Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Buctober

I have a lot of things on my mind that I want to share on the ol' blog, but I'm completely out of gas tonight.  A couple of late days at work, along with heavy thoughts, are creating a burden that is causing me to be extraordinarily exhausted this evening, and I'm going to grab some early shut-eye and hopefully get some extra ZZZ's.  I hope you all understand.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Pirates have returned to the playoffs for the second straight season, and it is very easy to get caught up in the excitement.  They will be playing in the wildcard round of the National League playoffs against the San Francisco Giants, and the game will be played in Pittsburgh.  One of my favorite sports writers, Dejan Kovajevic, wrote a great article exemplifying this excitement, and is himself a big fan of the Pittsburgh sports teams.  I'm including a link to his site HERE.  It's worth the read.

You can look forward to seeing a passionate city and boisterous fans that will be supporting the hometown Pirates tomorrow night.  This is "Buctober", October baseball at its finest.  I'm excited!

Have a great evening, everyone!  Let's go, Bucs!



Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ghost Walk in Historic Savage Mill


My daughter, Melody, and I went to the "Ghost Walks in Historic Savage Mill" on Saturday evening.  We wanted to get into the "spirit" of Halloween, and with Savage Mill literally just down the street from where we live, it sounded like something we might enjoy and have fun doing.

Marty, who was our tour guide and looked very dapper in his top hat and long coat (and he must get awfully warm when the weather hasn't quite reached into the typical Fall temps, as was the case Saturday evening), provided our group of about a dozen people with a nice history of Savage Mill to start, then he led us on a fun tour of the buildings and grounds, stopping periodically to tell a story involving a spirit or ghost of a historic figure who was wrongly killed and who still haunts the place.  Some of the stories were kind of eerie, some were humorous, and a few were even a little bit scary, but none were enough to frighten us.


When we went outside, Marty told us about the building in the picture above, that used to have a bell in the tower that was used to signal when the mill was open.  The bell has long since been moved, and is currently residing in the belfry of the Methodist Church a few blocks away.  That hasn't stopped many people from hearing a bell ringing in the tower.


The above picture shows a loft in another building where a gentleman hanged himself, and it is said that one can sometimes see a body hanging from a noose through the window.


Marty told another story about a spirit who haunted a computer in this, the postmaster's office.  Interestingly, one of the overhead lights in this large room kept flickering on and off.  Marty told us it has been rewired once, but it still flickers.


Marty is a great storyteller, and we enjoyed his tales.  He used Melody as a guinea pig for one particular tale by having her run up and down a flight of stairs that the ghost of a young girl likes to haunt by tripping people on the staircase.  Melody didn't fall, fortunately, which prompted Marty to say that the spirit must like Melody.

Marty told us after the tour that he also does ghost walks in Historic Ellicott City.  The website where we purchased the tickets (Ghost Walk) noted that tour guides appreciate gratuities, but it was disappointing to see that very few gave him a tip.

It really was quite fun.  I'm a complete skeptic regarding ghosts, though I know there are things on our world that can't be explained.  Unless I experience something myself, I have a hard time believing in the existence of ghosts.  As a Christ-follower, however, I know there are some things on our world that just can't be explained without faith.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

We didn't do it this time, but after the tour, you can't beat a great meal at the Ram's Head Tavern here at Savage Mill.  They have wonderful food and great ambience.  And many times on Sunday mornings, they have a live jazz band playing during their brunch.  But not late on a Saturday night, when ghost hunting occurs....

If you want a fun evening, especially as we enter into the Halloween season, the Ghost Walk at Savage Mill is entertaining and recommended.  Check it out!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Tough Loss

I hadn't planned to write about the Steelers today.  In fact, I don't like writing here about football much at all, anymore.  With all of the off-field stuff going on in the National Football League, it's hard to get excited about the game.  That said, today's Steelers game was a tough loss to take.  They were playing one of the worst teams in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that gave up almost 60 points last week, which is unheard of, and the Steelers were at home coming off a huge win over the Carolina Panthers.  I don't think anyone was predicting that the Bucs would stand a chance against the Steelers.  The unthinkable occurred, however, and the Steelers lost a very winnable game at the very end by allowing the Bucs to score a touchdown with virtually no time left on the clock.  It was hard for me to take.  I know I take my sports teams way too seriously, and today was Exhibit A of me doing that very thing.  I was so frustrated, particularly since it was completely out of my control.  But what wasn't fair is that I took my frustration out on friends on Twitter, on my father (who really was commiserating with me, since he was just as frustrated), and my daughter, who finally left the room since she couldn't take my yelling at the TV anymore.

