Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

2010 is washing away and 2011 is upon us.  Looking back over the things I blogged in 2010, and remembering the things I didn't blog, it was a year of ups and downs, emotional and physical pain, and the loss and gain of companionship.  It was also a year of personal growth - 12 pounds to be exact (you didn't think I was going to be philosophical the whole time!).  Those goofy insurance charts show that I should be 190 for my height  - I haven't seen 190 since college...  But I can drop a few pounds (and more than a few pounds) if I put my mind to it.  And I will be putting my mind to it.

The number of blog entries dropped in half from 2008 to 2009 and in half again from 2009 to 2010.  Either I am running out of things to write, or I am not writing about all of the exciting things in my life.  Hmmm, history will show that it doesn't have to be exciting for me to blog about it so I need to make more time to write.

Of course no one knows what 2011 will bring.  Good and bad, happy and sad, and just life experiences.  But "life" is built around "if" so anything can happen.  I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

She's In!

Here are a couple of shots of Ashleigh opening her package from Stevenson University and her reading that she was accepted into their Nursing program!  That is the school she was really wanting to get into.  And she certainly should have - she has a 4.1 GPA, plays 2 varsity sports, and is active with church and stuff.  The school is about an hour and a half from where we live (so Lucie is happy!).  Very exciting day and a load off her mind.  Which translates into a load on our bank account...  But at least I will have a medical professional to take care of me when I get old...  er.

By the way, the condition of the family room in the background will be corrected today...

Monday, December 27, 2010


After hearing dire predictions of a significant snowfall, we ended up with a grand total of 4.6 inches - and most of that drifted off the driveway.  What we got was light and fluffy.  Did a quick swipe of the end of the driveway and all was good.  Got in to work early actually!  Mocha must think she is back in her native homeland - she goes out in the wicked wind and chases leaves for a while, buries her nose in the snow, then just flops down and looks around.  The beagle is in and out as fast as possible.

Christmas was pretty low key this year.  Just us opening presents REALLY slowly...  Mocha jumped in and helped pull the wrapping paper off for us.  Funny how she knows not to touch stuff when she is out and about all day but tears into it when she gets the green light.  Ham for lunch.  Never got out of my jammies.  Got some good stuff - slippers, cologne, movie ("Inception" - good movie), shirt, and a bunch of books that I have bought throughout the year and haven't read yet.  We popped in the burning fireplace DVD which provided a nice backdrop.

This week is pretty quiet.  Nothing planned.  And there is nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Still Sad

This coming Thursday will be one year that our Jasmine died.  Since then big Mocha has helped fill the void and we have some great paintings and memories of Jasmine around the house.  But we still miss her and we are reminded of her whenever we see another Golden in our travels.  I was doing pretty well not thinking about her until my cousin-in-law posted the poem below on Facebook this morning.  Killed me.  I am sure others have had bigger human losses in their lives and I don't mean to be poopy at this happy time of the year. Might as well get it all out today and maybe I will be better on Thursday.  After the poem is another one another friend sent at the time.  Still gets me...

God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be.

So he put his arms around you and whispered “Come with Me.”

With tearful eyes we watched and saw you pass away.

Although we love you dearly we could not make you stay.

A golden heart stopped beating, hard working paws at rest...

God broke our hearts to prove to us, he only takes the best.

I lost a treasured friend today

The little dog who used to lay

Her gentle head upon my knee

And shared her silent thoughts with me.

She’ll come no longer to my call

Retrieve no more her favorite ball

A voice far greater than my own

Has called her to his golden throne.

Although my eyes are filled with tears

I thank him for the happy years

He let her spend down here with me

And for her love and loyalty.

When it is time for me to go

And join her there, this much I know

I shall not fear the transient dark

For she will greet me with a bark.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

GPS-ing Through The Snow...

Actually through the rain I guess.  So with Ashleigh driving more and more on her own, we thought it would be a good idea to get her her own GPS for her birthday.  I knew the one I wanted to get so we waited till it went on sale.  We found a super TomTom GPS on super sale at BJs on Black Friday.  Went in to get it and they had sold 35 of them that morning and were out of stock.  So we went home and ordered it online from BJs (afraid the deal would be gone and we wouldn't get one).  Cost an additional $7 but it was still a great deal.  Meanwhile, we went over to Staples to see if they had any in stock so Ashleigh could have her present in hand.  They did so we bought it and went home to cancel the BJs order.  Nope - in the couple of hours since we had ordered it online, they said we couldn't cancel the order as it was already being shipped.  We figured we would just mail it back when it came.  The next day I took the one we got from Staples outside to see how it would work on a drive with me.  Stepped in the driveway, opened the back suction cup thingy, and dropped it right in the driveway!  DOH!  Scratched the corner.  I felt SO bad.  Well Ashleigh was talking with her boyfriend's grandfather about her goofy father and the grandfather said he would buy the scratched one and we could keep the one coming in the mail!  He said he could use it for his drivers around the shop (and I am sure he was trying to be nice and help us out).  So we did that and all was good.

Until yesterday.  Ashleigh's wouldn't power on past the start up screen.  Dang!  So we took it to BJs and they said they cannot accept returns on items bought from  How dumb is that?  Lo and behold, Staples had it on sale for two days only.  First Staples was out of stock, but the second one had 7.  So we went over there.  Not only was it on sale, but there was an additional 15% off today!  Woo-hoo!  And with the money we saved on that, we bought the 2 year extended warranty for half off.  At the rate this story is going, we will need it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quick Christmas Lights Picture

Some reflections from the mailbox reflector but Mocha is in the window.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heisman Hale!

Today Ashleigh got word that she was a School Winner and a State Finalist in the Wendy's High School Heisman Award program!  She was the only one from her high school and got a certificate, bronze medal and $25 gift card for Wendy's.  Here is a description of the program:

The WHSH program has set the standard for high school student-athletes, and gained tremendous prestige in its own right as the program combines the best of high school athlete and academic awards. Each fall, the WHSH recognizes the nation’s most esteemed high school senior men and women for excellence in academics, athletics, and community/school leadership. Students from across the country become involved in the WHSH program because these prestigious student recognition awards highlight their accomplishments and the winning students are showcased on a national level.


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Tuesday morning Ashleigh went out to her car to find the passenger rear tire was flat.  Lucie drove Ashleigh and Elliott to school while I took the tire off.  Of course nothing has changed in all my years of car jacking so as soon as I got the tire off, the car starts to roll down the driveway (yes it was in Park) and the floor jack (with wheels) tips over.  No biggie - the car fell on the frame so there was no damage.  Not sure how it rolled in the first place.  That set off the motion detector car alarm so there I stand at 7:15 in the morning with an alarm sounding and car sitting on the frame.  Ashleigh had the car keys with her so I had to wait for the alarm to time out.  I was pretty popular in the neighborhood that morning...  Anyway, I ran the tire over to Wal-Mart and about an hour later they yanked the nail out that you see above.   Took the tire home and slapped it on and all was good.

Sometimes at night to keep the dogs occupied I take a rawhide bone and cut about a third off.  Mocha gets two thirds, Britni gets one third.  (By the way, last week was Mocha's one year old check up at the vet - 116 pounds!)  Usually it times out right that they both finish their pieces at the same time.  The other night Mocha got distracted and walked away from her piece.  So Britni snatched it and had both pieces.  Well that led to a big fight of snarling and growling.  Mocha could kill Britni if she wanted to but nevertheless I don't want one or both to get hurt.  Elliott was walking by the fracas so he reached in to grab Mocha's piece and mis-timed it and got chomped by Britni.  Not intentional but it punctured him pretty good.  We wrapped it and soaked it in peroxide for a while.  But because it was a dog bite, and because of some strong urging from a friend with a medical background, Lucie took Elliott to the doctor the next day.  It didn't get infected but the doc put him on antibiotics just in case.  Meanwhile, I asked our oral surgeon friend which was worse - a dog bite or a human bite.  Human bite by far...

