Southern Man

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Concert Review - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Details to follow...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Movie Review - Ratatouille

Southern Man's taste in movies runs more to action-adventure and sci-fi than animated cartoons, but given that Pixar Studios is seven for seven so far he has been rather eagerly awaiting their eight animated film Ratatouille and finally got a chance to see it with his eight-year-old daughter last week. Southern Man was anticipating a thoroughly enjoyable film and he was not dissapointed. The animation is technically excellent without being overpowering. There's plenty of genuine physical comedy and verbal wit with little of the overly cute animal humor or pop-culture references that have been so annoying in other recent animated films. The voice acting is, as always in the Pixar films, top-notch. And the plot is full of little pleasures and small surprises. This is perhaps lighter fare than the usual Pixar film and won't rank as Southern Man's favorite of the eight (and while Southern Man's mother didn't much care for a movie about rats in the kitchen) adjectives like "charming" and "delightful" come to mind. If you have children, you will almost certainly enjoy this one in the theatre and the DVD will get plenty of playing time for years to come.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day 2007

As his academic building is closed tomorrow for some much-needed air-conditioning repair, July 4 kicks off a five-day weekend for Southern Man. And a busy day it was, too.

Actually the first project began yesterday evening. The AC in Southern Man's two-stry duplex doesn't do much upstairs. It's been an unseasonably cool June and so far just keeping the windows open has kept the girl's bedroom and Southern Man's study at least bearable, but July and August are nigh so last nigt Southern Man dropped by Wal-Mart and picked up a couple of 6000-BTU window air conditioners for the upstairs bedrooms. The first went into the girl's bedroom easily enough but Southern Man decided that he needed a bigger unit for the study and traded it in for an 8000 this morning. But no time to install that one - Southern Man then picked up his dad and took him out to The Land to inspect some electrical work and identify some flora. Southern Man is on the schedule to get electric service run out to his workshop (which does not yet have electricity - he built it with hand tools and a circular saw run from a generator) and noted that the co-op has already been out and flagged the route for the wire, so he's got to get out there tomorrow morning and make sure everything on his end is ready. Then he ran his dad home, did a few chores and ran to a few stores, then he and teenage son headed back to his parents for dinner, dominoes, and the local fireworks show.

For a relatively small suburb, said local fireworks show was pretty good. The venue was the large park in the center of town, and there were plenty of food vendors and good live music and lots of free watermelon. Special musical guest was the local philharmonic and choral, which put on an hour-long concert. They kicked off with Copeland's Hoedown from Rodeo, This Is My Country, the St. Louis Blues March, and Leroy Anderson's Bugler's Holiday with the unusual twist of having the bugle part played by a six-member harmonica ensenble. Next up were show tunes; a medley of Disney favorites, the Broadway version of Over The Rainbow, and Jimmie Webb's Macarthur Park. After crowd-pleasing renditions of Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing and the classic tune Shenandoah, the orchestra launched into the patriotic portion of the program starting with the five "official" songs of the branches of the armed services. Naturally, servicefolk and veterans stood during their songs and Southern Man is proud to state that his immediate group had representatives from both the Army and the Air Force. Next was a wonderful arrangement of America The Beautiful (with the traditional lyrics, not the new politically-correct ones that are beginning to infiltrate these events) and (much to the chagrin of athiests, liberals, and other easily-offended types) a terrific performance of God Bless America and an arrangement of The Battle Hymn of the Republic that was commissioned for the National Symphony. The concert concluded with Lee Greenwood's God Bless The USA, the full Broadway version of Oklahoma, The Star Spangled Banner (and of course everyone stood and sang) and finally John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever with the famous obligato played not on piccolo but harmonica!

Much to the delight of the crowd, the fireworks display began during the last chorus of Stars and Stripes Forever and continued to canned music for the better part of an hour.

All and all, a splendid way to spend the Fourth of July. All three kids are here tonight (their mom will pick up the girls in the morning) and Southern Man is just happy to have them all for a few hours. Hope your Fourth was equally wonderful!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Ten Books

Southern Man has had a lot of help dealing with the events of this past year - from friends, pastors, counselors, family. You know who you are, and Southern Man sends a big "Thank You" your way. But it occurs to Southern Man that there have been ten books that have been of particular benefit to him as well. All of these are always near at hand; Southern Man reads in at least one of them daily.

One of the first he read (and one that went a long, long ways to helping Southern Man understand why he was so unhappy with his marriage) was Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. This book's descriptions of codependents / enablers and their partners struck home with tremendous force. This book really woke Southen Man to the role he played in the demise of his marriage.

And one of the most recent read was Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. While Codependent No More frames relational challenges in terms of compulsion, enabling and codependence, this book does so in terms of limits on behavior - or, more precisely, the result of failure to set such limits. Southern Man's consistent failures in the latter arena exaberated many of the problems in his marriage.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is one that Southern Man had read many years before; indeed his Sunday-School class had used it as a text for a brief time. While his ex may scoff at this, Southern Man really did make an honest effort to apply the lessons in this book to his marriage and will continue to do so. There are now a multitude of specialized editions; Southern Man has the children and teen versions on order now.

