Southern Man

Thursday, August 31, 2006

All Ye That Labor

Ah, the holiday weekend approacheth. My folks are going out of town, so there will be no traditional Labor Day evening meal at their place. My almost-ex and the girls will head to her dad's on Sunday but I may get my son for a day as he needs to join up with some of the other teens from church on Monday morning for something or other. Other than that, I'll have much of the long weekend to myself. I'll spend it tidying up around my place and unpacking and repacking my junk and finally tackling the rest of the garage and trying to resist the temptation to go into the office and wade into my backlog of paperwork.

The divorce proceedings have finally started to pick up. Both of us have been after our lawyers to get cracking on the terms for the final decree, and she says that my lawyer actually called her lawyer to get it started. That call no doubt cost us $125 each but at least the process is moving again. I'd sure like to get everything settled by mid-September. The mandantory ninety-day wait is up at the beginning of October and, God forgive me for saying this, but I'd like to be divorced by then. I guess I need the closure so I can finally stop looking back and start moving forward. Yeah, closure. I'm waiting for closure. Wake me when September ends...

My work schedule, as feared, is totally insane. I'm hardly home at all during the week...and it's going to get worse when that Saturday class starts up. I'm already starting to count the days until Fall Break, and we haven't even yet finished the second week of classes. But if our lawyers are going to start making $125 phone calls it's a good thing I have the extra work.

On the other hand my early morning workouts are going well. The other kids in the cardio class complain about their legs but mine are coming right back, thanks. However it is painfully apparent that Southern Man has muscles in his upper body that have never actually been used. And it is equally clear that he has no abs at all. Crunches? We don't need no stinking crunches, especially when Southern Man can't even do one correcly.

Well, this has been a true Seinfeld post. My sister will no doubt comment that this entire enterprise is a blog about nothing. But at least I updated it once this week...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lazy Sunday

At last, another weekend with my kids! I assumed temporary custody of all three at six o'clock Friday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day window shopping (for futons and DVD cabinets and beds and bookshelves and guitars) and grocery shopping. We ended up back at my place for a late dinner and spent the rest of the evening just bumming around. Teenage daughter cooked dinner and baked cookies while teenage son noodled about on the guitar and keyboard. I was just happy to have them there in the house. Everyone fell asleep in the middle of Jurassic Park at about midnight.

The next morning we slept in (a rare treat for me) and again just bummed around 'till about eleven, when I had to return my teenage daughter to her mom so she could attend a party later that afternoon. After dropping by Wal Mart to get a leaky tire fixed (and anyone who's ever tried to get their vehicle serviced at Wal Mart on a Saturday knows that "dropping by" is far from the truth) we ended up at the local amusement park for an afternoon of rides and junk food and shows and general fun.

My son had tried to find someone to come with him but all of his friends were either out of town or grounded. He was a good sport about it and stuck with us the entire time even though we were pretty much restricted to whatever his baby sister could ride. The poor guy won a basketball (he's a good bb player) but accidently left it somewhere and when he dashed back to get it five minutes later it was already gone. We saw a terrific magic show. Southern Man loves magic shows as he has no idea how the illusions actually work and it may as well be magic to him. By the time we got around to the water rides the evening storms were already rolling in and it was fairly cool, but we rode them anyway. We tricked little sister onto a roller coaster, which she hated, but she soon forgave us (and did so a lot quicker than teenage son did when we tricked him onto a 'coaster at a much young age). But finally they started to shut the rides down due to lightning and I had to run them home. All in all it was a good day for me; I hope they enjoyed it too.

Casa Southern Man was without power when I arrived home late that evening, which meant a quiet and relaxed and chore-free evening. Southern Man did learn that reading by candlelight is harder than it looks. He also needs to Google for "remove candle wax from carpet." The power did come back on, but apparently blinked out again a time or two during the night as I awoke much later in the morning than intended to see the alarm clock flashing 12:00. It was too late to make it to Sunday School and church. However, it is occasionally worthwhile to worship with Pastor Pillow and Brother Blanket instead of the regular crowd, and that's just what I did.

