Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Lost a Family Member Today

Jasmine, our loyal and loved friend of over 11 years died this morning. She had been lethargic and not eating for two days and was having a hard time breathing. Somehow I feared the worst and did not think she would make it through the night. We all gave her a lot of love before bedtime. I carried her upstairs and laid her on the floor at the foot of our bed and I made up a bed next to her. She seemed to be OK all night and changed positions a few times. In the morning I carried her downstairs and outside and she went out in the snow and laid down. She loved to do that. I had to carry her back in and when I came down from my shower, I found she had climbed up to her spot on the couch. I took the picture above this morning. After Lucie took the kids to school, I put her in Lucie's car and she took her to the vet. The vet did x-rays which showed a mass in her stomach and lung cancer. He said she might not make it through the day. So I left work and went and picked up Ashleigh and Elliott from school. She was fading fast when we got to the vet but hung on and waited till her family could all be by her side. Then she just closed her eyes and went to sleep one last time. Saddest day of my life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You Never Know

It seems lately that this is the time for the unexpected. Several people I know have had job or personal experiences twist and turn and go in directions they never saw coming. Me too. Every day it seems something pops up that I never saw coming or things go in a direction I didn't think would ever happen. In the past I would spend a lot of time, and looking back perhaps it was wasted time, thinking and planning and trying to account for every conceivable option that could affect a particular situation. How many times did things NOT go the way I planned? Over and over again I had to learn to just let it go and let "nature" take its course. That does not mean I was uncaring or lazy - of course I had to make contingency plans and do my due diligence to be prepared. But I have come to realize that even my best laid plans are often not enough. It is exciting to see where life takes us. I guess one could chose to be afraid of the unexpected and withdraw for fear of the unknown. Or one could choose to embrace the energy and "go with the flow" knowing God is in control and ultimately, it is all His plan. And for my benediction (!) I offer these verses from Ecclesiastes: Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No one knows what is coming--who can tell him what will happen after him?

But for today, there was nothing unexpected about the storm going on outside. We have about 6 inches on the ground now with at least another foot on the way. It is light and fluffy but the wind is blowing. I am going to go out and make the first pass at clearing the driveway now. I am the only New Englander in the neighborhood and usually the only one that goes out several times in a storm to shovel. I say it is better to shovel 4 inches three times than a foot once. There should be a Bible verse for that too!

Elliott is doing well at basketball. He scored 16 out of 33 points the other night for his team but it wasn't enough and they lost. They are off for a few weeks but are going to try and practice sometime during the break. Ashleigh is still playing indoor lacrosse and doing well. I have told them they are dedicating one vacation day to cleaning their rooms. Which goes back to my philosophy: better to clean a little every day than waste a whole day cleaning.

I should go into the fortune cookie writing business...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's been a while since I posted and I was telling a friend the other day that I have been busy and didn't really have anything blog worthy to post. Then I looked back and realized that never stopped me before...!!

Thanksgiving was very nice and relaxing with friends. Lucie did make us a turkey too so we were able to have leftovers.

Since then, Ashleigh has started playing indoor lacrosse with some friends from school. They will be the varsity high school team in the spring so this is a great tune-up. They are playing just over the PA line every Saturday. Elliott is back playing city league basketball. He is the tallest and best on his team but he cannot carry the whole team. He is the veteran on the floor and his skills improvement is really good. I don't see a good year for his team though. It seems the other teams all have about 3 good and tall players. Elliott is the only one on his team... He also has had some major dental work done with a palate expander and a jaw alignment thing. He looks like The Godfather and is very uncomfortable. But it is only for a few months and of course the benefits will last a lifetime.

It seems like it has rained every other day. But it beats the snow alternative so that is OK.

Lucie's kid's church play went very well. Next Saturday is the church dinner. This morning was the church choir concert. I woke up just as it ended.

Timing is everything...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kissin' Cousins

My brother and his wife and daughter arrived Friday night for the weekend. They are spending the week in SC for Thanksgiving, then stopping back by on their way home to NH. Saturday morning we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast and headed off to Hershey. We had a good trip and got to see a lot of Amish horses and buggies and the country side. The last time Lucie and I were out that way was when we had to race to see Elliott get his finger tip sewed back on. At Hershey we did the free tour and ate some chocolate stuff there and picked up some Christmas presents. Then we hit the outlets for a while. For supper, we went to Sonic (they had never been there either). So we ate there and then when I went to start the car, I had a dead battery! I guess my headlights were on the whole time and the auto shut off didn't so there we were. The Sonic workers were great and came out with jumper cables and jumped me and we were on our way.

After church on Sunday, we went to another place they had never been to: CiCi's Pizza. The service was poor and the selection wasn't that great but we had some friends from church join us so that was fun. After that we roamed the mall and watched the Patriots on TV. For our family viewing night, we watched a National Geographic special on Amazon headshrinkers... This morning they continued on their trip to SC. Lucie is off this week and I am taking a few days off so I don't lose them. No plans besides creating excuses on why NOT to put up the Christmas decorations.

In other fascinating news, I did a day of volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity site. Part of my new hire requirements. So the other new hires and I spent the day moving dirt and mulch for a multi-tenant condo in Wilmington. It was a nice day and fun. When I got home I blew the rest of the leaves out of the pool area and into the woods.

The kids brought home their report cards. Ashleigh remains in the top 10% of her class and Elliott is in the top 2%. Ashleigh's field hockey season is over but she may play indoor lacrosse over the winter. Elliott is still practicing in the city basketball league and doing well.

We are going over to some friends' for Thanksgiving but I think Lucie is making turkey dinner for us to have here also. Her birthday is Wednesday so I hope she makes herself something reaaaal nice...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sod And Soggy

This picture has nothing to do with anything but I thought it was kind of funny. This is how I found Lucie in bed the other night - sound asleep with the book in her face.

We have had nothing but rain for several days. A cold, soaking, miserable rain. But a friend of mine gave me 59 rolls of sod from his yard (he cut it from where he is putting in a shed). So I placed it around some low areas in my yard. With all this rain, it should settle in nicely.

Ashleigh finished her field hockey season. Another year with a losing record but their intensity was much better and their skills greatly improved. Elliott just started playing basketball for the Newark city league. He had the option of playing one more year in the division he has played in for a few years or moving up to the next bracket. He wisely chose to stay in his division. So now he is one of the veterans and is the team leader. He is really hitting his shots and has some skills. Must be a genetic thing...

I upgraded Lucie's church computer to Windows 7 the other day. That went very smoothly. Elliott had saved up his money and bought a new Xbox game. Ashleigh had a firepit party here last week and hooked the Xbox up to the 52 inch Sony HD in the living room so they could play Guitar Hero World Tour with her friends. So Elliott was playing his game when he got the dreaded red rings of death on the machine. So we contacted Microsoft and will ship it in for free repair. But he is bumming because it may not be back in time for Thanksgiving break. Now all he has time for is reading and cleaning his room... He did just win a $3000 scholarship for doing so well in the state tests so I can't get on his case about studying!

Work is going really well. I seem to be creating a lot of work for myself as I dig into things. But in this company, initiative and not going with the flow is actually encouraged and hopefully rewarded. I really enjoy going into work every day. Well, make that most days. The other day of my co-workers was let go. She was like the buddy you first make when you move to a new school. We hadn't worked together long but we had some good laughs in that short period. So I guess that even though I lost a co-worker, I didn't lose a friend...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Now She's 17

Yup, 17 and a day actually. The bottom picture is actually from the Newark High School Varsity Field Hockey web page and I was looking for an excuse to use it. We had a pretty low key birthday for her. Went to Olive Garden and then home for cake with just a couple of friends. She opened her presents last night. And returned some of them today. ha ha Lucie bought her some "place-holder" presents knowing they would exchange styles but she wanted her to have something to open on her birthday. Next weekend, if it doesn't rain like it has the past 2 weekends, Ashleigh will have her party at the fire pit in the backyard. Cooking 'smores and hot dogs.

All else is pretty quiet. Elliott's teeth are doing fine and he is adjusting to the expander. Lucie is still busy doing things. Work is going well for me. I had a friend's computer here for a few days to fix a problem but I must have fixed it as soon as I touched it because it hasn't caused a problem for me.

