Sunday, September 27, 2015


I've made no secret here about my struggles with depression.  When you have depression, even little things can set you off in a downward spiral, and my kryptonite has been my sports teams.  I know it's just a game, but when my teams are doing poorly, it brings me down.  A few years ago, in the midst of a downhill moment, my Pittsburgh Steelers ended their season with a heartbreaking playoff loss that sent me into such a funk, it took Heavenly intervention to finally bring me out of it.

A day like today is another example of this, though to a much lesser extent.  The Steelers, who were riding high with their powerful offensive team, and a recovering defense, lost their ace quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, to a severe knee injury.  Football is a violent sport (too violent, if you ask me), and injuries like this happen.  But the fallout is that this could completely derail the Steelers season.  "Big Ben" will be out at least for the next four weeks, and if an MRI tomorrow reveals more damage, he may miss the whole season.

I'm not the football fan I once was.  The violence outside of the game, given the lifestyles and money the players live with, is sickening to me.  The Ray Rice situation from last season, with him physically abusing his wife in an elevator, completely turned me off to the game, and was a horrifying example of the violent lives many, though not all, of the players choose to live in, and how far outside the law many of them are.  When the commissioner of the National Football League, who's the judge, jury, and executioner of the players when things like this occur, can't differentiate between abuse and cheating, the league becomes a joke and the fans lose respect and interest.  That's where I am.  Some habits are hard to completely break, however, and my interest in the Steelers is still there.  Despite my disappointment in the cheating scandal with Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, and the stupidity of players who figure they can use marijuana without consequences and then get suspended, I still care about the success of my team.  And their success took a major blow with Ben's injury today.

That takes me to the Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball club.  The Pirates are in the midst of their third straight playoff season after 20 years of losing.  Read that again.  20 years!  That is a record for ALL professional sports teams in North America.  It was 1992 when the Pirates last had a winning season before "The Streak" began, and though you might think I would lost interest in baseball, or at least in the Pirates, I remained hopeful every season that they might just break out of it.  So, this year, the Pirates, my beloved Bucs, are finishing up a really successful season, one where they currently have the 2nd best record in Major League Baseball.  That's just incredible to me.  And that's where my hope is right now.  It's what keeps me from dropping completely into a depressed state.

This hope is barely comparable to the hope Christ-followers have in our Savior.  It may be hard to realize if you're not a follower of Christ, but it is an incredible feeling to know that the love that comes from Jesus, who died to save everyone, and you only need to open your heart to Him to receive this gift of eternal life, is enough to sustain us.  And while I struggle with depression, I know deep down that Jesus is there for me.

I'm such a poor witness for my faith.  You would think that Christ-followers wouldn't have any worry at all, and while much of what I worry about is just something created in my mind, there is a real struggle that takes place with depression.  My battle is rooted in the grief that I feel from the loss of my wife.  She passed away in 2004 from a massive heart attack resulting from complications from Mitral Valve Prolapse and an enlarged heart.  Her death was sudden, and she left me to raise my 5-month old daughter alone.  And I've struggled ever since.

I recently read a blog post from a man named John Pavlovitz who said almost perfectly what I've been feeling.  I don't necessarily agree with everything he posts on his blog, but there's enough common ground, mostly through the grief that we share and the love we have for Christ, that I find his writing worth reading.  Here's the LINK.

My reason for sharing all of this is to let you know that, even when everything seems hopeless, or when you're at your wit's end, or that you're feeling like it's the end of the world and you can't go on, there will always be Jesus.  There's always hope in Him.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Six Flags America Concerns

Complaining always comes across as a negative, and that isn't really how I view things.  However, it seems recently that I'm becoming that typical Grumpy Old Man as I get older, and today may be an indication that I need to start thinking younger.

That said, my daughter Melody and I went to Six Flags America, located in either Bowie, Upper Marlboro, Largo, Mitchellville, or Kettering, Maryland.  Today seemed like the best day of the weekend, so we decided it would be a good day to visit the park after purchasing season tickets earlier in the month.  Six Flags had advertised a big sale on their season tickets, and a free upgrade to their Gold pass upon using them (providing admission to ALL Six Flags parks nationwide), plus free parking, all for about $60 each, and I grabbed them.  That's a pretty good deal.  When I got season passes two years ago, we took advantage and visited Six Flags America, Magic Mountain (in Valencia, CA), Great America (Chicago), and St. Louis (in St. Louis, naturally), dramatically increasing our roller coaster ride totals.