The reality is that my frustration is surprisingly rooted in where I live, right here in Howard County, just a suburb away from Baltimore, home to the Ravens.  Ravens fans are an interesting lot.  They actually hate Pittsburgh.  Not just the Steelers.  The city. And the "Steeler Nation" of fans.  The local sports radio team even plays a jingle exclaiming their hatred of Pittsburgh.  It's true.  I've never heard anything like that outside of college fan bases.  My family had Steelers season tickets for over a decade, and nothing like that was ever broadcast in Pittsburgh, as much as I think the Ravens fans would like to think it is.  That kind of thing hurts.  I grew up here, in the DC/Baltimore area.  But, because I root for a team that is a rival to the home team, I'm treated differently.  I may proclaim my love of my Steelers in the presence of Ravens fans, but I would certainly never harass them.  That just isn't right.  Any negative feelings I might have about the Ravens are directed only towards the team itself.  I can only speak for myself, though.  I know there are Steelers fans who are vocal towards Ravens fans.  I even know a lot of them.  And Ravens fans, probably due to safety in numbers and being local, have no problem jeering Steelers fans.  I get it.  That's part of being a fan.  But I hate being here, in the Baltimore area, where I grew up and live, because I am regularly victimized by the Ravens fans who know I'm a Steelers fan, and jeer me.  I don't want to throw them all in the same bus, because I have many friends who are Ravens fans who don't do this.  But there is a percentage of them who are quite vocal, and they will abuse me, only because of the team I root for and the fact that the Steelers experienced an embarrassing loss today.  I don't relish the coming week.

I wrote a blog post a few years ago explaining why I'm a Steelers fan and why I am not a Ravens fan.  I'm going to reproduce part of it below.  For now, though, I'm going to go into my room and sulk for the rest of the afternoon.  Maybe my daughter and I can find it in us to go out and do something to get my mind off this game.

***

A lot of my friends are Baltimore Ravens fans.  I'm a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  Unfortunately, the Steelers and Ravens have become rivals due to the fact that they are in the same division in the NFL's AFC North, and they are both pretty good year after year.  And when they play against each other, at least twice each season, the games are almost always very close, with only a few points separating them.  But it also puts me on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to rooting for my team when my friends are rooting for theirs.  And that's fine, as long as we don't allow that rooting to spill over into and affect our friendships.  And that has been the case, for the most part.  I believe we're all intelligent enough to understand how it works.  It would be  ridiculous to allow our love of our teams to affect our friendships.

There are, however, acquaintances of mine who can't understand why I can live in the Baltimore area and not be a Ravens fan.  And they especially can't understand why I can be Steelers fan.  Many believe that it's expected to root for the local team.  In fact, if that were the case, I should've been rooting for the Washington Redskins, since I actually live closer to DC than I do Baltimore.  It's really simple, though, and it has everything to do with the fact that I was raised by my Western Pennsylvania-native father as a Steelers fan.

I was born in 1969, which was the same year that Chuck Noll was hired as the coach of the Steelers, and "Mean" Joe Greene was his first draft choice.  One could argue that this was the beginning of the Steelers reign as an elite team in the NFL.  They started to really have success a few years later, with the "Immaculate Reception" in their first playoff win in 1972, and their fanatic fan base finally had a winner after almost 30 years of losing, since the team's inception.  My childhood was filled with Super Bowl wins by the Steelers, and by the time I was 10 years old, the Steelers had 4 Super Bowl wins, more than double what any other team had.  That made an impression on me.  My Dad and I watched many of the games together and those experiences were really wonderful.

Baltimore had the Colts.  I actually liked the Colts, but I really didn't pay much attention to them since I liked the Steelers better.  But I was sad to see them leave Baltimore for Indianapolis in the mid-80s.  It was brutally unfair to the city of Baltimore, and I shared their loss.  But football goes on, and though the Steelers were not having the success they had previously, I was still a die hard fan.

In the mid-90s, the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.  The Steelers were having great success at the time, and I paid little attention to this "new" team in Baltimore.  Of course, some of my friends, mostly those who had been fans of the Colts, adopted the Ravens as their team, and that's natural.  Since they no longer had a team in Baltimore until the Ravens came along, it would be easy to be a fan.  Since I had always been a Steelers fan, I wasn't about to all of a sudden change my allegiance to some new team, just because they were in the area I lived in.  As the Ravens got better and had success of their own, the games against the Steelers took on much more meaning, and a true rivalry developed, which exists to this day.

My Steelers remain successful, having appeared in three more Super Bowls over the past several years, winning two of them.  They are, as of right now, the only team with six Super Bowl wins.  The Ravens have had a nice run of playoff appearances, and even have two Super Bowl wins of their own.  The teams have arguably the best rivalry in professional sports.  But I will never be a Ravens fan.  My Steelers continue to be my team.  I bleed black and gold.  I only hope my Ravens acquaintances can accept that.  Go Steelers!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pazani's Pizza...Best in HoCo?

