still fall for this very old scam. But I really like the way Mike turns the tables. "Father Hector Barnett" convinces the would-be scammer to join his "church" and send him an initiation photo.

    In the end he scams the Nigerian crook for 80 bucks!

    Priceless...just priceless!

    Update: After writing this post I received this email. I wonder if the good reverend would pose for a picture for me?

    Attn: Stone,

    It took me time and divine intervention to write you this mail, as we have never had any correspondence before. Actually I got your name and email address via people search on the net.

    My name is Very Rev. oba Kelly. I'm the senior pastor in the Holy matrimonial church of all nation republic of Benin west Africa and I'm very much interested in a relationship with you for mutual benefits as I have access to what is needed, but lack the experience and I'm not in a position to perfect its use. There is an urgent need for my contacting you as I recently have been granted an opportunity to have access to US$8,500,000.00(eight million five hundred thousand United States Dollars Only).

    Access to this fund is made available by a woman Mrs. Rosemary Kwame, who happens to be a serious member of my parish. She is well known in this community and aside being a major real estate agent she is a magnet in environmental management and was a liencened oil merchant before now.

    Unfortunately she has been living and struggling with breast cancer for close to 14 months now. Though she is unmarried, she has a 12yrs old daughter little Rosemary and I have been responsible for her care since the break of her horrible dilemma. Mrs Kwame has been through a first operation, and though she is to undergo a final operation within the next few days, the doctors have not given her much of a chance to live.

    She is not aware of this fact and she stills remains hopefully that something positive can be done in her case. Based on my last discussion with her yesterday afternoon on the future of her daughter, should she not be so lucky.

    She insisted that the fund should be invested. Unfortunately I'm definitely not in a position to run things, which is why I seek your assistance in taking control of managing the fund.
    The found was deposited in a security company in Europe. She also introduced me to her lawyer who has every details about the security company and also how the money can be realized from the security company.

    I have resolved with her on an agreement that will be drawn up by you on a yearly charge that will be paid to you for taking control and managing the fund while half of the proceed will be given for the development of treatment of cancer patients. The rest will remain with you for the up keep of her daughter.

    I wish you could be of assistance to this course and I'd like to add that sometimes I receive unsolicited mails, so I hope my mail doesn't come as an embarrassment to you, but if it does please kindly accept my apologies and please reply to my private email: (rev_obakelly@hotmail.com) God bless you.

    Awaiting your response,

    Sincerely,
    Rev. oba Kelly.

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    A Picture Is Worth 1000 words 

    Here are a few pictures from the camping trip:


    Aubree never seems to take a bad picture!


    I'm such a shadowy figure.


    Brynden with a scenic backdrop.


    We were taking a break on the hiking trail and this deer walked within 15 feet of us. As I was fumbling for my camera he turned to head off into the woods.


    Mount Rainier was spectacularly beautiful on Sunday.


    "Ranger Jim" talks to kids about the national park.


    Our home away from home for four days.


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    Monday, July 12, 2004

    Home Sweet Home 

    We are back from our little camping excursion. I love camping, but it always feels good to be home! I've had a real shower that I wasn't paying for by the minute and the van is unloaded.

    There were eight of us on this trip..myself, my two kids, my stepson Brynden, our friend Marlane, and her three sons. Ever taken six kids camping before? Not a dull moment to be had.

    We had rain a good part of the day on Saturday. That didn't stop me from taking five of the kids down the Wonderland Trail from Narada Falls to our campground. The trail is downhill all the way, is about 3 miles long, and walks you right past Carter Falls. We were all a little sore but it was a lovely walk in spite of the rain. When we got back we spent a good deal of the time shivering around the campfire while it rained intermittently.

    Yesterday we walked back up the same trail to an area with large boulders that the kids wanted to climb. We spent a couple of hours climbing rocks and just enjoying the scenic beauty of the place. We returned for the "Junior Ranger" program that the younger kids really enjoyed.

    We were all exhausted but I know that everyone had a really nice time. Places like Mount Rainier make you really appreciate nature's splendor and beauty. Just looking at the magnificent peaks, trees that were hundreds of years old, lush meadows, roaring mountain streams, brings one a sense of awe. I'm so glad we went.

    Now I must get back to the sad practicalities of life. You can't stay in the mountains forever. There is much to do here before I move in three short weeks.

    I'll write more later about some of the aspects of this weekend. Hopefully I'll even have a few pictures to toss up. In the meantime, its good to be home!

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    Saturday, July 10, 2004

    Camping Tips 

    Since Brian has gone camping I thought I would post some useful camping tips.

    Camping Tips
    The following tips apply to both car-camping and wilderness camping:

    When using a public campground, a tuba placed on your picnic table will keep the campsites on either side vacant.

    Get even with a bear who raided your food bag by kicking his favorite stump apart and eating all the ants.

    Old socks can be made into high fiber beef jerky by smoking them over an open fire.

    When smoking a fish, never inhale.

    A hot rock placed in your sleeping bag will keep your feet warm. A hot enchilada works almost as well, but the cheese sticks between your toes.

    You'll never be awakened by the call of a loon if you have an unlisted number.

    The best backpacks are named for national parks or mountain ranges. Steer clear of those named for landfills.

    Acupuncture was invented by a camper who found a porcupine in his sleeping bag.

    While the Swiss Army Knife has been popular for years, the Swiss Navy Knife has remained largely unheralded. Its single blade functions as a tiny canoe paddle.

    Modern rain suits made of fabrics that "breathe" enable campers to stay dry in a downpour. Rain suits that sneeze, cough, and belch, however, have been proven to add absolutely nothing to the wilderness experience.

    Lint from your navel makes a handy fire starter. Warning: Remove lint from navel before applying the match.

    You'll never be lost if you remember that moss always grows on the north side of your compass.

    You can duplicate the warmth of a down-filled bedroll by climbing into a plastic garbage bag with several geese.

    The canoe paddle, a simple device used to propel a boat, should never be confused with a gnu paddle, a similar device used by Tibetan veterinarians.

    When camping, always wear a long-sleeved shirt. It gives you something to wipe your nose on.

    You can compress the diameter of your rolled up sleeping bag by running over it with your car.

    Take this simple test to see if you qualify for solo camping. Shine a flashlight into one ear. If the beam shines out the other ear, do not go into the woods alone.

    A two-man pup tent does not include two men or a pup.

    A potato baked in the coals for one hour makes an excellent side dish. A potato baked in the coals for three hours makes an excellent hockey puck.

    You can start a fire without matches by eating Mexican food, then breathing on a pile of dry sticks.

    In emergency situations, you can survive in the wilderness by shooting small game with a slingshot made from the elastic waistband of your underwear.

    The guitar of the noisy teenager at the next campsite makes excellent kindling.

    A large carp can be used for a pillow.

    Check the washing instructions before purchasing any apparel to be worn camping. Buy only those that read "Beat on a rock in stream."

    The sight of a bald eagle has thrilled campers for generations. The sight of a bald man, however, does absolutely nothing for the eagle.

    It's entirely possible to spend your whole vacation on a winding mountain road behind a large motor home.

    Effective January 1, 1997, you will actually have to enlist in the Swiss Army to get a Swiss Army Knife.

    Bear bells provide an element of safety for hikers in grizzly country. The tricky part is getting them on the bears.

    A great deal of hostility can be released by using newspaper photos of politicians for toilet paper.

    In an emergency, a drawstring from a parka hood can be used to strangle a snoring tent mate.

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    Friday, July 09, 2004

    Away We Go 

    We are all packed up and heading out to Mount Rainier in an hour or two. Its quite a daunting task to get ready to go and I'm SURE we forgot something. But isn't that half the challenge of camping?

    I'll be gone until Monday. If one of my hardy guest bloggers would like to take up my slack, I'd be more than grateful! Hopefully, I'll come back with a few pics to share.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

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    Thursday, July 08, 2004

    Political Leanings 

    I've often thought of myself as a political "moderate", perhaps tilting slightly to the right, but with libertarian leanings. I took this quiz and voila! (via Does This Look Infected)
    .

    I'm feeling mighty lonely on my little end of the spectrum. But considering some of the company on the other end I guess its not too bad!

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    Vocabulary 

    If you have a bit of time, try your hand at Peter Schmie's Word Classification Test. (link via All Things Jen) I scored 157/200, which didn't make Peter's Top 100. Damn! I'd really like to meet the guy who got all 200 right...or maybe I wouldn't!

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    Twofers 

    From Stephanie via Chaising Daisy comes my ideas about two things in each category that no one's life should be without:

    Songs: "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, "Change the World" by Eric Clapton.

    Literature: "Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, "The Federalist Papers" by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton.

    Movies: "Braveheart" and "The Godfather"

    Poems: "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Coleridge and "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe.

    Snack Foods: Corn chips/salsa and trail mix.

    Places: Museum of American History-Washington D.C. and Pat O'Brien's Bar-New Orleans

    Websites: Google and Amazon.

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    Awww 



    There are many moments when I'm reminded why I chose to teach and work with kids. One of my students came in this morning and gave me a card with this note. I had to go to the bathroom and dab my eyes.

    You just can't place a price on a job that gives you moments like this.



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    Tuesday, July 06, 2004

    Road Warrior 



    Every mapping website I have used has recommended this route as the best way to get from Washington to Oklahoma. I had considered taking I-90 east to South Dakota and heading south from there. I had also considered a more southern route through California and Nevada. But all these mapping calculators can't be wrong can they?

    Estimated Total Driving Time: 32 hours, 25 minutes
    Estimated Total Driving Distance:2044 miles


    I'll be on the lookout for fun and interesting things to do along the way. Since I have some time before I report to work I don't have to rush back, and can try and make this an enjoyable thing for the kids...as enjoyable as such a long ride can be anyway!

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    A Camping We Will Go 

    This weekend I am taking all the kids camping at Mount Rainier National Park. This trip has been in the works for months and I'm excited to go! We camped there a couple of years ago and had a great time.

    One of the lessons I learned was that hiking DOWN the mountain wasn't as easy as I imagined. I took six kids and we all hiked 4.5 miles down to our campsite. It was a bit of a disaster from the start! We all had water bottles, and not 1/2 mile down the trail one of the kids squirted another. Before you knew it we had a big ole waterfight going, and when it was all done we were out of water. It would be quite some time before we came across a mountain stream where we could refresh ourselves.

    About halfway into the hike my calves started aching. By the time we were done they were on fire. That night all I could do was sit by the campfire and moan! Still, a good time was had by all. I suspect we will spend big chunks of our day this weekend exploring the stunning natural beauty of the park. You can hike up into the snow and have snowball fights, hike, or just explore the beautiful wooded areas near the campsite.

    I suspect we'll come back totally exhausted but having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Now, about those roasted marshmallows....

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    Monday, July 05, 2004

    Trading Places 

    Anyone who has read this blog the last few weeks knows about the upheaval and pain in my life right now. It is so easy to feel sorry for yourself and to think that you are the only one out there who is suffering. During my trip back to Oklahoma I gained some perspective.

    My mom told me that an old high school classmate of mine who attends her church would like to see me while I was back. His name is David and he is a couple of years younger than I am. We played basketball together and I was friends with his older brother. David is married to Sarah, also a former classmate. My mom had told me about the tragedies that had struck this couple recently, but it was different to talk to them in person.

    David is a pastor's son and a very decent man. He is highly religious and very soft spoken. A little over a year ago he went looking for his 11 year old son in the woods near their home. He found his oldest child hanging from a rope attached to a tree limb. He sent his daughter for help and held the lifeless body of his only son in his hands. I don't know all the details, but it is believed that the young man committed suicide. My God, how awful that must have been for all of them.

    A short time after they buried their son, David and his wife discovered that she was pregnant. She gave birth to a little girl, and although she could not replace their son, it gave them some joy in their lives. Now at 13 months old, this cute little girl that I met cannot sit up or roll over. There are obviously some serious developmental delays, and they are in the process of taking her to specialists to find out why.

    Although my own pain is very real, I wouldn't want to trade places with David. I can't think of anything worse than the death of a child.

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    Summer School Blues 

    Today is the first day of summer school. We have about 30 young smiling (ahem) faces here and we are giving them a "recreation day" today before we start in earnest tomorrow.

    I'm teaching a class on web page design and digital photography as well as an enrichment class on computer hardware and repair. I've been coordinating with the other summer school teachers to blend their curriculum into the web pages my kids will design this summer. It should be fun! I'm also the summer school principal, so I've spent a lot of time already today unlocking doors and signing payroll sheets.

    I've never taught summer school in all my years of being an educator. It should be an interesting experience. So many of these kids have absolutely nothing else to do all summer. If not for this program they would just be vegging in front of a television set. I'm hopeful that the interesting curriculum we are offering and the weekly field trips will make this an enjoyable experience for us all.

    So here we go!

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    Sunday, July 04, 2004

    Independence Day 


    Today in the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day. Last night I took the kids to a local park and a nighttime fireworks display. As I looked around at the throngs of people I wondered how many of them really knew what we are all celebrating.

    If we were celebrating the day Americans won their independence from Great Britain we would have a holiday on October 19th....the day that Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington, effectively ending the Revolutionary War. If we were celebrating the beginning of American self-government, we could be setting off fireworks on June 20th when the Articles of Confederation were ratified. We could always commemorate the ratification of the Constitution which enshrined the values that so many died for in the American revolution.

    But we choose to celebrate the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most brilliant mind of his generation, wrote words that would shake the world and still affects us to this day. He put a higher purpose on independence than just avoiding British taxation.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

    I've read these words hundreds of times and they are still powerful. The idea that a government should be the result of a free people agreeing to surrender some of their individual power for the common good was a radical idea in the 1700's. The notion that people had rights that were inherent no matter where they were born reverberated the world over. Jefferson's idea that the government is the servant of the people, not the other way around, is the foundation of constitutional government.

    Democracy and freedom have spread throughout the world since those fateful July days in 1776. We in the United States have struggled to live up to the idealistic words of the Declaration, and we still do. But the spark lit on July 4, 1776 has turned into a fire that keeps spreading. The natural condition of man is to yearn for freedom. Our mission should be to preserve that freedom at home and do all we can to help others find it.

    We're not just celebrating a piece of paper whose signatories pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor". We are celebrating the powerful ideal that human beings should have control of their own destiny.

    As I help my kids light sparklers and bottle rockets this evening I will remind them of what it is we are celebrating. Happy Independence Day!

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    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    Changes 

    I'm back in Washington now after a long day's plane trip. My head is still spinning a bit from all the changes that are happening. The new job is such a huge burden off of my shoulders. I begin work there on August 26th. In the meantime I have lots to do here to prepare to leave.

    I'm going to live in Sapulpa (a suburb of Tulsa) for at least the next year. My parents live there and can help with some of the child care arrangements. One of my brothers is a mini real estate magnate and he is preparing to close on a house. I'm going to rent from him until I get my feet on the ground.

    I'm taking very little from here with me. I'm renting a trailer to tow behind the van, and plan to take just a few furniture items, a TV, clothing, my computer, and a few other odds and ends. I'll be basically starting from scratch.

    Everything seems like such a whirlwind. So many emotions..so little time...so much change. Scary, but also exciting.

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    Friday, July 02, 2004

    Things to do when you visit Brian in Tulsa 


    Tulsa, Oklahoma Posted by Hello


    The Oklahoma Aquarium - Newly Opened, and Fantastic!
    The Philbrook Museum of Art the Gardens are amazing
    The Tulsa Drillers Minor League Baseball Baseball, of COURSE!
    Tulsa Oilers Minor League Hockey - Especially when they are playing the OKC Blazers!
    Tulsa Hurricane Football - their coach: Steve Kragthorpe... GREAT GUY

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