Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quiet Night

I only have a short post tonight... My wonderful daughter is suffering from a bad illness, and my attention is situated on her.  I have a lot on my mind, but am having difficulty bringing those thoughts into a coherent post this evening, and with my focus on my daughter, it's just as well if I don't force a post that doesn't need to be written.

I hope you are with your loved ones this evening, and that the time spent is worthwhile and meaningful.  Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Guest Post: twenty one pilots, Part Deux

Guest Post:  My daughter, Melody, writes about our summer trip to Columbus, OH, to see her favorite band, twenty one pilots.  Here's her story.

Yes, we really did drive the 9 hours from Maryland to Columbus just to see a concert! (It was totally worth it.)

    The whole trip lasted from June 21st until June 25th and it was amazing. I miss it so, so much.

    The tickets for this tour had come out while we were on a retreat with our church, and my dad took time out of his busy day to try and snag some amazing seats. It was April 1st (April Fool's Day) so when he emailed me that he had gotten them, I didn't believe him!

    Pittsburgh was our destination for the first Wednesday night. We left home around 3:45pm and our first stop was at South Mountain rest area, located somewhere in Maryland. We went on to the Park n' Dine and Hilltop Fruit Market after that. We arrived at our hotel in Monroeville, PA, around 10:45pm and crashed for the night.

    The next morning we ate breakfast and went to look at a piece of property (property, not house) that my dad had seen. It was in really bad shape and would've needed a lot of work. We then went to the Strip District for about an hour. After that, our destination was Cleveland, OH. We stopped at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame for a few hours and then got lost trying to find the house from A Christmas Story. It was closed, though. Oh well. After that we left downtown Cleveland and gave up trying to find a Target. We went to a Red Robin instead. Our stop for the night was in Huron, OH. 

    The next day did not go as we had originally planned it. We were going to go to Cedar Point for the day and then stay another night in the same hotel, in Huron, but the weather had other plans. We woke up to a lot of rain. We had not factored bad weather into our plan so we were at a crossroads. We could go and brave the weather at Cedar Point, or we could try and cancel our hotel reservation for the night and head straight for Columbus. After much debating and extra planning, we decided on the latter. We were able to cancel our reservation and we switched gears to head for Columbus.

    The trip to Columbus was very rainy. Our GPS took us on a lot of back roads. We even had to stop for a very, very long train! After making it through traffic, we arrived just outside of Columbus and stopped at Polaris Mall to see if we could find a Hot Topic store that had twenty one pilots shirts. We entered through a Barnes and Noble and went up the stairs to the Hot Topic. Sadly, they were out of the shirt that I was hoping to find, but there was a bubble tea shop right across from the Hot Topic, which was definitely a plus.

    When we were leaving, it was pouring down rain, so we ran to our car and found a Texas Roadhouse to eat at. I chatted with the waiter over twenty one pilots and about the shows. He was very nice.

    After Texas Roadhouse, I made my dad drive past all of the venues that 21p was playing at - The Basement, Express Live, Newport Music Hall, The Schottenstien Center, and Nationwide Arena. Almost all of them had some sort of acknowledgement towards Tour de Columbus, which was really cool. It was still raining as we made our way to our hotel for the night, a Holiday Inn, which turned out to be a very nice hotel. A car with "Tour de Columbus" written on its back window was spotted in the parking lot.

    We decided to go and see the newly released Cars 3, having passed a movie theater on our way into the city. The band members, Tyler and Josh, had suggested in an interview two pizza places to stop at while in Columbus - Donato's and Hounddog's. After some research, we figured out that Donato's was actually a chain restaurant and set sail for Hounddog's. Once there, we spent a fair few minutes trying to find parking. They had a car out back with a hound dog strapped to the top! The inside was very interesting; it must've been a college/high school hangout. They had pictures all over the walls and our table had names carved into the wood. Their pizza was absolutely amazing! Faithful Pup Scout approved.

    After dinner we went across the street to a CVS, as I had neglected to pack extra deodorant and had run out that morning. It was expensive, and for the rest of the trip it was infamously known as the $7 Columbus deodorant. 

    Our movie was at 7, so we walked back to the car at Hounddog's and made our way to the theater. The shopping center had another Barnes and Noble! We didn't go - we were already late enough. The theater was nice, as was the movie! If you haven't seen it yet, it's very good. When the movie was over, it was dark. We had an adventure trying to find Nationwide Arena, and we got lost, so we set our trusty GPS and went back to the hotel for the night.

    And then it was Saturday, the big day. We woke up and walked to a restaurant called SuperChef's (where my dad accidentally canceled our reservation and messed up the online wait list). I got 8 small heart-shaped red velvet pancakes, and my dad can't remember what he got ("It was like a salad egg thing"). The food was amazing. Then we walked back to the hotel and checked out. 

    They were selling Tour de Columbus merchandise outside of Nationwide Arena, so that's where we went. After a lot of searching, we got parked and went to get in line. It was long, but it went fast. Some other people came out of a nearby Starbucks and were letting others in line sign a flag that they had brought, saying their name, where they're from, and their top two favorite 21p songs. The guy who brought the flag told us that he was going to be in the pit (general admission - standing room) and he was going to try and get the flag to Tyler during one of their songs (he didn't get it, but we did see him trying on the big screen). Finally, we got up to the front of the line and picked out two tour shirts and a sweatshirt, which are both very comfy (although, as I'm typing this, the tour shirt no longer fits.) 

    My dad had read about a German Village just outside of the city, so that was our next destination. It was a very cute little town with very limited parking - we had to do two loops around town before finding a place to park. We found a Golden Hobby shop, which is filled with things made by retirees, ranging from jewelry to puzzles. It was a very nice little shop. We went to put our stuff in the car and spotted a bookstore across the street, so of course we went in. It had so many little areas and it was spread out so much that I got lost and had to call my dad to come and find me! Afterward, we went to Max and Erma's for lunch. 