My daughter and I decided to go out for Friday Night Date Night, and I suggested we try out Mission BBQ.  Melody isn't a very big fan of barbecue, though, and she suggested something else.  She likes pizza as much as I do, so she suggested (a local place that is also a chain).  I told her that if we're going out for pizza, we really need to try something new and different and stay away from the chains (Ledo's is the exception.... they are my favorite, but we wanted a new place).  So I brought out my handy-dandy pizza app and started looking for area pizza joints.  This is a real thing, by the way.  It's called the "Pizza Compass", and it's like a directory of pizza places located...well, everywhere!  It organizes them by distance, or you can search on a map, and it links with Four Square (which I know nothing about) to provide information about the place, including reviews, and links to websites.

Anyway, we were weighing whether we wanted to go to Coal Fire, which I've heard a lot about, located in "ColumbElkicott City", and a place called Pazani, in Elkridge.  Since Coal Fire was closer, we, of course, went to Pazani's, which one reviewer called... "the best pizza in HoCo".  Okay, so off we went.

I've noticed a problem with so many of these small strip malls that have really good, really popular restaurants.  The parking lots are just way too small!  It creates a problem with trying to find parking, and it can be very frustrating when there is nothing available.  That was the case with Pazani's.  In fact, before I knew it was a problem, I went by an open space thinking I'd find more available, and when I didn't, the original spot was already taken, and the two women who parked there laughed and pointed at us as if to say, "Nyah, nyah."  We parked at the bank next door, which was closed and had one available space.

I had hoped Pazani's was a sit-down restaurant where you order from menus and a server takes your order, but it is not.  It's one of those "order-at-the-counter-then-sit-down-and-we'll-bring-out-your-food-here's-your-number" restaurant, which requires a unique kind of etiquette for ordering your food.  It's apparently very popular, since the place was hopping with people.  After figuring out on our own how to order, we went up to a register where a young man took our order.  He seemed to have trouble hearing me (the place is kind of loud), but I said we were ordering in, and then we ordered two New York style pizzas, one cheese and one with mushrooms, pepperoni, and black olives, plus two drinks.  He very slowly repeated my order, I paid, and he gave me a card with a big "29" on it, then he walked away.  I didn't know what to do, but I assumed that we were to go find a table and sit down with our number "29" hanging high enough for someone to see it and bring us our food, so we did.  I was kind of confused, though, since it was apparent the drinks were the get-it-yourself kind, but the register guy didn't give us any cups.  So we waited, assuming they would bring us cups with our pizzas.

While we waited, a LOT of people came in and out, apparently getting carry-out, and every once in a while, a guy named Tony came out from the kitchen and talked to people.  Tony had a thick Italian accent, so I knew our pizzas were in good hands.  Soon, a young lady brought out our pizzas.  She asked if we needed plates, which we did, and she brought them out to us.  I asked about drinks, and she said the cups were up near the register, then she disappeared.  We wanted utensils, too, so I went up to the register area to find them.  I found plastic forks, and grabbed two, plus a stack of napkins.  I had to go back up to ask about cups, and I couldn't get near either of the two registers due to the number of people in line.  So we started eating.  When the line diminished a bit, I was able to ask the lady (who may or may not be Tony's wife) there that we had ordered drinks, but didn't have cups.  She responded with, "Well, get some." I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't want to assume we could just grab them."  She just smiled at me, with a look as if to say, "I'm not sure you paid for them, but I don't care."  I grabbed two cups, then went to the drink dispenser.  They only had one sugar-free soda, Diet Coke, and it was out of order.  There was plain tea, but I was only able to get about half a cup, since it was almost empty.  They only other option was water, which I got for my daughter, and three other sweet teas.  I'm a diabetic, but I figured a half sweet/half plain tea was better than water or regular soda.

Okay, so we weren't really having a great time so far, but I have to say the pizza is good.  I mean REALLY good.  Yes, it may possibly be the best in HoCo.  Melody really enjoyed hers, and mine was excellent.  It was the perfect combination of thin, tasty, doughy, crispy crust, slightly sweet tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese.  The mushrooms and pepperoni were typical but good.  The only negative was that my pie had kalamata olives instead of black olives, which were much stronger and gave the pizza a saltier taste than I was expecting.  It was very filling, so we needed a box for the leftovers.  I tried to get the attention of one of the servers, but had no luck, so I went up to the counter to get one.  I waited to get someones attention, but I was ignored and I finally gave up.  Melody decided to go up to the counter to try, and she was able to ask a young lady, who told her they were over near the registers.  Melody went over to get one, but they weren't pizza boxes.  They were small Styrofoam containers.  She grabbed two, and we stuffed our pizza into them as best we could.  Then we high-tailed it out of there.  Again, the pizza is great, but it appears that the staff makes a lot of assumptions as to what the customers can and can't figure out.  A little patience and assistance on their part would go a long way towards making our experience a little better.  But the place is very popular, and given how many customers knew Tony's name, there must be a lot of regulars.  Will we go back?  Maybe, but only for carry-out.  The pizza is worth the drive, but be wary of the lack of parking.