Here's the deal, though.  Six Flags is just not a very well run operation in my opinion.  Their parks just don't feel safe, and the peripheral stuff, like food, is outrageously expensive and not very good, particularly when compared to many of the top parks throughout the country.  For example, Busch Gardens is a beautiful theme park with great food, and is a better value based on food quality.  Again, my opinion, but one certainly shared by my entire family.  Today, we went to the Johnny Rocket's restaurant inside the park.  The selection was nothing like a "real" Johnny Rocket's, with the only items on the menu being a double burger, a single burger, and chicken tenders, with a side of fries & onion rings.  Melody ordered the chicken tenders and I got a single burger, plus a bottle of water and a "regular" diet coke.  While the burger came out very quickly, the restaurant staff was inadequately prepared for the small group of people who happened to be ordering food at that moment, and we waited for ten minutes while the chicken tenders were cooked up in the deep fryer.  Once the tenders arrived, the burger was cold to the touch.  Worse was the price.  $35 for our meal.  That included $4.39 for a 12-ounce cup of soda and mostly ice.  Both the burger and the tenders were as basic as they could be, and memorable only due to the price.

We saw a very ridiculous show called Monster Mash Bash, starring ridiculously costumed Dracula, the Wolfman, "Frankie" the Frankenstein Monster, and a "headless" Igor.  The music was a mix of pop tunes sung by the monsters, with rap-style lyrics.  Did I mention it was ridiculous?

I've very rarely ever felt unsafe on an amusement ride, particularly at a major amusement park like Six Flags.  Today was the exception.  The ride attendants didn't seem very thrilled to be working today, and their lapses in basic safety checks were jarring and disturbing.  One of my favorite rides at this park is the Wild One, an old wooden coaster built early last century and moved from New England to the park back in its Wild World days in the 80s.  It's pretty awesome, a rickety old thrill ride with lots of character.  Upon boarding the ride and landing in our seats, the lap bar was left unlocked.  The attendants breezily ran through their ride-checks without realizing that the lap bars were not locked.  When they got to our row, I showed the attendant that my lap bar wasn't locked, and she immediately looked back at the young man at the control panel and told him to press the lock button, which he clearly forgot to do, and which then engaged.  They went back to the front of the coaster and repeated their checks without missing a beat.  I was horrified by their carelessness and lack of concern over something so basic yet so vitally important, especially since they didn't even notice despite running through half the train before I pointed it out to them.  That's an absolutely egregious mistake.

"Plane crash" next to Apocalypse roller coaster at Six Flags America

Later, on Apocalypse, their stand-up coaster, Melody and I settled into our "stools" and I plugged in the safety belt into the shoulder harness.  I didn't realize that the belt had not engaged, and had fallen out.  When the ride attendant came by, she took the belt and apparently buckled it in for me again.  I said to her, "Wow, I thought it was already buckled in."  She just giggled and moved on.  I looked at the belt and it fell out of the buckle once again, without me touching it.  The ride was about to begin, so I quickly buckled it a third time, yanking on it to make sure it was engaged.  When the ride started, I was so paranoid that it was going to come undone again that I didn't enjoy the ride at all.  And when the ride did end, coming to a stop just outside the loading station, the ride shutdown and wouldn't advance, stranding us on the coaster.  We watched as the ride attendants announced to those waiting that the ride was out of service, and maintenance was called.  We were back in motion and off the ride in less than five minutes, but there was clearly some kind of technical issue.  Whether it was due to the the safety belts or not isn't clear, but I certainly didn't feel safe.  After one more ride, we called it a day and left the park.

I'm not sure how the rest of the day went for those visiting the park, but it was also the start of the Halloween scare season, and while it appears that many were looking forward to the haunted houses that would be opening up at nightfall, I wasn't interested.  I can't help but be reminded that a huge fight broke out at this very park two short years ago during their Halloween season, resulting in at least one major injury.  I wanted nothing to do with Halloween at this park, so I'm glad we left when we did.

