Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hard Times

I have nothing really to say tonight.  It was a difficult day in some respects, and that generally equates to a bit of an emotional breakdown.  I'm not sure what triggered it this time, but it's enough to keep me from wanting to do much of anything right now, let alone writing.  Except sleeping.  I'm really tired.  So I'll try again tomorrow night.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bullet Blog

  • I had a big meeting today in downtown DC, right down the street from the Capitol.  I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, but I never really spent much time in DC, so it's always a bit of a treat to see the major sites, like the Capitol.  If it hadn't been so doggone cold and windy today, I might've taken a few more pictures.
  • It snowed this morning.  I did actually see a few flakes.  But it didn't do much, and our winter still has less snow than any I can remember in the past several years.  My daughter and I love snow, but we're just not getting enough.  That said, my daughter had a two hour delay for school and got to sleep in, which put her in a tremendously great mood. 
  • I got my hair cut today.  It was overdue, as I generally try to get it cut about once each month.  There is a wonderful lady who has been cutting my hair regularly for the past several years.  She works alone at a large shop off of Johns Hopkins Road and US 29 in Laurel/Fulton, near the Applied Physics Lab.  Not only does she trim my hair, but she shaves my nick, trims my beard, and trims my eyebrows.  I'd call that full service.  If you're in Howard County, and you're looking for an independent barber/stylist who knows what she's doing, give her a try.
  • Today was the two year anniversary of my first communication with the wonderful young lady who became my best friend.  Zippy and I had what I would call a unique relationship.  We fit each other like two elementary school kids who had the same lunchbox, and we created a level of sharing and trust that you just don't find without years of investment.  But we had it, and we leaned on each other through some difficult trials.  I'm so appreciative of her support, her advice, and her friendship over the past two years, as it has meant so much to me.  Thanks for being my best friend, Zip!
  • Our God is awesome.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Film to Beta to VHS to Super 8 Video to DVD to Digital to....

My father is the resident cameraman and documenter for our family.  He was one of the first of his siblings to have a Super 8 movie camera, way back when I was born, and he used it to document so many of our family events through the 70s, capturing vacations and special moments for pretty much my entire life.

Then, in the early 80s, he bought a video camera, which was an expensive proposition back then.  Not only was it a video camera... it was a Betacam.  Beta tapes were smaller than VHS, and provided a better picture, but VHS became the standard and Beta eventually was phased out.  Before that, though, Dad captured all of my awkwardness through my teen years, and those videos are preserved for all time, much to my chagrin.  At least I had reached puberty.  My younger brother wasn't so lucky, and his video history is much more varied in all its awkwardness. 

Unfortunately, Dad's camera wasn't to last.  He finally converted over to VHS in the late 80s.  But it meant we had to convert all of our home videos that were on Beta over the VHS.  This wasn't the first time Dad would find himself having to do that.

A decade later, he moved over to Super 8 video, and it mean a new format for everything.  That worked out okay, though, since he had no problem copying his home videos onto VHS so that everyone could have copies.  Of course, by that time, DVDs were the popular choice, and digital video was preferred.  Dad made this transition, though, by getting a Tivo Humax, which easily converted video over to DVDs.

Fast forward a few more years, and I had my own Super 8 Camcorder.  This worked great since my wife and I were traveling a great deal and we were able to document our trips.  Soon, my daughter was born, and having these priceless videos became even more important.  But because I wanted a more stable format, I made another conversion over to a camcorder that recorded onto mini DVDs.  I was happy to my videos in a digital format.  Dad continued using his Tivo Humax, though, to create his DVDs.

In recent days, Dad's camcorder stopped working, and he's struggling again to make a transition to a new format.  He is trying out a digital camcorder, but it is so tiny, and he doesn't like that he can't keep the videos smooth.  They bounce quite a bit.  The positive is that the videos are already digital.

It seems like technology is progressing faster and faster each day, and formats we're using today are practically ancient as soon as they become available.  What can one do?

Dad will likely continue to use what is most familiar to him, regardless of whether it's a new technology or ancient.  So as long as he has something he can use, he'll continue to document our family.  And that's fine with me.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Shake Shack Is A Bit Shaky

I'm feeling a lot better.  I spent the past week recovering from a violent bout with food poisoning, and I am finally feeling like I can eat normal food again.  Soup, saltines, and ginger ale have been my diet, and that's all I've been able to stomach.  So daughter Melody told me she wanted to go to a new restaurant, one she had gone to while in New York City with friends last summer:  Shake Shack.

