Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Our Kicks On 66

My daughter, Melody, and I left Vegas on Sunday morning.  We stopped for a really great breakfast at the local IHOP.  Usually we avoid chains when we're traveling, but finding a good breakfast isn't always easy, and a known quantity can do the trick.  After we ate, we hit the road and headed south to Boulder City and down the twisting road to Hoover Dam.  This was my fourth trip to the dam.

My wife and I went on a great tour of the Hoover Dam in 2000, but the tour was changed considerably after September 11, 2001.  After that, the tour was shortened, and it didn't feel the same.  As it turns out, in the 11 years since I last went to the dam, they've added a longer, more in depth tour in addition to the standard short tour.  I wanted to do the longer tour, but there weren't any opening until later in the afternoon, so we settled on the short tour.  It was fun and the guide was humorous, so we had a good time.  We were there much later than we planned, though, so we were looking at being on the road until pretty late.

We headed down to Kingman, where we had a late lunch at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  I had stopped there about a year-and-a-half ago on a business trip, and it was memorable enough to want to return.  We had a delicious lunch, then stopped at a Route 66 store/museum right across the street.  We bought a few over-priced souvenirs, then hit the road again.  We then headed down the most scenic part of Old Route 66.

This portion of Route 66 goes through the highest elevation on the route, through Sitgreaves Pass, which contains miles of switchbacks through the mountains.  The road has no guardrails for most of this stretch, and feels very remote.  After some time, we came to the little mining town of Oatman, AZ.  This town is famous for its wild burros who roam through the town begging for food (most of the local businesses sell carrots), and they have "gun battles" during the day between outlaws and lawmen.  The town was almost a ghost town at one point, but is now a tourist oasis for Route 66 travelers.  We enjoyed walking the plank sidewalk through town, and buying up more souvenirs, before continuing down the road.  It was getting late, and we needed to reach Los Angeles by nightfall.

We reached the interstate and then passed into California (state #32 for Melody!).  We stopped for gas in the town of Needles before heading out across the Mojave Desert.  Originally I had planned to drive more of old Route 66, but because it was so late, we stayed on the interstate.  It was dark by the time we reached the next real town, Barstow, and we had dinner at an In 'N' Out.  This is a popular fast food joint native to the West coast, and we enjoyed their delicious burgers.  I finally reached the outskirts of San Bernardino and entered the Los Angeles area well into the night.  We were tired, and Melody had slept for a while in the car, when we reached our hotel in North Hollywood.  The hotel, a Comfort Inn, wasn't the best place in the world, and I regretted having already made a reservation there for the week.  But we were glad to finally rest after such a long day.  We both crashed almost immediately, but we were happy to be in California!

To be continued....

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vegas Vacation

It's so nice to be home.  Sure, I love a good vacation, and we really did have a good vacation.  But after more than a week through the air and on the road, it feels great to be home.

A few months ago, I asked my daughter where in the USA she would want to go for our Spring Break.  She said, "Hollywood!"  I said, "Are you sure?!?"  She said yes.

We flew out to Las Vegas, Nevada.  I don't believe Vegas is an appropriate place to bring a child.  That was emphasized after being there for a few days.  The only reason we went there at all was because it was significantly cheaper than flying into Los Angeles, which was our real destination.  But I took the cheaper route, and I exposed my daughter to a few....exposed individuals.  It's unreal what you see on the streets of Vegas.  The Frankenstein Monster was walking around and dancing with anyone who would dance with him.  Dora the Explorer motioned me over and, thinking "she" wanted a peck on the cheek, I gave "her" one, only to be frightened by the deep manly voice of the guy in the suit, who was excited to tell me that he was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan from Monroeville, PA, and he saw I was wearing a Pirates jersey.  Fortunately, the suit had limited sight lines so he didn't know that I had kissed "her".  The one that really shocked me, though, was the young lady who was wearing a bunny costume out on the Strip, right next to the MGM Grand.  The bunny costume consisted of a black satin corset with white fur trim, along with a g-string.  This meant her backside was completely bare!  I was embarrassed for her.  I made sure my daughter understood just how inappropriate that was.

