Saturday, September 22, 2012

Looking for a Date?

All right, I'm about fed up with the whole online dating scene.  I've tried all of the sites, gone on about a dozen dates, and continue to attract the wrong women.  So I'm looking for help.  If you, the reader, would care to assist me in offering me feedback, I'm going to post my online profile.  Thanks for your help.

20 things about me: 

1. I love the Lord! 

2. I love my little girl! She's 8, very cute, very smart, and makes me laugh. 

3. I believe your work ethic is more important and impressive than how much money you make.

4. I believe it's important to tell your loved ones everyday how much you love them. You can't say it enough.

5. The city of Pittsburgh is a wonderful place! I am very passionate about my Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. I'm also a die-hard Terp! 

6. I'm a bit of an introvert, but will open up with the right person. 

7. I love road trips! I've driven the entire length of (what's left of) old Route 66. Driving through God's beauty in the American West is both therapeutic and humbling. I've driven through 41 U. S. states and 5 Canadian provinces, but I've been to only one other country. 

8. I like the mountains a little bit better than the beach. 

9. I believe in chivalry and respecting the opposite sex. I'm a traditional guy...a bit of a throw-back. You can trust me to always be a gentleman with you, and you can expect to be seriously romanced if we hit it off. 

10. My favorite movie of all time is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. If you haven't seen it, I can't recommend it enough. Especially if you can see it on the big screen. It always puts me in a Christmas spirit. 

11. One of my role models is Richie Cunningham from HAPPY DAYS. Most guys wanted to be like the Fonz. I wanted to be like Richie. 

12. I would love to have a tennis partner. 

13. My favorite movie of all time is JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. You'll like it only if you GET it. Most people don't GET it. It is amusing and inspiring, filled with symbolism, and very romantic. 

14. I'm not a great cook, but I make a mean pot of chili. I probably go out to eat more often than I should. 

15. I love roller coasters! Not only are they a lot of fun, but they seem to be a metaphor for my life. 

16. I am frequently accused of being a nice guy (yes, the kiss of death when it comes to dating, but I can provide references), but I will do whatever possible to never finish last. 

17. I don't care for coffee or beer. I just never acquired a taste for either. I'm not against my partner drinking, however. 

18. My favorite movie of all time is REAR WINDOW......and NORTH BY NORTHWEST.....and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN......and OCEAN'S ELEVEN....and CARS...and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON...and TOMBSTONE...and GLORY...and GRAND CANYON...and...! 

19. WHO I'M ATTRACTED TO: You are beautiful (to me), inside and out. You honor old-fashioned values with modern sensibilities. You are a Christian. You are a person of high-character and confidence. You love your family. You are a bit of an extrovert, but not overbearing. You enjoy playing and watching sports, or will at least put up with my passionate fanaticism. You understand my need to take care of my daughter, though I promise you will receive the attention you deserve. Your friends may describe you as nice and attractive. You are happy, both with yourself and your life, but you recognize that a potential mate can only enhance your life. You put God first, and you understand that by doing so, you open yourself up to love. If this sounds like you, I might like to meet you. 

20. God has blessed me with a wonderful life. One of my favorite verses is, "And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast." I Peter 5: 10. With Him, life gets better each and every day.

Pap's Last Moments

When my grandfather was dying after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, with much of our family surrounding his bed, and with everyone praying and telling him it was okay to let go (he had been comatose for several days, but seemed to be hanging on to life despite his weakening body), he suddenly opened his eyes and looked straight at the ceiling. I was holding his hand and knew this was the end, but I wondered, why now? What was he seeing? Then his breathing become very labored, and he slowly closed his eyes as his body breathed its last breath. Amid the sobbing and praying of family members that broke the silence of the moment, I am convinced, when he opened his eyes, he was seeing the glory of Heaven, with Jesus welcoming him with open arms. The thought filled me with comfort, and I sincerely believe, one day, I will see him again and be able to ask him about what he was seeing in that moment before he left this life.

Friday, September 21, 2012

High School Reunions

Watching GROSSE POINTE BLANK on TV made me think back on my 25-year high school reunion this past June.  This movie, about a guy returning to his hometown for his 10-year high school reunion (among other things), came out the same year as my 10-year, so when I see it, I think of high school reunions.