Shake Shack is basically a chain of burger joints, and they just opened a location over at the Mall at Columbia, right across from the movie theaters.  So we headed over to give it a try.

First of all, the place is hopping.  It's still relatively new, so there was a huge crowd inside even though we arrived at around 5 pm hoping to beat the dinner crowd.  Second, it isn't really a sit-down restaurant, like I expected.  You place your order at the counter first, find a table, and wait for your name to be called when your food is ready.

Shake Shack does not have a varied menu.  It's pretty much all burgers.  After the week I had, I wasn't sure about whether I should take the chance of eating something like a hamburger, but given that there isn't much else, that's what I got.  But before I ordered, I wanted to make sure I looked over the entire menu.  The lady at the counter taking our order didn't seem to have a lot of patience for me, and kept asking me what I wanted.  I finally settled on something I wasn't sure I wanted, but I went with it.  At least Melody knew what she wanted, and was able to fill the idle time.  I should add that Shake Shack also specializes in shakes, and Melody ordered one.  I got a double burger, but I wanted to add a side of their secret sauce, since that's what makes the place unique.  No problem, she said.

We paid, she gave me a pager, asked for my name, and then we looked for a table.  I'm disappointed that, when they designed the restaurant, they really didn't take into account its popularity.  They needed a heck of a lot more tables.  There were a lot of people just kind of hovering around waiting to pounce on a table as soon as patrons vacated one.  That made it virtually impossible to find a place to sit.  Melody and I decided to just hang out near the counter and wait for our food, then just leave.  It was not nice enough to eat outside, so we determined that it would be easier to cross the parking lot and head for the food court inside the mall and eat there.

Our pager went off before our food was ready, so while it flashed and vibrated in my hand, we continued to wait until they brought our food from the kitchen to the counter, when they yelled for "Eric!"  I grabbed our bag of food, we got a bunch of napkins, a couple of straws, and bailed.  We hustled over to the food court and easily found seats.  That's when I discovered that, while we had all of our food, they neglected to give me my side of secret special sauce.  Obviously, we weren't going to walk all the way back to the restaurant to get it, so I stewed a bit.  I was really disappointed.  I also have to add that the burgers were the really greasy kind, a lot like what you might get at Five Guys.  They were good, but VERY greasy, and probably not something I should be eating.  Melody was happy, though, and particularly enjoyed her shake.

All in all, I wasn't impressed with Shake Shack.  I'm not a big fan of Five Guys, and other burger joints like it, so it's just not my thing.  If I want a good burger, I'd rather use my George Foreman grill and make it with leaner ground beef, but that's me.  If you like basic sloppy burgers, though, then maybe you'll like Shake Shack.  I can't vouch for the secret special sauce, though, since they didn't give me any.  I also recommend going at a time when no one else is eating, since you likely won't find a table.  Sigh.  I miss Uno's.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Eluding Happiness

Happiness eludes me.

I was always kind of a moody guy, even as a kid, but I was never unhappy until tragedy struck my family when I was in my late teens.  That was when my grandparents were killed in a car accident, riding in a vehicle I was driving when we were rear-ended by a tractor trailer.  That sent my family spiraling into a hole of grief and depression that we've only been able to climb out of for short periods of time.

In 1998, I met Teresa, and we were inseparable for the next 6 years.  We married less than a year and a half after we began dating, and those years were easily the happiest of my life.  She was awesome, and we did so much together, living life fully and experiencing everything that God blessed us with.  Our marriage brought us a little girl named Melody, and we loved her like no one else.  Then Teresa passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart complication.  Melody was 5 months old at the time, and Teresa's death and home-going left me crippled in grief, a widower at the age of 34, and a single parent of a little baby.

There were many lonely nights over the next thirteen years, and while my daughter absolutely provides me with many happy moments, given her love of life, music, and laughter, in addition to all of the things we do together, my overall demeanor is melancholic, with intense feelings of grief, depression and solitude.

I really wish I could shake it.  I desire to be happy again, and my daughter and I do live full, active lives, but I can't seem to find true happiness.  I feel like such a poor witness of my faith, which remains strong.  As a Christ-follower since my teens, I know that I can give all of this to the Lord and He will take it and restore me.  And in many ways, He has.  But I still forget to give it all to Him, and my grief and depression weigh on me daily.

