Friday, December 30, 2011

Putting The Pieces Together

Last night I was cooking up some pork chops on the grill and found my grill light wasn't working.  I love that light.  It has a flexible neck so I can aim it right on the meat and has magnetic feet so it doesn't slide or move around.  So while the chops were cooking, I took the light apart.  One of the batteries in the cartridge that holds 3 batteries corroded and the whole thing was a mess.  I took it inside and pulled it all apart and cleaned it up.  Put new batteries in and fired it up:  nothing.  So I took it all apart again and wiped everything off, made sure the batteries were aimed in the right direction and tried again.  Nothing.  As I was taking it apart for the third time, I dropped the cartridge.  The batteries went everywhere and little connector pieces came off the cartridge.  I thought I would never get it back together but I got all of the pieces and fitted them back in and voila;  the light came right on!  As soon as it lit up, I had an illumination myself.  Looking at my situation now, all I can see is a bunch of separate pieces that used to fit together nicely.  I cannot see how it will all come together and how life will come around to "work" again.  Seems like no way that can happen.  But of course it can and will and I believe that.  I just had to smile and thank God for that little life lesson.  It will work out and be as good or better than ever!

By the way, the pork chops were fantastic!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

Thanks to the generosity of a lot of people, we had a Merry Christmas this year.  Lots of stuff but more importantly, lots of thoughts behind the stuff.  We are very grateful and humbled.  Made what could have been a disappointing day into a very happy one.  You will notice one big brown element managed to work herself into just about every picture...  (I even covered her up in the Ashleigh picture!)  She and Britni eventually got busy on their stocking bones and stayed clear.  Though a few of the later presents got an "anointing..."

Following up on my last post, my feet are doing much better.  The orthotics came in and immediately added a lot of relief.  Not 100% yet but doing a lot better.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Golden Arches

They aren't golden in appearance but they are in cost...  After many months of battling with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, I finally decided to get my feet casted for custom orthotics (shoe inserts).  I have done the night splint thing, icing twice a day, stretching, meds, "regular" shoe inserts, taping, elastic supports, cortisone shots...  you name it.  The doc was great and took all sorts of measurements and observations.  Turns out the Achilles tendon in my right foot is very tight and the arch in that foot flattens when standing (it is fine when resting).  So the inserts will position my foot and hopefully take some pressure off the Achilles (which reduces the constant pulling and subsequent pain).  Should be about 3 weeks before the inserts are available.  Of course my insurance doesn't cover it...  But I couldn't take it any more.  He gave me a bonus cortisone shot today which hurts going in but provides immediate (albeit temporary) relief.

In my last blog I mentioned the theme of God creating something out of nothing.  Well, we are at the "nothing" point now and are anxious to see what develops.  It seems every lead has dried up but we know that can change in 30 seconds.  Still searching online, networking, going to my required Unemployment classes and doing what I can.  And God keeps providing.  Just waiting for the big breakthrough...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Pumping - Raking - Praying.  That's what I do these days...  The pump I bought last spring to remove the rainwater from the pool when the water gets too high tripped the GFCI outlets every time I plugged it in.  Only used it about three times.  It was out of the store return time frame window but the manufacturer was great and gave me a return number.  Walked into Lowe's with that number and got a new pump.  The pool cover is porous and rain water gets in.  The water gets too high and the regular pool pump is winterized so I need this to keep the level low.  Mocha doesn't like that plan - she is heavy enough to lay in the middle of the cover and create her own lake when the water is too high.

Did the annual leaf raking and blowing yesterday.  The fenced in backyard acts as a giant leaf catcher.  All of my neighbors' yard are windswept clean - mine is full of leaves.  Or was.  I blow them all to the back fence and then "shovel" them over into the woods.  Not hard work but time consuming.  And it gets dark so early now...

It was nice to have Ashleigh home for Thanksgiving.  We had a couple of families over and had a nice, laid back day.  Pretty thankful for all that we have.

The outside time doing mindless work lets me pray and think a lot.  I am not writing much about my job search and the circumstances about my unemployment but I can say Lucie and I are VERY encouraged about the "coincidences" that remind us that God is in control and it is all part of the Plan.  Sermons at church about hope and peace, things people say, verses-of-the-day, and other little "random" reminders keep us positive.  A couple of things that have seemed to be a recurring theme - that God sees our lives from the end and knows how things will turn out and how He is able to create something from nothing.  So we are doing our part in terms of job searching, networking, cutting expenses, etc. and waiting for God to pull us through.  Looking forward to telling the happy ending to this story...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Agitating Again

Today I was doing my domestic duties which included doing the laundry.  I noticed that the top part of the washing machine was not agitating like the bottom was.  It just sort of sat there.  Well, Google is my friend so I went online to find out what was up.  Come to find out, these little Agitator Dogs fit inside the agitator and have tiny ridges that engage grooves which in turn spin the agitator.  Apparently after 18 years, those little ridges wear down and no longer engage.  Some guy even made a YouTube video of how to replace them.  Made a phone call to the local Sears place and then Mocha and I made a run over.  Less than $10.  When Elliott came home from school, we re-played the video and put these dogs back in their houses.  Ten minutes later all was good.