That leaves me with a lazy Sunday all to myself. It's cool and cloudy out, which means the AC can actually keep up for once during the day and I can putter about in my untidy garage without rivers of sweat pouring down my back. I'll put some blues in the CD player and just take it nice and easy today. Another week of work and worry and hassles and frustration can wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Feel the Burn

There was a time when Southern Man was a formidable athlete. Well, no, not really, but at least he was a pretty fair long-distance runner. A good friend in graduate school got a bunch of us started on LDR and it's a sport I held to for, oh, seven or eight years, until dating and marriage and children put an end to spare time in general and running in particular.

Since all runners want to know what your best times are, here are a few of mine.
Best mile: 5.01 (I just could never break a five minute mile)
Best 5K: 16.45 (5:40 pace on a cold, windy, rainy day)
Best 10K: 36:45 (just under a six-minute-per-mile pace)
Best Marathon: 3:15:00 or so (about 7:45 per mile)
Of course this was about twenty years and eighty pounds ago. Southern Man's shape is better described as "well rounded" these days.

Now comes one of the few silver linings in the great grey cloud that is divorce: my mornings are my own. If I want to work out for a couple of hours first thing in the morning there's nothing stopping me from doing so other than my own general sloth and laziness. And it turns out that the instructors of the early-morning phys ed courses at Southern Man's place of employment are more than happy to accomodate members of the faculty who wish to join in the pain. So for the first time in a long, long time, Southern Man found himself in the gym at seven in the morning for half an hour on the treadmill and an hour of cardio-kickboxing. Well, the others were doing cardio-kickboxing; Southern Man is not quite with the program yet. While he might be accurately described by any number of glowing adjectives (like the aforementioned "rounded") "limber" is not among these. The cardio-kickboxing courses are taught by a tiny little ninety-pound wisp of a woman who is also the director of the school's adult studies program. I wonder if the students who argue with her realize that she could beat the crap out of any one of them. Tomorrow's weight-training class is taught by a former basketball player who looks like he could toss Arnold Schwartzenegger over the next building. There we will add "weak" to the list of adjectives that is Southern Man.

So Southern Man is feeling the burn tonight and looking forward to more of the same tomorrow morning. Strange for an educator to say this, but perhaps becoming less well rounded will be a good thing.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Be Thou My Vision

No day of rest this Sunday; Southern Man had to head in to work at the crack of dawn for the university matriculation convocation, a working lunch with the other two members of the secret cabal that actually runs the department, and a mountain of paperwork that absolutely must be done before classes begin tomorrow.

The matriculation convocation is always a pleasant experience (other than the fact that we stand outside in the 95-degree morning heat wearing twenty pounds of black academic regalia for a half-hour before the service begins). All of the incoming voice students are tapped for the convocation choir, the university organist and brass ensemble are pleasures to hear, and they always have one of my favorite hymns on the program (and even provide a photocopy out of the hymnal so we all have our respective voice parts). It's not one that the Nazarenes sing very often:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
With all that's going on in my life and with such a busy, busy time at work, it's good to be reminded of what's really important. Sundays really are getting better and better. Lord, I pray that You and You alone would remain my vision and that You would continue to light my path with Your presence. Amen.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on a Blog

Well, you come up with a better title. The obvious alternative was "m*****f****** snakes on a m*****f****** blog" but I think my kids sometimes read this. But do they ever leave comments? No.

So the phone rings last Sunday morning and the caller ID says it's my sister but when I pick up it's none other than action hero and Jedi Knight Samuel L. Jackson. Now, Sam and I are pretty tight but he seldom calls early on Sunday morning and hardly ever from my sister's phone. "Hey, Southern Man," he says. "Call your sister and tell her you're gonna take her to see my new movie Snakes on a Plane."

Southern Man's social life is sufficiently thin these day that even a date with his sister sounds tempting, so I call her. "Hey, sis," I say. "I just had the wildest idea. Why don't you and I go see Snakes on a Plane next weekend?"

