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!

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Thank you, my Lord, for this wonderful day with my incredible family! Prayers for those less fortunate, or hurting in any way, and to America's troops all over the world who are not able to be with their families, and to my friends, extended family, coworkers, colleagues, Steelers Nation in mourning, and for peace on Earth. Thank you, Lord, for health, safety, and happiness!

Best wishes and blessings to the readers of this blog. Thank you for your kind support!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankfulness... 'T'is the Season

I'm so thankful for friends and family!  My family means the world to me, and I love them so much.  I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving Day with them.  Mom is making a big dinner, Dad is making the pies.  Sister Angie will be there, as well as my brother, Darren, and his fiancee, Erica, and her daughters, Brittany & Caitlin.  Aunt Linda, Mom's sister, is coming, too.  It should be a great time for everyone.

But I'm also very thankful for friends.  I received an invitation to an event that was held this afternoon and evening, and I'm so disappointed that my daughter and I were not able to attend.  It sounded like it would be a lot of fun, and I'm sure it was.  It was Pie Night.  Everyone brings their favorite pie filling and some food to share, and they party and make pies.  What a cool idea!  It's an open house, too, which gives everyone a chance to spend time together and have a good time.

I've never heard of such a thing, though I was sharing it with a colleague at work today and he indicated that he had been to one recently, and he had a lot of fun (and he's not the type to have fun doing anything!).  I regret that we were not able to attend.  I know we would have enjoyed it.  Thanks, Amy, for the invitation!


So I returned to work today, and I knew it would be a challenging day, though I was hopeful that it might be quiet.  My boss asked me to act for her today and Friday, so I was in the line of fire with regard to a lot of different issues, including unhappy employees, union disagreements, late data, and deadlines.  I was a bit beaten down by the time it was time to leave for the day.  Acting for the director is for the birds.  But I'm thankful for a wonderful job.

When it was time to leave for the day, I hightailed it out of there.  And I refuse to even look at my BlackBerry before Friday.  Outside, it was spitting snow, and it was bitterly cold.  And as soon as I pulled out of the parking garage, traffic was already backed up all the way down East West Highway.  But I'm thankful for my Jeep and 4-wheel drive.

I had to pick up my daughter at my in-laws place in Damascus, so I knew I had a long drive ahead of me, but I was hopeful, because I was taking a lot of back roads, I wouldn't hit too much traffic.  But I was wrong.  The bad weather combined with it being the worst travel day of the year, and despite staying away from every interstate highway in the area, it took me well over an hour to get there.  I was exhausted after getting stuck behind a motor home and a dozen cars all the way up Rt. 108, averaging about 15 mph.  About 2 miles from my in-laws house, the motor home turned off the road, just in time for a tractor trailer to pull out of a gravel driveway in front of all of the same cars that were stuck behind the motor home!  But I'm thankful for the beautiful drive and the snowfall.

I finally got to their house and thought she would be ready to go immediately.  She wasn't.  In fact, after playing around for almost 20 minutes, she then announced she had to use the bathroom.  My daughter doesn't understand the meaning of the word "hurry".  20 minutes later, and she was finally ready to go.  It was already starting to get dark.  We said our goodbyes and hit the road.  But I'm thankful for my wonderful in-laws.

I again took all back roads, and we made pretty good time.  We finally got home at 6 p.m.  I was really tired, and all I could think about was grabbing a quick dinner and then maybe a little catnap.  When we walked in the door, though, Faithful Pup Scout showed us how happy she was to have us home.  Actually, it was more like how much she enjoyed being home by herself since 6 a.m.  But I'm thankful for my nice warm home.

I place "pooch pads" on the kitchen floor for her to use when we have to go somewhere, and she uses them liberally.  After using them once, though, the kitchen floor becomes her next target.  Well, 12 hours was a little much for the little pup, and she left us gifts all over the kitchen.  After taking her outside in the freezing cold, where she took about 5 minutes longer than she really needed, I had to mop the kitchen floor.  But I'm thankful for my dog.

My daughter decided at that moment to tell me that she was hungry and wanted to know what was for dinner.  I wish I had been a little nicer, but I told her that as soon as she caught something, I'd cook it up.  She asked me what I meant, and I told her to just wait and give me a chance to change my clothes and use the bathroom.  Then I'd take care of dinner.  Did I mention how thankful I am for my daughter?

So we had a nice dinner, I let the long day slowly melt away, and we sat down to enjoy PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES, my favorite Thanksgiving movie.  I'm thankful for John Candy and Steve Martin.

So it's off to bed in a few minutes.  I'm tired, my daughter is tired, Faithful Pup Scout is asleep next to me on the couch.... And I really am so thankful that our Lord and Savior has blessed us with a good life.

Best wishes and blessings to you all this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Better Blogs Than This One

I am constantly reminded that there are many blogs out there written by writers much more talented than I am.  Many of them are linked on the right side of my blog (if you're reading this on the full website), and I recommend many of them.

An example of this is a blog post I made a few days ago, where I jumped on my soapbox about the stores that are planning to be open on Thanksgiving Day, and how much it bothered me.  A friend posted a link to another blog on Facebook today that says the same thing in a much more entertaining and convincing way, and I'm posting a link to his blog here: 

Most of the blogs I've linked to are because of my varied interests, such as cars, particularly muscle cars from the 60/70s.  I like science fiction, so there are blogs about that, including movies, comics, and entertainment.  Still others are related to my sports teams, particularly those in Pittsburgh, and my Maryland Terrapins.  There are some that are related to travel, particularly roads I've traveled on, such as Route 66, or the Lincoln Highway.  And there are several about amusement parks and roller coasters.  These are blogs I like to read on a daily basis.  Some are really good.  Others are there just because of my interest in the subject.  Still others are written by people I know personally, and they provide much inspiration to me.

Anyway, please check them out.  I'd say at least 90% of them are better written and more entertaining than mine.  You might find a new favorite.


One of my favorite TV shows is TOP GEAR, which is half about cars, half stunts, and half comedy.  Yeah, I know that's fifty percent too much half, but that last half overlaps into both of the other two.  While I love the British version (also the original), the American TOP GEAR is pretty good.

One of my qualms with the American version is the host's insistence that small, 2-seat sports cars are "girlie cars".  This is especially bothersome since the British hosts love them.  I have one, a Mazda MX-5 "Miata", that I really love.  It's a blast to drive, is quick, turns on a dime, is the finest car I've ever owned, and is just plain fun.  The Brits love them, just like pretty much any car deemed a roadster or sports car.  But the American hosts constantly make fun of these cars in their typical fratboy way.  What's funny to me is that I never see women driving any of these cars.  I do not understand how they became known as "girlie cars".  Only in America....


I am returning to work tomorrow after a few days off due to a broken water main at our building.  This is the first time we've had an issue like this, so it was strange to be off.  If nothing else, I'm going to be well rested going into tomorrow, then I'll get to enjoy Thanksgiving.

With that, have a wonderful evening, everyone!

