Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Summer Of Road Trips Begins!

It was the Summer of Road Trips (in fact, every summer is the Summer of Road Trips, for us)!  We had a whole slew of things we did this year, and it began in June with our trip to Williamsburg, VA, and Busch Gardens.

We left on Wednesday after I worked two-thirds of a day, so we could get an early jump on traffic.  But leaving early didn’t help a bit since there’s ALWAYS traffic in the DC area.  Twenty minutes after we left home, we hit a major traffic backup on the Capitol Beltway, and we crawled for several miles.  I abandoned the beltway at Route 4 and meandered over to US 301 and headed south from there.  While there were the typical back-ups in Brandywine, where local authorities caved to developers and built a huge complex of shopping centers along 301, which has created gridlock at all times of the day, we were able to keep moving and made it to Williamsburg by 6pm.  It was a relatively quick trip, which was a rare thing.

This was a special trip since we had made plans well over a year ago with the timeshare company BlueGreen to receive a “two-hour” presentation on what they’re offering, in exchange for a bunch of hotel points.  I’ve already established in my head that these timeshare things do not fit our lifestyle, so it’s very easy for me to say, "No, I’m just not interested," despite the "manager" telling us that we're stupid for passing on their offer.  It's high pressure and I can see why so many people cave and buy when they don't want to.  The only downside to our visit was that they picked the hotel we were staying in for the time we were there.  I’ve stayed in practically every hotel in the Williamsburg metropolitan area, but we have never stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Bypass Road.  While it ended up being okay, it was fairly typical of the standard hotels we’ve stayed at in the past.

Our evening plans consisted of dinner and possibly a movie.  We went to our new discovery, the Mellow Mushroom, in Newport News, where I had one of the largest calzones I’ve ever seen.  Our server, Heidi, was wonderfully upbeat, and that made Melody happy.  We told her so, and it brought her to tears.  She was very good at her job, and, if you go, ask for a table in her serving section.

After some debate, we decided against seeing a movie, and instead we drove back to the New Town section of Williamsburg to visit the local Barnes and Noble bookstore.  However, to our shock, the store had a handwritten note on the door saying that they had new hours and closed at 9.  It was 9:15, so we missed out.  Instead, we got dessert at the Sweet Frog, then went back to our hotel and crashed for the night.  Our appointment with BlueGreen was to start at 10:30am the next day.

After getting ready the following morning, we went to our appointment with BlueGreen.  We listened to their presentation and all I will say is that they used every technique I’ve seen in the past, making assumptions about us by our appearance and the things we shared while we chatted.  I was not at all interested, and they knew it, and we were the first ones out of the place.  We left at 1:15pm, so it was definitely longer than the two hours they said it would be, but I expected that.

We went back to the hotel for a few minutes to change and get sunscreen, then we spent the rest of the day at Busch Gardens.  We had a great time, though it rained on us each day for the rest of the trip.  We rode all of our favorites, including the Loch Ness Monster, which is celebrating its 40th birthday.  The only coaster we missed was Verbolten, which always seemed to have the longest lines, and also was closed off and on most of the time we were there.  Crowds were light overall, mostly due to the rain, so we enjoyed ourselves a lot.  Friday night was especially fun because, after getting soaked by a late evening thunderstorm, we had the park to ourselves for about an hour before they closed.

By Saturday, we were ready to head home.  We had breakfast at the Colonial Pancake House, a regular tradition on our last day in Williamsburg, then shopped at a couple of places we like.  We found a five foot tall dancing Santa Claus for half price at the Christmas Mouse, and we bought it for Mom and Dad for their anniversary.  At around 2pm, we headed out of Williamsburg, going out on the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown, and Route 17 through Rappahannock to US 301. From there, we stopped to eat at Cheddar’s in Brandywine, then we surprised my parents in Bowie with the dancing Santa.  We finally arrived at home at almost 9pm.  It was a fun trip!

Have a great evening, Everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Looking Back at Father's Day

My wonderful 14-year old daughter, Melody, surprised me with a Father’s Day gift yesterday that I didn’t expect:  a free lunch.  She made all of the arrangements, talked to her grandmother for advice, and, at mid-morning, declared we were going out.  She had already set the GPS on her phone and said that I would be required to drive one hour and 15 minutes, and she would provide the directions.  So, off we went!

We headed north, then west, towards Frederick, MD, then continued west to Hagerstown.  As we approached a shopping center, it became clear where we were having lunch:  Primanti Bros!  I didn’t even know they had a Maryland location, since Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh fixture.  It’s a sandwich shop specializing in the all-in-one meat, cheese, slaw, and fries, between two thick slices of bread.  Melody was pleased that she had managed to surprise me.

We headed in, were soon seated, and placed our order.  We started with tater tots for an appetizer.  Melody ordered a salad, but I got a sandwich with Capicola, provolone, slaw, fries, and a fried egg on top.  It was delicious.  Melody talked us into a brownie sundae, and I had a few bites before allowing her to finish it off.

She insisted paying the bill, and I helped her calculate the tip.  We also found out that, since it’s Father’s Day, all dads get to eat for FREE!  What a great deal!

Melody said I should decide what we would do for the rest of the day, though she suggested a few places that her grandmother had recommended.  We ended up going to an antique mall just south of Hagerstown.  We spent the next hour walking through the large, crowded aisles, settling on a book (for me) and picture (for one of Melody’s teachers). 

We then continued down the road to Frederick along old Route 40.  We stopped at the large, overly crowded Wonder Books, a used book store, where we each found a few more books.  Our next stop was in downtown Frederick at North Market Pop Shop, home to hundreds of unusual bottled soda pops.  We found six bottles of various flavors, then walked back to our Jeep and headed towards home.

What a nice day, and great idea, by my darlin' daughter.  She seemed pretty proud of herself, and I'm glad that she thought to go out and celebrate with me.  She makes me special by making me a Dad, and I'm so honored to be her father.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

Looking back at some of our travels over the past year...


My daughter and I decided to get away for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  We don’t usually travel on that weekend specifically because it seems like EVERYONE travels on that weekend, but we both needed a break and the timing was good.

We waited until after rush hour on Friday, which allowed the traffic to completely unlock itself, and we headed north from Baltimore up to Hershey.  Chocolate World was open until 11pm that evening, so we enjoyed a ride through the factory, which is free, and then loaded up on chocolate gifts.  After that, we drove to our hotel and crashed.  It was midnight when we shut off the lights.

We got up early, found a Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then drove to Dorney Park, in Allentown, PA.  We had never been to that park before, but it was a part of the Cedar Fair family of amusement parks.  We have season tickets which gives us admission to all Cedar Fair parks, including Kings Island in Cincinnati, Kings Dominion in Virginia, and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, among others.

The park was crowded, but most people seemed to be headed to the attached water park.  We quickly found out that this meant there were no lines for any of the coasters!

We rode most of the roller coasters, including Talon, Hydra, Thunder Hawk, Steel Force, and the Wild Mouse.  Steel Force was easily our favorite.  It is a very smooth-riding steel-tracked coaster, and seemed a lot like the Magnum XL 200, a coaster at Cedar Point.

It was a really hot day, and we found ourselves drinking water like it was going out of style.  At around 3pm, we decided we were done, so we left the park and headed over to our hotel.  Since it was still early, we decided to backtrack to Shartlesville, and we stopped by an old favorite attraction, Roadside America.  Roadside America is a huge model, with houses, buildings, landscapes, cars and roads, and moving features, laid out in a large room almost as big as a warehouse.  It's looking old, but it's still pretty cool, and we spent a good hour just walking around and admiring the detailed models.

We headed back towards Allentown, and, on the way, we decided to get some dinner at a Red Robin.  Dinner was good, as always.  My daughter, anxious to do more, had me looking for the nearest bookstore, and there was a Barnes & Noble at a mall not too far from our hotel.  We decided to go.  After more browsing, and some ice cream from Coldstone, we crashed at our hotel.

