Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snow Days


I'm still recovering from all of the bad news that hit the Pittsburgh sports world over the past several days.  To clarify, I do not live in the Pittsburgh area.  I wasn't even born there, and I've never lived there.  I'm Maryland born and raised.  My father grew up in Western PA, and he raised me to be a Pittsburgh sports fan.  I never had any desire to follow any other teams.  So I get my fanaticism honestly.

But I need something to get my mind off all of the bad news.  And I got just what I needed:  A snow forecast!

I love snow!  This time of year is one of my favorites, though I miss the Christmas season.  For some reason, however, I have always loved the Winter, especially when it snows.  There is a smell in the air when it snows, along with chilly temperatures that, in my mind, create romance.  A walk through the snow with a loved one, followed by  "warming up" in front of the fireplace, or sipping a mug of hot cocoa, is so enjoyable, in my mind.  Where does this feeling come from?

My parents share this love of snow.  My mother, in particular, wants to live in a place where it's cold year-round, if it's feasible.  She also hates the Summer, so I think this only enforces her love of Winter.  Then there's my daughter, who also loves the colder weather and snow.  Is this a genetic thing?

Since December, we've had a little bit of Winter weather, with some light snow actually resulting in cancelled school for many students, and the delays on the days following the snow.  The cold temperatures without snow are not as welcome, as it makes no sense for the weather to be that cold without snow to go with it.

We're due to get a little bit of snow overnight tonight, with an inch or two by morning.  It will be just enough to cause a mess to tomorrow's rush hour, maybe delaying schools, and resulting in a missed opportunity when it comes to snowfall.  Each Winter should have at least one big snowfall, and I'm hopeful we still have one coming.

So my daughter and I are hopeful for some snow tonight, and more than what is being forecast.  Maybe we'll get lucky, but it always seems to be a whole lot less than what is forecast.  We'll see what happens.

Have a great evening, everyone.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Cheapskate Pirates


I became a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in 1979, as the Bucs won the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles.  My father grew up as a Pirates fan, and he passed on that love of the Bucs to me.  Even while the Steelers captured all of the headlines that year as they won their third Super Bowl, and followed with another the next year, I became a diehard baseball fan.  It was a good time to be a fan of Pittsburgh sports teams.

But that 1979 World Series Championship has turned out to be the last one the Pirates won.  I excitedly followed the team all through the horrible 80s, when the Pirates became one of the worst teams in baseball.  In 1987, they made a trade that led to a return to greatness, as the Pirates won their division in 1990, again in 1991, and yet again in 1992.  It was so exciting to have the Pirates back to their winning ways, even if they failed to return to the World Series.  

1992 was particularly noteworthy because I went to my first and only playoff game, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.  It was fantastic to be at that game, sitting way up in the rafters of old Three Rivers Stadium, as the Pirates were in a rematch from the year before, against the Atlanta Braves.  Pitcher Bob Walk pitched a complete game shutout, giving the Bucs a 3-2 series lead as the teams went to Atlanta for Games 6 and 7.  Little did we know that the Bucs would lose those two games, with Game 7 being an all-time classic as the Bucs lost after having a 2-0 lead with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th.  Sid Bream, former Pirate and former favorite player, scored the game-winning run, breaking my heart.

The Pirates ownership broke up the team after that season, and that led to 20 years of losing seasons, with the team almost getting sold and moved, saved again with the building of the best ballpark in baseball, PNC Park, but continued losing until Andrew McCutchen, the Bucs star Center Fielder, led the team back to prominence and a return to the playoffs.  The excitement was back, but it was short-lived, as the team lost each year, and the Pirate's front-office, always putting the payroll above winning, decided to give up on the team after a 98-win season, and, in the last few days, began dismantling the team with the trade last week of young pitching phenom Gerrit Cole, followed by today's trade of Andrew McCutchen, the face of the team.  This is a slap in the face of the Pirates faithful fans.

I should know better than to get excited about the Pirates.  They have given zero indication that they care about the fans, or winning.  It has always been about the bottom line for Bob Nutting, the cheap owner (who "threatened" to never sell the team).  They just don't care.

But the Pirates are "my" team, too, and I hate that Nutting doesn't care about me or other fans.  It's unfortunate that the Pirates' owner can't be held accountable by anyone for fielding a minor league team, and for caring about money more than winning, which goes against everything sports is supposed to be about, and their is nothing that I or any other fan of this team can do about it.  You would think the owner would have a responsibility to at least try to win, but he just doesn't care.