Have a great evening, everyone!
#HoCoPizza #HoCoFood

Friday, September 26, 2014

Trust and Restoration

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  -- 1 Peter 5:10
The above verse has a lot of meaning to me.  Aside from the absolute truth in what it says, it's also become words to live by.  Several weeks after my wonderful wife, Teresa, passed away and joined our Father in Heaven, I was cleaning out one of her purses when I came across a small piece of paper folded up in the pocket of the purse.  I opened up the note and written on it, in my wife's handwriting, was this verse.  It was as if she was sharing it with me right then.  I had been deep in grief at the time, and discovering this note, with this specific verse on it, struck me so strongly that I was completely overcome with emotion, and I cried and cried.  They were tears of joy, because I knew she wanted me to hear these words.  The Lord is and always has been with me, throughout all of my experiences, and he was with me then, even if I didn't realize it at the time.  Knowing that, after I went through this period of mourning and suffering, He would be there and bring me back to health and restoration.  How could I not be overjoyed by this message?

That said, I still go through these periods of depression.  I know that He is with me, that Teresa is with Him, and that despite these moments of doubt and suffering, he will restore me.  He is an awesome God!  I just wish I was able to shake this feeling of sadness that occasionally comes over me, sometimes completely at random it seems.  The past few days have been that way, though I am feeling much better today.  I know my faith should be greater.  I need to trust the above verse.  God will be there for me.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Depressed Again...

I had a rough night yesterday.  As I've mentioned previously, I get hit by bouts of depression, and it happens many times when I'm not expecting.  Last night, I guess because I've been sick over the past few days, I was primed for a fall.  I picked up my daughter from school, and she immediately told me about a breakout of head lice at school, and that several of her classmates have it.  Melody has had it three times since the end of camp at the beginning of August.  Later, she was picked up by my father so she could spend the night and day today with them, since schools were closed due to Rosh Hashanah.  That left me at home alone with Faithful Pup Scout.  A little later, my father sent me a message letting me know that Melody has head lice again.

I didn't take the news well.  I know it was just the trigger, but it really knocked me for a loop.  I proceeded to flip out.  I responded to my father in anger, and I completely took the blame for not taking care of Melody, assuming that the lice problem was something I could have prevented.  This lead me to then call myself a bad father, that I'm not taking care of her, or myself, or even Scout.  I was completely overwhelmed, and I broke down.

This seemed to come out of nowhere.  I had actually been doing really well over the past few weeks.  I just didn't see it coming.  Dad tried to boost me up, presenting me with logic as to why this wasn't my fault, but I didn't listen to him.  I lashed out some more, telling him how overwhelmed I was with work, with a messy house, with the need to get new much-needed appliances in my kitchen, etc.  All of the problems I've experienced over the past six months were now being blamed by myself on me being a bad father.  I was being unreasonable, and it's just the latest example of why depression is so unpredictable.

I went to bed last night angry at myself, angry because I had lashed out, angry that I was being so unreasonable, angry that I couldn't get my life in order, angry that my life seemed so screwed up, angry at my job, angry with my boss, angry about being a burden on my parents, being unable to live a normal life, and blaming it all on the death of my wife.  I laid in bed unable to sleep for hours, a classic case of insomnia, replaying in my head all of the ways I've screwed up over the last decade.  It was awful.

I must've finally fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off and it was time to get up for work.  I had decided yesterday that I needed to return to work.  Even though I had been legitimately sick the past few days, I tend to feel guilty when I'm not at work, and I was anxious to get back, even if I wasn't feeling 100%.  But all I could think about was how much I screwed up, and how screwed up I was.  It made for a difficult Thursday.  I apologized to my parents.  I knew I had taken out my frustration on them, and that was unfair.  I worked hard today, despite how I felt, though I could hardly wait to get home.  When it finally came time to leave, I had to go to the grocery store first before I could head for home.  After a quick stop at home, and putting the groceries away, I headed over the Mom and Dad's to get Melody. I was very happy that they could take care of her today.  But I was also anxious to get home with her, and so we did.  And we went straight to bed.

Thank you for listening.  Have a great evening everyone!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Few Of My Favorite Things Redux

This is mostly a repeat, but with the way I'm feeling today, I'm not entirely up to writing, so... enjoy!

A few of my favorite things:

...waking up to the smell of French toast and fried eggs at Mom and Dad's house.

...cresting the ridge of The Summit before arriving at my grandfather's house in Uniontown, PA, knowing my journey was nearing its end.

...when George Bailey and Mary Hatch are walking home from the high school dance after falling in the pool, and enjoying watching the romantic tension grow between them.

...the start of a road trip and seeing the sun rise over the horizon.

...coasting down that first drop of the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens.

...the feel of cold sheets quickly being warmed as I lay down to sleep on a cold winter's night.