    Finally it was time to check into our hotel. It was a huge tower within walking distance from Nationwide. The name was something French - Hotel LeVogue or something like that, I don't know. They had valet parking, so I knew it must be a nice hotel. We walked in and immediately a bell boy came and took our bags. We checked in and the bellboy took us up to our room, all the while struggling to carry my dad's bags. He walked in and gave us a tour of our room before leaving. The room was very very nice. The TV even said "Hello, Mr. Eric." It was wild!


    Soon, it was time to go to the concert. We were walking, so we had to leave around 5. There were a LOT of people walking down both sides of the street, so we tagged along near the end. Once we got there, we had about 5 minutes until the doors opened, so we got in line to wait. The arena put up a Tour de Columbus flag on their flagpole, which was cool. 

    Inside, it was a madhouse, per usual. They did not allow flashlights, and my portable charger looked like a flashlight, so, when we went through security, the lady questioned what it was ("Is that a flashlight?" "Oh, no, it's a portable charger." "Hmm. I've never seen one like that before."). We didn't stop to get merch, seeing a we had already gotten it earlier, and we went to get snacks and see our seats. They were AWESOME seats! We had a very close side-view of the stage.

    Soon it was time for the show. A band called Public opened; we had never heard of them before, but they were good. Next was Judah & the Lion (again!). They were wonderful as always. 

    Then was the Bathroom Incident. Prepare yourselves, it's kind of long.

    Right after Judah and the Lion, the curtain for 21p went up. Not knowing how much time I had, I decided to rush to the bathroom. There was one close to our section, but, as I got there, they CLOSED IT. So I started following a bunch of girls literally halfway around the arena to the other bathroom, which ended up having  line out the door. Giving up, I turned around, deciding that, yeah, I could last three hours without a bathroom. So I went back to our section. But it wasn't our section. I had walked down the wrong one! In my defense, it was quite dark. Navigating the maze that is Nationwide Arena, I finally found the right section and walked down to tell my dad what had happened. "Well, you have to go!" he told me, and I heaved a sigh before going back out to brave the line. Except there was no line. They had opened the other bathroom. I went and came back out, laughing at myself the whole time, and I walked back to our section. But it wasn't our section. I had gone down the wrong one AGAIN. Oh well. 

    I made it back to my seat and the curtain dropped a few moments later. It was magical. The atmosphere was amazing and I honestly feel like I enjoyed it a lot more than the Charlottesville concert (which was still very good). There is nothing quite like a twenty one pilots hometown show. 

    Sooner than I would've liked, it was over. Confetti floated around us, and I was so, so happy.    

    We got back to our hotel around 11:30pm and crashed. We had to leave bright and early the next day for our 9 hour drive back to Maryland (which would've been 6 without traffic). I will never forget this trip. We got home around 7pm, and that's where it ends :)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Grace Disguised

Three nights after my wonderful wife, Teresa, went to be with the Lord after suddenly and tragically passing away before my eyes on that beautiful evening on April 19, 2004, I was at the funeral home greeting friends and family, accepting their sympathy and slowly succumbing to the early stages of a grief that was dulling my senses.  I have very little memory of that night, and even less of the following day of visiting prior to the finality of the funeral for my wife and best friend, the mother of my infant daughter, Melody.

On that first evening at the funeral home, a young lady came up to me, introduced herself as one of Teresa's co-workers, a teacher at Reservoir high school, named Sara.  We spoke no more than a moment, and she handed me a book.  She offered her condolences, told me how much wisdom, advice, and friendship Teresa had provided to her, and explained that she had lost her fiance just over 2 years ago in a tragic accident involving a drunk driver.  She had since met someone else, and was engaged again, and she told me that Teresa had told her how, when she and I were engaged, we began reading the first 100 Psalms in reverse order, a hundred days before our wedding, counting them down each day so that we read the First Psalm following our wedding ceremony.  Sara and her new fiance were doing the very same thing.  She then told me about the book.  She said it had provided so much help to her as she was going through the throes of grief following her fiance's death, and the advice in it had made such an impact, she wanted me to have it.  I thanked Sara and wished her well.

I didn't think about the book again until I was at home later that night.  Looking through it, I saw that the book, "A Grace Disguised," by Jerry Sittser, is about loss, and specifically the sudden tragic accident that claimed the lives of his mother, his wife, and his young daughter, and how he dealt with the circumstances of his loss.  It explores loss in all of its myriad forms, and how we can use it to bring about spiritual depth, joy, compassion, and a deeper appreciation of simple blessings, a transformation that only comes through the grace of our Father.  Sara had inscribed a message inside the front cover that said,

"I hope this book brings understanding to your heart, a friend to share in the sorrow, and the reminder of the amazing hope we have in Christ as our souls grow because of grief.  You're in my prayers.  To God's Glory, Sara Z"
Inside was a card of condolence from Sara to me, and inside she had written about the details of her fiance's death, her own walk with the Lord through grief, and how the author's words had provided a friend she could turn to for advice.  She wanted me to know how helpful the book was to her, and that she hoped I could find the same.  She said she would pray for me.  After I read the card, I began to sob, and I wished I had talked with her more.

The book turned out to be an amazing source of comfort and advice, and I have since recommended it to so many others who have experienced similar loss.  The advice in the book would be helpful to anyone suffering from any kind of loss, from divorce, illness, or the death of a loved one.  I can't recommend it enough.  Sara, if you're reading this, thank you again for your thoughtfulness.  The book was an immense help to me, and I appreciate the gift so much.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Big Apple iPhone Mess

About a month ago, we found out that my daughter's iPhone 6 was a victim of Apple's battery issues, and we were scheduled to get a new battery.  The technician at our local Apple Store said the new battery would be available in 3 to 5 days.  We were happy to hear that her phone's battery issue was not a unique problem, and we awaited a phone call from Apple to return to get the new battery the following week.