Why should I care?  I wish I didn't.  But I do.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dealing With A Loss

I should know better than to write about my sports teams.  This isn't a sports blog.  But, as I mentioned in a post from a few days ago, I take my sports fanaticism very seriously.

My Pittsburgh Steelers were playing a Divisional playoff game today against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Steelers were heavy favorites.  Unfortunately, the Steelers got behind early, and it snowballed from there.  The score is not indicative of how badly they played, and the Jags got the victory, eliminating the Steelers, 45-42.  The Jags go on to play the New England Patriots next week in the AFC Championship.  The Steelers season is now over.

The second game today, between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, went down to the wire, with the Saints getting a late, come from behind lead, but, with 10 seconds left, the Vikings scored an incredible touchdown as the clock expired to pull out a win.  I imagine, as bad as Pittsburgh fans feel today, the New Orleans fans feel a lot worse.

Anyway, given the loss and feeling crummy already due to a bad cold I just can't seem to shake, I'm going to skip writing a full post this evening.

Have a great evening, everyone.
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Dating Idiot


I was recently asked if I was dating anyone.  I replied with a quick, "No."  The last date I went on was over 4 years ago.  It was a second date, and I don't go on very many of those, so there's that.  But it was clear that it wasn't going to work out, particularly after the last date, when we exchanged emails that basically said the same thing:  I told her I got the impression she wasn't interested in me, and she said she thought I wasn't interested in her.  And that was that.

I tried dating a couple of years after my wife, Teresa, passed away.  With a lot of encouragement, I signed up at several dating sites, and went on a small handful of dates with several women, none more than once.  I either wasn't interested enough in them, or I was being haunted by my dead wife, since these other women weren't enough like her.

Then there was that woman in Oklahoma, which got serious enough for us to discuss marriage, but after she told me she had bought a wedding dress a month after we started dating, and then admitted she had trust issues, I found myself second-guessing the whole thing.  Plus, the long distance doomed us.  When she told me she never wanted to move to Maryland from Oklahoma, and resented the fact that I wouldn't uproot Melody and our life in Maryland to move to Oklahoma (and she grew up in Nebraska!), it was over.  It was an ugly breakup, and I'm surprised I was even able to date anyone after that.  Long distance relationships never work out, at least for me, and they're way too stressful if one isn't being truthful about how they feel. 

I reluctantly went on several blind dates after that, and they ended up being miserable experiences.  I wasn't having any fun, and I found myself getting more and more depressed over not finding anyone worth pursuing.  I tried one more round of a dating site, and then quit.

Probably the main reason I stopped dating was due to a conversation I had with daughter Melody.  She flatly stated to me that she didn't like it when I dated.  What she was really saying was that she didn't like that I was giving attention to someone other than her.  She noticed that she was taking a backseat when I was dating, and it bothered her.  A lot.  And I hated that it bothered her.

Our situation is unique.  My wife, Teresa, passed away in 2004 when Melody was only 5 months old.  Melody never knew her mom.  She has no memory of her.  She has seen many videos and pictures and heard stories about her mom, so she knows how great Teresa was.  And she WAS awesome!  But Melody has no real emotional connection to Teresa other than knowing she was her mom.

So, for almost 14 years now, it has just been the two of us.  Me and my Melody.  I love my daughter.  She is all of the best things I remember about Teresa, with a dash of whatever is left of my best qualities, all rolled into a sweet-natured package that I just love.

We have our bumps.  She can be stubborn, and she doesn't always like listening to what I have to say to her.  She is a teenager, and I don't have to tell you what that means.  She frustrates me sometimes.  But she's so talented, too.  And she's hilarious. She makes me laugh.  She's very smart, and she does very well in school.  Her teachers all like her.  She is a fantastic musician, and she has natural talent, both singing and on her clarinet and ukulele.  She's a very talented young lady.  And she knows she's the apple of my eye, the center of my heart.  And she doesn't want to share me with anyone else.

My married years were some of the happiest of my life.  The desires of my heart were to find a love like that once again, but only if it meant that I wasn't alienating my daughter.  I know there are benefits for her (and me), but I also know that I need to be all in if I decide to date again.  And, right now, I'm nowhere near ready for that.

