Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 2015 Teresa Shirlen Freed Spirit Award

Teresa Shirlen Freed was an awesome teacher.  She taught 9th grade English and Public Speaking in Howard County, first at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City, MD, and, later, at Reservoir High School upon its opening in 2002, in Fulton, MD.  Mrs. Freed was a hard grader, I'm told, but she was well respected for being not only very nice, but also a lot of fun.  Students found out hers wasn't an easy class, but she knew how to keep their attention because she was good at her craft.  She loved standing in front of her classes, just as the orchestra leader stands in front of the band, directing the action and showing them the way.  It was because she loved teaching, and she was good at it.

I was fortunate to have known this wonderful young lady, and she grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go.  We were married in 1999, and we had a wonderful marriage.  She made me laugh, and I was happier during our time together than just about any other time in my life.  She had a way about her that lifted my spirit whenever I had a rough day, and we made a great team as husband and wife.  God was first in our marriage, and I'm so glad that we lived our lives the way God wanted us to live them.  It was true love.

Teresa Shirlen Freed passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on April 19, 2004, five short months after bringing our little daughter, Melody, into the world.  She left a void in so many lives, not only mine and my Melody's, but all those whose lives were touched by her incredible soul.  That includes her family, her friends, her co-workers, and also her students.  It was because of the way she affected us that we were determined to keep her memory alive, and Reservoir High School and Mrs. Freed's family put together a scholarship award in her name, called the Teresa Shirlen Freed Spirit Award, and it is given annually to one student who is a leader, who possesses school spirit, who participates in or goes to many school activities, and who is strong in speech/debate.  They must also attend a college in the Maryland State System, since Mrs. Freed went to the University of Maryland, a school she loved, thrived in, and graduated from.

Last evening, Melody and I were in attendance at Reservoir High School for the Class of 2015 "Evening of Excellence," the awards night for the Seniors at the school, and where the Teresa Shirlen Freed Spirit Award would be presented.  Mrs. Margaret Brothman, a colleague and friend of Mrs. Shirlen, and a wonderful teacher at Reservoir who continues to carry the torch for the English Department, presented the award, and Melody and I joined her on stage.  Here is what Mrs. Brothman said:

This next scholarship is significant to me because it is always awarded to a very special student, in memory of Mrs. Teresa Shirlen Freed, someone close to my heart. Teachers in the English department selected this student because she exemplifies certain characteristics that were so important to Mrs. Freed.  Mrs. Freed was a teacher, sponsor, team leader, co-worker, mentor and friend to many students and staff members at Reservoir High School. She was one of the first teachers I met before the school opened 13 years ago, and not only was her character of the highest caliber, but she also represented the epitome of teaching excellence.  Teresa’s husband, Eric, and daughter, Melody, are here today.

In her memory, and through the donations of family members, colleagues, community members and friends, this scholarship is bestowed on a student who is a leader, who possesses school spirit, who participates in or goes to many school activities, and who is strong in speech/debate. This individual must also attend a College in the Maryland State System as Mrs. Freed was a true Maryland fan.  It is through this recognition that the spirit of Mrs. Freed continues to live on and flourish.  

This year’s recipient of the Teresa Shirlen Freed Spirit Award is a former student of mine who is known for her truly sunny disposition.  She is a positive light in the lives of many.  She successfully leads and encourages others in the classroom, on the field hockey turf, as an SGA officer, and as a volunteer at St. Agnes Hospital where her weekly duties involve assisting elderly patients with mental illnesses. She sets high standards for herself and consistently works hard to achieve accolades as a student.  Learning is important to her, as is integrity.  Next year she will attend the University of Maryland, College Park, (Mrs. Freed’s Alma Mater) where she has been accepted into the Cultures and Creativity Honors Program and hopes to affect social change and justice on public health issues through a variety of media platforms.

It gives me great pleasure to present this award to Miss Emily Blanchard.

Miss Blanchard is an incredibly talented and gifted young lady and is a wonderful example of the type of student that Mrs. Freed loved to teach.  We wish her well in her future endeavors, and extend our best wishes to her and her family.  Congratulations, Miss Emily Blanchard, on being named the 2015 Teresa Shirlen Freed Spirit Award winner!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quiz Me

We see them all over the web.  They're on Facebook.  They're in ads on websites.  Our friends take them.  Our relatives take them.  They're the trivial meaningless personality quizzes that tell us all about ourselves.  And I took a bunch of them so you don't have to!  From

Which dessert are you?  "Pie.  Lover of tradition!  Even though you don't exactly enjoy getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, you're one of those people that is just purely NICE.  Caring, kind, the works!  I bet you're great during the holidays, as well! ;-) )  Eric's note:  I love pie.

Does your IQ reveal that you are a genius?  "You are in the 140-150 range.  Genius intelligence."  Eric's note:  I always knew I was a genius.

Which American accent to you actually have?  "You have a New England accent!  You have yard sales and you know what a "pill bug" is!  "Mary," "merry," and "marry" might all sound differently to you, or you may say "merry" differently than the other two.  Interestingly, the New England accent is traditionally marked by its non-rhoticity (dropping r's) in words like car, card, fear, etc.  But this feature is disappearing!  Your accent is very unique!  While you're enjoying the beautiful Fall Colors, take pride in your awesome accent!"  Eric's note:  This doesn't come close to describing my answers to this quiz.  Mary, merry, and marry all sound the same to me.  I consider myself to be Western Pennsylvanian with a dash of Southwestern Virginia, whatever that means.  It's certainly nowhere near New England.

What is your most dominant character trait?  "Your Courage is your most dominant character trait!  You are a fearless individual, afraid of almost nothing.  This can most likely be attributed to your bold, confident attitude that you take everywhere with you, or perhaps you just really enjoy a good challenge!  Regardless, you laugh in the face of danger and you usually never turn down standing up for a cause that needs your strength and stability.  You have faith in yourself and a thick backbone, a perfect combination for facing any obstacle or wild adventure without fear right in front of you."  Eric's note:  I'm afraid they're wrong.  This is not even close.

Which animal do you transform into?  "Tiger.  You like to be alone a lot of the time but when you have children on your mind nothing is too good for them you will spoil them as much as you can no man nor woman will ever step over the line with you they'd only get a toe over the line before they are thrown back far away from the line you have no time for people who want to cause trouble you just want a nice and happy life without stress."  Eric's note:  What does this even mean???  No punctuation makes this just confusing gibberish.  And what does this have to do with a tiger?

How high maintenance are you?  "You're easy going and adaptable.  Although you are deeply in touch with your emotions, high maintenance is not a term that describes your personality.  Sure, you may have a particular set of preferences when it comes to living your life, but at the same time, you are able to accommodate the needs of others without being too rigid.  Rather than overreact and make a fuss, you are much more likely to go with the flow and keep a smile on your face.  You're the type of person that people like to be around because you keep it drama free and your view on life is generally optimistic and cheerful!"  Eric's note:  This is the first quiz that might be right on!  One of the questions asked which celebrity I would want to have dinner with.  Of the choices, I picked Tom Hanks, but I imagine Jennifer Lawrence would be interesting...

