Wednesday, September 17, 2014

True Love Memories

About two weeks ago, I "hid" my profile on Match.com.  I wasn't at all happy with the results I was getting, and I was frustrated that I was getting no responses to my inquiries.  Dating, even looking for dates, is such a humbling experience.  Women certainly have the advantage, since I believe it is the males responsibility to be the initiator.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think that's the right thing to do.  If a woman I contact will only tell me she's not interested, I can live with that.  I get so disenchanted with the whole thing when I get no response at all.  I respond to every woman who contacts me.  I'm totally flattered when a women tells me she's interested, but it does become problematic to me when I am contacted by someone I'm not at all interested in, and/or is nothing like who I'm looking for in my profile.  And that's usually the case, at least 80% of the time.  I don't want to hear that I'm being too picky.  That's how this works.  I'm not looking for an 80% solution.  I'm looking for the 100%.  I've had the 100% (my wife, who passed away ten years ago).  I can't compromise.

So, in the nine months I've been on Match, the longest by FAR that I've ever stayed active on a dating site continuously, I had two dates, a first and a last, with a very nice young lady who I feel we had a lot of similarities at our core, but just too many different interests to make it work.  Over the last three months, I have made zero contacts.  Maybe I've just lost interest.  Maybe I have been too long on this site.  Whatever it is, it was time to shut it down, however I'm still paid up through December.  It seems like a huge waste of money not to take advantage of the membership, but I feel like I need to take a break.  Or start over.

There are times when I wonder if I am meant to be married again.  I still have occasional bouts with depression over the loss of my wife.  She meant the world to me, and the loss was very painful.  Though I hate that fact that my daughter doesn't have a mother in her life, I miss even more the companionship that being married to a best friend brought to my life.  It may be hard to believe, but my wife and I wanted to do things together all the time.  We had no desire to take solo vacations, and a girl's night or boy's night out was more of a "chore" than it was something we wanted to do.  We just liked being together and doing things with each other.  We never fought.  Not once did we ever go to bed angry with each other.  We truly cared about each other's well being.  And God was the center of our marriage.  We knew and understood that God came first in our personal lives, even before our marriage.  We prayed together every day, and studied the Bible together, and went to Bible studies at our church together, and we worshipped together.  Love wasn't just a casual word we would throw to each other.  There was a meaning behind it.  We lived love.  It encompassed every aspect of our lives.  Our love life was very fulfilling.  We both waited until marriage for a physical relationship, as the Bible says to do.  There were no surprises in our relationship.  We knew each other so well that we knew what we were thinking, but we still took the time to ask the questions of each other, which was the respectful thing to do.  I could go on and on.  Our marriage lasted just over 4 and a half years.  I knew her for only 6 years.  She was a mom for only 5 months, and she never saw her first Mother's Day.  She passed away too soon.  I know that she is with Jesus now, but I miss her so much.  She is the reason that I can't enter lightly into another relationship.

Interestingly, I did find love several years ago.  It was a very intentional relationship.  I worked very hard to make the relationship solid, and I do believe there was a deep love that developed.  But, ultimately, it was her lack of trust of men in general (and abuse in her past relationships) that got in the way, along with the physical distance (she lived in Oklahoma, I here in Maryland), and I knew even then that long distance relationships are just too hard even if everything is going well.  But before that, we were planning to be married.  God made the red flags very apparent, and we parted, though not amicably, unfortunately.  It hurt, but it was the right thing to do.

So, I don't know what my dating future looks like.  The smart thing is to just take a break for a while.  I'll re-evaluate later and see if the desire to try again returns.  For now, I will continue to put the Lord first, be a father second, and content myself with making my career successful for my employee's benefit.  I'll work on my physical and mental health, and enjoy the Fall season, which is my favorite time of year.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back To School Night

Tonight was Back To School Night at daughter Melody's school, and I finally got the chance to meet her teacher.  It was a nice evening, and her teacher had nothing but nice things to say about Melody.  I think she's going to have a great year.  It already looks like she will have less homework than last year.  I'm looking forward to seeing what this year will bring.

Back To School Night is a big deal at the school.  It's apparent that the teachers and staff put a great deal of effort into making the evening a special event, and they put their best foot forward to make it so.  They let parents know in the literature about the event that kids should not be there.  I was disappointed to see that so many parents ignored this request and brought their children anyway.  And it wasn't just single parents, or parents who came without spouses and brought their kids, which may be a challenge finding care for their kids for the evening.  However, couples brought their children, too.  I just don't understand that.  It was very distracting to sit in the cafeteria of the school during the program and hearing kids in the audience making noise, or crying, or not being able to sit still.  Then, after going to the teacher's classrooms, these same kids continued to make noise and carry on.  I found it very disrespectful, and I just don't understand why the parents would do that.  I left my daughter at home purposefully because it was the right thing to do, and I left her home alone, which I hate doing.  I wish everyone would respect the school's wishes.

