Jul 26, 2009

And I quote, "It's no big deal." Yeah right, Bill. Yeah, right.

It’s been about 10 years since I have been to Arizona. It seems like many things have changed. There are a lot more people, there are a lot more homes, and there are a lot more shopping centers. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s the heat. Its hot there. Dang hot.

It’s so hot in fact, that the local news stations only label it “HOT” when the temperatures reach 110 degrees or more. Apparently, 109 is not really hot. It’s just warm. Crazy, indeed.

The solution to this dreadful heat? There are a few. For example, many places are equipped with misters outside. A constant water flow through a special nozzle creates a cool mist enjoyed by any who are near enough to feel its cooling presence. The afore mentioned shopping centers are all air-conditioned. They are cool enough that some of the stores feel good enough to sell hot beverages to thirsty consumers. Movie theatres are another escape. Dark, cool, and if you can put up with the rest of the crowds a perfect retreat from the blazing afternoon heat.

And last, but certainly not least, there is the pool.

If you live in Arizona, it seems like a no-brainer that you should have a pool. If you don’t have a pool, it seems a no-brainer that you should know someone with a pool. If you don’t know someone with a pool, it seems a no-brainer that you should know where the good public pools are.

My sister has a pool. And the boys and I spent a fair amount of time in the pool this week while visiting my sister, as did Megan and Braydon. Even when the water temperature was nearly 90 degrees, it felt so much cooler than the 110-degree weather that was outside.

So yes, we spent some time in the pool.

Now, let me rewind the tape a little. When we arrived, we were warned there might be a little pee on the seat, as my sister’s youngest is still working on his use of the potty. He is still pretty young, after all. This information alone should be enough to set the scene that is about to unfold.

It was in the early evening, my mother, son, niece and two nephews were in the pool waiting for dinnertime. It was still hot; and I mean really hot. It was easily over 100 degrees outside. The pool, however, was on the cooler side, near 85. Nice. IT was getting close to the time we would want the kids to start getting out, and mom and I were devising a plan to break the news to the kids softly that pool time for the evening was almost over.

I had given the order to the kids to find all the torpedoes in the water and get them out. My son decided he could get a better vantage point from out of the water. As he was doing so he said to me, “Dad! There is something in the pool next to the torpedo!” It was getting dark, and I couldn’t exactly see what it was, but there was definitely something there. I wasn’t wearing goggles, so when I went underwater to investigate the mysterious object it was simply a blurry little thing at the bottom of the pool.

I reached out to grab it and instantly knew something was horribly, horribly wrong. I don’t know that “slimy” is the right word. More like squishy. Soft, squishy, and all together wrong. The chemicals in the pool seemed to be doing their job in making sure it was breaking down, and I dropped it accordingly. I came to the surface of the pool, still hoping against hope that what I had found was something other than what I suspected it of being. There was a slight residue left on a part of my hand. Knowing what I was getting into, I performed a quick aroma check of the residue in question.


Yep, it was poop. Someone had pooped in the pool. There was no need to wonder who it was, because the offending child (still working on the appropriate use of the toilet) was quick, and I mean overly quick, to blame the dog. This was the kind of blame only a guilty child throws out, thinking to deflect the oncoming barrage of trouble headed his way.

Unfortunately for him, no one believed his cockeyed story. It was wholly unbelievable. Much like a story I told my father once about a neighbor’s window I had broken, and tried to blame the dog (but that is another post that should be saved for another time).

I quickly announced that pool time was over. All the kids were to exit the pool immediately. There was a small amount of a panicked rush as everyone did his or her best to get away from the offending doodie.

In the end, we all got a bit of a laugh out of it, and mom and I decided we needed to take a shower (it was more a mental thing than anything else, but it sure made us feel better).

In a small tribute to poop in the pool, here is one of the best “poop in the pool” scenes ever captured on film:

In closing, let me just say this: May your days be cool and your pools be doodie free.

Jul 15, 2009

He really stepped in a hornet's nest this time.

According to Wikipedia, the German Yellow Jacket is the most common species of wasp in the United States. First appearing in Ohio (so I'm not entirely sure why they are called "German Yellow Jackets") they have spread across the continent and are the dominant species of wasp in the U.S. They are aggressive, have a lance-like stinger with small barbs and can sting repeatedly unless the stinger is lodged in the skin and breaks free of the wasp's body. Although fairly painful, the venom in the Yellow Jacket is really only dangerous to those who are allergic to it.