Ashleigh is out trick or treating with friends. She went as a peasant woman. Elliott was supposed to hand out candy here but the last time I saw him he was planted in front of the Xbox with Ashleigh's birthday Snuggie on...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Say Ah

Don't be frightened by the image to the right. That is a model of the palate expander Elliott recently had "installed." Quite a contraption. Looks like something out of the "Saw" movies. And uncomfortable too as you can imagine. But he is getting used to it and a friend of ours let us borrow a Water Pik to help keep things clean. He has to keep that thing in for about 6 months and then goes to regular braces. It will be worth it in the end.

All else is going pretty well. Ashleigh's field hockey team is struggling a bit but they are playing MUCH better than previous years. A&E are doing fine in school. Work is going well for me. Lucie is busy with work and hay rides and getting ready for the kids church Christmas play.

The other night I sat down to read my email and the monitor went black. No power. So I checked the usual suspects and finally felt the monitor power supply. VERY hot. In fact, it had scorched my oak desk! Good thing I didn't have it on the carpet. So I bought a new one on eBay for $25 and am back in business. Kind of scary but whatever fuse or safety built into it burned out (maybe a bit slowly) so I guess it did its job. And replacing the power supply is a heck of a lot cheaper than a whole new flat screen monitor. Had to dredge up an ancient CRT monitor - big huge heavy thing with a tiny screen. But it worked.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Above is some video Elliott took of a deer in the neighbor's yard. We have had as many as 3 or 4 at a time out there. Early mornings or mid-afternoon. I think they are becoming accustomed to the dogs so that is good. We hadn't seen any in 10 years but the past 2 years they have come poking around. A big county office building was built recently in a field not far from here and I think that pushed the deer our way.

As you can see from the lack of posts, I have been busy! I guess that happens when you work full time... Ashleigh is doing well in field hockey and they still have a winning record. That is a first for her. She thought she broke her finger recently in practice but it was just a bad bruise from a ball hit. Elliott is doing well in school and just signed up for the city basketball league. That is always good. His finger is healing nicely. I have Ashleigh's stats posted on the web page and will post Elliott's when he gets some. Early November I think.

Now that we have insurance, Lucie has been busy getting the kids and herself dental checkups and physicals. All good so far.

The weather has gotten chilly in the mornings but last night when we were at the high school football game, it was 80º! I closed the pool too early...

I am hoping the grill parts I ordered come in today. Last time I was cooking out there I noticed some parts were rusting so I ordered some new ones. One of the refrigerator door shelves broke but to get a replacement from Amana was $50! eBay is my friend and I got one for $20.

It is a bank holiday Monday but I am going in for a while because they are cutting the main power to the building to do their bi-annual electrical maintenance. I (and my boss) figured it would be a good time to see what effect it will have on the security systems. A backup generator will be running and there is a backup to the backup so all should be fine. But since the building will be mostly empty, I can do some other work too. The kids have school so I won't be missing out on anything. And I can't complain about working!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Apples And Oranges

I just finished a week of corporate training at work. Loved it. First, just the education about financial stuff was interesting, and then how where I work does it all online. Such a simple and easy way of doing business. The culture is 180º from my previous job. Here they are all about individuality and new ideas and progressive thinking. The top line of their "code" is "we are new here." Every day they strive for new innovations and ways of doing things. Truly customer oriented.

While I was in class, I was still working though. I had my Blackberry on and was able to reply to emails. Had to leave class a couple of times to handle a situation. But it was not just tolerated, it was sort of encouraged. There was a break-in early in the morning of my last class day though. Some knucklehead came in and stole some cash registers from the ground floor Cafe. He was caught and had quite a history of thievery. I was called in to help with the investigation and pull surveillance footage. We learned some lessons and will keep moving forward.

Elliott started the LONG (and expensive!) process of dental work this week. They put some palate expanders in and that will lead to jaw alignment stuff and then braces. But he is worth it. Lucie has had to run him around to appointments and ferry the kids quite a bit.

The air is chilly at night now. Still sad to see the pool closed up.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Smokin' In The Boys Room

The other day someone started a fire at the high school so they evacuated and Ashleigh and Elliott got to go home early. It could have been a problem as I was working a special event and Lucie was sitting in a jury pool waiting to see if she got picked. They found a ride home and Lucie wound up not getting picked so it worked out OK.

The kids are doing really well in school. Ashleigh has a new field hockey coach who is really working them hard but they are now 2-1 and Ashleigh has scored twice! Their hard work is paying off. Elliott got word the other day he got accepted into Wilmington Charter School. That high school is one of the top 100 schools in the country. But he isn't going to go. It is in a rough section of Wilmington (about a half hour away) and he would have to be driven back and forth. I am working in Wilmington now but our schedules wouldn't work out. And the school itself is in a run down dreary building. He is in advanced classes and the Cambridge program at Newark High so he will be fine. He, and we, are just happy he got in!

Work continues to go very well for me. I am loving it and fitting in. They threw a big retirement party for the guy I am replacing yesterday. It was quite emotional for him and I have big shoes to fill but I am ready. I have a week of corporate training next week which should be interesting.

I am closing down the pool today. I hate doing that. It is nice and breezy out but the daily air high temps are only in the 70º's now and the pool water was 69º this morning. Jasmine loves to sit on the top step in the pool and enjoy her personal Jacuzzi (there are jets in the steps) so she will be sad too when I cover it up. She told me so...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Laborer

It is Labor Day and I am happy to report that I am in the laboring pool. Which sure beats being in labor in the pool. Although laboring in a pool wouldn't be bad... The weeks just fly by in a good way. I am busy learning at work and making some changes and developing and learning the culture. So far, still so good.

Speaking of the pool, it is getting chilly in there these days. The nights are cooling off and the pool is only able to creep up to the mid 70ºs most days. We planned to go to the beach today but it was cloudy and breezy so we went down to a big mall in Maryland (Towson - about an hour away). That was nice but we were sad to see the Rainforest Cafe was gone from there. It was expensive and the food was just OK, but the experience was fun (like eating in a rain forest oddly enough with moving stuffed animals, sounds, thunder and lightning, etc.). We brought Ashleigh there for her birthday party and Lucie's mother there once.

And now, speaking of thunder and lightning, I got a new Blackberry Storm. I needed one for work and they are paying for the data plan. So I upgraded my old phone and am loving this one. It is online all the time so it is cool to be able to hit the 'Net for whatever I need. In fact, we were at the mall looking for the Rainforest Cafe but couldn't find it so I googled for it and found it was gone. Pretty slick.

A&E are enjoying school. It is a bit of culture shock for Elliott to see the riff raff be so disrespectful and rude with bad attitudes but he will distance himself from that and be fine.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The 11th Celebration Of Our 2nd Anniversary

For those without a calculator handy, today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. Pretty low key day - we ate at home but went out for pie at Perkins for dessert. It was a rainy day but it was the end of another work week so I was happy.

Yes, work is still going great. I am fitting right in and being accepted. Making a difference already and feeling like I am contributing. Still not used to it!

Our automatic garbage can (yes, we do have one - it has a sensor that detects motion which opens the lid hands-free) has been acting up recently. It sounded like the gears were stripped and it was making a horrible grinding noise. I got brave and took it apart and stripped it down to the gears and sure enough, there was a broken support piece. So I showed it to Lucie and Elliott and said it was not fixable but put it back together anyway. And now it works great! It is incomprehensible. It shouldn't be working, but it is (hmmm, some might say that about me too!). Believe it or not, it's true and I am not questioning it.

Ashleigh has another all day field hockey tournament tomorrow. No plans for Lucie and I but I am sure we will conjure up something. Elliott starts school Monday. He and Lucie went to freshman orientation last night.