Monday, November 25, 2013

An Unplanned Day Off

My day got off to a fine start at 5:30 a.m. this morning when the phone rang.  A phone ringing that early means either a wrong number or an emergency.  It wasn't a wrong number.  It was one of my colleagues at work.  Turns out that there was a water main break just outside our building in downtown Silver Spring, and our building would be closed today.  On one hand, that's actually kind of nice news, meaning I would get the day off from work.  But first, before I could enjoy, I needed to make sure I informed as many of employees as possible not to go to work today.  Some employees begin working at 6 a.m., so it was already too late to catch them.  But the late arrivals should get the message prior to leaving their homes for work.  Fortunately, due to the recent government shutdown, we put together a phone tree so that we could let employees know where there is a situation just like this one.  Unfortunately, we just completed a realignment and many of my employees are new to me.  I didn't have a phone tree made for those new employees.  This was a problem.

So my morning was spent trying to get the word out to everyone that they would not be able to get in the building at all, so they shouldn't even attempt it.  But I wasn't even close to catching everyone.  And there were a few angry employees.  No matter how much you try to reason with them, they're just not going to accept that you didn't do everything possible to let them know about the situation.  And that's why I'm the boss.  I get the blame.

As I said, though, it was just the early part of the day that was frustrating.  After that, I was able to just enjoy the rest of the day.  Who doesn't like an unexpected free day off with pay?  The only downside was the fact that my daughter had a half day of school, so by the time I started to enjoy my day, it was time to pick up my daughter.

I just got a phone call a short while ago telling me that our building would be closed again tomorrow, so the day will be repeated.  The only difference is that we've already alerted all of the employees, so I won't have to repeat the exercise tomorrow.  However, it's also the day that I scheduled a parent-teacher conference, so tomorrow I'll actually have to get a shower and get cleaned up.


With Thanksgiving coming up in a few days, it's actually kind of nice to get a few days off leading up to the Big Day.  There's not much for me to do, though.  Mom & Dad are hosting Thanksgiving, and there will be about a dozen of us coming to dinner.  Mom never skimps for Thanksgiving, either.  Aside from turkey, we'll have all of the standards along with it.  Dessert will include the pumpkin pies (made with the family recipe) and a few other tasty items.  Dad actually handles the pies, and I'm hoping he'll remember I need a sugar-free pie.  Mom told me today that dinner will be at one, which works out great.  We'll be able to sleep in a little bit, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, then head over to their place.  Then we'll watch football the rest of the day.  Just my luck, my Steelers will be playing Thursday evening against the hometown Ravens.  It should be a fine match up.

The only downside to the day is the fact that my sister and my future sister-in-law have decided to go out shopping on Thursday evening to catch a few of the sales.  This after I had gotten on my soapbox about how much I hate that the stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day.  They don't seem to care about my opinion, though, and they just want to catch whatever sales are going on that night.  They'll probably still get an earful from me about it, but it sounds like they're going, anyway.  Oh, well.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful evening!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Getting To Know My Neighbors

I woke up this morning to the sound of a leaf blower just outside my window.  I looked out and saw my next door neighbor running his blower on his deck, and all of the leaves were blowing all over my backyard.  I got angry.  I couldn't believe he was being so blatant about it.  I have no quarrel with my neighbor, and though we've always been friendly, we've never had a conversation that lasted more than 30 seconds.  He and his family do not talk with any of our neighbors, and they've lived here for five years.  The husband and wife have three sons, one of which is now driving, but they never come outside or mix and play with any of the other kids in the neighborhood.  The only time I ever even see them is when they come out and get into or out of their cars.

So I was angry.  I was tempted to confront him.  Being the introvert that I am, I just watched.  And then he finished the deck, and he came over to my yard and blew all of the leaves back over into his yard.  And I was mad at myself for assuming he didn't know what he was doing.  And I was even more angry that I wasn't a better neighbor.  I should talk to them when I see them.  I should invite them over.  I should exhibit the qualities that Christ teaches us.  Love your neighbor.  How could I call myself a Christ-follower if I don't do as Christ asks?

Saturday night we had a guest speaker at our church, Grace Community:  Dr. Nabeel Qureshi.  Dr. Qureshi is a former devout Muslim who was convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God.  Since his conversion, he has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.  He was an incredible speaker, and something he said made me think about my neighbors, who are Muslims.  He said that Muslims, especially those who come to America from other nations, are taught that Americans are selfish and promiscuous, and since America is thought of as a Christian nation, they assume that Christians are the same way.  So they are defensive and don't attempt to mix in with anyone but those of their own nationalities and religion.  He also spoke of his own conversion, and how hard it was at first to discover the truth of the Gospel in his reading and studying the Bible, and that the Quran ended up being untruthful in its statements about Christianity, particularly where it says that Jesus is not God, and did not die on the cross or raise from the dead, all of which are the basis of Christianity.  I enjoyed Dr. Qureshi's presentation.

I also thought about ways I might make inroads in my relationship with my neighbors.  I need to show them I am not like their likely assumption of what a Christian is like.  I need to speak with them and care about them, and show them Christ-like love.  They really are worth it.  And it could make quite a difference in my relationship with them.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Day JFK Died

I just finished watching THE DAY KENNEDY DIED, which aired on the Smithsonian Channel last night, on my DVR.  It was a stirring program, and really made an impact on me.  I know the story of John F. Kennedy's death, but I had never watched such an in depth program about it.  It left me feeling very sad.  I was intent on having my daughter watch it with me, since I knew it would be educational, but I didn't expect it to be filled with so much detail and be so graphic.  It was hard to watch at times.

I wasn't born until 1969, so I didn't live through it, but my parents have shared their recollections of the time.  Mom and Dad were both in high school, and Mom shared how sad everyone was when it was announced that JFK was dead.  She had looked at JFK as if he was one of their own.  Presidents in the past had seemed so much older, and JFK was the youngest president ever to that point.  She said she thought he was so handsome, and his wife, Jackie, was beautiful.  They weren't just the Presidential couple; they were celebrities.  His death was very hard for everyone to accept, and they mourned along with everyone else.

The hardest part for me was when JFK was in the trauma room with Jackie sitting outside.  I can relate to some of what she must have been feeling at that moment.  There's a feeling of immense aloneness, along with just being in shock over the whole thing.  There are people running around all over the place, but you almost feel removed from it all.  When my wife died, I was fortunate to have much of my family join me at the hospital.  Jackie didn't have that.  They were in Dallas, and there was no family there to join her or comfort her.  She really must have felt alone.  I can't imagine how that must have felt.

Following the sequence of events, everything happened so fast.  They had landed in Dallas at noon, he was shot at around 12:30, and by the time they left the hospital to return to Air Force One, it was only around 2 p.m.  After Lyndon Johnson had taken the Oath of Office as the new President, the plane headed for Andrews AFB and Washington, DC.  Late that evening, after a trip to Bethesda Naval Hospital, they arrived at the White House.  Approximately 12 hours had gone by from when they landed in Dallas until they were in the White House.  That's just incredible for me to imagine.  My heart hurts to think how painful the whole day was for Jackie Kennedy.

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, though I find them interesting, but I'm firmly in the camp of those who believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  He was so brazen in front of the press and the police, and it appears to me he was just crazy enough to have done it.  The whole Jack Ruby thing I know adds to the conspiracy theorists, but I think he was a nut, too.