...the taste of a hot out of the oven slice of Ledo's pizza topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and black olives.

...the crunching sound of new-fallen snow under a moonlit night during a romantic stroll.

...the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning, even as an adult, with great anticipation.

...reflecting on a powerful message from my pastor after a church service, and making a plan to incorporate it into my daily routine.

...the cool taste of a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

...holding hands for the first time with a new love.

...the excitement of a Terps hoops victory over Duke.

...giving Faithful Pup Scout a belly rub EVERY morning, then picking her up and getting a thank you lick on the cheek.

...the feeling of the wind in my hair as I pull out onto the road in my 2-seater with the top down on a warm Summer evening.

...the smell of burning wood on an Autumn day driving through the countryside.

...waking up in a hotel room without a care in the world on the first day of a vacation.

...picking up my daughter every day after school ends and asking her, "How was your day?"

...catching your wife or girlfriend's smile across a crowded room when glancing at her.

...walking into an amusement park with my daughter and listening to her come up with our agenda for the day.  She's becoming such a great leader.

...awaking on the couch after an unintended nap on a rainy Sunday afternoon and feeling completely well rested.

...getting a really good haircut followed by a scalp massage shampoo by the stylist.

...watching an episode of the well-written and well-acted T.V. show "Ed".

...the powerful sound of big band jazz performed live.

...singing "Pleasant Valley Sunday" with my daughter at the top of our lungs as we cruise down the road in our 2-seater with the top down.

...watching the Steelers live and in person at Heinz Field (and, even better, at Three Rivers Stadium) with 60K friends.

...careening down an icy slope on an inner tube at exhilarating speeds.

...giving, then receiving a full-body massage by my wife.

...big, warm hugs from my daughter.

...driving a sports car with a manual transmission through the mountains at just a tad bit over the speed limit.

...seeing the Pirates win a playoff berth after a critical baseball series.

...the feeling of soreness after playing a competitive tennis match with a good friend.

...making out with your wife or girlfriend like you're a couple of teens.

...driving down old Route 66 in the Mojave Desert of eastern California, knowing you are the only person within several miles, and thanking God for His beauty.

...watching a well-acted performance by actors you've been directing for months receiving a well-earned applause.

...catching my daughter's smile after watching her successfully achieve a goal she was working towards.

...finishing a highly enjoyable book.

...feeling God's presence after a particularly tough time.

...performing a smokin' live sax solo during a concert with a stage band.

...the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in Mom's kitchen.

...being surprised by my daughter as she sings a solo at church on Christmas Eve, bringing me tears of joy.

...the accomplishment of succeeding at a significant project in my job.

...laughing until it hurts.

...flying home from a weeklong business trip and getting a welcome home hug from my daughter.

...a Steelers victory after a hard-fought game.

...knowing the exact moment when I fell in love with my wife.

...holding my daughter for the first time the night she was born.

...knowing I could just keep on writing this list for the next few hours because there are SO many favorite things!

...praying for my loved ones.

...thanking the Lord for blessing my life so much.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hallucinogenic Nightmarish Runaway Trains

Some days you've got, and some you don't.  I was having a fairly productive day at work (let's face it:  EVERY day is productive!) yesterday when, during a late morning meeting, I suddenly began feeling dizzy and uncomfortable.  It felt similar to low-sugar "attacks" I've had on occasion due to my type 2 diabetes.  I felt hot, shaky, and began to sweat.  I hadn't eaten anything unusual that morning, and in fact I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal just a couple of hours prior to the meeting.  I went to the vending machine and got some candy, and slowly ate over the next hour.  I didn't feel any better, and I finally decided I just wanted to go home and lay down.  I wrapped up my office duties, handed off my responsibilities and meetings to one of my employees, alerted my boss, and headed home.  I put the top down on my car for the ride home for the cool air, which felt great and refreshing.

I got home and immediately took a nap.  I awoke in time to pick up my daughter from school, but we continued to have a quiet evening at home.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel any better.  I decided to go to bed earlier than normal hoping to feel better this morning.  I awoke feeling worse.  I checked in at work and decided to take a day of sick leave.  I didn't have much scheduled, and found out one of my big meetings was canceled, so I wouldn't miss much.  I stayed in touch with the office via remote email for much of the morning, and actually got a few things completed, but I also was able to sleep on and off all day.  That helped a lot, though because I wasn't feeling well, I kept having those hallucinogenic nightmarish-type dreams that seem to haunt me when I'm sick.  At one point, I was dreaming about a runaway train that I was trying to stop.  Whew.  I was saved by my alarm, which was set to coincide with picking up my daughter from school.  I was feeling so bad by this time, that I texted her, asking if she was okay walking home with her friends.  She said she was, and I immediately fell asleep again.  The sound of the front door opening 15 minutes later woke me up.  She was home safely.