It wasn't all bad.  There are some interesting and fun things in Vegas.  We rode the roller coaster at New York New York, which was a lot of fun.  We ate at a great buffet at the Luxor.  We saw the garden at the Flamingo, along with some wildlife.  We explored the Venetian and its sky-blue ceiling and gondolas.  We had a great dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe overlooking Las Vegas Blvd.  It was a great time.

We had a few bad things occur, too, unfortunately.  We stayed the first two nights at the Excalibur, which, while giving us a fantastic view of the Strip, was very old and dated, and wasn't much better than a standard hotel room.  The casino itself reeked of cigarette smoke, and there were lots of very inebriated young people wearing very tight clothing that, in my mind, wasn't very respectful of themselves.  We had an uneventful flight to Vegas from BWI, but upon arriving in Vegas, we had a ridiculously long wait to pick up our rental car.  Dollar Rent-a-car had about three people working the counter with at least 25 people waiting in line.  Our wait ended up being about 45 minutes.  When I got to the counter, "Mike" couldn't have been more condescending, surly, and bullying.  When I elected not to purchase their "insurance" policy, I was ridiculed for not taking it, and I had to listen to him tell me all of the reasons why I would regret it.  I've rented almost 30 cars over the years.  This is the first time I've ever been treated this way.  When I received an email survey to provide feedback to Dollar, you can bet I was completely honest in my review.  I will not rent from Dollar again, if I can help it.

My daughter's suitcase started to fall apart by the time we arrived at our rental car.  We hadn't noticed when we picked up our luggage at the baggage claim that the TSA-approved lock and zipper were ripped off her suitcase.  It was in such poor shape that I knew it wouldn't make it through the trip, so we had to purchase a new suitcase at the local store.  I wish we had noticed at the airport.  We probably could've blamed the airline.  I can only assume it was their fault.

After two quick days in Vegas, we were anxious to hit the road for Hollywood.  And that's where we'll pick up the story tomorrow.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Remembering my wonderful wife and Melody's extraordinary mom ten years after that moment that changed our lives forever. So grateful for God's grace and promise of eternal life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vegas Sights

Melody and a living statue, at the Venetian.

New York New York

The Excalibur

MGM Grand

Melody at the Hard Rock Cafe

Yours Truly at the Hard Rock Cafe

The Frankenstein Monster grooving on The Strip

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Break Eve

It's the Eve of Spring Break!  The house sitter is arranged, the Faithful Pup Scout sitter is arranged, everything is packed, tickets are purchased, reservations are made, prayers have been said, and we're ready to go!  Just a half day of work tomorrow, and then we can go, go, go.

So where are we going?  We'll be mostly on the West Coast, the first time for my traveling partner, daughter Melody.  There will also be a road trip and lots of roller coasters, as well as a television appearance, if all goes as planned.

Updates will be appearing periodically over the next week, along with the occasional picture or three, here on the blog.  Hope you all have a great break!

Best wishes and blessings!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Favorite Muscle Cars

I'm a car buff, and I love classic muscle cars!  While growing up, my best friend, Milton, had a bunch of classic cars.  His father had a '55 Thunderbird and a '60 Corvette.  When Milton started driving, he had a '66 Mustang.  I was just a bit jealous.  My uncle had a '68 Olds 442 that I loved.  My parents loved their Oldsmobiles, too.  Mom's first car was a '66 Olds 442.  Dad bought a long string of Cutlasses, including a '68, a '71, a '74, and, later, a '67, then a '72.  I fell in love with our '72 Cutlass, which was gold with a black vinyl top.  Dad traded it in a few years before I started driving... for an '81 Chevy Citation!  Blech.  When it was my turn to get a car, I started with an '81 Olds SportOmega, which was kind of different.  It wasn't a muscle car, but it was colorful.  It was 2-tone white on gray, with orange and red stripes along the sides and back, and "SportOmega" in big white letters on each door.  I got something a little more normal with my second car, an '85 Olds Cutlass.  It had mag wheels and lettered tires, and looked faster than it was.  It had a V6 engine.  But my next car was true muscle... in an 80s car.  It was an '87 Olds 442.  It was a beautiful car, navy blue on gray, with T-tops.  It had a 307 and was plenty quick, and it sounded great.  Unfortunately, it was a lemon, and spent a lot of time in the shop with all sorts of problems, including electrical problems and a bad oil leak, then a gasoline leak.  Everytime I turned around, I had to spend money to fix it.  I finally sold it after only 3 years, and a woman who had one just like it bought it for her teenage daughter.  She wrecked it within a year.