It was a tragic time in America's history, and after watching this program, I have more of an appreciation for what happened that day.  It makes me sad to think how different things could have been had JFK lived.  And while I wasn't alive at the time, I realize how difficult it must have been for our country to have experienced such a tragedy.

Have a blessed evening, everyone.  Tell your loved ones how much you love them.  You can't say it enough.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't Shop on Turkey Day

Okay, I'm getting up on my soapbox.  I HATE this trend of opening stores for sales on Thanksgiving Day!  Thanksgiving is a truly American Holiday, even more than Christmas (which is technically a Christian Holiday, despite that it is celebrated by almost everyone).  Thanksgiving is that one day each year that all Americans should be celebrating, and by being open, the stores are taking away a day off with family for all those who have to work that day.  And while I know there are those who may WANT to work, I know there are just as many who HAVE to work just because the store is open.  Can't we just have one day where no one has to work?  I, for one, intend to celebrate the Holiday as it is meant to be, being thankful and spending the day with my family.  I will NOT be out shopping at all on Thanksgiving, and for good measure, I'm not shopping on Black Friday, either.

I used to go out on Black Friday and hit a few sales.  It was actually a lot of fun before it got too crazy.  I remember being in Uniontown, PA, visiting with family, and we all got up early and went to the local mall on that Friday morning.  And it was fun!  It wasn't crazy crowded, the folks who had to work seemed to be having fun, and we got some really good deals on things.  Several years later, my wife and I went out to catch a few deals on Black Friday, and we had targeted Walmart.  It got a little scary that year.  When the store opened its' doors, there was a riot as a large group ran towards the electronics.  I remember seeing one guy with three computer monitors and I wondered what the heck he needed with three?  But it was just for the deal.  They didn't need these things.  They just wanted them, and Heaven forbid that anyone got in their way.  Three people actually tripped and fell in the rush to grab stuff.  I really thought that was ridiculous.

When I started to hear about violence breaking out at some places, and the crazy people who where camping out in lines at Best Buy in order to get deals on electronics, I determined that I was done with the whole thing.  In fact, I started going back to work on Black Friday just because I wanted to stay away from it all.  And I haven't regretted it.  Everybody else takes off on that day, and it becomes about the "deadest" day of work all year.  Only a fraction of my employees work that day, and it's so quiet and relaxing.  I get a lot done!

Online shopping has replaced much of the Black Friday craziness now, so there's even less chance of fighting crowds.  That's the way I like it.

Lately, I've been horribly sleepy at while attempting to update the ol' blog, and tonight is really no different.  I'm out of it, trying to finish this up.  With that said, goodnight everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Mix of Daily News...

I had an appointment today with my cardiologist.  My last appointment was good, six months ago, so I figured this one would be just a formality.  I've shared on this blog in the past my heart issues, particularly as they relate to my stress and hypertension.  So I went to my appointment, and they did an EKG, as usual.  My doctor came in to ask the usual gamut of questions, and then he looked at my EKG results.  His comment worried me (he tends to be very frank and matter of fact).  He said my EKG had some abnormalities.  He wants to see me again in about three months when I'll get another stress test.  He said he just wants to take every precaution, particularly since I'm a single dad with a young child.  That sure didn't fill me with confidence.  He didn't elaborate (I've been seeing him for almost 3 years and he usually doesn't).  Anyway, I don't think there's anything life threatening going on.  My blood pressure is solidly normal, and I don't have any chest pains or any other issues.  I am just a little bit tired of getting the stress tests, though.  But I have one appointment down, two more to go.  My next one will likely be my sleep test.  Then the endoscopy.  I love seeing the doctor.  (Read that with oozing sarcasm.)


I bought a shirt last Spring when we were in New York City.  It's one of those NYPD t-shirts.  I wore it today after work, and I love it because of the reactions to it I get.  At the doctor's office, the technician kept talking about police officers, and I didn't understand why until she asked me if I was a police officer.  When I said no, she apologized, since my shirt made her assume I was.  She was very embarrassed, though I don't know why.

After my appointment, my daughter and I went to the Texas Roadhouse.  It's a favorite restaurant of ours, though there are none near our house, so we don't go there very often.  Anyway, the restaurant is in a relatively high crime area, and I was getting a lot of attention in the restaurant because of my shirt.  In fact, our server, a very nice young man who looked to be in his early 20s, made a point of calling me, "M'man," every time he visited our table.  The manager of the restaurant came over and made sure we were satisfied with everything, and even the kitchen help stopped by our table to check on us.  Either this was the friendliest and most caring restaurant staff I've ever come across, or they thought I was a cop and were treating me like royalty.  If this is how cops are really treated, then I'm on the wrong career path.

Anyway, it was kind of fun, and I'm hoping we can come back.  I'll be wearing my NYPD shirt a LOT more often.


I was looking through some of the ads on one of the dating websites where I have a profile, and I was surprised to see that I've been matched up with a woman who I met through a friend at my church, and dated several times before she broke it off.  Apparently, some women don't like a guy to put his arm around her shoulders while sitting in church together.  Anyway, she broke up with me several years ago. so seeing her, even online, was jarring.  I can only wonder how she'll handle this match up.

I'm pretty tired and close to just passing out at the keyboard.  So it's definitely time for bed.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tall Women Are Just...Taller

I love tall women.  That's the type of statement that can get one in trouble.  "Love" isn't something to just throw out there.  It means something, and I don't use it lightly...most of the time.  And I shouldn't make generalities.  I'm sure there are tall women who I don't love, just as there are women who aren't tall that I've loved.  Maybe a better statement is, "I've loved several tall women."  Then I can follow up with, "I tend to be attracted to tall women."  The bottom line is that all of these statements could be true.

And now that I've totally botched the opening paragraph of tonight's post, let me explain.

I guess it started in about 3rd grade.  She was my first crush.  Her name was Michelle.  She was tall.  She was taller than I was at the time.  She had long brown hair, and she was really smart.  I don't know why I felt attracted to her, but I was, and I would catch myself staring at her many times in class.  I never told her.  At some point, she either moved or went to a different school.  I have no idea where she is now.  But the die was cast.

Sixth grade rolled around and I found myself in love with the tallest girl in our school.  She was about an inch taller than me, and the teacher, Mrs. Elder, always made us line up by height.  This meant Dawn, the tall girl, was at the end of the line.  I stood just ahead of her, but it meant that I got to stand with her.  Dawn was tall.  She was about 6 feet tall.  And she was beautiful.  I had a crush on her, too, but she really wasn't my type at all.  I liked nice girls, and I don't remember Dawn being very nice sometimes.  But she was beautiful.

In 7th grade, it was Tracy.  She was tall, but I was a few hairs taller.  She liked me, and I liked her, but we didn't tell each other until that moment in 9th grade just before she moved away.  I never saw her again.  It broke my heart.  You might think I would've learned my lesson and let these girls know when I liked them, but I was too much of an introvert.  I would keep missing out on having a girl friend.