Can't wait to see what's on the agenda tomorrow...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Birthday Girls

Ashleigh came home for her birthday weekend.  It was pretty stormy on the Saturday before with wet snow and overcast skies but we had a good time.  Had a nice lunch on her birthday and she stayed an extra day just to hang out and watch the Patriots game.  Mocha turned two a few days later.  I took her to the vet to get some more heartworm prevention pills and she hopped on the scale:  132 pounds!  Here she is with her bib on ready for cake!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Insurance and Injustice

Elliott gets his "license" soon (he will be able to drive alone during daylight hours) so I thought I would check insurance rates.  I went online and submitted my info to a site that sends it out to a few companies and they come back with a price.  Oddly enough, my own company came back with a rate about half of what I am already paying them!   I called them up and sure enough, they said I could cancel my current policy with them and get another for hundreds less!  Turns out it is up to the insured to monitor their rates and shop around - every 6 months to a year is recommended!  So for who knows how long I have been paying for nothing!  Grrrrrr

Meanwhile my battle with Sony continues over the blue line that has appeared in my 36 month old big screen TV.  Not much of a battle actually when the other side has the upper hand and doesn't want to fight.  I paid $50 to their local repair guy to tell me that it will cost $682 MORE than I paid for it to repair it!  Sony Customer Relations listened patiently and so graciously offered to sell me a discontinued TV for a mere $900.  Thanks for nothing.  Why would I would I buy another TV from them when they won't stand behind the first one?!  So I sent a letter (an actual letter on paper in an envelope with a stamp on it!) to their HQ pleading my case.  Not holding my breath....

Last week we went to meet Ashleigh at the Baltimore Humane Society Dogfest.  Started off rough - we got off to a late start and someone stole Ashleigh's expensive North Face jacket while she was volunteering there.  Then there was a 1.5 mile backup to get near the place.  We wound up just pulling off the road and walking (like many people).  Mocha was terrible on the walk there - pulling and lunging.  Took everything, and I mean everything, in me to hold her back.  Of course the Humane Society is not the place to be disciplining your dog...  But once we got in she was her usual big fluffy self and everyone loved her.  It was a huge field with lots to see.  Turned out OK.  One of the vendors had a water bowl out that Mocha claimed as her own (see bottom photo).

The other night I was walking the dogs before supper and when I came back with them the whole kitchen had a smoky haze.  I asked Lucie what she was burning, uh, cooking for supper.  Turns out she put the Costco chicken, plastic boat tray, cover and all, in the oven to warm up and the plastic melted.  The top clear part shrink-wrapped over the top of the chicken and the black bottom melted thru the rack to the bottom of the oven.  But it cooled quickly and peeled right off beautiful.  Didn't taste bad.  I told Lucie the rice could use a little more plastic though...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Flat Lining

While we were at Newfie Fun Days, the hard drive in Lucie's laptop died.  Fine in the morning, dead a few hours later.  When we got back I went to our usual computer place but they wanted $150 for a replacement drive!  For $400 I can get a whole new laptop.  So a friend recommended a used computer parts store and I got a bigger drive for $25.  I "Ghost" our computers monthly (take an image of the entire drive) and do weekly data back ups so I just had to slap the replacement drive in, put the image from other drive back and copy in the latest backup and she was up and running.

That was an easy fix.  This one, not so much:  my beautiful 52-inch Sony TV has a line running down it.  Argh!  About 4 inches in from the right - top to bottom.  Very thin but it looks like a dang highway to me.  For now, it fades away after about 15 minutes.  But research says soon it will stay.  So I have called and emailed Sony and their oh-so-helpful response has been to just get it fixed.  Um, getting it fixed means replacing the entire screen!  That's not helpful.  It is just over 3 years old and out of warranty of course...

Meanwhile I shut the pool down.  Always a sad time of the year.  I got a Shiatsu foot massager to try and help with the bone spurs and pain.  I ice my feet first, then put them on the massager for 15 minutes.  Pretty painful actually but seems to be helping.  Last night I watched a video of an athletic trainer taping someone's foot.  I tried it and it feels good.

Today Elliott and I are going to an ING DIRECT sponsored car show (free tickets).  That is always interesting.  Gotta mow the yard too.  Not many more times this year for that...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dog Gone It

It's all about the dogs - or so it seems the past week.  First, we took Mocha up to Eliot, Maine for two days of Newfie Fun Days.  And fun days they were!  She traveled up the 8.5 hours with no problems and was very well behaved the whole time we were there.  Kind of crazy to see her, all 127 pounds of her, compared to bigger Newfs.  There was carting classes, water rescue demonstrations, stuff to buy, grooming classes and so on.  What was amazing was how all of the dogs got along and there was not a bark to be heard.  My mother won two of the raffles and was kind enough to give us a big, wooden, handmade/hand painted bench with a scene of a Newfoundland looking over the water.  We only had a couple of days but got to get in some quality time with friends and family and stayed one last time in the Cafe.  It was at the Cafe where we met Newfie Captain Oliver - the dog that inspired us to get a Newfoundland.  He and Mocha got to play and visit every day.  At night we brought food home and Mocha just socialized and went to bed in our room.  She loved swimming in the cold waters of the ocean and walking along the beach at night and in the morning.  It was tighter quarters for Mocha coming home (with the bench) but she did great and we made the trip in record time of 7 hours.

