Sunday, October 25, 2020

Slightly Hibernating

 I apologize for the lack of content for the past several months, during the length of the Pandemic of 2020. There were other priorities, but the blog will be back in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, since it appears that hackers have been trying to access this site, I wanted to comment to show that we are still an active site.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Postponing Alaska

One of my most popular and most-read posts on this blog refers to a bucket list trip that I've wanted to take since I was a teenager:  a trip to Alaska!  And not just a trip to Alaska.... We're talking a trip on the Alaska Highway, through most of Northwestern Canada, into the Klondike in the Yukon, thru Whitehorse, Dawson City, and all the way to Fairbanks, then down to Anchorage, Seward, the Kenai Peninsula, and to Haines, Juneau, and Skagway.  It is an epic adventure that I have been planning for several years now.  This Summer was going to be, finally, a four week adventure of a lifetime.

Then... Coronavirus.

We're still hopeful.  There may be a miracle where the virus disappears or is deemed under control, and life will return to some semblance of normal.  Maybe the kids will still be able to finish the school year before losing their whole summer, and having to start the next school year with nary a break.  Maybe families will still get a chance to take a vacation.  (What's happening now is NOT a vacation... Yes, the kids are out of school, and yes, many adults are home, but this is not a vacation.)

What the whole planet is dealing with is hardly just an inconvenience.  People are dying, families are suffering, our economy is a disaster, people are out of work, some with no income, and so many of the modern conveniences that we count on are no longer available to us.  We are denied physical contact with one another while we wait out the pandemic that has taken the normal out of our lives.

This certainly doesn't change the fact that we desire, and maybe continue to plan, the things that we want to do... the things we love doing.  Like travel.

My daughter and I are road trip enthusiasts.  We have had a lot of practice over the past decade traveling throughout America, and last summer we made a significant achievement:  we went to our 48th state in the USA.  Only Hawaii and Alaska are still to come for us.  Our excitement grew as we began preparations for the longest road trip of our lives.  But we just don't know now if this trip will be possible this year.  And we're disappointed.

Life appears to be on pause.  We can't do anything except stay secluded.  We can get out, of course, and we do that.  This is a great time for my daughter to put in lots of time behind the wheel of our car as she prepares to get her driver's license, with most roads devoid of traffic.  Last weekend, we even went into DC to do some city driving.  I think she'll have her full amount of hours completed by the time she takes a driver's education class.  Getting her license before our trip to Alaska was one of our goals for this spring.

We continue to pray for everyone that is impacted by COVID-19.  We pray for the health and safety of our first responders and for hospital workers.  We pray that our family and friends are able to avoid it, and that we are able to get it eradicated from our lives.

Take care.  Stay safe.  Keep away from everyone.  Let's beat it.

Best wishes.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Random Thoughts One Week In...

  • We're one week into our self-imposed quarantine during this world-wide outbreak of the COVID-19, or Coronavirus.  It's being called a pandemic by most, and there appears to be as many people who are frightened out of their minds as there are who could care less and are living their lives normally, or even recklessly.  I think both extremes are as harmful as the virus itself.  I've always believed that community is important to our mental well-being.  One could argue that community still exists even when we are closed off physically in our homes away from everyone, given that we have so many technological tools at our disposal to stay in contact with the world.  I hope that's the case.  I can't help wondering how different our world will be, if at all, when we are able to return to some semblance of normal.  Aside from the many inconveniences, it seems that only those who suffer serious setbacks during this outbreak may come out of this changed, for better or worse.  For everyone else, maybe some habits will change, but I'm willing to bet many will go right back into their previous lifestyle.

  • This was the longest string of telework days I've ever worked in my career, and counting.  I feel very fortunate that I'm able to do my job remotely, and that the service our agency provides is making an important contribution, even with so much of the country shutdown.  It can be isolating, even with the tools we have to stay in touch, just as with our personal lives.  My employees continue to do their work, and in most cases, they prefer teleworking than being in the office.  I get it.  I haven't teleworked much; just a few days sporadically throughout the year... I much prefer being in the office, but I can feel the benefits.  Instead of almost 2 hours per day of commuting, I only need to roll out of bed, without even the need to shower (my opinion, I'm sure).  But I miss the face-to-face contact I get with colleagues and employees.

  • My teenage daughter finds a lot of enjoyment in having no school work to do (aside from the year-long project in her Independent Research class, which she continues to work on almost daily), and the opportunity to sleep until noon everyday.  However, we have quite a bit of time together to just talk each afternoon, when I'm off the clock, and she has been very honest given her feelings about this whole thing.  Firstly, she feels terribly about the sacrifices that many of her senior-class friends have had to make, and who are missing out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  It started with the cancellation of the annual music trip, which impacted all of the band and chorus students, and took away their excitement about going to Boston.  Then it was the cancellation after one performance of the school musical, "The Addams Family."  It continued with the school system itself being shutdown for, currently, two weeks, and is sure to expand well past that.  Now it's the expected cancellation of the Senior Prom, and, perhaps, graduation.  And what to do about all of the missed school that will likely have to be made up?  It has become almost a lost year for students.  Time seems to go by so much more slowly during our childhood, and the teen years in particular impact so much of who we are and who we become and what we do for the rest of our lives.  Missing out on these once-in-a-lifetime school events is very sad, in my opinion.  My very intelligent and compassionate daughter seems to think so, too.

  • I'm mildly disappointed in one of the conveniences being offered by some businesses during these unusual times.  With our instructions to stay away from human contact to reduce the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus, and businesses having to shutdown and close as the impact becomes more and more widespread, some, particularly restaurants, are going to carryout service only, and some even offering delivery.  I hate cooking.  It's one of those daily chores that I just do not enjoy.  My daughter and I take advantage of these services regularly, and much more often than we should.  That said, I'm finding more and more restaurants that we enjoy are offering delivery.  We are happy to oblige these offerings... however, once we plug our address into their ordering websites, we're finding that we are, inexplicably, just outside their delivery areas.  It's incredibly frustrating, especially after whetting our appetites with our favorite dishes and then dashing our hopes with disappointment.  Carryout is always an option, but, since we're not showering as often, and not even getting dressed appropriately to face the public, the convenience of delivery is an option that is much more preferable.  Oh, the problems of a privileged society...