I hate the way this makes me feel.  I can see how it impacts many aspects of my life, and how it keeps me from desiring a loving relationship with a potential partner.  It keeps me from being more positive about my outlook on life.  It impacts my career in negative ways.  It drags me down.  It affects my health.  It affects my relationship with family and friends.  It impacts my daughter.  There really are no good aspects to holding on to these feelings.

What am doing about it?  I began taking steps a while ago, but I finally joined a support group.  I know I should have done this years ago, but, even now, the intensity of the grief that the group is forcing me to face is almost more than I can handle, and I'm facing sad memories that cause my heart to ache.  I know I have to face these things, though.

One thing I learned, within the first few years of Teresa's death and home-going, is that a loss like this isn't something that one "gets over."  This is one of those life events that becomes a part of you, a part of your story, a part of who you are and what makes you the person you are now.  The realization that I wasn't going to get over Teresa's death actually allowed me to accept and deal with it.

But happiness eludes me.  Maybe another major life event will bring me to a better place than where I am.  But I pray that God will continue to be with me and help me deal with it.

Thanks.  Have a great evening, everyone.

Friday, January 26, 2018

iPhone Battery

So I'm getting back to normal, slowly but surely, and I actually felt fairly decent today.  I'm still taking it easy with the diet, sticking with bland, tasteless, not-so-great foods (not true....peanut butter and saltines are tasty, as is ginger ale).  I'm sure glad it's Friday.

You may have heard about the Apple iPhone battery issues, and how they intentionally used batteries that were not powerful enough, or some nonsense, and caused the phones to suddenly shutdown.  My daughter had one of these phones.  We put up with it for over a year, wondering if perhaps we got a lemon, or maybe the salesman cheated us and gave us a used, refurbished phone instead of a new one.  I have trust issues,  I guess, but we definitely had a problem.  The news from Apple about this battery issue resolved a lot of that wonder, and we set out to get her phone fixed at our first opportunity.

I read all of the documentation from Apple about how to get a new battery, and the recommendation to make an appointment.  So I did, getting one this afternoon at our local Apple store.  The time and location was exactly what I wanted.  I told me daughter, who had a half-day of school, to back up her phone and be ready when I got home from work.

We went right to the Apple store and were greeted with pandemonium.  The place was mobbed with people, and there was no one really telling us what to do.  I assumed that we needed to go to the desk at the back of the store, having overheard an employee tell another customer to do that, and sign in.  We headed to the back, and waited.  It was still unclear what we needed to do.  After about ten minutes, and no one approaching us, but many people apparently waiting for service, I grabbed an employee who was walking by.  He told me to check in with this guy standing in the middle of the store with an iPad.  I never would've known that's what we were supposed to do.

Anyway, the guy checked us in, which apparently put us in a queue, and we waited at a table for our turn.  Fortunately, we only had to wait another 15 minutes.

"Elvis" quickly did a diagnostic and confirmed what we knew:  My daughter's phone needed a new battery.  Unfortunately, they had none in stock, and it would take 3 to 5 business days for it to come in.  The good news is that we had a warranty and it would be free, and they would call us to let us know when it comes in, and we only had to drop off the phone and it would be fixed as quickly as possible.

So we're getting my girl's phone fixed, finally, and it won't cost us a thing, and I'll have peace of mind knowing that her phone won't die on her at an inopportune time anymore.  That's what a parent needs to hear.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sick and Tired

The past few days have been tough.  I'm still recovering from a violent bout with food poisoning, and I have yet to feel normal.  While sick in bed during the worst of it, on Sunday, I felt like I was dying.  It was such an awful feeling.  I had constant nausea coupled with waves of vomiting.  At the rate I was expelling everything I had eaten over the past several days, it was only a matter of time before I began throwing up food I hadn't eaten yet.  My body seemed to be rejecting life as I knew it.  The only positives seemed to be the abs of steel I was developing with the number of times I up-chucked, and the fact that I was losing a few pounds of water as my body became more and more dehydrated.

So, life has not returned to normal for our household.  My wonderful daughter continues to take care of me.  I attempted to get back to work, but that didn't turn out so well.  I was miserable, and only made it through half the day.  I do feel a little better than before.  I'm eating solid food again, though only bland things, like crackers and soup.  I'm sleeping better, and that helps pass the time.  Before, I found myself hallucinating when I tried to sleep, and I was up every few hours anyway.  Now I can sleep for longer periods of time.

I'm anxious to get back to writing regularly, but I just haven't been up to it other than short updates.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Food Poisoning

My daughter and I decided to eat out on Saturday evening, as we usually do following the service at Grace Community Church.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants and had a good meal, then we went home, eventually turning in for the night.

At around 4am, I woke up feeling sick.  I didn't realize just how bad until I went into the bathroom and threw up.  After that, I think I threw up about every half hour for the next six hours.  I was really sick.  I concluded that I likely had food poisoning.

I felt no better as the day went along, and stayed in bed pretty much all day.  The nausea never let up.  But at least I wasn't throwing up anymore.  But I never had an appetite and didn't eat or drink anything.  I didn't feel up do it.  I drifted in and out of sleep all day.

My daughter played nurse for me, and by 4pm or so, I had a craving for ice water.  My daughter brought me a full cup and it was the best tasting water I have ever had.  I finished the entire cup over the next 20 minutes.

Two hours later, I was desperately trying to quell a wave of nausea, by I was sweating profusely and knew I wouldn't be able to hold back.  I went into the bathroom and began another spell of vomiting.  It continued about every few hours until 10:30pm or so.  I finally fell asleep, but I tossed and turned all night.  I actually thought about going to the emergency room, because I was feeling so terrible.

I awoke at around 7am this morning.  I had already made arrangements with work to be off today, which was much needed.

While I didn't have anymore vomiting spells, I continued to be nauseous all day.  I took a quick trip to the store to get some Pepto and saltines, as well as a case of ginger ale.  I still hadn't eaten anything since Saturday night, but I knew I needed to stay hydrated, and I figured I might benefit from having something on my stomach.

It's now 8:30pm and I have an important meeting at work tomorrow.  I'm still not feeling well at all.  I'm hoping that I can get some rest this evening, and maybe I will be well enough to get back to work.  If you're a praying person, I would appreciate your prayers.  The past 40 hours have been miserable, and I just want to feel better.  Thanks.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Don't I Know You?

I received a rather alarming wake-up call recently, and I'm sharing this as a cautionary tale:  I was recognized by someone I don't know.  And this isn't the first time.

I kind of look at this blog as an anonymous thing.  I don't trumpet it except through Twitter and, more recently, on Instagram, though I keep that as a private account.  If you follow me on Twitter or on Instagram, I have links back to the blog.  But I don't advertise it on my personal Facebook account, where most "friends" know me already, in my "Clark Kent" guise.  I guess I'm just a little self-conscious about letting those who know me best to see my public persona as a blogger.  It allows me to be just a bit more free in my writing if I know my family doesn't read what I'm writing about.  Especially since, sometimes, it's about them!

A few years ago, my church, Grace Community, held a big outdoor service "out on the lawn," I was recognized by a blog reader who goes to my church.  He surprised me, in a good way, but it was the first time that had happened, and I was a little bit taken aback.  I don't write this blog for any kind of adulation or attention.  It's a personal thing for me.  It started out as a way for me to journal, but I soon discovered that it would be a personal way for me to remember and post about my wife.  I also found that I actually like to write, and I have a story to tell.  Whether others wanted to read it was secondary, but I've been surprised, and just a little humbled, by how many actually do read it, though my time away over most of the past year lowered the readership substantially.

But this isn't about the blog.  I was recognized for a completely different reason, and it caused me to think about this subject.  A few months ago, my daughter and I were at the Bengies Drive-in, and we were recognized by one of the regular employees.  In the past, we always took my little 2-seat Mazda to the theater, but, more recently, over the past several years, it has been easier to take our Jeep Wrangler, since it provides a lot more room and comfort to spread out, which is nice to have when you're over six feet tall.  We were recognized by the employee because he remembered we usually are in the Mazda, though, and he asked me about it.  I came away from that exchange feeling troubled.

I think of myself as a background kind of guy, with average looks and a "blend-into-the-woodwork" demeanor.  My daughter and I are out and about quite a bit, and, again, I kind of assume that we're just an average twosome when we're in public, not standing out in any way.  But I started to wonder what might cause us to stand out from the crowd.  I don't know what it might be.

In today's age, where everyone seems to want their moment in the sun, and given how easy that is with social media, I feel it's better to not stand out.  While that might sound funny from someone who writes a public blog, there are way too many crazy people out there.  It's just too easy for others to find information about your private life, and that's kind of scary, too.  When the boundary between those who actually know you is crossed by those who only know you from social media, it makes me a bit nervous, more so for my daughter's sake than my own.  So I take some precautions.