The truth is that I'm still battling depression and grief, even 14 years after Teresa's death and homegoing, and I miss her so much.  So I'm in no position to be dating, anyway.  It has also crossed my mind that I may never date again.  I'm getting older, and my best days are well behind me.  My heart needs to be in it, too, of course, and it just isn't.  God might have other plans for me, maybe even way down the road, but He certainly hasn't said anything to me.  And I'm okay with that.

The Bible has the last word:  Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.  9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."  I'm certainly not burning with passion, so it sounds like where I need to be is in service to God, and not out there dating anyone.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Telling Your Story

We all have a story.  Maybe it's your love story.  Or your coming of age story.  It may be a how you got your job story.  Or how you found your Man's Best Friend story.  Maybe it's not a happy story; you may have lost a parent at an early age.  Or a child or spouse.  Maybe you're a victim of divorce, or rape, or you've struggled with depression.  Maybe your story starts with what someone said to you, positive or negative, from an influential family member or mentor, a parent or friend.  It could be anything, really.  But we all have a story.

I'm a part of a group of managers at work that basically calls the shots for our organization.  Our previous director referred to us as The Board.  We have to make a lot of high-level decisions on a daily basis, and we've found that leaning on each other is an important part of this process.  But it isn't something that just happened.  We had to build a level of trust with each other in order to know that we can and will support each other when needed.

We began this process of building trust through a series of multi-day meetings.  Several years ago, we gathered together in a small conference room with a facilitator and proceeded to share our deepest stories, the things that made us who we are.  Some stories were really sad.  Some were inspiring.  Some involved a traumatic event of some kind.  By sharing these stories with each other, by baring our souls, we had to trust that our colleagues would be not just supportive, but that they would understand why these events are so important to each of us, and how they make us think and act the way we do.  And this trust that we built made us a stronger team.

My own story is difficult for me to talk about.  I've written about it many times.  Several times right here in this blog.  But writing it is different from verbalizing it.  By telling my story, the raw emotions come out and that frequently results in tears and pain.  My story is not a completely happy one.  But I tell it because it has defined who I am.

My story involves the death of my grandparents in a tragic car accident when I was 18 years old.  They perished in a car I was driving, and the accident, involving being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, left me with a concussion, an over-night hospital stay, a permanent scar above my left eye, and no real memory of the accident, but the experience deeply affected the dynamics of my family for many years after.

My story also involves the death and home-going of my wife and best friend, Teresa, after fewer than five years of an almost story-book-like marriage and life together, including the birth of our only child.  Teresa died after a massive heart-attack while we were out walking with our then-five-month old daughter, Melody, and left me as a grief-stricken widowed parent of a young child, just as my career as a manager was beginning.  I’m still battling depression after almost 14 years.

I have good memories in my story, too.  While a student at the University of Maryland, I discovered that I could major in Geography, a life-long interest, and that led to a very successful career in the Federal Government, with both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

My marriage, itself, was the happiest time of my life.  We lived life fully during our time together, and the love we shared for each other is as close on an earthly-level as what we will experience when we find ourselves face-to-face with our Lord and Savior, where Teresa is now.  My marriage also brought me our wonderful daughter, Melody, who has all of the great qualities that my wonderful wife had, magnified by a smattering of any good that she inherited from me.  And our life together, me and Melody, is awesome.

I also became a follower of Christ in my teens, and this had a profound affect on my life, changing me forever, and securing my salvation with a loving God.

The story of your life is so important in defining how you live your life.  Each event plays a role in making you who you are.  Embrace them, and share them when appropriate.  Martin Luther King, JR, said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  Live life fully, and share your story.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Reservoir High


Reservoir High School had their New Family and Student Orientation for next year's incoming Freshmen last evening, and it was a wonderful program.  My daughter, Melody, will be in high school next year, which is hard enough for me to accept, but the fact that she is looking forward to it as much as she is, even with a bit of anxiety, is incredible to me.  She's my little girl, and she's going to be a high schooler.  Sigh.

