Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hooks & Ladders, Catch & Release

My own emotions.

My emotions are my own.

I own my emotions.

It would be an understatement to say that my emotions and I have never been comfortable with one another. We were not even on speaking terms for a large portion of my life. Thoughts about my emotions or just about any expression relating to how I felt about something were always unsettling to me and have typically been closely held secrets.

Verbalizing my personal feelings (cue Jaws theme) always came with an ominous sense of cracking the lid on Pandora's Box. Hearing someone "else" relating "my" feelings to still another person twisted my gut. I was horrified if people didn't express a particular feeling or thought of mine exactly the way I had "meant" it.

Living in a box, I was living in a cardboard box. My own emotional origami puzzle box.

As a child I often hid behind our refrigerator to avoid contact with people visiting our home. By high school I matriculated into a generally social being, but most people were kept at a cordial long arm's distance. In college there were some good close friends with which I talked, shared and laughed.

But as college went on, and especially during my junior year, an increasing emotional pressure came to bear that I just couldn't shake. After that year, I withdrew from school and worked as a mechanical assembler for a local technology company. My best friend from college had transferred up to the University of Colorado. We split the cost of an apartment near the campus. During that year my friend's dad, having just given up his alcoholic habit, decided he could not deal with life and violently committed suicide. Their were some initial attempts at talking about it. But I felt mostly helpless and inadequate and didn't know what to do or to say or give in the situation. As time passed, the friendship withered in a wasteland barren of communication. Distance and pain became the prevalent emotion. I struggled in my own private world, and my friend - who certainly had more on his plate than me - did the same. Neither talked with the other about our dissolving friendship or much of anything else either.

I didn't understand how and what went on in that friendship and why it degenerated to such a degree. And why was it that in many (most?) of my other relationships, there was a prevailing sense of distance and disconnection in my life.

Close to twenty years later, much has changed. I married the love of my life, we together have six children. There has been stumbling and learning and some growth in many areas of relating and life. But just in this past year the eyes of my heart have opened enough to see at least one part of my unfolding emotional puzzle box. Something I had missed completely, which - for me - is key to relating to anyone. To borrow a term from that great cinematic movie for the ages "The Incredibles" I would call it "The Now."

"I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now" Edna

My definition of "The Now" would be: communicating what you are currently doing, presently thinking and how you are really feeling right Now, at this current moment in time.

I am sure this is patently obvious for everyone but me, but I spent most of my life avoiding The Now's emotions. My default mode of operation was to hide my thoughts and personal opinions. I was so good at it that most of the time I could not tell you what I was actually feeling at a given moment even if I wanted to. Weird but true. I did not know what to do with negative emotions. Pain, anger, disappointment, dismay, betrayal, indifference, unfriendliness, loneliness, misunderstandings, cutting remarks, the silent treatment, my response to the sin in my own life and so on really hurt.

I shoved the pain down, pushed the hurt aside, and just attempted to ignore it.

My approach to The Now's emotions has many problems and consequences. For starters: There is no free lunch. In this case that means you can't push away the negative emotions and still genuinely experience the "positive" emotions to any great degree. If you numb yourself to the one you numb yourself to the other as well. But by far the most important problem with stuffing The Now, is that it is not how God designed us to operate. He gave us our emotions, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We are to Love God and Love people. Love is a decision and a commitment, but it is wrapped up in an emotional package. A "love" without the commitment is ephemeral at best, a colorful rainbow that's gone in a moment. But a "love" without emotion is stark, plain, duty. A heavy concrete block.

I do not like to hurt. Emotions can hurt. Therefore, I do not like emotions. Written in black and white like that it looks as ridiculous as a standard philosophy 101 logical fallacy: I have ears. An elephant has ears. therefore, I am an elephant.