We were up kind of late, missing the free hotel breakfast, so we went to a diner nearby after checking out.  It was pretty good.  Then we headed for home.  We meandered through the countryside towards Lancaster, where we stopped at a few of our favorite haunts, then continued on home.  

We hit a tremendous rainstorm as we entered the Baltimore area.  the Baltimore Beltway moved very slowly, and there was a lot of lightning.  When we reached the interchange for I-95 South near Catonsville, the roadway was flooded.  Already in 4-wheel drive, our Jeep easily forded the deeper than expected water, and we continued on home.

Upon arriving home, we heard the terrible news that Ellicott City, MD, had been flooded for the second time in less than two years, with tremendous damage worse than the last time, in July 2016.  Ironically, we had had just returned home from a vacation on that day, as well.

It was a sad coda to our trip.  We watched a lot of news that evening, praying for the folks in EC.  We slept late the next day, thankful to be home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New Stories

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer.  My high school English teacher in 9th grade, Ms. Keeny, may disagree, as I didn’t take writing very seriously back then, nor did I always practice what was being taught in the world of grammar, and I had the grades to show for it.  But writing about what I liked, versus what I was forced to write about, made a huge difference, and I really do enjoy it now.
However, life gets in the way when we’re trying to do the things we want to do.  I’m defining “life” as responsibilities, or the things that take greater priority, such as eating, cleaning, driving, raising a teen, and taking care of one’s health, that can take time away from the “fun” things.
Much of the past six months have been filled doing lots of fun things, actually, but these are more along the lines of living life vicariously through my daughter.  She entered high school this year, and the accelerator is pressed to the floor all of the time.  She immediately got involved with the band, and she is thriving socially as a result.  The only negative is homework, which takes up a significant amount of her free time, but she’s pulling in wonderful grades, so what more can a parent ask for?  I wish she didn’t put so much stress on herself, so I try to keep her encouraged, and we do enough things outside of school to keep her from getting too stressed out.  Our church, also, helps keep her focused on other things, and she loves the girls in her small group.  They encourage and pray for her, and she for them.  I’m very happy for her, and thrilled to see her thriving.
Our travel opportunities were also plentiful this past Summer, with a grand vacation in mid-July to Niagara Falls, NY, and Ontario, which was her first trip out of the country, to Canada.  We worked our way up to Toronto, and Montreal, Quebec, where my daughter used her French language skills to speak more like a local.
We spent time in Chicago (G-Fest XXV), Cincinnati (Kings Island Amusement Park), Sandusky (Cedar Point Amusement Park), and New England (where we drove up to the Mount Washington summit, among other things).  We took several trips to Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, VA, too.  With our collection of season tickets, we could, in theory, go to 30 different amusement parks, and ride almost 300 different roller coasters!  That’s a lot of ups and downs!
Band and church camps (her), and business trips to Oklahoma City and Fort Worth (me), rounded out the rest of the Summer, and while I thought things might quiet a little bit this Fall, the aforementioned new high school routine has taken away almost any possible time for relaxation.  The fact that it’s almost the end of October is incredible to me, since time seems to be flying fast.
It isn’t all great news, though.  Both my mother and my mother-in-law suffered major health issues in the Spring, and between Mom’s back surgery (after falling backwards down a staircase) and my MIL’s knee removal due to infection and still unscheduled knee-replacement surgery, we’ve spent lots of downtime when we’ve visited with each of them.  Both are still recovering, though MIL is still in a wheelchair, and she has a long road ahead even after her surgery.  Mom has difficulty walking, and still can’t go down stairs without assistance.
And then there’s this:  I’ve made no secret here in the past of the fact that I’ve had my battles with depression and stress, however much of the last six months were a continuing struggle for me.  I’ve had days where I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone get to work.  I pray every night and every morning for God’s help in getting me through each day.  I experienced an unwanted change in jobs and responsibilities a few months ago, which is the primary source of stress, and it has me doubting my ability to do… well, just about anything.  That’s what depression does to me.  It leaves me feeling paranoid, unhappy, distrusting, and doubting myself in a lot of ways.  Most days, I feel like I’m in a pit and I can’t climb out of it.
As a result of these struggles, I’ve had difficulty writing.  It isn’t that I’m not writing at all; what I’ve written is just not worth posting, as much of it is meandering and personal.  With regard to this blog, I’ve put it aside in order to concentrate on getting better.  While I’m a long way from that still, there are things I feel like I can share.  And, really, the blog is an itch that I need to scratch.  I’m unsure of just how much I’ll post, but I hope multiple times a week will suffice to get me back into a routine.
In the near future, you can look forward to hearing stories about my daughter’s high school band adventures; my wonderful wife; our latest roller coaster trips; pizza…oh, so much pizza; and stories about my walk with God.
Have a great day, everyone!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mom's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there.  My wonderful wife, Teresa, passed from this life less than a month before her first official Mother's Day, so everyday spent with our daughter, Melody, was Mother's Day.  Teresa was a great mom.

Melody was so fortunate to have my own mother, as well as Teresa's mother, as moms, so we celebrate them because they were so wonderful and supportive.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  Happy Mother's Day, Mom2!  Happy Mother's Day, T2!

Have a great day, everyone!

Friday, May 11, 2018


I consider myself a pizza connoisseur.  Though it is not the best thing for me to eat, I can’t help trying an old favorite or a brand new, never-tried-before pizza parlor.  So many of my favorites over the years have disappeared off the map, many of them childhood favorites that helped develop my pizza palette, and I miss them terribly.  I’m sure they weren’t necessarily good, at least not all of them. 

Places like Shakey’s were pretty awesome, though it likely wasn’t the pizza, but the ambience that I remember so well.  In the mid- to late-70s, my grandfather, Kenny Fulcher, displayed his powerful trumpet playing chops with a Dixieland Jazz band called Southern Comfort every Friday night at the Rockville, MD, Shakey’s restaurant, on the Pike.  The place always seemed packed with patrons, and the pizza wasn’t bad.  It closed back in the 80s, eventually replaced by a Hooter’s.  Where Shakey’s was certainly children-friendly, Hooter’s is not.

I’ve mentioned this place once before on this blog, but another favorite pizza restaurant was the Dino Restaurant, in Suitland, MD.  It’s also long gone, but not forgotten.  Eating at Dino’s was a lot like eating in someone’s Italian dining room.  It seemed very formal to my child eyes, but we loved going here for special occasions, or on a Friday night when we had a craving for it.  It was very similar to Ledo’s recipe, with a somewhat thin, rectangular crust, slightly sweet sauce, and nicely portioned layer of cheese.  I remember going more than a few times with my grandparents, and once tried anchovies, which my grandfather would order separately and add on to his slices of pizza.  The Dino is missed.

I generally stay away from the chains (though I know Shakey’s was a chain, and Ledo’s, my current favorite, is, too), but I’m going to mention Pizza Hut.  I haven’t liked their pizza for many years, but when I was a kid, we went to Pizza Hut often, and it was pretty good.  The crust was always thicker than anything else we tried, and the cheese was laid on pretty thick, too.  I guess it was the pan pizza that really attracted us, though, and we loved every greasy slice.  While my family always seemed to go to the Clinton, MD, store, it was the Upper Marlboro Pizza Hut, near Osborne Road on 301, that became “ours.”  I went to Frederick Douglass High School, and the school’s band adopted it as our hangout.  After every football game or concert, we would gather there for a celebratory pizza.

Speaking of Clinton, another really good pizza place was Margellina’s.  I didn’t “discover” them until I was in my 20s, but it became a favorite of mine, and I loved dragging friends there to eat.  My parents loved it, too.  Many times, I’d order a couple of pies and take them home.  They were really good, slightly thick, and packed with toppings.  They were unique enough to want to come back often.