Which villain is actually your evil twin?  "Loki (from the Avengers).  You and Loki are loyal, have a strong sense of duty, and immense wisdom.  You are ambitious and want to make big changes in the world."  Eric's note:  Okay...

What is your subconscious obsessed with?  "Your subconscious is obsessed with SEX!  Yes, you've read it right, and no, it's not something to be ashamed of!  The answers you chose suggest that your subconscious mind is very occupied with sex.  You are a naturally sexual and loving person, you simply love to LOVE, and one of the biggest acts that you do with someone you love is sex.  Although your subconscious is obsessed with sex, you have a healthy way of life.  You do not get too carried away (although you sometimes wish you would), and you look for emotional attraction before you think about the physical one."  Eric's note:  "Hmmm... I took this quiz twice because I didn't like the answer the first time, but I still got the same answer with different choices.  Is it because I have not been intimate with anyone since my wife died 11 years ago?  Is my subconscious causing me to answer a certain way?  Am I really obsessed with sex?  I thought I was obsessed with pizza.  Or roller coasters.  Or Scarlett Johansson.  Or...oh, there it is...

What should your nickname be?  "Sweet Pea.  You're pretty and smell really really good. ;-)  You can make peasants smile (even when you're not there or they're really upset about their fake cows.)  You are sharp as a tack and little gets by you.  You never do less than your best with things you care about, and your stubbornness is to be admired.  True to your name, you love candy.  You're loyal and trustworthy and make eggheads feel safe to be themselves around you no matter how ridiculous that might be."  Eric's note:  I think this says it all..."

What would your high school report card look like today?  "Very impressive!  You got straight A's!  Perhaps it's thanks to your strong work ethic or simply because you're a natural born genius, but either way, you'll definitely be Valedictorian!  Time to apply for Harvard, kid!"  Eric's note:  No doubt...

How good is your memory?  "You have an incredible memory!  Impressive!  You remembered all of the photos!  You most likely have what's called an "eidetic" memory.  This means that you have a remarkable ability to recall images.  You pay attention to detail, you notice the small things, and you have a gut intuition that kicks in when you've seen something more than once.  You have a great analytic ability and you're a natural born problem solver."  Eric's note:  Now if I could only remember where I put my keys....

What kind of house should you live in?  "You should live in a house in the suburbs!  You dream of the white picket fence, 2 kids, a dog, the American dream!  You are pretty traditional and have strong values.  You are family oriented and would do anything for your loved ones.  A practical home like this is perfect for you!"  Eric's note:  They know me so well!

What kind of lover are you?  "You're an awesome lover!  With time and practice you can become wild. ;-)"  Eric's note:  Given my obvious obsession with sex, are you surprised?

What role do you play in your family?  "You're the perfect one!  Mature and sensible, you're the family's greatest success.  You're respectful and trustworthy, and considered to be the smart and capable one.  Although you may occasionally fear failure, your natural intellect and talent will take you far (and make your family look good)."  Eric's note:  I'm sure my younger sister and brother would agree...

What country in the world best fits your personality?  "India.  You are driven in life by the search for meaning and have a passion for culture and religion.  You are a deeply spiritual person who thrives in an environment where people question their existence and devote themselves to a higher sense of being.  You enjoy a stimulating environment and do best when you are challenged, mentally, and spiritually.  You see live as an adventure and enjoy conversing with others on the big philosophical questions of life.  Whether you are spending time in a bustling market, or meditating in a quiet garden, you are nourished by a society that is devoted to serving others."  Eric's note:  I agree with the write-up here more than the actual country.  As a Christian, I'm not sure India is the best match, unless I plan to live as Mother Teresa did (which we should all aspire to do).  While India certainly would be correct if you are a "deeply spiritual person," a deeply Christian person would likely find the Holy Land as a more stimulating environment, at least in my opinion.  Of course, take this with a grain of salt...I've never traveled outside of North America.

All right, I'm done.  Feel free to take the quizzes if you want.  They don't mean anything, though.  You are who you are, not what some quiz tells you you are.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Breaking In The Appliances

I'm feeling rather odd this evening.  My daughter, Melody, was invited by a school friend to a sleepover, and I watched her leave with the young girl and her mother earlier this afternoon.  This is only Melody's second sleepover, and while the first was two houses down from ours, tonight she is in Virginia at their new home, where her friend is moving after the school year ends.  Melody was excited and anxious to go, while I questioned her repeatedly all week as to whether she really wanted to go.  It's hard to let go.  I'm sure she'll be fine and have a great time, and I'll pick her up tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, what am I going to do?  I thought about going to the movies.  There are a few out now that I want to see, but I will not take my daughter to see.  That was my plan.  The movie is scheduled to start at 10 p.m.  And here I am, still sitting on the couch, half asleep.  I'm getting old much too fast...  I will not be seeing the movie tonight.  Instead, I will be sleeping soundly in my bed...or perhaps right here on the couch halfway through my typing this post.


My new kitchen appliances arrived this week.  It's hard to get too excited.  Appliances just don't get me excited.  My father came over to watch over the delivery of everything, and as I noted previously, they arrived on two different trucks with two different crews.  The dishwasher, range, and microwave came in the early afternoon, and there were no complications.  My father was impressed with how capable they two gentlemen were who installed them all.  They work flawlessly.  I arrived at home at 4 p.m.  The gentlemen bringing the refrigerator said they would be about 45 minutes later than their scheduled "2 to 4 p.m. window."  Dad went home.  We waited.  And we waited.  They finally called at 6:40 and said they would arrive about 20 minutes later, which they did.  They apologized, claimed their dispatch gave them a ridiculous route for the day, and said they still had three more refrigerators to deliver after mine.  I didn't yell at them, but I was sure disappointed.  Melody and I had not eaten dinner yet, and we actually had planned to go to the movies that evening since she had no homework, and we both wanted to see the new Avengers movie.  So much for that plan.  Anyway, the guys were in and out in about 20 minutes, and everything was fine.  Melody and I quickly ran out to the store and got some dinner.

The refrigerator is my favorite of my new appliances.  I guess that's because I will get the most use out of it.  I hate to cook, so the oven is more or less a luxury.  The dishwasher, too, is a bit of a luxury, since I haven't had a dishwasher that worked for much of the last year, and I kind of got used to using paper plates and cups.  The microwave will get a lot of use, but, let's face it...microwaves don't get the same level of respect that the other, more traditional, appliances seem to get.  I can only imagine how jealous the microwave is of the range, its much larger and seemingly much more important sibling.  But the fridge speaks to me.  It's the epitome of masculinity, much like the outdoor grill (the manly version of the indoor range).  The fridge takes care of beverages and leftovers, as well as meats and cheese and ice cream.  It's pretty awesome.

I used the oven for the first time this evening, to heat up some leftovers.  Yeah, I know, I could've used the microwave, but the oven provides much more even cooking, and I felt an obligation, after spending so much money on this thing, to actually use it.

