Monday, December 30, 2013

The Steelers Blues

Today was a rough day for Pittsburgh Steelers football fans.  The Steelers have struggled all season, losing their first four games, before recovering and winning 6 of their final 8 to finish the season with a .500 record, at 8-8.  They were never really in the hunt for the playoffs, and it was hard to stay excited about them during the season.  I tend to get a little too involved in the team's wins and losses.  I'm what you would call a die-hard fan.  When the Steelers win, it can make my weekend.  When the lose, it puts me in a funk.  I take it all much too seriously.

So the Steelers started to get their season on track and they were winning games.  Coming into the last two games, the Steelers were still longshots to make the playoffs.  There were, like, 18 things that had to happen with other teams to keep them in the hunt.  Wouldn't you know it, but everything that had to happen began to happen, and the stars aligned.

Going into today's games, the Steelers still needed a lot of help.  They needed to win their game versus their long-time rivals, the Cleveland Browns.  The Steelers have played well against the Browns, especially when playing at home, so it was looking good for that game.  The Steelers also needed the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and San Diego Chargers to lose, which would make them all tied at 8-8, and the Steelers would get into the playoffs with the tie-breaker.  It was still a longshot.  Miami was playing a home game against the New York Jets.  It they won, they were in.  But the Jets played well and took the game, eliminating Miami.  The Ravens were playing at the division rival Cincinnati Bengals, and with the way the Ravens had been playing recently, this would be a tough game for them.  And, sure enough, the Bengals, after letting it stay close early, ran away with it.

It all came down to the San Diego Chargers versus the Kansas City Chiefs.  If the Chargers won, they were in the playoffs.  If they the Chiefs won, the Steelers would be in.  The Chargers were at home, where they had played well.  The Chiefs had already qualified for the playoffs, and Coach Andy Reid elected to rest a majority of his starters, including their quarterback and running back.  They seemed to be resigned to the fact that the game didn't mean anything to them, win or lose.  It didn't look good for the Steelers.  But the game still had to be played, and it was a nail-biter.  The Chargers fell behind unexpectedly and were losing 24-14 in the 4th quarter.  They seemed to get some momentum, though, and were able to tie it with just a few minutes left.  The Chiefs moved the ball up the field, and were inside the 20 yard line with only a few seconds left in the game.  A field goal would win it, and allow the Steelers to make it into the playoffs.  The Chiefs kicker, Ryan Succop, was a fairly decent kicker, too, so this would be an easy kick.  But it wasn't meant to be.  The kick went up and missed by mere inches.  The game went into overtime, where the Chargers went right down the field and kicked a field goal, then stopped the Chiefs from scoring to win the game and go to the playoffs!  The Steelers were eliminated.

It was a heartbreaking end to the season.  I had long ago lost any hope of the Steelers making the playoffs, but the recent success had rejuvenated my interest.  Given how everything had aligned for them over the last few weeks, I really thought they might make it.  But it didn't happen.

Now it's college basketball season, and I have to change my focus from the Steelers to my Maryland Terrapins.  The men's team still looks to be struggling, but the women's team is awesome once again, and there are high hopes for big success this season.  Hopefully it will be better than the Steelers.

I really hate how seriously I take my sports teams, and their successes and failures are taken to heart.  They literally affect my mood and will create a stress I do not need in my life, given the fact that I'm already stressed from work and other life events.  Sports are meant to be a fun and enjoyable diversion.  But I can't help it.  I just take it too seriously.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


I've always been intrigued by nicknames, and how people get them and how they stick.  Sometimes they start out as, say, pet names between couples, or maybe from grade school.  Some come from early childhood, and may have come about when they were a baby.  Maybe it's a play on their name, first or last, or something that they do.  Whatever it is, I think nicknames are pretty cool.

When I and my siblings were kids, my father always gave us nicknames.  Unfortunately, sometimes they stuck, and were used for years within our family, though they seldom spread beyond the family.  My uncle started calling me Eric "Von Zipper", after a character who appeared in the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies from the 60s.  Apparently, he was a bit of a doofus who wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle.  The only connection is our first name, Eric.  That morphed into my dad calling me "Z", short for Zipper, and sometimes "Z-bar" or "Z-bar-boy".  My brother got it a little worse, though.  For whatever reason, we started calling him "Paco".  I really don't know why.  His actual name is Darren.  As he got older, I started calling him "Kiddo", and it stuck, at least as far as I'm concerned, and I call him that to this day.

I guess Dad really liked nicknames, since he had such a large family (he's one of eight siblings) and they all called each other different names.  Dad was "Ferd", a spin on our last name.  As a William, he was, naturally, called "Bill", or "Billy".  He and Mom called each other "Borky" and "Buckwheat", after the Little Rascals characters.  My grandfather became "Pap", and I called him "Pap Pap Hair", since he was a barber, when I was a kid.  After becoming grandfathers themselves, my father and all of his brothers became "Paps", too, or "Pap Pap".  I called my cousin, Jeff, "Fuff", when I was a little kid.  My cousin, Jimmy, was "Jimbo", which I know he hated.  Mom, whose name is Gwendolyn, or Gwen, was called "Gwenzie" when she was a kid.

Having the last name Freed makes for an easy nickname.  My boss at work calls me "Freed" all the time, especially when he's not happy, which is all the time.  He's also known to call me "Freebird" or "Freburg".

My other grandfather, who was a professional jazz trumpet player, was nicknamed "Bebop" by us, his grandkids.  I'm told he loved it.

When I was in Junior High gym class, I became known as "Stork" because of the way I ran.  I didn't care for that one, but it stuck the whole year.

My wife started calling me "Bubba" after we got married.  I don't know why, and she didn't even know why, but it stuck, and became my pet name.  I called her "My Dear".  I didn't have anything else that could really qualify as a nickname.  However, her family gave her the nickname "T2" when her cousin, Josh, was a little kid.  He couldn't pronounce "Teresa", and it came out as "Teretoo", or, shortened, "T2".  Her uncle called her that for years (and referred to himself as "U1").  I adopted T2 for Teresa, but I never called her that except in writing.  Uncle Jerry calls me "E1".  A few of my employees call me "E", which I kind of like.  My current boss refers to me as "E", as well, among a lot of other names, like "Dr. Freed" and "Good Eric" (there's another Eric who is "Bad Eric", of course).

My daughter, Melody, was saddled with "Babe", which is what I called her when she was a baby, and it stuck.  You might think she would get the name "Mel", or "Melly", but neither name stuck.  She's still Babe within the family.

We tried to make things easy on my daughter when she was little, and we called my sister "Aunt G" based on her real name, Angie.  Angie loves it!  My brother, Darren, became Uncle D.  I call Angie "Ang".  Angie is also short for Angenette, her actual name.

Even our pets end up getting nicknames, even when their actual names are almost nicknames themselves.  Faithful Pup Scout is nicknamed "Puppy", or "Scouter", or even "Little Pup".  My sister's cat, Sam, was called "Sammy", or, as I called him, "Sammy Claws".

Some nicknames are better than others, but they sure are fun.  I'm glad to have a couple that I like, though there are just as many that are really bad.  Then there's this one, about a lost dog:  3 legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated...answers to the name, "Lucky".

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Greatest Gift

I received the most wonderful gift on Christmas Eve. It was a complete surprise to me, and my daughter is the one who surprised me.  

Melody had been staying with my in-laws since Sunday night. On Christmas Eve, I planned to go to the Candlelight service at my in-laws church, First Baptist of Damascus. It was a long drive from our house, and I was running just a bit late. When I arrived, the service had already begun. My family was all in attendance and they saved me a seat in the front row. It's not a big church, but there were about 150 people in attendance. I sat with Melody and we enjoyed the service and my father-in-law's message.

As the service was getting ready to end, Melody walked up to the stage and picked up a microphone. I was confused at first, and then the music started. My little girl began singing "Happy Birthday Jesus". It was sung beautifully and in tune, and I was just blown away! She had never done anything like this. I was a proud dad, and the tears came easily. In fact, many around me were crying. It was awesome!  When she finished, she came right over to me with a big smile on her face. She knew she had surprised me. I gave her a big hug, my father-in-law gave the benediction, and we celebrated.  It was the best present ever!

I hope you all had a wonderful, enjoyable, blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas & Peace to All

Luke 2:9-14

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas!  Wishing you peace, happiness, and love, from the Freeds.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Smitten by a Diabetes Advocate

Oh, I'm smitten.  Again.  I know better than to get all carried away about such things, but I feel like I'm a pretty good judge of character, and this young lady is quite a wonderful character.  I found her blog by accident, and discovered that we have something in common:  we're both diabetics, though she's a type 1 and I'm a type 2.  There is a difference, and I hope you'll seek to discover the differences, as education about diabetes is a good idea for everyone, given how common it has become.