"You know," she replied, "I was talking to Samuel L. Jackson about that just the other day."

Thus we (my sister and my son and myself) ended up at the local megaplex last night for what turned out to be a pretty good movie, with equal amounts of suspense and surprise and just plain silliness. Spoiler warning: Mr. Jackson doesn't utter the infamous line until well into the second half. Before that the language was pretty sedate; afterwards we earn our "R" rating for language. I kept an eye on my son during the sex-and-drugs-in-a-747-restroom scene; he did give it his full attention right up to the point where the snakes dropped in for a little serpentus interruptus. By the way, there are a lot of snakes in this movie; ophidiophobes need not apply. Ophidiophobia: that's your Southern ManTM Vocabulary Builder Word of the DayTM. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? And they say blogs aren't educational.

Life and work goes on. Especially work. I'm posting from work on a Saturday afternoon (having just taken a break from painting a classroom) and I'll be here all day tomorrow as well. On Monday I start what may be the most horrendous teaching schedule of my professional career: early morning to late night four days a week and nine-to-five on Fridays and Saturdays. No complaints; I did it to myself so I'd keep busy rather than knock around my empty rental at night (not to mention earn a little extra cash, which will mostly end up in my divorce lawyer's pocket rather than my own). But busy I will be, at least until late October when my Saturday class is over. That one I'm taking, not teaching; Southern Man both preaches and practices life-long learning. This particular educational experience might land him a part-time job next spring.

I continue to receive love and support (not to mention the occasional dinner) from friends and family; you know who you are and God bless you all. It would be so much harder without you. Lord, thank you for the love and support and kindness and prayers of good friends. Amen.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Day of Rest

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy: Deuteronomy 5:12

In a recent post I comment that Sundays are both the best and worst days of the week. They're becoming better and better.

It has a busy week at work and at home. I've moved my remaining personal property (a.k.a my junk) from my soon-to-be-ex-wife's house to my barn and have gotten a good head start on chores at the office. I'm getting more and settled at the new place. And my walk with God gets closer and closer with each passing day. Even the reluctance of my soon-to-be-ex to speak to me unless absolutely necessary doesn't bother me like it did. We even had a couple of entirely normal phone conversations during the week, which is a step in the right direction.

In church I got the added bonus of the company of my seven-year-old daughter for the duration of the worship service, which was quite wonderful. She stayed on my lap or in my arms for the entire hour. Oh, how I ache for her. A second bonus was that we actually sang a song directly from the hymnal, as opposed to the usual modern practice of throwing the words up on the overhead screen and hoping everyone knows the tune. I do love to sing from the book, with the music and the voice parts laid out in front of me (Southern Man may not have much of a singing voice but he reads the tenor line just fine, thank you). I often state my opinion that the church lost a vital part of its great musical tradition when they abandoned the practice of singing from the hymnal. When I was a child I learned a good deal about music from trying to sing the different voice parts. Back then the entire congretation sang in parts. Alas, the only time I hear that today is from the old-timers who remember. I suppose that musical literacy in the church is just one more casualty of the Powerpoint Age.

The hymn was an old standard:

My Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine.
For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou.
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

A lot of things have gone well this week. For the first time in a long while I find myself singing with the car stereo and smiling at total strangers. The sky seems to be bluer and the grass greener, in spite of the recent weeks of 100-degree heat. I've released a lot of burdens to God's care and it almost seems like I've been granted a promise of a better tomorrow and a brighter future. I don't know what He has in store for me, but I am confident that time will reveal His will for my life. Lord, I pray that you would continue to heal me and carry my sorrows. Guide and direct me to see and to walk the path You have appointed for me. Amen.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Penguin Panic in Marshall

When you think about it, just how often does one see mention of Marshall, Texas in the news? And not just any old news, mind you, but on Two days after a family visit there? And featuring penguins?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Three Alarm Bagel

If you have ever wondered what happens when a bagel gets stuck in the toaster at the Marshall Fairfield Marriott, just read on.