  • I don't mean to make light of any of this.  The COVID-19 outbreak is a deadly serious issue for our entire planet, and many are suffering terribly by its effects.  We who believe know that God is still in control, and we won't panic when we have faith.  We pray that our family, friends, and so much of planet Earth will survive and escape suffering and tragedy.  We are so thankful for what we have.  We will get through this, and we pray for a return to normalcy, and a willingness to learn the lessons this experience will teach us.

I hope you are safe and healthy during this unprecedented time.  Take care, everyone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Corona-cation, Day 4...

Corona-cation, Day 4:  We’re beginning to get stir crazy.  We began self-quarantining after last Friday, and have not left our home since then.  Our links to the outside world are through virtual connections, and, fortunately, technology allows us to maintain at least some semblance of normalcy.  While my daughter is missing school, she isn’t missing homework.  And I am able to continue working thru telework.

Our biggest issue so far was running out of toilet paper.  Why the run on such a necessary staple of civilized society is beyond me, since there really isn’t any logical connection between COVID-19 and toilet paper with which I am aware, but the shelves are empty at every store I went to over the past week.  Thank goodness we found a fairly inexpensive option online.  It’s not as soft as our regular brand, but these are not regular times.  And if you’re regular, you need this stuff, anyway.

Our concern is focused mainly on my parents and my in-laws.  Reports say that their age group is most at risk, particularly with additional health issues, such as my mother’s diabetes and mom-in-law’s asthma.  They are reporting price gouging on necessary medications, which should be a crime.  Over-the-counter meds are ten to a hundred times their regular cost, in some cases.

We’re thankful for modern entertainment conveniences, such as streaming movies, online games, and e-books.  There’s no shortage of options.  That said, we are getting bored already.  We’ve taken to cleaning out our closets and paring down unneeded clothes that will be donated.

A dedicated sports fan, I am suffering from withdrawal due to the postponement and cancellation of pretty much all spectator sports.  Hockey was nearing the end of the season and the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs, something I look forward to every spring.  March Madness is now March Mad-less with all college basketball tournaments cancelled.  And, the worst news, the start of baseball season is being delayed indefinitely.  As a diehard baseball fan, I find this news depressing.  I pass the time by doing fantasy baseball mock drafts.

We bought what we figured would be an adequate amount of food for an extended period of hunkering down, but we’re running through it much more quickly than expected.  Snacking out of boredom is a real thing, unfortunately.  Thank goodness for food delivery, but that puts us at some risk because what we’re eating is being prepared and delivered by unknown hands.  We must have some level of trust that they are taking precautions just like us.  But it may necessitate a store run, which means leaving the safety of our home.  Something we’ll have to consider…

Even the churches are shutting down, but church is more than just a building or a gathering of believers.  We can worship virtually in today's world, and connect with others through streaming, video, audio, and just about any other modern techniques.  And this is the time when we need community, particularly with the anxiety many are feeling.  Prayer seems to be the best thing we can do.

Nothing is normal right now.  My parents likened this to 2002, when the DC Snipers had the entire region on lockdown, and everyone took extra precautions when going out to the stores, or getting their cars gassed up, or stayed home, out of fear that the snipers might have them in their cross-hairs.  If nothing else, this is going to be one of those major life events so outside the norm that everyone is going to remember where they were and what they were doing, like 9/11, or the Challenger explosion, or the Kennedy assassination.  

This is unprecedented.  There are only a few times in my life when I felt out of control and/or fearful of something going on in the world.  In 1987, I was in a car accident in which my grandparents were killed, in a car I was driving, when we were hit from behind by a tractor trailer.  In 1990, it was the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, which had me watching CNN every free moment, expecting to be drafted into the war.  In 2001, it was 9/11.  In 2002, it was the DC Snipers.  In 2004, it was the death of my wife.  Now this.  I don’t think I’m overstating it.

These sure are some crazy times, but I'm glad to know that my family is safe and feeling well.  It's likely inevitable that some of us will end up getting the COVID-19 virus, but I pray the it's effects will be minimal, at least to our health.  Impacts to just about everything else are already here.

If you find a good deal on some toilet paper, drop me a line.

Have a great evening, and please stay safe. And wash your just may be saving a life.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Driving Me Crazy

My daughter started driving in November, a week after her 16th birthday.  This is a huge milestone in her (and my) life.  I know how excited I was to be driving when I was her age, and, while she seemed to not care a whole lot at first, now that she has a few miles under her belt, she really looks forward to getting behind the wheel.  She tries to come up with reasons every day why we need to go to the store.

We had some stressful days leading up to her getting her Learner’s Permit, which allows her to drive with an experienced adult in the passenger seat.  She had been studying the driver’s manual off and on for a few weeks, and she aced the online written driver’s test multiple times, so, a few days after her 16th birthday, and despite some anxiety (hers and mine!), we went to Motor Vehicle Administration to apply. 

She was a nervous wreck.  It became my responsibility to keep her calm, so I kept distracting her by asking her trivia questions, which she hates.  Getting her mad at me turned into a welcome distraction, it seems, because it did calm her down, if for only a moment.  Finally, though, they called our number and it was her turn.  To add a bit of drama to the tale, the testing room is behind a closed door, and she had to knock on the door and wait for someone to open it.  That took about five minutes, but she told me it felt like hours.  The door finally opened, she went inside, and fifteen minutes later, she exited excitedly.  She passed!

She did the math and figured out that she could only miss up to four questions and still pass.  She told me she had already missed three when she got to the last question.  She was so scared she would fail, but she got an easy one:  “What kind of sign is red with eight sides?”  She was so relieved!

The next hurdle was the actual driving.  She had only been behind the wheel once, and it was in our Jeep Wrangler, which has a manual transmission.  The experience traumatized her.  Driving a manual is similar to playing the drums, requiring all four limbs to be on the same page, since they each have a role while driving.  The left foot works the clutch; the right foot brakes and accelerates; the left hand steers; and the right hand shifts gears and holds your sandwich while you drive and eat lunch.  It takes a lot of coordination.  However, my daughter could not get the hang of it, almost burning out the clutch, and she decided she didn’t want to try it ever again.  Unfortunately, with manual transmissions in both of our vehicles, she was stuck.