My wife, Teresa Freed, was an original Reservoir Gator, having been hired away from Ellicott City's Mt. Hebron High School to help open the new school in Fulton, MD, in 2002.  She taught Ninth Grade English and Public Speaking, and led the Ninth Grade Team.  She, like all of the first year staff, also personalized a small tile, and the tiles were hung on walls in the school's Media Center.  I had never seen her tile, but since we were at Reservoir last evening, I had the opportunity for the first time to actually see the tile, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Teresa and I found ourselves expecting our first child during that first year at Reservoir, and upon the birth or our daughter, Melody, during the Fall of 2003, Teresa took the rest of the year off from teaching.  It was April 19, 2004, on a beautiful evening, that we found ourselves walking around with infant Melody at Reservoir High School, hoping to catch up with the principal, Dr. Addie Kaufman, who was working late.  That's when Teresa collapsed and died from a massive heart attack, changing our lives forever.

While I found myself spending time with the Reservoir family for many years following her death and homegoing, I never really spent much time inside the school.  So, last evening, at the Student Orientation, I took the opportunity to go to the Media Center and finally see her tile (pictured at the top of this post).

Melody, meanwhile, is getting very excited about high school, and that was the icing on the cake for this proud dad.  She is so ready for this.  And I'll finish with this:  Reservoir High School is an outstanding school, and the sense of community was so apparent and strong last night.  I'm so happy that my daughter has this opportunity to attend the same school where her mother taught, and I'm excited for her, too.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Speaking In Tongues...


My daughter is taking a French elective at school for the second year in a row, so that makes her somewhat of an expert now.  We were chatting about this yesterday and she was telling me how cool it was to think she was able to speak a different language, and she was excited at the possibility of visiting a country that speaks French so she could try it out.

As much as I would love a visit to France, Europe isn’t in the cards, at least anytime in the near future.  There are many other places we (I?) want to visit, and they are taking priority.  I’m anxious to continue seeing THIS country, where we live, and we are very close to visiting all 50 states (I’m at 46 – North Dakota, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii; Melody is at 45 – add Kansas to that list).  We are planning an Alaska vacation in a few years, when Melody can assist in some of the driving.  A road trip to Hawaii may be a few more years away, too….  Just kidding.


That said, I did visit a land that speaks French a little over 20 years ago:  Canada.  Specifically, I drove through all of Atlantic Canada (other than Newfoundland), then headed west into the Province of Quebec.  It was amazing to me that everything in Quebec was in French.  Up until then, I was seeing both English and French on every road sign in every province, but Quebec was the exception.  I guess there is a stubbornness (a “French-ness?”) about that province, that it refuses to even speak English.  I found myself at a restaurant (it was a McDonald’s) on the outskirts of the city of Quebec, and the lady at the register told me she did not speak any English.  Fortunately, I had a little bit of rust-covered French in my vocabulary and was able to get by, but even at touristy spots in the city, people spoke only French.  It was intimidating, to be truthful.  When I later arrived in Montreal, I found the people there to be more readily bilingual. 

I guess I’m not ready to start globe-hopping… Unless my daughter goes with me.  But I don’t want it to seem like my expectations are for everyone to speak English where the native language is something else.  That would make me an ugly American.  My surprise was that, in a country like Canada, where English is spoken in every other province, French is the only language spoken in Quebec.

I had two years of Spanish in high school, plus a half-semester of French, but, really, the only things I can remember, other than some basic common vocabulary, are how to conjugate verbs and structure a sentence.  And I never could get the inflection right in either language.  I can’t even do a British accent.  But my daughter can.  She has all the real talent in the family.

Have a great evening, everyone.




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Studying Poetry Ruins The Poems"


I had a really nice Christmas.  The season is all about giving, and I love finding gifts for my family and friends.  That said, I received a lot of incredible gifts from so much of my family.  

One item, from my wonderful daughter, is a really nice travel mug, and I've used it just about everyday since Christmas Day.  It keeps my coffee hot for hours.  In fact, I filled it with coffee before we went to Busch Gardens Christmas Town, in Williamsburg, VA, in the morning, and it sat in our vehicle in the parking lot for seven hours on a day when the temperature never went above the teens, and it was still warm!