The fire alarms began to wail while we were seated at breakfast, and after watching the Marriott people run around for a bit trying to figure out how to turn it off we sauntered outside to wait it out. Rumor quickly spread that it was nothing more than the aforementioned rogue bagel - not one of ours, thank you very much - and that the "crisis" would soon be over.


After a while - a rather long while - the alarm stopped and we headed back inside. Then the alarm sounded again, and we went back out. And it stopped and we went back in. And it started. And stopped. And started. And stopped. And started. We finally gave up, grabbed our breakfast, and headed back outside - where we had front-row seats for the tardy but splendiforous arrival of the first of seven (count 'em, seven) emergency vehicles from the good folks at Marshall Fire & Rescue., festivities continued for quite a while. It was truly a sight to behold, with a great deal of scurrying about and carrying in and out of various esoteric pieces of rescue equipment that finally ended when they set up three huge gas-powered fans in the lobby doors that blew all of the throw rugs against the wall and all of the loose paper out the back door.

I'm guessing that the Marriott folks will get some remedial fire drill training later on this week.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Broken Pieces

I found last night that the hotel in which we're staying has a couple of courtesy PCs, which allowed both a fix for my increasing addiction to broadband and a blog update from the Lone Star State.

We left in the early morning and drove all day on Friday. And I mean all day - my father likes to take the road less traveled when he makes the trip to his home town. Fortunately at the end of said road was a Fairfield Marriott with nice comfortable beds and a fine breakfast buffet and a lovely indoor pool with hot tub. My daughters and I would end up spending a lot of time in that pool!

The first formal event of the weekend (you may recall that this is a family gathering to celebrate the 90th birthday of my great aunt) was dinner at the local El Chico. I suppose about forty were there and I got to renew acquaintances with any number of cousins and other relations both distant and near, many of whom I hadn't seen in a decade or longer. Several were divorce survivors and we had some nice heart-to-heart talks. When I visit with my great-aunts I always end up thinking about their oldest sister (the grandmother who died when I was about two years old) and knowing that she was surely as beautiful and sweet as they. I also found that a couple of my cousins blog so I've added them to my Friends and Family list and I'll probably hassle them until they put a link to Southern Man on theirs.

Neighbors was my grand-aunt's married name, and her wonderful husband was closer to my family than many blood relatives. In the photo: behind the couch from left to right are Neighbors Man and Neighbors Grrl; on the couch are their dad (my first car, a '64 Mercury Comet, was a hand-me-down from him), their grandmother (my grand-aunt), and their mom. I don't know who actualy took the photo; if I find out I will post the appropriate credit.

Saturday we had a fine lunch at my grand-aunts home, which is on a strip of land on which my grandfather and my great-grandmother (his mother-in-law) also had their homes when I was a child. One of my uncles and I had a grand time retracing the foundations of their old homes and searching out the magical places of our respective childhoods. Alas, many of the trees we climbed and places where we got into trouble are long gone. The streets in that neighborhood are all named after kinfolk on my father's side - Merrill and Jasper and Wheeler. The main event was an afternoon reception at a local bed-and-breakfast. It was very well attended; I quit counting at seventy-five or so. We also got in a bit of sight-seeing, including the lovely old Scottsville cemetery (for many fine photos of the cemetery and some interesting commentary see this post by Goldie) and the claypits where my father and his brothers and friends would swim as children. And over our stay I swam for hours and hours and hours with my daughters in that fine hotel pool.

Most of the clan drifted off that evening or the next morning, but we had already planned to stay through until Monday so this morning we headed for Marshall Church of the Nazarene for services. I was born and raised Nazarene and still attend a Nazarene church. The Marshall church has a small and aging congregation - not more than two dozen were in attendance and I was probably the youngest adult there. But what prompted this post was the special sung just before the sermon. It was an old Ruby Kitchen camp-meeting song and the words went straight to my heart:
Have you failed in life's battle to accomplish your plans?
Is your heart heavy laden? Do you fear the Lord's command?
Do you feel that no one loves you and there's no use to try?
Just bring your cares to Jesus; your soul He'll satisfy.