A shopping center near my childhood home in Upper Marlboro opened a Pizza Oven restaurant in the early 80s.  While the pizza was nothing special, it really grew on me and the thick tomato sauce and thin crust satisfied my pizza cravings often.  They were a fairly decent local chain for a while, but now there’s only one left in the DC area that I can find, near Riverdale, MD, just off of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  Ironically, it’s in the exact same shop that my parents used to get their pizza fixes when I was a baby and we lived in Riverdale, called the Pizza Wheel.

In my mid 20s, I moved in with my cousin, Dan, in Montgomery Village, MD.  MV seemed far from where I grew up, and I had to find all new pizza places and learn what was good.  Dan was a pizza guy, too, though, and he knew where to get the good stuff.  He and I began ordering a large pizza from Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria almost every Friday.  They delivered, which was perfect, and he and I could put away a large pizza easily.  Armand’s pizza was thick, Chicago-style, and had a slightly bitter, thick tomato sauce.  And we loved it.  Our regular order was pepperoni, mushrooms, and extra cheese.  There are still a couple of Armand’s in the area, though they seem to come and go.  There was one in Bowie, near my parent’s place, but it only lasted a few years.  I don’t know if the MV store is still there, but there is one in Silver Spring, not too far from my office, and I surprise my management team with a pizza lunch every once in a while.

I’m still searching for good pizza places in Howard County, where I live, but I haven’t been very successful.  My current favorite is Trattoria E Pizzeria***, on Guilford Road at the King’s Contrivance Village Center.  It’s a New York-style pizza that retains its Italian heritage.  I wish they delivered, but I don’t mind going to pick up a pie when I get a craving for it.

Other pizza joints in Howard County that I’ve tried, both chains and standalones, include (with my subjective ratings):  Bertucci’s*** (Columbia), Coal Fire** (Ellicott City), Facci** (Fulton), HomeSlyce*** (Columbia), Ledo’s*** (Columbia and Fulton), Lucero’s*** (Fulton), New York J & P** (Fulton), Pasta Blitz*** (EC), Squisito** (Burtonville – technically Montgomery Co), Pub Dog*** (Columbia), Waterloo** (Columbia), Waterloo** (Elkridge), Vennari’s** (Columbia), Bella Mia** (EC), Gateway Pizza*** (Elkridge), Upper Crust** (Columbia), Pazani*** (Elkridge), Luna Bella** (Columbia), Roma’s** (Columbia), Pizza Presto* (Laurel), Pizza Primetime* (Laurel), Royal Pizza*** (Columbia), MOD*** (Columbia), Pie Five* (Columbia), Papa John’s* (Laurel), Domino’s* (Laurel), Pizza Hut* (Laurel), Jerry’s** (Fulton), Grotto’s** (Columbia), Wegman’s*** (Columbia), Weis** (Laurel), and Three Brother’s*** (Laurel/PG County – Columbia location is closed!).  

Some are pretty good, many are not so great, though I’ll say I did really like Three Brother’s and was saddened that the Columbia location closed.  The Ledo’s chain is the closest to great, but they’re still not at the level of the Original Ledo Restaurant**** (College Park) and TJ Elliot’s**** (Bowie – they use the original recipe).

So my search for great pizza continues.  If you have recommendations, please pass them along.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Short Takes

Today is Free Comic Book Day, the annual celebration of all things related to comic books on the first Saturday in May, featuring a variety of books offered for FREE by publishers working with comic shop owners to provide access to the world of comic books.  My daughter and I have participated in Free Comic Book Day for much of the last decade, and will be visiting our favorite shop, Big Planet Comics in College Park, MD.


My Dear Daughter Melody began her Summer concert tour by seeing Lord Huron perform at the relatively new venue at the DC Waterfront, The Anthem, last night.  While Lord Huron likely won't overtake twenty one pilots as #1 in Melody's heart, they are a current favorite, and the first of another series of live concert performances we plan to attend this season.  On tap is Imagine Dragons and Yes, with more to come.  We love the music of our favorite bands, and seeing them live is a great opportunity to celebrate that love.


Melody and I saw AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR last weekend.  If you're a fan of the genre, and/or you've seen the previous Marvel movies, you owe it to yourself to check out this movie.  It is really good, though it ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, and you'll have to wait a year to see the rest of the story.  But we were mesmerized.  We loved seeing the various team-ups of the characters, and while a cast as large as this one makes it difficult to go too deeply into anything but surface characterizations, everyone gets at least a few minutes in the spotlight.  We do lose a few favorite superheroes, as you may have heard.  SPOILER WARNING:  I don't believe that any of the character deaths are permanent, however there are a couple that are integral to the story, and we may not see their returns.  That's as far as I'll go.  END OF SPOILER WARNING.


Medical updates:

Mom is at home, resting and feeling better.  She started physical therapy a few days ago, and that will continue for the next several weeks.  She's on the road to recovery.

Mom-in-law is at a rehab center for the next six weeks, going through physical therapy while keeping her "knee-less" leg from taking any weight.  After the six weeks, she will have surgery to place a new knee into her leg, and then she will have six more weeks of rehab.  She's doing okay.

Daughter Melody is still dealing with Spring allergies, resulting in stuffy nose and sore throat, but she's feeling better.

My sister is preparing for toe surgery on Tuesday morning.  She'll be off her feet for at least a week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Prayer Requests

It has been a rough week, with my mother's surgery on Friday to fuse a vertebrae after her fall down the stairs last week, and my mother-in-laws surgery, also on Friday, to remove her knee for a knee replacement.  Daughter Melody and I found ourselves making multiple visits to two different hospitals over the weekend.

The good news is that Mom came home on Monday, though she has a long recovery ahead of her.  She was finally able to walk, with assistance, on Sunday, which led to her release from the hospital, but she and my dad have had a rough week awaiting word on a rehabilitation facility.  God is so good, and we're so thankful that things are looking up, overall.

My mother-in-law was released from the hospital yesterday.  She had a bad infection in her knee, and the replacement knee she received five years ago had to be removed.  She went to a rehab center where she'll stay for the next six weeks, at which point she'll have another surgery to install a new knee.

With the Spring weather comes pollen and allergies, and Melody always seems to have a bad reaction.  She has been miserable for the past several days, and I elected to keep her home from school for the past two days.  I feel so badly for her, especially with the warm weather.  She's had to be indoors while she recovers.  It has also kept us from visiting the grandmothers this week.

Finally, I'm having two more big, bad moles removed from my back tomorrow.  My dermatologist apologized to me in advance, telling me that I'll have some pretty nasty scars, but I don't really care.  I'd rather have them out.  I'll never see them, and it's not like anyone else will see them, except doctors, most likely.  Anyway, I'm going to be confined to the couch for the next several days.  Nothing like a little forced rest to take some of the stress away.

I feel like all I'm doing is asking for good thoughts and prayers for healing, not just me, but for Mom, Mom-in-law, and Melody, too.  As I said at the top, it has been a rough week.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mom Takes A Fall

Tuesday night, I was in bed, reading a book and getting sleepy, when my phone rang.  It was 10pm, so I knew it was not a normal call.  Sure enough, it was Dad.  His voice was shaky as he told me he was following an ambulance to the hospital.  Mom had fallen down the stairs.  I asked him if it was a bad fall (as if any fall down the stairs isn't), and he said it was, that she was in bad shape.  He said that he would call us as soon as he had any news, and he asked me to let sister Angie and brother Darren know what was going on.  He figured they were both asleep and didn't want to wake them up.

My mind was all over the place as I hung up the phone.  Daughter Melody, who was still awake and had heard my phone, came in the room and I told her what was going on.  She quickly texted Angie and we found out she was awake, so we called her.  I told her what was going on, and asked if she could come over to our house (she lives a mile away) and stay with Melody while I went to the hospital.  She said she would.  I quickly got dressed, and headed out the door with a mug of coffee as Angie arrived.  Angie told me that Darren had texted her and said he was on his way to the hospital, too.