So I would love to get another muscle car someday.  And not just an 80s version.  I want a true late 60s/early 70s muscle car.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The 442s are still my all-time favorites!

My cousin had an AMC AMX Javelin, and I thought it was really cool.

I really liked the MOPAR muscle cars, particularly this body style of the Dodge Challenger.

And anyone who watched The Dukes Of Hazard loved the Dodge Chargers.  My cousin had one just like this one.

My aunt had a Mercury Cougar, and I thought they were really cool, especially the back sequential turn signals.

Like the Challenger, the Plymouth Barracudas were awesome.

The Plymouth Dusters were another favorite.  They sure made a great police car...I had a model of a Duster police car.

The El Caminos were unique, and that made them cool.

I really wasn't much of a fan of the Mustangs, but the Mach 1 was pretty cool.

I loved the Chevy Novas.  My cousin had a souped up later model Nova that was really nice.

I loved the Plymouth Roadrunner.  It has a great look to it.

Finally, there's the Ford Torino.  I liked this body style better than the one that followed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Non-Hollywood Not So Happy Ending

Doggone you, Hollywood!  Why do you keep doing this?  Especially when I'm at my lowest?  Why is it that you always have to show a happy ending?  You know real life isn't like that.  There are so many people hurting, and you always have to take the unrealistic route.  Either tell a real story, or don't tell it at all.  Just don't create false hopes.

So what am I ranting about?  I had a rare day at home today, and found myself unintentionally watching a movie.  I don't know what it was called, but it's a pretty typical scenario for Hollywood movies.  A man and woman get married, then they find out that they're expecting, and then the wife dies during childbirth.  The husband then has to raise the baby all by himself, ultimately finding a new love that has no issues with the fact that the man is still pining for his dead wife.  And they all live happily ever after.... the husband, his new wife, the child, and the ghost of the dead wife.

That's not necessarily how it works in real life.  It really isn't as easy as Hollywood makes it seem.  The death of a spouse is such an awful experience.  It hurts to the depths of your soul.  Unless you've experienced it, you have no idea how devastating it is to lose the one person in your life who you share everything with.  It's like losing half of yourself, as, literally, your marriage is torn apart.  It's so different from divorce, since in the case of death, the person is gone, never to return.  And it leaves the surviving spouse alone.  And that loneliness impacts you to the core of your being.

In my case, my wife, Teresa, and I were walking around with our infant daughter one beautiful Spring evening over at Reservoir High School in Fulton, MD, where my wife taught 9th grade English, when my wife suddenly collapsed.  I watched her face drain of color and her eyes glaze over and slowly close.  Air escaped from her mouth causing her lips to flutter.  I didn't know what was happening.  I was fortunate that there were people nearby, and someone called 911, and another person, a nurse, came over and began administering CPR until the paramedics arrived.  The principal of the school, a close friend, took care of our daughter for me, so I could give Teresa my full attention.  The 911 operator kept trying to keep me calm, but when the police arrived, they had no way of knowing that there hadn't been foul play, and they immediately led me away from Teresa (at the time, I didn't know that I was all of a sudden a suspect in her death, since no one had seen her collapse except me).  It seemed to take forever, but they finally moved her to an ambulance.  I thought I was going to be able to ride in the ambulance with her, but a police officer took me in his car, and we followed the ambulance over to Howard County General.

Even after we arrived, I wasn't allowed to be near her.  The paramedics took her into the Emergency Room through the emergency entrance, while the police officer took me in through the main entrance.  He escorted me to a little room next to the emergency room.  It had a table, several chairs, and a Bible in the middle of the table.  I was left alone.  A few people came by over the next 15 minutes or so to check on me, and I kept asking about my wife, but no one would tell me anything.  I had called my in-laws and my parents during the drive over to the hospital to let them know what had happened, and they were all on their way.  I found myself paging through the Bible looking for verses that could comfort me, but the uncertainty of the situation made it hard to think clearly.  I prayed.  I was certain that Teresa would be okay, but I was concerned about how long she might be in the hospital, and how I was going care for our 5 month old daughter.  Finally, a doctor and a hospital employee entered the room.  They told me they had tried all they could, but Teresa couldn't be revived.  She was dead at the age of 31.  Though they wouldn't know the cause until the autopsy, it was determined that she had a massive heart attack due to complications from mitral valve prolapse and an enlarged heart, which may have been caused by the strain of childbirth.  We'll never know for sure.  Only that she was gone from our lives for the rest of our days in this life.