I'm less patient than I may appear, but in this case, when we didn't hear from them for multiple weeks, I continued to wait.  After 4 weeks, on Friday afternoon right after work, I called Apple at the number I was given for the local Apple Store.  It instead sent me to Apple's national call center, though I didn't know that until I talked to the operator after spending 10 minutes navigating through their automated system, and another 12 minutes on hold waiting for the operator. 

I explained that we were waiting for a new battery for my daughter's iPhone, and though we were told it would be 3 to 5 days, it was now four weeks and we still hadn't heard anything.  She asked me for all of my information, even though I told her I had a work order number.  Then she put me on hold while she called our Apple Store.  She came back on the line about 3 minutes later, and I was transferred to a gentleman at the store, who immediately said that they had our battery, and when did I want to bring in our phone?  I made an appointment for that afternoon at 5pm.  I think they were worried that I might be a bit angry, but I decided not to ask them why they didn't call when the battery became available.  It just wasn't worth the effort.

I went home and picked up daughter Melody, and we made the short trek over to the Mall.  Once there, we went to the Apple Store.  One of the issues I have with the Apple Store is the assumption that we know what to do when we walk in.  We found out from our first visit, last month, that we have to "check in" with an employee in a designated spot in the back center of the store, and not just go straight to the table at the very back.  We also didn't know that there was another line after that, and we ended up offending several customers when we were helped before them.

Anyway, there seemed to be no problems, we dropped off the phone, and were told to return in an hour and a half.  Melody was nervous, and didn't know how to act without her phone.  But she was anxious about something possibly going wrong.  While we had backed up her pictures, just to be safe, that was all we did.

We went to dinner, then returned at exactly 6:45, just over an hour and half.  The young lady, McKenna, who helped us when we dropped off the phone, saw us and called us over.  It turns out my daughter was right to be worried:  there was a problem.  The battery, McKenna said, had "swelled," so we were getting a new phone.  She assured us that it was nothing we did.  It explained the sudden shutdowns and loss of power at any time, even when the battery was fully charged.

Anyway, we never would've guessed that we'd need a new phone, and Melody immediately panicked.  McKenna asked if we had backed up the phone to the iCloud.  We had not.  She said we could do it right then, but given how much was on the phone, we had to purchase the extra space for 99 cents per month.  I okayed it, and we started the back up procedure.  McKenna explained that it could take some time.

At 8:30(!), the back up stopped suddenly, and we got an error message.  It said that, due to a loss of wifi, the back up was unsuccessful.  We had wasted another hour and a half!  McKenna had gone on a break, so a different technician, Walle, explained our options.  It was almost 9pm, and the store was closing.  We would have to take the old phone home and do the backup using our wifi, then come back to the store and they would transfer the sim card to the new phone, along with setting it up.  We asked if we could come back the following day, and they said yes, both McKenna and Walle would be there.  We said we'd be back.

Friday, we went back and arrived right at 5pm.  We found Walle and he helped us get Melody's new phone set up.  We were there for less than an hour and left before 6pm with a new phone.  Our faith restored, we thanked Walle and headed for home.  Everything transferred perfectly, and the new phone is pretty awesome. Melody told me she is so happy.

So kudos to the folks at the Apple Store for making it all right after neglecting to call us when they were supposed to, turning our 3 to 5 day wait into a full month.  My daughter's new phone is great.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Who Ate My Apple?

No blog tonight due to an entire evening spent at the Apple Store... and you KNOW there’s a story coming!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Too Warm For Snow

I just looked at the weather app on my phone and saw that the temperature outside is 80 degrees.  I cringed.  It’s not that I hate 80 degree temperatures (though, I do…), it’s just that they have their time and place, and right now, here, in Central Maryland, is not it.  It’s still February, which is Winter around these parts, and 80 degrees is anything but normal.

My parents both love cold weather; Mom even more so as she’s gotten older.  But they both have always loved late Fall and Winter.  I also love the cold (and snow), and it goes far beyond any influence my parents had on me.  Maybe it’s a genetic thing, since my daughter is also this way.  I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years, and while it is likely ingrained in my DNA, I think there were other influences that only emphasized my love of the cold.

When I was a kid, I think my love of snow came from the high possibility that we might get a day off from school.  School was always fairly easy for me, and my grades were good to great, but I never really enjoyed it, and if snow kept us home, then that was a good thing.  And, as kids, my siblings and I (and my dad, if he was home from work with us) would play outside in the snow for hours.  We had a pretty nice sledding hill in our backyard, so that was cool, but we had snowball fights and would run around for hours, until our clothes were soaked and our legs were numb.  Then we’d go inside for hot cocoa and sit by our large family room’s fireplace to defrost, roasting marshmallows.  A few hours later, and we were back outside doing it all again.

The cold weather and possibility of snow is what keeps me positively motivated after the Holiday season, which is my favorite time of year.  Once the weather starts getting warm, and Spring arrives, I begin getting depressed.  The Spring is not a good time of year for me.  It was April 2004 when my wonderful wife, Teresa, passed away, and that was a particularly warm day.  I associate the warming of the weather at that time of the year with her death, and every year since then, when the weather starts to get warm, it causes me to feel depressed.

There's a time for 80 degree weather, and February is not it.  The snow we had over this past weekend brought excitement and happiness to my daughter and me, and it would be awesome if we could get one big snow before the end of Winter.  It doesn't look good right now, but we're hopeful.

Have a cool evening, everyone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Elusive Tubing

My daughter, Melody, and I started an annual President's Day Weekend tradition several years ago by going snow tubing.  Early on, additional family members joined us, like my parents.  But over the past few years, it's usually just the two of us.

This year, the weather wasn't looking very good.  We had above-average temperatures leading up to the weekend, which always results in slow speeds on the slopes, and with rain forecast for the entire area on Friday, we knew our best bet would be to go deeper into the mountains in hopes of snow.  Seven Springs, in Pennsylvania, was just what the doctor ordered.  Snow was forecast for Friday, so that's where we planned to go.