Did I regret buying the season tickets?  No.  It was just too good of a deal to pass it up.  And since they are good throughout the entire 2016 season, it was worth it to me.  But I will be so much more vigilant and observant at every amusement park I visit especially the Six Flags parks.  I hope I won't have reason to worry.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Muppets, The Pope, and The Pirates

I just watched THE MUPPETS, the new incarnation of the late Jim Henson's wonderful puppet troupe.  I'm old enough to remember THE MUPPET SHOW from the 70s, and it was a huge hit and favorite of mine.  This new show is really bad.  I wanted to love it, but it's sophomoric and not at all true to the characters I grew up with.  Kermit The Frog says "Hell," "Sexy," and takes the Lord's name in vain, and it's so out of character as to make it appear that the writers did it only for shock value.  The show is written like most sitcoms these days, with a documentary-like feel (The Office), and purports to show the "real," behind-the-scenes lives of the Muppet characters.  Zoot, my favorite saxophone player in the Electric Mayhem house band, comes across like he isn't "all there" in the head, which was kind of charming in a naive way in the past, but now appears to be a result of a drinking problem.  And Fozzy Bear is "dating" an attractive young lady whose parent's come across as "racists," unapproving of their daughter's new "bear-friend."  The whole thing is very un-funny, and my daughter and I don't approve.  The 70s version of the show didn't have to resort to these attempts at humor, and was hilarious for the characters and the crazy acts, as well as the wonderful performers (Jim Henson and Co.).  This script could easily be applied to any other sitcom on the air, and the format for the show just isn't appropriate.  It doesn't fit the Muppets.  They deserve better.


It was all doom and gloom for commuters this week with the Pope in town, and my office prepared by emphasizing telework.  It also happened to be National Telework Week, so the timing was perfect.  As much as I would have liked to telework, my responsibilities do not really fit the model, so I found myself driving in to downtown Silver Spring, expecting the worst.  Fortunately, I left the house early and encountered very few traffic issues, other than a little bit of stop-and-go on the Capital Beltway.  Either many people decided to heed the warnings about the disastrous traffic and stay at home to telework, or the commute really wasn't all that bad.  I think it was probably a combination of the two, but it certainly wasn't the disaster the media predicted.  And it was kind of nice at the office, with many of my employees at home.  It kind of felt like a Holiday, though with the Pope here, it was more of a Holyday.  The afternoon commute was even better.  I hope tomorrow goes just as well, though I'm worried that everyone who stayed home will hear that traffic wasn't bad, and they'll return to work tomorrow, making the predicted traffic a reality.  I'm hoping for a Pope-like miracle.


While it's much more low-key this year than the past two, the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball Club is 5 short innings away from clinching their third straight play-off berth.  After 20 years of losing seasons, Pirates fans are enjoying this new trend of winning, and I'm greatly looking forward to seeing if they can finally get over the hump and possibly make it to the World Series.  Their last World Championship was in 1979, when I was a wee lad of 10 years, and I am so hopeful of this opportunity.  I love baseball!  Go Bucs!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Saturday Morning Adventure

My beautiful daughter Melody and I decided to take advantage of a rare happenstance this morning.  She has turned into a full-blown teenager, it seems overnight, and she sleeps almost more often than she's awake, particularly on the weekends.  But for whatever reason, she was up before the sun, and since I awoke at my more normal 7:30, we quickly got dressed and out the door for a Saturday adventure.

I had explained to Melody that I missed the days when we would awake early on a Saturday and go out to breakfast, so we headed out to Chick-Fil-A to eat.  The store on Johns Hopkins Road here in southern Howard County was not very busy, and we had a nice, peaceful meal, and we planned out the rest of our morning with some great conversation.

After eating, we drove over to our favorite park, Schooley Mill Park on Hall Shop Road in Highland.  The park was fairly packed, and a spirited game of Cricket was being played on one of the fields.  Melody and I took a fun hike down one of the series of trails that criss-cross through the park, and it was a nice workout.  The scenery along the trail is really spectacular, and we enjoyed the nice weather as we walked along through the woods.

