Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Too Wet To Be Dry

Rain!  It sure was wet today.  The cars were wet, the streets were wet, the sidewalks were wet, the people walking on the sidewalks were wet after the wet cars riding on wet roads splashed them.... It was just an all-around wet wet day.

So my drive home from work was an adventure.  My daughter had an after-school activity and didn't need to be picked up until 4:50, so I left at around 3:30, and headed up Colesville Road.  Traffic was moving pretty well, and despite the rain, I figured that I was in for a quick drive home.  I even thought I might have some time to stop off at the store and pick up some dinner before picking up my daughter.

As I approached the Beltway, traffic came to a halt.  I turned on WTOP just in time to hear about the traffic issues around the area.  Colesville Road was underwater just past Four Corners, so that wasn't an option for me.  There was an accident on I-95 north at Rt. 212, so I didn't want to go that way.  I decided US 1 was the best option, so that's where I headed.  The Beltway east crawled all the way past New Hampshire Ave.  Traffic going west wasn't even moving.  It broke loose just past NH Ave., but the traffic headed north on the I-95 ramp was moving very slowly.  I moved along at a good pace to the exit for US 1 north, but US 1 was a parking lot.  Then I heard the next traffic report, and heard that US 1 north was underwater just past Beltsville!  We crawled to Montgomery Ave. and I turned left and went up to Powder Mill Road.  I could see I-95 north and it was moving at speed.  That was the break I needed.  But I was stopped through multiple red lights and a lot of bailout traffic from Route 1 before I could get there.

Once on I-95, I hauled.  Traffic was surprisingly light.  I don't know why.  Then I got the next traffic report:  there was another accident on I-95 north at Rt. 216, my exit!  I jumped off of I-95 at Rt. 198 and went east.  I looked at the clock.  After all of the detours and heavy traffic, it was already 4:50.  I was going to be late picking up my daughter.  I sent her a text via my Jeep's blue tooth system to let her know I was running late, and I continued on up to 7th Street.  Seventh turns into Rt. 216.  Traffic was light, but it was still raining pretty hard.  I finally got to Stephens Road....almost there!  But the road was closed!!! There was water covering the road ahead.  How was I going to get around THIS obstacle???

I stopped and watched a couple of cars inch through the water streaming over the road.  The made it without any difficulty.  I decided, with my Jeep, I could easily traverse the overflowing creek, so I took the chance.  I don't advocate doing this.  I've heard of too many drivers over confidently driving through obstacles like this one and getting washed away.  Fortunately, I made it across without incident.  An on-coming car wasn't quite as lucky.  It stalled out trying to drive through the water, and several people stopped to help the guy push his car back out.  I was able to pick up my daughter without any problems.  I apologized to the volunteer parent who helped watch the kids who hadn't been picked up yet.  She said not to worry, that they were aware of the road closures and that some parents might be late.  I thanked her and we came home.

Faithful Pup Scout did not want to go out in the rain.  I forced her.  She wasn't happy about it.  Now Scout was wet.  She matches me, the cars, the sidewalks, the roads, our house, and just about everything else outside that's wet.  Did I mention it's wet?

Have a great evening, everyone!  Stay dry!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Marty Moose Says We're Closed

Sorry, folks, no blog tonight. The moose out front should've told ya.  We'll be back tomorrow!

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Series of Positives

I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm finally experiencing some positives on my dating profile at  This has been a long time coming.  I've been on the site since January, and have yet to go on a date.  In fact, I've had no responses to any of my emails to women who have interested me.  That's quite an indictment on either me or the site, or both.  Anyway, I'm happy to have found someone who interests me, and while it's still early, we appear to have quite a bit in common.  We'll see how this goes....


The Penguins of Pittsburgh finally put an end to their first round playoff series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Pens, who were huge favorites, allowed the Jackets to hang around, keeping their series close.  The Pens won a close game on Saturday, and then jumped out to a 4-0 lead in tonight's game.  Then they relaxed, and the Jackets started to come back.  They scored 3 straight goals within five minutes of the 3rd period, though the Pens hung on and won, clinching the series.  The Pens had better do a better job in the next round, or else the playoffs will be over very quickly.  It was exciting to experience a big win, though, and I'm happy to see them move on.