The picture to the left by the way is copper - which, according to some guide, is the gift for the 22nd anniversary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Orange Is My Favorite Color

For those of you who know where I work, you will recognize this picture as the icon of the company. I don't want to name it here because I don't want to get sniffed out (some companies "sniff" blogs for their company names). Not that I have anything bad to say, I just don't want the attention. And I really don't have anything bad to say! What a great first week! I feel so comfortable and welcomed there. There are routine security issues to be handled and meetings to attend and events to plan for, but I feel I have been prepping for this job for a long, long time. I think my boss has a lot of confidence in me and we get along great. Everything is paperless (computerized) so I am loving it. No briefcase to lug around, no files, not even a flash drive. The future is here! I split my time between the high rise office building downtown and the campus on the edge of the city. So I get a change of scenery daily. The benefits for the employees are too many to list - there is even a doctor on site every day with a full working medical office!

I purposely didn't post a blog for over a week because I wanted plenty of exposure to my previous blog. God really took care of me as I knew He would. I hope I can encourage someone with my story or at least be more compassionate to someone else going through what I did.

It was super hot and humid here all week. Set a water temperature record in the pool for this summer of 87º the other day. Barely acceptable limit for Lucie to get in! Speaking of, she has made me supper every night this week and we all sat down together for dinner most nights. I give that about 2 more days... ha ha
Ashleigh has to leave her school at 4:45 AM tomorrow for a day long field hockey tournament down state. Elliott will probably go to bed around that time after staying up playing xBox all night...

I haven't been on the elliptical this week due to long work hours and trying to establish a routine. I am up 4 pounds this month but it is early in my measuring cycle (I go the 15th to the 15th). I have had an average weight decrease the past two months. I played hoops last night and felt OK physically, but didn't shoot very well.

I will post more often but I can't say enough how blessed and happy I am with this job!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Road To Employment

On October 29, 2007, I felt God strongly urging me to resign from my job of 14 years. There was no particular single incident that motivated me and I was under no more stress than ever before. In fact, I had been under more stress at other times. It wasn’t something I had been planning or thinking about. But there was a long term feeling of discontent and unhappiness and it was taking a toll on me and my family. I had been re-assigned from a position that I enjoyed to one of frustration and zero job satisfaction. There was also an ethical situation that was coming to a head where I and senior management were not in agreement on commitments and promises that I was expected to embrace and promote. Lucie was very supportive and had been urging me to find other employment for some time – but I was under no pressure to leave. I was making great money, had a lot of freedom in terms of my day to day movements, and had a fairly high ranking position. But there was a culture of oppression and intimidation at that job that was constantly eating at ME. “Me” being the operative word – not everyone did or would feel the same way I did but it was there and real to me.

So I resigned and continued to read the Bible – one chapter at a time - and immediately I noticed Scriptures and messages from the pulpit and other sources confirming my decision. Of course “conventional” wisdom says you never leave a job without having another one lined up and at my salary, I was told I should suck it up and get through it. And believe me, that “wisdom” was told to me by many people. I am nowhere at the level of some of these Biblical people, but I am sure Noah was told building an ark in the desert was not practical. Abraham being directed to take his son to the mountain top for sacrifice made no sense either. But I had to follow my spirit. I am not a quitter and never walked away from any job or situation like this. But somehow I knew it was the right thing to do.

Immediately after I left until even very recently, I had considered going back to my old job. I was offered to return to the position I liked but there were “catches” and requirements that I could not justify or comply with. I was reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they stood firm and refused to bow down to the king and acknowledge him as their ‘lord’. They didn’t need to believe it – they could have just gone through the motions and got on with their lives. Jesus too - when He was taken to the mountain by Satan and told all He could see would be His if he just bowed down. But they stood firm in what they knew to be right and didn’t take the easy path. It is those examples that I followed.

I could have taken any job as “filler” work to get me through the days of unemployment and bring in some income until the ‘right’ job came along but somehow I felt that was not a path I should go down. (I also had a non-compete clause in my contract prohibiting me from certain work within a 50-mile radius.) When I left my job, the economy was fine and I was confident in a few months I would be re-employed and happier. Then the unexpected happened and the economy took the downturn. Now my decision looked more foolish to others. But I knew that I knew that I had done the right thing. Each time I was seriously thinking of returning to my old company, something would come along to “distract” me – a job opportunity, a message, something at the house… Whatever it was, I KNEW that going back to my old job was not the right thing to do. But then as time went by the doubt would come back – am I really doing God’s will by waiting and trusting or am I subconsciously sabotaging going back because I didn’t want to? And that was the dilemma. I wrestled with that constantly – knowing I could go back to a steady income (or having a good assumption they would take me back) or waiting and believing. Over and over I was told by well-meaning friends to just go back, take the money, and take care of the family. The old job wasn’t working pounding rocks in a coal mine or an illegal operation and I wasn’t committing to going back forever. I should just do it for a little while until the right thing came along. But for ME, going back was more than just going back to an old job. It was caving in and giving up my faith. Lucie and the family were great the whole time. She did her part and encouraged me to consider all options; but the bottom line, at the end of it all, she would always say to follow God’s plan and she would be by my side. I am blessed.

I remember talking to Elliott one day and saying, “Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when God talked to people through burning bushes and talking donkeys?” Elliott very astutely said that God didn’t talk to everyone that way – the Bible only records a few people that He spoke to like that. So I began to look for other ways in which God could speak to me. And sure enough, there were plenty; timely messages and worship songs at church, Bible verses and devotions that were clearly for me, words from friends and family. I just had to tune in. Through it all though, God provided. As the Psalms say, we never had to beg for food.

One day, before I resigned from my job, the bank made a mistake and we bounced a church tithe check (of all checks to bounce!). So while I was at the bank working with them on that, I struck up a conversation with the customer service rep about our church and Lucie’s job. She was a Christian lady and out of the blue she asked if I had ever considered taking out a home equity line of credit. I had no need for that at the time but she encouraged me to apply for one then and have it ready should I ever need it. Better to have it approved while I was employed and not needing it. I thought it was an unnecessary thing to do but there were no fees and no downside so we did it. And it was that equity line that helped us get through the tougher times. It’s all about God’s plan and timing….

I continued my daily march through the Bible, chapter by chapter, and it was amazing how God lined up the chapters for just what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them. I was reading in Esther and Job and I could relate to exactly what was going on with them in terms of seemingly unnecessary difficult times. At that point I had moved from confirmation that I had made the right decision to waiting on God for His plan and to just endure the hard time. And how hard was it really? Not very in the big picture – we used a lot of the home equity line but we are not behind in our bills, we still have equity in the house, and we never once went without. Lucie and I were not covered by insurance and never got sick or injured. We had the kids covered under state insurance which was better than my old insurance and that state coverage paid for eye exams and glasses and dentistry and the whole situation with Elliott’s finger. What I did miss doing was helping out others. We still tithed but Lucie and I had really enjoyed helping to pay for kids’ camps or other ‘behind the scenes’ things which we couldn’t do with the little money we now had (or didn’t have).

Meanwhile, I would apply for jobs and interview and my profile and resume were posted on every major employer’s web site and job search site around. I went to job fairs and networked as much as possible. Job opportunities would come and go and it was a roller coaster of ups and downs. I eventually got to the point where I wouldn’t even tell anyone about opportunities because I felt I was crying wolf over and over. At one particularly low time, God provided a short term job that I loved. I was so encouraged and felt that I had finally gotten the break I needed and was going to be all set. I signed a short-term contract and when that ended, they asked me to sign a longer, open-ended contract. I was thrilled! But 2 hours after signing the contract extension, the project that the contract was based on lost its funding and I was going home with no job again. But I had a glimpse of what my future was going to be: working in a professional environment with respect and integrity. Sure there were stresses but they were work related and not personal. I was encouraged by the promise of the future.

And through this whole time it seemed only a very few people could understand the personal struggle I was going through. What is difficult for one person may not be hard for another. To most everyone else who didn’t really know me or what my old position was like, it was foolish of me to not just go back to my old job – let alone to have walked away from it in the first place. “You just don’t do that!” After all, to them it was just a job. And who doesn’t have rough times at their job? There were people that thought I was lazy and selfish to walk away from the money I was making with nothing to replace it with. I am sure some thought God would never ‘advise’ someone to do such a short-sighted thing and it was clearly an un-wise thing to do. Surely God would not encourage someone to jeopardize their family’s possessions and home. But they didn’t realize that that job was not right for ME. And again, there are numerous stories in the Bible where God commanded someone to do something out of the ordinary that made no apparent sense at the time. But in the end it came down to a matter of trust and obedience. I wish with all the good intentioned advice I got, the last line people would have said was, “… but you do what God tells you to do and if you are sure that is God’s plan, you stick with it.” And some people DID say that. I know the others meant well and the Bible does direct us to listen to good counsel. Yet I had to work it out with God to be sure I was doing the right thing. And it was confirmed to me over and over. Some would argue that God took a foolish move on my part and turned it into something good because that is what He does – and maybe He did. But I know in my heart that what I did was right. And in the end, God still got me through and will still get the glory.

