Sunday, August 31, 2014

Positive Role Models

You may never know who's watching you.  All of your actions, the things you say, the things you do, the things you post online, all may be seen by others, and they are a reflection of who you are.  God knows, of course.  But I'm talking about your friends, your family, your peers, and your children, as well as strangers.

This was brought to my attention several days ago.  My cousin, Greg, who is two years younger than me, and who grew up just down the road from me and my family, and went to the same schools as me and my siblings, is my "cool" cousin.  He has that laid back, easy going personality that makes it easy (at least in my mind) for him to make friends.  He's always been in the "in" crowd, is an athlete, drives cool cars, has a beautiful family (a wife and two sons).  In many respects, I believe he is living the American Dream.  He's doing things right.

After being tagged in a "thankfulness challenge" on Facebook by my aunt, in which I was asked to share three things I am thankful for each day for five days, I tagged several people, including Greg, to also do it.  Greg took me up on it, and posted his own list of things he's thankful for, and the first thing he mentioned was me.  I'm sharing what he wrote as a point of comparison, not because I want to show off:  "I'm thankful for my cousin, Eric.  I don't get to see him or talk to him much, but he is an inspirational guy, nonetheless.  Facebook has allowed me to watch him and his wonderful daughter live their lives to the fullest.  You can't get any more "all-American" than him.  There are times when I get away from my priorities and he is a reminder of how it should be....God, Family, Friends."

First of all, I thanked him profusely for his kind words.  I was and am completely overwhelmed by them.  Second, it's really ironic how similar we feel about each other.  And while we aren't necessarily seeing each other on any kind of regular basis, we are able to track each other's happenings through Facebook, which is a wonderful tool for staying in touch with loved ones, and it has assisted us in coming to these conclusions.  It's true, it is based on what we perceive, but I believe those perceptions are rooted in reality.

My point in sharing this is to show how much of an influence you can be based on your words and actions.  If you choose to be positive and live a good and faithful life, I'm convinced other people will notice, and perhaps they will do the same.  If you are negative, it's easy for others to be influenced by these negatives.  I see it happen at my job all the time.  Employees seem to want to reflect the way management acts, and that's a bad thing if it's all negative.

My faith is such a great part of my life, and is the most important thing.  I try to live my life in the way God and Jesus instruct us.  It's not easy, certainly.  That's why we're human.  But if we strive to live by Jesus' teachings, I believe we will feel rewarded.  And it can't help but influence others, in some way, if they're watching.  This may be a simple thing, but I think it can be a big deal.

I'm honored that my cousin, Greg, has such a positive outlook, and his kind words struck a chord in me, just as I do about him.  I think that's pretty awesome.

I hope you have a great Holiday weekend!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Friend Tucker

What a great day!  My daughter and I took a trip down to Southern Maryland today to visit my old high school friend, Tucker, and his wonderful family.  We had a great time!  Tucker and his wife, Tracy, have a pool, so my girl was able to spend the day swimming with their kids.  Tucker is a pretty good barbecue chef, too, and he grilled veggies and burgers for us (and tipped me off to some great seasoning:  Cavender's all purpose Greek seasoning).

Eric and Tucker

Tucker and I first got to know each other way back when we were freshmen at Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  We had several classes together, and since we had a bunch of friends in common, we got to know each other, too.  Tucker's laid back demeanor lead to him having many friends and he was very popular.  I was the tall quiet kid, so it was much harder for me to make friends, though I was fortunate to have classes with many of the popular kids, which allowed me to be at least somewhat in the popular circle.  That was important for a high school introvert.  Tucker and I became closer as the years went by, and despite the fact that he went away to school for college, we still got together when he was in town, along with several of our buddies, Kirk, his brother, Darrell, and Jim.

Eric, Tucker, Jim, and Darrell at the Road Kill Cafe, in the Middle Of Nowhere, MD

Even after we all got married (except for Jim), we continued to stay close, and Teresa, my wife, got to meet Tracy, Tucker's wife, before Teresa passed away.  Tucker was very supportive of me after that, and the gang tried to get together every few months or so.  After Tucker's father passed away, we seemed to lose touch.  We didn't see each other for a few years, but several weeks ago, Tucker invited us all down to visit.  Several of the guys couldn't make it, but my daughter, Melody, and I were able to visit and we had a blast.  Their daughter and mine found out they have a lot of the same interests, and I'm hoping they can get together regularly.

Tucker, Jim, Eric (in black), Darrell, and Kirk, Maryland Heights, with Harper's Ferry in the background.

Thanks, Tucker & Tracy, for the great food, and fantastic time.  You guys are awesome!  We're looking forward to another get-together soon.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Prospector and Miss Kitty


Dakota Bill – Prospector and all-around good guy
Kitty Cattrall – The Town School Teacher

(Bill stumbles down the sidewalk, dirty and tired, disheveled with only one boot on, carrying a small bag (sock, actually) filled with gold!  He approaches Miss Kitty, who has been crying and is obviously upset.)

Miss Kitty:  Bill?  Dakota Bill?  Is that you?

Bill:  Hiya, Miss Kitty.  How’s my favorite teacher?

Kitty:  Well, okay, I guess, but I haven't seen you in over four months!  What happened?  You look plain awful!

Bill:  Well,  Miss Kitty, you just ain’t gonna believe what happened to me.  I was up in the Black Hills diggin’ for gold, an’ havin’ a bit o’ luck, too.  I stuffed some gold in my lucky sock here (pulls out his lucky sock filled with gold).  So I was diggin' a big hole, and it got purty deep, so deep that I couldn't dig no more, so I had ta blast.  Well, my pack mule, ol' Bessie, she don’t like it none when I use dynamite, and she goes runnin’ off ever' time.  I figured I oughta tie her up around my ankle, thinkin’ that would keep her from runnin’ away.  Well, I lit the fuse and it made an awful explosion.  It scared poor Bessie so bad she took off on a full gallop.  Scared me, too, after realizin’ I still had her tied around my ankle... She was draggin' me along with her.  That mule didn't stop for three days!  I kept praying to God that she would trip or get tired or somethin'.  I was real worried since she was carryin' about 50 pounds of dynamite on her back.  I's afraid it might explode and blow us both up!  Well, finally, my boot slipped off an' I slid to a stop.  Ol’ Bessie kept on goin’!  She must be somewhere's in the Oregon Territory by now!  But I had to walk 40 miles back to town!  The Good Lord shoorly was takin' good care of me, though, cause, even after all that, I still had my gold!  I kept thinkin' about bein' able to buy a big ol’ cattle ranch, eat steak ever'day, wearin' some spiffy threads, y'know?  One o' them big tall hats, some new boots, new drawers.... And I could live like a king for the rest of my days!

Kitty:  Wow, Bill, that sure is quite a story!  And now you’ve got all that….(tears start coming)! (starts to sob)

Bill:  Why, Miss Kitty, why are you cryin’?  What’s wrong?

Kitty:  Oh, Bill, it’s just awful!  Just plain AWFUL!  Last night, just after the sun went down, some...CREATURE...came gallopin' through town like a runaway train, making all kinds of noise.  It must've run through the hotel's clothesline, because it was covered with a white sheet, so no one got a good look at it.  But it ran right past the saloon, right into the front door of the barber shop, out the back door, slammed right into the side of the schoolhouse, and exploded on contact!!!  It was like Independence Day and New Year's Eve all rolled together.  It was a huge commotion!  The schoolhouse was completely burned to the ground!  There's nothing left.  The sheriff thinks it must've been some kind of prank, like maybe somebody tied a bunch of dynamite to some poor animal.  But now we’ve got 25 kids in this town with nowhere to go to learn how to read and write and add (sobs).

