Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Directionally Challenged

I realize that many people have difficulty with directions, and finding their way without the modern conveniences of GPS on our smart phones makes it infinitely easier to travel, particularly in areas one isn't familiar.  We have moved well past the days when one needed to have a trusted road map or atlas in their car when they travel.  I guess I'm just a bit old fashioned in that regard, since I do still like having a paper map with me.  Don't get me wrong; I use my GPS, too, and it has helped me out of many jams, especially in the downtown of a new city I may be visiting for the first time.  But there's more to this than just the ease of travel.

That said.... I read this today:  Google Maps may now tell you, "Turn left at McDonald's"

The downfall of society, indeed.

Look, I get it.  It's probably a lot easier for most people to have directions given to them using landmarks, rather than using street names on signs that one may not be able to see.  But, as a bit of a traditionalist, I can't help but be disappointed that technology is taking so many skills out of our hands.  Understanding basic directions should be something everyone can understand.  I mean, it used to be that we could find our way based on the position of the sun.  Now everything is spoon fed to us.  Maybe I'm overstating this, but I sincerely believe this is another example of the dumbing down of society.

I guess it's also another example of me turning into an old man.  It used to be that I didn't care about these types of things, but now it really bothers me, like finding walnuts in chocolate chip cookies.  We no longer have to learn things, since all of the answers are only a tap away.  "Alexa, what is the meaning of life?"  Alexa: "42."

I'll just head back to my car with my Rand McNally Road Atlas and figure out how to avoid that wrong turn in Albuquerque.  It's probably the next left after the Sears that just went out of business.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Falling In Love

I've never gone on more than a few second dates.  I'm a fairly good judge of character and I'm observant enough to be able to tell if a first date is going well, and whether a date is interested in me or me in her.  If things go well, the second date is usually requested at the end of the first date.  If they do not go well, or if I know that she isn't a good match, the end of the date is the end.  The vast majority of my first dates have ended that way.

I had been dating a young lady for almost six months.  My cousin and roommate, Dan, knew I wasn't happy in the relationship, and I had hinted a few times that I couldn't see a future with her.  She just didn't seem that into me, but I had been hanging on to the relationship trying to make it work.  When she broke off a date for that Saturday night, Dan told me, over breakfast, that I should come to his church that evening to see the Easter play that they were performing.  He told me about a young lady who had a part in the play that I might be interested in meeting.  Dan hadn't tried any matchmaking in the almost year we had lived together, so I was intrigued, and since I didn't have any plans, I agreed to go.

That evening, I found myself in the audience at Montrose Baptist Church for the Easter play.  It was a good show, and I spent most of the performance trying to figure out which actress was the one Dan wanted me to meet, since he had neglected to tell me her name.  It wasn't until after the show, when Dan invited me to dinner with a bunch of the cast, that he told me her name:  Teresa.

I followed Dan over to the restaurant.  We walked over to a table where about 7 or 8 young ladies were seated.  Dan quickly did introductions, and then sat down next to Teresa, which placed him between her and me on the same side of the table.  I never got to talk to her the whole evening!  It wasn't until later that night, back at our place, that I told him what he did.  He wasn't even aware that he prevented me from talking to her.  That didn't stop him from asking me if I wanted to get her number, and find out if she might be interested in going out.  I was interested enough, so he did, and she did, and we set it all into motion.

Before that, however, I went out one more time with the other woman.  And we had The Talk.  And she confirmed what I was feeling, and we agreed to break up.  And it was hard.  I think anytime you invest in a relationship, especially one that lasts as long as ours did, the break up is hard, even if I knew it wasn't going to last.  But breaking up was the right thing to do.  I never heard from her again.

Teresa had gone away for Spring Break, so she wasn't aware of my break up.  I didn't tell her, since she didn't need to know.  I was looking forward, and it was almost a month later before we went out on our first date.  It was magical!  We had a great time, and hit it off better than I could have expected.  I think the only regret I had was not asking for a kiss goodnight, since I was trying so hard to be a gentleman, and I didn't want to come across as being too forward.  Teresa was special, and it was clear I wanted a second date.  She was on board, and we made plans to get together the following Saturday.

We exchanged emails all week, and talked on the phone on Friday afternoon.  Like a dummy, I didn't pick up any of the hints that she dropped on me about getting together that evening.  I told her I had laundry to do.  After I got off the phone, Dan called me an idiot, and said I needed to call her back.  Sure enough, he was right.  Teresa was very interested, and I told her I'd pick her up and we could get a late dinner.