I am working on Monday and then am off all next week.  No big plans.  The kids are out of school but Lucie is working.  Her birthday is on Thanksgiving and we are fortunate to have been asked to a friend's house for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ashleigh's Field Hockey Award

Last night was Ashleigh's field hockey banquet.  Last one.  Seemed like just the other day we were standing in Dick's trying to figure what field hockey stick to buy because she had never played before and we had no clue.  Now she just finished her senior year as a varsity starter.

The banquet was at the Newark Country Club.  Nice place and the program was good (but a little long with all of the awards and gifts and words of appreciation and thanks).

Ashleigh didn't win MVP, or Most Improved, or Best Offensive Player (she did get a certificate as an All State Scholar Athlete for her 4.0 GPA though!).  But she did get recognized for what I consider the most important "award" of the night.  Towards the end of the evening, a group of freshman players got up to say some words.  (Earlier, during the freshman awards, one freshman girl was named "Most Like Ashleigh Hale!"). Each one of the girls singled out Ashleigh as the most approachable and friendly senior who not only encouraged them on the field, but was not ashamed to publicly greet them in the halls of the school.  They were amazed that a varsity senior player would spend time with them and genuinely care about them.  So while Ashleigh didn't get a plaque with her name engraved on it or another paper certificate, she made a positive difference in someones life - and that is the most important accomplishment anyone can do.  I am proud of her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's A Camel Got To Do With It?

I had some notes with lots of little comments to blog about but couldn't find a good theme to start with.  So what better place to start than with a picture of Lucie and I and a camel?!  ING DIRECT had it's 10 year anniversary party at a big convention center in Wilmington last week.  We hired in a lot of security so I didn't have to work that night (lots of work prepping before though!).  The Delaware Symphony Orchestra played background to a Cirque de Soleil type of performing group and the the theme of the night was a 1001 Arabian Nights.  Lots of good food and a good show.  And camels of course.  And just so you can never say my blogs aren't educational, camels live to be about 50 years old.

So we had a good night that night and then I was able to obtain some $500 tickets for the public show two nights later (for FREE!).  We went back and took Elliott (Ashleigh's boyfriend had bought her tickets to a concert in Philadelphia).  Same show but a much fancier night.  Timing was everything as we got there just ahead of the CEO so I was able to shake his hand and the #2 in the company too (they went back too as ING sponsored the event).  And the family urologist was there so we talked to him too.  (Lucie was reluctant to at first but I explained that there really was no one there who knew me better than him...!).  I am sure there were people wondering who we were that could afford expensive tickets just as we wondered the same about them.

"Family urologist?" you ask.  Yes - oddly enough, they found a kidney stone in Lucie while doing other tests.  So this morning I took her in to get that blasted.  Pretty strange that we both have them but we really don't eat everything in common.  It just so happens.  She is doing fine - coming out from and recovering from the anesthesia is the hardest part.

Ashleigh's birthday party was fun and low key.  She had some friends over for cake and food and s'mores by the firepit.  Earlier that day we went to the Stevenson University Open House.  She wants to go there for college next year to get her nursing anesthetist degree.  Its about an hour away.  Beautiful rural campus but very near civilization too.  It is one of the top rated nursing schools and was clean and modern and well maintained.  After sitting through the financial session, I think we can scrounge up enough money to send for a full 3 days;  maybe an entire week!

Ashleigh played her last field hockey game this week.  We have a serious issue with her coach that I will be resolving very soon.

It is chilly out now and we have to scrape the windshields in the morning.  Lucie mentioned the other day that she may start parking outside so Ashleigh can park in the garage.  I pulled rank and said if she decides she is parking outside, then I am parking in the garage.  It's privilege enough to have her own car to drive to school, we don't have to warm it up for her too!  Why when I was her age, I had to get up an hour early to shovel a path to my car...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ashleigh Is 18 Today

Today little Ashleigh turns 18.  Why, it seems like just yesterday...  ha ha  I could go on and on about remembering pushing her in her stroller to get the mail in New Castle every morning, what I was doing when I was 18 and so forth but you all can imagine my thoughts.  I am very proud of her.  Never a bit of trouble growing up - and she isn't all grown up yet.  The collage above is a collection of the "photo of the days" that I posted each morning on Facebook counting down the 10 days till her birthday.  For those of you not on FB, the one in the middle with her in the purple shirt is today's birthday picture.

We don't have a lot of plans for today.  Pretty soon we are going to go the Stevenson University open house.  It is just outside of Baltimore and where she wants to go to nursing college next year.  This evening she is having some friends over for a little fire pit cookout.  I am sure there will be a cake in there somewhere.

I am a fortunate man.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weighing In

Today I had to take Britni the beagle in for her rabies shot and Elliott and I took Mocha in with us.  She is always a big attention getter there.  Together Mocha and I exceed the weight limit on our home scale (I am blaming her!) so I wanted to weigh her on a big scale by herself.  She came in at 98 pounds.  Up 18 from our last visit.  And still growing.  Little Britni was 43 pounds, up 2 from her last visit and also still growing (unfortunately!).  They are really good to us at that vets and were SO sensitive when dealing with Jasmine.

Two weeks ago I was in Dallas for the American Society for Industrial Security annual convention.  That place was loaded with all sorts of security related stuff and classes.  It is good for me to go as I earn continuing education points which I need to keep my professional certification.  My boss is certified as well so we will probably rotate our attendance and go every other year.  I came back with a bunch of freebies and contacts and ideas for new things at work.  I went to the convention years ago in Orlando - always educational.  I met up with some old friends and colleagues and that went well.  I was also able to take a short side trip too.  The weather was beautiful and the city was clean and nice.  I took a swing by the grassy knoll where JFK was shot (just a couple of blocks from the Dallas Convention Center).  Pretty interesting.

Our company 10-year anniversary is Wednesday night at the Chase Center in Wilmington.  Cirque du Soleil is in town and we will get a "private" showing.  We saw them years ago and they are fantastic.  We thought it would be a good idea to get tickets for the regular show on Saturday and bring Ashleigh and Elliott for Ashleigh's birthday because just Lucie and I can go to the company show.  However, they are moving the show on Saturday to a smaller venue and tickets are expensive.  So we ruled that out.  Then yesterday our company got a limited number of free tickets for the Friday night show at the Chase Center.  Thanks to some quick thinking and generosity of my co-workers, I was able to get some tickets.  But not just any tickets, we got the "Ringmaster" tickets - $500 each!!  Did I say I got them for free?!  Includes ringside seats, dinner before and dessert after, etc.  That should be great.  Here is a link to the site that also has a short video:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pool Closing Sadness

So we closed the pool today.  A couple of weeks later than usual because Lucie wanted to show it off to her sister but that was OK.  Kind of a sad day because it marked the official end of summer and Mocha will miss it.  In fact, both dogs seemed kind of sad about it.  The saddest part was when I went to change my web page picture that shows the pool is closed.  I had to put in a new picture because the other one showed Jasmine sitting out there...

All else is going OK.  I was chewing some gum the other day and developed a mild case of TMJ (from what Google says).  Wicked pain and popping in my right jaw joint.  Taking Ibuprofen and and not chewing on that side but it is sure painful.  Nothing can be done but rest it so I am.  Fortunately, or some may say UNfortunately, it doesn't interfere with me speaking.  Or typing...

Heading to Dallas Monday for a national security seminar.  Going to be there till Friday.  Should be very educational and fun.  It will be the first time that I will see my former employer since I left but that should go OK.  I checked out a laptop from work so I can keep up with my work (and personal) email.