After we were home for a few days, Britni the beagle's right eye suddenly clouded over and looked like she had an eye infection.  Very lethargic.  So Lucie took her to the vet and they gave us the bad news that she had sudden onset of glaucoma.  The right eye pressure was at 98 and she was blind in it.  The left eye was at 28 (normal is 10-15) and she would probably go blind in that one soon.  The pressure was putting her in terrible, migraine like pain and we were going to have to make a decision about eye removal and possibly putting her down.  Shocking how quickly it happened...  After an emotional night and day, we took her to a doggie opthamologist who examined her and said she could probably save the eye and treat the other one.  So we went ahead with the procedure and sure enough, the next day the pressure in both eyes was down to 10!  She doesn't have full vision in the right eye but it looks normal now and she is back to her old self.  We have to put drops in her eyes the rest of her life to control the pressure but she is home.  What a relief!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Crack of Dusk

The Great Earthquake of 2011 and Hurricane Irene came and went without much excitement.  I was on vacation that week (good choice!) and on the day of the earthquake I had taken Mocha for a walk at a new place (a fish hatchery area out in the middle of the woods - kind of lonely but interesting).  We got back and Britni was in a chair by the pool while I brushed out Mocha.  Next thing I know, Elliott is asking me if I felt anything because the whole house just shook.  Nope - didn't feel a thing.  And the dogs didn't do anything weird like you sometimes read about.  The hurricane caused a little more excitement - lots of branches and leaves down, strong winds, had to pump the pool out two times and we lost power for 9 hours.  But no damage and no flooding in our immediate area.

The hurricane did knock out my dusk to dawn outdoor motion light though.  It has a setting where, at dusk, it will come on at about 50% power. That acts as a sort of night light without blinding the neighbors all night.  Once it detects motion, it goes full power for 5 minutes, then dims again.  The wind and rain must have somehow gotten to it because it wouldn't work during the hurricane and after.  It was getting power - if I put it to "test' it would come on and the red LED would light up when it detected motion but it just wouldn't light up at all like it should.  I planned to replace it on Friday but Thursday night it came back to life.  Strange.  Works fine now.

The other day a rock nailed me on the way to work on 95.  When I left, I found this nice crack.  I will wait until after we return from our trip to Maine to replace it.  I think this will be the third one...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ashleigh Is In College Now

Today was the day.  Last night Lucie and Ashleigh and Nathan and Elliott packed up Ashleigh and got her stuff loaded in two cars.  (I made supper and stayed out of the way.)  All 5 of us headed down a little after 9 AM.  Great weather - sunny and windy.  It is just over an hour ride (1 hour and 12 minutes to be exact) and we got there fine.  Today they let the Honors Program Freshmen move in first so there were hardly any people there.  Got everything up to her 4th floor room in just two trips and were all unpacked by noon.  The school bought us pizza for lunch and then we headed out to pick up some odds and ends and books.  I did all of the IT stuff - got her online and downloaded Office 2010 and so forth.  She has one roommate and two suite-mates - they live in another adjoining room.  All four share a bathroom, two sinks, shower, fridge, microwave, phone, etc.  Pretty nice.  Ashleigh has been emailing the other girls so they sort of knew each other.  This dorm is brand new - Ashleigh and the others are the first to live in it.  Around 4 they fed us again (hors d' oeuvres) and at 6 Ashleigh had an introductory meeting with some of her instructors.  We packed up and left at 5:45 PM so she could go to her meeting.  Tomorrow the other freshmen move in.  Ashleigh has a full day of a ropes course and other get-to-know-you team building things.  Pretty hard to pull away but fortunately she is not far away and we will see her often.  When we got home, one of her school books arrived in the mail - I wanted to go back and bring it to her!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feets and Toes

The Hales are a bit gimpy around here.  Lucie had minor toe surgery last week to get a toe bone shaved down.  Outpatient but they still knocked her out.  Seemed like she was out for all of ten seconds.  Went fine.  She has her foot in a bootie thing but can get around fine.  Only hurts when she stubs it.  Which of course now happens all the time...  Coming out of the anesthesia was probably worse than the operation itself. 

Meanwhile, my third cortisone shot seems to have taken.  I am aggressively icing my feet every night (that is a party!), wearing my brace and keeping the inserts in my shoes.  For the first time in a LONG time, this Friday morning after Thursday night basketball I was able to get out of bed and walk across the room without an electric scooter.  (The mornings are the worst - the Achilles tendon is inflamed because of bone spurs in my heels and the first stretch of the day is a killer.)  I am on vacation this week so I can wear real comfy walking shoes and maybe I can finally put this all behind me.  Or under me...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chair-ity Case

One of our pool-side stools rusted thru this summer.  Oddly enough, a year or two ago Ashleigh put one in the pool and sat in it and now we have one chair out of 5 that has rusted...  Anyway, when my younger brother visited recently, he offered to fabricate a piece to fix it.  He did a great job and sent me the pieces.  However, as the picture shows, it broke during my efforts to slide it in.  Back to the drawing board...

Just halfway through August and it is already the wettest August on record.  I may actually mow the yard now.  The funny thing is, after it rains, there are about a dozen little frogs in the pool (I do rescue them).  But when it is hot and dry out, they don't get in.  You would think it would be the opposite way.

I ran the entire safety and security part of the annual picnic at work this.  Aside from some communication issues with the City, all went extremely well.  I was so pleased.  And relieved!

I am on vacation this coming week.  Not sure how much of a vacation it's going to be:  Ashleigh goes to college on Wednesday and Lucie gets rotator cuff surgery on Thursday.  Maybe I will get called in...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Resistance Is STILL Futile

In August of last year, I wrote about a resistor going bad in the electronic board for the pool salt chlorinator.  A less than $3 part went bad on a nearly $700 board!  I was able to take out the old one resistor, solder in a new one, and all was good.  Well dang if it didn't happen again this year - the resistor stopped working.  Me, being the smart guy that I am, bought TWO resistors last year.  Installed one and put one in a safe place.  So this year I went to go to that safe place but could NOT find it!  I tore the house apart but couldn't find it.  So I ordered 3 more.  They came pretty quickly and I installed one (and put one spare in the control panel and the other spare taped to the owner's manual).  It's been a little tricky - I am not the best solderer and it is intricate work.  But so far so good.  I did learn a shocking lesson today that pulling a fuse on the board is NOT the same as shutting the power off at the fuse box...