You may feel that there's no hope, broken hearts just cannot mend;
Tho you're torn in many pieces, Christ can make you whole again.
Storms of doubt blow all directions, but don't you be afraid.
God can make all corrections; He made a body out of clay.

Pick up the broken pieces and bring them to the Lord;
Pick up the broken pieces; trust in His Holy Word;
He will put them back together and make your life complete.
Just place the broken pieces at the Saviour's feet.
Broken pieces. Yeah, I feel like I've got a lot of that going on right now. I've got to keep reminding myself that I can't pick up those pieces myself, nor can I trust that someone else will come along and pick them up for me. Lord, I pray that you would take my broken pieces and make me whole again. Amen.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

License to Surf

It took a day, but my virus-laden system has been restored (Windows XP instead of 2000) and the surf is up! I'll probably augment the default XP firewall with ZoneAlarm but other than that it seems to be doing fine. It's quite amazing how much faster the system is, considering that the hardware and processor predate XP by several years. It's also quite amazing just how much time I can waste online now that I have broadband in the house.

One of my grand-aunts has just turned ninety and we (that is - my parents, my sister + her SO + their adopted child, and my two lovely daughters) are headed to Marshall, Texas tomorrow morning for a weekend of celebration with her and much of the clan. I haven't seen my girls in what seems like forever and I cannot wait to wrap my arms around my baby again. As mentioned earlier my son bailed out of the trip, so there won't be any chance to work on my relationship with him for a while. There's no Internet in the piney woods of East Texas so the next blog update won't be until next week unless I get surprised and find that one of my relatives actually has a 'net connection at home.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Spies Like Us

The perfect end to the perfect day: on top of everything else after two weeks on broadband my 'net PC is so laden with trojans and viruses (virii?) and spyware and popups that it is barely functioning. Kind of embarassing, actually, given that Southern Man is something of a computer geek and should know about such things. Thus I am copying all of my files to my handy-dandy USB hard drive so I can wipe the system clean and start over. Nothing like a midnight Windows install to keep the old spirits up...

Heart of Darkness

And just when things were going fairly well, too.

As part of the divorce proceedings, I've cashed out part of my retirement to pay off some bills, mine and hers and ours. The money came through and I spent the morning working out what got paid and how much she gets, and I also did some legwork to see how to get the cars titled in our individual names. When all was ready, I called her, and we had a pleasant conversation and agreed to meet at a local tag agent to exchange paperwork and give her a check and deal with the cars. We did so, and then while standing in line things got sour and...well, quite frankly, I just blew up at her and stalked out.

Right in front of the fourteen-year-old son with whom I am trying to reforge a relationship.

Yes, the one that is still steamed that our Hawthore Heights trip didn't pan out.

The son with whom I was going to get to spend a long weekend with in Texas but who (no surprise) decided to back out and stay with his mom instead.

We got it together and finished our business (and I apologized, repeatedly) but any goodwill that I've managed to build up with my soon-to-be-ex is gone, gone, gone. And my son, who didn't have that high an opinion of me to start with, is now utterly certain that I'm the scum of the earth and everything that's gone wrong in the past fourteen years really is my fault.

After we were done I fled to a good friend / counselor who is a trained Stephen Minister and cried on her shoulder for a couple of hours. Indeed, that was her advice - I haven't cried nearly enough, and still have all of this bottled-up sadness and grief and regret (and yes, love) and when that's not released it comes out as anger. My soon-to-be-ex had said many times that I was always angry with her. Maybe she was right. There was no reason - no reason at all - for me to erupt the way I did. Maybe I was like that during much of our marriage. I hope not. That's certainly not the man I want to be. But it was the man I was today.

Soon-to-be-ex, I don't know if you read this blog or not. I hope you do and that you know just how much I regret what happened today. I don't know any way to make it up to you other than to just say: I'm sorry.