I am learning, however slowly, that pain is not all "bad." A physical example: If I hit my thumb with a hammer it physically hurts and my emotions scream. But the experience can teach me. If I listen. "Be careful next time!" "Ow! Easy with the hand." Yes, it would hurt. But lessons about prudence, empathy for fellows at thumb smashers anonymous and even some practical "How Tos" on caring for a thumb injury could be learned.
If I listen

Leprosy would be a further illustration. The thought of Leprosy fills my mind with ragged people missing fingers and limbs, their bodies rotting away around them. But those visible signs of Leprosy are not from the disease itself at all. Leprosy causes areas of the body to become numb. Because the person does not feel what is happening to those parts of the body, they fail to notice and address things that happen at those locations. Physical injuries or the signs of infection go unnoticed. Secondary diseases can then take over and destroy the parts numbed by the Leprosy. Without the feeling of pain or irritation, no notice or care is taken. And body parts die.

The Now, for me, has been currently fleshed out by purposing to do my best to express - In Love - what I am feeling Right Now. I cannot express how hard this generally is for me. Being honest with God and myself (about myself) and particularly in my closest relationship - if my wife says or does something, and it hurts - everything in me screams to say absolutely nothing. I strain to keep the lid tight on the box. Bad things will happen if it is opened. The problem is that's what I almost always had done and it was not the truth. When I express a hurt, especially in my marriage, things do immediately get worse. But then, eventually, they get much better. There is certainly an instantaneous hurt registered on my wife's countenance. Especially given that I have not conducted almost any communication of this type for most of the previous 17 years of marriage. But we talk about it. Pray about it (and, yes, stew about it and pout about it.) But with much trembling and effort, there is new understanding, and a deeper level of intimacy. It has been hard and it hurts and it has been worth it.

Very privately, I purpose to let myself feel the pain of hard situations and not push the hard feelings aside. As a result I have experienced some of the weirdest conversations with myself driving to work. A thought or emotion comes up (related to any number of tough things) and my auto-responder immediately starts shoving the feeling aside. I find myself consciously saying "No!" and stopping the suppression process. I then find myself almost - like with good food at a meal - "tasting" the emotion. Letting it settle and actually - gasp! - feeling it. It is amazing that I can "hurt" and be Ok. I don't know where it all goes or leads. But those raw feelings have provided prompts to pray and to think and to talk.  It they certainly cause me to rely on God.

The Now and this whole process has been a ladder to help climb out of my box. It's a big big box.

A couple other corollary lessons as well:

Just because I feel something, it doesn't mean I'm right, it just means that is how I am feeling. And you are allowed to respond to my emotion with your emotion as well (this is very hard for me to take, but I am learning.)

And further, I have discovered that I express my emotions, often, with a large, wickedly barbed hook attached. When My Feelings are made known about something between me and another person, I expect that person to change their behavior toward me because of what I have most generously shared. This is a grievous evil and desperately wrong on my part. If the person doesn't change in response to something I specifically shared I have found I hold that against them. I pray for forgiveness and repent and desperately trust God to show me when I have done this and when I am tempted to do this again.

To bring my emotional epistle to a temporary wrap:
I spent so much of my life catching my emotions and keeping them "safely" locked in the box.  And then when I have released some feelings, I find myself attempting to hook the people.  Trying to catch them and keep them from misusing the precious emotional information I have shared.

I want to release both to my God. He's big enough to handle my precious feelings, and he's more than able to bring myself, my emotions and the people around me to the places He wants them to be. It's still hard, and it still hurts.

Here's to climbing further out of the box.

John 8:32 "...and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." NASB

Monday, February 9, 2009

By Faith

Faith, for me, has always felt somewhat uncomfortably vague.

Perhaps I should say, the phrase "without faith it is impossible to please God" has always been one of those statements that has always made me uncomfortable. It's a sock that has worked its way off your foot into the front of your shoe or the rock under a sleeping bag.