I wanted to run my dishwasher, but my sister, who comes over to my house each weekday morning, is still programmed to hand wash all of the dishes in the sink, so I don't have any dirty dishes to place in the dishwasher.

The only real issue I have with my new appliances is something that I predicted would be an issue for me:  they're stainless steel.  And, if you have stainless steel appliances, you already know how ridiculously hard it is to keep them clean.  After two days, I'm already fed up.

Oh, well.  It's done.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Congressional Hearings, Snakes, Late Night TV, and Gray Hair

The bike keeps falling over, but I'm still getting right back on it...


My wonderful daughter continues to amaze me.  Melody, as a part of her social studies grade, participated in the simulated Congressional Hearing that took place at school today.  She was a part of a group of five students who spoke on an issue in front of three judges, who then reviewed their performance.  Melody did a fantastic job speaking about freedom of expression, and she received great feedback from the judges afterward.  I was really proud of her.  This is the second time in a week that she has performed under what I would call stressful circumstances and delivered.  I love this girl!


A few evenings ago, I took Faithful Pup Scout out back to do her business, and I found myself pulling weeds out of the garden.  There were a few old dead leaves there, too, and when I went to grab them, they started to move.  Out from under them came a small snake!  It was about a foot and a half long, pencil thin, but it was a snake!  I hate snakes.  I'm sorry if you're someone who likes snakes.  Really, I am.  I about jumped out of my shoes as it slithered over towards the house.  The door was still open, and I quickly slammed it shut to keep it from getting in.  Did I mention that I hate snakes?

A long time ago, several months after my wife and I moved into our house, I went to the basement to get a box and found myself face-to-face with a snake.  I hate snakes, in case you haven't noticed.  I quickly sprang into action, though, and grabbed the first thing I could find, which was my steel Pittsburgh Steelers trashcan.  I flipped it upside down and covered it.  My first instinct was to kill it, since it was, indeed, a snake, and I hate snakes.  I lifted the can slightly, and it peeked its head out, and I promptly dropped the edge of the can right on its neck.  I then rolled it over the snake's neck, pushing my full weight on the can, until the snake's head was completely severed.  Still not thoroughly convinced it was dead, I then threw the snake into a bucket of water and dropped a plugged-in hairdryer into it, knocking out the power through the entire house.  Since I wasn't quite convinced it was dead, I grabbed a knife and cut it into 28 different pieces.  Then I took all 28 pieces and dropped them into a blender and chopped it into about 18 million pieces.  I thought I heard a hiss, so I dumped the pieces of the snake in a vat of hydrochloric acid, then I burned it in the fire pit out back.  Finally, I took the ashes and sprinkled them across a 17-acre field.  I think it's dead, but I'm haunted every night that the snake is still slithering around in the basement.  I hate snakes!


I'm not a fan of late night talk shows, but I enjoyed occasionally watching Craig Ferguson before he retired recently.  Now David Letterman is retiring, and since I never really watched his show, I decided to start Tivoing the last bunch of episodes.  I want to like Letterman, but he really doesn't seem that interested in what he is doing.  The shows really aren't funny, and most of the laughs surround his guests.  The musical acts are a surprise, though.  I'm enjoying seeing some musicians and groups that I've never really heard before.  One is the Dave Matthews Band.  They are pretty good.  They performed a song called "What Would You Say," which is really great.  I ended up downloading about a half-dozen different performances of the song, and I'm enjoying them a lot.

One other note:  Howard Stern is just not funny or interesting to me.  I do not understand how he has garnered any kind of celebrity.  I just don't.


It has been only a few weeks, but it already looks like like I need a haircut.  My hair is still lopsided and I am dreading going back to my local hair stylist.  I guess I'm going to have to open the wallet a little wider and go somewhere a little better than the chain I've patronized for years.  I'm tired of complaining.  So I'm going to do something about it.

As a side note, I think the recent stress has caused much of my hair to turn gray, one strand at a time.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Turning Words of Anger Into Words of Comfort

I'm struggling again lately with a bout of depression.  For whatever reason, I'm very short to anger, and my level of frustration with countless mundane issues is insanely high.  Why does this happen to me?  I'm constantly praying for forgiveness and peace of mind, and still it happens.

My frustrations over the recent kitchen appliances purchase keeps coming back to haunt me and taking me to the edge.  I finally got around to calling the store to schedule delivery on Friday and I found out that they were coming Saturday, the next day.  I didn't schedule it for Saturday.  In fact, I hadn't scheduled it at all.  That's why I called them.  I wasn't going to be home on Saturday, so delivery was impossible.  I told the operator this, and it took an hour and three phone calls to get delivery rescheduled, with the main issue being that three of the four appliances would be delivered separately by a contractor, and they were already "in transit."  Anyway, I finally got that straightened out, but it was a chore, and I wasn't entirely nice to the several individuals I talked to.  I still don't know what the store scheduled a delivery without asking me first, but I also regret how I acted.  I allowed my frustrations to overpower my reasoning.

While I was finishing up my phone call regarding the delivery, I watched out the front window as two of the landscapers who cut the grass in the common areas of our development were blowing the grass and debris off the sidewalks with leaf-blowers.  When they got to my car, parked directly in front of my house, they began to blow the debris right at my car.  Unfortunately for me, I had left the top down (since we were planning to go out right after I finished the phone calls), and it appeared that the two landscapers were intentionally blowing the debris into my open car.  I immediately ran out of the house and began yelling at them to stop.  One did, but he just looked at me as if I was delirious and then kept on doing it.  Again I yelled, and the two guys just kept on down the sidewalk, ignoring me. My car was covered with grass and leaves, inside and outside the car. After the phone calls, I was in the wrong frame of mind for a confrontation, but anger blinded me.  I ran inside, grabbed a pen and paper, and chased the two guys down the sidewalk.  I reached their truck, which had the landscaper's name and phone number on it, and I wrote them down.  Another landscaper came over to me and asked, in broken English, what was wrong.  I told him, and he followed me back to my house and I showed him my car.  To his credit, he stayed very calm while I continued to yell.  He could only say that I should call the landscaping company and they would arrange to have my car cleaned.  I immediately went back inside and called the company, but only got an answering machine saying they were closed until Monday.  This wasn't what I wanted to hear, and I continued to seethe.

Melody and her angry dad
The two issues left me practically bursting with anger and frustration.  I felt like my head was going to pop.  I have high blood pressure, and my dander was up.  Poor Melody, my daughter, was worried about me.  She kept trying to hold my hand, to calm me down.  Just then, I heard my next door neighbor, the one who complains about everything, telling another neighbor that he was mad at me for stopping the landscaping company from completely clearing off the lawn debris from the sidewalk in front of his house, and that I should've known better than to have the top down on my car while they were working.  If I had gone outside to confront him, I probably would've regretted it, so I'm thankful that I didn't.

I'm complaining about work, traffic, robo-calls, pollen, my messy house, my health, my forgetfulness, my sports teams, the weather, the dog, dust, stupid TV shows, politicians, Facebook, money, sore feet, hangnails, bad pizza, my thinning, graying hair, and the fact that I can't get a good haircut.  My wonderful daughter, who hates seeing me so stressed, is doing everything she can to keep me sane.  I notice it.