After the hike, we took a nice little drive along the back roads of the county, finally ending up back in civilization to do some needed shopping in Columbia.  Without having much luck finding what we needed, we grabbed a couple of sandwiches at Jersey Mike's, and came home to relax for a bit.

Relaxing is exactly what we did, and I soon found myself snoozing on the couch for a good hour or so.  Work has been extraordinarily stressful over the past week, and I think the fallout has placed me in an exhaustive state.  The nap did me a world of good, and after a shower and change of clothes, we got ourselves ready for the Saturday evening service at our church, Grace Community.

After a great and meaningful service, with Pastor Mark at the podium, Melody and I grabbed a nice dinner nearby, then crashed at home for the night.

If was a truly memorable Saturday, and I'm so thankful that God blessed us with such a great day.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Revisiting My 9/11 Story

"9/11" has come to mean so much to Americans.  It's just a day in September.  It's also, ironically, the numbers that are dialed on the phone in the event of an emergency.  But it is and always will be one of those dates which will live in the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, the day JFK was assassinated, or the day the Challenger shuttle exploded.  Two years ago, I wrote my 9/11 story here on this blog, and I'm reposting it today.  Today is a day of remembrance...


Today is one of those days where we remember.  We remember exactly what we were doing 12 years ago today, we remember those who lost their lives tragically on that day, and we remember those first responders who tried to help and rescue so many.  It will always be a hard day for Americans, as seldom in our history, and particularly in our modern history, have we been attacked on our own soil.  And it changed the way we go about our daily lives.

This is the first time I've had a forum to share my own 9/11 story.  It is hardly a compelling story, nor is it surrounded in tragedy.  It is just the story of how my wife and I dealt with what transpired on that awful day.

It really was a nice Tuesday, kind of warm, and bright and sunny.  We had been having mechanical problems with our Jeep Cherokee, and it was in the shop being looked at.  Teresa, my wife, was going to ride with a co-worker to Mt. Hebron High School, where she worked as a 9th-grade English teacher.  I had gone to work as usual earlier that morning, arriving at 6:30 a.m.  I was a team lead in the central section of the VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Charting office within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in downtown Silver Spring, MD.  We worked on the 3rd floor of a 13-story building, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) complex next to the Silver Spring Metro, the fourth of four high-rises on the southwest side of the tracks along East West Highway.

My boss was out of the office that day, so I was in charge.  I was sitting at my desk talking to one of our IT guys when I received an email.  It was from one of the employees in our airports division, and it stated, "A plane just hit the World Trade Center."  It had been sent out to our entire office.  Almost everyone assumed it was a small plane that must have accidentally hit the building.  I pulled out the New York Terminal Area Chart, a 1:250,000 scale VFR aeronautical chart, to take a look at that area of NYC to see if there was anything wrong with the chart.  At about the same time, one of the guys on the other side of the office turned on a small black and white TV he had in his cubicle, just in time to see the second plane hit the other tower.  Word got around the office very quickly that this was no accident.  I quickly sent my wife an email explaining what was happening, that both towers of the World Trade Center had been hit by planes, and that we were trying to figure out what was going on.  She called me almost immediately after she got the message.  I could hear the worry in her voice.  They had a TV on in the 9th grade team teacher's office and were watching what was going on.  We both prayed, said we loved each other, and I tried to concentrate on work.

About that time we received word that something had hit the Pentagon, and mass pandemonium took over.  My boss's boss came rushing past my cubicle and said, "Evacuate the building, let's just get out of here.  Please account for all of your employees."  There were false rumors and stories of bombs going off all over downtown DC, and that government buildings all over the area might be targets for more jets.  I rushed around my office and made sure everyone had a way to get home.  Some offered to take other's home.  There was a great amount of cooperation despite the panic many were feeling.  One of my co-workers lived downtown, and I told her to be very careful.  Very few Metro trains were running into the city.  Most were heading out only.  Silver Spring, being right on the edge of northern DC, was a hot spot of employment in the DC area, but still considered the suburbs.  I called Teresa and told her we were evacuating.  She said that schools were going to release early, and then she would try to get home.  She was still dependent on her co-worker due to her not having a car.  I told her to be careful, and she said the same.  She was very scared.  I said I love you, and started to head for the exit.

Then I saw Greg.  Greg was concerned about how he was going to get home, since he took the train from the northeast Maryland suburbs to Union Station in downtown DC, then he took Metro from there to Silver Spring.  I told him that I doubted he be able to catch any trains running that day, and I offered him a ride.  He took me up on it, and we headed out.

I had parked on the G1 level, which meant I was only one level down from the exit.  NOAA employees had apparently decided at the same time as the FAA to go home, so there was a huge line of cars trying to get out of the garage, and it took us about 30 minutes to get out.  Once on the road, traffic moved fairly well.  Greg lived near and on the far side of Fort Meade, which is also home to the National Security Agency.  We figured that we might want to try to avoid that area since the NSA might be a hotbed of security given what was happening.  I kept the radio on WTOP, the local all-news station, to keep abreast of what was happening.  Greg agreed with my course of action, to take the Capital Beltway over to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, then to Rt. 32 which would take us right to Greg's car, parked in the commuter rail parking lot near Fort Meade.

Traffic continued to move well all the way up the parkway. When we got to Rt. 32, though, it was closed with emergency personnel blocking the exits.  Apparently, we were right about Fort Meade being busy.  So we took the next exit, Route 175, which would skirt just north of the NSA and take us right to the train station.  However, we his our first traffic jam of the trip just after jumping on 175 and we crawled the rest of the way.

The news on the radio was all shock and panic, with both WTC buildings having collapsed.  There were still many bad rumors flying around about incidents in and around DC, which didn't help.  We finally got through the traffic and I was able to drop Greg off at his car.  I wished him well, and he offered me a few tips on alternate ways home.  I lived in Laurel, which was only about 10 to 15 minutes away, normally, but with the traffic around Fort Meade, I had to make a big circle north of Fort Meade, and had clear sailing all the way home.  I turned on the TV and watched countless replays of the towers collapsing, which filled me with awe, but horror as well.  Within the hour, Teresa arrived home, and we hugged for a long time.  We had only been living in our house for a little over a month, so we really didn't know any of our neighbors, and we felt like we only had each other at that moment.  We sat in front of the TV all afternoon watching what was happening in New York, finding out about the other planes, the available details regarding the Pentagon, and the crash in PA.  Teresa made us a light dinner, but neither of us was hungry.

I can't really put into words what we were feeling.  There was this fear that gripped us, and immense sadness about all who had died.  We hoped we wouldn't have to work the following day so we could just be with each other.  We prayed.  We hugged and sat close to each other.  This was an event neither of us had ever experienced.  We weren't old enough to remember when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  The only comparable was the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, which occurred when we were in high school.

We went to bed that night knowing we would be working the next day, and it would be a challenge to try to attempt anything normal.  We didn't want to be apart, but we also knew we had to work.  We prayed for so many that night.  And then we tried to sleep.  I don't know what time it was when we finally fell asleep.  It was pretty late.  I just kept praying to God how thankful I was that my family was all accounted for and okay.  And I prayed that God would bless America.

Hug and kiss your loved ones tonight, everyone.  Make sure they know how much you love them.  You can't say it enough.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Light Company at Grace

This is a difficult time of year to commute to and from work.  With all of the area school systems in session, the roads are full of people, and traffic is heavy.  So heavy, in fact, that my commuting time is almost double what it normally is.  This makes for a long day, and this week, following Labor Day, the official end of Summer, has made for a long week so far!

My wonderful daughter, Melody, has successfully transitioned from elementary to middle school, and seems to be doing really well.  The move to a new school also coincided with a change in routine at our church, Grace Community.  The youth program, called Light Company for the middle high students, is such a great program, and I've looked forward to her being a part of it for a long time.  I remember my wife, Teresa, who was a 9th grade English teacher in Howard County, telling me that she could tell which kids at the school where she taught were involved in the youth program at Grace.  They were just different.  Good different.  That was inspiration enough to lead us to the church.  That, and the lead pastor, who Teresa got to know since she taught most of his children.

So Melody is attending the youth services at The Warehouse at Grace, and she is making friends and getting to know the ministry staff, and she's loving it.  And this is such a blessing to me.  The youth program also has a weekly Bible study, and Melody gets to meet with the girls in her age group at the home of one of the volunteers who works with them.  Last night was their first meeting.

It had been a hectic day, and I got home fairly late yesterday afternoon.  I took the easy route and picked up some Chick-Fil-A for dinner, then rushed home.  We had just enough time to eat, then we had to leave for the weekly Bible Study.  It was clear across the county, so we were late, of course.  We're rarely on time for anything anymore, but we were welcomed by the youth leader when we arrived at her home.  She told me how much she has been praying for Melody, and this touched my heart in so many ways.

You have to understand, I hate the stigma that is attached to Melody, as a young girl whose mother died when she was a baby.  People automatically feel sorry for her, and that sympathy takes on a lot of different forms, from prayer to kindness to sadness to empathy to pity.  I don't like receiving that attention, myself.  Even though I continue to battle depression as a result of her death, now 11 years ago, which is a lifetime, I don't feel like I deserve the sympathy that is shown towards me, and I hate the emotion that creeps out of me when I receive kindness from others as a result.  Life happens, and death is a part of life.  But Melody is different.  While she has no memory of her mother, and is as well adjusted as she can be for someone who doesn't even know what it's like to have a mom, I relish the attention she receives through the prayers of the youth leaders, because she is special.  And I'm so thankful for the Light Company youth leaders at Grace.

God is doing great things at Grace.  I am grateful for the care the leaders give to the young people that are a part of the youth program, and the way they bless the families of Grace.  We are in the right place for us right now, and I can't help but see God's hand in this.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

An Evening At The Bengie's

Incredibly beautiful evening here in Middle River, MD, at the Bengie's Drive In!  It's the annual Labor Day weekend Dusk to Dawn show. They're playing a pretty decent lineup of movies:  SHAUN THE SHEEP, INSIDE OUT, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (yes, the Indiana Jones movie!), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 5, and ANT MAN!  I'm pretty sure we'll be snoozing by midnight, but this sure is a fine way to spend a Holiday evening! I hope you and yours are doing well.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Less Stress, More Fulfilling

For much of the past several years, I've really struggled with bouts of depression.  I'm not afraid to admit it.  It's something that bothers me a lot, and I've prayed about it constantly, that God would take the depression away, or take away what causes it.  Life becomes such a struggle, and while God never promised it would be easy, He does listen to our prayers, and I live with the hope that he will take this burden away and I can eliminate some of the stress that I feel.  I'm convinced God grants our requests, if it suits His purpose for our life.

So what is causing my depression?  Besides an all over malaise, I know that the main issues I face are related to my job.  I'm in a challenging position of management, with about 65 employees, and must make many important decisions on a daily basis.  I'm naturally a worrier, and a fear of making the wrong or bad decisions plagues me.  In addition, I have a boss who has high expectations, and constantly challenges me with tasks that take me out of my conservative comfort zone.  I'm always concerned about pleasing her.  I tend to be plagued by self-doubt, and I feel like I'm the weak link in my management circle.  This causes me to lose confidence in myself, which then feeds my depression, and I'm stressed out all the time.  The stress has caused a host of health problems, including hypertension, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.  I'm really a mess.

To combat the stress, I've tried to make my personal life easier.  In this, I've been sort of successful.  My sweet daughter, Melody, who is on the verge of entering her teen years, is my biggest supporter, and though we disagree occasionally, like every parent-child relationship, she certainly makes my life easier.  She's a good girl.  I don't have to worry about behavior problems, and she is a fantastic student.  I wish she was more confident in herself, but given my own propensity to doubt myself, she gets this honestly.  She seems to have inherited only the best traits from her mother, and that outweighs the more challenging traits she got from me.  So, while I worry that she should have an easy life, she more than makes up for any worrying I do by her wonderful demeanor.  I love her so much!

We are blessed financially to be able to take fun vacations frequently, and that is another way to combat stress.  While I know my boss would love to have access to me all-day and every day, I do not bring my work home with me, and I definitely stay off the grid while vacationing, which my employees honor.  They know how to get hold of me if they absolutely have to, but the managers under me are very competent and are able to make decisions on my behalf.  And our vacations are always a lot of fun.  As I've noted previously, we love roller coasters, so we have set goals to visit many amusement parks every year and ride as many coasters as we can.  We also have a goal to visit all 50 U.S. states before Melody graduates from high school.  She has visited 34 states (and I'm at 41), so we're well on our way.

So, after a particularly bad Spring, I turned up my prayer life a few notches, and I started asking God to ease the stresses related to my job.  The Summer months weren't nearly as difficult, even though the amount of travel for work increased dramatically.  While I was outwardly frustrated about this, internally I found that I was worrying a lot less than previously.  After some personal vacation trips, and getting out of the office for extended periods of time, I found that I was less stressed, in general.  Then after getting some direct feedback from my closest colleagues, I suddenly found myself with a lot of confidence, and that easily translated into a positive outlook about work.  It would be very easy for me to chalk it up to the kind things said by my co-workers, and my boss, I can't help but see how God responded to my direct prayers to ease my work-related stress.  It is incredible to see God working in my life.  There is tangible evidence that my outlook has improved, and for that, I am humbled and so thankful.

I still have a long way to go.  Life isn't easy, and God didn't promise that it would be easy.  But I asked Jesus into my heart a long time ago, and that has made such a difference in my life and outlook.  Life is so much better with Him in my life.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Once Again, Where is Eric?!?

It's time once again for another episode of, "Where is Eric???"  Or maybe the better question is, where WAS Eric?

Whew, what a Summer!  I typically take four or five business trips a year, but between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year already, I've been on four.  This past week was my fourth trip.  In June, I went to Oklahoma City for a conference with my colleagues.  Two weeks later, I was in Fort Worth, Texas, for a high-level management summit.  Immediately after returning home, my daughter and I went to Pittsburgh for a family wedding, and a few weeks after that, we went on our big Summer Vacation roller coaster trip.  We came home after the trip for about three weeks, then I went to Atlantic City for yet another high-level management summit, immediately followed by one more week-long adventure with my daughter to Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and Ocean City.  This week, I returned to Oklahoma City for another conference.  All told, from June 8 thru today, September 4, I was on the road for 37 days, 19 for work, 18 for play.  I say again, Whew!


Flying to Oklahoma City is never easy, but I'm fortunate (for those who like Southwest Airlines...I do) that I can fly on an airline that benefits me.  However, despite earning lots of points for free flights, Southwest keeps tweaking their schedules and now there are very few direct flights to Oklahoma City from Baltimore-Washington International, and vice-versa.  Gone are those Friday mornings when I want to rush out of OKC to get home as soon as possible.  Today was a long day of travel, beginning with a flight out of OKC at around 6:00 a.m., a layover in St. Louis, and finally touching down at BWI at around noon.  I know there are worse trips, but I can't help but be completely exhausted after a week of high-level meetings and decision making, then a day on the road before finally collapsing at home.  I just don't fly well.  Being over six-feet tall is a challenge on even the shortest of flights, with all airlines stuffing as many seats onto a plane as will fit, made for average-height people.  I'm never going to be comfortable while flying, and your Federal Government is not going to pay for me to fly in comfort.  Anyway, upon arriving at home, I was ready for a nap and some relaxation.


I was very excited to be home and reunited with my daughter, Melody!  We don't like being apart.  It's just the two of us all the time, anyway, so these business trips really disrupt our regular schedule and daily routine.  I am so fortunate to have my parents nearby, and they were willing to move in to my home to take care of my girl while I was away.  Dad actually did a lot of work around my house during his time here, and for that I am so appreciative.  Mom always helps Melody organize her room and provide that motherly influence that I just can't provide, and I know Melody loves having them both here with her.  Between my parents and my in-laws, Melody is surrounded by so much love.  She's the only grandchild on either side of her family, and the assumption is that she is spoiled rotten, but the truth is that she is spoiled with love.  It's so easy for us to feel the challenges that circumstances have presented to us, but God continues to show us the way, providing us with love and support that family and friends give us.  Life is good.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!