My son has been stung by a bee only once, so far, in his childhood career, and his arm swelled up like a balloon.

It is with this information in mind that I begin my tale.

Sequoia Park, nestled into the outskirts of Eureka is a fair place. Towering Redwood Trees heavily populate this area and the lush ground is blanketed in all manner of shrubs and ferns. Numerous trails and paths have been carved out by the city in an attempt to maintain a suitable environment for would-be walkers, runners, hikers and generally any who simply wish to escape from the monotony of their daily lives and enter into a whole other world where nature itself is the predominant life form and we humans are nearly insignificant visitors simply passing through.

As we left the house, we had the grand idea to deviate from the beaten paths we know so well and forge new ones. Adventure, excitement, and maybe even a little danger waited as we forged ahead into areas of the unknown. We started near the house and found a small path that led into shadowy darkness. Without hesitation Ben careened into the woods, eager to find what lay ahead.

Sequoia Park, while not the size of a national park by any means, is certainly bigger than it first appears. Pushing aside branches, wiping the occasional spider web from our faces, we ventured on into the unknown. The path was hard to follow at times; every now and then we had to stop and choose a new direction in order to leave as little a footprint as we could. After all, I have taught my son the importance of enjoying nature and its beauty and leaving as little a mark as possible, so others may later enjoy the same wondrous sights we do.

Soon, we found the ground sloping before us and could hear the sound of water running at the bottom of the small ravine. This area ahead of us we know well, and it was a welcome sight to see groomed trails and benches to rest our weary feet. Together we rejoiced at our courageous effort in finding our way through the veritable labyrinth that is Sequoia Park.

And then, all hell broke loose.

Ben stepped on a small fallen log that was presumably redwood. It was covered in moss and almost entirely impossible to distinguish from the forest floor. His foot sank into it a good couple of inches, indicating it had probably been there for quite some time. At first I simply thought that a long time on the forest floor, the constant dampness of the forest and encroachment of moss had simply broken it down.

Then I heard it, a faint humming that quickly erupted into the maddened buzz of angry Yellow Jackets. I watched in horror as literally hundreds of the insects began pouring out from around his ankle and into the air around us.

Ben quickly realized he was in rather poor position. He also quickly made a point of making sure I knew he was in a rather poor position. This action, on his part, was completely unnecessary. I screamed, the scream that can only come from a father who thinks he and his only offspring are about to die, "Run!!" Together we began running up the hill. Previously, on our decent, the path had been somewhat easy to pick out. In a complete panic, however, the trail simply vanished. Darting this way and that, Ben continued to yell, something. I have no idea what. About the only thing I knew for certain was he was scared and it was up to me to get us safely away.

To an outsider looking in, I can only imagine how this must have looked. Only minutes before we had happily traipsed into the forest, excitement shining on our faces as we ventured into the unknown. Now we ran, like frightened school children (to be fair, one of us was a frightened school aged child; the other was simply acting like one), screaming for the other to run faster, darting in one direction and then the next.

At some point we stopped, panting heavily, and frantically began combing over each other's clothes making sure there were no stow-a-ways. Ben had one that looked like it wanted to crawl up the leg of his shorts. With an absurd amount of calm I went to my knees and quickly removed the offending wasp with a simple flick of the finger. After I was sure I had checked him over thoroughly I requested he do the same. Ben quickly pointed out there was one on my pant leg. The calm I had managed in removing the wasp from his clothes evaporated so quickly, one would have though it was never there. I jumped (not sure why, looking back at it, as it didn't do any good) and swatted at it to get it off my clothing. Sadly, I missed. Remember people, all calm had gone and a scared panic was now settled deeply in me. A few more flailing swats managed to extricate the insect.

We spent a few minutes standing there, both telling each other how scary that was and both deciding we simply wanted to go home, where it was safe.

Once we got home, we unanimously decided we would suspend walks in the woods for a few days. When we return to Sequoia Park, we will be sticking to paths we know so well.

Adventure and the unknown can stay just that for now, unknown, and preferably undisturbed.

Jul 13, 2009

A little car washing leads to some simple insights into my own life.