Lucie had a good week at camp but her shoulder/rotator cuff pain is getting worse.  Going for an MRI next Friday.

I've spent a lot of time floating in the pool lately.  The water temp is in the upper 80's every day so I am making the most of it while I can.  When we first put the pool in, we had tree people come and cut the over-hanging limbs back.  They have grown back so we get a lot of stuff dropping in the water from the trees (and the critters that live in them).  Pretty much every day is a vacuuming day. 

Hard to believe tomorrow is August 1...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sticking Together

A couple of weeks ago the subwoofer in my Pathfinder blew.  Which means with every beat of every song, there was a rattly noise.  Ugh.  Drove me crazy.  Nice Bose system too - which you would think would be built to handle the sound no matter how loud I cranked it.  Anyway, it was a major pain to get to it to try and replace it and I could only get the bottom two screws out.  As I was working on it, I noticed that the center cone was separated from the outer paper material.  So I smeared a ring of glue around it and all is good!  Sounds perfect.

Our first tenting experience was not that great because of the hard ground.  So I dug out our queen sized air mattress and went to work finding and repairing the leak.  It has a built-in pump so I pumped her up and took it out to the pool.  I found the leak and remembered it was a spot that Jasmine had stepped on and poked a hole in it with her toenail.  So I went to work coating it with glue and putting on patches.  Seems much better.

Yesterday Lucie and I took a 2.5 hour drive down to Bethany Beach.  Really nice little area.  Of course it was 102º out but at least there there was a strong breeze.  I wasn't too excited about sitting on the hot sand baking (even under an umbrella) so we walked around the shops and looked at things.  Nice time.  Stopped for supper on the way home.  It was pretty relaxing because Elliott stayed home with the dogs (Ashleigh was working) so we didn't have a curfew to beat.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Roughing It

Lucie and the family decided we needed a 9 man tent so they got one for me for Father's Day.  Anyone who knows us knows that my definition of "roughing it" is staying in a hotel that doesn't have room service.  So on Sunday night (we were all off Monday July 4), we put it up in the backyard.  Went up pretty quickly - especially since we had never done anything like that before.  They got me a battery powered fan and light for it too, but we had to put an electric fan out there due to the heat and humidity.  We all made our own nest in there with cushions and pillows and sleeping bags.  Of course being very careful to keep all bugs out.  We stayed in the house till about midnight before going out.  There were some power issues with the extension cord but pretty quickly we were all settled in and fine.  We kept the dogs in the house.  All was OK for a while but then I quickly discovered that my cushion was too thin (yes - the cushion was too thin.  I was not too heavy...).  So every pressure point seemed to hit the ground.  I slept off and on through the night.  Then it got too cold.  At 5:17 AM the birds started in so I packed up my pillow and went inside and went to bed.  Pretty fun though.  We will do it again and be better prepared.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Towers and Troubles

Today, yes during the holiday weekend, we made the 80 mile trip to Tower Beach in southern Delaware.  Took 2 hours to get 10 miles away, another hour to make those last 10 miles...  Anyway, it was a great day - warm and breezy.  The water was chilly but I got some sun and a nap.  Of course when we got home the sun was nice enough to point out exactly where I missed with the sunscreen....  We left the dogs outside and Mocha doesn't eat or nap when we leave her alone so she wolfed down her supper and flopped.

Had some cable modem issues - it would randomly reboot.  Annoying to me - devastating to Elliott when he is trying to play XBox online.  So I went to Comcast and picked up a rental to test.  If it holds up, I will know my old modem was dying.  It's only been a few days but the rental hasn't rebooted yet.

Got a weird pool issue - silt on the bottom.  It is very fine and wispy but dark.  It is not sandy or gritty.  If I wipe my hand over it, it sorts of fades away.  But settles back down on the bottom.  I have vacuumed it out with the filter set to WASTE so it doesn't re-circulate but rather pumps straight out to the yard.  The next day the bottom is silty again.  I may have to add some stuff to make it coagulate ("flocculate" is the technical term) and try to vacuum it out again.

Ashleigh is pretty much working full time over the summer.  Elliott is in vacation mode.  He got his report card - straight A's and is in the top 10 of his class.  He plays lacrosse Thursday afternoons and is driving.

My feet are doing much, much better.  The two cortisone shots, inserts, meds, exercises and wicked expensive new sneakers are really helping.  I thought it would be the end of my basketball career but the Doc says I have a ways to go...

No big plans for the 4th.  But tomorrow night will be the first night in the Hale family tent.  Should be quite an experience...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Serendipitous Stuff

Everything happens for a reason.  I believe it.  Sometimes it's little stuff, sometimes bigger.  The other day the pool light wouldn't come on.  So I went out and tested the switches but they were OK.  That meant changing the bulb.  It's not hard but it is underwater and a little tricky.  After determining that was the problem (and not having a bulb handy to install), I kicked back to hang out by the pool and tried to turn the radio on.  But it wouldn't come on.  We had some real heavy rain and the outdoor GFI outlet tripped.  So I re-set it.  Later that night I looked out and the pool light was on!  (I have it set to come on every night from 8-10 just because it looks cool.)  Anyway, it turns out the pool light is on the GFI circuit and re-setting the outlet fixed the light.  Good one.