I understand commands and rules. I am comfortable with the Ten Commandments, loving God, and loving your neighbor. Not meaning, by any measure, that I do any justice to obeying those commands, but I agree with the concept of rules and that when rules are broken, consequences for the disobedience should happen.

But "without Faith it is impossible" means I can obey a rule and still not please God. The obedience must be done in "Faith." And, actually, it seems that a person can fail, and please God, if they are living a life in "Faith" before God.

Simple examples of faith I understand - to have faith in a chair you must sit on it. Just saying "I believe the that chair will hold me" doesn't cut it, I must actually act and sit down in the chair for it to be faith.

It makes sense to me that mere statements of belief and genuine faith are not the same thing. Day in day out politics represent incredible (infamous?) pictures of this truth. It's an endless saga statements and sound bites intended to communicate or imply beliefs with little or no action or follow through - especially if polls turn out to show a different public opinion. And although it's easy to take shots at those in the public arena about this, this type failure is true in all our hearts to some degree or another.

But living by "Faith," to truely live by it has not been as clear in my life as I would like.

Another snapshot of faith lies a few hundred feet from the back door of my house.

Visitors to our home taking a tour of the back yard would proceed past a trampoline, some struggling fruit trees and various gardens, until reaching a "well used" removable sectioned wire fence that marks the end of the backyard "proper." They would then see the land sloping down before them into a forested tangle of ferns, vines and muck. And at the edge of the swampy undergrowth a large oak tree growing in a massive left leaning arc would appear out of the jungle. That was the tree that had caught my eye when we first bought our home.

I had earmarked it for the construction of a swing.

When, in the fullness of time, swing construction was at hand, I took a baseball, duct taped a length of nylon string to it and proceeded to the tree. As that tree grows just at the slope's base, I positioned myself about half way up the slope, took aim at the desired rope swing's attachment point and hurled the ball. I quickly looked around - in embarrassment - to see if any family member had seen the throw because I hadn't even come close. Either that tree was tall or (and) my arm was pretty weak. Over and over I threw, taking a good portion of a half hour to get the ball over the tree truck. At last! . . . oh no! Note: when throwing a ball with an attached string, keep a grip on the end of the string. Up over the tree went the ball and the string with the end of the string following after. Muttering to myself, I retrieved the ball from the swamp and threw for several more minutes. Finally! the ball went over the trunk as I stood - triumphant - holding the end of the string. Using my baseball string as a guide, I pulled into position my official rope swing rope and attached it to a handy section of two by six lumber that I had fashioned into a workable wood seat.

I positioned the seat high enough to clear the slope while swinging and then set about constructing a launch platform for the swing - which attached to a tree about three quarters of the way up the slope. After a few days cutting, drilling and screwing the platform was ready for takeoff.

And (or) a crash landing - it all depends on your perspective.

The platform consists of two levels. The lower one requires a Tarzan approach: holding the rope, jumping and then swinging oneself onto the seat. The upper platform allows the person to be seated on the swing before liftoff, but does require a "small" jump along with a "little" free fall. The effect of that swing has been variously described as a little "Six Flagsish." Which makes me happy. Once launched, the swing rushes one down the slope and then soars out over ferns and greenery with oak forest all around. It's exhilarating (or terrifying.) And the first time off can make your stomach jump from your toes to your throat.

Now, the rope used to fashion the swing has a strength well over 1,000 pounds and there are two (and now four) lengths of rope that are attached to the seat. The platform is solid. The seat is solid - not huge - but not flimsy.

That platform is where this further picture of faith displayed. Because everything that is there will, without question, hold you throughout your ride. I will even get on and swing, showing before your eyes that it will hold a heavier person than you most likely are to be.

The first time visitors come to the swing, some get straight up on the platform, get ready, get set and immediately jump. (although if they don't emit some kind of sound my kids are disappointed.) Others get up, get set and get setter and get still more set and then eventually go. Yet still others get up, get set and then come back down. And then there

's some that say, "Nope! No way, There's no way - I'm not doing that."