Here is a quick funny video from today:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ashleigh Scores (And I Got Too Excited To Record It All!)

Today was Ashleigh's final Turf Bowl field hockey game.  Turf Bowl is a weekend long series of games where all of the local high school field hockey teams get to play on the University of Delaware artificial turf field hockey field.  Her team has never won and they fell behind 2-0 pretty quickly.  I haven't made any of her games this year so I was armed with the camcorder and 3 batteries.  As they neared the end of the first half, there was a turnover.  The girl on the other team puts the ball into play and our team steals it and the girl takes a shot.  Ashleigh, #19, closed in and followed the shot.  She got the ball and put it in off the rebound!  You can barely see it because I got so excited my finger must have hit the stop button but if you watch her closely, you will see her lean in and flip it in!  They wound up winning 3-2!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


When I take the dogs for their daily walk thru the 'hood, I have them on one retractable leash with a "Y" splitter at the end.  They both have harnesses on and we go about a mile every evening.  The other night Britni the beagle stopped in the middle of the walk and pooped.  No problem - I have a poop bag holder attached to the leash so I pulled out a bag and started to pick it up.  Mocha must have thought it was a good idea so she decides to poop too.  Since I already had a bag out, I thought I would grab up her poop as well.  But the bags are only so big so it was a little tricky getting it all in one bag.  While I am focused on that task, Britni managed to wriggle free from her harness and bolt off down the road.  Mocha started off after her and she just about pulled me off my feet when she hit the end of the leash.  I finished grabbing up the poop and knotted the bag and we took off after Britni.  She darted into someone's open roll up garage door and started rummaging around.  The homeowners had a screen door from the garage into the house so I started yelling, "hello, hello" into the garage.  The homeowner comes out WITH his yellow lab.  And it was on.  Britni was zipping around, his dog was jumping around, I was trying to keep Mocha under control and not lose the over-stuffed poop bag.  Finally I managed to stuff the beagle back into her harness, offered up my apologies, and down the road we went.  The guy was really cool - fortunately.

Work had a few challenges the past couple of weeks.  Sometimes when it rains it pours and everything goes wrong at once. But I got through it.  And I still say my worst day here is better than my best day at my old job...

Lucie's long lost half-sister and her husband spent the night with us last night.  They are originally from Colombia like Lucie, but they now live in New Zealand.  He is a PhD and they both work in social marketing.  They are on sabbatical for a few months so they went took a trip through Europe and now they are on their way to Lucie's brother in Phoenix, then a sister in Seattle.  Pretty interesting people.  Lots of Spanish with a few "Shawn's" mixed in (they did speak very good English).  We had a fun time with them and they went for a walk with us and the dogs at the pond.  Mocha actually saw an animal bigger than her today - we ran into a bunch of people on horseback.

Started the pool close down today and will finish next week.  I am off to Dallas the week of the 11th and I want it all done before then.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


For the past two days, there has been an Executive Council meeting for about 200 of the senior management of the company I work for (purposely unnamed here).  I was very involved with the off-site safety/security assessment, securing the facility, non-disclosure agreements, staffing, etc.  Busy couple of days but fun.  Today I parked in the exact same parking garage, in the exact same parking space, that I parked in for years when I worked for my old company.  But today was different.  VERY different.   Here are a few examples:

  • I wore a suit but that was unusual and not the norm
  • My beard was "on"
  • I went in early and liked it
  • The team I was working with was using the latest technology and equipment
  • Independent thinking and creativity was encouraged
  • I paid for my parking with a corporate credit card
  • Lunch was provided
  • The CEO was motivating and positive and encouraged thinking outside of the box
  • New bonus and pension plans were announced which represented a major investment in the employees and future of the company
  • My boss left me to run the security program and didn't micro-manage me
  • At the end of the program, the #2 in the company invited the "cast" to the stage.  This included all of the behind-the-scenes people who set up and coordinated the event.  We were honestly appreciated and received a huge round of applause (that was not prompted).
Who would have guessed that I would be where I am today?!  Certainly not me.  All those days that I parked in that spot, I never imagined the culture and atmosphere and position I am in today.  God is good.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hard Driving

Another busy but not really notable week.  During last week's Office update on Lucie's computer, I saw she was just about out of hard drive space.  I took it to the local PC place figuring they could slap in a new drive and "Ghost" over the contents of her old one quicker and more efficiently than I could.  And indeed they could - for $200!  Um, no thanks.  So I bought a new drive from Dell ($65) and Ghosted it myself.  (Norton Ghost is a program that makes an exact duplicate of your hard drive that you can store like on an external drive in case your hard drive crashes.  Buy a new hard drive, copy the duplicate back onto it, and you are back and running without having to reinstall everything.  I "Ghost" our hard drives every month and save the copy just in case...).  Worked out really well and she now has 10x more free space than she did last week at this time.

Getting pretty cool at night and the leaves are dropping.  I have to consider closing down the pool but I hate to do it.  And Mocha swims in it every day.  Maybe in a couple of weeks.

Ashleigh has started her field hockey season.  Her final one I guess.  I have a link to her schedule and scores on my web page.

I went to my doctor yesterday and was declared stone free.  No recommendations or advice on how to avoid them going forward as nothing is really proven to be the cause.  So I will go back in a year for a check up and see if I am creating any new pearls.

Nothing really planned for the weekend.  Of course today is a day of remembrance.  Seems like just yesterday we were sitting around the TV watching those images over and over.  Still hard to believe.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Office At Home

Not too much happening since my last post.  Work has been going great.  I love the perks and incentives and special things they do for us there.  Really having a good time.  They offer an Associates discount on the new Office 2010 suite of programs - $9.95 for the whole thing (versus $499 buying it at Staples).  So this weekend I installed it on the home computers.  Upgraded us from version 2002.  So I guess it was time...  It went well and everyone seems to like it.

I have been getting back into the swing of basketball after missing so many weeks.  I am still the oldest, fattest, slowest and with the least amount of skills but its my program (and my ball!).  I have the most fun out there too.

Today we took the dogs for a walk at the park.  They had a great time.  Mocha carries the water for everyone but it doesn't bother her in the slightest.  Everyone we pass comments on her ("what a beautiful dog," "she looks like a bear...").  The weather has been great the past few days and we have had some good grillin' and walkin'.

This week I go back for an x-ray and 6 week follow up on my kidney stone removal.  I hope they find absolutely nothing.  I've been feeling fine except for phlebitis in my hand where the IV was.  But the veins are not as rock hard any more and not as sore.  Getting there...

No big plans for the weekend.  Nothing wrong with that...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

23 Years Today

Today is our 23rd wedding anniversary.  Last night we were at a friends' house for a birthday party and the subject of weddings came up.  Ashleigh told us later she was surprised at how we, and the other couples in the discussion, had forgotten a lot of the details of the wedding date itself.  At the time it seemed so important but now, not so much.  I guess there is a lesson in there about what is really important and what isn't.  I looked up to see what the traditional anniversary gift is for the 23rd and that is one of the "in-between" years.  The "modern" list says silver plate is the gift.  This is all the silver plate I need...  Anyway, so far so good and I am a blessed man.
It was a great week at work - and it was my one year work anniversary two weeks ago.  Still loving the job and the culture.  We had a few computer issues to work through this week but we got them resolved.  On Friday I was "featured" at the department Town Hall meeting which was video conferenced across the country.  I had done a security assessment at a place where there is going to be a corporate function soon and the place (purposely being vague here) said they had never had a corporate security representative come do an assessment before a corporate event.  Seems fundamental to me...  Anyway, that review and report earned me some recognition.  At the time I was embarrassed but it was very nice to be called out as a guy who thinks "outside the box."

