Family Affair

With kids heading back to school, I’m reminded of that perennial favorite first week assignment: “What I did on my summer vacation.” Many youngsters will respond: ‘We went to Disney’ or ‘I learned to ride a bike’ or ‘Stayed at grandmas’. In our house, however, we experienced something for the first time in 25 summers living here.

There is a crepe myrtle outside our circular laundry room window. In May, we noticed a robin building a nest… and soon sitting inside it. From our upstairs window we saw two blue eggs, so it became a daily ritual to regularly check on the soon-to-be chicks. After a couple weeks, as expected, there were two tiny heads tilted upward with mouths wide open – and momma would return frequently to feed them. (Two things: hatchlings are stranger looking than expected; and, you mean that’s how baby birds are fed?)

After a couple more weeks, the little ones left the nest and were hiding in our bushes, occasionally flying around the yard. It was a great experience to witness.

But wait. There’s more.

Who knew red-breasted females lay eggs more than once a year? Well, they do… and by July we embarked on a second journey – this time with one more settled in the nest.

Soon there were three little babies with mouths open… and we checked on them each morning until the day they tumbled out of their safe space. The past few weeks, I’ve watched with paternal joy as the family of ‘my birds’ hop around outside my office window. When winter comes and they fly north – or whatever robins with a two-year life expectancy do – I’ll miss the little ones and their momma.

So that’s what I did this summer.

The end. 

Pillow Fight

Last month we traveled to downtown Waxahachie, Texas, for the celebration of my first boss’s 75th birthday. It was quite a Saturday night bash for longtime DFW sportscaster Dale Hansen… complete with a Q&A, during which he spoke about his career, a live auction to raise money for three charities, and a concert by his favorite performer, Rockin’ Jason D. Williams.

Arriving home the next day, I realized my memory foam pillow failed to make the return trip. (My bad!) I called the Marriott front desk and the person who answered said she had it. All I had to do was call back on Monday and speak to the front desk manager.

I did and that person told me to go to and fill out a report, then I’d be contacted on how to have it sent to me. Although I lost my Bonvoy Platinum status this year, it was good to know Gold still carried some weight. Filling out the form took five minutes and a person contacted me by email within the hour to let me know I would hear from the hotel soon.

Days passed. Then a couple weeks. I circled back to let ILMS know there was no further response. Finally a month after our overnight stay, the hotel reached out and said they didn’t have the pillow. I responded with a copy to ILMS: ‘That’s interesting, since you had it four weeks ago.’ Within 10 minutes, an autoresponder came from ILMS: “The hotel has your item. Please contact us to finalize shipping.”

I did and learned it would be $125… for a two-year old pillow that cost 50 bucks. So I told the hotel to keep it.

Lessons Learned: Nothing is ever easy… and… never forget your pillow. 

Role Play

This month, our neighbors directly across the street and next door had tall pine trees that didn’t survive the extreme heat removed – by the same tree service. It was impressive to watch the crew of eight people work together to carefully and safely take down these 100-foot giants.

Some members maneuvered guy ropes. Some raked up fallen needles and small branches. Some carried larger limbs and tossed them into the shredder. Several trunk pieces were so big it took a forklift on tank rollers to carry them to a flatbed truck.

Of course, the most impressive teammate was the young man – who wore a different colored shirt so he could be seen easily at height – that climbed all the way to the top and used a chainsaw to dismantle each tree a few feet at a time. That job takes faith, courage and skill.

They arrived and departed within three hours… and left nothing behind. It was a wonderful example of the importance of teamwork – and I imagine they immediately went to another home and did it all again. 

Break Time

This is the final day of my self-imposed abstinence from Twitter (which I heard may have taken a new name while I was away?). I entered this one-month hiatus as a personal cleansing, because my favorite time of year approaches… and once things kick off, the ensuing 20 weeks will include frequent – some might say ‘too often’ – check-ins about the happenings around college football land.

As July progressed, this did not turn out to be a difficult challenge. My family and friends kindly obliged to avoid sending me links to Elon’s playground. There may be stories I missed along the way; however, it turns out nothing earth-shattering, life-changing occurred.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up as usual around 4:45, do stretching and exercises as I listen to Squawk Box on CNBC, scroll through morning reads of a few business newsletters, browse the NY Times headlines, and play Wordle for the 527th consecutive day. Then I’ll head to the YMCA for a six o’clock swim, stationary bike ride and 10 minutes of rowing. When I come home, I’ll add X back on my iPhone and see what’s new in the sports world.

On July 1, I took on one other adventure: giving up my daily cookies and milk for the month. With a limited diet due to IBS, that ritual was one of my few guilty pleasures. How did it go? Much more difficult than Twitterless. Watch out Tate’s Bake Shop Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips and Lactaid milk. Soon, you’re mine.

Strike Out

My good buddy has season tickets in the Club section at Minute Maid Park for the – in case you’re unaware – two-time World Series Champion Houston Astros. When he asked me a while ago to pick a game to attend with him, I chose last night… the finale of three against my boyhood favorite Texas Rangers. Since my allegiance switched from hometown to H-Town more than 20 years ago, I thought it would be fun to see them play each other.

The ’Stros jumped out to an early lead thanks to a three-run homer by third baseman Alex Bregman. Then the hard-hitting Rangers started pounding the ball and quickly it was 9-3… in the fifth inning… with the bases loaded. “If this next guy hits a grand slam,” I said, “you won’t hurt my feelings if you want to leave.” One pitch later: Crack! At 13-3, we made our way out of the stadium and walked three blocks to my car.

“Two Hours Earlier” (TV action show graphic)

When we pulled into our parking spot, my friend scanned the QR code and used his iPhone to pay the $30 fee, plus $2.10 service charge, then took a screenshot of the ‘Paid’ receipt… ‘just in case.’ The parking lot attendant was nearby, so I asked: “How do you know who paid?” He said: “We get a list of everyone’s license plate and it shows us.”

“Present Day” (again, TV)

As we approach our CR-V, I say, fully knowing the answer: “What is that attached to my wheel?”

Sure enough, there is a yellow boot on the front left and a white piece of paper under a windshield wiper with the number to call to get it removed – along with a note that the fee is $100, plus towing company charges, and the usual response time is one hour. “Good thing there wasn’t a no hitter and we got here two hours from now,” I say.

While I call dispatch to explain this misunderstanding and figure out how to get it removed, my buddy walks up and down the aisles looking for the attendant.

“Fast Forward” (yet another TV reference)

He arrives five minutes later with the guy, who naturally has no idea how this happened. He even takes out his list to show us our license plate isn’t on it. Amazingly, they had just called the towing company to ‘boot’ another car. That gentleman walks over and says: “You’re lucky. I was at home on my couch.” In 15 seconds, the boot and he are gone.

We get in, speak about how late it could have been… and are home in 30 minutes.

“Epilogue” (final TV analogy)

The next day I called HPD and spoke to a polite officer who apologized. “We have two companies that service the city, so it won’t be hard to find out what went wrong.” I thanked him and said: “This was just a little inconvenience for us; I don’t want it happening to anyone else.”