While she did her homework, I snoozed again.  It was a hectic nap.  I just couldn't get comfortable and certainly wasn't sleeping deeply enough for it to be helpful.  I didn't feel like cooking dinner, so I ordered some Papa John's pizza for my daughter.  Thank goodness for delivery.

One thing I was able to do off-and-on today was knock out a couple of episodes of the excellent THE ROOSEVELTS:  AN INTIMATE HISTORY, Ken Burns excellent documentary about Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  If you haven't been watching it, it's very well done.

So I've already decided not to go in to work tomorrow.  I'm going to try to get an appointment with my doctor.  It feels like a stomach bug of some sort, so I'm hoping it isn't anything more complicated.  I'd prefer getting another day of rest, even if I still have to battle hallucinogenic, nightmarish runaway trains.

Have a nice evening, everyone.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Gourmet

I don't consider myself a very good cook.  I'm barely able to get by with the basics, and sometimes the basics give me a run for my money.  The last time I reheated some leftover pizza, I ended up burning it.  My Keurig makes a lousy cup of coffee.  When I drop my toast with peanut butter, it always lands on the floor peanut butter down.  Even ordering carryout turns into an adventure...the last time I had Chinese carryout, I got Sweet and Sour Chicken instead of Kung Pao.  That said, I have a very good recipe for chili, which sometimes offsets my lack of cooking skills.  I can occasionally get it right.  But I struggle most of the time, which is why we go out to eat so often.  But tonight I was on top of my game.  I had a masterpiece of a dinner to prepare, and I was happy to present it to my not-so-picky daughter.  I even had veggies.

I started out by stripping clean a rotisserie chicken and I placed all of the breast meat in a small bowl on the counter.  Next, I sliced squash, zucchini, and mushrooms, basted with butter and a dash of Greek seasoning.  I placed them on a cookie sheet and prepared to broil them in the oven.  Finally, I heated up some pasta.  Things were going pretty well when I went to drain the water from the pasta.  I got a little lazy and didn't really have a good handle on the pan, and I dumped about half of the pasta into the sink.  Before I could grab it and try to save it, I lost it down the drain.  Strike one.  As I went to place the sheet of veggies into the oven, I bumped the bowl with the chicken, and the bowl went flying onto the floor, landing face down.  I quickly gathered it up and went to the sink to rinse it off.  Unfortunately, this meant the seasoning on the chicken was washed off, and the meat got a little soggy.  Strike two.

It was about this time that Faithful Pup Scout decided she needed to go outside.  It was poor timing, and I told her so.  She didn't seem to care, and she proceeded to not use her "inside bark" and instead began barking horrendously to get me to take care of her RIGHT THAT SECOND.  I scooped her up like a football and we headed down to the basement so I could send her out into the backyard.  She quickly decided the grass in our yard was too high and she ran to the neighbors yard.  I took off after her and despite my attempts to grab her, she proceeded to do her business, #2 I might add, in their yard.  Since I didn't have any waste bags, I decided to use a large leaf to scoop it up.  As soon as I attempted to pick it up, the leaf crumbled and, yes, I ended up with a handful of you-know-what.  Strike three.  Scout trotted back inside without missing a beat.

It was at that moment that I remembered the veggies broiling in the oven.  I ran back into the house, headed to the laundry room to wash my hands, then ran up to the kitchen.  I know what you're thinking.... You're thinking I burned the veggies.  Well, you're wrong.  They were slightly crispy, but they actually came out fairly well.  The dinner wouldn't be a total loss.

I gathered everything together on a couple of plates and called down my wonderful daughter, and we had a really nice, albeit slightly soggy, chicken dinner with pasta and veggies.  It was the best meal I've had all week (though it's only Monday).

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Grace and Healing

"However painful, sorrow is good for the soul."  Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

There is no way to prepare for nor to understand what it feels like to lose a spouse until it happens to you.  It has been ten years since my wife died suddenly and I'm still trying to understand and deal with it.

I found myself thinking a lot today about the night Teresa died.  There have been a lot of reminders over the past few days, though I don't think a day has gone by in the past ten years that I haven't thought about her.  I regularly thank God that my daughter, Melody, was only an infant when her mom passed away, if only because she doesn't have to be tortured by how tragic losing a parent can be.  She was much too young to even know who Teresa was, let alone know what it's like to even have a mother.  Her reality is having one parent.  In fact, a few years ago, when I was dating someone very seriously and considering marriage, Melody had a very difficult time connecting with this woman since it was dramatically changing the dynamics of our little family.

A few years after Teresa died, Melody and I were adjusting to her being in the daycare center at my office.  It meant getting her up very early each morning so that I could be at work at my regular time.  She was and still is a night owl, so getting up early and ready was a very real struggle every morning.  We battled regularly.  I hated it.  She hated it.  Those were my hardest days as a parent.  One morning in particular I completely broke down.  The frustration of trying to get her moving and the yelling I was doing combined with her screaming completely overwhelmed me.  I left her in her bathroom and went into my room and I cried.  It was obviously a form of grief, and I sat on my bed crying and praying.  And little three year old Melody heard me and came running into my room, jumped up on my bed next to me, and hugged me as we cried together.  While we still had many rough mornings, that was a turning point for us both, and it was never as bad as it had been prior to that morning.