We were up early on Friday morning, packed and ready to go, with breakfast at our local Chick-Fil-A for our first stop.  Then it was a three hour drive into western Maryland.  It rained steadily the whole way.  We made a quick pit stop at one of our favorite shops, the Hilltop Fruit Market, in Grantsville, MD.  We loaded up on goodies and snacks.  Then we headed north into PA.

We arrived at Seven Springs with rain coming down in buckets.  While there were many cars parked near the lodge, there were none at the snow tubing area.  It looked deserted, in fact.  It appeared that our plan to head for colder climates didn't work out.  With the soggy conditions, we weren't going to be able to go tubing, and our 3 hour drive was for nought.

We decided to adjust our plans, and we headed to Somerset, PA, for lunch.  We chose Hoss's, and we had a nice soup and salad lunch.  We figured to head back to Gettysburg, where we already had a hotel reservation, and then consider whether to go to Ski Liberty to go tubing in the evening.

We headed east on the PA Turnpike to Breezewood, then took the Lincoln Highway all the way in to Gettysburg.  We found our hotel, and basically collapsed.  Six hours of driving had worn me out.  We decided to find a pizza carryout place and eat in our hotel room.  Melody grabbed a shower, and we considered going to the movies to see the new Black Panther movie.  Unfortunately, tickets were sold out, since it was opening day, and we instead just crashed for the night.

So far, none of our plans had worked out, and all we did was wear ourselves out.  We had a reservation the next night in Hershey.  The weather forecast for Saturday was a concern.  We were due to get hit by a snowstorm by afternoon, and it was scheduled to continue all evening.

We didn't get up very early on Saturday morning, so we had a late start.  Rather than do anything touristy in Gettysburg, we elected to go to Lancaster, instead, and stop at our usual haunts, then drive to Hershey by the time the snow was scheduled to begin falling.

It was actually a very nice day.  Still cold, but sunny and clear.  We took the Lincoln Highway all the way over to Lancaster, and made a few stops.  We had a great lunch at Miller's Restaurant, then headed north towards Hershey.  Sure enough, as we entered Chocolate World, the snow was coming down hard.  My daughter and I were really happy.  It was the most snow we've seen all winter.

Chocolate World was fun, but a bit crowded, though it was clear the snow had many people worried.  We did some shopping, getting stuff for the folks at home, then we figured we should go check in at our hotel.  But first, we decided to try again with the BLACK PANTHER, so we went to a nearby movie theater to purchase tickets for the 7:45pm show.  It was about 5pm at the time.

Our hotel was about 20 minutes away.  The snow was coming down really hard, and the roads were pretty bad.  We saw one stretch of road where several cars couldn't make it up a hill.  We were 4-wheeling it in our Jeep, so we didn't have a problem, but it was slow-going.

It was dark by the time we arrived at the hotel.  We quickly unpacked, then headed right back out to get dinner.  Again, it was very slow-going.  The roads were terrible, and it was still snowing hard.  We went to Red Robin for dinner, then drove to the theater.  There was a sign on the door saying that all movie showings from 8pm and later were cancelled due to the weather.  We were glad we bought tickets for the 7:45pm show.

BLACK PANTHER was awesome!  Go see it!

It had stopped snowing by the time we walked out of the theater.  We were also the last ones out.  In fact, the lights were off in the lobby and we never saw any of the employees.  The roads were much better than earlier that evening, and we had no problem getting back to the hotel.  We were tired and we went right to sleep.

Sunday morning was very relaxing.  Our plan for the day was to go snow tubing that afternoon before heading home.  We slowly got ready, then checked out and went to breakfast at one of our favorite places:  The Soda Jerk Diner, in Hummelstown, PA.

We made another stop at Chocolate World for a ride through the chocolate factory, then we left Hershey and headed to Roundtop, a ski resort about an hour away.  We arrived at Roundtop to find huge crowds.  It was so crowded, there was no parking available.  While most seemed to be at the ski resort, the snow tubing area was just as crowded.  We decided that we didn't want to fight the crowds, and we figured, if we waited awhile, maybe we could go to Ski Liberty and the crowds would diminish.

We drove to Gettysburg and stopped at the Outlets.  Neither of us were feeling very well by this time.  We walked around a bit, but decided to just go home.  It was dark by the time we got there.

I continued to feel under the weather, and we really just crashed.  We went to bed early, and I had a terrible night.  I continued to feel even worse as the day went along, and last night was still worse.

Our weekend was nothing like we had planned, and it seemed like we didn't do anything we really wanted to do.  It was still nice to get away, but we'll have to go back on a different weekend to go snow tubing.

Have a great day, everyone.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I need to take a few days off from the blog due to other commitments.  I will resume writing in a few days.  Have a great weekend!  (In the meantime, enjoy a few pics of the Faithful Pup Scout...)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Another Day

Up before the alarm

Another Day


Shower, dress, get ready

Walk the dog

Feed the dog

Walk the dog


Valentines's Day

Chocolate, Flowers, Card for my daughter

Commute to work

Early rush hour


Cupcakes for my employees

Meetings, meetings, meetings...

Emails, emails, emails...

Confrontation with unhappy employee

Public outburst by employee, private defusing of situation


Late Lunch

Brief my boss

Commute home

Beltway traffic


Walk the dog

Mop the floor because of the dog

Chat with daughter Melody


Phone with Mom and Dad

Workout on the bike


Watch Olympic Curling

News...School shooting



Nap too long...too late for Ash Wednesday Service at Church

Feed the dog

Walk the dog

Dinner - George Foreman Style

Olympic skiing


Walk the dog


Rest, Relax, and Snooze

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nineteen Years Ago, A Proposal

I originally wrote the following essay a few days after February 13, 1999, nineteen years ago, which describes my proposal to my then girlfriend, Teresa.  I'll save some of the suspense by saying she said, "Yes!"  It was a fun time, probably the happiest moment in my life up to that point.  Enjoy!