I got to the hospital in 20 minutes.  It was raining hard, just a lousy all-around night, but I found a parking spot near the Emergency Room.  I saw Dad in the waiting room right away, and he looked very surprised to see me.  I asked if he knew anything yet, and he said he hadn't, but he relayed what had happened.

Mom was going up the stairs with her hand full.  She wasn't holding the handrail.  She had a box of nail polish in her hands.  She lost her balance about ten stairs up, and fell backwards.  There is a wall at the bottom of the stairs, and she slammed hard against it.  She never lost consciousness, she said.  Dad was in the basement and heard her fall, and he raced up to find her.  She was in serious pain, and nauseous.  Dad called 911, then asked her what happened.  She told him.

The EMTs arrived quickly, and took charge.  She was in too much pain to move herself, and in order to be safe, the EMTs put her on a backboard.  Once she was loaded into the ambulance, they took her vitals and stabilized her before leaving for the hospital.  Dad wanted them to take her to the hospital the normally use, but they told him that, because she had fallen more than five stairs, they had to take her to a trauma center, and the closest was in the opposite direction, a hospital with a terrible reputation.

Mom had a bad gash on the back of her thigh, in addition to severe back pain.  It turns out that many of the bottles of nail polish had broken and she landed on the shattered glass.  The back pain was the real concern, though.  She had feeling in her extremities, and while she could move her legs and feet, she could not sit up.

After waiting with Dad for about an hour, they let us go back to see Mom.  Because of security concerns at the hospital, we had to be escorted.  Mom was alert, but very uncomfortable.  The initial CAT scan indicated a compression fracture to the L-2 vertebrae, and the gash in her thigh required stitches.  We chatted for a bit, and Mom shared a few details about the fall from her perspective.

Darren had arrived, and they only allowed two of us in the trauma room at a time.  I said goodbye to Mom and headed back to the waiting room.  I gave Darren a quick update, and then he went back to see her.  Darren came back out about 30 minutes later, and told me that they were going to do the MRI and were planning surgery.  That was a surprise to me.  Darren was going back to Mom & Dad's house to crash and make sure the house was locked up, since Dad couldn't remember if he even shut the front door.  Darren had to work early the next morning.

I walked him out, then awaited security to escort me back to the trauma room.  That was when I got the details from Dad.  The doctors feared that there may be internal bleeding, and they were going to do an emergency MRI in order to see if they needed to do immediate surgery.

At 2:30am, they took Mom out for the MRI.  Dad and I waited.  I was happy that I had brought a mug of coffee, since it was keeping me awake.  I kept talking to Dad to keep him distracted and awake.  The nurse brought Mom back in about 45 minutes.  It was another 30 minutes until the doctor arrived to give us his prognosis.  He said that they were ruling out surgery, at least for now, that she was bleeding enough to be a concern.  Mom was getting pretty drowsy from the pain meds, and since nothing else could be done that night, we agreed to go home and catch some shuteye.  Dad planned to be back by about 9am to meet with the doctors.  I had a dermatologist appointment the next day, so I was able to get out of work for the day.  We said goodnight to Mom, and Dad and I went out to the parking lot.

I told Dad to keep me updated on things, and I went home.  Angie was still awake and watching TV when I walked in.  It was 4:30am.  I normally got up at 4:40am on weekdays.  I gave Angie all the information I had, and sent her home to sleep.  Then I went to sleep.  I was up an hour later to get Melody up and ready for school, and I gave her an update on Mom.  At 6:30am, I called the folks at work to let them know what was happening, then I tried to sleep a bit more.

More to come on this story.  Mom will have surgery tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.  Good night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Say "Cheese!"

I got a speeding ticket mailed to me a few days ago.  Apparently, I was speeding in front of an elementary school on a Sunday evening, going 48mph in a 35mph zone, and there was a speed camera.  I'm definitely guilty, even though I didn't even know I was going too fast at the time.  It's only the third speeding ticket I've ever received, the second via speed camera.  The other time was on a stretch of Route 108 in Olney, MD, where the speed limit changes three times in less than a mile.  Yes, I was guilty then, too.

Personally, I'm not a fan of speed cameras.  I realize there are good safety reasons for them, especially around schools.  I'm usually very cognizant of them.  My daughter used to walk to school and I was very happy that there was a camera in front of her school, especially given the ridiculous number of speeders along that stretch of road.  My issue with them is when they are posted on roads nowhere near schools solely for the purpose of making money for the jurisdiction that places them.

My first speeding ticket was given to me by a West Virginia state trooper when I was in my mid-twenties.  Though it was a speed trap, I was clearly and admittedly speeding.  He clocked me going 70mph in a 60mph zone.  The speed limit was only 60 in that short stretch of highway, jumping to 65 a short distance further ahead.  But getting pulled over by a police officer, with lights flashing and in front of lots of other drivers, was a much more intimidating and humbling experience than getting a picture of my car and a speeding ticket in the mail.  I learned a lesson that day and never received another violation until the Olney incident, more than 20 years later.

Clearly, if the idea is to get people to stop speeding, getting a ticket from a flesh and blood police officer is a better way of hindering drivers than getting something mailed a week or more after a camera gets you.  Unless, of course, the idea is to make money.  Just my two cents.

Do I sound bitter?

Have a great evening, everyone.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Random Signs

One of the...I don't know..."benefits" of having a last name that is also found in the dictionary means that I see it in print in various places all of the time.  Anytime there's a headline in the newspaper that mentions someone getting released from jail results in a "Felon Freed" headline.  I also see it on TV quite a bit.  Anyway, I was watching the movie THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, featuring Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis, among others, and this popped up on the screen.  I thought it was cool

My daughter ended up stopping by Hobby Lobby a few days ago, and we saw a bunch of metal signs around the store.  I thought the above sign was funny, especially given how I feel about my boss nowadays.

There's a lot of truth to this sign.... Bad choices do make good stories, and sometimes, the best stories.  I've made a ton of bad choices.

This one is pretty cool, too, since I love Jeeps.  I've had a Cherokee and a Liberty, and I currently have a Wrangler.  Jeeps are cool.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Into The Depths

When one battles depression, it doesn't take much to bring them down into the depths of emotional suffering.  Even trivial happenings might negatively affect one's demeanor, and cause them to be unhappy, or disconnected.

I've suffered from depression for much of the past 14 years, following the death and home-going of my wonderful wife.  She suffered a sudden devastating heart attack that took her from this life in April of 2004, leaving me with our then-five month old daughter.  The grief was overwhelming, and I had a difficult time getting through that first year.  I had a good support system, though, with my parents and my in-laws assisting with the care of my daughter for much of her first two years.  My pastor was also a great help, providing me with advice that assisted me with suggestions for getting through the worst of my difficulties.  It was not a cure-all, but it really helped me and I was able to find things that could pull me out of the malaise that would frequently grab me and send me reeling.

I'm going through a bout of this now, which is related to much of the stuff that I've been dealing with lately, from anniversaries and losing Scout, to some really stupid work stuff.  I'm frustrated, angry, paranoid, moody, and depressed.

A contributing factor in all this is my inability to hold on to close friends.  I've been blessed to have so many incredible people in my life over the years, and some of those relationships have been really special.  My problem is that I tend to push people away when things get particularly bad.  I've been burned on occasion, when trying to get through a particularly rough trial, with close friends taking my anger or sadness personally, or not believing just how badly I'm suffering, and blow it off.  I had a friend ridicule me a few years after my wife, Teresa, died, for not wanting to start dating.  Some of my friends just give up on me, and while I probably deserve it, I've become programmed now to see my down slopes coming and will push people away instead of just asking for help and support.  It's not always the right thing to do, but I hate dragging people down into the pit with me, and the last thing I want is to be a burden on anyone.  There are very few people who understand what this feels like, and are willing to stand beside me as I work my way through it.  I'm too stubborn to accept help, too.