It is a picture of faith to look at those responses to the swing.

Some go, not even thinking about the support. Some see the support, trust it and go. Some see the support, get into position, but in the end don't trust it enough to go - and get off. And some aren't even going to consider the whole proposition.

In my life faith is ever more clearly being seen like my swing. God want's me to believe and act - trusting that His support will be there when I am doing what He wants me to do. It's not about "obeying the rules." It is, instead, trusting in the God who set up the universe to know how He made it to work. And to choose to do things His way, because I believe He knows what He's doing.

And for those who have the Faith to jump, he promises Joy in the ride.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Laws (Physical, Scientific, Logical and Biblical) & a 2 Year Old

Laws of Motion:

Law Number One:
Movable objects at rest will be put in motion. An immovable object will be climbed to attain a better launch point.

Law Number Two:
The Force exerted on a movable object is directly proportional to the perceived wrongness of the action and is inversely proportional to the time available before I think Mama will catch me.

Law Number Three:
For every action there is an equal or greater verbal reaction from my siblings.

Laws of Thermodynamics:

Law Number One:
I am the total energy to destroy any sibling's creation in my universe

Law Number Two:
I am the cause of all increases in the entropy of my world

Law Number Three:
Only when my current activity is nap time (absolute zero), can the household attain minimum entropy (maximum order.)

Logical Laws (Finite State Machine, household lab application):

If a light is on, I turn it off. If I turned it off, I turn it on...
If a light is off, I turn it on. If I turned it on, I turn it off...
If a door is open, I close it (hard). If I closed a door I open it..
If a door is closed, I open it. If I opened a door, I close it (hard)...

If the refrigerator is closed, I open the door... and then hang on the door handle and swing back and forth on the door until Mama gets to me (see "Laws of Motion, Law Number Two.")

Application of Biblical Laws:

Is in current, blatant, continual violation of wisdom law/proverb Number 27 Section 14
"He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rejected Holidays, Pneumonia, and a Happy New Year

I've decided that my body has rejected holidays. Or maybe it just can't figure out what to give and so it gives me the best malady it can muster, just so I know it hasn't forgotten me.

Thanksgiving gave me an ear infection with fever, chills and a cough. I got an anti-biotic quickly enough to get me going just in time to get back to work.

Christmas gave me the same (so I thought), until the Sunday evening following Christmas I realized I couldn't take more than a (very) shallow breath and dramatically discovered that laying down or getting up reduced me to extraordinary fits of violent, spastic coughing. My visit to the Doctor's office started with getting my blood pressure and taking my blood oxygen level. When the oxygen level came back low (94, they want at least 98) the nurse said, "take a deep breath."

"You're getting all I've got."

That got me a trip to Mr. X-Ray.

Front shot, arms out:

"Deep Breath"

I took "deep" as a relative measure, as in, deeper than not breathing

Cough Cough

Side shot, arms up:

"Deep Breath"
Erp, Squeak, Rasp, Cough Cough..

Trip to the examination room.

Ten minutes later, the good doctor walks in: "You have pneumonia in both lungs." I wish I could remember verbatim what he said next, but essentially he told me that I was not going to work for several days and if I was 85 he'd be worried about me, but as I wasn't 85 he wasn't worried.


Exit the good doctor.

Ten minutes later, enter the nurse practitioner carrying my paperwork and then lobbing this shot over my port bow: "If things don't continue to get better taking this medicine you WILL come back immediately because that's when you go to the hospital."

I didn't quite know how to reconcile the two interactions. I guess it was supposed to be taken as, "You're OK, but this is serious don't mess around with it."

I do not like the word 'hospital.'

Pneumonia was an interesting experience because I felt 'fine.' Sure, I was in a constant state of being on one side or the other of a dose of the "good" cough medicine or ibuprofen (along with my daily anti-biotic.) And, yeah, I was tired and sitting felt very good. And I could take a two to three hour nap at the drop of a hat. Well, there was that inconvenient inability to take a deep breath, and I did have my once (OK, or twice) a day coughing fit during which I really couldn't breathe.