I talked to my parents on Saturday and my father told me he was worried about me.  He said that it was apparent that something was bothering me.  In fact, he had told my mother earlier in the week that he didn't like talking to me anymore since it seemed like I was angry all the time.  It pained me to hear that.  I didn't realize what an impact this was having on me and my loved ones.  It's out of character.  This isn't me.

The month of April is always difficult for me.  It's the month of Teresa's death.  Teresa and I had such a wonderful, almost storybook-like marriage, and her death has impacted me like nothing else.  I have ridden the emotional roller coaster for much of the past 11 years since that night she went to be with the Lord, which has taken me from the depths of despair to desperation and depression.  I just can't get past it.  I do have good moments, and might be fine for months at a time.  But I always end up feeling the weight of her loss at various times throughout the year, and it brings me down again.  April is usually the trigger.  May is always better.  But this year, after the sadness of April, May has only brought anger.  It's not constant, but it's there.

I think my biggest problem is that I don't have anyone to talk to about this.  I've mentioned before on this blog how I really don't have any close friends anymore.  I've apparently driven them all away.  Who wants to be around someone who is down all the time?  But that's what keeps me there:  not having someone to talk to.  Dad is always there, but he's my dad, and even he is tired of it.  And that just makes me feel even worse.

I was thinking back on this past Friday, trying to figure out why it turned so badly.  Friday morning, at work, I received a call from a colleague I spent the day with on Thursday, providing advice to him about a situation he was dealing with.  He called to tell me that my advice had helped him so much, that he practically skipped out of the office after work, with what felt like a great weight lifted off his shoulders.  His call made my morning.  I felt good for him, and I knew I had done something good.  What caused me to change so completely that I was on the edge of madness by the evening?

Saturday was better.  My family all got together to celebrate my mother's birthday, as well as Mother's Day, and even though I had that conversation with my parents about my anger issues, the day wasn't bad at all.  The church service on Saturday evening was great, and Pastor Mark's message had me thinking about my family.  Not just my immediate family, but my church family, too.

Melody and her grandmothers
Today, Mother's Day, was great, too.  My daughter and I went to my in-laws church, where my mother-in-law "preached" the sermon today, for Mother's Day.  Her message spoke to me, with the themes focusing on compassion, love, and forgiveness.

Melody and I stopped by the cemetery where Teresa's body is buried.  Her death has hurt me so much.  I don't blame her, and there's really no one else to blame.  It's not like the doctors misdiagnosed something, or there was an accident or anything like it.  She just died.  Her heart gave out.  It was her time.  God took her home.

I can't get angry at God, either.  How can I?  How can I possibly understand God's ways?  Pastor Mark, at almost every funeral I've been to where he has officiated, always says the same thing.  That only when we ourselves are present with God in Heaven will we finally understand the mystery of death and life everlasting.

I'm riding on this.  John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 14: 2-3 - "In my Father's house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."

Lord, thank you for my life.  Thank you for my wonderful wife, Teresa.  I wish she had experienced at least one Mother's Day, but I believe you when you say that you are preparing a place for us, and that you will come again and take us to you.  And that Teresa is already there, with you.  Thank you for my little girl.  I ask for your comfort during my times of stress, frustration, and anger, and that I will look to you when I need you most.  Thank you, Lord, for my life.

Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Variety Show

My daughter is very brave, in my eyes.  I was such an introverted kid, and to watch Melody, as shy as she is at times, volunteer on her own, without any pressure from me or anyone else in the family, to sing in the school variety show, on stage in front of hundreds of people, just blows me away!  But she did.  She likes to sing.  I listen to her sing every time she gets in the shower (doesn't everyone?), and she is pretty good.  She sings on pitch, and shows an aptitude for music.  She's addicted to Radio Disney, but she also has an appreciation for 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s rock (though I might be the reason for that).  She sings with the praise team at her grandparent's church whenever the opportunity presents itself.  She has talent.  A real gift from God.

Last year, when her school began advertising for the annual variety show, Melody was convinced she wanted to try out.  As the time came for tryouts, she changed her mind and decided not to do it.  I didn't pressure her, and I just let it go.  This year was different.  She was set on trying out, and we went so far as to download the song she wanted to sing, BRAVE, by Sara Bareilles.  She didn't practice much, but she knew all of the words, and so she tried out on warm day a few weeks ago.  I watched her get up in front of a bunch of her classmates and several PTA members and teachers, and she quietly I could barely hear her.  But she was good enough to make the cut for the variety show.  She was so excited.  So was I.

The show was Wednesday night.  She was a nervous wreck.  She looked beautiful.  We had gone shopping for clothes, something we both hate doing with a passion, and got a nice long royal blue skirt, a pink, blue, white and black blouse, and matching scarf, along with a nice pink sweater.  She looked too adult-like for my tastes, but she was gorgeous.  She had a nice warm-up show earlier in the day in front of her classmates, which I'm sure was nervous for her in a different way.  She was scheduled to perform fourth out of forty acts.  That was good, because she would be able to get it done early and not worry about it.  My parents and my in-laws joined me in the audience, along with my sister.  I was feeling nervous for her, while knowing at the same time that she would be great.  The show started at 7.  She went out fourth, as planned...

And she was awesome!  She did such a great job!  We were all so happy for her.  She was noticeably nervous, but her voice was clear and loud and wonderful.  And she knew it when she finished.  We applauded for her, and later, the principal told her she surely had the biggest support contingent.  Then we had to sit through 36 more acts.

It was a great show, and I was really proud of my girl.  She was brave, just like the song.  And I'm so glad that she took that leap.  I pray that she will go through life knowing that she can leap and always land safely, and trust that she will always have my support.  And love.  And God's love for her.

Thank you, Lord, for my little girl!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Monday, May 4, 2015

...All That, Plus the Kitchen Sink

Friday, after work, I stopped at my local Best Buy to get a best buy on a kitchen.  I've spent much of the past decade arguing with my appliances, putting up with a variety of issues with each of them, and I just have to replace before losing my mind.  For example, the ice maker in my 9-year old refrigerator stopped working about 6 years ago.  My dishwasher, only three years old, stopped working last year.  My microwave oven, which is the original unit and came with the house, as far as I know, making it over 20 years old, is getting finicky.  The door doesn't always shut correctly, keeping the microwave from starting and requiring a couple of maddening open-and-shuts before it works.  The range, also the original, is a mess, with knobs that don't work, and an oven handle that is broken.  I know I need to get new appliances anyway if I ever decide to move, and since I'm thinking about it, it made sense to start looking now.  And, if it takes at least a year or so before we actually DO move, I will at least have a few really nice new appliances to use.