Vehicle maintenance has never been one of my strong suits. I know how to put gas in my rig (now don’t laugh, there are some out there who have no idea how to do even this simple task). I know how to change the oil. However, this is a larger task, and the work involved is far outweighed by the simple act of paying someone to do it for me. I know how to change a tire. And in the event of a flat, I know what to do.

But that’s about as far as I really ever go with any of these endeavors. There is one more point however, that I am willing to do myself. I am willing to wash it. And vehicle washing is something I enjoy doing. I like to pull my truck up behind the house, break out some cleaning supplies and listen to some music while I clean away.

The other day was just such a day. It was somewhat sunny out, the weather was warm and I had a free afternoon that seemed like the perfect time to accomplish this task. It’s therapeutic really. Rinsing. Washing. Rinsing. Drying. Discovering the little dings and scratches that seem to have appeared from out of nowhere, previously hidden by a few weeks worth of dirt. Getting out the window cleaner and later getting into the cab and realizing I was only seeing a small portion of the road over the last few weeks. Getting out the vacuum and picking up what seemed like a yards worth of small rocks and pebbles from the floor underneath my feet. Applying the Armor All to the dashboard and seeing it return from a light gray (usually associated with dirt and dust) to the dark gray that is the actual interior. And lastly, a little Fabreeze, because I love the smell of the stuff. And when I’m done, it may not look like I just drove it off the lot but it sure looks nice and feels good.

I sure wish I could apply this kind of fastidious cleaning to other aspects of my life. But there are times when even the simplest of chores seem daunting. For example, cleaning the cat boxes. This chore, which if I were being honest is one of the most important chores around my household (just ask my three cats who think they own and run the place). If you simply let the cat boxes go for too long, the blasted cats are more than happy to leave a little note in the form of a turd somewhere close by. It’s an effective reminder.

Not long ago I woke up a little late and was therefore a little rushed in preparation for work. As I was leaving I noted the smell around the cat boxes and vowed to clean them when I got home. Once in the truck I could swear I could still smell the things, like the smell was caught in my nose or something. But it seemed a little too strong for just a simple lingering odor. No, this was stronger. So I popped on the dome light and looked down at my boots. There, sticking out from under my shoe was the source of the offending odor: a turd of a soft a squishy looking nature and a rather pungent smell. Touché, Kitty Kat. Touché. It should suffice to say I got the message, and promptly took care of business when I got home.

Other areas of particular trouble: vacuuming and dusting. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a complete pigsty. The biggest problem is with a dog, and three cats, it quickly looks like I haven’t vacuumed in a month. So it requires more than semi-regular maintenance. It’s a work in progress.

On the flip side of things, once I get into a groove, I’m a machine and get a lot done (it also helps that our particular little home is on the smaller side).
So, do I have a point to all this? Not really. I suppose one could argue I am on the lazy side at times. I myself would be more of the opinion I work too much and am therefore too tired (hey, it works for me).
Other than that, this has been a simple observation on my own habits, none of which I really intend to change anytime soon.

Jul 10, 2009

A rough week, indeed.

Its been a rough week for us here on the Lost Coast.

I have been working on a draft-type post over the last few days to try and put my thoughts to words, but its been slow going and in the end I simply stalled out. Partly from sheer exhaustion, partly from emotional exhaustion, and partly because after everything that has happened I simply found myself speechless.

Last week one of our own was arrested. It wasn't the odd random DUI (which sadly happens from time to time) and is something that everyone can recover from. It was much worse. It involves a co-worker, a friend, who made poor choices and landed himself in jail because of it. I don't care to get into details of the arrest here, however you can check the local paper's article HERE. A follow up article can be found HERE, which has more information.

Its a sad case. A friend made choices that, although maybe he didn't see it at the time, affected us all.

Then, a few days later, someone we all know and cared for, had a major medical problem while vacationing at the lake and died suddenly. Ben Nord was a good person and this sudden loss has affected us all deeply.

To say that its been a little depressing at work this last week would be the understatement of the year. The sense of loss we all feel has simply been compounded and doubled. Its a struggle to talk about anything else right now. And even when we manage, all conversations seem to make their way back to topics of loss and hurting.

I don't know what else to say at the moment. Its been rough. The good thing is we are like a family, and we are all close and there for one another. Perhaps, if anything, this tragic week will help us all become closer and better people for it.

One can only hope.
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