Speaking of boxes, I got my new grill last week but the lid came dented and the paint chipped.  I made a call to Weber on Saturday morning, got right through to a human being, and a new lid was shipped right to me.  Got it Thursday.  I will tack a picture of it on the bottom of this post for those not on Facebook to see.

I took off the word verification requirement on the Comments section of this blog for those who like to leave Anonymous comments.  Had to put it back on because I immediately started getting spam postings.  Sorry about that.

We are using a gift certificate to go to Texas Roadhouse tonight for supper.  It's almost 11:30 AM - Ashleigh has gone to the beach with friends and Elliott is still asleep.  I guess we won't be getting breakfast in bed...


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Resistance is Futile

When we got back from vacation, the pool water was slightly green. Well that was strange. We have an electronic chlorinator that converts salt into free chlorine so we never have to put any chemicals in. Once I put about 250 pounds of salt in the pool in the spring ($5 for a 40 pound bag at Wal-Mart), it takes care of itself pretty much all season. I add salt after heavy rain but otherwise it is maintenance free. Come to find out, this $2.40 resistor burned out on the chlorinator motherboard. Common occurrence after 5 years or so according to my online research. I called the manufacturer of the board for help and they referred me to their"local" vendor who is 30 miles away, has terrible online reviews, and won't return my calls or emails. My original pool installer doesn't install pools anymore (which is a good thing) and they said they can replace the board and the housing it came in (it is mounted outside in like a weatherproof fuse box) for $683. I can get the entire board online for $250. So I bought two resistors online. Of course they were out of stock but they came in quickly and I received them today. Went right out, unsoldered the old one, soldered in the new one (thanks for some guidance from my older brother and a YouTube video...), and all is working again! Saved myself $680! I think I will buy myself a new grill with the money I saved...

Thinking about this made me think of the top 5 things you don't want to hear from the person house-sitting for you while you are on vacation:

5. Does your pool water normally turn green after it rains?

4. I thought you said you left your computer on?

3. Does it matter if the red switch at the top of your cellar stairs is on or off?

2. Do the dogs know how to find their own way home?

1. Where do you keep your plunger and mop?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mocha, Me and My Thoughts

Mocha and I went for a walk today. If you can see the two little red dots at about 9 o'clock above, that is where we started and finished. The white line is our trail. About 1.43 miles. It is a dog/horse walking trail off of a state park. Free. The trail is about the width of a road and is mowed and flat and dry. Very nice. I put Mocha's water packs on her and just she and I made our way around. About 80% in the shade. Lucie was home scrapping (imagine that!) with Britni the beagle (she is all over the place and not too fun to go on walks with - Britni I mean, not Lucie!) and A&E were at the movies. We had a good time. About an hour. Now I may sneak in a little nappy before having some friends over and a small cookout. Nice day...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

NH Vacation 2010

It would take me a week to write about our week of vacation. Which, when you think of it, really isn't a 'vacation' at all - it is a busy time! I am certainly not complaining but our days were busy, busy, busy and we still didn't get to see many friends that we wanted to. And there is no hiding on Facebook - post a picture and the entire universe knows where you are. It is a nice feeling to have so many people contact us yet it is frustrating knowing we cannot possibly see them all.

The drive up was 7.5 hours including a gas/rest stop. Very good time. We were met by my mother with Moe's sandwiches and then we met my younger brother in Portsmouth. The next day was spent visiting friends and mini golf and a visit to our old house and eating and eating and eating. In fact, EVERY day had a lot of eating so I won't even mention it anymore. Monday we went to my younger brother's house for dinner and the next day we went to my older brother's house for the day. What a great scenic ride that was. We even saw a bear cub in a tree off the side of the road (on Route 302, by the Willey House and Ripley Falls near Attitash for those familiar with the area). We had a great time at lunch and hanging out with all three brothers together and some of the cousins.

There was a visit to York Beach and many short shopping trips. We rented a boat for the day on Lake Winnipesaukee. That was great fun even though we got caught in a steady rain and had to return the boat early. The rain was stinging us in the face as we headed back to the dock. I had to break out in a rendition of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" to add some mood music. There was a cookout night and a pizza night and a lobster roll lunch from the place that won Best Lobster Roll in NH and my mother supplied her famous cookies and strawberry shortcake(didn't I saw I wasn't going to mention food any more?!). The weather was great and the nights were fantastic sleeping above the sounds of the tide coming and going.

Did a little fishing but for the first time ever, no one caught a fish. But a good time was had anyway. Suddenly the end of the week was upon us. Too soon as always. While it is always sad to leave, it was especially hard to leave this time knowing it was probably our last stay in the Cafe. But we'll be back...

Go to this link: and scroll down to the 2010 NH Vacation slide show.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Rocks Are Not Rolling

I had a rude awakening yesterday after thinking that the coast was clear from my kidney stone blasting on July 1. Out of the blue, the pain was back yesterday. Not the worst it has been, but bad. I bailed out of work and went home. Threw up a few times and then started hitting the meds. Lucie was away so Ashleigh stepped up and took care of me. A nurse friend explained to me what meds I had and in what order, and dosage, to take them. During a period when I wasn't hurting too bad, Ashleigh drove me over to get an x-ray done. I cycled in and out of pain all night. The doctor called me in the morning and suddenly I felt fine. He wanted to see me so I rushed in. Apparently there is a big stone fragment stuck down low that he has to go up and fetch. The hard way. With vacation coming up, and the uncertainty of another attack, we scheduled that for next Tuesday. Sounds like a big party...

Later in the day my regular doctor told me my cholesterol was a little high so she put me on some meds for that. Meanwhile, all day I was battling a dead battery! The heat must have killed it. So every stop along the way meant some kind soul had to jump me. Perfect on a wicked humid day when I am feeling wiped out. Tomorrow I will get a new battery. I had Costco rotate and balance the tires (free since I bought them there) this week and had the oil changed. Pretty much all set for the NH trip.

But on lighter notes, Lucie came home after a week at camp. A little sore but not completely exhausted. Elliott blew away his state test scores - especially at math. Ashleigh is working part time but steadily and really enjoying it. And work for me continues to be interesting and I love it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bustin' Out

There is a video of Mocha fetching in the pool. She is a natural. We saw a short news clip the other day that in Italy, they use Newfoundlands as rescue dogs. They showed clips of them jumping from helicopters and towing 6 people to shore. Pretty fun stuff. And kind of scary when you are in the water and she gets a running start and jumps on you! Great fun.

I was walking her today with Britni (we have a Y splitter on one retractable leash) and the leash snapped. Fortunately we were just in the neighborhood. So today I had to buy a "giant" one to handle up to 110 lbs. Which she will outgrow eventually (about 85 right now).

The fireworks were great as usual. They sold Little Caesars pizzas there for $5 so we got a couple and sat with a bunch of church friends and enjoyed the show. The little town we go to must spend half its annual budget on fireworks. We know just where to park, and the right direction, to get out and home within 5 minutes.

It was over 100º 3 days last week. But it was pretty dry so it wasn't too bad. Rainy today but it is too late. The grass has gone dormant and all is brown.

Just a couple of tiny sand particles have come out from the stone blasting. Had some real crampy days in the kidney but no real pain. I played hoops for the first time this week - I blamed my poor playing on the stone procedure. What can I use for an excuse next week?