I had a great time at my 10-year reunion.  I was on the reunion organizing committee, and that allowed me to have a lot of involvement in the planning.  I also got to spend a lot of time with some old friends that I hadn't seen in a really long time.  Even though I was an introvert in high school and did not go to parties and things like that, I was accepted by the popular crowd because we had many of the same classes.  My high school class, the Class of '87 from Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, MD, was really special, and may be unusual as high school classes go.  We were a smart, close bunch of kids, from many different backgrounds, but there is this connection that has existed with us that draws us together in a way that is hard to explain.  I think we are the only class that had teachers and the entire school administration attend the 10-year reunion, and they may have had a better time than us, the students.  Anyway, at the 10-year, I was able to rekindle many of these relationships.  The only thing I didn't do was dance, since I just don't.  I think the only negative was that my high school crush, Allison, was married (I was still a single guy; didn't meet my wife until a few years later).

I went to my 20-year reunion and did not have a very good time.  Despite being three years removed from the death of my wife, and feeling good about myself, I had attended with the hope of having a good time and reconnecting with many old friends.  Aside from a few close friends, most hadn't seen me since the 10-year reunion.  Several knew about my wife, and that seemed to cast me in a different light, I guess.  I knew it was going to be a difficult night when I first walked in, went to the registration table, and watched several classmates immediately turn and walk away, whispering to each other as they glanced my way, and before I could get out a, "Hi, you haven't changed a bit!"  I spent the evening with many avoiding me completely, and, as I learned later, not talking to me because they didn't know what to say to me, and the whole evening was just an awkward mess.  I went home early in a funk.

As my 25-year reunion approached, several friends contacted me and asked if I was coming.  I made it clear that I really didn't want to after the experience I had at the 20-year.  However they tried to convince me that it wouldn't be that way this time, that classmates were more mature and really wanted to see me.  I still wasn't convinced, but one friend talked me into attending the Happy Hour on the Friday before the reunion and, if I had a good time, I could purchase a ticket for the reunion then.  I reluctantly agreed.  And, to my surprise, I had a great time.  Even Allison was there, newly divorced, but, unfortunately for me, in a new relationship.  But it was great catching up with everyone.  The Happy Hour was more of an alumni gathering, and included many from different classes, so that made it even more fun.  Enough years had gone by that no one even asked me how I was doing, with all of the undertones that accompanied it, which was a question I was asked too often by those that did talk to me at the 20-year.  At the end of the evening, I was convinced that the reunion would be fun, and I purchased a ticket to attend the next evening.

And I had a decent time.  Unfortunately, there were several people, not at the Happy Hour, that still obviously didn't know how to talk to me, and didn't, and even avoided me, but I wasn't going to allow that to bother me.  I talked to the people I wanted to talk to, and enjoyed it. I only wish Allison was still available. :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How I Met Your Mother

I wrote the following on April 4, 2000, on the 2nd anniversary of the day I met my wife, Teresa....

Two years ago today, my cousin, Dan, and I had breakfast at the Shoney's in Montgomery Village. Our conversation gravitated towards the Easter play that was going to be performed at Montrose Baptist Church that evening, of which Dan was a cast member, and he said I might enjoy coming to the show. In fact, he said that there was a young lady in the cast that I might enjoy meeting. Though I had some reservations about going (I had gone to Montrose a year earlier and decided it really wasn't my kind of church), and I didn't really tell Dan I would go, I did end up going. Dan hadn't tried doing any match-making with me before, so I was intrigued.

I sat near the back and proceeded to watch the show. It was very well performed, though I was mostly occupied with trying to figure out who the young lady was that Dan had wanted me to meet, since he hadn't told me her name. After the show ended, Dan came over to where I was sitting and said he was getting a group of cast members together to go out and get something to eat, and that he would see if "Teresa" would go, too. She was backstage cleaning up. I still didn't know what she looked like. Dan said we would all meet at Bennigan's on Rockville Pike.

I headed over there in my Grand Am and met up with Dan and a few other people and we discovered Bennigan's was too crowded, and our wait would be a long one, so we told everyone to head over to Fritzbe's instead. I didn't know where it was, so I stood with Dan and a few others on the sidewalk outside of Bennigan's to direct people over to Fritzbe's that hadn't arrived yet. When a young lady in a Grand Am showed up, Dan went over to her car and told her we were going to Fritzbe's. After she pulled away, Dan said that she was the girl he wanted me to meet.

I followed Dan over to Fritzbe's and we went in. There were already about 5 or 6 people there, and Dan introduced me to them, including Teresa. We shook hands and Dan proceeded to sit down......before I could get a seat anywhere near Teresa. We spent the next hour or so on the same side of the table with two people between us, Dan included, not able to say one thing to each other the entire time we were there. In fact, there was one other person on the other side of me that didn't have anyone to talk to except for me, since he was on the end of the table, so, feeling obligated to talk to him, I was left out of most of the conversation at the other end of the table involving Teresa. So, there I was, wondering about that beautiful young lady on the other side of the table, not able to have any direct conversation with her, with the guy who wanted me to meet her sitting between us.