My friend Gary told me something a few months after Teresa's death that became one of the most significant compliments I ever received, though at the time it didn't seem like it, and I still don't think it's true.  He said, "I don't know anyone else who could have handled this as well as you," in reference to losing one's wife.  I really didn't feel like I was handling it at all, let alone well.  But what it did do was provide insight as to how some people perceived me at the time.  Gary knew I was a Christ-follower, and I maintain that it was all because of God that I was even able to function after Teresa's death.  I don't know how anyone could handle that kind of grief without God's presence in their life.  I have to give Him all of the credit.  I would still be a mess without Him.

At the funeral home the night before Teresa's funeral, a young woman approached me.  I didn't know who she was, but she introduced herself as a young teacher who had worked at the same school as Teresa.  She told me that a few years before, she lost her fiance in a car accident, and Teresa's faith and encouragement helped her through that rough time in her life.  In fact, she was engaged once again.  She handed me a book entitled A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser, which she said had helped her get through her grief.  She wanted me to have it.  And I have to say that the book helped me, as well.  There is so much wisdom in it.  The author had lost his wife, his mother, and one of his daughters in a terrible car accident.  His faith brought him through terrible grief, and a renewed sense of self that helped him begin living again.  I can only repeat what I wrote at the top of this blog.  One can only understand how it feels to lose a spouse (or any loved one) until it happens to you.  But it's only through God's grace that one can find healing.  And while I still struggle with her death, I know that Teresa is with Jesus in a better place, and I will see her again some day.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Widower Divorce Assumptions

I have a pet peeve, one that probably bothers me more than it should.  It's one of those things that is more of an indictment on our society than anything else.  Over and over, though, if I'm in a conversation with someone who doesn't know me well, when I talk about my daughter, they ask whether I have full custody of her.  Their assumption is that, first of all, I am divorced (I'm not -- I'm a widower), and, second, they are surprised that I WOULD have custody of my daughter (as opposed to her mother, who I guess they assume must be a better parent than her father).  I get it.  I do.  When half of all marriages end in divorce, the chances are probably pretty good that, if I'm no longer married, I'm probably divorced.  However, it's always a surprising shock when I tell someone that I'm a widower.  This is still a rare thing, I guess, for someone under the age of, say, 60.  What bothers me even more, though, if one assumes I AM divorced, is the surprise that a father would have custody of his daughter over her mother.  I KNOW there are divorced fathers out there who aren't deadbeats, and who even have custody of their kids.  But the percentage is higher for divorced mothers to have custody.

So there are a few things going on here, and I'm going to be making a few generalizations for the sake of my argument (it's my blog, after all).  First is the problem of divorce in our country.  I actually did try to look up the statistics on divorce at the US Census, but got way too overwhelmed by them, so I'm sticking with my marginal knowledge of the subject to say that divorce is a problem.  And by problem, I mean the frequency of divorce.  I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs and justifications of divorce, however I don't think anyone would argue that it's not a negative thing.  I don't think anyone enters into marriage believing it will end in divorce.  But there are a lot of them.  My father is one of eight children and my mother is one of 3, and while my parents are happily married and never divorced, there are seven divorces among their siblings.  I have 30 first cousins, and of the fourteen who have married, some multiple times, there are twelve divorces.  I would say this equates to a problem, and reflects marriage in the US.

Second, there is the likelihood that after most divorces, if there are children, the majority of cases result in the children ending up in custody of their mother.  Given that the father is traditionally more career oriented than the mother, and the mother is traditionally more likely to be home with children than the father, one might think that a father having custody of his children is the exception rather than the rule.

So, after saying all of this, I'll return to my original pet peeve.  When someone hears that I was but am no longer married, they assume that I am divorced.  Because this is thought of as being a negative thing, without knowing any of the details, they are left with a negative thought about me.  Then, when they hear I have a child, and that child actually lives with me (and not her mother), it's assumed that I must be an exceptional father rather than the typical deadbeat dad, which I guess would be a positive, though this also infers that my "ex-wife" must have been a pretty lousy mother if she doesn't have custody of her kids.  Is it any wonder this might bother me?

Anyway, when I share with them the facts, they immediately feel awful that they've made these false assumptions, which makes me feel awful that I've had to correct them after they wrongly assumed I'm a divorced deadbeat.  So the easiest thing is to not say anything, which is usually the case.  So, if I then have a conversation much later that results in us talking about me being a father, or having been married, etc., and I have to tell them about my "situation", they become uncomfortable that I've brought it up, as if it just happened last week instead of ten years ago.

