Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sports News With the Terps and Bucs

I am anxious to continue my trip report of our recent vacation, but today was a rather noteworthy sports day, and as a result, I feel the need to say a few words about the University of Maryland Day on the Big Ten Network and the Major League Baseball trade deadline as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  My apologies if you don't care about either, but this is my blog and I care.

Let's start with the Maryland Terrapins.  I've been on the fence with their move to the Big Ten Conference from the Atlantic Coast Conference, where they were a founding member for half a century.  I get that major sports equal big money, and big money drives these types of things.  But I didn't like the move from the ACC, particularly for the basketball teams, which had some pretty fierce long-standing rivalries.  I hate seeing those disappearing from the landscape, even if I do believe there is a "Carolina Bias", though that's what makes the whole Maryland-as-the-underdog so great.  Football, on the other hand, has sort of been an afterthought to me.  The Terps just haven't been able to cross over into being an elite football team, and that's playing in the inferior (in my mind) ACC.  The Big Ten is a superior conference (in my mind) and I struggle to see how Maryland can possibly be competitive.  This whole deal screams of being a money grab.  I feel like the decision makers at Maryland backslapped the Terps alumni in the face.

Unfortunately, now, that's all water under the bridge.  The Terps are in the Big Ten, like it or not, and I'm trying to like it.  Today was a good step in the right direction.  The Big Ten Network, where the Terps will be getting some of their big payday, celebrated the Terp's arrival in the Big Ten by airing a bunch of their most stirring, thrilling victories in both football and men's basketball.

I just finished watching the incredible men's basketball victory in 1986 over the University of North Carolina, the Tar Heels first loss in the Dean Dome, the new arena named for their head coach.  The game was a nailbiter.  It started out with both teams going back and forth, with Carolina jumping out to a nice lead as the first half went along, before the Terps made a run to make it a four point game at the half.  In the second half, Carolina seemed to take control, but the Terps kept hanging around, eventually tying it up and sending the game into overtime.  The Terps took the lead as overtime wound down, and the game ended with Terps point guard Keith Gatlin throwing the ball in-bounds off of a Carolina player's back, and Gatlin put the ball in the net to clinch the victory.  Maryland star Len Bias was a beast in the game, scoring over 30 points and dominating the game at times.  Coach Lefty Driesell was so much fun to watch, stomping his feet on the floor in frustration and excitement throughout the game.  It was incredible to watch, and I remember well watching it live on TV in 1986 when it was played.

I truly believe that Bias could've been as good, if not better, than the great Michael Jordan, if he hadn't been so stupid.  Later in 1986, two days after being the second player selected in the NBA player draft, Bias took a drug overdose and died in his dorm room on campus.  I had just finished my junior year in high school, and I was a big Terps fan even before I decided to attend college at Maryland, and Bias's death shocked me.  He was such a force on the basketball court.  A truly dominating player.

The other news of the day was with the Pittsburgh Pirates and their decision not to make any moves at the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline.  There were some pretty big names on the trading block today, and the Pirates were linked to many of them, but they weren't able to make any deals on them.  However, most baseball experts and fans EXPECTED the Pirates to make SOME kind of move to make the team better.  They are hardly a great team, but they are a good team, and they are in the running to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.  After not making any moves to make the team better during the off-season, and losing several pretty good players, the Pirates struggled at the start of this season, and it was very apparent that management didn't seem to care.  After April, the team played much better, and worked themselves into contention again.  A few moves at the trading deadline could have pushed them over the top, but they instead stood pat.  By not making any deals, they signaled to the fans, once again, that they don't care to push the team into the elite, gambling that the players they have might catch lightning in a bottle for the second year in a row and slip into the playoffs.  This type of thinking stinks, and I'm sick of it.

The Pirates ended twenty years of losing by having a magical season last year.  Fan attendance soared, and the team fed off the excitement of the entire city.  They not only ended the losing streak, but they entered the playoffs and won their opening round game against division rival Cincinnati, before losing in the Divisional Round to the St. Louis Cardinals.  The fans expected the Pirates management to make the team even better this year, but they seemed to be content to rest on their laurels and not make any substantial improvements.  And it showed at the beginning of the season.  The Pirates owner, Mr. Nutting, has a reputation for being cheap, and he certainly hasn't shown that he's changed his ways.  Despite what he says about wanting to make the team better, there is still an internal belief that the team can compete without spending more money.  Unfortunately, the economics of baseball insist that you DO have to spend ridiculous amounts of money, or at least a reasonable amount.  They will never be able to compete financially with the Dodgers and Yankees, but they need to at least try to be competitive.

The other aspect to this is the Pirates seem to fear trading away any of their future.  They are so hung up on wanting to be competitive into the future, that sacrificing the here and now is the order of the day.  Why not try to win today?  What's the point in even fielding a team if you aren't going to try to win now?  Make a splash, trade that future outfielder or pitcher who may or may not work out, and bring in a major league sure thing and let's try to win it all this year!  I don't care about the team two years from now.  I want to win today!

But the Pirates don't agree.  They would rather keep all of the pieces of the "best minor league system in baseball" so they might win next year or three years from now, instead of taking advantage of the momentum that they've built this year and make a run at a championship.  Their reply to the fans is that they would rather stand pat and hope for the best, while all of the other teams around them and above them in the standings made moves to better themselves.

Do I sound bitter?  I am.  Twenty years of losing will do that to a person.  Oh, well.... same old Pirates.

Have a better night than me, everyone!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Number 75

I find numbers interesting.  They can trigger thoughts about a specific thing, or event, or maybe a person.  Numbers worn by athletes on sports teams, in particular, can make the players memorable and forever associated with the number they wear on their jersey.  A great example of this is 75.  There is one player who I associate with 75, and that's Joe Greene.  For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, #75 is the leader and first player of the modern era of the Steelers.  Mean Joe, as he's affectionately known, is remembered in the hearts of many Steelers fans as the leader of the Steel Curtain Defense, the man who changed the fortunes of a perennial loser, and is looked at as the MVP of the Steelers teams of the 1970s, when they won four Super Bowls in six years, a feat that no other team has ever been able to match.

The Steelers are not the type of team that "retires" jersey numbers.  In fact, they have only ever retired one number in the history of the team:  70, which belongs to Ernie Stautner, a 9-time Pro Bowl and 10-time All-Pro Defensive Lineman who played with the Steelers from 1950-1963.  Until today.  Today, the Pittsburgh Steelers retired 75, honoring one of the greatest Steelers of all time, Mr. Joe Greene.  Mean Joe was a 10-time Pro Bowl, 5-time All Pro First Team and 3-time Second Team, 11-time All-AFC, named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team, the 1970s All-Decade Team, the 1969 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a 2-time AP Defensive Player of the Year, #13 on the NFL's All-Time Players List, 1987 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class, and a 4-time Super Bowl winner with the Steelers.  He played from 1969, the year I was born, through 1981.  He also starred in a memorable commercial ad for Coca Cola, one of the greatest commercials ever made.

There are so many great players in the Steeler's history, and so many are deserving of this honor, but, as Dan Rooney, the team owner, recently stated, if you retire one jersey from that era, where do you stop?  As it is, the Steelers do not issue jersey numbers to new players that were worn by many of the players from the 70's era teams, including 12, Terry Bradshaw, 32, Franco Harris, 52, Mike Webster, 58, Jack Lambert, and 59, Jack Ham.  There are likely others.  Until they retired 75 today, this was the greatest honor these players could receive.  One has to wonder if other players may have their numbers retired, but there should be no questioning the retirement of #75.  He's the one guy who started and signifies the beginning of the Steeler's winning ways.

All pictures © of their respective owners

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More From G-Fest XXI

Here are a bunch more pictures from G-Fest and our trip to Chicago.  While we were in Chicago, we tried Lou Malnati's Pizza.  In a previous post, I asked if it was the best in Chicago.  Well, it may be good pizza, but we still love Giordano's better.  While it is technically a stuffed pizza, it has the best taste of any pizza I've had, anywhere.  That said, Malnati's is still very good.

Melody enjoying her Malnati's pizza.

Oh, no, a fight in the hallway of the hotel between Titanasaurus and a miniature Godzilla!

...and King Kong walks by after partying all night...

The Pickwick, where we saw the legendary concert, "Ifukube 100".

Another great year at G-Fest XXI!

Monday, July 28, 2014

G-Fest XXI

G-Fest XXI!  G-Fest is the official gathering of the largest group of North American fans of Godzilla and other giant Japanese monsters from movies and television.  This year was their 21st year!  I went to the second, third, and fifth G-Fests, then my daughter, Melody, and I attended the most recent five straight.  It was a great time, as usual!  We had the chance to meet several big stars from Japan, including Koichi Kawakita (best known for heading the special effects for the Heisei series of Godzilla Films, and he won the Japanese Academy Award for special effects work on Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah); Tomoko Ai (one of the stars of Terror of Mechagodzilla); Katsuhiko Sasaki (star of several Godzilla movies); Robert Scott Field (who starred as Android M-11 in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and all-around great guy); Hiroshi Sagae (master sculptor and model maker for the film and toy collectibles industries); Don Frye (who starred in Godzilla: Final Wars, and is a professional martial arts fighter and professional wrestler); and Bob Eggleton (artist known for his Godzilla and comic book work).