The confrontational style of It's (Mostly) His Fault by Robert Alter was difficult to take at times but forced Southern Man to accept just how ill-prepared he was to understand and to do his part in building and maintaining a marriage relationship. Reading this book during a time of separation and divorce drove home how Southern Man had so often failed to communicate the love and affection he so deeply felt for his wife and children and what he needed to do to change. If there is any one book Southern Man wishes he had read and understood twenty years ago, this would be the one.

And if there's one book I wish she had read, it would have to be The Secrets Men Keep by Stephen Arterburn. Arterburn has considerable insight into what makes men tick and Southern Man learned more about himself and why he felt and acted the way he did from this book than any other.

Not one but two books by Dr. Jim Talley made the list. Southern Man had read Reconcilable Differences long before he was aware that Dr. Talley's practice was within a few miles of Casa Southern Man and read it again as part of his preparation for counseling with Dr. Talley. While Southern Man isn't giving good odds on this right now, this book continues to give a great deal of hope that it may be possible to regain some semblance of relationship with the mother of his children.

The second by Dr. Talley is Too Close, Too Soon, which provides rich detail on the differences on how men and women approach relationship and how those differences create enormous difficulties later down the road. It is with great chagrin that Southern Man recognized numerous mistakes he made in the beginning of his relationship with his ex as well as mistakes he's made in the recent past as well. Hopefully this book will help Southern Man correct the errors he has already made and avoid these mistakes in the future. That way he can make all new mistakes.

In a more light-hearted vein, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married by Linda and Charlie Bloom does just that - lists one-hundred-and-one brief statements and gives a page or so amplifying each. Equally humerous and serious, it's a good book to keep on the nightstand and open at random.

Every Other Weekend by Kenneth Parker and Van Jones delivers what the cover promises - straight talk to divorced men who love their children but who don't live with them. That was Southern Man's state for nearly a year; now with his son in residence at Casa Southern Man he must play both sides with both him and his two sisters who still live with their mother. If nothing else, this bok is teaching Southern Man that he really hasn't a clue as to how to relate to his children and he'd better figure it out PDQ.

And the last stems from good advice from a good friend. Southern Man is trying to get into the habit of reading one chapter from The Book Of Proverbs each night. With thirty-one chapters, all one needs to do is open to the chapter corresponding to the day's date. Although he's often a bit disdainful of the wisdom to be found in the Old Testament, Southern Man is finding that these ancient words are speaking to him in ways that he's never before experienced. It is true that God speaks to every generation through His word. Lord, I pray that you would continue to guide and direct me as I search for truth and wisdom. Touch my heart, O Lord, that I might have healing and peace. Give me the open mind and open heart that I need that I might hear Your voice speak to me through Your word. Amen.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

New Beginnings

Long-time readers may recall that a few months ago Southern Man broke off a promising dating relationship (one that he now freely admits he began far too soon after the divorce) in order to seek counseling with his ex. A lot has happened in the last two months, and since this is something of a divorce blog the story may as well be told here.

The counselor we selected was Dr. Jim Talley, a well-known author who specializes in reconcilliation counseling. He's pretty good and Southern Man learned a lot from his books, CDs, and counseling sessions (both individually and jointly with his ex). Alas, she elected to cease counseling during our fifth session. And unfortunately all that was said and done left Southern Man with the realization that there is little hope for any kind of reconcilliation with her. He's going to make a continual effort to have a healthy relationship with her and even be a friend to her in any way that he can, but there's not much chance for even that. But he'll never stop trying, and that's a promise.

A couple of relatively life-changing events have occurred during the same time.

One of these is that a few weeks ago Southern Man's teenage son was...well, how to say this...required by his mother to move out and live with his dad for a while. He was pretty traumatized at first but has now come around to the pont that he actually wants to live in the luxurious accomodations that comprise Casa Southern Man. So agreements were made and papers were signed and as of today Southern Man has physical custody of a teenage boy for six months.

Said teenage boy does not come without certain...issues. Well, they all do, don't they? Southern Man has got some ground to make up with all of his kids, but this one more than the others so he's looking forward to both the challenge and the opportunity to be a "real" dad again. He's got some ground to make up with all of his kids, but in some ways this one hurts the most and needs the most. At any rate it'll be an interesting six months. And now that the counseling and custody dust has settled a bit Southern Man can get back to more regular updates of this here blog as well.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down - and if it's still raining an hour from now it'll mark the twentieth consecutive days of rain here at Casa Southern Man. The old record was fifteen, set back in 1937. That is well before Southern Man's time, by the way. All of the area lakes and rivers and creeks are as high as they've been in years. Southern Man's parents (who live in a flood plain) are flooded in, although it's reported that they got out to church this morning in one of the trucks. Southern Man's dad reports that water is still seeping in around the basement faster than the sump pumps can pull it out. Hopefully Southern Man can get out their during the upcoming holiday and help him clean up the resulting mess.

Here's a glimpse of the state of water out at The Land. That tree is on a little bluff that overlooks the lake; Southern Man will stand there and fish in water that's usually six to ten feet below him. This morning he couldn't get within a hundred feet of his favorite fishing spot.

And the little point where he was thinking of building a little gazebo some day is currently an island!

'Tis a two-day workweek for Southern Man, so he plans to spend the Fourth with his kids (and probably go to one of the fireworks shows with his folks) and then spend the rest of the week trying to catch up on a month's worth of back mowing. Southern Man's teenage son will be pleased to hear this.