February 13, 1999, was a crisp and cool Saturday morning. I woke up suddenly, like a kid on Christmas morning. It was Engagement Day. I was nervous, excited, and anxious. Today I would find out if Teresa would be my wife! I had bought the ring two weeks before. It was a diamond solitaire ring with a gold band. I learned all about the “Four C’s” that day: cut, clarity, color, and carat. I purchased the ring, which, at the time, was the most money I had ever spent on anything other than a car. It was worth it, though, if Teresa said, “Yes.”

My brother, Darren, and I had gone out the weekend before searching for the perfect spot for the proposal, one that afforded him an opportunity to videotape the whole thing from a distance and not be seen by Teresa, and within view of a lighthouse. Teresa loved lighthouses! Sandy Point State Park, right next the Bay Bridge on the Chesapeake Bay, and with the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse just off shore, was chosen.

Teresa got sick with a very bad cold about a week before the engagement. The poor girl missed several days of work, and we were not able to see each other for most of the week. Kristen, her roommate, took care of her while we were apart. I was anxious to see her, but she was feeling poorly and not at her best.

On Wednesday, I went to church and approached my future father-in-law, Jim, before the service that night, to ask for Teresa’s hand in marriage. He gave me his blessing and expressed his excitement about the whole thing. We had a wonderful conversation about what was to come. The Pastor walked by while we were talking and kidded us, since he had figured out why we were talking.

I picked up the ring on Thursday. It was beautiful, and would complement her perfectly. I stopped by Mom & Dad’s house to show them, and Mom and my sister, Angie, both loved it (and even tried it on)! That evening, I went to see Teresa for the first time all week. She still felt very weak, and was not 100%, but she wanted to see me. We had a nice Chinese dinner (lots of soup and hot tea) and watched a movie at her apartment in Laurel. I mentioned to her the birthday party for my friend’s year-old twins that we were going to on Saturday, and she assured me she was well enough to go. The ring was in my pocket when I kissed her goodnight, and as I drove home, I thought, “The next time I see her, I’ll be asking her to marry me!”

Saturday. I tried to stay calm and relaxed all morning, but I was so nervous. I talked to my friend, Darrell, and told him what was going on, and that we might be a little late arriving at his kid’s birthday party. He understood and was excited for us. I talked to my roommate and cousin, Dan, and told him about what I was planning. He was preparing for his own proposal to his girlfriend, which would take place the following week. He wished me luck and I headed out of our place in Montgomery Village to pick up Teresa.

The Plan was on. First, I called her to let her know that we needed to stop somewhere on the way to the party to pick up some shells. When trying to come up with a reason to get Teresa to Sandy Point, the only thing Darren and I could come up with was finding seashells. So I made up a story that Darrell was planning a game for the party involving shells, and had asked if we could pick some up on the way to the party. Teresa bought the story, so we were on our way.

I had the ring in my pants pocket, and during the drive to her place, it was burning a hole in my leg. When I arrived, she greeted me warmly. She was feeling a lot better, just a little bit of congestion, so I didn’t feel too guilty about taking her to the beach on a cold, windy February day. Our first stop was to my parent’s house in Bowie. I told Teresa that Darren, who worked at Lowe’s, might know where we could find some shells. (Mom & Dad had left that morning for a trip to visit family in PA.) Darren followed the script perfectly by telling us that Lowe’s didn’t have shells (they really do), but that we should go to Sandy Point beach and get some shells there. Teresa agreed that this sounded logical, so off we went. As soon as we walked out the door, Darren and his girlfriend hopped into her car (which Teresa had never seen), and raced to Sandy Point ahead of us, while Teresa and I stopped for lunch.

We went to Burger King in Annapolis for a quick lunch. I was getting more and more nervous as the day wore on, so eating was not high on my list of things to do. I struggled through the meal and tried to keep it down after a trip to the rest room. Teresa still had no idea what was in store for her. In fact, we began having a discussion about our future. I played along by telling her that I thought some of her friends were putting a lot of pressure on us to get engaged. She agreed, and promised she didn’t feel the same way as them. She said she was comfortable with where we were in our relationship, and I explained, trying to justify it, that we were still getting to know each other. We only started dating the previous May. She agreed. I was afraid I might be putting it on a bit too thick, but she seemed fine.

We hopped back into the car and rushed over to Sandy Point State Park. Because Darren and I had scouted out the place the week before, I knew exactly where to park. Darren and his girlfriend arrived about 30 minutes before us. We parked right next to their car, though neither of us knew it, and we got out. I suggested that we walk over to the beach area and look for the shells. We went over to a broad, sandy area right on the water. The lighthouse was straight ahead, just off shore in the Bay. I looked around for Darren, since I didn’t know exactly where he would be, to make sure he had arrived, but I didn’t see him. He later told me I looked directly at him several times, and he was afraid I would give him away. He was hiding behind a large tree at the edge of the beach, about 50 yards away (and there is a lot of video footage of just the tree).

It was very cold and windy, but I didn’t notice. I was sweating profusely. Poor Teresa was bundled up in her heavy jacket and mittens, trying to stay warm, and looking around in the sand for shells, not suspecting a thing. I directed her towards an area of large rocks, right on the water, and we spotted a large bottle hidden between two large rocks (a bottle Darren had placed there before we arrived). I pointed out that the bottle looked like it had a note inside of it, and I picked it up, much to Teresa’s surprise (she thought it was garbage). I pulled out the cork and slid out the rolled paper from inside it. On it was written a note. I had written the note to her a few weeks earlier (on recycled nautical chart paper, to make it look authentic) with the intent of placing it in the bottle for Teresa to find. In the note, I outlined our entire relationship to that point, and mentioned how much I loved her and wanted to spend my life with her. At the end, I had written, “Will you marry me?”