There were other girls, but the tall girls continued to be favorites.  In 12th grade, I was a senior, and I fell in love with Leann.  She was awesome, and beautiful, and she could sing beautifully, and she had great blond hair, and she was fun and nice and I loved being around her.  She went to my church, but she went to a private school.  I got up the nerve to ask her out, and we went to my Homecoming Dance together.  We dated for a few months, then I found out, just before Christmas, that she was dating someone else.  It broke my heart.  I carried a torch for her for several more years, then she told me she was engaged.  Again, it broke my heart.  She did get married and has two beautiful kids.  And I'm very happy for her.

My wife, Teresa, wasn't the tallest girl I've ever dated, but she wasn't short, either.  At 5'8", she was tall enough.  And I know love is more than just physical attraction.  Teresa was an incredible person.  There was so much to love about her, but it was her heart and love of the Lord that made her my perfect match.

A few years after my wife's death, I was introduced to Kristy.  Kristy was really tall.  Taller than me, at about 6'4".  She, too, was so beautiful!  Long brown hair, blue eyes, and really nice.  She really loved the Lord.  But she was so young!  She was in her early 20s, and I was in my late 30s.  There was no chance for us.  She went overseas to teach in China, and I initiated a string of back-and-forth emails over the next several years.  She was a beautiful person, but it was apparent that we were too different from each other.  There was just too much of a generational gap.

Then I met Jean.  Jean was very beautiful and very tall, at about 5'11".  She loved that I was so tall, just tall enough that she could wear heels and still not be taller than me.  We dated very seriously, and came very close to getting married.  We talked about it, and met each other's families.  I spent the day after Christmas with her family in Nebraska.  But the biggest problem was that she lived in Oklahoma City, which was a long way from Maryland.  I should've figured out that this would be a problem, but she kept telling me she was fine with moving to Maryland.  She wasn't, and the relationship crashed and burned.  She has since gotten married to some guy in Oklahoma City.

I still find myself attracted to tall women.  I've gone through all of the online dating sites, and find myself drawn to tall women, and I've even dated a few.  I can only figure that the attraction is from the fact that I am tall.  I'm 6'2", so I look at tall women as being special.  I've dated short women, but tall women are different.  I hope to one day meet another that might lead to marriage one day.  Until then, I will follow the Lord's guidance, and maybe I'll be able to marry another tall girl.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Dreaded "Work-Thing"

Tonight I went to one of those dreaded "work things".  This is where a group of my peers from work get together for social interaction, in this case, dinner out.  As much as I dread such things, this one was okay.  I feel closer to this particular group of peers than I have in the past, and aside from my very out-going boss, I feel like I actually have a lot in common with most of them.

Several months ago, during one of our quarterly (and sometimes more often) meetings, we participated in a very hard exercise where we shared what makes each of us tick, which included sharing with each other some very personal information about ourselves.  This was difficult for me, since I knew I would end up talking about the death of my wife, and I knew it would make me emotional.  I was able to hold off until the end, but only after all the others went through the emotional wringer.  When it was my turn, I tried to present things as calmly and steadily as I could, but I knew, when I began to talk about her death, my voice grew shaky and unsteady, and I tried to choke back the tears.  Given what everyone shared previous to my turn, though, we were already primed for it, and the tears were flowing before I could even get the words out.  Everyone felt that way.  I hated it.  And I was angry that we had to participate in this stupid exercise.  And I felt awful just as I do every time I have to tell that story.  It hurts.

On the positive side, the exercise did do what it had intended, which was to bring us closer to each other.  There are nine of us in this "inner circle" of managers, and I do trust them, for the most part.  At one time, I think there was less trust, mostly because of the competition that existed from trying to gain resources and promote our groups ahead of each other's.  No one thought "corporately."  That's changed.  We do look at the organization from a corporate view, and it has made us stronger, and we work together pretty well.  Our employees, too, see the entire organization for what it is, instead of just focusing on what their groups do.  This makes for a healthy organization.

So today was kind of a big deal.  We are split up in two different locations geographically, Oklahoma City and in Silver Spring, so most of the time, when we have meetings, it's by video.  But at these "Two-Days", we are all together in one room, face-to-face, and it really becomes a more valuable time for us.  There's just something different about being together.  After a couple of fairly successful meetings, we were asked to make some time for dinner with each other, and most of us participated.  One, who lives locally, told us he needed to get home to his sick dog, who was sick due to eating a bird.  It sounded like an excuse, but these things aren't mandatory, so there wasn't anything we could do.  And we had a good time.

Tomorrow we continue with our meetings, which will actually stretch over three days.  I'm making sacrifices for it, since my daughter is staying with my parents tonight, and will again tomorrow.  She's pretty understanding, and with Thanksgiving coming up next week, we'll have plenty of time for each other then.

In the meantime, I'm exhausted.  I've been stretched a bit thin over the past few months, and these kinds of days really wear me down.  I hope tomorrow goes well.  I'm looking forward to seeing my little girl, too.

Good night, everyone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding Sasquatch

I'm a fan of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, or whatever name it goes by.  At the same time, I'm very much a skeptic.  I'd love to believe that they exist, but unless and until I actually see one for myself, I will remain a skeptic.  But I'm still very intrigued by the thought that they might exist.  Now there is a show all about Bigfoot....FINDING BIGFOOT.  It's a lot of fun, but it sure is hokey.

When I was a kid, I remember my parents taking me to the drive-in.  Though I was pretty young, the movie we went to see was THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (it was a double-feature...THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER was the other movie).  It's about a giant ape-like creature wandering the Arkansas swamps, aggressively attacking people it came across.  I still remember quite vividly some of the scenes from the movie, and they remain etched in my mind even today, particularly a scene of a guy sitting on the toilet as it scares him through the window.  It was a scary movie to that young kid, though I've since watched it and it isn't scary at all.  However, it did make an impression on me and create a fascination for giant ape-like creatures, just like Bigfoot.

I would get books from the library about Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster, or any other "fabled" or mysterious creatures throughout the world.  I was eager to find out as much as I could about these animals.  My childhood was spent reading about them, and watching movies and documentaries about them.  I was really fascinated by the whole subject.  But I was still a skeptic.  I wanted so much to believe in them, but I knew that unless I experienced something myself, I just didn't believe they could exist.  That childhood fascination with these creatures diminished as I got older, and my skepticism increased.

After my wife and I got married, we went to Seattle for our honeymoon.  After a few days in Seattle, we drove to Mt. Ranier, then Mt. St. Helen's, and then down the coast to San Francisco.  It was a fantastic trip!  I rented a convertible Mustang, and driving around "topless" was a lot of fun.  We were in love, newly married, on a dream vacation, and enjoying life.

We were entering some truly spectacular scenery as we neared Mt. Ranier, and we were in a truly remote area.  It occurred to me that this was one of those areas where many Bigfoot sightings took place over the years.  It kind of spooked me to think about it.  I wondered to myself what it might be like to come across one of these legendary creatures.  But, of course, there was no chance that was going to happen.