The evening finally ended, and as we were going out the door, I was able to at last say something to Teresa. As she walked to her car, I said, "Hey, you've got a Grand Am, too!" The next day, Dan asked me if I wanted him to get her phone number for me and see if she would be interested in going out. One month later (sorry, I'm a little slow), we went on our first date. Ten months later, I proposed to her, and we were married 5 months after that. Thanks, Dan, and you were right: I DID enjoy meeting this wonderful young lady, and I'm even happier every day to call her my wife.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Letter to My Wife

Wrote this letter to my wife, Teresa, almost a year after she died, at the height of my depression...

My Wonderful Wife,

The year is going by so fast! The Christmas season has just ended and we’re gearing up for a long winter. I actually am looking forward to the overcast days and snow, though I know you liked it better in the warm sunshine, unless it was snowing and school was cancelled!

Melody is still the center of our lives. She is growing so fast, and can do so many things. She is such a sweet, friendly, smart, strong-willed little girl. She reads her books everyday, and knows so many words. I can’t wait until she can talk instead of babble in that language only she understands, so that I can understand her. She seems to have a lot to say. Yesterday, she pulled herself up onto the ottoman and started using the TIVO remote to fast-forward through the parts of Sesame Street she doesn’t like in order to watch what she does like: Elmo’s World. She has more toys than she knows what to do with. Between her first birthday and Christmas, she now has enough to fill five rooms: her bedroom, the living room, the rec room, Mom & Dad’s family room, and your parent’s living room. She is the most beautiful baby in the world. Fortunately, she gets her looks from you!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are having one of the best seasons in the history of the NFL. It’s very exciting to see them finish the season at 15-1, with their new rookie QB, Big Ben Roethlisberger, undefeated in 13 starts. I think they’re Super Bowl bound. Your Redskins, unfortunately, didn’t have a great season, despite the return of Joe Gibbs. Maybe next year will be better. The Maryland Terps football team struggled, too, but I’m hopeful that the basketball team will do well in the highly competitive ACC, despite a blowout loss to the Tar Heels over the weekend. Ward Burton, our favorite NASCAR driver, had a disappointing season in the Netzero car and was unceremoniously let go. He doesn’t have a new ride yet, and I don’t have that same feeling of excitement as the new season approaches next month without him.

I continue to struggle with things. Life is not the same. I find myself just sort of sleepwalking through my days. Work is stressful at times. Being a supervisor is not as much fun as cartography, but at least everyone is fun to work with. I actually have found that I look forward to coming to work again, sometimes, so that’s good. I’m dealing with a few health issues that have me scared, though I know everything will be fine. Everything was easier when we went through these things together. I trust that God will continue to take care of me, and us.

Mom & Dad, your parents, and Angie continue to help me care for Melody, and Lauren is continuing as Melody’s nanny. I’m so blessed to have them in my life. I pray continuously for your parents, knowing how much they’ve lost, but I’m so thankful that they are involved in my and Melody’s lives. Your friends, Kristen and Elizabeth, come by weekly to visit. Cherish, Jennifer, Cherice, Melissa, Addie, Nancy, Carol, Irene, and Michelle check in with me often, as well, and I appreciate all that they do for us. Many friends from my past have re-entered my life and I enjoy opportunities to get together with them: Tucker, Darrell, Kirk & Jim.

I went to the cemetery last week for the first time since they placed the monument on your gravesite. The monument is very nice, as is the location. While I was there, it was cold, overcast and rainy, which kind of fit my mood that day. Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock and re-live the happy moments of our time together. I know that’s impossible, but I’m glad to have so much video tape and pictures, and all of our emails to each other over the five + years we were together, to remember you.

This past weekend was the annual Ya-ya Christmas party. You were greatly missed, but we had a good time. It’s not the same without you, though. Your friends are so wonderful to me, and to Melody. Kristen, Elizabeth, Cherish, Jennifer & Rob (and newborn Alana) overloaded us both with gifts. I appreciate them, and their friendship, so much. I’ve noticed just how important it is to have them in my life, since they help me remember you. They tell me stories about you from before we met. And they aren’t just your friends anymore. They are mine, too.

As much as I enjoy spending time with all of these people, I still have a huge void in my life. I miss you so much! Ours was such a perfect marriage. Even if I wanted to, I’m reluctant to pursue other relationships because of my feelings for you. It’s hard for me to imagine starting all over again with a new relationship. But I don’t like being alone, and I don’t like that Melody doesn’t have a Mom now. I miss being able to do “couple” things. I miss dining out with you, and going out to the movies with you, and taking trips together. None of these things are fun to do alone. It’s so hard seeing so many happy couples everywhere. And I don’t like being a single father. Our time together was just too short. I will trust the Lord to guide me and help me through this. I know, through Him, everything will be fine.

Thank you for making me so happy, my Dear. God allowed us to experience His love for us in the love we shared as husband and wife. Through that love, you helped me to be a better man, husband, and father. As Melody’s Mom, you shaped the foundation of her development into the smart, wonderful little girl she is, and we have tried to carry forward with her as you taught us. We will love you forever, my dear!


Melody's First Big Trip

No real rhyme or reason, but here's another essay, this one from October 11, 2005, describing the first trip I ever took with Melody.  Enjoy!

I wanted to share with you the details on my first trip with Melody, just the two of us. It was very eventful! It was an overnight trip to Ocean City, MD. I made reservations at one of our favorite hotels on the boardwalk and Melody and I would plan to leave following work on Friday, with a return on Saturday. Unfortunately, as the day got closer, the weather forecast got worse and worse. On Friday, it was supposed to rain all day, but there was hope it might clear out by Saturday morning. We went ahead with our plans. I thought we might be able to visit with my first boss, JB and his wife, too.

The day started on Friday with Lauren bringing Melody into my office. It was raining very hard, so I met them in the parking garage and I brought Melody in, giving Lauren the afternoon off. We had to go to the Security Desk in the lobby so Melody could get an "official" visitors pass (we spent the rest of the day calling it her "badge"). We went around to see several people and say hello, then we had lunch at my desk. She had french toast, her second french toast meal of the day (Grammy made it for her for breakfast, too).

We left the office at 1:30, about 30 minutes later than planned, but everyone at work wanted to see Melody before we left. We hit a wall of cars on Colesville Road heading out of downtown Silver Spring, so I phoned the office to let everyone know that rush hour might be bad. Gary answered and confirmed the traffic problems and said the power was out at several signals. I immediately headed for the back streets and made our way over to Piney Branch and New Hampshire Ave. to get around the traffic and onto the Beltway.

Melody had fallen asleep at this point. That's when I began to worry. I should have used the bathroom before we left the office. I knew I wouldn't make it all the way to Ocean City without needing to stop, and I wondered how I might stop with Melody sleeping. I didn't want to wake her, but I certainly didn't want to leave her in the car by herself. I decided to head for home. It was a little bit out of the way, but as long as traffic was moving, we should be able to stop and hit the road again with only a short delay. Unfortunately, traffic was very heavy on I-95 north and it took much longer than expected. When we got to my house, Melody was still asleep, so I left the radio on with the engine off and rushed in to take care of business.

Back on the road, we headed for the Bay Bridge and the Eastern Shore. We hit a major traffic jam at the bridge, right around 3 p.m., just as JB called on my cell phone. He was surprised we were only at the bridge, and doubly surprised that I actually went to work this morning, but we planned for me to call him after we checked into our hotel and Melody and I would go out to visit with him and his wife this evening. Melody woke up from her nap at about this time, too. Her first word was, "Monkees." She really likes the Monkees music and T.V. show, and she's been watching the DVDs a lot recently. So, I put in a Monkees CD for us to listen to. Traffic began to clear out and we crossed the bridge and went on our merry way. Melody was in good spirits and we talked and sang all the way to OC.

We arrived in OC at around 5:30 or so and made our way to the hotel. I pulled in, parked, and got out my paperwork for the hotel. This was the first time I noticed a problem: my reservation was for Sunday night, not Friday!!! I screwed up! After traveling through 39 states, 3 countries, and 5 provinces, this was the first time I had ever made a mistake like this. I panicked a little, wondering what we should do. Melody was oblivious and seemed to be quite happy, though after 4 hours in a car seat, I could see she was anxious to get out. I checked and found out the hotel was booked solid, and there was a classic car show going on in OC for the weekend, so rooms might be scarce.

I figured we first needed to get some dinner. Melody and I were both hungry. I stopped at the Bull On The Beach and we went in and ate. Then I phoned Expedia, with whom I made the reservation, to see if they could help me find another room (and cancel my reservation for Sunday). I got lucky and we found a room at another hotel, though it was going to cost twice what the first one cost. We worked our way through OC to our new hotel. Everything went smoothly at check-in and we unpacked and got comfortable in our room. It was now after 7 p.m. I knew there was no way Melody would be able to handle another ride in the car tonight, so I called JB to let him know we would not be able to make it over. I think they were disappointed, as were we, and I shared my story about messing up the reservation. He told me that we should have called him, since they have a very nice, very large home and we could have stayed with them, but I really didn't want to inconvenience them. Unfortunately, he had to work all day Saturday, so we would not be able to see them on this trip.

Melody and I decided to take a walk over to the attached mall and get some ice cream, so off we went. The mall seemed to already be set up for the off-season, as a lot of stores were closed, including the ice cream place, so we went back to the hotel restaurant, a Denny's. We walked in and noticed right away that it was not very busy. Everyone looked at us as we walked in, including the staff, making me just a tad uncomfortable. We waited for a table, but, after 10 minutes of waiting, no one came to seat us. I told Melody in a moderately loud voice that we would go somewhere else, and nobody stopped us from leaving. We found some ice cream in the lobby snack store and went back to our room.

We watched a little television until I noticed the clock said 10:05. It was later than I thought. So Melody and I got ready for bed. Another disappointment from the reservation mess up was that, instead of a nice, big King-sized bed that I had reserved, we were stuck with 2 double beds. Because Melody is a gymnast while she sleeps, and I needed to sleep on one side of the bed to keep her from tumbling off, we were looking at some pretty tight quarters. I placed two chairs next to the bed on one side, and laid down on the other. Melody wouldn't be able to fall out unless she did a pole vault. I took off my watch and discovered that either my watch was an hour slow (doubtful), or the hotel clock was wrong and we were in bed much earlier than I thought (likely). Oh, well, we needed the sleep after the long trip in the car. We washed up, put on our PJs, read a few books, said our prayers, and went to sleep.

I woke up at around 1 a.m. with a foot in my face. I woke up again at 2:30 with a knee in my stomach. At 3:30, the blankets were gone and I was literally on the edge of the bed, clutching my pillow to keep from falling. Melody was still sleeping soundly, sideways in the bed. At 7 a.m., I decided I had had enough sleep, and so I grabbed a shower and got dressed. Melody awoke a short time later and seemed very happy. We had a leisurely morning, got ready, and headed out for breakfast. We decided to skip Denny's and look for something a little nicer.

Outside, it looked like a hurricane! Wind and rain beat down on us and we ran to our car. Melody clutched her hood in her hands to keep it over her head, as the wind tried to grab it all the way to the car. Once there, we headed out to the Dough Roller for breakfast.  Melody and I enjoyed our french toast (again!) and omelette, and the friendly attention of the waitress, a result of Melody's "cuteness factor", I guess. At least, that's what the waitress kept saying. After we ate, we went back to our hotel. It was still raining hard and the wind was howling. We had to park pretty far from the hotel, since everyone eating at Denny's was taking up all of the closer parking spaces. This time we used the umbrella, though we almost lost it due to the wind and it didn't really keep us very dry. We packed up and checked out, rushing back to the car to keep from getting too wet.

Rather than just head for home, we decided to make the best of the situation and go to the boardwalk and see what was open. Unfortunately, not much was open. We went to one of the arcades and spent about an hour in there. Melody won a bunch of tickets playing skeeball, so she traded them in for a little plastic bracelet. The girl working at the counter gave Melody a noise-making rattle, too, another result of the "cuteness factor", I guess. We also had a few cheesy pictures taken in one of those little photo booths, which will be a nice souvenir of our weekend.

We braved the elements once more and found that the kiddie playland indoor rides were open. This meant we could ride on the carousel, which Melody enjoyed a great deal. However, I lost her pacifier when I wrestled it out of her mouth for a picture, and it landed somewhere underneath the ride. Melody was distracted enough by her enjoyment of the ride to notice. We rode a few more rides before deciding we really needed to get some lunch and hit the road before we got too close to nap time.

Too late! We got in the car and drove over to Applebee's for lunch. Melody decided she didn't want to go in. I said we were going in. She said no. This set the stage for a battle of wills that became quite ugly. We went in to the restaurant and the hostess took us to our table. Melody would have none of this, and began to yell quite loudly, bringing every eye in the place squarely on us. I apologized to the hostess and told her we would not be staying. We went back to the car. Melody said, "No! Eat lunch!" I said, "No, we're leaving." She began to physically fight me to keep me from putting her back in her car seat. It was quite a struggle. I knew we couldn't go anywhere unless she was in her seat, and she knew it, too. After a few kicks to the face (mine, not hers), I got her buckled in.  Then we hit the road for home.  I was wiped out! A few minutes later, I looked in the mirror and she was fast asleep. I knew that this episode occurred only because she was so tired. She is such a good little girl!