Another cool gift, also from my daughter, is "The Complete Peanuts Family Album," a comprehensive guide to Charles M. Schulz's comic strip characters, with text by Andrew Farago.  I've spent hours perusing the book, and it includes many obscure characters only appeared in a handful of strips, or maybe in a Peanuts TV special or movie, as well as the more popular personalities, like Good Ol' Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Linus and Lucy Van Pelt.  There are pages devoted to each of these characters, and one of my favorite is for Schroeder, the piano playing, Beethoven loving, Lucy hating, catcher on Charlie Brown's baseball team.  What I discovered is, while I can relate to some of the personality quirks of many of the characters, it was Schroeder who I feel I is most like me.  The book includes quotes from the more popular characters, and these quotes provide wonderful insight.  The one for Schroeder states, "Studying poetry ruins the poems."  I can relate to that, and agree wholeheartedly.  I've met a few Lucy's, as well, who can't understand why Schroeder doesn't like her.  My Lucy's feel much the same.  I'm very picky about who I like, and a woman who is too forward with me, as Lucy is with him, is a huge turn-off.

There were many more wonderful gifts, but these are just a few highlights.  My daughter is awesome.

Stay warm out there, and have a wonderful evening, everyone!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Riding Roller Coasters With My Girl


I don't have time for a full blog post this evening, but I can share this:  My daughter and I love roller coasters.  We love them so much, we take vacations just so that we can ride new coasters.  I've been on 165 different coasters in my lifetime (my daughter is at 147).  The above drawing/caricature is from Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, VA, and is supposed to represent the Loch Ness Monster, one of our favorite coasters.  Anyway, we're looking forward to warmer weather so we can ride more coasters.

Stay warm!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fanaticism For My Sports Teams

It's hard being a sports fan.  It's really hard being a diehard sports fan.  Today turned into one of those sports overkill kind of days, with National Football League playoffs featuring four teams in action today (along with the four from yesterday's games), a National Hockey League game featuring my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, taking on the Boston Bruins, and finally, the Maryland Terrapins Men's basketball team taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The football games didn't even feature my favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, though they are impacted by the results of today's close game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills. The Jags head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in next week's matchup.

The Penguins have struggled much of this season after two straight Stanley Cup Championships, showing everyone how hard it is to repeat as champs.  They are trying to right their season after a big win the other night.

The Terps have struggled since losing two of their regular players for the season due to injury, and after getting clobbered a few nights ago to a strong Michigan State squad, look to rebound against Iowa.

The Maryland Women's basketball team won their game today against Wisconsin, and they continue to play strong.

I know I take my sports way too seriously.  In fact, given my high blood pressure, hypertension, and overall stress, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to get so emotionally invested in sports, but I can't help it.  The highs are too great, even as the lows are so hard on me, to ever give it up.  Also, given how good my teams tend to be year after year (I live and die with Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, too), it's just too worth it to not watch them all whenever I can.

Image result for penguins logoImage result for terrapins logo
Image result for pirates logoImage result for steelers logo

Go Pens!  Go Terps!  Go Bucs!  Here We Go, Steelers, Here We Go!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Death Cannot Stop True Love

"Death cannot stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for a while."  -- Westley, to his true love, Buttercup, in THE PRINCESS BRIDE

After 13 years, you might think that a significant life event would lose a bit of its impact, but I tell you, in fact, that isn't the case.  It was more than 13 years ago that my wonderful wife, Teresa, left this life to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  And given His promise of eternal life, I am assured of seeing her again.

But what of this life?  The death of a spouse is traumatic to the survivor, regardless of age, but most would say that their image of a widow or widower is that of someone well seasoned, not a young adult, as a young widow shared in her blog, which I read just today. (https://ericaroman.me/2018/01/06/this-is-what-widowed-looks-like/)  She's correct.  As we age, it's natural to think of one's own mortality.  But, when one is barely into one's thirties, or twenties, or even forties, death is not something we think about...unless it touches us in some way.

I've had a few brushes with death.  When I was 18, only a month after graduating high school, I was involved in a traffic accident in which my grandparents were killed in the car I was driving.  We were rear-ended by a tractor-trailer.  I likely would have died in the accident if I hadn't been pulled out through the driver's side window before the car went up in flames.  I suffered a concussion and have no memory of the accident, which, because it was a multi-car pile-up, authorities found no one to blame for its cause. 

The loss in this case was my grandparents, who I loved so much.  It was tragic, given the circumstances, as is all loss.  My mother, in particular, suffered greatly for many years after.  It dramatically changed the dynamics of my family in ways too numerous to explain here.

Then, just six years later, my last remaining grandparent, my grandfather, Pap, passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I held his hand, as the entire family gathered around his bed when he breathed his last breath.  I had so much respect for that man, and I mourned our loss, despite his 83 years.