Teresa read the note while I stood next to her, holding it. She told me later that she recognized the handwriting as mine right away, but didn’t understand why it was there. It took her what seemed to me to be a long time (I had written too much, I think), and when she finished, she gave me a curious look, as if she was trying to figure out what was going on. I pulled the ring out of my pocket, which I had been fingering the entire time she was reading the note, and dropped onto one knee on the wet sand. She started to shake, and I don’t think it was because of the cold. I made a little speech, which I don’t remember at all, and asked her to marry me. The realization of what was happening began to hit her, and she took her mitten off and I slipped the ring on her finger. She started to cry and yelled, “YES!” And we hugged and kissed each other for the longest time. Then Darren jumped out from behind the tree whooping and hollering with the camera still running, perfectly capturing the moment with the lighthouse behind us. Teresa continued to cry tears of joy, and I got a bit misty-eyed. I was sincerely happy. Happy that I had surprised her, happy that my plan had worked so well, happy that she said yes, and happy that she was so happy.  I was greatly relieved that it was over!  And I was so happy that I was going to marry the sweetest, most wonderful young lady I had ever known!

As we drove away from Sandy Point, I laughed at Teresa as she kept looking at her hand and giggling. I told her we had a lot of planning to do. Because she was a teacher, it made the most sense to have the wedding during the summer. It certainly helped that Teresa had spent several years as a wedding planner/organizer while working at the Chapel at the University of Maryland, overseeing hundreds of weddings. Then it hit us: we still had to go to the party. We rushed over to my friend’s house and celebrated with friends and family Sam and Caitlin's first birthday. Everyone helped us celebrate our engagement, too. We left the party early and went to Teresa’s parent’s house in Wheaton to give them the news (and catch the last few minutes of the Maryland vs. UNC basketball game - priorities, y'know). Oh, were they excited! We all went out to a nearby restaurant to celebrate. Mom & Dad called us from Pennsylvania to offer congratulations, too.

Our promise is to love each other as God loves us and live happily ever after…

Monday, February 12, 2018

Don't Step In It


Just when I thought toy makers couldn't be any more tasteless, here comes Don't Step In It!  Yeah, it's exactly what it looks like.  Apparently, scoops of several different color "play-doughs" are placed on a mat, and the object of the game is for each contestant to walk down the mat with a blindfold, trying not to step in "it."  Unfortunately, for me, the game hits just a little too close to home.

The Faithful Pup Scout, who is now 16 years old and showing every one of those years, occasionally struggles with bladder control, and less often has trouble with bowel control.  However, "it" does happen.  A few weeks ago, while getting ready for work, I needed to get something out of my room.  I had not turned on the light, and Scout had left me a gift on my carpet.  I was in my socks, and I stepped right in "it," tracking it across the floor before realizing I had stepped in something soft and warm.  It was a quite the mess, made even worse because I needed to leave for work immediately.

So, I guess you could say I already have this game.  Hasbro, you really picked a winner.  I can only imagine how much kids will want to play this game.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Adventure

Sometimes you just have to go on an adventure...

My daughter and I had an unusual Sunday. Our church, Grace Community in Fulton, MD, is very large, and several years ago, when they started having a Saturday evening service, we volunteered to switch from Sunday to Saturday.  It worked for us, and we've found that the Saturday service is very relaxing and not nearly as crowded. What it did, though, is give us "free" Sunday mornings, something that I wasn't used to after attending church on Sundays for most of my life.

Anyway, we had a change of plans this weekend that had us going to Grace on Sunday for the first time in several years.  Wow, it was packed!  But I sat up in the balcony for the first time, which was a bit of a treat, and we had a fantastic guest speaker.  Daughter Melody went to the Warehouse, which is the youth hangout, and she enjoyed a packed house, too.

After church (and a special breakfast for the 8th grade girls hosted by their adult leaders who are AWESOME!  Thanks, Corin, Kim, Sarah, and Stacia!), Melody didn't want to just go home.... she was looking for something else to do, since she got up so early on a Sunday morning.  We weighed a few ideas, then I decided to surprise her with lunch at a favorite restaurant in DC:  100 Montaditos!  This place is really cool.  They have a selection of 100 different mini-sandwiches, and they are all tasty and delicious (though we've only scratched the surface on the number we've tried).  The restaurant is near the Navy Yard and National's Ballpark.

When we arrived, after dodging raindrops, the restaurant was practically empty.  We quickly ordered our sandwiches (I had three sandwiches:  BBQ, Turkey, and Tuna;  Melody chose two:  Mozzarella, and Parmesan, Tomato, and Pesto).  They were great, as usual.  Then we trekked back to our Jeep, which was parked about five blocks away, in the rain without an umbrella.

Our next stop on our Sunday adventure was at IKEA, in College Park. It's so much fun just browsing their showroom and getting ideas, and that's what we did.  When we finished, after about an hour, we ended up getting a candle, a cordless battery-powered screwdriver, and a cactus for Melody, none of which one would associate with IKEA, I'm betting.

Then we went home, watched the Olympics, napped, and did laundry, then we watched TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, a favorite movie based on Melody's and her mom's favorite novel.  After working around the house all day on Saturday, our Sunday adventure was just the kind of day we needed.

I hope you all had a great weekend.  Have a great evening!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Winter Olympics

We've been watching the Olympics over the past several days and we're enjoying them immensely.  I like the downhill skiing, though they've really only practiced so far.  I'm also excited about the bobsled racing, which is as close to a roller coaster ride as I can imagine.  My daughter, Melody, likes the snowboarding and the figure skating.

My absolute favorite event, though, is curling.  I love the strategy, and trying to figure out what the competitors are going to do before they do it.  The mixed doubles have been fascinating to watch.  The Canadians, in particular, have been very strong, and though I'd love to see the Americans win it, they've really struggled overall.

Ski Jumping is another event that I find fascinating, but it has more to do with how crazy I think the competitors must be to do it.  My fear of heights is a factor in my fascination, I'm sure, but these guys are either very brave or incredible thrill-seekers.  I couldn't be paid to do it.