I was a mess after that.  I started to sob.  I couldn't imagine how I was going to make it without her.  How could I take care of a 5 month old baby?  This wasn't supposed to happen.  We had been married fewer than five years!  I was so fortunate to have so much of my family nearby to help me.  With them, we were able to get through the days, weeks, months, and years following Teresa's death.  My daughter is now ten years old.  I greatly desire companionship.  It's really hard being alone, especially after having such a wonderful marriage relationship that had God at its center.  I've had a few dating relationships, including one that came very close to marriage, but nothing yet.

If this was a Hollywood story, and to this point it very well could have been one, I would meet that wonderful, sweet young lady that would warm this widower's cold heart, and they would live happily ever after.  Maybe that will still happen.  Who knows?  But, you know, it just as easily may not happen.  Maybe God feels that it will be better for me not to marry again.  Maybe I'll have to wait until my daughter is all grown up before I find someone.  I just don't know how my story will go.  And that's why the Hollywood happy ending story is so hard to watch.  I may never get to have one.  And maybe, eventually, I'll even accept that and be content with it.  But right now it hurts.  I hate not having a companion to share things with, to be intimate with, to grow old with.  I pray every night for God's will on my life.  I remain hopeful.  And I think Him for my life.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Foggy Evening

In the "you get what you pay for" department, with a vacation to a warm climate coming up very soon, I decided I needed to get my hair cut.  Instead of going to the place I like to go to, which is a little more expensive and many times requires an appointment, I went to a discount chain to get a walk-in haircut.  The result was....well, not exactly what I wanted.  This happens so ridiculously often when I go to this particular place, and I don't know why I go back there.  In fact, the one young lady who has given me three other bad haircuts was in line to cut my hair this time, though I didn't know it was her turn when I told the receptionist I didn't care who cut my hair.  So, as usual, I ended up with a bad haircut.  I guess, if I was getting my head shaved or a crew cut, it would be hard to mess that up.  But my hair, despite graying and thinning, still requires a little bit of work.  So a cheap haircut results in a cheap haircut.  

So after a rough day at the office, I came home and immediately crashed and snoozed on the couch.  My daughter, upon finishing her homework, woke me up at around 6 and asked if we could go to Cheeburger Cheeburger.  Since I knew we were going out anyway for my haircut, I agreed.  She really loves Cheeburger Cheeburger, and, admittedly, it's a family favorite.  So off we went.  Tonight I had the turkey burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, black olives, pickles, mushrooms, and honey mustard.  It was very tasty.  My daughter had a craving for the chicken fingers, plain.  I don't know why she doesn't like dipping sauces, like bbq or honey mustard, but she just prefers to have them plain.  She also had a small brownie batter shake, the shake of the day.  Wow, that sounds great!

It was dark when we left the restaurant, and it was extremely foggy.  Since we were headed for Maple Lawn, I decided to go an extreme back way, so we headed down Dobbin Road to Oakland Mills Road, which is kind of a fun drive once you pass the intersection with old Montgomery Road.  As we approached Blandair Park, with all of its lights blazing in the fog, we were provided with an eerie sight.  In fact, we saw a herd of deer outlined on a hillside against the light filtered through the fog.  It was worth getting a picture, though the deer scattered before I could set up the pic.  Here's the result:

Anyway, it was a nice evening despite the rain and stress of the day.

Hope you're all doing well.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stressing Out

I generally share a lot from my personal life on the ol' blog, and so many of you may already know about my health problems.  One of the biggest issues is the effect of stress from work and life that has impacted me in a negative way.  Unfortunately, I had a very bad week, and the stress carried over into the weekend.  I usually try not to allow the stress from work to come home with me, but this time it did.  I didn't sleep well all weekend, and I had a hard time thinking about anything other than the issues I was dealing with on Friday.

I use my father as a sounding board, and since Mom & Dad invited us over for dinner today, it provided an opportunity to share with him the things that were overwhelming my mind.  I kind of snapped and unloaded on him.  That's not to say I took out my frustrations on him.  I just broke down and shared everything with him.  The conversation was good for me (I'm not sure about Dad), and I love him for allowing me the opportunity to talk about things and get them off my chest and out of my system.  I usually feel better afterward.  And while I'm going to have a lot to discuss with my boss tomorrow, and that stresses me out, too, at least now I have a plan.

I took on a lot more responsibility last year, doubling the number of employees I manage, including a team located in a different facility.  It's those employees who require the bulk of my time and are the source of my stress.  Without going into details, I'm trying so hard to prevent a powder keg of issues to blow up, but it requires me to walk on eggshells most of the time.  Even though I only have 20 employees there, they take up about 80% of my time (I have almost 100 employees at our other facility).  Many of the issues there have been in existence for years, and they were never resolved.  Now I have to deal with them, and the expectation is that I will take care of them.

Is it fair that I've been given this responsibility?  My boss actually asked me that.  I've made no secret of the fact that it's weighing on me, but I've told her repeatedly, as rough as it is, I'm up for the challenge.  I come from the school that says you don't admit you can't do the job.  But, because of my health issues, particularly related to stress, I'm concerned that if I don't do something, I risk something worse.

So I'm completely stressed out going into tomorrow.  I need to talk to my boss tomorrow about all of this stuff, and I don't know how it's going to go.  In the meantime, I'm praying.  I'm praying that God will be with me now, overnight, and tomorrow, through everything I need to do.  This is something I haven't done enough of.  He is there for me, and I need to give it all to Him.  I don't know why I don't do that more often.  It ultimately makes all of the difference.

Thanks for reading.  Have a great evening!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finding My Gap

Saturdays are our lazy days, and today was exactly that.  However, it's also our church day, and we went to the 5:30 service at Grace Community Church.  Pastor Mark had a great message, and it had me thinking quite a bit afterwards.  But before I get to that, I wanted to mention that my daughter and I returned to Eggspectation tonight for dinner.  It's our second trip to the restaurant in Ellicott City this week.  While my daughter got the same meal as last time (chocolate chip pancakes), I tried the Cuban sandwich, and it was excellent!  But the real highlight was when the manager came to our table.  It turns out he's the son of a couple that I've known for almost 15 years.  I didn't recognize him at first, since he's all grown up, but it was great to see him, and I'm glad he stopped our table.  After chatting a few minutes, he gave us a discount on our check, which he didn't have to do.  It was really kind of him to do, and I really appreciate the gesture.  If you're ever at Eggspectation, make sure you say hello to Justin.  And Mark & Sonya, you've raised a great young man!

Now, let's go back to Pastor Mark's message tonight.  The key verse is from Ezekiel 22:30, "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one."  Who's going to fill the gap?  Mark told the story of a young person he was talking to recently who said he was going to take a "gap year" after finishing college, before deciding on a career.  As someone who is well past the age where he could do that, Being able to do something like that would be awesome.  However, that's not going to happen, and it's not what is referred to in that verse.  What is necessary is whether I can fill in that gap where I'm needed.  Whether that's in service at my church, or wherever, we should all be looking at where we can fill in the gaps.

I gave this a lot of thought after the service.  I've been struggling to find my place at Grace for a while now.  My wife, Teresa, and I began attending Grace in 2003, shortly before our daughter was born.  This was after a tumultuous final year at our previous church.  My wife had spent most of her teen and adult years attending that church, along with her parents, and they were pretty well entrenched there.  Her father taught a Sunday morning Bible study, and her mother was the pastor's executive assistant.  After we were married, Teresa and I led the drama team ministry.  We greatly enjoyed it, though it was a lot of work, but we felt like that was where God was calling us to be.

In 2002, the pastor at our church was caught up in some financial improprieties and was asked to resign, and during the transition, there was a shake up in the staff.  My in-laws got caught up in the mess, and as a result, we elected to leave the church.  We were not happy with the way things turned out, and leaving was disappointing, but there was a silver lining, and I can't help but feel that God was leading us in that moment.  We found a new church home, much closer to where we lived, and it was  well-connected to our community.  Grace was that church.

We were pretty burned out after five years of intense involvement in our previous church, and it was kind of nice to be able to just attend without the commitments we had previously.  After our daughter was born, it was even more appreciated, as those of you with children can imagine how those early days of parenthood can be.  Several months later, Teresa was ready to return to drama ministry, and she began to get involved.  I wasn't quite ready.  A few months later, though, Teresa passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving me and our infant daughter.  It took a long time for me to recover, and I still struggle with her death.  It was a horrible loss for me.  You never get over something like that.  I'm so thankful for the support Grace provided at that time.

Within a few years, I felt well enough to become involved in the drama ministry at Grace, and I was honored to serve in several sketches on Sunday mornings during the services and on Christmas Eve.  More recently, however, the church stopped doing live drama during the services, so I'm not sure where I fit in.  Complicating things, if you want to call it that, is the fact that being a single parent makes it difficult to get involved like I want to.  Child care is hard to schedule, so I find myself unable to balance things.

I think my future will be with youth ministry.  I spent over ten years as a youth counselor in my late teens and twenties, and wrestled at the time with whether to go into ministry as a youth pastor.  My fledgling federal government career was starting to take off at the time, and I decided that's where my future would be.  But, with my daughter ready to begin middle high in a little over a year, I may find myself back in saddle again in youth ministry.  I'll follow wherever the Lord leads me, but that may be my gap.

Right now, I feel Him leading me towards the bed.  It's late and well past my awake-time.  So I'm wrapping this up.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Scout Is Getting Old

Faithful Pup Scout had a little accident this morning.  No, not that kind.  She was headed down the stairs a little too fast, lost her balance on the first landing, then rolled down the stairs (about 12 of them) before smacking her head on a toolkit at the bottom.  She seemed to be fine, but it's another sign of her age.  It's really sad to watch a beloved pet begin to age.  It's a gradual decline, but, at least in Scout's case, it seems like it's happening very quickly.

My aunt had two Maltese pups that my wife fell in love with shortly before we got married.  My aunt lived in Pittsburgh at the time.  In January 2002, she sent an email to us (we were married by this time) letting us know that the breeder who she got her pups from had a Maltese puppy for sale.  This pup was born to the same mom as my aunt's pups, though because the mother was over a certain age, the litter of one was not allowed to have "papers", and would be available for half the regular price.  Were we interested?  My wife promised me that she would take care of the pup if we got her.  I reluctantly agreed.  I was afraid that having a dog would weigh us down.  I liked the freedom we had to be able to travel, and it would be more difficult for us to get away with a dog.  But I saw how happy my wife was, and I agreed we could get her.

"Scout", as my wife named her (after the little girl in my wife's favorite book, "To Kill A Mockingbird"), was born on January 1, and we were able to get after she reached ten weeks old.  We made plans to go to Pittsburgh, and my aunt arranged to have the breeder come to her house to meet us.  We met Scout on March 17, St. Patrick's Day.  She was a cute little pup, filled with personality, and lots of energy.  She ran around like a little white blur, antagonizing my aunt's two pups, and getting into mischief.  After a few hours of running around, she collapsed in a restful ball of fur and napped for almost an hour.

The rest of the day was more of the same.  Lots of running around, biting fingers, trying to play with the other pups (who seemed afraid of little Scout), and getting to know her new owners.  When it was time to go to sleep, we had her all set to sleep in her new crate in our room.  She kept us up most of the night, though.  She didn't like the crate, and we knew it would take a while to get her trained.

The next day, we said our goodbyes, thanked my aunt for all of her help, and we headed back to our Maryland home with our bundle of fur.  She slept most of the way home, surprisingly, and we even stopped a few times on the way.  It was snowing in the mountains, so the drive on the PA Turnpike was rough.  The trip took a lot longer than planned.

Scout ended up being a good little pup.  My wife died just over two years after we got Scout, so she ended up becoming my dog.  She was always a great watch dog, almost too good.  She barks at any noise she hears.  She's slowed down a lot in recent months, but she still seems to hear well.  I hope she lives several more years, though I also don't want her to suffer.  It's amazing the bonds that are created between man and animal.  I love the little furball more than I could've imagined.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Eggs and Waffles, Ethiopian Style

Several years ago, my office had a going away luncheon for a colleague who was planning to move to the West Coast.  We let her pick the restaurant she wanted to eat at.  We hoped for a nice, mainstream type of place that everyone might like.  But she decided on something different.  The result was the WORST MEAL I'VE EVER HAD.