I've had a rough time at work over the past month, and things finally came to a head last week.  I met with my boss and we agreed to make some changes.  Namely, I was able to give up the most stressful part of the job, and the segment of the organization that I was struggling with was reassigned to another manager, effective on Friday.  The result was the most restful, relaxing couple of nights of sleep that I've had in months.  It feels like I've had a great weight lifted off of my shoulders.  This is all good, and the new manager is more than capable of handling it, since it's the only thing he has to manage.  I still have three other teams that I'm managing, which is almost a hundred employees.  Things are looking up!


I can't help but feel God's hand in all of the positives I've experienced recently.  It had been so easy to feel overwhelmed by the things I was going through, and I just forgot that I could hand it all over to Him.  Sometimes you really have to hit bottom before you realize that you just can't do it all on your own.  God gently reminds us that only He can pull us through the difficulties we go through.  I can't put into words what a great feeling that is.  I can hardly wait to see what's next.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Early Mom's Day

Today we had a really nice time with family as my mother was recognized by her church for her job as their secretary/administrative assistant for much of the past decade.  She was deserving of the recognition, and the church celebrated with a luncheon after the church service.  Bethel United Methodist Church just north of Upper Marlboro is a very small church of fewer than 100 members, and there were approximately 30 people attending the service today.  Our family, including my parents, my sister, my brother, and my daughter and I, ended up being the biggest bunch of people at the church.

After the service, and after we ate lots of home-cooked food, I left to get a change of clothes since a bunch of guys were going to play softball on the church's adjacent field.  I found out later that, right after I left, a snake slithered into the church's fellowship hall.  My brother saw it.  It was about 4 feet long, and appeared to be a copperhead.  My brother, very calmly, asked everyone to pick up their feet and he and another person corralled the snake into a cardboard box and released him into the woods behind the church.  It was a lot of excitement for a little country church.

I ran to Sears and found a pair of shoes appropriate for softball, as well as some sweats, then returned to the church.  The whole trip took less than an hour.  I went down to the field and noticed that there were only about seven guys out there, along with a couple of spectators.  My father and I had joked earlier that neither of us had played softball in about 15 or 16 years.  We weren't sure we could even throw anymore.  I shouldn't doubted ourselves.  Softball is much like riding a bike.  You really don't forget how to play.  It's just a little harder since we're older and much more out of shape.

Since we were just batting and fielding, not really playing, before I could get out on the field, Dad suggested that I take a few swings with the bat.  He was pitching.  I made contact with the first pitch, then whiffed on the next half dozen.  I took some pretty massive swings, almost falling down on a couple of them.  I hacked away at a few more and finally was able to make some decent contact.  After finishing, my hands were aching and my back was sore.  I'm going to pay for this later.

Once out in the field, I chased a few well hit balls all over the field, and almost lost my balance trying to snag another one.  Then, it was over.  The other guys seemed very disappointed by the turnout.  They had expected enough to field a couple of teams and actually play a game.  It was fun for me since I hadn't played in so long.  They plan to make this a regular thing, and while it would be a blast to be a part of it, the fact that we live almost an hour away will make it difficult.

They finished up with a bunch of hot dogs and watermelon.  Then my daughter took a few swings, and made some decent contact (although she also had a ball tip off the bat and hit her in the chin!).  It appears that she actually has a little talent for softball.  It got even better after getting her a glove and we played some catch.  She caught everything I threw to her.  Wow, I'd sure love it if she ended up playing a sport.  Maybe softball is the one!

It was a really nice afternoon.  The weather was almost perfect, with low humidity and temps in the sixties.  I'm glad that we could be a part of Mom's big day.  She told us this counts as her Mother's Day, since her big wish was to have the whole family together, which is getting harder to do.

God gave us a great day.  I hope you all have a wonderful evening!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Maryland Day

Today was Maryland Day, and we spent the day at the University of Maryland in College Park.  Our church, Grace Community, had made today the annual Servefest, which is a day when many in the church body go out into the community and serve in many different capacities.  Some do yard work in the community at certain schools, or at the homes of the needy.  In addition, there were various activities where groups of church members participated in supporting other groups or individuals, such as cheering on the students at a local special needs school that has a parade.  My daughter, Melody, and I participated in a prayer walk at the University of Maryland, which is why we also were able to experience Maryland Day.

The Prayer Walk was sponsored by Cru, which is a self-described "group of communities where the gospel captures hearts, transforms lives, and launches men and women into a lifelong adventure with Jesus Christ."  I met several wonderful young men and women who are involved in this organization and participated with us and a number of other people from Grace.