Later on in the trip, we entered the Redwoods along the "Avenue of the Giants", near Garberville, CA.  As we were driving along, it was getting closer to evening, and we were pretty much by ourselves.  There were a few touristy type stops through the area, and when we stopped to see them, I really got a bit concerned.  I know it was just my imagination getting the best of me, but, aside from us, there was no one else around.  It was really quiet.  So quiet, I couldn't hear any wildlife.  The hair on the back of my neck was tingling, and I had goosebumps.  My wife was really oblivious, and she had none of the preconceived notions of Bigfoots wandering around the woods like me.  I was scaring myself.  But I couldn't escape the feeling that something was watching us.  We took a bunch pictures, hopped in the car, and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

We checked into a hotel a little later and I shared my thoughts with my wife.  She kind of laughed it off, but knowing she didn't just marry some crazy guy, she didn't discount that there could be something out there.  At least, that's what she told me.  The rest of the trip was as eventful as the first part, and by the time we reached San Francisco, any thoughts of Bigfoot were a distant memory.

I still think about it, though.  Could there really be a mysterious ape-like creature roaming the woods of America's back-countries?  Who knows.  I remain a skeptic, though it's probably not going to take much for me to become a believer.  But until and unless I have a first-hand experience, I'll remain a skeptic.  It's fun to think about, though.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy 10th Birthday, Melody!

A very short post tonight... Today was my daughter's 10th birthday and we had a great time celebrating with family this evening.  Her big present was a promised trip to Hollywood, California, from me, and we'll start planning it soon.  We celebrated at one of our favorite places, Red Robin, in Columbia.  We've always had great service there, especially when we were going there weekly starting when my daughter was two years old, and continued until just a few years ago.  We hadn't been in a while, though, and the place has changed.  The hardest adjustment for us was recognizing that we didn't know any of the staff anymore... at least until our buddy Lauren, who is one of the managers, showed up and asked us where we'd been!  It was great to see her, and it changed the current staff's demeanor towards us (we didn't feel that same welcoming feeling we used to get until Lauren stopped by).  Anyway, we had a great time, and they've redecorated the place a bit.

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little girl, who is now 10, double digits, a full decade.  She's an awesomely beautiful, smart, nice, friendly, intelligent, incredible individual, and I'm so happy she's my daughter.  May God bless her now and always!

Birthdays, Aging, and a Broken Shoulder

It feels a lot like Christmas Eve around here tonight.... Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday.  She's reached double-digits.  One decade!  It's so hard to believe it has been 10 years since that November night when my little girl was born.  We're going to celebrate with family tomorrow, and it promises to be a great celebration.  My girl is so excited tonight, though, that she is having trouble getting to sleep.  Just like on a typical Christmas Eve, she's too worked up to think about anything else.

At the same time, I'm dealing with a rapidly aging dog.  Faithful Pup Scout is six weeks shy of her 12th birthday.  I've been watching her have more and more trouble getting around. Her back legs are starting to cause her problems, and she sometimes can't get them to work in tandem with her front legs.  Her front leg causes her to sometimes limp when she forgets that it's hurting her and she jumps off the couch when she hears the doorbell or a knock on the door, usually on the TV.  Even though she can get through the entire night without having to go "outside", during the day she has to go many times, and she's good about letting us know when she has to go.  Those times are usually when I am one bite into my dinner.  And because we place "pooch pads" on the kitchen floor for her to use (particularly when we go out and leave her at home), she will go in there if she can't get our attention.  Her aim isn't very good, though, and most of the time, she misses the pad and goes on the floor.

I've shared this story before, but several years ago, while my daughter was on the phone with my father, I went into the kitchen to get a drink.  I was in my bare feet.  When I walked into the kitchen, my foot hit a "wet spot" on the floor and my whole body flew up into the air, landing on the floor with a loud thud right onto my left shoulder.  If anyone had been watching they probably would've laughed hysterically.  I probably looked like a cartoon character.  Well, when I hit the floor, I knocked the wind out of body, and I couldn't yell or make a sound other than a quiet moan.  If you've ever seen the movie STRIPES, it was just like what happened when SGT. Hulka hit the ground after the tower he was standing on blew up and he hit the ground and couldn't say anything.  Anyway, I was just laying on the kitchen floor, wallowing in a puddle of my dog's urine, my body unable to move due to the severe pain I was feeling.  I was sure I had broken something.  I finally was able to get my daughter's attention, and she relayed to my father that I was injured.  He stayed on the phone until I was able to get myself off the floor and assess the damage to my body.  The pain was so widespread that I couldn't pinpoint exactly where I was injured, except it was either my arm or shoulder.  Dad said, if I didn't need an ambulance, he would come over and take me to the hospital, if needed.  I told him it would be better if he could come over and watch Melody, and that I would drive myself to the emergency room to get it checked.  He said okay.

I went upstairs to get a quick shower and change my clothes.  I didn't need to take the smell of urine with me.  The shower was difficult because I couldn't use my left arm at all.  In fact, trying to get a shirt off and on was next to impossible.  When Dad arrived, I rushed myself to the ER.  X-rays were taken, and initially they couldn't determine if anything was broken.  They recommended I see a specialist, and they released me to go home.  Sleeping was difficult, and I tried to get through the night without painkillers.  I was able to get an appointment the specialist for the next day, and I got an MRI which showed that I had a broken shoulder.  After several years, my shoulder still gives me problems, and is particularly painful when it rains.

Anyway, my dog is aging, my daughter is getting older, and time is flying by like crazy.  It's true:  kids make time go faster.  I love my little girl, though, and we will celebrate and enjoy her day tomorrow.  She's a special little girl.  I'm really blessed.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Log Cabin Living

I love log cabins.  I'm not talking about those little one-room shacks way out in the woods in the middle of nowhere.  I'm talking about a log home.  Many are very elaborate, stretching 3000 to 5000 square feet, and have incredible amenities.  As nice as those are, I would want something a little more reasonable, something between 2000 and 3000 square feet, and a little closer in size to a typical house.  For whatever reason, I really like the design of a log home, with lofts and high ceilings and big windows with picturesque views and large stone fireplaces.  Maybe it's the setting that many of these homes are in that appeals to me, but I know that I really want to have a log home.

I fell in love with log homes on a trip my wife and I took to the Great Smokies.  We saw a log home being advertised as a model sitting on hill just off of the interstate.  I had been intrigued by log homes in the past, and I talked Teresa into stopping to look at it.  So that's what we did.  The home was awesome!  I really had never seen anything like it.  The layout was so different for a standard home, with many of the features I mentioned above.  I really liked how the bedrooms upstairs were connected to a loft that overlooked a great room with a large fireplace.  It had a nice sized kitchen that opened to a cozy breakfast area, and was adjacent and looked out into the great room.  It was really nice.  I told Teresa that I loved it, and would want one some day.  I'm not sure if she had the amount of enthusiasm for the idea that I did, but she didn't oppose it.

The idea planted a seed in the back of my head that led to my seriously thinking about it a few years ago, after finding a magazine at a book store about log homes.  In think it was creatively called LOG HOMES MAGAZINE.  The mag had lots of floor plans of various log homes.  I love looking at floor plans.  I think part of me wanted to become an architect before I discovered cartography.  Anyway, I've spent literally hours just looking through these floor plans, identifying the things I would want in a home, and finding a few plans that I would actually consider.  I'm pretty excited about the prospect of getting one, though, in reality, I couldn't build one until I retire.

So I've given a lot of thought to my retirement years.  Assuming I'll keep my government job for the rest of my career, I will be eligible to retire at around the time my daughter finishes college.  I've also thought about investing in some land in western Pennsylvania, somewhere not too far from Pittsburgh, but in the mountains.  Then, when I'm ready to retire, I would build my log home on that land.  Being within about an hour from downtown Pittsburgh would allow me to possibly get season tickets for the Pirates, or even the Penguins, and I'd want to be close enough to attend the games regularly.

I know that anything can happen between now and when I retire.  My plan may completely fall apart.  I might meet some nice young lady who will have a completely different idea as to what our retirement years might be like.  But I'm determined that it's good to have some goals in life, and this keeps me motivated to have plans for the future.  So I remain excited about it.  A log home is what I want.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

World Diabetes Day, November 14

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and today, November 14, is World Diabetes Day.  In the past, I didn't give diabetes much thought.  It was a disease that both of my grandfathers had to deal with, and I knew that there was a chance that I might get it at some point in my life, but I didn't think about it beyond that.  My Pap became a type 2 diabetic in his 70s, and though he had a sweet tooth, he dealt with it with a lot of grace, never complaining about it.  Bebop, my other grandfather, developed type 2 diabetes in his 50s.  He did not have a very good diet, and was somewhat overweight.  He had contracted polio as a baby, and he lost the use of his right leg at age 1.  I remember Bebop needing insulin shots, and he even showed us, his grandkids, how to give him his shots.  He had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body in his 60s, and, as I've documented here on the blog, he and my grandmother were killed in a car accident in 1987, an accident I almost died in, too.

I knew that I might be susceptible to diabetes since both of grandfathers had it, but it was far from my mind throughout my young adult years.  I was as thin as a rail until my mid-20s, and then I started to fill out.  I didn't eat very well.  I ate out a lot, and aside from a few years before I met my wife, I didn't watch my weight.  But I was never overweight.  Over the last few years, though, due to stress from work and after several years of depression following my wife's death, I found myself becoming more and more unhealthy.  Three years ago, I started having heart issues.  Hypertension lead to high blood pressure.  I didn't know it was happening, though.

One afternoon, while sitting in a meeting at work, I had a severe, intense headache.  It was so bad, I could barely keep my eyes open.  It was just killing me.  I was convinced it was being caused by allergies, or a sinus infection.  I went home and basically collapsed on the couch.  My parents had come over to pick up my daughter, since she didn't have school the next day and would be staying with them while I went to work.  They were worried about me.  I was miserable.  They talked me into getting an appointment with my doctor for the next day, and I did.  The first thing he did was check my blood pressure, and he told me it was extremely high.  After checking me out, he told me to try to see a cardiologist right away.  He even gave me a prescription for nitro because he was worried I might be at risk for a heart attack.  This news scared me a lot, and I called the cardiologist he recommended.  They were literally 10 minutes down the road, and said they could see me immediately.  I rushed over and they took me in.  The nurse took an EKG, which showed some abnormalities.  The doctor came in to see me just as I started getting more and more sick.  My headache had gotten worse, too, and I was sweating like crazy.  I felt like I was going to collapse.  My heart was pounding.  The doctor got worried and called in a nurse.  He stepped out and it was at that moment that I ran over to a trash can and threw up.  I leaned back on the examining table and felt relieved, but I was also close to passing out.  I was soaked in sweat, and the nurse said I was as pale as a sheet.  They said they wanted me to go over to a nearby hospital for an ultrasound to check for blockages, and they asked if there was a family member they could call.  My father wasn't too far away, so they called him for me.  He arrived within 15 minutes, and they sent me over to the hospital.  Dad was really worried about me.  I was feeling a lot better, just a bit lightheaded.  The cardiologist had given me a few prescriptions for high blood pressure, but they said they would re-evaluate if the ultrasound showed I had any blockages.  I was very happy when they finished and told me everything looked fine.

So I was cleared to head home, and I was able to get a follow-up appointment for the following week.  Dad took me back to get my car, and I headed home.  I had to make some pretty quick lifestyle changes, and meds helped bring my heart back into the normal range.  While I'm still not back to normal, my blood pressure is normal, thanks to the meds.

Over the next few months, though, I started to have additional problems.  I was having severe sleep issues, and I couldn't keep my head straight.  I was having trouble concentrating on work.  I was fatigued all the time.  I was confused.  I had intense thirst and I didn't know why.  And because I was drinking all the time, I had frequent urination, too.  I was headed to the restroom three or four times every hour.  And I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I called my doctor and set up an appointment for a Saturday morning.

That Friday, we celebrated my brother's birthday with our family.  His girlfriend made a great meal, with huge steamed shrimp.  In addition, we had some delicious birthday cake, and I was given a huge helping.  It was a fun time.  I headed home that night knowing that I had an appointment for the next morning, and I hoped I would get a good night's sleep.  The next morning, I went to the doctor.  I shared with him my symptoms, and he said, almost right away, that it sounded like diabetes.  He asked for a urine sample (no problem!), and it showed a pretty high glucose level.  They took blood and he told me he'd let me know what they find out.  The lab that received my blood sample did their test and discovered that I had very high blood-sugar, so high that they called my doctor on Sunday, his day off, to let him know.  My doctor was worried, and called me Sunday evening to let me know he needed to see me as soon as possible the next morning, Monday.  I went to see him and he showed me the results of the blood work.  My blood-sugar number was 750.  Normal is anything under 125.  He said he had never seen anyone with numbers that high.  He checked it again that morning, and it was at a better 320, but still very high.  I was really scared, because I really didn't understand it all, but I knew if my doctor was worried, I should be, too.  He gave me a bunch of meds, including insulin that I would have to inject each day.  It was at that point I realized how serious this was.  I was 42 and I was already needing insulin shots, something my grandfather, Bebop, didn't need for 10 years after me.

So here I was, suffering from both high blood pressure and now diabetes.  I was in bad shape!  I was in the worst shape of my life!  I dramatically changed my diet, and after a year on insulin, my doctor took me off of it, and my blood-sugar numbers are right around 100 pretty consistently.  This made me happy, since my doctor was happy.  I wish I hadn't allowed my body to get this far out of sync.  I realized I needed to get myself back to normal, and this was a great start.  It has now been another year since then, and I'm still doing well.  Diabetes can be a scary thing, but it can actually be controlled, and I hope that I can stay somewhat healthy.  I also told my daughter that due to the education that I've received regarding the diabetes, we would try to do everything we could to prevent her from getting it.

So please, readers, be aware of diabetes, be careful, take care of yourself, exercise, and see your doctor if you develop any symptoms.  Please remember any family or friends you my have in your life that have type 2 diabetes.  In the meantime, I'm going to bed.

Have a great evening, everybody!

Pittsburgh Pirates Awards

These are exciting days in Pittsburgh!  The Pittsburgh Pirates took home a couple of pretty big awards this week.  First it was the 2013 National League Manager of the Year:  Clint Hurdle, the Pirates' manager, was the winner!  Then, today, it was the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player:  Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' all-star center fielder, won it!  This is really big news!  What a great accomplishment for the Pirates, who not only broke a major American sports record 20-year losing streak, but also qualified for the playoffs and won a playoff series in the first round of the playoffs.

Congrats to the Pirates, to Clint Hurdle, and to Andrew McCutchen!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Blessing of Friends

I miss not having really close friends.  I was taking stock of my life earlier this week and realized that I haven't made the time required to make friends with people, and I haven't even taken the care needed to keep the friendships that I've had over the years.

I had a bunch of friends in many different aspects of my life for many years.  I had friends from my neighborhood, friends from high school, friends from my church, friends from work.... Then I got married, and my wife's friends became my friends, as well.  And then we had "couple" friends, those married couples who were OUR friends, not the ones that we brought to the marriage.  After my wife died, the couple friends slowly started to disappear.  We didn't have the one thing in common, a spouse, that had made us friends to begin with, so it was hard to maintain that friendship.  I stay in touch with some of them, but it's not like it was before.

I had become closer again with my high school buddies following my wife's death, though, and we got together multiple times each year.  We went mountain climbing, or fishing, or we went out to the middle of nowhere to check out a dive of a restaurant that we had heard about.  We smoked meat in a blizzard and had a great barbecue.  And we talked.  About anything and everything.  But those guys are all married with kids and families and it's hard to plan these things, and I realized that two years have gone by since we last all got together.  And we barely stay in touch.  Usually it's just an email.  And I don't know how or why we let life get in the way of friendships.  And I'm realizing now that I miss those guys, and I need them in my life.  But I also understand that they have their families and their spouses and they need to be with them.  I was there, too.  I get it.

So why am I having such a difficult time making "new" friends?  Part of it is my personality.  I'm a mess of an introvert, and I'm only getting worse.  I used to be able to at least force myself to do social things, but now I don't have that same desire.  I'd rather just be at home.  Having a child also changes one's social life.  I love my daughter, but I can't just take her to hang out with my buddies.  So I stay at home.  I thought for sure that I would be able to strike up a few more friendships through my church, but even that is difficult for me.  I feel like I've got that stigma on me of being damaged goods.  Too often, I associate my church involvement with my wife, because WE were so involved in our church TOGETHER.  I think I've forgotten how to be involved without her, and I feel a little lost.  And you might be thinking, it's been over nine years since his wife died....heck, my marriage lasted half as long as it has been since she died!  Why is this still so difficult?  And I start feeling sorry for myself, and I pull away.  Even when there are guys that are reaching out to me, I shut them out (sorry, Rick....and Ron...and Steve).  And I fall into a pit of despair, and the depression that is fueled by the stresses of work and life pull me down, deeper and deeper.

And I'll climb back up for air for a short while.  I'll get excited about a weekend getaway or a family event.  But it lasts for a few days, and I dive back into the "comfort" of the depression, since that has become what I'm used to.

This blog entry has meandered into something I didn't expect.  Maybe this is the cry for help that I feel like is beneath me.  I don't want to be a burden on anyone, but every time this happens, it feels like I'm placing this burden on those around me.  And those closest to me, particularly my family, don't know what to do about it.  I can tell.  They can see I'm hurting, and they can see I'm shutting them out, and they don't know how to help because I don't know how to ask them without it feeling like I'm burdening them.  But deep down, I keep hoping that someone will recognize that there is something wrong with me and I need help, and they'll either reach out and pull me up, or drag me out of the pit.  Somehow.

I paused just now to reread what I just wrote.  This is one of those times that I've described before where the Lord is using me to write what needs to be written.  And as much as I want to delete this, I'm going to leave it alone.  It's apparent that He wants me to write this message.  Maybe it will be seen by a friend who knows exactly what to do.  I need help.  I recognize it.  This blog is first and foremost therapy for me, and as much as I'd like it to be something else, this is my reminder that it is therapy.  And it's going to help me, either by giving me an outlet for releasing the issues I'm dealing with on a daily basis, or as a way of reaching out.

Anyway, forgive me for detouring into a selfish realm.  I'm such a private person, but using the blog as a way of reaching around the introvert in me may be my tool to recovering from the depression I'm feeling.  If you are one who prays, please keep me in your prayers.  Pray also for Pastor Mark, who is recovering from open heart surgery, as well as for the Namie family.  There are so many others on my heart tonight, as well, and, again, if you would pray for them, I'd appreciate it:  Angie, Darren, Shawna, Sheryl, Rich, Brooke, Amanda, Ron, and Brian.  And that right there is a reminder that I DO have friends.  Thanks to each of you.

Best wishes and blessings, my friends.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Few Of Our Favorite Coasters

Well, sometimes sleep wins out over the ol' blog. After a stressful workday, sleep is the winner tonight. Here, enjoy a few of our favorite roller coasters from this past Summer...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cooking And Eating Issues

I miss my wife's cooking!  I am not what you'd call a chef, by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm not even a cook.  I'm a big fan of carryout and prepared foods.  I have a hard time coming up with meal ideas that don't require a lot of preparation.  I can make a few basic meals.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, spaghetti, rotisserie chicken, quesadillas, a healthy (really, not so healthy) dose of restaurant food.  I know, that's not good.  I do make an award-winning chili, which is probably my best recipe.  I also make a pretty good jambalaya.  Both are more "specialty" dishes, so I don't make them very much.  I like the spiciness of both, but not to the point that you can't taste them.  But, yeah, I really miss my wife's cooking.

She had a lot of good recipes that she cooked.  Her "specialty" was her ziti.  She made it whenever we had guests over.  She also liked to make a linguine and red sauce, with grape tomatoes and onions.  It was awesome!  She made a great meatloaf.  There were many other great recipes, like her cheeseburger bake, plus she tried something new every few weeks.  And if it wasn't great, she wouldn't make it again.  I was her test subject, which suited me fine.  She was very creative.  And she forced me to eat veggies every day, or at least a salad.

The only negative to her great meals was the fact that I started putting on weight by the pounds.  She not only made dinner, but she made desserts, so three course meals were the norm.  I never complained.  If it meant trying a chocolate chip cake with cheesecake icing, I'd try it.  Over the course of our almost five years of marriage, I probably put on close to 40 pounds.  That averages out to about a pound and a half every month.  But being married and happy was well worth it, and we were very much in love.

I've pretty much been on my own for over nine years now, and I'm cooking for me AND my picky daughter.  I guess I've done okay, but I really want to be able to make a variety of things that are not only healthy, but also good.  I've checked out several recipe books, usually the kind that are aimed at bachelors who don't have a lot of time to prepare a big meal, or who don't have a lot of cooking "smarts".  And I've tried the recipes.  They're generally pretty bad, I don't mind telling you.

Another plan I've thought about is to get my sister to make a few meals each week that I can just pop into the oven when I get home from work.  She's already coming to the house every morning to get my daughter off to school while I'm at work (And I'm paying her good money).  The problem is my sister is less of a cook than I am.  I had always thought about hiring a retiree or a grandmother or someone that I can trust to come over a few days each week to do some light housekeeping and prepare some meals.  That still seems like the way to go.

Anything really sounds better than the status quo.  I'm tired of my lousy cooking, and I really think my daughter needs to be eating better, too.  Going out to eat is fun, but it doesn't make much sense from a financial standpoint nor for our health.  If anyone has any other ideas, throw'em our way.  Thanks.

Have a great evening, everyone!  And keep our Vets in your thoughts and prayers.  They deserve them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lost At Wegman's; Remember Our Veterans

We went to Wegman's today to pick up some groceries.  It ended up being a frustrating stop for several reasons.  I don't know why the store has to hide things, especially given how large it is, and the incredible variety they offer, but I find it almost impossible to find certain things.  Like mushrooms.  I like to buy canned mushrooms, which I put into a lot of foods I eat, including my homemade pizza and spaghetti sauce.  I looked everywhere, with canned vegetables (no), with sauces (no), with olives (no)....I asked employees, and they sent me to the exact same locations, and again, no luck.  I never did find them.  I ended up wasting 15 minutes wandering around the store looking, aisle by aisle, with no luck.  I ended up buying fresh mushrooms, instead, which are probably better, anyway, but, brother, was I frustrated!

The store is always entirely too crowded, and the aisles are not wide enough for all of the people and their baskets.  Customers also seem to be oblivious to what's going on around them.  When I see someone coming from the other direction and the person in front of me is stopped, I'll wait until the the person passes by.  But too often, a person behind me won't bother to wait, and they cut me off, the person in front of me, and then force the person coming at us to back up.  To me, that's being selfish.

When I stop to get an item, or look around to find an item when stopped, I'm immediately in someones way, so I feel like I need to keep moving or I'll get run over.  And there are those who are too busy checking their phones to bother getting out of the middle of the aisle and out of the way.

And why is it so hard for stores to stock Sparkling Ice zero calorie carbonated flavored water!?  It has become my favorite beverage and Wegman's, as far as I know, doesn't stock it.  I find it at other stores, but not there.  Maybe it's hiding with the mushrooms.

I guess the store is somewhat too unconventional for me to really like.  Harris-Teeter is much more like a standard grocery store, and I find it much easier to find things, even though it is just as big as Wegman's.  The only real reason to go to Wegman's is to get those unusual items I just can't find anywhere else.  But, as it is, I still end up shopping at three different grocery stores in order to get everything I want.  And that's ridiculous.


Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, and while I never served in the armed forces, I'm proud to say that my father served in the Army, and my father-in-law served in the National Guard.  My father-in-law always references his action in the "Battle of Cambridge", which was really the Cambridge race riots in the Summer of 1967, during which the National Guard was called in to maintain order.  Dad was in the Army Reserves, and fortunately never had to go to Vietnam.  He was in the motor pool and got to drive VIPs around, and he was one of the few of his peers that knew how to type, so he did a lot of desk work.  Not very glamorous, but he did his duty, and I'm proud that he served our country.

Because of them and so many others who allow us to live with the freedom so many others in the world are denied, I'm blessed to have a day of rest, and I plan to do that very thing.  I hope to rest tomorrow.

Be sure to remember those that served tomorrow.  Enjoy your day off, if you have one.

Swallowing Spiders

I woke up this morning rather suddenly with a sharp pain in the back of my throat.  I couldn't imagine what caused it, but the first thing I did was count my teeth, since I was afraid I had probably lost one and it stabbed me in the back of my mouth before I swallowed it.  I grind my teeth at night, and have had dreams about my teeth crumbling, so it isn't as outlandish as it sounds...though maybe it is.  Anyway, after accounting for all of my teeth, my next thought was something else I've had dreams, or better, nightmares about:  a spider got into my mouth, and bit me in the back of my throat just before I swallowed him.  I guess I won't ever know what really happened, but if I die, at least you'll all know why.


Last night, I let me daughter watch INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS with me.  It was her introduction to the Indiana Jones series of films.  She really enjoyed it, and it was my first viewing of the movie since it came out in theaters.  It was a little better than I remembered, but what I remember is that it wasn't very good.  But it was fun to watch, and it planted a seed in her to want to watch the other movies.  So we watched RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK tonight, and it was a rollicking great time!  My daughter loved seeing "younger" versions of both Indy and Marion, his love interest from ...CRYSTAL SKULLS.  I always loved RAIDERS....  It's an exciting, roller coaster of a movie, and Nazis always make the best villains because they were the worst.  We'll probably watch the rest of the series over the next few weeks.  TEMPLE OF DOOM, the next movie, was generally pretty bad, and it appears that the only thing it succeeded at doing was grossing out the audience.  Plus, Kate Capshaw's constant screaming throughout the movie drove me crazy.  I thought the third movie, THE LAST CRUSADE, was a nice recovery.  Sean Connery was a great addition to the cast as Indiana Jones' father.


Speaking of movies, during one of my sick days last week, I downloaded WORLD WAR Z, starring Brad Pitt.  I enjoyed the movie, overall, and thought it was better than the reviews I read.  I know that the film was plagued by problems with the story, and the big finish, a battle in Moscow, was cut from the movie in place of a less exciting but, in my opinion, much more tense-filled ending.  Brad Pitt was okay, but it's a shame he can't clean himself up for a role like the one he played.  He just doesn't look like a "leading man" in a movie like this one.  There were some pretty graphic scenes, as the movie deals with a plague that essentially turns citizens into blood-thirsty zombies, and it gets grisly at times.  There's a scene on a plane that defies belief, as well, but the movie makes you wonder about our future in the warfare against germs.


I've been watching a ridiculous battle take place on Facebook over the past two days.  My crazy family tends to like to argue about politics, a subject I stay as far away from as possible.  But I have several aunts who constantly harp on how awful the Democrats are, and they don't hide their hatred of our President.  While I am not a big fan of the President, and I understand it's their right to say what they want, it rubs my father, a life-long Democrat, the wrong way, and he feels like their complaints are aimed at him (and I'm not so sure they aren't!).  So he responds in kind, and then they have a full-blown argument, all of it captured on Facebook.  I'm not about to take sides, as I think the whole thing is ridiculous.  I wish my father could just ignore them.  There's absolutely no reason for him to get himself all worked up over this stuff, but I agree, I get tired of my aunts seemingly taunting anyone who disagrees with them.  The fact that 95% of their Facebook friends are family members just adds to the ridiculousness, since they're not preaching to strangers.  I just know that everyone seems to be a bit too thin-skinned about the whole thing.  Aren't we supposed to stay away from politics and religion when talking to our family, anyway?  Aren't there better uses for Facebook than to throw our political leanings out there to our FRIENDS???


Report cards came out on Friday, and I can't be more proud of my daughter.  12 As and 3 Bs.  And she wasn't happy about it.  She called it a "medium-good" report card.  It's become apparent that she's rather hard on herself.  She set her standard at straight As after getting them all of last year, so any Bs aren't good in her mind.  So I need to make sure she doesn't get ridiculous about her grades.  Her mother was that way, too.

And it's well past my bedtime.  Have a great night, everyone!