Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Bee

Another Halloween is upon us!  My daughter, Melody, like most kids, LOVES Halloween.  She loves picking out a costume, she loves decorating (and gets mad at me because I don't go all out like my oughta see THEIR place!  Scary decorations all over the place, things in the yard, headless man sitting on the front porch, scary music and sound effects, scaring little and big kids out of their britches...Dad does it right!)...and Melody loves trick-or-treating best of all.  She was excited this year because I let her go out with a friend instead of going with me or my sister.  It made her feel "grown up", I guess....or as grown up as you can be dressed in a silly costume..

Anyway, she went as a Bumblebee this year.  She looked pretty great!  She even had the black and gold color scheme of our Pittsburgh sports teams, except it reminded me too much of the Steelers' throwback uniforms.  You know the ones.  Even if you aren't a football fan, I'm sure you've seen the atrocious black and gold vertically-striped prison attire that the team wears for special occasions.  Here you go:

I got into the act, too, and wore a costume, sort of.  I went out as a Pirate.  Actually, I'm a Pittsburgh Pirate.  All of the sports jerseys of my favorite teams sure come in handy at Halloween!

So round 1 is done.  We're headed over to Mom & Dad's for round 2.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Job, New Responsibilities, New Stress, New Meds

My job recently changed and my area of responsibility has increased significantly.  I went from having about 60 employees to well over 100.  The type of work those employees do varies greatly, and I have a mix of white and blue collar work.  I've never managed a blue collar workforce, and there are vast differences from what I'm used to.  For example, I'm having difficulties with a few employees who are having major disagreements with each other, and this has led to threatening behavior.  I have rarely, if ever, seen this before in my career, and it has me obviously concerned.  In fact, an outbreak of violence is a distinct possibility.  Of course, if this actually happens, removal of the employee is likely.

This is really kind of sad to see, since the way things are in the federal government right now, those with jobs should be pretty thankful that they have one.  Furloughs, shut-downs, sequesters.... this is a bad time to be a Fed.  The last thing one should be doing is putting themselves at risk of losing theirs.  So I've got to fix the problem.  And because I'm new to the situation, there are some trust issues.  They don't know me, and I really don't know them.  I'm going to have to meet with them separately and talk about the problem and hope that I can get them to work together amicably.  I know, it sounds like it should be easy.  Stay tuned.


The stress I'm dealing with has increased along with my job responsibilities.  I hate stress.  It stresses me out.

I went to see my doctor on Saturday.  I'm a type 2 diabetic, and I have high blood pressure and hypertension, so check-ups are a necessary thing.  As a single dad, I'm concerned about being around for my nine year old daughter.  She lost her mom when she was a baby, and while I'm trying hard to find her a new mom in the form of a companion for me, there's really nothing on the horizon.  So, anyway, I went to see my doctor.  I was a bit worried that he wanted to do a full physical, but fortunately all he needed to do was some blood work.  I went through the litany of issues I'm dealing with (sleeplessness, stress, arthritis in various body parts, big feet, hair everywhere, a lumpy skull, teeth grinding, sleep apnea, restless legs, snoring, missing gall bladder, poor posture, dizziness, and probably a few other things I can't remember).  He gave me the old speech about not being young anymore.  It reminded me of something my Dad likes to say all the time:  "Gettin' old ain't for sissies!"  He's right.

Anyway, he called me yesterday with the results of my blood work.  I'm actually in better shape than I had guessed!  My diabetes is well in control, blood pressure is normal, cholesterol is a little high, but liver enzymes are high, too.  He wants me to have an endoscopy.  He also referred me to get a sleep study done.  Both ought to be a lot of fun.  The rest of my issues are just getting the right mix of meds, getting more exercise, and eating better.  I can't remember a time when that wasn't what I needed to do.  Anyway, I'm thankful that things seemed as well as they did.  I guess I'm going to live for a little while longer.


I'm planning to go car hunting this weekend.  I haven't looked at a new car in over 5 years.  I currently have two, one is 9 years old, and the other is 5.  I've had zero car payments for almost a years now.  You can get used to that after a while!

Anyway, on my wishlist is a Jeep Wrangler, preferably the 4-door Unlimited model.  I would likely trade in my current Jeep, which is low mileage despite being a 2004 model.  I hope to get the all done sometime this weekend, but we'll see how it goes.  I'm due for new tires, as well, for my Jeep, and that could cost me anywhere between $800 and $1000, which is crazy.  We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I just fell asleep in the middle of typing this, so I'm outta gas.  Time for bed.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dinner With The In-Laws At The Corner Stable

We went to dinner tonight with my in-laws to a place called the Corner Stable, over in King's Contrivance in Columbia.  Their claim is that they have the best crab cakes and ribs in Baltimore, and we put them to the test.  I really love my wife's family, and it had been a while since I last got together with all of them.  Grandma (Lynda), Grandaddy (Jim), Aunt Jody, Uncle Jerry, and Aunt Janice joined my daughter, Melody, and me.

Let's start with the food.  Most of us got the crab cakes, including me.  I love a good crab cake!  It had a good taste overall, but I was just a little disappointed at the size.  It was a good size, but honestly, I'm used to the crab cakes at Timbuktu or G&M, which are softball-sized.  Timbuktu beats them out for the overall better taste, in my mind.  For my sides, I got the mashed potatoes & gravy, and the vegetable medley.  Jerry and Jody both got the ribs, and while they said they enjoyed them, both noted they have had better.  Melody had the fried shrimp with broccoli and apple sauce, and she was very pleased.

The Corner Stable is nice overall, but it doesn't stand out as anything too special.  We enjoyed talking with our very knowledgeable server, Kayla, who put up with a lot of kidding by the family, including their attempts to set me up with her.  Once they heard she was only 21, they realized how ridiculous the whole attempt was, especially after I reminded them that they were old enough to be the poor young lady's grandparents.  But she was kind enough to bring a birthday sundae to Jim, even though his birthday was at the beginning of October.  The ambiance gets a solid B, but the service gets an A.  The food was a B.

The rest of the night was enjoyable conversation and laughs with the whole gang.  Anytime you get siblings Jim, Jody, and Jerry together, you get a good time.  Just a sampling of their stories:

Jim recounted the time he went to have a colonoscopy, and after putting on his gown, getting up on the gurney, and the doctor had given him the anesthetic to knock him out, he asked the doctor if he should have taken off his underwear.

Jerry shared his recent trip to the dentist.  All he wanted was a cleaning, but the dentist had other plans.  Unfortunately, the hygienist was off that day, so the dentist did the cleaning.  He promised Jerry a thorough cleaning using a new technique that worked much like a water pic.  Except the water pressure was significant, and Jerry said he thought he was being tortured by water boarding.  He finally yelled at the dentist to stop, and said he was drowning, and the dentist said he knew what he was doing...he had a full year of training on this technique.  Jerry asked, "When?  In 1938?!?"  The dentist told him to calm down, and they started again.  Jerry said he had a towel wrapped around his head and he was still soaked by the time he finished.  He also had x-rays done, and the dentist had this HD-quality TV that magnified his teeth by about 400 times, and the dentist then pointed out a cavity that Jerry said looked like the grand canyon on the screen, but must have been really tiny in reality.  The dentist told him he needed 11 crowns.  Cost?  $17K.  Jerry said, "Are you serious?!?  I'm not made of money!"  They dentist asked how many could he have done.  "Two?" he asked.  Jerry said, "How about one."  The dentist said okay.  Jerry got up to leave, went to the front desk, where the receptionist asked when he wanted to schedule his next appointment, and Jerry said, "Never," and walked out.  It was a funny story.  I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, it was a great evening, and I'm glad we got a chance to visit with everyone.  Jody (AJ) in particular seemed to be very thankful we could all get together.  I always love these opportunities for Melody to spend with her Mom's family.  Thank God for this wonderful family.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Secrets on The Blacklist

I watch a lot of TV, probably more than I should.  There are certain shows that I find very entertaining, and some that I enjoy watching with my daughter, who is nine.  I try to stick with family-friendly shows, overall, but there are a few that I wouldn't want my daughter to watch, and don't let her.  90% of what I watch is pre-recorded on our Tivo.  The only live TV is generally sporting events, usually featuring my favorite teams, such as the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, or Terrapins (and don't even get me started on the Steelers fifth loss of the season today at the hands of the Oakland Raiders.  Ugh.).