We were led to various spots around the campus where we would stop and pray together for the people related to the spot chosen to pray.  They include The Diner, near Ellicott Hall, where we prayed for the incoming Freshman at the school; Byrd Stadium, where we prayed for student athletes; the Alumni Center, where we prayed for the alumnus; Stamp Student Union, where we prayed for the many minority students on campus; and the international language hall, where we prayed for international students.  We ran out of time to pray at the Armory and at the campus Chapel.  It was a really enjoyable time, and we made some great connections with wonderful people.  Upon completing the walk, we were invited to join Cru at a fundraising dinner in mid-May.

Melody and I then joined in on the Maryland Day festivities.  The campus really gets into the spirit of the celebration, with every school sponsoring a booth around campus and manned by students.  There were plenty of food booths, too, and entertainment supplied by students.  We made our way around McKelden Mall, then returned to the union.  We had some Chick-Fil-A for lunch, and though I would've preferred eating something on the mall, Melody was very satisfied to have some comfort food.  After eating we made our way into the University Book Center to do some shopping (and get some Maryland gear).

Melody was wearing one of her mom's "Images" t-shirts.  Images is the campus tour guide organization, of which Teresa was a member.  We saw a group from Images and approached them.  They immediately saw Melody's shirt and really made a big deal out of it, calling it "vintage".  Melody was beaming and we told them that her mom was a member of the Images back in the 90s.  They seemed impressed.

After a great time shopping and wandering around campus, we made one more stop, at Cole Field House, the previous home to the basketball teams before the much larger Comcast Center was built on the other side of campus.  Melody was excited to see it.  Then we headed home.

It was a great day!  Melody has decided she wants to go to Maryland when she graduates from high school.  We'll see...a lot can happen between now and graduation.  I certainly will endorse the idea!  Go Terps!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hollywood Swinging

We had a fantastic time in Hollywood!  My daughter, Melody, and I spent our first day at Universal Studios Hollywood, which included lots of cool rides, particularly the new Minions ride (from the movie DESPICABLE ME).  We also enjoyed the studio tour, which featured the Bates Motel (from PSYCHO) and the shark from JAWS.  There was also the earthquake (from the movie EARTHQUAKE), and a special King Kong feature on SKULL ISLAND, which was in 3-D and pretty spectacular.  For dinner, we went to Bubba Gump's restaurant, which was a treat.

Us and a minion

Me with Homer & Marge Simpson

Melody & Lisa Simpson

After a really enjoyable day at the park on Monday, Tuesday was spent in a warehouse studio in Van Nuys, where Melody was in the studio audience for a new kid's game show that will be on Nickelodeon this Summer called Web Heads, featuring Carlos Pena, JR, from the show Big Time Rush.  It took about 5 hours to film 2 episodes, and I was able to watch on a monitor and saw her in the audience on TV a couple times for less than a second.  Does that count as a TV appearance?  I think so.

We found a Shakey's Pizza Parlor for lunch.  I used to go to Shakey's when I was a kid in the DC Metro area, but they all closed in the area when I was a teen.  So I was excited, and recognized the taste of the distinctive pizza immediately, even if it wasn't very good.

Hollywood Blvd.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around in Hollywood proper, visiting Hollywood and Highland, a trendy shopping area, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  We also enjoyed a great dinner at Mel's Drive-in, featured in AMERICAN GRAFFITI.

Mel's Diner in Hollywood

Wednesday was spent at Six Flags Magic Mountain, in Valencia, CA.  We got season tickets, which will allow us to visit other Six Flags parks around the country through the Fall.  The park was a little bit of a disappointment, since it was so rundown and many rides were shut down.  The classic coaster, The Revolution, which is the first modern looping steel coaster, was not running, and looked awful.  This coaster was featured in several movies, including ROLLER COASTER, KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM, and the whole park standing in as Wally World in National Lampoon's Vacation.  The park's newest coaster, Full Throttle, also wasn't running.  Goliath was an awesome coaster, though we waited in line for over an hour to ride it.  Another classic wooden coaster, called Colossus, would've been better if they hadn't turned the coaster trains around and run them backwards.  It resulted in me feeling sick and sore.  The coaster highlight of the day was X2, which is hard to describe.  The individual cars actually turn and rotate as the coaster itself flies around the track.  It was a rough ride, but very cool.

Six Flags Magic Mountain, "Wally World"

Thursday, our last full day in Southern California, started with a visit to the Warner Brothers Studio.  The tour was great, taking almost three hours, with a visit to the original Friend's coffee shop set, and a stop at the set for Sullivan & Son, starring series creator, Steve Byrne, about a bar in Pittsburgh.  After the tour and purchasing a bunch of souvenirs, we had lunch with our "Hollywood" friend, Alan.  Alan has been playing a lot of small parts for years in many big shows on television, including Frasier, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cougar Town, Monk, Suburgatory, and many Disney Channel shows.  He's also a regular on Conan O'Brien's talk show, and has done many national commercials.  Alan and I went to high school together, and he's one of those guys who "made it" in Hollywood.  We ate at the oldest Bob's Big Boy still in operation, which was pretty cool.

Warner Brothers Studios

Friend's Central Perk set

Sullivan & Son set

Alan & Eric at Big Boy

After lunch, we drove by the house featured on the Brady Bunch.  We also drove up to the Hollywood sign, past the Cunningham home from Happy Days (the outside of the house was featured on the show), which was nearby, too. then headed to Santa Monica.  We rode down Route 66 to the end of the route, at the Santa Monica Pier.  Melody touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  We then drove back to North Hollywood and had dinner at a great Italian restaurant called Miceli's, where the servers sing in between waiting on tables.

The Brady home

The Cunningham home

The Pacific Ocean

The Western End of Route 66

We crashed at our hotel for our last night in Hollywood before heading out of town.  It was a lot of fun, and my daughter was excited to have spent the week in a special place.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


My daughter and I finally made it to Hollywood.  Here are some pics of the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman's and Mann's).  It's known for its courtyard full of handprints and footprints of Hollywood stars in cement blocks.  Check them out...


Henry Fonda

Cary Grant

Jack Nicholson

Jimmy Stewart

Bruce Willis

Tom Hanks

Peter Sellers

Samuel L. Jackson

Marilyn Monroe

Kirk Douglas

John Goodman

Kevin Costner

Johnny Depp

Groucho Marx

Chico Marx

Harpo Marx

Dick Van Dyke

Morgan Freeman

Shirley Temple

Roy Rogers and Trigger

Humphrey Bogart

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello

John Wayne

The Original Star Trek cast

R2D2, C3PO, and Darth Vader

Harrison Ford

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stanley Cup Time Out

Ugh.  How unbelievable.  I was watching the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight, with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Tonight was game 4 of their series, with the Pens leading the series 2 games to 1.  The Pens had a pretty good game going, then everything fell apart.  Leading 3-2 with 22 seconds in the game, the Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, inexplicably misplayed the puck behind the net, and the Blue Jackets capitalized and scored a goal to tie it and send the game into overtime.  Less than five minutes into the OT, Columbus scored again to win the game and even the series 2-2.  It was like a bad dream.  The Pens were 22 seconds away from the win, and then they lose.  It's so frustrating.

And with that, I'm going to bed.  Sorry, folks, the blog will continue tomorrow....

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Our Kicks On 66

My daughter, Melody, and I left Vegas on Sunday morning.  We stopped for a really great breakfast at the local IHOP.  Usually we avoid chains when we're traveling, but finding a good breakfast isn't always easy, and a known quantity can do the trick.  After we ate, we hit the road and headed south to Boulder City and down the twisting road to Hoover Dam.  This was my fourth trip to the dam.

My wife and I went on a great tour of the Hoover Dam in 2000, but the tour was changed considerably after September 11, 2001.  After that, the tour was shortened, and it didn't feel the same.  As it turns out, in the 11 years since I last went to the dam, they've added a longer, more in depth tour in addition to the standard short tour.  I wanted to do the longer tour, but there weren't any opening until later in the afternoon, so we settled on the short tour.  It was fun and the guide was humorous, so we had a good time.  We were there much later than we planned, though, so we were looking at being on the road until pretty late.

We headed down to Kingman, where we had a late lunch at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.  I had stopped there about a year-and-a-half ago on a business trip, and it was memorable enough to want to return.  We had a delicious lunch, then stopped at a Route 66 store/museum right across the street.  We bought a few over-priced souvenirs, then hit the road again.  We then headed down the most scenic part of Old Route 66.

This portion of Route 66 goes through the highest elevation on the route, through Sitgreaves Pass, which contains miles of switchbacks through the mountains.  The road has no guardrails for most of this stretch, and feels very remote.  After some time, we came to the little mining town of Oatman, AZ.  This town is famous for its wild burros who roam through the town begging for food (most of the local businesses sell carrots), and they have "gun battles" during the day between outlaws and lawmen.  The town was almost a ghost town at one point, but is now a tourist oasis for Route 66 travelers.  We enjoyed walking the plank sidewalk through town, and buying up more souvenirs, before continuing down the road.  It was getting late, and we needed to reach Los Angeles by nightfall.

We reached the interstate and then passed into California (state #32 for Melody!).  We stopped for gas in the town of Needles before heading out across the Mojave Desert.  Originally I had planned to drive more of old Route 66, but because it was so late, we stayed on the interstate.  It was dark by the time we reached the next real town, Barstow, and we had dinner at an In 'N' Out.  This is a popular fast food joint native to the West coast, and we enjoyed their delicious burgers.  I finally reached the outskirts of San Bernardino and entered the Los Angeles area well into the night.  We were tired, and Melody had slept for a while in the car, when we reached our hotel in North Hollywood.  The hotel, a Comfort Inn, wasn't the best place in the world, and I regretted having already made a reservation there for the week.  But we were glad to finally rest after such a long day.  We both crashed almost immediately, but we were happy to be in California!

To be continued....

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vegas Vacation

It's so nice to be home.  Sure, I love a good vacation, and we really did have a good vacation.  But after more than a week through the air and on the road, it feels great to be home.

A few months ago, I asked my daughter where in the USA she would want to go for our Spring Break.  She said, "Hollywood!"  I said, "Are you sure?!?"  She said yes.

We flew out to Las Vegas, Nevada.  I don't believe Vegas is an appropriate place to bring a child.  That was emphasized after being there for a few days.  The only reason we went there at all was because it was significantly cheaper than flying into Los Angeles, which was our real destination.  But I took the cheaper route, and I exposed my daughter to a individuals.  It's unreal what you see on the streets of Vegas.  The Frankenstein Monster was walking around and dancing with anyone who would dance with him.  Dora the Explorer motioned me over and, thinking "she" wanted a peck on the cheek, I gave "her" one, only to be frightened by the deep manly voice of the guy in the suit, who was excited to tell me that he was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan from Monroeville, PA, and he saw I was wearing a Pirates jersey.  Fortunately, the suit had limited sight lines so he didn't know that I had kissed "her".  The one that really shocked me, though, was the young lady who was wearing a bunny costume out on the Strip, right next to the MGM Grand.  The bunny costume consisted of a black satin corset with white fur trim, along with a g-string.  This meant her backside was completely bare!  I was embarrassed for her.  I made sure my daughter understood just how inappropriate that was.

It wasn't all bad.  There are some interesting and fun things in Vegas.  We rode the roller coaster at New York New York, which was a lot of fun.  We ate at a great buffet at the Luxor.  We saw the garden at the Flamingo, along with some wildlife.  We explored the Venetian and its sky-blue ceiling and gondolas.  We had a great dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe overlooking Las Vegas Blvd.  It was a great time.

We had a few bad things occur, too, unfortunately.  We stayed the first two nights at the Excalibur, which, while giving us a fantastic view of the Strip, was very old and dated, and wasn't much better than a standard hotel room.  The casino itself reeked of cigarette smoke, and there were lots of very inebriated young people wearing very tight clothing that, in my mind, wasn't very respectful of themselves.  We had an uneventful flight to Vegas from BWI, but upon arriving in Vegas, we had a ridiculously long wait to pick up our rental car.  Dollar Rent-a-car had about three people working the counter with at least 25 people waiting in line.  Our wait ended up being about 45 minutes.  When I got to the counter, "Mike" couldn't have been more condescending, surly, and bullying.  When I elected not to purchase their "insurance" policy, I was ridiculed for not taking it, and I had to listen to him tell me all of the reasons why I would regret it.  I've rented almost 30 cars over the years.  This is the first time I've ever been treated this way.  When I received an email survey to provide feedback to Dollar, you can bet I was completely honest in my review.  I will not rent from Dollar again, if I can help it.

My daughter's suitcase started to fall apart by the time we arrived at our rental car.  We hadn't noticed when we picked up our luggage at the baggage claim that the TSA-approved lock and zipper were ripped off her suitcase.  It was in such poor shape that I knew it wouldn't make it through the trip, so we had to purchase a new suitcase at the local store.  I wish we had noticed at the airport.  We probably could've blamed the airline.  I can only assume it was their fault.

After two quick days in Vegas, we were anxious to hit the road for Hollywood.  And that's where we'll pick up the story tomorrow.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Remembering my wonderful wife and Melody's extraordinary mom ten years after that moment that changed our lives forever. So grateful for God's grace and promise of eternal life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014