Anyway, I discovered this young lady, whose name is Kerri Marrone Sparling, through YouTube, where I found a link to her blog, Six Until Me, and I've followed her for a little while now. You can find her blog here.  Let me set the record straight, though, and emphasize that, not only am I at least a full decade older than she, Kerri is also married, and a mom, and I'm guessing she's very happy in both roles.  And so, as much as I admire her, that admiration is strictly of the professional kind.  She is outspoken about diabetes, particularly how it has impacted her own life, and provides advice about living as a type 1 diabetic.

I am amazed by how much she reminds me of my deceased wife, though.  She has that extroverted nature that I find so attractive, but she also speaks confidently, intelligently, humorously, and unashamedly.  She is a beautiful, witty, young lady.  I can't help but be enamored by her, and I apologize if I've allowed this to distract me from her message.  I also hope this doesn't paint me as some weirdo.  Mrs. Sparling just seems to have the personal qualities of the type of woman that I find attractive, and I can point to her and say to my friends, "That's the type of woman I'm looking for!"  I hope she accepts that as the compliment it was meant to be.  With that said, however, I am happy to have her as an advocate for a cause that means quite a bit to me.

I've shared this story on the blog before, but I'll briefly recant it again.  Just over two years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  I had all of the typical signs leading up to this diagnosis, including unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, occasional confusion, immense fatigue...and I had no idea why.  I finally made an appointment with my doctor.  The night before, I celebrated my brother's birthday with our family, and had a large slice of birthday cake, with plenty of icing.  The next morning, I went to see my doctor, and he was pretty quick with a diagnosis before proceeding with blood work.  He said it sounded like diabetes.  He gave me some literature on the subject, and said he'd check in with me as soon as he got the results of the blood work.  The next day was Sunday, so he called me early on Monday morning and said he wanted to see me right away.  He said that my blood-sugar was extremely high:  750!  Normal was right around 100.  He was afraid for me.  He checked my blood-sugar, and I was at about 300, so at least I was going in the right direction.  He put me on insulin immediately, and I got a quick education on giving myself shots.  Both of my grandfathers had been diabetics, so I was somewhat familiar with the process, but the fact that I was diagnosed in my early 40s versus my grandfathers (both were in their 60s) concerned me.  It meant a drastic change in behavior.

I'm happy to say, two years later, my blood-sugar level is well under control, I was able to stop taking insulin shots after one year. and while I've had significant weight loss, I've battled with my weight over the past year and continue working on it.

I mentioned last week that I went to a sleep study clinic, and received the results this morning:  I have severe sleep apnea.  During the 350 some minutes I slept during the test, I stopped breathing 449 times.  That's more than once each minute, which really scared me.  I will get fitted with a CPAP machine next week, which is the first step towards improving my sleep issues.  The sleep apnea is connected to my weight, particularly around my neck and throat.  I'm quite a mess.

Anyway, I think Mrs. Sparling is a wonderful speaker.  I'm sure she's a wonderful person, as well, though that is only my impression.  (I'm secretly hoping she has an unmarried sister....).  I like to take this opportunity to wish her and her family, as well as you, my readers, a Merry Christmas.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Well, That Was Fun

We awoke later than planned, shopped longer than planned, spent more money than planned, and then stayed up much later than planned.  But we had so much fun!

We slept late this morning, mostly because of the sleep issues I'm battling, but also because we were up late last night, so even though we wanted to get an early start on finishing our Christmas shopping, our extra sleep was necessary.  Once we got going, though, we had a very busy day.  I'm not much of a shopper.  Frankly, I hate it.  But I do love Christmas shopping.  I find it to be a blast trying to find that perfect gift.  And we found a lot of perfect gifts today!  We hit Hobby Lobby, where we found a boatload of those metal signs reproduced from the 50s.  We found picture frames for my daughter's school pictures, which is an annual favorite gift, particularly for the grandparents.  We also stopped at the "cheap" store for gifts, Big Lots!  The home of $5 watches and $10 jewelry provides plenty of stocking stuffers, as well as affordable gifts my daughter can buy for the entire family.  We cleaned house!

Aside from the ridiculous amount of traffic in the area around the shopping center, it was a fun trip.  The weather, with temps well into the upper 60s, allowed us to spend time with the top down on our little car today, as well.  Even though we drove the wrong vehicle today, which meant stuffing the car with more stuff than it was meant to hold, it was worth it for a taste of the warm weather.


After church, where we received a wonderful message by Pastor Mark about the roles all of the "characters" played on the night of our Savior's birth, we grabbed a Ledo's pizza, then we went home to begin our little Christmas Caper....

For many years, longer than I've known them, my in-law's family has exchanged a gag gift that has made the rounds to just about every family member at one time or another.  It was lost for a few years, then popped up again.  It landed in my lap last year.  It's a pair of boxer shorts.

I'm pretty sure everyone has forgotten that I got them.  It was a gift I received from my mother-in-law (and I can't believe she ended up with them prior to me getting them).  So upon digging them up the other day and my daughter asking questions about them, I let her in on my plan.

I figured it was time for Uncle Jerry to get the shorts.  But we were going to make it noticeable and memorable.  We got a very large box, one of those that was about 3x3x3, and filled it with crumbled newspaper.  Then we hid the boxers in an empty box of Fruity Pebbles and buried them in the newspapers.  Then we wrapped the big box and applied stickers saying, "Fragile", "Made in Italy", "Do not open until 12/22 at 7 p.m.", "No peeking", and "Santa's watching!"  We also addressed it to Jerry, and placed a huge red bow on it.  Once we got it prepared, we took a little trip over to Uncle Jerry's house.  It isn't hard to find.  Jerry does a fine impression of Clark Griswold.  I'd hate to see his electric bill this time of year...

Our plan was to take the box and leave it on their front porch, where they'll likely find it tomorrow morning.  We parked across the street, and waited a few minutes to make sure no one came to the window.  The house seemed quiet, aside from all of the bling outside.  I got out and opened the back of our Jeep, pulled out the box, and ran it up their driveway toward the front porch.  They had a spotlight shining on the front of their house, and as I crossed in front of it, my shadow became a 20-foot giant across the front of their house!  I was sure I'd be caught, but I completed my task and place the box, then hot-footed it back to our Jeep, jumped in, and we took off!  My daughter had taken pictures of me the whole time, and she began laughing hysterically as we pulled out onto the main road.  Mission accomplished!

We headed home, laughing the whole way, excited that we were successful.  And we're looking forward to our big Christmas party for tomorrow evening.  We can hardly wait to see if we've successfully surprised Uncle Jerry.  It ought to be a lot of fun.

Time for bed... Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Signs of Christmas

Even though the weather doesn't look or feel like Christmas, it is definitely here!  The most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes.  And now the mad rush begins.  I was taking inventory of bought Christmas presents, and it appears I am lacking a few gifts for several of my family members, so now we begin shopping for specifics rather than for whatever we find.  Tomorrow will be our last-minute shopping day.  Look out, crowds!

You can also tell it's Christmas by the number of parties that are planned.  We had a big party at work today, which was nice.  The next party will be on Sunday evening, which will be with the extended family (in-laws).  Then we have another party on Christmas Eve with all of the families, followed by my immediate family celebrating on Christmas morning.  It's a blast!

Another indicator of Christmas coming soon is the annual Santa visit with the local fire department.  They came down our neighborhood street this evening with sirens blaring and lights blazing, with Santa riding on the back of one of the fire engines.  It was very exciting, however it was a bit surprising that they came through so late at night... it was 9:45 p.m., and I know for a fact that several of the younger kids on our street were asleep already, so they missed seeing ol' Santa.  It was fun to see, though.

This is our favorite time of year, and it really feels like Christmas is here.  Hitting the stores and fighting the crowds will just emphasize it.


Every year, we go out to Triadelphia Farm to cut down a Christmas Tree.  We've been doing this annually, give or take a couple of years, for the past 15 Christmases.  This year, because of how late in the season Thanksgiving came, plus the poor weather right after that, we didn't get out as early as we wanted to get a tree.  As we've gotten closer to Christmas, the less desire I had to go out and cut one down.  I've had a lot of bad luck with my trees over the years, from them drying out, to our praying mantis fiasco last year.

Last year, we cut down a tree and had it up and decorated in our dining room.  After a few weeks, we noticed a few tiny praying mantises in our kitchen.  Then we saw a LOT of them.  They were everywhere!  I don't know if it's true or not, but I've been told never to kill a praying mantis, that they're endangered or something.  So I was very careful not to hurt them.  But I couldn't just let them wander around the house.  I also wasn't sure how they got in the house to begin with....until I examined our Christmas Tree.  Sure enough, near the base of the trunk, we found the nest.  Apparently, they were hibernating, but once the tree was inside where it was warm, they "hatched" and started looking for food.  It certainly was a memorable Christmas.  I was still finding the little buggers around the kitchen well into the Spring.