When I first looked online at what was available, I was surprised that there really wasn't much else to choose from except the stainless steel models, which are anything but stainless, given all of the fingerprints on the store display models.  I have "bisque" yellow appliances, which are, apparently, not in style anymore.  So, after looking at the displays at the store, I decided that the black appliances really looked cool and were actually cheaper than stainless steel, so that's what I wanted.  The two young ladies who assisted us in finding the appliances in their computer and initiate the purchase were awesome, helpful, and beyond nice.  However, it was quickly determined that none of the items I wanted were available.  This meant that I would have to either:
  1. ...get stainless steel models of the ones I wanted;
  2. ...go to a different store;
  3. ...look at a different brand;
  4. a lot more for "better" models;
  5. ...or just give up.
I have very little patience for shopping, and when I'm not able to get what I've already decided I want, I'm very ready to give up, at least for a while, to think things out.  I don't do well with impulse buys.  So I was ready to walk.  The two employees who were helping me insisted that they could find me alternatives, and they quickly found comparable models in stainless steel....except for the range.  They found one that was almost double in price to what I wanted.  The "senior" employee insisted she could get me a discount on it, and she disappeared for 15 minutes to talk to her manager.  When she finally came back, she offered $200 off, which was still $300 more than the original one I picked out.  I balked, but after a few minutes of chatting, we decided to see what the final price would be.  Since the total price for the four items was about $300 more than the black appliances, it was still a good enough deal, so I said okay.  They began to process the deal and it became clear there was still a lot to consider.  I needed to get them delivered and the old appliances hauled away, and while that was all included, the installation was not.  That, along with all of the extra parts, like power cords and hoses and installation kits, cost a lot more.  Then there is labor.  And tax.  And warranties.  When all was said and done, my original $2100 package deal was $3600!!!  I was really disappointed.  My first instinct was to just walk away.

I should have considered these other items, but I could never have imagined just how much they would increase the total price.  I was ready to walk away.  It was especially disappointing because it had taken over and hour and a half to get to this point, with the two employees working on the deal to make it right for me.  My biggest issue was that I didn't feel like I was getting what I really wanted.  None of the appliances were the color I wanted, and the range was significantly more than what I needed.  And there was no way to know how much more it was going to cost, even while researching it online, until you're ready to purchase.

So you're probably thinking that I walked away.  I didn't.  I actually bought it, though I still wasn't comfortable with the deal.  The store was offering 0% financing for 18 months, which was a nice alternative, and I really did need to upgrade my appliances.  I've been putting up with lots of frustration for years, and it just made sense.  If I had walked, I would've lost my nerve and given up on buying anything for several months, because that's what I always do.  I'm still disappointed I didn't get exactly what I wanted.  This seems to happen a lot, whether it's a new car, or any major purchase, for that matter.  But I settled.

Props go out to the the two Best Buy employees who worked with me, though.  The senior member gave me a $25 giftcard because of how long it took to get the deal worked out, something that I had no control over.  It was really nice of her, and I will pay it forward.  And I should have some new appliances in the next week or so.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Free Comic Book Day!

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day (FCBD).  My daughter, Melody, and I participated with a visit to our favorite comic book store, Big Planet Comics, in College Park, MD.  They are a fairly large, very busy comic shop across from the University of Maryland, and they always do it up on FCBD.  They allowed every customer a limit of 10 free comic books, which was plenty.  Publishers throughout the industry participate, including Marvel and DC, though the quality is a mixed bag compared to regular monthly titles.  But it's great that there are comics available for many different age groups.

I started reading comics soon after I began to read.  My family used to eat at Bob's Big Boy fairly regularly, and back then, they gave out Big Boy Comics to all the kids.  That's my earliest memory of reading comic books.  I was introduced to Marvel Comics in the mid-70s, and I remember reading stories about the Hulk and Spider-man, among others.  My favorite, though, was the Avengers!  They were awesome, and led to a long comic-collecting hobby.  I still have thousands of comic books stored in boxes in my basement.  As you can imagine, I've been thrilled with seeing the Avengers get their own movies.

My first Avengers story was issue #164, written by Jim Shooter with artwork by John Byrne, two of the very best comics creators of all time.  The Avengers is known for having a revolving, constantly changing team of characters, and this issue featured Captain America, the Black Panther, the Beast, the Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, Yellow Jacket, and Wonder Man.  They battled the Lethal Legion, led by the nefarious Count Nefaria, and included Whirlwind, the Living Laser, and Power Man.  It was an action-packed story, and ended with a cliffhanger that I didn't see resolved for almost 20 years, when I found the issues containing the continuation of the story.  But I held on to this comic, and it remains the oldest comic I still have that I received when it was new.  I was an Avengers fan from then on.

I made sure that, when Melody was old enough, she would know about comic books, and she enjoys a small collection of her own.  For FCBD, she always finds several comics that catch her interest, and this year, we both got the maximum number available.  Comic Book shops see increased foot traffic and potential new comic book readers who walk in the door for possibly the first time, so FCBD is a boon for them, even though the comics they give out are not free for them.  Last year, Big Planet Comics featured the creators of the Lumberjanes comic, and my daughter was able to talk to them and get a free comic signed by them.  She has since read every monthly issue, and continues to be a big fan.  To support the store, I always make sure to buy something on FCBD (in addition to getting the free comic books), since I want them to stay in business.  The comic book business is a tough one for retailers, and they need the support.  Comic books are a lot of fun and are a great way for early readers to learn to read.  Support you local comic shop, and come out next year for Free Comic Book Day, every year on the first Saturday in May.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting More From Less

I spent a big chunk of this week at an off-site work meeting down at the U.S. Department of Transportation's new facility down near the Navy Yard of the District of Columbia, on the Anacostia River.  This area used to be one of the worst places in the city.  It is receiving a huge face lift which started with the building of the Washington Nationals baseball Stadium, and continues with a huge amount of development along the waterfront.  There are fantastic restaurants, parks, fountains, trendy apartments and condos, and the whole area look great.  My boss actually lives in the neighborhood and she brags about it regularly.  Having grown up in the DC area, I know the reputation of this part of the city for years was not very good.  It was a crime-heavy part of the city, the river was a mess, and rumor has it that many bodies were dumped here.  That's all gone now.  However, it is important to note that there is still a lot of crime only a about 10 blocks away, and that's unfortunate.  But it's a great start to rehabbing a rough area.


Your Federal Government is hard at work developing new ways of doing things, all while shrinking rapidly.  Capitol Hill seems to have declared war on the government workers, creating a much leaner workforce, so the government workers have to redefine how we do what we are tasked with doing.  For us, it's maintaining and creating aeronautical information, charts, products, and procedures for the National Airspace System.  Safety is our priority, and the challenge is to provide the same level of safety with fewer resources.  Fortunately, technology is helping to meet this challenge, so despite the obstacles our elected officials keep throwing at us, we will maintain a level of quality expected of the Federal Government by the flying public.  Please don't confuse Big Government with what this organization is providing, which is quality and safety.  These people care.  I know firsthand.  Support your local aeronautical information specialists.