The highlight, as usual, was the costume contest, but we also were privileged to attend a concert of Godzilla film music composed by Akira Ifukube in what would have been his 100th birthday, with a full orchestra, the first such concert ever in North America.  It was fantastic.  As a contributor to the kickstarter effort to get the concert off the ground, I will be receiving a CD of the concert, as well.

Along with the sessions with the guests, fan-lead discussions about the movies, and a huge dealers room full of all kinds of merchandise, we had a blast.  A sampling of pictures follows.

Most of the guests

Robert Scott Field

Koichi Kawakita

J.D. Lees, host of G-Fest and publisher of G-Fan Magazine

Hiroshi Sagae

Katsuhiko Sasaki and Tomoko Ai

Bob Eggleston

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Vacation 2014

My daughter, Melody, and I have been home from our big Summer vacation to Chicago, Milwaukee, Baraboo, Madison, Route 66, St. Louis, Louisville, and Point Pleasant.  It was an incredible and memorable trip, and I want to focus on parts of it in the next several blog entries.  We took plenty of pictures, and visited lots of sites.  Melody, the list maker (just like her dear ol' Daddio), provided the following list of places we visited along the way:

Our Summer 2014 Trip:
7/10:•Steelers Penguins HQ in Breezewood, PA•Dinner at Max & Erma's in Cranberry, PA•Stayed the night at a Comfort Suites in Toledo, Ohio
7/11:•Breakfast at Big Boy•Lunch in Chicago with Gwynn at The Ram, Rosemont, IL•Checked in at the InterContinental in Rosemont, Illinois•Checked in at G-Fest XXI at Crowne Plaza•Japanese Store•Lou Malnati's•Back to G-Fest•Hotel
7/12:•Denny's for breakfast•G-Fest•Chicago Fire Grill for lunch•More G-Fest•Back to InterContinental for a nap•Back to G-Fest for the Costume Parade•The absolutely AMAZING concert at the Pickwick theater for Ifukube 100•In rain, went to White Castle for a really late dinner•Back to hotel
7/13:•Denny's again•G-Fest•Awards Banquet for lunch•Left G-Fest•Drove to Milwaukee•Saw Bronze Fonz•Dinner at España & Tapas House in Milwaukee, IL•Back to hotel in Gurnee, IL
7/14:•To Six Flags Great America•Found out that Macy was gone•Left Six Flags•Dinner at Giordano's•Drove to Madison, Wisconsin•Stayed at a Sleep Inn, Madison, WI
7/15:•Stopped at the Mouse House Cheesehaus•Ate cheese curds :3•Circus World in Baraboo, WI•The Log Cabin Restaurant for lunch, Baraboo, WI•Drove a long way!!•Stopped at Walmart•Steak 'N Shake for dinner in Normal, IL•Stayed at Comfort Suites, Normal, IL
7/16:•Car Wash•Route 66•Stopped at Towanda, Illinois•"Dead Man's Curve"•Funks Grove Sirup•Dixie Truckers Home•Stopped in Atlanta, Illinois•Saw giant Paul Bunyan•Lunch at Palm's Grill Café•Route 66 Trading Post (or something like that)•Giant wagon Lincoln, Lincoln, IL•Ghost Bridge hike o.o•Pig Hip Monument•Springfield, Illinois•Lincoln's Tomb•Cozy Dog•No more Route 66 >:O (lol joking); Drove to St. Louis•Find parking for the Arch and walked 18 blocks to the Arch just to find out that it's sold out!•Ted Drewes (too crowded!)•Imo's Pizza•Holiday Inn Express for the night in St. Louis
7/17:•Six Flags St. Louis•Ted Drewes Frozen Custard•Fazzoli's•Drove to Mt. Vernon, Illinois•Holiday Inn for the night
7/18:•Drove to Santa Claus, Indiana•Went to the Christmas store•Ate lunch at the Brick Oven Pizza•Drove to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour in Louisville, Kentucky•Stopped at Ginza Of Tokyo for dinner near Lexington, KY•Drove to Gallipolis, Ohio across the Ohio River from the "Mothman" at Point Pleasant, WV•Stayed at a Quality Inn
7/19:•Drove to the Moth Man statue in Point Pleasant, West Virginia•Went to a gift shop for t-shirts•Went to an antique store•Went to the Moth Man museum•Went to the wild and crazy Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, WV•Drove back to Maryland•Stopped at Hilltop Fruit Market, Grantsville, MD•Dinner at Ruby Tuesdays, LaVale, MD•Drove home