It was a long drive, going from Montgomery Village, where I lived, to Laurel, where she shared an apartment with her college friend, Kristen.  This was long before I had a cell phone.  By the time I got to her place, she informed me that Kristen had been complaining about a pain in her abdomen, and had gone to the emergency room.  Teresa was going to follow, but she was waiting for me to arrive so she could tell me that she had to break off our date.  I asked her if she wanted me to go with her.  She was so surprised that I was willing to do that, and we rushed over to the Laurel Hospital together.  It was a long time before we found out how Kristen was doing.  While not too serious, the doctors wanted to do more tests, so, at around midnight, with all of us feeling hungry, Teresa and I made a late night run to Wendy's, bringing back burgers for everyone.

Kristen was released shortly after that, and I took Teresa back to her apartment, saying good night at around 2am.  I was exhausted, and so was Teresa, and we still had a date scheduled for later that day!  Teresa gave me a kiss goodnight this time, and I drove home floating on air.

I was up late, but Teresa and I were scheduled to see an afternoon matinee at the movies.  It was then that I think we both knew that we were in love.  The movie, TITANIC, had nothing to do with it.  Given the amount of time we spent with each other over 24 hours, and all the time talking and sharing, gave us such a sense of comfort with each other.

Even more important, and which became clear to both of us later, is that God had been preparing us for each other, and He knew we were ready for the relationship that was developing.  He brought a love for each other into our hearts, and it blossomed quickly into something truly special, something that neither of us had ever felt before.  We each had gone down a lot of road.  I was 28 when we met, and she was 25.  We dated for less than a year before I asked her to marry me.  God blessed us with a wonderful marriage, and life was good.

I wish that we had been given more time together.  Teresa passed from this life almost exactly six years after we met, with just over 4 and a half years of marriage.  She was a mother for only five months, bringing our daughter, Melody, into the world.

I loved Teresa like no one else, and miss her every single day.  I know that she is living in eternity with our Lord and Savior because she had a relationship with Him, and I know that I will see her again someday.

Thank you, Lord, for our wonderful life together.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Righteous or Wronged

Sometimes it's hard to admit when you're wrong.  It's even harder when you feel like you've been wronged.

My organization is going through a major realignment.  These types of things happen in the public sector all the time, always under the guise of making things better and more efficient.  Given our current president's desire for efficiencies, my director wanted to move our organization in that direction, and asked my colleagues and I to work together to come up with a plan that would take us there.  My group in particular has been working towards becoming more efficient by automating our processes, and the director actually used my group as his inspiration for his realignment idea.  We worked together to come up with a plan, but one aspect of it will mean moving me out of my current position, and will actually result in a major change in my own status, however, given the timeframe for the automation plan, I argued that delaying it by up to two years to allow for the completion of the automation, then realigning, made more sense.  My peers agreed, and we worked towards that end, with our completion date estimated to be about two years.

Everything changed in recent weeks, though, with the higher-ups deciding that we should move forward with the realignment much more quickly than what was called for in our plan.  In addition, since my job is impacted in the plan, I was informed by our director that I needed to find a new position in the organization.  I surmised that all of the group managers would be involved in the realignment, with seniority being the deciding factor.  The director disagreed, and that I would be removed, despite the fact that I was a senior member of the team.  This would result in me being demoted and reassigned to another team, losing my status and my area of responsibility.

My boss met with me a few weeks ago to discuss with me the changes, and assured me that it had nothing to do with my performance, and everything to do with numbers.  I argued that there were many other factors not being considered, including the fact that my group was the only one that had accomplished his efficiency goals.  He said that was a consideration, and emphasized again that my group's accomplishments were what inspired him to realign in the first place, so it was my own fault.  He told me that it would make a lot more sense for me to move to another area of the organization where I might learn different aspects of our mission.  This will take me out of a job that I've been doing for almost seven years.

I was pretty upset, and became even angrier when I found out that much of my work and accomplishments will be disregarded by the new manager, and my decisions were being questioned.  In addition, instead of waiting for the approval and processing of paperwork for the realignment, which would likely take 12 to 18 months, since I am now a lame duck, my boss is going to move me out of my job within the next few months.  I can't help but be disappointed over the whole thing, and I became angry and resentful towards my boss and my peers, assuming that they were intentionally moving me out of the job I loved, and that I had no support from anyone.  I was humiliated, and quick to blame everyone else.  I was so stressed out and disappointed, I couldn't sleep, and I stewed about it constantly, too proud to see what was really happening.