Recently,my online email address book was hacked.  Twice actually.  It makes no sense to me but whoever hacked me sent out stupid links to pharmaceutical companies, foreign web hosting sites, etc.  Stupid stuff, but harmless.  And annoying to everyone in my address book.  So I changed my password and that shouldn't happen again.  (But it did happen to a lot of people who have an online Comcast address book.  It was a hack on their side - not my PC.).  Anyway, there was one good thing that came out of it:  a friend of mine from grad school, whom I had not heard from for over 20 years, replied to the spam email.  We worked in the Dean's Office together during the day at Northeasternand went to classes at night.  Right after we graduated she was in a skiing accident that left her in a coma with severe injuries.  She is now in a wheelchair but full of energy and has a great job with the State of Massachusetts.  So what one person(s) intended for harm turned out to be good.

The other day Capital One entered into an agreement to buy my employer, ING DIRECT.  It's a complicated story about Dutch loans and bailout money and payback but the deal will be finalized later this year.  Of course there is a lot of uncertainty at all levels right now and no one is sure of anything.  But one thing I am sure of is that God brought me to this job and He will bring me to another (if that is necessary).  And God has a funny way of letting me/us know He hasn't forgotten about me/us.  When the word came out, a friend of mine texted me and said that Stevenson University was looking for a Security Director.  That would be the same Stevenson University where Ashleigh is going in the fall...  Turns out they are looking for a retired policeman type but it made me smile that nothing is out of control...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Low Key Birthday To Me

Well my birthday was pretty low key.  But that is not a bad thing.  It had a been a busy week with the family and Ashleigh's graduation and graduation party the night before.  That party went well - good turnout, lots of food.  I will be eating meatballs and rolls for weeks...

So I got some tee shirts, the new Journey CD, mug, Dunkin Donuts card, movie, signed book and some nice outdoor chairs.  That was nice.  Even got a little home-made bread pudding...  Earlier in the day we went to Ashleigh's All Star lacrosse game.  She started and played all of 30 seconds before rolling her ankle.  She sat out the rest of the game but her team won.

All else is going OK.  I had to get another cortisone shot in my foot.   I was VERY concerned that my basketball days might be over because my foot was doing really well after the last shot, then went bad again after playing.  But the Doc said I have plenty of ball left in me.  Got some physical therapy to do at home (exercises), ibuprofen, supports, and the potential of having custom made shoe inserts created.  I even went out and treated myself to some real expensive Nike sneakers.  Tonight I play again.  We'll see how that goes...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ashleigh Graduated Last Night

Now how we did we get from here:

To here?

It was a quite a night.  My younger brother and his wife were here, my mother, and Lucie's brother from Arizona made a surprise visit.  Made for a fun time!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Said Heel

I would rather say, "Heal!"  For several months now I have had mild to pretty darn bad (that is the medical range term by the way) heel pain.  Mostly in my right foot but some in the left too.  I can definitely trace it back to the trip to NYC around Thanksgiving that I took Ashleigh and Lucie on.  I went up to do some work at one of our company's remote sites there and wore my regular shoes.  Lucie had other plans though.  Walking plans.  Walking, and walking, and walking plans...  Ever since that day my feet just haven't been right.  I have tried different shoes, inserts, pads, stretching, etc.  I might get the pain to subside for a day or two, but it is usually right back.  Terrible in the mornings.  Classic symptoms of Plantar Fascitis.  I have had that before but it went away with some stretching.  But this is not stopping.  So off to the podiatrist I go today.  He thinks it is actually bone spurs that have developed and he may give me a cortisone shot.  But enough is enough.  I just hope this doesn't hurt my basketball playing...

Great day in the pool yesterday with friends.  The air was hot and the pool water was 85º.  That is a new high for May.  Here is a video of Mocha making a splash:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slowing Down A Little

The school year is just about out for A&E.  Most of their testing is done.  Final lacrosse games have been played.  (Ashleigh still has one All Seniors All Stars game on June 11 though).  They have had their banquets and are coasting along enjoying life.  I thought the picture of Mocha flomped by the pool was a good representative picture.

Had a good relaxing day today.  The pool is open and clean and no major work needs to be done on it.  Today the water temp hit 82º.  I did a little cleaning but mostly laid out and sweated and read the newspaper.  We did have a minor catastrophe though - one of our nice outdoor stools rusted through.  No one was hurt but the chair portion separated from the legs.  The other 4 look OK.  I can't remember where we got them despite scouring my warranty folders.  Had to be Lowes or Home Depot but I don't see them online.  I did fill the Tiki torches with oil.  They have a little spout thingy that slides over the bottle now.  It looks like a scene from Survivor at night out there when we fire them up.

Earlier I went to the pet store and found that we were eligible for a free 30 pound bag of food (buy 10 get one free).  That was nice walking out of there with a nice big bag for nothing.  Of course that bag will last us about a week...  (ha ha - actually for all of her 130 pounds, Mocha doesn't eat that much.)

It wasn't such a casual night last night though - we thought it would be a good idea to let Mocha sleep in our room for the night.  For the past few nights Mocha hasn't been ready for bed when we go so she cries and makes little barking noises from the kitchen where she sleeps.  The beagle sleeps up with us every night and is well behaved.  Jasmine used to come up and sleep there at the foot of the bed too.  But Mocha is Mocha and it's different with her.  She jumped up onto the bed to claim the coveted spot but of course she isn't staying there.  I pulled her down and then up Britni would go. Shooed her off and then Mocha would jump on Britni and flatten her.  And then around they would go again.  It was crazy.  I got them each to lay down on their own beds for 20 seconds before the melee broke out again.  I finally had to drag Mocha downstairs and gate her in the kitchen again.  We can try that again in 3 months...