Over the Holidays, we got a new car…with an automatic.  I guess we were due.  My 2-seater was impractical, 13 years old, and had a problematic leaky top, so it went to a worthy car donation organization.  My daughter will still have to learn to drive a manual transmission, but it doesn’t have to be right away.  In the meantime, she will get lots of hours behind the wheel of our brand new, brightly colored hatchback before she takes a driver’s education class.  That’s the way I learned, and I was better for it.  She is very excited, and I am excited for her.

The first few times out on the road with my daughter behind the wheel were very hard… for me.  I’m sure she was nervous, but, for me, who has anxiety issues already, this was a new level of fright.  Pulling out into traffic was very difficult.  I actually closed my eyes waiting for the crashing sound of another car piling into ours.  Indecision is another problem.  I told her that she can’t begin pulling out into traffic and decide she can’t make it with the car already halfway into the intersection.  Make a decision and stick to it.  Braking is also difficult.  I’ve worn a hole into the floor mat on the passenger side of the car trying to step on the nonexistent brake pedal.  Whew!  I got her one of those fluorescent yellow “Rookie Driver” magnets for the back of the car when she is driving.  Unfortunately, it only causes other drivers to harass her as they zip by us.  But things are getting better.  Experience makes all the difference, and while she still has some exasperating moments, I’m a lot calmer about it, knowing our lives are on the line.  She’s going to be a great driver.

If you find yourself in Central Maryland behind a hatchback with a bright yellow “Rookie Driver” sign on the back, look out!  It just may be my daughter and her stressed out dad.

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Getting Away From It All

There is something to be said for getting away from it all, and to satisfy my wanderlust, I needed a getaway.  Travel is good for the soul, and when it comes to a road trip, I can’t recommend it enough.

I planned a quick 3-night trip to the American Southwest to drive a last bit of Route 66 that I had missed on previous trips across the country.  It would mean flying to Los Angeles, renting a car, and driving across the Mojave Desert on Route 66 to Needles, CA, swinging north for a night in Las Vegas, and driving back to LA the following day for the flight back home.

It was November 2004, fifteen years ago.  This was my first trip to the region since my cross-country trip with my wife, Teresa, in July 2000.  I was excited because I had been very recently promoted into my first management position.  The job was effective the day after my return from my trip west.  But I was also anxious.  I felt like I was ready for management, but I was still battling through the grief of losing my wife earlier that year in April to a sudden heart attack.  It had been a difficult year.  This was my first trip without her.

With my parents taking care of my almost one-year old daughter, Melody, I flew west.  I was by myself, and had rented a convertible for the drive across the Mojave Desert.  I arrived at Ontario International Airport towards evening, and I grabbed dinner at In-N-Out Burger and crashed for the night.  The next morning had a chill in the air, but I had the top down, anyway.  It was a gorgeous autumn Southern California day.

Heading east out of Barstow, CA, on Route 66, the first chunk of the old road paralleled the interstate, so the sounds of 18-wheelers were fairly prominent.  The road itself was in bad shape, with a patchwork surface, so the car, a well-used Chrysler, which so far seemed to float down smooth roads, felt like it was bouncing to a rhythmic pattern down Route 66.

The road eventually smoothed out and drifted southeasterly away from Interstate 40, near the village of Ludlow.  I was really out in the desert at this point, and there were no other cars on the road.  I knew I might be the only living person for miles around.  It brought me such peace as I looked around at the beauty of the desert, mountains off in the distance, the sound of a train echoing across the valley in front of me…

I stopped the car right in the middle of the road, got out, and stood on the double yellow line.  I could see for several miles in every direction.  I slowly turned in a circle to take in the moment, experiencing the beauty of the American Southwest, inhaling the fresh desert air, and embracing my aloneness.  The tears came as I sat back down in the car, and I thanked God for that moment, for my family and friends, for my career and the opportunities ahead, for my health, for my wonderful little daughter, and for the happy memories of my life with my wife.

I drove, continuing east on the old road just past the little town of Goffs, CA.  After seven years, I had completed all of Route 66 (from Chicago to LA) at this intersection, the same spot I had reached from the opposite direction with my wife just four years prior.  Then I headed north on US 95 to Las Vegas.

(The Rest of the Story… After driving to Las Vegas and back to LA, my flight from Ontario was delayed by mechanical issues, and then arrived in Atlanta late, so I missed my connection to Baltimore.  I tried to get another flight, but the airline insisted I wasn’t getting home that night.  However, I was able to get a flight to Richmond, VA, where I rented a car and drove two hours to my home, arriving at 2am.  I didn’t have my house key, or any of my luggage, which had been flown on to Baltimore without me, so I snoozed in the rental car for a few hours, and then rushed to the office just before dawn.  I greeted my new employees with a box of donuts, unshaven face, and in wrinkled clothing that I had been wearing for more than 24 hours.  And that was my first day of what is now 15 years of management.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Stressing Health

A few months ago, my daughter and I were getting ready to attend a Christmas party at my in-law’s church.  It’s an annual tradition, and ever since my wife’s death, it’s a way for us to continue to connect with my in-laws.  My daughter enjoys it quite a bit.  My father-in-law, Jim, is the pastor of the church, and the pastor’s family (including us) always gets spotlighted in some way at the party.  Unfortunately. 

It is a catered affair, and there are a variety of games and a program of singing carols.  Attendees generally get volunteered to be a “contestant” for some of these games, and getting embarrassed is all part of the fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I almost always get volunteered to do something, and I’m not fond of it. I get covered in glitter, or wrapped in wrapping paper, or I have to eat a mincemeat pie without my hands, or sing solo a verse from the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and everyone laughs, and I get thoroughly stressed out.  So I was just a bit anxious about the whole evening.