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we headed for home. Overall, it was a nice trip, despite the poor weather and hotel situation. I was very encouraged by Melody's ability to travel in the car for such a long distance, too. I look forward to many more trips

Honoring Mommy

Still going through old files and came across this little essay I wrote describing how Melody and I spent the four-year anniversary of my wife's death by honoring her memory on a trip through her history.  Written on April 19, 2008:

Today, four years after Teresa's home-going, Melody and I spent the day honoring Teresa's memory by traveling and visiting places of significance to her life.

We started the day by driving to Reservoir High School, where Teresa taught from 2002 until her passing. The memorial garden was filled with blooming flowers and Melody ran around enjoying the beautiful weather.

Next, we stopped by Howard County General Hospital, where I explained to Melody that this was where she was born (it was also where Teresa was taken the night she passed). We didn't go any further than the lobby, and before she could start asking too many questions about the whole birthing thing, we headed out to our next location.

Next, we went to Rocky Run, the location of several of Teresa's birthday celebrations. Melody and I enjoyed lunch, then we went to the store to get some sunscreen (we were starting to get a little too much sun with the top down on the car -- the weather was warm and beautiful!).

Next, we went to Mt. Hebron High School, which is where Teresa began teaching. Following her death, the students there planted a tree in her memory, however the tree has apparently been removed. Unfortunately, Melody fell asleep and took a nap during the next part of our journey.

Melody awoke as we approached our next destination, Crest Lawn Memorial Gardens, where Teresa's body was laid to rest. Melody asked lots of questions about death, and why Teresa's body was here, and how could she be in Heaven, too? It was a pleasant, though sad time, and Melody gave me a long hug as we said our goodbyes to "Mommy."

We enjoyed the next part of our drive, down Rt. 97 towards Rockville. We drove by Montrose Baptist Church, where Teresa and I were married. There appeared to be a service going on, so Melody and I were not able to go into the church. Melody was disappointed about that, but after explaining where we were going next, she got excited.

We then headed over to the University of Maryland, in College Park, where Teresa and I both attended (at different times, and we didn't know each other until several years later). We parked near the Student Union and Melody & I visited the Jim Henson memorial, which is a statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog. After we walked around the Union, we went over to McKeldin Mall and Melody and I stopped by the statue of Testudo, the Terrapin. I explained to Melody about the tradition of rubbing Testudo's nose for good luck. Then we walked down to the ODK fountain, which has Teresa's name engraved on it. Next, Cole Field House, but there was a cheerleading competition going on, so we couldn't go in (at least, without paying $20). We walked around Cole to see Byrd Stadium (though Melody tripped on a curb and didn't feel like walking around anymore). We continued our tour by car, and we drove around campus, checking out the dorms Teresa lived in while she was a student, and stopping by Comcast Center, where the Terps basketball teams play. We parked again near Rt. 1 and got some ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery. After we ate, we headed north on Rt. 1 to Laurel.

We made one last stop at Crestleigh, the apartment complex where Teresa lived with Kristen after she graduated from U of MD, and before Teresa and I were married. Then we stopped at Ledo's for a pizza before heading home.

We miss Mommy so much, and wish we could have had more time with her. We understand God had other plans, and we are content with the knowledge that we will see her again. We're also thankful for all of the wonderful memories and pictures we have of Teresa and her life with us. It's hard to believe it's been four years already. But we will never forget the significance of today, and we want to honor Teresa's memory by celebrating her life. Today was just such a celebration.

Today Show Essay

I've been going through a bunch of files on my old PC and came across the following essay written by my wife, Teresa, shortly after our daughter, Melody, was born.  Teresa was suffering from severe exhaustion that, in hindsight, can be linked to the heart issues that eventually took her life, but we didn't know that at the time she wrote this.  The TODAY Show was having some kind of contest, which is why Teresa wrote this, but she never submitted it.  I posted it on her memorial website at, and am reproducing it here.  And I'm convinced that Melody has been inspired by her mom.  Enjoy!

            When I first heard about this contest on The Today Show, I was sitting in my living room with my mother nursing my four-week-old baby girl.  I looked at my mom and looked at Melody Grace and thought, “Inspire me?  All this child has done is drain me…of sleep, of energy, of time.”  I was in the middle of a textbook case of the baby blues.  However, now, four weeks later, I see a different picture; I have been inspired by my baby girl the way only a baby can inspire.
            I sat this morning as she napped in my arms and held my hand with her two little ones and thought of all the inspiration she brings.  A new baby represents hope, and I have so much hope for our future when I look into her blue eyes.  As I watch my parents effortlessly turn into grandparents, I see that she has inspired them to laughter, youthfulness and fun.  As I place my infant into my dying grandfather’s arms and see his whole demeanor change, I see how she inspires healing and smiles.  Even as I interrupt the writing of this essay to answer her cries, I realize that she is daily inspiring me:  to prioritize, to be a better mother, to be a better daughter, a better friend and a better woman, and hopefully, to one day inspire her right back.

--Teresa Shirlen Freed, January 8, 2004

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GO ON Going On

There's a new show on NBC called GO ON, starring Matthew Perry.  He plays Ryan, a radio sportscaster whose wife recently died, and who now finds himself in a support group made up of a strange group of people who each have experienced a loss.  It's a unique subject for a comedy, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  However, it definitely has its funny moments.  In the pilot episode, Ryan attends the support group for the first time, and arrives before the group leader/counselor, and he rallies the whole group to play a single-elimination bracket tournament (a la March Madness), where each person goes up against another and has 15 seconds to garner the most sympathy for his or her situation.  The "winner" is a middle-aged Hispanic woman who apparently speaks very little English, and no one understands her rambling in Spanish, but assumes it must be a very sad story.  She beats out the elderly African-American gentleman who made it to the final by continuing to harp on the fact that, not only did his wife pass away, he's blind.  My description does not do it justice.  I laughed out loud.

I like the show from the standpoint that it can take such a serious topic, death, and create comedy without necessarily making fun of it.  Sure, the characters are kind of thin (television just can't create complex supporting characters anymore), and some of the jokes are a bit out there, but the show's heart seems to be in the right place.  I get it.

I wrestle with the term "go on" occasionally, even though I am eight and a half years removed from experiencing the death of my wife.  After she died, I found myself reading every book I could find on death and losing a spouse, and every one had the same bottom line advice:  Life goes on, time will bring healing.  I found myself trying to figure out how to go on with my life, and I just couldn't shake the grief.  I found myself sinking further and further into a hole of depression, and I didn't know what to do.  I never lost my faith, and I always felt God was with me, but that knowledge just didn't translate into something I could grasp to pull me out of that hole.

I hit rock bottom about a year after Teresa's death.  I realized I needed to reach out, and I did by sending out a plea in the form of an email to my pastor friends.  I feel really blessed to know so many pastors, and many answered my call in different ways.  Some offered prayer, some passed along phone numbers of medical professionals I could call, and still another, a long-time family friend, even offered to accompany me to a doctor to talk about my situation.  Only one, my current pastor, called and said we should get together and just talk.  And we did, the very next day.  To this day, I still recall that conversation and sincerely believe that Mark helped me on my path of recovery.  He helped me realize that I needed to help myself before I could do anything about the other areas of my life that were causing me to fall into that hole.  His advice triggered something in me that allowed me to figure out how to "go on."

A few weeks after our conversation, I found myself going through one of my wife's old purses, cleaning it out so that I could donate it, along with a lot of her other things, to the Salvation Army.  In a pocket in that purse I found a small, square sheet of paper, on which was written in my wife's distinctively "teacher-style" handwriting, the following verse:  "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast." - I Peter 5:10.  I was immediately struck by the powerful message of these words, and felt as if my wonderful wife had written this note directly to me.  And the tears came.  And through sobs I thanked the Lord for allowing me to find this little piece of paper, and for giving me such a wonderful marriage, as short as it was, and for helping realize that I didn't have to "get over" her death to "go on."  Her death was a part of me; it is and always will be a part of who I am.  By trying to get over it, I was trying to erase that part of my life in order to move on, which is impossible.  But by accepting it as a part of me, as a part of my life story, I am able to go on.  This was an important realization, and brought about true healing.

So the lesson here is that you don't, can't, and shouldn't try to get over those painful, tragic events that occur over the course of our lives.  They are what makes me "me", and you "you".  You need these experiences to complete who you are, no matter how painful they may be.  And, ultimately, they allow you to GO ON. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Hate Online Dating

So I decided to give online dating another try.  I'm not desperate, but I was encouraged by my boss and a few other people in my office to re-visit it, but on a different site than the ones I've tried before.  So, I started praying about it and, last week, I signed up with Christian Mingle.