But out in the real world, it's a little different.  In the case of the incident at the Bengies, I'm not too overly concerned because the recognition was only in relation to the vehicles I drive.  But it gives me pause, and I'm more cognizant of it now.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Terp Vampire Dude

I found a bunch of old pics in a folder on my computer, and had fun viewing them after quite a few years.  One that I liked is the one above.  My daughter, Melody, and I took one of our late summer trips just before school started.  We loaded up our Mazda 2-seater (with hardly enough room for our stuff, necessitating the use of our trunk luggage rack.  We spent several days at Ocean City, MD, then we drove down the DelMarVa peninsula to Williamsburg, VA, and spent several more days at Busch Gardens.  It was a fun little trip, and one we repeated a few times.  Anyway, during our drive south, after Ocean City, and just before we reached the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, we pulled off at a little scenic rest area and took a few pics of the scenery, including this one.  I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful traveling partner in my daughter.  My wife and I took many trips much like this one, and I'm glad we can continue the tradition.

This pic is of my knickknacks on my desk at work.  The mug is from The Mentoring Project, dedicated to mentoring children of fatherless families, co-founded by Dr. John Sowers.  This organization means a lot to me, and I love their mugs, which I bought for all of the managers who work for me.  They're all bosses (and leaders and mentors), in my mind.  The Kenyan elephant was a gift from a dear friend, and the Indian elephant was a gift from my former boss.  Of course, the mini-football has a Steelers logo, and the little display contains a bunch of Bible verses; the one on display says:  "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22)."  All of these items remain on my desk, and are reminders of meaningful things, moments, and people in my life.

I was watching the Maryland Men's basketball team play a game against Minnesota last evening, a game the Terps won handily.  As halftime ended, the camera focused in on the game's TV announcers, Len Elmore and Tim Brando.  I couldn't help noticing the kid behind them.  He was dancing and gyrating, trying to steal the attention of viewers, obviously, and he did a great job.  But the funniest thing was seeing the french fries stuck in his mouth, making him look like a vampire, I guess.  It was pretty funny.  Kudos to the Terp Vampire Dude...

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Missing My Incredible Wife

Grief is such a powerful emotion.  I've been thinking about my wife, Teresa, a lot over the past few days, and it makes me just as sad as it makes me happy.  I lost her way too early in our marriage, just under five years in, and it sometimes just doesn't seem fair, even though there are no guarantees in life.  God promises eternal life, and our faith in and acceptance of our Lord and Savior will bring us to a new life after death, but our life here on planet Earth is full of challenges and sadness, joy and happiness, pain and sorrow.  The circumstances surrounding Teresa's death are tragic, for those of us left behind to live without her.  My daughter and I miss her everyday.

The best and worst part of parenthood is watching your child grow up.  I love seeing my daughter, Melody, grow into the wonderfully intelligent and talented young lady she's become.  I love being able to have incredible conversations with her about almost anything.  I love that she gets me, and I understand this teenager better than I would have expected.  I hate that she's not that little girl in the picture above anymore.  I hate that the shy, innocent, toddler is no longer so shy, nor innocent.  I hate that I can no longer sweep her off her feet, give her a hug and a kiss, and get giggles of laughter when I tickle her knees.  I love that she now gets slightly embarrassed when I give her a hug and kiss after one of her school band concerts in front of her classmates, but she still lets me do it.  I love being this girl's father.  No matter how inadequate I feel as a single dad, how can I not feel like she's turned out even better than I ever could have hoped?

Melody got a raw deal.  Life is life, and God blessed us so much, and I know He had His reasons for taking my wonderful wife and Melody's Mom, Teresa, from us when Melody was only five months old.  But it stinks that she was so young that she never knew her mom like I knew her, and was cheated out of a normal two-parent childhood.  Teresa loved Melody so much.  I wish Melody could see that now.  She only has me and her family and friends who knew Teresa to tell her stories of her life, and I hope Melody never stops being surprised by her mother's accomplishments.  And Melody has so many of Teresa's positive characteristics, like her smile, her humor, her loveliness, her talent, and her intelligence, just off the top of my head.

I wish Teresa could've lived long enough to see this beautiful human being we created grow into this incredible young lady.  I pray that Melody will come to know the Lord like her mom and me, and know that she will see her again one day.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pain and Grief

Found myself reliving some painful memories tonight.  In lieu of a regular post, let me just leave you with this verse:

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  - 1 Peter 5:10

More tomorrow

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.

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