Saturday evening, I was at Grace Community Church, my church home, at the worship service, and Pastor Mitchel's message was a continuation of his series on the book of James.  The key verse for me was James 1:12 - "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

It was an "aha" moment for me.  You see, I've spent much of the past year involved in determining the direction we were going to take as an organization, and I selfishly found myself more concerned about my own path.  Now, I could argue that they are one and the same, but the reality is that my desires and those of our Lord and Savior are not always aligned.  This was the reality check for me.  Rather than stress out and be angry and blame others and assume I'm being wronged because things are not going in the direction I want, maybe I need to have a little faith and trust that God has this and is going to take me down the path He wants me to take.  Maybe I need to be more humble and stop looking at this as a demotion.  The truth is that my salary will not be affected, so I'm really not losing anything.  I still have a job.  I'm just not going to be doing what I think I should be doing.

So I'm going to trust God.  I have to trust God.  I need to stop worrying and accept a path that I can't control, and have faith that God knows what I need more than I do.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Dating a Widower

A little over four years ago, I wrote a post here on the blog, found HERE, that is one of the most read and commented on posts that I've every written.  It's about Wives of Widowers (WOWs) and Girlfriends of Widowers (GOWs).  I found the subject interesting, since I am a widower and I've attempted to date (unsuccessfully) since my wife passed on from this life fourteen years ago, so I wrote that post, never imagining that it would still be so popular. 

What I find amazing is the number of women who have written to me, or commented on this post, asking for advice about dating a widower.  One even lectured me on all of the things I'm doing wrong.  It prompted me to write tonight's post in order to clarify just how inadequate I am, and how inappropriate it is for me to offer anyone any advice on this subject.  I'm just a blogger.  I'm not a professional of any kind, and this isn't an advice column.  I provided some advice to those who wrote to me asking for it, but I really don't feel right doing it any longer.

Every situation is different, and I'm no expert on the subject.  In fact, I just wrote a post earlier this week about why I don't date anymore, so I'm pretty sure I'm not qualified to offer anyone any advice.  If you're a GOW or WOW, please seek professional counseling or find advice from someone else.  I'm not going to be able to help anyone except myself.

What I will share is that I still suffer from depression, which was brought about following my wife's death and home-going, and the grief associated with that is something I deal with even 14 years later.  It's not something one "gets over."  The death of a loved one, whether it's a child, spouse, parent, sibling, or friend, becomes a part of your life story.  In the case of the death of a spouse, it's important to remember that everyone's timetable to begin dating is going to be different. There are as many different situations as there are husbands who lost their wives.  If you choose to date a widower, just be aware of that, and be sure that you keep the lines of communication open all the time.

As for me, I've tried to date, but it's just not in the cards.  I've given up, and my desire to date is just not there.  That said, if you're the praying type, I would appreciate your prayers for me and my daughter.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let's Go, Pens!

Blog is cancelled tonight due to the start of the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Pittsburgh Penguins attempting a 3-peat, their third straight championship, versus the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.

Let's go, Pens!!!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why I Won't Date

This post kind of meandered a bit while I was writing it, so I'm not sure just how much sense it will make.  But it's where my thoughts took me tonight, so please bear with me.

When my wife left this life, it changed my life forever, and I joined a unique club of those who have lost their spouse at a relatively young age.  Teresa was 31 when she passed on, and we had been married for only 4 and a half years.  I was 34, a newly single father of an infant daughter, and trying to balance parenthood with a promising career.  Along with all of that, I was also contending with overwhelming grief, and I quickly sank into a deep depression.

It was several years before I felt like I could think about dating again.  I hated dating before I was married, and going back into the dating pool was not something I relished.  However, my marriage had been such a wonderful experience for me, and the loneliness I felt without a companion by my side was enough motivation for me to try online dating services, something that didn't really exist before I met Teresa.

With the support of my family, I jumped in.  I didn't have much luck.  I'm not sure I had any second dates.  I hated that I had to start over after I had already found the love of my life.  Being a widower was a huge part of my identity, too, and it became the elephant in the room with each date.  Being an introvert made it difficult to discuss my wife with these dates, but too often they wanted to know what happened to her, and that opened up the emotion associated with the grief, and that scared off several dates.  It was apparent that I really shouldn't be dating.  I just wasn't ready.

But friends saw me dating and assumed that I was "recovered" and "over" the loss of my wife, and while I was hurting inside, I didn't want anyone to know that you never "get over" something like that.  It actually becomes a part of who you are, one of your life experiences.  So I pretended to be fine, even while I avoided their efforts to set me up on dates.