The only thing made bearable with these losses was the knowledge that they had each lived a fairly long and fulfilling life.  This was not the case with my wife, Teresa.  She was only 31 when she passed on.  It has always bothered me that we were married fewer than five years, and I knew her for only six.  What I did know is that she was my true love, a love that was blessed by God.  I also know that, as short as it was, she did live a fulfilling life, filled with all of the people she impacted by sharing her faith, or her love.  She was always a loving person, and always looked at the good in everyone and everything.  She impacted me more than anyone, and I think about her everyday.  And while our daughter, Melody, missed out on knowing her at all (she was only five months old when she passed), she got perhaps the best gift of all:  She is benefiting from her mother's genetics, because she has the potential to be everything her mother was, and so much more.

That said, grief still haunts me.  The loss was great.  I miss her so much.  That's probably what I miss the most:  having her in my life.  I hate being lonely.  She was my best friend, and there is no substitute for her, no one to fill that void in my life.  And while I know God is more than big enough to fill that void, what He does in my life is much different than what Teresa did.  She was my true love., and I don't know if I'll ever be strong enough to search for that kind of love again.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Christmas Never Ends

After being home for a few days, sick with a cold, and going stir crazy, I returned to work today.  Daughter Melody had a two hour delay, but she went off to school with her friends.  Faithful Pup Scout remained at home terribly confused as to why everyone left her alone.

When you've been off work for illness reasons, co-workers understandably want to know for sure that you're well enough to be back at work.  You are a pariah until you've been proven otherwise.  Unfortunately, I'm not completely well, and it's very noticeable with my congestion, cough, and heavy bass singing voice.  So I was confined to my office, and no one came to visit with me.  Which was fine, since I had a lot of work on which to catch up, and I really didn't feel well enough to socialize anyway.  Really, I shouldn't have been at work in the first place.

Then I received a text from my daughter.  She was sick, and didn't think she could make it through the rest of the day.  It looked like my day was going to end early.  I quickly arranged for one of my employees to act for me, and my boss cleared me to leave.  I rushed to the school to get Melody, and, aside from a quick trip to the store for supplies through the weekend, we went home and crashed.  We're likely in for a quiet weekend.

It felt good to be out and about, at least for a little while, but it's clear I need a few more days to recover.  God sometimes gives us signs that we need to slow things down, and I need to listen to Him.

***

It's still looking a lot like Christmas at our house.  We're in no hurry to take down our Christmas decorations.  There is something about having our Christmas Tree still standing, with the lights on, that I find relaxing.  Also, it's just a little too cold outside to think about getting on a ladder and taking down the Christmas lights around the front of the house.  While we don't still turn on the outside lights, the tree is still lighted daily.

We don't like for the Christmas season to end.  It's our favorite time of year, and there is such a build-up to the Big Day, we just don't want it to be over so quickly.  There is still a feeling of celebration through New Years Day, so there is no rush to take everything down, anyway.

And we're still seeing friends and family that we didn't see before Christmas, too.  In fact, there is a group of my wife's friends that we regularly see every year AFTER Christmas, sometimes a couple of months later.  This year, we're scheduled to get together on Sunday, so, if our heath is better, we'll see them and exchange gifts.  Again, it's just nice to extend the season for a few more weeks.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

8 Types of Love, And Philos Was My Favorite

Psychiatrists have determined that there are either 3, 4, 6, 7, or 8 different types of love, depending on which website you look at or believe, and given my quick Google search.  The 8 type ones go with Eros, or sexual love; Storge, or familiar love; Ludus, or playful love; Mania, or obsessive love; Pragma, or enduring love; Philautia, or self love; Agape, or selfless love; and Philia, or affectionate love.  Philia, or "Philos" (which we defined as deep friendship), defined my relationship with my best friend.

I had to let go of her recently.  It was inevitable that this would happen.  It's like the movie, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.  Men and women can't be friends.  You either have an Eros type of relationship, or you don't, and as soon as a third person comes into the picture, it gets too complicated to continue with Philos alone.

