Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Fun and a Prayer Request

Tonight I need to ask for prayers for my uncle.  He is an alcoholic.  He has been battling this for several decades now, and his health has never been worse.  He is in dire need of a liver transplant, and while he was on the transplant list when he was clean, he couldn't maintain it and he started drinking again, jeopardizing any chance he had to get a liver transplant.  Two days ago, he fell down the stairs of his home.  It was the second time in the past week.  The first time, he cut his head pretty badly, but he wouldn't let paramedics take him to the hospital.  This time, he separated his shoulder, requiring surgery.  The doctors were afraid that putting him out for the surgery to get his arm back into place was too dangerous due to his health, but they went through with it today.  He is resting "comfortably", though not happily, in the hospital.  He will likely be admitted to "dry out", meaning he will be restrained.  It does not bode well.

So please keep him in  your prayers.  He is struggling and needs so much support. We keep hoping he will be able to get himself well, but he keeps showing that he can't do it by himself.  His wife can't deal with it, either, and she needs prayers, too.


What a beautiful day!  My daughter, Melody, and I got out and did some geocaching.  Geocaching is a lot of fun, and anyone who has a handheld GPS (or download the app on your phone) can access the huge database of items that you can look for.  It works like this:  an item is hidden in a location that is identified by it's geographical position, which you can search for by using a GPS.  These items are everywhere!  There's a huge network of folks who create the caches, and there are even more who enjoy hunting for these things.  Some are very creative, and use math formulas or word games as part of the clues to finding them.  They are ranked by difficulty, as well as size (some are very tiny, and some are large), and some provide gift exchanges.  It's really a lot of fun.

Melody and I ended up in Ellicott City today trying to find some of the geocaches.  Some are hidden in very beautiful and scenic areas, taking us to places we've never seen before, into some really nice neighborhoods.  While we are still novices at it, geocaching makes for a fun activity and a nice workout, with so many of the caches being in areas you must hike to find.  Get out and try it!


My Pittsburgh Pirates were on National TV tonight, being the Fox game of the week versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, live from the West Coast.  The Bucs had beaten the Dodgers two straight, but you'd have never guessed that after their dismal performance tonight.  The Dodgers beat them 12-2 in a royal butt-kicking.  It's frustrating, since they played so well the past two nights.  They're not having a great year.  The Bucs ownership and management figured they could coast on last year's successful playoff appearance, but they are clearly in need of some help.  They need pitching help, mostly, because they didn't make any significant changes during the off-season, and one of their best, AJ Burnett, was allowed to leave for Philadelphia.  So now their back to their pathetic selves from most of the past two decades.  Why do they have to play so poorly on a national broadcast?  How embarrassing.

So come on, Bucs!  Let's get things fixed and get back to the playoffs.  I hate losing.

Have a great Saturday night, everyone!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Straightening the Curvy Roads

I am a driving enthusiast.  I love to drive on roads that allow you to feel one with the car you're driving, which means lots of twists and turns, with elevation changes requiring shifting of gears, etc.  Examples include many mountainous roads, and back roads in rural areas.  In fact, there's one very close to where I live that I love to drive.

Gorman Road runs near my neighborhood, and the stretch of road between Skylark Blvd. and Murray Hill Road is particularly twisty and enjoyable to drive.  But recently, one of the farms along this road was sold to a developer, who promptly chopped down trees and is in the process of leveling the land in readiness for the hundreds of houses that will be built.  Since Gorman Road along that stretch is not really conducive to this kind of development, the road itself is getting straightened out.  This bothers me on so many levels.  First of all, the idea that every ounce of land in the area has to be developed is frustrating to me.  Especially since it seems like the developers wipe out all of the trees on the land being developed, creating a barren appearance.  I hate it.  It takes away all of the rural characteristics that give the area its charm.

I've lived in my home for 13 years and I've watched this trend take place all over the area.  Stephens Road was a nice, quiet little road with cornfields and homes on large pieces of land.  Then the homes get bought up by developers who tear them all down, and place a dozen homes on the same piece of land that had one.  The cornfield was paved over and now there's a neighborhood with hundreds of homes in its place.  Traffic has increased dramatically.  A traffic light had to be placed at the Gorman Road-Stephens Road intersection because there are too many cars.  And many of the people who have moved in don't seem to have the same driving sensibilities of others, and far outrun the speed limits and don't understand the concept of stopping and looking before taking right turns on red.  I fear for my daughter who must cross these busy roads since she walks to and from school.

I know I'm getting older and grumpier as I go along, and this is the same kind of stuff that I remember my parents complaining about, and their parents complaining about, as I was growing up.  But I hate that our rural areas must be completely filled up with large neighborhood developments and multi-lane roads without any character.  It's getting so that I feel like I can't breathe.

I know I can drive a little bit west in my little 5-speed sports car and enjoy the roads out there, but I hate watching my home, which I bought due to the "out in the country" feel it gave me and my wife, get swallowed into suburbia.  Maybe I'm in the minority.  Maybe my neighbors all want this kind of development.  I sure don't.  There's plenty of developed areas already just down the road from me that I can easily access as needed.  I don't need it that badly, though I'm sure the sellers of these lands are looking for a big payday that the developers are more than willing to give to them.  Oh well.

As I said at the top, I'm a driving enthusiast.  I can always find roads to drive on that I find enjoyable.  I just have to go a little farther to find them than I used to.  But they're out there, and I love them.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Little Girl

I love my little girl! I just wish she could've known her wonderful mother!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Power of a Date

I was thinking today about dates, and the power they hold depending on their significance.  For example, the United States has many very important and very significant dates, such as July 4, 1776. I think most of us realize why this date is significant to our great country.  It's the date the Colonies in America declared their independence from England.  It continues to be a day of celebration for our country, signified by cookouts, parades, and fireworks smothered in Patriotism.  How about October 12, 1492?  Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  That's the date Christopher Columbus began his voyage to the New World.  It's celebrated as a Federal Holiday.

Let's try a little quiz.  Can you name the significant event for the United States that occurred on the following dates:  September 17, 1787?  June 18, 1812?  April 12, 1861?  December 17, 1903?  April 6, 1917?  October 24, 1929?  December 7, 1941?  August 6, 1945?  November 22, 1963?  April 4, 1968?  July 21, 1969?  January 16, 1991?  September 11, 2001?  I'll provide the answers at the end of this post.

Today, May 28, is my wife's birthday.  Teresa would have been 42 today had she not died suddenly 10 years ago.  Every year, I tell myself that this is just another day, but it still has an impact on me.  Just as April 4, 1998 (the day we met), May 2, 1998 (our first date), February 13, 1999 (the day we were engaged), July 24, 1999 (our wedding day), and April 19, 2004 (the day Teresa went to be with the Lord) all hold significance to me.  And since they have such importance, the feelings that are associated with those dates end up bringing that emotion to the surface, and it impacts me.  This can be frustrating.  I see how it affects my mood and actions.  I was in a funk all day today, and I took some of my anger out on my colleagues.  Later, I did the same with my father in a phone conversation.  He just wanted to chat, but I was too upset about the dishwasher not working, and I practically yelled at him out of my frustration.  I know it had nothing to do with the dishwasher.  It was because today was my wife's birthday.