We watched the opening ceremonies last night and they were spectacular.  The light displays, fireworks, use of drones, and the incredibly talented individuals who participated were wonderful to watch.  My favorite part of the opening, though, is the parade of athletes, as each country's competitors are introduced.  This is when the event overshadows politics.  While competition is prevalent, the bottom line is that these athletes don't allow their politics, or particularly their country's politics, to get in the way of the spirit of the Games, and everyone appears to be united as a community.  It makes you feel good about the world.

My only complaint so far is the amount of commercials NBC shows, most of which seem to be advertising their own programming.  Fortunately, NBCSN, a sister channel, also airing events, doesn't seem to have the same obligation.

If you're not watching, check out the games.  They're really awesome.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Guest Post: twenty one pilots, Part 1

Guest Post:  My daughter, Melody, wanted to share our trip to Charlottesville, VA, last year to see her favorite band, twenty one pilots.  Here's her story...   

January 22nd, 2017. What a day that was!

   I barely got any sleep the night before, I was so excited; I woke up at about 4:30am and couldn't fall back asleep because I was seeing my favorite band live! In 17 hours

   We don't really remember what we had for breakfast (we either ate at home or had Chick-Fil-A). In the car we were rocking out to songs ranging from Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes to Holding On To You by twenty one pilots, of course! We headed into the mountains of Virginia, hoping to get into Shenandoah National Park to get a stamp for our National Park passports. 

   We made a pit stop at Luray Caverns. After having a hot dog, a hamburger, and some fries for lunch, we went to have our tour through the caverns. The lady that took our pictures beforehand noticed my twenty one pilots shirt and we had a nice conversation about them before the tour began.

    We left Luray around 2pm and got to Charlottesville at about 3:30. I wanted to drive past the arena before we went to our hotel and there were already a ton of people in line. We took a few minutes trying to find the hotel, and within the first 5 minutes I managed to injure myself (whoops).

    Around 5, we left the hotel. I was dead set on being at the arena when the doors opened at 6 and we were running really late. We believed that we would have plenty of time to go get a nice big dinner, but that was not the case. We drove around for 20 minutes trying to find a place to eat. I started to panic after our second lap around town, so we decided to just stop at a McDonald's (as we were eating, it started raining, and two girls literally slipped into the restaurant, which was one of the funniest things I saw all night).

    I was so scared that we weren't going to make it by the time the doors opened, and it didn't help when we got stuck in rain/concert traffic. My dad found a back way in on our GPS that took us all around the Virginia University campus. We finally got parked at 5:59 (I'm using pictures on my phone as references) and began walking towards the venue. We had to go back to the car for something - I think we somehow managed to leave the tickets in the car! We got in line behind these really lovely people. One lady came up and decided that since her husband was already inside, she could cut everyone in line and squeeze in front. The lady in front of us had a good little chat with my dad about that. 

    It was so crowded inside. There was barely any walking room, so we decided to check our seats before braving the merch line. They were pretty decent; we had a side view of the stage on the second level with no one in front of us. 

    There were about four different merch lines. I got in one and my dad got in another and we texted each other to see whose line moved the fastest. I overheard someone saying that there were more lines downstairs, so we decided to risk it. We spent about 5 minutes trying to find the other line. We finally got in one that I don't think even was a real line. We got our shirts and, because I was living off of a hot dog and some chicken nuggets, went to get some drinks and a bag of Cheetos. We got back to our seats at 6:57; the show started at 7.

    Judah & the Lion was first; I had listened to a few of their songs prior, and they were really good. Jon Bellion went next, and I'd only heard one of his songs before. He was good. Twenty one pilots was next, at 9.

    The concert was absolutely amazing. Hearing those songs live and hearing other people sing those lyrics was something I won't be forgetting in a hurry. Tyler and Josh sure do put on one heck of a show.

    The concert ended with Trees, as it has for the past 8 years. We got back to the hotel at about 11:30. I stayed up watching my videos and being sad that it was over.

    The next day it was storming. We went to a small diner just off the main road, where I continued to watch my videos and be sad. We drove by the arena one more time and decided to stop at Barnes & Noble on our way out. I got a magazine with Josh's face on the cover and had another good conversation with the lady behind the register. She said that she had no idea that they were there the night before and was sad that she missed the show.

    The drive home was fun but sad. We stopped for lunch at Mellow Mushroom and got enough pizza for dinner when we got home. I saw quite a few people with twenty one pilots shirts on the drive home, which was pretty neat. 

    We got home at around 6pm. And that's where it ends :)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

My Wife's Jeep

My father sent me the above picture this morning, and it brought with it a bunch of memories.  It's a picture of our old Jeep Cherokee, with my darling wife, Teresa, in the passenger seat, and my brother in the back.  I think it was taken around 2002.

We bought the Jeep in 2000 after Teresa fell in love with a Cherokee we rented for a trip earlier that winter.  Once she got behind the wheel, she knew she wanted one.  We bought this one used, and it proceeded to be our road trip vehicle, taking us all around the country.

A few months after we got it, we took our first major cross-country trip, taking us through 21 states and more than 5000 miles.  It was memorable for so many reasons, but spending that many miles with my wonderful wife was tops, seeing and sharing so many sites.  I ended up taking my daughter on a similar trip in 2016.

One of the coolest experiences was in South Dakota.  Teresa and I had just exited Custer State Park, and we were headed south to Wind Cave National Park.  We came around a bend in the road, and saw a huge herd of bison coming at us, running right down the middle of the road.  I hit the brakes, and the herd parted like Moses parting the Red Sea, passing by on either side of our Jeep.  If only we had thought to get out the camera.  We just kind of looked at each other and laughed.  It was so incredible.