Bill:  Oh, Miss Kitty, that’s so awful.  (Suddenly it dawns on him that it was Ol' Bessie, the pack mule, who caused the school to burn down.  He guiltily looks at his gold.)  I...uh....I want you to have this gold.  Use it to build a new school house.

Kitty:  Oh, Bill, I couldn't do that!

Bill:  Please take it.  I never got no education, and those kids need a place to learn (hands her his lucky sock, filled with gold).

Kitty:  (Taking it from him)  But, Bill, what about your ranch, and eatin’ steak everyday, and all that?  You’ve gone through too much to give this gold away.

Bill:  Don’t worry about me.  I’ll find some more…I hope.  (Under his breath) Soon’s I find Ol’ Bessie.

Kitty:  Oh, Bill, thank you!  Thank you so much!  Now we’ll be able to build a brand new school house!  (She begins crying tears of joy, and gives him a big hug, though stops abruptly after smelling him.)  Is there, uh, anything I can do for you?  (They begin walking offstage.)  Like, offer you a bath?

Bill:  No, no, just knowing that the money will be going toward something worthwhile is good enough.

Kitty:  (Exiting)  Well, thank you, Bill.  You're a good man.  (Exits)

Bill:  You’re welcome, Miss Kitty.  (Looks up)  Thank You.  (Exits)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Soda Jerk Diner

Last weekend, my daughter and I went to Hershey, PA, and Hershey Park, for an End-of-Summer-Getaway.  One of our favorite places to go for a great meal, particularly breakfast, whenever we're there is at the Soda Jerk Diner, in little Hummelstown, PA.  They have great diner food.  I judge every diner I go to by their open-faced Hot Turkey Sandwich, with mashed potatoes, gravy, and dressing.  The Soda Jerk has good gravy, and they serve it by the ladle full.

Even better are their breakfasts.  Melody always gets the chocolate chip pancakes, and she loved them.  I love their 3-egg omelets, and I had a Greek omelet with a side of potatoes.  We also had a blueberry muffin.  Check out the pics below for our breakfast plates.

The wait staff is awesome.  All of the young ladies who work there are exchange students from Europe, and they are very friendly.  We had the same server wait on us for dinner and breakfast, and one other time last year, and she remembered us.  We hope to go back when we visit Hershey again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who Wants To Marry a Trillionaire?


Johnny Bravo - Emcee, Debonair
The Trillionaire - Bachelor Extraordinaire
The Brides - Desperate and don’t care

(Theme Music and Applause)

Johnny Bravo - Welcome back to “Who wants to Marry a Trillionaire?"!  I’m your host, Johnny Bravo!  Let’s recap how our little game works!  We have chosen, completely at random, a very, very rich bachelor.  This gentleman, despite his amazing wealth, has just not been able to find a wife.  So, he’s come to us.  He's the 35-year old heir to the Peter Piper's Pickles fortune, from Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, please welcome this week's Mr. Trillionaire.... Mr. Carl "Cool Cash" Casablanca!!!  (Audience cheers loudly as Carl enters from backstage)

Mr. Trillionaire Carl - (Snaps fingers, gives a thumbs up, and points at Johnny)  Thank you, Johnny!  You're awesome, Babe!

Johnny - Thanks, Carl.  Okay, we have chosen, also completely at random, from a huge pool of applicants, several of the most desperate brides in the US of A!  We have gone through a very elaborate screening and interview process to choose three finalists for our rich bachelor to choose from.  The winning young lady will then get to spend eternity with the husband of her dreams, living happily for the rest of her life in wealth and luxury with him.  And he will get a wonderful trophy wife to stand by his side!  (Applause)  And now, here are our lovely contestants!

(The brides enter and pose.  More applause.)

Johnny - There they are, folks!  Aren’t they beautiful?  Okay, now here are our 3 finalists:
#1 - She's a 25-year old auto mechanic from Accident, Maryland, Ms. Barbara Sue Edsel!  (Audience cheers)
#2 - She's a 27-year old travel agent from Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, Ms. Mary Ann Melontime!  (Audience screams louder)
And #3 - She's a 26-year old Small Claims Court Lawyer from Santa Claus, Indiana, Ms. Tanya Tannenbaum! (Audience delirious)

Johnny - Now I’m going to ask one last question of each of you.  Ms. Edsel, you're first....

Barbara - (rushes over to him, putting her arms around him to give him a hug)  Oh, yes, Johnny, yes....can I have your autograph?

Johnny - (Brushes her arms away) Ms. you think communication is important in a marriage relationship?

Barbara - (Enthusiastically) Oh, absolutely!  And I would check my email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Pinterest, and text messages at least 15 times a day!  (Audience claps politely)

Johnny - All right!  Thank you, Ms. Edsel!  Okay, Ms. Melontime, if our rich bachelor chooses you, how would you choose to spend his money?

Mary Ann - Well, like, I was on my way over to the studio this morning and I saw this actress on the cover of a magazine and I said, wow, that’s exactly the kind of nose I wish I had, so I think, if he chooses me, and I really really REALLY hope he does ‘cause I’ll love him forever and ever, I would want to get a nose job, since that’s what I --

Johnny - (Cuts her off)  Ok, thank you, Ms. Melontime!  (Audience cheers loudly)  All right, Ms. Tannenbaum, most people would say compromise is the key to any relationship.  What do you think is the key?

Tanya - Well, it’s so funny.  The word I was thinking of also begins with a ‘c’.  I would have to say “cash” is the most important thing in a marriage relationship.  "Cool Cash", right Carl-kins?  (Outrageous applause from the audience)

Johnny - Okay, and there you have it!  Now, Mr. Trillionaire, it's time for you to make your choice.  Who is going to be your new bride?  Will it be.....Ms. Edsel? (Applause)  Ms. Melontime? (More applause) Or, Ms. Tannenbaum? (Crowd is nutso crazy)

Mr. Trillionaire Carl - (Applause abruptly stops)  Thanks, Johnny, and thanks for giving this opportunity to pick the one girl I will love and adore for the rest of my life.  I’ve thought about it a lot, and the one I most want to marry is......Terry Tannenboom!  (Silence)  Er- I mean Tina Terrybottom!  (Crickets chirping) Uh...I mean, this girl right here! (Walks over to Tanya.)  (Crowd is fanatical)

Johnny - Why did you pick Tanya, Mr. Trillion?

Mr. Trillionaire Carl - Well, I love them all, but we both seem to agree that “cash” is the key to a loving relationship, and I have a lot of it!  (He gets down on one knee)  Tracy....

Tanya - "Tanya".

Mr. Trillionaire Carl - Whatever....Will you marry me?  (Audience oooohs and aaaaaahs)

Tanya - (Starts getting very emotional, fans her face with her hands)  Oh, yes!  Yes!  Yes!

(Wedding march begins with applause.)

Johnny - And there it is, folks!  Another successful match!  Please stay with us through our next commercial break and we’ll show you the wedding of the century!

Announcer - Our show has been brought to you tonight by the law firm of Smith & Wesson, specializing in Divorce and Prenuptial Agreements.....

(Music, fade to blackout)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Bunch Of Random Stuff

Today is National Dog Day, and we're celebrating with Faithful Pup Scout (left) and remembering First Pup Ginger (right), two completely lovable dogs.

Scout is our 12-year old Maltese pup, and Ginger was our Peek-a-poo Terrier mix, a mutt all the way, who lived to be 16-years old after being hit by a car when she was a puppy and lost the use of one of her front paws and came very close to dying.  They are/were both wonderful pets and members of the family.  Ginger was my dog all the way, and though Scout started out as my wife's dog, she has adopted me since Teresa's death.  Dogs are the best!


I've been writing this blog on a semi-regular basis for a few years now, and while I've made no efforts to intentionally hide it, I do not advertise it on my personal Facebook page.  That means that many of my friends and family do not know it exists.  That said, just a few days ago, I set up a Facebook page for the blog.  You can find it HERE.  Please like it, and post comments.  I'll post links to the blog there.  I've already connected my Twitter and Instagram pages to Facebook, so I may as well connect all of my social media.


I make no secret of my love of Pittsburgh sports, though.  I love my Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins, and I've been very spoiled over the years.  The Steelers have won more Super Bowls than any other team with six victories, and the Penguins have three Stanley Cups.  The Pirates have won five World Series, though none since 1979.  But the 70s were an awesome decade to grow up in as a Pittsburgh fan, since the Pirates and Steelers were competitive all through the decade.  So it's interesting to live in the Baltimore-Washington area, where the teams have had some success, though nothing like in Pittsburgh.  I don't mean that as a slight.  It's just reality.  The Redskins had a string of successful years in the 80s and early 90s under coach Joe Gibbs.  The Ravens had their Super Bowl win two years ago, to go along with their win in 2000.  The Orioles have had a mix of success over the years, but nothing sustained.  And the Orioles and Nationals are both having great seasons this year.  The fans around here, though, don't have the same expectations that Pittsburgh fans have.  In Pittsburgh, the fans expect a winner every season, even the Pirates, who are getting their first taste of success in over 20 years.  Ravens fans seem to have reached that point, too, where the expectations are very high, but the rest of the local teams don't have as great a track record, and the fans, though dedicated overall, don't have the same feelings about their teams chances of success.  It's just an observation.  There are some diehards, particularly Os fans, but they're few and far between.


A new school year is upon us, and my daughter is really excited about being a big-time fifth grader.  It's really great to see the focus on serving, and my daughter will have the opportunity to volunteer in a number of ways at her school.  She said she wants to be a "media helper" in the library, though she also is interested in being a safety patrol.  Her other interests are art and music, and she has opportunities to volunteer there, too.  I love it.  And the fact that she is excited about volunteering is awesome.  I appreciate the school providing these opportunities.  I only have my daughter's school as an example, but I assume other schools in Howard County do this, as well.  But I still think it's pretty great.


My mother used to bake cookies for us on the first day of school, so when we got home, we'd have a tasty treat.  When my daughter, Melody, started Kindergarten, I took off from work so I could make cookies for her.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to be home for her first days of school since then.  I was out of town twice, and I had to be at work the other times.  But I felt like it was important to have cookies this year.  So, they may be a day late, but I baked some cookies this afternoon for my girl.  We have a batch of chocolate chip cookies, my favorite, and a batch of chocolate brownie cookies.  They came out really good, and though I only had one of each, Melody had two.  And she seemed pretty happy about it.  Mission accomplished.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three Days of Thankfulness

My aunt challenged me to share three things I'm thankful for over a five day period.  After the first two days, I went out of town, and I didn't finish until yesterday.  Here are the 9 things I'm thankful for for the days I missed.

Thankfulness for Days 3 thru 5:

1.  I'm thankful for roller coasters!  My wonderful daughter, Melody, and I have made it our goal to visit as many amusement parks to ride as many roller coasters as we can.  We added several more to our total over the weekend, and we had a blast!

2.  I'm thankful for restaurants, which provide an easy solution for this single dad who hates to cook.

3.  I'm thankful for Grace Adventures Day Camp!  Where else can my wonderful daughter experience fun activities in a Christian environment in the middle of summer while I'm at work, and love every minute of it?

4.  I'm thankful for Jim & Lynda Shirlen, my wonderful parents-in-law, and Melody's grandparents.  I'm so thankful for their love and support and for all they do for us.

5.  I'm thankful for Pittsburgh sports teams, the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins.  Even though I am not a Pittsburgh native, I identify so much with the Western Pennsylvania culture, mentality, and way of life, and the sports teams reflect those qualities.  I'm so glad that my father is from that area, which means I can honestly claim it as my own.  Honorable Mention goes to my University of Maryland sports teams, who I continue to faithfully support.  Go Terps!

6.  I'm thankful for my wife, Teresa.  Even though we had less than five years of married life together, she was a model wife, and the love we shared was a gift from God.  She was a wonderful mother, too, even if she only got to be a mom for five months.  And if you knew Teresa, you know how great she was.  Teresa was a blessing on so many.  She was an awesome teacher, too!  And she knew Jesus, and shared Him with all she met.  I look forward to our reunion in Heaven.

7.  I'm thankful for the bands I have been blessed to be a part of.  From the great Frederick Douglass High School Symphonic and Marching bands, the incredibly fun jazz band, the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band, and the ensembles I was fortunate to play with at my churches, Bells and Galesville United Methodist, to the fun times just jamming with one of my best friends, Kirk Roy, I've enjoyed every moment.  I'm very happy that my daughter is following in my footsteps by playing in the band herself.

8.  I'm so thankful for my wonderful friends.  You know who you are.  Thank you for supporting me, praying for me, spending time with me, and for all you've given me.  You're all awesome!

9.  And, finally, I'm thankful for this life.  God gives us this wonderful gift, to know love, fellowship, community, compassion, joy, freedom, and the knowledge that, if we're willing to allow Jesus into our hearts, we will enjoy everlasting life in eternity.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hornets, Crabs, and RVing

While my daughter and I were away over the past few days, I had a flashback from my childhood of when we used to go camping.  And, no, it wasn't in a tent.  We were a family of RVers.  My parents got an RV camper/trailer when I was about nine years old, and we went on about a half-dozen camping trips each year.  We had a 1977 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Station Wagon that we used to pull it, which was fun.  It had a big V8 engine to pull the trailer, but would overheat if the air conditioner was turned on.  Some of our favorite places to camp were the Catoctin area, in Thurmont, MD; Gettysburg, PA; Williamsburg, VA; and Charlottesville, VA.

We once took a really long trip down to North Carolina, at Holden Beach.  I remember it well because my cousin and I (we camped with my aunt, uncle, and cousin several times) caught a bunch of these little sand crabs and kept them in a cardboard box with sand in it.  I reached into the box and one of the little monsters used its claw to grab my finger and pinch it with about 6000 pounds of force, enough to cut off circulation in my index finger for about a week (I might be exaggerating...but it hurt!).  I went on one of my first fishing trips with my dad, uncle, and cousin on that trip, as well.  We fished off a pier, and we had a crab trap, too.  My uncle, the expert fisherman, ended up catching several fish, and we caught a baby sand shark in the crab trap.  That was pretty cool!  We took a nice dip in the ocean, all of us in an innertube, and before we knew it, we could barely see the beach.  The tide had taken us pretty far out into the ocean.  It took awhile, but we were able to swim our way back to shore.

We took another fun trip out towards the Shenandoah, again with my aunt, uncle, and cousin.  I remember this trip because my cousin was collecting old beer cans, and we found a lot out in the woods.  We also found a lot of yellow jackets.  The pesky hornets seemed to have nests all over the place, including in the beer cans.  My cousin and I were out in the woods looking for wood for the fire pit, and I unknowingly stepped on a hornet's nest.  They attacked us, stinging us over and over as we ran back to the campers.  I ended up with five stings, my cousin with six, and we avoided nature for the rest of that trip.