I was getting dressed, and thinking about the evening ahead, when the room started to spin.  I felt dizzy and immediately sat down on my bed.  My heart rate accelerated rapidly, and I started to sweat.  I laid back on the bed and tried some deep breathing, something I had learned a few years ago as a method for reducing stress.  Having battled significant stress for much of the past several years, I knew some of the signs to look for.  I felt awful, and my heart felt like it was racing right out of my chest.  Something was definitely not right.

I yelled for my daughter and told her what was going on as she entered the room.  Staying calm (though 16, she is mature way beyond her years), she suggested we call an ambulance right away.  Still in denial that anything was seriously wrong, I said no, that I didn’t want the whole neighborhood to watch me get placed in an ambulance.  Then she suggested that we call my father, since that’s what you do when you need help:  you call Dad!  So she called him up.  Dad, ever the voice of reason, told me to call an ambulance right away.  I resisted.  He insisted.  I was being stubborn and stupid, but I figured I could get myself to the hospital without an ambulance interrupting the whole neighborhood.

My heart continued its incessant rapid beating, and my stress over my predicament grew.  We decided to drive to the hospital.  My daughter recently got her learner’s permit to drive, but she had not yet driven our Jeep with a manual transmission (which is something I will address very soon).  So I drove.  Given the seriousness of the situation, I was foolish to think I could drive myself to the hospital, and, in hindsight, I would not have done it.  We should’ve called an ambulance.  But we rushed to Howard County General.  I believe I hit 85 mph on Route 32.  It was a hectic drive, but we made it to the hospital without incident.

Fortunately, we found a parking space near the door to the Emergency Room, and rushed inside.  I was in some distress at this point, and felt like I might pass out.  The nurse at the front desk recognized that I needed immediate assistance, and as she checked my heart rate (it was at 190 bpm!), she called an orderly and they rushed me into the ER in a wheel chair.  At this point I was in a bit of a panic. And scared.

I was wheeled into a room with a bed, ordered to remove my shirt, and there were nurses and doctors everywhere.  I think there were ten people in the small room.  They began to ask all kinds of questions, while attaching wires and sensors to me, connected to a vast array of beeping equipment.  Everyone knew their job and did it.  The whole situation was overwhelming to me, but I’m really glad they worked so hard to get my heart rate and blood pressure under control.  After a few minutes, my heart rate was near normal and, several hours later, after a chest X-ray and full examination, and with test results showing no blockages, meaning everything was fine, I was released with instructions to follow up with my doctor.  The consensus was that I had suffered a panic attack.  It wasn’t my first, but it certainly was my worst.  We missed the party, and my mother-in-law was angry with me for allowing the party to stress me out, which stressed me out.

So consider this a Public Service Announcement:  Stress is not good for you.  It is the body and mind’s reaction to uncomfortable situations.  Stress is recognized by many as the number one proxy killer disease, and is the basic cause of more than 60 percent of all human illness and disease.  Chronic stress can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including mental issues such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, and cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and stroke.

How can you better deal with stress?  Here are a few tips, courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH):

·         Be observant. Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
·         Talk to your health care provider or a health professional. Don’t wait for your health care provider to ask about your stress. Start the conversation and get proper health care for existing or new health problems. Effective treatments can help if your stress is affecting your relationships or ability to work.
·         Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and improve your health.
·         Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing activities.
·         Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
·         Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
·         Consider a clinical trial. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other research facilities across the country are studying the causes and effects of psychological stress as well as stress management techniques.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Anyone can become overwhelmed. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the confidential toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lifeline chat is a service available to everyone.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Jumpstarting the Writing Muscles

Have I been away long enough?

It was bothering me that the ol' blog had sat idle for so long, and I wanted to get back to writing regularly.  Every time I sat down with an idea, though, I struggled to stay with it.  Before I knew it, a year had passed.

About six months ago, I was given the opportunity to write a story for our biweekly newsletter at work.  It proved to be successful and I was encouraged to continue writing, and I ended up with a regular column.  I mined this blog for a lot of material for the new column, adjusting it for an office environment, and it was just what I needed to jumpstart my creative juices.  And here we are.

To say that a lot has changed over the past year is an understatement.  Between the massive changes I've experienced in my work life, and the personal challenges with my health and family, things have hardly been normal.  That said, there's a lot of stuff to write about.

What I want to start with, though, is Faith.  Proverbs 3:5-6 -

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 

6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I stared at this verse for a long time when my church made significant changes to their service times at the end of last summer.  The big thing, which impacted me and my daughter the most, was the elimination of the service on Saturday.  We had been attending that service for about 7 years, when it was started, and to say we enjoyed it immensely is an understatement.  Our whole week seemed to revolve around the Saturday evening service, and it was a principal part of our faith.  Socially, we connected with so many people who became our close friends, and their daughters prayed, worshipped, and did activities with my daughter.  Because of our lifestyle, which included the opportunity to sleep in on the weekends (particularly Sunday morning, and generally after a long difficult week of school and work), it was a wonderful and refreshing alternative to the typical Sunday morning worship times with which I had grown up.

Our routine on Saturdays generally allowed for running errands, cleaning house, doing laundry, etc., then attending worship at 5:30pm, followed by dinner out, either just the two of us, or with our friends from church.  It was comforting to know we had this to look forward to each week.  Our church is very large, and even after calling it our home since 2003, it was difficult for us to get involved.  I had attended small to medium sized churches my whole life.  Attending a church with several thousand members was intimidating.  The Saturday service was much smaller with a few hundred attending each week, and it was so much more relaxing.  It allowed us to get to know folks that we would not otherwise have known.

Due to significant mental stress, mostly from work, I had developed difficulty with anxiety, and large crowds in particular made it difficult for me to attend the severely overcrowded services on Sunday mornings.  In fact, the crowds on Sunday were the main reason the church started the Saturday service.  This was a Godsend, really.  I had gotten frustrated with finding parking, and even finding seats, on Sunday mornings, as the crowds got me down.  It was great for the church, though, to see the kind of growth that many other churches could only hope for.

For my shy daughter, the smaller youth gathering Saturdays allowed her to become more intimate with other kids her age, and praying with and for each other was so important to her spiritual development.  The student's program saw significant changes to the weekend services, too.  The high school program changed to a Saturday only service every two weeks, so instead of the smaller gathering, now ALL of the kids were together on Saturday evening.  My daughter has told me repeatedly that the change was not something she liked, and her interest in doing anything with the youth has greatly diminished.

The news of the elimination of the Saturday service was a punch in the gut to me, and I didn't take it well.  Even worse, it felt like our church home was turning its back on us.  I honestly feel like, given how large the church is now, losing a few attenders who could not make the switch from Saturday to Sunday, was no big loss to our church.  I reached out to the church elders, but they didn't give us any alternatives.

The last Saturday service was on September 2, 2019, and that was the last time I walked through the doors of my church home since 2003.  I love my church.  I can't put into words how supportive the people there were when my wife, Teresa, passed away in 2004, and how much Pastor Mark helped me find significant healing.  I don't want to leave my church home.  Why did this happen?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding..."

The verse kept going through my head, and as hard as it is to do, I have to believe that there is a reason for these changes to me, personally, even if I don't yet know what they are.  I've already put out some feelers to other churches in the area that may end up being a good fit for us, but I'm not ready to walk away from our church yet.  I keep hoping that something will change to bring us back.  Unfortunately for my daughter, however, it's her friends that she misses the most in all of this, as school functions seem to take away much of her time, even for the biweekly Saturday gatherings.

So we will continue to pray for the Lord's guidance.

In the meantime, I'm feeling energized about writing regularly again.  Stay tuned for more content here on the ol' blog.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Incident At A Restaurant

Daughter Melody and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants:  Houlihan’s, in Elkridge, MD.  We’ve been going there since they opened more than a decade ago, and it qualifies as one of the better chain restaurants we frequent.  We had a special promotional envelope that was given to us on our last visit, about a week before Christmas, and we were anxious to see whether we would be getting a free appetizer, dessert, or discounted meal, which were advertised as possible “prizes” inside the envelope.

We entered and saw that it was not at all crowded.  The host, a young man, perhaps in his late teens or early twenties, asked us how many were in our party (just the two of us), made a series of marks on a list on his clipboard, and took us to a table right in the middle of the restaurant, awkwardly sandwiched between three other occupied tables.  There were a lot of other open tables nearby, including several preferred booths.  After sitting, I quickly glanced over at my daughter, and she looked at me, and we determined that we were going to be too uncomfortable to converse with each other while other patrons were sitting just a few feet away.  Our server showed up almost immediately, a young lady in her early twenties, and we told her our dilemma, and asked if we could move to one of the open booths, several of which were adjacent to our table.  She said she understood, and told us to hold on just a minute, as she needed to clear it with our host.  He happened to be passing by at just that moment, and our server asked him, within earshot of Melody and me, if she could move us to the booth nearest to where we were.  He sighed, and said that it was in “Jared’s” section, and she would have to clear it with him.

Now, I’m from the school of good customer service, and accommodating a guest is just good business.  Our request to move was not out of the ordinary, and there seemed to be no issues with over-crowding at the restaurant, and the server even volunteered to continue serving us at the other table.  But the host’s reply struck a very negative chord in me, as if we were inconveniencing everyone by wanting to move from a heavy concentration of customers to an open table.  His concern, I reasoned to myself, was that it might unbalance the number of customers in each of the server’s sections, and he didn’t want to make the change on his carefully arranged clipboarded sheet of paper.

Either way, I immediately went into the “red,” stood up, grabbed my jacket, and quite audibly exclaimed, “Okay, we don’t want to inconvenience anyone.  We’ll just leave!”  And I headed for the exit, followed by my suddenly surprised daughter.  As I walked away, I muttered about how ridiculous this was, and I couldn’t believe I was walking out over this.  As I reached the host/hostess stand, a lady who I’m guessing was a management type, asked, “What happened?”  I said, very loudly, “It’s apparently too difficult to change tables!” I said, flashing my prize envelope so she could see this wasn’t our first visit to the restaurant.  “We’ve been coming here for over ten years, but you just lost a customer!”  And we left.

I have never walked out of a restaurant like that in my life.  I was flush with emotion, and my poor daughter looked at me like I was a crazy man.  I immediately apologized to her, and told her that I didn’t mean to ruin our evening.  We went back to our car.  I told her that I have never reacted like that before, never been so upset that I’ve walked out of a place.  She didn’t know what to say to me, so she didn’t say anything.  I asked her to pick another restaurant, any place, something that she liked.  But we just sat there in silence.

I replayed the entire incident in my head, trying to figure out why I reacted so uncharacteristically.  I am not one to fall so quickly into anger.  However, given the current Federal Government shutdown, which is directly affecting us, plus not receiving a paycheck even while I continue to work to help maintain our National Airspace System, stress seems to be ruling my thoughts and actions, causing me to have a short fuse, and I overreacted to something that wasn’t worth reacting to.  I normally would have been too embarrassed to draw attention to myself in a situation like that, and my normal reaction would just be to suffer in silence, even though I knew my daughter and I both were very uncomfortable with the seating arrangement.  But I flew off the handle and reacted.

I again apologized to my daughter, letting her know that I was embarrassed by my reaction, and I promised her that we would return to the restaurant in the future.  I didn’t want to sacrifice more than a decade of patronage at a favorite eating establishment over one lousy incident.  In addition, since we are friendly with one of the managers, who has been there since they opened (though she wasn’t there last night), we would likely have the opportunity to talk to her about what happened.

Melody and I went on to have a very fine evening, completely overshadowing our bad experience, and I didn’t dwell on what happened, like I usually do.  But it serves as a reminder and cautionary tale of the impact stress can have on our day to day actions.  I will do better.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Summer Of Road Trips Begins!

It was the Summer of Road Trips (in fact, every summer is the Summer of Road Trips, for us)!  We had a whole slew of things we did this year, and it began in June with our trip to Williamsburg, VA, and Busch Gardens.

We left on Wednesday after I worked two-thirds of a day, so we could get an early jump on traffic.  But leaving early didn’t help a bit since there’s ALWAYS traffic in the DC area.  Twenty minutes after we left home, we hit a major traffic backup on the Capitol Beltway, and we crawled for several miles.  I abandoned the beltway at Route 4 and meandered over to US 301 and headed south from there.  While there were the typical back-ups in Brandywine, where local authorities caved to developers and built a huge complex of shopping centers along 301, which has created gridlock at all times of the day, we were able to keep moving and made it to Williamsburg by 6pm.  It was a relatively quick trip, which was a rare thing.

This was a special trip since we had made plans well over a year ago with the timeshare company BlueGreen to receive a “two-hour” presentation on what they’re offering, in exchange for a bunch of hotel points.  I’ve already established in my head that these timeshare things do not fit our lifestyle, so it’s very easy for me to say, "No, I’m just not interested," despite the "manager" telling us that we're stupid for passing on their offer.  It's high pressure and I can see why so many people cave and buy when they don't want to.  The only downside to our visit was that they picked the hotel we were staying in for the time we were there.  I’ve stayed in practically every hotel in the Williamsburg metropolitan area, but we have never stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Bypass Road.  While it ended up being okay, it was fairly typical of the standard hotels we’ve stayed at in the past.

Our evening plans consisted of dinner and possibly a movie.  We went to our new discovery, the Mellow Mushroom, in Newport News, where I had one of the largest calzones I’ve ever seen.  Our server, Heidi, was wonderfully upbeat, and that made Melody happy.  We told her so, and it brought her to tears.  She was very good at her job, and, if you go, ask for a table in her serving section.

After some debate, we decided against seeing a movie, and instead we drove back to the New Town section of Williamsburg to visit the local Barnes and Noble bookstore.  However, to our shock, the store had a handwritten note on the door saying that they had new hours and closed at 9.  It was 9:15, so we missed out.  Instead, we got dessert at the Sweet Frog, then went back to our hotel and crashed for the night.  Our appointment with BlueGreen was to start at 10:30am the next day.

After getting ready the following morning, we went to our appointment with BlueGreen.  We listened to their presentation and all I will say is that they used every technique I’ve seen in the past, making assumptions about us by our appearance and the things we shared while we chatted.  I was not at all interested, and they knew it, and we were the first ones out of the place.  We left at 1:15pm, so it was definitely longer than the two hours they said it would be, but I expected that.

We went back to the hotel for a few minutes to change and get sunscreen, then we spent the rest of the day at Busch Gardens.  We had a great time, though it rained on us each day for the rest of the trip.  We rode all of our favorites, including the Loch Ness Monster, which is celebrating its 40th birthday.  The only coaster we missed was Verbolten, which always seemed to have the longest lines, and also was closed off and on most of the time we were there.  Crowds were light overall, mostly due to the rain, so we enjoyed ourselves a lot.  Friday night was especially fun because, after getting soaked by a late evening thunderstorm, we had the park to ourselves for about an hour before they closed.

By Saturday, we were ready to head home.  We had breakfast at the Colonial Pancake House, a regular tradition on our last day in Williamsburg, then shopped at a couple of places we like.  We found a five foot tall dancing Santa Claus for half price at the Christmas Mouse, and we bought it for Mom and Dad for their anniversary.  At around 2pm, we headed out of Williamsburg, going out on the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown, and Route 17 through Rappahannock to US 301. From there, we stopped to eat at Cheddar’s in Brandywine, then we surprised my parents in Bowie with the dancing Santa.  We finally arrived at home at almost 9pm.  It was a fun trip!

Have a great evening, Everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Looking Back at Father's Day

My wonderful 14-year old daughter, Melody, surprised me with a Father’s Day gift yesterday that I didn’t expect:  a free lunch.  She made all of the arrangements, talked to her grandmother for advice, and, at mid-morning, declared we were going out.  She had already set the GPS on her phone and said that I would be required to drive one hour and 15 minutes, and she would provide the directions.  So, off we went!

We headed north, then west, towards Frederick, MD, then continued west to Hagerstown.  As we approached a shopping center, it became clear where we were having lunch:  Primanti Bros!  I didn’t even know they had a Maryland location, since Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh fixture.  It’s a sandwich shop specializing in the all-in-one meat, cheese, slaw, and fries, between two thick slices of bread.  Melody was pleased that she had managed to surprise me.

We headed in, were soon seated, and placed our order.  We started with tater tots for an appetizer.  Melody ordered a salad, but I got a sandwich with Capicola, provolone, slaw, fries, and a fried egg on top.  It was delicious.  Melody talked us into a brownie sundae, and I had a few bites before allowing her to finish it off.

She insisted paying the bill, and I helped her calculate the tip.  We also found out that, since it’s Father’s Day, all dads get to eat for FREE!  What a great deal!

Melody said I should decide what we would do for the rest of the day, though she suggested a few places that her grandmother had recommended.  We ended up going to an antique mall just south of Hagerstown.  We spent the next hour walking through the large, crowded aisles, settling on a book (for me) and picture (for one of Melody’s teachers). 

We then continued down the road to Frederick along old Route 40.  We stopped at the large, overly crowded Wonder Books, a used book store, where we each found a few more books.  Our next stop was in downtown Frederick at North Market Pop Shop, home to hundreds of unusual bottled soda pops.  We found six bottles of various flavors, then walked back to our Jeep and headed towards home.

What a nice day, and great idea, by my darlin' daughter.  She seemed pretty proud of herself, and I'm glad that she thought to go out and celebrate with me.  She makes me special by making me a Dad, and I'm so honored to be her father.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

Looking back at some of our travels over the past year...


My daughter and I decided to get away for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  We don’t usually travel on that weekend specifically because it seems like EVERYONE travels on that weekend, but we both needed a break and the timing was good.

We waited until after rush hour on Friday, which allowed the traffic to completely unlock itself, and we headed north from Baltimore up to Hershey.  Chocolate World was open until 11pm that evening, so we enjoyed a ride through the factory, which is free, and then loaded up on chocolate gifts.  After that, we drove to our hotel and crashed.  It was midnight when we shut off the lights.

We got up early, found a Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then drove to Dorney Park, in Allentown, PA.  We had never been to that park before, but it was a part of the Cedar Fair family of amusement parks.  We have season tickets which gives us admission to all Cedar Fair parks, including Kings Island in Cincinnati, Kings Dominion in Virginia, and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, among others.

The park was crowded, but most people seemed to be headed to the attached water park.  We quickly found out that this meant there were no lines for any of the coasters!

We rode most of the roller coasters, including Talon, Hydra, Thunder Hawk, Steel Force, and the Wild Mouse.  Steel Force was easily our favorite.  It is a very smooth-riding steel-tracked coaster, and seemed a lot like the Magnum XL 200, a coaster at Cedar Point.

It was a really hot day, and we found ourselves drinking water like it was going out of style.  At around 3pm, we decided we were done, so we left the park and headed over to our hotel.  Since it was still early, we decided to backtrack to Shartlesville, and we stopped by an old favorite attraction, Roadside America.  Roadside America is a huge model, with houses, buildings, landscapes, cars and roads, and moving features, laid out in a large room almost as big as a warehouse.  It's looking old, but it's still pretty cool, and we spent a good hour just walking around and admiring the detailed models.

We headed back towards Allentown, and, on the way, we decided to get some dinner at a Red Robin.  Dinner was good, as always.  My daughter, anxious to do more, had me looking for the nearest bookstore, and there was a Barnes & Noble at a mall not too far from our hotel.  We decided to go.  After more browsing, and some ice cream from Coldstone, we crashed at our hotel.

We were up kind of late, missing the free hotel breakfast, so we went to a diner nearby after checking out.  It was pretty good.  Then we headed for home.  We meandered through the countryside towards Lancaster, where we stopped at a few of our favorite haunts, then continued on home.  

We hit a tremendous rainstorm as we entered the Baltimore area.  the Baltimore Beltway moved very slowly, and there was a lot of lightning.  When we reached the interchange for I-95 South near Catonsville, the roadway was flooded.  Already in 4-wheel drive, our Jeep easily forded the deeper than expected water, and we continued on home.

Upon arriving home, we heard the terrible news that Ellicott City, MD, had been flooded for the second time in less than two years, with tremendous damage worse than the last time, in July 2016.  Ironically, we had had just returned home from a vacation on that day, as well.

It was a sad coda to our trip.  We watched a lot of news that evening, praying for the folks in EC.  We slept late the next day, thankful to be home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Stories

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer.  My high school English teacher in 9th grade, Ms. Keeny, may disagree, as I didn’t take writing very seriously back then, nor did I always practice what was being taught in the world of grammar, and I had the grades to show for it.  But writing about what I liked, versus what I was forced to write about, made a huge difference, and I really do enjoy it now.
However, life gets in the way when we’re trying to do the things we want to do.  I’m defining “life” as responsibilities, or the things that take greater priority, such as eating, cleaning, driving, raising a teen, and taking care of one’s health, that can take time away from the “fun” things.
Much of the past six months have been filled doing lots of fun things, actually, but these are more along the lines of living life vicariously through my daughter.  She entered high school this year, and the accelerator is pressed to the floor all of the time.  She immediately got involved with the band, and she is thriving socially as a result.  The only negative is homework, which takes up a significant amount of her free time, but she’s pulling in wonderful grades, so what more can a parent ask for?  I wish she didn’t put so much stress on herself, so I try to keep her encouraged, and we do enough things outside of school to keep her from getting too stressed out.  Our church, also, helps keep her focused on other things, and she loves the girls in her small group.  They encourage and pray for her, and she for them.  I’m very happy for her, and thrilled to see her thriving.
Our travel opportunities were also plentiful this past Summer, with a grand vacation in mid-July to Niagara Falls, NY, and Ontario, which was her first trip out of the country, to Canada.  We worked our way up to Toronto, and Montreal, Quebec, where my daughter used her French language skills to speak more like a local.
We spent time in Chicago (G-Fest XXV), Cincinnati (Kings Island Amusement Park), Sandusky (Cedar Point Amusement Park), and New England (where we drove up to the Mount Washington summit, among other things).  We took several trips to Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, VA, too.  With our collection of season tickets, we could, in theory, go to 30 different amusement parks, and ride almost 300 different roller coasters!  That’s a lot of ups and downs!
Band and church camps (her), and business trips to Oklahoma City and Fort Worth (me), rounded out the rest of the Summer, and while I thought things might quiet a little bit this Fall, the aforementioned new high school routine has taken away almost any possible time for relaxation.  The fact that it’s almost the end of October is incredible to me, since time seems to be flying fast.
It isn’t all great news, though.  Both my mother and my mother-in-law suffered major health issues in the Spring, and between Mom’s back surgery (after falling backwards down a staircase) and my MIL’s knee removal due to infection and still unscheduled knee-replacement surgery, we’ve spent lots of downtime when we’ve visited with each of them.  Both are still recovering, though MIL is still in a wheelchair, and she has a long road ahead even after her surgery.  Mom has difficulty walking, and still can’t go down stairs without assistance.
And then there’s this:  I’ve made no secret here in the past of the fact that I’ve had my battles with depression and stress, however much of the last six months were a continuing struggle for me.  I’ve had days where I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone get to work.  I pray every night and every morning for God’s help in getting me through each day.  I experienced an unwanted change in jobs and responsibilities a few months ago, which is the primary source of stress, and it has me doubting my ability to do… well, just about anything.  That’s what depression does to me.  It leaves me feeling paranoid, unhappy, distrusting, and doubting myself in a lot of ways.  Most days, I feel like I’m in a pit and I can’t climb out of it.
As a result of these struggles, I’ve had difficulty writing.  It isn’t that I’m not writing at all; what I’ve written is just not worth posting, as much of it is meandering and personal.  With regard to this blog, I’ve put it aside in order to concentrate on getting better.  While I’m a long way from that still, there are things I feel like I can share.  And, really, the blog is an itch that I need to scratch.  I’m unsure of just how much I’ll post, but I hope multiple times a week will suffice to get me back into a routine.
In the near future, you can look forward to hearing stories about my daughter’s high school band adventures; my wonderful wife; our latest roller coaster trips; pizza…oh, so much pizza; and stories about my walk with God.
Have a great day, everyone!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mom's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there.  My wonderful wife, Teresa, passed from this life less than a month before her first official Mother's Day, so everyday spent with our daughter, Melody, was Mother's Day.  Teresa was a great mom.