But I felt 'fine.'

Thursday I stopped taking any medicine other than the antibiotic and Sunday after the Monday was my final antibiotic dose. Friday and Saturday were really bad, going through medicine withdrawal.

And Monday I was at work.

Then, Tuesday, I freaked out in the afternoon because my ears were still aching and not "normal" and I had the nurse practitioners voice in my head saying "If things didn't keep getting better" and ending in "hospital..."

Did I mention I don't like the word "hospital?"

My wife got to relate to a normally very stable husband who was suddenly acting distinctly randomly emotional. And did a great job. She graciously called around and today I had appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor who extracted my body weight of wax out of each ear and said, "Ears are the last thing to feel right after a respiratory infection."

"See me in six weeks."

So I guess things are OK.

Happy New Year

(cough , cough, just kidding, sort of)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Hope You Dance

This past weekend we were able to attend a wedding reception.

Yes, we did actually plan on attending the wedding itself as well, but that involves driving on the road that goes to the wedding, and not on the ones that don't. By the time we had realized the error in our collective navigation and were able to reroute ourselves to the appropriate location, we were just in time for the reception and had completely missed the wedding. I would have said we were lost, but we were able to turn around and retrace our route...

And truly, other than enduring many more renditions of "when are we going to get there?" it was a wonderful scenic drive through the Alabama country side - watching the landscape roll by in an endless tapestry of rustic autumn colors.

In addition to enjoyable conversations with friends and the generally fun atmosphere of a wedding reception (which in this case also included the first fireworks and fire-engine sendoff for a bride and groom I have ever seen) there was dancing at the reception.

I grew up not knowing the first thing about dancing. When my schools had dances I would just not go. And if I did happen to be at one, I would spend my time wishing I'd actually ask someone to dance. But I almost never did. Standing on the side of a dance floor, watching other people dance, and kicking yourself for not having the courage to ask is an absolutely miserable way to spend a couple hours of your life.

Later on, during my time at the Colorado School of Mines (in Golden), the Campus Crusade for Christ group at the University of Colorado in Boulder would host an annual "50's" dance at CU's huge Glenn Miller ballroom. It was a lavishly done "big deal." Hundreds upon hundreds of students would flock to the ballroom decked in their poodle skirts, black rimmed glasses and other 50's garb and swing dance into the night.

A contingent from "Mines" would drive the 20 or so miles up the road to join in the festivities as well. My housemates at the time then asked "The Question" - would I go with them to the dance?

"Why not?"
"I can't dance"
"Oh, come on you'll love it"
"No, I'll hate it"
"I can't dance"

And then came the kicker: "What if we teach you to dance, will you come then?"

"What? You can't teach me to dance"

"That's not the question, If we teach you to dance, will you come?"
"But you can't"
"That's not the question"
"If we teach you, will you come?"
"There's no way you can teach me to dance"
"Stop dodging the question: if we teach you to dance, will you come?"
"If you can teach me to dance you'll have done a miracle, it can't be done"
"So, you'll come?"
"IF, you can teach me, and I don't think you can"

Thus began Rob's Inaugural Dance lessons. We pushed back the couches in the living area of the house we were in, and a couple of the girls from our "Mines" Campus Crusade group came up to provide "partners" for the swing dance class. My housemates then worked to teach me "Swing Dancing 101." It was actually remedial swing dancing because I was truly terrible. I stepped (hard) on my partners feet, randomly went the wrong way, had zero sense of timing and was just flat bad. The ultimate was when I planted an awkwardly flailed elbow on my partners chin hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.

Everything stopped for several minutes with me and my housemates wondering if she'd still be willing to continue on as a partner to the swing dance crash test dummy...