Tomorrow looks like another pool day.  We have some ribs to grill but no other plans.  I might get adventurous and build a stone wall around our fire pit.  We'll see...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another Driver In The House

Yesterday Elliott got his driver's permit.  And as a bonus, they gave him this highly reflective, highly embarrassing bumper sticker.  Fortunately, for the moment, there is no law requiring him to have this on the car when he drives...  So this morning we will be hitting the road and driving around doing some errands.  I usually bring Mocha with me on my drives but since Elliott will be behind the wheel, I think I will give Mocha a break...

Here is an action shot of Elliott (#33) at a recent lacrosse game.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Someone's Getting Old...

This week was Elliott's 16th birthday.  Why, I remember when...  He is now taking driving lessons and is out on a "date" with some friends as I write this.  He is having his party in a couple of weeks due to a bunch of other stuff we have going on.  On his birthday he had a lacrosse game and scored a hat trick (3 goals!).  They won and he was pretty happy.  We raced from there over to IHOP for a fundraiser for Ashleigh's team.  We had had a cake a couple of days before. 

And to add to my aging misery, this week was our 25th anniversary of graduating from Oral Roberts University.  25 years!  Last night was Ashleigh's Senior Prom.  More on that in another post.

Since my last writing, we replaced the carpet in the dining room with hardwood flooring.  The room isn't very big so we got the best product we could.  A crew of guys came out and ripped out the old carpet and I bleached the floor and put several coats of KILZ down.  They came a couple of days later and did a BEAUTIFUL and fast job of laying down the wood.  Mocha loves it - another place to cool herself off on.

No big plans for Mother's Day.  I told Ashleigh and Elliott that they are old enough to take care of Lucie.  She is their mother, not mine (and I took care of my mother!).

Here is a picture of the dining room now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It Takes Money To Make Money

Fortunately, the financial aid process isn't using paper and pen like in the picture above.  I did the first online form (FAFSA) for Ashleigh and that gets shipped over to the school she is going to (and others if she was undecided).  They take a look at that and then put together what they think we, the parents, can contribute.  However, after looking at the aid letter we got back from the university, I think they must have thought it was Sheik Hale and Lady Lucero who are Ashleigh's parents.  Ashleigh was awarded a huge scholarship that pays half of her tuition for all four years but half of two million dollars is still a million dollars...  So after some quick calculations of the shortfall, I did the only reasonable thing I could do:  co-signed a student loan for her.  Lucie and I finished grad school with a pretty significant debt but we managed to pay it off.  What we needed for right now was peace of mind that there was money available for her first year.  Later on we can figure about whether we need other loans, work study, internships, etc.  Ashleigh was relieved.  On we go...

Right now it is thundering and lightning out.  The dogs were cooped up today, (Lucie had a scrapbooking store open house earlier today) so I thought I would get in a quick walk between showers.  I harnessed up the pups and out we went.  Of course we got to the furthest point of the walk when the lightning fired up and the skies opened.  We were all three soaked and sad by the time we got home.  Cured that with a nap.

Work has been very busy.  Proactive drills and training and report generation.  Very smooth and good.  I have been able to comp some time due to some night work up in the New York City Cafe and I am cashing that in by getting out early enough to beat the traffic and get to the kids' lacrosse games.  Ashleigh is Captain of the varsity team and Elliott is Captain of the JV team.  They are both doing really, really well. 

And on an interesting note, one of the final seven contestants on American Idol is the son of a guy who graduated a year behind me in high school.  I had no idea until I saw some Facebook commentary from some old high school friends.  Small world...

Here is a bonus picture of Mocha sitting in the upstairs window watching the neighborhood activity.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

They Take A Lickin', And Keep On Stickin'

Ashleigh and Elliott are in full lacrosse swing.  Ashleigh is co-captain of her varsity team and Elliott is co-captain of his junior varsity team.  I have made it to one game each.  Elliott scored once and had an assist at his game early on.  Boys lacrosse is very physical and he took a hard shot.  That woke him up and he upped his game big time.  Very aggressive and was putting some good checks and stick hits on.  They wound up losing 5-6 but played well against a very good team.

Ashleigh played today and her team was down 4-9 at one point.  They were slowly creeping back in and it was 8-11 when Ashleigh took a hit to the head (girls don't wear helmets).  The game was stopped and the girl who hit her got yellow-carded (penalized and removed from the game for a few minutes).  She was hurting for a minute or two but stayed in.  That hit got her fired up too and she scored the next two goals - unassisted.  They tied it at 11 but lost 11-12.  Good games!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

If It Ain't One Thing...