Anyway, it was nice to connect with Melody's teacher, and I'm looking forward to this school year.

***

The past two days were spent in a training class with my management team.  There are nine of us, and the time with them, and the things we discussed, were very important in the planning of the future of our organization.  The guys (and it's an all-male team) were very open about what they're going through, and the issues we face on a regular basis were confronted head on and resolved.  It was really great to see them all participate and be engaged, and our employees are in great hands with their leadership.  As their manager, it is also satisfying to see that they have my back, and they support me and my initiatives.  This is an unusual thing in an office environment.  Too often, in the past, I've seen petty things disrupt the unity of a team, and that isn't present in our team.  Things are very much going well.  I'm proud of these guys, and the future of our organization is bright.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sax and Violence

I began playing the alto saxophone during my senior year in high school after six years of clarinet, and I fell in love with it.  I was fortunate to play in the jazz band that year, and we had a pretty good group of musicians.  My buddy, Kirk, was a fantastic guitar player (actually, he still is), and he also could play just about any instrument you put in his hands, including piano/keyboards and any of the woodwind instruments.  He was the type of player that could improve any band he played in.  We also had a good balance of other instruments, including Andre (trumpet & keyboards), Randy (bass), Giles (guitar), Joe (guitar), Wakene (alto & tenor sax), and Dom (drums).  Our band director also was a drummer, and played professionally in a jazz trio.  We had so much fun in that band class that year, and we wrote and performed several original compositions.  It was the most creative period of music of my life, and led me to believe that I might actually follow my dreams of pursuing a career in music.

The jazz band got to be pretty good, and we were fortunate to have ridden the coattails of the band from the year before, which was very solid with several very good musicians, and was a fan favorite.  Our band wasn't quite as good as that one, but when we performed, the audience's expectations were pretty high, and that filled us with confidence.  We played a number of shows over the course of that year, and my favorite was one we did for the kids at the nearby middle high school.  The kids were just blown away, and their excitement was higher than any other audience.  I'm sure that was my 15 minutes of fame.

After high school, I continued to play at church and at the University of Maryland, in the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band.  I also played with Kirk every so often, and we recorded a few more tunes.  Kirk had a four-track recorder, and it was fun to actually have recordings of what we played.  Kirk was a real talent, and I feel fortunate to have played with him.

***

However, who could guess that playing in the marching band could be so dangerous, or violent?  I remember, in my days in the band, we took a road trip we took to Syracuse University.  On the way, we stopped at a high school in western Maryland, where we performed a short show for the students there. We wore our white uniforms that day, and during a part of our pregame show called "block and mess", which required us to run very quickly and make a quick cut in the grass and reverse direction several times, I slipped and fell, and about ten other band mates fell with me, causing a massive pileup of bodies and instruments.  I jumped up as quickly as I could, got my bearings, and got back in line.  I looked down and I had a grass stain on my white pants the length of my leg.  It was a mess.  I was very embarrassed, knowing I had caused so many to fall down, and there was no way to hide the evidence given the huge grass stain.  I believe our band director called me out later, as well.  That was even worse.

I only played in the band for two years.  Given the number of hours required to be in the band, it just wasn't something I could keep up with.  In fact, that was around the time I decided that I didn't want to put in the work required to be a music major.  I wasn't having fun, which is why I wanted to play in the first place.  I discovered geography at around the same time, and that led to my career as a cartographer, which was a much more achievable career goal.  It was a little less violent, as well.  There were no grass stains in making maps.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

RVing, True Love, and Real Men


There was an RV Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium this weekend, and with the absolutely beautiful weather today, we decided to go.  Now, we are in no position to purchase an RV right now.  Aside from the fact that I'm paying for another new vehicle for the next few years, there's also the fact that our homeowners association will not allow us to have an RV in our neighborhood.  So this was strictly a window shopping trip.  But it sure is a lot of fun to walk through these things!

RVs have been modernized quite a bit since the time my family had one, back in the 70s and 80s.  They have flat screen TVs, microwaves, automatic leveling, bumpouts, full-size beds, master bedrooms, gas fireplaces, leather couches, kitchen islands, and recliners.  They really are pretty cool.  So we had a blast looking at them.  Some, like the big motor coaches, are upwards of a couple of hundred dollars.  But many, like the one in the picture above, are actually quite affordable, sometimes less than a new car.  This one is much more our speed.  All I really care about is that it has bunk beds, a full-size bed (for me), a separate dining area, a full bath, and a comfortable place to sit down.  In addition, my Jeep can only tow something less than 3500 lbs., so it can't be too big.  We actually found quite a few that fit our criteria, so I know this is doable.  It's something we'll continue to think about.