As time went by and our resources got lower, I honestly became more and more nervous. At one point I was flooded with anxiety and wondered how we would make it. There was no natural way we were going to survive on Lucie’s part time salary. I prayed every which way and fasted and did all the things I thought I should do and pleaded for God to show me His plan. I had faith it would turn out OK – I just wanted to know when. And then once again, I got a word from God - a phrase in a message about when Jesus told the disciples that they didn’t need to know His timing – they just had to hang on. So I did. And a week later when I started to get anxious again, I pushed that anxiety out of my mind and asked God to get me through. I remember walking through the house right at that time and Lucie was working in the basement and had the song, “How Great Is Our God” playing on the stereo. I had to smile because a theme of that song is not only recognizing how great God is, but also that “all the world will see” how great He is. And that is what I have been looking forward to – telling my story of how I went from a solid, six-figure salary to nothing, and how God got me through and restored me.

I had several promising opportunities come up, and then just as quickly fizzle out and dry up. I got so discouraged and kept considering the option of going back to my old job. Though nothing was guaranteed, it felt like a pot of gold just sitting there waiting to be taken. I had former co-workers check the “climate” at my old company for my return to see if I should pursue that and they told me that the door to return was open. Then, again, along came the distraction and again, it seemed so clear that I should not go down that path. Which is fine – but what path do I go down? The waiting is the hardest part. But thank God for Christian friends and thank God for using people and situations to encourage me. Time and time again I would get words of hope or emails with verses that I needed to hear. And the timing situation was put into perfect perspective by my friend who reminded me of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham remained faithful to God to the last minute and God intervened when Abraham’s arm was ready to plunge the knife into Isaac. I am sure Abraham had learned his lesson long before that point and God knew his heart, but He waited until the perfect time. So I had to wait for my perfect time.

Then out of the blue, this job opportunity came along. It was posted online on my birthday! And right about the time that this opportunity came along, the book of Psalms was next in my Bible reading. And what is the book of Psalms about? Giving praise to God for all He has done. What a perfect transition and parallel to what I have gone through. Many people asked me how we made it for 21 months on Lucie’s part-time salary. Again the relevance of the Bible is so clear. People probably asked the widow how in the world with a tiny amount of oil and flour could she feed herself and her son for days and days? Only God knows but He blessed us for such a time as this.

While waiting for an offer letter from the job opportunity, the “little” things continued to happen. “Coincidentally” there was a CPR/AED class scheduled at church for free with one slot open. One of the job requirements was that I have AED/CPR certification and First Aid. The class got done early so the instructor decided to add the First Aid module. Tires I needed for the Pathfinder were not only available at Costco (original factory issued type like the original ones) but they were the cheapest and there was $70 off coupon, etc. etc. There was a sermon about how Jacob wrestled with God (much as I have wrestled with this issue), another sermon about how God told Isaac to wait before he went into the Promised Land, and yet another sermon about learning lessons from rough times.

So what have I learned? I don’t know that I learned so much as this confirmed so much. We never lived extravagantly or blew our money foolishly. But we will be more budget minded and spend and save more wisely. I learned that God is my supplier and I am in total reliance on Him. I learned that God has blessed me with friends and family that care about me. This whole process didn’t teach me that God is my source and will provide – I knew that. But it did confirm it. I was reading my Bible and praying daily before this. We are no more active in church now than before (and we are plenty active). But I am closer to God and have a renewed encouragement that His ways are the best ways. I did learn to look at those around me a bit differently too – someone who didn’t know me wouldn’t know what I was wrestling with every hour. We all have things we wrestle with. I have learned to be a bit more sensitive and encouraging to others because you never know what the other person is going through or what they need to hear. I am thankful that people were obedient and spoke or sent the encouraging words that God directed them to (whether they knew it or not). And I have learned that what I may consider to be the right path for someone, may not be God’s path – which truly is the right path.

So why go through this whole thing? I thought I learned whatever God’s lesson for me was early on in this situation. I don’t know why and I may never know. But what I do know is that God is faithful and He will stand by those who stand firm in their faith and belief - even against “common wisdom.” Up to this point, Lucie and I have never really had to wait on God for any real decisions; we would ‘go with the flow’ when it came to major purchases or moving or anything. We just knew in our spirits the right thing to do and did it. But for the first time, we had to just wait and trust and believe. And that was hard. But the kids got to witness this whole process and really appreciate it. We talked openly with them the whole time and hopefully they learned from my hard time. I do have to throw a warning in here – at least one person said he wished he had the courage to do what I did and step out of the boat on faith. But courage had nothing to do with it and I am not advocating that anyone do what I did in terms of leaving a job with no other job lined up. I told that person that a job is not your means of supply – God is. Typically He will use a job to meet our needs, but I am living proof He doesn’t have to. The point is to listen to God and find out what His plan is for YOUR life. Each person’s situation is unique as is God’s plan for them. But the lesson to be learned from my experience is to stay tuned into God and do what He says. Follow His leading but be sure it is His leading –not your own ambitions or plans or initiatives. And believe me – that is the hard part. But He will tell you what to do if you listen to how He tells you. How will He tell you? The same way He told me – by His word and His word through others.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Table Tennis, Not Ping Pong

I broke down and bought a new table tennis table from Costco (big sale) - our old one was 30 years old! It was tired and beat and the edges were pretty much gone. And forget about folding it and rolling it. Costco had one on sale that Lucie liked and I found a friend who is willing to take the old girl (yes it is a good home!). So Elliott and I went and bought it and got a Costco guy to help put it on the Pathfinder roof racks. I brought a lot of rope and tied it down every which way. It wasn't pretty but it held the whole way home. My neighbor was outside so I snagged him and he helped me get it off the roof. Then Elliott and I could take it piece by piece to the basement. And then spent 2 hours putting it together! It had stupid safety things so it wouldn't tip over or fold up (unplanned) which took a long time to install and the directions were pictures. But it is nice. So we get it set up and Elliott is all ready to take on the old man. And danged if he doesn't beat me FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LIFE 22-20! First game on the table too! So he is in hog heaven. It was a good game. And I was really trying.

And in other news... We picked up Ashleigh today from 4 days at field hockey camp in the southern part of the state. She did well and her team won a division championship. Lots of drills and skills and playing but she had fun. The pool hit 86º the other day but of course it rained when Lucie was going to have a church pool party so that got rained out. I had a second interview this week which I think went very well. Great company. The interviewers were thorough and probing but fair and sincere. I am excited. I have been working on some background info that they need and just waiting by the phone for a call...!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hot Pictures

Lucie and Ashleigh got home fine and were tired but not exhausted like they have been in the past. The campground had set up a wifi network and Lucie was able to post pictures and videos to Facebook so all the family and friends left behind could check in and see how things were going. Very good!

Elliott and I survived on pizza and scary movies. Tough week for us...

Today Lucie was copying camp pictures to the laptop using a Digital Concepts CD-45 XD Card Reader/Writer when she noticed it was warped and melted and wicked hot! So she yanked it out of the USB slot and saved the XD card. As you can see from my picture, the reader is toast. I went online and found this is not the first time this reader model has melted. I sent an email to the company and will call them on Monday.

We laid low yesterday and today. Tomorrow we take Ashleigh down to the middle part of the state for a 4 day field hockey camp. This is her first time going but she knows some of the other girls that will be there and is looking forward to it.