One show I've been watching this season is The Blacklist, starring the always entertaining and creepy James Spader, who plays a crime boss working with the FBI, and Megan Boone, a Rachael Ray lookalike who is rapidly growing on me, as an FBI agent named Liz. This is one of those shows that I won't let me daughter watch, as the violence is pretty severe.  However, the characters are very compelling, and I'm finding the twists and turns that are introduced each week are twisting and turning my stomach, a sure sign that the show is affecting me (in an entertaining way).

I don't want to give away too much, as I highly recommend that you check it out, but one of the most compelling continuing story lines is the relationship between Liz and her husband.  In the first episode, thanks to a hint from Spader's character, she finds out that he's got a whole bunch of secrets and possibly a secret life in the form of a hidden stash of passports, other identities, a gun, and money, all hidden underneath the kitchen floorboards.  The interactions between them are all the more intriguing knowing she knows he's got this hidden life, and he doesn't know it.

This story line actually made me think about their relationship as husband and wife, and the world-view of how their relationship is looked at versus what a Christ-centered relationship should be.  The first thing is the fact that they obviously keep secrets from each other.  Since we're still finding out about them, we really don't know that much, except that he's involved in some potentially sinister stuff that she knew nothing about, and the fact that she, as an FBI agent, has secrets she's not allowed to share with him.  Another issue that they seem to be dealing with is that they are trying to adopt a child.  Either she is not able to have children, or he, is not clear.  But it's also become clear that her job isn't necessarily conducive to them having a child.  He seems to be really making an effort, and either she isn't, or she recognizes that it may not be a good idea.  Anyway, they're not talking about it.  He's trying to get her to open up, but she's at the point where she really doesn't know if she can even trust him anymore.

What made me think about all this is the fact that they would have any secrets to begin with.  I remember when my wife and I got married, we had no secrets between us, and if we had tried to keep any, the other would have figured out that there was a secret being kept from me/her.  That's how a marriage should be.  There's no reason to keep secrets from each other.  "The two shall become one."  In this age of divorce, it might be more realistic, unfortunately, for a couple to keep secrets from each other.  This is what I refer to as the world-view.  The Christ-centered marriage, filled with trust, is now unrealistic because it's not as common.  Isn't that sad?

I may be exaggerating a bit, and maybe it isn't as unrealistic as it appears, but at least on TV, it's certainly more common for couples to hide stuff from each other.  I really can't imagine keeping secrets from my wife, though, and I believe that is the way God intended.

All right, it's bedtime.  Have a great week, everyone.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Small Car

About five years ago, I bought a little sports car, a Mazda MX-5, also known as a Miata.  It's a really small car, easily the smallest car I've ever owned, but it is so much fun to drive.  It's very fast, and it hugs the road like nothing else.  I love driving it.

I had several reasons for buying it.  At the time, I already had a convertible Mustang, but I really didn't like it. It was a base model, so it had a V6, which was a real dog.  It also got terrible gas mileage for a V6 engine, so it had the same economy as the GT, but none of the performance.  I had really wanted a convertible, though, and it was one of the most affordable, so that's why I got it.  Unfortunately, I was never able to use it with the top down because my daughter, who was in daycare at my office building and rode with me to and from work each day, couldn't handle the wind blowing in her face in the backseat, so I had to leave it up, since she was with me 95% of the time!  So I started looking for something different, more economical, and much more fun to drive with performance to match.  The Mazda fit the bill.

Wow, what a difference!  That car was just so much better than the Mustang.  The gas mileage was excellent, it was a five speed, and it could fly!  One benefit to having the Mazda is that it has only 2 seats, so the wind didn't bother my daughter nearly as much, so the top was down all the time.  The only real problem with it is how small it is.  The trunk is ridiculously small, and next to impossible to carry anything bigger than a gym bag and a small load of groceries.  The car doesn't even have a spare tire!  But the pluses far outweigh any negatives.

An unfortunate note for me regarding these cars is how popular they are with gay men.  I didn't know this, at least at first, and I became a target of their "friendliness".  I'm as straight as straight can be, so I was a bit uncomfortable with the attention.

Today was one of those days when having such a small car was not very helpful.  My daughter and I stopped at a local K-mart to look for a Halloween costume for her.  However, we ended up finding a lot of other things that we had been trying to find, including a beanbag chair for my daughter's room, with all of the filling in separate bags, a new winter coast for her, a 24-pack of toilet paper, a 3-pack of paper towels, and a costume for my girl.  After paying for it all, I remembered which car I brought.  Well, it didn't come close to fitting in the trunk.  So I had to begin stuffing things into the cabin of the car.  My daughter was a sardine.  It was just a bit too cold to put the top down today.

Anyway, we made it home fine, and I still have no regrets about buying that little car.  We've taken it on many trips, and as long as we don't pack too heavily, we're okay.  Our worst trip ended up being one we took to Florida.  It required us putting a luggage rack on the trunk, but that did the trick.  Otherwise, it wouldn't have worked very well.  I have a Jeep Liberty in addition to my Mazda, so if I need to do any major hauling, I can use the Jeep, but it isn't anywhere near as fun to drive.  The Mazda is just a lot of fun.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Funeral for a Friend

I hate funerals.  No offense to the dearly departed.  They are amazingly sad, and despite the closure they bring to the loved ones left behind, and that they can be a fantastic tribute to the person who has left this life, including gathering people from all aspects of their life in one place for maybe only the first or second time ever, I struggle every time I attend one, as they make me confront my own mortality.

Today was Stephen Namie's memorial service.  There were a lot of people in attendance, probably more than at any funeral I've ever attended, including my wife's.  Steve touched a lot of lives.  That alone is a tribute to him and the type of person he was.  He loved the Lord, and he loved the people in his life.  He was an amazing talent, as a singer, musician, and actor.  And he was greatly loved, by his family and his friends.  I wish I had known him better than I did.

The service was beautiful, as most funerals tend to be.  There was a huge choir singing many of the songs he himself sang at many services at Grace.  In fact, I felt like I was seeing and hearing and all-star gathering of Grace singers.  I didn't sing any of the songs, as I preferred to just listen to the beautiful sounds of the choir.  There were many speakers.  Aside from the wonderful tribute by Mark Norman, Grace's lead pastor and one of Steve's many close friends, there were tributes from his brothers and sisters, his father, and a friend.  It was a nice service.

Tracy, Steve's wife, also spoke.  In fact, she was charming and funny.  I was amazed.  When I think back on my wife, Teresa's, funeral, there was no way I could have stood up and said anything.  I was just too emotional.  Tracy also did something I wish I had been able to do:  She brought up her daughter, Jordan, to the stage so that she could see all the people whose lives her father touched.  I though that was so great.  Melody, my daughter, was only 5 months old when Teresa died, so I didn't have that option.  But it was pretty cool.

The service ended on a sad note, as reality came back and the reality of Steve's passing hit home.  I kept thinking about the days ahead.  Tracy is going to need so much support.  It appears as if her family and her church family will be able to provide that support.  Steve will be missed by so many, but especially for his family.  Lord, please be with her and Steve's whole family, as well as his friends.  Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Unsafe Community; Dating Older Women?

Scary news today as we heard shortly after getting home that my daughter's school was on lock-down, and that there had been a shooting about a mile down the road, at US 1.  A man shot a police officer and a man hunt has been going on since.  They still haven't found the shooter.  The police officer was transported to the hospital in serious condition.  There has been no news for several hours, and the man remains at large.  We received an automated alert from Howard County police about the incident at around 7 p.m.  We heard helicopters overhead several times, but I'm not aware of whether they're police or news copters.  We haven't been outside since we got the news.  I'm sure Faithful Pup Scout is going to have to go outside soon.  We have a line of trees in our backyard, and a huge field with power lines stretching for at least a mile all the way to US 1, so someone could easily use that area to hide.  This leaves me feeling uneasy.

When  these types of incidents happen, I always feel uneasy and violated.  I've lived in this house for 12 years, and it angers me that one person, in this case the shooter, can impact my community in such a negative way that I want to leave, just move away, as soon as possible.  To me, this is a signal that my community has changed, that someone believes that it's okay to commit crimes and shoot people without remorse, and to make people barricade themselves in their own homes, and there's nothing we can do about it or risk possibly being shot ourselves since we have no idea where this guy is.  I recognize that this kind of thing can happen anywhere, but there have been signs for several years now, even here on my own street, that my neighborhood is changing in a negative way.  There is crime, the types of crimes that were alien to this community a decade ago, but are now commonplace.  I've had my car broken into even though it is right in front of my house.  When I find candy wrappers next to my car door when I leave for work at 6 a.m., I know that someone, during the night, was looking inside my car for something to steal.

I want out of here.  My community is not mine anymore.  I want a better life for me and especially my daughter.  This is crazy.  I hope they catch this guy!

BREAKING: Suspect ID'd in shooting of police officer in Laurel earlier today.

Howard County police are offering a reward up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect wanted for shooting a police officer in Laurel this afternoon. Stephon Prather, 29, of no fixed address, is wanted for attempted murder of a police officer and multiple counts of assault against officers.


On a totally different topic, I just read that men out number women on online dating sites by a 5:1 ratio.  It may explain why I don't have a date, or that the women I'm attracted to on these sites don't answer my requests.  They're likely getting better offers.  On top of all this, I heard that women are also looking for men up to 5 years younger than them, on average.  How do you like that!?  This is not good news.  How can I compete with those guys?  They have age on their side!  I don't stand a chance!

I liked it much better when it was the other way around.  I feel like I can actually compete with the guys that are around my age and looking for younger women.  And I'm not talking about 5, 10, or even more years younger.  I'll take someone who is just a few MONTHS younger, if it means I've got a shot at a date with her.  But when I'm excluded just because I'm a few years too old...?  That hurts.

So how AM I doing on the dating scene?  Still no dates.  Still getting interest from women who just don't come close to meeting the criteria I established.  What can you do?

Well, it's past my bedtime.  I've been having some pretty cinematic dreams lately, and I'm hoping to have one along the lines of a Bond film... I wouldn't mind dating a Bond girl!  However, I'll probably end up in a typical Bond scene and get shot at, especially since they haven't caught that shooter yet.

Have a great night everyone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding God in Tragedy

When I started writing this blog a few years back, I never imagined anyone would want to read it, and I didn't anticipate having enough material to write something on an almost daily basis.  I'm in awe of those who are creative enough to come up with something interesting each day, and are able to build up an audience of devoted readers.  I can honestly say that I don't have any preconceived story ideas when I sit down to write (type...whatever).  Every so often I get an idea to write about, but I really only had a few stories worth telling, particularly early on.  Most of the time, I start typing out what's on my mind, and a story comes out.  I truly believe God has a big role in this, and I'd like to think He is the reason for my writing this blog.

In fact, early on, the blog was therapy for me.  I've mentioned many times here, my wife, Teresa, passed away nine years ago, five short months after the birth of our daughter.  Her death was the result of a heart condition we were unaware of, and she collapsed right in front of me during a walk outside of the school she taught at, Reservoir High, as a freshman English and public speaking teacher.  She had a massive heart attack, and paramedics were not able to revive her.  The time after her death was horrible for me.  Though I knew, as a follower of Christ, that Teresa was with the Lord in Heaven, I fell into a deep depression, and I was completely overwhelmed, both with the care of my daughter, and life in general.  I'm so fortunate to have had my family to support me during this rough period of my life.  And God was there with me through it all, even when I wasn't looking for Him.

The days ahead were awful, and every day was a chore.  Work was difficult, and I found myself just sleepwalking through many days.  At my lowest, I was coherent enough to send out a plea for help, and several people answered.  One of the first was Pastor Mark from my church, Grace Community.  He asked me if we could meet and talk, and we met at Seibel's restaurant in Burtonsville, where he listened to me run through all of the things that were bothering me.  Mark shared some advice with me that truly helped me work through the depression I was feeling at the time, and I credit him with starting me onto the road to recovery, or at least back into the living life again, and recognizing that I needed to turn to the Lord in order to get myself better, knowing that I wouldn't be any help to my daughter until I did so.

Another person who offered help was a wonderful young lady named Erin from one of the youth groups I had worked with about ten years prior.  She had gotten married quite young, and she and her husband were living in Kentucky with their three young children, including their 3 month old son.  I had remained in touch with her and her family.  About a year before Teresa died, Erin's husband was killed in a terrible car accident, leaving her a widow with three young kids.  When Erin heard about Teresa's death, she sent me a letter that provided so much encouragement and advice.  To this day, when I'm having a bad day, I can think of her kind words and they truly get me through the day.  She said that I should embrace the feelings that I was experiencing, as unique as they are, and recognize that I wasn't going to necessarily "get over" Teresa's death.  This experience was a part of me, a part of my "life story".  And there will be random times when memories of Teresa will pop up and into my head, and I may breakdown as a result.  And this is normal.  This advice ended up making the most sense to me and really helped me move forward in my grief.

Several months later, during a particularly bad time, I was going through some of Teresa's things and I found myself cleaning out her wallet.  In it was a little scrap of paper on which was written in her handwriting the following verse:  1 Peter 5:10 - "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." This is such a powerful verse, and I immediately broke down and cried.  I felt like Teresa had written this verse for me to find, knowing that it would provide comfort at a time when I would need it.It is such a powerful

Stephen Namie's death and home going has been on my mind all week, and I've found myself thinking about Teresa's death all over again.  And though this is a time to remember and honor Stephen's life, my thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Tracy, and their children.  What can I say to them that might comfort them, especially when I find myself being overwhelmed by this?  I don't know.  But having been through what Tracy is going through, I hope that she will find herself surrounded by people who care about and for her, especially in the months ahead.  It's one thing to provide support to her in the days, and even weeks, to come, but it's the long-term that she will need people in her life.  I don't know Tracy, and I really didn't know Stephen very well, but I hope that those who do are able to be there for her.  And I pray that God "...will Himself restore her and make her strong, firm, and steadfast."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Major Loss and Weekend Round-Up

Received the news today that Stephen Namie, the worship and music director at our church, Grace Community, passed away yesterday.  He had been at the Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD, when he apparently had a heart attack.  He leaves a wife and two adopted daughters, ages 9 and 2.  It is a horrible loss for his family, as well as for the church community.  He was an integral part of the worship experience each week, and he really exemplified a love of our Lord.  Personally, I wasn't very close with him, but we had worked together multiple times on videos and speaking during services, and he was very knowledgeable and professional.  I feel so badly for his wife and family.  I pray for the Lord's protection and comfort on them.

Whenever I hear about a loss like this one, I'm reminded again of my wife's death.  It was under such similar circumstances.  Teresa and I were out walking one evening with our infant daughter and Faithful Pup Scout, when she suddenly collapsed right in front of me.  I later found out she had an undiagnosed heart condition that led to her having a massive heart attack and enlarged heart.  Losing Teresa was just horrible, and I'm still feeling the repercussions of her death every time I look at my daughter, and see the empty spot on the other side of my bed.  Teresa was my best friend and such a wonderful partner.  I miss her everyday.


After arriving home from Williamsburg, VA, yesterday, we were exhausted and I half expected us to go straight to bed.  We didn't, and we actually stayed up until 1 a.m.!  I don't know why.  These late nights always mess me up, and this one was no exception.  I didn't wake up until about 10 a.m., and even then, I stayed in bed snoozing for another hour.  That was when Faithful Pup Scout began to choke.  I recognize the signs every time, and know that she is about to throw up.  I reacted too slowly, though, and she let loose...all over me and the bed.

After cleaning up, I had to rush the pup outside for her morning constitutional.  Then it was time to wake up.  It turned into a lazy Sunday.  I was happy to watch some football, though my Melody ended up being a bit bored.  The good news was that my Pittsburgh Steelers seem to be getting themselves back to being competitive, and they beat rival Baltimore today, 19-16.  That would usually be enough to put me in a great mood for the entire weekend, but being able to sneak in a nap on top of that really worked well for me.  I'm trying to psych myself up for a difficult week at work, and the extra rest really helps.

Lord, thank you for this wonderful weekend.  Thanks for time spent with my family, a great time at Busch Gardens and in Williamsburg, your safety and good health for most of the weekend (aside from moments of illness that seemed to hit many of us).  Thank you for good weather, too.  I pray for your presence during the coming week, and that it will go as well as possible for all of us.  Thank you, Lord!  Amen.

Family Fall Trip

We returned home this afternoon from a great few days in Williamsburg, VA, and Busch Gardens for our annual Freed Family Fall getaway.  The Maryland State Teacher's Association gifts us with a beautiful mid-October Friday each year by having their convention and giving kids the day off from school, which gives our family the opportunity to enjoy Hall-O-Scream, Busch Gardens' annual Halloween scariness.  This year we had a beautiful 70 degree day of low-humidity and spectacular sunshine, as well as an almost-full moon.

Melody and I joined my sister, Angie (Aunt G), my brother, Darren (Uncle D), his fiancee Erica, her daughters, Brittany and Caitlyn, and my parents in Williamsburg beginning Thursday afternoon.  We arrived in town at around 6 p.m., and we ate dinner at one of our favorite eateries, Jungle Jim's.  The food is almost always great, but it didn't seem as plentiful as we've come to expect, and it seemed odd that the restaurant was completely empty when we finished our meal at 7:30, even for a Thursday.

We found our Quality Inn on Bypass Road, and checked in.  We were fairly tired, so we turned in pretty early.  Angie and Melody shared one room, so I had a room to myself, which was nice.  I actually got to watch something other than the Disney Channel.  But I was soon asleep, excited in anticipation of a fun day at the park on Friday.

We were all up and eating breakfast at 8, then we headed to Busch Gardens.  We arrived just as the park opened, and when we entered through the gate, we saw the transformation of the park from it's usual "imitation" Europe to a turn-of-the-century English village with pumpkins, body parts, and Jack The Ripper posters hanging everywhere, and actors wearing costumes from the era.  It was pretty cool!  There also was a headless woman walking around, gathering a crowd everywhere she went, and spooking many of the younger kids.  We were off to a pretty good start.

We had received texts from Darren and his family that they were about an hour or so away, so we rushed over to one of our favorite roller coasters, the Loch Ness Monster, and with almost no one in line, we boarded right away.  The first ride of the day always establishes that rush of adrenaline that sets the tone, and this is a great ride.  We rode it twice!  Since Darren & Co. were about to arrive, we went back to the entrance to wait for them, and get our annual "family portrait" done by the park's picture-takers.  But they didn't arrive when expected.  We waited and waited.  We texted them and found out that all of the women/girls were waiting just outside the gate, but my brother reportedly decided to completely change his clothes, for some unspecified reason, and was still in their van.  So we waited, and waited, for another 45 minutes.  Then he was ready and they entered the park.  Thus began a trend that impacted our entire day at the park.

After getting the niceties out of the way, and getting our picture done, we headed into the park.  We took the Skyride over to "France" and rode one of the unique coasters at BG, the Griffon.  I should mention that over the past few years, I've had difficulties riding roller coasters.  This was tragic news for me, as I LOVE coasters, and I felt terrible that perhaps my body was starting to give out and not allowing me to do something I love to do.  I seemed to get very nauseous after riding a few coasters, and I would have to give it up for the remainder of the day.  I did some research to find a solution to this problem, and found out that there were many possible remedies.  One is ginger gum.  It tastes just a bit like ginger ale, though the flavor only lasts about 5 minutes and you have to spit it out.  But it seemed to help eliminate the nausea if I took it just as I started to feel the symptoms.  Another remedy is specially-made wristbands that put pressure in a specific spot on the underside of the wrist, and this also seems to help alleviate and prevent the symptoms.  This was a Godsend to me, and seemed to work for me the past few years.

I wore the wristbands when we rode Loch Ness earlier in the day, and I had no issues.  Later, when we rode the Griffon, I again had no problems, and, in fact, I felt so good after the ride ended that I commented to everyone that I was feeling really good.

It was lunch time and we wanted to see the Halloween show at the Fest Haus over in "Germany", so we rushed over to see it and eat.  I had the pizza (as did Melody), and I made the mistake of trying a slice of pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.  As a type 2 diabetic, I really need to be careful about what I eat, but I figured it would be okay as long as I took it easy with my diet for the rest of the day.  The dessert didn't sit well with me, and I sat out the next few rides hoping to feel better.  In the meantime, Darren was running the show and determined which rides we should go on next, and at one point, after he and his girls went to ride Alpengheist multiple times, we ended up having to wait around for an extended amount of time, and we decided to go find something else to do.  This frustrated my brother, who had already announced to us what we were going to do next, but we had changed the plan and didn't wait for him.  We (Melody, me, and my parents) already determined we were going to another part of the park.

Anyway, we continued to enjoy ourselves, and we reunited over in "Italy" and rode a few more rides.  I was doing fine, though I hadn't been on a roller coaster in a while.  We returned to Germany's Oktoberfest, though, and decided to ride the newest coaster, Verbolten.  It's a fun ride, one my daughter really likes, and we enjoyed it, but as the ride ended, that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach hit me, and after getting off the coaster, I sat down on a bench.  I felt AWFUL.  I just sat there for at least 15 minutes very quietly while the rest of the family roamed around that area.  I finally decided I needed to go back to the car and crash for a little bit, which allowed me to assess what might be wrong, and that's what I did.  I laid down and, still feeling terrible, fell asleep for a couple of hours.  It was dark and close to 7 p.m. when I awoke.  I texted the family to find out where they were, and Dad replied they were in Ireland eating dinner.  I was feeling much better, though still a bit shaky, and I joined them.  I needed to put something on my stomach, so I ate a little bit of Irish stew.  It actually tasted very good, and after eating a little bit of it, we decided to check out some of the haunted houses.  It was a lot of fun, but, again, my brother kept wandering off and disappearing, keeping the rest of us waiting for him.  At 10, the park was closing, so we headed back to the entrance and headed back to the hotel.

After getting to sleep very late, we awoke early for a fine breakfast at the Colonial Pancake House.  My brother and his family headed home afterward, and my parents and me and Melody did some wandering around Williamsburg.  It was fun, especially the Christmas Shop.  After lunch at Zpizza and dessert at Sweet Frog, Melody and I headed home.  It was a long drive home, but we arrived safely at around 7.  It was good to be home, but we had a blast.  It was a great trip.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ghosts and Memories

There are days where I feel like a broken record.  Everything seems to be going well, and then I'll see something that will remind me of my wife, who passed away over nine years ago.  Today was one of those days, and it hit me like a kick to the gut.  I don't understand it, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason.  I've talked to others who have had these same types of experiences after the death of a loved one, particularly a spouse, and it's the same thing.  And it hurts.  I wish it didn't, because I hate the feeling, but it really does hurt.

That was my day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Getting A-head During the Furlough

Today turned into a challenging day in so many ways, which was unfortunate given how beautiful it was outside.  While Capitol Hill continued to mindlessly fight over who can be the most stubborn and blame the other guys while claiming they're on "our" side, a few of your federal "excepted" employees are hard at work keeping America's airports, airlines, and airplanes open and running without getting paid, but doing it because they are dedicated and they CARE.

My employees returned to work on Friday and while it was unanimous that they were happy to be back, they are scared, frustrated, and disappointed that there continues to be so much uncertainty about their jobs, particularly whether and when they will see another paycheck.  I've spent most of my days in high level meetings trying to determine a course of action should the government shutdown continue for another week, or another month, or another day, while at the same time trying to counsel my employees, bribe their good nature with donuts and bagels, and hope we're not shutdown again, or made "unexcepted" again and watch the airline industry grind to a halt.  That's our reality.


We sent Faithful Pup Scout off to my in-law's place for the week.  They decided it would be nice to get her groomed, so it was off to PetsMart they went.  Unfortunately, her records were not up-to-date, and they said they couldn't groom her unless she had her rabies shot.  So, while I was sitting in meeting after meeting, my mom-in-law was calling me trying to get Scout's information straight.  At one point, I had her on hold while I talked to one of my management team, and I got confused and sent him to get his shots and my MIL to update that airway on the San Antonio Sectional.  When all was said and done, though, Scout came through with a snazzy trim and bath, and my manager is good for 3 years on his vaccinations.


Yesterday, my father came over to help me celebrate the Columbus Day (not a) Holiday furlough day by putting together my daughter's brand-new IKEA-bought bunk bed!  It is really nice, and given how small her room is, it will provide more floor space for her.  Putting it together really was a two-man job, and I'm thankful for Dad's help.  After several steps in the build, we actually had it looking like a bunk bed, and we began putting pieces of the bed together that were over our heads.  Unfortunately, the bed was just high enough to be out of our direct line of eyesight, it was just low enough that we both began bumping our heads on it.  And not just once or twice, but dozens of times.  Dad was afraid it was due to his age, but he felt a lot better when he realized that excuse wasn't going to work for both of us.  At one point, I hit my head so hard, I saw stars, and not the Hollywood kind.  I had to sit down and make sure there was no blood.  If you've read some of my older blog posts, you may already know that I have a history of head injuries, so if I begin not making sense, I may need medical help.

Anyway, with Dad's help, we finally finished the bed.  It only took about 4 and a half hours.  And the only negative at this point is that the bed is so close to the ceiling, my poor daughter can't sit up at all.  We may have to take a saw to the legs to lower the thing just a bit.  Which is perfect for me...I'm sure I haven't hit my head on it for the last time.


My dating profile continues to be tweaked, I have a few pictures up, and I actually have about a half-dozen views from potential dates.  Unfortunately, only one has actually shone enough interest as to want to pursue a date, and the young lady is as far from being a match for me as spinach is to chocolate.  But I'm committed to making this work.  I've paid up for three months, so I'll either be miserable for three months, or maybe I'll get lucky.  And I don't mean in THAT way...I'm talking literal luck luck.


If I have concussion, that might explain why I'm so tired.  However, it might just mean that I'm, you know, really tired.  So I'm turning in.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Here We Go Again

I decided to do it.... I signed up for another dating service.  I know, I said I wasn't going to do it again, but there's apparently a new one out there that's different than all the rest.  This one is called HowAboutWe..., and it's kind of set up by having you "announce" what kind of date you want to go on ("How about we....go on a date and get dinner and do something fun and exciting and decide if we want to go on a second date?"), and then you wait to see if anyone takes you up on it.  That's the grab.  In the meantime, you fill in all of the requisite profile information which is exactly like every other dating site.  Why did I do this again?

It's amazing to me how many women just want to get together to either have coffee or have drinks.  That's what the majority of the profiles I checked out say.  Then there are the one's who want to go kayaking, or boating, or surfing, or big game hunting, or swing across cliffs on a trapeze, or some crazy, exotic adventure thing that I have never done in my life nor would I want to do.  Then there are the ones who want to meet up at some hip bar or hangout that I guess I'm expected to know about somewhere in DC, where I never go, to do things I would never do.  These are the most interesting profiles to look at, featuring women of varying unnatural hair colors with piercings all over their faces and tattoos on their arms, legs, necks, and backs.  No thanks.

Very few of the profiles I looked at mention anything about faith, though I do find it odd that they differentiate between "Christian" and "Catholic".  Aren't Catholics Christians?  Because faith is so important to me, I'm not so sure I'm going to have very much luck on this site.

In December it will have been a year since I last went on a date.  I've determined that I'm just too picky to want to date just anyone, and I tend to scoff at any opportunity that presents itself to go on a date.  In fact, I'm really not sure what drove me to sign up for another dating service, since I'm much happier lately not thinking about it.  I have enough stress in my life...Why add to it by dating?  I'm sure there are a lot of women out there that would be a great match for me, but I feel very little passion or motivation to really look for them.  I have an idea in my head of who I'm looking for, but I really don't know for sure that's going to fit my reality.  I'd like to find a Christ-follower in their late 30s-early 40s that may not wish to have anymore kids, but who doesn't mind a guy who has a child.  But that doesn't sound like it's going to happen, at least on my time table.  God has a time table for me, and He is teaching me patience.

So why join a dating service?  I don't know.  I guess I like the misery.  Maybe I'll get lucky?  Maybe God really does have someone out there waiting for me?  It would sure be easier if that someone was someone I already know.  Being an introvert makes it so hard to meet someone new.  I really hate it.  Oh, well.  Let's see how this goes.  You can bet I'll report it here if it goes well.

Have a great day, everyone!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Faithful Pup Ginger

I love dogs!  They are the best pet companion.  Cat lovers can have their cats, but dogs are the only ones who love just being with you, and miss you when you're not with them.  They are fun, unselfish (mostly), dedicated, lovable, and protective.  I've had two in my life.  Faithful Pup Scout has been with me for almost 12 years.  When I was seven, my family was gifted with Ginger.

Ginger was an energetic mutt of a puppy who lived with an old woman about two blocks from my grandparents in Hopwood, PA, where my dad grew up.  We happened to be visiting with them when Ginger, who my grandfather had befriended and who liked to hang out with my grandfather's dog, was at their house.  Ginger was a peek-a-poo terrier, part pekingese, part poodle, and mostly terrier, mixed tan and brown, with a curly tail, and a terrier chin and ears.  When we called her, she would put her ears up, cock her head to the side, and look at us like, "How do you know my name?"  We quickly fell in love with her, and my grandfather, knowing the old woman who owned her couldn't take care of her, negotiated a deal for us to purchase her for $50.  We were dog-owners!

Ginger traveled home with us, and seemed excited the whole way home, which was a four hour trip.  She was SO excited, in fact, that she threw-up just as we pulled into the driveway at home.  Ginger adjusted easily to our family, and she seemed to love being around us kids.  I was seven, sister Angie was five, and brother Darren was two.  I don't think she was too fond of my brother at first.  We have an 8 mm film of Ginger getting smashed by a small piece of plywood by him not too long after she joined us.

Though we tried to be careful about putting Ginger on a leash when we were outside, there were many times when she would follow us out of the house when we didn't notice, and she would wander around the neighborhood.  She wasn't a very big dog, less than 25 pounds, and she seemed to hide pretty well.  When we realized she was missing, it always took us a while to find her, at least when she was still a puppy.  Unfortunately, one particular time she got loose, it altered our lives greatly.

It was one of those times when she got out and we didn't know it.  We went running out of the house, and Ginger chased, slipping out of the slowly closing storm door.  Once outside, Ginger would start wandering.  She wandered next store, and for whatever reason, she decided to hide out under the neighbor's car just before that neighbor decided to start up the car and head out on an errand.  He ran right over Ginger, hearing her yelp immediately, and stopped and jumped out of the car, only to find our severely injured puppy.  He yelled for my father, who happened to be outside doing yard work, and Dad and another neighbor, Pete, ran over to see what was wrong.  Ginger was in bad shape.  Her left front leg was shattered and bleeding, and she was only semi-conscious.  They were able to get her out from under the neighbor's car, and carried her to our family's station wagon.  Dad, Pete, and I, sitting in the back with Ginger, rushed out to a nearby emergency animal hospital.

The doctor examined Ginger and didn't hold out much hope of her surviving.  X-rays showed that the nerves and tendons in her front paw were completely severed, one of her lungs was collapsed, and her heart had moved a few inches.  The doctor gave us some meds, said to monitor her overnight, but that we shouldn't expect her to make it through the night.  If she did, we should continue to monitor her progress and pain tolerance and that would determine her prognosis.  We sadly took her home.  She was completely listless and I was scared she was going to die.

We arrived at home and Mom & Dad decided to have her sleep in the shower in the master bathroom in their bedroom, which would keep her from being able to move around should she get up in the night, and they would check on her throughout the night.  Wouldn't you know it, but the miracle dog survived the night and actually thrived in the days ahead.  She completely lost the use of her leg, but she learned to hop pretty well, and actually learned to run pretty fast despite the injury.  We eventually had her leg amputated from the elbow down, and that helped her mobility quite a bit.

She really became my buddy in the years ahead, and everyone referred to her as my dog.  She went on many trips with the whole family, including many camping trips, and she really seemed to love traveling.  Years later, after I started driving, she would ride with me on road trips.  She slept with me on my bed every night.  She was a great dog.  She started to slow down a lot as she got older.  Her last few years were spent battling my sister's cat, Sam, who joined the family as a kitten when Ginger was about 13.  Sam wanted Ginger to play with him, but Ginger was getting too old to want to deal with that cat.

When Ginger was 16, it was apparent that her quality of life had deteriorated to the point where we had to consider putting her down.  I still remember that Saturday morning.  Dad, Darren, Angie, and I piled into the car with Ginger and took her to the vet's office (Mom couldn't go...she was just too sad).  The doctor agreed that it was time, and we gathered around her on the examining table.  I stood right in front of her face, with both of my hands wrapped around her, and I felt her breath her last.  I was 23 years old and I cried like a baby.

Ginger was an awesome dog to grow up with.  I feel honored to have had her as "my" dog.  Studies have shown that dog's brains are similar to those of a young child, and they feel emotions just like people.  I know Ginger loved me as much as I loved her, maybe more.  I don't know if our pets have souls, but I won't be surprised if I see Ginger running towards me on four legs when I enter the gates of Heaven.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Inappropriate Halloween Costumes

As we approach Halloween, my daughter, Melody, has been very concerned about what kind of costume she wants.  We've run through a number of ideas, including all of the typical standards, such as a witch, a fairy, an angel, and a vampire.  They're all still on the table, but she still can't decide.

We went out to one of those seasonal Halloween costume stores to look around and get ideas.  My daughter is very tall for her age, and she can't fit into the kid's costumes, so we had to look at the costumes designed for teens.  I was very disappointed to see that pretty much EVERY costume was more "sexy" than scary.  I can't put into words how inappropriate I feel this is.  Once again, our society has taken what should be an innocent, fun occasion and turned the focus onto sex, which teens, especially boys, need no extra help to think about.  So I'm frustrated, because we need to find something appropriate for my daughter's age, and as far as what we've seen that's available commercially, we're not having much luck.

My mother was the creative type, so when we were kids, she enjoyed making costumes for us.  She had quite a few unusual ideas.  One of my favorites was a robot.  It was made out of boxes and aluminum foil.  Literally, it was one large box (the "body") with a smaller box on top (the "head"), with holes cut out for the eyes, wires for antennae, a couple more boxes for feet, and aluminum foil "gloves" for hands.  As a kid, I was pretty thrilled with it, even though, by today's standards, it was pretty ridiculous looking.  But it was easily my favorite costume of my childhood.

As I got older, Halloween was a bit different, and I would get together with my buddies to trick-or-treat.  There was usually a theme to our costume choices, and we would all dress the same.  We might all go as superheroes, or a group of vampires.  One year, a bunch of the guys thought it would be fun to dress in drag.  I went as far as trying on a costume for that one, but after spending an hour trying to put on a pair of pantyhose, I gave up and decided that one wasn't going to fly. How the heck do women wear those things?

Later, I would help my dad scare the neighborhood trick-or-treaters who came to our house.  Dad really got into Halloween.  He had a scary headless stuffed guy sitting in a chair on the front porch.  Kids never knew whether there was anyone in the outfit or not.  We had scary sound effects, and Dad wore a scary costume when he answered the door.  It was a lot of fun.  I helped by hiding in our large tree in the front yard, wearing a scary costume.  As the trick-or-treaters left our house, they'd have to walk right under the tree.  I would shake the branches, and when they looked up, I would turn on a flash light and yell, which would send them screaming down the sidewalk.  It was awesome!

As I got older, I kind of left Halloween behind, but returned to it when I began to be invited to a co-worker's big annual Halloween bash and costume party.  I can honestly say that I had never been to anything quite like it.  I had a pretty good costumes for those parties.  Among my favorites was Santa Claus, which was a big hit, and the Invisible Man (I wore a suit, trench coat, and ace bandages around my face with a pair of mirrored sunglasses).  As a 20-something single guy, it amazed me then what kinds of costumes the young women were wearing, everything from the French maid to the Cat in the Hat, which consisted of a tight black body suit and red and white hat, with whiskers.  Not much mystery to those costumes, not that I was complaining.

Which takes me back again to these costumes for teen girls.  At least the women at those parties were adults.  There really is no reason for teens to wear these types of costumes.  And it scares me that this is what society deems appropriate, when it clearly is not.  So we'll keep searching.  I may have to go the homemade route, like Mom used to do.  I might be able to find some old boxes.  I wonder how my daughter would like being a robot...?

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Prayer For My Employees

Heavenly Father,

Thank you so much for this wonderful day.  So much is happening right now, and I have so much I want to ask for, but I can't help but praise you for what has already happened.  There has been so much uncertainty over the past few weeks regarding the Federal Government shutdown, and so many of my employees have been out of work.  And while there are still so many who still face uncertainty, I'm thankful that my employees will be able to return to work in the morning, that our mission, which is unique in the government, will continue as we serve the American public.  We have much to do.  You can't be out of work for this long without things backing up, so we have our work cut out for us.  But I know, through you, we will be able to meet the challenge.  So, Lord, thank you for making this possible.

I ask that you keep my employees safe as they drive in to work in the morning, that you will fill them with an inner excitement which will motivate them to do their best work, and that all aspects of our restart will go smoothly.  It isn't easy to resuscitate an organization that has been shutdown like it has, and to bring it back to life will take time and energy, but I'm hopeful that you will provide that and more and we will find ourselves back in our familiar positions.  Thank you for my colleagues, Greg, George, Eric, Debra, and Kasey, as well as my boss, Abby, and her boss, Lynn.  The past week, while things were shutdown, we were in the office trying to get a plan in place for this moment, and all of this planning has proved fruitful, as we are ready for what we need to do tomorrow.  Thank you for my managers, Terry, Guy, Rick, Ron, Nate, Adam, and Chi, who will carry out the plan tomorrow, and thank you for their faith in me.

Thank you, Lord, for your continued blessings on us all.  I pray now for a restful night's sleep, and another wonderful day tomorrow.  Thank you for my family, my daughter, my friends and loved ones.  You know their needs, and I ask that you please be with each of them.  Thank you for health, safety, and happiness.  I ask for all of this in Jesus' name.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

They Will Know By Our Love

I'm watching the big Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series game, the deciding game with the teams tied 2-2 in the series, between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.  I'm very hopeful that the Pirates will be able to take it tonight with a win, but it's going to be tough.  Bucs' rookie Gerrit Cole is pitching tonight, and he was lights out last week in Game 2.  But Wainwright, the Cards' pitcher, is an ace, and completely dominated the Bucs in Game 1.

Watching the Cards' catcher, Yodier Molina, while batting, he crossed himself, as Catholics do, and it made me think about how others know if you are or I am a Christian.  Sure, we can wear jewelry, such as a cross necklace, or crucifix.  Maybe we have an Ichthys (fish) on the back bumper of our car.  The Jewish faith has the Star of David as a symbol, which can be worn as jewelry, as well.  Other faiths may require certain clothing, or a turban or yarmulke.  I wear a cross necklace, but no one ever sees it since it's always under my shirt.

But besides all that, if there isn't something obvious, how would someone know if you are a Christian?  Well, there's the song by Peter Scholtes, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love".  Do we actively show love in our actions or words?  I do try, but I know I don't always.  When someone cuts me off while I'm driving down the road, I might yell at them, or glare at them at the next light.  I'm certainly not showing love in my actions in that situation.  I might get angry at something my boss does, and say something negative with a colleague.  That's not using love in my words.  There are times that I do try, though.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a Christ follower.  I talk actively about my faith at work, not to influence anyone or anything like that, but I tell people that my faith is important to me, and I've quoted the Bible, as well.  Working for the Federal Government (shutdown or not), and being a manager, I do have to be careful what I say and in what capacity, but I know my employees know I'm a Christ follower.  My wife, who was a teacher at a public school, also made no secret of the fact that she followed Christ.  Every year, the students and teachers did a "rally around the flag pole" where they prayed before school started, and she regularly participated in that, as well as sponsoring the students Christians group.  She actively practiced showing her love in her words and actions with her students.  It didn't matter what religion they practiced, there was no favoritism in her class.

I wish I was a better person and could always show Christ's love in everything I do, but I don't.  It's hard.  Though I don't always show it, I am quick to get angry in certain situations.  I get jealous when I see couples exchanging affection, knowing that I don't have someone in my life to share my affection, or if someone has a nicer house than me.  I get easily frustrated when things don't go my way.  I can be lazy at times, just wanting to sit on the couch, watch TV, and veg, when I know I should really be more active.  These are things that I know are not "Christ-like".  And at those times, it would not be apparent to someone watching me that I consider myself a Christian.  As I said, it's hard.  We can try, but we're not going to be as successful as we'd like.

It's because we're human, of course.  Our sinful nature won't allow us to ever be perfect.  So we have to understand that the only way to eternal life is through Christ, giving our hearts to Him and asking Him to bear the weight of the wrongs we have done, and if we do that, we will know Him and find eternal life.  It's the only way.

I hope you're having a great evening.  It's 2-0, Cardinals, in the 6th inning.  It's not looking good for my Pirates.  I remain hopeful for a win.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Homework, Homework...Gimme a Break!

My daughter, Melody, is struggling with one aspect of school; something that has not been too big of an issue until this year:  homework.  She is being hit hard by the amount of homework she has this year.  My rule is for her to complete her homework right after school lets out and get it out of the way before she goes out to play with her friends.  She's a very good student, and she almost always finished her homework in about an hour, sometimes less.  This year, fourth grade, has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of homework she's doing, so it's taking her a lot longer to finish.  By that time, many of her friends have already gone in to eat dinner, or can't play outside anymore, or some other reason.  And then she dejectedly comes back in for her dinner, usually later than what I had planned.

Now we've fallen into that trap of making deals.  "Daddy, if I finish my math and spelling homework, can I do my reading later so I can play with my friends?"  Big-hearted Dad, whose heart melts when she begs like that, has been allowing it.  Now it has become a regular thing, and I've had to put a stop to it.  I get it.  I know she likes to have time for her friends, but I didn't want to just let her have her way without there being consequences.  And that consequence is that her homework is pushing her bedtime later and later.

It's a tough balance, and I honestly can't remember having this kind of problem when I was her age.  I always seemed to have time for my friends, and we were always out playing until dinner or darkness, whichever was earlier, and I was able to finish my homework, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed by 9, and I got very good grades.  My parents told me they didn't even force a bedtime on me.  I enforced it on myself.  "Mom, Dad, I'm tired, I'm going to bed now," I said at 8:30 many nights.  I was told I seemed older than I was.  I guess they thought I was in my 60s or 70s and needed my sleep.

This early to bed, early to rise philosophy would grate on my younger siblings.  As the oldest, I kind of set the bar.  Angie and Darren could never quite reach it, and they took this shortcoming out on me, after Mom or Dad would yell at them for not being more like me.  No wonder they hated me.  Like me, both of them had Mr. Ennis for 9th grade math and Mr. Ennis was always asking them why they weren't more like their brother Eric.  My young cousin, Jennifer, had Mr. Ennis six years after me, and he told her the same thing.  "Why can't you be more like your cousin, Eric?"  No wonder Jennifer hates me.

Anyway, I don't know how to handle this situation with my daughter.  Is this really the way it is?  Do kids really get this much homework?  It seems a bit excessive to me.  Her social time has dropped to almost nothing, and we used to go out once a week to get groceries and dinner, but there just isn't time for her to do it all.  By the time we get home, it's time for bed.  Her grandparents don't understand why they don't get to see her as much.  Even Macy the Hamster is getting less playtime (and exercise).  She's about as long as she is wide, and she uses her exercise wheel about as much as most of us use our treadmills.  I saw her laying her wood chips out to dry on it.

Planning our schedule becomes a real challenge now, too.  Because of all of her homework, we have to pile more and more things on the weekend.  I don't know what I'd do if she actually wanted to play sports.  There are times I wish she was more athletic.  I mean, I hate to say it, but she throws like a girl.  I had dreams of her one day playing for big money in the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), but she's not much of a dribbler and she doesn't run very fast.  She IS tall, though.  Still one of the tallest in her class, male or female, and she has a pretty good touch on her shots.  But I think she'd rather play soccer than basketball.  What is it about soccer that makes kids want to play it?

The other new thing is her clarinet.  I really like it that she's playing an instrument now, but I worry that it's going to take up even more of her already precious play time.  It hasn't become a problem yet (they've only had two lessons so far), but I see it becoming one.

Oh, well.  Hopefully she'll start getting into a groove and the homework will get finished fast, just so she can fit everything in.  I know that would make both of our lives get better.  I want her to enjoy her childhood, and not have to worry about school all the time.  I think she's a bright girl and I know she's got a lot to look forward to.  We've just gotta get that homework done.

Have a great evening, everybody!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall Festival at Grace

Yesterday was the Fall Festival at our church, Grace Community, and it was a great time!  It is the only event each year that the entire body can actually participate, given how large a church we have.  The only downside was the weather.  It was HOT!  Our Fall Festival could have been called a Summer Swim.

It's always nice to go to these things because you invariably meet people you either didn't know previously, did know but didn't know they went to the church, or you get to see people you know and did know they went to the church, but haven't seen since the last Fall Festival.  All of the above was true for us.  My daughter, Melody, saw a teacher from her school that she didn't know went to the church.  I wore one of my Pirates jerseys, so I met several people I didn't know previously, but became instant friends due to their love of all things Pittsburgh.  And it was great to catch up with Pastor Mark, Pastor Tim, and buddy Rick, among others.

There were plenty of activities, too, including face painting, pumpkin painting, scarecrow making, needle (candy) in a haystack, pumpkin chunkin', and several moon bounces.  There was lots of good food, too.  The burgers were especially good.  I wish I could've had some of the desserts, but I limited myself to one brownie, which was as gooey as it was good.

All in all, we had a great time.  I wish it had been a little cooler, but at least it didn't rain.


Part two of our day was almost as fun.  We're in the process of redecorating Melody's bedroom, so we went to Ikea to get some ideas.  Ikea is a cool place, and we always have fun just walking around the place.  We did find a bunk bed that will work great in her room, especially since her room isn't very big, and this will create a lot of extra room by moving her bed to another level.  This will be a fun project.

After Ikea, we went home to regroup, then went back to Grace for the Saturday evening service, which is just so relaxing.  Mark delivered one of her wonderful messages, and Melody enjoyed Kid's Zone.  Then we had a really nice dinner at Ray Romano's.  I mean, Romano's Macaroni Grill.  Melody had the grilled chicken, pasta, and broccoli, and I had the Eggplant Parmesan.  It was great.

The whole day was great!  Now we're headed to my parent's place for a cookout and Game 3 of the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Go Bucs!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dating Hangups

My cousin, Jamie, loves to give me advice on dating.  She's convinced I'm not doing enough to help myself to find women to date.  Though I've told her that I suffer from acute introvertedness, she continues to tell me to do things that I could never do, such as walking up to a woman, a complete stranger, mind you, and asking her to have coffee.  Does she not realize how ridiculous that is?  What woman would even  talk to a strange guy, let alone have coffee with him?  Am I just not brazen enough?  Or am I wrong about what I think a woman might do in that situation?  I don't know.  I just know I couldn't do it.

I'm pretty clueless when it comes to noticing if a woman is showing interest in me, as well.  I've been told, after the fact, that there have been situations where, for example, a waitress at a restaurant has flirted with me, and I was totally oblivious.  I tend not to like forward women, anyway, but given how clueless I am, I may be hopeless when left to my own abilities, and may actually need a woman to throw herself at me for me to notice her.

I tend to attract women that I don't feel attracted to.  Women I'm attracted to don't seem to care for guys like me.  What does that mean?  I don't know, but it's probably not good.

I feel so fortunate that Teresa, my wife, and I were able to find each other (with the help of my cousin, Dan, too).  I know that God had a big role in it happening, too.  We were at the right place in our lives at the right time.  Since her death, I've only been in one other significant relationship, and that one was a LOT of work.  "Ginny" was a beautiful but complex young woman who said she wasn't sure she would ever get married.  She was sure that any man would find her too difficult to ever want to date her.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince her otherwise, and I know that I truly did love her, but there were enough red flags for me to finally call it off.  It was a mutual breakup, but I think I probably took it worse than she did.  We have had zero contact since then, though, so that's just speculation.  Ironically, I found out she got married a year and a half later, so maybe the issue was me.

I don't take rejection very well.  I've gone on a lot of first dates, but very few second dates.  I've determined that this is because I'm so afraid of rejection, I write off the women if I sense they may not be interested in me, just to keep from prolonging what I believe will likely happen anyway.

The fact that I am a Christ-follower has also caused issues with potential dates.  Apparently, in our current culture, sex is a common activity between a man and woman who are attracted to each other.  I don't feel that way.  Sex is an extraordinary activity and I truly believe, as antiquated as this might be, that sex should be between husband and wife.  I know this isn't a popular stance, but this has not been a problem with (most) dates who also follow Christ.  However, others don't get it.  I've had women tell me that this isn't a problem for them, but in the next breath, they tell me they've had many sexual partners, so it's okay if they don't have sex with me.  Another potential date actually cried on the phone when I told her that I didn't believe in sex before marriage.  And yet another told me she was up for the "challenge."  For the record, both Teresa and "Ginny" had the same belief as me on this subject, and Teresa and I both waited for marriage.  And it was worth it.  Let me also state, though, that I'm not being judgmental here.  I don't necessarily care about a woman's dating history, and am not interested in hearing about it, unless there are health issues and/or ramifications.  What matters is how they feel about sex now, and that they understand why this is important to me.

I guess I'm just a bit hopeless when it comes to dating in our modern society.  I'm old enough now to be considered over-the-hill, though still young enough to care.  I really would like to find a compatible companion, but I'm not desperate enough to date just anyone.  I'd prefer to find someone close to my age, but if they're still considered young, they have to understand, unless the Good Lord has different plans for me, I really have no desire to be a father again.  And I hate to pull the "typical male" card, but looks do matter, though I have a pretty broad spectrum on what I consider attractive, and I don't entirely follow the standard "Hollywood" look.  Too vague?  I know who I'll like when I see her.  The person is more important, anyway.

Have a great evening, everyone!  Go Bucs!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Roller Coaster Week

roll·er coast·er noun \ˈrō-lər-ˌkō-stər, ˈrō-lē-ˌkō-\
: a ride at an amusement park which is like a small, open train with tracks that are high off the ground and that have sharp curves and steep hills, greatly enjoyed by me and my daughter.

: a situation or experience that involves sudden and extreme changes, such as what my favorite sports teams, including teams from Pittsburgh, namely the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates, put me through on a regular basis.

: working for the Federal Government.

: a metaphor for my life.  Example:  This week.

Whew!  This has been one heckuva week!


Monday was a nice, normal day, back when, you know, I actually was ALLOWED to work.  Then came Tuesday...


Tuesday was the big shutdown.  Our elected officials decided that, since they didn't want to let the opposing side to get their way, they would rather see the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT shut itself down, meaning all "non-essential" Federal workers were forbidden to go to work (including me) by law.

I spent the day watching TV and doing things around the house.  Like laundry.  And relaxing.  May as well make the best of the situation, you know?


One bit of news that I found humorous at first, then got me angry, was the story about a group of World War II veterans who were in town to see the WWII Memorial in DC.  Since the government was shut down, and the memorial is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, a part of the government, it was closed.  A group of Senators (the same people who shut down the government) who heard the story went to the memorial and began to harass the poor park service employees to open the memorial to this group of veterans, and when the park service employees wouldn't do it, since they were only doing their job, which was to keep the memorial closed because, you know, the government is shut down, the Senators pushed away the barricades to allow the veterans in to see the memorial.  When the press showed up, the Senators took the opportunity to make themselves look like heroes who swept in to help these poor veterans from the evil park service who was keeping them from seeing the memorial.  The Senators couldn't even see the irony in what they were doing!


Tuesday afternoon, I heard from my boss.  Turns out she was an essential employee, and was working.  She was rounding up the troops because there were things that needed to be done at work that are essential to the American public, and soon, it looked like I would be returning to work, albeit on a limited basis.  But at least I could get a paycheck, even if I was only allowed to work less than half a day each day, and only to work on planning if the shut down continues for more than a week or two.  We are responsible for keeping the National Airspace System running, so we needed to have a plan.


Things got even better on Tuesday evening as my Pittsburgh Pirates won their first playoff game in 21 years!  I slept well Tuesday night, though it was hard to get to sleep after the excitement of the big game.

Wednesday was a day spent on phone calls and attempting to get a plan into place for my employees to complete the immediate work which was halted by the shutdown.  Even though I didn't work, it felt like I was, and much of the day was spent in that capacity.  This morning, I actually went to the office and it felt great!  It was a bit eerie being in such an empty building, and I was the only person on my entire floor to be at work, but I got a lot done, even if it was only for four hours.


On my way home, I was even able to get a haircut (thank you very much, Ms. Rachel!) and pick up a load of groceries.

Then it was time for Game 1 of the National League playoff game between the Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.


The Bucs were absolutely dismal, and AJ Burnett, the Pirates' pitcher, was bombed big time.  The Pirates couldn't get anything going against Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright, and the Bucs lost 9-1.

So my week has been a roller coaster ride.  It's a good thing I like roller coasters.  I'm hoping for good things at work tomorrow, and I'm hopeful the Pirates can right the ship and get back on the winning track.  I also hope our elected officials will do their job so that I and my 107 out of work employees can get back to work and we can do our jobs.  And as much as I like roller coasters, I'm ready to get off of this one.

Have a great evening, everyone!