***

I've found that I can be very selfish and even jealous when it comes to love, and that needs to change before I can ever consider a future relationship.  I received news today that a female friend of mine just got engaged.  This friend is one I've carried a torch for over the past several years, but I never acted on it because I knew it wasn't the right thing to do.  This is the second friend to get engaged in the past year who I've felt about in this way.  In both cases, I knew neither was right for me.  Either they were too young, or the timing just wasn't right.  But I held out hope that there might be a right time.  Well, in both cases, I took the news poorly, though I kept that to myself.  Where I should be very happy for them both, I instead felt very jealous and upset that they found someone else (even though they had no idea that I felt the way I did about them).  And it makes me angry that I feel this way.  It's not the way a Christ-follower should act or think.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which is widely quoted as an important passage describing a loving relationship, says:  
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."
I need to always remember this in my relationships with all people, not just those who I feel strongly about.  There are no healthy relationships that don't follow this definition of love.  I know better.

***

So there's this fine young man by the name of Baron Batch, from West Texas, who played football and played it well enough to go to college, graduate, and be drafted to play in the National Football League.  This might be the dream of so many young men, but very few ever achieve it.  Baron did.  He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and made the team despite injuring his knee in the preseason of his rookie year and sitting out the entire season.  He played well the next year, and again made the team.  He played well on special teams, and was the occasional third down back.  During the preseason of his 3rd year, he was cut from the team.  Rather than accept any of several offers he received from several teams, he elected to retire from the game of football.  He has since pursued a career as an artist (and he's really good, too!), as well as a side business making excellent salsa.  He writes a wonderfully intelligent and thoughtful blog that belies his age.  It's definitely worth checking out.  He wrote a post today giving his opinion of the types of men who play in the NFL, and the type of man he has tried to be.  Please check it out HERE.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Satisfying Saturday

My day started early.  Faithful Pup Scout, who is a bit clock-challenged, decided she needed to go outside at 6:30 a.m.  Scout used to just paw my arm or hair to wake me up.  Now she barks.  And because her hearing isn't what it used to be, she doesn't use her "indoor" bark.  So I groggily pulled myself up, tucked the little 9 pound hairball into my arm like a football, and staggered down the stairs to the basement.  I did the ol' keep your eyes closed trick thinking it would help me get back to sleep once Scout took care of business.  Unfortunately, Scout decided to spend most of her time licking grass, which she does when she isn't feeling well.  So I had to drag her little butt back in the house.  I was pretty much wide awake by this time, so going back to bed wasn't going to happen.

Sweet daughter Melody wasn't up until almost 10, so it was a quiet morning.  I told her we were not going to just sit around all day, and that I had some ideas of things we could do.  There's an RV show happening at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, and it seemed like a fun way to spend the day.  I've mentioned in the blog that my family had RVs while I was growing up, and camping is a lot of fun.  So while I'm not in a position to buy one just now, it might be fun to look at them.  Melody has no idea what they're all about, so it sounded like a good time.  What we didn't take into account was that it would rain, and it did.  Hard.  So that was the end of that plan.

Instead, Melody suggested we grab some lunch at one of our favorite pizza joints, Pub Dog.  Since the Maryland Terrapins were playing the West Virginia Mountaineers, I figured we could watch some of the game there, too.  Well, as soon as we sat down at a table, I looked around at the half-dozen TVs and saw the game wasn't on.  Our server confirmed the game was not on.  Bummer.  We ordered a couple of pizzas, though, and settled in.  The cook brought out the pizzas a few minutes later, but unfortunately, the order was wrong.  We never did figure out if the kitchen messed up or if the server put the order in wrong.  They made it right, though, and very quickly, so we were able to enjoy ourselves.  After eating, our server brought the bill.  Then, after Melody headed to the rest room, the server, a very attractive young lady in her late 20s, I'm guessing, came back over to our table and seriously began to flirt with me.  I'm usually pretty oblivious to stuff like this, but she was very obvious with her questions and small talk.  While I was very flattered, I figured she either lost a bet, or was desperate.  I don't think it was the latter.  Anyway, I did not return her interest, though I was polite.  She's just too young!  It was a nice experience, though.

We came home and I finally got to see the end of the Terps game versus WVU.  The game was tied 37-37 late in the game.  The Terps porous defense allowed WVU to go right down the field and kick a field goal as time expired.  WVU won 40-37.  I then grabbed a short nap before we headed back out to church.  Pastor Mitchel is a pretty good preacher, and he set the tone for the next series, emphasizing Pastor Mark's message from last week to Praise God, Engage each other, and Impact the world.

We grabbed dinner at Chick-Fil-A, grabbed a few groceries at Harris-Teeter, grabbed a few donuts at Dunkin' Donuts, and came home.  We are getting ready to crash.  It was a pretty darn good Saturday.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday is the Best Day of the Week...After Saturday

Friday!  Fridays are truly my favorite day of the week.  I don't mind working on Fridays, and the day usually flies by.  There were only a few meetings scheduled, so the day was very easy and brain power was not too strained.  Today was one of those days that just flew right by, and it was beautiful outside, too, so my drive home was very nice.

I hate being out of pocket, but the past 24 hours has been that way.  My daughter, Melody, did not have school today, so that meant having to find care for her while I'm at work.  I weighed very heavily taking off from work today to spend some time with her, but duty called and I just couldn't do it.  Fortunately, Mom & Dad were available, and they picked her up from school yesterday while I worked a late meeting.  Afterward, I came home and cut the grass, then dressed in my Steelers best and drove over to Mom & Dad's for the Steelers-Ravens game.

The game itself was a major disappointment for Steeler's fans.  They were never really in the game, and lost miserably, 26-6.  I decided to spend the night there, which is why the blog wasn't updated yesterday, and I had a long night tossing and turning because I was so bothered by the Steeler's loss.

I was up early this morning, very tired, but ready to go.  And the day was quick.  After an almost three hour meeting with my management team, the rest of the day went by without issue, and I left to come home on time.

I was excited to see my daughter, who my father was bringing back home this afternoon.  I was content knowing that we would be back to normal.  In fact, I started weighing whether we might go to the drive-in this evening for some fun, though I quickly changed my mind when I saw that DOLPHIN TALE 2 was playing, a movie I had NO desire to see., and the teenage angst movie, IF I STAY, which is even worse.  When Dad finally arrived with my daughter at 6, I knew it was too late, anyway.

So then it was time to decide on dinner.  Melody had her heart set on hot dogs, and since I had turkey dogs in refrigerator, that was what we had.  I didn't know what else to make, though I knew we had a can of re fried beans (spicy!).  That seemed like an explosive combination, and while it might not sound good, it was better than expected.  However, shortly after finishing our meal, I started to feel a bit unwell.  In fact, I quickly knew that what I ate was not going to be digested very well, if at all.  And that's when it hit me.  And, just like that, it was gone.  I really should eat better.

I was feeling exhausted, and I actually fell asleep on the couch.  After snoozing for about an hour or so, I was awakened by my daughter, who was anxious for a small bowl of ice cream.  I complied, for her, but I decided that would be disastrous for myself.  That proved to be the right thing to do.

My Friday, which started out so promising, was quickly falling apart, and I've given in to the feeling of exhaustion which has gripped me.  So I'm hoping for a bigger, better Saturday, which is starting to sound like a it might really be my favorite day of the week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Domestic Abuse and The NFL

I'm wrestling with this Ray Rice thing, mostly due to the way it appears to have been covered up by the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the apparent untruthfulness of the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  This whole situation stinks, and that's above and beyond the real issue, domestic abuse.  We're finding out now that the video that came to light this week showing the confrontation between Ray Rice and his then-fiancee inside the elevator (and I'm calling it a confrontation even though it wasn't; Rice punched her in the face and knocked her out!), which even this week both the team and the League (Goodell) claimed they had not seen until this week, was sent to Goodell several months ago.  And now they appear as if they are just reacting to how the media and the public reacted to the video, rather than taking more of a proactive role.  The other major issue was a tweet by the Ravens earlier this year stating, and I'm paraphrasing, that Janay Palmer regretted her role in the incident resulting in Ray punching her.  The team later, recently, deleted that tweet.  What this tells me is that the team attempted to show their support for Ray Rice by making it sound like he was justified in punching her, then later, after the video was made public, deciding they had better get rid of the evidence.  How wrong is that?!?

All of this has caused me to lose a lot of interest in football in general.  I'm still anxious to see my Steelers play, and that probably makes me sound like a hypocrite. But I can't just turn it off.  However, I WAS very disappointed last week that the folks I did fantasy football with decided they didn't want to play this year, and now, this week, I'm glad we're not.  My interest has dropped that much.  In addition, I made a big deal last week here in this blog about choosing who I thought would win the Week One games, and now, this week, I have no interest in choosing winners.  So that's where I've changed as a result of the domestic abuse issue and the NFL's response to it.

Interestingly, the Steelers are playing the Ravens this week (Thursday night), and I would normally be excited about this game, but it has almost become secondary to the Ray Rice story.  That's a shame.  But this story is just such a big deal, and it will change how many fans look at the sport.  There are other situations similar to this one still unresolved involving NFL players, and these will have to be addressed.