Amazingly, in spite of the bumps and bruises, she persevered through a few more nights of dance training. And wonders of wonders it sank in! The whole swing thing actually began to make sense. I certainly wasn't a dancing wonder, but I was able to follow the beat and lead correctly through various swing steps/moves and could chain enough moves together to make swing dancing a very enjoyable activity.

And we went up to the 50's dance and had a great time. I even asked a few people to dance and they did (actually shocking to me.) A most enjoyable part was watching what other people were doing and then trying to copy them or to ask them to teach that particular step or move. Once I had the basic skills, adding to my repertoire wasn't hard, it was in fact really fun.

And now, because of those friend's encouragement, and my - however grudging - willingness to branch out and learn something new and awkward and uncomfortable. I was able to (I got to!) request some swing music at a wedding reception and could dance with my wife and one of my daughters. I was able to dance with my wife at our own wedding reception. And I was able to take her dancing when we were dating - some of our most enjoyable memories.

It brought to mind the words of a semi country/pop song of a few years ago sung by Lee Ann Womack called "I Hope You Dance." A stanza in that song goes something like this:

I hope you still feel small When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

If you are given an opportunity that you aren't comfortable with, but the discomfort isn't due to the morality of the situation (God says "No"), some innate danger, or other obvious problem (my parents said "No"): Give the opportunity a chance.

To not try things merely because of timidity, embarrassment, awkwardness and so on, will drastically suction the enjoyment out of life. Are there calls for prudence and discernment? Absolutely. Live your life with wisdom. But step out of fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Try something and you might fail. But don't try, and you've failed by default.

And who knows, you may even learn to dance.

I hope you dance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I grew up not camping.

Our family would occasionally go to a mountain or lake-side cabin - genuine "cabin" cabins, not mansions on the mountain-side "cabins." But we didn't go to a place, set up a tent and camp overnight. We did hike numerous trails in the Colorado mountains: Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Grand Mesa, and many other random places in between. But they were day hikes, frequently bringing a fishing pole along, and ultimately driving home to sleep in your own bed at night.

As my brother and I grew into our high school and college years we started backpacking. In particular we would trudge ourselves (and as many people as we could convince) each year over Pawnee Pass usually around the first part of July. We would pack all the necessities required for a couple days and nights in the mountains of Colorado on our backs and head for Pawnee Lake - on the other side of the pass.

Now the Pawnee Pass/Lake hike is not particularly long (only about 6ish miles.) And the first two and a half miles are spent walking up a level, beautiful valley by Long Lake and ending at picturesque Lake Isabelle. But after that point the trail proceeds to gain and then loose over two thousand feet in altitude in just over three and a half miles. The trail head begins at just under 10,500 feet, Pawnee Pass tops out at over 12,500 feet and Pawnee Lake is right under 10,900 feet. So after Lake Isabelle, almost a half a mile in altitude is gained in the two miles it takes to reach the high point of the pass, and then over the next mile down to the lake almost all of that altitude is given back again.

The pass itself is a broad half mile long saddle above timberline. Boulders are sporadically strewn about a tundra grass meadow and rocky mountain peaks are pushing toward the heavens as far as the eye can see. It is gorgeous. The first time on the hike is the most interesting. When approaching the Pawnee Lake side of the pass you keep looking for the trail down, and all that is seen is the 'horizon' of the edge of the saddle. Only in the final few feet does it become apparent that the path down to the lake is a dwindling array of switchbacks carved into a tumbled down rock slide/boulder field/cliff face - 1500 feet almost straight down. And way down at the bottom is Pawnee Lake.

Some noteable items from our trips:

Friend Joining Us: "What's that thing you are putting on the bottom of your back packs?"

My Brother: "That would be a sleeping bag"

Friend: "Oh..."