So, anyway, we decided not to get a live tree this year.  My daughter was disappointed, and I've run the risk of being called a Scrooge, but it's going to make my Christmas a little easier.  And I promised my daughter we'll put up a small artificial tree.  And given how much I dislike artificial trees, I hope this is the last time, too.


Tomorrow night will be our wrapping party.  My daughter asks every year if she can wrap some presents, and each year, I tell her that she should let me do it.  Well this year I'm letting her have her wish.  She will be wrapping gifts.  It typically takes me an entire day to wrap everything, and this year I don't have Christmas Eve as a day off from work.  So her help is appreciated.  I'm just wondering how long it will take her to say she's finished.  It gets old very quickly.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Too Tired to Sleep

I'm back!  Not 100% back, but close to it.  I'm now wishing I had placed a new laptop on my Christmas list to Santa.  I need one.

I've been battling sleep issues for years now, mostly severe snoring and grinding of teeth.  Before I got married, it was only a problem for myself, but after I got married, my wonderful wife suffered more than I did.  She also picked up on the fact that I would stop breathing for short periods of time during the night, a sure indication that I had sleep apnea.  She wanted me to get it checked, and I resisted.  After she died, I forgot about it.  My sleeping got worse and worse, though, and as I suffered through the sleep issues, I was also dealing with periods of depression.  Add on hypertension, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and exhaustion, and I became a real mess.  At my last doctor's appointment, I asked for a referral for a sleep study.  It was scheduled for Tuesday night.

I arrived at 9 p.m. after dropping my daughter off at my parent's place.  The sleep study office was in the basement of a large professional building just outside of Annapolis.  I was shown to a standard non-descript bedroom, with a nice flat-screen TV, a sleep-number bed, and a powder room.  After filling out a bunch of paperwork and being informed that there was one other patient there for the night, so the technician would be serving both of us, I was told to get ready to sleep and then they would begin applying the wires and sensors.  So I changed into my sweats and a t-shirt, and jumped into bed.  It was very comfortable.  I proceeded to read the book I had brought.  At around 9:30, the technician, a very nice young lady, knocked and entered my room to collect the paperwork.  She informed me that it would take about 30 minutes to connect all of the wires, and she would start with the other patient, since that woman's normal bedtime was at 9:30 and mine was 10.  So I kept reading.

I started to get tired at around 10, just as the technician returned.  Next was the process of connecting all of the wires.  They were on my legs, my chest, my neck, all over my face, and my head.  They were used to check all of my vital signs, as well as all of the pertinent sleep issues I might have, including restless legs syndrome, and, of course, sleep apnea.  She then helped me get into bed, connected the wires to a harness that connected to a computer.  I noticed the camera on the ceiling, through which they would be watching me all night.  I got a bit self-conscious at the thought.  There was an intercom system that I could use should I need anything, including having to use the bathroom.  She said to remain on my back until they got everything up and running, at which time I was free to sleep in any position I wanted.  She turned off the light and left the room.  About 30 seconds later, I heard her voice on the intercom.  She asked me to position my head in a bunch of different ways, then to move my eyes, legs, arms, etc.  Finally, she said good night, and I was on my own....well, me and all of the eyes watching me.

It took a while to get to sleep.  I'm a side sleeper, so I turned onto my side.  It was very comfortable.  All of the sensors on the side of my face made for a lumpy pillow.  I was also very self-conscious about the whole experience.  I couldn't seem to get past the thought of people watching me sleep.  But I then tried a few of the techniques I use at home when I'm restless, such as imagining the floorplan of my retirement home (it really works, don't ask me why), and I was soon in snooze land.

I awoke suddenly after what seemed only a few minutes.  There was a digital clock on the far side of the room and it showed 1:11 a.m.  More time had gone by than I thought.  I had to use the bathroom.  This was typical.  I usually get up a couple of times during the night.  I pressed the intercom button, and immediately heard the technician say she would be right there.  I wondered why she answered so quickly but remembered the camera and figured they knew I was awake before I did.  She opened the door and dimmed the lights to a level where I could see but they weren't obtrusive.  She helped me get up, disconnected a few of the wires, then took the entire harness and placed it around my head by a strap.  I was free then to use the bathroom.  After, I pressed the intercom button, and she returned.  Since I had stayed pretty much in one position, I decided to sleep on my other side, so she help me get into position.  Apparently, I had knocked one of the sensors loose on my leg, and she made sure it was stuck in place.  Then it was back to sleep.

This time, it took me a lot longer to fall back to sleep.  There had been too long of an interruption between when I woke up and when I was able to lay back down, and I was wide awake, though still tired.  Again, I tried thinking about the things that normally put me to sleep, and I started to drift off.  However, I had one of those weird moments when I felt like I was falling and I woke up suddenly, my whole body jumping.  I got my bearings, and closed my eyes again.  I wondered how that looked on the sensors!  I was soon asleep again.  I woke up one more time, at around 4 a.m.  I rolled over and was soon asleep again.  Then the light went on.  It was 5:30, and it was time to get up.  The technician said to move into the chair when I was ready and she began to disconnect the wires.  This was not so easy.  I'm a pretty hairy guy, so removing the sensors was a lot like removing a band-aid, and I'm sure ripping them off took some hair with them.

I was ready to go within 20 minutes, and that was it.  I was free to leave.  I walked outside to the cold morning air.  It was still dark.  I was really hungry.  I looked for a fast food place to drive thru to get something on my stomach, then I drove to my parent's place in Bowie to shower and get ready for work.

I worked a normal day, though I was a bit tired.  I had a nice evening with my daughter.  We got a few groceries, ran some errands, etc.  Then we went to bed.

I slept pretty solid all night.  Apparently, I hit the snooze on my alarm clock a few too many times.  It was six o'clock already, and I was in no shape to even get out of bed.  I decided to sleep in just a bit.  I texted a few of my employees to let then know I would be in later.  And I fell right back to sleep.  I awoke again at 8:45, just as my daughter was getting ready to leave for school (my sister, who comes to the house each morning, had gotten her ready).  I said good bye.  I checked my BlackBerry calendar to see what meetings I might miss, and determined I could take the day off without too much trouble.  I emailed my boss to let her know.  She was very understanding.  I rolled over and fell asleep again.  I slept a couple of hours more.  Then I decided to get up.  I tried eating a bowl of cereal.  I watched a little bit of TV.  Then I snoozed on the couch...for three more hours.  I awoke again, let Faithful Pup Scout run outside, then I returned to the couch and slept some more.

I was awakened by a text from my daughter asking if she should walk home or would I be picking her up.  Since I wasn't even dressed, and still very groggy, I asked her to walk.  She happily did.  When she arrived, I told her that I was really out of it, that I might need to sleep a little more.  She said she would do her homework, and she was fine with it.  I fell asleep again.  Next, it was around 6 p.m.  I yelled up to my girl to see if she wanted dinner.  She said she was okay, but would be down shortly.  I fell asleep again.  7:30 p.m.  I yelled up again.  She bounced down the stairs and said she could eat.  We had a light dinner.  I at cereal again.  I had no appetite.  We watched a little TV as we ate.  I kept toying with my laptop and finally got it to boot up in safe mode.  This allowed me to finally access this blog.

I'm still tired, though, and I'm ready for bed again.  I don't know if this is just a reaction to the lack of sleep during the sleep study, or if there's more to it.  Either way, I'm still tired.  Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Slowed Down by Thumbs

I'm still battling computer issues, which are prohibiting me from doing full blog entries.  This is all just a reflection of my inability to thumb type on my iPhone at a fast enough pace to keep up with my thoughts, and in no way reflects a lack of material for blog topics. And I'm keeping track of worthwhile topics... Such as:

-- a lack of sugar free or alternative desserts for diabetics at restaurants;

-- my experience at a sleep study clinic last night.... Oh, what a night;

-- my search for a new vehicle;

-- why I'm not putting up a real tree for Christmas this year;

-- my frustrations with my laptop and the automatic Windows updates that keep putting it out of commission;

-- why my dog, Faithful Pup Scout, may be responsible for my sleep issues...

All this and more is coming to you soon, as soon as I get my laptop up and running, or I get a designated thumb typist (read: my 10 year old daughter) to type up my blog entries! Stay tuned... And thanks for reading!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Temporary Delays

Major laptop issues have temporarily halted updates to the blog.... That, and a frustratingly slow texting ability which keeps me from being able to type more than a few words per minute.  My apologies to my readers as this may delay blog entries for a few days.

In the meantime, enjoy this fantastic season!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Greatest Movie Ever Made

Today was an awesome day!  We woke up early, had a great breakfast with my parents at the Nautilus Diner in Crofton, MD, including a great mushroom omelet, and I sent my daughter off with her grandparents for the day.

I headed home for some time with Faithful Pup Scout, then I went to the AFI Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring for an annual showing of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE!  The drive over to the theater was beautiful with snow falling and gray skies.  It felt like winter, but looked like Christmas!  The film was fantastic, as usual.  There's a reason it's number one on my list of favorite movies.  And no matter how many time I've seen it (and I know I must be in the fifties on viewings), it still brings a tear to my eye at the end.  If you have never seen this movie, it really is one of those must see movies.  Seeing it on the big screen with a very appreciable audience makes it even better.

I went straight from the theater to my church's Saturday service, and was pleasantly surprised to see Pastor Mark preaching tonight.  He has been laid up after successful heart bypass surgery, and seeing him up and around and preaching was awesome.  After the service, he approached me to ask how things were going for me, and, as usual, he got all of the questions in before I could ask him about how he was doing, and a crowd had gathered to speak to him.  I'm sure he's tired of answering questions about himself, but he is so unselfish.  I wish we had more time to chat.

I started to leave and began to feel a bit nauseous.  I needed to eat something, but it's hard to work up an appetite when you're not feeling well.  Stupid diabetes.  I went home and really crashed, but not before eating a bowl of cold cereal.  That seemed to help.  I know I couldn't eat a heavy meal.  However, after finishing and going into the kitchen, I had another one of those dizzy spells that have been plaguing me recently.  When I jump up too fast, the room will start to spin and my eyes will cloud over.  If I don't sit down or brace myself, I feel like I could pass out.  I was fine, but it's something that has been bothering me.

I sat down again and I've spent the past couple of hours in a fog.  I'm really tired, but I was trying to watch TV.  That didn't go so well.  Scout is ready for bed, so I guess that's where I'm headed.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Friday, December 13, 2013

KFC and Good Food? Yes!

I haven't eaten at KFC since they were still known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Actually, it hasn't been that long.  My daughter and I traveled through Kentucky a few years ago and stopped at the original KFC, which was kind of cool because of the attached museum, but not for the food.  But KFC has been running an ad for their "Festive Feast", which includes 8 pieces of chicken, 4 biscuits, 2 large side items, and a dozen chocolate chip cookies for $19.99.  I saw the commercial at just the right time.  I was hungry.  I decided that this deal might make a pretty good meal for us.  What?  Okay, maybe not "good", but delicious!

Right after work, I rushed home intending to make a quick stop at the KFC on US 1 in Laurel, before picking up my daughter at school.  I regretted it as soon as I saw there were only 4 people working at the restaurant.  The fact that it was between meals, long after lunch but not quite dinner time, led me to believe I could get in and out quickly.  There were a few customers already waiting and things didn't look promising.

I put in my order and was given my receipt.  And I waited.  After ten minutes, all of the customers in the restaurant were still waiting for their food.  One of the employees came over to all of us and asked for our receipts.  For whatever reason, another employee seemed to put a rush on my particular order, and I received my bag of goodies first.  I was in a rush at this point since my daughter was getting out of school at any minute.  I did a quick inventory and saw that one of the most important items was missing:  the dozen chocolate chip cookies!  I really get frustrated when this happens, and it seems to happen a lot, at many different places.  I rushed back into the restaurant and after getting an employee's attention (thank goodness she recognized me as a customer who had just left), explained that I hadn't received my cookies.  I'm glad I still had my receipt.  The employee said, very matter-of-factly, that they didn't have enough cookies made.  It was going to take 15 minutes to make another batch.  It was clear that they intentionally left my cookies out of my order hoping I wouldn't catch it until later and wouldn't want to come back.  This really bothered me.  They tried to get me to accept another dessert instead, but a big part of my desire to stop at KFC was for those hot-baked chocolate chip cookies.  I said no thanks, I really just want the cookies.  She looked at me as if this was all my fault.  I was getting angry.

I finally said, if they would get the cookies made, I'd come back in 15 minutes after picking up my daughter, who I was already late picking up because they had taken too long.  They were relieved, and said that would be fine.  So I rushed out, drove home, picked up my girl, and came right back to the KFC.  As promised, the cookies were ready, but a new shift had begun and there were a bunch of new employees working in the restaurant.  I still had my receipt, and one woman, who remembered us, said she would get the cookies for us.  I think having my daughter with me kept everyone's mood light.  We were given our cookies and sent on our way.  My daughter wanted to try a cookie right away, so I let her have one.  She opened the box and there were significantly more than a dozen cookies in the box.  They were nice enough to throw some extras in for us for our inconvenience.  I was pleased, and happy that they made things right.

Dinner was really good.  We got the "boneless" recipe, which is all white meat.  It was great!  The mashed potatoes were just as I remembered them, and the gravy made a delicious "dipping sauce" for the chicken and biscuits.  I also got my girl some mac and cheese.  We really enjoyed it.  I'm glad I stopped, though it's not going to be a regular meal for us.  It's just a little too rich.  But it was good.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stupidly Serious Romance

I used to love romancing my wife.  I always looked at it as if it was my duty as a man and husband to make sure Teresa always felt loved, and I tried hard to come up with unique ideas.  It was hard for me to do when we were dating, before we got married.  At least, it was hard early on, given what an introvert I am.  But once I got to really know her, and found out what she liked, her favorite things, etc., it became very easy.  She was such a sucker for romance, and I say that in love.

I've noticed too many guys just don't understand how to romance their wife or significant other.  They either don't even try, even simple little gestures (holding hands, or complimenting her clothes or how she looks...and mean it), or they try too hard (the big splash plays, trying to do something for the reaction instead of for what it's meant to be...for her).  Guys can be kind of stupid.  I say that in love.

The key with romance is to never do the same old thing...unless the same old thing is something you've never done before.  I had to come up with original ideas.  Sometimes it was very simple things.  On our first date, I opened and held the door for her, whether it was at her apartment, my car, or the restaurant door.  It's the polite, gentlemanly thing to do.  I am amazed how often I see a couple where the man walks in front of the woman, and doesn't hold the door for her.  It's so simple, yet too many guys don't get it.  On that same first date, it was raining, so I walked with Teresa, holding the umbrella with my left hand, and I placed my right hand in the small of her back.  She told me later that this gesture was one of the most romantic things any guy had ever done for her.  To me, it was a respect thing.  I wasn't trying to impress her.  It was the right thing to do.

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "Eric, you are one romantic guy!"  No, no...I jest.  You're really thinking, "Eric, you're just making yourself sound like the awesomist guy're just a showoff." Well, while it's true my wife called me the most romantic man in the history of men (I may be paraphrasing), I've had my share of duds.  I've been on dates where I've tried way too hard.  I took a stuffed animal on a first date for a girl and she was not impressed, and she actually told me at the end of the night that I should just keep it.  We didn't have a second date...or a third.  I re-gifted a book one time, and it turned out it was a book that a student had given to my wife, with a written dedication on the inside front cover.  I was completely embarrassed.  Flowers are nice, but they can also be unoriginal, and may fall into the "trying too hard" category.  Red roses on a first date are too much.

The L word needs to be used in moderation, as well.  Early on in a relationship, it may not be appropriate.  I'd like to say that you'll know when it's the right time to say it, but that's not always the case.  If you say it first and she doesn't feel the same way, it can be awkward.  And don't say it if you don't mean it.  That could get you into some trouble later.  When said at the right moment, it can be very romantic.  (For those of you who don't know what the L word is, it's "lettuce".)

Guys, keep in mind that you really need to be yourself.  Don't try to be someone you're not.  Do not fall prey to the "Cyrano de Bergerac" ploy, where you get a friend to hide in the bushes or give you a speaker to put in your ear to feed you lines.  It never works.  It has been tried on every sit-com ever made, and a few movies (see ROXANNE), and it just doesn't work.  Be yourself.  Even if you have a big nose.

Ladies, don't be hard on your man if he isn't just naturally romantic.  Even taking him to see chick-flicks won't help.  In fact, that might make things worse.  Chick-flicks need to be fed to guys in small doses.

I started this post seriously wanting to share my experiences and offer help to those less-romantic, but it has fallen into the realm of parody.  Maybe that's where it belongs.  Romance seems to work for some couples.  It definitely doesn't work with all.  Guys need to be willing to try romance, but it can't be forced.  I feel as if most women want their man to be somewhat romantic, but are willing to live without it, based on what I've observed, and that's a shame.  My advice, and I'm no expert, is for guys to try it and be sincere.  It might actually bring your relationship to a new level.  Maybe to 2nd or even 3rd base.

Have a romantic evening, everyone!  You sly dog...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crazy Bodily Functions

Our bodies are crazy things.  I woke up this morning exhausted.  I stayed up too late last night, so when the alarm went off at 5 a.m., I hit the snooze alarm at least three times before I finally decided to climb out of bed.  I had dry mouth.  A side-effect of one of the meds I take causes dry mouth.  I started to brush my teeth, but because of the dry mouth, I began to gag on the toothpaste, which led to dry heaves and an attempted vomiting.  I noticed that as my body went through this experience, my legs and knees completely locked up.  I don't understand this connection, but that's what happened.

I jumped into the shower and soaked in the hot water.  After about 3 minutes, the water felt lukewarm, and I turned up the hot water.  After a few more minutes, I again had to turn up the hot water.  It felt so good, and I allowed the water to pour onto my neck and down my back.  I turned off the water and within minutes I was freezing.  The towel was not enough to keep me warm, but as I dried off, I got more comfortable.  I'm sure there are some physics at work here that I can't remember, but I found it odd how my body seemed to to be affected by such slight changes in temperature.

I took Faithful Pup Scout outside for her morning walk.  I didn't wear a jacket, and I immediately noticed how cold it was.  Scout decided that she needed to spend a little extra time sniffing the snow-covered grass.  I finally coerced her little butt inside after determining she knew I was leaving for work and was stalling.  I put on my jacket and this time it was actually comfortable outside.

After driving for about a mile, my Jeep was actually too warm, and I needed to turn the heat down.  I followed my usual route to work and got caught up in my thoughts.  I shot right past my exit without even recognizing I was passing it.  By taking the next exit, I added about 10 minutes to my commute.  I have never done that before!

I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal when I get to work and go through my emails.  Because I had been out for the past two days, I had a lot of emails to go through, as well as a lot of people to touch base with.  As I got to it, I made my oatmeal, but didn't have time to eat it before I had to go to my morning stand-up meeting with my employees.  I hadn't eaten and my body was letting me know it.  I finished the stand-up, but had a meeting I had to go to, so I was not able to eat my oatmeal.  When I returned to my desk, I was starving and getting a bit shaky, which is what happens when I've gone too long without eating.  I saw my oatmeal sitting there, and decided to eat a few bites.  It was terrible.  Fortunately, lunch was only about 30 minutes away.

After eating, I felt a lot better.  The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, and I headed home.  I was feeling anxious, and a bit tired, but I was glad to be going home.  I picked up my daughter and we began to relax.  Faithful Pup Scout wanted her own normal routine, which included a quick walk, then a trip upstairs to the bathroom.  Even though I don't use the bathroom everyday after arriving at home, Scout still assumes that I do, and she literally gets excited and tries to lead me up the stairs.  I'll follow her up, change out of my work clothes, and if I do use the bathroom, she runs in ahead of me, finds her spot on the floor to lay down, and sits at my feet until I finish.  It really is odd to me.  The moment I finish, she leaves the bathroom.

My daughter worked her homework while I watched a little TV.  I was tired, but not enough to nap.  Many days, I do.  I made us a nice dinner, and we ate while watching TV.  My daughter still had a little homework, so while she did that, I attempted to snooze.  It was at that moment that my legs began their little dance.  As much as I tried to relax and close my eyes, my legs would not rest.  The muscles in my legs begin to ache and I have to keep moving them to keep them from hurting.  This keeps me from falling asleep.  I adjusted a bit and was about to drift off, but I felt a sneeze coming on, and while trying to stave it off, it grew and finally came on me in a very loud and aggressive way.  My whole body got into the act, and I heard my daughter yell, "God bless you!!!" from upstairs.  I attempted to say thank you, but the sneeze kept my voice from working and it wouldn't come out.

We were getting tired, and it was past my daughter's bedtime, so we went upstairs to get ready for bed.  We prayed together, and said our goodnights, then it was off to bed with her.  I finished typing up this blog.  Now I'm dealing with an achy left shoulder, the same one that I broke in a fall several years ago.  Either I was about to have a heart attack, or the cold was getting to me.  I'm a bit susceptible to arthritis in my injured joints, and the weather seems to cause them to become painful.  I finished typing, and now I'm headed to bed.

What is with our crazy bodies?

Have a nice evening, everyone.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sorting Out The Blogging World

I enjoyed my snow day today.  It was enough of a threat to call off schools and close the Federal Government, so I had a nice, relaxing day off.  Since I took off yesterday, too, I got a nice four-day weekend out of the beautiful weather.

To pass the time, I actually got busy and worked around the house for much of the day.  Following that, I started another fun little project.  I really enjoy reading the blogs written by others, and have links to them on my blog page.  But there are so many listed that it has become hard for me to keep track of them.  Fortunately, they're listed in chronological order as they're updated, but I wanted to organize them a little better, so I broke them up into categories.  The categories include local favorites from the Maryland/DC area, with a particular focus on Howard County.  There are some wonderfully written blogs by awesome individuals throughout the area, and they have been great influences on my own blog.  Another category is a handful of blogs with a Christian view.  Then there are the sports blogs.  Most of the focus here is on my favorite sports teams, notably those in Pittsburgh.  There're a bunch centering on the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins, and the University of Maryland Terrapins, my Alma mater.

The rest of the categories follow my interests.  I love to travel, so I have a grouping of blogs about road trips, which I love, and amusement parks, among other things.  I love Route 66, so there are a bunch about that old highway, and the Lincoln Highway.  To go along with those, I am fascinated by old things, abandoned buildings, old New York City, and old highways, so there's a grouping of blogs about those things.  I also have a grouping of blogs about movies, television, science fiction, classic fifties, comics, and even fun stuff like Bigfoot.  I'm very entertained by much of what I've read here.  It's just fun!  Lastly, since I am a cartographer by trade, I have a bunch of blogs grouped by geography, cartography, maps, and geographic information systems (GIS).  It's a fascinating subject, and I love it.  I follow a bunch of friends who write blogs, too.  I'm fortunate to know a lot of great writers, much better than me.

If you, the reader, have any blogs you can recommend, please pass them along to me in the comments section, or send me a tweet (@Eric66F).  If you read any of the blogs I have listed, it's easy to figure out what I like to read.

I enjoyed my day off.  I miss my daughter, though.  I talked to her a couple of times today, and she had a great time with her grandparents.  Pap loves to play with her, and they got out in the snow for a bit.  They didn't get nearly the amount of snow in Bowie that we got here in Howard County, though.  I think we finished with about four inches, at least.  And even though I didn't go out in it (other than to shovel the walk and clean off my Jeep).  Faithful Pup Scout used to love playing in the snow when she was a puppy.  It was fun to watch the little white fur ball run around in the snow.  She would blend right in.  Now that she's getting up in years, she doesn't like being outside nearly as much.  She gets around very slowly, and I'm sure the cold air is too much for her.

Tomorrow will be a rough day at work since I've been out for a couple of days already.  I've got a lot of work piling up for me, plus a bunch of meetings.  That's the only negative to being out of work.  But being able to relax and enjoy the past few days makes it worth it.

Have a great day tomorrow, everyone.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More Snow On The Way!

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve!  Anytime there's a threat of snow, particularly a BIG snow, I get excited.  Tonight is one of those nights.  I know we just had a full day of snow and freezing rain, but it's much different when the forecast is for SNOW.  SNOW is a lot different from snow and freezing rain.  Instead of a soggy mess, like what we got on Sunday and today, we're supposed to get a nice big snow.

The timing of this storm will be interesting.  It's not supposed to start until around 5 a.m., so any impacts on the roads will happen as the rush hour gets going.  Will that be enough to cancel schools and close the Federal Government?  That's the big question.

I took one precaution already and took my daughter over to her grandparent's place for the night.  That way, if school is closed, she'll already be taken care of.  Should they open, my father or my sister will be able to take her to school.  But with her at their place, I don't have to wait around for the weather to stop or get better in the morning, like I did this morning.  I took off today due to the weather and the fact that my sister was not able to drive over to my house this morning to take care of my daughter.  It was a nice, relaxing day, however, and I enjoyed the chance to just hang out with my girl.

The forecast for tomorrow morning is 4 to 6" of snow.  It that holds, it will definitely impact the commute.  But if I leave early, I shouldn't have a problem with traffic or weather, assuming the gov't. opens.  Either way, I'm excited.


My daughter and I met my parents for dinner this evening at T.J. Elliott's in Bowie.  T.J. Elliott's is the sister restaurant to the original Ledo's, now in College Park, owned by the Marcos family.  They serve the original Ledo's pizza and it is fantastic!  My father and I ordered a large with mushrooms, green peppers, and extra cheese.  If you haven't tried Ledo's pizza, you owe it to yourself to try it.  While they have spun off into a chain of restaurants throughout the DC area, there's nothing like the original recipe.  The crust is flaky, the sauce is slightly sweet and rich with tomatoes, and the provolone cheese gives it a really great taste.  It's served in their "trademark" rectangular plastic trays.  It's a square pizza, but that's what makes it cool. :-)


My daughter and I had a nice day off today.  We didn't do what we said we were going to do... I wanted to decorate the house for Christmas.  Instead, we did a lot of nothing.  We watched the finale to one of our favorite shows, THE AMAZING RACE, and enjoyed a day playing with our animals.  Faithful Pup Scout loves it when we're all home together, and my daughter played a lot with Macy The Hamster, letting her run around the house in her ball.

The best part of the day was getting a nice afternoon nap.  I'm still having a lot of trouble sleeping, with lots of intense dreams.  In addition, for whatever reason, Faithful Pup Scout decided at 1:30 a.m. that she needed to go outside.  I hate when that happens, but I'm happy that she'll at least let me know instead of just wetting the bed, especially since we share the bed.  Then, my daughter wasn't feeling well and was up at 3 a.m.  My alarm went off at 5 a.m., and if there hadn't been a delayed arrival at work which gave me a few more hours of needed sleep, I wouldn't have been very alert at work.

Having a repeat for tomorrow would be awesome.

So now I'm going to turn in.  Have a nice, safe day tomorrow!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter Makes An Appearance

It's beginning to look a lot like Winter!  Today's snow had me and my daughter, Melody, very excited.  We love this time of the year, and seeing snow just adds to the atmosphere of the season.  At the first sign of snow falling, Melody began giggling like the school girl she is.  We kept the front door and the curtains open so we could watch it fall.  It really was awesome.

I spent a good bit of the day watching NFL Red Zone, which shows highlights of all of the NFL games as they happen.  When I can't watch my Pittsburgh Steelers play, that's the channel I watch.  Unfortunately, the game didn't go the Steelers' way, and they fell apart at the end.  The loss pretty much ends any chance of them going to the playoffs.  There were a lot of exciting games, however, with many of them going right down to the wire.  The Ravens were successful in a see-saw game which saw four touchdowns in the last few minutes.

Melody was too excited by the snow to just sit inside, and even after it switched over to freezing rain, she was outside sled riding with her friends.  I can only hope that we get a lot more snow this Winter, given how happy it makes my little girl.


Last night we went to our first Christmas party of the season.  My father-in-law is the pastor at First Baptist Church of Damascus, and they had their annual Christmas party, with about 50 or so people attending.  The food was great, which was an improvement on last year's party, when a few dozen people got food poisoning by the caterer.

The emcee for the evening ended up being a big surprise:  Elvis!  One of the church members surprised everyone by coming out of hiding wearing a white jumpsuit and black wig, and he spent the entire evening in character.  We played a bunch of games, ate good food, and enjoyed each others company.  It was the most fun and relaxed I've been in weeks.  My parents and in-laws were both there with us, and Melody seemed to enjoy herself quite a bit.


Now that we have a mess outside due to the weather, what's going to happen tomorrow?  The news is reporting another round of significant icing over night, which will make the roads pretty dangerous.  The sidewalks will likely not be shoveled, so that will impact the kids who walk to school.  At the least, I can see the schools being delayed, if not cancelled.  The Federal Government rarely shuts down, but ice is the great equalizer when it comes to traffic.  If it was just snow, that's one thing.  Ice makes it significantly worse.  We won't know for sure until morning, however.

If we get a day off, it means Melody and I will spend the day decorating for Christmas.  I would like to get some of the Christmas lights put up outside, and we need to clear out an area for a tree.  We're already well past the time when we would go out and cut down a tree, so we'll likely just head over to the tree lot that the Savage Fire Dept. hosts each year.  We've had good luck with them in the past.

So we're headed for bed now and we'll see how things look in the morning.  Stay safe, everyone!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dreaming Of My Wife

My wife died over nine years ago, and in all that time, I've only had dreams about her about a half-dozen times.  That makes me sad, though most of the dreams have not been "happy ending" dreams.  But you might think that I would have a lot of dreams about someone who was such a significant part of my life.  Maybe the Lord purposely keeps us from having dreams about loved ones who have passed on so that our healing can come about more quickly.  I don't know...

One of the first dreams I had about my wife was in the first year after she died.  It caught me by surprise, since I hadn't had any dreams about her up until that point, so I actually felt a bit emotional when I woke up.  The dream wasn't a very happy one.  In the dream, I was walking down the sidewalk in an unknown city far from here, and I bumped into her on the street.  She apologized to me, said that she had to go, and she had remarried and started a family with someone other guy.  It absolutely killed me, as it felt like I had been rejected by her.  She just kept apologizing to me, but she had no intention of returning to her old life.

Another dream was about her dying in a car accident, but coming back to let me know that she missed me, but had to "die" again and wouldn't be able to come back.  I could probably get this one analyzed by a professional and it would turn up all kinds of imagery, particularly related to being born again as a Christian.  Anyway, it was tough having to say goodbye, but it felt like it was a chance to say goodbye.

Last night's dream was really different, but really captured her well.  Teresa and I had taken many trips during our short married life, and this dream had us taking a trip to what appears to be a warm climate city, like Miami, or maybe even Los Angeles.  It was a trip for us to relax and let our hair down, which sounds like the type of trip I need to take right now!  I was wearing a tux without a tie, and I had asked Teresa to dress up in something she normally wouldn't wear, being how humble and conservative she was.  She had on a sexy strapless satin white dress, cut well above her knees.  She never would have worn something like that.  But there we were, all dressed up, very relaxed, laughing together, having fun while we walked up the sidewalk near a beach.  She looked so radiant, so beautiful, so much fun, and that, in turn, had me relaxed, something I sincerely have not felt in months.  I don't remember many details, and I woke up way too soon.  While the dream stayed with me, unlike so many others I've had, it has faded quite a bit since then.  What an awesome dream!

As I said, I just don't have enough dreams about my wonderful wife.  I wish I had them more often.  I just didn't have enough time with her.  Worse is that my daughter never got the chance to know her, since she died when Melody was only 5 months old.  I'm just glad that we will all be reunited one day.  So happy for eternal life with our Lord and savior.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

School Lockdown and Panicked Parents

I arrived at the school to pick up my daughter at the normal time.  Just as I pulled up, I received a text message from the school stating that they were on lockdown as requested by the Howard County Police, all students were safe, and they would dismiss as soon as they got the all clear.  It was odd timing only because it was just minutes before they would be dismissed normally.  Parents had gathered as normal to pick up their kids, whether by car or by walking, and all could only stand around and wait as news of the lockdown was received.  Their was no other news from the school or county, and no word on the news about why the school was on lockdown.

I sat in my car for around 20 minutes, just waiting.  The only other message I received from the school was a request to not call the school so as not to tie up the phone lines.  I could see the front door of the school from where I was parked along the side of the main road, and there was no action.  It was apparent that some parents attempted to request entry into the school, but a lockdown is a lockdown.  No one was allowed to enter or exit the school.  All we could do was wait.

It was killing me not knowing what was happening.  I had the typical worst-case scenarios running through my head, from a mass shooting to a bomb threat, though the absence of any emergency vehicles of any kind was a relief.  I hedged my bets and decided to run down to the grocery store, only a mile away, to pick up a couple of prescriptions I needed.  I held my cell phone in my hand the whole time, hoping to get a text message either letting parents know they could pick up their kids, or any kind of news as to what was going on.  I had been listening to WTOP, the main news station for the area, but they made no mention of the lockdown.  I picked up my prescriptions, then rushed back out and drove to the school again.  There was no change.  There were still many parents milling and walking around, and a long line of cars there to pick up their children.

Fortunately, the weather wasn't very cold, so I put the windows down on my car.  I hoped that I might hear someone talking about what was happening.  Finally, after over an hour, there was an announcement outside of the school.  I couldn't hear it, since I was too far away, but the crossing guard was going car to car letting the occupants know that they should park their cars, enter the school calmly, and bring ID to verify you are who you say you are.  There would be two lines formed inside the school.  As parents entered, they were given a release form to fill out in order to alert teachers as to who the parents were picking up.  The parent would give one of the teachers the form along with a photo ID, the teacher would check to make sure the person with the ID was on the student's authorized pickup list, then be sent around to the other side of the hallway where their child would be brought, and they could then exit.  It was apparent that they had a release plan.  Unfortunately, the parents totally screwed up that plan due to their selfishness and disregard for following instructions.

It was a free for all.  The two lines were formed and fine at the back, though there was a lot of confusion since nobody seemed to know what to do.  The forms that needed to be filled out were being given out by one woman, and if you didn't know she was the one to see for a form, you wouldn't know you even needed a form.  The next problem was that no one knew about the forms until we got inside, so how many people brought a writing utensil?  Fortunately, I was near a woman in line who let me borrow hers.  Next, despite the orderly instructions to wait in line, a school employee would randomly yell out, "Fifth grade?", and every parent who had a fifth grader would rush to the head of the line, ahead of all of the other parents who were waiting in front of them.  It was total chaos.  You could see the frustration on the faces of many of the parents and the teachers and faculty.  Patience was wearing thin.  Some of the parents, though, didn't seem to care.  They only wanted to get their kid as soon as possible, and didn't seem to care about anyone else.

I waited patiently until the I got to the front of the line.  I calmly gave the form and my driver's license to a teacher, she checked me off, told me where to go to meet my daughter, and disappeared into the crowd.  When I reached the other side, I didn't have to wait very long.  My daughter soon appeared, and I could see the relief on her face that I was there for her.  However, we had to wait for a teacher to call her name.  When that didn't happen after five more minutes of waiting, with many other kids getting called before my girl, I got concerned, and so did she.  Finally, she asked a teacher if she could go with me.  That teacher asked me if I had the form.  I calmly told her that I had given it to a teacher already who went to get my daughter.  The teacher said, "I think I know what happened," and she walked away with my daughter.  By this time, I was starting to get a little be angry.  The process seemed to be going all right despite the craziness with the parents, but now why was my daughter being singled out and not able to just leave with me?  Finally, they came back with the form, and we were able to leave.  My daughter said that, when they called her name, the teacher didn't wait for her, and she just followed the other kids to where I was supposed to pick her up.  Since the teacher still had the form, she wasn't cleared to leave.  It was a simple mistake, but given the circumstances, it was maddening.

I gave my girl a big hug, told her how much I loved her, and we trekked back to the car.  We were very relieved to finally be home.  So was Faithful Pup Scout, who was sitting in the kitchen with her legs crossed.  We never did find out why the school was in lockdown, though I found out that another nearby school was also locked down.

I truly believe that the school had the best of intentions with the entire experience today, but it could be better, and the parents would all be better served to follow the instructions they were given regarding the lockdown.  I felt bad for the teachers and faculty.  I don't know if they get overtime for situations like this, but they deserve it.  If only things could have been better arranged.  If only the parents could be better behaved.  It was truly a mess.

And now it's time for bed.  Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Santa Makes The Day Better

Whew, today was another rough day!  It got much better as the day went along, but it was bad at the start, especially after arriving at work.  I immediately had to deal with a continuation of the issues from yesterday, which had to do with issues between management and an employee.  One manager, who is a very good guy and short to get angry, was furious over accusations by the employee that were blatantly false, and we had received proof overnight that the union had made the accusations without any evidence.  The result was a rather contentious meeting between all of the parties.  While the issues were resolved, tempers flared and tension still exists.  It was a difficult meeting to be a part of.  I'm not at all used to this type of behavior, and dealing with it was a challenge.

I came home late and in a bad mood, but coming home to my beautiful little girl made my day.  I wanted to do something special given that the last few days were so difficult and I felt like I had not been giving her the attention she deserves.  So I suggested that we head out to the Mall in Columbia, grab a bite to eat at the eatery, and go see Santa.  She was all over that idea, kind of like peanut butter on toast, and off we went.  Right after she finished her homework.

We arrived at the Mall and grabbed some dinner.  We decided to eat at Chick-Fil-A, and after a fine meal and enjoyable conversation (no smart phones), we took a little walk around the Mall.  Santa was all by himself, and he gave us a big wave as we approached.  A jolly guy, was ol' Santa!  Melody quickly ran over to Santa, and he invited her to sit on his lap.  Several pictures were snapped as he asked her what she wanted for Christmas.  She played it safe and said she wanted a new cage for her hamster, Macy, since she has gotten too fat.  We got a few pictures, said goodbye, and continued to walk through the Mall.

Melody had decided she wanted to buy something for herself.  I told her that we were getting close to Christmas, and it didn't make a lot of sense to spend her money on something on herself.  She insisted, though, and had brought ten bucks with her.  We ended up at the Disney Store, where, after at least 20 minutes of wandering the store, she finally settled on a stuffed Perry The Platypus.  She paid for it, and we decided since it was getting late, we'd better start heading home.

As we left the Mall, I told Melody that we would drive through the Symphony of Lights at Merriweather Post.  She was very excited, so off we went.  Aside from the line attendant giving me a hard time about being a Steeler fan, we had a nice drive.  The lights are a highlight for us every year.  My girl loves Christmas lights, and the various shapes and characters made out of the lights are fun to see.  We took our time, despite how many times we had cars behind us ride right up onto our bumper (and moved to the side to allow them to pass), especially the large number of cars that keep their headlights on despite signs and announcements on the broadcast associated with the drive.  Then we headed home.

It was a great end to a hard day, and I'm so thankful that I get to spend it with my wonderful daughter.  She's a blessing from God.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Santa's Stand-in

Santa has asked me on several occasions to fill in for him.  It helps that I have a union suit and a fairly realistic beard and wig.  It's a fun gig.  I've served in the role at a few different churches I've attended, a few family Christmas parties, at the office, and for my aunt, a story I've shared on this blog.

Having the costume is helpful in other ways, too.  One night, several years back, the University of Maryland Terrapins were playing a Thursday night football game that was to be nationally broadcast on ESPN.  A few friends and I got tickets for the game.  That morning, it had snowed, and by game time, it was well below freezing.  I decided to wear the Santa suit to the game thinking that I might end up getting on TV.  Everyone loves seeing Santa at a football game.  We arrived at Byrd Stadium for the game and realized that ice had collected on the concrete on the stairs of the upper deck, where our seats were located.  We were sitting pretty high up, which was bad enough with my fear of falling, but the ice made me fear that I could actually fall.  I had hoped to be on TV, but now I was afraid I might slip and fall, and the sight of Santa rolling down from the upper deck of the stadium might make the evening news.  It was so cold, and the wind was blowing very hard, so we decided to leave at halftime.  I recorded the game, and checking the tape later, I saw that I never got on the air.

Having a Santa suit gave me a great idea for a Halloween costume one year.  I went as Santa Claus!  I actually had a lot of fun, and Santa was the hit of the party.  I found it kind of easy to just fall into the role, and my normal introvertedness took a back seat to Santa being the life of the party.  I also found out that several young ladies at the party had a "thing" for Santa.  While that meant plenty of them wanted to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas, none of them actually wanted to sit under the tree with Santa and watch the twinkling stars in the night sky.  Oh, well....the beard wasn't exactly conducive for making out.  It covered up too much of my face and lips.

I've had a few gigs that required me to arrive in character, which meant wearing the suit to the location.  It is a blast to be driving down the Beltway dressed as Santa and waving to little kids in the cars I passed.  The looks I got were priceless.

Playing Santa is a lot of fun.  The best was being Santa for my little girl, though.  When she was a baby, it made getting pictures with Santa very easy...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Singing The Dating Blues

Dating is really hard.  I hate it.  It's not fun, except when it is.  When you have success, especially when you only have to be successful once (leading to marriage), it is fun and actually feels pretty good.  But most of the time, the odds of success are pretty slim, depending on who you are and who you are dating.

I was kind of lucky, I guess.  I only seriously dated two young ladies before I met the woman who I married.  I dated a lot more women who I had every intention of dating seriously, but I very seldom went with on a second date.  A part of this is because I was so picky.  Ridiculously picky.  I was pretty clueless, too, when a woman showed interest in me.  I missed out on a few dates with some wonderful young ladies just because I didn't recognize the signs of their interest.  Renee, who was in the University of Maryland's Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band with me, became a good friend while we were in the band, and practically threw herself at me (I was told later), but I showed absolutely no interest in her because I just didn't realize it, and I was also afraid of messing up our friendship.  I ruined our friendship as a result, because there really wasn't a friendship.  She wanted a relationship with me, and I didn't respond.  So she looked for someone else.  Yeah, I was dumb.

I guess I shouldn't complain.  I did marry the woman I believe God prepared for me, and me for her, and we had a wonderful, almost storybook-like marriage.  If it had worked out with Renee, or any other of the young ladies I dated, I wouldn't have had the wonderful experience with Teresa.  Unfortunately, my marriage lasted less than five years.  I don't think anyone would have predicted that she would die at such a young age.

So, eventually, I was back where I started...back in the dating pool, just older.  I really didn't want to be back in the pool, though.  As I mentioned, I hated dating.  I didn't want to have to go through it again, especially when I thought I was done with it.  So I've had my fair share of dating.  In fact, I've probably dated more since Teresa's death than I ever did before I met her.  And, just as before, I've been on very few second dates.  Dating makes me miserable.  I've been happy when things are going well, but that isn't very often.  To make matters worse, I caught a look of myself in a mirror recently while out in public and I didn't like the sight that greeted me.  I'm not in very good shape.  I'm certainly not prepared to make a good first impression on anyone I might want to date.  Not that I'm having any luck there, either.  The latest dating site I'm on has attracted zero women who I might be interested in dating, and those I've shown interest in have not returned that interest.  And though I know there is only so much you can learn about a person on a dating site, the women who HAVE shown an interest in me do not come close to the preferences I've outlined on my profile.

I should follow my cousin's advice.  Jamie is one of my favorite cousins who is constantly sending me advice about dating and how easy it is (though I think it's important to mention that she married young).  She is very much an extrovert and does find meeting people very easy.  Not me, the classic introvert.  Anyway, Jamie is always telling me to just walk right up to someone I'm attracted to and feed them a line.  She says it almost always works.  I honestly find that hard to believe.

I'm thinking I might just give up on actively trying to date and just wait until my little girl is older and goes off to college.  It would probably be easier to fine someone who matches up well with me, instead of someone who matches up with me AND my daughter.  And even though I feel like my daughter has been cheated out of having a mom, since she lost hers when she was just a baby, that's probably going to be easier for me.

In the meantime, unless you really think I'm a lost cause, feel free to send pics and profiles of women looking for a nice guy to date.  Maybe it will work out....who knows.  Life is crazy that way.

Blessings and best wishes.  Good night, everyone!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Small Business Saturday in EC

We had a great time today in Old Ellicott City along with what seemed like thousands of other people.  Today was Small Business Saturday, and I'm happy to say that it appears the small businesses are doing an overall good business in Ellicott City.  The Christmas shopping season is a great time to be in EC, as many of the shops are decorated in the season's finest, with lots of lights, candles, wreaths, Santas, Elves, and Christmas bling all over town.  We felt like the season was upon us in a big way, and it really put us in a Christmas mood.

In fact, a highlight for me was getting tackled by a 5'5" elf on the stairway of one of the antique shops I visited.  He/It was coming down the stairs as I was going up.  I'm not a little guy, but somehow the elf didn't see me and ran right over me.  I had time to yell, "Head's up!!!" just as he plowed into me and, fortunately, I went down in a heap on the landing.  Unfortunately for the elf, he kept going, head first, right on down the stairs.  I think he landed in a display of fairy action figures.  He was okay, I was okay, and the fairies were okay, and, hey, who wants to get mad at one of Santa's elves, even if he was too tall and it was his/its fault?

The excitement didn't end there, though.  Later, as we were wandering through another crowd of people outside of the old Calahan's Department Store, we discovered they were giving away cups of hot chocolate.  It was a mighty fine gesture on the store's part, and my daughter asked me if she could have a cup.  I said it was fine, and she even added some mini-marshmallows to hers.  We navigated through the crowd to the sidewalk, where her hot chocolate bumped a passerby, who knocked it right into my lap.  They certainly can't call it "cold" chocolate, "room temperature" chocolate, or even "luke warm" chocolate.... it was definitely HOT.  It soaked through my jeans, my tucked in t-shirt, my long underwear, my short underwear, and a good bit of hair.  It didn't take long to cool off and before long, it was "ice cold" chocolate.

About a half-hour later, I was crossing the street when three rather attractive women asked me if I would take a picture of them.  One of them handed me her camera, and I lined up to take their pic.  Unfortunately, the camera wasn't turned on, and I didn't realize it until I had pushed the shutter button several times and nothing happened.  The light changed and I was still in the middle of the street with the women, who didn't seem to care, but insisted that I get the shot despite an approaching pickup truck.  I think I got an okay shot, threw the camera back to the woman, and turned toward the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.  Before I could take more than two steps, the woman grabbed my arm, swung me around, gave me a huge wet smooch on my nose, said thanks, and released me.  Several honking horns later, I reached my side of the street, embarrassed, red-faced, and just a bit confused over the whole thing.  The women were headed down the other sidewalk, laughing at each other.

After shopping for several hours, we decided it was time to go.  We headed up the street to the parking area.  In some areas, the sidewalks are really narrow, with barely enough room for two people to walk past each other without one having to step into the street.  My daughter was in front of me, and a smartly dressed couple was walking down the sidewalk towards us.  Just before we got to them, I moved as far to the right as I could, practically hugging the building on my right as I walked forward.  The couple approached just as I tripped on a large rock jutting out into the sidewalk, which I hadn't seen.  I went down in a heap, landing on my palms as I reached out to break my fall.  As I did so, the young lady half of the couple walking towards us accidentally tripped on the curb trying to miss me.  She wasn't successful.  She went down, too, landing right on top of me.  She knocked the wind out of me, which actually sounded rather funny (kind of like compressed air being forced out of a tube; or like a muted fart, if that makes any sense).  Her companion thought the whole thing was hilarious, and began laughing very loudly.  The girl didn't find it amusing at all, and neither did I.  She began to chew him out in a language I didn't recognize, but she was still laying on top of me.  I couldn't get up until she got up, and she was too busy yelling at the guy to get up.  She finally stood up, and they continued down the sidewalk arguing without acknowledging me at all.  Melody helped me up, I said thanks to her, but loud enough that I hope the couple heard me, and we continued to go to our car.

Ellicott City really is a neat little town with a lot of history.  I'm hopeful I didn't add to it's history with my little faux pas.  But you all should try to get out and enjoy the season.  Shop till you drop. I did.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Date Night Stories

Before my wife and I were married, I read a few books on how to make a strong marriage.  I was excited to be married, and I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to keep my new wife happy.  One thing I read about was to go on regular dates, and, if possible, pick a night each week as "date night".  Teresa and I thought this was a great idea, so Friday became our regular date night.  We didn't go out every Friday during our marriage, but we did go out as often as we could.  And we always had fun.  And we had a strong marriage.

I was thinking about some of the things we used to do together.  Primarily, we would go out to dinner.  We appreciated a good meal, and enjoyed trying out new restaurants.  We also went to see a lot of movies.  I remember when the first Spider-man movie came out, and she was more excited to see it than me.  We saw it the Friday it premiered.  Another movie I remember seeing on Date Night was SIGNS, which was about an alien invasion.  There's one scene in particular that is rather heart-pounding, with the main character, played by Mel Gibson, confronting a possible alien locked in a pantry of a friend's kitchen.  He is a bit of a skeptic, but the friend is adamant as to what it is.  So he goes up to the door of the pantry, kneels down in front of the door, and tries to see who, or what, is in the pantry.  He can't see anything, so he starts to leave.  Then he goes over to a butcher's block, grabs a long, shiny knife, and kneels down next to the door again, this time using the knife as a mirror.  Now, Teresa and I were sitting comfortably in the movie theater, wrapped around each other.  I think her legs were on my lap, and my hand was resting on her lap. At that moment, an alien hand appears in the reflection, grabbing at the knife.  Mel's character jumps and instinctively hacks off a couple of the alien's fingers, then leaves the house as quickly as possible.  I instinctively jumped at that moment, and my hand grabbed Teresa's thigh, which caused her to jump, which scared me and I audibly yelled.  A lot of people had screamed during the scene, but my own yell was like a delayed reaction, and lingered just a little longer.  Teresa and I looked at each other like a couple of school kids, and we lost it.  Such an intense scene of the movie, and we began giggling uncontrollably.  And everyone around us stared and shushed us.  It was a funny moment, and one we talked and laughed about for several years after.

I remember shortly after we married, I took Teresa to a carnival.  Teresa didn't like very many rides, but she did like the Ferris Wheel.  I hate them.  It's one of the worst rides.  I have a fear of falling, and the stupid thing rocks, making me feel like I'm going to fall out.  It's awful.  But I didn't want Teresa to know I didn't like them, especially since she did.  So we got on the ride.  It was dusk, as the sun had just gone down.  After a few nail-biting rotations, with me trying to keep my cool, we were the only ones on the ride.  The attendant decided he wanted us to have a romantic ride, so he let it go for what seemed like 20 minutes.  It wasn't that long, but it was longer than I wanted to be on it.  I just couldn't relax, and all Teresa wanted to do was cuddle.  I started to sweat.  She finally could sense that something was wrong, and I told her I hated the Ferris Wheel.  She laughed, but she also understood, and we were able to catch the attendant's attention so we could get off.  Once off, I actually got down and kissed the ground.

We had many more dates, most not nearly as exciting, but we always kept the romance alive.  I loved my wife so much, and I'm so happy we made the effort to keep our marriage strong.

Best wishes & blessings!