My daughter begins middle school next year, so I attended the new school's parent information meeting tonight.  I came away impressed.  While the school does not have good reviews at a few of the pertinent websites that look at such things, the administration and staff said all of the right things.  I went from being concerned (as I think just about any parent of new 6th grade students probably feels) to be encouraged by what I saw and heard.  I'm intrigued by the challenges that will be presented to my daughter, but I trust that she, being such a mature and intelligent little girl, will make the transition easier for herself than it will be for me.  I can't help but think that good students will thrive no matter the environment, and I'm excited that she will have such a great opportunity.  Next year just got very exciting.


I miss my daughter a lot this week.  We've been apart all week because of the late meetings I've had, and as I've mentioned many times, I don't do the bachelor life very well.  It came up again among my colleagues as we spent a lot of time together.  The area we were in, and the restaurant we ate at for dinner, were all places where I went on my last date, over a year ago.  The young lady and I actually only dated twice, but we parted amicably when it appeared we had lost interest in each other.  There were a lot of logistical concerns I had, too, with the distance being too much (she lives in that area of DC, just like my boss, but I live way out in Howard County), and I just couldn't see myself pursuing a relationship with someone who lived in DC.  I hope she found love.  She deserves some happiness.


I'm watching the NFL Draft and hoping for a cornerback for my Pittsburgh Steelers.  While football is far from my mind, I remain impressed by how the NFL is able to keep their brand in the sports fan's eyes despite being over four months away from any meaningful games.  And it really is a show.  The draft is split up over several days, with the 1st round getting one night all to itself.  The focus on so many young athletes about to become millionaires with what is going on in Baltimore is not lost on me, and is kind of sad.  I can't help but feel like our priorities are out of whack.


Looking forward to Friday!  Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shouldering the Blame

I've shared this story before, but I'm sharing it again after sustaining a possible repeat yesterday.

Several years ago, when my daughter was still just a little one, I walked into our kitchen in my bare feet.  I don't usually go barefooted in the house, preferring to wear socks since my feet always seem to be cold, but I wasn't wearing them that day.  About three steps in, my foot hit a damp spot on the floor, and my leg slipped forward, sending my whole body into the air.  I'm pretty sure my feet went higher than my head.  I landed with my full weight on my left shoulder, impacting the floor with a loud thud.  The floor knocked the wind out of me, and as I assessed the damage, I realized I couldn't breath.  Pain washed over me and I tried to let out a yell, but nothing came out but a grunt.  I was hurt pretty bad.

Melody, my daughter, was in the other room talking on the phone with my parents.  I tried to get her attention by making noises, and after a couple of minutes, she heard me.  She came rushing in and saw me on the floor, and I'm sure she was confused as to what was happening.  My voice was coming back to me, and I was able to explain to her that I had slipped on the floor, and was hurt.  She relayed the message to my parents, and then gave me the phone.  I told them that I was pretty sure I had broken something, and I couldn't move.  They asked whether they should call an ambulance, but I didn't want to do that.  I didn't think I was that bad off.  After about 10 minutes, I tried to get up.  After some struggle, I was able to get on my feet.  I couldn't move my left arm, and it was throbbing.  I also figured out how and why I slipped in the first place:  Faithful Pup Scout, our 9-pound Maltese dog.

Scout, being a typical rambunctious but stubborn little dog with a "princess" complex, occasionally won't tell us when she needs to go outside to take care of business, and will instead find a spot, usually on the kitchen floor, to relieve herself.  Apparently she decided to do that within the previous hour, where I "discovered" it accidentally and took my spill.  So not only was I in severe pain, I also had been laying in the wet stuff for the past quarter hour.  Dumb dog.

Dad volunteered to come by the house to watch Melody for me while I drove myself to the hospital.  While I waited for him, I decided I needed to clean up, so I attempted to take a shower.  My left arm was totally useless.  I couldn't lift it at all.  I cleaned up as best I could.  When Dad arrived, he asked if I was sure I could drive myself.  Fortunately, our Jeep was an automatic, so I didn't have to worry about shifting, and I figured I could move the steering wheel with one hand.  It was about 8 p.m. when I arrived at Howard County General.

The emergency room wasn't crowded, thank goodness, and it didn't take long for them to see me.  They took some inconclusive x-rays, finally telling me that they didn't see any broken bones in my shoulder or arm, but they told me to keep my arm in a sling until I could see a specialist and get an MRI.  They released me at about 10:30 with a prescription for some painkillers, and I went home.

I didn't sleep well that night, and I didn't work the following day.  I was able to get an appointment with a specialist the following day.  My shoulder/upper arm bruised badly, and while the pain diminished slightly, I still couldn't use my arm.  I scheduled an MRI, and the results showed multiple fractures in the top of the humerus bone, where the arm meets the shoulder.  There wasn't much else they could do.  Surgery wasn't an option, and putting the arm/shoulder in a cast isn't how it's treated.  I would have to do physical therapy and just allow it to heal.

It was months before I my shoulder began to show improvement, and even several years later, it was still painful when the weather was bad.  I can usually tell when it's going to rain.  Full range of motion is still not there, and I actually still feel a lot of pain when I move my arm awkwardly.  I sometimes have problems putting on a button-up shirt, or jacket, and while I am right-handed, I have to put it on with my left arm first.

Yesterday, after leaving the office, I was sitting at a traffic light in downtown Silver Spring, and I decided to remove my sport coat.  My arms are really long, and so I can't get it off quickly without moving my arms behind me.  As I pulled the jacket off my left arm, and swung it behind me, I felt a shot of pain in my shoulder.  It felt like I was stabbed with a knife.  I was able to pull the jacket off, and I tried to catch my breath.  I debated whether I should pull over, even though the light was still red, to assess the damage.  When it changed to green, I decided to keep going.  But it was hurting, seriously bad.  I tried not to use my arm too much, and while my current Jeep is a standard and I needed both hands to drive, I was able to use the window sill to keep my arm from moving too much.  I had a lot of trouble parking when I got home, however.

I went inside to figure out how badly I had hurt it.  I moved it backwards and lost my breath.  It hurt something awful, and I quickly sat down, breathing heavily.  I really wasn't sure what I had done, but it sure felt like the same kind of injury I had before.  I couldn't understand how something so seemingly innocuous could cause me so much pain.  I absolutely did not want to go to the hospital, and I decided to give it some time and hope it feels better.

I had a rough night, and I know I've likely got some serious damage, but I'm not sure what to do.  I worked today, mostly since I had a day-long off site meeting, and while the inactivity of sitting in a conference room didn't make it any worse, I was pretty miserable all day.  I have 2 more days of meetings, as well.  If I can put up with it until Friday, I'll go see my doctor.

I may not have as good a story as my original one, but at least I don't have to blame the dog this time.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Maryland Day Prayer Walk

Melody and I spent our Saturday participating with Maryland Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) on a prayer walk at the University of Maryland, College Park, along with Grace Community Church.  It turned into a very fulfilling day.  Cru has some wonderful people in it, and it was great to reconnect with them.  We did the prayer walk a year ago, so it was great to see some familiar faces.  It was a part of Grace Community's annual ServeFest, which provides for an opportunity to serve in numerous ways all across the community.