Well I see it's been a month since my last posting.  A lot has happened, yet not much has happened.  Had a bunch of minor (hopefully!) medical issues pop up - bone spur in my right heel, strained calf muscle in my left leg (thought it was basketball retirement time), jammed thumb, small cold, and most annoyingly, an achy left flank.  It kind of felt like the makings of a kidney stone but there was no real sharp pains - just a dull ache like someone was squeezing me from the inside.  I finally called my doctor and went in for an x-ray.  Since my appointment was the next day, I got to take my x-ray films with me.  Of course as soon as I get out in the hallway I hold them up to the light and take a look.  Uh oh.  Big dark cloud mass on the one side.  My doctor is in the same building so I marched myself right up there.  There’s this very attractive receptionist at the window so I told her I just got my x-rays and am concerned and don’t want to wait until the next day for my appointment.  She pulls out the films and looks them over and seems concerned so she said she would go run them by the doctor.  I am thinking that if I am going to get bad news, at least I will get it from a good looking woman.  Well out comes the doctor and they are talking right there on the other side of the sliding glass.  I can hear everything.  The doctor says I have two stones and that is my problem.  Then the receptionist says my concern is the dark mass.  The doctor looks again and makes his diagnosis:  gas.  Ugh.  So now here comes the attractive receptionist over to the window and I have to try and look her in the eye and listen to her tell me that not only am I not dying, but I am full of gas.  Nice…  Turns out they aren't stones (there is a big name for calcium deposits) and they are not the problem.  I am going for a CT scan to see what is up.

Meanwhile, I got my car back and it is all good.  The peepers started peeping the other night and we have had a fox and several deer in the back woods the past couple of mornings.

Ashleigh and Elliott are both captains of their respective lacrosse teams.  That is cool.  They are practicing now and come home filthy muddy every day.  Elliott even did the "slip and slide" in the big field puddle the other day.  Good thing I carry blankets in the car...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

He Rode In On A Hyundai

On the way out and back to the conference last week, I noticed my Pathfinder was riding rough - like it couldn't find the right gear to be in between 45-60 mph.  So I googled it and found that Nissan has had a BIG problem with my year Pathfinders (2006) so they extended the warranty to 80,000 miles.  Apparently the radiator leaks into the transmission and ruins them both.  All of they symptoms added up to just what I had.  I have 74,000 miles on it and the job, out of warranty, would be $7,000!  So I took it in on Monday and wouldn't ya know it, the problem was NOT the warrantied one - it was bad U joints and some other stuff.  Dang!  At least $800 worth of repairs.  I told them to go ahead and fix it.  They called me the next day and said they were wrong - the problem WAS the radiator/transmission one and they would fix it for free!  And that fix would cover the other things that needed fixing too (U joints, etc.)!  That was some good news.  Of course the parts are back ordered and will be shipped out sometime but that is OK - they gave me a free loaner car.  A 2011 Hyundai VeraCruz with 12 miles on it.  The best thing about it is the XM radio.  To the embarrassment of Elliott, Lucie and I were singing and rocking at the stoplights last night!

I finished my taxes today.  I usually buy the federal Turbo Tax disk (not the state one) but this year you could do it all online and then pay for the protram at the end when you submitted the return.  The federal one was pretty straightforward so I did that and e-filed.  Fine.  Meanwhile, they kept a running total for DE state taxes in the corner and offered to sell that program too.  DE offers free online tax filing so I figured I would just do that like I always do and save the Turbo Tax fee.  But when I finished the DE online taxes, it said I OWED money while Turbo Tax said I was due money back!  What?!  I compared both returns and the only difference was the tax amount from the table.  Turns out, I filed JOINT on the DE state form (like always) while Turbo Tax reviewed the best filing option and found that "married filing separately combined" was the best option!  Who would have guessed that?  So I went back to the DE online form and changed the filing status and sure enough, getting money back!  How "governmental" to have a filing status called "separate combined!"  Works for me...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Her Name Was George

There are so many ways to tell this story that I don't know where to begin...  Lucie, Ashleigh and I are in Lancaster, PA for a Royal Rangers conference.  Lucie is running a few classes - Ashleigh and I are along for a vacation.  Elliott has Driver's Ed so he stayed behind with the dogs and Ashleigh's boyfriend.  This morning we went to breakfast at Bob Evans.  Our hostess was a spry woman in her 60's and was wearing a head piece with Valentines hearts on springs bouncing around.  All went fine and we stopped to pay our bill on the way out.  As we were paying, the hostess pointed out that HER name was George.  She was the youngest of 14 kids and her father named her George because he wanted a tomboy daughter.  That revelation lead to a story about her as a child being teased and having to fend for herself.  (Reminds me of the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue.")  That story, which included references to pants lowering episodes to prove her sexuality, was nothing compared to what came next.  First, she quizzed me about who was President in 1969 (Nixon) and then the REAL story began...  George told us how when she was a teenager, she received a letter saying she hadn't responded to the draft.  Next thing she knew, she was being taken away in handcuffs and shackles.  Soon she was drugged and taken to Area 51.  Wait.  WHAT?!  Area 51?!  Indeed.  George shared how the aliens that are amongst us have been so for thousands of years.  "And they don't look like the pictures you've seen.  They look like you and me.  They are bald."  The aliens have provided the technology for many human accomplishments including the lunar landing.  It didn't take long for George's mother to retain an attorney who directly contacted the Commander in Chief.  A lawsuit was filed and suddenly George was set free.  Not with a check of course, "that could be traced."  Instead, George was sent home with a briefcase full of cash.  And years later, her golden years are being spent in the Lancaster Bob Evans - wearing a headpiece with spring mounted hearts suddenly looking very similar to alien antennas.

Though we could have stayed all day and listened to her stories, we had to leave.  As we left I turned back and said, "By the way George, tell me about your sister Larry..."

Monday, January 17, 2011

And Your Total Comes to Zero Dollars

I was off today so I went over to Dunkin Donuts to make good on their offer to correct their previous over-charge.  The manager was very pleasant and he tried to pay me back for my entire order.  I took the $2 they owed me and put the rest in the tip jar.  He then insisted I take a free coffee and donut.  The last thing I wanted to do was make him unhappy so I obliged...