Being an introvert doesn't help me at all, either.  I find myself trying to stay away from others even when things are going well, but when they're not, I avoid other people completely, and will disappear.  I found myself doing that just last night, at church, and I will even arrive late and leave early in order to avoid having to talk to anyone.  I'm pretty good at putting on a poker face around people who don't know me well, and I can pretend that things are fine when they're not.  Again, I just don't want to be a burden on anyone.

So where is my faith in all of this?  I've only reached the point of feeling despondent a couple of times in the past 14 years, but I've continued to pray every day.  At times, I forget to turn to God when things are bad, and He'll give me a reminder of some kind (yes, it may even be of a supernatural kind), and I'll pray and thank Him for letting me know He's there.  Too often, though, I'll just get so overwhelmed, I'll forget.  It happens.  Life isn't easy, and I recognize that, but I also know that He is always there.  That's the promise.  He's not going to prevent heartache or bad stuff from happening to us, but He will be there and help us through it when we need Him.  I can actually feel His physical presence.

Please pray for me.  I appreciate it so much.  Have a great evening.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Mood For A Day

I wish I had words to write tonight, but I'm suffering from immense sadness and I'm on the verge of falling into the depression pit, an all too common occurrence over the past 14 years.  I know a lot of this is related to the anniversary of my wife's death and home-going, and the loss of Faithful Pup Scout a few weeks ago, but it's also caused by all of the stupid stuff that's happening to me at work and in my personal life.  Add to that I'm home alone tonight, which is never a good thing when I'm feeling this way, and I'm feeling mighty low.  It's times like this that I wish Teresa was still here to help share the burden.  "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)."

If you're the praying type, I could use your prayers tonight.  Thanks in advance.

Hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Teresa's Home-Going

Teresa - May 28, 1972 to April 19, 2004

Monday, April 19, 2004, seemed like any other day. I awoke early, got ready, walked and fed Scout, our Maltese Pup, and kissed and said goodbye to my wonderful wife, Teresa, before heading to work. I had a short phone conversation around 9 or so that morning with Teresa, though I don’t remember much about it. She later sent an email containing digital pictures of Melody, which she sent to me, and our parents, daily.

During my trip home, I called Teresa via cell phone and we decided I would stop at the grocery store and pick up stuff for grilling out for dinner that evening. After stopping there, I came home. Homecomings were always exciting since Teresa looked forward to me helping out with Melody and Scout, I looked forward to seeing my wonderful wife after a long day at the office, and Scout always seemed excited to see me no matter how long I was gone. Melody had reached the age, at 5 months, where she knew me when she saw me, and she gave me a big smile when I arrived home.

After settling in, changing clothes, etc., and talking about how our days went, we proceeded to get dinner prepared. Teresa shucked corn on the cob; I got the burgers and hot dogs ready, and started the grill. Melody watched us work around her. It was a fine meal, one that was repeated often when the weather was nice. It was a beautiful day, too, with humidity at a comfortable level despite the warm temperatures.

After our meal, Teresa went upstairs to clean up while I watched Melody. I determined that it was much too nice of an evening to work in the yard, which is what I had planned to do for the evening. I had put it off for so long, but knowing our homeowners association would be doing their annual reviews soon, I knew it had to be done. I came up with an alternate plan for the evening, though, and took Melody upstairs with me to tell Teresa. We decided to take Melody and Scout out and get some ice cream, then go to a park and walk around and enjoy the nice weather.

We piled into our Jeep and headed down the road at around 6:45. About 2 miles later, we remembered that we forgot to get the “Snuggly” to carry Melody in, so we rushed back to the house to get it. It was in the other car, so I just hopped out, retrieved it, and we headed back down the road.

We drove up Gorman Road towards US 29, a rural, twisting, and bumpy road. I remember turning to look at Teresa, sitting in the back seat, with Melody in her infant seat and Scout on her lap, after a particularly bad bump, and asking her if she was okay. She said she felt a little nauseous, so I slowed a bit. I don’t know why I was in such a hurry, except that we noticed the clouds rolling in and our daylight wouldn’t last as long as we thought.

We stopped at a popular little ice cream shop in Clarksville. Teresa stayed in the Jeep with the kids, and I hopped in line. I got Teresa a waffle cone with chocolate ice cream, and I had a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Both were very messy and I asked for a cup to put the cone in. I got back into the Jeep and Teresa enjoyed her ice cream. My shake was too thick to drink, so I placed it in the cup holder to allow it to melt a little.

We decided at this point to drive to Reservoir High School, where Teresa worked, instead of going to a park, because it was getting dark, and we figured there might be a sporting event at the school that we could watch. I drove us down Rt. 108 to Rt. 216 to the school in Fulton.

I parked on the left side of the school, and we proceeded to try to put Melody in the Snuggly, which I wore since Teresa said Melody was getting too heavy for her to carry. This was a bit of a challenge because Melody would fuss until she was comfortably in the Snuggly and we were walking around. We accomplished this and Teresa got Scout’s leash and walked her.

We saw some activity on a few of the fields, so the four of us walked over to see what was going on. It appeared to be softball practice, perhaps, and soccer practice, though the kids playing looked much younger than high school age. We turned around and walked to the front of the school. Teresa had noticed that Addie’s car was out front. Addie was the principal and Teresa’s boss. We thought, if she wasn’t busy, she might like to see Melody.

We walked to the main entrance to try the door, but it was locked. We started back towards the parking lot, and Teresa noticed the light was on in Addie’s office, so I suggested she knock on her window. Teresa walked over to the window with Scout, while I stayed out on the sidewalk with Melody so that Addie would see me if she came to the window. Addie might not see Teresa because of the angle she was at, between the bushes and the building. Teresa asked, with a smile on her face, if I thought she should knock, since, I think, she thought Addie might be busy or with someone, but I said, egging her on, “Sure.” I looked down and to the side for just a moment, possibly to see if anyone else was around, and when I looked back at Teresa, she had collapsed on the ground. Not knowing what happened, I rushed over to her. I thought, initially, that she had tripped on the bushes, or maybe hit her head on the brick wall. I knelt beside her and looked at her face. Her eyes were staring blankly straight ahead, and she wasn’t breathing, though she let out long gasps every few seconds. Her eyes began to glaze over and slowly close. I knew something was terribly wrong.

Addie opened the window and I asked her to call 911, and to see if anyone knew CPR. Melody, still strapped to my stomach, began to cry. Scout was standing beside us, but Teresa lay on top of her leash, so she couldn’t go anywhere. I kept talking to Teresa, telling her to wake up, and even smacked her cheeks lightly, thinking that might bring her to consciousness. Addie ran out of the building, handed her cell phone to me so I could talk to the 911 operator, and she took Melody out of the Snuggly so that I could give my full attention to Teresa. I was afraid to move Teresa because I didn’t know what happened to her, thinking she maybe had hit her head or something. The operator began to ask many questions and talk me through CPR. At that moment, a lady came running up and said she knew CPR, and she began administering it on Teresa (I later found out she was a nurse). The operator continued to talk to me and told me to encourage her to continue administering CPR. I remember looking up the sidewalk and seeing Addie trying to comfort Melody, who was crying quite loudly.

It seemed to take forever, but the paramedics finally arrived. I hung up the phone with the operator and the paramedics quickly moved Teresa over to the sidewalk. One paramedic expressed his displeasure after getting tangled in Scout’s leash and yelled at me, and I yelled right back that Teresa had fallen on top of the leash and we couldn’t get it out of the way until she was moved. He seemed to understand and changed his tune.

I watched as the paramedics shocked Teresa a couple of times with the defibrillators before a police officer asked me to step inside the school. A crowd had gathered by this time, including much of the school’s custodial staff and some students, as well as other passersby. One of the custodians took care of Scout for me.

I tried calling my parents on my cell phone, but there was no answer. I left a message and tried calling the Shirlens. They weren’t home either. The police began asking me questions about what had happened and I tried to answer them as well as I could. I kept looking outside to see what was going on, but I couldn’t see Teresa over the crowd. I was bothered that they had not taken her to the hospital yet. I felt this numbing tingle in my stomach and mid-section, much like when your foot falls asleep. I started to hyperventilate, but I tried to keep my wits about me.