Melody was so fortunate to have my own mother, as well as Teresa's mother, as moms, so we celebrate them because they were so wonderful and supportive.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  Happy Mother's Day, Mom2!  Happy Mother's Day, T2!

Have a great day, everyone!

Friday, May 11, 2018


I consider myself a pizza connoisseur.  Though it is not the best thing for me to eat, I can’t help trying an old favorite or a brand new, never-tried-before pizza parlor.  So many of my favorites over the years have disappeared off the map, many of them childhood favorites that helped develop my pizza palette, and I miss them terribly.  I’m sure they weren’t necessarily good, at least not all of them. 

Places like Shakey’s were pretty awesome, though it likely wasn’t the pizza, but the ambience that I remember so well.  In the mid- to late-70s, my grandfather, Kenny Fulcher, displayed his powerful trumpet playing chops with a Dixieland Jazz band called Southern Comfort every Friday night at the Rockville, MD, Shakey’s restaurant, on the Pike.  The place always seemed packed with patrons, and the pizza wasn’t bad.  It closed back in the 80s, eventually replaced by a Hooter’s.  Where Shakey’s was certainly children-friendly, Hooter’s is not.

I’ve mentioned this place once before on this blog, but another favorite pizza restaurant was the Dino Restaurant, in Suitland, MD.  It’s also long gone, but not forgotten.  Eating at Dino’s was a lot like eating in someone’s Italian dining room.  It seemed very formal to my child eyes, but we loved going here for special occasions, or on a Friday night when we had a craving for it.  It was very similar to Ledo’s recipe, with a somewhat thin, rectangular crust, slightly sweet sauce, and nicely portioned layer of cheese.  I remember going more than a few times with my grandparents, and once tried anchovies, which my grandfather would order separately and add on to his slices of pizza.  The Dino is missed.

I generally stay away from the chains (though I know Shakey’s was a chain, and Ledo’s, my current favorite, is, too), but I’m going to mention Pizza Hut.  I haven’t liked their pizza for many years, but when I was a kid, we went to Pizza Hut often, and it was pretty good.  The crust was always thicker than anything else we tried, and the cheese was laid on pretty thick, too.  I guess it was the pan pizza that really attracted us, though, and we loved every greasy slice.  While my family always seemed to go to the Clinton, MD, store, it was the Upper Marlboro Pizza Hut, near Osborne Road on 301, that became “ours.”  I went to Frederick Douglass High School, and the school’s band adopted it as our hangout.  After every football game or concert, we would gather there for a celebratory pizza.

Speaking of Clinton, another really good pizza place was Margellina’s.  I didn’t “discover” them until I was in my 20s, but it became a favorite of mine, and I loved dragging friends there to eat.  My parents loved it, too.  Many times, I’d order a couple of pies and take them home.  They were really good, slightly thick, and packed with toppings.  They were unique enough to want to come back often.

A shopping center near my childhood home in Upper Marlboro opened a Pizza Oven restaurant in the early 80s.  While the pizza was nothing special, it really grew on me and the thick tomato sauce and thin crust satisfied my pizza cravings often.  They were a fairly decent local chain for a while, but now there’s only one left in the DC area that I can find, near Riverdale, MD, just off of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  Ironically, it’s in the exact same shop that my parents used to get their pizza fixes when I was a baby and we lived in Riverdale, called the Pizza Wheel.

In my mid 20s, I moved in with my cousin, Dan, in Montgomery Village, MD.  MV seemed far from where I grew up, and I had to find all new pizza places and learn what was good.  Dan was a pizza guy, too, though, and he knew where to get the good stuff.  He and I began ordering a large pizza from Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria almost every Friday.  They delivered, which was perfect, and he and I could put away a large pizza easily.  Armand’s pizza was thick, Chicago-style, and had a slightly bitter, thick tomato sauce.  And we loved it.  Our regular order was pepperoni, mushrooms, and extra cheese.  There are still a couple of Armand’s in the area, though they seem to come and go.  There was one in Bowie, near my parent’s place, but it only lasted a few years.  I don’t know if the MV store is still there, but there is one in Silver Spring, not too far from my office, and I surprise my management team with a pizza lunch every once in a while.

I’m still searching for good pizza places in Howard County, where I live, but I haven’t been very successful.  My current favorite is Trattoria E Pizzeria***, on Guilford Road at the King’s Contrivance Village Center.  It’s a New York-style pizza that retains its Italian heritage.  I wish they delivered, but I don’t mind going to pick up a pie when I get a craving for it.

Other pizza joints in Howard County that I’ve tried, both chains and standalones, include (with my subjective ratings):  Bertucci’s*** (Columbia), Coal Fire** (Ellicott City), Facci** (Fulton), HomeSlyce*** (Columbia), Ledo’s*** (Columbia and Fulton), Lucero’s*** (Fulton), New York J & P** (Fulton), Pasta Blitz*** (EC), Squisito** (Burtonville – technically Montgomery Co), Pub Dog*** (Columbia), Waterloo** (Columbia), Waterloo** (Elkridge), Vennari’s** (Columbia), Bella Mia** (EC), Gateway Pizza*** (Elkridge), Upper Crust** (Columbia), Pazani*** (Elkridge), Luna Bella** (Columbia), Roma’s** (Columbia), Pizza Presto* (Laurel), Pizza Primetime* (Laurel), Royal Pizza*** (Columbia), MOD*** (Columbia), Pie Five* (Columbia), Papa John’s* (Laurel), Domino’s* (Laurel), Pizza Hut* (Laurel), Jerry’s** (Fulton), Grotto’s** (Columbia), Wegman’s*** (Columbia), Weis** (Laurel), and Three Brother’s*** (Laurel/PG County – Columbia location is closed!).  

Some are pretty good, many are not so great, though I’ll say I did really like Three Brother’s and was saddened that the Columbia location closed.  The Ledo’s chain is the closest to great, but they’re still not at the level of the Original Ledo Restaurant**** (College Park) and TJ Elliot’s**** (Bowie – they use the original recipe).

So my search for great pizza continues.  If you have recommendations, please pass them along.

Have a great weekend, everyone!