Here is a bonus Mocha video.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pop Rock

A lot has happened since my last blog. Well, "a lot" is an exaggeration but some things have happened anyway. I had two more excruciating bouts with my pesky kidney stone - within 24 hours. Sent me to two different ERs. The first ER treated me quickly at 4 AM and I went home. But around noon the pain came back and it was off the charts in terms of the pain. Terrible. So Lucie called our doctor and he told me to go to the big regional hospital. Of course by the time we get there and wait for hours and hours to be seen, the pain passed. So in the comfort and privacy of a gurney in the hallway, they did a CT scan and found the stone was lodged in my ureter. Kidney function and urine flow was still happening but it had to go. So I went to a urologist and we set up an appointment to get it blasted. The big day comes (July 1) and I am in getting prepped when the nurses are going over the procedureS (yes plural) to be done. Hold on. What is this "cystoscopy" of which you speak? For my non-nursing friends, that means they ram a camera up me into my ureter to see the stone before they blast it. I didn't recall that being on the treatment plan... They knocked me out so it didn't matter anyway. I laid on a table that had like a soccer ball attached. They lined it up and I guess they fired the shock waves from there. All went well. I woke up feeling fine and went home an hour or so after the procedure. Still filtering looking for any gravel but so far nothing. Feeling good.

Ashleigh started work for the local hospital (where I went twice). She is in a pool of clerks that will be called to help staff doctor's offices for vacations and such. She is making good money and can manage her own schedule (she is a sub on call). She is loving it.

Mocha was fixed and that went well. Her hair is growing back where they shaved her. 81 pounds now. And growing... She is LOVING that pool and swims all day. The pool water temp hit 90º last week.

I put a new wireless router in and our signal strength and the consistency of our internet signal is MUCH improved. I have a wired switch and I hope to get up to the attic today (before the heat blasts in) to run some ethernet wire through the house so we can plug in if we need to.

My high school friend and college roommate Dave Batchelder and family stopped by here Thursday night on their way to NH for vacation. That was nice to see them. We always have some good laughs and memories. His wife and kids are really nice and we were happy to give them a good grill cooked meal and place to rest.

Speaking of NH vacation, we are lined up to go to NH the first week in August. This may be our last chance staying the family Cafe on the water so we will make the most of that.

No real plans for the 4th except to hang out by the pool and go to the local fireworks.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fryday Friday Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday and Lucie put together a little party with some friends. We have had great success with our Fryday Fridays in the past so we thought it would be a good time to do it again for the party. And it was a great success. All afternoon the family was busy battering up onion rings, mozzarella sticks, tilapia, Cajun catfish, chicken wings, haddock, shrimp and mushrooms. We set up the Hale Poolside Fry Hut and went at it. Everything came out great. There was something for everyone. Some of the kids hit the pool but the rest of us just sat back and listened to the soothing sounds of our arteries clogging... Later on I fired up the torches and we enjoyed the serenity. Sort of like a Survivor Tribal Council out there. I got some good gifts too; a CD of some Down East Maine humor, "professional" ladder ball set, gift certificate, Blu Ray movies, and a Kidney Stone Passing kit from one of my nurse friends. I hope to put that to use real soon! Oh, and Lucie got me an electronic bug zapper thing. (Picture below) It takes 2 D batteries and delivers 1500 volts. What does that mean? That means when you touch it it feels like you dipped your finger in molten steel and you wonder why there isn't a blister because it hurts so freakin' bad... After I recovered from that, we rounded out the evening zapping bugs (they really zap too!).

Today the party will continue when I take on the project of replacing our leaking and rusted disposal with a new one. That I will NOT test with my finger...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stoned Again

Tuesday night I had just sat down to eat supper and I had crampy feeling in my lower left back area. It went away after a few minutes, then came back big time. I went to the bathroom hoping that would help but it didn't. Very quickly I was in agony and throwing up. So somehow Lucie got me in her car and off we went to the ER. It felt like someone had my kidney in a vice. I was moaning and groaning and someone came and helped me into a wheelchair and into the ER. I kept writhing around trying to find a comfortable position to like stretch it out but nothing was working. Sweat was pouring off of me and I was still throwing up. They gave me a Percocet but that didn't do anything. Finally they got an IV in me with some Phenergan and Dilaudid. That sent me to a happy place... Then they sent me to get a CT scan where they found the culprit - a 4mm kidney stone. Passable they say. 7mm and bigger requires other treatment. I had a kidney stone about 8 years ago and passed that. That pain was shorter and sharper - this was deep and non-stop. So around 2 AM I was feeling better (worn out but no pain) and was able to walk out and go home. I carry a pocket full of sunshine around with me now (Percocets) waiting for the next movement. I went to work the next day for a few hours but I was just exhausted so I came back home and went to bed.

The rest of the week was good. Elliott had his lacrosse awards night banquet on Wednesday. The pool temperature in the mornings is 83º and 87º in the afternoons. It didn't get to those temperatures last year until July or August. Mocha loves it. Every morning she goes out and takes a lap. We are leaving her gated in the kitchen these days when we are out (not in her crate) and she is behaving. She loves to swim every time I get in.

Tonight is Newark Nite where they block off the Main Street in downtown Newark and turn the whole area into a carnival like atmosphere. If it cools off, we will take Mocha down and march her around. She loves the people and the people love her.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Freaky and Leaky

The dead black widow spider to the left is part of the freaky part of this blog. Standby for that. First, the leaky: So the pool opened very nicely this year and cleaned up quickly. We have been in several times and it is doing well. We have a small leak up on the solar panel on the roof - there is dampness up there that I can see from the ground at night when the water is not pumping up there. I have a friend who is more man than I am and goes up there and fixes my leaks for me. And now the little power washer I have is starting to go. I did some reading and it turns out there is a crack in the pump housing. I use it a lot to wash the cars, clean the house siding, wash the driveway and pool deck, etc. I think I just wore it out. Costco has a nice gas powered one on sale that I am looking at. It may be a combo birthday / Father's Day gift to me.

So here is the freaky part: Ashleigh found that dead black widow on the front steps the other day. That is the second one we have found here in the last 8 years or so. Ugh. The best spider is a dead spider... Anyway, I have the house configured with an X-10 system so I can control the house lights with a remote control. The other night, our bedroom lights were completely unresponsive to the remote. Just our bedroom. That is number 1. Then the outside sending unit for our wireless remote temperature thing stopped transmitting. (We have an inside clock that shows the inside and outside temperature). That is number 2. That same day, Lucie's cell phone could answer calls in the house, but no one could hear her. That is number 3. Finally, my wifi in the house would only work if I was in about a 5 foot range of it. Normally I can go three houses down on either side of us and pick up my signal. That is number 4. I felt like going outside and seeing what sort of alien spaceship was hovering over the house. Freaky stuff. Of course the next day everything was working again...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Awards Week

It's been a busy couple of weeks since my last blog. Let's see, Ashleigh had her lacrosse banquet, Ashleigh and Elliott had academic awards night, Lucie had her church play, Elliott had his belated birthday party, we had a work department picnic at a local state park, and I was busy working on opening the pool. All good stuff so I can't complain. Oh, and I took a half day off one day from work to play with Mocha and the family in the pool.

No big plans this weekend - which was the plan all along; get the pool opened BEFORE Memorial Day so we can enjoy. That is working out well.

Here is a bonus video of Mocha swimming in the pool:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hiking Mocha

Today we took the dogs on a walk. A few weeks ago, we got this great backpack for Mocha on wicked sale. It has bladders on either side we fill with water and it has spigots to pour it out from. So we loaded her up and put our own water bottles in there and went for a 3-mile walk at a local park. She loved it! Newfoundlands are born to be work dogs and she really had a great time. Did not bother her a bit. The temperature was in the low 70º’s and we stopped to rest and drink along the way. They say Newfies can easily carry a third of their weight. On May 1 she was 75 pounds (the same weight 12 year old Jasmine was when she died) but what she was carrying was nowhere near 25 pounds. And tonight we are the proud parents of two tuckered out dogs!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hanging Up The Cleats

This season of lacrosse has come to an end for the kids. Elliott had a good time and played well. Ashleigh's team had a winning record and about won more games than the previous three years combined. I am proud of them for sticking it out (lacrosse is tough!) and still maintaining 4.0+ GPA's (the Cambridge program they are in adds extra weight to their grades). So now maybe they can finally clean their rooms with all the spare time they are about to have...

Speaking of sports, it was almost a disappointing night for me last night. No one came out for my weekly basketball night. A couple of months ago I had to limit the people to 18 and we have been having around 8-12 ever since. Not many things worse than coming home and having to take off my basketball stuff while it is still dry. I sat down to watch the Celtics game and both of the Tivo tuners were recording shows. So I switched the TV over to straight cable input and the Comcast digital transition had occurred so I had no channels. But wait - I had a free cable box I never hooked up. (I got it a month or so ago for the digital transition but thought I didn't need it as I used other ones for the other TVs.) So I hooked it up and wouldn't ya know it, the power supply was no good. Right out of the box. That is unacceptable. (I tried another power supply and it worked fine.) So I am off to the cable place this morning to wait for an hour to change that. Anyway, by the time I got done troubleshooting and calling Comcast, the shows Tivo were recording ended so I got to see the Celtics beat Cleveland and move on to the conference finals.

Mocha continues to grow but she is still a little puppy inside that 75+ pound body. Still bitey, still jumpy, still a little scared. She means well... The other night there was a fox out back screaming. If you have ever heard that, you know how creepy it is. Mocha would not come out of the house to investigate. Britni the beagle and I were right at the fence with my super flashlight watching it walk around but Mocha stayed in the kitchen.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Giving and Receivering

Both of the avid readers of my blog may remember back in March that I ordered a stereo receiver online to compliment my new Blu Ray player. I wound up returning it to my local WALMART store because I found the sound issue I was having (and thus the reason for the new receiver) was actually a setting on the Blu Ray player. When I changed that, all was good (and has been ever since). Well, this past Thursday, Ashleigh called me and asked why the receiver was back on the front porch. Sure enough. They hadn't sent me another one, they sent me the SAME one! I tracked it through FedEx and saw that it sat for about a month in limbo after I returned it before someone sent it back to me. I also checked to be sure I wasn't charged again. It is a super nice receiver and I would love to keep it but I already got my cash back and it wouldn't be right to just keep it. So I emailed WALMART and told them what had happened and asked how I should proceed. About 48 hours later I got a call and an email from WALMART pretty much saying that THEY had discovered a mistake and had sent me a duplicate item. I could print out a label and bring the receiver to the Post Office to mail it back to them. Uh, wait a second. I am the one who found the error and I shouldn't be expected to print labels and lug the thing to the Post Office and stand around to ship it back. And I told them so. Clearly it was an automated response from them but that is the problem with some of these companies. They have lost the human touch. (Not the one I work for though!) Someone found a pigeonhole close enough to match my situation, plugged me in, and out came an automated response about returning a duplicate item. Which is not the case. They don't sell this item any more and had I not been honest and alerted them to the problem, they would have, and probably have, written it off. In the back of my mind I am hoping they just let me keep it but at the very least I would like a tiny bit of appreciation for making the initial effort. So I told them I was putting it back on my porch where I found it and they can come get it...

You may ask why I put WALMART in all caps here a few times. One time I wrote about my cable provider in this blog and shortly after posting it, I received a call from their customer service rep offering to help me. Apparently they scan the 'Net looking for comments. Maybe WALMART will do the same.

Meanwhile, we have had some really warm days the past few days. I power-washed the house, car and driveway yesterday. Mocha jumped in her little Tugboat Tuggy pool and had a great time. Then Lucie and I went to Elliott's lacrosse game and did our parental obligation of working the concession stand. His team is struggling but he plays well and I have to give him credit for sticking it out and taking the hits that he does. Ashleigh won her game the other day. She is now playing defense but managed to score the first goal of the game!

Lucie brought her Kids Church program into the main sanctuary for her annual opportunity during the morning service last week. That went over well. Pretty funny to see the adults doing all of the hand motions and jumping around during the songs.

I got my replacement router and that is working fine. I have a security setting where I only allow certain computers and devices on my network regardless of if they know the password or not. So I was setting it up (it was a slightly different model so I couldn't just load the settings from my old one) and entered the unique identifier information from one of the Tivos first. As soon as I hit "apply" to only allow that device, I locked myself out of my own network! (I forgot to add the computer I was on first!). Had to reset it to factory defaults and start all over. But all is fine now.

Elliott's birthday is tomorrow but due to games, we won't be able to go out for the traditional dinner till about 9 at night. So we are going early today (he wants to go to the Olive Garden).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In and Out

Above is a picture of Ashleigh signing the Newark High School National Honor Society registration book. (Something I never did - at Newark or elsewhere!). She was inducted last night. That was good. Afterward we walked around downtown Newark and ate at a Mexican place we like. Really nice night and it was booming downtown. When we came home we watched Avatar in Blu Ray. Like the box says, it was the movie Blu Ray was made for. Wicked clear with great sound. Good movie (but a bit long).

On Thursday night our wireless router died. No warning. Just froze up and that was the end. I had an older one that would work if I connected the computer to it directly - it just wouldn't transmit wirelessly. (The one that died wouldn't do anything.) I plugged that in and am now back online (for a while I felt like someone had disconnected my life support!). I bought another router from eBay for $28 and it should be here Monday. I use an older model but it works fine and I have all of my firewalls and security settings configured for that model. When I get a replacement, I just hook it up, download my settings, and am back in business.

Today Elliott has a game at noon so I will pack up Mocha and take her. What about Britni you might wonder? She is too busy sniffing around and trying to get away when we take her out so she can enjoy the afternoon outside at home without Mocha drooling all over her.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hale Hat Trick!

Just a quick post today. I was able to scoot right out of work, grab Lucie and Mocha and race down the road to Elliott's lacrosse away game - which was closer to home than his home games. (Ashleigh was at an away game of her own.) Elliott scored three goals - his first goals of the year - and his team won 6-3! It was the first game I was able to make it to and he put on a show! Mocha was barking when he scored and we had a good time. Stopped for Domino's pizza on the way home. He wouldn't pose for a picture so here is the team one which will have to do.

Ashleigh's team didn't do so well but we gave her some pizza anyway...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New and Improved

This was the week of a few new and improved things. First, my computer monitor died. Woke up to a blank computer screen on morning (if you can imagine, I keep my computer on all the time...). Did some diagnostics, including hooking up an old 800 pound monitor, and was relieved to see that that was all it was (versus a major failure). So I cashed in our Costco rebate check and got a nice, 22 inch widescreen monitor. Loving it.

Last night, Tivo pushed down a new update and that sped things up and corrected some issues there as well.

Ashleigh's lacrosse team had a decisive win which is a major improvement and Elliott's lacrosse team is doing better every game. Ashleigh also got accepted in the National Honor Society this week.