The paramedics finally placed Teresa in the ambulance, and I gave Addie my phone list and told her to keep trying to call my parents and the Shirlens. I also gave her the keys to the Jeep and told her Melody’s diaper bag was in it. I left Melody and Scout with her and rode with a police officer behind the ambulance to Howard County General Hospital. I remember being puzzled that the ambulance was not going faster to the Hospital, but I kept holding out hope that everything would be fine. In fact, I was concerned about feeding Melody because Teresa might have to stay in the hospital for a few days.

My cell phone rang and it was Teresa’s mom, Lynda. She was very upset and I tried to tell her what happened. I don’t remember much of the conversation except that Jim, Teresa’s dad, got on the phone and I talked to him, too. They were on their way to the hospital.

I asked the police officer if he was a Christian. He said he was Catholic. I asked him to pray.

The officer parked on the side of the building next to the ambulance bays and I jumped out and started towards the ambulance. He stopped me, though, and went ahead to find out what was going on. They didn’t seem to want me to see her. I thought maybe she had a lot of wires and tubes connected to her and maybe that’s why they didn’t want me to see her. He then led me around to the main ER entrance. He said I should wait there while he talked to the desk nurse. I remember looking around and noticing a lot of people looking at me, but also thinking that I shouldn’t have to wait there because Teresa was already inside.

A few minutes later, he led me to a little room just off of the main ER. He asked me to wait there, and then asked if I needed anything to drink. I said, “Water,” and he left. I looked around the little room, with its little round table, several chairs, and little couches, and a Bible in the middle of the table. I began to panic, figuring this was the type of room where they give you bad news. I picked up the Bible and read a few verses, and I prayed to God that Teresa would be all right. I was still very panicked, so I tried calling my parents cell phone and reached my Mom. I think she could tell I was panicked because she immediately tried to comfort me. I don’t remember much of the conversation except that they were headed to the school to get Melody and Dad would then come to the hospital.

The officer brought a cup of water and asked if I needed anything else. I needed to use the rest room, so he led me back out to the main waiting room. Afterwards, I quickly rushed back to the little room hoping someone would give me more information. A hospital administrator came in and asked a lot of personal questions about Teresa and I gave her our insurance card. The officer came back and I asked him if someone could give me more information about what was happening. He left to find someone. Eventually, a man and a woman came in. The man was a doctor, the woman a hospital employee, from what I could tell. The doctor explained that, when Teresa arrived, the paramedics had been working on her for some time, but there was nothing they could do, that Teresa had passed away. I was in disbelief. My hope had evaporated, and all I could think about was poor Melody losing her mother at such an early age. The tears came and I began sobbing. The woman tried to comfort me, but I was pretty upset.

Then I heard an anguished scream from outside the door. It was Lynda. She rushed in and we tried to comfort each other. Jim came in a few minutes later. We tried to piece together what had happened as reality began to really hit home. After a few minutes, we asked if we could see Teresa, and we were led into the main ER room. They had closed the door to her room/bed, and we could only see her from a distance through the glass. They said that the police were still investigating and we couldn’t go in.

Carol and Marty A. came in around this time, followed shortly by Aunt Jody and my brother, Darren. Darren didn’t know she had died (actually, nobody did, and the news hit each one pretty hard as they found out), and he gave me a long, comforting, supportive hug, as did Jody. Many more began to show up: my parents, Jerry, Janice, Josh, Lauren, and Fred. Carol and Marty left to help with Melody at the school. Lynda and I sat outside Teresa’s room hoping for an opportunity to go in and be with her. The doctors and police wouldn’t let us, though. We went back to the little room to talk. Josh prayed. Nobody could believe this had really happened.

A little later, the detective assigned to the case called me into another little room and he explained that they would have to take Teresa’s body to the state morgue in Baltimore, and the medical examiner would do an autopsy. I asked if we could see her before they left, and he said we could not. He gave me Teresa’s shoes and her wedding band, the only jewelry she wore that evening. He gave me his contact information and offered his condolences.

I rejoined the family and we talked some more. Then we proceeded to the cars and everyone came back to our house. I rode with Jody and Fred. When we arrived, Ray and Margret were waiting for us. Gorham, our neighbor and a substitute teacher at the school, informed a few neighbors about what had happened. Addie had already called the entire school staff.

Shortly, Addie, Carol, and some other teachers came by with Melody, Scout, and our Jeep.

We all sat around and talked for a long time, well into the night.

I remember receiving a phone call at around 1:30 a.m. from the organ donor program. I was particularly upset that they would call at that hour. It seemed very insensitive to me.

Everyone went home a short time later. Mom & Dad stayed with me to help with Melody and Scout. I went to bed at around 2 or so.

I didn’t sleep much. I remember getting up to use the bathroom 3 or 4 times during the night. I know I was in shock. I certainly wasn’t rational. I couldn’t imagine what the next day would be like, or hour. I was completely overwhelmed by everything. And I kept visualizing what happened, over and over again, in my head. Every time I started to think about her really being gone, I got very nauseous. How could this happen? I remember looking at her side of the bed and thinking, we slept apart only 7 or 8 times, maybe, during our entire marriage! I felt so alone.

I got up around 6 or so. I knew today would be a hard day, as the task of letting people know what happened would take place. I remember first calling work and telling Donna, who was my supervisor a few years ago, and who would be one of the first people at work, what happened. That was a very hard call to make, and I know Donna was very upset over the news. She promised to let people know and that every thing would be taken care of at work, that I shouldn’t worry about anything. (I remember telling her that Brownsville Sectional was scheduled to go to the contractor that morning and was sitting on my desk, and that someone should move it to the pick-up area, and she told me to stop thinking about work.)

Melody awoke and seemed to take to the bottle very well. We had about 10 bags of breast milk that Teresa had pumped over the last few weeks, and we treated it like gold. We had given Melody a bottle a few times before, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment. We were more worried about her taking formula. She seemed oblivious to the turmoil we were feeling. Mom & Dad were so supportive. Scout seemed to sense something was wrong, and in the days ahead, she went into a bit of a depression.

Jim & Lynda came back over. I know there were other visitors, as well, including Linda H., who would provide so much support over the next few weeks, answering phones and bringing food.

I think I must have been in a daze, still, as I don’t really remember much else. I talked to the organ donor people for a very long time. They needed a complete medical history. Teresa was a donor and we agreed to go through with it. The person that called the night before was with a research organization that studied brain disorders, different than the “official” organ donation organization, and a second representative called to give me more information. They wanted a “healthy” brain to study. I was still upset by their phone call the night before and declined.

I remembered that my milkshake was still in the Jeep, obviously melted and certainly not very tasty anymore. Fortunately, it did not cause the car to stink.

Food began to arrive by the box full. And many visitors stopped by. Kristen and Elizabeth came by. Pastor Mark, from Grace Community Church, the church Teresa and I were attending, called and came by in the afternoon. We began thinking about and planning a funeral service, and details such as funeral home, cemetery, and things like that were discussed. Never in my life did I think that I would need to plan such things, at least at my age. Debby L. came by to help with funeral plans and support.

There were many phone calls. I remember talking to Jay, my boss; friend and co-worker Gary W.; cousins Paul & Dan; Lisa K, who I worked with for many years as a youth counselor; …each one offering prayers and emotional support.

Jim, Lynda, Mom, Dad and I went to Witzke Funeral Home and prepared things for Teresa’s funeral and burial, including casket choices, etc. Stephen, the director, took us through the entire process, and recommended a cemetery. I had to excuse myself at one point and broke down crying in the men’s room. I didn’t want to have to make these kinds of decisions, and I felt like the nightmare of losing Teresa was getting worse.