I keep waiting for these dates to lose some of their sting, but no matter how hard I try, I can't shake the significance out of these dates.  Maybe they're not meant to lose this significance.  Perhaps there will always be a negative connotation to them, despite the fact that most were happy occasions.

So how did you do?  Here are the dates and their significance:

September 17, 1787?  A convention of delegates approves what will become the United States Constitution in Philadelphia.

June 18, 1812?  Congress declares war on England, beginning the War of 1812.

April 12, 1861?  Southern forces fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, kicking off the Civil War.

December 17, 1903?  Wilbur and Orville Wright complete the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, NC.

April 6, 1917?  The United States enters the Great War, World War I.

October 24, 1929?  "Black Thursday", the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange.

December 7, 1941?  The Japanese attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the U.S. into World War II.

August 6, 1945?  A U.S. plane drops an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, effectively ending World War II.

November 22, 1963?  President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

April 4, 1968?  Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, TN.

July 21, 1969?  U.S. astronauts walk on the Moon for the first time.

January 16, 1991?  U.S. and Allied forces attack Iraq, four months after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

September 11, 2001?  Terrorist hijackers crash planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The World Wars

I watched the first episode of THE WORLD WARS on the History Channel, "Trial By Fire", and I found it fascinating.  I'm a World War II buff, so I was looking forward to seeing it.  I'm certainly not an authority on the subject, so there were some surprising tidbits of information in the program, so that made it worthwhile.

The program begins with a message from President Obama.  He mentioned that the start of World War I was 100 years ago, something I hadn't realized.  It's incredible to think it was that long ago.  My grandfather was born in 1910, and I hadn't thought about the fact that he would be over 100 years old.  One note about the President:  all politics aside, I've never heard a more insincere sounding President.  To me, every time he speaks, he sounds like he's not being sincere, that he's just going through the motions.  This was just one example of that.

One thing I really didn't expect about this program is the dramatic recreations of the historic moments described, such as the battles, the encounters, and the people involved.  I tend not to like these things, and this one was no exception.  There's a lot of over-acting, and I really dislike some of the actors used to represent the historic figures.  There are actors representing young versions of Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, George Patton, Joseph Stalin, Douglas MacArthur, Benito Mussolini, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The actors for Hitler and Churchill are particularly hard to watch, as accurate as they may be.  Young Churchill is nothing like I expected.

The program's first scene is of the trench warfare during World War I, focusing on a gas attack on the Germans.  One soldier is trying to put his gas mask on, but it won't seal properly because of the length of his mustache.  He decides to just hold his breath until the gas dissipates, and he survives.  Not wanting to get caught in a situation like this again, he begins trimming his mustache on either side, leaving the iconic short mustache of Adolf Hitler.  We're then told this is the young Hitler.  I was surprised to learn that Hitler was a courier during the war.  Another fact that surprised me is that the US was the first to use mustard gas, which was horrible on the enemy soldiers.  It caused blisters and sores all over their bodies, and blindness.  Hitler was apparently gassed and spent time in the hospital.  Another incident was the time that an injured Hitler, during a German retreat, is confronted by a British soldier by the name of Henry Tandey, who had his gun pointed at Hitler.  Tandey couldn't pull the trigger, and Hitler walked away.  One can't help but speculate how history might have changed if Tandey had shot and killed the young Hitler then.

The scenes are interspersed with comments from various authorities on that era, including historians, authors, and biographers, in addition to several noteworthy figures, such as retired US Army General Stanley McChrystal, US Senator John McCain, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  The program is narrated by Jeremy Renner, who does a really good job.

I'm looking forward to the next several parts of The World Wars, and recommend it for anyone interested in that era of history.  It's a pretty good program.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Enjoyment and Remembrance

While today is bittersweet for so many families, I'm thankful that there are so many brave American men and women who have risked and sacrificed so much for so many.  The freedoms we enjoy in our country are more than what anyone else in the world gets to experience, and it's due to those that fight and die for our country.  My sincere thank you goes out to them all.

Today turned into a fun day for us, as we started out by celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday, her second 35.5 year birthday.  Melody and I ran out to the store and got a grab bag of items for her, including perfume, jewelry, coffee, and other fun things.  Then we treated her to lunch at Eggspectation, one of our favorite places to eat.  We love breakfast at any time of day, even if they have lunch and dinner on the menu.  It was a nice time with them.  Melody got her usual chocolate chip pancakes, and I got an omelet.  It was all very delicious.  After saying goodbye, we headed back home to reload.

The next stop of the day was Mom & Dad's.  We had a great time with them!  Dad cooked out and we had burgers, dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans, and macaroni salad.  In addition, we watched Melody's band concert on video from a few weeks ago.  It was a nice visit.  After dessert, we came home, just before the sun went down.

Three day weekends are always great and enjoyable when we don't have to go anywhere.  Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day are three holidays that I don't like to go out of town or vacation on, if possible.  I spend so little time at home on most other holidays, so it's really nice to be able to stay home when so many others are traveling.  This was one of those occasions.  It truly was a restful weekend.

I was thinking about my family who have served.  There are so many, including my great grandfather, William Harvey Fulcher, who served in World War I; my grandfather, Chester Freed, in WWII; my uncle, John Davis, who also served in WWII (the Battle of the Bulge); my father, Bill Freed, who was in the Army Reserves; my father-in-law, James Shirlen, Jr., who served in the National Guard and "the Battle of Cambridge"; two more uncles, Paul and Ted, who were also in the reserves; cousin Jared, who was with the Army in Iraq, and cousin Matt, who was in Afghanistan with the Army, and is now serving in the Marines, based in Japan; cousin Wes, who has also been serving as a photographer in the Army in Afghanistan.  And then there's another of my great grandfathers, who died in Europe during WW1, the only member of my family (that I'm aware of) who lost his life in battle.  Thank you all for serving!  You're all heroes in my book.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  Please remember those who make it possible for us to have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Romance of Train Travel

I've always been fascinated by trains.  Since I was about 5 years old, when my parents took me to Strasburg, PA, and we rode the short line steam engine there, I've loved trains.  My grandfather also had this fascination, and he had a subscription to Railroad magazine, and he passed the copies on to me after he read each one.  The photos of train crashes in the magazine really got to me.  But, really, it was seeing these incredible machines in person that I found most amazing.  My other grandfather (Pap) worked for the railroad years ago.