I had a blog entry titled, "Bugs, Birds and Branches" but didn't have enough other info to post until now. The other day I saw a huge (2 inch?) bug on the bottom of the pool. I fished it out and it looked like something out of the movie The Mummy. While doing that, I heard a big crashing sound from out in the woods. I turned to see a pretty good sized branch falling through the trees and hit the ground. I went back to the bug and set it on a fence post for Elliott to see. He took a look and as we headed back into the house, we saw a dead bird laying in the grass. Both of us swear it wasn't there 5 minutes earlier. I scooped that up and heaved it into the woods. Two minutes later, we noticed the bug was gone! Crazy stuff going on around here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Games And Things

This morning Elliott and I headed over to the Y to play some racquetball. You have to be 14 to play there so he was finally able to legitimately play. Only took me about 3 minutes to nail him in the back. All part of the game, son, all part of the game...

We came home from there and had some tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and showered and headed out again. We saw a sign for a Domino's pizza sale (large plain for $4.99) so we got two of those and a couple of scary movies. We also returned a couple of things to Home Depot and Radio Shack and Elliott traded in some old PSP movies and games for Game Stop store credit towards the new Halo game coming out this Fall. Last night we watched one of my favorite movies, Pearl Harbor, and I saw an old Xbox game at Game Stop where you flew missions from that era. $3. So I was getting all psyched up to relive the movie with me as a fighter pilot. But I crashed and burned before I ever got out of the store - all they had was the empty case with no game!

It was a pretty gray day for the most of the day but I took the dogs for a walk around the 'hood. The sun came out towards the end of that. As soon as we get back, the golden heads straight into the pool and the beagle goes into the house and literally falls over onto the kitchen linoleum floor.

We made it through one of the movies (The Haunting in Connecticut). It was fair but relied on the lame scares of sudden loud music and things jumping out on the screen. We will watch the other one tomorrow.

Lucie is doing well at camp with Ashleigh and is posting pictures and updates on Facebook. That is great for the parents to be able to log in and see the updates and know everything is going OK.

The best news of the day (year?) came this morning when the company I am interviewing with called me for a follow-up interview/meeting next week. That is a real positive sign and I am very excited about it! I wish I could do the interview tomorrow!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Radio Shack Attacked

Today Lucie and Ashleigh headed off to camp with about 40 other kids plus chaperones. They will be gone till Friday. Elliott and I have a list of fun stuff to do for the week (racquetball, cashing in free mini-golf coupons, ping pong, etc.) and one project which we tackled today. Well, mostly I tackled it because Elliott was at the church for a game day. Anyway, I wanted to run an Internet ethernet cable to the attic and drop it down into Elliott's room so he can be hard wired online for his Xbox. So I went up to the 1,000 degree attic and found that my drop hole was already too full of other cable and phone lines. So I drilled it out (carefully so as to not nick the existing wires) and dropped down two cables to connect to the router in the computer room - one for his room and one to leave coiled up there in case I want to drop it down into another room later. Of course the jack hole in the computer room is behind the two ton desk so I had to stretch and try to reach the cables. And couldn't. So back up to the attic I go to feed more cable. Finally I got them and got them plugged into the router. So far so good. Coiled up one line and pounded in a nail in the attic and hung the coil. Then I stretched the other one across the attic and had to get down on my stomach in the middle of the fiberglass and drop that line down into Elliott's closet ceiling. That worked fine. Went down to his room and had to connect that line to another ethernet line. Plugged it into his Xbox and there was no signal. Sure enough, the Radio Shack connector was no good. We tested the cables and they were fine but the connector wasn't working. So I had to dry off and change clothes and go to another Radio Shack for another connector. Got one and lo and behold if it doesn't look different than the first one! Same package, different item (looked similar). Plugged the new one in and all was good! Looked a little closer at the packaging on the first one and saw it had been previously opened! So someone returned something in the package I bought but it wasn't what I wanted! It's all good now and Elliott is playing faster than ever.

Now to shower off the fiberglass and settle in to watch Pearl Harbor. Elliott always falls asleep when we try and watch it but this time he swears he can make it through.

Yesterday we had a good day at a couple of church fundraisers (pizza and water ice). Even managed to sneak in a pool side nap...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Tribute... Billy Mays: I took my favorite Royal Caribbean tee shirt out of the laundry today and there were three rust circles on it. Argh! So I tried to get them out with the Clorox pen thing, straight bleach, Spray & Wash - you name it. Nothing worked. Then I read online about putting lemon juice on the stains, rubbing some salt on them, and then setting the shirt out in the sun. Faster than you can say, "Oxi Clean," the rust spots were gone! Pretty amazing!

I heard back from Sony (they actually called me) and said there were able to track down the GPS file problem and hoped to have it fixed by the end of the week. Well, it is the end of the week and they haven't fixed it but at least they are on it.

Lucie got a new work computer at church so I spent one day last week setting that up. It is pretty fast and came with Vista installed. That took a little getting used to but she and other users are all set to go now. She loves it. She can actually double click an icon and have a program open up in less than 10 minutes...!

The replacement router came in last week and set up nicely in no time. So the house is back to being wireless and all is good again.

No real job news this week but I expect some movement next week.

Speaking of next week, Lucie and Ashleigh leave for Kids Camp on Monday. Heading out to Carlisle, PA (about 2 hours away). They should have a good time chaperoning over 30 kids (with other adults of course). Elliott and I have a week of racquetball and movies and miniature golf planned.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sony Can Thank Me

Sony released new mapping software for my GPS unit so I downloaded it and installed it but darned if it wasn't the same version as the old one. So I uninstalled and re-installed and downloaded and re-downloaded. Same thing. I then compared the downloaded file with the old version and they were identical. Clearly the download link on the Sony site pointed to the wrong (old) file version. Now to try and convince someone of that... After a few emails, chats and a telephone call, I finally got a Sony tech support person to admit that he too was seeing what I was and he promised to escalate it to the proper people for correction. So anyone having the same problem as me can go ahead and email me their thanks. Which is probably exactly zero people.

And speaking of Sony, we stopped at the Sony outlet on the way home from the beach yesterday to get a new (refurbished) Sony DVD player. Elliott moved his xBox up to his room which took away the DVD player from the family room (we used the xBox as the DVD player). So I got a great 'new' DVD player for the living room and synched it up to the Sony TV there. Today I will move the old JVC DVD player to the family room and synch it with that JVC TV.

I should get the replacement router today from eBay. We have been limping along without wifi in the house but I finally cracked my problem of not getting online wired - it is complicated but I had allowed wireless access to the laptops but not wired access. Corrected that and all is good. I even ran an ethernet wire to Elliott's room so his xBox is wired into the Internet now (instead of via wifi). He is loving it.

Lucie re-did his room which really opened things up in there. He is happy with that.

Yesterday we went to the beach with a lot of church people. Amazing to see the dolphins swimming just off shore! So big and close. It was beautiful most of the day but then got cloudy and chilly towards the late afternoon. One boy was body surfing and managed to smack his face into the hard sand and broke his nose. That earned him a trip to the ER via ambulance to be sure his neck was OK. It was. The good news for me was that it wasn't Elliott this time...

VBS ended very successfully. There was a fundraising goal which was tied into "buying" strips of duct tape to tape Lucie to the wall and see if she would be suspended. But not enough was raised (almost $3000 was though!) so it didn't hold her but the kids loved watching them pull the chair out from under her feet! No injuries to report there.

This week I MIGHT hear a job update. There were some vacations last week but everyone is back and things should get moving again. I hope...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Time To Dance

Above is the M5J airsoft gun my friend sent me for my birthday. But don't let the word "airsoft" fool you: it shoots hard plastic balls at about 400 feet per second (a .22 bullet travels at about 1200 fps) and is fully automatic. Battery charged with a clip that holds 68 rounds. It is heavy metal. So who will be doing the dancing? The squirrels. I haven't mentioned them much of late because they had the upper hand on me for a while. They managed to defeat my squirrel proof bird feeder AND got into my metal bird food can. That can is the step type where you step on the pedal to open the lid. The squirrels managed to chew through the plastic hinge and take the lid off. So I bungied a heavy chunk of concrete to the lid and they still managed to get it open. I had been shooting at the squirrels with my paintball gun (about 300 fps) but by the time I got the air tank screwed on , Jasmine would be jumping around and would scare the squirrels off (the paintballs are egg based and she likes to eat them). This new gun will fire instantly. Woohoo!

Been a busy week at Vacation Bible School. I went in with Lucie on Monday to help that morning with the audio visual stuff in the sound booth and it turned into a week long engagement. Over 150 kids per day plus an additional 50 or so workers. At some points we have video from the laptop running, DVDs, streaming music from the Internet, wireless and handheld mics, two song displaying software programs and two iPods. Throw in a couple of flash drives and cable swapping and I and my helper are like a couple of octopodes back there! (And yes, "octopodes" is the correct plural word for octopus - not octopuses or octopi!). It is quite a production but it is running very smoothly thanks to a LOT of helpers.

The weather has been so dry and beautiful lately. The pool is doing very well. Ashleigh is going to a free defensive driving class on Saturday which will help to bank some points and lower her insurance premiums.

I replaced the router power cord and am able to get back on the Internet but not wirelessly. The wifi component burned out. So I bought a replacement router on eBay for $40 (the power cable alone from Radio Shack was $40 so I am returning that). Elliott is struggling without his xBox online but he is getting by.

Still waiting for more employment news which of course I will share upon receipt. Still optimistic.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks At The Fireworks

Some friends from church went to the park early yesterday morning in Maryland where we watch the fireworks every year and graciously laid out blankets to "mark the territory" for a bunch of us. They do this every year and about 30-40 people from church come later in the evening to a guaranteed spot. So this year a group of us traipse in and set up our chairs and settle in a couple of hours before the fireworks start. A woman comes up behind me and asks me if we could all move our chairs because we set up in front of a space where there were small children. Mind you, the place gets packed (thus the early morning claim staking). So I politely asked the woman why I should move - there is no ground show and I and the rest of us were not blocking their view of the sky - where the fireworks would be seen of course. She kept going on about the little children (who weren't there). So finally I said that if my sitting in my chair posed a problem during the show, I would move. She went back and told some friends so another woman starts calling me "rude." I turned around and asked her what the problem was - many people were in chairs and I was not blocking any view. And I asked her if we moved our chairs, would they ask the people in front of us to move theirs? When would it end? I then turned back around and ignored them (they were about 25 feet behind us). A few minutes later they grabbed some Parks and Recreation workers to complain about me. It took about 2 seconds for the P&R people to again point out the obvious - it was a public park, hundreds of people were in chairs, and the fireworks would be seen in the air. So the people slid their blankets back from behind us. Sure enough, it wasn't long before another family came along and set up their chairs behind us and then another guy set up his chair behind them! ha ha I never could see their point. Anyway, the fireworks were great as usual and we had a great time.

Before that we had about 20 people over for a cookout and pool party. That was a lot of fun and I set up my new Ladderball game. Great afternoon and we really enjoy watching the pool get used.

The night before, the power cord to my router went bad. I sent an email off and went to bed and 2 minutes later Elliott was up telling me the wifi was down. The modem was fine but the router was dead. I quickly found that for some reason, the power cable died. Turns out it is a common problem for this brand of router. Anyway, we scoured the house to find a power supply that put out the right power and had the right connector end. We finally found something that would power the router but the wifi signal is not strong enough to go more than about 5 feet. So Elliott had to experience an Independence Day from Xbox... I went online to order a new power supply ($20!) and wound up just buying a whole new router and antenna from eBay for $40. My desktop can get online because I am direct wired to the internet but the rest of the house is offline.

Looks like another great day today. Staying after church to help Lucie set up for VBS week next week and then eating cookout leftovers.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Things Are Rockin

On July 1, around 9:45 AM, a small (2.7) earthquake hit the area. I didn't feel or hear a thing. We actually feel a lot of ground vibrations from detonations at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds (we are 20 miles away) so another little house shaking didn't concern me.

Meanwhile, my interview this week went very well. Thanks to all who prayed for me and gave encouraging feedback. There is still a lengthy process and I am not guaranteed anything but I am hopeful and I feel like it is a great opportunity. Absolutely no drawbacks that I can see and the culture looks great.

I spent the rest of the week running errands for Lucie as she gets ready for Vacation Bible School next week. Did some computer work for her too which should make things easier. I had a great night at hoops this week - I was in the right place for rebounds, hit some shots (finally!) and we won more games than we lost. The weather has been pretty good too so I have gotten in some good pool time.

Having some friends over tomorrow for a low budget cook out, then going to the fireworks over the line in Maryland. I swear that town spends half of its annual budget on fireworks! It is always a good time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Leg, Or Seven, To Stand On

To the right is a picture of the implementation of a good idea from a friend of mine. We have a bar type table out by the pool and I noticed the legs were rusting. I was afraid that some day a leg would rust through and I would find the table crumpled over some day. So Robin, uh, our friend, suggested I cut a section of PVC pipe and slide it over the legs to add support. Brilliant! I had some old PVC pipe so I cut it to length for each of the table's seven legs, drilled out drain notches in the bottom, and painted them. Then Elliott slid them on over the existing legs like sleeves while I lifted the table. Now if the leg disintegrates, it will still rest on the PVC pipe and supports. Nice.

Speaking of nice, what a nice couple of days we have had here. Even Lucie got in the pool which is saying a lot! It was warm and clear out and the pool water is 84 degrees. This morning there was a baby, 10-inch snake in the pool so I took that out and turned it loose. Then a few hours later I encountered big mama! Jasmine was standing perfectly still at attention staring into the bushes by the pool. I knew something was up so I went and took a look and there was a good sized snake in the bush. I don't think it was Buttercup unless she has been eating well! It was big! I told Jasmine to back away (I am sure the snake isn't poisonous but it would bite and that could lead to a problem). As soon as Jasmine moved that snake took off! But it didn't slow us down from swimming - even the dogs took a lap today. We cooked chicken and hot dogs on the grill for dinner.

Recapping the week; Elliott's finger continues to heal and is looking good. Fingernail-less but good. Ashleigh had a field hockey game this week and scored and for the first time this season her team didn't lose (they tied!). Lucie and I visited the 10 year old son of a friend of ours at the local children's hospital. He had a tumor on his thyroid which he had removed and had some complications but he is doing well and should be home and fine soon. I played hoops Thursday and had my usual average night. Great workout though - only 10 guys out so I had to run all night. Someone also pointed out that if you look at the Hale Family Web Page on any other browser but Internet Explorer, the fonts get increasingly bigger until you cannot even see the page. I thought I saw that once on a hand-held browser I used to access my site once but didn't give it another thought. I was able to see my site via the Mozilla browser and saw what a mess it was. I am not very good compiling code but I found the problem and fixed it. The rest of the week was pretty quiet with me running around doing errands for Lucie as she gets ready for Vacation Bible School.

On a VERY positive note, I had a short telephone interview this week for a great job I applied for and I have an interview with them Tuesday morning at 10. Keep me in prayer about that. I am VERY excited about this and it could be a great opportunity. A lot of things are lining up just right and I am very optimistic. I will post more after the interview.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's The End Of The World As We Know It...

Nestle Toll House cookie dough has been recalled. Some lightweights somewhere couldn't handle a little E. coli in their raw cookies and ruined it for the rest of us. Fortunately I had made it through about 90% of our Costco sized tub before I threw the rest away. I keep a spoon handy and would occasionally take a dip in the tub for a little taste of happiness. I have never felt better. I guess by now I would have gotten sick if we had a bad batch but after seeing what Lucie went through with a bought of salmonella a few years ago, I won't take more chances.

Elliott is doing a lot better today. He pretty much slept all afternoon and night yesterday and is keeping up with the ibuprofen.

