Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh My Darling Clementine, Here Comes the Kitchen Sink....

Today was my daughter, Melody's, first day of camp.  Grace Adventures Day Camp opened for business today, with five straight weeks of fun, games, water play, learning about Christ, and experiencing God's love through the wonderful young adult counselors who work with the kids.  I'm so happy that my girl is able to be a part of such a great camp.

When I picked her up today, she was giddy.  She then proceeded to tell me about the whole day.  I asked her if she'd be willing to do a guest post here on the blog this evening, and she was really excited to do it.  So I did not prepare one for tonight.  Well, one thing led to another, and my girl got distracted by a lot of other stuff (this was her first real day at home since school let out), and she did not write her post about camp.  So we'll look ahead to tomorrow for her to write it.

So what shall I write about?  I could mention my battle with one of the most worthless creatures on this wonderful planet:  the mosquito.  These stinkin' little bloodsuckers seem to love to bite me, but interestingly, they go after my ankles.  Yeah, they're ankle-biters.  I ran out into the back yard earlier with Faithful Pup Scout and, while only being out there for about 5 minutes, I came in with about a dozen bites all around my ankles, plus one big one on the backside of my knee.  And all it takes is a little irritation to cause me to scratch them, and then they itch something awful.  I hate the little buggers.

I mentioned that I watched MY DARLING CLEMENTINE last night, a John Ford directed Western about the gunfight at the OK Corral, which tells the story about Wyatt Earp and his brother, along with Doc Holliday, battling with the Clanton gang.  The movie is very similar to the other tales about this incident, most notably GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, naturally, but this one features dramatic western sites in black and white film, which at times is strikingly beautiful.  For you kiddies out there who can't watch black and white movies because they look old, you're really missing out.  I enjoyed the movie, the first time I've seen it, and if compares favorably to GUNFIGHT....  Henry Fonda, who plays Wyatt Earp in this film, is great, as usual.  He's such a great actor.  I liked the scene where he went to the barber and got a haircut and all cleaned up, and he couldn't help looking at his reflection over and over, almost like he didn't recognize himself.  The battle itself wasn't as drawn out and entertaining as the other movies about this tale, and I had a hard time liking Victor Mature as Doc.  Old Walter Brennan is great as the elder Clanton father, and was convincing as the villain, as was the actor who played Ike Clanton, who was a mean son of a gun.  All-in-all, it was a pretty good movie.  It was fairly violent, though, much more so than I expected for that era.  Check it out.

My Pittsburgh Pirates made a splash of a trade over the weekend, trading their former closer and reclamation project, Jason Grilli, to the Anaheim...excuse me, the Los Angeles Angels for Ernesto Frieri, their former closer.  Both players have struggled greatly this year, so the trade is kind of a wash, what with both not playing well and having lost their jobs as closers.  Grilli has been vilified in the media for his unfortunate habit of talking great about himself, and throwing out really bad backhanded compliments to his former team mates and team.  He also wrote a book last year, which I picked up but haven't started reading yet, where he paints himself out to be a kind of a jerk.  It's a shame that things have gotten so contentious, especially as he was really given a chance by the Buccos when his career was on the garbage heap.  He had good success last year, but not this year.

Really tired right now, so I'm headed to bed.  Have a great evening, everyone.  Stay tuned for Melody camp report in a future guest post, possibly as soon as tomorrow.  Good night!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Anniversary at the OK Corral

Big day today as we celebrated my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary with a surprise party at their church, First Baptist of Damascus.  My father-in-law is the pastor there, and the congregation surprised them with a big celebration with many of their friends and family.  They didn't get suspicious until the guests started arriving during the church service this morning.  Some were from out of town, and a bunch are not regular attenders of their church.  But they were surprised up until this morning.  My daughter, Melody, and I didn't arrive until just after noon, after the service, but it was great to see all of the people that came to help them celebrate and recognize 50 years of marriage.  That's an accomplishment in this day and age, even if it shouldn't be.  It was a great day.

After the party broke up, some of their close friends remained to help clean up and chat, and Melody and I joined them.  In fact, we didn't head out until almost 7:30.  Because we spent the whole day there, we didn't get a chance to celebrate with my sister, Angie, on her 43rd birthday.  For anyone interested, she is indeed still single!  We hope to celebrate later this week with the whole family.


I'm fascinated by Old West stories, and Wyatt Earp has been one of my interests.  I'll stop short of calling him one of my heroes, mostly due to his questionable history as a good guy, but he is best known as the most well known "character" of the tale of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona.  Several movies have been made about the incident, and about the man himself, Wyatt Earp, and his friendship with Doc Holliday.  One of my favorite movies about this tale is TOMBSTONE, starring Kurt Russell as Earp, and Val Kilmer as Doc.  My introduction to the story was the movie, GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, starring Burt Lancaster as Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc.  My Tivo DVR recorded another of these movies, the John Ford directed MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, starring Henry Fonda, one of my favorite actors, as Earp, and Victor Mature as Doc.  I'll provide a review in a future blog post.


I'm celebrating another milestone, though it's just a small personal one.  Let me first say that I really don't pay much attention to who reads this blog.  I know of some who do because they've told me, including several from my church (shout out to Rick, Bob, Bob, Leeann, Sean, and Julia - thanks for reading!!).  I'm thankful that there are those who enjoy what I write.  I enjoy writing, and this blog has become a labor of love.  Today I turned over 100K views.  When I started writing this blog, I had no clue that there would be anyone who might read it.  More amazing to me is the community that exists and welcomed me into their fold, particularly those who are in the local community (Howard County and the Hoco bloggers).  In addition, I'm thankful for the friends who support my writing with their feedback, which I appreciate so much.  Mostly, though, I'm humbled by the support that you all have shown me.  A blog is many things:  entertainment, information, personal editorial, opinion, joy, satisfaction, and community, to name a few.  Those who write blogs take a leap of faith that what they write will find an audience, and if not, at least it will satisfy an itch.  That's been my take.  To see that so many have actually taken a glance at my writing is an incredible honor.  Thank you for reading.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

College Basketball Better Than The Pros

So I just noticed the National Basketball Association's Player Draft is going on right now.  I'm not much of a fan of the NBA.  Professional basketball is such a different game than college basketball, and I never had much interest in it.  College basketball was just so exciting.  It seemed like the players at the college level had to try harder, and were so much more fun to watch, compared to the pros, who made the game look effortless, and, hence, uninteresting to me.  It probably didn't help that the Washington team, called the Bullets while I was growing up, now the Wizards, were never very good, and Pittsburgh, where all of the professional sports teams that I was a fan of were located, didn't have an NBA team.  So I just didn't care for the NBA.

Since Maryland was my home state, I began to follow the Terrapins, and they always seemed to be pretty good.  Lefty Driesell was their coach, and I loved watching the games.  As I got older, I became a huge fan of possibly one of the greatest players ever to play the game:  Len Bias.  There have been many comparisons made between Bias and the great Michael Jordan, and they were contemporaries.  Bias was a greater physical specimen, in my mind, even if Jordan had more talent.  Bias helped lead the Terps to an ACC Championship in 1984.  He was a first team all-american in 1986, and first team all-ACC in '85 and '86.  He was the 2nd player chosen in the '86 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, but two days later, he died from a cocaine overdose.  It was a senseless tragedy.  His death led to the basketball program falling apart, with the resignation of Lefty Driesell occurring soon after.  The school brought in Bob Wade, a Baltimore high school coach, who took the program down even further with a series of rules violations that ultimately led to the university being placed on probation for three seasons and banned from the postseason for two.

I began attending the University of Maryland in 1987, in Bob Wade's first season.  His first season was really bad, and it bothered me that they could be so bad during my time as a student there.  His third season was even worse, and amid the rules violations, he was fired.  Gary Williams was brought in the following season to much excitement, but the probation that was handed down by the NCAA kept the basketball team from making any strides for a few more years.  Gary really turned things around, however, and brought the program back into the limelight.  He ran a squeaky clean program, and his underdog personality was adopted by the players that played for him.  Eventually, the team had it's greatest success by going to the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2001, and they won the National Championship in 2002.  I remember watching the game with my wife and how excited we were.  It was an awesome feeling.

The Terps haven't been able to return to that level of success since they won their championship.  Gary Williams retired several years ago, and current coach, Mark Turgeon, though likable and successful with other programs, hasn't been able to get the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament since taking over as coach.  I still love watching them, and will root them on to success, but I miss the excitement that seemed to surround them under Williams.

I still love the college game so much more than the pros.  The draft holds no interest for me.  I'll take it a step even further and state that I enjoy Women's college basketball more than the pros.  I love going to see them live, something that my buddy and I used to do throughout the 90s at old Cole Field House (mostly because we couldn't get tickets for the Men's games), and now I take my daughter to see the Lady Terps play.  It's a blast!

So my advice is to stay away from the pros.  They're getting paid a lot of money and they almost seem disinterested at times while they're playing.  That's just my opinion.  The college players seem to play with heart.  It's exciting!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Melody's Home

Hooray!  Melody's home!!!  I've been without my daughter for a whole week while she stayed with her grandparents, and she was brought home by my mother-in-law this afternoon.  I've missed her a lot!  I'm really happy to have her home.

To celebrate, we attended the Fun In The Sun Picnic at our church, Grace Community.  It was sponsored by the Grace Adventures Day Camp, which Melody will be attending for four of the next 5 weeks.  She's been going to the camp for the last four years.  It's such a great experience and one she has loved every year.  The picnic was a lot of fun, and it was great catching up with everyone.  Though there is a complete changeover in the leadership team of the camp, there are many who were connected with the camp in the past who are still a part of the staff.  In fact, Melody's counselor for this year is one she's had before.  I want to give a shout out to some great folks who we were able to spend a lot of time with this evening, Rick, his wife, Kim, and daughter G.

After a lot of late nights this week, Melody and I were particularly tired this evening.  We have a pretty busy weekend planned, so we're both turning in early.  I'm sorry for the short post tonight.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Helicopter Rides

I'm still doing the bachelor thing this week with my daughter, Melody, on "vacation" with her grandparents, so I decided to go out for dinner at Eggspectation.  I love a good breakfast for dinner.  Anyway, since I was by myself, I took along an old journal to read through while I ate.  While paging through it, I came across these pictures of our trip to the Great Smokies down in Tennessee, and this helicopter ride we took.  What a great memory!  We had a really fun time on this trip, and I love that they allowed Melody to ride up front in the helicopter.  She was really excited, and you can see that excitement on her face.


I stopped by Reservoir High School on my way home to sit in the "Serenity Garden".  The Garden is the actual location where my wonderful wife, Teresa, left this life.  The Garden is looking a little ragged.  It could use a little bit of sprucing up.  The company that put the Garden in is supposed to continue to care take it, but it looks like it needs some help.  I hope that it isn't forgotten.

I feel fortunate that I'm able to go to a location and be reminded of the impact Teresa had on so many people.  It does make me sad that all of the students who attend the school have no idea who Teresa Shirlen Freed was.  She was an outstanding teacher.  She taught 9th grade English and public speaking.  She was very popular with the students.  She was the winner of the Sally Mae First Year Teacher award in her first year as a teacher.  She was pretty awesome.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scared Dogs And Data Plans

Summer is here.  And with Summer comes the thunderstorms.  And with thunderstorms comes a frightened Faithful Pup Scout.  And with a frightened Faithful Pup Scout comes a sleepless night for me.  And when I have a sleepless night, I'm pretty miserable.  Hence, with Summer comes misery.

I get that we can be scared of things that we don't understand.  Faithful Pup Scout, as a dog, obviously doesn't understand a lot of things, the weather being one of these.  Not only does she seem to hate thunder and lightning, but she hates just plain rain.  She is such a delicate little prissy dog that she can't stand to get her feet wet.  She refuses to go outside to do her business when it's raining, which just adds to the issues in the middle of the night when she can't sleep because of thunder and lightning, and has to do her business, but won't go outside because of the rain, and barks at me as if I can do something about the weather.  Dogs aren't very smart.

Tonight started out kind of bad, with the distant sound of thunder.  I tried to do some advance planning by taking Faithful Pup Scout outside to do her business before the storm arrived.  She was good to go, so to speak, until she heard the thunder for herself.  Now, her hearing is not what it used to be, so I don't know how she could hear the thunder, as distant as it was, but she did. She cut short her outside trip and came back in without doing everything she had to do.  Now she's got me nervous that she's going to have to go when the rain arrives, and she's not going to want to go outside at that point.

Sure enough, the rains started and we had a pretty significant boomer pass through.  Fortunately, the storms may be done.  The radar is looking good.  But any more thunderstorms tonight are going to be misery for me.  Dumb dog.


My daughter's phone stopped working a few weeks ago, so we went to the local cell phone store to see what could be done.  I pay for the maintenance plan, so we're entitled to a new phone if this one is broken beyond repair.  Well, it was broken beyond repair.  The phone no longer charges, so it can't be fixed.  We received clarification on the maintenance plan, as well.  We don't get a NEW phone.... we get a "refurbished" phone.  So the very helpful cell phone guy explained how we could get a new phone by adding another line, and yadda yadda yadda, my daughter has a brand new phone, much nicer and newer than my own.  In addition, the cell phone guy took a look at our account and told me he could save us even more money by changing us to a data plan that better fits our actual usage.  This sounded good in theory.  He said we could go to the next level down since we don't use that much data, and save about 20 bucks a month.  I said sign us up!

So here we are, about two weeks later, and my daughter has already used up the data allotted to her.  This happened in part because it's a brand new phone, with more memory, and she's using it a whole lot more.  Okay, I'll give her that.  But since she's away from home all this week, and isn't able to connect to our wi-fi (which doesn't count against our data allowance), she's already used it up.  This is also a result of the fact that I wouldn't allow her to take her laptop with her to Grandma and Grandaddy's.  If she was using her laptop, she wouldn't be using her phone nearly as much.  So, according to my daughter, this is all my fault.

At least she'll be home in two short days.  I wonder if I can get a two-day data plan?

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

After a rough couple of days at work, I am tired! In fact, I'm dog tired! I'm going to bed without an entry for tonight. So tune in tomorrow for what I hope will be a  much more accomplished blog post.

Good night, everybody! And if Faithful Pup Scout was awake, she would wish you one, too.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stumbling, But Still Standing

It's amazing what a day can make...

After yesterday's post regarding how much God has been working in my life, and that I'm doing better health-wise, mentally, physically, and spiritually, than in quite a long time.  I am feeling really good, and I know that the Lord is working positively to make me better.  However, today was an interesting day.  I had to present some bad news regarding a very big project to my boss.

The project, which had a completion date of October, 2014, will not be completed until March, 2015.  This news was not received well.  It has been a long time since I was last dressed down like I was today.  It wasn't a pleasant experience by any stretch.  Some of it was to be expected.  Though I am only leading the project and not doing any of the actual work, it was handed off to me in December last year with high expectations.  As the manager overseeing it, it's my responsibility.  In fact, the original due date was January, 2015, and my boss changed this date to October '14.  At the time, I knew this would be a challenge to achieve the new goal, but I agreed to present it to my employees working on the project.  I was told by the project leaders that we could attempt to meet the new date, but it would be difficult.  After spending the past several months trying to take steps towards completion, we realized that this could not be achieved.  Even the original January date would be too difficult.  The result is that the project was reassessed and the March '15 date was the earliest the project could be completed.

My boss was caught by surprise when she heard the news.  She told me that there was no indication that we couldn't meet the original date, that everything was on schedule.  I told her that we tried.  But there were extenuating circumstances that caused us to reassess, and the date had to change.  The reality is that we have made more progress in the last several months, even with the delays, than the past several years combined!  I think that's what has me so disturbed.  I wanted nothing more than to tell her that we were going to achieve our goals, but no one intentionally tried to delay it.  The reality is that mismanagement prior to my receiving the project is what is causing the issues we're facing now, but I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus.  What happened is in the past.

I was thinking about how I felt after my boss took out her anger on me.  It's weighing on me a lot this afternoon.  I started out feeling defensive, and then allowed myself to get angry, and then I felt guilty.  I know this isn't my fault, and it would be easy to defer the blame to others, but it was my decision to extend the due date, so, in that respect, it is my fault.  And that brings me down.  But this is where God has been working in me.  As I mentioned before, I've been feeling really good lately.  If I wasn't, how much worse would I feel after today?  It might have really taken me down.  But because the Lord has kept me up, I'm not going to fall completely down.  That thought has really helped me today.

I am so thankful for what He is doing in my life.  He's an awesome God!

Have a great day, everyone!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

God is Awesome!

Sunday has truly become a day of rest for me.  Now that I attend my church's worship service at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays, I find myself sleeping in on Sunday morning.  While I don't do nothing, I certainly don't do a lot.  One thing is that my daughter, Melody, and I have gotten up early on many recent weekend mornings and gone hiking or geocaching, both to get some physical activity and to have some fun.

But today was not one of those days, and due to my daughter's late night on Saturday, she didn't even wake up until 11 a.m., even though I was up at 8 and was ready to go out and do something.  Instead, we ended up working around the house.  We also were preparing for Melody's week-long stay with her grandparents (my in-laws).  With the end of the school year, and a week away from beginning Summer Day Camp, she needs to stay with them while I'm at work.  That makes me a bachelor for the week.

I used to dread this time away from my daughter.  For whatever reason, it used to depress me to be alone.  Without her here to distract me, I found myself wallowing in the feeling of how alone I am, and the loss of my wife was much more profound.  I would get to feeling very down, and I would just sit around the house doing nothing, which is pretty classic behavior for having depression.  I've recovered quite a bit since then, mostly due to finding solutions to several medical issues that were bothering me.  Sleep apnea was one of the biggest issues, and since March, I've been using a CPAP machine when I sleep, which provides a better night's sleep for me, and much more energy during the day.  Other issues are treatment for my type 2 diabetes, which had led to a better lifestyle nutritionally over the past few years, and treatment for hypertension and high blood pressure.  All of this has helped me physically, and I'm feeling much better these days.

I've never formally treated my depression, however.  Sure, I've looked into getting therapy of some sort, but nothing really seemed to help.  It didn't help that my job continued to get more and more stressful and my responsibilities increased.  Things hit a breaking point towards the end of April, and I was really at my wit's end.  After talking to my boss, we determined that there were some changes we could make to my job responsibilities that would ease much of this stress, and that's exactly what happened.

But what happened more than anything else, was getting my head on straight with my walk with God.  I had not been giving my pain and suffering and issues and stress to Him.  My prayer life was more out of habit instead of really talking to Him, and I needed to change that.  In addition, Pastor Mitchell, the Teaching Pastor at our church, Grace Community, provided some excellent food for thought in his messages.  Without getting into specifics, the messages had me considering that my faith needed a shot in the arm.  I haven't been going to the Monday Men's Fraternity sessions for awhile, and I'm not actively involved with a small group, which is something that Grace emphasizes.  And while I haven't taken a step forward with either, I do recognize that this needs to change.  Overall, I'm thankful for and can feel God actively working in my life.  This has given me such a positive outlook on things, and my moods have been so much better over the past few months.  I know that this is directly due to what God is doing for me.  My prayer life has become so much better, too.

My reason for sharing all of this is so that you can see what a difference God can make in some one's life.  I have a personal relationship with Christ, and knowing that He is always here for me is such an amazing feeling.  I invite you to invite Him into your heart.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New Directions and the Psalms

I've been trying to discipline myself into writing a blog post every day, but some days I just get too distracted by life.  Today was one of those days, and, you know, this isn't a bad thing.  Sometimes life is more important than writing.  I talked my daughter into staying off of the computer for the evening, and she did, for me.  We had a fun time tonight.  So I did the same.

Got some really good ideas for future topics from Pastor Mitchell and his message at Grace Community Church earlier this evening, and am figuring out how that fits into the direction I want to go with this blog.  Stay tuned.  It's good stuff.  I'll add that Mitchell is having us read through the Psalms as a Summer series, and it reminded me of what my wife and I did leading up to our wedding day.  We read Psalm 100 ninety-nine days before our wedding, and read them each day counting down and timing it so that we read Psalm 1 on our wedding day, just after the wedding ceremony.  We actually recessed out of the church as husband and wife, and then we immediately went to a secluded room to read it and pray, and it was a special time for us.  It just affirmed our being united with one another and with God.  We told other engaged couples and they've done it, as well.  Life is good.  God is good.

The bed is good.  I'm going now.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Miscellaneous Randomness

Today is my in-law's very noteworthy wedding anniversary.  They told me they've been happily married for almost 28 years, so...  Happy 50th Anniversary to my wonderful parents-in-law!!!  May God continue to bless you both!


I got my car back this evening after having it towed to the dealership with a possible alternator issue.  The good news is that it wasn't the alternator.  The bad news is that there were a bunch of other problems that were found, including a very dead battery, and it still cost me over a thousand dollars.  More good news, though, is that other than all that, the car is in very good shape for being over 7 years old, and I had a blast driving it after we picked it up.  It was a gorgeous evening, with low humidity, and I enjoyed some "topless" driving.


Today was the last day of school for Howard County, the last county in the state of Maryland still in session.  My daughter cried and cried, all day, because she hates the last day.  She misses her teachers, she misses her friends, she misses everything about the school experience (except homework!).  From the moment she got in the car after school, she was crying.  We came home, and she was crying.  She called her grandfather, and she was crying.  She went up to her room and cried.  We go through this every year.  I'm glad she loves school so much, but she just gets so emotional when school lets out for the summer.  I told her it's only two months, but that's still too long.

Her saving grace will be starting camp in just over a week.  She loves going to Grace Adventures Day Camp, and loves the connections she makes with the counselors and friends.  She'll cry after that finishes for the Summer, too, but at least it will bridge some of that gap.

In the meantime, we'll manage through the waterworks that will last through tomorrow, then that'll be that.


I've had a recurring dream over the past several weeks and I'm trying to figure out if there's any symbolism behind it, or if it represents some longing or itching in my subconscious that needs to be scratched.  I dreamed that I was riding a motorcycle.  I was looking for cheaper, more economical transportation, and apparently I enjoy the feel of wind on my face and bugs in my teeth, at least in my dream.  It was an interesting sensation, and I've dreamed this at least three times, that I can remember.  So, what does it mean?  Who knows.


Wow, Shantel VanSanten is a gorgeous young lady!  She was on with Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show last night.  Some days I wish I was a lot younger, in better shape, a famous celebrity, and able to date attractive young actresses.  Alas, but I am none of those, and probably better for it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tow Truck

So this happened today.  I'm very thankful we were at home.  God is good.  The car likely needs a new alternator, so it could be a lot worse.  Hoping it won't be too expensive, and I'm thankful that this is our "second" car so we're not stuck without wheels.  Still a bit bummed about it, though.  There's something humbling about watching your car getting towed away...

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Great Satchmo and My Grandfather

I was over at my parent's place this afternoon and on the shelf at the foot of their stairs is this photo of my grandfather, Kenny Fulcher, and the great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong.  It's a favorite photo because it shows my grandfather ("Bebop", as we called him) with one of his biggest influences and fans.  When Mr. Armstrong was in town (Washington, DC), he would stop by the old Charles Hotel to hear the Booker Coleman Jazz Band play.  Bebop was the trumpet player in the band.  Mr. Armstrong would always be recognized and could be talked into joining the band for a number or two, and since he played the trumpet, he used Bebop's horn.  The photo was taken around 1959, I believe.

Fast-forward to last year.  My mother bought a book that fascinated her called, "Satchmo:  The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong", by Steven Brower.  The book contains copies of photos from Mr. Armstrong's personal collection of scrapbooks, notes, and pictures.  On page 59 of the book is the above collage of photos.  The lower right picture is of my grandfather (sitting) next to Jack Teagarden, a jazz singer (Mr. Armstrong is in the upper left picture, and the home he lived in with his wife is in the upper right).  Imagine my mother's surprise when she came across this picture while paging through the book!  Anyway, I was looking through it today and it had me thinking about Bebop.  He was one of the better local DC-area jazz musicians, and a heck of a trumpet player.  One national jazz magazine of the day called him the best "unknown" trumpet player in the world.  I could only hope to have an ounce of his talent.

I wish I had been able to see him play in his prime.  As it was, I only saw him when he performed at the Rockville, MD, Shakey's pizza parlor with a Dixieland band called Southern Comfort, which performed each Friday through the late 70s.  He suffered through a stroke a few years later that incapacitated him enough to end his playing days.  He had polio when he was only a year old, and it paralyzed one of his legs, so he had to use crutches for most of his life.  It never stopped him from achieving great things, and he was a truly great man.  I'm honored to call him my grandfather.  He and my grandmother, Esther, passed away in 1987.

I love our connection to Mr. Armstrong through my grandfather.  They knew each other by name, which I think is kind of cool.  Both were taken from this life too soon.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Date With A Teen Angel

High school memories....

I picked her up at her house.  She was gorgeous!  She was wearing a satin mauve-colored dress.  Her blonde hair was frizzy and thick, long and tall, in 80s-style perfection.  She was tall and thin, a classic beauty, like a young Michelle Pfeiffer.  I was wearing a tan corduroy sport coat, light blue shirt, dark brown pants, and a dark brown tie with light blue specks.  I was tall and thin, a classic geek, my thick, wavy hair giving me a Greg Brady vibe.  You know, like the Brady Bunch.  Groovy.

I was well out of my league with the beautiful Lynne.  We were friends from church.  She went to a private high school, while I went to a public school.  There was a mutual attraction, but she could've dated any guy she wanted.  I didn't understand why she said yes to my invitation to go to the dance at my school, but I was excited.  There was no other girl at my school like her!

We left her parent's place and headed back to my house.  I had no money to be able to take her out to dinner, so Mom volunteered to make us a lasagna meal.  As soon as we walked in, Dad had the video camera running.  I was mortified.  Dad had this way about him that could totally embarrass both me and Lynne.  He teased us, made fun of me, and I just wanted to get out of there. Typical teen angst.  Dad took a bunch of pictures of us in the standard poses, then we ate.  My sister and brother, mostly out of sight, definitely made enough noise for us to know they were there.  I had never brought a date over to the house before, so this was a unique situation.  Dinner was served, and we ate with my parents.  I was mostly quiet, too unnerved to want to talk with my parents there with us.  Lynne was great and took it all in stride.  She really was awesome.

We finally said goodbye, and we headed out in my Olds SportOmega.  It was an ugly car, but I loved it.  We arrived at the school super early, so I decided to take a little drive.  It was already dark, and the road we were on would take us way out into the boonies.  It was a rural area, and I really had innocent intentions, but a couple of buddies of mine, who were already at the school and saw my car skip past the school parking lot entrance, figured I was looking for a place to "park."  They didn't know me as well as I hoped.  I wouldn't have had the nerve to do something like that, especially with Lynne, who wore her love of Christ on her sleeve.  We certainly had that in common.  My reputation as a goody-two-shoes was in no danger of being tarnished.

We drove a few miles down the road, through a very scenic area, but since it was dark, and there were no streetlights, you couldn't see anything.  After driving around for about 15 minutes, which I'm sure had poor Lynne wondering why I had bothered wasting our time, we headed back to the school.  There were a bunch of cars in the parking lot, so I felt comfortable enough going in.  We found a table that some friends had captured and we tried to make small talk with them.  I introduced Lynne to everyone.  She didn't know anybody.  It was entirely too loud, both with everyone yelling and with loud music, so small talk wasn't working very well.  A slow song finally started and I asked Lynne to dance.  It was nice to finally break the ice, and I felt like I was floating on air.  I was so enamored by Lynne.  As far as I was concerned, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.  I have never felt like that with anyone else except my wife.  She danced very elegantly, and we held hands with the back of her hand resting on my shoulder, and my other hand on her waist, and her other hand around the back of my neck.  She played with the back of my hair.  We stared into each other's eyes.  She smiled at me.  I smiled at her.  It was an amazing moment.

The slow song ended, and Robert Palmer's "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" began playing.  I was prepared to sit that one out, but Lynne began to dance.  And I mean, Really Dance.  I had no talent for dancing.  I was all legs and I probably looked like a spastic ostrich.  I had never "fast danced" with anyone, ever.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Lynne was incredible.  She had moves.  She looked amazing, as she swayed her hips and moved her body to the beat, with her arms in the air.  As great as the previous moment had been with the slow song, I was fast becoming self-conscious of my own body.  When the song ended, I quickly led Lynne back to our table.  I was looking for any excuse to divert her attention to something other than train wreck she had just witnessed.  But soon, she was anxious to get back on the dance floor.  Lynne was a party girl, I quickly learned.  So I did my best to keep up.  Whew, what a night.  I did more dancing that night than I ever have since, combined!  She loved to dance.  I was getting a workout, and starting to sweat.  Lynne never seemed to tire.  She looked so angelic, so...perfect.  She really knew how to make herself look great and carried herself well.

The dance was starting to wind down, and they played one more slow song.  I have no idea what song it was, but the dance was awesome.  Lynne had made quite an impression on me, and I had been giving her my best Richie Cunningham impression, which was apparently working well for me.  She seemed really happy, and she told me she had a great time.  We kissed.  Just a light peck, but it was enough to send me to the moon and back.  The song ended, and we said goodbye to my friends.  Then we headed back to the car and I drove her home.

She invited me in.  And we went to her bedroom, which was so her.  It was perfectly arranged, just like what a popular, well-adjusted, beautiful teenage girl would have.  She sat on the bed with her dress spread out all around her.  She was so beautiful.  She showed me her school's yearbook, and we chatted for about 30 minutes (with her bedroom door OPEN the whole time).  She was a cheerleader, something I didn't know.  Wow, I thought....I went out with a cheerleader!  We then went to the kitchen for a soda, and we visited with her mom.  Then I said goodnight.  She walked me to the door, and we kissed once more.  I didn't stick around to see her face.  I said goodnight and ran to my car.  She waved to me as I backed out of the driveway and headed for home.  It was the greatest date of my life, with the most beautiful date ever....

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Date Night

My daughter, Melody, and I went on a date tonight.  The local Chick-Fil-A had a Father's Day edition of their Daddy-Daughter Date Night, and the restaurant went all out.  Melody and I had gone on a few other Daddy-Daughter Date Nights at Chick-Fil-A in the past, and we even got all dressed up for them.  Because of the hot and humid weather, we decided not to get all dressed up, and instead we went wearing shorts and t-shirts.  It may not have been entirely appropriate for the occasion, but it's Chick-Fil-A, so I didn't worry about it.

Our reservation was at 6, and they had a table ready for us.  The hostesses were all dressed in white shirts, black pants, and red bow ties.  There was a young man with a saxophone on one side of the dining room playing some soulful, romantic jazz.  The waitstaff was also dressed nicely, and they took our order from an embossed menu.  We prayed before we started our meal, then we dug in.  We each had place mats with conversation questions to ask each other, and we took turns asking each other questions.  Unfortunately, they were all geared towards me sharing stories with her, so I had to do all the talking.  That was okay, but I wasn't eating very quickly because I was speaking the whole time.

It was such a fun time, though, and we enjoyed our meal.  Chick-Fil-A gave my date a rose as we left.  We took a little drive through Maple Lawn and over to Harris-Teeter to get a few groceries, then we headed home.  We arrived home just in time to see the final of the USA-Ghana World Cup match, which the USA won, 2-1.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


I was watching a news program on MSNBC this evening about bullying, and this is something that I worry about with regard to my daughter.  The kids on the program were all teens, and a group of six girls physically beat up another girl.  She ended up with a concussion and damage to one of her eyes, as well as numerous bruises, scratches, and scrapes.  The six teens and two other bystanders were all arrested.  The parents then got involved and many of the parents of the charged teens say it was blown out of proportion.  Isn't that always the way it is?  None of us want to think that our children could commit such atrocious acts.  I would be heartbroken if my daughter was involved in something like that, whether as a victim or as an attacker.

I watched my daughter, Melody, get bullied several years ago by one of the neighbor kids who wanted to be in the middle of everything that was going on with the girls in the neighborhood.  This girl loved to come between the other girls and cause disagreements.  Melody came home crying several times as a result of the mean-spiritedness of this girl.  It was usually something minor, but little girls being little girls, they just couldn't get along.  After talking to a few of the parents of the girls, we all concluded that this one girl was the cause of the disruptions, and, interestingly, the family, who was renting their home, moved out within a year of moving in.  The other girls all got along wonderfully after she moved away.

Melody is very tall for her age.  In fact, she may be the tallest at her school.  She's only 10, but she got the tall genes on my side of the family.  I can relate.  I was one of the tallest at my schools while growing up, and that sometimes resulted in other kids wanting to pick on me.  For whatever reason, kids, particularly boys, like to test the tall kid.  I guess it must be a way of earning respect to pick on the tall kid.  Whatever it is, I got picked on just for being tall.  My brother was picked on in much the same way.  He sprouted later than me (I was fully grown to 6'2" by the time I entered high school).  He reached his full height after high school (he's now 6'6"!).  But he grew a lot during high school, and other kids picked on him, as well.  The difference was in how he and I reacted to it.  I didn't fight back.  I took it, and went on my way.  I hated violence.  My brother, on the other hand, always fought back.  He was always getting into fights.  It was unfortunate, but that's the way it was.

When I was in third grade, my sister, Angie, and I were riding our bikes out on the sidewalk in front of our house.  We rode down to the corner, about three houses down from ours, and back.  We were always within view of our house.  We had a nice neighborhood.  All of the kids knew each other.  We all went to the same school.  It was fairly close knit, even for a neighborhood with several hundred homes.  So we were riding our bikes and we reached the corner and were about to turn around and ride back up to our house.  Before we could go anywhere, a group of kids we didn't recognize ran up to us.  They were mostly older than us.  The oldest was a tall girl who looked like she might be in high school.  She was carrying a baby, a boy who looked to be about 2 years old.  There were three other boys, as well, and they ranged in age from older than me to younger than my sister (who was in 1st grade).  The tall girl grabbed the handlebars on my bike and straddled the front wheel, keeping me from going anywhere.  Two of the boys grabbed Angie to keep her from going anywhere.  The remaining boy stood behind me to keep me from backing up.  They asked where we were going.  I started to say we were going home, but the tall girl told me to shut up.  She then told the baby to grab my hair, and he did, yanking on it.  Angie began to struggle against the two boys holding her in place, but they held her bike still.  They continued to verbally harass us, all the while the baby continued to yank on my hair.  Angie finally pushed her bike away and ran up the sidewalk.  I yelled to her to get Dad.  The tall girl then punched me hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me, and they all ran down the street.  I was doubled over in pain and crying.  Angie had gotten Dad and had told him what happened.  When he saw me crying and in pain, he threw us into the car, and took off down the street after the "gang".  We caught up to them about two blocks away, and my father confronted them.  They were scared, and when asked, they said they didn't live in our neighborhood.  My dad told them that if he ever saw them around again, he was calling the police.  We never saw them again.

The incident scared me and scarred me.  The kids that had confronted us were Black.  I didn't have very many Black friends, and the incident caused me to have a lot of trust issues.  I had never been beaten up like that before.  I was scared.  I didn't venture far from home for a long time.  However, I also had an even greater respect for my father.  I never doubted that my father would be there when I needed him, but this incident made him into my hero.  He helped me and confronted the kids who attacked us.  This was a big deal in my little 9 year old brain.  I never forgot the incident, even though the severity of it lessened over time.

Bullying is a real problem.  It's scary to see what kids have to deal with.  Many of them are picked on just for being a little bit different, and the violence associated with bullying is worse than ever.  I've seen my daughter get picked on and her reaction to it.  I hope it isn't something she'll have to deal with, but I also hope I can always be there for her when she needs me.  I've educated her on bullying behavior and quiz her on it often.  I hope that's all I will have to do.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Father's Day Cold

I woke up this morning to the news that the Pittsburgh Steelers former and most successful coach, Chuck Noll, who coached the team beginning in 1969 and retired in 1991, passed away last night at the age of 82.  He is the only coach to win four Superbowls, and he had a very successful career that resulted in enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.  He was a unique coach in that he didn't try to motivate his players with "rah rah" speeches.  He was a teacher first, and he expected his players to motivate themselves.  When he took over as coach, one of the first things he said to his players was that they lost so many games because they weren't very good players.  Between his first season and the first Superbowl win in 1974, only five players from that first team were still with the team.  Until he retired, he was the only coach of the Steelers during my lifetime.  He was a great coach, and according to his players, he was a great person.  I'm proud that he was the coach of my favorite team.  My prayers go out to the Noll family.


I'm battling a summer cold.  At first, I thought it was just allergies, but this is definitely more than just allergies.  I typically don't get "small" illnesses.  I go big or not at all.  So this cold has knocked me out.  I took off from work on Thursday, but tried to get back to it on Friday.  After arriving at work, I was told in no uncertain terms by both one of my colleagues and several employees to go home.  I lasted an hour, then I did just that.  It felt like playing hooky, but it wasn't any fun.  I took some cold meds both days that completely knocked me out.  I'm pretty sure I slept more than I was awake over the past several days.  I had big plans for my daughter and I to go hiking today, especially with the gorgeous weather, but that didn't go as planned.  I once again slept the day away.


Father's Day is tomorrow and I don't have the words to describe how great my dad is.  He has done so much for me.  He's my financial advisor, my life coach, my human resource specialist, my repairman, and my best friend.  I am so fortunate to have him as my father.  Happy Father's Day, Dad!  I love you!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Love Letters

I was reminiscing the other day about love letters.  You know what I'm talking about....those letters you wrote to that cute girl who sat three seats in front of you in English class, who really didn't know who you were, but who was the object of your dreams.  Maybe you never sent them.  Maybe you only wrote the letters telling her all about how much you loved her, and never had the nerve to send them to her.  Or maybe you did send a letter, and you never got a response, or she never indicated to you that she ever received it.  And then there were the letters that you sent and she actually did reply, but not in the way you expected.  Maybe she just wanted to be friends.  She didn't like you in THAT way.  Or maybe you were an item and wrote to each other regularly.  Anyway, you know what I'm talking about, right?  This is back before there was Twitter, or Facebook, or even email.  The only way to communicate was to write a letter and mail it, or hand deliver it to her mailbox.  Or maybe you passed a note to a friend and that friend passed it along to another friend until it ended up in her hands.

I wrote my share of letters. I never had the nerve to tell a girl how I really felt.  It was the old introvertedness that always seems to get in the way.  But I had no issues with writing a letter.  And I could write!  I would pour out my soul in a letter like nobody's business.  I might not get a response, or the response I wanted, but I made no bones about the point of the letter.  It was to let the object of my dreams know that I liked her.  I liked her more than just a friend, and this was the best way to tell her.  I wrote many of these kinds of letters.  I remember writing them in Junior High, and I continued to write them all the way through my college years.  There are probably more than a dozen such letters.  I got a response less than half that.  And, believe it or not, I did get positive responses.  One young lady, let's call her Alice, lived down the street.  I was crazy about her, but I had known her for years.  We were adults now, and I decided to finally let her know how I felt about her.  The timing was a little bit awkward, however.  She had just gotten engaged.  She responded to my letter pouring my heart out to her in unrequited love that she had felt the same way, but she couldn't understand why I never told her.  Of course, it was too late now, since she was getting married and nothing was going to change that.  I guess, in hindsight, the timing was pretty bad.

Another young lady, who I dated for just a short while when we were in high school, was still a good friend into our young adult years.  I still carried a torch for her, and decided to tell her... in a letter, of course.  And I got a nice response letting me down easily.  She, too, was engaged, and there just was no chance of us getting together.  Ironically, she ended up breaking up with the guy within about six months, but she neglected to let me know that.  She found someone else shortly after that, and is now happily married with two grown kids.  Again, my timing was impeccable.

There was another young lady who I was crazy about, even though she was a bit younger than me, Kelly.  She went off to college, and we stayed in touch.  I finally told her how I felt in a letter, and she wrote back saying she felt the same way, but she was dating a guy at the time and it was serious.  I quickly backtracked and said that she should stay with the guy she was with.  A few months later, she was pregnant with the guys baby, they had broken up, and she had dropped out of school and moved back to her parent's place.  I didn't find this out until several years later.  I happened to visit her church (I knew a lot of people there from my time working as a youth counselor) and bumped into her sister, who told me all about what Kelly had been up to in the years since our last contact.  Her sister told me I should call her.  Well, I never could get up the nerve to call.  I have no idea if there ever could've been anything more to our relationship.

I'd like to think that God is endorsing these letter writing campaigns, though I know he certainly wouldn't endorse me breaking up a potential marriage for purely selfish reasons, which is what many of these letters were.  Why did I write them?  I think I figured that this was the best way to get my point across without the shame of a face to face meeting that might not go well.  I guess I'll never know whether the letters I wrote were kept or actually had any impact on the young ladies who received them.  I'm guessing they did not.  They were more likely just the babbling words of a desperate guy looking for one last chance at the girl before she walks down the aisle.  And nothing good could come of that.

I sure am glad that we now have emails.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stress at 45, Part 3

I was suffering, but I had slowly begun climbing out of the hole of depression I found myself in.  The key was getting my relationship with God back on track.  I had many friends and family members praying for me, and I realized I had to give it all to Him in order to be free of the depression and stress I had been feeling.  It was working, but I needed to make other changes.

The next thing was sitting down with my boss and explaining to her my issues with the new job responsibilities I was given.  It was a good conversation.  I didn't want to give up on what I was doing, but I certainly was not having much success with it.  The lack of success was hurting my confidence, and I also wasn't giving my primary job responsibilities the attention they needed.  By reassigning that work to another manager who was better suited to doing it, plus the fact that we had a major automation effort occurring with my other area of responsibility, I quickly eliminated a great source of my stress.  It was amazing!  A great weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I could feel the difference.  It was freeing.

Backing up, way back in December, I did a sleep test that determined that I did, indeed, have sleep apnea.  Once that was diagnosed, and I began to use a CPAP machine to help me breath at night while sleeping, and I was a new man.  For too long, I was not getting proper sleep.  I was not getting any deep sleep at night, and it made me tired most days.  I would come home from work and need a nap.  I had no energy.  I couldn't think straight at times, and that lack of sleep made concentrating difficult.  With the CPAP machine, I was finally getting the proper deep sleep that resulted in a lot more energy during the day.  I now can't sleep without it.

The combination of better health (through proper sleep), less stressful work conditions, and a much stronger, more fulfilling spiritual life, and I really felt like a new man.  By finding solutions to the issues I was facing, I was able to lift myself out of the stressful situations I was in.  I'm so thankful for God's presence in my life.


The blog has been hit and miss the last couple of weeks.  Last week, it was due to my trip to Oklahoma City.  When I'm traveling and I don't have my laptop, it's too hard to type without a full keyboard (I don't text very quickly), so I have to do short posts, if I do one at all, or I fill it with pictures instead of words.  This week, I was hit with either a summer cold or severe allergies.  Whichever it is, it has knocked me on my butt.  I'm taking Alka Seltzer Plus, which puts me right out, so that saying about resting a cold is absolutely true.  I've been sleeping a LOT this week.  I missed work today, too, so the extra sleep was appreciated.  Anyway, just wanted to say that I try very hard to provide daily updates to this blog, but sometimes I can't help it.  The rest was needed.  Thanks for understanding.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Interlude: Mom and Dad's 47th Anniversary

How do you thank the people who gave you life?  Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!  Thank you for all that you do!

Mom & Dad in their dating days
Mom & Dad on their wedding day

Aren't they a gorgeous couple?  Congrats, Folks!!!  I love you!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stress at 45, Part 2

Yesterday I discussed how stress and worry can impact one's health.  I was suffering from immense stress in my life, and it was causing issues with my work life, my home life, my health, and my faith.  I needed to find a way out of the hole that I found myself in.  I determined that my faith needed to be taken care of first before anything else could be fixed.

I had been attending my church more out of habit by this time.  In the past, my relationship with the Lord was always the most important thing in my life.  I was involved at my church in several different ministries, and I enjoyed it.  I spent over a decade as a youth counselor.  After I got married to my wife, Teresa, we lead the drama ministry at the church we were attending.  I was also a deacon.  My relationship with Christ was as strong as it has ever been.  But the church went through a significant transition when the pastor was fired due to some financial transgressions.  In addition, the remaining staff of the church confronted my in-laws since they had maintained a relationship with the pastor, and my in-laws and my wife and I decided we needed to find a new church home.  Teresa and I had already determined we needed to find a church closer to our home, so we ended up at Grace Community Church.  We were pretty burned out after our experience at our previous church, and we were content to just attend for a while instead of getting involved in any of the ministries.

I truly believe that God had a role in helping lead us to Grace.  Aside from the fact that Teresa knew the pastor at Grace, Mark Norman, and his family (Teresa taught his children when they were students at Mt. Hebron High School), when Teresa passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in April 2004, the people of Grace were there to help me pick up the pieces of my life.  Several people on staff at Grace helped me get back on my feet, and their prayers and support made such a difference for me.  It was a long time until I began feeling alive again, but I was still battling with grief, which led to a fairly deep depression.  I spent much of the next ten years (through this year) riding a roller coaster, going up and down through a gamut of emotions, going back and forth between feeling normal and falling into bouts of depression.  The ups were longer than the downs, fortunately, and though I still suffer periodically, I feel good otherwise.

Just prior to this, however, I was promoted into a new job at work that significantly increased my job responsibilities.  I wasn't prepared for how much these new responsibilities would impact me and my job, and I did not handle the transition as well as I hoped.  In fact, because I struggled, I fell deeper into the depression that I was already battling.  Then it snowballed.  Difficulties at work combined with depression and trying to stay engaged at church unsuccessfully, caused me to crawl into this "hole" and I would come home from work and just crash.  I didn't want to do anything.  I was tired all the time and I didn't want to do anything or be with anyone.  My wonderful daughter put up with me, and she was able to stay active with her friends and school activities, but this wasn't a good situation for either of us.

There were a number of people praying for me, though, and I reached a point where I really thought I could climb back up out of the hole I was in, and my outlook was significantly better.  I was truly thankful for the wonderful care of the people in my life.  They were praying for me, too, and I felt like I was able to get myself back on track.  I still have my moments, but overall, I'm doing much better.  It truly is a reflection of God's work in my life.  Sure, I need to do some things first, like seeing my doctor about the health issues I was facing, and placing myself in a better position to deal with the issues at work.  I started sleeping better, too.

Tune in tomorrow to hear about what else happened to get me back on track.

Have a great Tuesday.  I'll continue this discussion tomorrow.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Stress at 45

So I'm now 45 years old.  I'm not usually one to be concerned about my age, and I'm not going to start now.  I'm so thankful for my life, and for God's many blessings.  What can I possibly complain or worry about?

Ironically, all I did for much of the last several years was worry, to the point that it actually paralyzed me at times.  Stress is such an awful thing.  I found stress in my job, stress in my home life, stress in my health, and even stress in my church life.  I know better than to allow stress and worry to bother me.  I'm supposed to give it all to God, and trust in Him to take the burden off of me.  But I wasn't doing that.  I internalized it, and it started to eat away at me.  I didn't have anyone in my life that I could share my concerns and issues with, and since I wasn't giving it to Him, either, it began to affect my health.  I was already battling type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure and hypertension on top of that.  To add stress and worry to the mix began to have a disastrous affect on me.  My job stress was at the forefront of my problems, and one aspect of that was new job responsibilities that were well outside my comfort zone.  I struggled, more than at any other time of my career.  When things got bad, I just wanted to escape at home, and I shut down completely at the end of each workday.

Since I wasn't doing anything when I arrived home due to the stresses of my job, I wasn't exercising at all.  I was sleeping terribly at night due to severe sleep apnea, and I found myself snoozing every afternoon, taking unplanned naps that were attributed to exhaustion.  I felt awful, and I was tired all the time.  I still had to prepare dinner since my daughter is still too young to do any cooking.  Once it was time to go to bed, and I was certainly tired enough, I couldn't get to sleep.  It was so frustrating.  I knew something was wrong, and I needed to get checked for sleep apnea.

In the meantime, I found that I wasn't reading my Bible regularly.  I've never gotten involved in a small group, other than when I went to the Men's ministry meetings each Monday at my church, Grace Community.  For much of the past decade, I was involved in the drama ministry, but the drama ministry fell apart and was no longer active at all.  That was my thing, something I had been doing since my teen years, and now it was gone.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  Without the stability that activity provided me at church, along with my introverted personality, I wasn't providing much food to my spiritual appetite. I was still attending church, but it was more out of habit than with any kind of growth.

Things were bad. Stress in the job, stress at home, stress impacting my health, and a mess of any kind of personal life.  What now?

I'll continue this tomorrow. I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Birthdays come once each year, and yesterday was one of them.  I'm so thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and my awesome little girl, Melody, for making the day so special.  I've never received so many well-wishes, mostly due to social media, which allows one to connect with others so easily.  How did we get by before Facebook?  Or Twitter?  Yeah, I know, we used land-line phones and pen and paper to communicate, but surely this is an improvement, right?  Or is it less sincere?  I don't know.  But I like it, and I'm thankful for the wonderful sentiment.

After a wildly difficult day of travel Thursday from Oklahoma City to home (which I may blog about in a future post), today was a pretty good day.  My daughter had decorated the front door with a poster and a gift, which was a nice surprise to come home to.  I woke up energized (despite a little bit of jet lag), and arrived early to work.  My office had been completely decorated with streamers and balloons, thanks to my colleagues and employees.  My boss led a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to serenade me during a meeting with a large number of my colleagues.  I had planned to take off early, but due to a bunch of meetings, mostly unplanned, I worked a full day, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

I made a reservation at the local Melting Pot for dinner.  Melody and I had an incredible meal.  The only negative was when our server lost her pepper gun and it bounced off the table, shattering Melody's water glass and getting her all wet.  Once the food began arriving, it was all good, though.  We enjoyed different meats and veggies, cheese, and "the Yin and Yang", a combination of white and dark chocolate, into which we dipped strawberries, bananas, and pastries.  The Melting Pot is good, but expensive.  It's easily a $100 meal.

After a leisurely drive home through Columbia, we relaxed at home, the first chance we had to do so since I got home from my trip.  It was a nice evening, though the jet lag finally caught up with me.  I had intended to publish this last night, but I fell asleep while typing this.  I woke up and saw about 300 "k"s on the screen.  So I'm now finishing this up this morning.

It's good to be home.  45 isn't so bad.  Another birthday is certainly better than the alternative.  I'm blessed with an incredibly wonderful life.  God is good.

Have a great Saturday, everyone!

Monday, June 2, 2014

OKC Again

I'm back in Oklahoma City again on business. It's not one of my favorite places to be. I hate being away from my little girl. I also have bad memories of a serious relationship that resulted in a very bad breakup. At least I don't have to be here all week. But I'm praying for my daughter while we're apart. I'm thankful for a great job despite these trips, too.  God is good.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Believe It Or Not, This Is Church

What an incredible day!  Today was Grace On The Lawn, or #GOTL.  Our church, Grace Community, had a wonderful celebration today of 30 years.  It was also the culmination of a two year plan called Our Time, which was the first major expansion of the church since we moved into the current building.  More than 3000 members and attenders came for the celebration out on the church grounds, and it was great to see.  I loved hearing a father passing by us just before the service started, carrying his young daughter, say, "Believe it or not, this is church."  I think that said it all.

Grace has had a nomadic existence for many years.  There were a bunch of signs set up describing the church's history.  In 1984:
"A small group of pioneering families caught God's heart for those who had given up on church.  Convinced that Christ-honoring, Bible-centered, relevant teaching could reach suburban Maryland, these families began meeting in the basement of a Howard County home.  This was the beginning of Grace Community Church.  God's presence was palpable, new people showed up every week."
On January 1, 2006, Grace moved into our Fulton, MD, campus, after building its large, sprawling, modern building.  The church continued to grow at an incredible rate, however.  In 2012, facing overflowing services and children's programs, as well as a packed parking lot, Grace undertook the 2-year Our Time challenge.  The church began collecting funds for an enlarged parking lot, completion of the balcony in the Worship Center, and a newly launched Saturday evening service.  In addition, Grace supported a church plant in Silver Spring, The Well. All was in preparation for the growth that the church was experiencing and anticipating.

It became clear today just how much growth has taken place in the past two years.  Plants were given out to every family who began attending over the past two years.  About half way through the service, those families were asked to bring their plants to the stage area.  Several hundred people walked up to the stage.  It was incredible to see.

The church sang and worshipped together, and it was an inspiring service.  It was an incredible feeling to be a part of this event.  After the service ended, everyone was given the opportunity to have lunch together, as 20 food trucks were brought in to feed the masses.  The food was great, too!  My daughter, Melody, and I had the sliders from Upslidedown Dave.  Melody had a couple of burgers, and I had a trio of Portobello mushroom, chicken salad, and Cuban sliders.  It was a great day and a great time.  I had to laugh at a comment my daughter made.  The air was filled with the smell of sun block, and she said, "It smells like camp!"  God is so good.

I want to give a shout out to Bob, who found me in the crowd, and said he was a big fan of this blog.  Thanks, Bob.  I really appreciate the kind words.  Thank you, too, for stopping by and introducing yourself.  It still amazes me, all of the people who read this blog.  It's so humbling.  Thank you for continuing to read.

If you're looking for a church home, please give Grace a visit.  You can find out more at Grace's website.

Have a great week, everyone!