While I was out, I got a Facebook notification that Chic Fil A had a free Facebook promotion:  between 3 and 4 PM, mention the promo and get a free large order of waffle fries.  So I pulled in and asked for them.  They said the promo was for free chicken nuggets.  Even better!  It was funny, after they told me it was nuggets, they said, "Your total comes to zero dollars.  Please pull around."  When I pulled up to the window, I asked what happened to the waffle fries promo.  The kid said there were two promos going on and asked if I wanted the fries too!  Why surely I do!  But wait - there's more:  when I got home, they gave me TWO orders of chicken nuggets AND the large waffle fries! 

I would make some sort of "Free at last..." comment due to today being MLK day but someone will probably get offended...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Doh! Nuts!

The other day I pulled up to Dunkin Donuts and ordered a large coffee and two donuts.  I had a coupon for the two donuts - two for $0.99.  So I went to the window and gave the girl my coupon and a gift card (that had like $4.65 left on it).  She told me I still owed her money!  What?!  I tried to explain that it made no sense that a cup of coffee with two donuts should cost more than 5 bucks AND I had a coupon!  I might as well have been asking for technical support for a computer if you know what I mean...  I finally gave up and paid the money and went on my way.  My receipt showed two things - the girl had added $0.99 for the donuts instead of subtracting it and there was an invite for me to fill out a customer service survey.  Fill it out I did!  That afternoon I got a nice call and email from the store manager and he is going to make it all right. 

More important than all of that, Ashleigh got another acceptance letter.  This one from the University of Delaware nursing program.  We hear only 100 people get into the program every year.  She is still set on Stevenson but it is nice to have a choice.  Today I filled out the financial aid application and found out the hard way that there is a difference between fasfa.COM and fasfa.GOV.  One is the real Federal Financial Aid online program and the other is an identical site that charges you to apply...  So after getting to the end of the application that comes with a fee, I recognized the error of my ways and had to do it all over again (for free).

Off this Monday.  We may have a little Patriots watching party over here tomorrow night.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hard Work DOES Pay Off

Today we got a GREAT letter from the University where Ashleigh is going to school in the fall.  They looked at her GPA (4.1), class ranking (top 10%), difficulty of her high school classes and standardized test scores.  Without even applying, they awarded her the top amount of the Dean's Scholarship!  That is the second highest scholarship available and is worth $10,000 PER YEAR!  Pretty darn impressive!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Somehow This Is My Fault

First and most importantly, Ashleigh is fine and no one got hurt.  Now, for the rest of the story...  We woke up at 6 AM to about an inch of snow or as I said, "a heavy frost."  (You can see how much is on the driveway.)  Lucie wanted me to drive the kids to school but I said no - the 6 mile drive has a max speed limit of 30, Ashleigh's car is 4 wheel drive all the time, and she needs to learn to drive in it before she goes to college next year.  So off they went.  About 20 minutes later we get the call:  "I've been in an accident."  And quick as you can say, "I told ya so!" it is my fault.  ha ha  Lucie was pretty clear, several times, that she or I should have driven them to school.  Um, no.  She's gotta learn.  There was barely any snow (it had stopped) and we can't keep her in her crib all of her life.  (That went over pretty well as you can imagine!)  Ashleigh picked the hilliest route to school (instead of the slower, well-traveled one) and hit a slippery spot.  She got spun around and then someone hit her.  Right behind the driver's side rear door.  Probably doing about 10-15 miles an hour.  There are some scrapes and the bumper is dented.  She was going very slow as was the other driver.  The police came out and did a report and all was fine.  Lucie wanted to go right over there but the last thing needed at an accident scene is another car and an excited Colombian!  Elliott gave us updates on the phone throughout.  Fortunately, Ashleigh's boyfriend's grandfather runs a body shop...  In a way it was a good thing to get it out of the way now - it was an accident and cars are replaceable and that is why we have insurance.  Next time it happens, and it will happen, she will know what to do and it will be fine.  Ashleigh was OK to drive back (get back on that horse I said.  Another popular comment for the morning...).  I would have driven Lucie over to drive her home if she was too shook up.  But she was OK.  Anyway, she and Elliott came home and didn't go to school.  Despite them saying they didn't get hurt, I have to wonder if they didn't hit their heads - both of them cleaned up their rooms for the rest of the day without being told!

We got a little more snow overnight but nothing major.  I have the waffle maker warming up right now and will make breakfast, then take down the outside Christmas lights.  Next we take on the family room...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Every morning I get a "Fact of the Day" on my Blackberry.  This morning's was, "Gong Hay Fat Choy."  Well everyone knows that is not the proper Cantonese spelling - it's GUNG Hay Fat Choy!  And if you know that, then of course you know that means Wishing You A Prosperous New Year.  Someone needs to be checking the Fact Checkers...

Last night we went to the church pot luck dinner and Lucie oversaw the younger kids while they played on these giant inflatables.  She was done around 9 when the older kids (including mine) took over.  We went and hung out with some friends, then went back to our house.  A&E invited the brothers and sisters of Ashleigh's boyfriend over so we watched the ball drop and a bunch of no-talents grope themselves and flop around on stage with their auto-tuners making up for their lack of singing ability.  ha ha  Geez, how old do I sound...?

They left just before 2 AM.  No big plans today.  It's supposed to rain.  I sure hope so.  My salty white car used to be blue.