So I'm not sure if any of this makes any sense.  It's way past my bedtime, I'm tired and fighting sleep, and I'm trying to finish this up for my blog tonight, and my thoughts are all over the place.  That said, please have a nice evening, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CHiPs and Your Friendly Neighborhood Parking Enforcement

MeTV has become one of my favorite channels.  It has a boatload of classic old TV shows that it airs, including a bunch that were favorites of mine back in the day.  Shows like the Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes, Leave It To Beaver, Cheers, and Route 66.  But they recently started airing episodes of CHiPs, one of my all-time favorites!

CHiPs was about the adventures of two California Highway Patrol officers who rode police motorcycles.  John Baker (Larry Wilcox) and Frank "Ponch" Poncharello (Erik Estrada) patrolled the highways around the Los Angeles area, chasing the bad guys, speeders, and rescuing the innocents involved in terrible accidents caused by the bad guys.  I watched the show religiously during my younger days.  The show began airing in 1976, when I was about 7 years old, and I loved seeing the incredible accidents and chases that were featured on every episode.  Watching the show now, it seems pretty cheesy.  The acting was a little over the top, though that was mostly due to the scripting and Estrada's big personality.  But it is really a time capsule of the era.  I particularly love seeing the cars.  In 1976, there were a lot of classic cars cruising the highways, including many old muscle cars, and a few cars that you never see on the road anymore, like Ford Pintos and Chevy Vegas.  Mercedes were very popular luxury cars on the show, and I'm really amazed at the number of VW Beetles.  John and Ponch seemed to be the best cops on the force, but their Sargent sure picked on Ponch a lot.  Ponch was there mostly as comedy relief, which surprised me.  I'm sure I haven't seen many of these early episodes since they first aired, but I always remembered Ponch being much more cool.  But they were always in the middle of the action, and that's what made the show so appealing.  I'm sure there were a lot of young boys who wanted to grow up to be police officers after watching this show.  I was one of them.

***

My neighborhood has become a free-for-all with regard to the parking rules.  Several years ago, the residents of our street agreed to a set of guidelines that would be used to enforce the rules for parking on our court.  We are a townhouse community, with half of the homes, on one side of the street, having garages and driveways, and the other half, including my house, on the other side, parking in spaces perpendicular to our homes.  There are two assigned spaces to each home, interspersed with a limited number of designated "visitors" spaces for those who are not residents.  Those homes with driveways and garages are not assigned to any spaces since there is room in their driveways for 3 cars, assuming they use the garage for parking.  There also is limited curb space for parking, as well.

Aside from the occasional visitor parking in a resident's assigned space, there really hadn't been any issues.  At one point, however, I bought a new car, and it was necessary for me to have three vehicles temporarily, until I would be able to sell one.  Since no one was using the visitor space in front of my home, I assumed it would be okay to temporarily park my third vehicle there.  After two days, our resident parking enforcement neighbor came over and asked me to refrain from parking there anymore.  He told me he had received several complaints from neighbors that I was violating the parking rules.  I thought I knew my neighbors well enough that they would tell me if they had a problem with my using the spot, but because I knowingly violated the rules, I agreed to move the car.  I parked it at the end of the street, along the curb near the open entrance to our dead-end street.  The car was only parked there for about a week, and in that time, it was vandalized twice.

Over the past year, several of my neighbors have increased the number of vehicles that they own, one of whom now owns 5 vehicles (due to two of his children now driving).  The visitors spaces are now being used regularly by them because there are too many cars for the available parking spaces.  In addition, the neighbors with driveways are using all of the available curb parking because they don't want to block their spouse's cars parked in the driveway or garage.  Parking is at a premium.  This has become especially problematic since my sister, who comes to my house each weekday morning to get my daughter off to school when I leave for work, is not being able to find parking in the morning because my neighbors are using all of the visitor's spots.  I raised this issue to the "parking official" neighbor, and was told that this was different than my situation several years ago, because I was one driver with three vehicles at the time, as opposed to my neighbors having three, four, or five vehicles with the same number of drivers, and because there just isn't enough parking anymore.  To me, there is no difference.  Visitor spaces should be for visitors.  My argument is falling on deaf ears, however, and no one will stand with me.  I'm not the type that is outspoken about things like this, so all it's doing is making me angry.  I wish there was some way to fix this situation, since I believe it's very unfair.  I think I'm going to have to have a few conversations with my neighbors.  Is it any wonder I want to move?  Stay tuned, because this isn't over.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

True Love Memories

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back To School Night

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

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

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

***

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sax and Violence

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

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

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

***

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

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

RVing, True Love, and Real Men


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

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

***

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

***

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Satisfying Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Domestic Abuse and The NFL

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

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

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

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

HoCo Bloggers Unite at Nottingham's


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

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

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

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

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pizza, 9/11, Rice, and Bloggers

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Sportsday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who I Am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you have a wonderful evening, everyone!