The best reaction to this whole thing is a blog I read a few hours ago HERE, and while it's an extreme opinion, I definitely agree with the sentiment.  Domestic abuse is a major issue in our country, and it scares me to think that so many are affected by it.  The NFL could help by taking a more active role in fighting it.  It remains to be seen whether they are up to it.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

HoCo Bloggers Unite at Nottingham's


As you might guess from the picture above, I had a rather exciting day.  Things got a little "heated".  With my boss out of the office today, I was left in charge of a serious situation that developed this morning.  At around 11:30 a.m., there was a small "boom", followed by the power going out throughout our office building.  The fire alarm went off, and the building was quickly evacuated.  With my boss out, I had to join the "command center", which is where information was shared as it was made known, and decisions could be made.  Several fire engines arrived and it was soon determined that an electrical panel had caught fire, setting off the alarms.  Because of the seriousness of the situation, we were not able to return to the building for several hours.  It was pretty exciting.

Following all of that, my daughter and I headed over to Nottingham's Tavern in Columbia, MD, where we joined a bunch of very talented people who make up the Howard County (HoCo) Bloggers.  Special thanks to our hostess, Jessie X, who arranged the gathering.  Nottingham's graciously supplied drinks and great food, including Swedish meatballs, chicken, spicy quesadillas, and chips and dip.  My daughter loved the chicken.  It was great having the Wii game set up for the kids who were in attendance, as well.

It was the first HoCo Bloggers gathering that I have attended, and it was great to match up some faces with the blogs I read regularly.  In particular, it was nice to finally meet Julia at Village Green/Town Squared and her daughters, as well as Kirstycat and LisaBMrsS (and her three daughters).  Julia always has a kind word or 10 for me or my blog, and I really appreciate it.

I wish I wasn't such an introvert.  I'm not much of a mix and mingle type, so my daughter and I kind of kept to ourselves before drifting out at around 7:20.  Thanks again to Jessie for setting it all up.  We'll try to come to more of these things in the future.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pizza, 9/11, Rice, and Bloggers

I have a lot on my mind tonight.  The Big Thing is pizza.  There aren't too many times when pizza isn't on my mind.  It's by far my favorite food.  I've only met a couple of pizzas I didn't like, and I can probably count them on one hand.  I just finished watching a program about pizza, comparing New York style versus Chicago style, which is why it's so prevalent on my mind.  I don't know how you can compare the two.  They are so different, and I love them both for different reasons.

My favorite pizza is the one at the Ledo Restaurant in College Park, MD.  There are so many great combinations of toppings.  The pepperoni is really thick and very greasy.  It's moderately spicy, as well.  The sausage is also good, though a bit too strong to my liking.  My favorite toppings include mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, pineapple, and pepperoni.  That's truly the best combination.  Add in the sweet sauce, whole milk provolone cheese, and sprinkle some Parmesan and crushed red peppers and you have a real masterpiece.

Of the area stores that serve New York style pizza, one of my favorites is Three Brothers.  There are several in the area, with the Columbia, MD, location on Snowden River Parkway being the one I patronize the most.  The pizza has a nicely sweet sauce, and the toppings are pretty typical, but the taste is truly great.

As for Chicago deep dish, you really have to go to Chicago to get the best.  While Pizzeria Uno is good, and the original location is the best of Uno's pizza, there are a few other really good deep dish pizzas.  Lou Malnati's is pretty good, and better than Uno's, I think.  But stuffed pizza is even better than the deep dish.  Stuffed pizza takes deep dish to another level.  Giordano's is my favorite.  The pizza just can't be beat, and is probably the best I've ever had.  I've had it with mushrooms and black olives, and I can barely eat two slices of a small pie.

So all I'm doing is making myself hungry, so I have to change the subject.

***

There's a lot of attention on the 9/11 events this week, and my daughter, who is 10 years old, has shown a lot of interest in what happened two years before she was born.  This year, she wants to watch many of the programs about the incidents that occurred on 9/11/2001, and so I've allowed her to watch them with me.  Having lived through that day, somewhat close to the action as a Federal Aviation Administration employee, I've shared with her all of what I went through, which certainly isn't much compared to those that were directly affected that day.  But she seems very fascinated by it all, much as I am.  She seems to understand the magnitude of what occurred that day.  I guess I would compare it to my own fascination with World War II history, or the death of JFK, or the crash of the Shuttle Challenger.  These major events in our country's history create this fascination with why they occurred, as well as the events leading up to them.  They are extremely sad events, but so very interesting, and I'm glad that my daughter cares enough to want to know more about them.

***

I had intended to write about the Ray Rice situation tonight in light of his being cut by the Baltimore Ravens this afternoon after a video showing him assaulting his then-fiancee earlier this year was made public.  However, there are better writers out there talking about this situation, so I'm not going to add anything to it other than to mention that the Ravens did the right thing.  This is such a horrible situation, and the evidence shows this was so much worse than originally reported.  This type of thing should never happen.  I hope and pray that Ray Rice gets counseling and realizes how wrong this is.