Dad had a pretty intense fear of parking the camper.  For whatever reason, most of the campgrounds we stayed at were heavily wooded, and while this made for great scenery, it most assuredly made for difficult parking in the campsites.  Dad would have nightmares about trying to get out of the campsite for days before we actually left.  It would be funny if he hadn't been so worried.  And, when the time came, all of the other campers would come out and line up to watch us attempt to pull out.  He was always able to do it, but he would sweat it the whole time.  There are great scenes in two classic movies showing similar types of situations, RV, with Robin Williams, and THE LONG, LONG TRAILER, with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Dad decided that we needed to upgrade in the early 80s, and we got a motor home to replace the trailer.  It was great, because it meant more road trips and less camping, which was what I preferred.  The negative was that the motorhome only got about 6 miles per gallon on fuel, and even less on any road that wasn't completely flat.  It was great to travel in, though, and I loved riding in the bunk over the cabin, something you can't do anymore for safety reasons.  We also used to fight over who got to ride in the passenger seat while we were traveling.  I loved sitting there, and the Faithful Pup Ginger loved sitting on my lap while I was sitting there.

These memories are what I want my daughter to experience.  I've been wrestling for a few years with getting a trailer for us to travel across the country in.  I still don't know if it will actually happen, but it sure would be fun.  My wonderful daughter has given me her full support.  I haven't told her about the little pinching crabs or the yellow jackets.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Two Blow-Outs and a Stinky Baby

My daughter, Melody, and I arrived home tonight tired but satisfied that we maxed out our two-day mini-getaway to Hershey Park and Lancaster, PA.  We had a blast at the park, and rode almost every roller coaster, including a few we missed when we went last year.  We also loaded up on chocolate, but that's an entirely different issue.

Driving home today reminded me of a past trip that I made to Hershey.  In April 2004, I talked my wife, Teresa, into a day trip to Hershey Park during their Springtime in the Park celebration, which at the time meant free admission and pay by the ride.  We had little 5-month old Melody with us, so it was our first amusement park with her.  Teresa wasn't one to get on the rides.  She didn't care for them, and was content to watch me ride.  I always felt a little guilty about that.  I wanted her to enjoy it as much as I did, but she assured me it was fine.  My whole family loved going to amusement parks, ever since I was a kid, and it was hard for Teresa to understand that, since her family never did that kind of thing, other than a trip to Disney World when she was a teen.  Going to a park was a big deal to me.  Not so much for Teresa.

Anyway, I was already feeling guilty about making the trip, since it became apparent that Teresa wasn't feeling well.  She had been battling intense fatigue for months, since Melody was born, and to spend a day at an amusement park certainly wasn't high on her list of things to do.  Hindsight being what it is, I know now that her fatigue was a result of the heart ailment that had been plaguing her, and it would take her life one week later.  But that wasn't on the radar this day, and I was trying to enjoy our time at Hershey even while she took the bulk of the care of Melody while I rode the rides.  We did all enjoy a ride on the carousel at the end of the day.

Eric, Teresa, and Melody
We decided to leave the park before dinner, thinking that we would pick up something to eat on the way home.  We were cruising along on Interstate 83 in York when our faithful Jeep Cherokee, which had seen well over 100K miles and all but about a dozen US states, suffered a blow-out.  I knew it right away, having experienced blown tires a couple of times before in other vehicles, and I quickly got us onto the shoulder near an exit ramp, which provided plenty of room away from speeding traffic to change the tire safely.  Teresa held Melody off to the side, on a grassy embankment, though Melody seemed to be very fussy.  We assumed she was getting hungry, since it was nearing feeding time.  I got the tire changed in about 20 minutes, and we were back on the road fairly quickly.

Less than 15 minutes later, it was clear I would need to find another area to pull off at so that Teresa could breastfeed Melody, who was loudly crying now.  Since it would require Melody to be out of the child safety seat, it meant we couldn't continue the trip until after she ate.  I found a parking lot where we could have a little privacy, and Melody ate.  However, Melody had other business, as well.  She decided that this was the best time to have her own blow-out.  We quickly discovered, due to a distinct bad odor, that she messed up her diaper so extremely that it had leaked all over the inside of her one-piece outfit, almost up to her chest!  She looked like she had been soaking in mud!  It was easily the worst diaper change we'd ever experienced.  The hectic day finally got up with poor Teresa, and the tears came, though they soon turned to laughter as we tried our best to clean up our little baby, who herself was giggling over the predicament.  We came prepared with an extra outfit, and we ran through a whole package of baby wipes as Melody received an impromptu bath right there in the back of the Jeep.  It was truly a team effort.  We had to clean her up without making the mess even bigger, and it took both of us to do it.

So, after two blow-outs within an hour, we were again on our way home.  The rest of the trip was uneventful, though poor little Faithful Pup Scout had missed us terribly.  It was probably one of the longest days she'd experienced by herself at home, and, of course, she welcomed us with her own little mess on the kitchen floor, left on a pooch pad for us to clean up.  But after Melody's blow-out, this one was a breeze.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, August 22, 2014


My daughter, Melody, and I are spending the last few days of Summer Vacation at Hershey Park, and we spent today riding lots of great roller coasters. 

All day, I kept calling the coasters by the wrong names, mostly because I'm terrible with names, but also because they all have these cool, aggressive sounding names that begin to sound the same and run together in my head. (My daughter kept asking me all day long if I had the car keys, and my wallet, and my cell phone, and the hotel room key.... How old does she think I am?). Anyway, while we were eating lunch, we started coming up with a bunch of really bad roller coaster names, and we got pretty amused with ourselves.  Amused enough that we wanted to share them here.  And, since it's the modern way to use a hashtag, here are our #FailedCoasterNames:



I started my 5 days of thankfulness a few days ago, but didn't finish due to our little getaway.  So here's an IOU to finish the first chance I get with 9 things I'm thankful for. I have much more than nine, but that will fill out my quota.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Few Blog Favorites

I was looking over my list of blogs I like to read and noticed just how many are there.  In fact, there are many more than I can read on a daily basis, though, fortunately, not all of them are updated daily.  But I do try to read each and every one of them.  That said, I also have a few favorites, and I'd like to highlight several that you really ought to check out, depending on your interests.  So, in no particular order....

  • Rules For Our Future Kids ( - What a great idea!  The author writes each entry as advice for his future children.  Not only is there some really great advice, but it's pretty funny, too.  Some of my favorite entries include Number 36 - Never honk your horn or give the finger while driving (I won't give away the rest of this one, but let's just say you never know who you might offend), and Number 19 - Chivalry is not dead.
  • Dad Matters...A Blog For Dads, by Dads ( - Connected with Focus On The Family, Dad Matters... is full of great ideas and advice and stories written by Dads stressing the importance of the father in a family, something near and dear to my heart, since, well....I'm a dad.
  • Real Log Style ( - I love log homes.  For several years, I've been planning and thinking about my retirement home.  While I'm still a ways away from retiring, I like having a plan to look forward to.  So I read a lot about log homes, looking over floor plans and thinking about what features I want.  Real Log Style provides a lot of great ideas and fantastic pictures of various log homes.  They're pretty awesome!  I fell in love with log homes about 13 years ago, when my wife and I took a trip to the Smokies in Tennessee, and we stopped at a log cabin company that had a model home just off the main road.  I'd never walked through a log home before, and after that, I was hooked.  So my plan is to have a home built when I retire, somewhere in the mountains on a small plot of land, hopefully with a view.
  • Theme Park Insider ( - I love roller coasters!  My daughter and I have made it our practice to visit as many amusement parks and ride as many roller coasters as we can.  This year alone, we've been on about two dozen coasters, and we have at least two more park visits over the next several months.  Theme Park Insider keeps us in the loop on new coasters being built, coasters being retired, and other info about the parks themselves.  It's a great site.
  • Roadside America ( - I love road trips, and there are thousands of things to see throughout this wonderfully huge country we live in.  I particularly find nostalgia in history, and I love visiting places that have a lot of it.  I also love kitschy stuff, and I've been known to stop at roadside attractions like Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.  Roadside America has listings for all of these places, and has been an invaluable source whenever I plan a road trip.  It's amazing what is out there.  America... What a country!
  • I love reading about old and abandoned places, and there are several sites that I really like.  Lost Laurel ( is one of my favorites because it's a local blog and focuses on where I live.  It has some great pictures and stories about Laurel's history.  Deserted Places ( has more of an international slant, and is no less interesting.  The latest post focuses on the 2004 Summer Olympic sites in Athens, Greece, that have been abandoned and left to decay.  It's sad, but fascinating.  And, finally, Used To Be A Pizza Hut ( is just flat-out hilarious.  It has pictures of buildings that very obviously used to be Pizza Huts, and are now being used for other functions.  The writing is witty, and it's just a fun site.
  • One more, though I could go on and on... Rediscover The '80s ( - If you grew up during the '80s, you'll love this site, which focuses on the pop culture of the pop culture decade.  It's a fun read.
And that's all I'm giving you for tonight.  I'm going to bed.  Have a great evening, everyone!  And, please, share your blogs with me.  If you have a favorite, I'll check it out, and if I like it, I'll add it to my list.  Thanks!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