I prayed about it.  I knew that, if God wanted the relationship to work for us, it would, but I also knew that there were too many differences between us for any kind of romance to develop into a successful relationship.  We had gotten too close, though, I guess.  And I got selfish, because I liked what we had.  But I couldn't give her what she wanted, which was the Eros, Storge, Ludus, and Pragma.  We only had the Philos, and that was good enough for me.  When she found the other types in a guy that made her happy, I couldn't handle sharing her, and I knew I had to let her go.  Because men and women can't be friends.  And I had to let her go before she left me, because that's been my experience.  I lose the people that mean the most to me.

I don't let very many people into my life anymore.  I guess I got tired of losing them, because that's what happens, inevitably.  And it made me sad.  I have lots of acquaintances, but very few real friends.  I'm not talking family, because that's different.  I can't seem to hang onto any real friends.

I read a bunch of books about loss following the death of my wife, Teresa.  She was my best friend, and after we got married, we became a couple, and that's who we spent most of our time with:  other couples.  My single friends kind of disappeared.  But it was okay, because we had each other.  After Teresa died, and I began battling grief and depression, I read in these books about grief and depression that I should expect that I would lose all of my couple friends within the first year.  They wouldn't disappear completely, at least some of them, but the majority would just kind of drift out of my life.  And I didn't believe it.  But, about a year later, I discovered just how true this is.  Similar people seem to want to be around similar people.  I was no longer a "couple," and couples didn't necessarily want to be around me.  So most became just acquaintances, or drifted out of my life completely.

Slowly but surely, the turnover from couple friends to single friends took place, and I found that I was spending most of my time with other singles, though I was still a bit stigmatized since I wasn't just a single guy... I was a parent, too.  So the only people I really had anything in common with were single parents with kids.  And very few, if any of those, were single due to the death of their spouse.  Most were divorced.  The two are similar, but still very different.

Another strike against me was that I was getting older.  Teresa was only 31 when she passed away.  We were a young couple.  As time went on, I found myself getting older, and dating becomes complicated as one gets older.  My daughter, in particular, didn't like it when I dated.  And she told me so.

Anyway, at some point, I determined, after trying to date, and even dating seriously at least one young lady, that I didn't want to date anymore.  I wasn't having any fun, and if the goal was marriage, I wasn't even sure I wanted that.  My marriage to Teresa was awesome.  The best and happiest time of my life.  But I didn't think I could ever find another relationship like it, and I kind of gave up.  I was certainly open to friendships, but romance was no longer a goal.

When I met my best friend, we were able to define the limits of our friendship, and romance was not within those limits.  But we became so close.  It was intimate, but in the way that best friends are intimate.  We shared and leaned on each other, and helped each other and talked through our problems and issues, and we were happy for each other when good things happened.  But I knew she was still searching for romance.  She told me as much.  And I told her that, eventually, that would spell the end of our relationship as it was.  And she asked me to not worry about it until and unless it happened.

And then it did.  She met a great guy.  And I was hurt, because I knew that our relationship would never be the same.  And she struggled to understand that.  She thought we could continue our relationship the way it was, but you just can't do that.  You can't be intimate, even if it's a different kind of intimacy, with more than one person.  And so I said goodbye.  And it hurt so much.  It hurt both of us, I know, but it was yet another loss.  I knew that she would eventually realize she couldn't continue to have the same kind of relationship with me, and that she would have to say goodbye, but I knew it was easier to do it now rather than later.  And it was rough.  And it still is.  And I still Philos her even as I know she has found happiness and, I hope, he has Philos for her.  I pray for them both regularly, that God will bless their relationship.

Have a great evening, everyone.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sick Day...and Snow?


Some days, you just have to take a sick day...

I've been battling a very bad cold for the past several days, and it seemed to hit its peak overnight.  I had a poor night sleeping, so I elected to call in sick from work for the day.  My understanding boss gave me the okay, and my employees said they could handle things without me.  Then, after taking Faithful Pup Scout outside for a quick constitutional (and it WAS quick... It was too cold not to be), I took a dose of NyQuil and went back to sleep.  And Scout let me sleep, too.  The next thing I knew, it was quarter after noon, and Scout was still sleeping deeply.

Daughter Melody came home from school today excited about the prospects of snow overnight tonight.  Most of the school systems have already made decisions about delays tomorrow morning, though we have yet to hear about Howard County.  The forecast is for a dusting to 3 inches of snow.