So it has been a pretty good week. Big sale at the local pet store today so I may load up the Mocha Monster and parade her through there and pick up some stuff on sale - like a new collar (she is outgrowing her puppy one) and of course, dog food...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dog Walking

The picture above might be a bit hard to see but it is a collage of Google Earth images of our dog walking this week. I tried to overlay the path we walked at each place. You might be able to right click the picture and save it and then open it with your photo viewer and zoom it. (I can just click on it and it will open up bigger for me but that may not work for everyone). Or just email me for the originals. The first map is at Lums Pond State Park (which I wrote about previously). Nice huge lake with a clearly marked trail. The middle picture is at White Clay Creek State Park. Very hilly with a lot of wet areas. But nice with some open fields. While we were walking there, we saw two big deer go bounding through the woods. Silently. Pretty weird seeing them bouncing along without making a sound. Today we went to Iron Hill Park in the third picture. That had a huge Frisbee golf course and two big fenced in pens for dogs (big or small) to run around in unleashed (we didn't want to get our dogs into that). But we had a nice long walk but like White Clay, the paths were not well marked. I looked for trail maps to print and bring with us, but I couldn't find any online. Nor were there any available at the sites. A little over a mile walk at each place (the maps I plotted aren't exact). That doesn't sound like much distance but it was fun and woodsy and the dogs loved it. All of the parks are about 3-5 miles from the house. The first two have an entrance fee during the summer but Iron Hill is free year round. Today we found one tick on Mocha but we got that off (and yes we do treat both dogs with anti-tick medicine). We packed a water bottle and dish for them to drink from while we were at the parks but we are looking at a pack for Mocha to wear and she can lug her own water around. And some snacks for the rest of us...

The weather has been just great all week. Gonna light up the fire pit and cook hot dogs and s'mores outside tonight. Gotta get it done now before the mosquitoes and bugs come out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Ain't Lye-ing (Again)

Here we have a picture of our clogged kitchen sinks. With the best of intentions, Lucie put a bunch of old food down the disposal. And it clogged up the plumbing. So we poured some Drano down. Then some Super Drano. Then some poisonous-to-even-think-about drain cleaner. Added a couple of pots of boiling water and stirred with a plunger until I had a nice broth of flesh eating acid (actually, the common ingredient to the drain cleaners is lye - which is a base). And there it sat. For two days. I would occasionally plunge but because of the dual sinks and vent, I had to block the other sink drain and seal off the vent while plunging. Not easy. That did nothing which meant my only option was to go in with the snake. The last time I did that, I wound up leaving a nice horseshoe shaped burn on my knee. I was kneeling in the drain cleaner and never felt it eating me up. So this time I donned gloves, overalls, raggedy shirt and safety glasses. 30 seconds in I realize the rubber gloves had a hole in the right hand because it is itching like a son of a gun. Went and washed the hand and tried another pair. I cut the bottom off of a milk jug and bailed out as much water from the sinks that I could (put it in a bucket and flushed it down the toilet). I went in under the sink and pulled out about 8,000 things we have under there and set them aside. Then I loosened the pipe connections under the sinks and caught that water in my bucket. Finally, I was able to get to the back square plug thing that gives straight access into the main plumbing line. And in goes the snake. Of course about 18 inches in there is a bend in the pipe so I had to fight my way through that but on I went. I thought the first bend might have been the clog so I pulled out the snake and tightened everything up. Ran some hot water and immediately I had a sink full of hot water again. Here we go again. Bail, drain, drain, unscrew, put in snake. This time I fed that thing all the way down. About 10 feet from the end of the snake I ran into some resistance. So I twirled the snake around and rammed it through a bunch of times. When I pulled it out, the "pig's tail" at the end was full of yuck so I knew I had been successful. Cleaned up my tools and ran upstairs to blog about it... ha ha. Lucie is down there re-organizing the under-sink stuff and cleaning it up.

Wednesday I went to work (at a trade show in Philly) while Lucie did errands and lacrosse practice with the kids. Yesterday I did a lot of yard work including poison-dusting some carpenter bee holes (pesky things!). Elliott had lacrosse practice at the high school so we took him there and then marched Mocha around downtown. She was loved by all! So many college kids stopped to pat her and give her ice and ask what kind of dog she was. She loved it. We made our way to Rita's Water Ice and bought her a water ice - us too! (We were giving her water all along). She loved the attention and was very obedient. Almost a bit overwhelming for a 5 month old baby though! Last night was my basketball night and it rained hard. So our high temperature yesterday of 82º has now dropped to 57º. But it is very nice out so we will go do something.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mocha at the Pond

Today is day 2 of our mini local vacation. Yesterday was spent cleaning the muddy kitchen floor and then cooking out and watching a scary (?) movie with friends. Not a bad start to the week. This morning we decided to go to the local state park and bring the dogs. We packed a picnic and off we went (about 4 miles away). It was pre-season so it was free to get in and no one was there. First we did the muddy nature walk. Halfway around Lucie said she lost her cell phone (but we found it in the car when we got back to it). We ate our lunch under the pavilion and then took the dogs to the beach. Britni the beagle had no interest in the water of course and was happy sniffing around on shore. Mocha's true calling came out though! She loved the water. We had to keep her on a retractable leash but she fetched a stick Lucie threw out over and over and over. Some kids went by on a sailboat and she thought she would go pay them a visit too. She got tuckered out after a while so we headed up to the car. When we got there, we ran into some guys going to play Frisbee golf and they had an 18 month old brown Newfie. Had to be three times Mocha's size! That one's owner was thrilled to see us and Mocha and his dog Mia played together for a few minutes and we talked for a while. Nice glimpse into the future...

When we came home, the dogs smelled of dirty pond water so we shampoed them off outside. I fished out the old Tuggy Tugboat and power-washed it. Mocha immediately took the helm:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's All About Easter

Someone asked me to share some thoughts on Easter. There is really no need for me to be profound or write some lengthy treatise on it. Like our Pastor preached this morning, the message is simple. Without Jesus rising from the dead, there is no ultimate purpose to our life. If someone wants to be a "good" person and live a life of good intentions, there are plenty of religions to choose from. But God created us to live forever with Him. The only way for that to happen is for Christ to have risen from the grave, and for us to believe in Him. "...For whoever believes on him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Easter Weekend

Yesterday was a beautiful day here and I had a few things to do in the yard and around the house - including fixing some gutters. Not the gutters themselves, but rather these little gutter guards I put in to keep the leaves out. The heavy snow this winter broke a couple of them. One broke right above the back door so when it rained, the water would drip right down in the worst spot. So I set up my aluminum ladder and went up to the gutter on the second floor. About half way up, I get the knee-shakes. And the ladder starts shaking and rattling and I begin to wonder if I should yell over to my neighbor to come guide me down or just cut out the middle man and call 911 directly... Funny how I just shoot right up the first 5 rungs, but after that I am doing one rung at a time, feet feeling like cinder blocks are tied to them, and suddenly the ladder seems way too narrow. And going up is only half the battle. But I got up there, found the problem and crept back down. Having survived that ascent, I had some confidence going up the second and third times to replace the guards.

Then I moved around to the front of the house and broke out my hedge trimmer. The front bushes were way overgrown so I went at them. I should have put on my Jason hockey mask to make the image complete. But I got them pared down to a presentable level and Lucie and I raked and swept up the debris and got rid of that. Trimmed and mowed and the yard work was pretty much done.

Meanwhile, Mocha has found any and every way to get wet - rolling in the mud at the bottom of the downspout or running across the pool cover (it is porous like a trampoline and her weight brings it down into the water. So on goes the bathing suit and I took her up and gave her a bath. Half the yard washed down the drain I think. She was filthy.

In between jobs I was playing with the new Tivo I got with my tax refund money. Comcast went all digital on the 30th which pretty much made my oldest Tivo obsolete (it wouldn't tune in the digital channels). I transferred the recorded shows from one Tivo to another and then found a big software problem that may require an exchange. Too technical to explain here but it is pretty annoying and shutting me out of some features. Calling Tivo support later.

By the time all the yard work and cleanup was done, we were ready for dinner. We can almost see a Chic Fil A from our house so we went over to get some chicken sandwiches and their new peach shakes. Signs everywhere for their new peach shakes. Life is not complete without a peach shake. So we ordered four peach shakes. They aren't available until Monday. So I guess I will not be able to reach my destined potential until Monday... Not to be deterred, we went to another ice cream place but they were cash only and the ATM there wasn't working. We finally ended up at Friendly's.

