30 May 2011

A new chapter

Happy Memorial Day! 

Hope everyone has a safe and happy weekend and enjoys the day off! 

What did I say in my last post about turning the page? Something boastful about being a proud dad over his graduation? Well, buckle up, Dorothy.  

We got back from Austin last Sunday and been busy with family and work. The week has flown by and the weekend has been a good break from the hectic pace. Since a number of my family could not make the trek to Austin to see Stephen walk, I offered up to have a party next Saturday to invite over the local family. Grill up some steaks and enjoy some cold Shiner Bock. Spend most of yesterday rebuilding my grill. It's my annual chore - replace the burner, clean the grill box, scrub the grating. I always do it around May before the start of summer. Of course, I'm planning on dropping a few brats this afternoon just to break her in.

Yesterday afternoon, while out getting parts for the grill, my son calls me. Remember, he usually never calls me unless there is some sort of car issue or something that will cost $$ or there is some problem that he is seeking my input/wisdom. As I cruised through isles of Wallyworld picking up dog food & treats, he casually mentions that he proposed to his girlfriend last night. Of course, being a bright, level headed girl, she accepted. Those two have been going steady (can you call it that anymore) since High School and they’ve pretty much been dating each other throughout college. Given their travels together over the past 4 years, momma and I had an inkling that they might get hitched one day, but we did not think it would be right after graduation. We were hoping that they would tie the knot, just didn’t expect it this soon. No date, yet, but I am betting it will be sometime next spring. Rebecca is a great kid. Talented, bright, funny. She’s been around with us for many years and I warned her that she knows what she is getting into joining this tribe. 

I may have mentioned last weekend on how we were proud of his achievements.  Now we are just plain giddy, ecstatic, elated, cock-a-hoop over the news.  We were debating having the party next weekend since we already had one in Austin, but this just gives us a whole new reason to celebrate – a college grad and a daughter-in-law.

It's got a nice ring to it

24 May 2011

Turning the page

Definitely an interesting weekend in Longhorn Country.

Junior's officially a graduate. Well, sort of.  He couldn't walk the graduate ceremony (lacks one class) but got to walk the undergrad ceremony in the Erwin Center.  Really sadistic start time for a bunch of computer science geeks. Students had to be there at 0700 for an 0800 ceremony. Since Stephen had originally been set to walk the graduate ceremony, his name wasn't in the program, but he DID get to walk. Sound system sucked. We couldn't hear the dean making her comments and barely heard the names getting announced. We did not spot Stephen on the floor until they announced his name. We were kinda perplexed on the order of the students - not sure what system they were using to recognize students, but it was definitely not alphabetical. We figured it was just another way to "Keep Austin Weird". 

I did make the evening university wide commencement hoop-tee-do.  Nice ceremony but the closest we got was Littlefield fountain (about 200 yards away). They had the upper areas pretty much roped off.  The entire upper and lower plaza was packed with people. Looked a bit like a Mardis Gras celebration but with a bit more Burnt Orange and less boobage.  Had one of our senators as speaker. From our vantage point, you could not see the mall area where all the graduates were sitting, but the university had erected several giant projection screens throughout the plaza. I was told that, unless you had a specific ticket to the seating area (not easy to acquire) or got there 4 hours early, you were pretty much stuck with the streets. The streets that run up to to main tower were filled with folding chairs so that people could see the procession of graduates and the ensuing fireworks.  The whole thing started late 2000 and ran until 2130 when the fireworks went off.  Since I hail from the rival school, I tend to see things in a different shade (maroon), but I will admit the fireworks show was pretty darn good, for that Austin crowd.  Lots of explosions and gianormous star clusters being shot off the top of the tower. Of course, seeing how that entire area tends to lean on one certain direction, I am sure there were people all around Austin complaining about the noise or mayhem. Blowin' stuff up and setting things on fire is more of an Aggie thing. Of course, I kept wondering how "Earth friendly" all those fireworks were.  