  • I talk non-stop when terrified. My brother doesn't speak when terrified. In my younger days I didn't talk, and my brother couldn't stop. So this was a very interesting phenomena. It became especially apparent during midnight alpine thunderstorms. With lightning flashing so close and loud that the light was blinding in spite of pillows, sleeping bags and hands over our eyes.
  • I can to do the portion of the hike from Lake Isabelle to Pawnee Lake with severe stomach flu (I cannot, however, talk at the same time.)
  • Mountain peaks at dawn, mirrored in a lake still as glass, are breathtaking.
  • Cutthroat trout in a mountain lake are either hungry or they're not.
  • Get over the pass going home before noon. Do not get caught in a thunderstorm at 12,500 feet with a metal frame pack on your back, being the tallest thing within miles.
  • A campfire, however small, is a wonderful source of contentment.
  • It can snow, significantly in the mountains in July.
  • Remember that nylon is very slippery, to wit: If a nylon tent is pitched on a slope. Gravity will inexorably drag a person in a nylon sleeping bag down into a bunched mass at the bottom of the tent. And, after inchworming back up into proper sleeping position, gravity will cause a repeat performance - again and again, over and over, over the course of a night. As a further note: if inchworm's brother is in an identical nylon sleeping bag and hasn't moved the entire night, inchworm will suspiciously/angerly reach under the gravity defying sleeping bag to reveal the sticky foam sleeping pad that is keeping the brother in a blissful stationary sleeping position. Inchworm will then demand, "Turn that thing sideways!" Afterwhich both sleepers stay glued into prime sleeping position to finish out the night.
Anyway, backpacking was all I really ever knew about "camping." So when my wife (when we had three children ages 5, 3 and 2) said "let's go camping." I looked at her in bewilderment. She looked at me and said, "wait, we need to re-define 'camping'."

But that's for another post.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Weekend in the Life of our Back Yard

We got the cover on the pool. This process is not nearly so exicting as getting the cover off. It takes about a half hour (with numerous helpers). All that's really required is to make sure the pool's not currently green and to dump a bottle of algecide in the pool before applying the cover. And I am not sure what's being really implied in the statement, "wow daddy, the pool is really blue."

We did some yard clean-up. I brush hogged the more unkept edge portions of my back yard (i.e. I ran an electric weed trimmer with the help of two 100 foot extension cords.) It's amazing how much ground you can cover with that arrangement. (that could be a little more than 125,000 square feet if you think about it too much. I didn't think about it that much, and didn't cover that much ground either).

In the process of taming my yard near our more well behaved garden, I bashed my head on some low hanging ornamental pear tree limbs. This precipitated a trip to the garage for a pair of large pruning shears and a bow saw. This immediately resulted in a loud and ringing "un-supervised" daddy emergency warning signal to the rest of my family. The close proximity of tree modifying tools and "daddy" tends to result in massive family centered branch removal projects that highly involve my children.

I was greeted (not several minutes later) with a tall glass of water from my nine year old daughter asking, "daddy, mom wants to know if you're being supervised well enough?" A little while after that, this same daughter said, "mommy, I'll finish (name of some bonus chore here), you go out and supervise daddy."

All told I did have about a 15 minute (times 4 children and 2 parents) heap (or is that a passel?) of branches to haul to the burn pile. But, in comparisson to some of my previous Arbor day modification projects, this was a small bundle of twigs. I guess the supervision must have worked to a degree.

I resumed my trimming, got to our south facing fence and promptly ran into an old scrub stump. It was an interesting amalgamation of sucker Maple and Mimosa. Not terribly big on the top, but the same could be said for an iceberg. An hour or two later with the help of a pick axe, a maul, a shovel and a saws-all, I won.

In the process everyone else got to rake and haul leaves and other random bits and chunks of yard debris. Assorted children probably worked the hardest on their haggling skills - trying to get mom to define how much yard work consistituted being "done."

The yard looks much nicer, the pool looks more covered, my back is much sorer and my children are done with yardwork - for last weekend.

Can't wait for camping this weekend.