But these friends couldn't understand why I didn't want to date.  The reality is that depression got worse and worse.  When I'm down, I'm really down, and I'm no good to anyone.  I recognize the signs of depression now, and while I can't prevent it from affecting me, I am better able to prepare for it.  And I'm getting treatment for it, too, which is important.  So I know that I shouldn't be dating, anyway.

Another complication with dating is that my daughter told me she didn't like it when I dated.  I think she believed that she would no longer be the center of my attention, and she didn't want to share her father with anyone.  She also doesn't know what it's like to have a mother, since Teresa died when daughter Melody was only five months old, so "normal" for her was just the two of us.  This bothered me a lot, and I hated that it bothered her.  So I finally made the decision not to date at all anymore, and I haven't for almost five years.

I'm not opposed to dating again, and I believe I'm capable of finding love again, but it isn't a priority in my life.  God has a plan for my life, so I won't say never.  But I don't need to have anyone in my life to be happy and content, and that's good enough for me.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Faithful Pup Scout

To live and love is to know loss, and I guess I've lived and loved a whole lot.  I've lost many loved ones over the years, and the pain of those losses remains in some capacity for all time.

A week ago, we experienced the lost of a beloved member of our family, our Faithful Maltese Pup, Scout.  She was in my life for just over 16 years.  Born on January 1, 2002, in a suburb of Pittsburgh, the puppy who came to my wonderful wife, Teresa, and me was brought to the attention of my aunt by a breeder friend, and she called us to let us know there was a little Maltese dog available to us if we wanted her.  She was the only pup in the litter.  Teresa excitedly told me we had to get her, and so we did.

And just over 10 weeks later, on March 17, we headed to my aunt's house in Pittsburgh and we met little Scout, named after the little girl in my wife's favorite novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee.  She was a bundle of energy, that little dog, and she chased my aunt's two Maltese pups all over her house for the rest of the afternoon.  Teresa said it was love at first sight, and she loved that little pup as if it was our child.  I thought to myself that afternoon that, if she loved that dog that much, then she was going to make a wonderful mother to our children.

Scout was absolutely Teresa's dog, but she knew I was the pack leader of our little family, and she became my little shadow when I was home.  She was spoiled rotten, though, and while I attempted to do the right thing and crate train her, it wasn't long before Scout was sleeping in our bed.  Scout never surpassed 9 pounds soaking wet, but it's amazing the amount of room she took up in our bed.

With the arrival of our little girl, Melody, two years later, Scout's immense curiosity of this little baby who joined our family soon turned to protector, and while there would be a little bit of jealousy in her little body, she knew that she was still loved.  Melody and Scout became buddies as Melody got older, and Scout showed great patience when Melody played too rough or pulled her hair.

Our lives changed forever when my wonderful wife, Teresa, left this life in the Spring of 2004.  I was overwhelmed by the challenges brought on by being a single father and widower.  Grief took over, and while I mourned, I watched little Scout mourn, as well.  She knew Teresa was gone.  All of us were hurting.

But Scout and I became even closer, with her hanging on to me as her master, and Scout providing the comfort I needed as a connection to Teresa.  She became my dog.  And I watched her continue to bond with Melody.

Scout began aging very quickly over the last few years.  She slowed down a lot, and pretty soon we were carrying her around the house.  Being so small made this easy, and we could see in her face the gratitude and love she had for us.  She found it challenging to run anymore, and soon we could tell she wasn't hearing us like she used to.  Then we noticed her eyes begin clouding over, and she found it hard not do occasionally bump into our furniture and her sight began to fail.  She stopped barking at around the same time, and we developed a kind of sign language, with her letting us know by nudging us when she needed a trip outside, or when she needed to eat or drink.

A year ago, we thought Scout was nearing the end, and we took her to our vet.  They examined her, and gave us some meds, and told us that she was, in fact, in pretty good health for a 15 year old dog.  But we knew then that we were on borrowed time.

She continued to age, and slow down even more.  She had many "accidents," and the challenge for us was that she required so much care.  I imagine it's much like having an elderly parent who requires full time care.  I was being awakened by Scout frequently in the middle of the night in order to take her outside, and she never slept past 7 am each morning, even on weekends.  It was frustrating, but, like marriage, this is what you commit to when you became a pet owner.  This little creature relied on me to care for her, and my love for her meant that I would care for her needs.