We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and we were split up into groups to walk around the campus and pray for specific parts of the school, with Maryland students leading us and being tour guides.  Obed, who led us last year, also lead our group this year.  We trekked down to the Memorial Chapel on the Southeastern side of campus, overlooking US 1.  We prayed for all of the religious groups on campus, including Cru, that God would bless them and help them share and spread the love of Jesus around the entire school.

Our next stop was the Armory, followed by the big "M."  We continued to pray for different aspects of the student body and campus life, allowing for each member of our group to pray as the Lord led them.  We stopped in Hornbake Plaza, where we prayed for the international students, and posed with the display of flags representing students from each country.

Our next stop was Byrd Stadium, where we prayed for student athletes, then we prayed for freshmen students at the North Campus Diner.  Our last stop was the Riggs Alumni Center, where we prayed for the Maryland Alumni.

Following the prayer walk, we enjoyed the Maryland Day activities all over campus.  It was well attended, with thousands of people.  We stopped in at Cole Field House for a bathroom break and we watched kids play laser tag on the main floor, sponsored by the ROTC.  They were having a lot of fun.  We grabbed some lunch at the Stamp Student Union, and I uploaded some pictures to Instagram and Twitter.  We got some ice cream at the Maryland Dairy (Melody got "Midnight Madness" and I had "B1G."

While eating our ice cream, I received a tweet from the University's Twitter account telling me that one of my #MarylandDay photos had been selected for a prize.  We headed over to the Visitor's Center and received a Maryland Day cooler, t-shirt, and tote bag.  Awesome!

We enjoyed our Maryland Day activities and the prayer walk, and it made for a great day on campus.  We're extremely thankful for the hospitality of the Maryland Cru students, and the fun events put on by the University.  Jesus is alive and working through the students at Maryland, and that's great to see.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Melody at the big "M"

Melody and Testudo

Our prayer walk group, led by Cru students, at the Chapel

The Maryland Chapel

Inside the Maryland Chapel

Melody in the midst of the flags (chosen by the University for the prize pack)

Byrd Stadium

Testudo overlooking Maryland Day activities on McKeldin Mall

Melody and me at Cole Field House

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Life Well Lived

Eleven years ago today, I said goodbye to my wonderful wife in a beautiful ceremony celebrating her 31 years of life.  The service was held at Grace Community Church, and officiated by Pastor Mark Norman and Rev. George Aist.  200+ family and friends attended with us, and the love felt that day was overwhelming.  Just five days earlier, Teresa Shirlen Freed passed away suddenly from a heart attack resulting from Mitral Valve Prolapse and an enlarged heart.  Teresa's death and home-going was a difficult thing for us, her family, to experience, and left my five-month-old daughter, Melody, and me without my wife and her mother.

Those were rough days, and while I have vivid memories of that time, there are specific details that remain with me.  One is the steady constant drone of the cicadas of that year (known as "Brood X").  The sound and sheer numbers created a memory like that of a horror movie.  They were everywhere!  I'm sure, when they return, that droning sound will have a negative effect on me.

A few weeks after the funeral, before going back to work, I took a little road trip by myself.  I left my little girl, still just a baby, with my parents, and I headed out of town in a rented convertible Mustang.  I drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a place I had never visited before.  Teresa loved lighthouses, and I figured I could visit several in that area that she never saw, such as Cape Hatteras, as a sort-of tribute to her memory.  It was a beautiful mid-May day, and I rode all day with the top down (and no sun protection).  I stopped at a rest area and I saw myself in a mirror.  My face was beet red.  I had been sunburned something awful.  I soon stopped off at a Wal-mart and loaded up on sun block, though the damage was already done.  I needed to get sunburn relief, as well.  My scalp was scorched!

I spent a couple of days at OBX, which was really nice, before heading north up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Ocean City, MD.  While there, I visited with my old boss, JB.  He was retired at this point, but we were close when we worked together, and it was nice to chat with him.  He kind of helped me think things through as I prepared to return to work and my new life as a single dad and widower.

A few days later, I did return to work.  It was very difficult.  I had not seen most of my co-workers since before Teresa died, and my emotions were in overdrive.  Everyone wanted to stop by to see me, so there was no let up for most of the day.

I was very fortunate to have someone to take care of Melody when I returned to work.  While my parents and my in-laws spent a great deal of time with us, we still needed to address her day-to-day care when I was at work.  Teresa's cousin, Josh, was dating a fantastic young lady who was really good with kids, and we hired her to be Melody's nanny.  She worked for us for two years before needing to find a better paying job.  It was then that I had to place Melody in a daycare center.  Fortunately, that worked out well, with the wonderful folks at the Bright Horizons Daycare Center at my office.  Melody would end up being there until she was ready to begin Kindergarten.

Life without Teresa has had its challenges.  I never guessed that I would go through my adult years without my partner.  The day we were married, in 1999, was one of the greatest days of my life.  I miss her everyday.  However, God is here for us.  We don't know and cannot fathom His ways, so I'm not going to attempt to try to figure out why, but I know He is taking care of us.

There are no guarantees in life, though God promises an afterlife in eternity.  But life here on planet Earth can be hard.  We have a choice as to how we live our lives:  We can fall into a life of sadness, or we can choose to live a life of joy and happiness and kindness.  Always tell your friends and family how much you love them.  You can never say it enough.  My friend Rhonda shared the following on Facebook yesterday, and it struck a chord with me:

"So take too many pictures, laugh too much, forgive freely, and love like you’ve never been hurt. Life comes with no guarantees, no time outs, no second chances. you just have to live life to the fullest, tell someone what they mean to you and tell someone off, speak out, dance in the pouring rain, hold someone’s hand, comfort a friend, fall asleep watching the sun come up, stay up late, be a flirt, and smile until your face hurts. Don’t be afraid to take chances or fall in love and most of all, live in the moment because every second you spend angry or upset is a second of happiness you can never get back."

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Take Five

My five favorite....

AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar
  1. Mario Lemieux
  2. Terry Bradshaw
  3. Franco Harris
  4. "Mean" Joe Greene
  5. Andy Van Slyke
Sports teams:
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Maryland Terrapins Men's Basketball
  4. Pittsburgh Penguins
  5. Maryland Terrapins Women's Basketball
Pizza places:
  1. The Ledo Restaurant (College Park, MD)
  2. Dino's (Suitland, MD - now gone!)
  3. Giordano's (Chicago)
  4. Matchbox (Chinatown, DC)
  5. Margellina's (Clinton, MD)
Sitcoms (current):
  1. Last Man Standing (ABC)
  2. Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  3. Modern Family (ABC)
  4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
  5. The Goldberg's (ABC)
Sitcoms (all-time):
  1. Happy Days
  2. Seinfeld
  3. Police Squad!
  4. NewsRadio
  5. The Andy Griffith Show
Movie Comedies:
  1. Young Frankenstein
  2. It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
  3. Airplane!
  4. The Naked Gun
  5. Hold That Ghost
  1. Blue
  2. Red
  3. Black
  4. Gold
  5. White

Roller Coasters (Wooden):
  1. Cyclone (Coney Island, NY)
  2. The Wild One (Six Flags America, Largo, MD)
  3. Thunderbolt (Kennywood, West Mifflin, PA)
  4. Rebel Yell (Kings Dominion, Doswell, VA)
  5. American Thunder (Six Flags St. Louis, MO)
Roller Coasters (Steel):
  1. Millennium Force (Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH)
  2. The Loch Ness Monster (Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA)
  3. Apollo's Chariot (Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA)
  4. Manta (SeaWorld, Orlando, FL)
  5. (tie) Magnum XL-200 (Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH)/Goliath (Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA)
Movie Dramas:
  1. It's A Wonderful Life
  2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  3. The Caine Mutiny
  4. Elizabethtown
  5. Grand Canyon
Rock Bands:
  1. YES
  2. The Eagles
  3. The Police
  4. Steely Dan
  5. The Electric Light Orchestra
Pittsburgh, PA
Cities (I've visited):
  1. Pittsburgh
  2. San Francisco
  3. Las Vegas
  4. New York
  5. Seattle
States (I've visited):
  1. South Dakota
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. California
  4. Arizona
  5. Colorado
Amusement Parks:
  1. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA
  2. Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
  3. Universal Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL
  4. Hershey Park, Hershey, PA
  5. Kennywood, West Mifflin, PA
Jazz Bands:
  1. James Taylor Quartet
  2. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
  3. Dave Brubeck Quartet
  4. Benny Goodman Orchestra
  5. Count Basie Orchestra
Small(er) Towns (I've visited):
  1. Ellicott City, MD
  2. Deadwood, SD
  3. Indiana, PA
  4. Williamsburg, VA
  5. Charleston, SC
Movie Westerns:
  1. Tombstone
  2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
  3. The War Wagon
  4. Winchester '73
  5. High Noon

Muscle Cars of the Late 60s/Early 70s:
  1. Oldsmobile 442
  2. Plymouth Barracuda
  3. Mercury Cougar
  4. Dodge Charger
  5. Chevrolet El Camino
Sci-Fi Movies:
  1. The Thing (From Another World)
  2. Godzilla (original)
  3. Star Wars
  4. Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan
  5. War of the Worlds
Saxophone players:
  1. Paul Desmond
  2. Stanley Turrentine
  3. Gerry Mulligan
  4. Jeff Coffin
  5. (tie) Jay Beckenstein/Mark Colby/Bobby Militello
Action Movies:
  1. The Road Warrior
  2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  3. Aliens
  4. The Avengers
  5. Iron Man
Columbia, MD, area restaurants
  1. La Palapa Too
  2. Houlihan's
  3. Eggspectation
  4. Pubdog
  5. Rocky Run (gone!)
Suspenseful Movies:
  1. Rear Window
  2. North By Northwest
  3. The Birds
  4. The Day of the Jackal
  5. Westworld

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Life Remembered...

No matter what I do to occupy my time and try not to think about it, this anniversary, the day my wife, Teresa, went to be with the Lord, continues to haunt me with emotion.  However, other than immediate family and one friend's annual reminders at the crack of dawn on every anniversary (this day, her birthday, our wedding anniversary...), no one else remembers.  I guess eleven years is too long to grieve for most of our community who didn't know her like we did.

Yet we do grieve, those of us who called her close friend, daughter, niece, mom, or wife... we continue to suffer because the mystery of death is still with us.  We celebrate that she is with our Lord and Savior, but we miss her impact on our daily lives.  And it hurts.  My daughter took it hard this year, more than any other years.  And that makes my heart ache for her.  She never even knew her mother.  She was only five months old when Teresa left us, but she knows that her life could be so much better with her mom in it.

So please continue to pray for us.  Forgive me my bitterness.  Thank you for thinking of us on this dreaded anniversary.

And thank you, Lord, for blessing us with thoughts of Teresa, a wonderful human being in so many ways.  May we always remember her life (and not her death).

Teresa Shirlen Freed
Born:  May 28, 1972
Died:  April 19, 2004
Christ-Follower, Mother, Daughter, Niece, Friend, Teacher, Role Model...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Tortoise and the Hair

I care about my appearance.  Yeah, I'm a little older, and a little bit out of shape.  I have a few health issues, and my stress level is way too high.  Occasionally, I dress down and don't care.  But I really do care about how I look.  That includes my hair.  It's graying and thinning, but I care about how my hair looks.

I went to get a much needed haircut yesterday afternoon.  I tend to put convenience over quality, and I went to the local hair chain, a place I've been to many times with mixed results.  For the most part, I've gotten decent haircuts.  It all depends on who is doing the cutting.  There are a few regulars who I see every time I go, and I know who does a good job with my hair and who doesn't.  I try to avoid the ones who don't, but since I don't have a regular "guy," I just go with whoever is available.  With ten people working there, the odds of getting a bad haircut are slim.  There is one young lady there who is not very good.  She has been there for years, and has cut my hair about five or six times.  It always results in a bad haircut.  I'm not exaggerating.

So I arrived yesterday afternoon needing a haircut.  She was working, just as she always is.  I don't think she ever takes a day off.  She's always there.  They usually take customers in the order they come in the door, and there were four people ahead of me.  I watched as one of the customers was called back.  Then, the young-lady-who-cuts-hair-badly (or YLWCHB) finished with her customer and came to the front.  I was happy to see this because I knew she would take the next customer, and with at least 2 people in front of me, and with ten other hair stylists working, I knew I was safe.  YLWCHB checked the computer, then called out my name.  I quickly looked over at the other folks waiting, and none looked up or stirred.  I looked back at YLWCHB and she looked at me, and she said, "You're next!"  My heart sank.

I made the long trek from the waiting area to her chair, where she asked what I wanted to have done.  I told her, and she dug in.  Her bedside manner isn't very good.  She asks questions but doesn't listen to my responses.  She interrupts the haircut to talk on the phone (this time it was about her air conditioner), but resumes the haircut before she's finished talking and doesn't pay attention to what she's doing.  Her hair was green.  She appears to be in her early 30s, so I'm not sure what kind of statement she's trying to make.  She finished the haircut in 5 minutes.  She is the only person I know of who finishes a haircut in that short amount of time.  Every other haircut I've received from others takes longer.  Because my hair is completely soaked from her water spray bottle, it is impossible to know what my hair really looks like when she finishes, so it's always after I get home that I find out just how badly she has cut my hair.

I was in and out in 15 minutes even with the wait after I arrived.  I went home, allowing my hair to air dry.  When I got home, I surveyed the damage.  It was horrible.  The length of my hair was completely inconsistent on top (my hair actually forms a point on top of my head now!).  I'm embarrassed.  YLWCHB just doesn't know how to cut hair.

So I'm weighing whether to finally confront the issue and return to the store today and talk to the manager, as well as to see if I can get my hair repaired.  My hair may end up even shorter, but at least it will look normal.  I hope.

There's a lesson to be learned here.  If you don't like something, say it.  You're the customer, and the last I heard, the customer is always right.  Especially when it's your own hair.

Have a great weekend, everyone!