I'm still much like a kid deep down, I guess, since I love getting snow, and even the prospect of school getting delayed or cancelled is exciting.  Part of it is being able to put aside the responsibilities of being an adult, at least for a little while, when everything shuts down as a result of the bad weather.  The other is just a love of snow.  When it's as bitterly cold as it is right now, it seems like a waste not to have snow to go along with it.

I'm reminded of the heavy snows of my childhood, and one in particular:  the blizzard of '79.  My family and I had gone to visit my grandparents, who lived in the little town of Libertytown, MD.  We were aware of the blizzard coming our way, and the night before, with schools already cancelled, decided to stay at there home one more night.  The following day, we awoke to a winter wonderland, with more than half a foot of snow.  We dug out my grandparent's driveway and walkways, then we began the trek back home, to Upper Marlboro, MD.  The drive was hampered by the deep snow, more than a foot as we got closer to home.  There were only two clear lanes in either direction on the Beltway around DC, and once we got close to our neighborhood, the roads were barely clear enough to allow two cars to pass each other.  Our neighborhood street had not been plowed at all, and we had to park at a neighbors house until a path could be dug to our house.  The whole neighborhood was out digging, and we eventually were able to get our car up the street to our house.  The snow was up to my waist.  I remember our dog, Ginger, struggled to hop thru the snow (she was a terrier mix, and weighed less than 25 pounds).  I think school was out for a week while we dug out and waited for it to melt.  Those are fun memories.

We just received the news that Howard County is delayed two hours tomorrow, as I'm typing this, and weather conditions will be reevaluated tomorrow morning.  I have a truly happy daughter.

I'm thankful tonight, given the potential bad weather and current cold spell, coupled with my illness, that I'm able to take off and rest, as this is clearly what my body needs right now.  Tomorrow may bring more of the same.

Stay safe out there, and have a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Faithful Pup Scout at 16


We received the phone call in early February 2002 from my Aunt K in Pittsburgh:  The breeder that had provided two Maltese pups, Rocki and Penny, to my aunt's family, had a single female pup available from the same parents, born on January 1, 2002.  Did we want her?  My wife, Teresa, and I had discussed it at length and we knew we wanted a dog.  Teresa had fallen in love with Rocki & Penny upon meeting them a few years before, and the chance at getting a Maltese was too exciting to pass up.  Teresa promised she would take care of her if we put up the money for her.  I said okay.

The breeder sent us several pics and told us we could have her at 10 weeks.  We circled the mid-March date and made arrangements to stay with my aunt's family.  Teresa already named her.  She was "Scout," named for the little girl in Teresa's favorite novel, "To Kill A Mockingbird."

March rolled around and we excitedly made the trip to Pittsburgh, loaded up with puppy food, a crate, collar, leash, toys, and treats.  We arrived at Aunt K's at about 2pm, after a 5 hour rainy cold trip.  We were there no longer than 30 minutes when the breeder rang the doorbell, arriving with little Scout.  And little she was!  She barely filled the palms of our hands!  But it was love at first sight for Teresa.  Scout was definitely her dog.

She was nervous at first, but soon Scout was chasing the two other larger dogs around the house, yapping and playing trying to exert her authority.  It was fun to watch.  Teresa, who had never had a dog before, was clearly enamored by her new little pup.

We stayed overnight, then went to church with Aunt K and her family, leaving Scout in her crate for the first time.  After lunch, we packed for the long drive home, making a nice little area for Scout just behind the front seats of our Jeep Cherokee.

It was snowy through the mountains, so the drive was even longer with the heavy, slow traffic.  We stopped at a rest area along the PA Turnpike.  Scout was napping, and Teresa and I both had to use the rest room.  When we returned, Scout was awake and seemed to be wondering what happened to us.  We took her for a little walk in the snow, then loaded back up and drove the rest of the way home.

We are still in the same home today.  Teresa passed away only two years later, but Scout will always be her dog.  Yesterday, we celebrated Scout's 16th birthday.  She is my shadow and my companion, and Melody has adopted her as her little "big" sister.  We watch as her little body ages somewhat gracefully.  She sleeps most of the time.  We carry her 9 pound body around the house now, only because it's easier than waiting on her to walk slowly across the room.  She doesn't do stairs anymore.

We know our time with Scout is growing short.  At 16, we're on borrowed time, knowing that the Maltese breed averages 8-12 years.  We love our little Faithful Pup Scout.  Happy Birthday, old girl.

Have a great evening, everyone!