Last Wednesday, Scout's demeanor changed dramatically, and she couldn't eat or drink, or walk straight, and she drooled constantly.  She was not herself.  She showed all of the signs of having had a stroke.  We monitored her the rest of the evening, and she showed no improvement.  After a difficult night, I was convinced she was at the end.  On Thursday, I went to work to prepare for being out for several days (Friday was the start of Spring Break), but came home after two hours.  Melody had gone to school, but indicated to me that morning that I would wait for her before taking Scout to the vet.  Scout still showed the same symptoms, but did seem slightly improved.

Scout didn't appear to be suffering other than her physical issues, and I talked to the vet by phone.  They said to bring her in.  As soon as Melody got home, we took Scout to the vet.  It was a sad drive, as we knew it was Scout's last ride.

The vet was so good with Scout, and with us.  We talked options, but it was clear they agreed that, if we were ready, it wasn't a bad decision to have her put down.  We were with Scout until the end, and Melody and I both cried like babies.

The vet provided cremation services, and yesterday we brought her ashes home.

I loved that little dog, and will miss her so much.  She was such a good and faithful companion, for 16 years.  We are so thankful for the time we had with her.  I don't know for sure that our pets have souls, but I'd sure be blessed if the Lord gives us a reunion with our furry friends when this life ends.  And I'd like to think that Scout and Teresa were reunited.

I found the following poem this afternoon, and I'm sharing it here (with credit to the website):


I lost a treasured friend today
The little dog who used to lay
Her gentle head upon my knee
And shared her silent thoughts with me.

She’ll come no longer to my call
Retrieve no more her favourite ball
A voice far greater than my own
Has called her to his golden throne.

Although my eyes are filled with tears
I thank him for the happy years
He let her spend down here with me
And for her love and loyalty.

When it is time for me to go
And join her there, this much I know
I shall not fear the transient dark
For she will greet me with a bark.

        ~Author Unknown 

Thank you, my Faithful Pup Scout, for loving me as much as I loved you...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Goodbye To Our Good and Faithful Pup...

We said goodbye to our wonderful little Faithful Pup Scout this afternoon.  She was 16 years old.  We will miss her so much.  Our lives are just a little less bright without her...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Play Ball!

Baseball season is about to start, and I have a fantasy baseball draft tonight.  That means there will be no post of any value this evening.  Unless you like fantasy baseball and, like me, are excited for the start of baseball season.  Since my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, is already eliminated from post-season contention due to incompetence, I have to rely on the fantasy world of sports.  I actually have two teams so I can stay as distracted as possible.

Play ball!  Have a great evening, everyone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top Ten Reasons to Love Your Boss...

Top Ten reasons your boss gives for moving you out of a job you love during a down-sizing...

10.  "It's a numbers game...  There are more managers than there are positions."

9.  "I feel awful... This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make..."

8.  "It has nothing to do with your performance.  I just haven't spent enough time with you to know what you do...."

7.  "It's actually your fault... You've done too great of a job achieving efficiencies that it gave me the idea we could eliminate your position."

6.  "You'll have to talk to your colleagues.... It was their idea."

5.  "You're just too nice a guy..."

4.  "Seniority doesn't count in this situation..."

3.  "This is good for you... You should learn a new skill-set, anyway..."

2.  "Look at it this way.... Now you'll have more time to spend with your family."

1.  "This is a great thing you're doing...  Thank you for making this easy and taking one for the team..."

Monday, March 26, 2018

Retreat Weekend and Dish Pan Hands

The Grace Students of Grace Community Church went on their semi-annual retreat to NorthBay Camp in North East, MD, over the weekend.  It was a wonderful opportunity for the Grace Students to get away for the weekend, grow in their walk with Christ, and bond with each other.  This was my daughter's sixth retreat and she had a fantastic time, and she came away with an emotional and spiritual high.

For me, it was an opportunity to once again support the students by assisting on the Kitchen Crew, which prepares and serves the meals for the almost 400 students and leaders.  Now that I've done this for the past three years, I guess I'm looked at as one of the more experienced volunteers, and I've found myself leading a small crew in the dish pit for the fourth straight retreat.  The only downside to working in the dish pit is the impact it has on my body.  I'm just not young enough, nor in shape enough, to put that kind of stress on my body, unfortunately. 