We took the Cherokee on many more trips, including our first visit to Great Smoky National Park, a tour of New England (and Canada!  We went to Campobello Island, FDR's family summer home), and a trip to Florida.  All told, we put well over 100,000 miles on the Jeep.

After Teresa passed away in 2004, I sold it.  I replaced it with a brand new Jeep Liberty, which I never loved like I loved the Cherokee.  I kept the Liberty for 10 years, but it only had 60,000 miles on it in that time.  The Cherokee gave me a love and appreciation for Jeeps, and I was thrilled to get a Wrangler four years ago.  It's our new road trip vehicle.

That picture was a blast from the past, though, and it provided some really nice memories.  It will always remind me of our incredible road trips, and, most of all, it will always remind me of my wonderful wife.  That was her Jeep.  And she loved it.

Have a great evening, everyone.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Excuses, Excuses...

Please excuse Eric from writing a blog post tonight.  He is so tired, he can't focus his thoughts into coherent words.  Also....

The dog ate his homework. 
His car ran out of gas. 
He had jury duty. 
He had to get groceries. 
He had to do laundry. 
He had to wash his hair. 
He had to shovel the snow off the sidewalk. 
He had to write a letter to his congressman. 
He was doing his taxes. 
He had to make dinner. 
He had to take down his Christmas decorations. 
He had to wash the car. 
The grass needed to be mowed. 
He hit his head on the glass ceiling. 
His boss made him work late. 
He had to shave. 
The dog needed a bath. 
The Terps were on TV. 
He was late for his nap.
He tried to save on his car insurance.
He had a hangnail. 
He has no clean underwear.
He lost his keys.
His hard drive was full after a big dinner.
There was no milk in the refrigerator.
The batteries needed replacing.
He fell asleep.
He ran out of excuses.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Christmas Expiration Date?

I received the following letter today, which had me wondering if Christmas has an expiration date:

Dear Homeowner,
As an owner of a home in our community, we know you appreciate the need for all residents to comply with the association's rules and regulations.  Maintaining homes helps to maintain property values and excellent curb appeal of the community.  During a community visit on February 1, it was noted that you still have holiday lights/decor up on your home and/or yard.  The holiday season is well over and we would appreciate your help and cooperation in seeing that the lights/decor are removed by February 16.  Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.
The Board of Directors

Sigh.  I get it.  I do.  I had a single strand of Christmas lights looped around the archway over my front door, and extended into the bushes on either side.  I turned on the lights each day at dusk until New Years Day, then I stopped turning them on, but I didn't take them down.  They are barely noticeable, really.  And, sure, I got a little lazy about not taking them down.  It requires a step ladder, and my step ladder is in the back room of my basement and I just didn't feel like getting it out.  So I'm totally guilty.

That said, never in my wildest thoughts did I ever expect to receive a letter like that.  I've had my share of run-ins with our neighborhood's association for various little violations, like needing to clean our siding under our next door neighbor's gutters, or painting the rake board at the peak of our roof, or trimming my bushes.  But leaving our Christmas lights out one month and one day after New Years seems a little extreme.  But I also know that I'm just making excuses.  I'm guilty.

So the letter made their point, and I immediately took down the lights.  And using a broom to reach the peak of the arch, I was able to remove the lights easily in about 3 minutes, without the step ladder.  However, the Association's lack of Christmas Spirit, and the feeling that I live in a police state rather than a neighborhood, leaves the taste of expired eggnog in my mouth.

It makes one wonder why you can't get eggnog year round....

Merry Christmas, everyone....and have a great evening.

Monday, February 5, 2018

This Is Really Us

There is a TV show on NBC called THIS IS US.  Perhaps you've seen it.  It's a very well-written, well-acted drama about the Pearson family, featuring Milo Ventimiglia (Jack), Mandy Moore (Rebecca), Justin Hartley (Kevin), Chrissy Metz (Kate), and Sterling K. Brown (Randall).  The show is unique in that it plays with the timeline, showing the parents, Jack and Rebecca, early on in their role as parents of infants Kevin, Kate, and adopted Randall, then fast-forwards to when the kids are teens, and then as adults themselves.

The show's storylines tend to illicit joy and sadness, as the family experiences life in all its myriad forms, from happy times to tragedies.  The show lets on fairly early that the father, Jack, dies when the kids are in their teens, but it has been a mystery as to how he passes on.  Until now.  Last night's episode following the Super Bowl showed what happened to Jack, and it was absolutely tragic.

I won't spoil the show for anyone who hasn't seen it, but it was a major topic of conversation at my office today.  Apparently, many people either watch the show, or happened to catch last night's episode, and there was a lot of shock and sadness over the fate of poor Jack.  And it bothered me that so many people were upset over the death of a fictional character.

I realize the show is an escape from the realities of life, but for too many people, events such as the ones depicted on the show ARE life.  You likely know someone who is hurting, and they are likely going through experiences much worse than the characters on that show.  Maybe they lost a spouse, or a sibling, or a child, parent, or friend.  Maybe you are the one who experienced it.  And maybe it happened last week, or last year, or maybe a dozen years ago.  But it still hurts, and the grief is as strong now as when it happened.  Maybe you suffer from depression as a result of what happened.

It is my belief that those loved ones who had a relationship with our Lord and Savior will spend eternity with Him, and that knowledge is enough to provide comfort.  But the loss is still severe, and may continue to significantly impact them in many ways.  They may seem fine, and show no signs of suffering, but sometimes all it takes is a specific memory or trigger to set them off, and the grief may be as strong now as when they experienced their loss.

Please remember those who are suffering.  A kind word can go a long way.  If you know of someone who suffered a significant loss, please pray for them, or reach out and let them know you're thinking about them.  They may not respond at first, or perhaps they never will, but they will know you care.  And that may be just what they need.

Death does not discriminate.  It can come at any time.  It may be sudden, or it may come after a long illness.  But all of us will be touched by it.  Don't hesitate to hug and tell your loved ones how much you love them.  You can't say it enough.

Have a great evening, everyone.