After making all of the funeral home arrangements, we went to Crest Lawn Memorial Gardens, a cemetery in Marriottsville. Again, the process of having to choose a burial plot and headstone was overwhelming. I felt nauseous. I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Less than 24 hours after eating dinner and going for a family outing, I was planning my wife’s funeral! Kathleen gave us a lot of information and we toured the cemetery and chose 2 plots in the “Garden of Gethsemane”, near the watchful eye of a statue of Jesus. It seemed appropriate, since Teresa had visited the actual Garden of Gethsemane while touring Israel a few years ago, before I met her. It was also at this time that I realized just how expensive a funeral and burial cost. I would spare no expense for Teresa, but I wondered, how could the average family afford all of this?

Many visitors were waiting for us to come home: Rev. George & Mary A., Irene & Stephen, and several others. Michelle & Kevin B. had stopped by, too, but had to leave before we arrived home. Ray & Margret and Dan & Kristy came by, too.

Tuesday evening, Jim’s entire Korean congregation, it seemed, came by and had a prayer service and sing-along. I was pretty wiped out by the end of the day and remember drifting off to sleep to the sounds of their singing.

In the days that followed, many more visitors came by. Aunt Pat brought breakfast and donuts one morning, and took care of the baby for much of that morning. A large delegation from Montrose Baptist Church stopped by, including Pastor Moussa, Mark & Darla H., Curtis S., and Mark D. Jun & Jen came by, as well as Joanne G., Sandy & Michelle, Brook & Jennifer, Gorham, Nancy C., Ginny P., Melissa & Marty P., Jennifer Z., Cherice D. (who has since provided so many tips for helping us care for Melody), and many, many more. I wish I could remember everyone, and I hope that no one is offended if I did forget. Lauren, from across the street, offered breast milk, as did Kristy. Nancy & Jay C. brought over a huge basket of diapers and baby formula.

Reservoir High wanted to start a scholarship fund in Teresa’s name, and the students wanted to have a college fund for Melody. The students at Mt. Hebron High, where Teresa taught before coming to Reservoir, planted a tree in her memory. The students, teachers and staff of both schools were very supportive.

I am so appreciative of the support of everyone, for providing food, support with Melody, and prayer. I was and still am overwhelmed.

Scout was groomed one afternoon, followed by an appointment with her doctor for an annual checkup the next day. I informed the doctor of what happened and that Scout seemed to be in a depression. We agreed that she was probably mourning. Scout was in good health otherwise, fortunately.

I picked out a red dress for Teresa to wear, which Lynda agreed was perfect for her. I had given it to her a few Christmas’s ago. She always looked great in red.

The funeral service came together nicely. We picked 6 gentlemen to be pallbearers: Gorham (our neighbor and a substitute teacher at the school), Gary B. (who Teresa knew from Montrose Baptist Church when they were in the youth group together), Darren (Teresa’s brother-in-law), Jerry L. (Teresa’s Godfather), Dan (my cousin and who introduced Teresa and I to each other), and Josh (Teresa’s only fraternal cousin). Jun agreed to sing the Lord’s Prayer, just as he did at our wedding. Mark, the pastor of Grace Community Church, will officiate at the church; Rev. George A. (my pastor from the church I grew up in, and who participated in our wedding ceremony) will say a prayer, read scripture, and officiate at the cemetery; and Addie (Teresa’s boss), Carol (Teresa’s long-time co-worker), Jennifer, Elizabeth, and Kristen (her three Ya-Ya friends from college), Ray (who officiated at our wedding), and several current and former students, will eulogize her. Two students wrote a rap song in her memory, which will be played. We planned to show the video of the photomontage from our wedding, in addition to pictures of key moments since then.

Thursday night was the first viewing at the funeral home. It was very overwhelming. Teresa, in some ways, didn’t look right, her mouth in particular. I kept reminding myself that it was just her body, not her. Her body was affected by the organ donations, as well. A thought popped into my head, after seeing her during those first few minutes, that Teresa did not live to experience her first Mother’s Day. That made me very sad. Rev. A. shared some scripture and thoughts, and prayed with us, the immediate family, before the doors were opened. It meant a lot to us. Lauren agreed to care for Melody at the funeral home, and that was much appreciated (weeks later, she offered to be Melody’s nanny. What an answered prayer she is!). It turned into a long evening for Melody, though, and we decided she would stay home the following evening.

Many relatives, friends, students, co-workers (hers and mine), and so many other people stopped by. I was drained by the end of the evening. It was so nice to see so many people, but I just hated that it was under these circumstances. It was also an emotional time for everyone.

A young lady introduced herself to me. Sara Z., a co-worker of Teresa’s, shared with me that she had lost her fiancĂ© in a car accident a few years ago. Someone had shared a book with her, which she gave to me, about a man who lost his wife, mother, and daughter in a car accident, and how he was able to get his life back together through his faith. She said the book encouraged her so much. She is engaged again. She said Teresa was such an inspiration to her because of her faith, and she shared a lot of good advice with her about marriage.

I met a lot of Teresa’s former students, as well, and some parents of students she taught, and I enjoyed hearing stories they shared about her, including the “Quiz Song”, which she had sung to me several times before.

The next day, it was more of the same. Lisa K., who I worked with as a youth counselor for quite a few years, flew in from Cincinnati. She dropped by the house with an email letter from her daughter, Erin, mother of 3 young children, who lost her husband in a car accident a year-and-a-half ago. It was full of encouragement. Only someone who has been through something like this can possibly identify with what you’re going through.

At the funeral home, many more co-workers stopped by, as well as lots of family, many who came back for the evening viewing, as well. In between, much of the family came back to my house for a delicious dinner provided by one of Darren’s friends.

After a draining two days, the next day would be the hardest. That morning, I found a video drama that Teresa and I had performed on Easter Sunday 2000. I added it to the service so that Teresa could make an appearance at her funeral, and so that seeing her so alive would provide a better memory of her to those attending than the previous 2 days. The skit was one of the most well received that we had done while leading the drama team at Montrose.

Two limos, furnished by the funeral home, picked us up, with Mom & Dad, Jim & Lynda, Angie, Melody, and I in one car, and Jerry & Janice, Jody & Fred, Josh, Lauren, and Darren in the other. They took us to the funeral home for one last moment with Teresa. I placed the note from the bottle from our engagement at Sandy Point, along with a copy of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, one of Scout’s balls, and a few pictures of Melody and I, in the casket with her. When a plaster handprint didn’t work, we received a lock of her hair.

The limos took us to Grace Community Church. There were well over 500 people attending! The service was so wonderful, and moving, and emotional, and eclectic, and musical, and memorable, and very spiritual. I’m sure it’s what Teresa would have wanted it to be, if it had to be at all. The service was audio and video taped, and I have since listened to the service over and over again, and I cry, laugh, and remember everything that was said every time.

It was one of the longest processions I’ve ever seen. Almost everyone who attended the funeral also went to the cemetery. The only thing I regret is that I was asked to ride in the hearse, when I would rather have ridden with the rest of the family in the limo. Still not sure why I was asked, nor why I agreed to it. It was not an enjoyable ride.

Rev. A. did a very moving graveside service, and, afterward, we each took a yellow rose, Teresa’s favorite, and walked back to the cars. It was a beautiful, sunny, breezy day, one I’m sure Teresa would have enjoyed.

We drove back to the church for a very nice luncheon and reception. Much of the family and close friends joined us. It was such a sad occasion, but a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our loved ones.

It was so nice of Grace Community Church to host the reception. They would provide me with a lot of support over the next few months. I still don’t know the names of so many that have helped me, but Pastor Mark and Debby & Jerry L. were wonderful.

The days to follow are almost harder, in a lot of ways. I have benefited from a wonderfully supportive family. Mom & Dad and Jim & Lynda, as well as Angie, have been with me constantly, mostly to help me with Melody’s care, but also so that we can support and love each other. I’m so appreciative of their thoughtfulness and support. I can’t do it without them, and I love them so much.