Another rainy day here! The yard is a jungle and one of my projects today was to extend one of the downspout drains to drain the water off better. Maybe I should work on it "live" during the rain.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Elliott's Nail Ripped Out

My last blog a week ago indicated that Elliott's finger was doing fine. Not so. The surgeon removed the old fingernail that the ER doc had sewed back on and we made an appointment to return in August. But Elliott noticed a couple of stitches that got left behind. So we went in today for what we thought was a quick suture removal. Not so fast. The surgeon said he had a little bit of an infection in the new nail area and it was not looking good. It was all deformed and bumpy. So he gave Elliott a couple of shots with a very long needle. And then a couple more shots when that didn't kill the pain enough. In the middle picture above you can see the shots made his finger discolor and swell. Well, the surgeon then went in and cut the sutures and then just yanked that new nail right out! I broke out in a sweat and couldn't look. Elliott held up fine though. For a while. The surgeon then came back after a few minutes and said he had to cut some of the nail bed out - which is the raw meat where the nail used to be. THAT was painful. Poor Elliott was really hurting but never pulled his hand away. The doc said he could stop but Elliott wanted it all over now so he let him finish. It was killing me! So he should be OK now. But we have to go back for more check ups.

The kids just got back from camp today (we went straight to the doctor's office from church when they got back) and they are napping now. They had a fun time but it rained the entire week so no pool for them. And it rained here too so no pool for me either! Lucie really got into VBS preparation and I did errands for her throughout the week. One night we did go out to a new pizza buffet place with some friends. That was OK.

Before they left Elliott wanted to see Saving Private Ryan. He is playing an XBox game from that era and he wanted to see how it really was. I had forgotten just how powerful that movie is. Should be required viewing for every American.

Buttercup the snake hasn't been spotted in a few days.

No real employment news. Rough week for me last week as I really thought something was going to happen. It didn't. I have an application in to another place and I am hoping to hear something from another. And on it goes... But friends have sent me some timely encouragements and some church and Bible messages have been exactly what I needed to hear. It is still tough but I know this will have a happy ending...

Friday, June 12, 2009


Yesterday was my 45th birthday. Pretty low key day. I ran errands all morning and then set up the church for basketball that night. We met some friends at Dave's Famous BBQ for dinner. That was really good. Always is. It was a rainy day with some loud thunder at night but relaxing and fun. I got a nice Life is Good shirt, a gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, and Lucie got me a desk fan. Which she is returning today! ha ha Nice idea because the computer room is pretty warm but the ceiling fan works fine and I really don't need. I appreciated the thought. I also got a new money clip. Not that I have anything to put in it...

Ashleigh and Elliott are both done with school for the summer. They are going to church camp next week.

Elliott's finger is coming along OK. The surgeon took a look at his old fingernail and promptly pulled it off and threw it away! ha ha Elliott was shocked but it didn't hurt. Now we see a stitch was left behind so I have to call today to see if they need to yank that out or just let it grow out. But his finger looks much better now with that old dead fingernail gone. The new nail is about half grown in.

Buttercup the snake has found a new spot to lounge in during the day - back by the pool pump. I think it likes the warmth it generates. It stays on one side of the fence - just out of reach of the dogs!

No plans for the weekend that I know of. I was really hoping to have some employment news by my birthday but I have none.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Buttercup Gets Around

What you see to the left is the common Buttercup. But we have a rather uncommon Buttercup. Remember the garter snake that Elliott and I caught a couple of weeks ago? It is still around and we see it every day. Elliott has named it Buttercup. It spends its days in the bushes in the front yard sunning itself. Yesterday, I saw Britni the beagle howling at something at the side garage door. Sure enough, there is Buttercup making its way along the edge of the house to the bushes by the pool gate. Tonight Lucie HAD to have hot dogs from the grill so when I was standing there cooking, I looked down and there was Buttercup right at my feet! Britni was about to go after it so we got her into the house and Buttercup made her way somewhere. It is about 2 feet long and almost as big around as a garden hose. I looked away for a second and it was gone! Of course Lucie is not too pleased with this situation but I don't mind.

Today I was pretty productive trimming and mowing and doing some pool maintenance. The pool got up to 79 degrees today. That is nice.

Over the weekend we went to Newark Night with some friends and ran into a lot more down there. They close down Main Street and a bunch of vendors set up shop. We love going there every year to roam around and eat funnel cake. And some people always bring their St. Bernards and Great Danes so those are nice to see. I was hoping we would have some people over for games afterward and we did. But we weren't home too long when a few more friends showed up. Come to find out, Lucie had arranged for a surprise birthday party for me! My birthday isn't until Thursday and I had no clue at all! She pulled off a good one. That was fun. Sunday night most of us got together again and played some more.

Today Ashleigh started a summer field hockey league. The field is quite a ways away in Wilmington so she is coordinating car pooling with some teammates. The games are not long and it will be a good tune up before the high school varsity season starts in the fall.

Tomorrow I have a free follow up visit to the root canal doc. And Elliott has another appointment with the finger surgeon. That means another round of x-rays.

Still working on the employment situation and am hoping to have an update tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hovering In The Hood

You may not be able to tell too well from the pictures, but the little black spot is actually a helicopter hovering in the neighborhood. There are big power lines running alongside the development and every once in a while they come out and hover over them taking readings or whatever. Pretty cool to see the helicopter so close (objects in the picture are closer than they appear).

Last night was Elliott's 8th grade graduation. Very nicely done with a state senator speaking. They are big on decorum so there was no hoopla or carrying on. We sat with a few friends from church whose kids were graduating too so that was nice. I took pictures with Lucie's old camera but they didn't come out too well. I will post them later. Ashleigh went too of course and it brought back memories of her time there. Afterward one of Elliott's friend's parents had a party for a lot of the kids and parents so we went to that. That was nice too.

The rain has finally stopped here and should clear out soon. Tonight is Newark Night where they close down the main street of Newark and all sorts of vendors and performers set up shop. We go every year and roam around and have a good time. We will go again tonight.

Things took an unexpected and potentially great turn in the employment search this week. I will update about that when I can.

I got a notice today that this month marks my 20th anniversary of being a MENSA member. Funny, I don't feel any wiser...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who Needs A Talking Donkey?

It's been over a week since I updated the blog. Mostly because things have been slow. Good but slow. The pool is running fine and is beautiful. Right now it is only up to about 75º but the air is cool too so it feels pretty good in it. A&E are wrapping up school. Ashleigh's friend got elected to the Student Body President - Ashleigh worked on her campaign. Elliott went to Hershey Park for the day yesterday with a school group and had a great time. He just got the results back for his state math scores and got the 2nd highest score in the school. Pretty good. We watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" about the guy who is born an old man and ages in reverse. Long but pretty good. We also went to a graduation party for a several of the church kids. That was a pretty good time and a beautiful day.

Now on to the good stuff. As you all know, I have been struggling with some employment issues. Just needing some direction and for God to open or close some doors. It is a challenge to try and figure out what I think I am supposed to do and what I am really supposed to do. So as I wrestled with different opportunities that came and went, I would ask God why in the world He doesn't speak to us like the old Bible days - when He talked on the mountain tops or through Balaam's donkey (Numbers 22:21). Elliott brought up a good point and said that God didn't speak audibly to every person back then and we shouldn't expect him too now. Very wise. So I started tuning in to how God could still communicate to me and give me direction. And He surely did. I had/have to be careful that I do not manipulate things to suit my expectations consciously or subconsciously. Lots of people have come to me with advice and told me what common knowledge would dictate. And there is value in that and we are encouraged to seek the counsel of wise people. But at the same time we have to follow our inner spirit and do what we know to be right. Common wisdom would say don't build an ark in the middle of the desert yet Noah did what he had to do. I know that God has plan - it is a matter of either being faithfully patient or stepping out in faith. It is not clear. But then as I tuned in, I began to notice that sermons at church seemed to directly address thoughts I was having, songs at church that we hadn't sung in a long time were sung that had specific and personal meaning to me, little devotions friends would send me or I would stumble upon had perfect words or phrases that I had been thinking or needed to hear, and Bible verses that couldn't have been more appropriate or timely came my way. Then to top it all off, "coincidentally" my daily Bible reading brought me to the book of Job. Whoo boy there is a book for ya. I cannot claim to be anything like Job or to have gone through what he did, but the lessons of that book are certainly relevant. All that to say that God is moving and I am encouraged. There are tough days for sure and I am looking forward to the day where I can re-tell this story with a final happy ending. But I want to give credit where it is due and acknowledge that God hasn't forgotten me and He doesn't need to send a burning bush to talk to me. He has surely provided miraculously and we are not wanting for anything. I just need to stay tuned in and not get distracted. So keep the prayers coming that I will know the right path to choose and will be patient when I need to be patient and step out when I need to step out.