***

Tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/9) is the latest Howard County Bloggers event, this one at Nottingham's, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Great food and drinks, good social time, and the opportunity to meet many of the area's great bloggers.  I have not been to any events as of yet, but I will be at this one (I promised!).  My daughter will be joining me, and I will try to come out of my introvertive shell and socialize.  If you want more information on this event, check it out HERE.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Sportsday

Today felt like Fall.  I could almost smell the cooler air, the trees changing color, campfires and fire pits.... And I didn't even go outside!  That's because today was the first Sunday of Football Season!  How can you not get excited about that?  I realize not everyone is a football fan, and I also understand that there are many who are perhaps disillusioned by football due to the violence and injuries, plus the outrageous salaries of the players, and the money the owners are bringing in from the incredible cost of tickets.  But for many, this is the beginning of the excitement of the game of football, Week One of the 17 week season.

My Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season at home against their long-time rival, the Cleveland Browns.  In other local games, the Baltimore Ravens took on the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore, and the Washington Redskins opened their season in Houston versus the Texans.

The Steelers had a fantastic first half, taking at 27-3 score into halftime.  Big Ben Roethlisberger put up huge numbers, his best first half of his career, and the Steelers seemed to be cruising to a win.  In the second half, it looked like the teams had switched each other's uniforms.  The Browns took charge, and came all the way back to tie the game.  It appeared the teams might be headed to overtime, but the Steelers moved down the field with under 2 minutes in the game and kicked a game-winning  field goal to make it 30-27, Steelers.  It was ugly, but it was a win.  I'll take it.

The Redskins picked up pretty much where they left off last year.... and much of the past decade.  They lost.  And they lost ugly.  The Texans were the worst team in the league last year, and the Redskins really were never in this one.  They lost 17-6.

The Ravens struggled through the first half, getting behind early.  The Bengals kicked 5 field goals to take a 15-0 lead.  The Ravens were fortunate that the Bengals weren't scoring touchdowns.  Right before the half, Ravens QB Joe Flacco had his team in scoring position, but he lost track of the clock and in a scramble on what was the last play, he was dropped and the clock ran out.  In the second half, the Ravens were finally able to get on the scoreboard with a couple of TDs, including a long pass to new WR Steve Smith, to take a 16-15 lead, but the Bengals answered right back with a long pass for a TD by WR AJ Green.  The Ravens had a chance to tie at the end, but the Bengals held on to win, 23-16.

The Boys of Summer made an appearance today, too, as the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Cubs in Chicago in the last month of baseball season.  The Bucs scored a touchdown early in this one, and went on to win 10-4.  The Pirates moved into a wildcard position for the playoffs, which is amazing to me given the issues this team has battled all season.

It was a wild day of sports, and I can't help but be excited as baseball winds down and football revs up.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who I Am

I have many titles and roles, and I've attempted to summarize them in the "About Me" bio over on the right side of this blog (if you're looking at it on the full website).  But what do they really mean?

First and foremost, I am a Christ-follower.  My pastor, Mark Norman, at Grace Community Church, preached on this very subject this evening, with words such as "follower", "disciple", and "Christian" each being similar but showing differing degrees of being one who follows Christ Jesus.  I consider myself a Christ-follower, as one who believes that Jesus is my Savior, and because I've allowed Him into my heart, will provide eternal life.  I believe this is the most important descriptive term of who I am.

Second, I am a father.  My daughter, Melody, means the world to me.  I helped give her life, and it is my responsibility to raise her to be a responsible, honorable, intelligent, well-rounded, loving, civilized, God-fearing young woman.  My hope is that she will accept Jesus as her Savior, and all that this entails.

Third, I am a widower.  What this means is that I was a husband, which was such an enjoyable role, before my wife passed away.  Losing Teresa was such a devastating thing, and I am still recovering.  The title of widower is a difficult one to accept, because it signifies loss.  My marriage was one of my greatest successes, as it had Christ at its center, and my wife and I loved each other like no one else.  It was such a wonderful relationship, one I would gladly enter in to again should the right woman enter into my life, due to the great experience I had.

I am a dog-owner fourth.  I have a cute Maltese pup named Scout, named after the little girl in the book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, my wife's favorite.  Scout is now 12 years old and showing every bit of her age.  She is a faithful little dog, one of my best friends, and I'm honored that she looks up to me as the "pack leader" of our happy household.

I am a cartographer by trade.  I attended the University of Maryland and learned my map-making skills through a geography/cartography major, and was employed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a cartographer working on aeronautical charts, a position that carried over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2000.  I have since moved into a management position, which is a completely different set of skills.

As a public servant, I work for the Federal Government, and, as noted, I am now a manager.  I am proud to serve in this role as a trusted official for the people of the United States, and it is a position that I do not take lightly or for granted.

One of my great loves and activities is to take road trips, and it is something that I do regularly, making me a road trip enthusiast.  I am so happy that my daughter enjoys them, as well.  Road trips are the greatest way to see this great country we live in, and I've been so fortunate to have driven through 41 states, each one with a specific look and identity, as well as the great sites found in each.  I love to travel in this way.