Melody seems to grow and evolve every day. I am humbled that this little girl, who I love so much, and who loves me so unconditionally, each day, when I arrive home from work, wants me to place her on my lap, and we sit on the couch and talk about our day (I talk, she babbles), perfectly content to just sit there, until, resting her head on my stomach, she drifts off to sleep for her afternoon nap. She is such a happy baby, and she has such a great demeanor. Her personality is really coming out, and she is such a little clown. She’ll cock her head sideways and gives me a big smile, and I just laugh and laugh. She looks so much like Teresa and I am thankful that God has blessed me, not only with a beautiful little daughter, but also a piece of Teresa. I love her so much.

My faith remains strong, though I miss Teresa so much, and the grief is overwhelming at times. It’s impossible to describe, losing someone who was so much a part of me. We did so much together, from our big road trips (through 38 states!) to our daily routines. We packed a lot into the almost 5 years we were married. She made me so happy, and I know she was happy. This impacts everything that I do and will do, though. The effect on Melody, too, is immense, losing her mother at such a young age. But I know we will get through it because God is taking care of us. As long as we are faithful to Him, He will continue to bless us. And I know that Teresa is in a better place, experiencing the riches in Heaven. She is the lucky one. We are the ones that have to live here without her.

Teresa was as wonderful as everyone has said. She was human, so she was not perfect. But she knew Jesus as her Savior, and that is why I know she is in Heaven. I miss her so much. But I also know that I will see her again one day.


June 2004

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Directionally Challenged

I realize that many people have difficulty with directions, and finding their way without the modern conveniences of GPS on our smart phones makes it infinitely easier to travel, particularly in areas one isn't familiar.  We have moved well past the days when one needed to have a trusted road map or atlas in their car when they travel.  I guess I'm just a bit old fashioned in that regard, since I do still like having a paper map with me.  Don't get me wrong; I use my GPS, too, and it has helped me out of many jams, especially in the downtown of a new city I may be visiting for the first time.  But there's more to this than just the ease of travel.

That said.... I read this today:  Google Maps may now tell you, "Turn left at McDonald's"

The downfall of society, indeed.

Look, I get it.  It's probably a lot easier for most people to have directions given to them using landmarks, rather than using street names on signs that one may not be able to see.  But, as a bit of a traditionalist, I can't help but be disappointed that technology is taking so many skills out of our hands.  Understanding basic directions should be something everyone can understand.  I mean, it used to be that we could find our way based on the position of the sun.  Now everything is spoon fed to us.  Maybe I'm overstating this, but I sincerely believe this is another example of the dumbing down of society.

I guess it's also another example of me turning into an old man.  It used to be that I didn't care about these types of things, but now it really bothers me, like finding walnuts in chocolate chip cookies.  We no longer have to learn things, since all of the answers are only a tap away.  "Alexa, what is the meaning of life?"  Alexa: "42."

I'll just head back to my car with my Rand McNally Road Atlas and figure out how to avoid that wrong turn in Albuquerque.  It's probably the next left after the Sears that just went out of business.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Falling In Love

I've never gone on more than a few second dates.  I'm a fairly good judge of character and I'm observant enough to be able to tell if a first date is going well, and whether a date is interested in me or me in her.  If things go well, the second date is usually requested at the end of the first date.  If they do not go well, or if I know that she isn't a good match, the end of the date is the end.  The vast majority of my first dates have ended that way.

I had been dating a young lady for almost six months.  My cousin and roommate, Dan, knew I wasn't happy in the relationship, and I had hinted a few times that I couldn't see a future with her.  She just didn't seem that into me, but I had been hanging on to the relationship trying to make it work.  When she broke off a date for that Saturday night, Dan told me, over breakfast, that I should come to his church that evening to see the Easter play that they were performing.  He told me about a young lady who had a part in the play that I might be interested in meeting.  Dan hadn't tried any matchmaking in the almost year we had lived together, so I was intrigued, and since I didn't have any plans, I agreed to go.

That evening, I found myself in the audience at Montrose Baptist Church for the Easter play.  It was a good show, and I spent most of the performance trying to figure out which actress was the one Dan wanted me to meet, since he had neglected to tell me her name.  It wasn't until after the show, when Dan invited me to dinner with a bunch of the cast, that he told me her name:  Teresa.

I followed Dan over to the restaurant.  We walked over to a table where about 7 or 8 young ladies were seated.  Dan quickly did introductions, and then sat down next to Teresa, which placed him between her and me on the same side of the table.  I never got to talk to her the whole evening!  It wasn't until later that night, back at our place, that I told him what he did.  He wasn't even aware that he prevented me from talking to her.  That didn't stop him from asking me if I wanted to get her number, and find out if she might be interested in going out.  I was interested enough, so he did, and she did, and we set it all into motion.

Before that, however, I went out one more time with the other woman.  And we had The Talk.  And she confirmed what I was feeling, and we agreed to break up.  And it was hard.  I think anytime you invest in a relationship, especially one that lasts as long as ours did, the break up is hard, even if I knew it wasn't going to last.  But breaking up was the right thing to do.  I never heard from her again.

Teresa had gone away for Spring Break, so she wasn't aware of my break up.  I didn't tell her, since she didn't need to know.  I was looking forward, and it was almost a month later before we went out on our first date.  It was magical!  We had a great time, and hit it off better than I could have expected.  I think the only regret I had was not asking for a kiss goodnight, since I was trying so hard to be a gentleman, and I didn't want to come across as being too forward.  Teresa was special, and it was clear I wanted a second date.  She was on board, and we made plans to get together the following Saturday.

We exchanged emails all week, and talked on the phone on Friday afternoon.  Like a dummy, I didn't pick up any of the hints that she dropped on me about getting together that evening.  I told her I had laundry to do.  After I got off the phone, Dan called me an idiot, and said I needed to call her back.  Sure enough, he was right.  Teresa was very interested, and I told her I'd pick her up and we could get a late dinner.

It was a long drive, going from Montgomery Village, where I lived, to Laurel, where she shared an apartment with her college friend, Kristen.  This was long before I had a cell phone.  By the time I got to her place, she informed me that Kristen had been complaining about a pain in her abdomen, and had gone to the emergency room.  Teresa was going to follow, but she was waiting for me to arrive so she could tell me that she had to break off our date.  I asked her if she wanted me to go with her.  She was so surprised that I was willing to do that, and we rushed over to the Laurel Hospital together.  It was a long time before we found out how Kristen was doing.  While not too serious, the doctors wanted to do more tests, so, at around midnight, with all of us feeling hungry, Teresa and I made a late night run to Wendy's, bringing back burgers for everyone.

Kristen was released shortly after that, and I took Teresa back to her apartment, saying good night at around 2am.  I was exhausted, and so was Teresa, and we still had a date scheduled for later that day!  Teresa gave me a kiss goodnight this time, and I drove home floating on air.

I was up late, but Teresa and I were scheduled to see an afternoon matinee at the movies.  It was then that I think we both knew that we were in love.  The movie, TITANIC, had nothing to do with it.  Given the amount of time we spent with each other over 24 hours, and all the time talking and sharing, gave us such a sense of comfort with each other.

Even more important, and which became clear to both of us later, is that God had been preparing us for each other, and He knew we were ready for the relationship that was developing.  He brought a love for each other into our hearts, and it blossomed quickly into something truly special, something that neither of us had ever felt before.  We each had gone down a lot of road.  I was 28 when we met, and she was 25.  We dated for less than a year before I asked her to marry me.  God blessed us with a wonderful marriage, and life was good.

I wish that we had been given more time together.  Teresa passed from this life almost exactly six years after we met, with just over 4 and a half years of marriage.  She was a mother for only five months, bringing our daughter, Melody, into the world.

I loved Teresa like no one else, and miss her every single day.  I know that she is living in eternity with our Lord and Savior because she had a relationship with Him, and I know that I will see her again someday.

Thank you, Lord, for our wonderful life together.

Have a great evening, everyone!