Susan was a bit unusual, but we really didn't expect her to pick an Ethiopian restaurant.  I'm sure there are some really good Ethiopian places to eat, and I'm sure there are very delicious dishes, but what I had to eat that day was awful.  Unfortunately, the restaurant is no longer in business, so I will never have to eat there again.

I had been trying a lot of different kinds of ethnic foods and restaurants in my 20s with several of my coworkers, and I greatly enjoyed several, including a Vietnamese place, a Korean restaurant, a Thai place, and a Mongolian restaurant, but never an Ethiopian.  I was curious enough to try it.

I didn't know what to order, so Susan recommended a few things.  The menu had pictures, which helped.  I decided to order a chicken dish.  The first thing to arrive was a giant greenish-colored waffle-like thing.  It was for the whole table to share.  I was told it was to be used as the eating utensil.  This confused the heck out of me.  Susan explained that you pinch off a piece of the waffle and use it to pick up your food, and you then eat it.

The server brought out everyone's meal one at a time.  Mine arrived first.  It consisted of what looked like a small chicken leg and a hard boiled egg laying on a plate of green glop.  I immediately lost my appetite.  While everyone looked on, anxious to see me try it, all I could think was that I may not be able to swallow any of it.  One of my buddies hollered that it looked more like a rat's leg than a chicken leg.

I waited until a few other people received their plates before I tried my own.  But then it was time.  I slowly tore off a small piece of the "waffle", soaked it in some of the green goop, and tried it.  It wasn't horrible, at least at first, so I tried some more.  I was able to eat it if I didn't look at it, but I also needed to look at it to see what I was doing.  Everyone else, for the most part, raved about the taste of their meals.  I couldn't do that.  It was enough that I was even trying it.  I picked up the "chicken" leg.  It was tender and well marinated, but it didn't smell very good.  I gently chewed it and swallowed.  Well, at least I didn't die.  It had a strange taste, though.  The only thing left to try was the egg.  Now, I like eggs.  I don't eat them very often, but when I do, I like them a lot.  I like scrambled, fried, poached, and even hard boiled.  I picked up the egg, expecting it to taste like an egg.  And it did, sort of.  I could stomach it.  So I finished it in three bites.  By now, I was feeling a little queasy.  The waffle was giving me a strange after taste, and I was slowly getting nauseous.  Rather than prolong the agony, I decided I was finished.  The server took my plate away.  Everyone was being social and chatting away, but I didn't feel like talking.  All I wanted to do was lay down.  Finally, the bill came, we split it up and then headed back to the office.

Once I got outside in the fresh air, I felt a little better.  About halfway, though, I felt a shot of nausea rocket through my stomach, and I quickly found a bush and, um.... lost my lunch, as they say.  Then my breakfast, the snack from the night before, some of last night's dinner, and my socks.  After catching my breath, and popping a couple of Tic Tacs into my mouth, I was fine.  That may have been the first meal I ever had that I was scared of.  It was awful.  I said to myself that was the last time I ever try Ethiopian.  And I've never tried it again.  I'll never forget it.  My all-time worst meal.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Eggscellent Eggspectation

My daughter and I were eggcited to try out Eggspectation this evening in Ellicott City (at Rt. 108 and Snowden River Parkway, near Rt. 100).  It was awesome!  Our server was great, the food was great, and the atmosphere was great.  We really enjoyed our meal, eggcept for the prices....they were just a bit eggspensive, though that could be eggscused due to the quality.  The flavor of the potatoes was eggsplosive, though not in a bad way.  And that flavor wasn't eggsclusive to just the the potatoes.  The pancakes were eggcellent, and the turkey bacon was eggsquisite.  I can't eggspress enough how much we enjoyed our visit.  After that meal, I will have to eggsercise for a week.  The restaurant seems to eggsploit their connection with eggs, as the eggsternal and internal decorations focus on them.  They appear to be eggsperienced with all kinds of egg-related charm, though I'm not eggsagerating when I say they eggsploit it.  It's a little bit eggstreme.

Anyway, we were eggspedient in finishing our meals, and we eggscitedly paid the bill and got ready to leave.  Upon eggsiting, we received a warm, "Thank you!" from the hostesses.  Not being an eggstrovert, I tried to eggsplain that we really did have an eggcellent time.  We have plenty of eggscuses to return!