I could go on about the festivities we attended or celebrations we enjoyed or the congratulations passed our way, but this wasn't about us.  It was Stephen's time to shine, his turn in the spotlight, his achievement.  As much as we enjoyed our short time this weekend, it was mixed.  He is finishing up one chapter in his life and on the threshold of a new adventure.  One part of me is happy to see the last tuition check cut.  One part of me is proud. 

Terri is way better at verbalizing it than me.  Kids grow up too fast and they are on the horizon of their adults life and you want to hold on as long as you can.

Ready to conquer the world

Gathering of the tribes before the grand procession

Fireworks from the top of the university tower

17 May 2011

Changing dynamics (revision 1)

Thanks, Mel, for keeping me straight. 
Life's not interesting unless there is a little drama involved.

A few turns back, I mighta mentioned that junior is getting ready to graduate and we're making plans to head north to help him celebrate (and to make sure it sticks). I might have glossed over a few "minor" details, so for the record, let me clarify the issue. 

Stephen has been going to school for 5+ years. He is getting a BS Computer Science. About 1/2 way through the program, he got a chance to enroll in the Master's Degree program which would let him take classes in tandem with his undergrad courses and enable him to get a graduate degree with just one additional year of school. He applied and got accepted and has been working towards that goal ever since.

This spring, he lacked a few courses to finish up. He elected to push through the graduate courses and leave one final class for the summer session. According to his advisor and college, they told him he could walk come spring with the caveat that he would have to complete the final class before he got any papers. At my insistence, he reconfirmed this note with the admin of his college and thus proceeded to order invitations and regalia. So far, so good. We are on track to see him walk with the understanding he had to finish up one course to make it legal. My parents and brother are booked into the RV park to go to Austin at attend. My parents are 87+ years old and have been to all the various graduations for their sons and grandsons and this is probably their last one they will attend. Does that get everyone up to date?

Now for the drama, a week ago Friday afternoon, junior calls me on my cell.  Keeping in mind that he normally doesn't call me unless there is some financial requirement or car problem or crisis, I tend to pucker up until I know the subject.  Friday's call fell into the latter category. It turns out that the information he was given was wrong. The Graduate School gently informed him that they do not, as a rule, allow students to walk unless they have completed all courses. Even though he had what he thought was clearance, it was non-negotiable. He could attend the big mass ceremony at night that acknowledges the graduating students, but would not be able to walk and get individual recognition. To put it mildly, he was highly disappointed. Momma was even more upset and wanted me to call the school and straighten them out (yea, sure, they'll listen to the parent of one of their 100,000+ students - especially one who attended the rival school). As much as we wanted to help, he did not want our assistance and was going to work through the issue. Needless to say, everyone was a bit bummed but we were still planning on going up to attend the mass ceremony. So, this past Friday, he called me back late in the afternoon and told me that he had petitioned the dean of the undergrad school and they accepted his petition and he can walk with the undergrad class and get recognized for his Bachelor's Degree. He will still get his Graduate degree in July as planned, but he won't be able to walk as a Graduate Student until sometime next year. So, the roller coaster graduation ceremony is back on. We're loading up the wagons and heading north into Longhorn country. And I need a bigger bottle of scotch.

Who ever said being a parent was easy?

15 May 2011

Team building

Frankly, those words scare the crap out of me. 
I've been around the block several times.  Been down that road before.  This ain't my first rodeo.  Been there done that (got the shirt).