Almost immediately, I was sent a message from someone who did not have a picture attached to their profile. Experience has shone me that individuals who don't have a picture generally don't look like the person described in their profile.  I was intrigued enough by the message to notice that they had a link attached to their profile that said to click on it to see their picture.  So I did.  It took me back to the login screen for the website.  I thought that this was a little strange, especially after I attempted to login and it didn't work.  So I just closed it out and began to explore the site for prospective dates.  Shortly, though, I got an email from Christian Mingle asking if I had changed my email address.  I went back to my profile and noticed that my pictures were gone, much of my information had changed, and it became clear that my profile had been hijacked.  Likely by the picture-less individual who had initially contacted me.  I called the Christian Mingle help line, which I really didn't want to do (bad enough I'm on a dating site, but now I had to actually talk to a live human being who would know what I wrote and posted about myself.  I could only imagine that person thinking, "What a loser...").  Well, "Jason" confirmed that my profile was hijacked, and told me how to fix it, which was to basically start over with a whole new profile.  Wonderful.

So I've been on this site for a week and I've already learned a few things.  First of all, I'm seeing many of the same faces I saw on and on eHarmony.  These are the same women that I've already rejected, or who rejected me.  Oh, there were lots of others, too, but this was just one of the things I noticed.  Second, I started getting "Smiles" (similar to "Winks" on other sites) emailed to me.  Unfortunately, 100% of these smiles were from women who, for whatever reason, neglected to read all the way through my profile to find out what kind of date I was looking for, since none of them matched my preferences.  At all.  Not even close.  The biggest offenders were those who were well outside my age preference.  I'm 43, and many of these women were in their 50s and 60s.  I even got one from a 78 year old!  I also requested that they at least live within 50 miles of my home town.  I continue to get smiles and messages from women well outside this 50 mile limit.  Florida.  Louisiana.  Michigan.  Massachusetts.  Even California!  What really gets me is that I don't even fit THEIR preferences!  I'm pretty good at geography.  Maryland isn't within 50 miles of Los Angeles or Miami.

Then there are the women who, once I've gently and kindly rejected them, send me a return message and want to know why I'm rejecting them.  It's hard enough to have to reject anyone, and keep in mind these are people who I have no relationship with other than them contacting me to let me know they're interested in me.  I don't really owe them anything.  Why is this so important for them to know?  So I've been truthful in my replies. "You don't fit my profile preferences. And it appears that I don't fit yours, either.  I'm guessing that means we aren't a good match."

The biggest issue I have with these sites (and, really, the issue is with the women on the sites, not the sites themselves) is that the women that I have an interest in and send messages to NEVER reply!  I've learned that I have to be proactive and initiate contact, especially since I and most Christians understand that men need to be the initiators.  I'm a bit old fashioned anyway, so I get it.  I also know that I'm not necessarily the best catch out there.  I know I'm not hideous looking, and I'm not the most out-going guy around, but I know I'm at least above average in intelligence and I've got a great career.  I'm a fairly nice guy.  But I haven't gotten one reply yet to the nine messages I've sent out.

Anyway, I've taken to documenting some of my frustrations on Twitter, and I'll share a few of my tweets at the end of this entry.  If you care to offer advice, or encouragement, please feel free to comment.  I'd appreciate prayers most of all.  Thank you!

Went on a lunch blind date recently. Good time, ended well. Got back to the office & she had already sent me an It's Not You It's Me email.

"It's not you, it's me" really means "It's you."

Hate hate hate online dating.... but I just signed up. Soliciting advice. May need references. Hope my luck will change. Trusting God, too.

I think I'm too old for this dating stuff. In fact, I'm finding out I'm too old for a LOT of stuff. 

Wow, do I hate online dating. ?,,,?

A 78 year old woman "smiled" at me. !?! 

Should I be at all concerned that women in their mid-60s & 70s are checking out my profile? 

Well, it's a step in the right direction... latest connections are at least in their late 40s/early 50s. Still 

So by ignoring my preferences, are these women just hoping I'll come around or should I be taking a chance on older women?

Amazing how many people take pics of themselves in their bathroom mirror. 

Age & distance preferences don't seem to matter much to some women looking for a date, I guess. 

I'm not looking for perfection, but I'm certainly not desperate, either. Where are the ones who are perfect for me? 

I know I'm not necessarily a great catch, but why is it the only women who are interested in me don't interest me?

I hope these women know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm just not the beholder that's finding their beauty.