Church is dismissed! ha ha

Monday, May 25, 2009

Poolin' Around

Here is a view of the pool at night. It gives off a nice glow and reflects off the overhanging trees. We have torches around the edge which makes it look really cool out there when we fire them up. I jumped in today and swam around for a while. Jasmine the golden retriever hopped in with me and made a lap. She enjoys sitting on the top step with the jets of water swirling around her. The water temp was 78 degrees but the air wasn't much warmer so it felt good. And I hung out by the solar heater water jet which was pumping warm water in from the roof. And that is due to my friend coming over yesterday and going up on the roof to replace a leaking solar panel gasket.

We had a fun weekend playing games with friends and cooking out and doing a lot of house stuff. Lucie has been working hard on the basement. I helped Elliott produce a DVD for school tomorrow with his friend. That came out OK.

We watched the movie "Australia" this weekend. Pretty good. Nice story but almost 3 hours long!

More employment roller coaster ups and downs. Really believing for a breakthrough this week. I made some calls this weekend and got a few emails that are encouraging.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ashleigh Goes to the Prom

Thursday night Ashleigh went to Nathan's Senior Prom. Here is a collage of pictures Lucie took before they left.

Looks like a quiet weekend here. The pool is heating up and filtering out. No real plans.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Pool Is Open

Today I got motivated and opened the pool all by myself. There is a lot to it but I have detailed instructions that I made and I print every year. I have to undo the cover springs (the cover is like a trampoline cover affixed to the concrete with springs and posts), wrestle the cover off, dry and bag it, screw in the 36 posts flush with the concrete, take out the winter plugs, put in the steps rails, etc. etc. etc. Quite a process but it was fun. The water is a bright green but it should clear up in a day or two. It is a bit frosty at 62 degrees. But once the water clears up I will fire up the solar heater and getting that going.

A little while after I got started, Jasmine came up with a dead mouse in her mouth. Or so I thought. Turns out a bird had made a nest in the corner of the fenced in pool area. Obviously very low. By the time I got over to it, the dogs and decimated the nest and killed all the little birds but one. About 5 of them. I moved the nest out in the woods with the one little survivor but I think that one is a goner too. Kind of sad.

My game at hoops tonight was sad too. Poor shooting, two times in a row I threw away the inbounds pass, weak rebounding. Ugh. I hit a few jumpers and did have a couple of nice full court passes. But I was drained from working in the sun all day.

Ashleigh went to Nathan's senior prom tonight. They came home and changed and went to the after-prom party at the school. Lucie tried to stay up but didn't make it.

We went to her Cambridge honors banquet last night. That was fun. She and the other students were recognized for their achievements and hard work. Pretty fun.

At the security luncheon I went to yesterday I got a lead on an Investigator job. It didn't pan out due to the experience required and distance. Back to the drawing board...

No plans for tomorrow or the weekend except to sit around the pool I suppose...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lacrosse Banquet

Tonight was Ashleigh's lacrosse banquet night. She got her varsity letter and pin. The pictures above were taken during the season and posted around the school cafeteria (where the banquet was) and she could take them afterwards. She got several certificates from the school and district for getting good grades. And the seniors gave gifts to the players. One mother, who is also the school art teacher, made mirrors for all the players and she got a water bottle and shorts. It was a nice night. Good food too.

Tomorrow night is her Cambridge program banquet. That is the advanced program she is in at school.

Elliott used his savings to buy an iTouch yesterday. He is loving that.

Buttercup the snake re-appeared today. The other morning we had deer in the woods behind the house. That got the beagle all riled up.

Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for coffee, then going to a security luncheon to earn continuing education points, and in the evening is the other banquet.

I am still wrestling with some timing issues regarding some decisions. No clear definition on which way to go or when to do things. I can see both sides of the decision but can't figure out which way is the "right" way to go. Keep Lucie and I in prayer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's All About The Timing

Timing is everything they say. We see it every day. On the way home today, Lucie, Elliott and I came across an accident that had the road shut down. Ashleigh was home but was supposed to leave to go to a friend's house. She got delayed so not only was she not in the accident, she was able to go a different route and avoid the whole mess. Later on when I was walking the dogs, they both decided they had to poop - halfway through the walk. They had been outside with me all day while I mowed and did yard work but they waited to go until it was the most inconvenient. Being the good neighbor that I am, I have a spool of bags with me so I cleaned up after them. And then I had to walk the second half of the trip with two bags of poop in my hand like prized pelts from a hunting expedition. Anyway, when you think about the timing of things, it can be pretty amazing how just a second here or there can have monumental effects. And that ties into a more serious matter I am dealing with - knowing when the right time is to make a decision. Nothing is easy...

Pretty chilly around here today. But nice and sunny. We had a good weekend - cooked out with friends, went out with the church group after church Sunday night, Lucie went to a Scottish games festival and A&E had friends over. Busy but good.

Buttercup the snake is missing in action. I am sure it hasn't gone far and probably was burrowed away somewhere because it was chilly out.

We are finally catching up on some season finales - we watched 24 tonight and saw Fringe and The Office earlier. We still have Heroes and Lost and Terminator to catch up on. Although we just found out Terminator was canceled so I that is not high on the priority list now.

Lacrosse banquet tomorrow night.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Things Are Getting Better

At least in terms of Ashleigh's lacrosse seasons. Her team finished the year with 2 wins and 13 losses BUT last year her team didn't win a game. And the margin of loss was better this year: last year her team was outscored by about 5 to 1 but this year only a little over 2 to 1. Last year Ashleigh took 8 shots but did not score. This year she took 29 shots and scored 5 goals. So there is improvement...

Elliott had his 8th grade graduation dance/party last night. The school rented out a big place and he got all dressed up and had a good time.

The snake, that Elliott has now named "Buttercup," has become a fixture in our front bushes. It suns itself during the day on the bushes out front and moves from bush to bush.

We spent another long day in the basement yesterday. Made two trips to Goodwill with stuff, threw out a bunch of stuff, and re-organized the basement. Lucie did the bulk of it. But then again, most of the stuff is hers...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Is Spring Without A Snake?

Yesterday when I was mowing the yard I saw this snake all coiled up in an evergreen bush in the front yard. I threw on a pair of gloves and tried to catch it but it took off. Today when I left, it was out there again. I picked up Elliott and while we were at Staples, we saw a big plastic container of cheese balls on clearance sale. So I told him if that snake was still there when we got home, we would dump the cheese balls into Ziploc bags, catch the snake and put it in the container. Whether we caught the snake or not, I figured I couldn't go wrong with a big container of cheese balls. So we got home and sure enough, there it was. So we ran in, dumped the cheese balls into bags, wiped out the excess cheese powder, and headed out on our expedition. I put on some thick leather gloves and Elliott manned the container.

I missed snatching it on my first grab and it scurried around under the bushes. I went in after it and finally found it again curled up in another bush. When I grabbed it, it tried to bite me over and over but it didn't get through the gloves. I put it in the container, put the lid on, and then poked some holes in the lid so it could breathe. We took these pictures and I sent them to a professor at UD who has helped me identify snakes I have caught before and he said it was an Eastern Garter snake. I kept it in the garage until Ashleigh could see it and then let it go. About 2 feet long. I have other pictures of it on Facebook.

Elliott had more X-rays today and another appointment with the surgeon. There is calcium starting to fill in the break in his finger and the doctor was happy. He doesn't have to go back for a month now.

It was senior night at Ashleigh's lacrosse game last night. She scored again! That is four straight games she has scored. She is very tenacious on defense and when she gets the ball on offense, she charges in and scores! The people in the stands were yelling and on the next play, they were saying, "Pass it to Ashleigh!" The best part was the announcer, which is normally not at the games, saying over the loudspeakers, "Newark goal. Ashleigh Hale. Unassisted. Time of the goal was..." And her name is in the paper. She has two more away games and then is done for the season.

All of a sudden some employment opportunities are coming in that may require some decision making on my part. Feast or famine!