That was the whole trip, with all of the stops along the way.  We had a really great time, and we're so thankful for God's protection, safety, our health, and fun in the adventures we encountered.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Night at the Ballpark

We went to Prince George's County Stadium last night to see the Bowie Baysox play against the Altoona Curve.  It was a fun night.  Minor League baseball is fun.  There's always stuff going on between innings, and it's a blast for families of kids.  The added draw was that it was Daddy-Daughter date night at the game, and they had fireworks after the game, as well.  Another neat aspect of the game is that the Baysox is the AA farm team of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Curve is the AA farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The O's and the Bucs have had a "rivalry" since the 70s, when both teams played each other in two World Series, in 1971 and 1979.  The Pirates won both.  Anyway, it was a great night.  Melody had fun, I had fun, and Pap (my dad), who also joined us, enjoyed it.  And the Curve won, 3-1.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

15th Wedding Anniversary

Today would have been my and my wife's 15th wedding anniversary.  My, how time flies!  I still remember so many details from the wonderful day.  Teresa was a beautiful bride.

Several years ago, I posted an essay my wonderful wife wrote describing that day.  She told me that she wanted to document everything from the day.  I'm so glad to have it, since I can share it with my daughter.  Even though she was a great writer, I have very little of her writings, so I treat these things like gold.  Anyway, on this anniversary, I'm reprinting the essay from that post.  Enjoy!


From the Bride’s Perspective

On July 24, 1999, I awoke at around 8:40 at my mom and dad’s house. I had actually slept fairly well the night before, although I didn’t go to bed until 2:00 a.m. or so. I was finishing shower thank you notes. I think the late sleep was a result of sleeping on the couch bed for the past two weeks.

Any way, I woke up with not a lot of time to spare before breakfast. I took a shower and used vanilla wash, Eric’s favorite. When I was clean-haired and clean-faced, mom and dad and I went to breakfast at Shoney’s in Wheaton, the scene of so many breakfasts when it was Big Boy during my childhood. We sat in the “greenhouse” area and all ordered the breakfast bar. I ate pancakes with strawberries on top and other fruit, and I ate the whole thing. Dad talked me into a large orange juice, which comes up later in the story. Most of our conversation centered around how we would get where for the rest of the day. When we thought we had it figured out, it would change!

Finally, we left Shoney’s, dropped Mom off at her hair appointment at JC Penny’s, and Dad dropped me off at home. I puttered around a little bit before heading to Laurel for my hair appointment with Vonda. Only upon arriving in Laurel did I realize I had left my veil at Mom and Dad’s. There were a few agonizing moments while I tried to decide if I should go back home or not. And I finally did. I called Dad and told him to be ready to run the veil out to me, and I called Kristen and asked her to call JC Penny’s and tell them I would be late. When I arrived at my parent’s house, Dad ran the veil outside; I thought he would trip! On the way back down 95, I called Kristen and let her join in the agony of the large orange juice of which I desperately needed to be relieved!!!

At Penny’s all was well, and I even had a little wait. Vonda worked on my hair for about an hour, and I wasn’t completely happy with it at first. She did put in soft curls and a French twist with curls at the top, and looking back, I really did enjoy it all day. When Kristen arrived it was time to put on the veil. She asked Kristen’s advice, and Kristen got a little panicky…it was set just right! I had been so relaxed for that hour, and as I left the adrenaline kicked in big time!

I had one errand to run (in my veil and button-up cream shirt and denim shorts). I had to go to the Most machine. After retrieving some money, I noticed a lot of people looking my way with a bit of amusement. As I drove down the road I was singing and smiling and little girls who peeked out their car windows at me. It was great fun.

When I arrived home, there was no one there. This was a little disconcerting. As I said, we had many plans for the day, and at that moment, I couldn’t remember exactly which one I was supposed to follow. My dress was gone, along with my other accessories and bags. Finally, Dad showed up and followed me in my car to the Claridge Room. I parked the car out front, knowing there was no escaping from the fate it would face during the reception. We walked into the Claridge Room and Tim (a Mt. Hebron colleague) was there setting up the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. There were lattice hearts and roses that looked as real as the ones Janice S. was placing all around the room…in beautiful tall vases with candles in the top. The cake topper was a Wedgwood bride and groom that Mom and I had found in Rehoboth Beach a few weeks before. The room was starting to look very elegant.

I let Dad know that we needed to get on to the church, or else I would run into Eric, who would be stopping by to drop off his suitcase in my car. We took off and met up with Kristen, Elizabeth and Jennifer in the parking lot of Montrose. Kristen looked about two inches taller with her hair up, and all three girls looked elegant with their hair, but still in shorts…it was a hot day!

We walked through the all-purpose room and down the rotunda of the family life center. Mom and Linda H. showed up with lots of food for lunch and we spread it out on the table and started to eat. I had a sandwich, chips and M&Ms (only a few!). Soon after, Alexis arrived, along with Angie and some McDonalds’s and Cherice. Tammy came, and we decided it was time to do some make up. Just about that time, however, someone had other plans.

The lights in the rotunda went out. At first, I wasn’t worried; I had been calm all day and that didn’t really change. Mom was very worried! I though it was a fuse in the building. Then things started to get blurry. Rhonda C. came down and said that someone had hit a transistor with their car. She had called the electric company and told them that Montrose needed power for a wedding. It should be on in an hour and a half…that was at 2:00. I was still okay, and the girls started doing their make-up in the hallway by sunlight. Then Rhonda came in and offered to take us to her place to get ready. I wasn’t ready to give in. I even wandered back into a classroom where the emergency light had gone out.

I sat in the back of the room and started to cry. Slowly, but surely, the tears came, and I was trying to hide them. I remember still being practical and trying to figure out how the wedding could work without electricity. At one point we asked Rhonda if there was a boom box around to play “New Day” on, but I wasn’t convinced…no organ, no slides, nothing. As I sat in the dark, slowly my bridesmaids came in to join me. I told Elizabeth all the things I would miss without electricity, and they each tried to reassure me. Finally, Cherice said, “Let’s pray,” and she prayed a beautiful prayer. A few minutes later, the lights popped back on and we all let out a cheer! Then I told Alexis we needed to pray again to thank God for the power. Kristen led that prayer. Then it was time to get dressed!

We worked on make-up first, and Tammy made us all feel so glamorous. A picture was snapped of Corey watching Tammy put make up on me. Then everyone was getting their dress on. Janice came down with flowers and bouquets. Jody called me over and handed me a hanky that she said was Granny’s (my great grandmother’s). She and I both started to cry. I took the hanky and pinned it to my slip, along with my new hanky and the cross that Mrs. Penny N. had stitched for me. Then I remember looking at everyone in their dresses and saying something like, “I think I’d like to put on my dress, now.” Everyone started scurrying; it was pretty funny.

I put my dress on first, then we pulled the slip on underneath. Angie started to cry a little when she saw me. I was so pleased with the fuller slip and look of the dress. Cherice helped me with my earrings and then I remembered, I didn’t have on shoes! Someone took care of that (Kristen and someone else), and then the photographer and videographer took shots of Kristen and Cherice putting on my garters. That was fun!

Before I knew it, it was time to go. We all headed out to the limousine, including all the girls, Alexis, Mom and Jody! We hopped in and the driver took us up to the front of the church. We made jokes and took pictures. When we arrived at the top of the hill, all the girls jumped out, and I was left in the limo.

I waited there and watched latecomers arrive and wondered what was happening inside. At one point, Dad came out to find out how I was doing and wait for me. He said the slide show had gone well, and everyone had laughed when the picture of Eric and I in our hats came up, and that now Jo S. was singing “How Beautiful.” “Are you not going to walk Mom down the aisle with the candle?” “Am I supposed to?” “Well, you did last night.” “Oh, is that next? She told me to come out here!” and he hopped out of the limo and into the church. (He made it in time.)

Finally, the limo driver came and fetched me. (I was so glad; I hate to miss anything!) Alexis was sobbing in the back of the church, and Rhonda and the limo driver were trying to console her. I remember thinking, “Oh, well, whatever happen.” “The New Day” started and miraculously, everyone went down the aisle. I was ready and Dad took me up to the wall. I smiled at the people in the back, including my Uncle Jerry. The song ended and Alexis was still in the aisle, but just a moment later, Trumpet Voluntary started and Joanne sent us down the aisle.

I remember thinking at the time that the song sounded perfect. Dad seemed very calm. It turns out he shook Fred S.’s hand on the way down the aisle! I remember looking into the faces of many people coming down the aisle and seeing them…like Leigh Ann E. and Elizabeth R. I looked up at Eric, and he looked so nervous. I smiled at him, and he just looked like words can’t describe…so handsome! When we arrived down the aisle, Dad leaned over and said something to me about the music still playing. When it stopped, I looked at Ray, but Kristy had come up to read 1 Corinthians 13. She read beautifully. Then Ray prayed and presented the gospel and explained that Eric and I can only be together in a right relationship because we had committed our lives to Christ. Then he asked both Eric and me if we had, and we each in turn said, “I do.” Then he suddenly looked at my dad and asked, “Who gives this woman?” “Her mother and I,” he said, with no trace of jest or humor. He hugged me and I told him that I loved him, and then he hugged Eric for what I noticed was a long time. Then I took Eric’s hand and we walked up the steps to Pastor Hope. Jun began to sing, “I Will Be Here,” and Deborah M. and Mike M. plated keyboard and guitar. I looked at Eric and said, “Are you all right?” He just sighed. I squeezed his hand and began to sing along with Jun. Pastor Ray smiled at us reassuringly.

Towards the end of the song, Eric asked me, “What’s next?” I told him that we said our vows next. When the song was over, Ray began with the vows. I passed my bouquet to Kristen and turned back to look Eric in the eye. He spoke his vows to me with such feeling. I was so overwhelmed. I remember him stressing, “I will forsake all others.” I then promised to love, honor and obey him and that “Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.”

Next, we exchanged rings. Eric looked me in the eye and placed the ring very securely on my finger. I remember thinking, “I don’t have to take this off!” Kristen handed me Eric’s ring and I placed it on his finger. Then Ray said, “Let’s pray.” I knew what was coming…

Jun sang the most beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, I have ever heard. When he hit the high note, I smiled. It was magnificent, and after the “amen,” Eric whispered, “That was great!” Reverend George A. appeared and said a few words about the unity candle. Eric and I walked around to light the candle and waited a minute there before moving back to our spots. Jun and Tammy began to sing, “Love is the Reason,” a song I have wanted in my wedding since the eighth grade. I watched them as they sang and smiled and sang along sometimes quietly. Then Ray pronounced us man and wife and gave us a charge as a couple.

He told us to read our Bible, pray together, and be faithful to our church (“THIS church” he said). I could hear Alexis crying behind me and Cherice talking to her. Then he told the audience about Joshua, and how we wanted to make a statement like he had. Ray began to sing “As For Me and My House,” and Eric and I turned to face the audience. It was fun to look out and see everyone singing along. When Ray sang the last verse, he looked at us and changed the words from “Any storm we can weather” to “Any storm you can weather, trusting in God’s word.” When he sang the line, “We need each other, fathers and mothers,” I smiled at my new in-laws, and at “sisters and brothers,” I looked over at Darren and smiled, and he nodded. I also remember looking at my mom and dad then.

When the song was over we turned back toward Ray and he said a few more words before the kiss (which was delightful!). Then he introduced us for the first time and we took off to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. At the back of the church, Eric took me behind the welcome center and gave me a kiss. The bridesmaids and groomsmen started to show up and started to head toward the back of the church. Eric called to me just in time for me to see him pay Gary a dollar for a Coke! He had quickly taken care of the tradition that the first person to buy something after the wedding is in charge of the finances!

Eric and I went downstairs into the viewing room and found a Bible and read Psalm 1 together. Then Eric thanked God for blessing our day and bringing us together. He told me how beautiful he thought I looked. It was a nice quiet time together.

When we walked back out, we were greeted by family and bridal party who were all anxious to give us hugs. Eric was so relieved!

We headed back up for pictures and enjoyed posing for a zillion of them. Everyone was very patient. When the pictures were over, we restaged the recessional and headed across the way to the all-purpose room. There were people from church there, and we hugged them all, as well as Virgie P. (Mom’s aunt) who thanked me for sending her a sympathy card this past week at the loss of her husband. She seemed truly touched by our wedding. It was a nice moment.

As we headed to the limo, the kids pulled out a huge congratulations card that they had made for us in the childcare! They blew bubbles at us, and Eric threw little gold-covered chocolate coins at them. Then we hopped in the limo and stuck our head out of the sunroof. We waved to everyone and then took off for a relaxing and longer than expected ride to the Claridge Room. The limo was making a terrible noise, but Eric and I just talked about how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.

When we arrived at the Claridge Room, there were more pictures and then an impromptu receiving line formed. Nancy C. and Shannon M. came over to talk to me. Then the girls began to bustle. This was the only time I really became nervous during the whole time! The bustling was just difficult and everyone was rushing us. Fortunately, Greg R. was there to entertain with the bagpipes.

As the DJ introduced each pair, the bagpipes played after Mom & Dad went down and Cherice had to escort Alexis, but we all made it in. I felt like letting out a whoohoo as we walked through all our friends and family! Dan began with a toast, and Darren followed, saying that Eric had a “good woman.” Eric’s Dad followed him with a touching toast and then Dad stood up to pray. He talked about how Eric was an answered prayer, and both Eric and I began to cry. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his new son-in-law as well as a blessing over the food. He ended in his traditional, “We pray all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior, and our soon-coming King, Amen,” and I mouthed the words with him. It was beautiful. Then the DJ played, “Our God is an Awesome God…” Quite appropriate!

Then we ate. The meatballs were delicious, and Eric and I both ate almost everything on our plate! We staged a toast and kissed at the clinks of glasses. People came up to talk to us and to take their time capsule pages to the bin. It was great fun.

After we finished eating we began to walk around to as many tables as we could. We didn’t get to everyone and I felt like I missed so many, hopefully they will forgive. Before we knew it, it was time to cut the cake! First, Eric and I presented gifts to our parents, then we cut the cake and fed it neatly to each other. Then we danced our first dance to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. I remember telling Eric that I always wondered what the bride and groom talked about during their first dance. He spun me and dipped me and we danced two more slow songs with all our friends! Even Kristen was out there! Then the fast dancing began.

First, it was a fifties medley and Irene M. came up and danced once before she had to leave. Lots of people were dancing around me and we were having a great time! Next we did the Grease medley, and then I went back to be with Eric and visit some more. Next, I put on my boots…it was time for the line dance! When I pulled up my dress to reveal my boots, everyone was laughing! What fun!!! We made it through the dance and I watched and sang to Eric as we did it. It was great. There was more party and slow dancing and fun and people would tell me they were leaving and I would be so sad.

Finally, the crowd was dwindling, so we decided to toss the bouquet. “Circle of Friends” came on and we gathered all the single ladies in a circle and I spun around and looked for Elizabeth (not there). I tossed with my eyes closed and Mandy caught the bouquet! She passed it on to Alexis, kindly. Next we pulled the single guys out and Eric went for my garter. He tossed it back and his cousin David caught it. Greg would have, but he jumped the other way! Finally, it was time to change.

Eric and I and my Mom went to the classrooms in the back for Eric and I to change. Mom helped me with my dress and we talked. I put on a royal blue dress similar to the girl’s dresses. I was ready way before Eric and Mom went back out to the party. When Eric came out he looked so handsome in his new suit. We went back into the room and danced our last dance to “Love of My Life” by Jim Brinkman and Michael W. Smith. Others danced, also. Then the hug-fest started! We hugged everyone in our path on the way out of the Claridge Room.

When we saw the car….ugh! It had rained and there was toilet paper pasted to it…icky!!!! Eric let me in the car and I rolled down the window and blew bubbles out. Kristen pointed out that she was not in the back seat. It took Eric a while to get in the car. As we left we drove around the circle four times to rid ourselves of all the decorations. The last time, Eric’s dad explained to him that he had other things to do that night! We took off down the road. We took the back way to the Ramada Hotel off the BW Parkway and tried to clean it off the a bit. It was quite a mess. Then we checked in for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Eric Freed! Huge!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Difficulty Finding the Words...

I've started my blog post for this evening several times, and I just can't find the words I need to describe what I'm feeling right now.  This is connected with my post from last evening, where I found myself scared and continuing the feeling of needing to pray.

So, for the second day in a row, I'm not going to have much to say here.  I will continue to work on what I want to write, because I feel like I need to say it.  Until then, I'm going to turn in early tonight and spend some time in prayer.

Thanks for your patience.  Have a great evening!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Feeling the Need to Pray

I don't know what to say.  I just finished reading the blog of someone whose opinion matters to me, and I was blown away by the utter ridiculousness of the subject matter.  It has left me frustrated to the point that I don't have any words.  I don't feel like providing any details beyond this.  I'm dismayed, disappointed, and, frankly, kind of scared.  I'm going to bed, hoping and praying for our country, our rights, and our future.  I pray for my daughter, who will be challenged in ways she has no idea as she gets older.  I pray for our political leaders, that they will not bow to popular opinion just because it's popular.  And as scared as I am, I also trust that God will ultimately show us that He is still in charge.

Have a great evening, everyone.  I'll pray for you, too.

My Family

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cop Stories And Making New Friends

During my drive home from work, I noticed a Montgomery County police car behind me heading north on Colesville Road approaching Four Corners.  I was in the left lane, but decided to move into the center lane to get out of his way.  As we approached Four Corners, the light changed to red.  Traffic stretched back from the intersection with University Blvd. to a median break for a side street, where I slowed to a stop.  Interestingly, there was a minivan on the southbound side attempting an illegal u-turn at that location.  The cop, who was still in the left lane, stopped to allow the van the opportunity to make the u-turn.  The driver of the minivan took it, and made the turn right in front of the cop!  I was right next to the cop, and I glanced over at him and he smiled, shook his head in disbelief, and immediately turned on his lights and sounded the siren.  The woman driving the minivan stopped, and the cop got out, smiled at her, pointed to the "no u-turn" sign, and just kept shaking his head side to side.

I am amazed that the driver of the minivan made the u-turn.  It was clearly marked, but I can only conclude she didn't see the sign.  I have to laugh, though, that the cop stopped as if to allow her to make the turn in front of him.  If he had blocked the intersection, she would not have been able to make the turn.  He set her up, though she still should not have made the turn.  She still broke the law.

I'm reminded of the time my dear Uncle, who was a police officer many years ago, shared with me a story from early in his career when he was on duty during a bad ice storm.  He had just turned onto a major road when he lost control of his cruiser and began to spin on the ice.  He ran right into another car, sending them both spinning around and onto the shoulder.  Once they were both safely stopped, and my Uncle got his wits about him, he checked on the cars and saw there was minimal damage.  He went over to the check on the other driver, an older woman.  She said, "Officer, what happened?!?"  He responded, "Miss, I don't know what you were doing, but you must've hit a slick spot and you spun both of us off the road.  Now, I'm not going to give you a ticket, but you better be more careful in this kind of weather!"  She apologized, thanked him for not writing a ticket, and they went on their way.


It was a rough day returning to work after our big road trip vacation.  My boss wasn't in a good mood, and though my mood was good at the beginning of the day, it soured as the day went on due to the ridiculous stuff we sometimes have to deal with.

I take a lot of pride in my work, and I believe the products we make are pretty great.  I was reminded of this during a stop my daughter and I made last week on Old Route 66, in Atlanta, Illinois.  We went to a Trading Post and got to talking with the owner of the small store.  He was a pilot, and he was pretty excited to find out my office is responsible for creating the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) charts that he uses as a pilot.  We talked about our shared love of these wonderful charts, including the amount of detail that they show, and he said he had an idea to piece together all of the charts that hold a piece of Route 66, and he was going to create a mosaic on the wall of his shop of the entire route.  I gave him my card and told him to send me a picture when he completed the project.  It was a really cool moment, and I loved hearing how much he liked our charts.

I've told my daughter several times on our road trips to get out and chat with the locals when we stop at sites along the way.  Getting to know them can create unforeseen connections with people that may prove beneficial in some way to either them or you, and even if it doesn't, you've at least made a friend with someone new.  It's a better way to travel, and something I really love doing.

And with that, I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy To Be Home

We finally arrived at home last night at around 11:30 p.m., very tired, exhausted, zonked.... I was out cold at 1, and slept for 9 hours solid.

So here are our trip numbers:
  • We drove approximately 2500 miles (I say "we", but my 10 year old daughter, Melody, didn't do any of it).
  • We went through 9 states:  MD, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI, MO, KY, & WV.
  • We were gone for 10 days.
  • Melody has now been to 34 states; I've been stuck at 41 states for about seven years.
  • The most miles I drove on any one day was our last day:  435 miles.  That's not close to my record, which is 810 miles in one day (in 1998), but given that I'm 16 years older now, I think 435 is pretty good.
  • We attended G-Fest XXI in Chicago, Melody's 5th and my 8th.  G-Fest is the largest gathering of fans of giant Japanese monster movies and shows in North America.  We also attended a concert of music composed for Godzilla movies by Akira Ifukube on what would have been his 100th birthday.  This was a once in a lifetime concert, the first ever of its kind outside of Japan.
  • Other highlights of the trip include Six Flags Great America, Six Flags St. Louis, Circus World, Lou Malnati's and Giordano's pizza, Abraham Lincoln's Tomb, The Louisville Slugger Museum, The Cozy Dog, Hillbilly Hot dogs, and Point Pleasant, home of the Mothman.

We visited with my parents today.  Other than it was great to see them after two weeks, we also wanted to get Faithful Pup Scout, who was staying with them while we were gone.  Scout seemed to be doing well, but she is favoring her left front paw.  She had been limping a little bit before we left, but she's not putting any weight on it now.  We had her leg checked a few years ago and found out that her knee is out of joint, but there really wasn't much that could be done about it.  It has gradually gotten worse, and now she won't put her weight on it.  We'll have to get her checked out again.  Poor pup.  She was sure happy to see us, though!

We also put to rest our little Macy, Melody's hamster.  Macy passed away on Monday.  Mom and Dad kept her on ice so Melody could bury her properly, so we had a little funeral service, packed her into a little cardboard box, and buried her in Mom and Dad's backyard.  Melody didn't tear up like I expected, but it was still hard for her.  Macy was her first pet.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!