After 26+ years in business and 5 years in the Army, I've been to more than a few "team building exercises".  The Army called them leadership skills training.  TI called them "Interactive Group Dynamics".  Intermedics didn't have a name for them.  More than a few were an event where you gather together with your co-workers and form ad-hoc teams to accomplish some made up goal all under the guidance of an overpaid, bubly, cheerful consultant who works to inspire and encourage team dynamics.  Some folk might like the touchy-feely approach of encouraging others to excel, but me, I prefer the old Drill Sergeant approach:  
  • Get your lazy a%%es together and across that log!!!
  • My 87 year-old mother moves faster than you dirtbags!!!
Anyway, we were invited by the operations VP to attend a team building day out at a local sports facility.  The invite was optional.  You could decline if you choose, but we figured it wouldn't be an career enhancing move to not attend, so we went.  The facility was actually very nice.  It a baseball themed facility called Big League Dreams.  6 full sized ball fields, batting cages, covered soccer field, track, playground, restaurant, the works.  This place opened several years ago to draw in teams/leagues to play ball.  The layout looks like various professional stadiums, so you get a kinda big league feeling (ergo the name).  We had the run of the place.  Took over the dining room for our annual progress meeting (we just finished up our fiscal year).  Afterwards, we broke up into teams to compete in various events/challenges.  Frisbee toss, sack races, land ski races, three legged races, dodgeball, tug of war and a water balloon toss.  I had low expectations going in, but was quite surprised at the outcome.  I gotta admit, it was a nice gig.        

Harder than it looks

3 legged race

Water baloon toss (from 25 yards apart)

Dug in


Going for the kill shot

13 May 2011


I really love blogger.  Lest one might think I am slacking off or lazy (well, that might be true), but I've been trying to update my site but keep getting the "down for service" kinda message.  I swear, if I wasn't paying all this good money for this service, I'd haul off and move to an....  uh, wait a minute.  I don't pay anything for this stuff.  So I guess I get what I pay for.

To channel my inner Steve Martin:  It's been a wild & crazy week.  Working on reviews again.  Projects due.  Planning another round of audits in June/July.  Setting up our trip to Austin for junior's graduation.  Keeping the dogs entertained. 

Let's see, when we last left our hero, he was getting ready to celebrate an anniversary and preparing for Mother's Day.  Anniversary #31 went well.  Enjoyed a quiet evening with my young bride out an Pappadeaux's (Cajun food).  Good food, a bit pricey, but the quality was exceptional, as usual.  Gave momma the new toy and she was excited.  We are still trying to work out the logistics of it, but, so far, it works great.  Really neat on the counter all lit up a night with blue back lights in the water tank.  Junior repeated his trick again, calling in an order for a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake from the The Cheesecake Factory (a whole frickin cake).  Absolutely obscene dessert.  I had one piece and I am going to have to run another 10 miles just to burn off those calories. 

Spent the first half of the week working to play catch up to the projects due.  Yesterday, we had an employee appreciation day at the local sports venue.  I've been through a number of these "team building" exercises and I did not have high expectations on this deal but I can honestly say I was wrong.  Lots of games/competition (dodgeball, sack races, Frisbee toss, tug of war, land ski races, water balloon toss).  It turned out to be a fun and entertaining event.  Will post pictures and back story tomorrow.  Lots of embarrassing pictures to pass along.  For a company function, it was pretty darn good.

At the end of my rope

03 May 2011

How long?

How can you tell if you've been together too long?

If, for your anniversary, you wind up giving each other the exact same card, like we did last year.

Tomorrow is numero treinta uno.  Tradition has it that pearls are the gift for 30 (diamonds are the modern answer), but what do you get for 31?  Typically we do not splurge on ourselves for anniversaries (see previous post about college student).  This year I kinda went outside the box.  I'm a simple guy and have simple needs, but this one tweaked my inner geek.  I've been eye-balling one for a while and finally I went out Sunday and secured me one. 

The marriage of technology and caffeine

And if it doesn't work out, I'm blaming you, Terri.

02 May 2011

One of the seven sins

OK.  I gotta admit, I've got mixed feelings here. 

On one hand, the tightwad in me is glad to have this at an end. 
On the other hand, it marks a new chapter in my son's life.  
One door is closing while another one opens.  
If Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, I guess I am guilty.

I feel like a Harry Chapin song.