Road trips have led me to some of the best destinations:  amusement parks and theme parks.  At these parks are some of the greatest roller coaster rides in the world, making me a roller coaster enthusiast.  I love the thrill of riding a diving, looping, twisting, climbing, rolling, extremely fast coaster, and my daughter and I have found ourselves on some of the greatest this country has ever seen.  There is nothing like the feeling of riding one of these hulking giant thrill machines, and we continue to seek them out.

Being a Terp is a label earned during my years as a student and graduate from the University of Maryland, whose mascot is the Terrapin.  I love the sports teams that are fielded at Maryland, and am proud of my heritage at Maryland.  Being a Terp is an honor.

Lastly, I am a member of Steeler Nation, as a fan of one of the most successful professional football teams in the NFL.  There are numerous fans of the Steelers, and they are located throughout the United States, and the world, and this fandom is known collectively as Steeler Nation.  My father grew up in the Pittsburgh area, and raised me to be a fan of the sports teams based in Pittsburgh, including the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins.

I have many other roles and titles, namely son, brother, and friend, which I don't include on my "about me" right up, but they are no less important.  But that's who I am.

I hope you have a wonderful evening, everyone!



Friday, September 5, 2014

Attack of the Mantis

My backyard nature preserve never ceases to amaze me.  Tonight's surprise guest was a large praying mantis, which created a B-movie atmosphere and great fear among the populace of our home.  These are such unusual creatures, with their size and long legs, plus their "bug" eyes, and they can be rather intimidating.  My father has a particularly great fear of these bugs, and has had his fair share of confrontations over the years.  I remember one afternoon, Dad was out doing some yard work, and I noticed him just outside my bedroom window.  All of sudden, I saw him jump about 5 feet in the air, and run off into the yard.  I ran to window and he was doing a crazy dance in the yard, stripping off his shirt and jumping up and down.  I ran up to the front porch and went outside to see what was wrong.  He yelled that there was a praying mantis crawling on his shoulder, trying to attack him.  Apparently, Dad had been scarred at a young age by the mere presence of one of these creatures, and that was enough to created a healthy fear that lasted into his adult years.  It would be funny if he wasn't so scared.


Anyway, after discovering the mantis on our back door, I let Faithful Pup Scout out into the back yard, at which point the mantis decided to dive bomb us and flew into the house.  My daughter, who has inherited Dad's fear of these bugs, ran screaming out of the room.  I was able to direct the mantis back out the door, and get Scout back in at the same time, saving us all from certain doom.  Daughter Melody also had called her Pap (my Dad) to share the mantis' presence.  Fun stuff.  We know how to have a good time on a Friday night.

Have a great evening, everyone!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

One Sick Sister and NFL Week One

We received some surprising news yesterday afternoon when we heard that my sister, who comes to our house each morning to get my daughter, Melody, off to school while I'm at work, went to the hospital.  She had been complaining about a severe headache yesterday morning, and after getting Melody to school, she went home.  Her headache got much worse, and she felt very sick.  After a vomiting spell, my parents, who she lives with, decided she needed to go to the emergency room.

My sister has been battling anorexia for over 25 years, and while her weight is currently at a borderline healthy/dangerous level, she still has trouble keeping her weight up.  She diets and exercises regularly, even though she has no need to do so.  Because her iffy health keeps her from being able to hold down a job, I pay her to take care of my daughter.  She is very good with kids, and wonderful with Melody.  It's an arrangement that works well for all of us.

The ER doctor believes she is suffering from dehydration, which is pretty likely, though she's had a urinary tract infection for the past two weeks, as well.  She was feeling much better last night, and she went home to rest.  She indicated she would have no problem with taking care of Melody this morning.  Well, her headache got worse again overnight, and by the time she got to my house, she was practically out cold on the couch.  I didn't know what to do.  She didn't look well, and I was afraid if might be too difficult for her to get Melody up and off to school.  She assured me she was okay, and that if she had any problems, she'd call our father.  I reluctantly went to work.

I found out, a few hours later, that she did get Melody off to school, but she was so sick again that she couldn't drive herself home.  My parents drove to my house and Mom took her to see her doctor, while Dad took her car home.  Again, she is feeling better this afternoon, but the headache is still there, and still bad.

So we're trying to figure out how to work tomorrow.  It looks like my daughter will end up spending the night at my parent's house, which allows for the most options should my sister not be able to work tomorrow.  We'll see how it goes.