25 Random Questions

I came across the following questions ( and thought it would be fun to answer them, and share them here.  I don't know why, but I like these types of things.  Enjoy!

1.  What movie deserves a sequel?  I always want to see "the rest of the story".  Many of my favorite movies should stand on their own, without a sequel, like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, or JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO.  I would like to see what would happen next in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.  I think the ending would be hard to top, but I think it would be great to see Mr. Smith's next term.

2.  What is your favorite kind of cereal?  I used to love Cookie Crisp.  Who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies for breakfast?  When I "grew up", I liked Raisin Bran.  Now, as a diabetic, I have to be more careful.  I eat "low sugar" oatmeal every morning now.

3.  What is one thing you always wanted as a kid, but never got?  My brother, sister, and I used to go through the Sears Catalog Wish Book every year and pick out all the things we wanted.  Every year, I marked the Coke fountain machine, thinking that, if I got it, I would have a never-ending supply of Coke to drink.  I never got it.  I guess Santa didn't think I needed it.

4.  What is your favorite potato chip flavor?  Easy.  Baked Lays.  I don't care for any other flavor other than regular chips.

5.  If you could project yourself into the past, where would you go?  I know I have a romantic vision of what the Fifties was like, but I really feel drawn to that era.  It's probably fueled by Happy Days.  I'm the Richie Cunningham of my generation.

6.  What is the best sports stadium/arena you've been to?  No question, PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is the nicest stadium in baseball.  It sits on the banks of the Allegheny River right in downtown, with a gorgeous view of the skyscrapers in right field, just beyond the river.  If you go, sit on the third base side.

7.  What historical figure would you most like to have a discussion with?  I hate to pick the easy ones, but they are the individuals who intrigue me most:  Jesus and Abraham Lincoln.

8.  If you could be on the cover of any magazine, what would you choose?  Easy.  National Geographic.  Hopefully somewhere exotic.

9.  What makes you really sleepy?  Being awake.  No, seriously, staying up too late gets to me, especially knowing I have to get up early.

10.  What one thing annoys you most at a restaurant?  I don't care for restaurants where the tables are too close together, so close that you can hear the conversation of your neighbors clearly, and they can hear yours.

11.  To what would you like to devote more time?  I wish I had more time to travel, to write, and to sleep.

12.  What is the scariest scene you remember as a kid from a scary movie?  Two movies had a major impact on me when I was younger (and I was at least 12 years old before I saw them both):  THE EXORCIST and POLTERGEIST.  They both freaked me out.

13.  What is the greatest pain you've ever experienced?  Physically, the worst was when I broke my shoulder after slipping on the kitchen floor and landing on it.  Whew!  That hurt!  Emotionally and mentally, it was the death of my wife.  Nothing has compared to that.

14.  Who is the most famous person you've ever met?  I've only met a few celebrities, so I don't have many to choose from, and some people may not think of them as being very famous.  I met Peter Tork of the Monkees, and Donny Most (Ralph) and Anson Williams (Potsie) from Happy Days.  I also met Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS.

15.  What language would you like to master?  I would like to know Japanese.  That way I'd be able to understand what they're saying in all of the Godzilla movies I like to watch, but I could also read the instructions for putting together new furniture and appliances.

16.  If you were directing a movie, who would be your leading man and woman?  I'm surprised they never did a movie together... John Cusack and Sandra Bullock.

17.  Aside from lettuce, what are your two favorite salad ingredients?  I love mushrooms and cucumbers and grape tomatoes and black olives.

18.  What is your favorite event in the Winter Olympics?  I love curling.  It fascinates me.  I also like downhill skiing.

19.  What profession have you always admired?  I really wanted to be an air traffic controller at one point, and I actually looked into doing it.  It didn't work out, so I wasn't able to follow through with it, but I always wondered what would've happened if I had done it.

20.  What is the furthest place you've ever visited by car?  I've driven across the country twice, once by myself, and once with my wife.  They were awesome trips!

21.  What is your favorite kind of donut?  Boston Creme.  I can't eat them anymore, but the combination of cream and chocolate is delicious!

22.  What is one thing you know more about than anyone else in the room?  I tend to be the expert on geography, particularly US geography.

23.  What insect disgusts you the most?  Mosquitoes.  I hate them.  There is no good thing about them.  I hate that they seem to love me.

24.  What is the MUST SEE movie out right now?  GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY!  What a fun movie!  Go see it if you haven't seen it.

25.  What is the wildest thing you would do to your hair?  I actually considered shaving my head when my mother was going through chemotherapy for her breast cancer when she lost her hair.  My brother and I were going to do it.  Mom talked us out of it.

Have a great evening, everyone!

P.S. - Here are my three things I'm thankful for on Day 2:

  1. I'm thankful for my wonderful, supportive parents.  I don't know what I would do without them.  They helped me so much after my wife died, and helped me to get my life back on track.  They've also taught me so much.  I wouldn't be who I am without them (literally!).
  2. I'm thankful for diners.  I love diner food, and the atmosphere and nostalgia of a classic diner.  Breakfast at a diner can't be beat.  And I judge every diner by their hot turkey sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes.
  3. I'm thankful for my pastor(s).  I have so many in my life, I can't narrow it down to just one.  So George, Mark, Tom, Dick, Sandy, Moussa, Lisa, Tim, and Jim... thank you!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thankfulness Challenge

I just received the following on Facebook from my Aunt Karen:

I have been challenged by Xxxx for 5 days to list 3 things each day that I am thankful for. I gladly accept this challenge because too often we focus on the negatives in our lives instead of the blessings. Now the fun part, I nominate Xxxx, Eric, Xxx, and Xxxxx. Don't ask me why, just do it 
Day 1
1. I am thankful that I have a loving God who is forgiving because this woman needs it daily!
2. I am thankful for my husband, children and grandchildren, this wonderful, precious, blessing of a family. At times I can't believe how blessed I am!
3. I am truly thankful for this life that God has chosen for me. There were times when I wanted to change it and run away from it. But God new best and helped me through those selfish times and got me to this point where I can say "amen and amen". Make sense?

I'm accepting this challenge because I have a lot to be thankful for.  But I'm also going to challenge a few other people to do the same.  Rather than name specific individuals, I'd like you to just let me know, either by commenting below, or by tweeting to @Eric66F, that you are accepting the challenge.  Thanks in advance for joining me!


I'm home alone this week once again, with my daughter, Melody, and Faithful Pup Scout over at my parent's place this week.  It's the last week of Summer vacation before school begins on Monday.  Melody is not looking forward to school, she says, because she doesn't want to have to do so much homework.  I feel for her.  Last year, in fourth grade, the amount of homework she had to do increased dramatically.  She's a smart girl, and she really does well working independently, but it was a surprise to see how much she had each day.  She used to be able to get her homework completed in about an hour or so, but last year, she worked for 2 to 3 hours every night.  I don't remember ever having so much homework when I was a student.  Add in her clarinet practice, and she has very little free time each day.  I'm so thankful that she is as responsible as she is.  While she doesn't like how much time her homework requires, she doesn't question why she has to do it.  She just does it.  I love that about her.  And that's why I love to go out and have fun with her.  She deserves it.


So here are my three things that I'm thankful for today, Day 1:

  1. I'm thankful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus, who gives me the promise of eternal life.
  2. I am so thankful for my little girl, my greatest earthly blessing, who I love so much and keeps my life so exciting.  She is beautiful to me in every way.
  3. I am thankful for the job and career that I have been blessed with.  Despite the difficulty associated with it, the stress, the responsibilities, and the frustrations, I still get up each morning enthusiastic about what I do.  On top of that, I am honored to serve my country as a public servant.  Patriotism swells in the heart of this American cartographer/manager.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blindfolded Taste-Testing Laughs

BRAIN GAMES is one of my and my daughter's favorite television programs.  It airs on the National Geographic Channel, and it focuses on how our brains function in certain situations or conditions.  It's always surprising to us how even some of our basic likes and dislikes can be influenced by things around us.

They recently aired an episode focused on foods and how we taste.  While I already knew that our sense of smell helps in our ability to taste food, it was particularly interesting to watch several food critics struggle to identify foods when blindfolded and their noses closed.  They were surprised, themselves, how difficult it was to figure out what they were tasting.  This had Melody and I talking about wanting to try this for ourselves.

Last Thursday, I stopped by my parent's place, where Melody was staying while I was at work.  Melody wanted to do the taste-testing game that night, using me and my father as guinea pigs.  So Dad and I were blindfolded and placed in kitchen chairs, while Melody and my mother gathered a bunch of different foods for us to try.  Insanity ensued.

Let me pause and say a few things about how the evening went.  I've been feeling pretty rotten for a few weeks now, and only in the past few days have I started to really feel better.  I could tell I had improved because I was talking a lot.  That's a good indicator to myself that I'm doing well, and it's not unnoticed by those who interact with me the most.  By Thursday evening, I was feeling really well, and so the taste-testing was a fun exercise.  So fun, in fact, that we were all on the floor laughing after reviewing the video Melody took of the taste-test proceedings.  Mom said later that it was the most she's laughed in months, and I know that was my experience, too.

So Mom and Melody gathered a bunch of items from around the kitchen for Dad and me to try.  Since Mom hadn't seen the show, she actually made it more difficult than it was supposed to be, even as Melody agreed with using all of the things Mom picked out.  For example, the first three items ended up being three different grades of maple syrup.  While Brain Games picked out food items like barbecue sauce, Swiss cheese, pepperoni, and chocolate chips, all with very distinct tastes, it was next to impossible (it WAS impossible) for us to know that there were even different grades of syrup to begin with, let alone try to identify them.  Next was a couple of different flavors of jam (again, too similar to really tell the difference), and then three different kinds of pickles.  While I did better than I thought given the challenge, Mom was frustrated that we were having such difficulty identifying things that she apparently thought were pretty obvious.  It got worse when we attempted to guess with clothespins on our noses, but it hurt too much and didn't last long.  With Dad just throwing out random guesses (such as "valpeno" cheese and grape syrup), Mom getting frustrated with us, Melody's laughter at everything, and my attempts at serious guesses that weren't even close, it was hilarious.  We tried about fifteen different things, and I "won" 8-5, but it was more the fun of the evening than what we actually did that made it so entertaining.  Melody recorded the whole thing, so we watched it afterwards (Dad and I had blindfolds on during the taste test, so it was fun to see what was actually going on).  It was even funnier to watch it, and catch a lot of what was said versus what we heard initially as it was happening.  We've decided we're going to do it again at Thanksgiving, when my brother can join us.  When Dad, brother Darren, and I are together, things usually get a bit out of hand.  I can't wait.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dojo Studios presents: MechaGFantis Backfires

A few years ago, while my daughter, Melody, and I were at G-Fest in Chicago, we participated in a fun fan film that was being filmed at the Crowne Plaza, where we were staying.  One of the G-Fest supporters, Dojo Studios, features great fan films every year, and allows fans to be a part of the process of creating these films.  Dojo Studios announced at G-Fest that they needed extras to do a scene in the courtyard of the hotel the following morning, so Melody and I decided to sign up to be a part of the fun.  So we got up early and joined up with about 25 other enthusiastic fans, and we were given a couple of different roles during the filming.  While most of what we did ended up on the cutting room floor, we can be seen in the finished movie a few times, if only briefly, and below is the result.  Check it out!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Kind Word Could Save A Life

It has been an interesting few days.  Between the circumstances surrounding the passing of Robin Williams, and a string of lonely nights by myself while my daughter, Melody, and Faithful Pup Scout are staying with my parents all of this week (and next!), it would be very easy for me to fall into the trap of depression.  I find myself feeling as if the media is overdosing on analysis of Mr. Williams suicide.  Let the dead rest in peace.  Of course they won't, and it just makes me angry.  Unfortunately, this anger is another trigger of my struggles, as ridiculous as it sounds.  But when is depression reasonable?

So the previous two days were spent with my office peers discussing a lot of organizational issues requiring us to dig deep into what makes us tick as leaders.  Certainly, these types of discussions can get personal, and they did.  I've made no secret of the fact that I struggle with depression (among those I'm closest to, including my boss), so these discussions caused me to retreat into my introvertedness.  In the past, I may have shut down completely.  Fortunately, I fought it and came out punching.  In fact, I made so much of an impression (not all of it good) that my boss made a point of telling me, in front of everyone, that it was apparent I had come out of my shell.  Despite the kind words, it was the last thing I wanted to hear, and caused me to feel embarrassed.  While it's nice that my boss seems to be keeping me in her good graces, it had the double goal of also letting my peers know that I was the "teacher's pet", for lack of a better term.  This was not the message I wanted everyone to hear.  Ugh.

Well, water under the bridge and all that.  What's done is done.  All I could do was grin and bear it.  How many more sayings and figures of speech can I fit in one paragraph?

Going home after the sessions, I reflected on what was said during the meeting, and the reality is it had a double effect.  First, it DID embarrass me.  I don't like having attention drawn to myself, whether someone else does it or myself.  However, what I realized later is that what my boss said was her way of complimenting me, and I have to say that it impacted how I've been feeling recently.  I had been given a boost and it brought me right out of the funk I've been in.

Many people are suffering, and a simple negative action, word, or deed, can set it off and drive the victim into a downward spiral that can place them in the depths of debilitating depression.  It's an awful feeling.  However, a kind word, a compliment, or a positive action might be enough to turn someone completely around.  It may make all the difference in their outlook, and could even be life-changing.

So what I'm trying to say is that a positive word or two or twelve might really help someone who is battling some demons, whether it's depression, stress, suicidal thoughts, or maybe only a bad day.  A kind word or deed is always going to be better than the alternative.  That's my ask.  Say something nice to someone tomorrow.  It might just make their day.  It could save their life.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Your Federal Government is working to make itself better!  Today I participated with my colleagues in a management training workshop downtown in DC.  It was especially interesting in that we were able to discuss a lot of the issues we're going through as a leadership team as we move towards the possibility of merging or creating a new organization.  There are a lot of uncertainties at this point, but one thing that is certain is that change is on the horizon.  The facilitator started us off with a neat little ice-breaker/warm-up consisting of the following questions.  My answers appear after each question.

  1. What is your favorite word?  I chose my daughter's name, Melody, as my favorite word.  My wife and I loved the name, and due to it's "lyrical" sound, it's one of my favorite words.
  2. What is your least favorite word?  I couldn't pick just one.  Two words, much the same in meaning, strike me as terribly offensive when used to describe someone:  stupid or idiot.
  3. What turns you on?  The smell of blueberry pancakes, freshly prepared at a diner or other restaurant, during a road trip adventure.
  4. What turns you off?  Politics.  I hate politics, and I dislike many politicians.  I believe that the best people to hold an elected office are much too intelligent to run.
  5. What sound or noise do you love?  I love the sounds of a live band.  There is nothing like hearing the thumping of a drum kit, or a guitar riff, or any number of instruments.
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?  My alarm clock.  Is there no worse way to wake up in the morning?
  7. What gets your heart racing?  Roller coasters
  8. What profession would you like to attempt?  I'd love to be a race car driver.  And if that didn't work out, maybe a pastor?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?  Anything involved with politics.
  10. What would you like to hear God say to you when you reach the pearly gates?  Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

I just sat down to my computer wondering what I was going to write in this space tonight, when I received word via Facebook that Robin Williams is dead.  I immediately thought that couldn't be true.  It's probably a hoax.  Robin Williams, one of the funniest men in the world, couldn't be dead.  He's too funny... too alive.  I began scrolling through my Facebook feed and there they were, post after post with the same news.  Robin Williams was dead.

I've had an interesting perspective on death since my wife died.  There are those who get very bent out of shape when a race horse has to be put down.  Then there are those who never get upset even when they lose a loved one.  My perspective on death is a mix of different feelings, and those feelings can run the gamut from intense sadness to anger to disbelief to calmness.  Rarely does shock enter the picture, though I know I experienced it when my wife died.  I know this just happened, but with Robin Williams death, I'm feeling dread.  In several of the stories I just read, there was mention of Robin's immense depression, and the "alleged" cause of death, suicide, and, having just passed through (and still immersed in) my own feelings of depression, I feel like I know how he must have felt leading up to his death.

Please don't misunderstand.  I am not feeling suicidal.  If there's one thing I've never gone through, throughout my feelings of depression, it's having suicidal thoughts.  It's an alien concept to me.  I have no desire to end my life, if for no other reason than I never want my daughter to lose both her parents.  I don't fear death.  I know that the Lord is my Savior, and that life everlasting with Him is my ultimate destiny.  But I'm in no rush to get there.

What I can identify with is the likely sadness and hopelessness Robin felt.  It must be even harder, I'll assume, if one doesn't have that personal relationship with Jesus.  I have no idea if Robin had a relationship with Jesus.  Only he would know that.  But my guess is he did not.  Life is God's greatest gift.  To throw that gift away is the ultimate sorrow.  How awful must it be to feel so lowly, so badly, so poorly, so hopeless, that the only answer is to take your own life?  His actions are his own, of course, but I know that depression only magnifies those feelings of hopelessness and sadness.

We'll always have his movies and TV shows.  I'll always remember the first time I ever saw him, as Mork, the alien from Ork, encountering the characters from my favorite show, Happy Days.  In his meeting with Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), he wanted to take Richie back to his planet because he was "humdrum", and then he had his big encounter with the Fonz (Henry Winkler), who battled Mork's finger with his thumb, to save his friend, Richie.

I pray for his family and loved ones.  He was a wonderfully funny man.  He was flawed, of course.  Aren't we all?  None of us is perfect.  I pray that he knew Jesus.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seven Things I Think...

Seven things I think....

  1. I switched from Comcast/Xfinity to Verizon Fios about 6 years ago for my cable television, phone, and wifi.  Since then, I've received Comcast literature in the mail at least weekly asking me to return to them.  Each year, I get a visit by someone from Comcast going door to door asking me to join.  I refuse, even if it's cheaper.  I had such a bad experience not only with Comcast's service, but their customer service, which is horrible.  Before Fios came into our area, we had no choice in our cable service, and, in my opinion, Comcast didn't seem to care about existing customers, resulting in complacency.  Verizon, initially cheaper, is now much more expensive than anything I ever paid for Comcast, but I will stay with Fios because their customer service is so much better than Comcast's (just my experience). And, yes, I've had to deal with customer service from both companies.
  2. I was pretty severely depressed last week, and while that can most likely be traced to the fact that the meds I was taking needed to be refilled (and, like a dummy, I allowed them to run out without having the refill in advance), I am amazed at how quickly I improved after my daughter came home from her week with her grandparents.  You might think that I would enjoy being on my own without her, but I really do miss the little girl when we're apart.  Whether that's a credit to her, or that I just prefer companionship of any kind, is not known.  I just know I was much happier with her being home.  The next two weeks, while she's with my parents, will be telling.
  3. We went to the Howard County Fair last evening, and I find it interesting to compare Howard's with Montgomery's.  While I grew up in Prince George's County, and went to that fair regularly in my youth, I began going to Montgomery's fair after meeting my wife (since she grew up there).  Montgomery's seemed to be so much bigger and fun than PG.  However, after moving to Howard County, and going to Howard's fair, I found it interesting how much more quaint and enjoyable it was compared to Montgomery's.  Howard's seems much smaller, and with the big Friday crowd, it actually seemed to me to be too small for the size of the crowd, which is the only downside I can see.  Montgomery, which also gets crowded on the weekends, seems to handle the bigger crowds better due to the size of the fairgrounds.  I still like the Montgomery County Fair, but, at least on a typical weeknight, I like the Howard County Fair better, due to the smaller size (though I might be biased).
  4. I consider myself a pizza connoisseur, and I like to try lots of different kinds and styles.  Some are fairly unique, but I really prefer a basic thin crust pizza (and I favor veggies more than meats).  My favorite pizza in the area is Ledo's, but the original Ledo pizza is better than the chains.  You can get the original at the "new" original location in College Park, across from the University of Maryland, just off of US 1, and at T.J. Elliott's in Bowie on Route 197.  We go to Station House in Fulton/Scaggsville, which is the best locally.  Other good pizza around the Columbia area includes:  Pub Dog, just off Dobbin Road is really good, especially their "smash dog" pizzas, which are two different pizzas smashed together like a sandwich.  Three Brothers, though a chain, is still one of my favorites.  They have a New York style pizza that is thin, crispy, and tasty.  J & P Italian Restaurant in Fulton is good, too.  I've tried a few others that are good, but not as good as the one's I've mentioned.  Some of the pizzas recommended by the "pros" just didn't cut it with me, though I should mention I've only met a few pizzas I didn't like.  Each of these is good, but just not as good as I had heard, including Facci, Coal Fire, and many of the chains, which just don't cut it for me (Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, and the like).  Honorable Mention goes to La Pizza Banca at the Laurel Shopping Center on US 1 in Laurel.  They are really good.
  5. I've been reading with great interest Julia McCready's Village Green/Town Squared blog recently about test scores and diversity, among other things, in Howard County's schools.  The important thing that so many people seem to forget, and I know this is greatly simplifying what Julia has painstakingly researched, is that Howard County has some of the best schools in the entire country.  If you're going to use test scores to determine how good a school is compared to other schools in the county, the ones that will be near the bottom of the list are still going to be some of the best in the country.  But there are better ways than test scores to determine how good a school is.  Check out Julia's blog.
  6. I've been watching a lot of Jimmy Stewart movies over the past few days.  Turner Classic Movies (TCM) had a "James Stewart" day featuring a bunch of his movies.  Stewart is, in my opinion, one of the greatest actors in American history.  From IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, to REAR WINDOW, to MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Jimmy Stewart has played many great roles and can make a good movie into a great movie.  He has starred versus many other wonderful actors, like John Wayne and his friend, Henry Fonda, and he more than holds his own.  He remains my favorite actor of all time.  I love this quote from him:  "I have my own rules and adhere to them.  The rule is simple but inflexible.  A James Stewart picture must have two vital ingredients:  It will be clean and it will involve the triumph of the underdog over the bully."
  7. A while back, our church, Grace Community, started a Saturday evening service to go along with two Sunday services.  The Sunday services had become overcrowded, particularly in the children's classes, as the church continued to grow.  In order to create more room, the church decided to add the Saturday service, and asked for volunteers among the regular attenders to consider moving to Saturday to open up room on Sundays for new people and families.  It worked.  I was one of those who moved to Saturday.  It was an adjustment for me, since I had always gone to church on Sunday.  But it was a nice change.  I am really enjoying it now, too.  The Saturday crowd seems very relaxed, and while Grace as a whole is more informal than any other church I've ever attended, the Saturday service really impressed me with how casual it seems.  This has had an effect on my Sunday mornings, as well.  I'm sleeping better on the weekends knowing I don't have to get up and go anywhere if I don't want to.  While I felt guilty about that at first, as if I was letting down God, I'm okay with it and actually prefer it.  Although it also means my mom-in-law wants us to come to her church on Sundays, since we don't have a commitment on Sunday mornings.  I have to convince her that moving to Saturday doesn't automatically mean I need to find another church for Sunday morning.  
Have a great evening, everyone!

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Fair Night

The day started out bad.  Faithful Pup Scout, who sleeps on my bed at night, did something really bad this morning, the first time she's ever done this:  She wet the bed.  I got up at 5:30 a.m. to get a shower, and after getting ready for work, I noticed Scout sitting on the edge of the bed.  She usually keeps sleeping while I'm getting ready, so this was unusual behavior.  That's when I noticed the wet spot.  Scout's side of the bed, with several towels and a thick pad under the sheets just for a situation like this one, was completely dry.  My side of the bed, though, was all wet.  Scout, apparently not as dumb as she is ornery, knew she had done a bad thing.  It had already soaked through the sheet to the mattress.  I was thoroughly angry.  I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning it up, and I was late arriving at work.

The training workshop that I had been preparing for took place all day yesterday and today.  It went better than I could imagine.  I brag all the time at work that I have the best group of managers in our organization, and they only confirmed it today.  I was pleased with the open discussion and the complete engagement of each of them, and our facilitator was great.  We will continue these workshops every four months or so for the next few years.  This was just an introduction to the topic.  The workshop is designed to provide the managers with tools and techniques to help us be better leaders.

The best part of my day was knowing that my daughter was coming home today after spending the week with her grandparents.  Things didn't go as planned, since I wasn't able to pick her up after work.  But we instead decided to meet at the Howard County Fair.  When I got to the fairgrounds, I got a big hug from my daughter.  It was great to see her, and even though we talked on the phone semi-regularly while she was gone, we spent the evening recapping everything she had done this week.  It was a lot of fun. After getting some dinner, we headed over to the midway to ride a bunch of rides.

I'm not sure why the ride operators at fairs and carnivals feel the need to operate the rides either faster or longer than amusement and theme parks.  We rode "Rock'n' Out", which contains a ring of cars that swing side-to-side while spinning.  It is vomit-inducing.  After the big meal at dinner, and dizziness affecting both of us, I was sick.  Really sick.  Melody told me she wasn't feeling very well, either.  I'm convinced that the ride lasted about a minute longer than it should've been running.  We staggered off, and it took a little time to start feeling better, but we finally did.

The midway had gotten really crowded by 9 p.m., and the lines for the rides were ridiculously long.  Friday being "Date Night" means lots of young teenage couples in attendance.  We gave up trying to do anymore rides. Instead, Melody wanted to try a game of skill:  popping balloons with beanbags.  The attendant convinced us to go with the $10 option of six beanbags instead of three.  Melody broke all six balloons.  The attendant told us, with three more hits, she could win a larger prize.  I gave in after Melody gave me those sad, puppydog eyes.  $5 more lead to three more pops, and her winning a large stuffed giraffe.

We decided to head home, but not before stopping at Sweet Frog for a treat.  It was great to have Melody home.

Have a  great evening, everyone!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Not Feeling It Tonight...

Sorry, folks... I'm just not feeling it tonight.  I have no shortage of things to write about, but no desire to write tonight.  My little girl is coming home tomorrow, so I'm hoping she will give me the shot in the arm back to normalcy.  So I'm turning in early.  The extra sleep is necessary anyway, so I should be better tomorrow.

Have a great evening, everyone!

PS - It's not too late to check out some great Jimmy Stewart movies tonight on Turner Classic Movies... 


My Tivo is working overtime tonight!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Next Steps...

Today should have been a much better day, but after what took place at the office, I've concluded that work is a big reason for the stress and depression I've been feeling in recent days.  I'm going to be participating in a training workshop over the next few days, something endorsed by my boss for each of the management teams in our organization, and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with the managers who work for me.  There are eight gents who make me look good, and I hope the workshop is beneficial to all of us.  However, because the workshop will be two full days, we will be missing several other meetings.  I surmised that my boss would allow us to make the workshops a priority over the other meetings we have scheduled, so I sent messages to my colleagues leading those other meetings letting them know that we would not be able to join them because of our workshop.  The result was a power struggle over whose meeting was most important.

I really tried hard to be as polite and understanding as possible while pushing forward with our workshop, and as it turned out, I correctly surmised that my boss would support us making the workshop a priority.  However, she took it a step further by making it clear that the other managers should not have questioned me on the importance of the workshop.  The result was resentment from my colleagues.  I did not anticipate this.  I just don't get why some people get so upset over stuff like this.  So, even though I did nothing wrong, I'm kind of in the doghouse, at least in the eyes of a few colleagues.

Anyway, we're pushing forward with the workshop and I'm actually looking forward to it.  It has its basis in the StrengthsFinder assessments that Gallup developed.  From the Gallup website:

Gallup research proves that people succeed when they focus on what they do best.  When they identify their talents and develop them into strengths, people are more productive, perform better, and are more engaged.
Gallup's Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is the first step in helping people identify their talents.  Clifton StrengthsFinder results give people a way to discuss and develop their unique combination of skills, talents, and knowledge -- also known as strengths.

So all of the managers have already been through the assessments and know their strengths, so this is the next step in the process.  Our workshop will be facilitated by TAG Consulting, and the gentleman working with our Group has been my "executive coach" for almost two years now.  Using our strengths as the foundation, my management team will discuss ways that we can work together to take our organization forward and begin improving the culture to make us all more successful.

I hope that we're successful, and that the carryover will result in a much better mood and outlook for myself.  The past week has been very challenging for me personally, and I'd like to think that improving the peripheral stuff will have a positive effect on me.  It certainly can't hurt.

So that's my story for the day.  The only negative is that I had hoped to join the Hoco Bloggers this evening for an event at Jailbreak, a local brewery.  With my daughter on "vacation" with her grandparents this week, I have a lot of available time to spend on myself.  My introvertedness always seems to get in the way, though, and this time I had a double whammy of that and being overcome by depression.  It was easy to talk myself out of going, and since I'm a bit of a teetotaler, I ended up spending some extra time at work preparing for my workshop tomorrow, and then going straight home to crash for the evening.  I promise that I will make more of an effort to participate with my fellow Hoco bloggers at a future event.

With that, have a great evening, everyone!