Pap told one horrible story about a time when the train he was working on hit a car at a crossing.  The car had apparently stalled on the tracks.  When the train hit the car, the man driving was tossed aside, but the lady with him landed right on the tracks.  The train ran over her, severing her body in two.  By the time the train got stopped, Pap ran over and was the first one to get to her.  She was in shock, but would have brief moments of coherence.  She would ask what happened, reach down and realize something was wrong, and fall back into shock.  My grandfather said he will never forget seeing all of the blood, and the man that was driving the car kept yelling in anguish.  Years later, Pap still could remember all of the details, and he would mention it every time we passed by the old railroad crossing (which is now gone, but had been unfortunately placed right at the bottom of a long hill).

My office building in downtown Silver Spring runs right next to the railroad, and for several years, my desk looked out at the tracks, so I was able to see the trains all day long.  Some of the freight trains could shake the building, they were so loud.  But, again, I was really fascinated by them.  Some of the engines looked really old and beat up, while others were pretty nice.  The Amtrak train would fly by every afternoon, too, as well as the MARC (commuter) trains, which would go by early in the morning and in the afternoon.

I had two close calls with trains, though in reality they weren't really that close.  They only seemed like it because of the circumstances.  The first was late at night.  My father and I were on our way to my aunt's house, and we were cutting through the back roads of Uniontown, PA, on our way there.  One particular road ran along a stretch of tracks in an industrial area.  We could see that the train was barely moving, but we couldn't see much of it except the bright headlamp on the front of the engine.  We approached the railroad crossing, which didn't have a gate, just the blinking red lights of the railroad crossing warning sign.  I was driving, and Dad said I could easily cross the tracks before the train got to us, so I gunned it.  As we were crossing the tracks, the engineer blew the loud air horn on the engine and it about scared me out of a decade of life.  Dad laughed at me for the rest of the evening, though I know he was just as scared as I was.  We had plenty of time, but the engineer has probably seen this kind of thing numerous time, so he blew his horn anyway.

The second incident was with my wife way out in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming.  It was late, and out there, with no street lights anywhere, it was pretty dark.  Much like the first incident, we were approaching a railroad crossing, and the red lights were flashing, but there was no train in sight, at least that we could see. We waited a few seconds, and since we didn't see a train, we decided to drive across.  Once again, the engineer used that moment to blow the air horn, and the blast shook me to the core.  My wife screamed.  Then we finally saw the train, with its headlamp the only light that could be seen.  Anyway, we were pretty scared, but never in any danger.  It made for a fun story.

Despite the close calls, I still love trains.  My daughter and I took the train to Chicago (from DC) several years ago, and it was such a great experience.  We were in a sleeper car, with our own room.  it was a blast.  There's some romantic and relaxing about train travel.  It reminds me of being in a different era.  If you ever get the chance to take a train trip, I recommend it.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Day At Six Flags America

Spent a great day at Six Flags America, in Largo, MD.  The park wasn't very crowded, and the weather was beautiful!  We rode all of the roller coasters except for the Mind Eraser, which wasn't open.  The 97 year old Wild One wooden coaster was the highlight.  Other coasters include Apocalypse (a "stand-up" coaster), the Joker's Jinx, Superman: the Ride of Steel, Batwing (which has riders alternately on their backs and stomachs!), and Roar (a nice wooden coaster).  The only negative on the day is the price of food at the park ($39 for a pizza!?!).  Here are some pics:

Have a great weekend, everyone!  Please remember those who bravely lost their lives to protect our freedom!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Do you know that feeling when you connect with someone?  I mean, REALLY connect, where you can talk about anything, and you come away from the conversation unable to forget the person you were connecting with?  It doesn't happen very often for me, but when it does, it feels really good and fills me with confidence.  And I look forward to the next opportunity to talk to that person.

I felt that way about my grandfather, Chester "Pap" Freed, who was one of the greatest men I ever met.  A true mentor in action and words, I cherish every memory of my time with him.  He lived in Pennsylvania, in my father's hometown of Uniontown, so I didn't get to see him regularly, unless you call every other month, or more, "regularly".  He was a Christ-follower, and he shared his faith in the way he lived his life.  He was such a gentle soul, and he was filled with the wisdom of a hard life.  But he never let it get him down.  He was a positive person.  He took care of his family as best as he could.  He worked in the coal mines, and developed Black Lung as a result.  After his partner in the mine (everyone was paired up for safety) was killed in a cave in, he came out of the experience shaken and he quit that job.  He then worked three jobs to care for his family.  He was a night watchman at the Methodist Camp at Jumonville, up in the mountains overlooking Uniontown.  He opened a barber shop in the basement of their large home in the little town of Hopwood.  And he was a lay preacher and circuit rider at Hopwood Methodist Church, and two other churches up in the mountains.

What I remember best were those times when our family would visit Pap and Grandma, and Pap would make his homemade peanut butter fudge.  I was his shadow much of the time we were there.  When he was cutting hair in the barbershop, I wanted to hang out down there, just to listen to the conversation, with the smell of talcum powder and shaving cream in the air.  Pap would give me a dime and I'd get a strawberry soda out of the vending machine in the corner of the shop, and, if he had a few minutes, he would trim up my hair and reward me with a lollipop.  Since he and Grandma slept in separate rooms (I think because Pap snored so loudly), I was honored to sleep in his room.  He would awake at the crack of dawn, get dressed, and wander down to the basement to shovel coal into the old furnace.  I followed him, trying not to let him know I was there, and would watch him.  Then he would put on a pair of rubber boots, if it had been raining, and sweep water out of his flooded barber shop and into the drain just outside the door.  He worked really hard.  Then he would make breakfast for everyone (almost always pancakes and bacon).

Later in life, when he was older and I was old enough to make the trip by myself, I tried to visit him whenever I could.  I would drive up after work on a Friday and spend the weekend with him.  He and I would chat for hours.  He was full of advice, particularly about women.  He told me that one of the greatest joys in life was the pursuit of a woman.  I never forgot that.  On those trips, all I needed was a sleeping bag, and I would sleep on the floor in his living room.  He would get up early, just like before, open the front door and go out to get his morning paper, then he'd turn on his AM radio and sit at the kitchen table reading the news.  He made as much noise as possible, because I think he wanted me to wake up and make him breakfast.  Since I was up, I always complied.  It was the least I could do for him.

He battled cancer a couple of times, and the chemotherapy wore him down, but he pulled through the first time.  The second time, it was too much, and he got weaker and weaker.  I continued to see him as often as I could, as did the rest of the family (my father was one of eight siblings, so there were a lot of us).  We had a hospital bed moved into his bedroom so he would be able to live out his days at home.  A nurse took care of his needs.  On that final morning, after several days of him appearing comatose, the nurse awoke us before dawn to let us know this was it.  We gathered around his bed, praying and telling him it was okay to let go.  I held his hand.  All of sudden, his eyes opened up and he just stared at the ceiling for at least 30 seconds, before his eyes slowly closed and he breathed his last.  I believe he was seeing Jesus coming for him.  He died on his birthday at the age of 83.

I've told Pap's story on this blog before, but I was thinking about him today and the words just came to me along with the memories.  He was a great man.  I can't wait to connect with him again someday.

Thanks!  Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Date #3? Uh....No

And then she was gone.  I tend to do a lot of stupid things with regard to my love life.  I meet women who might be a good match for me, and I come up with reasons why it won't work out.  And then it doesn't, and I tell myself that I was right.  This happens over and over again (though I shouldn't give the impression that I do a lot of dating....the fact is I go on very few first dates, and a very small percentage of those result in second dates).

Miss M and I had two pretty good dates.  As mentioned before, I think, at our cores, we're a lot alike.  But my conclusion, after two dates, is that we just don't have enough interests in common to make a relationship.  In addition, I got a weird vibe when I was with her, that she didn't find me very interesting at all.  Sure, she said yes to my asking her out, but I came away from date #1 feeling like she didn't like me at all.  Prior to the 2nd date, though, she seemed to be saying all of the right things, and I was happy to pursue a 2nd date.  But after another evening of good conversation, if not very exciting (to me) activities, I felt even more strongly that she wasn't interested.  Aside from an exchange of texts that I initiated, I didn't hear from her for several days, and I started to worry again that she wasn't interested.  Ironically, when she sent me a message yesterday, she said much the same thing, that she concluded that I wasn't interested in continuing our communication.  I replied by being honest about how I felt, and I haven't heard from her since.  I don't expect I will, either.  I imagine it wouldn't feel very good to get a message like the one I sent to her, even though I offered to go out again.  Anyway, she is a wonderful person.  I wish it could have worked out, but I think she's looking for someone with different interests, more in line with what she likes to do.  I wish her well, and hope she has better luck than I have searching for a significant other.

So what now?  Last week, I receive a notice from an attractive young lady who very much fit my profile, saying she was interested.  I quickly drafted a short message to her thanking her for her interest, and asking if she'd like to get together sometime.  I've heard nothing since.  Why does this happen?  I just can't figure out women.  Why show interest in someone, then not reply when that interest is reciprocated?  This is the fourth time this has happened on this dating site.  This doesn't include the number I have contacted blindly and received no interest in return.  It's incredibly frustrating.

Dating at my age (I'll be 45 in just a few weeks) is no fun at all.  My heart isn't in it anymore, it seems.  My current membership doesn't expire until sometime in July, and the hope is that I might find someone before then.  As for now I need to show an aggressive amount of patience.  Maybe I will get lucky?

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Guest Post: Melody's Spring Break Trip

Tonight's post is by my wonderful daughter, Melody.  Take it away, Little Girl!

Hi, it's Melody with another Guest Blog. Today I am going to be talking about our Spring Break trip to Las Vegas/Hollywood. I just have to say, that was a really exciting trip. I listen to Radio Disney and whenever they play this one song that I can't remember, the first thing that I think of is the trip. Now, I do make fun of Daddy in this blog (sorry daddy!) because he did something really funny that I might explain at the end of the Blog. Here was our trip, that I actually wrote down in my journal on the trip and on the flight home (when I say, "crashed at hotel", I don't mean crashing into another car but crashing as in taking it easy for the rest of the day at the hotel): 

-Flew to Las Vegas
-Checked in at the Excalibur 
-Rode NYNY roller coaster
-Took the tram to the Luxor
-Ate at More Buffet
-Crashed at Excalibur

-Went to Denny's
-Went to Target to get a new suitcase because our old one broke
-Got Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
-Saw "Elvis" 
-Walked to the Venetian 
-Walked around the WHOLE Venetian 
-Walked back to the Flamingo through the Quad hotel
-Had pizza
-Went back to Excalibur 
-Out to dinner at Hard Rock Cafe 
-Saw "Frankenstein's Monster" 
Okay, this is where I make fun of Daddy!!! He will probably tell you about it... 
-Daddy accidentally kissed a male Dora clarify:  we were walking down the sidewalk on Las Vegas Blvd, The Strip, and there were crazy people everywhere.  Most were drunk, many weren't wearing very much clothing, it was very inappropriate to have a 10 year old on the streets of Las Vegas, and there "she" was.... Dora the Explorer (a 5-foot tall Dora costume with someone inside)!  She motioned to me to come over, so we walked over to "her".  "She" pointed to her cheek, and I thought she wanted a smooch, so I kissed her on the cheek.  At that moment, I heard a male voice come out of the head of Dora asking me if I was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.  I was wearing a Pirates jersey, so, of course, "she" would assume I was a Pirates fan.  Once I got over the shock of it being a male in the suit, "she" explained that "she" had just come out to Vegas last month from Pittsburgh, where "she" grew up.  At least "she" didn't notice that I kissed "her"!  I was mortified.... Okay, back to Melody's blog.
-Emergency bathroom break at MGM Grand
-Crashed at Excalibur again

-Breakfast at IHop 
-Hoover Dam Tour
-Lunch at Mr.D'z on Route 66
-Followed Route 66 from Kingman, Arizona to Hollywood, California
-Stopped in Oatman, Arizona
-Drove the rest of the way to California
-Dinner at In-N-Out Burger 
-Checked in at our hotel (The key didn't work, so of course we had to wait an extra hour)

-Universal Studios
-Dinner at Bubba Gump's 
-Saw the Cunningham house from the TV show "Happy Days"
-Back to room (The key finally works)

-Web Heads recording (This TV show comes on Nickelodeon in the Summer)
-Shakey's for lunch

-Came back to the hotel
-Went to the hand/foot prints outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater
-Dinner at Mel’s Diner
-Back to hotel
-Six Flags Magic Mountain
-Dinner at Buca’s Italian Restaurant
-Crashed at hotel
-Warner Brothers Studio Tour
-Lunch at Bob’s Big Boy with Daddy’s friend Alan Heitz
-Back to hotel
-“Brady Bunch” house
-Scenic Hollywood sign overlook
-Cunningham house in the daylight
-Paramount Studios and Jim Henson Studios
-Santa Monica Pier & end of Route 66
-I have now touched the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean
-Walked around the Pier
-End of Route 66 shop
-Drove to Miceli’s Italian Restaurant for dinner
-Back to the hotel for bed
-Drove back to Las Vegas
-Checked into MGM Grand
-Went to the Rainforest Café in MGM Grand
-M&M World
-Back to the hotel room
-After going to bed at 12:00AM, Las Vegas time, we got up at 3:00AM (Las Vegas time) and flew home
That was a really fun trip! I don’t know what daddy was thinking when he kissed that male Dora though…

Monday, May 19, 2014

Extracting a Gall Bladder

A few months before my daughter, Melody, was born, in the Summer of '03, I was having a rough time with my health.  Several times over about a two week span, I had what felt like heart attacks.  It started with a feeling much like severe heartburn, and progressively got worse, to the point that I was feeling an aching pain in my chest.  After one such attack, I felt like I needed to go to my doctor, and I called his office to see if he could see me.  He told me to come right in.  After an examination, it was still a mystery.  I felt better, as the attack had subsided, but my doctor couldn't figure out what was causing it.  He suggested that, should I experience it again, that I should go to the emergency room, and in the meantime, he would schedule me for an MRI.

A few days later, on my way home from work, it hit me again.  My wife met me at home, and said we should go to the ER, so we did.  It was very crowded, and the desk attendant said it could be a long wait.  A little later, they called me back.  They were going to take my vitals and a blood sample in advance of my examination.  While giving blood, I got lightheaded, nauseous, and apparently became pale.  My wife, Teresa, alerted the nurse, and they immediately led me into a room in the ER.  I felt like I was going to pass out.  They started to check me over and did test after test.  We ended up being at the hospital for almost six hours, and no reason for my symptoms could be found.  The doctor said there was one more test he wanted to do, but it could be done the following day.  I was sent home.

On the drive home, I started to get nauseous again, and felt like I was going to throw up.  Teresa pulled over and began to dry heave.  I felt horrible.  Poor Teresa could only watch.  I finally felt well enough to get back in the car and she drove us home.  We had an uneventful night, but we knew we would have to go back to the hospital the next day for the remaining test.

It was scheduled for 1 p.m., so we both skipped work so we could sleep in, and then get to the hospital early.  The test they gave involved injecting me with radiation and then scanning my gall bladder to see if it was functioning correctly.  Just before the test, they asked me if my wife was pregnant.  I said she was.  They said that she and I would not be able to be around each other for at least six hours after the test, due to the radiation.  She was my ride home!

While I went for the test, Teresa called my parents to let them know about our dilemma, and they rushed over to Howard County General to assist.  After the test, I rode with my father, while my wife drove my mother back to our house.  Teresa then made dinner and we all hung out together, in separate rooms.

The results of the test showed that my gall bladder was not functioning correctly, and it was likely what was causing my attacks.  I was referred to a surgeon who told me my options.  First, he wanted me to have an endoscopy to make sure there wasn't anything else causing my attacks.  Second, he would remove my gall bladder laproscopically, by making several small incisions in my stomach and removing my gall bladder in that way.  These procedures would take place a week apart, two weeks after the initial examination.  I also would have to see my doctor for a physical to make sure I was well enough physically for the procedures.

I passed my physical, then had the endoscopy.  It was a weird procedure.  I was knocked out, but I remembered everything that was occurring up to a point.  I remember them sticking a tube down my throat and I kept gagging and choking on it, before I was completely out.  The endoscopy showed no other issues, so the surgery was planned for one week later.

This was my first ever surgery of any kind (other than getting my wisdom teeth out), and Teresa took me to the hospital that morning.  The procedure was scheduled for noon.  My father came to the hospital to be with Teresa while they waited.  This time I was completely out cold.  When I awoke several hours later, I was very nauseous.  I couldn't sit up at all.  Everytime I tried, I felt like throwing up.  Eventually, I was the last patient still in the recovery room, and the place was getting ready to close.  I was finally able to stand up for more than a few minutes, and Dad and Teresa took me home.

I was given some pretty lethal pain killers, and I took one before going to sleep for the night.  The plan was for me to sleep on the living room couch since I couldn't climb the stairs.  I also couldn't get up without assistance.  Poor Teresa was 7 months pregnant, and she had to take care of me!

The first night was horrible.  I did have to call Teresa twice during the night to help me to the bathroom.  Dad came back over the following day to sit with me while Teresa worked.  The day after that, Teresa's father came over to sit with me.  Finally, I got well enough to be able to get around without assistance, and I gradually started feeling better.  I was able to return to work after a couple of weeks of taking it easy.  Thank goodness it fixed my problem.

That's all I've got.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Love One Another

I got a little fed up after reading on Facebook a post by a family member that led to a disagreement, and name-calling and disrespect for one another's opinions was the result.  I tend to stay away from controversy.  Most people who know me know where I am on the political and religious spectrum, just because I don't make it a secret.  But I can only speak for myself.  If you don't agree with me, then I'm not going to bash your head in until you do, and I don't expect you to do that, either.  But it's happening all around us!  Anyway, I posted the following on Facebook and it garnered a lot of support, if not comment (and I purposely asked folks to be civil, which might be why no one is commenting, other than with words of support):
It scares and saddens me that we can allow our political differences to tarnish and define our relationships with each other, rather than just understand that we're all different.  If we don't agree on something, that shouldn't mean that we can't be friends, or be civil to one another.  In today's culture, though, it appears that we're too close-minded to look past these differences, and hate and disgust replaces love.  Name-calling and labels replace individuality.  How does God put up with us?  We're all sinners.  (I'm not looking to start a debate here...if you're going to comment, you better be civil.  I purposefully stay out of political and religious debates here on FB because I don't believe it belongs on here... I'd rather just connect with my friends and loved ones.  If you know me, you know where I stand.)  John 13:34-35 (NIV) - "A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  No one is allowed to have an opinion anymore without being picked on and hated by everyone that disagrees with them.  Civil discourse doesn't seem to exist anymore.  Political correctness comes before common sense.  Right equals might.  Disagreement leads to bullying.  It's crazy.  I'm just disheartened by it all.
I guess I'm just naive to think that we can all just get along.  Christianity by its very nature seems to garner hate by those who don't subscribe to its teachings.  I'm hated just for being a Christ-follower, yet Jesus told us all to love one another.  I'm not saying I do it all the time.  I try, though.  I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.  I want to love and be loved, knowing that's impossible.  But I'm trying.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Date #2

Yesterday was an exciting day!  My daughter was off from school because of a teacher's professional day, or something, and since no one in my family was available to stay with my daughter, I decided to take the day off myself.  This gave us a nice three day weekend.

We started the day off by going to the movies.  The new GODZILLA was playing at the IMAX theater at Columbia Mall, and since it was high on my and my daughter's lists of movies we wanted to see, that's what we did.  We headed out in a deluge.  It was raining very hard, a continuation from the overnight rain we experienced.  The road outside of our neighborhood, Stephens Road, was flooded again, so going that way was not an option.  We also decided, since it was later than planned, that we would grab a quick breakfast at Chick-Fil-A.  Then it was off to the mall.

The theater wasn't too crowded, but this theater continues to have problems getting people through the concession lines quickly.  It's very hard to get what you need when the movie is starting and the employees appear to be struggling to get the orders filled.  I don't know how to fix this, other than they need to have more employees working the concessions.

The movie itself is awesome!  Stay tuned for a review of the movie in a near-future blog.

After the movie, we had lunch at Eggspectations, which was great, then we sent to Daedalus books for fun.  If you have never been to Daedalus, it's an awesome place to find books.  You really don't go there to find a particular book.  You go to browse and find surprises.  It's the prices that are so great, though.  You can get a half dozen books and spend less than $30.  Daedalus sells books offered by publishers as remainders, which are the difference between what a publisher printed and what was sold.  They are sold at bargain prices.  I get most of my books from Daedalus.  I love this place!  It's on Gerwig Lane in Columbia.  From Snowden River Parkway, turn onto Berger Road, then right on Gerwig.  Daedalus is on the left.

After all of that excitement, we went home, I cleaned up, and we went back out to drop Melody off with my mother for the evening, and I went on my second date with Miss M.  I don't go on very many second dates, so this was a moderately big deal.

We had a really nice evening.  It was beautiful outside after all of the rains earlier in the day.  We drove down to the waterfront on the Anacostia.  There was an outdoor concert last night, and we had a really nice dinner at Aqua 301.  In fact, one of the contractors I work with at my office also works as a server at Aqua 301, and she treated us to a dessert at the end of our meal.  We ate outside so we could hear the music.  It was really nice.

Miss M and I seem to get along really well.  There is an obvious attraction, and we seem to have a connection at a spiritual level, and we can talk about anything.  The only thing that seems to be a difference is in what interests us.  She and I have different kinds of things we like to do.  Without getting into details, it seems like this may be an area of concern, though it's still way too early, since we've only been out together twice, and I don't want to jump to conclusions.  At our cores, I think we're a lot alike.  I don't want to give up yet, and I don't want it to sound like I'm being too picky.  The sense I get from her is that she seems interested in me enough to want to continue to see each other, So I want to continue see her and see where this goes.

There's a Scottish festival near Northeast, MD, today, that I'm going to to meet my daughter, Mom, and uncle, but today is also the Preakness.  Getting around Baltimore may be a challenge.  It should be a lot of fun, though.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Join The Band

I'm a proud papa tonight after my daughter's first band concert tonight at her school!  Melody started playing the clarinet (taking after her dear old daddio) at the beginning of the school year, and she has really enjoyed it.  The concert was the opportunity for all of the new musicians to come together in a performance for their families and loved ones, and it was great!

I remember my first concert.  I started playing the clarinet in sixth grade.  The night of my first concert I was a nervous wreck.  Just before we were due to go on stage, I lost it and threw up all over the floor in the hallway.  It came over me so quickly, I had no time to get to the restroom.  The next thing I knew, my parents were being called back from the audience over the loudspeaker.  Mom & Dad asked me if I was okay, and whether I still wanted to play in the concert.  Of course I wanted to play.  The show must go on!  So I did.  I went on to play in Junior High and High School bands, on both clarinet and alto sax.  I played in the jazz band, too, and, later, in the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band at the University of Maryland.  It was a blast!

So Melody was pretty awesome.  The band directors, Mary Curry and Saul Green, were so patient with the kids.  They also were quite funny.  This is Mr. Green's first job out of college, and, as a percussionist, I can tell that he worked very hard with the student percussionists, as they did a solo piece during the concert that was really well done.  Mrs. Curry directed the bands and, again, her talent in leading the kids was evident in their enthusiasm.  It was a fun night.  At the end of the show, both directors talked about the importance of the school music program and how great the bands were at the middle school level, and they hoped that all of the kids would move on to play at that level.

After the concert, I was able to tell Mrs. Curry and Mr. Green how wonderful the show was, and Mrs. Curry turned it right back to me and said what a great student Melody is.  She also said she loves her name.  I may have lead her to a life of music with her name.

I want to further emphasize what Mrs. Curry and Mr. Green said about being in the band.  It is such a great social group as students enter into middle and high school.  They need that kind of environment, where they're accepted and can bond with kids who they have something in common.  I believe it's healthy and creates a positive experience for the kids who stay with it.  I never regretted it, and enjoyed it immensely.  I hope my daughter will stay with it, too.

Support your school's music program, in particular the instrumental bands.  It's a great place to learn and grow.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Unhealthy Thoughts About Delicious Foods

Unhealthy thoughts about delicious foods...

  • Hot, soft, freshly made chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven, along with a large glass of milk...
  • New York style pizza, topped with pepperoni and extra cheese, hot out of the oven...
  • Scrambled eggs and blueberry pancakes topped with buttery maple syrup...
  • Sweet, juicy, corn-on-the-cob grilled with butter...
  • Hot turkey on sourdough bread drenched in gravy with creamy mashed potatoes covered in butter...
  • Tender, thinly sliced beef on french bread dipped in au jus...
  • Creamy warm pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream...
  • Hot, glazed Krispy Kreme donuts right off of the conveyor...
  • Sweet, juicy watermelon on a hot Summer afternoon...
  • Hot, buttered toast dipped in a mug of hot chocolate on a cold Winter morning...
  • Angel hair pasta covered with sweet marinara meat sauce...
  • Crispy tacos with spicy beef, cool, crisp lettuce, salsa, sharp cheddar cheese, and taco sauce...
  • Gooey, chocolaty not-quite-done brownies, hot out of the oven...
  • Greasy, seasoned, juicy fried chicken...
  • Sweet Maryland blue crabs covered in Old Bay...
  • Cold root beer with vanilla ice cream...
  • Cinnamon buns covered with hot glazed sugar...
  • Hot, tender pulled pork covered with sweet and tangy barbecue sauce...
  • Creamy cheesecake covered in strawberries and drizzled with strawberry sauce...
  • Hot, just-baked peanut butter fudge...
  • Flip back the lid, scoop everything in sight, A rainbow of red, brown and white; Chocolate chip and everything that's nice; Tutti Frutti once and spumoni twice; Spread the whipped cream for at least an hour, Pile it high as the Eiffel Tower; Load it with nuts, about 16 tons, Top it with a pizza just for fun; Now add the cherries, the kind she loves to munch, Skip one banana, use the whole darn bunch; Drown it in fudge, 6 or 7 cans, Give her two spoons, she'll eat it with both hands; Banana split for my baby, A glass of plain water for me.... (Thanks to Louis Prima!)
Have a great, tasty evening, everyone!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Using Last Summer Vacation to Plan Our Next Summer Vacation

My wonderful daughter, Melody, and I were talking about all of the things we've got planned for travel this year.  We've already taken our big West Coast Spring Break trip, and we're looking ahead to the Summer vacation to the Midwest, including our regular trip to Chicago, and continuing on to Wisconsin Dells.  It's going to be a great Summer!

Melody has been having trouble with her iPhone, which is apparently too full of pictures to have any memory.  So we transferred the whole bunch of them to a laptop to free up some memory to enable her to download a few apps.  So I was going through her pics and came across a couple from last Summer that I was surprised to see, and I enjoyed the memory.  Here they are:

The second pic is a list we made highlighting all of the things we did last Spring and Summer, including our big New York City and New England trip over Spring Break, and all of the great Summer trips to amusement parks, mostly.  It was a great Summer, and Melody seemed to think so, given the pictures of these things.  She and I are both list makers, so it was funny that she wanted to make a list to begin with.

Anyway, this Summer should rival last, and even the Spring Break was comparable to last year's.  I really love taking these trips, and I'm glad to see Melody finds them memorable, as well.  She's definitely my daughter!

Have a great evening, everyone!  And plan a trip this Summer!  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Perspective

Another Mother's Day has come and gone.  I wish I could say it is an enjoyable day, but each year I struggle with it.  It's never a day that I can treat as a normal Mother's Day.  And it's all because my wife, Teresa, passed away just prior to her first Mother's Day.

I'd love to just spend the day with my mom.  She is more than deserving of the honor of having her children (me, my sister, Angie, and my brother, Darren) spend the day with her, treating her to dinner, showing her how much we love her.  But since her birthday is May 7, we often celebrate her birthday with her, but not Mother's Day.  She claims it's no big deal, and she is more than happy to have us help her celebrate her birthday.  It in no way diminishes the importance of the day for her.  I only wish we could all celebrate Mother's Day with her, as well.

My wife was an only child.  So the "pressure" to celebrate her mom on Mother's Day was all on her.  Where I could share that responsibility with my siblings, she didn't have that luxury, and I'm sure she had no problem celebrating with her mom.  Once we were married, we tried to give attention to both of our moms.  It was kind of easy since we went to the same church at the time as her parents, so we could celebrate my mother-in-law in the morning, usually followed by lunch, and then spend dinner or dessert with my mom on Sunday evening.  It was a good compromise.

We no longer go to that church, so that is not an option for us anymore.  My daughter, Melody, and I attend our church on Saturday evening, which frees us up to go out to my in-laws church on Sunday morning.  But because my wife is not longer with us, I'm responsible for making sure my mother-in-law gets honored for Mother's Day.  Please understand that I am not complaining in the least.  I love my mother-in-law and it's always a great time with her and my father-in-law.  I just miss that I am unable to spend our Mother's Day with my mom.

All that said, I am also responsible for making sure we honor and remember my wife.  My daughter has no idea what it's like to have a mother, so I try to help her figure it out.  She gets understandably sad when she realizes what she's missing, though that's not my goal in telling her.  It's just our reality.  Between Melody and my mother-in-law, I feel like I need to make sure they both have a special day, and that's not a whole lot fun for me, necessarily.

I don't mean to be an Eeyore, but Mother's Day just isn't a nice day.  All it does is remind me that I'm not married, that my daughter no longer has a mom, that my mother-in-law no longer has a daughter, and my mother doesn't get to have the kind of day she deserves.

Anyway, Happy Mother's Day to mom, mom-in-law, to my wife, and to all other's who are able to celebrate with a meal out and spend time with their loved ones.  Best wishes & blessings to Moms everywhere.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Ultimate Gift

I just watched a pretty good movie called THE ULTIMATE GIFT.  It was recommended to me by my pastor, and I purchased it several months ago.  I decided to watch it tonight.

At first, I was afraid it was going to be predictable, and the script was just a bit too hokey.  But then the movie took a turn and got very interesting.  As it went along, I became invested in the characters.  And while it was a fascinating exploration in human nature, I did have a problem with the way things were tied up at the end.  But the ultimate message is great.

James Garner stars as a very rich guy and grandfather who dies and leaves a large inheritance to his family.  They are all spoiled by their wealth, and are completely selfish.  Their arrogance is despicable, in fact, and they all fight with each other.  They expect to inherit a significant portion of Garner's estate, and when that doesn't happen, they're angry.  But one grandson, Jason, is targeted with perhaps improving himself and becoming worthy of the grandfather's inheritance, and he is tested.  He wants nothing to do with it or his grandfather, happy to live off of the trust that was set up after his father's death, but he becomes intrigued and begins to accept the "challenge".  After each test, or "gift", he is rewarded and given the next test.  As I mentioned, it is somewhat predictable, but there is a payoff, and it is in the Jason's relationship with a young girl that changes his life.  The tests, or gifts, are:
The Gift of Work
The Gift of Money
The Gift of Friends
The Gift of Learning
The Gift of Problems
The Gift of Family
The Gift of Laughter
The Gift of Dreams
The Gift of Giving
The Gift of Gratitude
The Gift of a Day
The Gift of Love
The movie has several emotional moments that impact the young man in incredible ways, but it has a nice ending.  My only issue with it is the way it uses money as a way of creating happiness.  Most people probably cannot identify with much of what the young man is dealing with, since he was born into a family of wealth and has never had to worry about money until he is tested.  Jason undergoes a somewhat realistic transformation.  But it still was just a bit too convenient to the plot, in my mind.  But it was entertaining.  Check it out, if you get the chance.


I had a lonely afternoon after taking my daughter up to visit my in-laws and join her grandmother for a "Ladies Tea" at their church.  I came home in a steady rain, and crashed with Faithful Pup Scout and watched the remainder of the NFL Draft.  I ended up snoozing on the couch and completely lost track of the time.  I woke up much too late to attend church, and was really disappointed.  I had been looking forward to Mark's Mother's Day message after receiving his announcement earlier this week about his topic.  Tomorrow, I had planned to go back to my in-laws church, where my mother-in-law is delivering the message (for Mother's Day), and to bring my daughter home after.  It should be fun.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the Moms out there... I hope you are given a wonderful day!

Sports and Dating

I'm very frustrated with my Pittsburgh Penguins.  They had a chance to clinch their second round playoff series versus the New York Rangers, at home, but were instead blown out, 5-1.  They still hold a 3 games to 2 lead in the series, and can clinch it on Sunday, but it's frustrating to see them blow an opportunity like that.  After struggling in the first round versus Columbus, I don't feel very good about their long-term chances in the playoffs, even after they dominated the Rangers for most of the series until last night.


The Steelers, who are in the middle of this year's NFL Draft, continue to confound everyone by drafting players that don't solve their perceived greatest needs:  a cornerback and a wide receiver. They took a very good linebacker, Ryan Shazier, from Ohio State, who definitely will fill a need, likely taking the spot that Larry Foote had before being let go.  In the second round, they took a monster of a defensive lineman, Stephon Tuitt, from Notre Dame.  He, too, fills a need after the Steelers lost a couple of free agents on the line.  But CB is a bit weak, with an aging Ike Taylor, the suspect Cortez Allen, and much maligned William Gay the only veterans there.  It was hoped that the Steelers would take a CB earlier, but now it appears they'll end up getting a developmental pick that likely won't help much this year.  Their third pick, Dri Archer, from Kent St., is a speedster running back, who it seems Tomlin likes having on the roster.  He's had one almost every season, and none have worked out, the latest being La'Rod Stephens-Howling, who blew out his knee last year before the season even started.  He's a little guy, so it remains to be seen whether he will be able to hold up to playing in the NFL.  I'm hoping the Steelers can get some hidden gems in the remaining rounds of today's draft.


While eating dinner with Miss M on Thursday, a group of women walked by and after seeing the food on our plates, immediately came over to us to ask what we were eating.  It was kind of humorous.  It got worse, though, while two of the women were talking to Miss M, the third asked specifically what I was eating, and I drew a blank and told her, "placenta".  The incredulous look on her face told me I said something wrong, so I said, "Well, I might be pronouncing it wrong..."  She chuckled, and Miss M, who heard this conversation, spoke up and said, "Polenta."  I'm pretty sure my face turned a shade of red only seen on Mars.


After saying goodnight, it still seemed early, so I took the top off the Jeep and cruised over to the Mall area in SW.  It was very relaxing.  It was a beautiful night, and traffic was light, and DC really is an incredible place.  It was a nice drive home, though I spent the whole time wondering what Miss M thought of me and whether we might see each other again.  We did end up exchanging emails last night, and she told me she would like to get together again.  So, we'll see.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A First Date

What a beautiful evening!  I went on a first date with Miss M, a wonderful young lady who I met on an online dating site.  She saw my profile and contacted me, stating that she saw that my faith was important to me, something not said by many people on that site.  Compared to many of the women who have contacted me, I was impressed with her kindness and beautiful smile, which was on display in every picture on her profile.  We spent a week exchanging emails and getting to know each other.  I admit to not being convinced we were a great match, but I thought she was certainly worth getting to know, and we made plans to get together.

I was a little slow in making plans, mostly since I tend to not rush into things.  Interestingly, she didn't want to wait, and admitted to being impatient in wanting to see me.  We made plans to get together this week.  Today was that day.

One issue I have is that she lives in Washington, DC, in Capitol Hill.  That certainly isn't convenient for dating.  It actually took me about 35 minutes to get to the restaurant she recommended we meet at, Lavagna, near Eastern Market.  I was early, but it took me about 20 minutes to find a parking space, which ended up being about two blocks from the restaurant.  I arrived before her, and the hostess/server seated me at a table outside.  It was such a nice evening.  Miss M arrived within minutes after I sat down.  She was a bit out of breath since she was afraid she would be late and she ran part of the way.

She's gorgeous.  And cute.  She has curly brown hair, she appears to be very fit, she has a furrowed brow which gives her face so much character, and her smile is contagious.  But it was her beautiful blue eyes that stood out to me.  I kept getting lost in them.  I know that sounds like a line, but I'm being sincere.

I thought we got along great, and I believe the attraction is mutual.  We talked about a lot of different things, though I regret that much of what I had to say likely made little sense.  I kept confusing my words, and I just don't know what she really thinks.  I just kept getting flustered.

The night was way too short.  My parking meter had a max of two hours, so I didn't have much choice.  I said goodnight, and we hugged.  We were going in opposite directions, so we didn't even get to walk together.  I'm looking forward to seeing her again, and it sounded like she is interested, too.  We'll see what happens.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Grace Adventures Day Camp

I've told this story a few times before, but I can't help mentioning again how wonderful the young people are who lead and run the Grace Adventures Day Camp at Grace Community Church in Fulton, MD.  The camp begins their 5-week run on June 30 this year.  Please check out their website for more information:  GRACE

When my daughter, Melody, finished Kindergarten, I decided to look into the camp. I didn't know much about it except that it was at our church, and that it would help me by giving Melody a place to go while I was at work.  The hours are actually identical to her school hours.  It was perfect.

She was a little bit worried about the whole thing, but after her first day, she was excited and looked forward to it.  That first year, her counselors made such an impression on her, she still stays in touch with them to this day.  She talked about the counselors more than her friends and camp-mates.  It wasn't just the attention they gave her, which was important for a little girl who doesn't have a mom in her life; it was the fact that they treated her as if she was important to them, and, as Christ-followers, they have such an influence on her, showing her Christ's love through their actions.  How awesome is that?

This continued every summer (she's finishing up fourth grade this year), and while many of the same faces are there year after year, there are many new ones, and they come in with the same mission as the ones before, and the kids love them.  My supposedly introverted little girl became this outgoing socialite due to the way the counselors and young adults treated her and talked to her.  They became such a positive, Christ-centered influence on all of the kids, and they talked to them at their level, earning their trust and providing so much fun for them.  These young leaders walked the walk, too.  You could see Christ working through them.

Something else happened, too.  These young ladies had a big influence on me, as well.  My daughter's introvertedness is come by honestly, since I'm much the same.  I didn't know what to make of the attention they gave to Melody, but there was a carry over.  They obviously loved on her to the point that she talked about them constantly, and as a result, they felt comfortable enough to treat me much the same.  I'm a recovering widower who, at times, felt lost and alone trying to care for my young daughter, and these young ladies provided me with support in the form of that love for Melody and that filled me with confidence.  I don't know if they know this, but that made such a difference in me as a single parent.  By bringing out my daughter's personality, it opened up my relationship with her that much more.  And I became invested in the camp's success as a result.

The camp regularly held fund-raisers for their scholarship program, and they began inviting Melody to be a part of these efforts.  Each year, they had a breakfast at the Applebee's in Columbia, and Melody was permitted to serve with them.  By including her, they included me, and I got to know these women personally.  They are now my friends.  And I will do whatever I can to support each of them to be a success.

The hardest thing about being a part of such a well run and well staffed group like the one that runs Grace's camp is that, because these young women are establishing themselves in their chosen careers, they just can't continue to work with the camp, so there's an inevitable changeover in staff and counselors each year.  Thankfully, because they have set the bar pretty high, those that come after them carry on the tradition of sharing Christ's love in their relationships with the campers.  It's wonderful to see.

I wish I could do more for these wonderful young people and for the camp.  I wish I had more time to volunteer with them.  I will try to be available when they need support, whether it's putting together an outdoor play area or supporting their scholarship program, or joining them at their weekly fund-raising nights at the Johns Hopkins Road Chick-Fil-A, because, ultimately, it's all about the kids, and my daughter is one who benefits.  But what is happening at this camp each summer is special, and if you are looking for a place for your children this summer to have fun, be loved, and be worn out each day, please look at Grace Adventures Day Camp.  It runs for five weeks beginning June 30.  It's a great place because the people running it are great.

Shout out and much appreciation to Misses Michelle, Amy, Cree, Grace, Sarah, Erin, Caitlin, and so many others.  Thank you!

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