***
After making my predictions yesterday for the season and playoffs, today I'm picking the straight-up winners for all of the NFL games in Week 1.  Here are my picks, in BOLD:

NFL Week 1
Green Bay at Seattle
New Orleans at Atlanta
Minnesota at St. Louis
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Jacksonville at Philadelphia
Oakland at NY Jets
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Buffalo at Chicago
Washington at Houston
Tennessee at Kansas City
New England at Miami
Carolina at Tampa Bay
San Francisco at Dallas
Indianapolis at Denver
NY Giants at Detroit
San Diego at Arizona


Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Anyone's Guess - My NFL Predictions 2014

I generally stay out of the professional football analysis business, aside from my love of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I don't make predictions, and I definitely never bet on games.  I've played fantasy football for much of the last half-decade, though I don't consider myself very good.  That said, I figured it would be fun to make predictions on how the NFL will look at the end of the season, and who will be in the playoffs.  Bear in mind that I have done no advance preparations to make these predictions.  I've done no analysis of any kind, and any predictions I make are guesses based on hunches.  I plan on making weekly picks of NFL games, as well, and will post those picks here.  What follows is as close to chance as it gets:

NFC
East
Philadelphia Eagles
New York Giants
Washington Redskins
Dallas Cowboys

North
Green Bay Packers
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

South
New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

West
Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals
St. Louis Rams

AFC
East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills

North
Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns

South
Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans

West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders


PLAYOFFS (Winners in Bold)

Wildcards
Atlanta at Philadelphia
San Francisco at New Orleans
Kansas City at New England
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Divisionals
San Francisco at Green Bay
Philadelphia at Seattle
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
New England at Denver

Championships
Seattle at Green Bay
Indianapolis at Denver

Super Bowl
Green Bay vs. Denver

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cleaning Out the Digital Matter

Cleaning out my email drafts folder, I came across the following messages.  Not sure why I still have them, though I think the peanut butter cookies recipe is pretty darn good.  I figured I'd share before I delete them.

***
The ABCs of me:

A - Age:  45
B - Bed:  Queen-sized, sharing with the dog
C - Chores I hate:  Cleaning house... I need a maid, taking applications
D - Dog's name:  Scout (from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD)
E - Essential start your day item:  Glass of pulpy OJ
F - Favorite color:  Red, black and gold
G - Gold or Silver:  Both... silver watch, gold ring, silver cross
H - Height:  6' 2"
I - Instrument you play:  Sax, clarinet
J - Job:  Fed
K - Kids:  Daughter - Melody
L - Living Arrangements:  Sharing a house with my daughter and Faithful Pup
M - Mom's name:  Gwendolyn (Gwen for short)
N - Nicknames:  Von Zipper (by my Uncle Paul), Z-Bar (by my dad), Bubba (by my wife), Daddio (by Siri), and Daddy (by my daughter....less of a nickname and more of an identity)
O - Overnight hospital stay?:  Yes, concussion (car accident)
P - Pet peeve:  Bad drivers
Q - Quote from a movie:  "No man is a failure who has friends," Clarence the Angel, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
R - Right or left handed:  Right
S -Siblings:  Younger sister and brother (Angie and Darren)
T - Time you wake up:  5:30 a.m.
U - Underwear:  Yes
V - Vegetable you dislike:  Lima beans
W - Workout style:  Wii Fit
X - X-rays you've had:  Head, shoulder, wrist, teeth, internal organs, and...um.....(down there)
Y - Yesterday's best moment:  Breakfast with my daughter
Z - Zoo exhibit you like:  The monkey house

***
 Sugar-free Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients
2 cups of smooth natural peanut butter
2 cups of granular no-calorie sucralose sweetener (e.g., Splenda®)
2 large eggs

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet
2.  Thoroughly mix together the peanut butter, sucralose, and eggs in a bowl.  Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.
3.  Bake in preheated oven until center appears dry, about 8 minutes.
4.  Cool.  Eat.

***
First Date Questions:

1,  Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  Dad
2.  What kinds of things really make you laugh?  Comedies, TV or movies, and my daughter being funny.
3.  What's your favorite place in the entire world?  Home.  I also love the Black Hills of South Dakota.
4.  Who is your best friend?  What do you like about him/her?  Dad is probably my best friend.  I like that he knows me so well, and we have a lot in common.  We enjoy just being together.
5.  Favorite movie of all time?  Why so?  IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, due to it's theme and message that life is a precious gift from God.
6.  What's your biggest goal in life right now?  To raise my daughter the right way, and that she will invite Jesus into her heart.
7.  What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?  I love getting up early, going out to breakfast, then going to a bookstore or on a hike, depending on the weather.
8.  Do you have any pet peeves?  Bad drivers.  I particularly have a difficult time with tailgaters.
9.  What were you like as a kid?  I was shy and quiet, very serious, and liked to be around grownups more than kids my age.  My older cousins called me "Little Man".
10.  Have you figured out your calling in life?  What is it?  I've never really thought about this...  I guess my calling is to be a father first, and everything else will fall in place.  However, I also feel like I'm no longer "growing up".  At the age of 45, I should know who I am, and I believe I have "arrived".