A year ago, I messed up my back during the retreat weekend, and I missed several days of work after returning home.  Last Fall, I had surgery four days before the retreat, and while the doctor told me to take it easy for two weeks, I still ended up working in the dish pit, and I got in trouble with my doctor when I went in for my follow-up appointment to have my sutures removed for not following Doctor's Orders.  For the retreat this past weekend, there were again not enough volunteers to help in the dish pit, so I found myself volunteering there again, despite my making a deal with my body not to do it.  And, unfortunately, I paid for it.  I injured my back again, and am currently recovering from the stresses I put on it.

NorthBay is fine camp.  There are a bunch of cabins for the students and their leaders, while the volunteers get to stay in the main lodge.  I'll note that the lodge does not necessarily have the finest sleeping accommodations.  The wooden bunks and worn out mattresses are not at all comfortable, and the bunks are made for bodies shorter than 6 feet tall.  I'm a little over that, and the bunk just doesn't allow a body to stretch out.  It's not made for someone my size, so I don't usually sleep very well. 

I'm not complaining.  If I didn't want to volunteer, I wouldn't do it.  I'm just disappointed in myself for not being in better shape for the type of work required.  I love serving, and this is the best way I can think of to support the youth and the leaders.  There are aspects of the weekend that are a lot of fun.  There are some fantastic messages by the youth pastors, David and Ryan, and the music is inspiring.  It's also a lot of fun to watch the shaving cream battle on the beach.  The kids love it, despite getting covered head to toe in white lather, and it was pretty cold on Saturday afternoon, too.  The camp at NorthBay has plenty of activities, and everyone who attends comes away feeling a bond with one another that only comes through the love of Christ.

The church youth group that I attended while growing up during my teen years also went on an annual retreat, and I continued going on retreats during my ten years as a youth counselor.  They are such wonderful experiences, and I'm so happy that my daughter is able to have the same kinds of experiences.  It really is a great weekend.

I guess I'll have to use this as motivation to get myself in better shape, since I have at least four more years of retreats to get through.  In the meantime, I'm continuing to heavily medicate my body to ease the pain in my back.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

My First Big Road Trip

I was about ten years old when my family took what was perhaps the most influential vacation of my life, and led me to have a life-long love of road trips.

It was 1979, and my parents had purchased an RV trailer the year before, beginning our new family past time of campgrounds, sleeping bags, and mountain pie makers.  Dad pulled our 24 foot trailer with our '77 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, complete with fake wood paneling.  The first year with the RV was spent on occasional weekend getaways, but in the second year, we spread our wings a bit.  Our vacation would span two weeks!  It was easily the longest vacation we had ever taken as a family.

School had just let out, and we loaded up the camper for our big trip.  We hit the road on a hot June afternoon, heading south out of Upper Marlboro, MD, on US 301.  We crossed the Potomac River on that single span bridge (towing the RV with our station wagon across that bridge was an experience all by itself!), and continued to our first destination:  Williamsburg, VA.

We found our campground, settled in, and enjoyed the pool!  The following day was a fantastic visit to Busch Gardens!  The vacation was off to a flying start.  We were in Williamsburg for several days, then we loaded up and headed to our next destination...Holden Beach, on the south coast of North Carolina!

I recall, during the drive down to NC, the station wagon wanted to overheat every time Dad put on the air conditioning.  This meant that we traveled with the windows down for much of the drive.  We had a scary moment when a very large flying bug flew into the window and landed on Mom's shoulder, causing us all to scream and yell, and panicking my poor mother enough that Dad had to pull over.  I think it was a dragonfly, but we couldn't identify it at the time since it flew out as quickly as it flew in, as soon as we stopped.

Holden Beach was pretty memorable.  We met up with my Uncle Jim, Aunt Nancy, and cousin Jimmy, and I fished for the first time while we were there.  The campground was right on the beach, and we spent a lot of time in the Atlantic, too.  Dad, Uncle Jim, Jimmy, and I went out one morning to a nearby pier to do some fishing, and while I didn't catch anything, Uncle Jim caught several large fish.  We also had a crab trap, and we caught a small sand shark in the trap by accident.  Cousin Jimmy and I also discovered little sand crabs near the beach that came out at night, and he caught a bunch of them, placing them in a sand-filled cardboard box.  The crabs burrowed into the sand, creating little holes.  I placed my finger a little too close to one of the holes, and a crab latched on to my finger, pinching it enough to cause me a lot of pain, and I flicked it a good forty feet away trying to get it to let go.

We also took a day trip to Myrtle Beach, the southern-most point of my life up to that time, and we went to our first waterslide.  I had a bad experience when I got to the bottom of the slide, and the person behind me tackled me and knocked me face first into the pool where I breathed in a lot of water.  Back at Holden Beach, I took another spill when a large wave knocked me off my feet, and I drank a lot of water there, too.  I wasn't much of a swimmer, and these experiences caused me to hate the water, something that has carried over into adulthood.

Anyway, after almost a week in Holden Beach, we said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and we headed to Greensboro, NC, to visit with my mother's distant Aunt Virginia, Uncle Hubert, and Aunt Petunia.  Aunt Virginia was the only one we had met before, back when she and dearly-departed Uncle Buddy had visited the DC area.  Uncle Buddy and Aunt Virginia were circus performers years before, once having crossed Niagara Falls on a high wire.  Aunt Virginia had long since retired.  Aunt Petunia was her sister, or cousin, or some kind of relation.  Anyway, it was nice to visit them and they rolled out the red carpet with their southern hospitality.  Instead of staying in the camper, we were able to stay in their houses, which were right next door to each other.  We were there for only two days, but we had a good time.

The next stop was in Roanoke, VA, where we stayed with my Great Uncle Ollie and Aunt Willie.  We were also surprised to find that my grandparents had traveled down from their home in Maryland to visit, too.  It was a party, since we were celebrating my sister's birthday, as well.  Uncle Ollie lived right down the road from the Roanoke Star, so we were able to hike up to see it late one afternoon after dinner.  On the way back down, my sister and I sprinted back to the house, but my brother, only three years old, didn't see us and kept on going down the road.  When everyone else caught up, there was a moment of panic when we couldn't find him.  Dad jumped in the car and drove down the road, finally finding him almost a mile away!  It put quite a scare into everyone.

After three days in Roanoke, we said our goodbyes and headed for home.  It was a good five hours drive, but when we arrived at our house, it felt like we had been away for the whole Summer!  It had been an epic road trip, and planted a seed that sprouted as I got older.

I love taking road trips!  I'm so glad my daughter loves them as much as me, and as much as her mom did.  Traveling is good for the soul.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow Day Fun

Teleworking on a snow day is not fun.  With the snow that crippled the Washington Metropolitan Area today, and the closure of government offices, I was forced to telework for the day.  I find it boring to work at home without the interaction of my colleagues and employees.  Attending meetings via phone is not the same.  So it was a miserable day.

On the flip side, I love the snow, and watching it come down as Spring began was pretty cool.  However, I felt guilty as I sat on the couch with my laptop, iPad, and iPhone, all day, attending virtual meetings and answering emails, as my neighbors were all out front shoveling snow off the sidewalk.

We were kind of disappointed this morning when we saw so little snow on the ground, but as the morning went along, the snow got deeper and deeper.  Check out this before and after picture separated by about four hours:

Anyway, my workday ended at 3pm, so I still had a nice amount of time to go outside in the snow, and catch up on some TV watching.

While watching NewsChannel8, my daughter and I were witness to some noteworthy news.  Check out the headline on this screen capture of the Pope losing his hat to the wind:

We just got word that schools are closed again tomorrow, so it looks like I'll be teleworking again.  We'll still take the snow any day of the week, though.  What we got today was more snow than what we got over the whole season, so it makes up for what had been a pretty disappointing Winter.  And maybe we can find a way to make a telework day more entertaining.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Map Lover

Barry Schiff, a pilot and author, writes a column for AOPA Pilot, the magazine for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, called the Proficient Pilot.  In his most recent article, he pays tribute to aeronautical charts, which I have been working on over a two and a half decade career as a cartographer.  In the article, he shares a quote by Amelia Earhart:

"Someday I would like to write a piece about the fun of voyaging with maps -- without ever leaving home."

This is such a wonderful quote, and perfectly describes the almost geeky fanaticism felt by map lovers.  And I am most certainly a map lover.

My love of maps began when I was a kid.  My grandparents gave me a subscription to National Geographic's World Magazine, which I read cover to cover every month, and the occasional map that was included in some issues were cherished.  I would pour over them, analyzing the areas they covered, and imagine visiting these sometimes faraway places.

As I got older, I graduated to National Geographic Magazine, and the maps that were included with many of those issues were much more complex than in World.  My favorite map was a political map of the United States, and I invented so many different mapping games, the rules of which only I knew, and I could play with them by myself for hours.

Soon, I started buying Rand McNally and AAA road atlases every year, and I would go through them page by page, exploring the states, highways, and sites, comparing the new editions with past editions, and planning and planning and planning future road trips and vacations.

In college, I discovered that I could major in Geography, and I pursued my Bachelors degree in Cartography, eventually getting a job in the government as a professional cartographer.

With the advent of the internet, the world of cartography continues to grow, and the number of online mapping sites make it easy to plan just about anything, from checking traffic for local trips and destinations, to planning huge cross-country road trips.  It's a map lovers dream!

I'm constantly planning road trips, and I have a catalog of at least a dozen different trips that I want to take.  And I still use a paper map atlas, along with the technology available, to plan these trips.  And this creates, and sometimes even satiates, my wanderlust.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, March 19, 2018

First Date

A mutual friend introduced us, and while we didn't get a chance to say more than a dozen words to each other during that introduction, I guess I made enough of an impression on her to get her to go out with me.  But while our mutual friend got her phone number for me, I didn't call her for several weeks.  That was mostly because she spent a week on vacation in San Francisco after our initial meeting, and then I had to get up the nerve to ask her out.  But she was quick to say yes once I did ask her.

The following week, I went to her apartment to pick her up.  She was prettier than I remembered.  Reddish brown hair framed her face, featuring an innocent smile and large hazel eyes.  She wore just a touch of makeup, though I don't think she needed it.  It was her natural features that I found so inviting.  We made small talk, and then I invited her to go to dinner.

It was a rainy evening, so she brought an umbrella.  I drove us over to the local Olive Garden, which I thought would make a good first date restaurant.  When we arrived, I got out and opened her door.  It was raining hard enough that we needed her umbrella, so I opened it as she stepped out of the car.  I held the umbrella in my left hand and place my hand in the small of her back as we walked to the door of the restaurant.

It wasn't crowded, so we were able to get a table quickly.  Conversation came easy, and I asked her about her trip to San Francisco.  She excitedly told me all of the highlights, making sure to emphasize all of the places that she thought would have been more fun had she traveled with someone else.  While she had stayed with an old high school friend, she had to work during much of the week, leaving my date to sight see alone.  I enjoyed her description of the sites, in particular her stop at Ghirardelli Square, and getting a sundae that was really made for two, vowing to return one day with someone special to share.

The food arrived, and prayed and gave thanks to Him.  We enjoyed our meal, eating slowly as we took turns sharing with each other our life stories.  She was an only child.  I was the oldest of three.  She was a high school teacher.  I was a cartographer.  She grew up in Wheaton.  I grew up in Upper Marlboro.  We both went to the University of Maryland.

I'd been trying to ignore it, but while we were finding comfort in our sharing, the earlier nervousness I had felt took its toll, and I needed to use the rest room.  I excused myself, and soon found myself experiencing a lot of discomfort due to what I'll just call IBS.  My stay in the rest room was much longer than I could have anticipated, and I was embarrassed that I wasn't able to quickly take care of business and return to my date.  The more I thought about it, the worse I felt.  After an eternity, I was able to get my composure back, and I returned to the table, and my date.  I apologized profusely, and assured her I was fine, though the concern on her face troubled me.  We ordered dessert, and continued our conversation.

After the meal, we began to head out.  The rain had stopped, so we were able to walk to the car slowly.  I opened the car door for her, and helped her in.  Then I drove us back to her apartment.  She invited me in and we continued to talk about anything and everything.  She had turned on the TV, but we didn't watch it.  We likely could've talked all night, but we both had church in the morning, and it was late, and I had an almost hour long drive ahead of me.

She walked me to the door, and gave me a warm hug.  There was no kiss, but only because I was too nervous to ask for one, and I thought it ungentlemanly to assume that there should be one.  I expressed that I wanted to see her again, and she agreed that it would be nice to go out again.  I told her I would call her the following evening (and I did).  And then I said goodnight.

It was a long drive home, but all I could think about was this wonderful young lady.  She was awesome, funny, mature, intelligent, fearless, confident, and beautiful.  I thanked God for being with us throughout the evening.  He had been preparing us both for this moment, and I knew that it was something special.  I was going to marry this woman.  She said yes to my marriage proposal less than a year later, and we were married the following Summer.  It was blessed relationship, with God at the center, and while it lasted less than five years, it was the happiest time of my life.

Teresa was taken from this life on a beautiful evening while we were walking with our five month old daughter, Melody.  Her heart stopped beating and she collapsed right next to me.  I had no chance to even say goodbye, though I'm thankful we both said I love yous to each other just a short time earlier.  She is now spending eternity with our Lord and Savior.  I miss her every day, but I know, one day, we will be together again.

Hug your loved ones, and tell them how much you love them.  You can never say it enough.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone.