PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

December 8th, 2005

My Blood is Thin

When I lived in Central Illinois, I got accustomed to cold temperatures. Really cold temperatures. Air temperatures in the single digits. Wind chills down to -30. By the end of an Illinois winter, temps in the 30’s felt positively balmy. When it hit the mid-40’s, you put on shorts and played touch football. In short, your body got used to being in ridiculously cold weather.

However, living in a temperate climate, such as occurs in the verdant Pacific Northwest, your blood thins out. In a few short years, you start saying things like “It’s supposed to get down to freezing tonight. By Golly that’s cold!” or “Look at the frost on the grass! Kids, make sure you wear your coats to school.” After a decade or more, you become unable to tolerate truly cold weather.

I ran to Costco last night after dinner. The wind was pretty stiff, and it was cold, so I wore my winter coat, gloves, and hat. I was going to Costco after 7:00 pm, because it is dramatically less crowded at that time. When we lived in Eugene, I hated going to Costco because it was so crowded, I felt like a cow in a stockyard. I had no idea how good I had it, because the worst day at the Eugene Costco is still less crowded than the best day at the Tigard Costco. Going to our Costco in the middle of the day on the weekend is much like descending to the fifth plane of Hell, only the people aren’t as friendly. Going after dinner is a piece of cake in comparison. But I digress.

I left the store and began pushing my cart across the parking lot. I noticed it was cold. Then I noticed it was damn cold. Then I realized I could feel the wind through my sweatpants as if I was wearing a pair of Speedos. By the time I got to the car, I was frantically digging in my pockets for my gloves, and pulling the earflaps down out of the inside of my hat. I mean, it was cold. The actual air temperature was probably around 30 F, but of course, the culprit was the wind chill. I’m glad I had my winter gear on me. But there was a part of me, the part that remembered trudging across campus into a thirty mph headwind, into air that had come directly from the Arctic Circle without stopping to pick up even an iota of heat. That part of me considered my discomfort and said “Wuss.”

My daughter took her birthday money and bought a Lego/Bionicle set: “LEGO Bionicle: The Battle of Metru Nui”. Here’s what it looks like (click for larger pic):

Unfortunately, she found it a little challenging. After all, it has 885 individual pieces, and seven substructures. So, could you work on it, Dad?

It took me two full evenings to get it assembled. The next time you think to yourself “That PAgent. He’s a lousy father. No patience. No sympathy for his kid’s feelings”. You remember this:

885 pieces.

Two. Full. Evenings.

December 6th, 2005

The Surprising Allure of Fancy Notebooks

So, have you ever wondered what it looks like when a modest little blog gets linked by a moderately popular one?

It looks like this:

A big thank you to the folks at who linked to me, and I hope my visitors found something worth their while here.

December 4th, 2005

As Our World Turns

The reference to a soap opera is entirely intentional. I’ve been wanting to post an update on our daughter, but haven’t been able to figure out how to do it in a way that didn’t sound like an ABC Afterschool Special.

Last week the wife found an empty gum package and a package of candy in the girl’s room. Then she found a half-empty package of goldfish crackers stuffed in a drawer. When the girl got home, the interrogation began. This led to her coughing up two empty one-pound cartons of Fig Newtons.

OK, so this means she’s sneaking food from the pantry again. And she’s worked up to entire boxes of cookies. This explains a lot, like, how come she keeps gaining weight so fast. Before you wonder how a kid can snag an entire carton of cookies, we were getting Fig Newtons at Costco because we put them the kid’s lunches. That’s how come we didn’t notice an entire box going missing. But it gets better.

It turns out she’s been stealing small items from houses she’s been visiting. As in, she goes to someone’s house to play, and pilfers something. It’s been small things, but it just makes my head explode. And it gets even better.

She has also been shoplifting gum and candy from grocery stores! For the last several months! Nearly every time we took her shopping, it turns out, and her brother knew about it. Because you see, in order to guarantee his silence, she would share what she stole with him. Cunning little weasel that she is. And she confirmed that the time I caught her with candy under her shirt, she was indeed trying to sneak it out of the store, contrary to what she told me so earnestly at the time.

Although this post includes a gratuitous use of exclamation points, italics, and bold, the wife and I have remained surprisingly calm, at least initially. The girl was quite surprised by this, and asked us why we weren’t yelling more. What could we say? That we feel so utterly betrayed that we’re in shock? That we already felt like we had tried every trick in our arsenal to get her to straighten up? That she has exhausted us into submission? That I wanted to ship her off to an Alaskan military academy?

We are looking into consulting a variety of professional resources. Clearly the psychologist we have been seeing with her isn’t accomplishing as much as we thought. We also want to talk to her pediatrician, the school counselor, and a bunch of others on a long list we are considering. We know a Beaverton police officer, and are considering having him come and talk to her. We want her to talk to the store managers where she stole, apologize, and pay for what she took. As we’ve been trying to tell her, she has been stepping over an important line: She’s not just going to get in trouble with us, she could get arrested. I don’t know if she completely understands this, or if she is just playing dumb. She’s a great little actress.

Why does she do it? Are we starving her? No, of course not. I am becoming more and more convinced that she has an eating disorder, because almost everything she has taken is a sweet or candy. The wife disagrees, and thinks it’s more likely that she is continuing to have an impulse control problem. Hopefully we can get her professionally evaluated to help identify what her issues really are.

One thing for sure, though, is that she has been dishonest with us on a level so deep, and so casually, that it is stunning. Since having my nose thoroughly rubbed in this, I have been becoming more aware of patterns in her behavior. After telling her to get busy picking up the family room, I watched her through a partially open door as she sat and continued reading her book, turning the page four times. I walked in and sternly told her she needed to be picking up, not reading. She immediately and indignantly said she wasn’t reading, that she was in the middle of putting the book away, and she WAS cleaning up.

If I hadn’t just been watching her laying back and calmly reading, I would have given her the benefit of the doubt, as I so often had. She sounded genuine. It would have been plausible. The things she has said to us so often sound plausible, and she always sounds genuine. And how many of them have been similarly complete fabrications? More than I care to think about. Now that I am paying close attention, I am realizing that she is always stretching the truth to make herself look as good as possible. And we’ve been buying it, or at least not making an issue of it, for far, far too long.

Although we haven’t had the kind of screaming, weeping, meltdown you might expect, it’s only because we’re exhausted, and numb. But it’s definitely affecting us. We have no patience, not with them, or with each other. Little things become big issues. Nerves are stretched thin. And while I prefer to end these posts with some catchy and definitive final statement, I don’t have one. The reality is I have no idea what we are going to do with her, or even how to begin to repair this situation. And that sucks.

December 2nd, 2005


At lunch today I rather impulsively purchased a Moleskine journal. I unabashadly admit to being swayed by the hype, the ad campaign, and the appeal to my vanity so cleverly engineered by Modo & Modo. Anyone with any delusions or pretensions of literary aptitude could not help but be swayed by taglines like “The legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin.” And I don’t even know who Chatwin was.

However, in addition to buying into the completely seductive image of my literary genius being tapped like a keg by this little black book, of pearls of priceless purity being scratched out on the pages between sips of strong coffee, in addition to all that is the stark truth that if you want to write better, you should write more often. And if you occasionally have good ideas when you are somewhere other than at your computer, those good ideas are very frequently lost forever.

Hmmm. Composing on paper, what a novel idea.

The idea of having a notepad in which to jot things down is a powerful one, and I hope to have the discipline to do it regularly. And if it requires the additional incentive of purchasing an iconic little black booklet to do so, then so be it. I know that a spiral-bound Mead notebook would hold the same words just as well, but there is something about using a Moleskine that is different. It’s more formal, more ceremonial. As if by writing the words in that journal, they take on a gravitas that a Mead spiral pad simply could not confer. This blogger I think describes it quite well.

And if it smacks of more than a little pretentiousness on my part, I can accept that, too. After all it’s quite probably true.