Some friends (Ashleigh's boyfriend's parents) invited us over for Easter lunch after church so we will do that. That will be fun. I am on vacation next week and the kids are out of school. I think we are making college visits all week for Ashleigh. Suddenly I feel old...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All (Sore) Thumbs

Saturday was a beautiful (but chilly) day here so I thought I would do some yard work. It is kind of hard to explain but at the bottom of the fence around the pool we have that black edging stuff holding back the rocks. The edging had bowed and bent and rocks were spilling out and it looked terrible. Very wavy and uneven. So I decided to get some pressure treated wood and line the bottom of the fence. If you know me, you know I am now asking for trouble. My older and younger brothers got the mechanical skills. So I went to Home Depot and got my lumber and some rebar and went to work. First I had to pull the rock back away from the fence and level out the bottom for the wood. Mocha decided she wanted to get involved with that so she piled in, on, under and over and "helped." She took my hat twice and both gloves once. And she got stuck once and I had to pull her out from under the bottom rail of the fence where she had dug herself into a trench. Anyway, I measured my wood and cut it and went to put it in place and of course it was too long so I had to cut it again. Did that, got it in place and screwed in between two of the fence posts. Nice. Then I decided I liked the look of the black edging so I thought I would tack that on the outside of the wood I had just placed. Problem was, there was green wire fencing in the way. Every time I tried to hold the nail in place between the green fence grid, I would pound my finger or the fence or the wood or, on occasion, the actual nail itself. Finally, I got it on. Having learned my lesson, I put the black edging piece on BEFORE I put the plank in place the next time. That one I also cut too long and had to cut it again. Repeat those steps for two more sections and that is my story... But when it was done, I had a nice, straight edge at the bottom of the fence and the rocks are being held in place. I also pounded some rebar in on the outside of the planks to hold them from sliding out. That went OK but I probably maintained the same swing to strike ratio - about 4 swings to an actual hit.

After that I sharpened the mower blade, recharged the battery, changed the oil and air filter, and then edged and mowed. Spread the first Scotts treatment too. It has been rainy for a good day now so that should help distribute the Scotts and launch me into another season of the greenest lawn in the 'hood.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Home Away From Home

Last night my mom called with the news that I guess I had been expecting to hear some day but still wasn't prepared for - our "home away from home" was being sold. Those of you who know us know about the Cafe - the house built on pilings on the Piscataqua River between Maine and New Hampshire. It was built by my great, great grandfather and kept in the family for many years. It was an actual Cafe at one point but was used as a vacation home by friends and family for the last several years. My uncle invested sacrificially into its upkeep and each year my aunt would call asking us which week we wanted to book for our summer vacation. As you can imagine, a wooden structure built above the salt water requires constant attention and maintenance. My aunt and uncle have reached a point where they are ready to enjoy a well earned retirement and it just isn't possible for them, or any of us, to continue its upkeep. There is property on land to the left of the picture above that will be sold too. I remember mowing that grass for my old great Uncle Ray on that side and storing the mower on the hardwood floor in the Cafe. Lucie and I had our wedding reception there and lived on the shore side for a while when we were first married. The view is spectacular and that Cafe represents the best memories for us. Ashleigh and Elliott caught their first fish off the point there and spent hours and hours flipping over rocks with their cousins catching crabs (and sometimes the crabs catching them!). Countless times the call, "Meet you at the Cafe" meant food and fun was waiting to be had. After a long drive north, the sight of the Cafe meant we were home. And when the time came too quickly to leave, seeing the Cafe in the rear view mirror meant a return to reality and thoughts of when we could come back home again. I am so grateful for the times we got to spend there and for my family - past generations and present. The Cafe represents the very best definition of family, generosity, laughter, sharing, compassion, hard work, and rest. Ultimately of course home is where the heart is but a part of my heart will always be there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Making Money By Spending Money

About two weeks ago I bought a Blu Ray player (Lucie leaving town the day we got our tax return was NOT a good idea!). Come to find out, some BR movies are recorded in Tru HD sound - a new sound format my stereo receiver couldn't handle (I thought). One night we sat down to watch a movie only to find the receiver couldn't process the sound so we had a great experience visually, but the sound was terrible. That HAD to be corrected so I bought (on wicked sale online) a new receiver. While waiting for it to arrive, I was reading the owner's manual online and found that there was a setting on the BR player to compensate for that sound issue. I went home, set it, and the old receiver was pumping out the sound! The receiver was delivered Thursday but with no justification for it, I did the unthinkable and decided to return it. Before we left to go do that, we got a flier in the mail for an electronics place that had my BR player on sale for $25 less than I bought mine for. Best Buy has a price matching guarantee so we headed out to return the receiver (to a store unnamed to protect the innocent) and to go to Best Buy (where I bought the BR player). After waiting forever to return the receiver, the returns person counted out the money due back to me... ERASE. I had an interesting story as to what happened here but Lucie made me delete it. Suffice it to say I made money on the return due to their online return policy even though I pointed out that they were giving me back more than I paid. Then off we went to Best Buy. No lines, no hassle, and the girl handed over the $25 difference. So it seems to make money, you have to spend it. Maybe the government is on to something!

Looks like another beautiful day today. 46º in the pool and climbing. I have my list of stuff to do - vacuum up the leftover leaves, put out the hoses, saw off the stumps from the trees that went down over the winter and just generally clean up some stuff outside. Mocha has been digging some holes to China so I will fill them in too. Speaking of Mocha, I have the Tivo set to record anything with "Newfoundland" in the show title or description. We saw a great program last night on a 200 pound Newfie on duty in England as a lifeguard. That dog was amazing. It would swim out with a float and tow people back to shore. Mocha is sleeping in a BIGGER crate (for those who were concerned) overnight in the kitchen so we are all sleeping better.

The kids are at lacross practice this morning. Lucie and I are going to a birthday party tonight and taking it easy on Sunday.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's 3 AM, Do You Know Where Your Dog Is?

I do. She is rumbling around in her crate wanting to go outside. And again at 3:30. And maybe once more around 4... For a little while, Mocha has been itchy so I would give her a fish oil supplement every morning with her breakfast. That helped the itching but gave her an upset stomach. And for some reason, it only seemed to hit her around 3 AM. And it hit fast. She would bark and we would stumble down the stairs to the backyard where she would go, and then go back to bed. Only to have to go again a little while later. Ugh. I was like a zombie. We actually didn't think it was the fish oil at first but we have since stopped it and she is doing much better. Itchy again, but her stomach has settled down. We will find another treatment for the itchies. (The vet said she is fine - normal for growing puppies and the dry winter in-house heat).

Getting a lot of rain today so she is going to be wild. Way too windy and rainy to walk her so I hope she and Britni wrestle all day. I intend to nap and watch TV and just hunker down. Everyone around me seems to be sick and I am feeling run down so I am taking it easy. I wanted to chainsaw off the stumps of the trees that came down over the winter and shore up the AC unit but it can wait.

I am picking up our guest missionary speaker for church tomorrow at the Amtrak station right next to where I work. I may make a surprise visit to the Officers on duty and see what is up. Work is still going really well.

Elliott had practice in the monsoon this morning. I brought some towels to protect my car seats and bags for him to put his muddy cleats in when we picked him up. Not too cold out - nothing a Dunkin Donuts coffee and sprinkled donut didn't cure. On the way home, we stopped at Lowe's and got a buy one get one free bag of bird food. The new feeder really seems to be working - we remain squirrel-less.

Oh, this is the new front license plate I put on the other day: